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I trained in kenjutsu and battojutsu (iaido) years ago. It really helped me with my aikido.
1. Ma ai - the critical distance. And if you are close enough to strike you are close enough to be struck.
2. Aikido strikes when you take ukemi. How to cut straight in shomenuchi and yokomenuchi.
3. How to use a sword. How to hold and handle a sword. Sword etiquette - like how to hand a sword to another person.
4. Of course tachidori as uke and tori.
In battojutsu I made a mysterious discovery.
When you draw a sword often you open your left hip by moving it backwards away from your drawing hand. That gives you more space to draw the sword.
Then my aikido teacher told me to try doing the opposite and see what happened. He told me to draw the sword by throwing my left hip forward - towards the drawing hand. It was amazing. It was just as effective - maybe even a fraction faster. You can try it with a bokken in your belt.
So to get a certain result (finishing up with a blade in your hands ready to use) you could do two exactly opposite body movements. Away from the sword and towards the sword.
I never forgot that. Sometimes white is black. Sometimes black is red. Sometimes there is another answer. And sometimes you have to do the opposite of what you think you should do.
Be not ashamed, my brothers, to stand before the proud and the powerful
With your white robe of simpleness.
Let your crown be of humility, your freedom the freedom of the soul
The Sunset of the Century by the great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore
"If I may ‘umbly make the remark," said Uriah Heep, with a writhe…
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
…a sunao mind is an untrapped mind, free to adapt itself effectively to new circum¬stances. A person with this mind looks at things as they are at that moment and colours them with no special bias, emotionalism, or preconception.
My Management Philosophy by Konosuke Matsushita
Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis): I should tell you this kind of coat doesn't have buttons. See? Hooks and eyes.
John Book (Harrison Ford): Something wrong with buttons?
Rachel Lapp: Buttons are proud and vain, not plain.
John Book: How do I look - I mean, do I look Amish?
Rachel Lapp: [nods] You look plain.
Witness, directed by Peter Weir
"…I had seen a good deal of him, liking him for his physical energy combined with a certain simplicity and modesty, though, indeed, he had nothing to be conceited about"
The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers
Since Charles Dickens wrote about Uriah Heep in David Copperfield in 1850 humility hasn't had a great press. Although the British hard rock band Uriah Heep tried to rehabilitate his name starting with the album Very 'eavy Very 'umble.
But if we want to be real budoka we always have to be
"Does it really matter precisely when the young Robert Zimmerman first heard Pete Seeger sing?"
Bruce Handy, reviewing Bob Dylan in America by Sean Wilentz in the International Herald Tribune, September 2010
Wow yes. That's a great question. That gets right to the essence. Knowing when and where Dylan first heard Pete Seeger sing might help you with a music history test but it won't make you a better musician.
And so does it really matter precisely when O Sensei first met Takeda Sokaku? Will knowing it make your aikido better? Even a little? One percent of one percent? Nah.
If we look forward we can have a vision of the future. We can even change the future. But if we look back the past is already fixed.
Voltaire said, "Judge a person by their questions, rather than their answers."
So choose your questions wisely.
And I'll let Dylan have the final word.
the present now
will later be past (The times they are a-changin')
If one of your parents - or grandparents - does budo you can take one of about four possible deliberate approaches.
1.You can do something completely different
2.You can do a different budo
3.You can do the same budo casually
4.You can do the same budo seriously and follow in his or her footsteps, perhaps becoming a teacher of the next generation
But what if you don't even know?
My first experience with fighting arts (well if I don't count soccer or rugby - probably I should) was some boxing when I was a teenager. I also played chess - boxing just seemed to me to be like playing chess using your body (chessboxing when it appeared a few years ago was an unlikely but obvious development in sport for me!). I remember a match against a boy who had no time for an intellectual approach. He immediately hit me hard on the chin. A few years later he went to prison for doing the same thing to a police officer. Anyway many years later to my surprise I found out that one of my uncles had boxed professionally.
I was interested in Japan and Japanese culture and I went to Japan when I was in my twenties. I studied and practiced aikido and some other martial arts seriously and hard with the best teachers in the world. Now nearly thirty years later I teach aikido and aikibudo and self-defence.
When I was in England in August 2010 I spent some time with an uncle I hadn't seen for many years. I knew he had done a little judo as an adult but I had the impression he had sta