Budo, Bujutsu and Spiritual Development

Whatever else it does, budo teaches how to move with good structure, develops an understanding of the effective ranges of movement and how to optimally use time.  Budo is also concerned with making practitioners not just better fighters, but better people.  If a practice is  doing all of these four things, it’s probably budo.

Those four essentials haven’t changed since some bushi in pre-Tokugawa Japan first started putting together budo curricula. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, those essentials have to be there. Whether it is unarmed jujutsu, kenjutsu, kyudo or intercontinental ballistic missile warfare, you’re going to need to understand the structure involved, and how the weapons involved function in both time and space.  And you can be darn sure I want anyone involved in handling intercontinental ballistic missiles to constantly seek to be a better person.  If you have power, and that’s what martial training gives you, then you should work on being a better person. Even with as limited a budo form as judo, no one should develop those skills without also learning to be a good person.  There are enough dangerous jerks in the world already.

Look at the requirements for keppan in the old systems of koryu bugei.  They include injunctions against bad behavior and exhortations to students to behave not just correctly, but wisely.  I know people who proudly proclaim that they don’t do budo; that they are focused on real fighting technique, “bujutsu” they say.  THEY don’t water their training down with that budo nonsense of individual development!. I can’t count the people who have ridiculed budo as being some sort of ineffective, watered-down nonsense because it aspires to teach not just how to fight, but how to live.
Like my blog?  Get the book! 28 essays on all things budo.

There is a popular impression that focusing on developing the heart as well as the technique suddenly came into vogue after the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1604-1868); that Kano Jigoro not only developed Kodokan Judo to be useful in public education but that he invented the idea of martial arts training as a form of moral and spiritual training. I have read and heard people ridicule Ueshiba Morihei as being nutty for his emphasis on Aikido as a means of achieving world peace.

In fact, martial ryuha in Japan have been mixing technical training with personal development for as long as there have been ryuha. Karl Friday, in his great volume Legacies Of The Sword(1997), introduces the physical, psychological and spiritual training of Kashima Shinryu. The system dates to the mid-1500s and included aspects of all these areas of training from its origin.

Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu dates from the 1400s and it too includes spiritual development within its curriculum. This can come as a surprise to people who would denigrate any martial art that teaches personal or spiritual development as being weaker than one that focuses on powerful technique alone. As an art that traces its origin to divine inspiration, there should be no surprise that it includes practices and teachings intended to improve not just the fighting spirit of the student, but their not-fighting spirit as well.

Katayama Hoki Ryu has a completely different lineage. Thanks to the work of Yuji Wada, Costantino Brandozzi, and Rennis Buchner many of the early writings of Katayama Hoki Ryu are now accessible. Katayama Hoki Ryu is a kenjutsu and iai system dating from the late 1500s. Originating in the war-filled Muromachi period, if any art should be focused solely on technique, this is one. Instead, the headmasters of Katayama Ryu wrote volumes about the mental and spiritual aspects of their art.

It should be clear that focusing on mental and spiritual development isn’t anything new in Japanese martial traditions. It’s been going on since the earliest days of of organized bugei training. The people who try to extract the techniques from all the rest and say what they are doing is somehow a “purer” form of bujutsu have, in my opinion, missed the whole point of the traditional ryuha.

From the earliest traditions in Japan, bugei ryuha 武芸流派 (martial arts school) teachers understood that just learning how to fight was not enough. Creating strong fighters is great, but if they lack the wisdom and maturity to know when and when not to fight, they pose a greater danger to society than any benefit they can bring. To teach a student was to take on responsibility for how your student behaved. If your student went out and injured or killed someone, the authorities would likely end up asking you some pointed questions. Even if your student was fully justified in their actions, there would be an investigation. If the investigation found that the justification was lacking, punishments in old Japan were brutal.

Whether you call it character development, or spiritual training, or just making mature adults, budo practice in Japan has contained a healthy dose of mental discipline since long before it was generally known as budo.  There are many ways of training students for this kind of development. Various bugei arts include chants, mantras and meditation practices borrowed from Shinto and Buddhist traditions. It’s not just Ueshiba Morihei who was talking about world peace and enlightenment. The idea that individuals can achieve self-perfection through study is a core concept of Neo-Confucian thought and can be found in the teachings and writings for many koryu bugei dating as far back as the 15th century.

In Japan, the philosophers of the samurai class took the Neo-Confucian ideal and expanded the subjects to be studied to become a “profound person” or 君子 (kunshi in Japanese, junzi in Chinese) to include the martial arts. They went so far as to coin the phrase 文武両道 (bunbu ryoudou) or roughly “Scholarly arts and martial arts are both of the Way”.  Within the Confucian traditions, anyone could become a kunshi through study and sincere effort. The Japanese just expanded the circle of things that should be studied beyond those of the fine arts, morality, literature, ritual and etiquette to include what were known in the Japan during the Kamakura, Muromachi, and Tokugawa eras most commonly as 武芸 (bugei) or literally “martial arts”.  The gei 芸 here is the same as in geisha 芸者, literally “an artistically accomplished person”.  

In addition, the word for “morality/morals” in Japanese is written 道徳 (doutoku) with the characters for way 道 and virtue 徳. These are also the first two characters of the work known in English as the Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing) 道徳経. Anything that talks of individual development or what is often lumped under the phrase “spiritual development” in the English-speaking world, was likely to be, and still is, included in the concept of a “Way” 道. Like The Analects of Confucius, the Tao Te Ching is concerned with what traits make the sage (聖人seijin) and the “profound/superior person” ( 君子 kunshi). Neither one was enamored of war or violence.

Neither were the Japanese of the Sengoku Jidai (Warring States Period), the period from about 1467 until the victory by Tokugawa Ieyasu at Sekigahara in 1604. This was a period of uncontrolled civil war throughout Japan.  The Tao Te Jing says in Chapter 31 “Wherever a host is stationed, briars and thorns spring up.” Nearly 150 years of constant warfare had proven this to the thoughtful in Japan. The ideal of the bushi class was the profound person, the sage, as this idea was expounded Neo-Confucianism, Taoism and even in Buddhism. Hard experience had taught the Japanese to place the study of the arts of conflict on the same level as the fine arts, ethics, morality, etiquette and virtue.  

Conflict can come at any moment, and the profound person is ready for it when it comes. In order to be prepared for conflict, one must understand ethics, morality, etiquette and virtue. The great thinkers going back to Confucius and Lao Tzu recognized that one who understands only war is not even good for that. Even war has limits. In every society there are actions and behaviors that are beyond acceptable. In Japan, learning appropriate action, etiquette, ritual, ethics and morality was considered essential for anyone learning bugei.  

This is why ethics and etiquette, morality and individual spiritual development are so important in the classical bugei.  The Japanese didn’t want people trained in violence who didn’t have the maturity, self-control and spiritual development to handle the abilities that training gives. They included things like meditation, right behaviour and spiritual development in their bugei systems from the beginning.  A profound person has many characteristics we associate with someone who has a high degree of spiritual development.  She has self-control, doesn’t become angry easily, has the wisdom to discern right action and to not be baited by others. She is patient, kind and discerning. She doesn’t employ violence unless it is the most appropriate option for dealing with the situation.

