Dojo Disillusionment

The martial arts world attracts strong egos, big politics and more drama than a high school play.

Maybe, someone received a rank that you felt they didn’t deserve or someone of high esteem lacks what martial arts writer Dave Lowry calls “moral stamina.” Perhaps, there’s constant gossip and you hear more about the people training than about the skills you should be mastering.

Because of this, at some point, you may feel disillusioned and disheartened. You might even have the urge to quit and think “I don’t need this drama in my life. If this is what the martial arts attract, why am I still doing this?”

That is the question, isn’t it? Why am I doing this?

Japanese martial arts have been likened to a path. As many of us know, the term “do” is attached at the end of martial arts, like Judo and Kendo, that means “the way.” This suggests that the martial arts is a journey that goes beyond the cultivation of physical skill, and hones both mind and spirit.

There are many things that attract us to the martial arts when we first begin our journey. Some pursue the martial arts for self-defense, physical fitness, to avoid boredom and even just for a sense of community.

But, there’s something beyond physical reasons that makes us return to the dojo time and time again. It’s an intangible, not qualified by how hard you kick or the belt you wear.

Koryu Uchinadi Black Belt

Something more. . .

Something deeply personal. . .

Something else. . .

It’s the calm that radiates through the dojo when you’re the first and only person in there practicing.

It’s the final breath of your kata, when you know it’s the best you’ve ever done it, but bow with the knowledge it will never, ever be perfect.

It’s the effortlessness in which someone slams to the floor when you get a throw JUST right.

It is the moments that lie between aggression and tranquility. A harmonious combination of our most animal nature with our greatest serenity that paradoxically brings us into a frame of being that transcends words and our human imperfections.

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An internal stillness propelled by breath and what I call a “return to centre.”

It’s sometimes easy for our compass to become skewed in the mist of frivolous nonsense that seeps into our practice brought on by human inadequacies.

So, when you lose your way along the path, focus on the most basic of human functions, breathe and return to centre.

It’s in that moment you realize there was no trick of the light. . .

No magical unveiling. . .

And, there was no illusion to begin with.

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Kama Connections with Sensei Darrin Johnson

“A lethal weapon of self-defense, Ryukyuan kobudo evolved through the application of combative principles to a myriad of domestic objects that were readily available for use as weapons.” – Hanshi Patrick McCarthy, Ancient Okinawan Martial Arts 

Kama Seminar: April 31st – May 1st

At Sensei Darrin Johnson’s seminar, hosted by Renshi Mike Coombes at Hatsuun Jindo Martial Arts, students from around the Greater Toronto Area were introduced to one of the Sensei Darrinclassical Okinawan weapons, kama.

Sensei Darrin is a long time practitioner of Yamane Ryu and Koryu Uchinadi. In his seminar, he guided us through the kama kata Koryu No Nicho Gama.

Kama Kata: Koryu No Nicho Gama

Movements:

Koryu No Nicho Gama has a unique embusen, like that of an asterisk. Because of this, it also has intricate foot work, literally keeping you on your toes. It utilizes all possible sides of the weapon, which demands one be very familiar with all the ways to handle this tool. Also, this particular kata is far more physical than one might expect from a Kobudo form, including jumps and quick movements from kneeling to standing.

Applications:

No Koryu Uchinadi-based seminar would be complete without applications. Sensei Darrin left his audience in awe with his innovative applications using the kama, which included joint locks, chokes, tegumi and even throws.

Concepts:

1. Hooking

The kama shouldn’t just be looked at as a weapon meant for cutting, but rather like a sharp extension of the hand, that can be used to assist in any type of hooking motion, such as an arm drag.

Kama Applications

2. Striking

The blunt edge of the kama and the butt of the handle can both be used for striking vital areas.

Josh working through Koryu No Nichi Gama

 

3. Tools

Modern Western tools can be used in the same fashion as the kama, like a hammer or small axe.

Sensei Darrin is a big proponent of the idea of “Human Ryu,” the universal style. Because all human beings have two arms, two legs, a head and torso, we’ll all move in similar ways and produce power in the same way whether we are empty-handed or armed.

Throughout the seminar, this was the number one theme. Sensei Darrin emphasized this point by comparing karate and weaponry to other sports. He explained that the body mechanics a shot-putter would use to build centrifugal force is the same as when rotating to strike in the kata.

Sensei Darrin above all else is an excellent communicator and draws on historical context to assist in the teaching process. Studying weaponry, such as the kama, helps us to build a better understanding of where our art comes from and the context in which it was developed, while also helping to have a greater understanding of body mechanics.

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January’s Video of the Month: Rika Usami

**SNAP!**

No, that’s not the sound of a bone breaking.

That’s the sound of Rika Usami’s gi!

(Seriously, what does she put in that thing?)

Her performance is the epitome of precision.

She demonstrates different templates from Bassai, Kusanku and other katas while surrounding herself with dominos that, unlike her opponents, barely quiver. In fact, she is so confident in her movements that at no point do her eyes gaze down.

It is because of this World Champion’s flawless execution that Rika Usami’s demonstration is January’s video of the month.