The Budo Law Of Conservation Of Movement

Tendo Ryu. Photo copyright Peter Boylan 2019

Most
people don’t know it, but there is a  Budo Law of Conservation
of Movement. Budo is conservative at its heart. We want to conserve
movement, conserve energy, conserve time. The Budo Law of
Conservation of Movement is:

One
movement to do a hundred things, not a hundred movements that
accomplish the same thing.

Why
learn a hundred ways to do something when one will do the job? There
are a number of different ways to cut with a sword, but I don’t
know any classical art that teaches more than one of them. The same
with sticks. There are lots of ways to swing a stick, but I don’t
know of any martial art that teaches more than one (to the Shinto
Muso Ryu people who are raising your hands to object, all those
different strikes utilize the same body mechanics. There’s really
only one strike and one thrust in Shinto Muso Ryu).  

Each
koryu has its own way of doing things, and a real student of the
ryuha imprints that way into their mind, their muscles and their
bones. This is true whether you’re doing Shinto Muso Ryu, Katori
Shinto Ryu, Kashima Shinryu, Sekiguchi Ryu, or any other koryu. You
won’t find classical systems with an overabundance of techniques or
principles to master. Each
ryuha
takes
a few basic concepts and teaches you to apply them to a variety of
situations. Again, look at Shinto Muso Ryu. It’s commonly taught
that there are four strikes in SMR, but all of  them are
variations on the same strike. That’s it. One strike. Add one way
to thrust and one trap and you have it.

Each
ryuha has one way of doing things. Shinto Muso Ryu and its
fuzoku
ryu
incorporate
jo, tachi, kodachi, jutte, tanjo, and kusarigama.  That’s a
wide variety of weapons, yet the principles and movement are the
same. The student isn’t learning six discrete weapons. She is
learning to apply one set of principles to a variety of weapons. Once
the principles of movement, spacing and timing are internalized, it
doesn’t matter what she picks up. She’ll apply the principles she
learned on the jo the first time she picks up a tachi. Working with
the tachi deepens the understanding developed while training with the
jo. By the time she picks up a tanjo or a jutte, the teacher doesn’t
have to teach her how to hold the weapons or how to swing them. She
already knows the principles. She just needs a little practice to get
used to the specific spacing and timing required by the new weapon,
along with the specific patterns of movement that make up the kata.
By the time she’s practiced with all of the weapons, she can pick
up just about anything and intuitively understand how to use it
applying the principles of Shinto Muso Ryu.

At
that point the techniques just happen. The student has soaked herself
in the principles of the arts. There isn’t any thought.  To
move in a manner other than that of Shinto Muso Ryu would require
concentration because by that point the Shinto Muso Ryu principles
have been absorbed so deeply that they have become part of  her
natural movements and responses.

The
same thing can be found in any effective koryu. There will only be a
few active principles that have to be mastered to apply to every
scenario imagined by the founders and their successors. A friend of
mine does a sogo budo with a strong jujutsu element. They use a
different technique for cutting with a sword; a tighter motion done
closer to the body than I’m accustomed to. My first thought when I
saw it was that they were giving up some of the potential range of
the blade– a reasonable comment on their sword work.  They
don’t take advantage of every centimeter of reach that the blade
has to offer, but this isn’t necessarily a weakness.

Cutting
while using a tighter motion may not be  considered a weakness
because the sogo budo group doesn’t just do sword work, or even
just weapons work.  They also do a lot of jujutsu. In their
jujutsu they use the same principle for throwing and joint locking
that they use for cutting with a sword. They are conserving the
number of motions and principles they have to learn. They have just
one movement that is applied in their weapons work and their empty
hand techniques. No time wasted learning different principles for
weapons and another for jujutsu. One and done.

Training
time is precious, even for people who are training full time. Their
training time is valuable, and they need to get the most out of it.
The highest return in training is to have a few principles you apply
to everything, instead of many different discrete techniques that can
be applied to the same thing. It takes thousands of hours of training
to master any budo. Where is the good sense and efficiency in
increasing the time it takes to master your training by having
different principles for different activities and multiplying
required training time as you add discrete principles and skills?

It
makes no sense for a ryuha to have different principles for different
activities or weapons. It would be a tremendous waste of time, and
few people have the time to develop more than one body. If you have
not absorbed the set of principles so deeply that they’ve stained
your bones you’ll never express those principles under pressure.
You’ll always do what has stained your bones.

Koryu
training, real koryu, is about absorbing the principles of the art
into your body and mind so that they color the core of your being. A
key to how koryu do this is by reducing the essence of the art to a
few powerful principles that can be applied to any situation. No
unnecessary movements or ideas. 

One
movement to do a hundred things.


