“Fortunately the Milk” in the Edition in front of me is Childrens Book written by Neil Gaiman and Illustrated, like so often, by the great Chris Riddell. It was published 2013 by Bloomsbury.
The plot of the Story is easily explained: a Dad is left alone with his two Kids, as his Wife is on a important Business Trip. The Milk is empty and the Dad has forgotten to buy a new one. To safe the Family Breakfast from ruin he steps out to buy some.
What starts as a mundane everyday Story develops faster than Light to a colorful Adventure as the Dad in his quest for Milk is Meeting Aliens, Dinosaur Space Cops, an Aztec God and many more strange figures through the space time continuum.
It’s a fun and silly Story that will lighten your heart 😀
Art Matters is a motivational Book written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chriss Riddel. My edition was published in the year 2018.
The book is quite short but beautifully illustrated very fitting to the contents of each Essay. The Book is basically a compilation of different Essays about Art and the Process of Creation written by the author. The Essays are titled: “Credo”, “Why our Future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming”, “Making a Chair” and “Make Good Art”.
The book talks about our power of imagination, learning from other people, cultures and stories. It’s about the joy of writing and creating. The worries and hopenessless of an Artist. The motivation for creation in the first place and how it will influence the world view of our children.
It’s a very short read, beautifully written and inspirational!
Yesterday i watched a short News Story about some budo training in the parks in germany. There was a teacher i respect quite much telling the reporter about his art and the equipment. And he made the statement that the Keikogi they were wearing was basicly an undergarment. Which isn’t exactly wrong. But could lead to wrong associations.
I talked since then with said teacher and he already was “corrected” by somebody else in his circle about it. But as this is a notion one can quite often find on the internet i thougt: well let’s write a post about it.
The Keikogi, meaning clothes for Budo Training, were developed by Jigoro Kano the founder of Judo.
The Training trousers called zubon were derived from western pants intentionally to give Kano’s Judo a modern international feel to it. As the traditional martial Arts were generally seen as to archaic and inferior to western culture and weaponry. So Judo was marketed as all the good things of the japanese samurai spirit, improved through western teaching methods and Science. The missunderstanding that training pants come from undergarments then comes from the origin of the word zubon itself. It stems from the french jupon which literally means underskirt. This comes from the fact that clothes similar to western trousers were originally worn under the Hakama. But because this word got used for western trousers/pants in general the meaning of it broaded alot. So yeah, training zubon kinda are similar to classical Hakama undergarments but they are not undies! Samurai wore fundoshi for that.
Also it is theorized that the Uwagi or Training Jacket, be it from Kendo or Judo or other gendai budo was derived from the Jackets of japanese Fire Fighters. This jackets were designed to absorb as much moisture as possible, so the firefighters got soaked in water before running into action. This quality then was also wanted for the training jacket to absorb as much sweat as possible.
Love… a four letter word that is difficult to describe. We ask ourselves since ages ago, what is love?
This question isn’t easy to answer. Because love is always different from person to person. It starts with affection and wishing someone well and it can develop into a madness and obsession driving someone crazy. Especially in romantic Love or Eros. But maybe this extreme forms aren’t really love. They are just poisens disguised as Love.
The old Greeks knew many kind of different forms of love. The best know would be Eros, Agape and Philia. Eros is the bodily form of love. The desire we have for our romantic partner and our wish to be together with them.
Philia is the platonic love between friends and family. It’s the form of love were we are going out of our way for friends and family because we share special bonds with them.
And then there is Agape, sometimes also called Caritas. The highest Form of love. Agape is that what God feels for us. And it is this pure form of love that is very difficult for Humans to archieve. Some Theologians would say that Humans since the original Sin are barely able to manifest this form of love, and every other kind of love is only a cheap try to imidate it. But in the end it is only positive descrimination. So when Jesus is telling his followers “Love thy neighbour like yourself”, that isn’t a nice sounding fortune cookie line. It is a brutal command to change your entire Being.
Well … but whatever right?
