Monday, June 28, 2010

Iai Demonstation

A great Iai Jutsu demonstration by Sensei Javier Machado from Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Sensei Javier Machado teaches MJER Iaijutsu, Shito Ryu Karate and  Kobudo at his dojo the Machado Budo Kai in Buenos Aires. He is a student of Renshi Carl Long Sensei.

Friday, June 25, 2010

An Eye for an Eye...

Here is a  passage from the General Introduction  to The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation, edited by W.Y. Evans Wetz.

This might explain why after all these years of "An Eye for an Eye ", mankind has not progressed so much.

So long as men are held in the bondage of appearances, so long will they use such terms as moral and immoral, right and wrong, good and evil, and enact laws to preserve virtue and to destroy vice; not knowing that all sentient beings are members of one body, even as the Christian Seer St Paul perceived; and that therefore, whatever punishment be meted out to the one part cannot but affect all parts of the social organism. In this connexion the writer recalls how, when a student under the late Professor Williams James, he was taught that if even the most inconspicuous Eskimo within the Arctic Circle were to suffer pain and misfortune, it would inevitably affect, although unconsciously, every other human being on the planet. And the eminent psychologist illustrated his teaching by pointing put that if the tiniest pebble were picked up and p[aced elsewhere, event at a very short distance from its original resting place, the whole center of gravity of the Earth would be shifted.



For these reasons, none of the fully enlightened Teachers have advocated, as do the unenlightened multitude, the infliction of suffering and death upon others. Throughout uncounted milleniums, even as now, the unenlightened, the world-fettered, have maintained that this doctrine of the Enlightened Ones is impracticable, that if society is to be held together there must be the jungle law of eye for eye, tooth for tooth. Because of man's failure to rewrite his legal codes in the light of Divine Wisdom, the world today is probably more given to serious crime, particularly in the legalized form of war, than at any epoch in known history. And, notwithstanding that humanly instituted laws have failed to make man good or brotherly or wise after all these milleniums, Ignorance remains unshaken. Inevitably, as the Great Gurus teach, what men sow in law-courts or on battle-fields produces ever new harvests; and the sowing will continue until they recognize, individually and collectively, the Higher Law of the Divine At-one-ment of mankind, irrespective of nationality, race, religion, or social status, and, equally, of everything that lives.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Short Zen Story

When he still was a young student of Zen, Yamaoka Tesshu (founder of Mu to Ryu school of Kenjutsu) once visited Dokuon of Shokoku.

Desiring to show his attainment, he said: "The mind, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of phenomena is emptiness.”

Dokuon, who was smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. This made the youth quite angry.

If nothing exists," said Dokuon, "where did this anger come from?"



Calligraphy by Yamaoka Tesshu, who became a Zen and Calligraphy master as well as a Kendo Master.
Its meaning is "Tiger" .

Monday, June 21, 2010

Iaido - Zentekigyakuto

Another video taped at the Dothan Botanical Garden last Thursday with my students, in the first part a group practice of the Sword waza "Zentekigyakuto", the 7th one of the "Batto-Ho" series. In the 2nd part the Bunkai practice of the same move.


Batto Ho is a group of waza common to several Styles of Iaido, including Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu.
the one we study in Dothan at the Yoshukai Dojo and in Pensacola at the Big Green Drum Dojo


In our Bunkai interpretation of Zentekigyakuto, the two opponents walk in the same direction. As Uchidachi (the bad guy) turns and draws his sword up to cut Shidachi (the good guy), this ones stops him by an upward draw (Kiri age) toward his hands or face and keeps pushing him back. As Uchidachi steps back he is off balance and Shidachi cuts him in an oblique cut (Kesa Giri).

There are 2 versions of Zentekigyakuto, depending upon how fast Uchidachi retrreats, Shidachi takes one or two steps toward him before cutting. The finishing oblique cut is to the Right or the Left, depending upon which foot is forward (it is advisable to cut away from one's own foot).

As previously stated for our other videos this is not a perfect demonstration, but simply an example of what we practice in our Iaijutsu class at the Yoshukai Dojo in Dothan, Alabama. If you wish to see the real stuff, please refer to Masayuki Shimabukuro Sensei videos : Samurai Swordmanship


The Bunkai is our own interpretation of a situation where Zentekigyakuto could be used. There are of course other possible interpretations. I invite you to figure some out and post videos on Youtube for us to compare and discuss. Remember however that Sword Practice, even with a Boken (wooden sword) can generate serious wounds.

Bunkai practice brings an element of reality in the practice of all our waza (or kata in other martial arts) it forces us into taking into account various elements such as terrain, light, distance and timing, which are not easily taken into account in the Dojo. 

Good luck in your practice.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

IAIDO : Zantotsuto

Another video taped at the Dothan Botanical Garden last Thursday with my students, in the first part a group practice of the Sword waza "Zantotsuto", the 6th one of the "Batto-Ho" series. In the 2nd part the Bunkai practice of the same move.


Batto Ho is a group of waza common to several Styles of Iaido, including Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu.
the one we study in Dothan at the Yoshukai Dojo and in Pensacola at the Big Green Drum Dojo.

In our Bunkai interpretation of Zantotsuto, the two opponents walk toward each other. As Uchidachi (the bad guy) raises his hands to draw his sword, Shidachi (the good guy) stops him by drawing faster right on top of his hands. As Uchidachi steps back Shidachi follows him with the intention to skewer him (Tsuki attack). Uchidachi draws his sword under Shidachi's sword and tries to whack it out of the way by hitting it upward with his own sword. However, Shidachi keeps pushing and cuts Uchidachi, either in a vertical downward cut (Kirioroshi) or in a forward slicing cut of his hands.