Special thanks to Deborah Klens-Bigman Ph.D. for her editorial support and contributions.

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The Power Mistake

Structure versus power    Photo Copyright Deborah Klens-Bigman 2020

We want powerful budo. Powerful budo is effective budo. Powerful budo is good budo. So how do we make our budo powerful? We make it stronger. The stronger someone’s budo is the more powerful it is. How do we make our budo stronger?

Usually we add muscle. We do push-ups and sit-ups. We train with weights to increase our bench press and our squat. Then we throw this additional muscle into our budo so we can hit harder, throw bigger, cut deeper. It makes our budo more effective and more powerful so we can beat the big guys. This is the way to powerful budo. Or is it?

None of the people whose budo I strive to emulate do muscular budo, yet all of their budo is powerful and dynamic. When they cut or strike or throw, the movement is solid and crisp. Nothing is done that isn’t essential to the movement. The cuts look like they could slice through stone. The strikes look, and feel, like getting hit with a truck. Throws hit you with the force of the planet. All of this without being muscular.

My teachers don’t need to be muscular to generate power. They have a combination of structure and technique that creates power and lets them direct it to where it will be most effective. Correct structure allows you to harness all the power of your body, not just a few big muscles. Precise technique puts all that power exactly where you want it for maximum effect.

If your structure isn’t right, even loads of muscle won’t make your budo strong.

There is always someone more muscular. I used to train with a guy who was a good 15 cm (6 inches) taller, 80 pounds heavier, and able to lift me off my feet without using any sort of judo technique. He was powerful and he could throw people around, but he wasn’t doing judo. His raw muscular strength got in the way of him learning good technique. He could jerk people so hard they were off balance from the force of the pull and then he would throw them by manually lifting them into position, but that wasn’t budo.

What frustrated this guy was that even though I was 80 pounds lighter and significantly weaker, he couldn’t throw me but I could throw him, hard. He was strong enough to pick me up off my feet, something I could only do to him with the help of winch, and yet I was the one doing the throwing. I used good structure to hold my partner off without getting tired. If I tried to go muscle to muscle with any of the big guys, I’d be exhausted and beaten in moments. Power doesn’t come from strength, it comes from structure and technique. If I let my structure absorb their power and redirect it into the ground, I can still go many rounds with the big 20-somethings in the dojo.

Just as a building with a flawed structure will quickly collapse under pressure, a person with bad structure is quickly demolished by an adversary. Good structure is not only the key to withstanding pressure, it is fundamental to projecting your power outward. You can only project as much force as your structure can support. Exceed that limit and you will crumble rather than your target. Boxers wrap their hands and wear gloves to improve the structure of their hands so they can deal with the forces they generate when punching. Take off those gloves and all the wrapping and boxers would be breaking the bones in their hands with the power generated by their technique.

If your structure can’t handle the forces you are generating, then your technique will never be able to generate power. Building a good structure is the first step to generating great power. Build a good structure and you build and project power effectively. Good structure also neutralizes other people’s power. That’s how you deal with bigger, stronger and faster. You have a structure that is stable under attack.



Good structure is necessary, but it’s not enough by itself. Technique multiplies your strength using the platform created by your structure. Arm locks, throws, punches, attacks with sticks and other weapons all start with a good foundation. The techniques multiply whatever muscle you have. That’s why a small judoka or aikidoka can manipulate and throw much larger, stronger people.

A 157 cm (5’2” in) person, even if unusually strong, is not going to have the strength to go toe-to-toe with someone twice their size. Yet anyone who spends time around a judo, jujutsu or aikido dojo will see goons like me being tossed to the ground by people half our size. It’s not their raw strength they are using to launch us airborne. It’s technique supported by good structure.

When we are first learning techniques the temptation is to try and force the technique. The more raw strength you have, the more powerful that temptation is. Every time we give in to that temptation we make it harder to learn good technique. Every time we force a technique we reinforce the habit to use strength instead of technique, and we make it harder to learn good technique.

All that technique we practice works to make strength unnecessary. Good technique is as clean and precise as a scalpel. Whether it is uchi mata or ikkyo, good technique will apply your power where your partner is weak. It’s budo, not arm wrestling. We’re going to use every advantage we can find. That means weaving around our opponent’s strength to apply a technique where it can’t be countered, not crashing into their strength. Technique done well feels effortless. When I’m thrown well I don’t feel the thrower’s strength. I don’t feel much of anything as the floor disappears from under my feet and reappears to smack me in the back.

Strength doesn’t do that. Technique does. The technique undermines my ability to stand up and then redirects me at the ground. I know I’ve done a throw well because I’m looking at the person on the ground and wondering why they jumped for me; it feels that easy when the structure and the technique are there. It’s that way for everyone. My jodo students know that they’ve done hikotoshi uchi correctly because their partner’s sword just vanishes without any feeling of having been there.


