It is said that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. This sentiment implies that when someone is truly ready to learn, they will perceive the opportunity to do so and they will recognize the right person to guide them. Something similar might be said of all meaningful relationships within the budo community. If people come together guided by interest and a genuine desire to grow, perhaps it is more than mere chance when they meet at the same place and time. Perhaps it is spiritual navigation and they have something important to learn from one another. This is how we encounter buyu.
Buyu, or martial friends, are the people with whom we bond through training and the family we create among our peers. Buyu may be the colleagues you see regularly at your dojo, former teachers or students, or even contacts you know only from long-distance correspondence. You may connect with them through physical competition, intellectual stimulation or spiritual resonation. Regardless of what initially draws us together, these friendships can become some of the most significant in our lives.
Each person in your martial family brings unique circumstances and history to their training and these may confer on them many different roles to many different people. They may be a mentor, a challenger, a confidant or the inverse of each all at the same time. In these relations, you may find a bond as strong as blood and a friend you trust in a way few can claim. You may find a complementary spirit who lifts you when you need it most and for whom you can do the same. Or you may find the mirror of yourself - a shadow figure who brings all your strengths and faults to light, who forces you to confront your struggles and who pushes you to become better than you thought possible.
Martial family relate to us in a way no one else can. Sharing a deep respect for the budo path, we can rely on them to understand the trials and tribulations it entails and to feel its impact in their lives as we do in ours. This intimate understanding is how we help each other develop. Buyu give us strength and support. They help us move forward through their wisdom and dedication, whether by gentle encouragement or strong correction as appropriate. Because they understand what drives us and they strive with us to direct it for good purpose, they help us become the best we can be both in and out of the dojo.
Cultivating friendship affords us a sense of belonging and continuity in our training. Despite the different turns we may take on our respective paths, we are always moving together toward a similar destination. We may think we are walking alone at times when in fact we are walking in parallel with other buyu, preparing ourselves for the time when our paths will cross. Some companions may appear at a critical juncture and walk with us for many years. Others may alter us dramatically with one profound encounter. Others still may come in and out of our lives, meeting us every so often to exchange a piece of each other until one day when we see them coming, we immediately recognize ourselves. Long after our paths diverge, we are still connected in the footprints we leave behind.
Over the course of our training, buyu may be near or far. We may see them regularly or once in a great while; when fellowship is strong, frequency does not matter because the feeling is the same. As in all aspects of life, so in training as well: families change over time, friends come and go, but the bonds we establish in what we do together, what we learn together and who we grow to be together, remain.