Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Mentally Approaching the Sword

International Martial Arts Association
Do you practice iaido? 

Do you know about the spiritual significance of the sword?

It was said that the Emperor Gotoba (1180-1239), who while retired in exile had the Goban Kaji come to his residence in rotation and forged swords with them, had the eye of a man of the way. Even then the spiritual significance of viewing swords was recognized. As in accordance with the precepts of Zen Buddhism, you must free your mind of the Get off at Tsurugajo Kitaguchi. 10,000 things that distract you daily. It is the same when you are viewing a sword. You cannot fixate on one aspect. If we concentrate on one aspect our mind stays there, if we concentrate on the hamon it blinds our sight to see the other aspects. You must keep your mind open and fluid, free to move. If you concentrate on one thing your mind stops. We must be able to accept the sword. 

For example, the sword has been for hundreds of years, an object of illuminating the existence of Zen. In kendo, we strive to obtain the state of “no mind” (mushin), This does not mean to become mindless, but to free your mind of all distractive thought. This state, when reached, allows your mind to work freely at great speed; many of the great swordsmen were considered Zen masters because they could attain this state of mind, however this state is lost simply by conscious thinking. For example, if you consciously try to correct any faults in your technique, i.e. adjusting your right hand, your mind is now concentrating on your right hand, and the mind and thoughts stop there. Then your overall mind and body are not in harmony because of this conscious thought. 

This attitude can also extend to collecting in general. If we fixate on collecting, do we become merely collectors? After all, at the end of the day the swords are just swords. Yes, they are the extraordinarily beautiful antiques of our study; and yes, they do have to be cared for and preserved for future generations, but if we get stuck on the swords themselves, is this inhibiting our fantastic study of the sword? 

If we can adopt a more spiritual approach to our study, it makes other aspects of the sword more apparent. When we approach the sword as a spiritual object of moral guidance to a samurai seeking enlightenment, we instantly understand why in Japanese history the sword survived the gun. The sword was a sacred gift from the gods, intrinsically beautiful, encompassing elements of nature. The gun on the other hand was a means to an end, a mere weapon made by and taken from barbarians, not intrinsically beautiful, with no religious connections. The sword was a guide to the way and still is so to this day, not only in usage, but in viewing too.

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Regardless of age, how long you’ve been training, or where you’re from, there’s always something you can learn from others! The Shudokan Martial Arts Association is an international martial arts association with members in multiple countries. When you join SMAA, you’ll belong to a community of likeminded martial artists and budo fans who have plenty of wisdom to share with you. You can learn more about budo, keep up to date on budo news, and test for authentic rank. If you are a student at heart, continue your education with SMAA!

Thursday, June 2, 2022

The Spirituality of the Sword

International Martial Arts Association
Do you practice iaido? 

Do you know about the spiritual significance of the sword?

One of the things that we in the West tend to neglect in our study of the Japanese sword is the spiritual aspect. We tend to forget the fact that in Japan the sword is considered a sacred object. We become too involved with questions and kantei (“appraisal”). There are many questions about swords that will never be answered, so we shouldn’t get too wrapped up in it. Viewing swords has been associated with contemplation, and as we evaluate our appreciation of the sword we will come to realize the path that we are on and comprehend other aspects of Japanese culture such as; the silence of the tea ceremony, the moment a Zen master writes calligraphy, the natural glaze on a Japanese pot, or the moment sumo wrestlers face each other in a match, and bear it in mind for our future study. It is here that the essence of Japan resides. 

The first time we picked up a sword we were probably firstly drawn to the purity of the steel, the elegant shape and the undulating line that we thought was a hamon (the crystalline structure along the edge of a blade) but was probably just the hadori polish. Then we noticed the wood grainlike pattern but could not determine whether it was well forged or well-polished. As we progressed in our study, and our mind was trained, it opened our eyes to be able to eventually see all the activities within the steel. 

An International Martial Arts Association For You

Regardless of age, how long you’ve been training, or where you’re from, there’s always something you can learn from others! The Shudokan Martial Arts Association is an international martial arts association with members in multiple countries. When you join SMAA, you’ll belong to a community of likeminded martial artists and budo fans who have plenty of wisdom to share with you. You can learn more about budo, keep up to date on budo news, and test for authentic rank. If you are a student at heart, continue your education with SMAA!

Friday, May 13, 2022

The Sensei’s Part of the Social Contract

What can a sensei promise their students?

It might sound something like this:

As the teacher, I agree to give you, the student, the absolute best training opportunity I can give you, be it in judo, jujutsu, or iaido. I promise to offer the complete martial art I know, including all its best aspects: physical techniques, theories of physical power, mental strategies, cultural aspects, and any spiritual benefits that are part of the art. I promise not to deceive you with martial arts mumbo-jumbo, and I promise not to falsely build up your self-esteem without providing any basis in real martial arts skill. I promise not to ask you to pay absurd dues rates, but will ask you to pay a fair rate in keeping with the expenses of the dojo and my need to earn a modest living. I won't give you a black belt unless you deserve it, but at the same time, I won't unnecessarily prolong your journey to black belt by making the standards impossible. I will try my best to help you develop—mind, body, and spirit—so that you can excel in the dojo and in life. 

Learn about the student’s part in the social contract.

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Sunday, May 1, 2022

The Martial Arts Social Contract

What expectations exist in the dojo?

