Misogi Training

Misogi is a Japanese word which roughly translates as “purification”. On Sunday my aikido club did aikido misogi to commemorate the memorial of aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba. Misogi normally involves pain or boredom endlessly repeating a move – in this case misogi was stepping and cutting with a wooden sword 2500 times at break-neck speed followed by some Zen chanting. Nice.

Misogi is a process that looks masochistic…in fact it may well be…but misogi has some very interesting aspects that make it worthwhile. On the physical level you quickly tire (after 250 cuts in my case) and wonder how you will continue. Your body is forced to become more efficient in its movement and you can learn more in 1 hr of continued misogi intense practiced than you do in 1000 lots of five minutes stop-start practice. I have experienced the same thing while working in outdoor education with children – 12hr days 12 days straight. You learnt how to do your job well with the minimum effort out of necessity.
The other nice thing that’s interesting about misogi is the psychological journey. Misogi holds a mirror up to your mind and habits. Then misogi breaks the mirror over your head and slashes your ego’s throat with the pieces. Nice. Your internal dialogue whines, whimpers, screams, plays games and tries to manipulate you out of the commitment of doing misogi with the group. There is no escape. Emotions come and go – for a while I was fuelling Sunday’s misogi on aggression shouting out the Japanese numbers we counted. When the neighbours came to complain I looked for other strategies – sighing the numbers embodying love as best I could (this works quite well), letting the group tide take me along (powerful – you simply can’t do the same number of cuts alone), focusing my mind on anything but my aching shoulders and hands, focusing on the minutia of technique, guessing how long has gone (the not knowing is part of the process) until at some point I surrendered and experienced some flashing now-in-forever mushin (no mind). When the misogi training was over it was almost an anti-climax – but still very satfisfying – I felt great, smiled like a dog on mushrooms and hugged those I made it through the ordeal…I mean challenge…with.
How is it that at times in the misogi I got stronger not more fatigued? A simple physical analysis of misogi misses the point – misogi is not training to get strong shoulders, build stamina or whatever, it’s training in not giving up AND in giving up. Misogi is training to smell your own BS.
Aikido is a martial art that I use to explore and work on myself. My company is a business that I use to explore and work on myself (as well as to contribute). My question to my business training and HR readers is what is your misogi? What do you do in excess to not only improve your efficiency but also to take a good look at who you are?

Training So What: A little bit of excess in moderation does you good.

photo from Castle Rock Dojo website, copyright Christopher Lawson