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

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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

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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)



 

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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.





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Budo Is Personal

Budo is personal. This seems like an obvious
thing to say, but it is a truth that often is forgotten in a world filled with
all sorts of ranks, titles, tournaments and awards. Budo isn’t about those.
Budo is about developing your skills, and if you’re lucky, finding a Way that
you can follow. Budo, in way that can seem quite selfish, is about you. We are
not ranks, titles, tournament victories or nifty awards.   Those are
things that hang on us like ornaments on a tree. Take away the ornaments, and it’s
still a tree.

I run into people who are so hyped up with worry
about their rank or passing their next test that their budo becomes a
stress-filled mess. Budo practice should lead one to be calmer and to have a
more balanced perspective. It’s easy to forget that when so much time can be
directed towards preparing for a rank test, and even more money and effort
spent getting to the test site in some far-flung city.

Much of practice can be consumed with getting
ready for tests.  In the Kendo Federation, there are tests to pass every
year when starting out, so it seems like new students are always preparing for
a test. Forgetting that iai, for example, isn’t about testing and rank can get
lost in the whirl of test preparation and test taking. Rank should be a
recognition of how much you’ve learned, instead of a validation of ego. It’s
hard to make the distinction though when you’ve worked for a year or more to
prepare for a test. Pass or fail, with that much effort invested in the
process, the results of the test can overshadow the results of all the time
spent practicing and improving.

In budo, as in any do , or way, there is no ultimate goal that
can be reached. The point is to practice each day, and each day be a little bit
better at budo and living. The process of improving doesn’t have an end point.
In a world focused on results, where we check off the accomplishment of each
item on our task list and where results are emphasized, sometimes to the point
of ignoring everything else, this sort of thinking is easily overwhelmed and
washed away.

Budo isn’t limited to a finite goal.
 Implicit in the vision of practice as a way, a path, is the idea that
roads don’t really have an end.  You can always continue, sometimes in the
same direction, and sometimes in a different one. The path doesn’t have an end
point. We practice. We train. We polish ourselves. As people, we’re never
finished growing and changing. One of the ideas of do is that we can
influence how we change. We’re not just stuck with the random influences that
life throws at us. We can make conscious choices about how we are going to
change and grow. Each day life changes us. Are we simple clay molded by our
experiences with no input into what we become? Budo, and all ways,
insist that we can choose how we change and influence what we become.

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Musings Of A Budo Bum by Peter Boylan
Enjoy the blog?  Get the book!!

For each of us, the journey is personal.
Practice is personal. The lessons are personal. The changes are very personal.
Hang around a good dojo for a while and you will see new students, timid and
unsure of themselves, transform their minds and their bodies. If we let it, and
focus some effort on it, keiko, training, can profoundly change who we
are. The most common transformation is for someone meek and physically unsure
of themselves to become skilled and confident in physically dealing with other
people. That’s the obvious transformation. How else might budo training
transform us?

I find that budo can help change almost any part
of me. All I have to do is bring the part of me that I want to change into the
dojo. Just as the only way to change my skill with a sword or stick is for me
to take what I want to change with me and train with it, if I want to change
something that is not as easily seen as a sword cut or staff strike or a punch
or a throw, I have to take it into the dojo and begin working on it.

In Kodokan Judo, one of the core principles is
the idea of jita kyoei
自他共栄, often translated as “mutual benefit and welfare.”  I
haven’t seen many people come into the dojo looking to change themselves to
consider how their actions can create mutual benefit for them and their
training partners, but I’ve seen many people implicitly learn this and begin
incorporating it into who they are as they spend time in the dojo.  They
begin to  consider how directly their
thoughtfulness or carelessness impacts the people they train with, who
trust
each other to train together without harming each other.
I’ve seen people who were strong, powerful and disdainful of
others train themselves to strong, powerful, gentle and considerate of others.

The story of a weak, timid person coming into
the dojo and learning to be a powerful, confident fighter is common (and
true!), but what other ways can we change ourselves through training? The
wonderful thing about budo keiko is that it is a time set aside for changing
aspects of ourselves that we want to change. That’s what makes training so
personal. We are taking time and effort and directing it towards changing
ourselves in some way. The potential for personal development and
transformation is tremendous.  

