Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Version of Musashi's "Holding Down the Pillow"

Post taken from my Six Sigma Lean blog, modified version and interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi's "Holding Down the Pillow."  Hope you enjoy it!

Sensei Domi


A young student entered a small garden.  It was his sensei’s back yard, and it was there where he was to learn his new lesson.  Yaguchi was excited.  For six months, he was pushed toward exhaustion repeating kihon and kata.  Any deviation from his challenging workout sessions was welcomed.  As he entered, the Japanese style garden took his breath away.  It was well manicured, healthy full of color and life, the fragrance sweet with a burst of fresh energy.  He thought of what it would take to create and maintain such beauty.

“Yaguchi!” the voice came from a small tool shed.  It was sensei Tanaka.

The young student hurried to the shack and discovered his sensei with his arm buried into a tub of water.

“Sensei,” the boy said, “would you like me to help?”

“Please come here and see what I am doing.”

The boy stepped closer to find that his instructor was holding down what appeared to be a round ball. 

The sensei pulled his hand out and it was then that Yaguchi saw that the round ball was in fact a basketball as it bobbed up to the surface.  He also noticed that it glistened.

“That’s right.  It has on it generous helpings of petroleum jelly.  Now come on, you try.”

“Try sensei?”

“I want you to push the basketball down the bottom of the tub, and hold it there.”

“Is there a special technique I should be aware of?”

“Not really."
Yaguchi knew that this was a test.  He had to perform this small task to go to the next level and learn new martial arts techniques, possibly a weapons form.  The thought excited him.  He touched the ball that was indeed slippery but not unreasonable.  He knew the task would be a challenge, but nothing that could stop him.

He tried attempt after attempt, each resulting to back to back failure and frustration.  The air made it difficult enough, but the petroleum jelly made it impossible.  “Sensei,” Yaguchi said.  “It’s very difficult.”

“Then let me help you,” sensei Tanaka said as he helped steady the ball underneath the water.  “Now hold it firmly in the center and do not allow it to move.”

Yaguchi complied and, though difficult, was able to hold the ball steady. 

“What did you learn?” the master asked.

“I learned that basketballs aren’t made to be in water.”

The venerable master stifled a laugh but shook his head.  "Yaguchi-san," he said, “Was it easier to hold the ball down and keep it steady?  Or was it easier to start when it was on the surface?”

“In its present position, it is much easier to contol.”

“And that is your lesson,” the aged sensei said before walking back into the beautiful garden.

“Sensei?”

“Sometimes, it takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to reach a certain point in our lives.  It may take help even from others, but when you reach that place, it is much easier to maintain and control that momentum than to let go and start over.”

"Hai, wakirimaska," Yaguchi said and bowed.

"Good," the master smiled, "I think this is a nice place for us to continue our kihon and kata training.  What do you think, master-in-training?"

Yaguchi almost let out a groan, but instead, bowed and said, "Os!"

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