Budo Isn’t Natural



 


Jizo Sama on Mount Koya Photo copyright Peter
Boylan 2014



 



I’ve
heard proponents of various martial arts talk about how “natural”
their art is. They proclaim that whatever they are doing is based on
natural movements. Some are said to be based on the movements of
animals. Others claim to be based on the natural movement of the
human body.


I
was working with one of my students this morning on some kata from
Shinto Hatakage Ryu. His movement is getting good and solid. It
struck me that his strong, smooth movement was efficient, effective
and elegant, but not at all natural. When I began to think about it,
I realized I could not think of any martial art where the movements
are natural to human beings. By “natural” I mean that the
movements are ones that people make without having to be trained for
endless hours.


Along
with Shinto Hatakage Ryu Iai Heiho I teach Shinto Muso Ryu Jo and
Kodokan Judo. Among the movements and principles taught in those
three arts, I cannot think of a movement or technique that I would
call natural.  In truth, the hallmark of good, effective budo
seems to be how unnatural it is. Developing proficiency in any budo
movement requires years of practice with a good teacher. It never
just happens. Even with students who have a natural affinity for an
art, it takes years, perhaps half as many as a natural klutz like me,
but years.


I’ve
written before that
all
I teach is how to walk and how to breath
.
I was exaggerating a little there, and Ellis Amdur was generous
enough to call me out on that point and several others. However,
walking and breathing are examples of unnatural budo movement.  There
isn’t much that is more natural than walking, and breathing might
be the most natural thing we do. Nonetheless, as budoka, we spend
years learning to breathe properly from our guts and to stay balanced
and stable when we walk.



 


Musings Of A Budo Bum - essays on the nature of budo



 


Why
does it take so much effort to learn to do something that we were
born doing? Breathing is the first thing we do for ourselves when we
are born. We take a breath and let the world know how unhappy we are
to have been kicked out of the wonderful home where we’ve spent the
last nine months. Once we do that, we never stop breathing. What else
about breathing could there possibly be to learn. A great deal when
you dig into it. Our natural instincts aren’t very good when it
comes to breathing.  Even before we get to all the inefficient
ways people have of breathing, for all that it is a natural,
automatic act, put people under just a little bit of stress and they
will actually forget to breathe! I spend too much of my teaching time
reminding students to breathe for the first couple of years they are
training.


When
they do remember to breathe, they usually are doing it poorly;
breathing with their shoulders or taking shallow breaths or finding
some other way to do the most natural act in the world wrongly.
Proper breathing must be taught and practiced until it is an
unconscious act. When sparring, you don’t have sufficient mental
capacity to think about breathing correctly. If your breathing skills
aren’t honed so that proper breathing happens even when you’re
not thinking about it, you won’t breathe well under stress.


Walking
feels nearly as natural as breathing. No one had to teach you how to
walk. You figured it out for yourself, and you’ve been doing it for
longer than you can remember. What could there be to learn about
walking? From the condition of the students who come to the dojo, or
just doing some casual people watching, we can see that most people
haven’t learned very much about how to walk properly.  They
roll their hips. They slouch their shoulders. They slap their feet on
the ground. They lean forward past the point of balance. They stand
on their heels. New students spend hours hearing me correct their way
of walking. Because of all the bad habits people pick up over the
course of their lives, learning to walk in a solid, stable, balanced
manner takes a long time to learn to do consciously. Learning to do
it unconsciously when under stress takes even longer. Good walking
isn’t natural at all.


When
you consider the discrete movements and actions that make up any budo
art, things become even more unnatural. Just about the first thing we
teach in judo, and the technique that prevents more people from
getting hurt outside the dojo than any other, is how to fall safely.
Two year-olds fall pretty well. They are relaxed and comfortable with
falling down, perhaps because they do so much of it. By the time we
start school though, falling is met with stiffness and fear. There is
no technique in judo that we practice as much as falling. Falling
well requires coordination of the entire body and I’ve never met
anyone besides trained gymnasts who took to it without hours of
accumulated practice. It’s an entirely unnatural act: we don’t
like to fall.






This
doesn’t even begin to approach the mental aspects of what we are
teaching in the dojo.
Mushin.
Fudoshin. Heijoshin.
Everything
about the mental aspects of budo is unnatural.  We strive to
override all of our natural reactions under stress: to not stiffen
up, to keep our breathing and heart rate calm and steady, to ignore
the monkey brain’s insistence on fighting or fleeing, to retain
mental control instead of panicking, to adapt to the situation
fluidly instead of trying to impose a solution.  None of these
things happen naturally. All of them take training and practice.






Everything
we do in the dojo leads to being able to respond to stressful
situations with these unnatural skills. All that physical practice
has effects on our mental states. Breathing properly comes in handy
when things get stressful and the monkey brain wants to start
hyperventilating. Having practiced good breathing statically and in
all sorts of kata and free practice that gradually increase the
mental and physical pressure, over time it becomes ever easier to
maintain the calm breathing and heart rate which anchor calm mental
patterns.






Once
you can maintain
mushin
while
people are trying to hit you with a big stick, or choke you
unconscious, it becomes less of a stretch to maintain that mental
state under the stress you encounter outside the dojo.
Fudoshin
is
even better. This is the unmovable mind that isn’t disturbed by
anything, no matter how stressful. People with
fudoshin
don’t
seem quite human. They are no more natural than a Rolex is. Both take
tremendous work to create. Both demonstrate the pinnacle of human
development in their own areas. For all its combined beauty,
engineering and functionality, no one would call a Rolex “natural.”
 






Like
a Rolex, the mind developed through budo is elegant, refined and
resilient. This is a mind that can make the choice to step inside an
attack to evade and counter in the same movement or to slip out of
the attack and then disarm the attacker.






