Minimalism

I think I'm going to add another dimension to the subjects about which I ruminate on this blog. In short, "minimalism".

Allow me to explain. What, you may wonder, does "minimalism" have to do with budo, which is, after all, the focus of this blog? Maybe nothing. But then, maybe it does, if even in a broad, general sense.

For starters, let me clarify: when I talk about "minimalism", I'm not talking about living like this guy:


Not that there's anything wrong with that, if that's what you're into. Personally, I find this sort of thing a little extreme. My idea of the ideal home would look a little more like a Pottery Barn catalogue or something out of a Martha Stewart magazine (with a few hints of Japanese aesthetic sprinkled in).

What I mean by "minimalism" is an approach to life, rather than a decorating style. One way I like to think about it is in a phrase an old graphic design professor, Dr. Jim Watson, used to drill into our heads when it came to our chosen discipline: "Find what works, enhance it, and minimize the rest."

In other words, get rid of what you don't need. And you don't need much. And what you do need, keep it organized.

So how does that relate to budo? Well, like I said, maybe it's a loose connection, but I think it relates in a couple of ways. On the surface (the omote, or obvious, outward appearances), there's the obvious minimalism in the Japanese sense of aesthetic, which is found in many dojos and in what we wear. Most dojos are pretty bare: a mat, plain walls, maybe some weapons and a simple display on the shomen or main wall (kamidana, for those inclined toward shinto practices). The outfit is simply white, devoid of patches and logos, and the hamaka navy or black (or white on certain occasions).


Beneath the surface (the ura, the less obvious or "hidden" aspects), I find there is a similar inclination toward minimalism. Consider the oft-quoted phrase from judo, "Seiryoku zen'you", commonly translated as "Maximum energy, minimum effort" or perhaps more directly as "efficient energy." Sounds an awful lot like, "Find what works, enhance it, and minimize the rest," eh?

Let me clarify something else, as well: I don't write about this as any kind of expert, but a sort of diary of my travels down the path.

So there you go. We'll see how it goes. Who knows, I may give up on this after a while (after all, adding yet another topic is hardly minimalizing ;-)

Comments

  1. Sean, a lot of Budo practice seems to me like sculpture. You start with a block of stone, and systematically remove everything that is not the sculpture. How often do we discover we are doing things with strength that will happen naturally and effortlessly if we just maintain our structure and move, or turn the hips, or relax? That is Budo minimalism, removing the unnecessary.

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