It’s been quite some time since I wrote an essay. I’ve been under the weather you might say. Turns out I have stage 4 prostate cancer and part of what I have been dealing with is a crippled left arm which is the result of a pinched nerve up in my neck, the cancer is in my bones. Fortunately in the last week or so I have being medicated to the point where I can function somewhat normally. As I said the arm is crippled so what I’m doing now is typing by voice.
I have been seen by four doctors and I am now scheduled for radiation treatment on the spine hopefully the arm will recover after that, if not I will deal with it. One thing I can say with no doubt whatsoever is that I am quite pleased to live in Canada with the health system that we have.
As for today’s topic, details and the big picture, we had a jodo class on Friday which I was able to supervise if not participate in very fully. During the class the subject of details came up as it always does in a class when one of the students asked for specifics. For some reason, at that moment I was trying to think of the big picture rather than the small detail. This is a thing that happens quite a bit to me when I’m teaching a class. A balance has to be kept in mind for both the instructor and for the student when talking about Kata. Kata are full of detail and they are to teach specific things perhaps a waza, perhaps a principal, but they are to teach, they’re not really there to show you what happens in a real life situation.
In fact, this class had exactly two Kata in it for the evening, for the two hours that we practiced. We started with number 10 of touchy-touchy No Cry (you know I’m going to leave that the way it is, Tachi Uchi no Kurai). The class started quite regularly, normally I would say, with one way to do the Kata, the thing is, I explained its meaning about four different ways in other words what I said was that many different interpretations could be given as to the riai of this technique, from a simple demonstration of distance and timing, to a way to prove that students had learned something from the rest of the Kata from number 1 to 9, as they have been done before.
When we got to kata number 9, otherwise known as Shin myo ken, we practiced two or three different versions. Okay we practiced version 1, called a with its subsets ai, aii, aiii, bi, bii, and c, so what does that make, six different versions. Now you can see why we could spend 2 hours on two kata quite easily.
What were these six different versions of one Kata, were they six different things? Absolutely not, they were 6 ways of doing ukenagashi. Now if you’re not in my dojo you probably are frowning right now, but look at the shape, look at the way the sword moves in your version of this technique. Does this not look like ukenagashi? No, well perhaps not. Regardless the point I am trying to make is that these six versions of the technique, which look quite different externally, are the same. They look like three different Kata but are in fact the same thing. So how much value is there in worrying about an angle or the timing of a movement within one of these Kata as compared to the underlying principal which it is trying to teach.
When you are learning the dance steps at the beginning of a practice, yes, The Details Matter, but if you are working on this k a t a 10 minutes after being taught it, 10 minutes after you have learned the dance steps, then asking further questions is a bit off the point. Remember we’re talking about koryu here, so details aren’t really the point. What you really should be looking for is how it works, what the lesson is, and how it works best for you. Yet it is so much easier to simply ask for another detail.
This is budo after all, so we should be looking for a balance. Your balance as both instructor and a student should be an attempt to weigh the details against the big picture. Now, I’m writing this in the sauna with my tablet connected to the hotspot on my phone, which is a little strange to begin with, and I am starting to sweat, so I think this is going to be the extent of this essay. I hope people did not worry too much at my absence from posting and I hope I can get used to doing this on a little more regular basis. Now that it has come out of the Deep Freeze in Southern Ontario I think maybe the sauna will be hot enough to justify trying to walk out in the slippery snow.
For those boys out there who are approaching 50, get your PSA test done, at least one for a Baseline.
Trust unka Kim on this.
Mar 10, 2019
April 6, Seito Bugei Juku seminar in Peterborough. mjer jujutsu and jodo.
May 17-20 Annual CKF International Jodo and Iaido seminar and grading, (Kurogo sensei and Mansfield sensei) Guelph.
August TBD. Montreal Jodo seminar and grading with Eric Tribe, Ed Chart and Japanese instructor (TBA)
November 8-10 Annual CKF International Jodo seminar and grading (Kurogo sensei), Mississauga (Port Credit).