我無し Ware Nashi: No More Us

Desi being shy.
My dog Desiree died this week after being part of my family for almost 18 years. Although not unexpected, I definitely feel her absence. As I sit with this feeling, I am glad for the heart found in our training.

Hatsumi Sensei said that Takamatsu Sensei gave him a calligraphy which read 我無し ware nashi or "no self." But there is another reading of that concept which can give us a different strategy in combat or life. And since this is a martial arts of distance, we can find a very intimate distance when erasing the self.

Something sensei often repeats is that there is no difference between attacker and defender. So one reading of 我無し ware nashi is "no opponent" or "no enemy"... no we or no us. No separation. How do we get that distance? Sensei explained this once in a class at Ayase,
"In training you have to understand the opponent's heart. If you don't read his heart, if you only read your own heart and do your own technique on him, you will lose. You have to be able to read his heart and match it. This distance is heart distance."
If you reverse the kanji for 我無し ware nashi, you get 無我 muga. This is one of the core ideas of Buddhism which is "No I" or Anātman. This is selflessness;  self-effacement;  self-renunciation or anatman (no-self, the Buddhist concept that in nothing does there exist an inherent self, soul, or ego).

In this old poem we can feel the intimacy of 我無し ware nashi. In 1025 Fujiwara no Nagaie wrote this after his wife died in childbirth,

Morotomo ni
Nagameshi hito mo
Ware mo nashi
Yado ni wa hitori
Tsuki ya sumuran

She who watched with me-
Ah, we stood side by side-
And I too am gone;
Now it is the moon alone
Whose shining fills our home.

I feel this loss of self in a very personal way this week. Strange feeling kinship with a Japanese courtier from 1025.

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