positively upbeat, I tell you.


I had my aikido test for 4th kyu last night (the kyu ranks count backwards to 1st kyu, then the black belt (dan) ranks count upward).

(In general the Japanese names for the ranks follow Japanese numbering conventions--san is "three", so 3rd kyu is sankyu, go is "five" and godan is 5th dan, and so on. The instructive exception is the first black belt: lest you be tempted to think you've reached a plateau level of achievement, you're a shodan, where sho means "beginning". At that point, so they say, you've mastered the techniques and you can now start learning aikido.)

The test went well. I passed, with the expected list of things to work on. The one thing I did do right was to stay focused and not rush everything, so I'm happy about that. Everything else is relatively easy.

I just saw The Last Samurai, and it's brilliant. Tom Cruise reminds us that he can actually act, and the scenery and costumes and martial arts are all lush and wonderful, but the overarching success of the movie is how it conveys the samurai spirit, the discipline, the determination to keep going, and the moment-to-moment existence. It's not just a samurai thing...it's bigger than that society and that period, but the samurai are the clearest example that I know of, and certainly the most famous. You can find that clarity and determination in warriors through history, but also in spiritual people and in everyday life. The purity of spirit is not something restricted to a martial art or a culture or a religion; it is one of the gifts of being human, to surpass and let fall away all our fear and doubt and truly focus, on preparing tea or arranging flowers or listening or working. It's what we are, what we can be.