Far from being a watered-down version of the classical arts, budo forms contain the ethical and spiritual center that has guided classical budo in Japan since before the term “budo” came into wide use. The idea of seeking mastery of martial technique without achieving mastery over your self was anathema to the founders and teachers of old. It should be anathema to teachers and students now as well.

via Blogger http://ift.tt/2tG35YU

Budo, Bujutsu and Spiritual Development

Whatever else it does, budo teaches how to move with good structure, develops an understanding of the effective ranges of movement and how to optimally use time.  Budo is also concerned with making practitioners not just better fighters, but better people.  If a practice is  doing all of these four things, it’s probably budo.

Those four essentials haven’t changed since some bushi in pre-Tokugawa Japan first started putting together budo curricula. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, those essentials have to be there. Whether it is unarmed jujutsu, kenjutsu, kyudo or intercontinental ballistic missile warfare, you’re going to need to understand the structure involved, and how the weapons involved function in both time and space.  And you can be darn sure I want anyone involved in handling intercontinental ballistic missiles to constantly seek to be a better person.  If you have power, and that’s what martial training gives you, then you should work on being a better person. Even with as limited a budo form as judo, no one should develop those skills without also learning to be a good person.  There are enough dangerous jerks in the world already.

Look at the requirements for keppan in the old systems of koryu bugei.  They include injunctions against bad behavior and exhortations to students to behave not just correctly, but wisely.  I know people who proudly proclaim that they don’t do budo; that they are focused on real fighting technique, “bujutsu” they say.  THEY don’t water their training down with that budo nonsense of individual development!. I can’t count the people who have ridiculed budo as being some sort of ineffective, watered-down nonsense because it aspires to teach not just how to fight, but how to live.
Like my blog?  Get the book! 28 essays on all things budo.

There is a popular impression that focusing on developing the heart as well as the technique suddenly came into vogue after the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1604-1868); that Kano Jigoro not only developed Kodokan Judo to be useful in public education but that he invented the idea of martial arts training as a form of moral and spiritual training. I have read and heard people ridicule Ueshiba Morihei as being nutty for his emphasis on Aikido as a means of achieving world peace.

In fact, martial ryuha in Japan have been mixing technical training with personal development for as long as there have been ryuha. Karl Friday, in his great volume Legacies Of The Sword(1997), introduces the physical, psychological and spiritual training of Kashima Shinryu. The system dates to the mid-1500s and included aspects of all these areas of training from its origin.

Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu dates from the 1400s and it too includes spiritual development within its curriculum. This can come as a surprise to people who would denigrate any martial art that teaches personal or spiritual development as being weaker than one that focuses on powerful technique alone. As an art that traces its origin to divine inspiration, there should be no surprise that it includes practices and teachings intended to improve not just the fighting spirit of the student, but their not-fighting spirit as well.

Katayama Hoki Ryu has a completely different lineage. Thanks to the work of Yuji Wada, Costantino Brandozzi, and Rennis Buchner many of the early writings of Katayama Hoki Ryu are now accessible. Katayama Hoki Ryu is a kenjutsu and iai system dating from the late 1500s. Originating in the war-filled Muromachi period, if any art should be focused solely on technique, this is one. Instead, the headmasters of Katayama Ryu wrote volumes about the mental and spiritual aspects of their art.

It should be clear that focusing on mental and spiritual development isn’t anything new in Japanese martial traditions. It’s been going on since the earliest days of of organized bugei training. The people who try to extract the techniques from all the rest and say what they are doing is somehow a “purer” form of bujutsu have, in my opinion, missed the whole point of the traditional ryuha.

From the earliest traditions in Japan, bugei ryuha 武芸流派 (martial arts school) teachers understood that just learning how to fight was not enough. Creating strong fighters is great, but if they lack the wisdom and maturity to know when and when not to fight, they pose a greater danger to society than any benefit they can bring. To teach a student was to take on responsibility for how your student behaved. If your student went out and injured or killed someone, the authorities would likely end up asking you some pointed questions. Even if your student was fully justified in their actions, there would be an investigation. If the investigation found that the justification was lacking, punishments in old Japan were brutal.

Whether you call it character development, or spiritual training, or just making mature adults, budo practice in Japan has contained a healthy dose of mental discipline since long before it was generally known as budo.  There are many ways of training students for this kind of development. Various bugei arts include chants, mantras and meditation practices borrowed from Shinto and Buddhist traditions. It’s not just Ueshiba Morihei who was talking about world peace and enlightenment. The idea that individuals can achieve self-perfection through study is a core concept of Neo-Confucian thought and can be found in the teachings and writings for many koryu bugei dating as far back as the 15th century.

In Japan, the philosophers of the samurai class took the Neo-Confucian ideal and expanded the subjects to be studied to become a “profound person” or 君子 (kunshi in Japanese, junzi in Chinese) to include the martial arts. They went so far as to coin the phrase 文武両道 (bunbu ryoudou) or roughly “Scholarly arts and martial arts are both of the Way”.  Within the Confucian traditions, anyone could become a kunshi through study and sincere effort. The Japanese just expanded the circle of things that should be studied beyond those of the fine arts, morality, literature, ritual and etiquette to include what were known in the Japan during the Kamakura, Muromachi, and Tokugawa eras most commonly as 武芸 (bugei) or literally “martial arts”.  The gei 芸 here is the same as in geisha 芸者, literally “an artistically accomplished person”.  

In addition, the word for “morality/morals” in Japanese is written 道徳 (doutoku) with the characters for way 道 and virtue 徳. These are also the first two characters of the work known in English as the Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing) 道徳経. Anything that talks of individual development or what is often lumped under the phrase “spiritual development” in the English-speaking world, was likely to be, and still is, included in the concept of a “Way” 道. Like The Analects of Confucius, the Tao Te Ching is concerned with what traits make the sage (聖人seijin) and the “profound/superior person” ( 君子 kunshi). Neither one was enamored of war or violence.

Neither were the Japanese of the Sengoku Jidai (Warring States Period), the period from about 1467 until the victory by Tokugawa Ieyasu at Sekigahara in 1604. This was a period of uncontrolled civil war throughout Japan.  The Tao Te Jing says in Chapter 31 “Wherever a host is stationed, briars and thorns spring up.” Nearly 150 years of constant warfare had proven this to the thoughtful in Japan. The ideal of the bushi class was the profound person, the sage, as this idea was expounded Neo-Confucianism, Taoism and even in Buddhism. Hard experience had taught the Japanese to place the study of the arts of conflict on the same level as the fine arts, ethics, morality, etiquette and virtue.  

Conflict can come at any moment, and the profound person is ready for it when it comes. In order to be prepared for conflict, one must understand ethics, morality, etiquette and virtue. The great thinkers going back to Confucius and Lao Tzu recognized that one who understands only war is not even good for that. Even war has limits. In every society there are actions and behaviors that are beyond acceptable. In Japan, learning appropriate action, etiquette, ritual, ethics and morality was considered essential for anyone learning bugei.  

