The Bold Magic of Sutemi

滚滚江水 Torrential photo by livepine
There is a bit of magic in the Gokui we find in the history of our art. This magic can help us with training or in our own lives. One that Hatsumi Sensei has shared with us says,
Like many ideas in Japanese, there is more than one way to translate this into English. Two that I've heard are:
When you become entangled, there can be no victory. By sacrificing yourself, you have the chance to be saved;
or, with no thought of one's self, float in the torrent by throwing oneself in.
In English we have similar sayings like: nothing ventured, nothing gained; make your own luck; put your life on the line… commit totally; Risk it all to win it all.

These ideas show the power of being fully committed, but where does the magic enter in? Well some other translations hint around this: When you are ready to sacrifice yourself, you may succeed; by rejecting the body comes opportunity; It is those who sacrifice themselves that will be rewarded with rising currents.

A clue for us can be found in the word 浮かぶ瀬 ukabuse found in the second part of this gokui. This word suggests good fortune or a lucky break when one floats or rises to the surface of the flood. The luck that arises from sutemi! What is this magic source of luck?

I would posit that it is found in the flow of whatever current that you leap into. Whether an actual river, the flow of combat, or the current of events. Consider this famous piece of advice often attributed to Goethe but more than likely by William Hutchinson Murray,
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
So I'll give you two final bits of 諺 kotowaza wisdom. One for the Bold,

小さな流れも大河となる Small streams too grow into large rivers.

And one for the cautious,

浅き川も深く渡れ Cross even shallow rivers as though they were deep.


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