Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
I want to make it very clear here, that I am absolutely not approving of the use of Martial Arts in general, and swordsmanship in particular, to hurt or kill other sentient beings.
Some of the posts on this blog are very technical with a pedagogical content, and mostly intended for actual students of one way.
As a teacher I often use historical anecdotes or even jokes to help students memorize details of techniques and moves.
Some of my readers, not involved in Martial Arts might have from this post inferred that I approve of assassination, or of using sword to kill other sentient beings. This is not the case, and if I mislead you in that direction, I apologize for it.
My goal is to reconcile Buddhism and Martial Arts to get past the apparent contradiction between the ideal of compassion and violence. I believe in the potential of Martial Arts to transform ourselves, providing they are skilfully taught and practiced, as was for example Karate in the traditional society of Okinawa at the beginning of the 20th century.
In the following weeks, I intend to post on MUSHIN - commonly translated as "Empty Mind" - a concept or state at the heart of Zen and Budo Practices.
MUSHIN has sometimes been used as a justification for terrible actions by Japanese warriors and soldiers during the first half of the 20th century.
It is important for students of the Ways to realize what Mushin really means.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
In this excerpt from Thoughts on Iaido published by Dragon Tsunami Sensei Nakamura makes an interesting (and gruesome) point about the actual use of a waza similar to our MJER Iwanami
There are techniques in which the palm of the left hand is placed along the back ridge of the blade. These are ineffective and are a waste of time and dangerous. A case in point is that of Lieutenant Colonel Aizawa who cut his fingers employing this type of technique. Aizawa once had been a kenjutsu teacher at the former Army Toyama Academy and was an expert in kendo and bayonet fencing. In 1935, using his western model service saber, he assassinated the head of the Military Affairs Bureau, Major General Nagata (this action preceded the February 26 Revolt of 1936). After failing to kill the general with three cuts, Aizawa placed his left palm on the back of his sword at the mid point, assumed a bayonet fencing "half-right stance" and thrust strongly with his right hand, skewering the general completely through from back to front. This technique is very similar to the All Japan Iaido Federation's fifth form called "kissaki kaeshi" and Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu's "Iwanami". Aizawa cut all four fingers of his left hand to the bone. He later stated, "As a Toyama Academy fencing instructor, I was disappointed and embarrassed that I was unable to cleave the general in two with one stroke."
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The study realized in 2008 compared 12 people from the Atlanta area with more than three years of daily practice in Zen meditation with 12 others who had never practiced meditation.
While having their brains scanned, the subjects were asked to focus on their breathing. Every once in a while, they had to distinguish a real word from a nonsense word presented at random intervals on a computer screen and, having done that, promptly “let go” of the just processed stimulus by refocusing on their breath.
Read an abstract of the study
Read the full article (Good luck...)
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The nine-year study followed 201 African American men and women, average age 59 years, with narrowing of arteries in their hearts who were randomly assigned to either practice the stress-reducing Transcendental Meditation technique or to participate in a control group which received health education classes in traditional risk factors, including dietary modification and exercise.
All participants continued standard medications and other usual medical care.
The study found:
- A 47 percent reduction in the combination of death, heart attacks, and strokes in the participants
- Significant reduction in blood pressure.
- Significant reductions in psychological stress in the high-stress subgroup
Monday, November 16, 2009
He did not. Sensei Yamamoto studied Niten Ichi Ryu, a school of kenjutsu founded by the legendary Miyamoto Musashi during the first half of the 17th century. For what I understood of our conversation, Master Yamamoto could not study very long because his instructor died.
Now, if you research Niten Ichi Ryu, you will hardly find any mention of Iai Jutsu, but of Kenjutsu only. I did not get the opportunity to discuss that with Kaicho. It could simply be that Niten Ichi Ryu being a Koryu, the information available is not very reliable, and that some Iai moves are part of it's curriculum, after all, before you get to hack your opponents right and left, you have to draw your sword out of the saya !
Friday, November 13, 2009
The Teachings of the Buddha are not to be taken as the ultimate truth, the Truth comes from within, The Buddha himself insisted that no one should accept his teachings on faith without verifying for themselves their validity.
