Solo training-Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu

Stock illustration of Kendo Training

At some point or other on our martial arts journey we may realise that in order to improve or continue our training we must do some training alone.

Of course in arts such as Iaido, this is pretty normal and the majority of the training is indeed solo training.  However for most of us especially early on solo training is a pretty spartan way of training. We need the motivation of going to a class, having people to train with and a Teacher to guide us to hold our hand as it were along the way.

Supplementing our training and still being able to go to class is slightly different.  Being a long way from our core group is another type of isolation altogether….

The support of the group, our training partners and Teachers plays a big role in our learning and growth. As with all things often underestimated until it’s no longer there.

I personally felt this very strongly in my early training as I could only really train Daito Ryu on my visits to Japan.  We didn’t train Mainline DTR here in Sydney specifically and I would try to visit Japan as much as possible, to train in pure DTR.  I would fill in my time here solo training and trying to incorporate some of the essence of the way we train in DTR while training in other arts but nothing is quite ‘Like’ DTR.  This gave me a strong motivation to improve and eventually I was lucky enough to start this Study Group and now have students and partners to train with.

One of those students from our early days recently moved to UK.  He was one of the founder members of our small but passionate group here in Sydney and we were all so sad to see him go away.

It takes a special kind of discipline to continue your training away from your core group.

He has written a very nice article on his experience training ‘Solo’ and we would like to share it with you.

Rachael Crompton Study Group leader. Daitokan, Sydney Australia

Here is Oran’s writing:

Solo training – It’s as easy as Do, Rei, me by Oran Redmond

Today marks a small milestone for me. I recently moved 17,000 km away from my home dojo and have been training alone since then. In January I set myself some goals for the year, and this short essay marks the completion of the first of my milestones.
The first 100 days of solo training have now passed, I haven’t trained every single day but I have tried to do something on as many of those days as I could. I have been lucky enough to have a small training space in the house that we are renting in Suffolk and have tried to recreate, in a small way, something of the wonderful space that I was lucky to share in Sydney.

In my little dojo I try to pay respect to the traditions that I learned when training with my peers, senpai and sensei. The difference being that I do it alone. This has been harder than I could ever have imagined.

I have always been the first to tell people that budo is not a ‘team sport’ it is an individual journey. It is a journey that we share with like-minded people if we are lucky we build lifelong friendships along the way. But it is none-the-less an individual path. So, while I knew I would miss my training partners and my teacher, I thought that continuing my training would be difficult but achievable. In short, it has been but it has not been that simple. I have found parts of my solo training pretty straight forward. Conditioning exercises, suburi, solo ukemi and general fitness, all relatively fine if lacking the needed corrections. Then I reached what should have been an obvious problem; the art that I devote my training to requires a training partner.

Though we have kata that kata is not stand-alone and is always trained with an uke. The effectiveness of any technique can only be felt with the appropriate feedback of a committed partner, or under the watchful eye of a senpai. I have neither and have to trust my memory and other resources to try and keep myself on the right track. This lack of feedback can apply even to my conditioning training and I have periods where I doubt whether I am executing these exercises correctly. Am I training in bad habits? Is any of this worthwhile?
Along the way I have come to the conclusion that for me and for my martial journey the important thing at this stage in my training is to keep going. I have attempted to keep my motivation up by setting myself goals and to working towards them day by day. I have created challenges that encourage me to pick up my bokken or to roll out my mats. It would be easier to not train at all, for want of partners or a dojo, but that is an eventuality that I fear the most and trying to avoid that is what keeps me going. That and the hope that some of what I am doing will be useful.

Going back to the title of this article the pun is intended but possibly a bit obscure. What do I mean by Do Rei me?
Do, ?, is the Way or the Path, commonly known as part of Budo, the martial way/path. This is the well-travelled road that I am journeying on.
Rei,?, is courtesy or respect. Our art form, Daito Ryu Aikijujitsu begins and ends with Rei and our sensei teaches that Rei will save your life. I try to show equal respect in and out of the dojo but this is outwardly displayed by my adherence to our traditions and forms.
Me, well me is just me trying to do my best. Respecting the teachings and traditions of my art, as I attempt to follow this path.

