Friday, May 23, 2008


I went to Guelph last week for the Spring Seminar. Namidome Sensei was back, along with the two Eto Sensei and Eto Sensei. Namidome Sensei is the senior Shinto Muso Ryu teacher in Fukaoka, and the Eto Sensei's are a mother and daughter who are both 7th dan in Jodo and Iaido. They've all been to the Guelph several times. I got train with Kim Taylor for much of Saturday. Sensei kept us hoping until I was thoroughly exhausted. At one point I left my hand hanging on Shamen and Kim whacked it quite definitively with the bokuto. The pain was bad, but the embarrassment from leaving my hand there to get hit was worse. By the end of practice on Saturday, Kim and I were both punchy with exhaustion.

On Sunday I trained with Ward, who was testing for his yondan on Monday. Kim very diplomatically arranged for me to be able to test on Sunday, since I couldn't stay for the testing on Victoria day. Best of all, the tape I put on the blister that burst on Saturday stayed in place until after the test was over.

It's interesting how arts get pushed in different directions based on things that are really tangental to the original goals and intents of the arts. Judo and Kendo are each bent by the competition that was started as way to for people to test their combative skills. Now the competition has nearly completely displaced the practice of combative skills, though there are still people striving to maintain the combative focus. Iaido was added to the Kendo Federation to push kendoka to learn how to use a real sword to try to balance the effect on skills of competing with bamboo shinai. Now though, the pursuit of rank in the Kendo Federation, iaido is being pushed towards very light, gentle, dance-like movements without a great deal of intensity. Jodo has only been part of the Kendo Federation for a little while, so it's tough to see a trend there yet. The changes aren't necessarily evil. Nothing can stay the same forever. The trick is to keep the valuable core and principles while evolving to fit a new social and historical background.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Clining to pain

I've been watching something in and out of the dojo. People will cling to a way of doing things, or way of seeing things that hurts them and holds them back. In judo the guys learn to be stiff and push their way around the dojo. When we try to get them to learn subtlety, they resist. Advancing beyond the stage they've reached requires working on things they don't do well. They don't want to let go of what they have to grasp something of greater value. It's easier to keep going at a low level of mediocrity. Learning seems to require so much more effort than maintaining their current level that they don't want to risk the effort.

I see this outside the dojo nearly every day. People cling to anger or ways of looking at the world, regardless of the pain it causes them. If you suggest they change a little, they tell you "I can't change." What's sad is that we all change a little bit everyday. None of us are fossilized and unchanging. Life changes us a little each day. What these folks are really saying is "I have no control over how I change and develop." They choose to let life shape them without any effort to choose how they will change. If they choose, they can develop, but this requires taking responsibility for themselves and what they become. It's easier to just role along and say "This is what I am and I can't change it." I haven't figured out what drives this. My last post was "Pain is good." These folks seem to cling to their pain out of fear of letting it go.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Pain is good

I managed to get to judo twice in a 4 day period, the most judo I've done in that short a span in a while. WOW! I was sorer than after working out with the trainer at the gym. When I went again a week later, I trained even harder, but I didn't hurt as much afterwards. I guess my body is getting used to the abuse again.

Last Friday at judo was a little strange. Most of the guys there look to me for instruction. I don't mind this, since I have twice as much time on the mat as any of them, but their expectations of what to learn and my expectations of what to teach don't quite line up. The guys who have been doing judo for 5 or 6 years want to learn cool, new techniques, and I want to teach them principles that will improve the techniques they already know. They get disappointed sometimes when we practice principles. For my part, the real problem I have with teaching the techniques they don't know yet is that I've been focusing on principles for so long, that I've forgotten a lot of the secondary and tertiary level techniques and variations I used to do. I really need to get out the books and remind myself of what I used to know.