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.