Solo training is not an easy nor is it an ideal way to train, it can and should be used to enhance your training and if necessary as in my case it can be used to maintain some level of connection during periods where one has no alternative. Budo is not an easy path to follow but I personally believe that though it is at times a difficult path the rewards greatly outweigh any negatives.

So, today as I marked 100 days of purposeful solo training I contemplate the 100 days ahead until next I travel to Japan and again get to be with my friends and to train again with corporeal training partners. I look back on the personal milestones of the 100 days past, I reached an unintended goal of 50,000 suburi, I have shiko’d for over 3 km and sat in seiza for 7 hrs. These are not meaningful goals, and all completely arbitrary. For the suburi, having no idea how many I could do and a rudimentary grasp of what I was doing, I had aimed to achieve this target over the 200 days and so I have been pleasantly surprised to meet it at the halfway mark. I had done very little suburi prior to this but interestingly I have found that I have been drawn more and more to suburi, almost as a surrogate-training partner. It has given me something physical to connect with, has strengthened or at least maintained my grip and as I have extended the repetitions and type of suburi it has allowed me to push my boundaries. I share this not out of pride but as an example of the type of unexpected benefit that my solo training has brought me.

There is no substitute for training with a competent partner or for training under the supervision of a compassionate teacher. Solo training won’t replace that. I’m hoping that it might keep me fit and focussed during this potentially long period until I find someone else to train with. The alternative is not to train at all or to change style, neither of those options appeal to me.
Here’s to the next 100 days and who knows, maybe another 50,000 suburi. Only 500 per day it would be great to have you join me.

Oran practicing here with his invisible partner ; ) 12992748_10154157623833385_1215022712_n

 

Original Daitokan in Abashiri, Hokkaido Demolished Nov 2015

Original Daitokan Abashiri

Daitokan 2

Kondo Sensei asked me to write and let everyone know that the original ‘Daitokan’ building in Abashiri, Hokkaido has been demolished and is now a vacant lot.

I went there with Kondo Sensei in October of this year 2015.  Sensei told me that the original Daitokan building was dismantled only approx two weeks after our visit.  (Mid November)  Now it is no more and it is just land space.

I was very Lucky to see it in time.

The original Daitokan was established by Soke Tokimune Sensei in 1954.  For almost forty years it was the Hombu Dojo.  In 1993 owing to the death of Soke Tokimine Sensei Daitokan was closed and no more training occurred.

I take this opportunity to write about my trip with Kondo Katsuyuki Sensei to Hokkaido.  Here goes.

As many of you know I have made many trips to Japan to study Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu with my teacher Kondo Katsuyuki Sensei.

This year it was the 60th Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Headquarters convention and was held in Abashiri, Hokkaido.

I have wanted to make a pilgrimage to Hokkaido for many years now, ever since I learnt that the Takeda family grave is there and that it is the home of the original ‘Daitokan’.  I mentioned this to Sensei and he said best to wait until he was going up there, which I did.

So on this my 19th trip I arranged to travel with Kondo Sensei and the members of Shimbukan Hombu Dojo to Hokkaido.

It was pretty exciting to visit Hokkaido and visit the place where Soke Tokimune Takeda and of course his father Sokaku Takeda spent so much time.

So we traveled from Tokyo to Hokkaido. We got on the train with the local Shimbukan Dojo members to the airport and we finally arrived in Hokkaido.

We caught the bus into town (Abashiri)  passing the apparently ‘World Famous’  Abashiri prison.  I hadn’t heard of the prison before but it did look very bleak and I was glad I was not in it.

We all helped to prepare the sports hall where the seminar was to be held.  Everyone pitched in to lay mats, clean and put up the various Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu regalia.  The whole experience was fascinating.  Watching and being part of this whole thing in another language and of course culture is rewarding and deeply satisfying. I’m always intrigued at the cultural differences, norms and interactions and Japanese teamwork is a wonderful thing to be part of.  Even just this ‘set up’ of the hall was one of the highlights of the weekend.

We then did some training (well I didn’t as I am still recovering from shoulder surgery, but I practiced seiza, listening and seeing, all of which I am very bad at).  Kondo Sensei taught the seminar and he went into great detail regarding the various types of ‘Aiki’.  The various Daito Ryu scrolls.  The type of training he experienced at the original ‘Daitokan’. How Aiki is incorporated into the Hiden Mokuroku set.

