An article describing our system of Martial Arts, Shinken Bujutsu, as written by Kancho Joseph Svaral
The Pursuit of Truth
On a beautiful clear day in Japan, the Sakura (cherry blossom) petals were falling to the ground. As the Sakura represents a new beginning, a new season, and the passing from one stage to another, they are essentially the symbol of life’s renewal. The calming and cleansing experience of these falling petals inspires us to pursue what we truly desire. The cherry blossom, as the emblem for the Shinken Bujutsu school, was chosen for exactly this reason: Shinken Bujutsu was born in pursuit of the truth within the martial arts.
The place where the martial arts are practiced is called a Dojo. The first character to the left is “Do” which means “the way” or “the path.” The second character to the right is “Jo” which means “the place.” Dojo, therefore, means “the place that teaches the way.” Though the martial arts at first may seem to be only a physical activity, the “way” to which Dojo refers is not simply a physical one – it is also an inner path or journey. Hard training develops character and attributes including, but not limited to, patience, courage and fortitude. In a physical sense, to build the body you need physical resistance. Likewise, the mind is strengthened by an analogous resistance. Words can’t just be committed to memory . . . they must be learned by experience. Ultimately, a highly-developed person realizes that their true competitor is within themselves.
The Shinken Bujutsu Training Method
The Shinken Bujutsu training method is one of the central factors in the effectiveness of our school. A Dojo that only practices pre-arranged forms (Kata) will not produce high- quality martial artists. While students of the martial arts must learn the forms, they must also develop the ability to be spontaneous and develop feeling so that they are able to perform the techniques for real. When the student is capable of doing this, those techniques become alive and dynamic. If the techniques are only known to the student as a form then they are static, and the application of the forms run the risk of becoming lost with nothing to anchor it to reality. A martial art without an anchor to reality can drift off and its form will change arbitrarily. With this metaphoric anchor to reality, the martial art can be passed down to the next generation intact and is likely to even be improved. The Dojo that only teaches prearranged movement will limit students’ ability to push each other and create dynamic environments in which to train. In such a dynamic environment students are free to try different things while, at the same time, to draw upon the forms that they have already learned. It is from these forms that endless variations are possible and new techniques can evolve, but only if you also adhere to those skills that have consistently been proven to work.
The Shinken Bujutsu system is based on the belief that in order to develop martial arts proficiency, students must at first practice techniques with a training partner who cooperates and assists them with minimal resistance. It is only in this way that these skills will become part of the subconscious mind, ultimately enabling a natural and confident execution. Eventually, as ability increases, training can advance to the point where techniques are executed more freely whereupon your training partner can slowly add resistance until such time as students are able to execute at full resistance. Our system takes you step by step from beginner to advanced techniques. As your skills improve, you will enthusiastically observe the physical and mental benefits that you have achieved from your effort and determination.
It is important to remember that when we train, we are in the Dojo - not on the street. We train with fellow students to improve our abilities, and, as such, we always strive to avoid unnecessary injuries. While injuries can and do sometimes occur when training, it is important to maintain constant vigilance against excessive force. But the use of excessive force is to be avoided for another equally-significant reason - it will hinder your growth (i.e., your skills will be unable to become refined and develop to a high level). When you use excessive force your form will lose its shape and ultimately weaken your techniques, thereby impeding the development of true Taijutsu. Also equally important is ensuring that the forms are practiced correctly. If you practice the forms incorrectly for a long period of time they will become engrained in you wrong and this will impede your growth. Remember that, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes Perfect.” The goal is to develop lighting quick, but smooth and controlled movement using your entire body as an intergrated whole.
The Dojo as a Metaphor for Life
When training is difficult, the Dojo becomes a microcosm of similar everyday experiences, facilitating the learning of important life lessons. To be successful in the Dojo a student must adjust their behavior to balance how hard to train, appropriate rest, diet, and proper attitude. In addition, as in life, students must learn to control their emotions in difficult situations. Sometimes you will be in a situation that may cause you to want to quit, but this makes you confront your inner self and will help you change and grow into a stronger person.
It is true that a person will excel if they pursue that which they truly love.