‘In the Dojo – A Guide to the Rituals and Etiquette of the Japanese Martial Arts’ by Dave Lowry is a tremendous book and one I would recommend to any serious student of Japanese martial arts; especially those who have just started and gotten to the point where they are convinced that this is for them.
I had known of Dave Lowry’s writing for some time and loved his first autobiographical book, ‘Autumn Lightning – Education of an American Samurai’. Lowry goes some way towards explaining Japanese culture to Westerners in a clear, direct and engaging way. But ‘In the Dojo’ goes further by methodically providing answers to all those burning questions, or puzzling contradictions found in Japanese martial arts.
Lowry supplies important cultural information which makes it easy for Westerners to understand that preconceptions; or looking at things through Western lenses can lead you up the garden path. There’s a lot of myth busting going on in this book and Lowry is keen to avoid the gloss and romanticism and tell it like it is. For example, he tells us that training in a traditional art can be dull and repetitive and that just because someone is addressed as ‘Sensei’ doesn’t mean they are going to be Master Yoda.
Let’s be clear, Lowry is no armchair commentator. His books, ‘Autumn Lightning’ and later ‘Persimmon Wind’ give colourful accounts of his own immersion into traditional Japanese Budo, I would also recommend these books.
Chapters in the book are: The Dojo, Visitors, The Uniform, The Hakama, Weapons, The Shinto Shrine, Contemplation, Bowing, Martial Language, The Teacher, Money, The Student, The Dojo Year and Glossary.
It’s almost a given; a taken for granted aspect of training, we make assumptions about speed.
There’s no doubt, we as martial artists need to be able to be the fastest we can be. Like the gunfighter in the old Western movies, quickest on the draw wins; the slowest hand loses.
But I wonder if speed as a concept would bear a closer examination?
I want to avoid the biomechanics of speed; that’s best left to the Sports Scientists; except to say that slowness can be avoided by understanding relaxation and unnecessary tension; this is something we pay attention to, particularly in Wado. Sugasawa Sensei once said that no tennis or golf coach would ever say to his protégé, ‘you need to be more tense!’
Way back in 1979 I came across a book called ‘The Amateur Boxing Association Coach’s Handbook’. In an attempt to give myself and my student’s an extra edge I studied the book carefully and I borrowed exercises and drills to work into my routine. But what particularly interested me was the short section on how to get young boxers to appreciate that concept of speed. The coaches recognised that the youngsters under their guidance needed a realignment of what they understood speed to be. They were carrying around assumptions and misconceptions, based upon…what exactly? The coaches wanted to expand their experience in a very physical, non-verbal way (no amount of explaining about speed can get you to appreciate just how fast the human body can move).
Recently a friend had their first experience of watching a top class Wimbledon tennis match between two of the highest seeded male stars. They told me that there was no substitute for the actual experience of witnessing up-close the sheer power and speed of the serve and the reactions needed to respond. Raonic hit the second fastest serve in Wimbledon history (147mph) to Andy Murray in the recent Wimbledon final, and Murray returned it! These types of experiences are what the boxing coaches were struggling to get across.
In the handbook the answers were a little thin, but the fact that the issue had been raised was enough to make me question the idea. The book mentioned one method. The suggestion was hill running. But this was hill running with a different twist. The suggestion was a very steep incline, full speed, full tilt, balls to the wall sprinting downhill! Yes, downhill!
I could imagine many a young boxer whose legs fail to keep up with his body arriving in a crumpled heap with gravel rash on his chin!
I once visited a sports museum in Pittsburgh in which the public were invited to run alongside a virtual 100 metre projection of one of the world’s greatest female sprinters. It was an amazing experience!
So maybe what we think is fast is really an illusion and it’s up to coaches, teachers and Sensei to develop ways of creating new experiences for our students. I have a few ideas, but they have been at the experimental stages longer than I would care to admit.
Welcome to the new look Shikukai Chelmsford website.
With additional features and the new design we hope you will find the site to be more accessible and informative. We have all the features of the old site and more. You will also find that the new site is more compatible with smartphones and tablets.
The site will provide easier connections to social media and give you all the information you need for up and coming events.
4th and 5th February 2017. Chelmsford, Essex.
Hosted by Shikukai Chelmsford.Training times and Venues:
Saturday 4th – 2pm to 5pm
Sunday 5th – 11am to 2pm.
Dan Grading (subject to letting Sensei know in advance) – 2pm to 5pm Sunday.
Danbury Sports & Social Centre, Dawson Field, Main Road, Danbury, Chelmsford, Essex, CM3 4NQ.
Last year parking was tight. They have opened another car park for us now BUT the farmers market is on to 1.30 so do have a look at the parking map (at the bottom) to ensure you don’t get caught.
Also, the changing rooms where a bit muddy. They have ensured us this will not be the case, although they might still be a little snug!.
Members (up to date Shikukai license):
Weekend £ 35.00
One day £ 20.00
Kyu Grading £ 12.00 (A Kyu grading is subject to confirmation from Sensei)
Weekend £ 40.00
One day £ 25.00
Any questions to me please firstname.lastname@example.org, 07989 257044 or PM me on Facebook.
Payment – Please pay on arrival. Should you prefer you can pay in advance to our Club Bank Account. Please contact me for details.
Gradings – Subject to demand a Kyu grading can be held during training. There will be a Dan grading on Sunday after training.
Ages – Suitable for ages 14 and above.
Travel – should now be easier as Chelmsford is just off the A12 dual carriageway and has excellent train and bus connections providing good links to Stansted Airport.
If anyone needs lifts to and from the airport, venues, hotels etc then just let us know. We have plenty of people who can run you about.
