Madison Bushinden Kai 2010
From Newark, I flew to Milwauke by the guiding light of a full moon. I`d never been on a plane to see the moon shining on the water. It was a magical sight.
After nearly 20 hours of travel, I met with Michael Russell. We ate and then adjourned to his home in a lovely area of Madison, Wisconsin.
The first dojo class was aimed at some fundamental drills toward gaining a better understanding of the Koshi Kihon Sanpo. I addressed and practised with the students, certain aspects of each waza that help us to gain a better working knowledge of ourselves.
Michael`s students are all very approachable and friendly people who really study and practise to the best of their ability. It`s evident that Michael has helped install a good feeling of the budo heart in the dojo.
Michael has himself made great changes to his training and has made evident positive progress. He has begun to host seminars with residents from Japan and also local Shihan. This shows his true desire to improve and make the Bujinkan an ongoing part of his life, while assisting and giving those within Wisconsin and surrounding states the chance to do the same.
On a fine day we travelled to Devils lake. This was a reserve where you could canoe, hike, and enjoy nature with the family. We climbed to a peak and then traversed down ( losing our way ) to fulfill a very relaxing day in the sun.
Madison is a very peaceful feeling city. As we walked downtown, the city streets were clean and lined with shops, and cafes.Upon reaching the university grounds, I could see that the community of students ensure a young and vibrant feeling within Madison.
The Madison Bushinden Kai was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. I have never given a class in a hotel convention room. To see my name on the convention door was a little bit strange. However, once I entered the room, it transformed into our dojo
” Everywhere can be a dojo if the spirit is right.” – Masaaki Hatsumi Souke
For me, the first day of a seminar is like a long day of warming up.
I`m a little bit slow you see 🙂
On the first day, we are slowly taking the cream off the top and getting to know each other as people and martial artists. We are warming into our environment, learning to read the atmosphere and the mannerisms and cultures of each other.
Training began with Hanbojutsu. The Tachi is a sword, but it is not used like a Katana. The manner of it`s use is often more like a Hanbo with striking and thrusting.
I am not a researcher or collector. I train.
However, in saying this. I do research and collect information. But, I don`t do it like a student would in school.
It`s easy to collate information and reel it out to your students and sound knowledgable about a specific topic. But, do you really understand it? Really? Just because you intellectually can talk about it, do you really understand what you are saying?
I know of people that know alot about budo and ask me questions about specific things. Often, I have heard these things but, I know no more than they do. I think some people must be dissapointed with this. Yet, it is my truth. I will not make something up for the sake of it.
Maintaining your integrity is very important I feel. This is sincerity.
But, just being sincere and telling the truth at all times is not budo. We need to understand kyojutsu.
Kyojutsu is the playing of two connected varients to ensure peace and harmony. We must come to realise that to achieve this harmony we must at times create chaos to help others see the forest for the trees.
There is a saying. ” To be cruel to be kind.”
To be just nice and taught purely in a friendly manner is of no benefit to the martial artist.
Budo is about enduring hardship. Through this, we gain a greater appreciation of our life and that of others. The little things are not so trivial any more. We come to a better awareness of our body and character.
I often say that the role of the uke is a great one. From the role of the uke, you are learning about life. You are learning about Bushido. You are learning about self sacrifice and what it means to give yourself and trust.
Being uke is often painful. But we know this. So, why do we accept the role of uke when asked? We are a strange lot aren`t we. lol.
I remember when I was in my late teenage years and driving to the dojo in Tasmania. I always noticed that I had ” butterflies in my stomach”. For those unfamiliar with the term, I felt nervous like I was going to enter a fight.
I realised that the dojo was a place where you cannot lie to yourself. You are naked for all to see. There is no fooling someone in the dojo. You are either skilled,or you are not. You either have a strong sence of self, or you do not. We can try to hide this, but eventually your weakness will be seen.
The dojo is a place for self purification. This is where we become enlightened to Rokkon Shoujo.
Nagato Sensei was recently reiterating the importance of developing good eyes and ears in training. If you cannot, then you will never be able to understand ” what is”. You will always be following your own way.
After Sensei spoke, I mentioned that what he had said sounded more like the original meaning of Rokkon Shoujo as used by the Shugendo practitioners. He smiled and then stopped the class and spoke about just that.
The dojo is about breaking habits. It`s about learning to see these habits, and then having the courage to change and work at developing yourself. We must always be prepared for personal change. We learn the lessons of life changes through “henka” in our budo training.
