Friday, July 20, 2012
The Forgotten Budo Skill
In Day's of Old, (When Bushi were Bold) and Kata was not Forgotten,.....er, ..eh ..anyway,
I was recently reading a book (yes, I can read) that referenced the (old) bushi, and I made note that one of their greatly admired skills was that of Shugi (Brush Calligraphy). Though not readily considered to be one of any great importance (today), during the time of the bushi's presence, it was considered to be a greatly admired (if not mandatory) skill to posses and to practice.
In virtually every sword school that I've read about and having spoken to student's from several, Shuji is a required practice of those student's (and is usually a skill that's taught and practiced at their dojo).
With the (so-called) emphasis today being on “practical” self-defense, many of the old-ways of training in a martial art, are being abandoned (by those modern schools).
Being a practitioner of Oriental Brush Calligraphy, I'm (occasionally) asked questions about it. First off, what I teach is Nihon Shuji (Japanese Calligraphy), What I practice, is Shodo (Way of the Brush). There is a difference, LOL.
As with most things, when you practice any skill set that involves motion, you begin to correlate those motions to nearly everything (else) that you do. I do the same thing with RyuTe, so finding similarity’s between the two was surprisingly easy (if not obvious!, LOL).
In Taika's book, he even mentions the relationship between kanji and certain techniques that he was shown by his instructors (read the book, LOL).
With the recent events in the RyuTe association, I've been giving (further) thought to our dojo's curriculum. I feel pretty comfortable with the technique curriculum we provide, and with the anatomical information that is included.
Having been recently reviewing the various area's of information that's already being offered through the association, I was surprised to discover that Shuji is not one of the offered skill sets.
Though not always considered to be a skill set of martial pursuit, brush calligraphy has been practiced by nearly every famous martial artist throughout the history of the far east.
Though most often recognized in the practice of the sword arts (most sword schools require Shodo, or Tai Chi to be practiced in conjunction with their sword practice), Shodo provides a mental exercise in concentration (which can be translated into any/every martial art) and is similar (if not equal) to meditation.
When one understands the techniques required to produce the strokes of the kanji (Chinese characters), it can relate to the manner which we view and perform the techniques we are shown in the practice of te.
In Kendo, it is generally recognized that there are 8 possible manners of slicing, or strokes that can be performed with the sword. The strokes of the brush (for creating the kanji characters) can be simplified to represent those same 8 strokes as well.
There exist several different schools (and styles if you will) of Japanese Calligraphy. Different schools count (how many) strokes that are required to be learned by their student's differently. As stated previously, they could be condensed to only 8 strokes. Nihon Shuji divides them into several categories (with individual variations) to provide a total of 28 (different types of strokes).
Just as with the practice of te, breathing is an equally important (and emphasized) aspect for the proper performance of Shuji. Incorrect breathing can tarnish a piece of calligraphy, as much as sneezing in the middle of performing a stroke can! (been there, done that! LOL).
The brush will convey all of the emotional/mental feelings that the writer has, at the time of brushing the piece. Numerous Japanese companies utilize handwriting analysis for newly hired employees (to better place them within their company) as a form of psychological analysis. Akin to how the F.B.I. uses handwriting analysis to understand criminals, many students of Shodo copy the brushed works of the past sword/karate masters (in the attempt to emulate their spirit).
At the very least, a (basic) knowledge of the (few) kanji that the average martial artist encounters, would (IMO) make the student more knowledgeable (and/or less gullible?).
I think (?) that it's still up in the air as to how their going to do the kyu certificates. As it stands now, when an instructor receives the (blank) certificate (from the association), they have to fill in the student's name, rank, date etc. Normally, this is done in English (which is fine, I suppose, LOL). But I've always considered the certificates done in kanji, to just look better/nicer (?, any opinions?...). Much like the Yudansha certificates are done, I think the Mudansha should be (at least offered) in kanji as well (which would also provide that student with knowing how their name is written in katakana).
Seeing as how the new leadership is rather busy now, I'll probably wait to see if they'd care to offer it's instruction at the RyuTe summer seminar. If there's an interest, possibly it could be included in next years summer conference. But, I guess there would have to be an interest first, LOL.