Sunday, June 22, 2014

I finally did it !


This morning I completed  a goal I had set about a year ago : Practice each waza of our KNBK curriculum 150 times each.

Well actually, I only practiced the waza I know. Advanced techniques such as Okuden Suwariwaza I never really studied enough to feel comfortable with them.
Also, these are just the solo practice waza : Batto - Ho (12 waza), Shoden seiza (11 waza), Chuden tatehiza (10 waza) and Okuden Tachiwaza (11 waza). Katachi are not included. 
I also had to limit myself to  the standing version of Chuden Waza as my right knee is not ready yet for Tatehiza.

But all together that makes quite a few waza, quite a few Nukitsuke, Kirioroshi, Chiburi and Noto ! With a total of 44 waza, that makes a total of 6600 waza.

Does it make me an expert ? certainly not, but it has helped me improve. I strongly believe that only the consecutive repetition of the same waza, times and times, allows you to become acutely aware of body positions, the muscles you actually use, the way you bend your joints... Develop muscle memory - And is the only way to get better by researching and fine-tuning your moves. In my personal case, I think I have to practice a move at least 12 times in a row to be able to really feel the details of how my body relates to it.

Most of us have heard the saying that every move should be repeated 10,000 times to be perfected executed. Where does this number actually comes from ? Is it accurate ?

Well, it comes from Chinese Taoism and it is not to be taken literally. In Taoism the "ten thousand things" means the Complete Universe, all that exists. So when you are told to practice each waza 10,000 times, what you are told really, is to keep practicing them for ever...

Nevertheless, I believe in progressing step by step, and in recording your progress. Every time I practice one waza 10 times, I draw a little line on a recording sheet. It is easy to do, and I invite you to follow me.


If all goes well, I will visit my friends Francis and Jean Luc, also my Kendo and Ju Jitsu Instructors in France next week. More to learn and enjoy. 



For those of you who cannot practice from Seiza or Tatehiza positions, the standing versions of the Shoden and Chuden waza are beautifully described in the Advanced Samurai Swordsmanship set of DVD by Masayuki Shimabukuro Hanshi and Carl Long Kyoshi.

In a next post I will elaborate on the healing aspect of this kind of practice on the joints.
 




Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Raising from Seiza


A friend of mine had a Math teacher, a long time ago, who would individually comment on the test results of each student. The guy was a great motivator, one of his classical saying was :

"Mr Smith,  there were to ways to solve this problem: The right way, ... and yours"


As we get older, it becomes increasingly important to save our energy and optimize its use.

Basically: apply the littlest effort to achieve the maximum effect.

Last February I hurt (again) my right knee: I was performing a classical Jujitsu move when my knee unexpectedly collapsed at an unusual and painful angle. 

Since then, I have avoided walking as much as as I used to (and I used to walk a lot). This considerably weakened the quadriceps of both my legs, and the my right calf. I am presently trying to slowly rebuild them by gently practicing my Iai from Seiza and Tatehiza positions. And here is a little trick I practice, which you might want to try.

At the end of each waza, you stand up from a half kneeling position : one knee is up with its foot flat on the ground, the other knee is on the floor.

Your position in this stance is important, you can do it the hard way or the smart way.

If instead of using a short stance to lift your torso vertically using mostly your quadriceps, you adopt a slightly longer stance and push forward with your back foot, you will be surprised how easier it becomes. You will raise almost effortlessly with more stability.



To do this, I take a stance about 6" longer than usual. You need to figure out what is good for you. 

Of course, if you are tough, you still can do it the hard way !


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Our Mundane World


This "Mundane World" is an expression we often hear, an other name for the "World of life and death" or Samsara. A world we should try to avoid because of its shallowness...

It is interesting to note that originally "mundane" means "of the world". So that really, the mundane world is the world of the world, or the worldly world...



Are we really meant to avoid the world of the world ?

Sitting in Zazen to experience nirvana, possibly reach great levels of spiritual accomplishments and why not save the world may seem like a worthy enterprise.

But in the end, we are rooted in this mundane world, there is no other world and this is where we are meant to daily operate.

"To return to the root is to find the meaning" (1). The mundane world, the worldly world, this is where the root is, and if we look for it in a different, non mundane world, we act just like a man trying to find his eyeglasses when they sit on his nose.



Friday, May 9, 2014

Nothing Lacking, Nothing in Excess


The Shin Jin Mei  (Chinese  信心銘  - Xin Xin Ming or Hsin Hsin Ming), Faith in mind, is a poem attributed to the Third Chinese Chan (Zen) Patriarch Kanchi Sozan (Chinese Jianzhi Sengcan  or Chien-chih Seng-ts'an)

One of the earliest Zen document we have, it is a beautiful and syncretic text, in which Indian Mahayana Buddhism is already deeply influenced by Chinese Taoism.

Multiple translations are available, but one of its stanza has been rendered as :

The Way is perfect like Vast Space, with nothing lacking, and nothing in Excess.

Here is a video of Masayaki Shimabukuro Hanshi, which I believe perfectly illustrate Nothing Lacking, Nothing in Excess...



Enjoy, Be inspired, Practice...

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Posture, Tension, Breathing


The whole attitude of a human being appears in his posture, in the relationship of tension and relaxation, and in breathing. Posture, tension and relaxation and breath can never be exclusively physical factors. They are integral functions of the person manifesting himself anagolously on the psychological and spiritual levels. 

For this reason, IT IS POSSIBLE TO BEGIN THE WORK ON THE WHOLE MAN WITH THEM. 

Karlfried Graf von Durckheim in Hara, the vital centre of man.




The capital letters are mine.

There is basically no need to master complex philosophical or intellectual concepts to progress on a path.

Diligent training (exercitium) in maintaining proper
  • Posture
  • Tension/Relaxation
  • Breathing
is fundamentally important and necessary. 

No amount of physical or intellectual technical expertise will ever compensate for a lack of mastery of these basics. 

Your zazen should be anchored in your lower abdomen, your breathing deep and calm, your spine kept gently but not stiffly erect.



In Sword Arts, you should cut from the same place, your grip should be firm without excessive tension (Right hand push, Left hand pulls), and your breathing should flow with your moves.




Practice




Friday, May 2, 2014

Outdoor practice



Now that the polar vortex left us, is a perfect time for outdoor practice. 4 of us met at Kiesel Park in Auburn, AL on Sunday (April 13) morning and trained for 2 hours. 

Here Travis Page and Jim Robertson practice Tsukekomi, the second waza of the Tachi uchi no kurai set of MJER.

Tsukekomi - 01


Tsukekomi - 02



Tsukekomi - 03






Monday, April 28, 2014

Rivers



Rivers form their course by means of a process of repeated erosion. As rain falls on a hillside, that rain gathers into a rivulet. That rivulet gradually creates a channel for itself, and gradually grows into a stream. Eventually, as the channel of the stream is deepened and widened by repeated flows of water, the stream becomes a river which develops well-defined banks and a definite course. 


In the same way, our actions become habitual. These habits become part of our personality and we take these habits with us from life to life in the form of mental formation or habit energy.

This is otherwise illustrated as “Watch your thoughts; they become words. Your words become actions. Your actions become habit. Your habits become your character. And your character becomes your destiny.”

Our actions in this life are conditioned by the habits which we have formulated in our past during this life, and possibly over the course of previous lives. 













































This is what practice is about.


Et oui...