Thursday, November 03, 2005

Kobudo Demo

Yesterday was Culture Day, and so there was a Koryu Budo demonstration at the Meiji Shrine. I went to it last year and I had mixed feelings about it. Part of the problem was that I got up late last year and so I missed the first hour or so, which (I imagined) probably had the best demonstrators.

I decided to set my alarm plenty early so as not to miss anything this year. But the plan backfired; I was so soundly asleep that I didn't even hear my alarm go off and slept right through it to 9am. So I didn't get to the shrine until 11am; by then, well... most of the good stuff was finished.

It's a weird experience going to this thing. They have roped off a section of lawn, and all around that, people have camped out to get the best photo- and video-taking spots. Of course, these keeners are all foreigners. They follow the demonstration eagerly, panning their video cameras back and forth to catch all the action. They check off each demonstration in their programs, and consult each other excitedly about who's coming up next and did you see them last year?

Last year, I left the demonstration feeling a little bit cynical. Doubly so this year. I saw one group called (I don't think I'm exaggerating) Muso Shinden Eishin Ryu Iai Battojutsu Heiho. It was just two people, and they did a strange mix between Shinden and Jikiden with some outright ridiculous stuff thrown in. For example, to sit down, they stick both hands into their hakama vents, fluff them elaborately, and sit down while the legs are still billowed out on both sides. Their noto is equally bizarre, going out sideways like shinden, but then shooting upward on an angle... pointless (unless you're doing a handle strike as you do noto!) and very flashy.

There were some schools that were just trying to out-scream each other. And then there were the jujutsu schools where one guy walks up to another and for no apparent reason grabs him, throws him down, armlocks him, rolls him over, puts him in a different armlock, flips him over, puts him in a leglock, etc. etc. etc. Sigh.

The physicist Ernest Rutherford had a good quote: "In science, there is only physics. All the rest is stamp collecting." He's not just being a physics chauvinist; his point is that real science is about figuring out how things work (be it chemistry, biology, or whatever) and the rest is just cataloguing, collecting, and sorting. I'm starting to think that martial arts is the same way. In budo, there is only practice. All the rest is stamp collecting.

Eat dirt, you young whippersnapper!


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