No introduction necessary.
YOU ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR LAST KAMAE
I cannot, even if I tried hold back from blogging this link to what is great read and an insight from an exceptional martial artist who does not teach ‘the best’ martial art..
Please read, please reflect, please learn. The article is written by the very impressive Toby Threadgill, who I met last year and I’m actually bursting with pride that I got to meet and train with this phenomenally impressive martial artist. I might come back to comment on this article later but really, it deserves a few days of pondering over it first.
Who is Toby Threadgill?
Toby Threadgill-sensei began training under Takamura Yukiyoshi, headmaster of Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin-ryu (TSYR), in 1985. In 1992 he founded the Soryushin Dojo and in 1994 was appointed a branch director of the Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin Kai. In 1999, he was one of three people to be awarded a menkyo kaiden (teaching license) in Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin-ryu. Following the passing of Takamura Yukiyoshi in 2000, he was asked by the other TSYR branch directors to accept the position of administrative head (kaicho) of the Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin Kai. He currently oversees instruction at the Shindo Yoshin Kai Hombu Dojo in Evergreen, Colorado, and maintains a busy international teaching schedule. There is more information on this classical system at the Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin Kai web site (http://www.shinyokai.com/home.htm) and there is a very good interview with Threadgill-sensei available at Aikido Journal at http://www.aikidojournal.com/article…ght=threadgill.
I have not given this title much thought until I read Tsutomu Chida Shihan’s words about Aikdio. Like many Yoshinkan Aikidoka, I’m afraid I have used this phrase on and off the tatami a few times but never gave it deep thought.
It is generally accepted through anecdote or through reports that Gozo Shioda had uttered those three words ‘Aikido is Life’ (most likely in Japanese- Aiki Soku Seikatsu), perhaps to mean that Aikido is like life, or that Aikido is his life, or that Aikido should be approached in the same manner we approach life , or indeed the other way around.
A link I read today about Tsutomu Chida shihan, once a top yoshinkan instructor and formal head of International Yoshinkan Aikido Federation and now founder and director of Renshinkai, made it really clear as to what Aikido is or should be about, at least from his point of view.
Generally, people will compare themselves to others when doing almost anything in life, looking around to assess where they stand amongst their peers and contemporaries, it is also very common to get a bit competitive with others and to lose track of the actual goal that is self awareness and development -a higher and more noble goal- to a far less important and superficial goal -attaining rank/title. When we say or repeat that Aikido is not about strength but about using whole body movements and discipline to over come a bigger opponent we must put our faith in that.
The only way Aikido will work for us is if we make the our only competition between ourselves today and ourselves yesterday. All we need to worry about is answering the following question; am I better today than I was yesterday/last week/last month? etc. If the answer to that is ‘yes’ then we are on the right track, if the answer is no, then ask your instructor to point where you are going wrong then reevaluate your goals and training mindset.
Chida sensei in an interview once said:
“When you talk about budo, the image people get is that of fighting – but really the fight is about you now, and you tomorrow. Of course, there is also you yesterday. Everyday you turn into a new person”
I really like that quote, it is not easy to make yourself your only battle, it is not easy to see people around you surpass you in rank because we all have ego, but its not about ego, and its not about who we are today, its about getting better and about who we want to be tomorrow. If we really want the shortest way to improvement then diverting our focus inwardly is certainly the first step on the right path, it is also perhaps the most important step on to that path.
This is the second part of the interview with Ellis Amdur, again highly recommended read.
“You can practice one sword cut 1000 times or you can practice 1000 sword cuts once” I first heard this phrase from Mustard sensei 4-5 years ago and at the first istance I recall thinking what’s the difference? A few years later, I now know what the difference is.
A similar Quote has been attributed to Bruce Lee, I came across it a few days ago and it said:
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times”.
The difference is the focus and the intent.
Doing 1000 sword cust once – or 10000 kicks once according to Bruce Lee’s example – means that one is holding back on the first 999 sword cuts and therefore not giving the action the full attention it deserved or getting out of the action the full benefit it can offer.
The difference in that mentality and type of training is the difference between a pass time hobby and budo ; it is the very difference between Keiko and taiso.
Keiko, is a Japanese word that doesn’t really have an full equivalent in English, it loosely means ‘repeating that of old’ i.e. repeating the traditions past, so each technique is not ‘practiced’ but performed with a certain mental focus and attention to the spirit of the technique and essence of it and the martial aspects with in which it is imbedded.
Taiso, merely means to practice, or to repeat. In taiso, one is just repeating the action; one is not trying to repeat the ‘traditions of the past’ but just going through the motions.
When we train by Keiko the result is very different to training by taiso, the form is not the same, the outcome is not the same and indeed the technique is not the same either.
Practicing one kick 10,000 is totally different to practicing 10,000 kicks, This would explain Bruce Lee’s fear of the one who practiced one kick 10,000 times.
My sensei tends to repeat the following advice : “Train like you are performing your grading”. This means that every move we do should have that intensity and focus and presence of mind which, would convert our training from mere Taiso to Keiko.
It would also see a significant jump in our training quality in a very short time allowing us to get better quicker.
So the next time you train, ask yourself and be honest “does what I do fall into the Keiko aspect or in to the Taiso ?
In this testimony By my friend and senior colleague Saunders sensei is a glimpse of what I see in Mustard sensei’s skill and where I hope to take my own Aikido.