Strength erodes over time, but time seems to empower technique. As my teachers age they feel more powerful, not less. When he was 80 I watched Sugi Sensei completely dominate a powerful and experienced kendoka 60 years his junior. He didn’t do it with strength and fire, he did it with a structure that was solid, impenetrable, and smooth technique that was everywhere the junior’s strength wasn’t. Sensei’s technique was clean and simple with no wasted energy or motion.

That’s the combination of structure and technique that make budo work. It’s never about raw muscle. Structure gives you access to all the strength you have, and technique multiplies the power of that strength by using it in the most effective way possible.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that muscle equals power. Strength is nice, but powerful budo is supported by structure and propelled by technique.

Special thanks to Deborah Klens-Bigman Ph.D for editing this.


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

The Power Mistake

Structure versus power    Photo Copyright Deborah Klens-Bigman 2020

We want powerful budo. Powerful budo is effective budo. Powerful budo is good budo. So how do we make our budo powerful? We make it stronger. The stronger someone’s budo is the more powerful it is. How do we make our budo stronger?

Usually we add muscle. We do push-ups and sit-ups. We train with weights to increase our bench press and our squat. Then we throw this additional muscle into our budo so we can hit harder, throw bigger, cut deeper. It makes our budo more effective and more powerful so we can beat the big guys. This is the way to powerful budo. Or is it?

None of the people whose budo I strive to emulate do muscular budo, yet all of their budo is powerful and dynamic. When they cut or strike or throw, the movement is solid and crisp. Nothing is done that isn’t essential to the movement. The cuts look like they could slice through stone. The strikes look, and feel, like getting hit with a truck. Throws hit you with the force of the planet. All of this without being muscular.

My teachers don’t need to be muscular to generate power. They have a combination of structure and technique that creates power and lets them direct it to where it will be most effective. Correct structure allows you to harness all the power of your body, not just a few big muscles. Precise technique puts all that power exactly where you want it for maximum effect.

If your structure isn’t right, even loads of muscle won’t make your budo strong.

There is always someone more muscular. I used to train with a guy who was a good 15 cm (6 inches) taller, 80 pounds heavier, and able to lift me off my feet without using any sort of judo technique. He was powerful and he could throw people around, but he wasn’t doing judo. His raw muscular strength got in the way of him learning good technique. He could jerk people so hard they were off balance from the force of the pull and then he would throw them by manually lifting them into position, but that wasn’t budo.

What frustrated this guy was that even though I was 80 pounds lighter and significantly weaker, he couldn’t throw me but I could throw him, hard. He was strong enough to pick me up off my feet, something I could only do to him with the help of winch, and yet I was the one doing the throwing. I used good structure to hold my partner off without getting tired. If I tried to go muscle to muscle with any of the big guys, I’d be exhausted and beaten in moments. Power doesn’t come from strength, it comes from structure and technique. If I let my structure absorb their power and redirect it into the ground, I can still go many rounds with the big 20-somethings in the dojo.

Just as a building with a flawed structure will quickly collapse under pressure, a person with bad structure is quickly demolished by an adversary. Good structure is not only the key to withstanding pressure, it is fundamental to projecting your power outward. You can only project as much force as your structure can support. Exceed that limit and you will crumble rather than your target. Boxers wrap their hands and wear gloves to improve the structure of their hands so they can deal with the forces they generate when punching. Take off those gloves and all the wrapping and boxers would be breaking the bones in their hands with the power generated by their technique.

If your structure can’t handle the forces you are generating, then your technique will never be able to generate power. Building a good structure is the first step to generating great power. Build a good structure and you build and project power effectively. Good structure also neutralizes other people’s power. That’s how you deal with bigger, stronger and faster. You have a structure that is stable under attack.



Good structure is necessary, but it’s not enough by itself. Technique multiplies your strength using the platform created by your structure. Arm locks, throws, punches, attacks with sticks and other weapons all start with a good foundation. The techniques multiply whatever muscle you have. That’s why a small judoka or aikidoka can manipulate and throw much larger, stronger people.

A 157 cm (5’2” in) person, even if unusually strong, is not going to have the strength to go toe-to-toe with someone twice their size. Yet anyone who spends time around a judo, jujutsu or aikido dojo will see goons like me being tossed to the ground by people half our size. It’s not their raw strength they are using to launch us airborne. It’s technique supported by good structure.

When we are first learning techniques the temptation is to try and force the technique. The more raw strength you have, the more powerful that temptation is. Every time we give in to that temptation we make it harder to learn good technique. Every time we force a technique we reinforce the habit to use strength instead of technique, and we make it harder to learn good technique.

