We do a lot of different stuff in the club, we do Niten, Jikiden, SMR, Tanjo, Shinto, Kage, Keishi, Shindo Munen (Hosoda) and a couple of seitei. But to me we only do a few things, we do maai, we do tai sabaki, we cut, hit or thrust.
We keep all that stuff separate because if it were all blurred together it wouldn’t be any fun. But I maintain that it’s all the same principles. Would be the same principles in any art we did, even French smallsword or German longsword. Singlestick, English quarterstaff, Dusak, Tanto, Phillipino sticks, I’ve never found anything unique in any of them.
But I have learned certain things in certain places and I tend to teach those things in those places. Why? Why not? We cycle through things, stick around long enough and you’ll get shown them in the places where I learned them. I might even tell you who taught it to me.
If you want a lesson on slipping to the side of a blade, we’ll do Tanjo. If you want a lesson in mental toughness and walking straight at an opponent so determinedly that he fails to cut you down, we’ll do Niten. If you want to learn how to swing a sword in a massive sweeping curve and just nick an artery at the farthest reaches of the swing, we’ll do Hosoda or Kage. If you want to learn how to use a shoto with maximum leverage, we’ll do Shinto Ryu.
All schools concentrate on a few principles, all principles are contained in all schools, so all things can be taught in a single school. Fine, in fact, all things can be taught in a single kata, even a single solo kata, and much as I’d love to spend a year on Jikiden Mae and its variations with a class, I doubt I’d have more than one or two people left after the first month.
I’ve got students who want to learn more kata from many schools, I’ve got students who want to concentrate on fewer kata and one school. It’s got nothing to do with me. It’s got everything to do with the student. A student’s training goes through stages and cycles. Sometimes the student feels the need to concentrate, sometimes the student wants to explore afield.
To be brutally blunt, that’s got nothing to do with me. I’m not really in charge of my student’s training. I’m not getting paid by anyone to teach anyone, and I spend money to do what we do. Seminars may “break even” but the truth is, I forego earnings to organize and run them. Here’s the bottom line, I train, people come along with me for a while. If they stick around long enough they will train in all the various arts we train with, and in each one they will be shown a different face of the martial arts, because “That’s where you learn that”.
Over the years those who have come along with me have moved on (physically) and teach all, part or a single art of what they learned with me. Some teach only iai, some jodo, some combinations including Niten, tanjo, whatever. Regardless of what they teach, what they learned in one of those specific places in one of those weird arts we do, will be with them and they can teach that concept in the art they choose to teach.
Remember the Sufi story about the elephant and the blind men? Most people figure it’s a warning that if you don’t investigate long enough you won’t get the whole picture (an elephant is a long snaky thing, it’s like a rope, it’s like a tree trunk, it’s nothing but noise and very smelly, heavy, rain). Some think the story is about preconceived notions, and that truth is always relative (like Roshamon). Me, I think that being in certain places is the best way to learn certain aspects of elephanthood. If you want to learn about the nose, be in the front. If you want to learn about the smelly bits, be in the rear.
If you want to learn certain aspects of the martial arts from me, this is where you learn that.
June 30, 2017
July Niten and Kage seminars: