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Posts Tagged ‘Yamabushi’

YamabushiI am lucky enough to work in an international environment and even luckier because our working language is English, so my non-native speaker colleagues have to work much harder to communicate than do the Americans and Brits.

A lady in my office was explaining to a Spanish speaking co-worker that “There are many ways to skin a cat”, meaning various routes to achieving the same goal. She was instantly met with a string of questions about her need to be cruel to animals, what she was going to do with the skin of the unfortunate animal and what did skinning cats have to do with the work topic under discussion. Fortunately I was just an innocent eavesdropper to this conversation, but it made me think that the Chinese / Japanese equivalent “There are many paths to the top of the mountain” gave a far more positive, affirming view of alternate choices.

When kendo was first exported to the West, many of the teachers who introduced it were not professionals, so they taught in the same way they learned. In many cases they were taught in primary school and they used the same methods to teach adult beginners.

More recently the professional kendo teachers sent out by the AJKF have taken a far more analytical approach to kendo tuition. These experts have worked out the best ways to coach people of varying ages and ability levels. Nevertheless, different sensei have widely differing methods of teaching the same things. One might emphasise making big swings in suburi, another may concentrate on small sharp cuts against the opponent’s shinai to improve tenouchi. Either way the objective is to help the student make correct, relaxed cuts.

Some instructors focus on posture, others talk about bracing the abdomen; while others may emphasise the importance of drawing up the left foot after cutting. All of these approaches are designed to instil ki-ken-tai-itchi in the student.

I have heard kenshi complain that they get widely differing advice from various teachers and don’t know which to follow. This is a challenge, particularly for those in the early stages of kendo development. In an ideal world we should be able to follow the principles of shu-ha-ri, following the instruction of one teacher until we have strong enough basics to branch out and borrow from others. Finally we become capable of improvising and improving technique unaided.

For many though, it is a matter of taking advice from whoever will give it. In this case it is worth keeping in mind that “there are many paths to the top of the mountain” or if your shamisen needs refurbishing “many ways of skinning a cat”.

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