A fascinating story where Piotr makes us experience from the inside his passion for aikido . I started this book and couldn’t stop reading. It’s interesting to see that each course is different. That of Piotr, uchideshi of Chiba sensei sometimes seems so hard to me but also so rich! How to learn an art without suffering? Is it possible ?
Thank you sensei Masztalerz for this testimony.
…. I read something analogous to my own life in Masztalerz’s story. Once, at two in the morning, drinking whiskey after sake after beer with my own very harsh teacher, he said, “If only you had come here at sixteen, I could have made you into something worthwhile. You came here at twenty-three, already thinking you have a soul of your own. You are a waste of time.” Part of me was shocked and hurt, having yet again failed to measure up to his exacting standards; part of me gleefully thought, “Yeah! Hah, hah, muthafucka! I have a soul and there’s nothing you can do about it! You will never get me!” Masztalerz, in his various allusions to ‘poison’ throughout the book, a term Chiba himself used, is referring to Paracelus’ phrase, “All things are poison, and nothing is without poison; the dosage alone makes it so a thing is not a poison.” Masztalerz turned Chiba’s harsh teaching into medicine, though at times, it must have felt as bad as chemotherapy….
A couple of weeks ago while in quarantine I had the opportunity to read The Kingdom of Dust by my fellow aikidoist and friend, Piotr Masztalerz. His account of training under Chiba sensei and the dynamic of their relationship over the years was dramatic, at times frightening to read about, inspiring, but more than anything, a deeply honest and humble story of Piotr’s journey. Piotr has a gift with words and an innate ability to motivate those around him to strive to be better. It’s hard not to appreciate his dedication and devotion to aikido as his teacher, Chiba sensei, presented it to the world.
I just finished reading Piotr Masztalerz Sensei’s (6. dan, Wrocław Aikikai & Birankai) excellent book The Kingdom of Dust. I posted earlier about the first 300+ pages, and the finished translation — the book was released in Polish back in 2018 — just dropped. I simply devoured the last 100 pages last evening.
It’s a book first and foremost about the relation of a teacher and a student. Masztalerz Sensei was an uchi deshi (live-in student) of quite notorious Kazuo (T.K.) Chiba Sensei in San Diego. Chiba (1940-2015) was a direct student of the founder of Aikido, O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba, and was famous for his fierce temper and very severe training. This book is partly a window to that very complex man and teacher.
The book expands from that almost post traumatic reflection to offer thoughts on Western way of life, finding something meaningful to do it middle of the endless stream of routines and choices in our everyday experience. As a trained historian (this obviously resonates with me) Masztalerz contextualizes his own inner struggles in a way that is both brutally honest and refreshingly critical.
The Kingdom of Dust should be on every aikido practitioner’s reading list. It is a moving story. A story of blood, sweat, and tears under one of leading aikido masters – T.K. Chiba sensei. It is a story about heart and the journey through darkness of an uchideshi to the birth of an aikido professional with insight as to how to connect to students. Students who often feel alone and naked as they step on the mat and explore the elusive world of aikido. Sensei Piotr Masztalerz shares his personal journey and what it means to connect with heart and it sharing his personal journey that has the quality to transform and create a new heart.
“I am no one special, I have no rights reserved to the word ‘Aikido’, or even to my teacher’s teaching- there were so many of us. Our destiny is to give something that is wholly ours to people, who will understand it in their own ways.” -p. 207
I just recently finished reading this very personal tale by a man who has publicly responded to the joint koans of “What is Aikido?” and “Who was Chiba Sensei?” As with koan training, drawn from the Rinzai Zen tradition, there is no accurate way to answer the questions rationally or definitively, yet respond to them you must. The Kingdom of Dust is that response and I am deeply impressed by its earthy, poetic prose, and by Piotr’s blend of naked honesty, scholarship and dark humor. He is unquestionably a mad fool. But so am I.
To give some perspective on my views, I, too, am a student of the late Professor T.K. Chiba, a graduate of his kenshusei program (circa 1995). As far as I can recall, I have met and trained with Piotr only once, so I am far from being a close associate. However, after reading his story, I know us to share what I refer as ‘the nameless hunger’, that irrational drive that causes us to upend one’s life in the search for a vital experience, a liberation from ‘grey-ness’.
