Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Seasons of the Life of a Martial Artist

Why do you train in martial arts? I would bet that it's not for the same reasons that you began and will continue to change as you move through life. I know this to be true for myself.

Below is an excerpt from an excellent post from Kenshi 24/7. The full post may be read here.

The Kendo Lifecycle

(a.k.a.Kendo and you: what it means and how you approach it at various points in your life)

I started kendo at the comparatively late age of 19 (I’m 35 now) and, with only 16 years of practise under my belt, I can say with no false humility that my experience is pretty shallow… considering that many of my sempai and sensei have over 50 years of experience. During these 16 years the way that I have approached kendo – what it is and why I do it – has changed drastically. Part of that is, of course, simply because I have gotten older, and part of it is because of my current kendo situation: I am not only surrounded by highly experienced instructors (some of whom are professional kendo teachers) but I have also become – mostly through chance, but partially through design – a (high school) kendo teacher myself. I consider myself to be very lucky.

As my aim for practising has changed, so has my approach to kendo… not just in the way I swing my shinai, but how I aim to interact with my students, my kendo friends, my sempai, and my sensei, and how I conduct myself in these relationships. I have also seen a large change in how my sensei treat me. I guess that this change in approach is something that happens to everyone.

Since this process is ongoing, I often find myself struggling to explain what it is thats happening exactly (as my friends know). Luckily, last year I just happened to read a short article entitled “kendo and age” (年代に応じた剣道). I found the article interesting for two main reasons: it provided a chart in which age stages vs kendo phases is described, and also because it mentioned the Danish-German developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst Erik Eikson, himself a very interesting character, and whos ideas I find intriguing.

Now, how much kendo actually enters/affects your life depends on the individual of-course. For the vast majority of people – despite what they may think – its a hobby. Some people are very serious about their art and some people are casual, but to break out of the realm of “hobbyist” requires something more. Development of this line of thought isn’t for this this discussion though, but it does affect the meaning/final goal of the items below. For those of us that start later in life or outside of Japan, the items below also have necessarily to be modified (I still think that many of the ideas introduced below will be of interest/applicable to you however).

Well, what is kendo “supposed” to be about? Luckily the All Japan kendo federation chose to define and publish it for us already (in response to the over sportification of post-war kendo):

The Concept of Kendo

The concept of Kendo is to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the Katana (sword).

The Purpose of Practicing Kendo

The purpose of practicing Kendo is:

To mold the mind and body,
To cultivate a vigorous spirit,
And through correct and rigid training,
To strive for improvement in the art of Kendo,
To hold in esteem human courtesy and honor,
To associate with others with sincerity,
And to forever pursue the cultivation of oneself.
This will make one be able:

To love his/her country and society,
To contribute to the development of culture
And to promote peace and prosperity among all peoples.

– The Concept of Kendo was published by the All Japan Kendo Federation in 1975.

Also, here is a snippet of “The Mindset of Kendo Instruction” which I think adds to this discussion:

Lifelong Kendo

While providing instruction, students should be encouraged to apply the full measure of care to issues of safety and health, and to devote themselves to the development of their character throughout their lives.
Kendo is a “way of life” that successive generations can learn together. The prime objective of instructing Kendo is to encourage the practitioner to discover and define their way in life through training in the techniques of Kendo. Thus, the practitioner will be able to develop a rich outlook on life and be able to put the culture of Kendo into use, thereby benefiting from its value in their daily lives through increased social vigor.

– The Mindset of Kendo Instruction was published by the All Japan Kendo Federation in 2007.

(Although only published in 1975 and 2007 respectively, most if not all of the ideals presented above have – not only for kendo specifically but budo in general – existed long before then.)

Any clearer? Maybe, maybe not. I’m guessing the answer to this depends on how far down the road (naturally including your age) that you are.

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