Stockholm Tachi Kumiuchi Bushinden Kai 2010
Stockholm, especially Old Town, is a magnificent city.
The streets intertwine and weave within grand old buildings beckoning for inquisitive tourists.
I have an interest in antiques, yet never have the money to buy them. Lol. However, I feel that these shops help you gain a closer appreciation of the culture and history than the tourist shops.
Often you come across surprising antiques. This one caught my eye. An 18th century mask from Japan. It wasn’t Swedish of course but, we can see how the world is connected in many ways.
With Mats Hjelm, I had the chance to wander around the streets of old and new town, sampling Swedish cuisine and hospitality.
On Good Friday, we went to the Kaigozan dojo and prepared for a combined Shidoshi class. With 17 eager students on this good Friday, we trained and had a great session.
With instructors from Sweden and Finland, we began by concentrating on the Kihon and naturally moved forward with henka. The training then naturally moved in the direction of the theme for the following weekend seminar.
Mats has a lot of experience with organizing seminars. His support shows his immense passion for the art and a desire to continually challenge himself and grow as a budoka.
For all those in and around Sweden, I’m sure you would agree. The efforts that Mats puts in to continue positive development is to be congratulated.
He regularly has instructors from various countries providing valuable input to assist with the development of everyone’s training.
Mats Hjelm is serious about his budo. The Kaigozan dojo is a great dojo. With tsuka as door handles, and a bokuto as a toilet roll holder, the dojo boasts ” the budo life ” wherever you look
But seriously, the dojo is well organized and Mats has spent and continues to spend his time on supporting the development of the dojo and the Bujinkan in Sweden.
The seminar began with a good group of people from around Stockholm, France and Austria. There were Shidoshi present aswell. Thank you for coming.
I felt relaxed during the seminar. I felt myself voicing strongly my beliefs about “ self training”.
Many people do not train on their own. Self training is so important.
Many people have habits. These habits in reality can become liabilities. People have to really examine ( shirabe gata ) for themselves, the right manner in which to train.
I see that much of what is practiced in the dojo ( unfortunately ) is sloppy and has no bone or structure. We have to try to be present from our fingertips to the ends of our toes.
Peoples understanding or attitudes toward training can greatly be seen in their body movement.
We have to really be honest with ourselves and work toward developing solid, yet resilient structure to our fundamental training. This core training is essential for the body to assimilate fully and come to a working understanding of the body’s true capabilities.
If we attempt to jump forward in training in an attempt to hasten our learning, we are really not gaining the truth deep from the hardship of correct repetitive and focused training. It is not just the physical training, but the mental training.
The mind must focus well on the tasks at hand. This is our self discipline training. We are not forced to train this way in the dojo are we. Why? Because it should be just common sence!
Like all new skills, especially arts such as music, we must firstly recognize the instrument, know its parts, and gain a working knowledge of it’s characteristics. All master musicians practice hard and correctly with a focused mind and spirit. To become a master martial artist ( if that is what you desire ) is no different.
I felt that the people attending were people who were open to learning. This was shown through their taijutsu and at times, the frustration on their faces when they couldn’t do what was shown. They could laugh at their frustrations and enjoy themselves while training ( Rokkon Shoujou ). This balance was a good sign. Everyone was training very well. It’s obvious that Sweden boasts a long history of training and good instruction. The students and teachers present were evidence of this.
I tried to challenge the weaknesses that I saw in the attendees. Their weaknesses are also my weaknesses. For me to see them, is to understand myself as well.
My words of instruction are actually not words of instruction. I see them as my thoughts on what I try to become aware of or, aspire to in my training. That is all.
I am quite strict ( majime ) with myself. So, naturally my way of teaching will have a manner of conviction and purpose. For me, I think once we have developed the understanding of how to learn well and actually physically practise this, it is only then that we can really begin to relax and truly enjoy the training. This may be related to SHU HA RI.
I was strict on this in the seminar, I thought. This art is not a free art in that you can just do anything you want. Those that do, are just “playing” and not really developing their observation and learning skills. I think people misintepret Soukes words. They play like children, and not like adults.
Before you can play, use must know how to play. You must develop the ground rules ( kihon ). From there you can experiment ( henka ). To play without having weakpoints ( suki ) is the manner of training we should aspire too.
I test this by performing a simple three step movement with some basic te-sabaki. I then stand back and look for those that have developed the ability to “mimic” or “record and replay”.
Souke often comments about the transmission of the martial arts as being like Denpa ( radio waves ). If you have faulty lines that have interference, than your ability to pick up “ what actually is “ will be difficult. You will then be forced to develop in your own mind a meaning. It therefore becomes “what you want” and not “what actually is”.
