An-shu Defined

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.

27 comments to “An-shu Defined”

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  1. AnShu,
    Thank you for explaining your title.
    As always you really know how to explain things that helps make things so clear.
    Thank you for your service to the community!!

  2. This is a great post. Its always great to learn a little bit more about you. By no means would one think of your life as a closed book. It’s wonderful that you are so open and willing to share. I love reading posts like this and thoroughly appreciate your openness and honesty.
    Thank you.

  3. P.S. In this one post alone, as in many others you can find examples of the entire 14 Point Code for Powerful Living. Great stuff!

  4. Dear An-Shu:
    I just want to say that is is always refreshing to read your posts. It always reminds me of what martial arts instruction is all about. In a world where many instructors are only interested in getting your money you continually show the true heart of a teacher. You are truly interested in improving the life of your students and teach them the protection of life in so many different areas.
    Thank you!

  5. Truly you are a refuge and a greater force of improvement of humanity. Last I looked in on you it was Shidoshi. Evolutions in us all as we head into Aquarius. I’m sending you a copy of my first published work, a look at the bipolar mind from the inside. As a prior Naval photographer and Linewalker, Ninpo has been my refuge. My thanks always for your example. I shall keep it close in the coming days.

  6. Always a Shadows of Iga student and SKH as my Sensei. We both have traveled far on the path but no matter the titles we may have the foundation remains solid.

  7. Anshu, I highly value and appreciate how much time you spend to present opportunities for us to learn from your wisdom. I really enjoy reading your blogs because they enlighten and illuminate secrets of the universe. I also really feel that the “an” of Kasumi-an has really had a big impact on me. I have been having stressful situations outside of the dojo, but when I enter the “training space” all of these issues melt away. I am around people who appreciate me for who I am and this only. Thank you for making this experience possible. PS: One Quick Question: does “An” of Kasumi-An and An-Shu have the same kanji as “tranquil?” That would be quite interesting. Thanks so much

  8. An is written in Japanese as 庵

    Shu is written 主

    The “an” for tranquil is different, and is written 安

  9. Papa San, Myo Fu An, Milford, NH says: -#1

    Thank you for the explanation. I never could figure it out, since I do not yet have a grasp of the language. I truly love all of the implications of the “Kasumi” portion of your dojo’s name. We have recently been studying sword work and as you very well know, “Kasumi” is one of the kamae.

    Those who also do not understand the language, have made the mistaken assumption (and we know what assumptions are) that the An-Shu title is a self promoting one. Even those who do know the language missinterpret your intentions. Thank you for bein our American connection to this fabulous art.

  10. Every think is in flower its spring, this year the animals seams more agrasiv after a long winter her in DK, another thing is maney treas has bean taking down, ant only a littel number has bean plantet in replace,
    Stil its good to be in nature :O)

  11. Brandon Black says: -#1

    A more apt title could not be found, sir! Thanks kindly for all you have done.

  12. Huascar Anda C. says: -#1

    Thanks for the explanation of the An-Shu Title. And also for all these years of sharing your knowledge with the world. I was always amaze with the ninja arts since the 80´s I was your fan since then.

    One of the most important things I admire is your spiritual quest. I´ve been studying Vajrayana Buddhism in the Sakya lineage. You have been an example, a good one of what “Persevarance” means. I writte these words out of true admiration and in a humble way.

    May you live long. Kind Regards

  13. Chris CDS from Greece says: -#1

    The man gives his title life, honor, meaning, value and purpose not the title it self, your life and teaching should be just a reminder for so many people who live conscienceless behind their titles, the man makes the difference and we all that follow you knows that I hope and we are responsible to show that difference in anything we do in our lives. Thank you Stephen K. Hayes. Thank you An-shu. Thank you Sir.

  14. Dear Mr.Hayes,

    I am one of the two brothers whom you were kind enough to grant an interview, when you visited New Delhi, India in the early 80’s.
    While I did visit the USA in 1990, I misplaced your card and could not make the trip to your school as I had longed to do so.
    The sad part was that I lived in FT.Wayne Indiana, most of that year. My brother and I still treasure the hours that you spent explaining the nuances of Ninjutsu.
    Can’t tell you how much it meant for two teenagers to meet a grandmaster like you, don’t know what Karma led us to such a blessing but maybe we will get to meet you some day.
    Very happy to see that you are still helping people to reach enlightenment.
    Hope to touch your feet someday.


  15. Travis Smith says: -#1

    You are and have been a wonderful “facilitator” for To Shin Do. Though we have never met your books, videos, website etc. have been helpful on my martial arts journey. I tend to think that through mediums like that that your An is broader than where you dwell. It would seem to me you dwell within most around the whole world, especially with your influences and information. I hope one day to meet you in person, possibly when you are in the New England area again. Thank you Anshu for your contrabutions and your World Wide “An”. Happy New Year!

  16. Mr Hayes An-Shu,
    So Beautifully Put.
    It nearly brought tears to the eyes of this Lowly Yamabushi.
    Thank for what you have done & brought to our western culture.
    Namastae Anshu

  17. Luis Acosta says: -#1

    Truly insightful post Sir, thank you for all the work you put into sharing this knowledge!

  18. An-Shu Hayes, I just wanted to point out that one of the schools who have “adopted” your title has now given He-She the title of Soke An-Shu. Is this even a possible combination? Thank you An-Shu, Bows.

  19. Bless you and Rumiko both Anshu..

  20. Spoken like true master of his craft. So humble you are Sir, refreshing to say the least. And yes your name is the best title of all. Anyone who has studied or followed real martial arts over the years they should know who you are.

  21. In a time of self appointed masters, grand masters etc. it is refreshing to find someone who doesn’t lay claim to unverifiable lineage. I find it interesting that the true masters of an art don’t like being called master. Thank you for all of the posts on this site. I hope to see more new ones soon.

  22. An-Shu Stephen that is the most truly spoken comment I have ever read . I am like you with my own system in the UK . I hold 5 B lackbelts . My students call me by my first name Paul . Someone called me a Master only yesterday . I politely corrected them and said please never call me That again ..Like you Stephen I’ve studied and trained many years . Now like you I guild others . Nothing more nothing less .

    I have full respect for you sir and your wife Rumiko . I salute you both and bow .

  23. Aloha Stephen K Hayes.It has been many years since the Shadows of Iga festival in Dayton.
    Will Shepherd,Bud Malstrom, Darryl Caldwell,Keven Snyder,Mr Hoban.What great story tellers, and good athletes.
    Glad that you are still teaching.
    Best wishes. If I can ever help you or your people dont hesitate to contact me.

  24. “Servant Leadership” was taught to me as a young military officer.

    Our mark in the world is not only the deeds we performed, it is also the impact we had on those we left behind.

  25. Anshu Hayes,
    Forgive me, but I do not know how to contact you otherwise. Years ago I received training from the quest center in fayatteville NC under Hakim Isler as his first student and senpai, but had to move away. I went to college and years have passed and have missed that training with him. I live miles away from there now but have longed to continue my studies in the Art of To-Shin Do. is there any way i can get instruction online or lessons sent to me since I am sure there is no dojo near me. I live in Superior WI. Any assistance you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

  26. Thank you for this clear definition.
    I was asking this question and found that it is also an Indian name (Anshu) which means “first ray of sunlight”.
    I really like both definitions.

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