Do you ever wonder about your legacy? I don’t, not really, I sort of took to heart what my mother said decades ago. “When you’re dead, you’re dead, they put you in the ground and the worms eat you”. I’m pretty sure she said that. In any case, when I’m dead I am not going to care about my legacy. I’ll let my students worry about that.
On the other hand, I worry about my legacy now, while I’m alive. I have spent a very large portion of my life in the martial arts. I have, since the middle 1980s worked to establish iaido and jodo in this region of Canada. I would like to see them both strong, healthy and happy, but for different reasons. Jodo of course is “my baby”, I started practicing Zen Ken Ren Jo with the specific purpose of adding it to the CKF. For this I had the permission and encouragement of Asa sensei, the President of the federation. For several years I only practiced the kendo federation jodo (seitei) because I already had two other koryu, Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu and Niten Ichiryu. My intent was always clear, as is my ultimate goal, to complete the section, to have a complete set of ranks so that CKF jodo will be self-sustaining.
Jodo was my student thing, I didn’t study it like I did my koryu, I simply practiced what I was taught, it was relaxing, no pressure, it was my practice “for me”. Today it’s a bit different, as I predicted to myself there is pressure from the membership to add koryu to our practice, so we have done that, but in several different lines as I have encouraged people to practice it “for themselves”. In other words, find a sensei and practice selfishly, for yourself, without worrying about what everyone else is doing. We have the standard practice, seitei, to keep us moving along together.
The legacy I think about in Jodo is a strong, independent-minded, self-sufficient bunch of folks who are confident in their own practice. Confident enough not to argue and snipe at each other. It is those allowed, permitted, differences that make this possible. The biggest weapon in the budo-bitching arsenal is “you’re not doing it right”. Take that away and you are forced back on personal insults like “you need a bath”. With multiple authorities to appeal to we can’t point to one and say “I have special knowledge of what’s correct”.
It also helps that jodo is an art where you can say “Oh? Show me how that works”. It makes a difference.
In iai, it’s a different legacy that I worry about, it’s the legacy of my sensei. My part in the iaido story is fairly superficial, it was as a support player to Ohmi sensei. It was always his vision that I followed as we built from nothing at all to a section that was self sufficient. One that could go its own way with a strong, independant style of practice. One that was recognized as being worthwhile around the world.
The principle was fairly simple from the beginning. Do it for the students. Whatever we did, it was for the students. Ohmi sensei never looked upward, never looked to his own advancement except where it would help the students. He looked, instead, toward those students, worrying about their instruction, worrying about gradings for them. It fell to me to organize the spring seminar so that Ohmi sensei could get some instruction for himself. Instruction he wanted so that he could teach the students correctly. It was, and remains, his seminar. It will always be his section, his iaido group that practices in this region. You only have to trace his lineage and see just how many dojo and sensei are “his”.
Do you wonder that I worry about his legacy? Without him the section might not have existed. Yes there were independently developing groups in Vancouver and Montreal at the same time, but it fell to Ohmi sensei to organize the center, to organize the section into existance as a national entity. To organize Canadian gradings from zero to 7dan. “We made it” as he would say, to where a few students went from ikkyu to 6dan entirely under the CKF. Ohmi sensei and I took 7dan under the CKF (with Japanese panelists of course) but we started with jump grades.
I would very much like to see one of our CKF 6dans make it to 7dan under a CKF panel and grading. I really think that would make my sensei’s legacy. Will I live that long? Once I’m dead I’m not going to care, that will fall to someone else, someone who does care.
One day I hope to see the jodo section do the same. While I may take 7dan in jodo under the CKF (there’s no way I’m doing it elsewhere) it would, again be with a jump grade start. Now I need to go figure out who has done all their jodo gradings under the CKF so I can figure out when to brag. One of our 6dans? Did we all jump grade that first time? Hmm I wish my memory was better. Surely one of our 5dans.
Who is going to fulfill my legacy?
Dec 19, 2018
April 6, Seito Bugei Juku seminar in Peterborough.
May 17-20 Annual CKF International Jodo and Iaido seminar and grading, (Kurogo sensei and Mansfield sensei) Guelph.
November 8-10 Annual CKF International Jodo seminar and grading (Kurogo sensei), Mississauga (Port Credit).