This is why ethics and etiquette, morality and individual spiritual development are so important in the classical bugei.  The Japanese didn’t want people trained in violence who didn’t have the maturity, self-control and spiritual development to handle the abilities that training gives. They included things like meditation, right behaviour and spiritual development in their bugei systems from the beginning.  A profound person has many characteristics we associate with someone who has a high degree of spiritual development.  She has self-control, doesn’t become angry easily, has the wisdom to discern right action and to not be baited by others. She is patient, kind and discerning. She doesn’t employ violence unless it is the most appropriate option for dealing with the situation.

Far from being a watered-down version of the classical arts, budo forms contain the ethical and spiritual center that has guided classical budo in Japan since before the term “budo” came into wide use. The idea of seeking mastery of martial technique without achieving mastery over your self was anathema to the founders and teachers of old. It should be anathema to teachers and students now as well.

via Blogger http://ift.tt/2tG35YU

Budo, Bujutsu and Spiritual Development

Whatever else it does, budo teaches how to move with good structure, develops an understanding of the effective ranges of movement and how to optimally use time.  Budo is also concerned with making practitioners not just better fighters, but better people.  If a practice is  doing all of these four things, it’s probably budo.

Those four essentials haven’t changed since some bushi in pre-Tokugawa Japan first started putting together budo curricula. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, those essentials have to be there. Whether it is unarmed jujutsu, kenjutsu, kyudo or intercontinental ballistic missile warfare, you’re going to need to understand the structure involved, and how the weapons involved function in both time and space.  And you can be darn sure I want anyone involved in handling intercontinental ballistic missiles to constantly seek to be a better person.  If you have power, and that’s what martial training gives you, then you should work on being a better person. Even with as limited a budo form as judo, no one should develop those skills without also learning to be a good person.  There are enough dangerous jerks in the world already.

Look at the requirements for keppan in the old systems of koryu bugei.  They include injunctions against bad behavior and exhortations to students to behave not just correctly, but wisely.  I know people who proudly proclaim that they don’t do budo; that they are focused on real fighting technique, “bujutsu” they say.  THEY don’t water their training down with that budo nonsense of individual development!. I can’t count the people who have ridiculed budo as being some sort of ineffective, watered-down nonsense because it aspires to teach not just how to fight, but how to live.
Like my blog?  Get the book! 28 essays on all things budo.

There is a popular impression that focusing on developing the heart as well as the technique suddenly came into vogue after the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1604-1868); that Kano Jigoro not only developed Kodokan Judo to be useful in public education but that he invented the idea of martial arts training as a form of moral and spiritual training. I have read and heard people ridicule Ueshiba Morihei as being nutty for his emphasis on Aikido as a means of achieving world peace.

In fact, martial ryuha in Japan have been mixing technical training with personal development for as long as there have been ryuha. Karl Friday, in his great volume Legacies Of The Sword(1997), introduces the physical, psychological and spiritual training of Kashima Shinryu. The system dates to the mid-1500s and included aspects of all these areas of training from its origin.

Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu dates from the 1400s and it too includes spiritual development within its curriculum. This can come as a surprise to people who would denigrate any martial art that teaches personal or spiritual development as being weaker than one that focuses on powerful technique alone. As an art that traces its origin to divine inspiration, there should be no surprise that it includes practices and teachings intended to improve not just the fighting spirit of the student, but their not-fighting spirit as well.

Katayama Hoki Ryu has a completely different lineage. Thanks to the work of Yuji Wada, Costantino Brandozzi, and Rennis Buchner many of the early writings of Katayama Hoki Ryu are now accessible. Katayama Hoki Ryu is a kenjutsu and iai system dating from the late 1500s. Originating in the war-filled Muromachi period, if any art should be focused solely on technique, this is one. Instead, the headmasters of Katayama Ryu wrote volumes about the mental and spiritual aspects of their art.

It should be clear that focusing on mental and spiritual development isn’t anything new in Japanese martial traditions. It’s been going on since the earliest days of of organized bugei training. The people who try to extract the techniques from all the rest and say what they are doing is somehow a “purer” form of bujutsu have, in my opinion, missed the whole point of the traditional ryuha.

From the earliest traditions in Japan, bugei ryuha 武芸流派 (martial arts school) teachers understood that just learning how to fight was not enough. Creating strong fighters is great, but if they lack the wisdom and maturity to know when and when not to fight, they pose a greater danger to society than any benefit they can bring. To teach a student was to take on responsibility for how your student behaved. If your student went out and injured or killed someone, the authorities would likely end up asking you some pointed questions. Even if your student was fully justified in their actions, there would be an investigation. If the investigation found that the justification was lacking, punishments in old Japan were brutal.

Whether you call it character development, or spiritual training, or just making mature adults, budo practice in Japan has contained a healthy dose of mental discipline since long before it was generally known as budo.  There are many ways of training students for this kind of development. Various bugei arts include chants, mantras and meditation practices borrowed from Shinto and Buddhist traditions. It’s not just Ueshiba Morihei who was talking about world peace and enlightenment. The idea that individuals can achieve self-perfection through study is a core concept of Neo-Confucian thought and can be found in the teachings and writings for many koryu bugei dating as far back as the 15th century.

In Japan, the philosophers of the samurai class took the Neo-Confucian ideal and expanded the subjects to be studied to become a “profound person” or 君子 (kunshi in Japanese, junzi in Chinese) to include the martial arts. They went so far as to coin the phrase 文武両道 (bunbu ryoudou) or roughly “Scholarly arts and martial arts are both of the Way”.  Within the Confucian traditions, anyone could become a kunshi through study and sincere effort. The Japanese just expanded the circle of things that should be studied beyond those of the fine arts, morality, literature, ritual and etiquette to include what were known in the Japan during the Kamakura, Muromachi, and Tokugawa eras most commonly as 武芸 (bugei) or literally “martial arts”.  The gei 芸 here is the same as in geisha 芸者, literally “an artistically accomplished person”.  

In addition, the word for “morality/morals” in Japanese is written 道徳 (doutoku) with the characters for way 道 and virtue 徳. These are also the first two characters of the work known in English as the Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing) 道徳経. Anything that talks of individual development or what is often lumped under the phrase “spiritual development” in the English-speaking world, was likely to be, and still is, included in the concept of a “Way” 道. Like The Analects of Confucius, the Tao Te Ching is concerned with what traits make the sage (聖人seijin) and the “profound/superior person” ( 君子 kunshi). Neither one was enamored of war or violence.

Neither were the Japanese of the Sengoku Jidai (Warring States Period), the period from about 1467 until the victory by Tokugawa Ieyasu at Sekigahara in 1604. This was a period of uncontrolled civil war throughout Japan.  The Tao Te Jing says in Chapter 31 “Wherever a host is stationed, briars and thorns spring up.” Nearly 150 years of constant warfare had proven this to the thoughtful in Japan. The ideal of the bushi class was the profound person, the sage, as this idea was expounded Neo-Confucianism, Taoism and even in Buddhism. Hard experience had taught the Japanese to place the study of the arts of conflict on the same level as the fine arts, ethics, morality, etiquette and virtue.  

