Friday, September 14, 2012

The Last Words of Huineng

As I was sharing with Elliston Roshi my sorrow at the passing of Shimabukuro Hanshi, he suggested I checked what Hui Neng had to say about his own passing, about 1200 years ago. I happened to be reading in Heinrich Dumoulin's “Zen Buddhism, a history – India and China.“ the part about Hui Neng, the 6th Patriarch of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, who was an extremely influential figure of the development of Buddhist Zen in China. 

As he knew his death was coming, Hui Neng addressed his disciples in this way :

" Good bye, all of you. I shall depart from you now. After I am gone, do not weep worldly tears, nor accept condolences, money, and silks from people, do not wear mourning garments, If you did so, it would not accord with the sacred Dharma, nor would you be true disciples of mine. Be the same as you would if I were here. And sit all together in meditation. If you are only peacefully calm and quiet, without motion, without stillness, without birth, without destruction, without coming, without going - this then is the great Way. After I have gone, just practice according to the Dharma in the same way that you did on the days that I was with you. Even though I were still to be in this world, if you went against the teachings, there would be no use in my having stayed here. "

The Cherry Blossom is to flowers, 
what the Samurai is to men.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Amazing research proves that training works !

In an experiment published by the Oxford Journal, British neuroscientists from the Centre for Neuroscience, Imperial College London compared the behavior and brain structure of a control group of individuals  - never involved with Martial Arts - with a group of karate black belts.

"Using 3D motion tracking, we investigated whether the ability to control ballistic arm movements was associated with differences in white matter microstructure. We found that karate experts are better able than novices to coordinate the timing of inter-segmental joint velocities" (in Individual Differences in Expert Motor Coordination Associated with White Matter Microstructure in the Cerebellum)

Translation : The Karateka punch faster...

Ouch !

Now this is amazing, Training works... If it were only for that, that study would represent a waste of lots of money and effort. There is an interesting aspect to this though : " the ability to control ballistic arm movements was associated with differences in white matter microstructure. " Translation : Training  locally modifies the structure of white matter in the brain. 

There are in the brain 2 types of matter : Grey and White, and apparently, the structure of that White matter is modified by training.

Then in another study published by the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, research found that Medittion involved changes in the white matter.

"In our work, we found that a form of mindfulness meditation, integrative body–mind training (IBMT), improved FA in areas surrounding the anterior cingulate cortex after 4-wk training more than controls given relaxation training. " (in Mechanisms of white matter changes induced by meditation)

Translation : Meditation changes the way white matter operates

Note that they don't say that the structure is changed, but that there are changes in the Way White matter operates. I tend to believe that changes in Functions are generally related to changes in Form - but I then, am no neuroscientist.

It is nevertheless interesting to link both information : 
  • Training in Martial Arts modifies - locally - the structure of White matter in the Brain, and 
  • Training in Meditation modifies the way This White matter operates.

This could mean that meditation is profitable to Martial Artists, and explain why some famous Sword masters were also practicing Zen (Miyamoto Musashi, Yamaoka Tesshu, Yagyu Munenori...)

This is also a good indication that practicing Martial Arts (or other physical activity developing speed and accuracy) would be profitable to Meditators...

Get off your butts...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Masayuki Shimabukuro Hanshi (1948 - 2012)

It is with great sadness that I learned that Masayuki Shimabukuro Hanshi passed last Saturday September 8. 

Masayuki Hidenobu Shimabukuro Hanshi was born in March 1948 in Osaka, Japan and began his sword training in 1975 under the direct supervision of Miura Takeyuki Hidefusa, Hanshi, 20th generation Grand'Master of Muso Jikiden Eishin-Ryu.

As International Chairman of the Nippon Kobudo Jikishin-kai under Miura Hanshi, and for the Iai-do and Batto-do divisions of the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai,Shimabukuro Sensei was in charge of the dissemination of authentic Eishin-ryu Samurai swordsmanship outside of Japan.

Masayuki Shimabukuro Hanshi was ranked 8th dan in Muso Jikiden Eishin-Ryu Iaijutsu, 8th dan Shito-ryu Karate-do, 7th dan in Shindo Muso-Ryu Jojutsu and he held the title of Hanshi - the highest title one can achieve in the Traditional Japanese Martial Arts - in both Iaido and Karate-do.

Demonstration Venezuela 2007

Not all Masters are nice. Shimabukuro Hanshi was a wonderful person. I only met him in 3 occasions, and - beside his technical expertise - I was deeply impressed by his human qualities : kindness, humility and patience. He was also a good cook !

All of us his students will deeply miss him. 

The best way to now honor his memory is to train hard, improve our practice and polish our spirits to continue the transmission of the Art he was teaching us. 

With deepest bows...