Added with permission from Kim Taylor Nanadan (CKF) Iaido, Rokudan (CKF) Jodo and Niten Ichi Ryu Shidoin, January 2023
We’re practicing Niten Ichiryu on a fixed schedule these days (Friday evenings) because we’ve been neglecting it and it is one of the core arts of Sei Do Kai. Last week I started with nito seiho because that’s where I started and I want to examine kodachi and tachi as kihon for the nito set. In other words I want to reverse the assumed order of practice.
But part way through the class I found myself yelling at my senior student. We were simply demonstrating so that the beginners could learn the dance steps but damnit, why wasn’t I being driven back into the wall? I explained what I discovered in that moment, that I really, really care about this school of sword. Not in any sort of academic way, but as if it was the essence of my being, and something that I have to pass along if I want to call myself a teacher.
I had no idea I felt that strongly about Niten. Perhaps it is because I have no teacher and I feel the responsibility to pass on his gift to me. That seems a bit cockeyed to some people, if you’ve lost your teacher you ought to go find another one and be passionate about that instruction yes? Well, no. Budo is much more than collecting kata, you have to get over the dance moves within the first couple of years and move along if you want to really learn budo, so changing to a new art or even just a new teacher when you lose your own means throwing all those years away and starting over. If you’ve only got a couple of years invested that’s fine, with 20 it’s just too late. So I continue to learn from the knowledge my teacher gave me and as I go deeper into the school I get more demanding of my students that they follow along and challenge me.
Which, I suppose explains this black finger I’m looking at today. My student really does pay attention to me and a few minutes after I was giving her hell for not being aggressive enough I changed up a kata to demonstrate how one might just drive someone across the room. Halfway there she presented me with proof that my right hand was open. Yep, ask a good student to hit you and you may just get hit.
Quite a few years ago I was at a seminar with a student who had moved away and is now teaching in his own club. As I was demonstrating something or other I motioned vaguely at him to strike down at me and then looked back at the class. Next thing I knew I was stepping smartly back off the line as his bokuto whooshed down in front of my nose. I looked at him and he looked right back and said “What??”.
Yep, what indeed, I had forgotten that he was quite happy to cave my skull in because that’s what we had agreed upon way back when. I had just been practicing with, shall we call them “less enthusiastic” students for a while.
Nice to know some of this stuff still gets me excited, and nice to know there’s a student or two out there willing to help me along by trying to break my bones.