To harden without losing one's tenderness ...

The President of the Budo Research Center's wishes


I will not take my turn to add to all these speeches which have been held after the shock the world had to cope with at the time of the terrible events of September 11th 2001. Everything has been said about them ... And in the grip of a powerful and yet understandable emotion, we have heard a certain number of commonplaces such as "the world will never be the same again" ... And yet this expression made me think that this was a matter for serious thought for budokas.

At each turn of its wheel of history, the world changes to be "never the same again" ... But this is not really the point. The point is to know if we have the ability - and the intention- to rebel against some changes or others we do not want, to refuse what is too often put down to an inevitable erosion of the things of life... We are here at the core of our real problem, to which we should find answers somewhere else than in some rhetorical platitudes, some impersonal speeches or pious hopes to try to deny the obvious reality. One should (rightly) assess a situation, make up one's mind (quickly) and commit oneself (really) ... But it is risky not to be on the same wavelength with a public who is not really ready to react to certain situations with the necessary ability to take a decision. It is true : who can still allow oneself the indulgence of being disliked by a public opinion who is in the majority in the wait-and-see policy and the passivity, for lack of being able to prove today the soundness of an action which can only succeed sooner or later ?The point is you need to take the current climate, the "right now" civilisation, the "politically correctness" into account.

In a nutshell, you need to consider a society in which the strenght of the ones I will characterise straight out as weak (the ones who are reluctant to act really, not virtually, now not later, by taking risks) is to have learnt, very wisely and in such an appealing language, to set up what hids in fact an inability to face the real actual challenges as a theory.

I began to think that you budokas, at least, (at the most noble sense of the concept of "Bu-do" or of "Wushu", so far away from the hollow gesticulation we see today) could take the time to define your own options in this world where one should not systematically let go, after progressively giving up all those points of reference that make a civilisation. Because isn't there first, in the actual sense of Bu-do, (who knows it still ?) this wish to “stop the spear” (1), to intervene before it happens, to disarm, to foil the threat before it is too late ? Even if it should remain true that the budoka never attacks first, he must also be aware of his aptitudes (will, means) to foil violence. The aptitudes that allow him, if the need arises, to have a strong answer that deprives the assailant of any chance of succeeding, and even better, that cures him of trying that again. And everybody will feel better.

There have always been predators. The persistent dream of a perfect world for some incorrigible gullible fools, who deny the blue of the blue sky all their life, will never make those predators nice people in the real world ... So what needs to be still done to eventually persuade this "public opinion who is in the majority", lost in the trap of its comfort ? By denying the fact that part of the real world looks, by nature, more like a jungle than like a doll's house, these very gullible fools ( I end up wondering ...) are making this whole world a jungle where all kinds of predators are free to act, often surprised themselves by all this unexpected accommodating attitude ... I have always thought that the budoka, who may be more exposed than anyone else or at least who is more capable and willing (I want to believe it ...) not to let (everything) go, must be capable of judgment and vivacity in the action-answer that may be necessary. Anytime. But this is not all, because as far as that, some training can make the thing quite easy. In fact, advancing on the "Way" is still something else ... a more difficult one : it is the ability to “harden without losing one's tenderness (2). Faced with violent, blind, destroying, wild aggressions, (yes, it happens, every day ...) the budoka should be able to answer with determination and efficiency but also without losing what will always make his difference : his humanity, thus his ability to love.

I know it, and the events show it every day : in this world where the pression of the inacceptable becomes huge, with the conniving cowardice of all those who have found a thousand reasons not to even consider making contact with a reality they go on denying, it is not easy to refuse that the world changes that way, to rebel above hollow speeches. Even less easy to reconcile the hardness (that one should acquire) with the tenderness (that one should be able to keep), to keep one's identity as a human being.

What remains systematically hard and stiff, ends up broken and dies ... What is systematically tender and flexible, ends up being pulled up and dies ... Where is the border between Go (force) and Ju (flexibility), mentally speaking as well as physically speaking ? How does this limit move during the life of a responsible person ? With what means, and according to what options, must each budoka be concern with drawing and respecting it in all conscience ? Asking these questions is, finally, starting what must be the central thought which will give a real sense to what we do in the dojo. A place where it is all about discovering and refining a mental approach, once the body is free of the restraints of a technique finally mastered. Because this is how the "Way" is ...

I wish you all, fellow budokas, close as well as far away, all the best for a year of progress on this Way.

Roland Habersetzer

(Translation by Christine STUBBE)




(1) See "Budo" and "Wushu" in the "Encyclopedie des Arts-Martiaux de l'Extreme-Orient", Editions Amphora, Paris, 2000. (back to the text)

(2) It has been attributed to the famous Cuban revolutionary, Che Guevara (1928 - 1967), who may have taken it from somebody else himself ? (back to the text)