All that technique we practice works to make strength unnecessary. Good technique is as clean and precise as a scalpel. Whether it is uchi mata or ikkyo, good technique will apply your power where your partner is weak. It’s budo, not arm wrestling. We’re going to use every advantage we can find. That means weaving around our opponent’s strength to apply a technique where it can’t be countered, not crashing into their strength. Technique done well feels effortless. When I’m thrown well I don’t feel the thrower’s strength. I don’t feel much of anything as the floor disappears from under my feet and reappears to smack me in the back.

Strength doesn’t do that. Technique does. The technique undermines my ability to stand up and then redirects me at the ground. I know I’ve done a throw well because I’m looking at the person on the ground and wondering why they jumped for me; it feels that easy when the structure and the technique are there. It’s that way for everyone. My jodo students know that they’ve done hikotoshi uchi correctly because their partner’s sword just vanishes without any feeling of having been there.


Strength erodes over time, but time seems to empower technique. As my teachers age they feel more powerful, not less. When he was 80 I watched Sugi Sensei completely dominate a powerful and experienced kendoka 60 years his junior. He didn’t do it with strength and fire, he did it with a structure that was solid, impenetrable, and smooth technique that was everywhere the junior’s strength wasn’t. Sensei’s technique was clean and simple with no wasted energy or motion.

That’s the combination of structure and technique that make budo work. It’s never about raw muscle. Structure gives you access to all the strength you have, and technique multiplies the power of that strength by using it in the most effective way possible.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that muscle equals power. Strength is nice, but powerful budo is supported by structure and propelled by technique.

Special thanks to Deborah Klens-Bigman Ph.D for editing this.


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

How Stable Are Koryu?

 

Geikinkenkai No Zu by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 1873

 


I
was asked recently how much I think koryu budo has changed over the
generations. After staring at my drink for a while, I answered “I
think it has changed a lot, and not much at all.”  This goes
for most koryu that were founded during the Tokugawa Era (1604-1868).
They had a relatively stable world in which to grow and develop, so
radical change wasn’t required.
Why
would I think that a 400 year old martial art has changed a lot and
not much at all? I think they would change a lot in that successive
generations would add to the arts. In Shinto Muso Ryu, for example,
various
fuzoku
ryu

(affiliated
arts) were attached to the system, and new kata were created. From an
art that started with just staff and sword, it grew to encompass
jutte and
torinawa
jutsu

(apprehending
and binding), kusarigama, and most recently walking stick. That’s a
lot of additions.
So
the original arts didn’t change much, they just had more and more
stuff grafted onto the original trunk.  And if people are really
learning a particular art, it won’t change much. Why is that? Koryu
bugei students are taught using the pedagogy of kata. In sports there
is always room for change. A new way to do the high jump didn’t
make it stop being high jump.  A new ski jumping form didn’t
mean it wasn’t ski jumping anymore. These can easily be changed
because they are defined by the activity and not how the activity is
done.
However,
classical martial arts systems,
koryu
bugei
,
are defined by their principles as much as their techniques. If you
change the principles, you’re doing something different. Not that
this didn’t happen – there were so many
ryuha
(schools)
during the Tokugawa Era because senior practitioners had new ideas
and wanted to develop them.  Generally they didn’t change the
school they were in; they created a new school instead. The
ryuha
that
lasted centuries were the ones whose principles survived the pressure
testing of time and application. Not competition, but application in
combative situations. Shinto Muso Ryu was practiced by samurai whose
function was public security and safety. Other arts were susceptible
to being used in fights and duels as well as to put down peasant
revolts and otherwise maintain order. 
Ryuha
survived
the centuries because their teaching methodology was remarkably well
suited to teaching physical principles and skills, consistently,
generation after generation. The fundamental teaching pedagogy was,
and is, the two person kata. (Solo iai kata are the exception that
demonstrates the rule. Working with live blades is too dangerous for
partner practice, but systems with iai nearly always also include
paired kenjutsu kata as well). In the classical arts, one partner
wins the encounter,
shitachi,
and the other loses the encounter laid out in the kata, the
uchitachi.
Unlike
a sporting encounter where the more experienced player is expected to
win, in classical kata training, the more experienced person is
expected to take the losing side. The
uchitachi’s
job
is to guide the junior, the
shitachi,
so they learn how to do the techniques embedded in the kata without
leaving any openings. 
Musings Of A Budo Bum
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Those
who think that kata training is just repeating rote movements have
never done proper kata training. For example, in weapons kata, If
shitachi
does
the kata incorrectly and leaves an opening,
uchitachi
is
quite likely to seize the opening and put their weapon in it. This
can be a harsh way of correction, but it’s an effective one. 
These lessons are rarely forgotten. Kata are only meant to be done to
their completion when they are done correctly. I know if I leave an
opening for my teacher, he will show me that opening in the simplest,
most direct way available. He will counter my attack. You might think
my teacher is breaking the kata. He isn’t. I’m the one who broke
the kata by leaving the opening. He simply went with the new
situation that I created by leaving the opening.
The
kata that last are robust. They have to be done certain ways or
openings are left and the student gets whacked. Quickly the student
learns to spot their own openings and close them. The kata don’t
change much because they can’t be changed much. They are structured
in very particular ways for good reasons. If you deviate from the
form you create openings that allow counter attacks to succeed. Just
doing the kata is its own test. If you do it correctly it will work.
If you deviate from the principles that are embedded in the kata you
will find your situation changes from victor to vanquished in an
instant.
As
an incorrigibly American student, I can’t seem to stop myself from
experimenting with the kata I’m taught. I always seem to think that
I’ll somehow learn something new from experimenting. I do learn
things. I learn how not to do the kata. I play around with the timing
or the spacing or something on my own, and then my experimenting
surfaces in the dojo and Sensei nails me, then yells “Who taught
you that!!!”  Happens every time.
Since
the kata serve as their own form of checking and correction, they are
exceedingly durable.  I don’t doubt that the kata of Shinto
Muso Ryu or Shinkage Ryu or Ono-ha Itto-ryu swordsmanship are close
enough to the way they were done 400 years ago that a modern student
who found themselves 400 years in the past could walk into one those
dojo and participate without difficulty. Kata are that stable. 
This
stability can also be seen at the various
enbu
held
around Japan. Lineages that split as far back as the 17th century and
had no contact with each other for hundreds of years until recent
times can now be seen and compared in modern enbukai. Besides the
main line of Shinkage Ryu taught by the Yagyu Family, there are
numerous other lines that were founded by their students over the
centuries. When you watch and compare them, it becomes clear that
they haven’t drifted far from each other. The same goes for the
various lines of Yagyu Shingan Ryu, and other arts that have lasted
through centuries. 
The
kata that comprise the core of any
koryu
bugei