I stand to be corrected here as my Japanese level is very low  But my impression was that Tokimune Sensei taught the Jujutsu version of many techniques, but Kondo Sensei incorporates the Aiki from the other advanced scrolls to include in the Ikkajo set in particular.  This is my interpretation and limited understanding.  I’m still learning and making investigations in all this.  So please forgive me and again that’s my poor interpretation.

Anyway after lunch we went to see the Takeda clan grave.  It was freezing cold, windy, overcast and some rain.  Typical Abashiri weather I suspect and a somewhat dreary day.  Very appropriate for this grave site pilgrimage I thought and I found my mind imagining training in this freezing weather and the type of life it must have been like for those who’ve passed before me.  We took turns in burning incense and making a prayer.

We  returned to the training hall and did some more training.  Afterwards I traveled with Kondo Sensei to visit the original ‘Daitokan’.  I was pretty excited to be finally visiting it.  Unfortunately it was dark by then (higher latitude).  We found Daitokan and it was sadly rather ramshackle and rundown.  Tall grass had overgrown around it.  I wanted to get closer and asked if it was ok and if there were any snakes (Yes I live in Australia).  Sensei laughed and pushed me towards the grass to get a closer look and a photo.  So after all this time I finally got to see the original Daitokan. Our namesake. The Dojo we are named after.  It was good to see it and feel the area.  I felt a tinge of sadness, this historic and significant building was rundown and not in use.  I felt deeply honoured to have its name and a strengthening in spirit to carry it forward.

That evening we had a double dinner.  One at the hotel in which everyone, yes every member of the seminar introduced themselves and said whatever they thought relevant and some very nice words from folk.  I was privileged to meet some of the original Daitokan members and it was nice to be wished well in our training.  This was the pre-dinner and after we went to a local restaurant specialising in Hokkaido seafood which was as you can imagine fabulous.  (and Hokkaido beer of course :  )     Hokkaido may be cold and wet but the food is really delicious.

Next day was demonstration day. Each Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu chapter had opportunity to make a display.  I couldn’t train and strangely this turned into an advantage in a way as i was able to watch, really watch.  It was even more interesting to see each group demonstrate.  I tried to note the etiquette along with of course the techniques shown.  As a group leader here in Australia its not easy to understand the nuances and etiquette around Embukai ( and of course all etiquette in Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu).  I must make special note of these things as they are  rare events and part of what sets Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu apart is its military style formation and precision.

In addition to this of course was the array of Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu techniques on display.  And most strikingly the difference in each groups energy and effect.  Kondo Sensei took the opportunity to  again remind us all regarding some of the more important principles of DTR and really some basics, which as we all know are the most important but difficult to do well.

Highlight of course were the Shimbukan Display and Kondo Sensei’s brother and Kyoju Dairi Kondo Masayuki Sensei.

Then awards were given out for some outstanding students.  Students who had improved so much and students who had displayed excellence.  It was really nice to see my training partners and fellow students doing so well in their training.  They all inspire me to keep training and trying my best.

Then it was time to pack up.  It was a little sad as it had been such a great seminar. I don’t know about you but for those of us in Budo especially perhaps in western countries we are very much the exception than the rule.  To be around all your like minded training friends and folk as ‘mad’ about Budo as yourself is very cool : )

Sensei travelled back to Tokyo but I stayed and traveled to Asahikawa with my Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu buddies and went on a fantastic sightseeing trip though Hokkaido.  It turned into a bit of a holiday which was a  nice change from the intensity of training.  Injury it seems has its own unusual rewards.

I feel very fortunate to be able to do these things and be part of this incredible group.
Thank you for taking time to read this.  The spirit of Daitokan lives on and we will do our utmost to live up to this historic Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu name.

Rachael Crompton

Study Group leader.  Sydney, Australia

Takeda Family Grave site

60th Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu Seminar  Abashiri

 

 

Our Kamidana or in English ‘Gods Shelf’

Kamidana daito ryu

Our Kamdana

We share the space for our Dojo with Pilates, Yoga, Dance and the like.  Setting up our Dojo each session has become part of our ritual for getting ready for class.  When I trained in Japan and my teachers Dojo there was the front of the Dojo with a special shrine and I got told off several times for turning my back on said shrine until it was drilled into me to not ever do that.  Sort of like not turning your back to your opponent but an entirely different reason.

