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Cheryl Matrasko
James Loeser
Matthew O'Connor


Cheryl Matrasko
James Loeser
Matthew O'Connor


Discipline and Training
Martial Arts Honor

by Cheryl Matrasko

We in the western hemisphere abuse the terms "honor" and "honorable". I highly doubt that most of the martial artists of today really understand what these words really mean. These terms have been sloppily associated with glorified acts of revenge, revenge for an embarrassing situation, bruised ego, a wrongful death, etc. The honor of Bushido, has its root in the word "honesty" or "integrity". Honor is "truth".

In addition, one phrase that has been perverted and misunderstood is: " . . . to save face . . . ". means to seek and preserve honesty and integrity, no matter how difficult it is ... no matter how much a compromise of integrity seduces your senses ... no matter what integrity will do to harm the dishonest ego. This is the "honor" of the true Bushido. Not everyone is strong enough to wear it. While we may never be perfect, it is the lifelong struggle towards that perfection that makes one great. This is the challenge and the object of accomplishment, that is a part of Bushido training martial arts. This is the same level of character that instructor Isao Takahashi lectured to us over and over again, during my training over 30 years ago.

Integrity is important and paramount above all. Good character is admired, because of the difficulty that it takes to maintain. One's true strength and discipline can be measured by his/her character.

A friend of mine, referred to a mutual acquaintence as honorable ... and I disagreed. The reason for my difference, was that this fellow Aikidoist had visited once and was boastful of himself, berated other Aikidoists in the dojo (including my friend), and placed himself as better than anyone. He did this openly in front of the students of the dojo. I did promptly disapprove of this visitor's behavior and made sure my objections were communicated when it was a much more polite time to do so. By then, the visitor left and returned home to Europe. Later that year, I had gone to Europe and made a visit to this very same man. Sadly, and to my   disappointment ... his behavior was much the same. The same bravado and self-indulgence. Much later, when my friend spoke with the former visitor via long-distance, he mentioned that he
felt this man to be honorable because he was nice and said different things than he had done when he first visited. However, it is not honorable for someone to initially perform such behavioral indiscretions and then try to appeal in another false face. This is dishonest --- this is not honorable.

Honorable means that you must be honest and truthful with yourself. And there is always something to be learned from the things you are afraid of or want to avoid. To be honorable we need to face the things we fear and the things we don't want to see. The most fearful things we don't want to face are those things we hate in ourselves, be it ... lack of honesty, ego indulgence, brashfulness, etc. Many of us refuse to acknowledge the existence of these traits in ourselves. These characteristics --- as bad and as undesirable as they are --- are the human part of our existence and are best dealt with when you can identify them. For instance, if you know where an infection is on your hand, it is easier to treat. If the individual chooses to ignore it --- the sore infects and worsens to the point of killing. It is the act of "saving face ...", is that means to rectify or maintain honesty within one's self, no matter the pain and price to pay. It is to face that aspect ... which is not honorable in yourself. This is what "saving face" is really about.

Perhaps when we truthfully deal with those frightening things about ourselves , we can better accept those things that truly compliment our character, without being boastful, self-indulgent or narcissistic. If we are honest with our own character flaws and make the painstaking
effort to make these flaws into good qualities, we can go freely towards perfection. We will not need to prove ourselves, force-feed our egos, and make rank chasing a priority over life long learning in peace.

Facing our dark sides takes courage and what results is bravery. I knew of a man and a friend of his, that cheated a few elderly couples of some money. Finding it difficult to live with his crime, he confessed freely and turned himself in, along with his partner. He did go to jail for a short time, paid back his victims willingly, and still accepts the fact that he will have a difficult time finding good employment for a long time. This man committed a dishonest act and on his own volition chose to return to being "honorable". He could have easily kept his silence and no one would have found out his identity, but he was strong enough to "save face" and face his own bad character. I would believe this man to be the courageous one. He ended up showing his strength of character through the trial, bad publicity, and financial ruin. His family was proud of his acts of redemption, as they should be. His actions of courage were not out of fear of his crime being discovered, but of a genuine wish to be honorable again. While some acts such as killing the enemy in war are considered courage and bravery, they are more acts of survival --- that place the soldier in absolute danger and as a result they perform their extreme best, in the worst of times. In regards to this man, there was no danger in being discovered. He freely gave up dishonesty, knew
and accepted the penalties, made restitution voluntarily, and fully understood that life would be difficult for both he and his family. He performed his best in the worst of times. Some may say this man was a criminal and -- yes, he committed a crime, but it still required courage to do what he did. He is brave to continue his life living with this
stain. And this stain will fade eventually into nothingness ... with time.

Courage and bravery is oftentimes, not marked with fanfare and parades. This is only in the old war films. As they say " ... movies imitate life, but life surely isn't like the movies ...". While dead soldiers will not hear parades or champagne glasses chime their praises for courage and bravery, neither will those that are silently courageous and continue to be brave in their vigilant quest to be "honorable". Perhaps, you really don't need the fanfare and acknowledgements for these things. It may be that when you are truly honorable --- is when you discover that you hold something that is more precious than a medal, another empty Dan rank, or even money. You cannot barter or purchase honor. It comes with hard work, pain, and extreme effort, It is not to be compromised. True honor makes the soul feel good. It is nearly private, because honor is a private and earnest endeavor.


Cheryl Matrasko is a Network Analyst for the department of Networking and Communications at a prominent Chicago hospital. Formerly the LAN Administrator for
Northwestern University Medical School - Department of OB/GYN, and assistant LAN Administrator to the previous MIS of the School of Law. Cheryl started Aikido in 1965,
studying under Isao Takahashi as her first instructor. She enjoyed working out under many well known Aikido instructors during her tenure with Takahashi Sensei and thereafter following his death in 1971. Cheryl has dedicated time with instructors in Northern Shaolin
Long-Fist, Seven Stars Praying Mantis, and Daito-Ryu Aikijujitsu. Currently, she is instructing Aikido at Northwestern University's Chicago Campus and founded Aikido World Journal.

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Michio Hikitsuchi 10th Dan 1978
(C. Matrasko as uke)
1978 C. Matrasko

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