Relaxed
when the natural reaction is to be tense, calm when nature urges
panic, unflinching when nature urges you to dive behind cover, and
unmoved when distractions abound, the mind and body of someone well
versed in budo is not natural at all. It surpasses what nature gives
us by refining the natural core of our beings into something new,
with all the naturalness of high grade steel. Budo isn’t natural.
 It’s better.








via Blogger https://ift.tt/2F2D1jr

Advertisements

Budo Isn’t Natural



 


Jizo Sama on Mount Koya Photo copyright Peter
Boylan 2014



 



I’ve
heard proponents of various martial arts talk about how “natural”
their art is. They proclaim that whatever they are doing is based on
natural movements. Some are said to be based on the movements of
animals. Others claim to be based on the natural movement of the
human body.


I
was working with one of my students this morning on some kata from
Shinto Hatakage Ryu. His movement is getting good and solid. It
struck me that his strong, smooth movement was efficient, effective
and elegant, but not at all natural. When I began to think about it,
I realized I could not think of any martial art where the movements
are natural to human beings. By “natural” I mean that the
movements are ones that people make without having to be trained for
endless hours.


Along
with Shinto Hatakage Ryu Iai Heiho I teach Shinto Muso Ryu Jo and
Kodokan Judo. Among the movements and principles taught in those
three arts, I cannot think of a movement or technique that I would
call natural.  In truth, the hallmark of good, effective budo
seems to be how unnatural it is. Developing proficiency in any budo
movement requires years of practice with a good teacher. It never
just happens. Even with students who have a natural affinity for an
art, it takes years, perhaps half as many as a natural klutz like me,
but years.


I’ve
written before that
all
I teach is how to walk and how to breath
.
I was exaggerating a little there, and Ellis Amdur was generous
enough to call me out on that point and several others. However,
walking and breathing are examples of unnatural budo movement.  There
isn’t much that is more natural than walking, and breathing might
be the most natural thing we do. Nonetheless, as budoka, we spend
years learning to breathe properly from our guts and to stay balanced
and stable when we walk.



 


Musings Of A Budo Bum - essays on the nature of budo



 


Why
does it take so much effort to learn to do something that we were
born doing? Breathing is the first thing we do for ourselves when we
are born. We take a breath and let the world know how unhappy we are
to have been kicked out of the wonderful home where we’ve spent the
last nine months. Once we do that, we never stop breathing. What else
about breathing could there possibly be to learn. A great deal when
you dig into it. Our natural instincts aren’t very good when it
comes to breathing.  Even before we get to all the inefficient
ways people have of breathing, for all that it is a natural,
automatic act, put people under just a little bit of stress and they
will actually forget to breathe! I spend too much of my teaching time
reminding students to breathe for the first couple of years they are
training.


When
they do remember to breathe, they usually are doing it poorly;
breathing with their shoulders or taking shallow breaths or finding
some other way to do the most natural act in the world wrongly.
Proper breathing must be taught and practiced until it is an
unconscious act. When sparring, you don’t have sufficient mental
capacity to think about breathing correctly. If your breathing skills
aren’t honed so that proper breathing happens even when you’re
not thinking about it, you won’t breathe well under stress.


Walking
feels nearly as natural as breathing. No one had to teach you how to
walk. You figured it out for yourself, and you’ve been doing it for
longer than you can remember. What could there be to learn about
walking? From the condition of the students who come to the dojo, or
just doing some casual people watching, we can see that most people
haven’t learned very much about how to walk properly.  They
roll their hips. They slouch their shoulders. They slap their feet on
the ground. They lean forward past the point of balance. They stand
on their heels. New students spend hours hearing me correct their way
of walking. Because of all the bad habits people pick up over the
course of their lives, learning to walk in a solid, stable, balanced
manner takes a long time to learn to do consciously. Learning to do
it unconsciously when under stress takes even longer. Good walking
isn’t natural at all.


When
you consider the discrete movements and actions that make up any budo
art, things become even more unnatural. Just about the first thing we
teach in judo, and the technique that prevents more people from
getting hurt outside the dojo than any other, is how to fall safely.
Two year-olds fall pretty well. They are relaxed and comfortable with
falling down, perhaps because they do so much of it. By the time we
start school though, falling is met with stiffness and fear. There is
no technique in judo that we practice as much as falling. Falling
well requires coordination of the entire body and I’ve never met
anyone besides trained gymnasts who took to it without hours of
accumulated practice. It’s an entirely unnatural act: we don’t
like to fall.






This
doesn’t even begin to approach the mental aspects of what we are
teaching in the dojo.
Mushin.
Fudoshin. Heijoshin.
Everything
about the mental aspects of budo is unnatural.  We strive to
override all of our natural reactions under stress: to not stiffen
up, to keep our breathing and heart rate calm and steady, to ignore
the monkey brain’s insistence on fighting or fleeing, to retain
mental control instead of panicking, to adapt to the situation
fluidly instead of trying to impose a solution.  None of these
things happen naturally. All of them take training and practice.






Everything
we do in the dojo leads to being able to respond to stressful
situations with these unnatural skills. All that physical practice
has effects on our mental states. Breathing properly comes in handy
when things get stressful and the monkey brain wants to start
hyperventilating. Having practiced good breathing statically and in
all sorts of kata and free practice that gradually increase the
mental and physical pressure, over time it becomes ever easier to
maintain the calm breathing and heart rate which anchor calm mental
patterns.






Once
you can maintain
mushin
while
people are trying to hit you with a big stick, or choke you
unconscious, it becomes less of a stretch to maintain that mental
state under the stress you encounter outside the dojo.
Fudoshin
is
even better. This is the unmovable mind that isn’t disturbed by
anything, no matter how stressful. People with
fudoshin
don’t
seem quite human. They are no more natural than a Rolex is. Both take
tremendous work to create. Both demonstrate the pinnacle of human
development in their own areas. For all its combined beauty,
engineering and functionality, no one would call a Rolex “natural.”
 