In fact my ignorance of Shinto and basic Dojo etiquette was absolutely zero when I  entered Kondo Sensei’s Shimbukan Dojo for 10 days training in 2007.

I remember being scolded in Japanese very frequently.  As at that time I understood zero Japanese I wasn’t always sure of what my transgressions were.  A cultural chasm that still has me floundering in its complexity as I carefully navigate the intricacies and nuances of Japanese hierarchy, cultural conditioning and of course ‘Rei’ (Respect) and ‘Budo Manner’.

I first got yelled at for tuning my back to Kamidana (Shrine at front of Dojo) on my first day and I didn’t know what I had done wrong. (Yes, as I said I knew nothing of this etiquette).  My logic mind said ‘ oh I must have stepped with the wrong leg forward, it must have to be the right leg’  made perfect sense in my western brain.  So I continued stepping with the right leg and turning.  it all went well.   Next day I had changed location in Dojo and remembering my right leg I stepped forward and turned with my right leg forward.  On mass every Japanese person in Dojo yelled at me.  Oh dear I was in trouble again and now I was really confused.  Yesterday it was right leg, today it’s left leg?

My childhood maths/algebra classes came flooding back to me, my utter non understanding meant I was completely  flumuxed and perhaps we multiply because its Weds but on Thursdays we divide by the subject. (Thats how bad I was at math!)   To save you from suffering to the degree I did in the early days.  Suffice to say, I had made the sin to several times turn my back to Kamidana and on the third day a kindly Japanese gentleman explained it to me in English after class. Thank God!  That was one less scolding and it was a pretty simple thing to understand.  Once someone explained it in English that was.

As the years went by I gradually gained a little more understanding as to what the various shrine paraphernalia was at Sensei’s Dojo. He allowed me to help get the rice and salt ready and the leaves. I also very slowly built up our own shrine item by item, year by year.

At first it was hard to have the Gods shelf ‘up’ because of the shared space and we would put it on a box on the floor.  Very Rude and not good etiquette.

Our first items were two rather nice ornamental containers and a vase Kondo Sensei signed and gave me.  Not for this purpose, but in my ignorant and naive mind, I thought they looked nice and I had seen Sensei’s shrine had salt, rice, water and a plant so I thought they were a good start.

As you will see from the photo we have moved along a bit and now have our shrine ‘up’.  Much more appropriate and some more ‘proper’ items which Oran one of our Daitokanian’s has outlined for you below.

Interestingly we had opportunity to have a more permanent church hall come up recently.  We wouldn’t have to share with anyone else.  Great I thought, we can build a permanent Kamidana.   But then the Church organisation wouldn’t allow an organisation that ‘bowed’ to a ‘shrine’ that was not Christian. Fair enough.

i thought about it. Could we have our class without our Kamidana…?  Would be a better space, could keep the mats down…  Hmmm.  As with certain values, we are not aware of where we stand until a choice needs to be made.

As ‘light’ as I thought I was around our shrine that we gradually built up over time, I realised its integral to what we do.  The very act of getting it ready every class.  Finding green leaves, putting up the shelf, fitting the mirror, placing everything.  All the students helping.  it all sets the tone for our safe training.  it is perfect as it is.

Below is a lovely piece by Oran Redmond of Daitokan on his weekly ritual.  Thank you Oran and Thank you for all your dedication to our Dojo.

——————————————————————————————————
i would describe myself as humanist. i am concerned about my place in the universe and in affecting that universe in as positive a way as possible. i am happy enough with the small role that i play and have not yet found any questions to which i have needed to seek mystical answers.
Now, however, i find myself bowing earnestly to a Shinto shrine several times a week. Shinto is not so much a religion as a collection of rituals, on the surface, though there is no supreme deity, it shares many of the trappings of an organised religion. Shinto does not split the universe into a natural physical world and a supernatural transcendent world. it regards everything as part of a single unified creation.
Shinto also does not make the Western division between body and spirit – even spirit beings exist in the same world as human beings.
At the Daitokan dojo, in Sydney Australia, we study mainline Daito Ryu Aiki Jujitsu, under the supervision of Rachel Crompton a direct student of the Daito Ryu headmaster Kondo Katsayuki.
Our modest Shinto shrine has evolved over the years. Even in its simplest form, preparing the shrine and placing the offerings has always been a fundamental part of our pre-training ritual.
The primary role of a shrine is to house and protect its shintai and the kami, which inhabits it.

