I am sitting here with a nice cup of Frisian tea and some self made apple pie and wait that the year will end. I am such a boring guy, for many years I don’t celebrate the change of the year anymore. And right now as I am in this melancholic mood I wish I would have gone out, maybe with friends, and ignore my worries. Oh well it is too late for that. It is too late for many things
2023 was the year my mother died. And though that I learned a lot. I don’t know if it was because of that but this year is also a year my heart closed of. More then normally, especially with other people. Like this year was a grey year for me. I didn’t like myself this year a lot. I regret that I couldn’t communicate my feelings fully to the persons I love. As saying “I love you” and “I don’t want you to do it.” are hard to say and I rather hide behind stupid phrases like the lazy coward that I am. And then I am angry at myself for waiting until it is too late.
Well … let’s get away from such a depressing topic and let’s find something more positive, shall we? My Dojo was able to organize two Seminars this year. So that seems to have been a success, as there were people saying “thank you” to me and even giving me gifts. Which feels weird as I only told other people what to do. But seeing the smiles of these people was still something that made my heart jump with joy.
Also it seems I have to accept that slowly and surely I have students. Or at least people that only take training from me. Which is a weird feeling because I still feel not good enough for that. But still these students then taking there Kyu-exams and actually passing feels good and gives my a small sense of pride. Even though most of the time I think they didn’t pass because of my teaching and more like despite being taught by me.
I am thankful to all the people who have given me their time of day this year. For their smiles and teachings and trust they have invested into me. Next year there is much to do for me. Maybe I can learn to be more honest with myself and my feelings and actually share them for a change.
Heute war die Beerdigung meiner Mutter. Eva Leonhardt, geboren Esemann wurde am 17.06.1968 geboren und starb am 04.03.2023. Sie war Tochter von Regina Esemann und Schwester von Udo Esemann.
Ich möchte daher ein wenig über sie schreiben. In meiner Erinnerung war meine Mutter nie eine Frau die gut darin war ihre Gefühle auszudrücken. Das ist wohl eine Charaktereigenschaft, die ich von ihr geerbt habe. Oftmals tragen wir unser Gesicht ausdruckslos, unbeeindruckt, wie eine Maske. Und doch spielt sich dahinter so viel ab.
Meine Mutter hat sich oft selbst als Rabenmutter bezeichnet. Vielleicht gerade, weil sie ihre Gefühle nicht so gut ausdrücken konnte mir gegenüber. Ich habe Sie jedoch nie als solche wahrgenommen. Nein, ganz im Gegenteil. Auch wenn meine Mutter und ich uns gestritten haben oder ich sie zu streng mir gegenüber wahrnahm, war mir klar, dass Sie mich geliebt hat.
Als jemand der mit einem Herzfehler geboren wurde hatte sie immer darauf geachtet, dass ich jeden nötigen Arzttermin wahrnahm. Sobald ich Erwachsene Zähne bekam, sah sie zu das diese mit Emaile versiegelt wurde, dass auch ja keine Karies mein Herz angreifen konnte. Etwas wovon ich noch heute profitiere. Lebhaft erinnere ich mich noch als sie sich mit einem BVG-Mitarbeiter gestritten hatte. Ich sollte auf die Realschule gehen und dazu war es ab dann nötig einen BVG Abo Ausweis für eine Schülerkarte zu bekommen. Meine Grundschule war 5 Minuten von meinem Zuhause entfernt, daher war es zuvor nie nötig gewesen für mich ein Monatsticket zu haben. Der BVG-Mitarbeiter wollte mir eine solche Karte jedoch nicht ausstellen, da ich ja noch gar keinen Schülerausweiß von meiner Realschule zeigen konnte. Den bekam ich erst nach Beginn des Schuljahres. Dieser Zustand, die ersten paar Tage ohne gültige Monatskarte zur Schule zu fahren, bis ich den Ausweis bekam war für meine Mutter nicht akzeptabel. Und sie stritt sich eine gute halbe Stunde mit dem BVG-Mitarbeiter, bis er klein beigab.
Und auch wenn sich meine Mutter immer für mich eingesetzt hat, hat sie mich gleichzeitig auch zur Selbstständigkeit erzogen. Ich wollte im Alter von 13 mit der Kampfkunst Aikido beginnen. Meine Mutter hatte nichts dagegen. Jedoch sollte ich das alles allein machen. Selbst zum Probetraining fahren, mit den Leuten dort reden und den nötigen Papierkram erledigen (abseits, von was ihre Unterschrift benötigte). Das hatte mich damals recht viel Überwindung gekostet, aber ich bin dankbar von ihr so ins kalte Wasser geschubst wurden zu sein.
