The Other Half of Training(3)…

by André Cognard Shihan

At the beginning of my time with [Hirokazu Kobayashi]  Sensei,  I had no idea of the various  fundamental differences in attitudes between Asian people  and Westerners.  I had always been very reserved, and almost never spoke, and so I never really became aware of Sensei’s thinking about silence:  I simply assimilated it to my own habitual  reticence, and inhibitions.

The excellence of the food which we generally found ourselves eating also had a definite – and positive – role in my initiation into the practice of silent conversation.  It worked this way:  every time that an exceptional dish or wine was placed in front of us – and that happened on an almost daily basis – Sensei would fall into so deep a concentration that I could not possibly have dared to interrupt it. His whole body was focused on the perception of tastes and aromas, intensely involved, inspired even, in a way that could come only from the glass or the plate; and then, when, after several minutes, he raised his eyes in my direction, he would say nothing, but his lit-up face, and his grateful smile told me so much that I could never possibly have interrupted that communication with [mere] words…

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