As previously stated for our other videos this is not a perfect demonstration, but simply an example of what we practice in our Iaijutsu class at the Yoshukai Dojo in Dothan, Alabama. If you wish to see the real stuff, please refer to Masayuki Shimabukuro Sensei videos : Samurai Swordmanship



The Bunkai is our own interpretation of a situation where Zantotsuto could be used. There would be other interpretations, and I invite you to figure some out and post videos on Youtube for us to compare and discuss. Remember however that Sword Practice, even with a Boken (wooden sword) can generate serious wounds.

Good luck in your practice.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Zen and the Samurai : Yamaoka Tesshu

Yamaoka Tesshu was born in Edo (modern day Tokyo) in 1836. Tesshu was born into a samurai family. Tesshu practiced kendo from the age of nine, starting in the Shinkage Ryu Tradition. Later his family moved to Takayama where he studied Ono Ha Itto-Ryu.




When he was twenty-eight, Tesshu was defeated by a swordsman named Asari Gimei and became his student. Although larger and younger, Tesshu could not match his teacher’s mental state. During training sessions, Asari was known to force Tesshu all the way to the back of the dojo, then out into the street, knock him to the ground, and then slam the dojo door in his face. Confronted with this challenge, Tesshu increased his efforts in training and meditation continuously. 


Even when he was eating or sleeping, Tesshu was constantly thinking about fencing. He would sometimes wake up at night, jump out of bed, and get his wife to hold a sword so he could explore a new insight. Then, one morning in 1880, when he was 45 years old, Tesshu attained enlightenment while sitting in zazen.

Later that morning he went to the dojo to practice Kendo with Asari. Upon seeing Tesshu, Asari recognized at once that Tesshu had reached enlightenment. Asari, declined to fence with Tesshu, acknowledging Tesshu’s attainment by saying, “You have arrived.” 
  
Shortly after this, Tesshu went on to open his own school of fencing he named Mu To Ryu (Literally the School of No Sword).


Tesshu's Life is described by John Stevens in a beautiful book : The Sword of no Sword.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

In the beginning there was nothing

In the beginning there was nothing
And God said : "Let there be Light"
And there still was nothing.
But you could see it.
Genesis - revisited by Groucho Marx

The Tao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three;
Three produced All things.
All things leave behind them the Obscurity (out of which they have come),
and go forward to embrace the Brightness (into which they have emerged),
while they are harmonized by the Breath of Vacancy.
Tao Te Ching Chap 42

Shariputra,
Form does not differ from emptiness; emptiness does not differ from form.
Form itself is emptiness; emptiness itself is form.
Heart Sutra

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

IAIDO : Shato

This is another video taped at the Dothan Botanical Garden last Thursday with my students , first come a group practice of the Sword waza "Shato" which is the 4th one in a series named "Batto-Ho". Second comes the Bunkai practice of the same move.

Batto Ho is a group of waza common to several Styles of Iaido, including the one we study in Dothan and Pensacola : Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu


Shato means "Diagonal sword" in this waza, Shidachi (the good guy) stops Uchidachi at high level and cuts him obliquely from Left to Right. Uchidachi jumps back and cuts. Shidachi parries in a sort of Ukenagashi move, and then cuts Uchidachi obliquely from Right to Left. The 2 diagonal cuts (Kesa Giri) are the reason for the name of this waza.




Of course, this is not a perfect demonstration of Shato. If you wish to see the real stuff, please refer to Masayuki Shimabukuro Sensei videos : Samurai Swordmanship

Still, we enjoyed the exercise.

The Bunkai part is our own interpretation of a situation where  Shato could be used. There would be other interpretations, but this once works, and we had a good time trying to figure it out, and practicing it.

Bunkai brings to your practice an element of reality. The Waza has to be adapted to the environment, the size of the opponent, the timing, distances... 

Also, once one has practiced a Bunkai, he or she may go back to solo-practice, and visualize what he or she could actually be doing !

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bunkai

Last Thursday we went to the Dothan Botanical Garden to practice and tape Bunkai of 4 Bato-ho Waza : Tsuigekito, Shato, Zantotsuto and Zentekigyakuto.

Bunkai is a practical application of a solo practice move.

Bunkai can be very obvious, specially in basic kata such a Yoshukai Kion Kata Shodan, the moves are mostly combinations of inside middle blocks and direct front punch. 



In some other cases, such as old forms or kata which might have been modified for various reasons by generations of instructors, Bunkai may not be evident. When a master created a form, he might have had one, or several bunkai in mind for each move of the form. So there may be several possible and legitimate bunkai for every move or waza of a form, or kata.

Why practice Bunkai ? Because they bring an element of reality in our individual practice. Martial Arts are not about grace and elegance. Kata should be practiced to develop safe and automatic reactions to real life-threatening situations. If in our practice we perform an approximative, wrongly angled and timed move, in real life this may translate into injury.

So Bunkai practice with a skilled partner really attacking will help you feel and understand the actual meaning of the move. There is nothing like being hit to realize we were doing something wrong - or unskillful. It will also help you realize that the form (Kata - Waza) which some instructors insist is absolutely immutable has to be adapted to take into account size, distance and timing of an actual attack - if when you take one step as requested by the book you are too short, then take a second step...

Once you fine tuned your practice through bunkai practice with different partners of different size, speed and experience, then you can go back to your individual practice and visualize what you really are doing. This brings a totally different dimensions to your practice, and you will also realize the why's of some details you had never wondered about.