I believe this is the reason why Buddhism and Science are not exclusive of each other. Although there are differences in the path followed by the scientist and the Buddhist, systematic doubt is a common tool used by these 2 disciplines.
The Kalama Sutra relates how the Kalamas of the town of Kesaputta in Northern India , who did not know what to think of different doctrines taught by the various philosophers and teachers visiting their town, asked the Buddha questions about them and their teachings.
Here is the relevant portion of the text:
The Buddha once visited a small town called Kesaputta in the kingdom of Kosala. The inhabitants of this town were known by the common name Kalama. When they heard that the Buddha was in their town, the Kalamas paid him a visit, and told him:
"Sir, there are some recluses and brahmanas who visit Kesaputta. They explain and illumine only their own doctrines, and despise, condemn and spurn others' doctrines. Then come other recluses and brahmanas, and they, too, in their turn, explain and illumine only their own doctrines, and despise, condemn and spurn others' doctrines. But, for us, Sir, we have always doubt and perplexity as to who among these venerable recluses and brahmanas spoke the truth, and who spoke falsehood."
"Yes, Kalamas, it is proper that you have doubt, that you have perplexity, for a doubt has arisen in a matter which is doubtful. Now, look you Kalamas,
do not be led by reports, or tradition, or hearsay.
Be not led by the authority of religious texts,
not by mere logic or inference,
nor by considering appearances,
nor by the delight in speculative opinions,
nor by seeming possibilities,
nor by the idea: 'this is our teacher'.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Mass. conducted a trial of 40 older adults with an average age of 65 years who had symptomatic arthritis of the knee. Study participants were randomly assigned to either 60 minutes of tai chi or twice-weekly sessions of attention control focused on wellness education and stretching for a period of 12 weeks. The knee arthritis patients who were assigned to the tai chi group reported significantly greater improvement in their arthritis pain. They also reported significantly greater improvements in physical function, depression, and health-related quality of life.
Article by June Chen, MD in HealthandAge.com
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Three men laid the foundations for modern Japan and were to rule in succession :
Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582), warlord of the province of Owari,
Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598), one of his generals,
Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616), Nobunaga's junior ally.
Nobunaga, known for his cruelty, almost unified Japan but was betrayed by one of his lieutenants and slained.
Hideyoshi, known for his impetuosity, finally unified Japan and brought the end of the Civil War Era. When all Japan was unified and no enemy could be found, he tried and failed to conquer China. He died from old age in 1598 without ever becoming Shogun.
When Nobunaga was slained, Ieyasu, known for his patience, decided not dispute about Hideyoshi's claim for regency and kept the position of No.2 in Japan. When Hideyoshi died, Ieyasu vanquished his successor at the battle of Sekigahara in 1600. He got the title of Shogun in 1603, established his Shogunate in Edo, known as Tokyo today, and his dynasty ruled until 1867...
The following tale is told about these three extraordinary rulers :
There was a little bird who wouldn't sing. Nobunaga said, “little bird, if you don't sing, I'll kill you." Hideyoshi said, “little bird, if you don't sing, I'll make you sing." Tokugawa said, “little bird, if you don't sing, I'll wait for you to sing."
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Kaicho was presented with a Cowboy hat by the Texas Yoshukai group of Mr Byron Taylor. He seemed to enjoy it thoroughly...
A group of Canadians from British Columbia was lead by their Sensei Greg Turnbull who won the Grand Champion competition with a very impressive kata. His demonstration was an example for us all. Not only was he fast, he was also very stable and his stances very strong.
It is unusual to find someone who can display speed and stability. It is a very difficult thing to master. A lot of it is about trying to place the weight on the front of the foot (K1 point) and grabbing the ground with the toes. Easier said than done, years of attention are needed to develop this.
Cody Ray and I performed Kendo Kata in its entirety - Odachi and Kodachi part. You could have heard a pin drop in the civic center. Later that evening during the party that followed this event, I had comments about the relief people felt when we completed it : "Nobody was hurt..."