Happy Shinnen to all!
This 新年 (shinnen) is the Japanese for “New Year”. (1) This became a particular date only when humans began counting time. But this cosmic event has been going on for more than 4.5 billion years.
So if humans put so much weight on this date, I guess it is to get a new start every 365 days. In the Bujinkan, this fresh start always coincided with a new study theme. Sōke Hatsumi would give it at Daikōmyōsai. Since the first official theme in 1993, it represented a new start for us. And each year, we would discover a new way to fight or think. The “non-Bujinkan” new year is the same, and it is about beginning anew. There is a Japanese Shintō tradition to do a misogi to cleanse the body and the mind around the lunar new year. (2) Whatever the culture, the turn of the year is an excellent excuse to change our behaviours for the better.
That is why we make resolutions for the new year. I’m sure that many of you did it even if we know that most of these decisions will fail. But that’s the game we play every year on new year’s eve. In these times of world pandemic, the temptation to do nothing would be wrong. We have to act and avoid depression. The world situation will end one day, so we should be prepared and ready never to give up.
Budō is about patience, but patience is not stillness. You have to set new goals, come to the dōjō, and train to be ready when all this is behind us. Since March 2020, my Paris dōjō has been empty. I think students used Covid as an excuse to procrastinate. It is easy to give up on adversity, but this is far from the Budō attitude taught by Sensei all these years. If you give up now, I see that as a betrayal of his teachings. Did you forget the meaning of “banpen fugyō”, “10000 attacks, no surprise”? (3)
No one planned a world pandemic. Covid is here, and there is nothing you can do about it. So use your Bujinkan knowledge and adapt your life to it. There is no need to fight it. It is like crossing a big river, don’t fight the heavy stream, float in the water and go with it until you reach the other bank. It would be best to return to the training hall to make you feel better.
What makes us humans is social contact, not social media. If you let yourself submerged by negativity, you turn “Shinnen” into “Shinen” (深淵 “the abyss”). (4) When you dive into the abyss, there is no hope, only an endless fall into oblivion. The abyss is tempting and easy. The Budō path is more challenging but will force you to react! The resolutions for 2022 should be: stop complaining. Refuse Shinen and welcome change. Go to the dōjō and train more.
Life is not easy, and reacting will not make it easier. You are in charge of your own life. Whatever the obstacles on your way, you have to adapt. I learned one thing in Japan over the last thirty years, and it is never to give up. If your dōjō is not open because of covid, train your Sanshin no Kata, train your weapons and keep your skills to their best. If you have the chance to have an open dōjō, go there and study. Budō is life; choose to live, not to die. Only those with a surviving spirit will make it.
There is always hope ahead of us; get ready for it. In Japanese, the spring season also means “new year.” Another translation of “Haru” is “new hope” (5). There is always hope in the future; things should improve very soon.
On February 4th, we enter the year of the yang water tiger. The water tiger is full of energy; use it to your best. The “Water Tiger of 2022 implies caution, growth, development, challenge, creation, and planning.” (6)
My conviction of a better future lies in the fact that I believe in life, so should you. This faith in the future is also 信念 Shinnen in Japanese. (7)
1 新年 Shinnen, New Year
2 Misogi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXaJbh9e-Po
3 One of the mottos of Gyokko Ryū
4 深淵 Shinen: abyss
5 春 Haru: spring, new year
6 Water tiger: https://www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/2022/default.htm
7 信念 shinnen: belief, faith, conviction