Tag Archives: Into Thin Air

The Mountain Path – Part 3: The Journey Down

26 Apr

“Many paths lead from the foot of the mountain, but at the peak we all gaze at the single bright moon.” (See endnote number 1)

A few articles back, I started an examination of the three stages of the path up the mountain. Stage one; The path Up The Mountain (https://senseijohn.me/2017/03/01/the-mountain-path-part-1-the-path-up/ ) and stage two: The View At The Top ( https://senseijohn.me/2017/03/15/the-mountain-path-part-2-the-view-at-the-top/ ).

Like all journeys, this examination will end. It is time to look at the path down the mountain. No one contemplating Ikkyu’s saying really thinks about the path down. The path down is almost an afterthought. Except for true mountaineers, as evidenced from this excerpt from Jon Krakauer’s great book, Into Thin Air:

Reaching the top of Everest is supposed to trigger a surge of intense elation. . . But the summit was really the halfway point. Any impulse I had toward self-congratulation was extinguished by overwhelming apprehension about the long, dangerous descent that lay ahead. (See Endnote # 2)

I was also guilty of that omission. It was not until a many years ago when I re-read Albert Camus’ Myth Of Sisyphus, that the idea even dawned upon me. Sisyphus was the Greek Titan that defeated death. In punishment for his impudence, for all eternity Sisyphus was sentenced to roll a stone up a mountain. Upon reaching the top, the stone would only fall back again. In analyzing the ordeal of Sisyphus, Camus noted:

. . . then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward the lower world when he will have to push it up again toward the summit.
He goes back down to the plain.
It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me.
That hour like a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness. If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious.
One must imagine Sisyphus is happy. (See Endnote # 3)

It is that passage that first gave me pause to think about the journey down the mountain inferred in Ikkyu’s quote. What can we learn from the path down the mountain? How is it characterized?

Here are my thoughts as to the characteristics of the path down the mountain:

  • Zanshin – The martial state of mind of Zanshin (the remaining mind) plays an important role in this part of the journey. Having endured the path up the mountain and achieved the goal at the top, the journeyman must keep the intangible aspects of the goal with him throughout his days. He must draw upon it in times of need. He can use to to enrich the good times. He must never forget the experience.
  • Responsibility – This is the objective manifestation of the subjective Zanshin. Having achieved the goal, the journeyman agrees to bear the burden of the successful journey. As the journeyman is better for having achieved his results, he must conduct himself in accord with that betterment at all times. For example, one may have endured the path of attaining a black belt, and subsequently achieved the goal. From that day forward, regardless of whether training in the martial arts continues, one must always conduct oneself as a black belt.
  • Moving on the path (the next mountain) – this aspect is very important. One must eventually move on to the next mountain. A failure to do so will result in stagnation. Given the conquering of the previous mountain, I submit that the next mountain will always be a more difficult mountain. If not, it would seem to be a waste of effort to climb a lesser mountain. To climb a lesser mountain falls into a human pitfall described by the philosopher Frederick Nietzsche: “Our vanity would like what we do best to pass precisely for what is most difficult to us.” (See Endnote # 4)
  • Symbols and/or Entitlements – having achieved the goal, one may be entitled to distinguish oneself from those that did not by way of a symbol or entitlement. These aspects, in my opinion, are somewhat superfluous and superficial but are present nonetheless. Examples include wearing the black belt, or a college degree, a title, etc. As to entitlements I recently saw an interesting entitlement. I was watching coverage of the 2017 Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka, Japan. The coverage included a mini-documentary of newly promoted Yokozuna Kisenosato. Having attained Yokozuna status, Kisenosato is the first to eat at his training center. He eats alone and when finished the remaining wrestlers can then eat in accord to their rank. Simply put, “The pilgrim wants confirmation.” (see Endnote # 5).

With that, I’m going to move onto my next mountain. I’m sure over time I’ll have some new thoughts and ideas on this topic, but for now there’s a new mountain waiting.

Respectfully submitted,

Sensei John Szmitkowski

ENDNOTES:
1. Though not referenced as a source of the quote at the time, the quote seems to come from the Zen-master Ikkyū (1394-1481). It is; however, also found in other sources and contexts. Two examples are:

“There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same”, a Chinese proverb, and

“There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain, telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.” A Hindu proverb.

2. Krakauer, John, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account Of The Mount Everest Disaster, (Anchor Books, New York, NY, 1997) p. 332 (last paragraph in Chapter Thirteen). Please note, page references are to my the E-book which has adjustable type and may be different depending on the setting, thus they and may not be exact. Please see the Chapter reference in the body of this article.

3. Camus, Albert, The Myth Of Sisyphus And Other Essays, (Translated By Justin O’Brien) E-Book. p 121-124.

4. Nietzsche, Frederich, Beyond Good and Evil, Maxims and Interludes, Maxim # 143.

5. This quote is from another book I highly recommend by Jack Hitt, Off The Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down The Pilgrim’s Route Into Spain (Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 1994 & 2005) Chapter Eleven, page 733. Please note, page references are to my the E-book which has adjustable type and may be different depending on the setting, thus they and may not be exact.

   For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/
My seminars are the ONLY seminars that allow you to pay at the conclusion, thus insuring your complete satisfaction!

   For a refreshing and innovative discourse on kata and bunkai, please feel free to visit Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory and “THINK * SWEAT * EXPERIMENT” using this convenient link: https://senseijohn.me/kata-lab/

© Copyright 2017 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Sensei John is now on Facebook, under – FLY FISHING DOJO, you are invited to send a Facebook friend request.

