Years ago, I was lucky to be able to visit my teacher’s barn dojo for some martial arts training during the end-of-the-year festivities. I arrived just after Christmas and stayed till the first days of january.

I was there for an obvious reason….martial arts training, but I did not expect to receive so much more than what I came there looking for. On December 31, training went on all day and after the evening break, we were all welcome to come back in the dojo for the late night session. We started out around 20h30 with some insights on tradional weapons like the kyoketsu shoge. The dojo was full of highly spirited people and the energy in the place was incredible.
At the end of the training, Stephen K. Hayes , invited us to sit down for a moment at one end of the dojo while he explained what was to come next….
We were in for a special treat, there would be an « unknown » artist perfoming some typical japanese shakuhachi flute music…..and then appeared…..An-Shu Stephen K. Hayes, what a wonderful surprise!
We were are all speechless in awe….and observed how the man we usually see with swords and sticks throwing human bodies around, produced such a delicate sound using only breath and fingertips.
After this amazing performance we witnessed An-Shu Rumiko animating tradional japanese string instruments with a group of Japanese friends while a caligraphic specialist painted « live » the phrases of the song.

What a wonderful way to end the year.

An-Shu explained how different the Japanese culture envisioned the « new year » celebration.
Far more than merely drinking and eating abundantly like we are used to do in the west, celebrating the new year in Japan also means paying special attention to the first time something is done in the new year.
Considering this, we all took place for a special mind exploring exercise, looking at the past year, with all it up’s and down’s. Examining what we could have done differently to produce the results we would have liked better. We all had to pick one thing we would focus on for the next year to come and try our best to keep that one thing in mind « all year long ».
When our focus came back to the room, the new year had started.
What better way to begin the year can you imagine? Pure mind, clear ideas, optimal mindset.

Will your mind be clear on first of Januari 2013?

On a more personal note, I would like to express my gratitude to Mr Hayes and his family for allowing me to share « their » family party on that januari first as I found myself dancing a tradional mineworker dance with a Japanese lady present, tasting the « first » sushi of my life and discovering delicious pasteries.
Thank you for your hospitality and kindness.

Best wishes for the year 2013!