Gaden Insui — Pull Water to My Own Rice Paddy 我田引水

Our karatedō enables us to project our strong spirit to influence the world around us.

Gaden Insui 我田引水 [pronounced “gah-den in-sway”] means to draw water to one’s own rice field (literally “my rice field, pull water”).

However, the purpose of this concept isn't to offer agricultural advice.

As Outside, So Inside

We are, rightfully, often focused on the improvement of our inner selves – on developing and improving focus, strong spirit, awareness, and more. But our outer self – the appearance we show the world – is a vital component of our entire being. Our outer self is not just a “cosmetic” or superficial layer – it is an important part of who we are as karateka, and as people.

It is often said that one can distinguish a karateka from those around him by his or her actions and manner. In many ways, those external actions and manner are a mirror of the inner focus, strength, and strong spirit that a karateka seeks to develop.

Because of the truth of this, it is therefore important that we take good care to project the inner focus and strong spirit that we have. This enables us to both utilize those qualities in accomplishing the task at hand and also creates a positive feedback loop that reinforces those qualities.

Take this simple example: if we train organization and discipline, we can both project it by having an organized desk and we can reinforce the training of organiation and discipline by having an organized desk. This is how gaden insui works.

Projecting a Strong Spirit

Certainly, in the dojo, gaden insui teaches us to see ourselves from outside ourselves, and to judge what needs refinement, what needs further improvement or modification. For example, as we perform kata, every part of our external manner serves to make the kata more powerful, more representative of the underlying concept of kata as a pre-arranged fight.

In other words, we shape the perception of those watching our kata – and in fact, the kata itself – by how we present ourselves and project our strong spirit and technique.

But gaden insui is even more important outside the dojo.

In order to have the maximum impact on the world around us, we need to project a true mirror of our strong spirit. If we are successful in this, our spirit and strength will be on display for all to see, drawing others to us, allowing us to influence the world around us for positive effect. Gaden insui teaches us that we must project a true mirror – not a false front. And it teaches us that we must project strongly and clearly.

To practice gaden insui is to project our kokoro (strong spirit) outwards, and use it as a beacon to attract others for a greater good, and to help us shape the world and everything in it according to our goals and aspirations.

Kanji/Katakana Meaning
我田 my [own] rice field (gaden)
引水 drawing water (insui)

Editor's Note: This lecture was first delivered by Sensei in Mill Valley, California on 14 May 2012, and then again at the Goju Karate NYC Dojo on 26 April 2023.