People have asked about the meaning of the An-shu title that Rumiko and I use. Though the world knows our school as SKH Quest Center for Martial Arts in Dayton, the original Japanese name for our dojo is Kasumi-An. I have used that name since the 1980s to describe my dojo and the training method of that dojo, way before we founded the current SKH Quest network in the mid-1990s.
The Kasumi-An is specifically the house I live in and the dojo and meditation halls in my house. People come to that Kasumi-An for private lessons with me. By extension, Kasumi-An also refers to the training curriculum system program taught in all dojos across the globe that operate as branches furthering my work in the world.
Kasumi translates from Japanese to “haze” in English. There is the obvious homonym where “haze” sounds like “Hayes”, but beyond that, ancient legends from Japan’s warrior past often give kasumi an association with the lore of the ninja. For example, the recluse mountain yogi Kasumi Gakure Doshi was the teacher of Daisuke Togakure in the historical Japanese tradition I studied on my way to developing To-Shin Do. Kasumi implies that the enemy thinks he sees and knows what and who we are, but he is deluded and we encourage him to hold that delusion.
The An is a place of refuge, usually a small cottage temple on the grounds of a larger temple to which warriors or monks could retreat in the old culture of Japan. The An is a place you can go to get a break from all the craziness in life, all the heartbreak and heartache, the frustration, the overdone pointless competition, all the meanness, all the compelling distraction from what is truly important. Taking refuge in the An, you get your batteries re-charged, your juices re-bubbled, your vision re-focused, your intentions re-calibrated. You get back in connection with the touch of life itself. On retreat, you get back to what is real for you, or you practice arts or meditations that allow you to expand to new broader horizons what is real. After your time in the An, you are ready to re-enter your community refreshed and renewed and re-pledged to making the world a better, healthier, saner, safer place for all.
Shu in Japanese means one who runs an operation or facility of some sort. The common translation is “master”, but it really implies more like “facilitator”, in the sense of being the stable master where horses are trained, or range master where firearms are taught. An-shu is then retreat master, or “one who facilitates the retreat cottage”. I hyphenate the title so the English hints at the two Japanese kanji letters for An and Shu that form the word; it could just as well be written Anshu.
An-shu is a very humble title of service, deliberately chosen in my mid-40s when I went from 30 years as a self-oriented student of the martial arts to a new focus on assisting others to find the martial truths that I had attained. An-shu is not a ninja title as such. Yes, I am aware that a few individuals pretending to a past of “secret ninja training” have adopted my An-shu title in imitation; that is so predictable that there is little I can say about it. You cannot properly be titled An-shu if you are not head of an An.
Others suggested I use an impressive title like soke, which means “original founding family”, or saiko shihan, which means “top-ranked master”, or kan-cho, which means “training hall headmaster”. Those are oft-used titles for head of a martial group, but those seemed to miss the mark of what I wanted to communicate. I want to be on record as a person who vowed to devote himself to assisting others as a guide on the path. An-shu as “custodian of the spiritual inn” seems warmer and more in line with my focus these days in my 60s. No need for a grand and formal high-falutin’ title, because as I have often commented before, my real rank is “Stephen K. Hayes”, the most honest and powerful title I could use.