Between martial arts teachers and their students, a social contract exists.

As the student, you agree to attend classes as often as you can, putting forth all your effort, and practicing with energy and a positive attitude. You promise to consider the teachings I put forth, taking time outside of class to think about the relationship between my words and the techniques of your martial art. You promise to respectfully raise any issues you may have with your training, and give real consideration for my answers to your questions. You agree to practice safely to help prevent injury to yourself and other students. You agree to pay your dues on time and agree not to take advantage of our policies to help you avoid paying a fair dues rate. You agree to work hard to learn your art and to trust my decisions about when you are ready for promotions. You agree to commit yourself to the learning process and to pass on the positive lessons you learn while at the dojo. 

Learn about the sensei’s part of the social contract.

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Want to be a part of an international budo community?

When you join the Shudokan Martial Arts Association, you can belong to judo, aikido, iaido, jujutsu, and karate divisions, each with their own division leader and prominent members to connect with.

If you want to join a Japanese karate association, call SMAA at 734-720-0330 or fill out our contact form.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Why to Avoid Surprise

Do you want to become a relentless martial artist?

You’ll need an unrelenting mind to avoid the four sicknesses martial artists encounter: fear, captivation, doubt, and surprise.

Budoka should never be surprised. A mind that is surprised is a mind that is not prepared. In exploring the samurai ethos, it is a well-known fact that the warrior needs to be prepared to face each and every situation. 

The surprised mind leads to doubt and fear. Thus, we see that all four sicknesses are interrelated and one leads to the other—a situation to be avoided at all costs. 

A concept that is closely related to surprise is zanshin (literally “remaining mind”). The warrior always needs to be aware: aware of his or her surroundings, potential threats, undercurrents, and evolving situations. The warrior that understands zanshin, which suggests a continuing vigilance, will never be surprised. To understand zanshin, the mind must live in the now and never wander to the past or the future. This can only be achieved through strict discipline and training. 

Learn how fudoshin can make your mind immovable.

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Friday, April 1, 2022

Fudoshin Can Rid You of Fear and Doubt

How can fudoshin -an immovable mind- help martial artists?

The mind can easily fall victim to one of the four sicknesses of the warrior. The sicknesses of the mind are fear, doubt, captivation, and surprise.

FEAR 

When your mind is taken by fear, it displaces everything else in your mind and spirit. It distorts your thoughts or expectations and ultimately hampers realizing your true intent. It should be clear that a fearful mind is an ineffective mind. Applying discipline to the mind and always staying in the moment, not letting the mind wander to the past or anticipate the future eliminates fear. Fear is generated through the wandering mind. 

DOUBT 

When the mind is presented with too many options and is uncertain on which path to pick, the mind staggers and remains in the moment too long, thus creating openings in our “armor.” An indecisive mind is held prisoner by indecision, resulting in no choice being made. Making no choice can be worse than making the wrong choice. To make a choice, and then stick to it, eliminates doubt. 

This is decisiveness, 100 percent commitment to a path with full dedication. When doubt is present in our mind, there can be no decisiveness. Practice making decisive choices and following through on them. 

Learn more about fudoshin.

Join the Shudokan Martial Arts Association

You may become a better student, teacher, and performer with support from the SMAA. You’ll gain insight from our prestigious members in multiple countries and can earn reputable certificates of rank. We can answer your questions with credible historic Japanese martial arts knowledge and experience.

Call us today at 734-720-0330 or contact us to join an inclusive martial arts association.

Monday, March 14, 2022

How Did the Samurai Use Ai-Uchi?

What is ai-uchi?

How was it used by the samurai?

Ai-uchi, to most practitioners, simply means the two sides of a bamboo stave strike each other at the same time, so their points cancel out each other in a contest. It also means “mutual strikes.” Your strike hits the opponent the same time as he strikes you. So theoretically, both of you die. 

There are a number of things to consider concerning ai-uchi. In a sportive contest of point-taking, like kendo or karate, it's a lot of fun to just go at it and strike the opponent without fear of much bodily injury, thanks to rules and protective gear. But the samurai were a conservative lot. Their philosophy of fighting and combat—which may surprise modern day martial arts people who strut and preen about their willingness to fight with anybody—was very, very reserved. 

Their conclusions were that there were three things that can result from a real battle, and two out of three were very, very bad. The good result is if you win and the other side dies. The really bad result is if the other guy wins and you die, and finally the third is still bad news for you; ai-uchi is when both of you kill each other off. 

Now, two out of three chances of killing your enemy might not be bad if you're fighting to defend someone else, and you're willing to sacrifice yourself to save your lord and/or loved ones from the enemy attacker, as long as you destroy the other guy. But in terms of self-preservation, these are really lousy odds. 

So really philosophical warriors, who thought about the consequences a lot, were quite reluctant to engage in real combat at the jump of the hat. Even if they were technically very good, there's no telling what chance and luck may bring to you . . . you could slip on a banana peel, for example, and so the lousiest warrior for the other side could take your head. If he did have to go into battle, the classical warrior was pretty much resigned to accepting the fact that the odds were two to one that he'd be dead come the next day, all other things being equal.

Learn about the different ways of interpreting ai-uchi.

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Mentally Approaching the Sword

Do you practice iaido?  Do you know about the spiritual significance of the sword? It was said that the Emperor Gotoba (1180-1239), who whil...