Endurance

In most of the martial arts there is a ‘cold practice’ in the middle of the winter when the students practise an hour or so with all the windows wide open. Some artists and poets do something similar. One poem composed on such an occasion was:

Meditating that the Buddhas of the three worlds Are seated all around us,

We do not feel the cold.

The chess champions have their own practice of endurance – it consists in the ability to sit motionless for hours together. I once watched the then champion Yoshio Kimura playing a championship game. He sat at the board like a statue, with his eyes half shut. His younger opponent was very fidgety – because there was only one move which Kimura could reasonably make. However, he did not make it for ten minutes. In the end his opponent became so irritable with these delaying tactics that he impatiently tried to force the issue and lost.

I met Kimura later, and to my surprise he was a fast-talking, wise-cracking Tokyo type, not at all like the priest-like figure at the Shogi board. I asked him, ‘How is it that your Shogi personality is so different from your social personality?’

He made an interesting reply: ‘When I was a youth, I played Shogi with an old master whom I knew to be inferior to myself. But he played very slowly, waiting a long time before making even an obvious move. I used to get impatient, and immediately he made his move I made my reply. But this only made him slower. In the end I used to try to force a quick decision unjustifiably, and so lost.

One day I realised that I should always lose to him if things continued like this. There was no way to hurry him, so the only means was to change my own impatience. I sat down and placed an empty Shogi board in front of me. Then I made myself sit there without moving for an hour, every day for a week. The next week I made it two hours, and then three hours. After that I could sit in front of a board, even during a game, without any feeling of impatience. Now I can out-sit any of them. They will lose patience before I do.’

I began at judo under a Japanese teacher of the old school, practising every evening till the training period ended. One day I felt rather off- colour, and prepared to leave early. The teacher said, ‘Where are you going?’

I replied, ‘I am not feeling very well: I will come tomorrow.’

He said, ‘If a man comes up to you in the street with a hammer, wanting to kill you, can you say to him, “I am not feeling very well; come back tomorrow”?’

I remained that evening till he sent me home.

This one remark, heard only that time but never forgotten, was a big help later on when facing very gruelling training programmes.

 

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