We’re not simple clay molded by what happens to
us. We have choices to make about what we become and how we change. Those who
work at developing their entire self, who work on humility, graciousness,
kindness and compassion usually succeed in becoming more humble, gracious, kind
and compassionate. Budo is a way of interacting with the world. It’s
about how we deal with the world around us. It’s about how handle the stress
and mess of life. Practicing budo impacts how we relate with all the people
around us.

Budo is personal. It’s about developing and
refining who we are. It’s not about the flashy stuff on the outside. It’s not
about the ranks and belts and trophies and the awards. It’s about who we are
and how we deal with the world and the people around us. Ultimately, that
creates a lot more satisfaction than any rank or case of trophies.

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Dojo

 

Old Butokuden in Kyoto. Photo copyright Peter Boylan 2015

I started training in
the university judo dojo in Western Michigan University’s Oakland Gymnasium.
 But I was really looking for tai chi. Now don’t laugh too hard, but from
what I could find in Kalamazoo Michigan at that time, I thought judo was the
most similar to tai chi. Back then there was no internet and no YouTube, so
most of the information I was relying on was bad martial arts movies and descriptions
from books. I didn’t have the first glimmer of understanding what I was getting
into.
Judo was offered as a
physical education course at the university. I showed up for the first class
not really knowing what to expect. The classes were taught by Earl Bland and
Robert Noble. It was a university physical education class, so it was filled
with young, healthy students, most of whom didn’t know any more about what they
were getting into than I did. I don’t remember much of that first day except that
I bought a judogi and after class talked my friend Frank into coming to class
because the teacher said everyone was welcome, whether they were paying for the
class or not (I’m pretty sure the university administration would have had a
stroke if they’d found out the teacher was inviting people to attend without
paying for the class!).
I was more comfortable
in the dojo than anywhere else on campus. It had been a dance room decades
before and had mirrors along one wall. The mats were ethafoam sheets with a
green canvas cover stretched over the top, with two competition areas marked
out on it. You could always spot our people at tournaments because our dogi had
a green tint from doing groundwork on the green mat cover. I took my first
steps on the budo path there and I am still friends with many of the people I
trained with at that time.
The atmosphere was
relaxed and light. We learned how to fall down safely, and learned to call the
act ukemi. We learned how to throw each other, how to do the arm locks, strangles
and pins of judo. We had a great time, and we kept showing up for the classes
for years after that first semester. That dojo was my favorite place on campus
and I spent more time there than anywhere else except perhaps the cafeteria.
Every semester a new crop of beginners would show up for the first class, and
Frank, Sam, and other friends that I made stuck around.  We became the
seniors in the university club. I hadn’t taken up judo looking for a
competitive sport, but for the first time in my life I found one I enjoyed
immensely, even if I was no better than average.
When I moved Japan a few
years later, I discovered a lot more of the variety that dojo can come in. I
trained with the local high school judo club in the high school dojo, and I
joined a nearby adult dojo that trained in an old gymnasium. The high school
dojo is pretty typical for Japan. When I was introduced, the entryway had a
bunch of faucets and under each one was pot of barley tea, chilling for after
keiko. The dojo was a lot larger than the one in college was, but only half of
it was covered in tatami, the traditional style mats for judo. The other half
of the room was a smooth, wooden floor filled with people in kendo armor
swinging bamboo swords and screaming. There were at least four kendoka on the
floor for every judoka on the mats. The judo club was small, about eight kids,
but they trained five or six times a week, and most had been doing judo longer
than my four years. I learned a lot from them.
The old gymnasium, where
the adult group met, was all that remained of an old elementary school.
The school was long gone, but the gymnasium was serving as a community gym.
People used it for kendo and volleyball and other things.  On Sunday
evenings a group used it for judo. This was a few train stops from my apartment
and the closest group of adults doing judo. That the gym was an old elementary
school gym meant that it wasn’t heated in the winter or air conditioned in the
brutally hot, humid Japanese summers. The mats were old-style tatami with
canvas over it. Over time, the tatami had become compressed and compacted until
it had only slightly more give than the wooden gym floor we put it out on each
week. It was remarkable how fast my ukemi improved when I started getting
thrown on this. At the end of practice, we didn’t do a cool down.
 Instead, we picked up all the mats and stacked them behind the stage at
one end of the gym.
It was the antithesis of
a modern dojo, and was totally lacking in comforts and conveniences. No
showers, no locker rooms, no changing spaces. Even the toilets were in a
separate building. It was a great place to train though. Everyone was there for
the judo. When I first moved to Japan it was the only place I felt truly, 100%
comfortable. I spoke very little Japanese, but my judo was pretty fluent, and I
knew most of the cultural cues around the dojo. I was certainly lowest-ranked
student in the room, but I was welcome and comfortable and they worked me over
hard every week.
Sunday night practice
started with a class for the kids, and was followed by an adult practice for
all of us who had made it to adulthood and still wanted to get thrown around.
After bowing in and warming up, all the adults would line up on one side of the
dojo, and the senior high students who stuck around to train with the adults
would line up facing us.  We lined up by rank, so I started out on the far
end of the mat. Every week we would start with uchikomi practice (throwing
practice without actually throwing) and the junior side would rotate around the
mat so they trained with many different partners. After a break we lined up
again for randori. This time both lines rotated so we ended up training with
both junior and senior people. After that, it was open randori time.
 Anyone could ask anyone else to do some light fighting. Of course, the
younger guys idea of “light” was different enough from what the seniors in the
dojo thought of as light to make some of the practice interesting indeed.
Eventually that old gym
lost its roof in a typhoon and had to be torn down.  We moved to training
in an old dojo attached to a Hachiman shrine for a few months before we settled
in the very new, very lovely community center. I still practice there when I go
to Japan.  It’s a beautiful new building, and a pleasure to practice in,
but it just doesn’t have the atmosphere of the old school gymnasium. The people
are the same though, so the feeling on the mat during practice is much the
same, with the added bonus that my feet don’t go numb in the winter during
keiko.
Dojo can be anywhere,
literally. I’ve trained in parking lots and backyards and on the grounds of
shrines and temples and churches. Maybe the most interesting location for dojo
is Hotani Sensei’s jodo dojo in Osaka. It’s on top of an office building. Not
the top floor, but a separate building that sits on the roof of the office
building and is strapped down to prevent it blowing away in a typhoon.
There are a few dojo
that stand out as iconic. There is a wonderful dojo attached to Kashima Shrine
that I have had the honor and pleasure to visit on a number of occasions.

