July 29, 2004

Surprising Similarity

I began reading a new book this week and the first page of the introduction sounded so much like Shintaido, I was stunned. In Shintaido, we often talk of connecting with the center of our partner whether it is through punching, or cutting with open hands, boh, or bokutoh. So to me, this quote seems to describe kumite quite well:

...It demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person, to see what you would rather leave in darkness, and to touch there what you would rather leave untouched. Why would you really want to do that ? Perhaps you would let the other cross your inner threshold to see something or to touch something, but to allow the other into that place where your most intimate life is shaped — that is dangerous and calls for defense.

On of the things that I found most interesting about this, is that the book is not about martial arts at all. In fact, the first sentence which I omitted above is:

Praying is no easy matter.

The introduction of the book, With Open Hands by Henri J.M. Nouwen is actually talking about prayer and how the first part of praying is opening yourself and being ready to accept gifts.

The introduction reminds me so much of the Aoki Sensei story that Ito Sensei always repeats. I remember it as, "Think of yourself as a glass of water. If the glass is too full, then nothing can be added by universal energy. If you can first empty yourself some, you can make a place to receive universal energy."

It also provides some insight into people's reaction to Shintaido kumite. If the quote is correct and people are already frightened by the idea of opening and allowing someone into their center, it is no surprise that it takes people some time to attain this opening while someone else's hands or wooden weapons are also invading their physical space.

Posted by rob at 11:44 AM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2004

Broken Mirrors

I've been reading Essential Sufism by Frager and Fadiman.

I thought this quote in the "Teachers and Students" was particularly interesting:

On all paths of spiritual training, the teacher is of central importance. He or she embodies the teaching as a living representation of the tradition. He or she helps the student to grow beyond the boundaries of self. Because each person can only, by definition, operate inside his or her current limits, outside intervention is indispensable to make the "breakthrough." My Teacher depicted this state of things with the following analogy: "You can give yourself first aid, putting a bandage on a wound. But you can't operate on yourself."

The fundamental changes that the path requires in the student's worldview and behavior resemble a major operation. The very personality features that the student holds tightest to, with which he or she most strongly identifies on this level, are also the ones that prevent the student from fully becoming what he or she potentially is. [Rumi has written:] "It is necessary to make so great an effort that you are not left standing, in order that you may recognize what it is that will remain."


There have been a few times when I have done kumite with senior instructors and experienced something like this. After attacking them repeatedly and being lead into hikari I felt like my being was a mirror that was just shattered upon the floor. Often times, this has left me feeling angry, sad, hurt, happy...all at the same time, just to add to the confusion.

I've often felt during the tears, like I was groping around on the floor trying to put the pieces of the mirror back together in order to reconstruct myself.

I've always wondered why we do this and I had a vague notion that it might be good for me without understanding how or why. This quote gave me some context to put the experience in.

Posted by rob at 08:15 PM | Comments (1)

November 15, 2003

The Enemy

Most Aikido people say that Aikido is an art of peace and harmony. That's true in a way. But Aikido is also a very violent art in which students are continually fighting. The enemy we fight is as dangerous as they come. It can destroy our relationships, ruin our finances, get us into legal and meidal difficulties, poison us, addict us to durgs or alcohol, and make us into abusers. This enemy knows our every move and every weakness. It, of course, is ourselves.

Editiorial by Susan Perry
Aikido Today Magazine Vol. 17. No. 6

While this quote is about Aikido, it's trivial to substitute Shintaido and have the meaning remain the same.

In Shintaido we often talk about changing our partner, but usually the way to do that involves changing ourselves too.

Posted by rob at 08:09 PM | Comments (1)