Like
a Rolex, the mind developed through budo is elegant, refined and
resilient. This is a mind that can make the choice to step inside an
attack to evade and counter in the same movement or to slip out of
the attack and then disarm the attacker.






Relaxed
when the natural reaction is to be tense, calm when nature urges
panic, unflinching when nature urges you to dive behind cover, and
unmoved when distractions abound, the mind and body of someone well
versed in budo is not natural at all. It surpasses what nature gives
us by refining the natural core of our beings into something new,
with all the naturalness of high grade steel. Budo isn’t natural.
 It’s better.








via Blogger https://ift.tt/2F2D1jr

Who Is You Teacher?




 

My first iaido teacher, the remarkable Takada Shigeo Sensei Photo Copyright Peter Boylan

My
teachers are in Japan. These are the people I look to not only for
how my budo should be, but also for how I aspire to be as a human. A
true teacher is not just someone you learn technical excellence from,
but human excellence as well. In the dojo we train in the rawest,
most basic expressions of conflict, power, and life. I don’t think
it is possible to learn raw, fundamental lessons such as how to
throw, strike, choke and break a fellow human without picking up
other lessons about living from the people doing the teaching.







In
the dojo we study and practice under the close direction of our
teachers. There is no other way to do this safely. My teachers have
all earned my respect and love just not for their technical skill
(which is enormous) but for the humanity with which they lead and
teach. My teachers, the people I readily claim, and who, I am proud
and humbled to say, freely claim me as their student, are human
beings. They have flaws and weaknesses. They are also remarkable
budoka who continue to work at improving their budo, their
understanding and themselves.







I’ve
known my teachers, trained with them, been scolded by them and gotten
an occasional “OK” from them (that being the highest praise I’ve
ever heard them give). In the dojo we have earned each others’
trust. I’ve trained with my teachers for more than 25 years. At each
step along the way, I have learned that they are exemplary human
beings. I know that can’t be said for everyone who teaches martial
arts, and I am extremely lucky to have found teachers of such high
quality.







Kiyama
Sensei’s budo life stretches back to the 1930s with training in judo
,
kendo, iaido and jukendo in school during wartime Japan. He has seen
just about every excess that can be committed in the name of
developing a student’s spirit and technique. He can recall training
in kendo
bogu
(armor)
in the summer heat until people had to go to the side to throw up,
and then come back and continue training. This was supposed to
develop spirit. Instead he points out that people died all too
frequently from that effects of that sort of training, so he doesn’t
teach that way.



Kiyama Hiroshi Sensei at home Copyright Peter Boylan






Kiyama
Sensei is my second iaido teacher. My first teacher, Takada Shigeo
Sensei, introduced me to Kiyama Sensei early on in my iaido journey
as an excellent teacher. When Takada Sensei died, I was left without
a teacher, and Kiyama Sensei accepted me into his dojo. It took a
while before I was really his student though. I had to go through a
keiko
with
him to discover what sort of person he was, if he was the sort of
person I wanted to be learning from and emulating. It was clear from
the way he treated everyone, from the 70, 80 and 90 year old members
of the dojo down to the 7,8, and 9 year old members, that he
respected his students, cared for them, and treated them well. It was
also clear from the way his students treated him that they really
cared for him. The bows at the end of class were not perfunctory. The
school age students would approach him after class to say “Thank
you” and he would offer some advice or help with their practice,
and the “Arigato gozaimasu” that came from both the students and
Sensei was clearly sincere. What kept the classes in order and
running smoothly was the obvious respect the students had for their
teacher, and the teacher had for the students. It didn’t take me too
many practices to realize that this was a place I wanted to be, with
a teacher well worth learning from.







I
respected Kiyama Sensei right away, and soon I learned to trust him
as well. It’s not enough for a student to trust the teacher though.
The teacher must also trust the student. This is especially true in
koryu
budo

where
transmission and the continuance of the system are always in
question.
Gendai
budo
are
generally large organizations where testing and advancement are
outside the control of any one teacher. In
koryu
budo,

transmission
is all about the teacher-student relationship. If the teacher doesn’t
completely trust the student, the student isn’t going to learn
anything much. The teacher isn’t concerned just with helping the
student develop and learn the art. The teacher must think about the
quality of the people who will be the next generation of teachers in
the art, and who will be responsible for the art after she dies.
There aren’t any dan ranks to collect, just teaching licenses. With
each of these, the teacher is saying to the world around him and the
teachers who have gone before him that this person is worthy to care
for and extend this hundreds of years old tradition into the future.
It’s not like giving out dan ranks for technical skill.

A GREAT GIFT FOR SENSEI!!







A
lot more rests on the relationship between the student and teacher in
koryu
budo

because
the arts are usually small and closely held. They aren’t meant to
to be spread as far and wide as possible the way modern judo, kendo,
iaido or aikido are. Just as the student entering a dojo wants to be
sure the teacher and the dojo are right for her, the teacher looking
at students has to be sure each is right for the continuation of the
art. This isn’t a concern when the art has a global structure and
rank system with hundreds or thousands of dojo around the world. It’s
a critical concern when the art may consist of as little as one
teacher and 4 or 5 students. Even within larger koryu budo systems,
which student receives a teaching license is a critical issue.
Concern for how new teachers represent the art and pass on the
precious teachings never leaves the mind of current teachers.







How
do you earn your teacher’s trust? Start by showing up for every
practice. Be sincere in your training. Be honest, helpful and
genuine. Show your interest in the art through your actions. Help out
with the operation of the dojo. Take care to learn the art as your
teacher is presenting it. Don’t let the words “But so-and-so does
it differently.” ever leave your mouth. Learning isn’t a
 competitive art with people are looking for the newest
variation of a technique to surprise someone with.







Once
you’ve found a teacher worthy of polishing you, and you’ve done
the hard work to be accepted as their student, what do you do to
maintain and fortify your relationship? Now you have to work harder.
Don’t fall into the trap of letting practice with Sensei become an
automatic activity that you do without fail but forget to look for
the treasures in every practice you attend.







