Further to my post on koryu legitimacy and folks claiming to be or opining about soke and headmasters and whatnot. I have been having multiple discussions with very senior folks for the last few months who have expressed a large desire to simply practice and get out of all these concerns, claims and counterclaims of rank and rule.
I’m with them. I have no desire for more rank than is useful to or wanted by my organization (which at the moment means no more rank than I have). I have no use for koryu paper since I have more or less outlived my instructors. Who would give me paper? Current claimants to leadership of some of the koryu that I practice are junior to me, what would I do with certifications from them? What meaning would they have? Perhaps put them in the “dresser drawer of honour” as one fellow practicioner calls it. Organizational rank these days is another strange thing. As the organization becomes younger I get older, as the kids move in and take over they will be changing the rules and modifying the standards that I graded under. What does that mean? Was I wrong? Are they wrong? Is the art going to hell in a handbasket? How about I just practice and let other folks worry about that stuff.
What about those cases where I am the “last man standing”, most senior of my line of instruction, I lost the tontine and have no more teacher. What do I do? In the past I have worried about this, I have been concerned that I have no formal paper that says I can teach, or I have been concerned that there are outside organizations that should have a say in the situation. It’s a real concern, I want to do right by my teachers, I want to do right by my students and by the art.
These days I want to practice and since I need partners I teach. So far no lightning has come out of the sky to fry my blasphemous bones, and what my teachers taught me is being passed along. That’s the important thing isn’t it? I teach because I was taught, I practice what I was given to practice.
I never had much self-worth caught up in the arts so there’s no particular concern on my part what other people or organizations have to say about what I do. I just want to practice and that’s the real bottom line, it’s the practice. A school, a lineage is the connection between student and teacher, or between two folks who get together and swing swords, regardless of teacher, for the sake of the art. For the sake of meeting each other and sharing a common experience together.
When you’re young you get all worked up about rank and legitimacy and how much money you have and what car you drive and all sorts of status symbols. As you get older you think more about how nice it is to get up in the morning and not have a knee collapse under you. Hospice workers will tell you that when most folks are on their deathbed they don’t go on about how much money they made or how big their house was, they talk about the time they should have spent with their family and friends. The important thing about the martial arts is the practice, not the power. A city bus will get you the same place as that million dollar super-car, both will get you to the dojo to train. I don’t care any more which one gets me there, I just want to train and if I’m the most senior person there I’m going to be up front. If I’m not I’m going to be not up front.
Either way I’m going to be training because when it comes down to the bare bones, there is just practice.