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Sharing a meal at Kagami Biraki, a Japanese New Year’s celebration

By Lisa Jensen
Special to The PREVIEW

Photo courtesy Lisa Jensen Members of Pagosa Springs’ Aikido of the San Juans dojo celebrate Kagami Biraki, a traditional Japanese New Year’s ceremony. Pictured, front to back, are Taylor Capistrant, Grayson Capistrant and Donovan Galabota.

Photo courtesy Lisa Jensen
Members of Pagosa Springs’ Aikido of the San Juans dojo celebrate Kagami Biraki, a traditional Japanese New Year’s ceremony. Pictured, front to back, are Taylor Capistrant, Grayson Capistrant and Donovan Galabota.

Students, family and friends of Aikido of the San Juans celebrated Kagami Biraki on Jan. 6 by training, pounding rice to make mochi and sharing a meal.

Kagami Biraki is a traditional Japanese New Year’s celebration. Family and friends gather and offer mochi, round rice cakes. The round mochi represent a round mirror, a symbol of self-reflection.

In feudal Japan, mirrors represented the soul or conscience. It was considered important to keep mirrors clean since they were thought to reflect back onto the viewer’s own thoughts. The concept of polishing a mirror was used to illustrate to the common people that they should look inside themselves as if they were looking into a mirror.

Photo courtesy Lisa Jensen Elan Ramirez practices techniques taught by Bill Trimarco, Aikido instructor, at Kagami Biraki, a traditional Japanese New Year’s ceremony.

Photo courtesy Lisa Jensen
Elan Ramirez practices techniques taught by Bill Trimarco, Aikido instructor, at Kagami Biraki, a traditional Japanese New Year’s ceremony.

Japanese legend tells a story of a deity, who fell out of favour with the other gods because of his unusually cruel nature. This deity was banished and eventually found his way to a secluded cave where he came upon a mirrorlike object. This mirrorlike object forced him to look at himself, reflect upon his actions by looking deeper inside, and try to figure out why he was such a cruel person. After many years of personal reflection, the deity returned to the other gods who immediately noticed a great change in his mannerisms and character.

In traditional martial arts dojos, Kagami Biraki represents a renewing of the spirit and rededication to training. For the samurai or modern-day martial artists, the act of polishing a mirror or of polishing one’s armor or weapons symbolizes self-polishing: working on and perfecting the self, and reducing ego. It represents practice to keep the mind and resolve clear.

Aikido’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba, considered aikido a path to bring out

Photo courtesy Lisa Jensen Aikido instructor Bill Trimarco demonstrates a technique to Ella Blechman, showing her how to get out of the way of a punch.

Photo courtesy Lisa Jensen
Aikido instructor Bill Trimarco demonstrates a technique to Ella Blechman, showing her how to get out of the way of a punch.

the best in people. One of his mottos was, “True victory is self victory.” He further explained that, “Winning without contending is true victory, a victory over oneself.” Ueshiba believed that all beings are connected and that the purpose of aikido is to bring peace and harmony to this world.

Through continual training, aikido practitioners polish our spirit, following Morihei Ueshiba’s instruction to “never stop practicing, learning, and reflecting on what you have done.”

This story was posted on January 9, 2014.