Accommodation – I suggest staying in Chelmsford on the Saturday night. The restaurant is then in walking distance. However, other accommodation is available. Chelmsford offers a greater choice of accommodation options that will hopefully suit everybody. As we will be driving to the training venues your hotel location should be based more on what suits you for the Saturday evening.
We suggest you either stay where Sensei will be (Atlantic Best Western Hotel) or choose from any number of options out and around the area. The Premier Inn next to the Train station is a good location as well. Sensei’s hotel is well placed for a night out in Chelmsford but, please note the restaurant is a good 20 minute walk through the town center from this. So, Sensei will of course be given a lift. However, the walk through Chelmsford centre and back will offer many opportunities for a drink and to meet some of Essex’s finest.
Saturday evening – The evening meal will again be at the Chinese restaurant http://www.san-restaurant.com/. It is not exactly all you can eat. But, you can choose several items for each course and then they are all put in the center and you grab yours or let them be shared around the table. I can’t quite remember but we did made it work well last year.
As there may be a lot of us service can be a bit slow. There may be as many as 30 to 40 of us, so I think it might also be quite snug. The cost is £ 20 each (including Service charge). Drinks will need to be purchased separately. I suspect you will need to group together on separate drinks tabs. They say this is not a problem. I will provisionally book for 20 to 30 people. But, if this increases I should be able to up that to 30 to 40.
I really need to know if you are coming to the meal.
Other things to do – Chelmsford is the County town of Essex. The town centre has really good shopping, restaurants and leisure (ice rink, swimming etc). You are also a 20 minute train journey from Westfield shopping centre at Stratford along with the Olympic village. From Stratford you can get on the London Underground and quickly get to O2 arena, Westminster etc.
Maldon is still only 20 minutes’ drive away if you fancy some bracing sea air, or Freeport designer village for a truly designer discount shopping experience. 20 minutes’ drive towards London (on your way home) is Brentwood, home of The Only Way is Essex. If you are unlucky it is possible to spot the cast in their natural habitat.
Contact and questions – Any questions to me please email@example.com, 07989 257044 or PM me on Facebook.
For more years than I would care to remember I have often wondered if what we now do today in Wado Dojos is a true reflection of what the founder Ohtsuka Hironori intended?
I did once see the late founder, and watched him demonstrate his art. It was Crystal Palace 1975; I was only a year into my training and competing in the UKKW Nationals. The audience waited in reverential silence as the elderly master assisted by his son gave the familiar display he always did in his later years. However, this one was different.
There was an error in the well-rehearsed display which resulted in Ohtsuka Sensei fractionally leaving his hand in the path of a descending katana blade – the result was a wound which many of us did not see, until tiny drops of blood appeared on his otherwise perfect white keikogi top. Ohtsuka Sensei seemed untroubled and carried on with the demonstration. First aid assistance was given to the old master at the end of the performance and he seemed unfazed, almost amused.
From the mid 70’s onwards I spent many hours working in the Dojo with Japanese masters all doing Wado Ryu karate. But there were differences; even contradictions.
It took a long time for me to realise that through these differences I was possibly getting a glimpse of the real Ohtsuka. It was like looking at him through a different set of lenses, with degrees of refraction and distortion.
This was frustrating in a way, a bit like trying to identify someone by their image seen through opaque bathroom glass; as I shifted my viewpoint ever so slightly the image distorted and changed. I struggled to make sense of it. But it was more complex even than that. The late master always said that Wado was a work in progress, and those with capacities and knowledge greater than mine continued to hone and refine the art; the ground was shifting and the lens was shifting as well.
Koryu martial artist Ellis Amdur said that success in the martial arts was easy…. All you had to do is pay attention! I think he is right, but I would also add a couple of things.
First you have to empty your cup; and secondly you have to be prepared to be hard on yourself and try to bypass a tendency towards observer bias, and that very human weakness described by psychologists as ‘cognitive dissonance’. Meaning; when confronted with anything that contradicts what we think we have already established we filter out the contradictions and cling to those aspects that we feel we already know. That is not really ‘paying attention’.
I learned a valuable lesson on this when acting as Uke for Ohtsuka Hironori II over ten years ago. On that occasion I experienced the full weight of his Kote Gaeshi and it came as a genuine surprise and painful shock! At the time I tried to work out what he had done and developed my own theory based on previous knowledge. It was only recently that I figured out what had really happened and how far my original theory was out – until another theory comes along anyway.
As one penguin talking to another penguin please bear with me on this.
At one time we all lived happily on one huge slab of ice. So secure were we that we believed that the ice was sitting on solid land and that things would never change.
We observed that occasionally discontented penguins would hop onto adjacent lumps of floating ice and start to form their own penguin colonies. Many of them drifted off, some were never seen again. Some could be seen in the distance, or we could hear them yelling, trying to convince us that their decisions to split away were correct and how we who remained were all wrong.
But we remained content and seldom thought of the future – why should we –we’re penguins.
Then the penguin colony was abruptly rocked by reality. We found out that we did not live on solid land at all; we too were on a floating ice floe, albeit a very big one. The dawning of this fact came when the colony itself suffered a huge catastrophic split. The fault lines were always there but we did not see them; we just thought they were part of the landscape.
The split was not a neat half and half one, it was ragged and uneven, some bits bigger than others. It should have been clear from the beginning that each of the splits did not stand an equal chance of survival; some were going to melt and shrink faster than others.
From the penguin’s point of view; when the catastrophe happened; where you ended up depended on where you were standing at the critical moment.
The frozen scene has been chaotic ever since. Imagine an ocean cluttered with ice floes; which inevitably encouraged penguins hopping from one minor ice floe to another.
So, should penguins ponder the future? Or should we just go with the floe?