“For us, the ceremonial trainings with Chiba Sensei were like an addictive black mass. Not a self-defense course, but an hour of juggling with explosives.” -p.153
“Under the Aikido land of love and harmony, an active volcano is seething. Sometimes an eruption destroys a big part of paradise, and the unicorns run around the meadow with burnt asses for a while.” -p. 280
This book will piss off more than a few. About that, I have no doubt. For he shines his light into dark corners, exposing our too common yearning for status, recognition and most of all, the blessing from our teachers that we are ‘doing it right’. Chiba Sensei could smell this need upon you like it was bad cologne and perhaps his most painful lesson was to expose this to the world, and so to yourself. To pass through his domain as a disciple you had to find a deeper, more durable motivation.
“Each dojo has the smell and taste of its teacher. Created from madness and from sacrificing one’s life, it has his palm imprinted on the doors. The dojo is his inside, and each step taken there is a journey into his soul. Whether he wants it or not- what he has created is a grand physical model of the cage in which his life rattles.” -p. 312
Much more than a recounting of his uchi deshi (live-in disciple) experience, The Kingdom of Dust is also an intimate recounting of the life of the professional teacher. What could possibly motivate one to live a life of such austerity, to expose your soul, with all its baggage and foibles to your students, constantly and without ceasing?
I do not have Piotr’s poetic gift, but I do recognize the Spirit of Service when I see it. Though I am sure he would never claim so, I feel he exemplifies the core of what has made the teacher-student relationship within the Budo tradition the centuries-long and enduring crucible of transformation that it is. This book both moved me and disturbed me, caused me to reflect. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
I’ve been very lucky to go through the uchideshi program at Wroclaw Aikikai. The book uncovers some of the reasons behind things I witnessed there and is another great touch from a Masztalerz Sensei to me.
The author is a totally devoted professional and this makes the book useful for those who made a choice. I’ve been thinking, laughing and changing while reading. Same will happen to you.
“I was around during the years Masztalerz Sensei was in San Diego. I was training in Northern California with Shibata Sensei, but we all visited each other’s dojos regularly and met at camps and seminars. We each had our own relationship with Chiba Sensei, and while mine was quite different, yet everything Masztalerz Sensei has written rings true. Reading his perspective has awakened my memories and reminded me of how I was formed by those times and how much I owe to Chiba Sensei and the world he created.”
Alexander V. Gheorghiu, UK
„This is a haunting story of a misadventure driven purely by the fight for survival. The utterly flattened context of post-communist Poland emphasizes a question just as relevant today as it was in ancient times: who are you? Here is a story of how dedication, sacrifice, pain, and a little bit (…) of madness, drive your feet along a path which leads to the answer. I enjoyed every page”
Daniel Pacios Elola, Spain
„89 páginas que se leen de un tirón y te dejan con ganas de que la próxima entrega de capítulos traducidos llegue cuanto antes. Por supuesto, como aikidoka, lo he disfrutado como un enano. Sin embargo, no creo que sea una lectura exclusiva para los practicantes de artes marciales, cualquier persona con una pasión se sentirá identificada con la dedicación y sacrificios que se describen en el libro.”
Edward Burke, South Africa
„This is a wonderful book, a reflection of a man who has poured his life into the beautiful, painful, pointless art of aikido. It is strange, contentious and beautifully written. Piotr Masztalerz’s voice and his conviction come through clearly in the English translation. Everyone should read”
Już jakiś czas temu przeczytana, bardzo wartościowa lektura. Teraz w sam raz na czas epidemii. Gorąco polecam twórczość Piotra Masztalerza .
Królestwo kurzu – Piotr Masztalerz to książka różnorodna. Pełna kontrastów. Jest trochę o aikido, aikido to trochę życie, dla niektórych całe życie. Nawiązania do historii świata, ludzi są znakomite, nie na darmo autor jest z wykształcenia historykiem. Jest też taka osobista. Tak jak słucha się historii przyjaciela wieczorem przy winie tudzież sake.
Upstrzona anegdotami, humorem, często sarkazmem. Dla mnie kawał pięknej literatury.
Mam nadzieję, że także znajdziecie w niej coś dla siebie. Zatem #zostanwdomu #keepcalmandreadbooks
Po książkę zapraszam tutaj:
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