Note: I sent an email to my students and made a note about what was bothering me at the previous practice. Because it was primarily for my own few students, it was informal and blunt. But I needed to make a point. Perhaps this may also help in illuminating my own views on koryu bujutsu.
My TR folks:
Just a note that this Friday we are going back to kogusoku, omote. For more senior students, you guys really need to nail the first ten kata down better. For beginners, the kogusoku is one of the three main bodies of study in Takeuchi-ryu: bladed weapons, bo (staff) and jujutsu (taijutsu). It’s a basic foundational skill.
Also, another note:
Takeuchi-ryu, and classical koryu bujutsu is not sport. Get that out of your heads. This may be a new concept for the newbies among you, but for the older timers, this should be atarimae; it goes without saying. But I had to say it and after I thought about it, it really upset me to even have to say this after all these years of training. You folks should know better and should teach the kohai better.
Here’s the concrete example: The other week we were doing some quick studies of standing jujutsu work. I noticed that one pair was doing something really weird, but couldn’t quite put a finger on what was wrong because I was busy helping the other paired group and trying to help everyone get the basic waza right. Then it hit me. You guys were helping each other up off the mat after the throw. What the heck was that about???!!!!
Okay, look: say you’re in a wrestling club, or a judo club. Yeah, you help the guys off the mat because that’s sportsmanlike. Like after a good hit on a quarterback, you help him up in football. Good sportsmanlike conduct. Very nice.
But in koryu, the kata doesn’t end with the throw or the “finishing technique.” The kata ends when you end up back where you started from, ready to start another kata. When you throw the guy down, you do a finishing move and then step away carefully, so that the opponent doesn’t have a chance to harm you in a last ditch attack. That’s the notion of the ending zanshin. You find that attitude in TR, you find it in our Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu class, you find it in every koryu style you can think of. You do NOT help the enemy get up off the ground so he can beat you up again. This has nothing to do with sportsmanship. The koryu originally had to do with sheer survival. It’s not a game. You don’t score points and then shake hands. You are being trained to survive an encounter with someone who wants to do harm to you and/or your family, if even only in a classical, remote sense using sticks or swords or whatever. Same same.
If you want to be mindful of your training partner, you do so by being sure of your technique so you do not harm him in a needless manner. You train to their potential and abilities. You be the best sankaku and maru you can be. You do not “break” the kata and do it wrong, thereby causing a wrong reaction or non-reaction, unless you both can handle it. You perform the proper etiquette before and after the kata with mindfulness and appreciation, not just for form. You do NOT lend a helping hand in the middle of the kata.
I have told you all the true story over and over again of the police officer who trained to take away a gun pointed at him. But in practice, he would immediately give it back to his training partner. Well, one day he actually walked right into a dangerous situation and the bad guy pointed a gun at him, point blank. By instinct, he quickly snatched it out of the surprised criminal’s hands. Then, without thinking, he gave it back to the perpetrator! He did it because he was operating on autopilot. He acted the way he trained. Luckily he recovered quickly enough to wrestle away the gun again and survive the encounter.
So let’s say there’s a guy who invades your home. He wants to rape you AND your wife and kids, then cut you into little pieces while you’re still alive, and then burn your house down, dog included. You have no choice. This is not a pissing match or a bar fight where you don’t have to prove your stupid manliness. You can’t walk away. This is life or death. You have no recourse. You have to knock the guy down and stop him. So you do that. You throw him to the floor, and he’s stunned. What do you do? Offer him a hand to help him up? No! Of course not. He’s just going to get up and rape and kill you. You make sure he’s knocked out, tie him up or something, and then call the cops.
Or (for Joel), let’s say some crazy Jihadi got it into his mind to go knife everybody he saw in the street, and you just happened to be walking along minding your own business when that happens. Thanks to your superb training, you take the knife away and knock him down. Then what? Do you help him up and give him back the knife? Heck no. You make sure he doesn’t get up, and then back off very, very carefully, making sure he doesn’t have a concealed weapon, bomb, or he doesn’t have any buddies lurking around. That’s zanshin. It has nothing to do with being a nice guy or not in a sporting match. It has to do with training to survive. Sports and koryu are very, very different mindsets.
So if in practice you help the guy up, guess what. You are going to do that subconsciously when it’s for real. You are how you practice.
See, that’s the difference between koryu training and training for sports. Sports is fun. Sports budo is great for letting off steam, for competition and getting in condition and so on. But koryu bujutsu is not a sport.
That said, I therefore make it REQUIRED that you read every book by Dave Lowry you can get your hands on, and go through every article posted on the koryu.com web site so you understand what koryu is all about. If you have a hard time reading stuff online, then support the folks at koryu books by buying their books, which are collections of the essays. I used to recommend that you read these resources. Now it’s required. I know you all work, so it will take time to go through all the writings, but you need to read them, especially if the above explanation about zanshin and koryu has you scratching your head in puzzlement. If you still don’t get what the big deal is about, then seriously, there’s better sports budo schools all over Honolulu where you might get better training at. Without zanshin, there is no integrity in koryu training. Train hard, train with mindfulness.