Meine Mutter hatte als Altenpflegerin gearbeitet. Das allein ist schon ein Knochenjob, der viel zu wenig bezahlt wird. Jedoch was bei ihr noch dazu kam, war das sie auf der Station für Demenzkranke. Manchmal habe ich sie nach der Schule abgeholt, wenn ihre Schicht zu Ende war, um zusammen mit ihr die Einkäufe zu erledigen. Das Seniorenheim roch immer steril nach Krankenhaus, war grau und öder. Das eine mal kam ich auf ihre Station, wo sie gerade in der Raucherecke mit einer Kollegin saß und auf mich wartete. Im Hintergrund hörte ich eine Frau rufen „HILFE, HILFE wo bin ich denn?“. Meine Mutter und ihre Kollegin versicherten mir ich solle mir keine Sorgen machen, das sei leider so. Die Frau würde alle fünf Minuten vergessen, wo sie sei. Dies war der Arbeitsalltag meiner Mutter.
Meine Mutter war eine sehr starke Person. Jahrelang übte sie ihren Beruf mit Leidenschaft aus. Oftmals erzählte Sie mir über die Bücher, die sie betreffs Weiterbildungen und Seminaren gelesen hatte, wie man am besten mit Demenz erkrankten Personen umgehen muss. Das Sie oftmals geistig in der Kindheit zurückversetzt seien und dass man viel Empathie zeigen muss. Auch wenn die Patienten wütend und beleidigend wurden, durfte man das nicht persönlich nehmen. Schließlich seien diese Menschen auch nur leidend, verwirrt und hatten Angst. Einmal erzählte sie mir sogar das Sie mit dem Gedanken spiele türkisch zu lernen. Um besser Patienten türkischer Herkunft pflegen zu können. Aber auch die Stärkste Person bricht unter zu viel Druck und meine Mutter erkrankte an Burnout zum Ende hin.
In ihrer Freizeit malte meine Mutter gerne Window-Color Bilder, die Fenster unserer Wohnung waren eine Zeit lang immer mit ihnen zugeklebt. Darunter ganz viele Delfine. Delfine waren ihre Lieblingstiere, weil sie so klug waren und süß aussahen. Meine Mutter hatte eine tiefsitzende Faszination mit Ägypten und ägyptischer Mythologie. Sie reiste zweimal dort hin, um die Sphinx und Pyramiden zu sehen. Sie hatte ein großes Herz, sie nahm meinen Stiefbruder wie ihr eigenes Kind auf und kümmerte sich mit Ganzen Herzen um die Hunde die sie sich mit ihrem Ehemann zu gelegt hatte.
Sie war streng mit mir, ließ mich aber immer meinen Weg gehen und hatte immer ein offenes Ohr für mich. Manchmal war ihr Rat aber auch merkwürdig.
Ich vermisse meine Mutter, ich hoffe sie ruht nun in Frieden.
Last weekend (9. – 11.12.2022) I participated in the Polish winter camp for Katori Shinto-ryu in Dojo Stara Wies. This year Ulf Rott(5.Dan) was invited as a teacher for the winter camp. He was supported by Jacek Krzeszowiec(4.Dan ,Lublin), Detlef Augustin(4.Dan, Berlin), Gerry Groenemeijer(3.Dan, Akranes), Rafał Sałapski(3.Dan, Warsaw) and Mateusz Kuduk(3.Dan, Krakow).
The Polish Winter Camp has been held annually in December since 2014. The only interruptions were during the Corona lockdown. Dojo Stara Wies is a European Budo center located about two hundred kilometers south of Warsaw. The camp is up on a hill on which the big dojo stands. Around it you can find the individual Japanese-style buildings where the martial artists stay during the camp in their free time. A further down at the bottom of the hill one finds the reception and the food hall. Each small cottage was equipped with a genkan and a wardrobe, three bathrooms, a kitchen, a tatami lined living area with carmine and 3-4 tatami bedrooms for two with futons. The sauna, tea room and small lake at the bottom of the hill should also be mentioned.
When you are on the big hill you feel like you are at the end of the world and surrounded only by nature. The silence when you were alone was magical and something that I as a city dweller experience all too rarely. The first night it was even snowing and the next day everything was white from the snow, which underlined the beauty of the place even more. Although the whole camp was in a very Japanese style, there was no Japanese food on site. But that’s not a bad thing, after all, the Polish food you got there was also very delicious.
Ulf Rott Sensei put a strong emphasis (as always) on the basics. He explained in detail why we perform the techniques as we do and explained their origin from the armored fighting. At the same time, Rott Sensei was open to questions and was always available to answer the students’ questions.