I’ve
known many people who are interested in techniques and physical skill
but are so satisfied with who they are that they leave the bigger
lessons their teacher has to offer on the dojo floor, never taking
them to heart. They show up for every practice, but they somehow
manage to learn nothing but technique.  The lessons on how to
respect others and yourself, how to be an exceptional human being,
float past them like an evening breeze that doesn’t even ruffle
their hair. Go into each keiko looking to discover treasures. You’ve
been lucky enough to find a good art and a good teacher. Treasures
such as these do not sit on every street corner, and much like
precious silver, require care and time and effort to polish and
maintain. Be mindful that what you are learning is rare and don’t
let treat is as an everyday affair. Show Sensei at every
keiko
that
you are all there and you know that you are receiving a wondrous
treasure.







You
teacher makes significant effort to share her art with you. For any
good teacher, teaching is not transactional. Teaching is a gift and
an investment in the student. Your teacher is also a person. Do you
take the time to know more of your teacher than just the teaching
persona they wear at the front of the dojo? Some of my most precious
lessons in budo have come from my teachers outside the dojo while
eating, laughing and sharing. Great teachers are exceptional people,
in the dojo and out, but if you don’t make the effort to get to
know them as people in addition to them being your teacher, you’ll
miss out on many extraordinary aspects of their personalities. Buy
them a cup of coffee. Accept graciously when they want to buy
you
a
cup of coffee. Help out when they need it.  Ask a question and
pay attention to the answer. Listen when they want to talk about
something that doesn’t seem related to the dojo. You never know
what Sensei might be trying to share with you.







Who
is your teacher? Why did you choose them?


 
Special thanks to my editor, Deborah Klens-Bigman, Ph.D.




via Blogger https://ift.tt/2RKxHoZ

Who Is You Teacher?




 

My first iaido teacher, the remarkable Takada Shigeo Sensei Photo Copyright Peter Boylan

My
teachers are in Japan. These are the people I look to not only for
how my budo should be, but also for how I aspire to be as a human. A
true teacher is not just someone you learn technical excellence from,
but human excellence as well. In the dojo we train in the rawest,
most basic expressions of conflict, power, and life. I don’t think
it is possible to learn raw, fundamental lessons such as how to
throw, strike, choke and break a fellow human without picking up
other lessons about living from the people doing the teaching.







In
the dojo we study and practice under the close direction of our
teachers. There is no other way to do this safely. My teachers have
all earned my respect and love just not for their technical skill
(which is enormous) but for the humanity with which they lead and
teach. My teachers, the people I readily claim, and who, I am proud
and humbled to say, freely claim me as their student, are human
beings. They have flaws and weaknesses. They are also remarkable
budoka who continue to work at improving their budo, their
understanding and themselves.







I’ve
known my teachers, trained with them, been scolded by them and gotten
an occasional “OK” from them (that being the highest praise I’ve
ever heard them give). In the dojo we have earned each others’
trust. I’ve trained with my teachers for more than 25 years. At each
step along the way, I have learned that they are exemplary human
beings. I know that can’t be said for everyone who teaches martial
arts, and I am extremely lucky to have found teachers of such high
quality.







Kiyama
Sensei’s budo life stretches back to the 1930s with training in judo
,
kendo, iaido and jukendo in school during wartime Japan. He has seen
just about every excess that can be committed in the name of
developing a student’s spirit and technique. He can recall training
in kendo
bogu
(armor)
in the summer heat until people had to go to the side to throw up,
and then come back and continue training. This was supposed to
develop spirit. Instead he points out that people died all too
frequently from that effects of that sort of training, so he doesn’t
teach that way.



Kiyama Hiroshi Sensei at home Copyright Peter Boylan






Kiyama
Sensei is my second iaido teacher. My first teacher, Takada Shigeo
Sensei, introduced me to Kiyama Sensei early on in my iaido journey
as an excellent teacher. When Takada Sensei died, I was left without
a teacher, and Kiyama Sensei accepted me into his dojo. It took a
while before I was really his student though. I had to go through a
keiko
with
him to discover what sort of person he was, if he was the sort of
person I wanted to be learning from and emulating. It was clear from
the way he treated everyone, from the 70, 80 and 90 year old members
of the dojo down to the 7,8, and 9 year old members, that he
respected his students, cared for them, and treated them well. It was
also clear from the way his students treated him that they really
cared for him. The bows at the end of class were not perfunctory. The
school age students would approach him after class to say “Thank
you” and he would offer some advice or help with their practice,
and the “Arigato gozaimasu” that came from both the students and
Sensei was clearly sincere. What kept the classes in order and
running smoothly was the obvious respect the students had for their
teacher, and the teacher had for the students. It didn’t take me too
many practices to realize that this was a place I wanted to be, with
a teacher well worth learning from.







I
respected Kiyama Sensei right away, and soon I learned to trust him
as well. It’s not enough for a student to trust the teacher though.
The teacher must also trust the student. This is especially true in
koryu
budo

where
transmission and the continuance of the system are always in
question.
Gendai
budo
are
generally large organizations where testing and advancement are
outside the control of any one teacher. In
koryu
budo,

transmission
is all about the teacher-student relationship. If the teacher doesn’t
completely trust the student, the student isn’t going to learn
anything much. The teacher isn’t concerned just with helping the
student develop and learn the art. The teacher must think about the
quality of the people who will be the next generation of teachers in
the art, and who will be responsible for the art after she dies.
There aren’t any dan ranks to collect, just teaching licenses. With
each of these, the teacher is saying to the world around him and the
teachers who have gone before him that this person is worthy to care
for and extend this hundreds of years old tradition into the future.
It’s not like giving out dan ranks for technical skill.

A GREAT GIFT FOR SENSEI!!