You may wish to view my other blogs –
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and
 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

The Mountain Path – Part 1: The Path Up

1 Mar

“Many paths lead from the foot of the mountain, but at the peak we all gaze at the single bright moon.” (See endnote number 1)

In the introduction to this three part article ( https://senseijohn.me/2017/02/15/the-mountain-path-introduction/ ) , I noted that this saying is often used in the martial arts. In this context, it is used to express the idea that regardless of the martial art studied, the goal of all martial arts is the same. It is my view that this is but one-third of the potential analysis of this quote. To fully appreciate the symbolism of the quote, one should recognize and analyze three distinct stages as follows:

Stage one: The path up the mountain;
Stage two: The view at the top;
Stage three: The path down the mountain.

This post will express a few of my thoughts regarding the path up the mountain. For the most part, this path is discussed simply as the means to attain the end (the view at the top). Rarely is the actual journey investigated. This is sad for many reasons.

First and foremost is the journeyman that accepts a path. Leaving one’s comfort zone, perhaps symbolized by one’s “home” takes courage and fortitude. To walk out one’s home and undertake a journey upon a certain path is not a trivial undertaking. With the first step, a commitment to see the path to its end is implied. In this regard, the journeyman walking a previously unknown path is far superior to those that choose to remain within the comforts of their “home.”

This extends beyond the martial arts venue. Any challenge once presented and accepted initiates one into the category of a journeyman. The challenge is the path chosen by the select few unafraid of what lay ahead. To that end, the efforts of all journeyman should be saluted.

Second, though not specifically mentioned in the saying, there is an implicit understanding that not all those that venture up the mountain will in fact reach the top. Some will discontinue the journey and retreat, following one’s steps back down the path. In the martial arts, many students will discontinue training. They will never reach the goal “at the top of the mountain.” No, I do not mean they will not earn a black belt. I mean they will stop training long before they die. The path of the my beloved karate-do ends only with one’s last breath.

To discontinue the path invites a future wrought with speculation. This is true not only with the martial arts but also all challenges. Perhaps the most renowned mountain one could undertake to climb is Mount Everest. On the subject of climbing Mount Everest, I thoroughly enjoyed (and highly recommend) Jon Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air” about one faithful attempted climb. In the prefatory comment to Chapter Twelve, Krakauer sets out the following thoughts from mountaineer Thomas F. Hornbein:

I looked down. Descent was totally unappetizing. . . Too much labor, too many sleepless nights and too many dreams had been invested to bring us this far. . . . To go down now, even if we could have, would be descending to a future marked by one huge question: what might have been? (See endnote # 2)

The simple fact is that though one may wish to restart up the path at a future time, so as to answer this question, one may be able to do so. As it is said, “Timing is everything.” Once the ability to start up the path and reach the top is lost, it may never be recovered.

Third, In addition to the difficulties imposed by the path itself, the journeyman has another insidious difficulty to contend with. To walk an unknown path takes the utmost of physical, mental and spiritual dedication and commitment. Clearly not everyone has such qualities. Those that do not become not the journeyman but the antagonist of the journeyman. They become a critic, see for example the Hindu quote in Endnote # 1. The critic is envious of the commitment of the journeyman. Lacking the qualities for success, the critic masks his cowardice by seeking to distract the journeyman form his goal. The critic “runs around the mountain telling everyone (the journeyman’s) path is wrong.” The critic attains nothing. The critic only attains a goal when the journeyman quits due to the actions of the critic. The journeyman must remain deaf to the provocations of the critic.

With that in mind, in the next submission, we’ll continue along our analytical path. We’’ll soon begin to see a view of the bright moon with more definition and resolution and the journey back down the path to the bottom of the mountain, our “home’ better for and enriched by our journey.

Respectfully submitted,

HANKO-master

Sensei John Szmitkowski

Featured video: The newest Underground Bunkai video featuring the rare Chi-Ni-No Kata of Goshen-Do Karate:

ENDNOTES:
1. Though not referenced as a source of the quote at the time, the quote seems to come from the Zen-master Ikkyū (1394-1481). It is; however, also found in other sources and contexts. Two examples are:

“There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same”, a Chinese proverb, and

“There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain, telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.” A Hindu proverb.

2. Krakauer, John, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account Of The Mount Everest Disaster, (Anchor Books, New York, NY, 1997) p. 292. Please note, page references are to my the E-book which has adjustable type and may be different depending on the setting, thus they and may not be exact. Please see the Chapter reference in the body of this article.

For information on my “no-risk”, kata seminars, please visit the seminar page using this convenient link https://senseijohn.me/seminar-kata/
My seminars are the ONLY seminars that allow you to pay at the conclusion, thus insuring your complete satisfaction!

For a refreshing and innovative discourse on kata and bunkai, please feel free to visit Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory and “THINK * SWEAT * EXPERIMENT” using this convenient link: https://senseijohn.me/kata-lab/

© Copyright 2017 Issho Productions & John Szmitkowski, all rights reserved.

Sensei John is now on Facebook, under – FLY FISHING DOJO, you are invited to send a Facebook friend request.

You may wish to view my other blogs –
LOGO-WEBSITE  my fishing blog which includes my fishing journals and the interrelationship between martial arts protocol to fishing http://flyfishingdojo.com
and
DOJO STICKER-1 the Goshin-Do Karate blog at http://defeliceryu.com

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