Conflict can come at any moment, and the profound person is ready for it when it comes. In order to be prepared for conflict, one must understand ethics, morality, etiquette and virtue. The great thinkers going back to Confucius and Lao Tzu recognized that one who understands only war is not even good for that. Even war has limits. In every society there are actions and behaviors that are beyond acceptable. In Japan, learning appropriate action, etiquette, ritual, ethics and morality was considered essential for anyone learning bugei.  

This is why ethics and etiquette, morality and individual spiritual development are so important in the classical bugei.  The Japanese didn’t want people trained in violence who didn’t have the maturity, self-control and spiritual development to handle the abilities that training gives. They included things like meditation, right behaviour and spiritual development in their bugei systems from the beginning.  A profound person has many characteristics we associate with someone who has a high degree of spiritual development.  She has self-control, doesn’t become angry easily, has the wisdom to discern right action and to not be baited by others. She is patient, kind and discerning. She doesn’t employ violence unless it is the most appropriate option for dealing with the situation.

Far from being a watered-down version of the classical arts, budo forms contain the ethical and spiritual center that has guided classical budo in Japan since before the term “budo” came into wide use. The idea of seeking mastery of martial technique without achieving mastery over your self was anathema to the founders and teachers of old. It should be anathema to teachers and students now as well.

via Blogger http://ift.tt/2tG35YU

Budo, Bujutsu and Spiritual Development

Whatever else it does, budo teaches how to move with good structure, develops an understanding of the effective ranges of movement and how to optimally use time.  Budo is also concerned with making practitioners not just better fighters, but better people.  If a practice is  doing all of these four things, it’s probably budo.

Those four essentials haven’t changed since some bushi in pre-Tokugawa Japan first started putting together budo curricula. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, those essentials have to be there. Whether it is unarmed jujutsu, kenjutsu, kyudo or intercontinental ballistic missile warfare, you’re going to need to understand the structure involved, and how the weapons involved function in both time and space.  And you can be darn sure I want anyone involved in handling intercontinental ballistic missiles to constantly seek to be a better person.  If you have power, and that’s what martial training gives you, then you should work on being a better person. Even with as limited a budo form as judo, no one should develop those skills without also learning to be a good person.  There are enough dangerous jerks in the world already.

Look at the requirements for keppan in the old systems of koryu bugei.  They include injunctions against bad behavior and exhortations to students to behave not just correctly, but wisely.  I know people who proudly proclaim that they don’t do budo; that they are focused on real fighting technique, “bujutsu” they say.  THEY don’t water their training down with that budo nonsense of individual development!. I can’t count the people who have ridiculed budo as being some sort of ineffective, watered-down nonsense because it aspires to teach not just how to fight, but how to live.
Like my blog?  Get the book! 28 essays on all things budo.

There is a popular impression that focusing on developing the heart as well as the technique suddenly came into vogue after the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1604-1868); that Kano Jigoro not only developed Kodokan Judo to be useful in public education but that he invented the idea of martial arts training as a form of moral and spiritual training. I have read and heard people ridicule Ueshiba Morihei as being nutty for his emphasis on Aikido as a means of achieving world peace.

In fact, martial ryuha in Japan have been mixing technical training with personal development for as long as there have been ryuha. Karl Friday, in his great volume Legacies Of The Sword(1997), introduces the physical, psychological and spiritual training of Kashima Shinryu. The system dates to the mid-1500s and included aspects of all these areas of training from its origin.

Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu dates from the 1400s and it too includes spiritual development within its curriculum. This can come as a surprise to people who would denigrate any martial art that teaches personal or spiritual development as being weaker than one that focuses on powerful technique alone. As an art that traces its origin to divine inspiration, there should be no surprise that it includes practices and teachings intended to improve not just the fighting spirit of the student, but their not-fighting spirit as well.

Katayama Hoki Ryu has a completely different lineage. Thanks to the work of Yuji Wada, Costantino Brandozzi, and Rennis Buchner many of the early writings of Katayama Hoki Ryu are now accessible. Katayama Hoki Ryu is a kenjutsu and iai system dating from the late 1500s. Originating in the war-filled Muromachi period, if any art should be focused solely on technique, this is one. Instead, the headmasters of Katayama Ryu wrote volumes about the mental and spiritual aspects of their art.

It should be clear that focusing on mental and spiritual development isn’t anything new in Japanese martial traditions. It’s been going on since the earliest days of of organized bugei training. The people who try to extract the techniques from all the rest and say what they are doing is somehow a “purer” form of bujutsu have, in my opinion, missed the whole point of the traditional ryuha.

From the earliest traditions in Japan, bugei ryuha 武芸流派 (martial arts school) teachers understood that just learning how to fight was not enough. Creating strong fighters is great, but if they lack the wisdom and maturity to know when and when not to fight, they pose a greater danger to society than any benefit they can bring. To teach a student was to take on responsibility for how your student behaved. If your student went out and injured or killed someone, the authorities would likely end up asking you some pointed questions. Even if your student was fully justified in their actions, there would be an investigation. If the investigation found that the justification was lacking, punishments in old Japan were brutal.

Whether you call it character development, or spiritual training, or just making mature adults, budo practice in Japan has contained a healthy dose of mental discipline since long before it was generally known as budo.  There are many ways of training students for this kind of development. Various bugei arts include chants, mantras and meditation practices borrowed from Shinto and Buddhist traditions. It’s not just Ueshiba Morihei who was talking about world peace and enlightenment. The idea that individuals can achieve self-perfection through study is a core concept of Neo-Confucian thought and can be found in the teachings and writings for many koryu bugei dating as far back as the 15th century.

In Japan, the philosophers of the samurai class took the Neo-Confucian ideal and expanded the subjects to be studied to become a “profound person” or 君子 (kunshi in Japanese, junzi in Chinese) to include the martial arts. They went so far as to coin the phrase 文武両道 (bunbu ryoudou) or roughly “Scholarly arts and martial arts are both of the Way”.  Within the Confucian traditions, anyone could become a kunshi through study and sincere effort. The Japanese just expanded the circle of things that should be studied beyond those of the fine arts, morality, literature, ritual and etiquette to include what were known in the Japan during the Kamakura, Muromachi, and Tokugawa eras most commonly as 武芸 (bugei) or literally “martial arts”.  The gei 芸 here is the same as in geisha 芸者, literally “an artistically accomplished person”.  

In addition, the word for “morality/morals” in Japanese is written 道徳 (doutoku) with the characters for way 道 and virtue 徳. These are also the first two characters of the work known in English as the Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing) 道徳経. Anything that talks of individual development or what is often lumped under the phrase “spiritual development” in the English-speaking world, was likely to be, and still is, included in the concept of a “Way” 道. Like The Analects of Confucius, the Tao Te Ching is concerned with what traits make the sage (聖人seijin) and the “profound/superior person” ( 君子 kunshi). Neither one was enamored of war or violence.

Neither were the Japanese of the Sengoku Jidai (Warring States Period), the period from about 1467 until the victory by Tokugawa Ieyasu at Sekigahara in 1604. This was a period of uncontrolled civil war throughout Japan.  The Tao Te Jing says in Chapter 31 “Wherever a host is stationed, briars and thorns spring up.” Nearly 150 years of constant warfare had proven this to the thoughtful in Japan. The ideal of the bushi class was the profound person, the sage, as this idea was expounded Neo-Confucianism, Taoism and even in Buddhism. Hard experience had taught the Japanese to place the study of the arts of conflict on the same level as the fine arts, ethics, morality, etiquette and virtue.  

