Kachou Fuugetsu — Flower, Bird, Wind, Moon 花鳥風月

Nature is a fundamental part of our being as humans. Our connection to nature, can become frayed: we're greatly helped by improving that connection. Simultaneously, having a true and accurate picture of our reality increases the chances of meeting our goals and fulfilling our purpose in life.

Kachou Fuugetsu 花鳥風月 [pronounced “ kah-chew-foo-geh-tzoo”] combines four basic kanji: flower, bird, wind, and moon.

This combination describes all reality. And it also describes the fundamental components of nature.

Nature as Connection

We are human beings, and as such, we are inhabitants of nature, and a product of nature. We have a very intimate connection with nature itself, but in modern societies, our connection to nature can become frayed and tenuous.

If we spend a lot of time isolated from the parts and forces of nature, there is a disconnection that occurs between our body and our mind. We don't necesarily have to go camping in the wildnerness to re-establish that connection, but it would certainly be helpful to take a walk in the rain or have your lunch sitting in a park.

Certainly, all this sounds ephemeral, doesn't it? But don't discount the fact that our bodies have many, many fine-tuned reactions to natural phyiscal stimuli. The smell of cut grass, the feeling of warm sunshine on your face, and the sounds of wind and snow outside are all millenia-spanning connections for us. Don't discount the effect nature has on you – it's significant.

Maintaining that connection is important; in a way, the physical aspects of karatedō training are one element in this connection, but there is so much more to experience, and much of it requires you to be outside. Even something as simple as walking to work instead of taking the bus or train (if this is possible for you) will have a beneficial aspect on your state of mind and feeling of well-being.

Nature as All Reality

The entire universe around us, however, is mirrored by these basic parts of nature. And so as such, kachou fuugetsu 花鳥風月really is a commentary about our connection to the universe, and reality.

Many concepts in our karatedō are concerned with shaping reality. We work hard to lead, to develop vision and act upon it, and much more.

However, it is also important for us to see reality as it exists and not necessarily as we want it to be. To do less would create a significant obstacle to our ability to achieve our goals (mokuteki: read more) and fulfill our purpose (ikigai: read more).

Don't hide for reality: embrace it. Understand it, strive to wrap your mind around it, and internalize it into everything you do. Everything that you do, then, will be fully informed and cognizant of the universe around you, and you'll be acting from a strong foundation.

Kanji/Katakana Meaning
flower (hana) [pronounciations are modified or truncated for all of these kanji as they are combined]
bird (tori)
wind (kaze)
moon (tsuki)

Editor's Note: This lecture was first delivered by Sensei at the Goju Karate dojo in San Rafael, California on 10 September 2014; this concept was presented again at the Goju Karate NYC Dojo on 27 September 2023.