Last night, over a game involving a Lego minotaur, my youngest son and I engaged in some mutual antagonization. It turns out I’ve had way more practice, and soon my son jumped up from the floor, eyes ablaze with anger and fists ready to fly. Sensei Wiseman usually instructs him during the children’s class, and she’s been doing a great job. My son did not hesitate to start throwing alternating punches at me, beautifully straight and fast. My curiosity trumped my good parenting and I egged him on saying something like, “You want to fight, huh?”
I gently tapped his face in the manner of a slap-fight, but when I went low, I caught him in the solar plexus rather than my intended target: the stomach. This brought tears to his eyes, but he came on stronger (aiming for my groin now), even when I carefully took him down. Just so y’all don’t get the wrong idea, I wasn’t beating my five-year-old; this is the kind of rough housing we engage in frequently per his request, though the emotions involved this time were a little different. At this point, I figured I’d probably done enough psychological damage and I swept him up in a hug and he finally let himself cry. I felt really bad. I took both boys out for brownie ice cream, and my apology was accepted. But I have to admit: I was extremely proud of him because he displayed great spirit (we can discuss my parenting strategies elsewhere.) This event got me wondering about kokoro.
Kokoro, as I understand the word (and I don’t speak Japanese), means “heart”. Heart to me is an internal toughness, a willingness to persevere in the face of fear or pain. It means grit, and it’s something that is essential to martial arts. But can it be taught? Certainly, if it’s there, it can be brought out, but do some people have it and some don’t? Is it like language: something everyone can learn but if not learned early it might never be? What do you think?
I hope to spark a discussion, and I will respond to any comments as quickly as possible. If there is no discussion, I’ll just keep asking questions to the word processor until it tells me something useful.
“The Way of a Warrior / Cannot be encompassed / By words or in letters: / Grasp the essence / And move on toward realization!” –Morihei Ueshiba