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Nana Korobi Ya Oki - '7 Times Down 8 Times Up': Success Secrets from the Martial Art of Ninjutsu

Jeffrey Miller
Aug 17, 2007
On the left lapel of every adult student here at Warrior Concepts, there is a patch bearing the Japanese kanji character 'NIN.' Although the kanji itself has two pronunciations in Japanese, it is the original Chinese meaning of "perseverance," "to endure," or "to put up with" that we focus on heavily in the Warrior Concepts Life Mastery Program. And, even though our youth students do not wear the same patch, this concept is imbedded deeply into their programs as well.

When we talk about the concept of perseverance, everyone seems to be in agreement. "Yes," they agree, "one should have the ability and willingness to stay the course."

But, when we look around us, why are their so few examples of this quality?

In Japan, there is a saying, Nana Korobi Ya Oki, which means, "seven times down, 8 times up." It can be seen displayed in the WCI main dojo ("training hall") on the noren banner hanging in the front training room surrounded by several Daruma Dolls - themselves symbols of goal-setting and success.

This phrase, like the kanji character NIN, is a reminder that not everything in life is (or should be) easy. If it were, there would be no need for grading in school - or school itself for that matter - social services and the like. The fact is: life has difficulties.

But, it's not about whether or not something is difficult or easy, but in how we deal with that thing, that makes the difference and brings with it the equivalent success or failure.

In Today's culture, it seems that the drive-up-window mentality rules the day. It is this very "I want it now or I'll go somewhere else" thinking that is destroying careers, families, and society in general. When no one is willing to "stay the course" and work through difficulties and challenges, nothing gets better and we are perpetually stuck in a "start-over" cycle.

Can you imagine how disastrous this could be in a self-defense situation? Where everything we do, we do with either...

1) the mindset of "If this doesn't work the first time, I'll just quit," or...

2) the inability to take the attacker down and lock him up, causing a situation where the fight is continually being reset to zero.

In the first scenario, the all-or-nothing mentality will cause us to simply lie-down-and-die at the first sign of trouble. In the second, we will run ragged trying to maintain enough energy for a sustained assault.

The truth is that, sometimes, we will have to endure, to persevere, to put up with things that are uncomfortable. Because, if we take action now, we will be in greater danger.

So, with the greatest of ninja skill...

...we wait.

We wait for the opportunity when something can be done that will effect a victory for us.

This is the core lesson of nana korobi ya oki. It is what allows a ninja warrior to go beyond what most others see as possible. It is the ability to - no matter how many times we're knocked down, attacked, restrained or threatened - get back up and take that next important step toward the fulfillment of our vision.

This is one of the most important traits of a winner - a survivor - the ability to 'go on.' That's why Hatsumi-Sensei, our grand master has said for years, "Keep going!" He says that you have to give everything a good effort and not give up too soon. This includes your martial arts training.

But, to him - a ninja master - a good effort is at least ten years. He says that, if after that time you're still not getting it - you're still not making progress - then, and only then, should you consider trying something else.

Because in the end, it will not be those who sought mastery who will find it, but those who sought to master themselves with the spirit that "I will find it, no matter how how many times I have to go at it or start over."

It is they who will have set their minds and hearts firmly on their vision, and with firm resolve and disciplined action, moved confidently into their future to attain their goal.

Life is challenging and difficult sometimes but, you are stronger. And, the next time it knocks you down - get up and keep going. And remember the Ninja Warrior's motto:

..."Never give up!"
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