by Nobuyuki Kishi
When you hear the words “cherry tree,” I bet you think of the cherry blossoms. But those flowers blossom for only five days out of the whole year. And once the flowers are gone, people don’t pay any attention to the trees. Considering the number of days, however, you can say that the normal appearance of the cherry trees actually is without blossoms. Life is the same way: you go through beautiful times and not-so-beautiful times; you might even go through hard times. When your blossoms are gone, you see how people around you can leave you at the speed of light. People praise the beauty of the cherry blossoms and turn their backs once the flowers are gone. Sad, isn’t it? But you should remember to be the cherry tree itself, not the flowers. The tree that continues to stand tall and magnificent with its strong roots, especially when the blossoms are gone and people have left. This is why I admire cherry trees and compare life to them. They don’t say, “All my flowers are gone and no one is looking at me anymore, so I think I’ll collapse now.” You don’t see cherry trees do that. Those flowerless trees may seem dead and quiet, but beneath the surface they are full of life and energy. And they constantly grow stronger to let the flowers out again the following spring. Whether people admire them or not makes no difference to these trees.
When a person gains fame and social status in his youth and then loses that power, he may think that he’s failed for life. He then struggles hard to become successful again, to regain everything he’s lost, like trying to collect all the fallen flowers on the ground and glue them back on the branches. Some people might end up attempting suicide out of despair, but that’s because they have misunderstood something important: the cherry tree without the flowers. That’s the real you. Don’t be thinking, “This is not what I’m supposed to be.” It’s exactly who you are supposed to be. A cherry tree without flowers is still a cherry tree. I’m in my mid-60s now. When I was still around 45 years old and had ambitions for the New York Kishi Dojo, my mother became sick and I left the city for good to be home with her. Training here for twenty years has been rather quiet and lonely, and it’s quite different from the environment in New York. But now my Karate juniors and students come here to Shinjo from all over the world, just to visit me. My life hasn’t been so outstanding that I’m in any position to preach to others, and I understand that many youngsters long to have the cherry blossoms in their lives. But I want to tell them this: “Instead of focusing on blossoming, focus on rooting deeply into the ground.” And, “Stand strong and tall even when you have rains and storms in your life.” Japanese often describe cherry blossoms as graceful when they fall, but that’s not the only thing that is graceful. What’s truly graceful is the tree that lets the flowers go and focuses on growing its roots, trunk, and branches in order to become stronger and to live tomorrow.
From The Karate With No Name: Seeking the Wellspring of Karate in Japan
By Nobuyuki Kishi, as told to Takeru Fudo
Translation by Emi Mimura; editing by Susan Convery and Annie Gottlieb
Posted with permission
Sensei Nobuyuki Kishi was my karate teacher from 1974 to 1987, and a close friend of Jacques and me. While he returned to Japan for good two decades ago, his teaching continues to influence me, and his student Sensei Masahiko Honma is now my karate teacher in New York. ~ amba