But maybe if shouldn’t look at love like a feeling. Maybe it is more of a process.
If you tell somebody: “I love you”, it means: I decide to suffer for you. I hope you are worth it.
Maybe that is the meaning of love. It’s taking suffering onto yourself for other people or because of other people. And enduring it, because it is worth it and it has meaning.
My father is a great Man in this regard. He is always there for his family. Since I can remember he always took care of me as best as he could. He also took care of his Lover and his Lovers Children raising them together. This was never easy. But he did it anyway. Because in his eyes it was the right thing to do. He is my Idol in this regard.
There is this Song that is well known. “What is love? Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more…”. So in the end it should be clear that there is no love without pain.
When you are together with another person it is easy to hurt them. We hurt each other even if we don’t intend to. One wrong Word, one sharp look can shatter our heart. If we are in love our Hearts become sugar glass for the the other person.
On the other Hand, sometimes love isn’t working out. And that’s okay too. Sometimes realizing that and to cut things of can be a sign of the love that was lost and of lingering affection and respect.
And people love anyway, even if there is pain. Because it is the pain that give love it’s value.
No Wonder then that the rose is the flower of love.
This Blog is an older article from me, i believe from mid’2014. But i will probably re-edit it in the near future.
Katori Shinto-ryu is one of the oldest extant Martial Arts of this world. Her origin is tightly linked with the Katori Dai-Jingu[Great Shrine], one of the oldest and most important Shinto Shrines in Japan, only exceeded maybe by the Ise and Kashima Dai-Jingu.
This three Great Shrines, or more accurate the kami associated with the shrines: Amaterasu no Mikoto(Ise), Takemikazuchi no Mikoto(Kashima) and Futsunushi no Mikoto(Katori), play an important part in origin mythology of Japan written down in the Nihonshoki and Kojiki.
Amaterasu is the japanese Goddess of the Sun and claimed Ancentress of the Japanese imperial House. She gave both Gods of War, Futsunushi and Takemikazushi the order to descend on Izumo to negotiate with Okuninushi no Mikoto about the surrender of the Land to Amaterasus Grandson, Ninigi no Mikoto.
After Okuninushi surrenderd, both Futsunushi and Takemikazuchi lingered on earth. Futsunushi marched to the East and fought Demons and other evil Kami who scourged the Land. This way he added new parts to the Kingdom and trough his martial skill lay foundation for a wealthy and secured country Japan.
Takemikazuchi assisted Jimmu Tenno, descendent of Ninigi and founder of the imperial House to subjugate further Land in the East. [It must be noted that the Myths differ and maybe both, Futsunushi and Takemikazuchi could be names for one and the same Kami. But i will probably write more about this in another Blog.]
It’s transmitted in Katori Shinto-ryu that the founder Iizasa Choizai Ienao settled in proximity of the Katori Shrine at the age of 60, after becoming a buddhist Nyudo[Lay priest]. There at the shrine he devoted himself to martial, ascetic and spirituel exercises every day and night. After 1000 days he had a visionary dream. There he meet Futsunushi as a young boy, sitting on a plum tree. Futsunushi gave Choizai a scroll, the Mokuroku Heiho no Shinsho, and transmitted to him the heavenly secret Techniques of martial arts and Strategy. Through this heavenly wisdom he founded Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu Heiho. The Tenshin Shoden part translates in „Heavens true and correct transmisson“. Meaning the transmission from Futsunushi to Choizai.
Most students of Katori Shinto-ryu know this of course. But many are not aware about the role of the buddhist Goddess Marishiten in the whole story.
Marishiten is a goddess of war and patroness of warriors. The deity is often shown as a woman with three heads or faces, eight arms and different weapons in the hands. She also a Deity of the Dawn and Dusk with power over Sun and Moon. She is driving with her heavenly carriage pulled by seven Boars on the heavens.
But sometimes she’s also portraited as Man, which shows she is incorpurating female and male aspects. She is granting the warriors who pray to her with incarnations and mudra help trough blending of their foes with bright light. This way her proteges become invisible to their enemies.
