Friday, July 23, 2010


At Jodo keiko the other day, I was practicing with one of the senior students. He is an extremely kind and considerate guy, but when it comes to practice, he is pretty intense.
Some jodo groups are quite "friendly" (meaning they seem to take into account the fact that different people have different goals when it comes to martial arts) whereas other groups are more traditional - if you don't bring 100% intensity to practice, then maybe jodo isn't for you. I think our dojo is mid-range, although a bit towards the "friendly" end. This senior student used to practice at a dojo that was further towards the "traditional" end, and he brings a severity to practice that is good, I think.
I hadn't seen him at practice for a few weeks. I guess he had been busy with work, and it seemed like he was trying to make up for lost time. His movements were very sharp, fast, and strong. We were practicing Ran-Ai at the time, and I was on the tachi side. I had just been kuritsuke-ed when one of the Sensei, who was watching from the sidelines, called out, "Jeff, your hands are wrong!" I looked over at the Sensei, to try and get more information about what I was doing wrong. But my partner didn't slow down. Instead, he attacked me with more vigor.
"Don't take your eyes off your partner!" he growled. I barely blocked his strike, and stumbled backwards, off-balance. "Ignore what's going on in the dojo!" He attacked again, pulling his strike at the last possible instant in a way that let me know that he could have brained me but chose not to. "That's how people end up getting HURT!" Attack, block, counter-attack, avoid. He was getting more intense as we went along. I had recovered a bit of balance and realized with full clarity that he was totally right, and that by momentarily taking my attention off of him, I was doing him a terrible disservice as my practice partner.
The kata continued to the end. The jo side threatens the tachi side with a large strike. I barely avoided this by tucking my arm under my chin, and jumped back as the tip of the jo whipped past my face. He waited with his jo low, inviting a head-strike. I cut down, and he bashed the bokuto to the side so firmly that I almost lost my hold on it. Then, he finished the kata by hitting me in the suigetsu, harder, I think, than I have ever been hit before.
I had been thoroughly beaten up, but he was totally right. When we practice with our betters, not only are we at their mercy, but we are asking them to teach us. We owe it to them to give them our full attention and respect.
We returned to our starting positions. "Again!" We went through the kata again. It is a long kata (for jodo) and by the end I was panting. "Again!" We ended up doing the kata about 5 times, and I was only saved when the top Sensei said, "Alright everybody, let's take a break. Or else Jeff is going to die, I think."
I bowed deeply to my partner. He was panting and sweating profusely, too. He smiled and said, "Good practice. Remember, don't ever let your attention wander when you're practicing. This is Budo." I think I learned my lesson.


Blogger Jeff said...

Just to comment on my own post (kind of a cheesy thing to do, I know, but it beats editing the original) ...

One of the good things about Jodo (and about kendo, as well) is that you work with other people. You need to form good relationships with your practice partners, and show respect to everyone, not just your Sensei. Even if you hold a certain rank, you need to be courteous and respectful to people below your rank, not only because it's "the right thing to do" but also because they might just be technically better than you, and they could really show you up when you practice together.
On the other hand, one of the problems with iaido, I think, is that many people feel that their only obligation is to show respect to their Sensei. They walk around in a cloud, ignoring their peers, but then flip a switch and act very polite and deferential to their higher-ups. This is because, when you get right down to it, there is no real need for politeness between people in iai, as there is not usually any interaction. I've met quite a few people like this in Japan and at home, and heard similar sentiments by other people who practice iai alongside some other partnered martial art.

11:42 PM  
Anonymous Jack Bieler said...

Also, Jeff, in Iaido your classmate cannot "accidentally" crack the hell out of you if they happen to be pissed off! Or feel the need to send a message, or take you down a notch. You have a very good point about partner practice vs solo, and psychological and social effects thereof!

I also agree with your points about koryu overload and jealousy. Jodo, Iaido and some basically unrelated taijutsu like Aikido is plenty for anyone. Me anyway. I have a small conflict because I practice ZNIR MJER (10+ years with seniors and teachers in & out of Japan), and my Jodo seniors are all ZNKR MSR guys. Top guy is very open-minded and sees the value in all, but I can't really do iai with my jodo colleagues. However the relationships are established and it is probably not practical for anyone short of Nakayama Hakudo to practice both styles.

7:38 AM  
Anonymous Jack Bieler said...

"An armed society is a polite society."

7:39 AM  

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