Wabi Sabi and the Beauty of Imperfect Things

On Sunday, we introduced the Japanese term ‘Wabi Sabi’ to our athletes and invited a brief discussion on its meaning and application to grappling.

Unfamiliar with ‘wabi sabi’? In a few words, one could say that wabi sabi is the beauty of imperfect things. Of course, that would be overly simplistic explanation for such a deep and profoundly rooted notion in the Japanese spirit.

In ‘Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanence’, Andrew Juniper defines wabi sabi as “an intuitive appreciation of ephemeral beauty in the physical world that reflects the irreversible flow of life in the spiritual world.”

Related to landscapes, objects, and even human beings, the idea of wabi sabi can be understood as an appreciation of a beauty that is doomed to disappear, or even an ephemeral contemplation of something that becomes more beautiful as it ages, fades, and consequently acquires a new charm.

But wabi sabi goes beyond a certain kind of aesthetic. It is a way of life and a thought process. One that teaches us to find joy in the simple things and be mindful in all that we do, say, and think.

As humans, as living beings that grow and constantly change, the way we look and move our bodies is impermanent. We are imperfect and incomplete, but that is how we were made to exist and is part of our value.

Self-improvement, working towards our goals, eating healthier…these are all things I passionately believe wrestling encourages. Still, consider the distinction between setting goals with appreciation and love for your body versus hating, shaming, and criticizing yourself.

When you accept the imperfections and impermanence through wabi sabi, what’s left??? That’s for you to discover!

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