The social aspect in the evening was also very nice and very important. Often people went from house to house, met friends, drank and snacked together and talked shop with each other about the martial arts.
On Saturday evening there were also extensive exams for people who wanted to dare to the 5th Kyu, but also up to the 2nd Dan. My friend Mateusz Bryla informed me that infact 28 act persons took part in the exam that day. All gave their best, but unfortunately not everyone passed. What there was for everyone was valuable feedback from Rott Sensei.
A total of 90 people participated in the winter camp, a number that is in no way inferior to this year’s summer seminar with Sugino Sensei. In total, students from Krakow, Warsaw, Lublin, Bialstok, Szczecin and Tarnow came together, plus four Germans and one Dutchman ;). If I have misspelled any name here please forgive me and I’m thankfull for the kind hospitality of our Polish friends and their commitment and passion for the Katori Shinto-ryu!(And the beer… and the ham)
I would like to express my sincere thanks to my Senpai Michael Reinhardt. He was kind enough to give me the okay to use material he uncovered during his research on the history of the Tenshinshō-Den Katori Shintō-ryū Heihō. Without his research, this article would have been much shorter. Thanks also to Anna Puntigam who was kind enough to read this article and provide me with helpful feedback.
Our modern society still has to fight against sexist prejudices: many people still have the image that martial arts and combat sports are something for men, that women are perhaps too weak and it is not even possible for them to learn the martial arts and sometimes even the women themselves do not believe that they are accepted in the martial arts. Like a good friend of mine who is now passionately practicing kenjutsu. But in the beginning she was afraid she would not be allowed to learn the sword art she had chosen. Fortunately, she was wrong and can now proudly say that she is an Onna Bugeisha. This article is intended to dispel such prejudices and to show, through the history of Katori Shintō-ryū, the important role that women have often played in the martial arts.
The source of Shintō-ryū
Many people in the sphere of kobudo are well aware of the origin story of the Katori Shintō-ryū. Iizasa Choizai Ienao, a skilled warrior, is said to have retired one day, tired of war, to the grounds of the Katori Shrine in Chiba. There he is said to have devoted 100 days to extensive training in martial arts as well as meditation and prayer. Then one night Futsunushi no Mikoto, the deity of war worshipped at the Katori Shrine, appeared to him in a dream in the form of a boy sitting on a tree. In this vision, Futsunushi is said to have given the Mokuroku Heiho no Shinsho to Ienao. A scroll containing the deepest secrets of the art of war. Based on these events, the Katori Shintō-ryū is said to have been founded.
In the background of this legend, two goddesses should not go unmentioned. Amaterasu no Mikoto and Marishiten.
Amaterasu is the most important deity within Shintoism. She is the goddess of the sun and light. One of the most famous myths about her is how her brother Susanoo offended her so much that she retreated into a cave in dismay and imprisoned herself with a powerful stone. This plunged the world into darkness and all the gods had to come together to devise a ruse to lure Amaterasu out of her cave. Her grandson Ninigi became the ruler of Japan. Niningi fathered the first Japanese emperor, Jimmu, together with the daughter of the Dragon King, making Amaterasu the ancestress of the Japanese imperial house.
Marishiten is an ancient deity originally from pre-Hindu India. There she was known as the goddess Marici and was a goddess of war, dawn and patroness of warriors with the ability to make her worshippers invisible. She was often depicted with multiple arms, weapons and three faces. From dawn to dusk she is said to have ridden across the sky on wild boars. As a goddess, she continued to be worshipped in some cults within Buddhism, reaching Tibet and China. There she took the name Molizhitian. In China, she was even adopted as a goddess by some Taoist sects. Then, when esoteric Buddhism reached Japan, she came with it across the sea as a Marishiten and took a place in the Japanese spiritual world.
Futsunushi was one of Amaterasu’s generals. At her command, Futsunushi descended to earth with Takemikazuchi to drive out the last demons, monsters and hostile spirits and to pave the way for Ninigi’s reign. Marishitens role was to train both deities in the art of war. She was their teacher. Without these two great goddesses, the Katori Shinto-ryu would not exist today in the school’s mythology.
Yamato Nadeshiko – the ideal Japanese woman
The traditional Western as well as the Japanese image of women do not differ very much from each other. The woman has to stay at home, run the household, raise the children and obediently follow her husband.