are
stable and solid. Upstart students like me are always trying “what
if” experiments and getting clobbered because our “what if”
just isn’t effective. Even when we no longer have a culture of
duels and
taryu
shiai

(inter
ryuha matches) we still have students who want to prove they are
smarter than 400 years of experience. These students cheerfully
challenge how kata are done and the sensei is always ready to show
them that their new idea doesn’t work as well as the one that’s
been passed down to them. 
This
helps keep the kata alive even when we don’t have duels and
challenge matches. However, just because the kata are stable doesn’t
mean that they are fossilized and frozen in time. Different teachers
will place more or less emphasis on particular aspects of the kata.
Even the same teacher, over decades of practice, will place different
emphasis on different aspects of the kata. This leads to students
saying things like “But last time you said do it this way.” The
teacher isn’t changing the kata. They are exploring different
aspects of the kata. The teachers know where the limits of each kata
are, and they don’t exceed those limits.
This
stability means that
bugei
ryuha

can
travel through time and across cultures with their principles and
their form essentially unchanged. Kata practice allows students to
make mistakes and see why their ideas are mistaken. The students
learn the techniques and principles through a small set of kata. The
kata don’t need to be changed. In fact, they can’t be changed
without losing the ability to teach the principles of the art. The
stability of the teaching method means that the
ryuha
change
very little over time. Ryuha may acquire new kata and new weapons,
but their essence remains the same.






Grateful appreciation to Deborah Klens-Bigman, Ph.D. for editing what was a scary mess.


 


 

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Do versus Jutsu; Round 3

I’ve
written
before about the idea of DO versus the idea of JUTSU.

Since
the subject keeps coming up as a topic of discussion and debate, I’ll
revisit the argument and hopefully have something new to say about
it.  To begin with, what is a
do

and
what is a
jutsu
?
What makes them different or similar?



 Non-Japanese
keep trying to make
jutsu
and
do
into
important concepts, such as saying that
do
is
a “way” or “path” for spiritual development and the
jutsu
is
for combat, or that
jutsu
is
for battlefield arts and the
do
is
for peace time arts and sports. When you try to explain these
categories to native Japanese, they just shake their heads in
wonderment that anyone could come up with such a thing. The concept
of
do
is
quite a bit older than the martial arts in Japan.  In fact, it’s
quite a bit older than recorded history in Japan. Scholarship shows
all the ways
DAO
(the
Chinese pronunciation for
do
)
was conceived of and argued about in ancient China a thousand years
before there was a written language in Japan.



