Ima Tane Ashita Hana [Pronounced “ee-mah t-ah-neh, ah-shee-tah hah-nah”] means “today a seed, tomorrow a flower” — which provides the essential recipe for success and accomplishment in life. In addition, Ima tane ashita hana also explains why success usually happens, and traces the essential step between the beginning of a journey on the path to accomplishment, and its eventual destination at our goal.
As mindful, focused karateka, we are generally well-accustomed to setting goals, and achieving them. Perhaps, though, we ourselves are not as aware as we might be that most of our successes had their roots in modest first steps. Sometimes this step can be simply the statement of a goal, other times it might be the first act that moved us closer to that goal. Generally, though, this first step is very small; its size, however, belies its importance. The first step — the “seed” in our quest for accomplishment is usually the most important, and without it, nothing would come later.
Time is of the Essence
There are so many good ideas that we have, so many potential goals that we can reach for, that in the end the determining factor for success is not whether or not we have good ideas; it is wether we take the first step towards achieving them. In fact, ima 今 itself doesn’t literally mean today: it means “now” — and nothing could be more apt than noting that without starting “now”, there is no goal that can be reached in any of the tomorrows to come.
However, starting is not enough. Yes, surely, it is the most important step towards success, but starting on the path to our goal doesn’t guarantee that we will succeed. We can do many things to promote that success, to increase the chances that we will indeed arrive at the destination that we have set for ourselves. Just like a real seed, we have to nurture our goals: we cannot drop a seed on a barren sidewalk and expect to grow a beautiful flower. Rather, we must plant our seeds in fertile soil, continue to water them, and make sure they are located in a place with adequate sunlight. Both on and off the dojo floor, we have to likewise give ourselves fertile environments that are challenging, thought-provoking, and nurturing; and we have to ensure that the right resources (good food, organized work environments, good planning tools) are available.
Ultimately, Ima tane ashita hana reminds us that in order for our life to be filled with the flowers of success and achievement, we have to be mindful of the seeds we plant.
Presentation Note: Sensei delivered this lecture on 9 April 2014 and again at both the NYC Dojo and at Honbu on 3 August 2022.