A
lot more rests on the relationship between the student and teacher in
koryu
budo

because
the arts are usually small and closely held. They aren’t meant to
to be spread as far and wide as possible the way modern judo, kendo,
iaido or aikido are. Just as the student entering a dojo wants to be
sure the teacher and the dojo are right for her, the teacher looking
at students has to be sure each is right for the continuation of the
art. This isn’t a concern when the art has a global structure and
rank system with hundreds or thousands of dojo around the world. It’s
a critical concern when the art may consist of as little as one
teacher and 4 or 5 students. Even within larger koryu budo systems,
which student receives a teaching license is a critical issue.
Concern for how new teachers represent the art and pass on the
precious teachings never leaves the mind of current teachers.







How
do you earn your teacher’s trust? Start by showing up for every
practice. Be sincere in your training. Be honest, helpful and
genuine. Show your interest in the art through your actions. Help out
with the operation of the dojo. Take care to learn the art as your
teacher is presenting it. Don’t let the words “But so-and-so does
it differently.” ever leave your mouth. Learning isn’t a
 competitive art with people are looking for the newest
variation of a technique to surprise someone with.







Once
you’ve found a teacher worthy of polishing you, and you’ve done
the hard work to be accepted as their student, what do you do to
maintain and fortify your relationship? Now you have to work harder.
Don’t fall into the trap of letting practice with Sensei become an
automatic activity that you do without fail but forget to look for
the treasures in every practice you attend.







I’ve
known many people who are interested in techniques and physical skill
but are so satisfied with who they are that they leave the bigger
lessons their teacher has to offer on the dojo floor, never taking
them to heart. They show up for every practice, but they somehow
manage to learn nothing but technique.  The lessons on how to
respect others and yourself, how to be an exceptional human being,
float past them like an evening breeze that doesn’t even ruffle
their hair. Go into each keiko looking to discover treasures. You’ve
been lucky enough to find a good art and a good teacher. Treasures
such as these do not sit on every street corner, and much like
precious silver, require care and time and effort to polish and
maintain. Be mindful that what you are learning is rare and don’t
let treat is as an everyday affair. Show Sensei at every
keiko
that
you are all there and you know that you are receiving a wondrous
treasure.







You
teacher makes significant effort to share her art with you. For any
good teacher, teaching is not transactional. Teaching is a gift and
an investment in the student. Your teacher is also a person. Do you
take the time to know more of your teacher than just the teaching
persona they wear at the front of the dojo? Some of my most precious
lessons in budo have come from my teachers outside the dojo while
eating, laughing and sharing. Great teachers are exceptional people,
in the dojo and out, but if you don’t make the effort to get to
know them as people in addition to them being your teacher, you’ll
miss out on many extraordinary aspects of their personalities. Buy
them a cup of coffee. Accept graciously when they want to buy
you
a
cup of coffee. Help out when they need it.  Ask a question and
pay attention to the answer. Listen when they want to talk about
something that doesn’t seem related to the dojo. You never know
what Sensei might be trying to share with you.







Who
is your teacher? Why did you choose them?


 
Special thanks to my editor, Deborah Klens-Bigman, Ph.D.




via Blogger https://ift.tt/2RKxHoZ

Visiting My Teachers

Normal
0

false
false
false

EN-US
JA
X-NONE

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-parent:””;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin-top:0in;
mso-para-margin-right:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:8.0pt;
mso-para-margin-left:0in;
line-height:107%;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:”Calibri”,sans-serif;
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;}

