Dominick Pesola – Shodan Essay #2
WHAT IS SHUGYO?
The journey of life contains myriad detours. Depending on the person in question the overall direction may remain constant or twist and turn repeatedly. During periods of goal seeking or life enhancement we can label the direction of positive intent true north for the purpose of this discussion. Even when stalled or off the tracks true north remains the direction if not the destination. Shugyo is the discipline exhibited whenever true north is the heading. Within the realm of Aikido, any training, use of the principles or transmitting them to others including reading or just thinking about Aikido is Shugyo.
An Aikido life may find detours of injury, extended time away from the mat for other reasons, training plateaus, etc. As long as one doesn’t regress by denying or ignoring aikido principles, Shugyo exists. Any endeavor leading to pre-meditated personal growth- engaging a hobby, following a religion, raising a child, cooking or training- is in the Shugyo zone. Whether the chosen endeavor is a means to an end (like a new job skill) or chasing an intangible, Shugyo is present. Shugyo is not an event; it is an attitude of personal practice. Training in a martial art or any practical effort employed as a means to some end will necessarily involve Shugyo to continuously improve in moving towards that end. In the sense of Aikido the end is an intangible since moving towards mastery only brings you closer to the beginning.
Shugyo is determined training, perfect practice, and disciplined action to move towards true north. Not just process, shugyo is also intent, identifying an ideal or aspect of life so mere thoughts can refine and align in the chosen direction. The shugyo process beyond intention requires sacrifice, the sweat and pain of intense physical training or simply choosing true north at a particular moment over a more pleasurable pursuit. Shugyo is the mind-set that chooses growth, pre-meditated enhancement of the individual, and all the thoughts and actions which maintain that direction to support that growth, disregarding roadblocks and overcoming challenges along the way. Once a path is chosen, Shugyo transports one along the way.