I was wondering recently why some of us choose to train in Traditional Martial Arts as oppose to ‘Modern Martial Arts’? Of course when we start we may not know. Some people research prior and ‘know’ precisely what they want to do or think they know intellectually. Or it may be an accident of situation. Friends, location, disposition. With the variety around how does a person choose? A beginner with no understanding is overwhelmed and any one of the above may take precedence. But once more understanding unfolds some of us choose an ancient art that is no longer really relevant. Why? Kyudo (The way of the bow-archery) for example, well we don’t use bows anymore. Please by the way if you have not read “Zen and the art of Archery” I highly recommend it. Iado The art of drawing a sword. Not much point nowadays when we have guns. So why train in these ancient arts? Good question. I am still working it out! For me having learnt some really brutal modern methods of defending myself which is great, I fortunately discovered ‘Do’ or ‘Michi’ (The way). That indescribable, quintessential, ‘essence’ that is carried through yes a form, but the ‘form’ being only a tool, a conduit as it were to discover ….Discover what? Well, like I said I am still working it out.
So, yes, having become a relatively ferocious, lethal modern weapon, I choose to study an ancient supposedly irrelevant art. Irrelevant? We remain the same creatures as ancient times and in this modern crazy world, where the elderly are tolerated rather than venerated. Money is king and kindness is weakness. This tradition allows me to tap into something much bigger than myself. There it is. Bigger than myself. I care not of elbows and knives and machete attacks and guns. So be it. Training in something ancient that is a method for empowering and growing the human spirit is why I learn this ancient art of Daito Ryu. We train in seiza, we train with bokken, we train in old fashioned techniques… My teacher Kondo Sensei told me a long time ago “When we are in the Dojo we are not training our bodies; we are training our spirit”. I didn’t fully understand it when he told me and like I said I am still working it out. But for me it feels like the spirit to continue when we tire, the spirit to continue when we grow bored as we cannot focus and pay attention or despair of ourselves, of our ability or perceived inability. The fact that these methods have been used for hundreds of years to forge real warriors inspires me to not only try harder in my techniques but most importantly aspire to be a better human being and do my best to follow in such footsteps that went before us.
Here is a great photo of Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei doing “Hanmi Nage”. This throw is very difficult to master. In fact it is so difficult that at Kondo Sensei’s Hombu dojo you will get to practice this every session…..
Many of the techniques in Daito Ryu are in ‘Seiza’, which is kneeling down position. This technique is from kneeling down versus standing up. (Hanza Handachi). Obviously it is harder to defend an attack from a person standing up when we are kneeling down. In Daito Ryu we train techniques that were used in the Palace. The syllabus reflects this. In ancient times when in the Palace Samurai had to operate in Seiza. Thus many ‘attacks’ had to be considered and defended whilst in any situation, location or position. Why train these techniques in modern times? Good Question. When moving from our knees we effectively lose the real use of our legs and movement must be more from our centre. I believe this helps our standing techniques. Also these techniques are challenging to work on as even just operating from this position can be painful until our bodies are conditioned. Its easy to give up. I am still not certain what drives a person in this day and age to pursue a traditional art. When it is possible to live in relevant comfort and ease. Why train in an ancient art that forces us to endure these difficult techniques? All I know is that practicing these ancient techniques gives me a window into an era long gone. Practicing this difficult technique and persevering to master it gives me a connection to what it may have been like all those hundreds of years ago.
There is something very powerful in this.
Hasagawa Sensei of Daito Ryu demonstrating ‘Ippondori’ at the recent Daito Ryu Aikijutsu Seminar in the Netherlands. This excellent photo shows how to ‘enter’ using correct ‘Aiki’. Ippondori is a very difficult technique to master and is the first technique taught in the Daito Ryu Syllabus. The most important technique is taught first.
Well after over a dozen visits to Japan to visit and stay with my Martial Arts Budo Teacher Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei and his family my mother decided it was about time she met my Japanese dear friends to see who her daughter was spending so much time with! So at the invitation of my parents the family Kondo came for a visit and stayed with my family here in beautiful Sydney. It was a fantastic visit with Kondo Sensei, his Wife and eldest Grandson staying at my parents home.
2013 is off to a cracking start with a wonderful visit which included New Years Eve fireworks, surfing, Blue Mountains, Opera House and of course Sensei’s favourite, the Sydney Harbour Bridge. My heartfelt Thanks to Kondo Sensei and his beautiful family and of course my own beloved family and Australian friends who made the trip so memorable and enjoyable. I have a feeling 2013 is going to be a very good year.
Happy New Year everyone.