SHUGYO 修行 : English Version Practice as inner discipline
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English Version

Practice as inner discipline

I visited the beach again this morning. I was coming back from taking my daughter to her work. It was not yet dawn when I parked the car on the boardwalk and walked to the sand.

At that time everything is quiet. Some early morning runner and the cars that circulate on the avenue.

I am lucky to be able to enjoy the sea in my city. The beauty of the sea when it dawns is so powerful, so full of strength…

I had been talking with my daughter about the subject of philosophy that she had to teach her students: Copernicus, heliocentrism, Giordano Bruno, the one who first formulated the idea of ​​multiple suns and that ours was just one more…

The conversation had drifted about the immensity of the universe and the vertigo that comes from thinking about it. So, all this conditioned me while I watched the sunrise in the middle of the beach still immersed in the darkness of the night. Everything that appeared before my eyes was so, so beautiful…

And at the same time so close to everyday life: to the day that was beginning, to my worries and projects for the day, to the traffic lights a moment ago, driving at dawn, while the voice of the well-known announcer of a radio program spoke about the elections in Castilla y León…

I contemplated the landscape, the sun rising from the sea. The calm black water with dark blue reflections lapping at the smooth wet sand. I picked up some stones from the beach in a very short walk and returned through the sand. I turned when I was back on the tiled boardwalk. I took one last look at that beauty.

In memory, the words that a friend said to me one night, before his very close death. Death that he knew (in a terrible privilege that only some humans have) was going to happen before long. His thoughts about what would become of him when he disappeared like him.

One tries to make sense of all this, this beauty and hope, and this pain that share the scene in this thing we call life. To the transcendent and to the everyday. Two categories that we ourselves apply and that may only be in our minds.

From the boardwalk, I intuitively analyzed the sensation I was experiencing.

It was a certain feeling of gratitude. Gratitude for the OPPORTUNITY. The opportunity to be there, HERE.

I related all this, I don’t know why, with a friend’s request to write something about the Shugyō concept. He had seen a calligraphy of mine, in ink and brush, that I had posted on Facebook.

I thought that they had to do, that they were related. That there was a connection between my everyday/transcendental experience and that concept: SHUGYO.

Shugyō – calligraphy J.Carlos Aguilar

Shugyō means, in Japanese martial arts, the practice taken as an internal discipline. 修 (Shu) refers to “discipline”, “behavior”, “conducting oneself properly”, “study”. 行 (Gyō) is “to go”, “journey”, “do” or “accomplish”. The concept is linked to the idea of ​​a spiritual journey that some warriors made in Japan to forge themselves, inspired by the pilgrimage of Zen monks from monastery to monastery as an aid in their search for satori.

Life as a journey.

A journey encouraged by the force that moves every living being to affirm itself. What Spinoza called in his philosophy «conato».

In human beings all this is complicated by our ability to think about ourselves looking for whys. I sense that my cats have it clearer. Satori is brought as standard.

Life as a journey. Martial practice as a pilgrimage. It depends on us how to take it.

That it is only something earthly, quotidian, or that this daily life is linked to the transcendent, that without becoming transcendent what it means is the search for a sense that goes beyond words. To find ourselves satisfied internally.

Our practice as something intimate and important, which allows us to have the sensation of internal transformation.

Shugyo has the sense of focus. Don’t be scattered. Appreciate our practice and extract meaning from the details. Exactly. An accuracy that will change and evolve, but that in that daily moment of practice we take as a canon, repeating and rehearsing, over and over again, a movement, a technique. With partners in the dojo, but also (and this is extremely important), in our daily training alone.

Whoever limits their practice to training with others loses half the opportunities. The sotai undo, the practice with a partner, must be accompanied by a daily solo practice (tandoku undo). And, if possible, outside the scope of the class.

Like the craftsman who strives to exercise his art in an authentic way, respecting tradition and at the same time contributing all his/her personal individuality, the martial practitioner must dedicate himself to his/her practice. To training, if we use the sporting term. But without forgetting that it must be an internal task. Like meditation.

In these times this encounters many pitfalls.


Ways of life go against these dedications. Use and throw. Fast food. Rush to arrive, to return. Economy in all aspects of our way of life. Of movements, of efforts, of dedication. Hedonism pervades everything. Something that we mistakenly confuse with truly enjoying life.

The relationship of cause and effect, of obtaining results and applied efforts, has been disrupted in our minds.

And in the midst of all this, in an unsatisfied desire for this way of life that our culture imposes on us today, the lifeline of practice. Of a chore to which, many times we don’t know why, we cling to, perhaps not to be shipwrecked.

Shugyō means taking the practice as a way to discover the meaning of a sunrise on the beach, of the vital questioning of a friend who faced death. The meaning of traffic at dawn and the elections in Castilla y León.

Because Shugyō is the attempt to give meaning to all this, to this beauty and hope, and to this pain that share a scene in this thing we call life. Sense of the transcendent and the everyday.

February 2022

Juan Carlos Aguilar
Juan Carlos Aguilar

6º Dan Aikido (Japan Aikido Association).
6º Dan Tomiki Aikibudo y Maestro (Federación Española de Lucha).
1º Dan Iaido (British Kendo Association).
Presidente de Tomiki Aikido Spain, Shihandai de la JAA.
Director de la International Tomiki Aikido Federation.
Profesor de Tomiki Aikido en Shidokan Spain Honbu Dojo y Daikan Dojo.
Pintor de pintura de tradición occidental.
Pintor de Sumi-e y practicante de caligrafía japonesa.

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