A Little Grooming


The Snow Monkeys in the Yamanochi region are really something else.  The first time I saw them was in a film, Baraka.  It was very calming to watch the monkeys soaking in hot springs.  The hot springs, as it turns out, were built by the Japanese of the region for the monkeys to keep the monkeys out of their fields and from raiding food stores.  The Japanese decided to feed the monkeys near the hot springs and the relationship was formed.  In the United States, ranchers and farmers usually hunt and destroy the pests that would pick on their livestock/crops, but in Japan they created and support a space for the monkeys.  Now, the Snow Monkeys are a tourist attraction in the Winter, and subject of documentaries.

One of the behaviors that I observed was in the grooming habits of the monkeys.  The monkeys groom each other without concern to social structure.  There are relationships within the monkey group, and a social hierarchy, but the alpha male will groom any and will be groomed by any.  They don’t view the task as being burdensome nor as beneath themselves.

There is a social hierarchy in the dojo, but I have seen Izawa Sensei down on the mats wiping and cleaning just like everyone else.  The chores in the dojo are a part of everyone’s tasks, not just white belts.  The tasks in the dojo are just as much a part of the training as suburi, or tenkan exercise, and they create a community of mutual respect.