Many people cannot even observe well enough to see which hand was used first to parry an attack. If you cannot do this, then you ultimately cannot do the technique shown and will wander off in on your own direction!
If you pay money for training, train well. Develop your skills of observation and learn to “mimic” the best you can from your instructor ( if you respect and want to learn from them ).
As with all arts, we must initially mimic to gain an appreciation of the technique and skills from our teacher. When I say “initially “ I do not mean copying just once and then going off and doing what you want!
If you mimic well, then you will develop patterns like your teacher and this is the greatest compliment. This is an aspect of the SHU level.
From there you begin to experiment with what you have learned and begin to show your own face or character through your movements. This stage is a stage where you begin to assimilate the movements and make them your own. This can be likened to parts of the HA level.
These two levels of the SHU HA RI process are extremely important. They cannot be overlooked or skipped. We must also understand that everyone learns differently and at various rates.
Our path is our path. We must not compete with others. Everyone is on their own Shugyo.
In regards to observing training, the same applies to the role of uke. The students must also understand the manner of attack, and thus attack similarly to the uke used by the instructor. If the uke attacks in a completely different manner, than how can you gain a chance of understanding the teacher’s movements. Surely, this is common sense?
In fact, people should step out of themselves, and jump into the shoes of the teacher and uke as much as they can. To do so will help them understand the “feeling” as well as the“technical“ aspects of what was shown.
People nowadays watch the teacher and then just go off and do whatever they want. I think most of the time they think they are doing what was shown. But, our minds are often our own worst enemy ( I am not excempt here ).
We have to gain a clarity of our senses to truly learn and develop. This may be also linked to the concept of Rokkon Shoujou.
If we can purify our senses, then we are able to absorb directly and in an undiluted manner. what we see, feel, hear etc, will be clearer and true. Our radio waves must be clean and have no static.
We can see that at the commencement of training, the art of spiritual refinement ( Seishin Teki Kyoyo ) is positioned at number one on the list. We can understand that if our heart and mind is not focused and pure, then what we endevour to learn will become sabotaged by our impurities. These come in the forms of ego,desire, etc.
We can then look around the dojo and see for ourselves the true nature of people from their body language, interaction, clothing sense, and taijutsu. We would all like to believe that we are free from the vice of our ego. We can’t get rid of our ego, but we can learn to become more aware of it. To become aware, is the beginning to developing control.
Souke states that everybody is desperate to control their adversary or training partner. However, they have yet to have taken control of themselves! What is firstly necessary is for us to learn to control our own life. From there, we may have the possibility to control others.
Takamatsu O sensei apparently said that ” Sincerity is the key “.
I hope you can understand what I am trying to say. Of course, these words are only from my limited experience and the reader should discern for themselves what is shit and what is not. In fact, everything I say may be shit. I just hope some of it is good shit and can be used as fertilizer.
Ultimately, the teacher is looking for a picture. That picture is a picture of them – of what they have just shown their students. They are looking to see their reflection in their students.
If they see their reflection, I believe this acts two fold.
1. The teacher can gain a working appreciation of the current level of the students,
2.The teacher can observe his own possible faults in what he had shown through the better students. He can then rectify his teachings for the betterment of all.
We can see that a healthy dojo helps everyone learn – both the teacher and the students.
Everybody acts as a mirror. Therefore, the cleaner the mirror, the more chance you have of seeing your true state of being within each moment through the pure reflection.
The seminar continued well. I believed we balanced training with humor and serious intent. I enjoyed both days and was thank full to my friend James Bimes who flew all the way from France. There was also a student who flew from Austria.
It was a pleasure to also meet and talk with Thomas Franzen while at dinner one evening. Thomas needs no introduction. Has been in the Bujinkan for a very long time and is a tremendous asset to this art. He is one of the very few who has continued and maintained a constant connection with Souke to this day. A very skilled and respected practitioner. Thank you.
While training we naturally entered moments where we tried to gain a clearer appreciation of Tsunagaru, Nawa no Kankaku, Yoyuu, Mai ai, Shin Gi Tai Ichi, Shizen na Ugoku, Kieru no Kankaku, Tachi Kumiuchi, Kamae, Kihon, and the Gogyo no Kata.
The Three Set DVD package is now available. I hope that Mats has edited my sometimes less than savoury language, but I’m sure he will leave everything in, warts and all. lol.
Again, I’d like to say thank you to Mats and, the Shidoshi and students from around the Stockholm region for supporting this seminar. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Thanks again, and I hope to see you back in Japan or in Sweden again soon.