I don’t get to see my teachers nearly as
much as I would like these days, but I got to visit Japan for a while in
September, so of course I spent as much time as I could with my teachers and fellow
students. The trip is always one of the highlights of the year for me.
Kiyama Sensei is 93 years old now, but
you wouldn’t guess it. Even when I met him 25 years ago I would not have
guessed at that time that he was 68. He had such a fierce and powerful demeanor
that I knew him for quite some time before I realized he’s only about 5 feet
(152 cm) tall.
My first iaido teacher, Takada Shigeo
Sensei, introduced me to Kiyama Sensei. I vividly remember later running into
Kiyama Sensei at the annual Kyoto Budosai. Dressed in formal montsuki for
the enbu, he was a powerful figure. Walking around the grounds of the
Butokuden with him, I was awed and very nervous because his demeanor was so
very correct and commanding. I’ve encountered many powerful budoka, but
very few convey the sense of power and command that he does. Many people put on
their budo demeanor when they step into the dojo, and take it off when they
leave, but Kiyama Sensei never completely sheds his. He moves,not with regal
grace, but with solid grounded bearing that projects a stern and unflinching
power.
Kiyama Sensei always has a something of
that correct and commanding spirit about him. . In the dojo Sensei is one of
the most powerful presences I have ever encountered. , but when he teaches
kendo to elementary and junior high students he
is also a kindly, if gruff, grandfather
figure who teaches his students how to behave in the dojo and how to approach
difficulty with spirit and dedication. For me, visiting Kiyama Sensei is one of
the highlights of any trip to Japan. Whether we get to do any training or not,
I always come away from the visit having learned something and inspired to
train more diligently.
This year my visit coincided with a kosshukai
for training in the latest points of the Kendo Federation’s iaido kata. I
had been hoping that the miserable heat and humidity that is typical of summer
in the Kansai region would break before the kosshukai, but the luck wasn’t
with me. The day Kiyama Sensei and one of his senior students picked me up at
the train station for the drive to the gymnasium started hot and got hotter.
The gymnasium is typical of gyms built during the Showa period, which means it
doesn’t have any heating or cooling. The best you can do in the summer is open
the few doors and windows and sweat it out.
Sweat is exactly what we did, even when
standing still. I was worried about Kiyama Sensei in the heat, but he kept
going, looking better at the end of the day than I did. He wasn’t teaching that
day; instead he was there as the guest of honor and the senior practitioner in
the area. Even though Sensei wasn’t officially teaching, don’t think he didn’t
do quite a lot of teaching anyway. Whenever the official instructors were busy
working with other students, Kiyama Sensei would come over and make corrections
to my cutting form and my movement, and I wasn’t the only one to get his
attention. Sensei is always clear about what he wants all of us to improve on.
In my case, he wants to see more koshi in my movement and more “sspaa!
in my cuts (don’t ask. Sensei knows what he means, and I’m pretty sure I
understand him, but I haven’t figured out how to describe it).
After we had spent the day training and
sweating in the stifling gym, Kiyama Sensei suggested a group of us go out to
dinner. There was Sensei and four of his students, two 7th dans and two 5th
dans. We retired to a wonderfully air-conditioned restaurant with ice water and
other delightful cold drinks. We talked about the importance of seme (sense of aggressiveness, the feel of the
attack)
in iaido, and how much more sppaa! I need to get into my
cuts. The conversation found its way around to the fact that two of us are
looking at taking rank tests in the near future, and what we need to improve to
have a chance of passing. Sensei and the 7th dans chatted back and
forth while I listened and resisted the urge to start taking notes on my phone.
This is the part of the visit that I was
most looking forward to. I’ve been training with Kiyama Sensei for more than 20
years, and I still look forward to every keiko session. The informal conversations
are special treasures though. Sensei will talk about his teachers and sometimes
share stories about them or training when he was young. These gems fill out my
understanding of budo in Sensei’s life, and help me understand how I want it to
be a part of my own. With his 88 years of training, I can see in him the
beauty, grace and strength that have come in part from that training. My goal
is to achieve some fraction of what Sensei has become.
I can always sense Kiyama Sensei’s
strength. When we get together in a relaxed setting, in a restaurant, at a
coffee shop or in Sensei’s home, the feeling of strength and the grandfatherly
care combine in a gentleman whose advice and insights I
treasure. He is a pleasure to talk with,
especially about budo, and with the group we had, the conversation flowed along
like a lively, little river. I won’t go into all the advice I got about my cuts
or my posture or the dozen other areas of my iai that everyone took the time to
critique. Sensei succeeded not only in giving me plenty of advice, but also in
trimming my ego back to a healthy size.
While I was in Japan I also got to train
with my jodo teacher, Matsuda Sensei. We trained together several times on this
visit, and he worked me hard every time. Visiting Matsuda Sensei is always a
compelling experience. He doesn’t keep his own dojo, but moves among dojo run
by several of his senior students. Each dojo is unique. One is a karate dojo
that is rented one evening a week for jodo. Another is an elementary school
kendo dojo that can be borrowed on the weekend. The most beautiful one is a
gorgeous dojo on the first floor of the teacher’s home. Training at any of them
is thrilling. I get to work with a wide variety of Matsuda Sensei’s senior
students, every one of whom pushes me in a different way. Matsuda Sensei’s senior
students are 6th and 7th dan teachers in their own right, and they all can take
me out to the edge of my ability.
The biggest treat for me though is being
able to go out after practice with everyone. We practice specific techniques in
the dojo. It’s a place of quiet respect for the seriousness of what we are studying.
We’re busy practicing, which doesn’t leave room for conversation. After
practice we sit down and ask those questions that we didn’t have time for in
the dojo, and we deepen our understanding of things we thought we understood.
Sensei is still Sensei, but he’s a lot more approachable over food and drink in
the restaurant afterwards than he is during practice. This is the time to ask
that question about seme or zanshin that’s been bothering me. In
the dojo, with Sensei casually showing all the openings in what I was sure was
a pretty good technique, I forget that he’s a truly wonderful person as well as
a great martial artist. Talking with Sensei, and getting to laugh with him, is a
fascinating experience.
I’ve known my teachers, trained with
them, been scolded by them and gotten an occasional “OK”from them (that being
the highest praise I’ve ever heard them give). And I have also gotten to know
them as people over the last 25 years. They have shared their skills, their
lives and their memories with me. They have shared themselves. The people you
choose as teachers should represent a lot of what you want to become. You’ll
absorb a great deal more than just good technique from your teacher, so take
your time when selecting one to make sure she is a person worthy of learning from.
My teachers have shown themselves to me time and time and time again that they
are gentlemen of the highest quality. Training with them is always exciting and
enlightening.
Special thanks to my editor, Deborah Klens-Bigman, Ph.D.

via Blogger https://ift.tt/2FWutgu

Yes Virginia, There Is Sexism In Budo

Deborah Klens-Bigman, Ph.D. doing Shinto Hatakage
Ryu. (Photo copyright 2018 Deborah Klens-Bigman)

 

This is a guest post by Deborah Klens-Bigman, PhD. and Jun
Shihan in Shinto Hatakage Ryu. A martial arts practitioner and
teacher for more than thirty years, she has seen a great deal of the
budo world, and experienced its good and bad. We as budoka are not
perfect, and this seems like a good time to consider one area where
the budo world could improve. Budo has never been a male-only
practice, as can be seen most clearly in the number of women led, and
lead, martial ryuha in Japan. Klens-Bigman Sensei is addressing an
issue that should be of concern to everyone in budo.


First,
I would like to point out that most of my teachers in my 30-plus
years of training have been men – good, talented men.  And the
vast, vast majority of my colleagues in budo are also men – honorable
people I am pleased to associate with. But sexism in budo needs to be
addressed; and I feel the need to address it very specifically, and
right now.


The
public discourse of the past two years has allowed for what pundits
refer to as “tribalism” to come out into the light.  I
think it is too early to know yet whether this is a good thing (what
comes into the light can be confronted, and refuted), or a bad thing
(normalizing behavior that many of us had hoped no longer existed).
 All the while there have been some voices all-too-quietly
pointing out that misogyny is ever present for all to see, regardless
of “tribe.” Perhaps it is its perpetual “there-ness”
that allows misogyny to be continuously overlooked, or disregarded.
 Or, just perhaps, no one is very comfortable discussing it, so
no one does.