Conflict can come at any moment, and the profound person is ready for it when it comes. In order to be prepared for conflict, one must understand ethics, morality, etiquette and virtue. The great thinkers going back to Confucius and Lao Tzu recognized that one who understands only war is not even good for that. Even war has limits. In every society there are actions and behaviors that are beyond acceptable. In Japan, learning appropriate action, etiquette, ritual, ethics and morality was considered essential for anyone learning bugei.  

This is why ethics and etiquette, morality and individual spiritual development are so important in the classical bugei.  The Japanese didn’t want people trained in violence who didn’t have the maturity, self-control and spiritual development to handle the abilities that training gives. They included things like meditation, right behaviour and spiritual development in their bugei systems from the beginning.  A profound person has many characteristics we associate with someone who has a high degree of spiritual development.  She has self-control, doesn’t become angry easily, has the wisdom to discern right action and to not be baited by others. She is patient, kind and discerning. She doesn’t employ violence unless it is the most appropriate option for dealing with the situation.

Far from being a watered-down version of the classical arts, budo forms contain the ethical and spiritual center that has guided classical budo in Japan since before the term “budo” came into wide use. The idea of seeking mastery of martial technique without achieving mastery over your self was anathema to the founders and teachers of old. It should be anathema to teachers and students now as well.

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Budo, Bujutsu and Spiritual Development

Whatever else it does, budo teaches how to move with good structure, develops an understanding of the effective ranges of movement and how to optimally use time.  Budo is also concerned with making practitioners not just better fighters, but better people.  If a practice is  doing all of these four things, it’s probably budo.

Those four essentials haven’t changed since some bushi in pre-Tokugawa Japan first started putting together budo curricula. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, those essentials have to be there. Whether it is unarmed jujutsu, kenjutsu, kyudo or intercontinental ballistic missile warfare, you’re going to need to understand the structure involved, and how the weapons involved function in both time and space.  And you can be darn sure I want anyone involved in handling intercontinental ballistic missiles to constantly seek to be a better person.  If you have power, and that’s what martial training gives you, then you should work on being a better person. Even with as limited a budo form as judo, no one should develop those skills without also learning to be a good person.  There are enough dangerous jerks in the world already.

Look at the requirements for keppan in the old systems of koryu bugei.  They include injunctions against bad behavior and exhortations to students to behave not just correctly, but wisely.  I know people who proudly proclaim that they don’t do budo; that they are focused on real fighting technique, “bujutsu” they say.  THEY don’t water their training down with that budo nonsense of individual development!. I can’t count the people who have ridiculed budo as being some sort of ineffective, watered-down nonsense because it aspires to teach not just how to fight, but how to live.
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There is a popular impression that focusing on developing the heart as well as the technique suddenly came into vogue after the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1604-1868); that Kano Jigoro not only developed Kodokan Judo to be useful in public education but that he invented the idea of martial arts training as a form of moral and spiritual training. I have read and heard people ridicule Ueshiba Morihei as being nutty for his emphasis on Aikido as a means of achieving world peace.

In fact, martial ryuha in Japan have been mixing technical training with personal development for as long as there have been ryuha. Karl Friday, in his great volume Legacies Of The Sword(1997), introduces the physical, psychological and spiritual training of Kashima Shinryu. The system dates to the mid-1500s and included aspects of all these areas of training from its origin.

Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu dates from the 1400s and it too includes spiritual development within its curriculum. This can come as a surprise to people who would denigrate any martial art that teaches personal or spiritual development as being weaker than one that focuses on powerful technique alone. As an art that traces its origin to divine inspiration, there should be no surprise that it includes practices and teachings intended to improve not just the fighting spirit of the student, but their not-fighting spirit as well.

Katayama Hoki Ryu has a completely different lineage. Thanks to the work of Yuji Wada, Costantino Brandozzi, and Rennis Buchner many of the early writings of Katayama Hoki Ryu are now accessible. Katayama Hoki Ryu is a kenjutsu and iai system dating from the late 1500s. Originating in the war-filled Muromachi period, if any art should be focused solely on technique, this is one. Instead, the headmasters of Katayama Ryu wrote volumes about the mental and spiritual aspects of their art.

It should be clear that focusing on mental and spiritual development isn’t anything new in Japanese martial traditions. It’s been going on since the earliest days of of organized bugei training. The people who try to extract the techniques from all the rest and say what they are doing is somehow a “purer” form of bujutsu have, in my opinion, missed the whole point of the traditional ryuha.

From the earliest traditions in Japan, bugei ryuha 武芸流派 (martial arts school) teachers understood that just learning how to fight was not enough. Creating strong fighters is great, but if they lack the wisdom and maturity to know when and when not to fight, they pose a greater danger to society than any benefit they can bring. To teach a student was to take on responsibility for how your student behaved. If your student went out and injured or killed someone, the authorities would likely end up asking you some pointed questions. Even if your student was fully justified in their actions, there would be an investigation. If the investigation found that the justification was lacking, punishments in old Japan were brutal.

Whether you call it character development, or spiritual training, or just making mature adults, budo practice in Japan has contained a healthy dose of mental discipline since long before it was generally known as budo.  There are many ways of training students for this kind of development. Various bugei arts include chants, mantras and meditation practices borrowed from Shinto and Buddhist traditions. It’s not just Ueshiba Morihei who was talking about world peace and enlightenment. The idea that individuals can achieve self-perfection through study is a core concept of Neo-Confucian thought and can be found in the teachings and writings for many koryu bugei dating as far back as the 15th century.

In Japan, the philosophers of the samurai class took the Neo-Confucian ideal and expanded the subjects to be studied to become a “profound person” or 君子 (kunshi in Japanese, junzi in Chinese) to include the martial arts. They went so far as to coin the phrase 文武両道 (bunbu ryoudou) or roughly “Scholarly arts and martial arts are both of the Way”.  Within the Confucian traditions, anyone could become a kunshi through study and sincere effort. The Japanese just expanded the circle of things that should be studied beyond those of the fine arts, morality, literature, ritual and etiquette to include what were known in the Japan during the Kamakura, Muromachi, and Tokugawa eras most commonly as 武芸 (bugei) or literally “martial arts”.  The gei 芸 here is the same as in geisha 芸者, literally “an artistically accomplished person”.  

In addition, the word for “morality/morals” in Japanese is written 道徳 (doutoku) with the characters for way 道 and virtue 徳. These are also the first two characters of the work known in English as the Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing) 道徳経. Anything that talks of individual development or what is often lumped under the phrase “spiritual development” in the English-speaking world, was likely to be, and still is, included in the concept of a “Way” 道. Like The Analects of Confucius, the Tao Te Ching is concerned with what traits make the sage (聖人seijin) and the “profound/superior person” ( 君子 kunshi). Neither one was enamored of war or violence.