And yet, for a true Yamato Nadeshiko [大和撫子], there is something in which she essentially differs from her Western counterpart: she also had to be strong and defend the house in the absence of the man! This fact is especially underlined by the naginata, a long sword lance. The naginata proved early on to be an extremely dangerous close combat weapon. However, as armies grew larger and larger, the spear soon took over as the favored weapon, replacing the naginata. Spears were much easier to use in formations and easier to handle. The naginata did not disappear from the battlefield overnight, of course, but it stayed at home more often, and sooner or later it ended up in the hands of samurai women. As a long weapon with some leverage, it served the women well and compensated for disadvantages in strength. A small and petite woman trained on the naginata could easily strike down a larger, stronger man.
Due to these circumstances, the tradition developed that samurai women were trained on the naginata. This circumstance led to the fact that the Naginata today in Japan is also considered a “women’s weapon”. Of course, there are also men who practice with the Naginata, but culturally Naginatado is considered something “for women”.
Woman of the Iizasa family
Nevertheless, the Katori Shintō-ryū was and is run purely patriarchal for generations and the typical western practioner knows not alot about the women of the Iizasa family.
However, a few facts can be found here. Iizasa Choizai Ienao the founder of our school built his dojo near the Katori Shrine. There it stands to this day, the Hombu Dojo of the Katori Shintō-ryū. Of course, it has been rebuilt and renovated over the centuries. What is remarkable, however, is that Ienao’s wife is enshrined there with him in the dojo. Unfortunately, I do not know the name of his wife, but there together with him she is sitting next to him, holding a naginata in her hand. As the wife of a samurai that she was.
The second woman of the family that I would like to highlight is Iizasa Toi Sensei. In the official history of our school, the 18th Soke Iizasa Morisada died suddenly, without a male successor. For a time, under these conditions, the school was then led by the then Shihan with Yamaguchi Kumajiro as Kyoju, responsible for the technical transmission of the school. Later, a young man married into the Iizasa family and was adopted as a successor into the Iizasa family and installed as the 19th Soke Iizasa Kinjiro sensei, the father of our 20th Soke Iizasa Yasusada.
However, there are several documents from which it is clear that Morisada’s widow, Iizasa Toi sensei led the school in this difficult time after Morisada’s death as the 19th Soke and appears as such in a number of historical documents of that time. Among other things, she was responsible for the renovation of the Hombu dōjō and had collected money for it.
Donn F. Draeger is a famous pioneer of Japanese martial arts. He was one of the most famous US-Americans who popularized Japanese martial arts in the West. In the 60’s he also began to learn Katori Shintō-ryū under a then young Otake Risuke and is generally considered to be the first Westerner to learn the school. However, this assumption is wrong!
Olive Lloyd-Baker, born in 1902 in Gloucestershire England and her good friend Ms. Janes were the first two western students of Katori Shintō-ryū.
Ms. Lloyd-Baker came to Japan for a short period starting from mid-April 1927. There she stayed at the Imperial Hotel. Through the contact of Ms. Noguchi Utako, a member of the British Embassy, both women were introduced to Kaneko Masamitsu under whose guidance they learned Katori Shintō-ryū. They were instructed daily from 10:00 to 12:00, especially in the use of the naginata.
Itō Kikue Sensei was born on September 30, 1906 in Sawara, Chiba. The Itō family had held an important role as shrine guardians of the Katori shrine for generations. Itō Kikue sensei began her training in the Katori Shintō-ryū at a very young age under the supervision of Hongu Toranosuke sensei. Together with Sugino Yoshio Osensei she wrote on the Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū Būdō Kyohan. She probably was responsible for the chapters concerning Naginata. She taught Katori Shintō-ryū Naginata in public schools during the 1940s and retired from the affairs of the ryūha after World War II to work as an elementary school teacher.
I hope I could show by several examples that while Katori Shintō-ryū, like many facets of society, is dominated by men, women nevertheless had an important place in it and the martial arts in general. The martial arts in Japan was never a place that was closed to women, but one that was traditionally quite open to them.
This year was neither a great year, nor an easy year for me. I think that’s how it was for all of us. And yet I felt that this year was very important. I learned a lot about myself this year and made new experiences.
On the one hand, I realized that I still have to find the balance between work and leisure. When I work too much, I feel easily burned out. If my vacation is too long, my daily routine breaks down and I fall into a depressive state. Next year it is clear to me that I will take more targeted and regular vacations and not save them until the end of the year.
I have also learned that I do not have to mourn old relationships. The past is the past and I must finally leave it behind me. Sometimes you have to sacrifice things and let go to be able to move on. But if you are open enough, it is easy to build new relationships. The world is big.
I’m not going to talk about Corona or the state of the world right now. I have neither the desire nor the strength at the moment. Therefore, please forgive me that I write here so egocentrically. But I wish you all good health and a happy new year 2022.