Since
I was a little kid sneaking out of the children’s library into the
grownup sections for further adventure, I was interested in hand
weapons.  Not guns, but swords, knives, glaives, spears, battle
axes, bows, maces – if you could hold it in your hand and wield it at
someone, I was ON IT – at least in the bookly sense.  I lugged
home books on arms & armor that were almost as big as I was. When
I was traveling with my parents, nothing thrilled me more than
climbing around castle ruins or forts, or (the best) going to a real
medieval armory.  


My
parents thought I might become a historian.  


Through
all of this fascination, it never occurred to me for a single moment
that my interest was weird or should be circumscribed in any way.
 That is, until I decided to actually do something about it.


I
tried fencing, which I enjoyed, but I was not happy with the
competitive aspect of it (there was no historical fencing available
like you can find now).  Likewise, I was not happy with the
theatrical fencing I encountered in college; not just because it was
fake, but because there really was no opportunity to take part in
fight scenes featuring women.  I decided fight choreography was
a waste of time.


When
I first encountered iaido, I was very fortunate that my teacher, an
Osaka native, had three daughters.  He had no problem whatsoever
with training me. There have been few times in my life when I felt
that I really found something important.  This was one of them.


Deborah Klens-Bigman, Jun Shihan, Shinto Hatakage
Ryu (photo copyright 2018 Deborah Klens-Bigman)


Unfortunately,
my sempai did not agree.  My first few months of practice, one
of them told me that it was “not proper” for women to study
Japanese swordsmanship.  I decided that was silly. My Japanese
teacher was perfectly happy with me being in the dojo. However, this
sempai arranged for me to miss a demo that my teacher wanted me to
take part in.  Everyone else was there. The experience was
mortifying. It was designed to make me quit. That was the first time
I realized that not everyone had the same attitude when it came to
women training in budo.


I
should point out that most of the resistance to my practicing
swordsmanship came from a number of my American sempai.  During
my many training trips to Japan, I rarely encountered the feeling of
being excluded. But more about that later.


I
didn’t quit.  I was stubborn. I kept going to okeiko.  I
volunteered to organize demos (a job no one wanted) partly so I could
not be left out again.  I trained hard. I watched. I listened. I
learned. And I put up with a lot.


Budo
training for women involves more than just wanting to improve your
skills and develop your personality.  It involves
enduring.
 Enduring sempai who, instead of being willing to help you, try
to hinder you, because something about being an
onnakenshi
just
doesn’t feel right to them.  It’s walking into a seminar where
you are the only woman (hint: You have to walk in like you own the
place).  If no one knows you, it’s getting the puzzled look as
the guys try to figure out whose wife/girlfriend or (after awhile)
mom you are.  It’s also enduring looks at the inevitable banquet
when wives and girlfriends eye you with suspicion because you are
there by yourself.  It’s being told you are “gender
non-conforming,” and that’s supposed to be a compliment. 


 I’d
like to say the situation improves for women who teach, but it does
not.  I’ve had men walk into my okeiko and immediately look to
one of my male students as the teacher, because it’s not possible
that could be me.  I’ve taught seminars and offered correction
to a male student who ignored me while taking the same correction
from another man. I’ve encountered fellow budo teachers who implied I
should be teaching women, or children, but not
men.
 Sadly, I gave a demo once and had a woman in the audience ask
if there are “any restrictions for women” in learning budo.
 Because she assumed that there are.


Klens-Bigman Sensei leading class (photo
copyright 2018 Deborah Klens-Bigman)



 And
it’s rare, but it happens – someone being just a little too rough as
a training partner, landing a tsuki in jodo with the intention of
knocking you down, or knocking the wind out of you, at least.  Or,
as a senior student, having a sempai publicly humiliate you in front
of the whole dojo, because you “just don’t know your place”
(and having the kohai silently agree with him). The fact that I was
correct in that situation was meaningless.  


One
wonders why we bother.  Indeed, I have wondered, from time to
time, why
I
bother.


There
are a lot of reasons for persisting.  For one thing, not all
budoka behave in the ways I have mentioned (though more of them do
than I’d like).  Just like the guys, there is the fun of
learning new things and gaining new skill and confidence. And I have
been to seminars in Japan where I am
not
the
only woman; indeed, where several of the women have menkyo and
everyone treats me as though I have the same potential.  As I
said, while I can’t say that I never encountered male hostility in
Japan, I can say that, generally speaking, when it comes to okeiko,
people have treated me like any other student.  And most of the
groups I have trained with are at least 1/3 female.


And
that is all women want.  We want to be just like everyone else.
 We want to be taught. We want to learn.  We don’t want to
be hit on. We aren’t looking for dates.  We want to be taken
seriously. And we want our expertise to be recognized.


Now
and then, a young woman comes to the dojo, with a look in her eyes
like I had so long ago.  It’s my job (and my pleasure) to make
her feel welcome. To help her understand that
yes,
you can do this.  I will help you.


And
there are good memories, like the time my teacher gave me a bear hug
after a class (in front of the sempai!) and said, “You’re doing
VERY WELL.”  


I
do this to keep my teacher’s faith in me.  I do it for myself.
And yeah, I do it for women.


Deborah Klens-Bigman doing Shinto Muso Ryu.
(photo copyright 2018 Deborah Klens-Bigman)



 

via Blogger https://ift.tt/2NWbdnd

The PItfalls Of Budo

Budo
is personal. I talked about that in my last
essay
. Budo practice can indeed transform who we are. If we’re
not careful though, that transformation can take on aspects and go in
directions that we shouldn’t want it to go. A lot of ink is spent
detailing the marvelous benefits of budo practice, and the benefits
are great: at the most basic, physical fitness, and moving upward to
physical skills and confidence in high stress and conflict
situations. Then there are the mental benefits; becoming calmer, more
mentally strong and able to maintain an even mental keel even when
the world is pushing you towards rash action.







