In Search of Heart to Commit

If “making a commitment” is universally understood as actually sticking by a commitment so made, then I doubt if anyone would be prepared to say that making a commitment is easy.

In his book, Anam Cara – A Book of Celtic Wisdom, the late John O’Donohue describes “the poetics of growth” and I shall do his words justice by not attempting to paraphrase them:

“Possibility and change become growth within the shape of time that we call a day. Days are where we live…Your life takes the form of each new day that is given to you.”

Given to me. I reckon that it’s my responsibility, therefore, to cherish and use that day in the best way possible.

Philip Lee, owner of Aikido Shinju-Kai, understands and lives commitment. An aikido practitioner and sensei (instructor), he started practicing aikido in 1971. It was more of a hobby then, but keeping up with the daily practice paved the way for his setting up Aikido Shinju-Kai about 25 years ago.

Shin means “heart”, Ju “gentleness” and Kai “association”.

Philip readily admits that the practice of aikido isn’t easy. Because there are no competitions as such, there is little to keep a person motivated other than a respect for its ethos and a commitment to the process. Aikido is a form of martial arts that is rooted in non-aggression and self-defence. It isn’t the use of physical brute strength that it advocates; rather, it encourages relaxation and the use of the opponent’s energy and momentum.

Now about 60 years old (but not looking a day over 45), he says, “It’s a long process of development that requires a certain mindset if you are to stay committed to it. Getting a black belt (which typically takes about five years) is only the beginning. Aikido helps you to understand who and what you are. You have to forgo your ego.”

Part of that process is respecting the protocol of the dojo, which includes kneeling and bowing to sparring partners.

Through aikido, Philip continues to learn to “achieve harmony when dealing with people”; not simple by any measure, in my opinion.

He trains daily.

Shinju-kai currently runs about 54 dojos in Singapore and some 30 centres in China, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Sensei Philip Lee throws his sparring partner (Photo: Aikido Shinju-kai)

For me, regardless of how ostensibly mundane and bland my plans for any given day might be – whether it is to remember to smile at a neighbour or to resign a toxic client or to find the courage to finish my novel – I’m mindful that I have to put heart to intellect and intellect to heart.

John O’Donohue again: “You may wish to change your life, you may be in therapy or religion, but your new vision remains merely talk until it enters the practice of your day.”