Before the time of the Corona Pandemic, our keikojo gave two demonstrations every year. One in the summer at the summer festival of the German-Japanese Society of Berlin and the other in the winter at the Japan Festival in the Urania.
Many people surely have in mind people smashing bricks with their bare hands or a group of people performing the same kata in perfect synchronization when they think of the word “martial arts demonstration”. What also often exists are staged show fights including athletic gymnastics. A real show like you know it from the movies, accompanied by music to amuse the audience and to promote the own dojo.
However, such a show is far removed from classical demonstrations in Kobudo. In Japan, demonstrations began as something called honoenbu (奉納演武). These were ceremonies often performed in internal circles at shrines. The purpose was to honor the gods and the ancestors of the tradition and to demonstrate his skills before them. Only much later were these demonstrations opened to the general population.
Now here in the West we do not have Shinto shrines and our enbu are not honoenbu either. What remains the same is that the purpose of an enbu is to demonstrate the skills of the dojo. And this throughout, from the youngest beginner to the teacher. It should reflect the full spectrum of skill in a dojo. So nowadays the purpose of an Enbu is not to amuse or impress the audience, but rather to have a stressful training situation for the members. It is practically training with spectators.
Giving an Enbu is nerve-wracking. The environment is unfamiliar, often forcing you to work at an unfamiliar distance. The ground is uneven and in the grass you can often trip over a stone or branch. When performing on a stage, you have to deal with getting bright spotlights in your face. Also, children and teenagers are often merciless in commenting and ridiculing what they see there. This all contributes to an increased adrealine level which often leads to mistakes. The art of a good enbu is to be able to react appropriately to these mistakes, so that in the best case they are not noticed by the untrained eye of the audience.
From my own experience I can say that it is quite valuable to make the experience of an Enbu as a participant. It forces you to be more relaxed in front of an audience, strengthens your self-confidence and teaches you what it is like to be in an unknown situation. Of course, I’m still a little nervous before every Enbu, because every performance is different.
The last Christmas present I received is the book ” Materalistische Staatskritik” by Moritz Zeiler. I had wanted it for Christmas after a friend had recommended it to me. This book was published by Schmetterlingsverlag in 2017.
This book opens with the statement that Karl Marx’s work, by and large, focuses particularly on a critique of the capitalist economy. Criticism of the actual state system can be found in isolated quotes, but Marx died before he could write and publish his planned work on state criticism. Because of this, there are so many different political currents in the left-wing party spectrum, all of which have different analyses, critiques, and goals regarding the form of the state. Whether it is in the chumming up to the capitalist economic state, the goal of reform or the goal of revolution. This book attempts to present the different currents and theoretical backgrounds.
The book has about 170 pages and is therefore a small paperback. The font is chosen small and compact and on each page is a packed with content without many paragraphs formatted. The language is very academic and one should therefore have a good vocabulary to fully understand it.
As someone who is only marginally involved in politics, I think reading a book like this is necessary to educate myself politically.
This christmas I also got three Japanese cookbooks as a gift. First “Japan das Kochbuch”(Japan the cookbook). It is a big bible like cookbook about real traditional Japanese cuisine, its history and recipes from appetizers to dessert. This book is really thick and has beautiful pictures of the dishes.
The second book is “Einfach Authentisch Japanisch Kochen” (simply authentic Japanese cooking). It is a lot thinner then the first one and also has a lot of western influenced japanese dishes in it like curry rice and melonpan. There are less real photos in it and more drawings of ingredients and dishes.
The last book is called “Manga Kochbuch Japanisch” (Manga cookbook Japanese). From the theme there are a lot of dishes that a well known from Anime and Manga and dishes that are favorites of japanese Teens. This book has a combination of drawn art and some nice vibrant photos.
One of the presents I got on christmas eve was the graphic novel Snow, Glass, Apples. Written by my favourite author Neil Gaiman and drawn in gorgeous art by Colleen Doran.
The graphic novel is an adaption of the classic Snow White story but with a special twist. In this story the stepmother is not an evil Queen. It asks the question: Why did the queen really want to have Snow White killed? Spoiler alert: It was not because she was far more beautiful than she was.
This novel takes us back in to a time when fairy tales were not squeaky clean feel good storys from Disney. But to a time when they were raw, bloody and creepy. Pick this book up for a quick read and a interesting an dark twist on these famous tale.
I wish you all a merry christmas! Yesterday I celebrated with my family. As presents I got some really nice books. Three of the books I received were japanese cookbooks. So get ready for some japanese cuisine in the future!
But today I cooked a beef roast with gravy for the first christmas day. I made a rich sauce with mirepoix, tomatoe paste, redwine, beef stock and a lot of time. What did you have for christmas?