Next to Marishiten exist also other tantric warrior Deitys which get referred in different Ryuha[Styles/Traditions] like Bishamonten and Fudo-myoo to name a few.
Which special role Marishiten plays in Katori Shinto-ryu can be found in the Katori shinryo shinto-ryu kongensho [godly origins of the holy Swordtradition of the Katori Shrine] scroll:
„Through a divine vision, Marishiten taught Futsunushi no Mikoto that there are divine sword scenarios known as Itsutsu, Nanatsu, and Kasumi, and divine spear scenarios known as Hakka. Marishiten also brought one volume on strategy and displayed a sword called Ame no Totsukanomi Tsurugi“
p.214, D.Hall 2013, The Buddhist Goddess Marishiten
Which means the knowledge transmitted by Futsunushi has his origin by Marishiten The scroll further explains which meanings this Scenarios of Katori Shinto-ryu are holding:
„The spear techniques(Hakka) and sword techniques (Mitsu no tachi, Nanatsu no Tachi, and Itsutsu no Tachi) are all elements of the self-defense ritual matrix. The first element is the Purification of Body, Speech, and Mind […] . Collectively, the four elements are a single one of Body Armoring (Hikô goshin 被甲護身). “
p. 215, D.Hall 2013
Which shows that the techniques of esoteric tantric buddism weren’t only simply a part of the curriculum but the whole curriculum of the School was heavely linked to this rituals in the beginning next to the pure martial aspects of the Tradition.
Marishiten gets called trough use of Kujiho[Fingersigns] and Jujiho[drawing in the hands with ones finger] and an incarnation from japanized sankrit.
The point of this different rituals, which seem for most western people probaly nothing more like esoteric superstition, is to reach trough meditation a state of mind where one is fearless and literally believes to be invincible(because of the protection of Marishiten and Futsunushi) and to link it to the Finger and Handsigns of the Kuji- and Juji-ho. Thus this signs become anchors to instantly activate the wanted state of mind which should lead to a better performance in battle.
„Ôtake Ritsuke believes this to be the case, and feels that the performance of the Goshinpô and the Kuji no Daiji were much more efficient for battlefield preparation than the practice of zazen.“
p.216, D.Hall 2013
These rituals weren’t done and transmitted because of reasons of pure faith. But because they showed an effect at manipulating the warriors state of mind. Which, of course got amplified by a strong enough faith in the deity.
So the next time before a training session i bow not only in awareness to Choizai and Futsunushi, but also Marishiten.
David A. Hall, The Buddhist Goddess Marishiten: A Study of the Evolution and Impact of Her Cult on the Japanese Warrior
traditional japanese fencing today gets mostly referred by the name of kenjutsu, written 剣術, meaning ‘sword technique’. the weapon which gets used in most such systems is the katana, written 刀.
so we should notice that there are different kinds of kanji to refer for ‘sword’. 剣 and 刀. but one important point is that both kanji originally mean different kinds of swords.
the first one is 剣, the kun-yomi(japanese reading) is ‘tsurugi’, the on-yomi(chinese reading) is ‘ken'(like we know from kenjutsu).
this kanji referred originally to straight double-edged swords. in chinese also referred as jian. which were also the first kind of swords used by the japanese people.
the second is the already mentioned 刀, with the kun-yomi of ‘katana’ and ‘sori’ and the on-yomi ‘tô’.
this kanji refers directly to one-edged swords like classical chokutô[直刀] long one-edged straight swords and tachi[太刀], sabers for use in war which would later develope further in the uchigatana[打刀] the standardized sword which could be and got worn by warriors in civil everyday life.
so while we train with a katana, everybody today calls it ‘tsurugi-technique’. the natural reaction to that is obviosly to ask why?
the question gets even more important if we realize that different traditions of bujutsu traditionally have different ways to name their sword-work. in tatsumi-ryû for example it is very direct and plain: tôjutsu[刀術].
