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Looking for Blue Skies January 30, 2009

Posted by Alex Sawit in Stuff in General.

By Alex Sawit

30 January 2009




In Samurai X: The Motion Picture (the movie version of the hit anime series that I used to watch when it was airing a decade ago) there’s a moment early in the story when the hero befriends a kind-hearted samurai who would, through a twist of fate, later become his mortal enemy. In this peaceful beginning, however, the two speak with warm familiarity as only two warriors can relate to each other. As they talk about how fleeting life is, the other samurai then recites a haiku that strikes a chord in the hero’s heart.

He said:


“The bluest sky

Is infinitely high

And crystal clear.”



The poem struck a chord in me, too. If you’ve ever really looked up and gazed at the clear blue sky, you might also understand it the same way I did.

Try it. Wait for a calm, cold morning when you can feel the chill of the air bracing on your skin and awakening your senses, when the sky above is wide open and faint clouds delicately whisper across in white, when the sunlight is so soft that it ever so gently makes the colors glow around you. Then look up. If everything is right, that’s when the sky is at its most dazzlingly beautiful – a blue so deep and so vividly pure that it pierces you and quiets your soul.

You need not be a samurai to understand it. But as a martial artist, I like to believe that this sentiment is what defines the heart of a warrior – the quiet heart.

To be calm in the heat of battle… to see clearly and not be blinded by rage in the face of your enemy… to feel compassion for those whose hatred seeks to destroy you… that’s the quiet heart as I understand it.

All the martial artists whom I most respect and admire in this world have this heart. I see it in my longtime friend, Rico M., a truly decent human being who is both my senior colleague and chief instructor of our school. I see it in our headmaster and teacher, Master Y., a Korean gentleman whose good nature and old-fashioned modesty belie how terrifyingly efficient he can be in action when life and death hang in the balance.

And then there is me. I know what it is like to have such a heart. But I also know what it is like to lose it. You see although the quiet heart is a state of being, it is also a continuing path. One can therefore diverge from it.

The thing is I used to be an active martial artist who trained regularly with my colleagues before I opened Cyrano in 2004. Four years. I hadn’t really thought about how long it had been until only a few weeks ago, when our small family of black belts got together for a special lunch to celebrate the beginning of the New Year and catch up with each other. But seeing everyone again only made me realize what I’d done, what I’d given up in order to commit myself to something else.

The truth is I have no regrets about the choice I made. I love this wine shop of ours and I love the Cyrano friends I have met and dedicated myself to during these last few years. I know I made the right choice.

And yet…

One way or another, if I have to do it one step at a time, I need to find those blue skies again.





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