In turn, we are opened to the concept of Banpen Fugyo ( 10000 changes no surprise ).
Souke is giving us life lessons through budo. It is indeed Shugyo – Budo for life.
I was once given the opportunity to be Nagato Shihans uke for nearly two years.
I have never asked him why.
Whenever we would start training, I would stand with my training partner. I would wait with everyone else for Nagato Sensei to choose his uke. When he chose me, I would step forward and be the best uke I could be for him.
I saw this time as a great test for me. Not once in the two years did I assume he would choose me as uke and enter the centre of the dojo without him calling me. If I had done so, I believed it would have been the end of my lesson. I was aware in myself that this was a test of character and self control.
It was about knowing my weakpoints and filtering them out. This is everyones training. To learn about our potential weaknesses and work them out of ourselves. We can then enjoy life.
During this period of being uke, I was walking to Hombu with a friend. He suprisingly asked me,
” what will you do when he stops using you as uke?”
I said, ” I`m looking forward to it!”
I knew in myself that this situation was but temporary. I`d be a fool to think otherwise. I was thanking my lucky stars for the opportunity to be Sensei`s uke. Yet, I was also enjoying the anticipation of the day he stops using me. I saw it as a great test for my ego and overall character. Had I learned anything from being uke? Only by being “let go”, do you really start to see if you have learned anything.
Eventually that day arrived, and I smiled. I was very happy. why? I could eventually get to see what he was doing!! lOl.
I was very happy to be free from the feeling of jeaolusy, and many more emotions. I actually felt more connected. I can honestly say that it had matured me in areas that were greatly needed in my life. And for that, I thank Nagato Sensei for that wonderful experience and gift.
So, please do not shy from being uke. Learn life from the role of uke. You will learn how to fail with dignity and learn how to live with courage. The lessons you will learn will be your lessons and noone elses. You can share your experiences, but ultimately, everyone has to accept their own lives and learn from their own.
Safety is something that Souke reiterates is essential when training. As is taking of responsibility for yourself and your training partners. If you cannot do this, then it is better that you do not train in budo.
The Madison Bushinden Kai was two days with wonderful people. Shidoshi such as Michael Russell, Ethan Capers, Gabe Logan, Chris Carbonaro, Kevin Clarke, Leo Rodgriguez, David Osorno, and Joe Bunales all showed great skill and budo hearts. Thank you.
The presence of these people helped me in many ways. Conversations were of the heart. We were all recognising our individual shugyo, yet supporting each other as buyu.
It`s something of an unspoken principle of mine to not use my hosts at Bushinden Kai as uke. I do this out of respect. If the time is right, then this principle is broken during the course of the seminar. Principals are meant to be broken.
When I walk around and attempt to assist people, we often practise for a brief moment. In that moment, connections are made. Regardless of this persons experience or rank, if a healthy learning connection has been made, I quickly seize the moment with that person and I demonstrate with them for the benefit of everyone.
As I said, it doesn`t matter who they are. If a connection is made, we should not sever that connection and live to share that moment as buyu.
The student I demonstrate on is for their benefit, but also for the benefit of their teacher. If I can assist in their learning and the development of the correct feeling for training and being uke, their instructor can have better training partners and excel in his/her training when they return to the dojo.
People came from as far as New Jersey and Florida for this seminar. A great effort and a big thank you goes out to Chris Carbonaro, his brother, Leo Rodgriguez, and David Osorno for this. for some people, distance is no concern. A lesson for some.
The two days naturally covered the following concepts: Nawa no kankaku, Sainou Kon Ki, Rokkon Shoujou, Tsunagaru, Kihon, Tachi, Isshi Soden, Rokushaku bo, Hanbo, Kieru no Kankaku, Shinken Gata, Yoyuu, Dokyo, Sanshin, hidden weapons and more.
These concepts were not chosen as themes. I didn`t make notes and teach as a part of a pre-determined set curriculum. We commenced training and found recent themes and concepts arose naturally during the training.
We just trained. From the training we experienced the concepts I mentioned above and then let them go for others to emerge freely. Categories are made initially, but eventually we should realise that there are no categories and that everything is connected. True understanding is to live with no categories.
We allowed for the space to teach us at the Bushinden Kai. Understanding that the principals of taijutsu enlighten us to the kukan, we start to tread the road to peace.
“The secret principle of Taijutsu is to know the foundations of peace.”