These
are all great. But what happens when you take a wrong turn and start
acquiring attributes from you training that you don’t want? What
if, because of your budo training, you become an arrogant, abusive
jerk?







Judging
from the many arrogant, abusive people I’ve met in the martial
arts, the ones who don’t have any interest in the aspects of budo
that have to do with more than just hurting other people, becoming a
jerk seems to be far too common an outcome.







I’ve
met the arrogant ones who will hurt you just to prove they are better
than you, in some way only they understand. I don’t know how being
happy to hurt someone so you can say you defeated them makes you
“better”. I’ve met the abusive ones who feel entitled to harm
those around them simply because they have more powerful technique.
I’ve met the vindictive ones who will hurt partners that don’t do
exactly as they want, or take out their frustration at missing a
technique on their partner. I’ve been to seminars and met jerks who
feel entitled to only train with senior practitioners, and pout when
they have to train with anyone they feel isn’t “good enough”.
Then there are teachers who only pay attention to their favorites and
ignore everyone else. There are teachers who abuse their students
with extreme training under the guise of making them tough.







Somehow,
through all of the training meant to polish their skills and
humanity, the jerks only polished their skills, not their selves. The
lessons of budo are intensely personal. Instead of learning “mutual
benefit and welfare” or “loving protection” they learned only
to care for themselves and what they want. 


 

The
first lesson in any dojo is etiquette, which is a formal means of
expressing respect for your teacher, for your fellow students, and
the art you are practicing. Etiquette and respect are fundamental to
all of budo. Without it, we’re only learning how to hurt each
other.  Some people manage to ignore this cornerstone of budo
training and continue to think only of themselves. They can usually
be spotted because they toss off their bow to the dojo casually and
without feeling. Their bows to training partners are perfunctory at
best. They don’t realize it, but their lack of respect for the
dojo, the art and their training partners is clear to anyone who
watches.







The
most obvious lesson in budo, and the one that everyone is clear on
before they walk into the dojo for the first time, is that budo
teaches personal, physical power. The power to protect yourself and
inflict damage on others is fundamental to making a practice
budo.
Less clear to people is that respect, discretion and self-control are
also fundamental to making a practice budo. I’ve met too many
people who sought to acquire the power without acquiring any
discretion and self-control, much less respect for their fellow
travelers on the path.







Acquiring
physical power like developing skill in budo, often comes along with
an elevated feeling of self-confidence. If this self-confidence isn’t
tempered with a sense of humility while the budoka is training, that
self-confidence can turn into arrogance and disdain for those less
skilled or powerful. This arrogance and disdain is a poison that
pollutes everything it comes in contact with. Arrogant, disdainful
budoka aren’t worried about the health and welfare of their
training partners or their students because they perceive that such
people aren’t powerful enough to command their respect.







Budo
training takes time, sweat and the collection of not a few bruises.
For some reason, there is a tendency among budoka to think that just
doing the physical part of  budo training makes them superior
people. There is no magic in budo training that automatically
transforms anyone who does it into a spiritually perfected and
superior human being. It doesn’t just happen.  You have to
work at anything you want to improve, whether it’s strike, a joint
lock, or being a better you. All of these take work. Without it, none
of these skills will improve.







It’s
easy enough to forget about working on who you are when you’re busy
acquiring powerful physical skills. The first time you realize that
you really can dominate someone physically, there is a rush of thill.
The danger lies in seeking that rush by dominating other people in
and out of the dojo. There can be a thrill when you crank an armbar a
bit more than necessary, just enough to make uke yelp a little. If
you  to go after that thrill, you’ll develop yourself, but not
in a way anyone else will like. You’ll become a bit sadistic and
dangerous to be around because you want that thrill. What happens
when you meet someone you can’t dominate? Do you turn up the
strength to fill in for the technique that isn’t good enough? Can
you see how this might poison someone?







I’ve
seen teachers who brutalize their students because they can. I’ve
seen others who are worse, and damage any student who gives them the
least resistance. Often this is cloaked as “hard training that will
toughen you up”. It’s not.  It’s abuse and it is strictly
to feed the diseased ego of the teacher. These teachers tend to leave
a trail of broken students who gave them a little too much
resistance, and they are surrounded by students who make excuses for
their teacher. “He’s just teaching discipline.” “It doesn’t
hurt that much, and it makes you tougher.”  He’s not
teaching discipline, and that’s not how you get tougher. It’s how
you get broken.







My
teachers have done their best to make me as skillful as possible. Not
all teachers are like that. I’ve seen talented and dedicated
students driven out of the dojo when they became too skilled. These
skillful students are a threat to the teacher’s ego, because they
might equal, or worse, surpass, the teacher. Anyone who gets too good
is perceived as threat that could challenge the teacher’s spot as
the dojo alpha. These students could become more popular, or they
could start their own dojo and steal the teacher’s students away.
These teacher’s insecurities can destroy a dojo, and will certainly
mean that the dojo will never develop a healthy group of senior
students who can support the teacher and perhaps take over the dojo
someday when the teacher is ready to retire. Instead, anyone like
that is a threat and has to go. Such a student might get hurt in a
training accident with the teacher, or the teacher might start
completely ignoring them. I’ve even seen students simply driven out
of the dojo and told to never come back. These teachers have become
addicted to the adulation and honor they receive as “Sensei” and
they can’t risk having anyone around who might draw some of that
attention away.







In
budo practice, as in most things, you get out of it what you put in.
If you work hard at the techniques you can become a skilled
technician. If that’s all you practice you won’t be much of a
person though. The people who work at all aspects of budo, polish
their etiquette and their spirits, these people make themselves into
fine human beings.





via Blogger https://ift.tt/2LDfDJt