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The meaning behind the kodoan symbol

I created the symbol for the Kodoan Zen temple way back in 1996.  I was still active duty in the United States Air Force, stationed at McChord, AFB in Washington state.  I started teaching there quite by accident.

I was working as a Logistics Expert and, during my lunch hour, I would train at the squadron gym.  Apparently, my squadron commander's secretary would also workout there at lunch time.  The squadron secretary was a Japanese woman in her late 50's, very professional in demeanor and appearance but always nice to everyone on base.  One day during my lunch workout, while I was practicing the Omori-Ryu sword kata with a bokken (wooden sword), she approached me, smiled and said, "I notice you practice Asian martial arts, would you be willing to perform a demonstration for the upcoming Asian Heritage Day event?"  I replied, "but I'm not Asian".  She smiled and said, "the important thing is that you are doing something that has an Asian heritage".  I said, "then, I would be honoured".

Well, that turned into an annual event - I was asked back every year.  One year, during an inspection, our squadron commander (Major Tracy Hardwick) and the wing commander (Lieutenant Colonel Michael J. Branchini) were walking through our warehouse.  My flight was all lined up, standing at attention.  As the two commanders passed by, the wing commander stopped, turned around and said, "Airman Gomes?"  My heart dropped.  Usually, when one of the big shots singles you out, it's not a good thing.  I answered, "yes sir!"  He said, "are you the Airman Gomes that did a sword demonstration at the Asian heritage day event?"  I said, "yes sir!"  He said, "I saw that, very well done!"  Then they kept walking.

A few days later, my squadron commander called me into his office.  He said, "Airman Gomes?"  I said, "yes sir!"  He continued, "the community youth center just lost its martial arts teacher, I'm volunteering you as the new one."  I said, "yes sir!"  Major Hardwick continued, "That's all, my secretary will give you the details - dismissed!"  "Yes sir!" I replied and saluted.  When my salute was returned, I turned on my heels and left.  

After about six months of teaching, a local tournament popped up and some of my students wanted to attend.  I thought that a school patch would be nice so I went to a local martial arts supply store that made custom patches, did silk screens and the like.  I brought in my design to Mark Byrd, the tall, lanky manager with a goatee, ponytail and gruff disposition.  After explaining its meaning, he said, "that's a good design."  When I came back to pick up my patches, he said, "oh by the way, another school owner came by while I was making your patches and took a liking to the design.  After I explained the meaning, he wanted some of them for himself!  I let him know that it doesn't work that way!"  We both thought that was amusing!

The symbol on that patch is the trademark symbol of a full moon rising over a red bridge with a blue night sky.

The moon symbolizes enlightenment.  The moon lights your path but its light comes from another source (the sun) just as your enlightenment "lights your path" but that enlightenment ALSO comes from another source (God) - as awesome as you think you are, you are NOT the creator of the universe!

The bridge symbolizes the "two fold path of the warrior"; death and enlightenment - both are to be found on the battlefield.  It's colour is red symbolizing the masculine energy which is forceful and protective.

The "all encompassing" night sky is blue representing the feminine energy which is nurturing and compassionate.

The outline of the symbol is circular representing perfection, timelessness and the infinite.

So, in case you were wondering what it means and where it came from - now you know!

 


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