Kami – Shinto is based on belief in, and worship of, kami. Kami provide a mechanism through which the Japanese are able to regard the whole natural world as being both sacred and material.
The best English translation of kami is ‘spirits’, but this is an over-simplification of a complex concept – kami can be elements of the landscape or forces of nature. Kami include gods and spirit beings, but also include many other things that are revered for the powers that they possess. Oceans and mountains are kami, so are storms and earthquakes.
Kami are close to human beings and respond to human prayers. They can influence the course of natural forces, and human events.
Kami can refer to beings or to a quality which beings possess. But while everything contains kami, only those things which show their kami-nature in a particularly striking way are referred to as kami.
Kami have a specific life-giving, harmonising power, called musubi, and a truthful will, called makoto (also translated as sincerity).
Kamidana – means “kami shelf”, in our dojo the kamidana is suspended from the ceiling. The kamidana is set high on the wall, and the base of the shelf is supposed to be slightly above eye level.

Miyagata – this is our miniature Shinto Shrine. Miyagata represent the Shinto shrine and the main purpose of the miyagata is to house the Ofuda.

Ofuda are a type of amulet or talisman, issued by a Shinto shrine, hung in the house for protection. it is made by inscribing the name of a kami and the name of the Shinto shrine or of a representative of the kami on a strip of paper, wood, cloth, or metal. Our shrine contains several ofuda, their purpose to help us to train sincerely and safely. Because the kami are supposed to be present in the ofuda they are one of the most important parts of the kamidana as without them you have no kami on your kami shelf.

Shintai – “Body of the Kami” – Shintai are not themselves part of the kami but are a physical representation of the kami.
The most common shintai are man-made objects like mirrors, swords, jewels and sculptures of kami called shinz?, but they can be also natural objects such as stones, mountains, trees and waterfalls. Before the forcible separation of kami and Buddhas of 1868 (shinbutsu bunri) a shintai could even be the statue of a Buddhist deity.

Myoujin Torii gate – Torii literally means Bird Perch. Shrines always have gates called torii (often red if made of wood) to demarcate the sacred area inside the shrine. All torii can be classified under two major categories: those with straight members, shinmei torii and those, such as our own, with curved members, myoujin tori.

Shimenawa – Sacred places are typically marked with a shimenawa (special plaited rope) and shime or shide (strips of white paper). Placed at the entrances of holy places to ward off evil spirits, or placed around trees/objects to indicate presence of kami. Made of rice straw or hemp, the rope is called nawa. The pieces of white paper that are cut into strips and hung from these ropes (often hung from ropes on Torii gates as well) are called shime or gohei; they symbolize purity in the Shinto faith.
Shimenawa mark the boundary between the sacred and the profane. They keep impurities out and purify the space within. Shimenawa was first used to prevent the sun goddess Amaterasu from re-entering a cave to save the world from eternal night. it can be seen therefore that they prevent the passage of gods. The Shide are attached to the Shimenawa but loosening the plaiting and inserting them into the rope

Shinsen – Shinsen are the offerings that are placed for the kami on the kamidana. The most traditional five offerings are rice, rice wine (sake), water, salt and evergreen branches. They are offered in small, symbolic quantities, presented in white pottery containers as shown above.

Ozen (wooden plinth or sanbo, for a making offerings on the kamidana in front of the miyagata). 

