This calligraphy says Gratitude. It is pronounced “Kansha” in Japanese. The beautiful calligraphy was done by Chie Nakata and given to our dojo by her and her husband Jeremy Blaustein, an accomplished karate practitioner, who trained with us for many years. He says this is an expression of his philosophy of life.

The message is a welcome reminder to all of us who see it – so easy to forget amid the coarseness of our world and the tyranny of our phones. It is such a wonderful remedy for what disturbs us most.

Another beautiful thing about the calligraphy is what it reveals about the character of the person who created it. In executing a piece of calligraphy you only get one chance to get it right. There may have been a thousand or ten thousand repetitions to prepare the skills of the artist. But at the moment of truth, there is just one chance.

The moment of action is a single instant. An unseen potential suddenly appears. Lightning in the night sky; a single strike that drops a powerful opponent.

The effort might look easy, fluid, precise and perfectly natural – but will, to a skilled observer, reveal the accumulated aspiration and effort that went in to mastering your skill – and in the process, to mastering your own limitations: your distraction, hurry, hesitation.

Just as in the mastery of kata.

As in kata practice, the product, what we can see, is not just an aesthetic gesture, but what is more important and more beautiful, it is a sign of the character of the person who performs it. The real art is the refinement of the person, not just the kata, or the artwork.

We are the material of our own art. Our transformation is evident is the art we do, and in every moment of our life. In fact there is no way to conceal your true character. It is impossible to hide what we are really like from a skilled observer – a teacher, a family member, a friend, ourselves.

Because our character is always evident we ought to strive continually to perfect it. Because it is the medium in which we live it is always worth refining.

Having a way to do that – like budo – a martial way, or shodo – is a blessing.

We have that. And we have wonderful, generous people around us to demonstrate its value. And for that we should always be grateful.

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