Neither were the Japanese of the Sengoku Jidai (Warring States Period), the period from about 1467 until the victory by Tokugawa Ieyasu at Sekigahara in 1604. This was a period of uncontrolled civil war throughout Japan.  The Tao Te Jing says in Chapter 31 “Wherever a host is stationed, briars and thorns spring up.” Nearly 150 years of constant warfare had proven this to the thoughtful in Japan. The ideal of the bushi class was the profound person, the sage, as this idea was expounded Neo-Confucianism, Taoism and even in Buddhism. Hard experience had taught the Japanese to place the study of the arts of conflict on the same level as the fine arts, ethics, morality, etiquette and virtue.  

Conflict can come at any moment, and the profound person is ready for it when it comes. In order to be prepared for conflict, one must understand ethics, morality, etiquette and virtue. The great thinkers going back to Confucius and Lao Tzu recognized that one who understands only war is not even good for that. Even war has limits. In every society there are actions and behaviors that are beyond acceptable. In Japan, learning appropriate action, etiquette, ritual, ethics and morality was considered essential for anyone learning bugei.  

This is why ethics and etiquette, morality and individual spiritual development are so important in the classical bugei.  The Japanese didn’t want people trained in violence who didn’t have the maturity, self-control and spiritual development to handle the abilities that training gives. They included things like meditation, right behaviour and spiritual development in their bugei systems from the beginning.  A profound person has many characteristics we associate with someone who has a high degree of spiritual development.  She has self-control, doesn’t become angry easily, has the wisdom to discern right action and to not be baited by others. She is patient, kind and discerning. She doesn’t employ violence unless it is the most appropriate option for dealing with the situation.

Far from being a watered-down version of the classical arts, budo forms contain the ethical and spiritual center that has guided classical budo in Japan since before the term “budo” came into wide use. The idea of seeking mastery of martial technique without achieving mastery over your self was anathema to the founders and teachers of old. It should be anathema to teachers and students now as well.

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Test Day

Shudokan Dojo, Osaka, Japan.  Photo Copyright Peter Boylan 2016.
Last November I took a rank test in All Japan Kendo Federation Jodo. Getting ready for my test in November I spent a week in Osaka training several hours every day with my teachers. I didn’t know if I was ready for the test or not, but a week before the big day we started daily practice. By the end of the week I felt like I might have an outside chance of passing. Matsuda Shihan, Morimoto Shihan, Iseki Sensei and Hotani Sensei had all worked hard to drag me up to the level needed to pass the exam.

The test was held at the Shudokan Dojo on the grounds of Osaka Castle.  The dojo was reserved for the testing for the whole day. My friend Bijan and I got there early, but we still didn’t beat Iseki Sensei. He was waiting for us when we arrived. We registered, found a spot to put our gear and then got changed. There were a lot of people testing, including 12 for 4th dan and 5 for 5th dan. We started warming up and practicing on the floor where the test would be just to get used to the space and hopefully calm down a little.

As time passed before the test more and more people, both test takers and spectators, arrived. Bijan and I had lots of support. Iseki Sensei and our training partner Fujita San was there.  My friend Tadokoro Sensei came to cheer me on. I was surprised and honored that Fukuma Sensei came as well.  At 90 years of age, he is still strong and active and training jodo regularly. Everyone seemed to have at least a few supporters.

The test committee consisted of five 7th dan teachers.  To pass the test, you had to get a  passing mark from at least 3 of the 5. There would be 2 pairs demonstrating at a time in front of the judges. Each person had to demonstrate both the tachi and jo sides of 5 kata with randomly selected partners. The five kata required were different for each rank being tested for, but they had been announced months before the test, so there was plenty of time to prepare.

The test takers were called to line up by rank, and we were issued numbers to wear so the judges could identify us. The numbering also let us figure out who our partners would be for demonstrating the tachi and jo sides of the test. My partner for the demonstrating the tachi side was a tall gentleman about my size and age. Fo demonstrating the jo side, I was partnered with a small women who appeared a few years older than me. Once we figured out who we would be partnered with for each demonstration we grabbed our partners and started practicing together to get comfortable with each other.

The tall gentleman and I adjusted to each other without too much trouble. We had similar reach and power. We ran through the kata so he could get used to me as his tachi and I could adjust to his jo. The lady and I didn’t mesh as well. I was having trouble shrinking my technique to fit her, and she was having difficulty adapting to my stride.  We kept at it though and started making progress towards working well together.
Order Musings Of A Budo Bum

While we were doing that, apparently the judges and organizers were watching us, because at some point one of the organizers pulled us aside and told us they were changing the partnering  a little. The lady got paired with someone closer to her size, and I was partnered with someone closer to mine. The rule is that you take whoever they give you as a partner, but it seems they didn’t want to make adjusting to your partner too large a hurdle.

My new partner was a bit smaller than I, but quite a bit larger than the lady I had been working with. My now former partner seemed relieved not to have to work with me, and I’ll admit I was glad to work with someone who was easy to adapt myself to.  We started practicing right away because there wasn’t much time before the testing began.

Not long after this we were called to order again, and the testing began. It started with the lowest rank being tested that day, ikkyu, and would finish with the 5th dan testing. This meant I got to see everyone else test before my turn arrived.The ikkyu candidates demonstrated kihon techniques and the their designated kata. Then the shodan candidates did their designated 5 kata, both jo side and tachi side. Then all the nidan candidates.

I kept looking at the clock and wondering how we would get everything done by lunchtime. I’m sure my friends could all tell my mental state by how frequently I looked up at the clock. Bijan and I were both eager to take our tests and be done. I’m sure my blood pressure went up steadily while other people took their tests and the hands on the clock sped around.

The sandan candidates filed onto the floor, two pairs at a time at a time, and demonstrated their designated 5 kata. Then the head tachiai, the person calling out the directions for the testing called a break for lunch. I really wanted to get this over with, and now we had a hour for lunch. Because Shudokan Dojo is on the grounds of Osaka Castle, there are yakisoba and takoyaki stands next to it serving all the tourists. Those of us who had not packed hearty lunches, like me and Bijan, bought some yakisoba noodles or takoyaki squid balls and headed over to one of the castle walls where our friends and teachers and fellow dan challengers were gathered eating and sharing treats with each other.

We sat down with everyone and somehow started to relax. It was refreshing to be out of the dojo and not counting down the people ahead of us who had yet to test. For those who think that traditional Japanese budo teachers have to be tough and stoic and never smile, this would have been a shock. All our teachers and friends had brought extra treats to pass around, and everyone was laughing and joking. When the cameras came out, the smiles got wider and and laughter got louder. I’d needed this more than I knew. I’m sure I had wound myself tight watching everyone test all through the morning. The smiles and laughter gently eased a lot of the tension out of me.

After lunch it was just the 4th dan and 5th dan tests. There were twelve 4th dan candidates in 3 groups and five 5th dan candidates separated into 2 groups. When the testing started back up, they called all the 4th and 5th dan candidates together. While the 4th dan candidates lined up and walked to the test area, the 5th dan candidates lined up and sat in chairs directly in front of the test floor facing the judges on the other side of it. From here we had a great view of the 4th dan tests, though I admit I don’t remember much of what I saw at this point. I was cycling through the 5 kata that were designated for my test. The 5th dan test consisted of the ZNKR Jo Kata 8-12.