Okome (rice) Rice is a long-standing staple of the Japanese diet, and it is not surprising that rice is offered in prayer and praise to Shinto deities throughout Japan. According to some, each grain of rice symbolizes a Tamashii  (human soul).
Sake – Sake plays an important role in many Shinto rituals, it is commonly used with salt and water for purification rituals. Drinking sake is an act of purification, and it is used to bring people and gods together,
Mizutama – the pointed lidded jar (Mizutama) in the front left contains water.
Oshio – (salt) – in Shinto ceremonies, salt is often sprinkled to remove impurities.
Sakaki Tate – The tall vases are called “Sakaki Tate” and are for the evergreen plant, in Japan Sakaki is commonly used, in Australia we use locally available evergreen leaves.

Why train in Traditional Martial Arts?

 

IMG_1806I 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.

Hanmi Nage: Or in English, No 1 Most difficult technique…..

hanminage

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.

Aiki v Jujutsu

hasagawa-sensei

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.

Family Kondo meet Family Crompton

kondo_balmoral_sWell 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.

Martial Arts begins with Respect & ends with Respect

REI

Bow

I am recently returned from the annual Daito Ryu AIkijujutsu seminar in Japan.  I have a million things to write about and have been scribbling away about lots of things. But for now just this.

This year at the seminar Kondo Sensei paused in one of the training sessions and we all sat down and he gave us a short lecture on the six tenets of Daito Ryu: Rei, Metsuke, Maai, Kuzushi, Kokyu and Zanshin.  (Roughly translated as : Respect, Eye contact, Distance, Break Balance, Breath Power and Remaining spirit). Sensei said if any one of these is missing our technique is incorrect.  It was fascinating and I could have listened to him all day. Each tenet is a subject in itself and worthy of much further investigation. But for now we focus on the first one.  Rei.

Rei translates as ‘Respect/Etiquette/Courtesy”.  It is often said that martial arts begins with respect and ends with respect.  If we don’t have Rei, it is not martial arts and it most certainly is not Budo.  Every visit to Japan Sensei teaches me in more detail, regarding all aspects of Budo.  Most of the lessons are non-verbal.   If he has to tell me, I really haven’t been paying attention or it’s a rather complex etiquette situation.

Sensei said that Rei is about saving your life.  I understand this clearly now.  But the first time I heard this several years ago I didn’t put it together.  How can being polite save your life?

In feudal Japan an error of etiquette may result in your head getting separated from your body rather rapidly.  Sounds dramatic and yes it is.  But is it any less dramatic than the rage incidents we here about in our modern world?  Folk shot at traffic lights by some lunatic just because they beeped their horn or gave someone the finger? Think about it. These are extreme cases of course but if rather than reacting to another’s rude behaviour we calmly move on our way showing nothing or apologising if appropriate, I am sure we would all get along better.

We are all brought up in our own families and have our own individual conditioning regarding manners and courtesy.  My Parents were strict regarding manners and I am Thankful to them as I realise being brought up in an environment of courtesy and respect helps you to get along with others through life.  But some people have not been so fortunate and their lack of manners or consideration for others means they can struggle sometimes.  If someone is overtly rude they may be informed, but as an adult most often not that person is left to the side.

The more I learn the more I realise just how important these things are.  Respect is a very deep value.  I am ashamed to say that it took my meeting Sensei and becoming his student to re-evaluate how I operate in the World.  A beautiful, loving upbringing with kind wonderful parents and brothers left me a little, well ok, a lot spoilt….  I could see in hindsight areas in my life where I had been unthinking, inconsiderate and worst of all arrogant.

In the Dojo we are expected to show our respect outwardly by bowing, deferring to Sempai, cleaning, seiza etc….  This Rei/Etiquette becomes quite complex in some ways to the western mind as the cultural divide is quite vast and in most cases opposite to ours.  I remember one occasion in the Dojo where we had a ‘Party’.  Of course we have to all sit in certain positions and make sure Sempai are all looked after. I remember going to pour out some sake for a newly elevated Dan grade.  I picked up the bottle to pour it. On mass the whole Dojo yelled at me!  I stopped immediately. My Japanese was not proficient enough to understand clearly what I was instructed.  I thought I had to show the label… Oh I see, I went to pour again…  Again everyone yelled at me!? This went on three times until finally I had to be shown how to pour correctly for my Sempai.  I was forgiven as I had at least tried to offer my services and well it was New Year.  Here, it is seen as great skill to carefully pour champagne or wine by holding the bottom of the bottle using only one hand. That’s how they do it in all the nice restaurants.  I have practiced this for some years to take the weight of the bottle tip carefully with one hand only rather than roughly grasping the neck of the bottle.  Well, it’s the opposite in Japan.  It is considered good etiquette to hold the bottle with both hands around the body thus showing our respect for the bottle and the person we are pouring it for. So there you are.  That’s an example of cross cultural etiquette dilemma.  Well its not a dilemma as its martial arts and its traditional Japanese martial arts so its law in the Dojo.  I have countless other transgressions around which I have been endlessly corrected on: shoe etiquette, Shomen observance, Obi, Shoji, seiza, shikko, the list goes on.  Every single movement in the Dojo must be done in a very specific way.

