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
"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