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A theme that came out of that session was the importance of three “hearts”, 残心 zanshin, 不動心 fudoshin, and 無心 mushin. Each of these words ends in 心 shin, a word which encompasses heart, mind and spirit. 

The first character of zanshin means remainder or balance, and together the two characters conveys the meaning of always being ready to follow through and attack again, always alert and ready for the next thing while maintaining good kamae. When you attack your partner, you need not only the intent to connect and move him, but also the intent to attack again.

Attacking is not a one-punch deal. You keep attacking and defending while protecting your center on two axes – your spine is the vertical, your hips are the horizontal.  Correct attacks, proper distance (don’t punch short, don’t punch over your center, don’t punch wide, and don’t track) and good defenses of your own tsuki are vital to help your opponent do the technique and feel where the technique is efficient and effective. We train both sides when we stay alert and ready for the next attack or defense in good kamae.

Fudoushin means being immoveable and imperturbable. No matter what happens – a physical attack, a snide comment – or where it comes from – an external force or your own mental state – you keep going.

Mushin, literally no-mind, refers to both the Buddhist concept of non-attachment and to innocence. Mushin is neither the feeling nor rational thought. Nor is it the negation of these two modes. It is a freedom to move while not hanging on to any one movement, moment, intention or emotion. An untrained, “innocent” person, early on in the dojo, may move with no thought and spontaneously and freely move. As we continue in our training, we may get stuck in the feeling and technique, focussing on the subtle places of tension and slack or obsessing on perfect technique. It takes practice in zanshin and a lot of determination to develop fudoshin in order to get back to this no-mind place.

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Vancouver August 2009

I only had a week for the trip home as the Obon summer holiday is peak travel time (airfare is out of my price range) and I had to return to some obligations here in Tokyo for September.

The trip began with crashing the gracious Amebushi – Rain Warriors dojo on Vancouver’s east side. These guys train rain or shine outside in the park. Their Thursday night session is for basics led by C. When we were done, on short notice, I asked if anyone wanted to train the following morning, and was surprised and impressed to have four takers. Despite the threat of rain, all four came to training and we put in two hours working on ukemi, receiving ichimonji, being free with our hands (not holding on like grim death), and attacking.

Saturday, Amebushi , Namiyama and Momijiki Dojos and friends came together for a three hour training session. I brought my “homework” from Hatsumi Sensei’s training – the rope theme. Staying connected to your opponent with or without weapons. Most of the movement we worked on came from receiving ichimonji. How, you wonder, can you do a three hour session on just 一文字 ichimonji? Receiving attacks from swords, kicks and punches turns one into three right away. When you start doing different directions, 八方 happo, front, back, inside, outside, and even down, you have 15 different ways to move. Concentrating on this one kamae meant that we could look at the ropey part in detail.

I sometimes suck at the use of the actual rope. I like using it, however, because it challenges my kamae. Put the rope in my hands and I agonize over my own errors in movement. Take it away and suddenly it feels a lot easier.

steven picSaturday night was more training. Namiyama Dojo walked through the wandrewmikeoods into to a secret clearing and we trained with mutodori until the stars came out. The biggest adventure was walking out of the clearing back through the woods with no moonlight, dense westcoast canopy blocking out the light, and no lights with us. The guys know that route well, but it was still impressive to be led out on a winding, hilly path and over bridges at a good pace in complete darkness. One of the highlights, pun intended, was spotting a bioluminescent fungus at the foot of a tree. No, I didn’t lick it.

 

oma and IThe last few days of my trip, I stayed with my 82 year old grandmother, Margareta, known to family and friends by the German endearment “Oma”. Oma is a tough, intelligent, big-hearted, practical woman. She raised six children in two countries, speaks four languages, is a master baker, capable homesteader, needleworker, charity volunteer, and always surprises with her insights and ingenuity. The last few years she has downsized the baking and gardening, and spent a lot of her time globetrotting; earlier this year she went to Jordan and Israel with her church group, this winter she’s off to Panama, and next year, she wants to come to Japan. I told her, she’s got to be ready for the training, so each morning we did 柔軟体操 juunantaisou, stretching, with a mix of yoga stuff and isometrics that she routinely does. Oma is in her tenth year of recovery from cancer. She has amazing strength from her faith, family support and sheer power of will. She’s my inspiration.

Thank you to everyone who came out to train, and to Bill, Colin, Steven, Mike and Davidd for being such tough opponents and kind hosts!

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