Which leads me to this intense Rei around the Dojo, where we must ask permission to drink, leave the room (can’t ever remember having the nerve to do that to be honest), speak, move, breath almost….  The self-control I had to learn to not speak when I had the urge.  Not only in terms of questions but in justification if I was being scolded…   Now I think about it, this is where some of the greater steps forward were made.  In the Dojo it really is martial law and I had to change my behaviour massively to avoid getting into big trouble and being what was considered discourteous.

The self-control I learnt here under the strict regime of Sensei whilst in the Dojo spilled over into my ‘normal’ life and I became more polite, considerate and aware.  The outward show of Rei is the bow.  We bow on entering the Dojo, before and after training with our partners, when corrected and when addressed in anyway.  This helps promote mindfulness and gradually a sincere humility.  With humility we are able to allow the teaching to unfold.  Without humility we cannot learn.  We bow to Sensei and to Shomen with two hands together. Not keeping our right hand ready to attack or defend.  This simultaneous two-handed bow is indicative of our implicit trust in our teacher who will never hurt us and only ever be our guide along the way.

Sensei grabbed my attention with his presence, kindness and uncompromising expectation of excellence.  I bow to him and those before us and of course to my sempai, kohai and indeed the world. I save a special bow for my parents who notwithstanding my arrogant youth and busy adulthood continue to inspire me and of course Love me.

Yes, Rei really does have a deep feeling and I can’t help but mix it with gratitude.

Sensei is always saying Budo and life are the same.  Respecting others in the Dojo and our regular life goes hand in hand.  Let’s respect ourselves, each other and refuse to demean ourselves by reacting to those more unfortunate ones who have not had the privilege to have kind parents, teachers and mentors.

Link to Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu Headquarters

Hi Everyone,

I have been advised to publish this.   Please follow the link and click on ‘Oceania’.

Daito Ryu Headquarters Homepage-locations-click on Oceania Please

I hope this clarifies things for some people.

My teacher Kondo Sensei says ‘Budo and life are the same”.  He is a wonderful teacher and inspiration to live a life of honour, integrity and to be of service to society.  He leads by example and a life dedicated to Budo and service to others.

I look forward to many years of teaching and passing forward this ancient art of Daito Ryu AIki Jujutsu. Daito Ryu is the root of many other martial arts.  Much more than a collection of techniques, Daito Ryu is ‘Budo’.

The purpose of our training is to improve ourselves as human beings in mind, body and spirit.  Not just learn techniques to defeat an opponent.  Our biggest opponent is ourselves and Budo is a way to mastery of yourself.  This is the difference.

http://www.daito-ryu.org/en/locations.htmlDaito Ryu Home page Locations

 

Daitokan-Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu

Welcome to our new website, new dojo and the first regular Daito Ryu Study group with weekly classes in Sydney Australia.

For years I have traveled to Japan to study and train in this ancient art.  Now it is with great pleasure I share this art to the best of my ability. We are a ‘Study Group’. There is an important difference to note here. This is because in Japan my level is not normally of a level permitted to teach. The situation is a little different here in Australia.  It is more a sharing of what little I have learnt so far.  And believe you me, when you train with a Master of the like of Kondo Sensei who holds a “Menkyo Kaiden”  (complete transmission) My knowledge really is very, very  small. Nonetheless with Kondo Sensei’s permission and encouragement I started this group to share my limited knowledge and be able to continue my training here in Australia.

I received this in the post yesterday.  I was too excited not to share it and it coincides with our new website

Daitokan Certificate