   Interestingly,
the Kodansha Online Dictionary lists this meaning for
jutsu

as
“a
means; a way.” So if

jutsu
means
“a way” and “
do

is
a way, then what really is the difference? The truth is there isn’t
one in this area. I’ve seen great classical swordsmen use the terms
“kendo” and “kenjutsu” interchangeably in the
same paragraph. I know some lines of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu that
call themselves iaijutsu, and others that call themselves iaido. What
is the difference between the two?  They are the same art, the
same syllabus, the same kata; just different suffixes added to “iai”
(which by the way, is perfectly capable of standing alone without any
suffix; just as one of the popular names for jujutsu
柔術
and
judo
柔道
was
yawara
,without
any suffix at all. 



 Let
me add a quick aside here. As Michael Hacker, the author of
The
Language Of Aikido
,
has pointed out,
jitsu
じつ
() isn’t
a term that is related to this conversation. It’s the result of a
mis-transliteration of the correct suffix “jutsu”



 One
of the greatest, most refined, and storied martial arts in Japan,
with a history going back more than 450 years and still going strong,
doesn’t use either suffix, yet it’s famous for the depth of its
philosophy and the writings of various headmasters. Yagyu Shinkage
Ryu Heiho
 柳生新陰流兵法.Heiho
means
strategy or tactics. I don’t think anyone would argue that Yagyu
Shinkage Ryu Heiho is not a sophisticated system that aims to develop
not just skill with the sword, but a better human being as well.
Shouldn’t its name include

then?
Only if you’re a pedantic
gaijin
(foreigner).
Do

and
jutsu

are
not meaningful categories in Japanese language.



 A
do
is
a way of doing something; and a
jutsu
is
also a way of doing something. There are many ways of expressing this
in Japanese. Across the 500 years or so that various forms of
bugei
(warrior
arts) have been practiced in Japan and around the world, a lot of
different terms have been used to describe martial arts. There have
been lots of words used to describe other practices that are seen as
“ways” as well. Tea Ceremony was known as
Cha
No Yu

for
centuries, long before the description “
sado
(Way
of Tea) was applied to it.

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 I
think the real villain in the
do
versus
jutsu
argument
is our own ego. Many of us would like to think that the art we
practice is somehow superior to other arts. Some people feel that
emphasizing the philosophical aspects of their practice makes it
better than those that emphasize more prosaic skills. Some feel that
emphasizing the physical skills the art teaches makes it superior to
those that talk about the philosophical aspects. Both sides are
letting their ego talk them into something that isn’t true.
Developing the mind and the philosophical aspects of understanding
doesn’t make one superior to those who focus on physical skills.
Emphasizing the development of physical skills doesn’t make one
better than those who put more effort into developing their mental
and philosophical abilities. Both have their place.



Practicing
bugei
is
a journey, not a destination.  This is a cliché, but one that
is true. When you begin training, all of your focus is on the
physical skills. It takes all your concentration just to follow what
sensei is doing and produce a rough approximation of the technique or
kata that is being shown. Later, after you have internalized the
movements, you begin working on the mental aspects of training. I
used to think that Kodokan Judo was obviously better than classical
jujutsu systems such Yoshin Ryu or Tenjin Shin’yo Ryu because Judo,
being a “
do”
art,
was obviously more philosophically sophisticated than simple jujutsu
systems that predated it. Being a
do,
I assumed that it must have a more principle-based curriculum than
any mere technique based
jutsu.



 I
was also an arrogant idiot. The idea that Judo is more sophisticated
or superior to Tenjin Shin’yo Ryu or any of the various styles of
Yoshin Ryu just because it has the suffix
do
in
its name is ridiculous. It’s as silly as saying that Aikido is
clearly superior to Daito Ryu because Ueshiba made his art a
do
and
Takeda didn’t. None of these arts is superior to any other because
of the name or what the art emphasizes. I have real trouble with the
idea that any
bugei
art
is superior to any other. All of them have strengths and weaknesses.
What makes an art superior or inferior is how well suited it is for a
particular situation or person. For a philosophically minded kid such
as myself, Judo and Aikido were great arts. 



 For
someone whose primary interest is physical skills, then arts with too
much talking about the philosophy won’t be suitable. Arts are
superior for what they can do for their practitioners, not because
they are better for learning fighting techniques. Who is going to
make the call as to whether Ono-Ha Itto Ryu or Yagyu Shinkage Ryu is
the better art?  Better for what? The only question where
“better” should show up is in “Which art is better for me at
this time and place?” That’s the only “better” I can think of
being at all meaningful.