As the 4th dan challengers finished up, they moved us to ready chairs next to right of the test floor. I was the youngest in my group, so I was up first.  This meant I would demonstrate tachi and then cycle around to do the jo. My partner for this portion of the test and I walked out onto the floor as we had been instructed, arranged our extra weapons at the side and waited for the direction to begin. The first kata, Tachi Otoshi, went well I seem to recall. The opening for the next kata I very nearly blew.  To be sure I did the right kata in the right order I was focusing on the initial attack, which is a cut to the upper arm. I was launching straight into the attack when I realized I hadn’t done the awase with the jo yet. Somehow I managed to turn the premature attack into a simple matching with the jo, though I don’t believe anyone missed it what had actually happened. I’m very sure the judges all caught it.

After that big hiccup the kata went smoothly. At least, I don’t remember any other major stumbles, though there were a few minor errors of timing and spacing. Being that my partner and I had done the kata together for the first time that morning, I’m not surprised. We even got through all of Ran Ai without any mishaps. If there is a kata where things will go wrong, Ran Ai is it.  It’s several times longer than any other kata in the ZNKR syllabus, providing plenty of chances for me to screw up. Somehow, I didn’t.

My partner and I finished and waited for the tachiai’s direction to leave the floor. I carefully left as we had been taught, and picked up my jo while my partner exchanged his jo for a tachi so he could do the tachi role with the next candidate. Doing those 5 kata at that level of intensity had left me flushed, sweating and breathing hard. I worked at getting my breathing and my mind calm and relaxed. Since I wouldn’t need it again, I put my tachi down at the corner of the mat and circled back around the test floor to chairs on the right where candidates waited until it was their turn to demonstrate.  I set down and watched the next couple of demonstrations, but I don’t remember anything except that the head judge looked terribly severe.

Then it was finally my turn to demonstrate the jo side. I tried to walk out with presence and dignity. At the very least I managed to not trip over my hakama. The tachiai called out the commands to begin. My tachi partner raised his sword, and I held my position in tsune no kamae. I waited for tachi to approach and when he came in range I began my movements.  I’d go into more detail, but I think I was too busy testing to remember much. I do recall being shocked to realize while doing the zanshin on our second kata that everyone in the room was watching us.  It hadn’t occurred to me before, but this was the very last test segment of the day, and the other group of challenging for 5th dan had already finished. There was nothing else to do but watch us. Somehow I made it through the last 3 kata without any significant hiccups, even with the realization that so many people whom I look up to were watching.

We finally finished the last cut and strike of Ran AI, managed our bows and exited the floor, again, without tripping over my hakama or my feet.  It wasn’t a perfect test, but nobody looked like I had embarrassed them, and no one tried to offer me condolences, so I figured it was ok.  Pass or fail, I had already accomplished my real goal, which was to not embarrass my teachers with a weak test.

All the test challengers changed out of their hakama and got drinks. We sat around chatting and discussing the test conditions while the judges went off to discuss the tests behind closed doors. After a week of intensive preparation it was a relief to be done and not have to think about it for a while.  Even if I didn’t pass, it would be 6 months before I could try again.

Eventually the judges finished their meeting and posted the results. Somehow I had managed to present an acceptable demonstration, and the judges passed me. I was so relieved and excited it took me moment to remember to check to see if Bijan had passed as well.  He had!  All our sweat and sore muscles for the past week paid off in wonderful exhaustion. After receiving congratulations from everyone who had helped us prepare, and all our friends who had come to cheer us on, we hurried over to the officials’ desk to take care of the registration paperwork.  All that was left was to wait for the official rank certificates to be issued and mailed to us.

Now it was time for the best part of the day. Everyone we had come with gathered at a nearby restaurant and we celebrated.

********************************

A couple of weeks ago, I repeated the experience. I was in Pennsylvania for the AUSKF Jodo Shinsa. I arrived a few days before the shinsa so I could prepare myself. The day before the shinsa the group of us who were taking part all gathered together so we could review things and make sure we were all on the same page. We spent the day reviewing the kata together and preparing ourselves.

The next morning we got up and spend more time running through the kata and getting ready.  Before the test we reviewed the test procedures; the proper way to bow, the proper way to enter, and how to present ourselves with dignity. Then it was time for the actual test.

We bowed in, walked onto the floor and took our places. The test went smoothly.  I didn’t hyperventilate, or trip over myself or otherwise make myself look like a fool. There was one significant difference between this test and the one I had passed in November. This time I was judging the tests. It felt almost the same though.

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Test Day

Shudokan Dojo, Osaka, Japan.  Photo Copyright Peter Boylan 2016.
Last November I took a rank test in All Japan Kendo Federation Jodo. Getting ready for my test in November I spent a week in Osaka training several hours every day with my teachers. I didn’t know if I was ready for the test or not, but a week before the big day we started daily practice. By the end of the week I felt like I might have an outside chance of passing. Matsuda Shihan, Morimoto Shihan, Iseki Sensei and Hotani Sensei had all worked hard to drag me up to the level needed to pass the exam.

The test was held at the Shudokan Dojo on the grounds of Osaka Castle.  The dojo was reserved for the testing for the whole day. My friend Bijan and I got there early, but we still didn’t beat Iseki Sensei. He was waiting for us when we arrived. We registered, found a spot to put our gear and then got changed. There were a lot of people testing, including 12 for 4th dan and 5 for 5th dan. We started warming up and practicing on the floor where the test would be just to get used to the space and hopefully calm down a little.

As time passed before the test more and more people, both test takers and spectators, arrived. Bijan and I had lots of support. Iseki Sensei and our training partner Fujita San was there.  My friend Tadokoro Sensei came to cheer me on. I was surprised and honored that Fukuma Sensei came as well.  At 90 years of age, he is still strong and active and training jodo regularly. Everyone seemed to have at least a few supporters.

The test committee consisted of five 7th dan teachers.  To pass the test, you had to get a  passing mark from at least 3 of the 5. There would be 2 pairs demonstrating at a time in front of the judges. Each person had to demonstrate both the tachi and jo sides of 5 kata with randomly selected partners. The five kata required were different for each rank being tested for, but they had been announced months before the test, so there was plenty of time to prepare.

The test takers were called to line up by rank, and we were issued numbers to wear so the judges could identify us. The numbering also let us figure out who our partners would be for demonstrating the tachi and jo sides of the test. My partner for the demonstrating the tachi side was a tall gentleman about my size and age. Fo demonstrating the jo side, I was partnered with a small women who appeared a few years older than me. Once we figured out who we would be partnered with for each demonstration we grabbed our partners and started practicing together to get comfortable with each other.

The tall gentleman and I adjusted to each other without too much trouble. We had similar reach and power. We ran through the kata so he could get used to me as his tachi and I could adjust to his jo. The lady and I didn’t mesh as well. I was having trouble shrinking my technique to fit her, and she was having difficulty adapting to my stride.  We kept at it though and started making progress towards working well together.
Order Musings Of A Budo Bum

While we were doing that, apparently the judges and organizers were watching us, because at some point one of the organizers pulled us aside and told us they were changing the partnering  a little. The lady got paired with someone closer to her size, and I was partnered with someone closer to mine. The rule is that you take whoever they give you as a partner, but it seems they didn’t want to make adjusting to your partner too large a hurdle.

