Everyday for two months we practiced calligraphy, noh-dance, tea ceremony, and budo. While reading Sgt. Rory Miller's new book Meditations on Violence (make sure to read the comments at the end of the post) I was reminded of my budo training.
Sgt. Miller makes a point of saying that one of the most useful types of training he has ever done was a two person practice in which one person stands perfectly still while the other person attacks suddenly with a sword. The stillness replicates the "freeze" that so often happens in a surprise attack. The instantaneous closing of the gap, avoiding the sword, and furious disarming technique replicates the tiny window of time and space necessary for survival in a surprise attack.
Budo simply translated means "warrior's way." At Oomoto we trained in the most beautiful dojo I have ever seen. The entire building was handmade from wood without nails and we moved on the best tatami mats in fitted gi's with pure indigo hakamas. The back wall of the dojo, the altar in most aikido schools, was simply two sliding shoji doors which opened onto an exquisite garden with a large fruit barring ume tree which was part of a larger orchard. It was a mind blowing experience even without the martial arts.
My class had about 10 students and 6 teachers. I learned very little about the teachers as individuals. They had different levels of skill but there was no apparent ranking system. We were each given a straight, carved, hardwood, two-handed sword. We learned a left attack and a right attack. A one-step, parry attack and a two-step, parry attack. That was it. Lots of repetition and working with different partners. Then we practiced what Sgt. Miller described. Disarming a sword attack with our bare hands from stillness.
I really haven't thought much about how good, how basic this training was. Although all of the training began slowly, by the end I was totally enthusiastic about practicing with full speed and full power. One ferocious decisive movement instigated by the belly of the opponent.
I loved budo but honestly, I loved tea ceremony more. Two hours a day learning how to make a bowl of tea. The absurdity of it was overwhelming. Most of the class was spent humbly just this side of a gate leading to hysterical laughter. When you get down and analyze the exact details, the fine mechanics, the subtle gestures necessary to making a bowl of tea--it kind of dawns on you that you are going through life obliviously bungling absolutely everything...and that's OK.