Categories
On being a budoka

Speaking out

I have been meaning to put up another post for a while now; training has been great and there’s lots to say about our continued work with iaijutsu. But not today.

Today we are protesting. Today we are speaking out.

In Baltimore and many cities across our country, and cities even farther out around the globe in other countries, we have massive protests against systemic racism, which was part of the founding of this country and still exists widespread today. Systemic racism is so deeply rooted in our country and culture that many find it hard to even see or acknowledge, especially if they have never personally been subject to its heel.

Many people have very different opinions on the best ways to protest, the kinds of actions and messages that are beneficial (or harmful) to a cause, and other such specifics. In debating that, all too often the original issue is obscured and the root problem is cast aside. The root problem is absolutely not how people are protesting. The root problem is systemic racism that is robbing people of their lives and leaving millions more living in fear and inequality.

All too often the scope of the problem, which is enormous as well as complex, cows us. All too often debates over what the “right” solution would be leaves us arguing over details and branching issues and circumstantial “what ifs”, and ignoring the bigger picture. We lose sight of speaking out and taking action against the root problem, even when that part is clear.

Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness. None of these things can be equally available in our country, or any country, when systemic racism and other forms of systemic discrimination exist.

Educate yourself, continually. Listen. Learn. And use your voice to speak out against injustice and inequality. Not just today, but every day.

Categories
Training notes

Follow and listen to the sword

There are two concepts in iaijutsu that are related to one another, but have distinct meanings. These are tachi suji and kiru oto. Tachi suji refers to the correct path for a blade to travel in a cut, and kiru oto refers to the whip-like whooshing sound made when a cut is done correctly. The two go hand in hand.

In order for the blade to cut cleanly and correctly it must follow its optimal path. The angle of the blade must be correct in all three dimensions of space, and the ken saki (tip of the blade) must accelerate properly through the arc of the cut. To follow the blade through a cut is to feel the optimal path and give power it, as if from behind. Once the blade is set in motion its own inertia and momentum should inform the optimal path, and the forward wrist extends during the cut to facilitate this. So it is learning to initiate a cut correctly that allows one to target the cut correctly so that it may follow its proper path.

When the blade cuts correctly, kiru oto, the characteristic whip-like whooshing sound, is created. The sharper that sound, the cleaner the path. Learn how to initiate a cut correctly so that you can follow the sword’s preferred path, and listen for this telltale sign.

Categories
Announcements Training notes

Online training

Change comes fast. Yesterday our governor ordered all fitness centers (including health clubs, health spas, gyms, aquatic centers, and self-defense schools) in Maryland closed to the general public (with the exception of certain child care services). So for the time being we are moving our training online! We had our first online class tonight, continuing with the iaijutsu (sword drawing and cutting techniques) section we had switched to on Sunday.

With iaijutsu the ability to move quickly without holding tension in one’s body is paramount. Grip and power are applied during cuts, and then the body must return to a controlled relaxed state. Patience in the mind and the body is key.

This is good training for these times.

Categories
Announcements

Adapting to fit the times

As of today, the situation in Baltimore vis à vis the CoVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is holding steady and while many people are hastening to prepare themselves and their homes and workplaces we have not yet seen the cases in Maryland overwhelm our hospitals and health care system here. That all could change quickly though as the virus is known to spread ahead of symptoms, and in my opinion the socially responsible thing to do is to take measures to mitigate the risks and to follow recommended guidelines to lessen the chances of spreading.

Within the Jinenkan we have lots of material from the ryuha (our lineages) that doesn’t require personal contact or to even be close to one another. Also our dojo space in Baltimore is large enough (and we as instructors and students are few enough) that we can gather there and still keep a proper distance from one another (i.e., we can maintain the recommended 6′ separation during dojo time and training). The space also has proper facilities for hand washing before and after training, etc.

So after communicating to our students about new dojo hygiene protocols, we began to train in a different section of our ongoing bikenjutsu work and changed our focus to iaijutsu (sword drawing techniques and cutting practices). Stay tuned for more training notes on iaijutsu.

Categories
Training notes

To follow or not to follow the kata

Fukuro shinai – a leather-covered bamboo training weapon used for bikenjutsu

Great class on Tuesday night! Continuing our focus on bikenjutsu we spent some time exploring two training methods, which early on in one’s training can look very different from one another. The first is the method of following kata, which trains one’s body in fundamental movements that may not feel natural, graceful, or even effective when one is first practicing them. But over time the body comes to understand these movements and they then add naturally to one’s ability. However it is important to not be “stuck” in the kata, and instead to have free and natural movement. So the second is the method of free training (leading to ran dori), where the goal is to achieve a certain outcome without being bound to the kata. In this method one practices what they can personally do best at this point in time to achieve the goal (e.g., in bikenjutsu the goal may be to create an opening and land a clean cut from a particular kamae). The outcome is what’s important, but how one moves one’s feet or which side one enters from, etc., are not defined. Both methods help progress learning and should be used, but one should always be clear about which method is being trained so that unrealistic or sloppy movement is not excused as just being part of the other paradigm’s method. As training progresses and fundamental movements from the kata become more ingrained and natural, these two practices converge.

Categories
Announcements

Welcome to the new Ryusui Dojo website!

2020 is rolling along, I am settled in now from my relocation back to the USA, and Oshi Take and I are busy planning what’s next for Ryusui Dojo. Everyone in the dojo is progressing nicely with our focus on bikenjutsu, and we will continue to break out of the fundamentals and expand our natural movement. Check back here for class training notes and observations!

— For information on Jinenkan training or how to become a Jinenkan member, please send email to info@ryusuidojo.com