Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Iai in Beppu

The other day I had a one-on-one practice with Yasumatsu Sensei. "Yasu" is the character for peaceful, which is appropriate since he's a very kindly old guy. "Matsu" is a pine tree, which is also appropriate in a weird way since he has the insanely bushy eyebrows that only appear on elderly Japanese men. They stick out of his face like pine needles, so I like to call him (to myself, anyway) "Fuzzy Pine" Sensei. Anyhow.

Initially, I was quite insulted by Yasumatsu Sensei's invitation to a "special" one-on-one practice. I guess he thought my basics were terrible and needed some intensive work. He started off by telling me how to hold the sword properly, how to cut, how to do shibori ... all things that I thought I was doing properly (of course) but which I probably wasn't. Well, actually, scratch "probably" - if an 8-dan hanshi tells you you're doing something wrong, you damn well listen to him.

So anyway, it was quite a fruitful practice, once I got over myself. I keep thinking about this topic ... I keep writing about this topic ... and yet I (and so many other people) just don't seem to *get* it: iai/budo is about deleting your ego. As soon as you start thinking, "I'm good at this" or "I don't need to work on that anymore", you're screwed.

So anyway, I'm far from immune to being insulted when I get negative comments. I guess it's human nature; you just have to take it in stride. But ... in a slightly different vein ... I was also a bit insulted when one of the teachers here took a look at me and announced, "Well, foreigners have weak legs, which is why he can't do furikaburi properly..." I hate that kind of sweeping (essentially racist) statement. What a load of BS! *I* have weak legs, *I* have bad knees ... but there are a lot of foreigners who have immensely strong legs! What he should have said is "We Japanese are comparatively small, so it's easier for us to shift our weight than it is for large foreigners." Unfortunately, there were no Japanese sumo wrestlers (with bad knees) in the room for purposes of comparison...

At the practice, there were a couple of guys who do Sekiguchi Ryu Iai as their Koryu ... it was cool seeing them doing their kata. They get to jump around and do kiai ... it all looks very satisfying to do. I was having a bit of "Koryu Envy" (which is to say, the grass always looks greener on the other side of the dojo ... or something like that). They also do Niten Ichi Ryu, I think, although exactly who their teacher is I'm not sure; I mentioned Iwami Sensei's name and they clammed up immediately, so either they were shocked that we have the same teacher, or they have a different teacher. I guess I'll find out eventually.


The other day at Jodo practice (with the growing Asia-Pacific University Jodo club!) a foreign guy showed up and asked if he could practice with us; he is actually a really nice guy but he awoke a whole bunch of feelings of insecurity in me. For one thing, he has only been practicing for about 4 years, but he seems much better than me. I was glad that he didn't actually come out and ask me how long I've been practicing. Argh.

The other thing is that he only practices koryu at his dojo - and I suppose I'm jealous. It's not that I think Koryu is "better" than Seitei or any other such nonsense, but I guess I want to learn it all someday. Plus, I'm always embarrassed when I go to Fukuoka and I'm the only one in the dojo who doesn't know any koryu. Namitome Sensei seems kind of ticked off about it too, somehow ... but I suspect that he doesn't exactly know what to do either. After all, I hardly ever make it up to Fukuoka to practice, and I get the feeling that he's not sure *whose* student I am. And if HE'S not sure...

Finally, this foreign chappie and I got to talking about martial arts and it became quite apparent to me that he has just thought about budo a lot more than I have. And before you point out that budo is not an intellectual pursuit, I agree ... but nonetheless, we were discussing topics like "Why do you do budo" and I realized that I have no bleeding idea. That's not good... Let's face it ... iaido and jodo are meaningless in today's world. Unless you know why you're doing them, you're only wasting your time. Which raises the doubly tricky question of why someone would live halfway around the world just to study them. Double argh.


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10:56 PM  

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