My new partner was a bit smaller than I, but quite a bit larger than the lady I had been working with. My now former partner seemed relieved not to have to work with me, and I’ll admit I was glad to work with someone who was easy to adapt myself to.  We started practicing right away because there wasn’t much time before the testing began.

Not long after this we were called to order again, and the testing began. It started with the lowest rank being tested that day, ikkyu, and would finish with the 5th dan testing. This meant I got to see everyone else test before my turn arrived.The ikkyu candidates demonstrated kihon techniques and the their designated kata. Then the shodan candidates did their designated 5 kata, both jo side and tachi side. Then all the nidan candidates.

I kept looking at the clock and wondering how we would get everything done by lunchtime. I’m sure my friends could all tell my mental state by how frequently I looked up at the clock. Bijan and I were both eager to take our tests and be done. I’m sure my blood pressure went up steadily while other people took their tests and the hands on the clock sped around.

The sandan candidates filed onto the floor, two pairs at a time at a time, and demonstrated their designated 5 kata. Then the head tachiai, the person calling out the directions for the testing called a break for lunch. I really wanted to get this over with, and now we had a hour for lunch. Because Shudokan Dojo is on the grounds of Osaka Castle, there are yakisoba and takoyaki stands next to it serving all the tourists. Those of us who had not packed hearty lunches, like me and Bijan, bought some yakisoba noodles or takoyaki squid balls and headed over to one of the castle walls where our friends and teachers and fellow dan challengers were gathered eating and sharing treats with each other.

We sat down with everyone and somehow started to relax. It was refreshing to be out of the dojo and not counting down the people ahead of us who had yet to test. For those who think that traditional Japanese budo teachers have to be tough and stoic and never smile, this would have been a shock. All our teachers and friends had brought extra treats to pass around, and everyone was laughing and joking. When the cameras came out, the smiles got wider and and laughter got louder. I’d needed this more than I knew. I’m sure I had wound myself tight watching everyone test all through the morning. The smiles and laughter gently eased a lot of the tension out of me.

After lunch it was just the 4th dan and 5th dan tests. There were twelve 4th dan candidates in 3 groups and five 5th dan candidates separated into 2 groups. When the testing started back up, they called all the 4th and 5th dan candidates together. While the 4th dan candidates lined up and walked to the test area, the 5th dan candidates lined up and sat in chairs directly in front of the test floor facing the judges on the other side of it. From here we had a great view of the 4th dan tests, though I admit I don’t remember much of what I saw at this point. I was cycling through the 5 kata that were designated for my test. The 5th dan test consisted of the ZNKR Jo Kata 8-12.

As the 4th dan challengers finished up, they moved us to ready chairs next to right of the test floor. I was the youngest in my group, so I was up first.  This meant I would demonstrate tachi and then cycle around to do the jo. My partner for this portion of the test and I walked out onto the floor as we had been instructed, arranged our extra weapons at the side and waited for the direction to begin. The first kata, Tachi Otoshi, went well I seem to recall. The opening for the next kata I very nearly blew.  To be sure I did the right kata in the right order I was focusing on the initial attack, which is a cut to the upper arm. I was launching straight into the attack when I realized I hadn’t done the awase with the jo yet. Somehow I managed to turn the premature attack into a simple matching with the jo, though I don’t believe anyone missed it what had actually happened. I’m very sure the judges all caught it.

After that big hiccup the kata went smoothly. At least, I don’t remember any other major stumbles, though there were a few minor errors of timing and spacing. Being that my partner and I had done the kata together for the first time that morning, I’m not surprised. We even got through all of Ran Ai without any mishaps. If there is a kata where things will go wrong, Ran Ai is it.  It’s several times longer than any other kata in the ZNKR syllabus, providing plenty of chances for me to screw up. Somehow, I didn’t.

My partner and I finished and waited for the tachiai’s direction to leave the floor. I carefully left as we had been taught, and picked up my jo while my partner exchanged his jo for a tachi so he could do the tachi role with the next candidate. Doing those 5 kata at that level of intensity had left me flushed, sweating and breathing hard. I worked at getting my breathing and my mind calm and relaxed. Since I wouldn’t need it again, I put my tachi down at the corner of the mat and circled back around the test floor to chairs on the right where candidates waited until it was their turn to demonstrate.  I set down and watched the next couple of demonstrations, but I don’t remember anything except that the head judge looked terribly severe.

Then it was finally my turn to demonstrate the jo side. I tried to walk out with presence and dignity. At the very least I managed to not trip over my hakama. The tachiai called out the commands to begin. My tachi partner raised his sword, and I held my position in tsune no kamae. I waited for tachi to approach and when he came in range I began my movements.  I’d go into more detail, but I think I was too busy testing to remember much. I do recall being shocked to realize while doing the zanshin on our second kata that everyone in the room was watching us.  It hadn’t occurred to me before, but this was the very last test segment of the day, and the other group of challenging for 5th dan had already finished. There was nothing else to do but watch us. Somehow I made it through the last 3 kata without any significant hiccups, even with the realization that so many people whom I look up to were watching.

We finally finished the last cut and strike of Ran AI, managed our bows and exited the floor, again, without tripping over my hakama or my feet.  It wasn’t a perfect test, but nobody looked like I had embarrassed them, and no one tried to offer me condolences, so I figured it was ok.  Pass or fail, I had already accomplished my real goal, which was to not embarrass my teachers with a weak test.

All the test challengers changed out of their hakama and got drinks. We sat around chatting and discussing the test conditions while the judges went off to discuss the tests behind closed doors. After a week of intensive preparation it was a relief to be done and not have to think about it for a while.  Even if I didn’t pass, it would be 6 months before I could try again.

Eventually the judges finished their meeting and posted the results. Somehow I had managed to present an acceptable demonstration, and the judges passed me. I was so relieved and excited it took me moment to remember to check to see if Bijan had passed as well.  He had!  All our sweat and sore muscles for the past week paid off in wonderful exhaustion. After receiving congratulations from everyone who had helped us prepare, and all our friends who had come to cheer us on, we hurried over to the officials’ desk to take care of the registration paperwork.  All that was left was to wait for the official rank certificates to be issued and mailed to us.

Now it was time for the best part of the day. Everyone we had come with gathered at a nearby restaurant and we celebrated.

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A couple of weeks ago, I repeated the experience. I was in Pennsylvania for the AUSKF Jodo Shinsa. I arrived a few days before the shinsa so I could prepare myself. The day before the shinsa the group of us who were taking part all gathered together so we could review things and make sure we were all on the same page. We spent the day reviewing the kata together and preparing ourselves.

The next morning we got up and spend more time running through the kata and getting ready.  Before the test we reviewed the test procedures; the proper way to bow, the proper way to enter, and how to present ourselves with dignity. Then it was time for the actual test.

We bowed in, walked onto the floor and took our places. The test went smoothly.  I didn’t hyperventilate, or trip over myself or otherwise make myself look like a fool. There was one significant difference between this test and the one I had passed in November. This time I was judging the tests. It felt almost the same though.

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