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THE MEANING OF SISU

Sisu Defined: A Unique Finnish Concept
Sisu is a unique Finnish concept. It stands for the philosophy that what must be done will be done, regardless of what it takes. Sisu is a special strength and persistent determination and resolve to continue and overcome in the moment of adversity… an almost magical quality, a combination of stamina, perseverance, courage, and determination held in reserve for hard times.
In the past Finns were obliged to struggle against nature and against foreign intruders. Despite all of the drawbacks along the way, the struggle produced much strength. The early settlers found inspiration in the Finnish landscape, sky and in mythological heroes who taught them that it was possible to overcome obstacles. In more recent times, the same sources have been the basic source of inspiration for athletes, artists, designers and architects who have made Finland known to the world.

In Finland almost everyone knows the meaning of this word as a psychological characteristic. Despite this popularity, this Finnish trademark in sports has no direct translation in any other foreign language.

The author Aini Rajanen, in a book entitled "Of Finnish Ways" states this about Sisu:

"It is not surprising that sisu is a word that can't be translated. No other language has a word which quite conveys the meaning, possibly because no other country has ever had a need of this quality. Sisu refers not to the courage of optimism, but to a concept of life that says, I may not win, but I will give up my life gladly for what I believe. ... This feeling has sustained the Finns in fighting forty-two wars with Russia and losing every one. It's the quality that lets them laugh at themselves in the face of disaster. It's the hard-jawed integrity that makes them pay their war debts when wealthier nations repudiate their obligations. In short, it's the indomitable will that sets Finns apart and explains many of the incredible things they do. Sisu is the only word for the Finns' strongest national characteristic."

Yet, words, regardless of quantity, quality or descriptiveness, do not replace what a Finn feels. Somewhere deep within an inherited psyche, the Finn knows exactly what Sisu is. It is not definable in words, it can only be experienced.

Sisu and the Martial Arts
Sisu has two sides to it: one that seems positive and one that is negative, even dangerous. Apparently these two sides are in opposition in the same way that good and evil are. The Chinese philosophy of yin and yang can help us beyond this apparent opposition. For Taoists, life is a dynamic interplay between the polar opposites of yin and yang. They believe that each pair of opposites constitutes a polar relationship where the two poles are extremely linked. This concept of life is not very common in western countries, where all things and especially social phenomena are divided and separated into different spheres that increasingly more difficult to link. A concrete example can be taken from medicine. In western countries, doctors are more and more specialized in a little parts of the body. In China, one medical professional takes care of the whole person. One can not separate mind and body because many physical illnesses have got their origins in the subconscious.

Indeed, in opposition with this segmentation of reality, Chinese people consider things as a whole phenomenon that is part of the universe. In other words, the martial artist tries to find equilibrium, or a dynamic balance between the two opposite poles. Moreover, this equilibrium is never fixed; it moves and fluctuates because of time and conditions: what was dangerous or unnecessary the day before may be inevitable the day after. The "way" is relative and in perpetual movement. This concept of dynamic flow or “aiki” embodies Sisu in the practice and study of jujitsu. Sisu is the ideal representation in the philosophy and practice of martial arts, and more specifically, jujitsu and Kodokan Judo. The “pliant or yielding art” has developed into a daily practice or a “yielding way”. In life’s struggles and adversities, to have Sisu is to survive and to maintain one’s inner core of peace, harmony and truth. This is the foundation to Sisu Judo and Jiu Jitsu, and its guiding principle in all aspects of practice.

Sisu Judo and Jiu Jitsu studies, teaches and practices the arts and styles of Kodokan Judo, Chokushin Aiki Jujutsu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.


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Yin & Yang

Kanji for "Do" (The Way)

Kanji for "Ki" (Energy)

Kanji for "Hara" (Heart, Mind, Guts)
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