 I’ve
got more bad news for folks on all sides of the
do
versus
jutsu
discussion.
You can’t make real progress in any art without both the physical
skills and the mental/philosophical development. The nice thing about
bugei
is
that they are lifelong studies. You never cease learning new things
from them. I do Shinto Hatakage Ryu Iai Heiho, a style of
swordsmanship which has only 22 kata in the curriculum. I’ve been
studying it for more than 22 years. You might think that with more
than a year of study for each kata I have learned all there is to
learn about them and I am bored with them. You would be wrong. The
individual kata still teach me things about movement and balance and
how to optimize my physical self. I also learn more about quieting,
controlling and directing my mind and my self.  Some days
practice is all about the physical techniques. I’m not sure I will
ever fully master the chudan kata
Tobi
Chigai
.
Other days are all about the mental state. I’m sure I will never
fully master my self.



 I
don’t know of any bugei that has come from Japan that has not been
heavily influenced by the concept of
do
of
michi
道。The
concept permeates the culture so thoroughly that it is inescapable.
There are even a number of styles of
soujido
(掃除道

that’s
housework, folks!). Arguing over whether something is a
do
or
jutsu
makes
no sense. If we have time to argue about this, we aren’t practicing
enough. We’re much better off spending more time practicing the
particular
bugei
that
is best for us where we are.




 


References
for further reading


Disputers
of the Tao

by
A. C. Graham, 1999, Open Court Publishing – this looks at not just
the Daoist idea of the way, but also how Confucius, Mozi, and many
others conceived of the Way in ancient China.
 
The
Language of Aikido: A Practitioner’s Guide to Japanese Characters and
Terminology

by
Michael Hacker, 2017, Talking Budo. Hacker does an excellent job of
introducing the multifaceted world of Japanese characters and
language, and how it all serves to enhance, and sometimes confuse,
our practice of Japanese martial arts.





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Do versus Jutsu; Round 3

I’ve
written
before about the idea of DO versus the idea of JUTSU.

Since
the subject keeps coming up as a topic of discussion and debate, I’ll
revisit the argument and hopefully have something new to say about
it.  To begin with, what is a
do

and
what is a
jutsu
?
What makes them different or similar?



 Non-Japanese
keep trying to make
jutsu
and
do
into
important concepts, such as saying that
do
is
a “way” or “path” for spiritual development and the
jutsu
is
for combat, or that
jutsu
is
for battlefield arts and the
do
is
for peace time arts and sports. When you try to explain these
categories to native Japanese, they just shake their heads in
wonderment that anyone could come up with such a thing. The concept
of
do
is
quite a bit older than the martial arts in Japan.  In fact, it’s
quite a bit older than recorded history in Japan. Scholarship shows
all the ways
DAO
(the
Chinese pronunciation for
do
)
was conceived of and argued about in ancient China a thousand years
before there was a written language in Japan.



   Interestingly,
the Kodansha Online Dictionary lists this meaning for
jutsu

as
“a
means; a way.” So if

jutsu
means
“a way” and “
do

is
a way, then what really is the difference? The truth is there isn’t
one in this area. I’ve seen great classical swordsmen use the terms
“kendo” and “kenjutsu” interchangeably in the
same paragraph. I know some lines of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu that
call themselves iaijutsu, and others that call themselves iaido. What
is the difference between the two?  They are the same art, the
same syllabus, the same kata; just different suffixes added to “iai”
(which by the way, is perfectly capable of standing alone without any
suffix; just as one of the popular names for jujutsu
柔術
and
judo
柔道
was
yawara
,without
any suffix at all. 



 Let
me add a quick aside here. As Michael Hacker, the author of
The
Language Of Aikido
,
has pointed out,
jitsu
じつ
() isn’t
a term that is related to this conversation. It’s the result of a
mis-transliteration of the correct suffix “jutsu”



 One
of the greatest, most refined, and storied martial arts in Japan,
with a history going back more than 450 years and still going strong,
doesn’t use either suffix, yet it’s famous for the depth of its
philosophy and the writings of various headmasters. Yagyu Shinkage
Ryu Heiho
 柳生新陰流兵法.Heiho
means
strategy or tactics. I don’t think anyone would argue that Yagyu
Shinkage Ryu Heiho is not a sophisticated system that aims to develop
not just skill with the sword, but a better human being as well.
Shouldn’t its name include

then?
Only if you’re a pedantic
gaijin
(foreigner).
Do

and
jutsu

are
not meaningful categories in Japanese language.



 A
do
is
a way of doing something; and a
jutsu
is
also a way of doing something. There are many ways of expressing this
in Japanese. Across the 500 years or so that various forms of
bugei
(warrior
arts) have been practiced in Japan and around the world, a lot of
different terms have been used to describe martial arts. There have
been lots of words used to describe other practices that are seen as
“ways” as well. Tea Ceremony was known as
Cha
No Yu

for
centuries, long before the description “
sado
(Way
of Tea) was applied to it.

Get the Bum’s book!

