Yugen in Daily Life

For many the term Yugen will be heard and read for the first time at this convention. It is a Japanese term used today mostly in painting and other artistic formats. This is largely because Yugen is a concept that some artists use to convey something in their artwork that reflects “mystery” or something unfathomable.

Martial artists use it in much the same way, but of course, with concepts and principles surrounding our art form. Because Yugen speaks to the idea of mystery, narrowing down how it is used by martial artists is difficult. Each will interpret the meaning of Yugen as it applies to themselves and their understanding of the term. Another Japanese term with similar meaning is Myo. Myo means, again, something understood or perceived experientially that cannot be grasped by the logical, linear mind. Instead it is a state of being, or put another way, a source of creativity from within normally not tapped unless there is an intense involvement in a given activity or endeavor. For the martial artist this refers to being in such a focused yet relaxed place that the movements made are free from design and fears, anger, doubt or other “mental stains” as they are classically referred to. Martial artists, when in touch with this inner Myo or Yugen, find a wellspring of power and creativity that allow them to succeed without mental planning or design, without the usual sources of behavior modifying emotions. Instead we find this power from deep within ourselves, not in a place we can tap ordinarily. In time, and with deep practice, we can reach, even if only for a moment, this Yugen, this inner source of understanding and creativity.

To bring this to daily life, to apply Yugen to our beloved organization, the AJJF, and Danzan Ryu Jujitsu all we need to do is, quote Daisetz T. Suzuki, “When satori (enlightenment) artistically expresses itself, it produces works vibrating with ‘spiritual rhythm’ (or Ki), exhibiting myo (or the mysterious), or giving a glimpse into the Unfathomable, which is yugen.” No big deal, right? In fact this can be applied and achieved using universal and observable principles defined within the esoteric principles as laid down by our founder, Professor Okazaki. Be kind, support your family in all ways, become a useful member of your community. In other words when we serve and in this case service that has at its heart, true selflessness vs. an inner motive or “mental stain” that literally blocks the free flow of this inner creativity. With acts of true service we find an innerspring of power and satisfaction that approximates the Yugen spoken of by many masters.

We have all heard that the work or effort of a person will be evident by the fruits they bear. All we need to do is tune in to the fruits of efforts. Are we doing our own inner direction or desire while at the same time working in harmony with others? Are we producing results wherein the AJJF benefits in a positive and fruitful way? Or does our effort cause strain and conflict? In this way we can know if our Yugen is real and in the best interest of all. True Yugen will never cause pain or conflict when used in the service of others, this being the hallmark of Danzan Ryu and the AJJF. When service that is fueled by Yugen, this inner creativity, takes place, positive and helpful developments for our organization will occur. To master or get in touch with this inner force all we need to do is find a way to serve and be of help.

On the mat, when you tap this inner creativity your art will be effortless and clean. Your techniques will feel as it your body is acting on its own and you’re simply observing the interaction, a paradox often spoken of in oriental martial arts. Your progress will be certain and positive. The Katas will be fun to learn and in their performance you will experience a heightened pleasure. If you have yet to experience this, redouble your efforts, improve your concentration, and through this experience the meaning of Yugen will become apparent within Your Art. Good luck!

Written by Prof. Hudson for the 53rd Annual AJJF Convention 2001.

Professor Hudson's chop