in the tradition of katori shintô-ryû it is tachijutsu[太刀術] like referred in the budô kyôhan of sugino yoshio and ito kikue sensei.
one theory for the reason i like is that budô/bujutsu and especially fencing and everything that has to do with swords(as a social symbol of political and military power) is said to be a gift from the kami[神]. And the kanji used for the swords used by the gods and demi-gods written in the mythical texts of japan, the nihônshoki and the kojiki was tsurugi not katana(because at the time the texts were written there were no katana).
so the use of the name kenjutsu(and also kendô) for fencing with sabers could be interpreted as direct reference to the mythical origin of japanese fencing, as an art transmitted by the gods.
is that the real reason? i don’t know. but i thinks it’s reasonable.
Katori Shinto Ryu as a martial art has a very interesting characteristic. In contrast to some other sword arts of Kata-Bujutsu all exercises end in a stand-off situation. Ukedachi evades at the last second and Kirikomi doesn’t have to stop his technique unnecessarily. This is often quite different with other traditions. There Ukedachi often pauses and Kirikomi/Shidachi stops his technique in the last moment. So we can state that the Kata of the Katori Shinto Ryu are designed in such a way that if both partners do everything right, they can train in full seriousness together without the risk of serious injuries.
This side of the Katori Shinto Ryu can be seen as katsujinken. Katsujinken[活人剣 ] is the life-giving sword. But since Katori Shinto Ryu also has a practical application it is also important to pay attention to the other side: satsujinken[殺人剣 ], the killing sword.
The applications of the Katori Shinto Ryu are shown nowadays mostly to the more advanced students. And often they reveal themselves in the process of long practice. However, there are sometimes people who teach Shinto Ryu more or less legitimately and who advertise to teach the “Bunkai” of Katori Shinto Ryu. Or to show them on self-produced DVDs which they sell on the internet.
I honestly think such characters are ridiculous. Why will you ask yourself now? Well, that is quite simple. With the use of the Japanese word Bunkai to describe the applications of the Katori Shinto Ryu these wannabe samurai surely want to make a big impression. However, they only show that they have no idea of the Japanese language and no deep knowledge within the Katori Shinto Ryu.
Bunkai is a word that is often used in the modern karate world for the applications of kata. However, Bunkai does not mean application. Bunkai[分解] means to analyze and disassemble the kata. If you show a new student a short movement sequence from the kata, which he should practice, then it is already Bunkai, even without any reference to the practical application of these movements. The actual applications are called oyo[応用] in Japanese.
And as already indicated, while both terms are well known in the budo world through their origin in karate, they are not used in the Katori Shinto Ryu. The Katori Shinto Ryu has its own terminology here. The term used for the Shinto Ryu applications is: kuzushi. Wait a minute, you will say for sure. I know Kuzushi from Judo and Aikido! That means to break the balance! And of course you are absolutely right. But as is so often the case in Japanese, words have several translation possibilities. Kuzushi or the basic form kuzusu[崩す] can be translated as ‘destroy’ or generally as ‘break’. And while in the unarmed martial arts this means breaking the balance, in Shinto Ryu it means breaking the kata. And so Katsujinken transforms into Satsujinken. For the sake of completeness: I would also like to mention that for example Sugino Yoshio osensei often simply spoke of shiai-waza, i.e. fighting techniques.
I hope I was able to give you a little bit of interesting information with this article and explain to you in a comprehensible way why you should avoid the claims of people to teach the Bunkai, of the Katori Shinto Ryu. On the other hand, I am perhaps only a real nitpicker.
Katori Shinto Ryu Warrior Tradition by Risuke Otake
Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu Budo Kyohan by Yoshio Sugino and Kikue Ito
Encyclopedia of Japanese Martial Arts by David A. Hall
There is budo and there is traditional budo. What is the difference? Traditional budo dojo often say they do their stuff “old school” or they teach the old methods and try to upheld the old “original” values of their martial art. Through that they effectively try to say: “we’re doing the real original stuff! Everybody else is doing the watered down modern sport version!”
