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The Price of Ego

In my last trip to Japan, Soke Hatsumi talked about the concept of “letting go”. He was specifically referencing when to let go of a technique when it has fulfilled it’s usefulness, or when the situation changes. He said that it was important to remain free to let go in order to succeed. But like so many of his lessons, it applies to much more than martial arts.

Ego vs. Perspective
This concept of “letting go” also has greater implications. In Japanese culture as well as Martial Arts training, there is idea of letting go of the Ego. When we get tied too strongly to our Ego, we begin to lose perspective and can trap ourselves. It is only when we free ourselves of Ego that we truly can accept reality, and become totally aware. This applies to both training, and life in general. None of us are perfect, and we each have our flaws and limits. That’s normal – human beings aren’t perfect. It’s when our Ego gets in the way of acknowledging these realities that we limit our ability to confront ourselves and grow past our limits. Ego clouds the vision.

Celebrating Growth
Now this doesn’t mean that you can’t think highly of yourself, nor take pride in accomplishing certain tasks – just the opposite. In fact, it’s only when we acknowledge or limitations that we can truly celebrate when we grow past them. But before that can happen, we have to humble enough to realize they exist. This is why when we talk about training, we talk about your journey – an individual path that each of us takes. It’s another reason why we don’t compete, because it wouldn’t be prudent to measure one person’s growth versus another – we each are working on different things. And while our goals may overlap, our paths to that goal are as individual as we are.

Limits vs. Comfort Zones
This concept of limitations is different than our comfort zones. I would say that Ego prevents both the acknowledgment of limitation, and keeps us trapped in our comfort zones. When we worry too much about what others think, or are afraid to look foolish – that is our Ego trapping us. And when we fail to acknowledge that we are setting ourselves up for failure, or putting ourselves in harms way because for fear of judgement or being thought less of – that is again our Ego clouding our Judgement. This is the concept behind being “Mu” or having “No Mind”.

No Ego – No Mind
My point is it’s good to acknowledge your limits, so you can test them and grow past them. It’s okay to look foolish – because when we let go of our fear of leaving our comfort zone is when we grow. When we acknowledge our limits, we can celebrate when we surpass them. When we let our ego get in the way, we put our safety and potentially the safety those around us in jeopardy. When we think we know better, we miss new opportunities to learn, to develop, reach goals, and become the greater person we wish to become.

I leave you with a clip that I think eloquently puts this idea. Let us know what you think – and leave a comment below.


Shikin Haramitsu Daikoumiyo

If you’ve ever taken a Martial Arts class at a Bujinkan Dojo, you’ve heard those three somewhat difficult Japanese words shouted at the beginning and end of class: Shiken Haramitsu Daikoumyo. These words have profound significance – but only if you understand what they mean (much less say them). Here we’re going to translate this Buddhist mantra, and the meaning behind one of the most often used phrases in Bujinkan training.

Shu-Ha-Ri: Phases of Training

Shuhari – “Preserve, Break, Transcend”
There are considered 3 phases of training in Bujinkan Ninjutsu (and most Japanese Martial Arts) – “Shu, Ha & Ri”. These phases focus on what the intention and the approach of the student should be towards their training at a particular level.


  1. Puzzle

    Thank you for those words of wisdom. Through my own personal journey, I have never learned so much as when I abandoned my ego/pride. The blessings that have come from doing so are beyond imagining. Liberating. Also I truly appreciate the video clip. It made me smile. I cannot honestly tell you how many times I have used the phrase “Too many minds…” since I first saw the movie 🙂

    • S. Hamilton

      The movie does a very good job at illustrating some of the core elements of Budo juxtaposed against our Western view of warfare. Glad you enjoyed it!

      • Puzzle

        I can see that. I was inspired to watch the movie again last night as I studied the history of Bujinkan. Quite interesting & inspiring. I was particularly intrigued as my studies consistently first listed the Seishinteki kyōyō (spiritual refinement) discipline. That is profoundly significant.

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