Then there is the
grandfather of dojo, the Butokuden in Kyoto. It was built in 1895, and the
builders seem to have wanted to create the most impressive dojo possible.
 They succeeded. The columns supporting the roof are massive, and the
whole building has been polished and worn with use to a lovely patina that
feels neither old nor tired, but alive with the energy of the people who have
trained there.
That is the essence of a
dojo. It’s not the place. It’s the people training and studying there. For me,
dojo space is sacred. A dojo is a place for putting aside my ego and everything
I think I know so that I can learn and grow and polish what I am. It’s often
said that “you should leave your ego with your shoes” when you enter a dojo,
and in good dojo, everyone does. A dojo is a place to study the Way. Whether
the Way is Buddhist, Neo-Confucian, Taoist, a mixture of all of these, or
something else is up to the students who study there. The important thing is
that we are all there to learn and grow.
I have fond memories of
many dojo. There was the one above a fish monger’s warehouse. Another in an old
side building. Hotani Sensei’s on that roof in Osaka, and Iseki Sensei’s on the
ground floor of his home. I can’t count the number of school dojos I’ve trained
in, nor the number of gymnasiums I’ve been in for tournaments. The Kodokan in
Tokyo has a gorgeous and thoroughly
modern dojo on the 7th story of its massive building. Then
there was the parking lot in back of Hashimoto Sensei’s house where we would
practice and try to avoid sliding too much on the loose gravel scattered across
the asphalt.
What I remember most
about all of these dojo is training with the other students. At every dojo I’ve
been to I’ve been welcomed warmly. It is the people who make each dojo special.
Each has honored me by letting me join them and train with them. We’re all there
to learn and grow, and we’re all there because we want to be. This makes any
dojo a wonderful place to be. The physical location is a distant second to the
gathering of people who are there to train and grow. That always makes space
sacred. Even old gymnasiums and parking lots.

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