So we have to note that traditional is a modern marketing buzzword for the most part today. But as there are real living old traditions or koryu the word shouldn’t be useless.
Tradition means: something that developed over generations and was given to you. It doesn’t mean unchanged. But it describes customs that are given over multiple Generations, which if we allow generations to mean “relationship between teacher and student” would mean that of course even modern budo like Judo, Karate and Aikido can be considered traditional. The Japanese equivalent of tradition is dento[伝統] which gets written with the kanji that can be read as: “transmitted relationship”. Furthering the view that we can see it as a sequence of student and teacher relationships.
Martial Arts are taught by teachers. And even the Founders of a Martial Art had teachers of their own. Be it a father or brother who showed them how to use weapons, or an enemy they had defeated and learned through real experience, or a master who taught them an older style of martial arts. So one could say every martial art by definition is a tradition.
So what is the meaning of the word “traditional” in the martial arts now really? Of course i can only give the i consider as true. Which is:
Saying you train in a traditional martial art is a claim of truth. When you make such a claim you should be able to show proof of it. The simplest way should be to know ones own lineage!
For example: I am a student of tenshin shoden katori shinto ryu heiho. Which is a traditional martial arts from the muromachi period of japan. I know my teachers come from the lineage of Sugino Yoshio, who got taught by Shiina Ichizo, who himself got taught by Iizasa Morisada the 18th Successor of the Founder Iizasa Choizai Ienao.
So, if somebody claims to train in a martial art, he should know the basic lineage of his tradition (well or at least you should be in a easy position to look it up). If not, he is using the word like a buzzword or is simply a fraud. Training a traditional martial art, you don’t get to not know the teacher of your teacher.
Recently I attended a seminar for Katori Shinto Ryu in Prague. The people who hosted the seminar also belonged to the Sugino Dojo and were following the French Federation for Katori Shinto Ryu.
The seminar was very interesting and we did some exercises, which I recognized by the techniques, but which I had never seen before in this form. Also the Kumi-Iai forms of the Yoseikan Shinto Ryu created by Minoru Mochizuki, his synthesis of Kendo, Iaido and Katori Shinto Ryu, which are still practiced in the French Federation, I found impressive.
But something I noticed was that the etiquette at the beginning of the training was completely different. As I know it from Sugino Sensei and my teachers, they bow to the Kamidana twice, then they clap twice and finally they bow one last time. But in Prague this part was left out. Also the position of the sword was different. While I know it in such a way that one puts down the sword normally on the left ready for use, the sword was put down in Prague in a peaceful spirit on the right.
Unfortunately I had not asked the reason for this. But I thought that this had to do with the religious connotations of the ritual. But when I discussed this difference with someone I realized that many people are not aware of what the ritual we normally do actually means.
Katori Shinto Ryu as a martial art is very closely linked to Japanese Shintoism. As close as it is in the name: Katori Shinto Ryu.
Here is a video of a normal Shinto prayer:
Does anyone recognize that?
Our etiquette at the beginning and end of training is a Shinto ritual. The small talisman at the Kamidana or often the calligraphy of Katori Shrine serves as a spiritual connection to Katori and the Kami Futsunushi no Mikoto, who according to legend introduced the founder, Iizasa Choizai, to the deepest secrets of the art of war.
The ritual, as far as I have understood it, has the following meaning: The first bow serves to announce yourself to the Kami. The second bow is a way of paying respect to the kami. The clapping serves to awaken the kami and to gain his attention. Then one pauses briefly to ask/pray for something. Like for example a safe training. And the last bow to it is to politely underline this request.
Does that mean that you have to believe in Futsunushi no Mikoto in our martial art? No, Shintoism is a form of faith without dogma. Especially since “believe” has to be defined more precisely.
Each person has to decide for himself whether he can connect/accept this ritual with his own religious views or not. But of course one would first have to know what this ritual means to make a informed decision.