 



 I
think the real villain in the
do
versus
jutsu
argument
is our own ego. Many of us would like to think that the art we
practice is somehow superior to other arts. Some people feel that
emphasizing the philosophical aspects of their practice makes it
better than those that emphasize more prosaic skills. Some feel that
emphasizing the physical skills the art teaches makes it superior to
those that talk about the philosophical aspects. Both sides are
letting their ego talk them into something that isn’t true.
Developing the mind and the philosophical aspects of understanding
doesn’t make one superior to those who focus on physical skills.
Emphasizing the development of physical skills doesn’t make one
better than those who put more effort into developing their mental
and philosophical abilities. Both have their place.



Practicing
bugei
is
a journey, not a destination.  This is a cliché, but one that
is true. When you begin training, all of your focus is on the
physical skills. It takes all your concentration just to follow what
sensei is doing and produce a rough approximation of the technique or
kata that is being shown. Later, after you have internalized the
movements, you begin working on the mental aspects of training. I
used to think that Kodokan Judo was obviously better than classical
jujutsu systems such Yoshin Ryu or Tenjin Shin’yo Ryu because Judo,
being a “
do”
art,
was obviously more philosophically sophisticated than simple jujutsu
systems that predated it. Being a
do,
I assumed that it must have a more principle-based curriculum than
any mere technique based
jutsu.



 I
was also an arrogant idiot. The idea that Judo is more sophisticated
or superior to Tenjin Shin’yo Ryu or any of the various styles of
Yoshin Ryu just because it has the suffix
do
in
its name is ridiculous. It’s as silly as saying that Aikido is
clearly superior to Daito Ryu because Ueshiba made his art a
do
and
Takeda didn’t. None of these arts is superior to any other because
of the name or what the art emphasizes. I have real trouble with the
idea that any
bugei
art
is superior to any other. All of them have strengths and weaknesses.
What makes an art superior or inferior is how well suited it is for a
particular situation or person. For a philosophically minded kid such
as myself, Judo and Aikido were great arts. 



 For
someone whose primary interest is physical skills, then arts with too
much talking about the philosophy won’t be suitable. Arts are
superior for what they can do for their practitioners, not because
they are better for learning fighting techniques. Who is going to
make the call as to whether Ono-Ha Itto Ryu or Yagyu Shinkage Ryu is
the better art?  Better for what? The only question where
“better” should show up is in “Which art is better for me at
this time and place?” That’s the only “better” I can think of
being at all meaningful.



 I’ve
got more bad news for folks on all sides of the
do
versus
jutsu
discussion.
You can’t make real progress in any art without both the physical
skills and the mental/philosophical development. The nice thing about
bugei
is
that they are lifelong studies. You never cease learning new things
from them. I do Shinto Hatakage Ryu Iai Heiho, a style of
swordsmanship which has only 22 kata in the curriculum. I’ve been
studying it for more than 22 years. You might think that with more
than a year of study for each kata I have learned all there is to
learn about them and I am bored with them. You would be wrong. The
individual kata still teach me things about movement and balance and
how to optimize my physical self. I also learn more about quieting,
controlling and directing my mind and my self.  Some days
practice is all about the physical techniques. I’m not sure I will
ever fully master the chudan kata
Tobi
Chigai
.
Other days are all about the mental state. I’m sure I will never
fully master my self.



 I
don’t know of any bugei that has come from Japan that has not been
heavily influenced by the concept of
do
of
michi
道。The
concept permeates the culture so thoroughly that it is inescapable.
There are even a number of styles of
soujido
(掃除道

that’s
housework, folks!). Arguing over whether something is a
do
or
jutsu
makes
no sense. If we have time to argue about this, we aren’t practicing
enough. We’re much better off spending more time practicing the
particular
bugei
that
is best for us where we are.




 


References
for further reading


Disputers
of the Tao

by
A. C. Graham, 1999, Open Court Publishing – this looks at not just
the Daoist idea of the way, but also how Confucius, Mozi, and many
others conceived of the Way in ancient China.
 
The
Language of Aikido: A Practitioner’s Guide to Japanese Characters and
Terminology

by
Michael Hacker, 2017, Talking Budo. Hacker does an excellent job of
introducing the multifaceted world of Japanese characters and
language, and how it all serves to enhance, and sometimes confuse,
our practice of Japanese martial arts.





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

Budo Isn’t Natural



 


Jizo Sama on Mount Koya Photo copyright Peter
Boylan 2014



 



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


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


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


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



 


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



 


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


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


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


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






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






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






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






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






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








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Budo Isn’t Natural



 


Jizo Sama on Mount Koya Photo copyright Peter
Boylan 2014



 



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


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


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


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



 


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



 


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


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


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


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






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






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






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






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






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








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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.




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