Why Study The Japanese Sword?
In the art of Kosho Ryu, the study of the Japanese sword is of vital importance. Practitioners at the Driscoll Institute of the Martial Arts immediately realize the many benefit and importance of training in the Japanese sword arts. Through this study, the martial arts practitioner will gain insights to the seriousness of a martial confrontation. Consider this thought for a moment…If two samurai were to draw swords and fight, there were generally three outcomes to a duel. In the first scenario, you win and live while your opponent dies. In the second scenario, your opponent wins and lives while you lose and die. In the third scenario, you both die. Although one may win the duel, he may die afterward due to his injuries sustained from the confrontation. Keeping this in mind when one practices the art, the realization is that 2 out of 3 possible scenarios have you meeting with death for entering into a duel with your opponent. The realization of this lends to a different mindset when the practitioner is training. It also teaches the philosophical lesson on the importance of recognizing the severity and consequences of entering a battle or conflict with others.
Training in the Japanese sword arts requires the martial practitioner to cultivate an intense sense of focus and concentration. The flash of a sword coming at you happens very quickly. There is no room for daydreaming or loss of focus. The serious practitioner of sword arts cultivates the state of Zanshin, which translates to a spiritual awareness of everything taking place in their environment. This awareness is directed to your opponent’s movement, your Maai (distance), your Hyoshi (timing) in relation to your opponent, your available options to your opponent’s actions, and the possibility of other attackers. Keeping this state of Zanshin in mind during solo practice allows the practitioner to maintain the realism and seriousness in their training. Partnered training is done with the use of bokuto or wooden sword. Although this training is not generally done with a real sword, understand that a strike with a bokuto can do serious damage to a practitioner. The need for intense focus and concentration is essential to escaping harm. This type of training cultivates an awareness that is needed in this ever increasingly dangerous society. It also is important to be in this state of mind when training in Kempo or any other empty hand arts.
In the physical sense, training in the sword arts can be a great way to strengthen the body and the mind. Although the practice of Iaijutsu or Kenjutsu may look easy when watching an experienced practitioner, it is usually the result of many hours of sweat and hard work to create that appearance. Working just 100 repetitions of a specific sword cut can be quite a physical workout. Much of practice in iaijutsu and kenjutsu requires the practitioner to control their sword and body so that all movement maintains a constant pressure and preparedness to cut down all enemies in the protection of oneself.
The sword and the skills to employ it effectively provide the practitioner with valuable lessons in martial strategy for the use of weaponry and the use of the empty hand arts, as well as a wonderful vehicle for physical conditioning and personal development. The study of the sword arts is also rich with philosophical concepts that can help us see things from a different perspective.
In Budo or the martial way, there is an important term/ concept which is essential in a practitioner’s study within the dojo, and in the arena of life. Heijoshin is a word made up of three kanji. The first “Hei” is defined as calm, peaceful, and steady. The second kanji “Jo”, means always, and steady. The third kanji is “Shin”, which is defined as mind, spirit, or the whole inner essence of an individual. The combined interpretation is for a practitioner to keep his/her mind and spirit in a calm, constant state of being at all times, and in all situations. Keeping one’s mind and spirit in a calm state during any situation is something we all wish to do, but is nevertheless not so easy to facilitate. A practitioner’s ability to keep this in mind during their day to day practice allows them to understand and internalize that every encounter with an opponent is a situation of life and death. This practice of maintaining an ever constant, calm state of mind and spirit, allows the practitioner to face many of life’s challenges with an unconquerable mindset.
Use of these philosophical principles can guide us in a more effective effort to deal with the various conflicts with people and environment influences that effect our daily lives.