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[ olvasnivaló » Ura & Omote - 1996 November ]

Ura & Omote - 1996 November


Content


THE BARBARIAN

Benjamin Cole

On Tuesday, May 28th, Hatsumi-sensei waddled in and commented, "It's finally caught up with me." He was, of course, speaking of his trip abroad for the Belgian Tai Kai. Class began and things began deteriorating after we began one technique -- an extremely difficult one that would plague most of the class. Simply put, we were supposed to draw our swords "with our heads"! Hatsumi-sensei stated, "For this technique, don't use your hands to cut. If you use your hands, your opponent can read your actions." [Note: He used the word "te" to mean hands, but another interpretation of the word could be "technique."]

For this technique, you are standing up in Shizen no kamae, holding your sword with only your right hand near the "tsuba." You rest the inside of your wrist on top of your head so that the sword hangs straight down your back along your spine. Try not to let it sway. The technique requires you to bend forward at the waist, slicing down. By pivoting from the hip and using your spine, you are "throwing" your sword forward. Your right leg should bend at the knee and raise up behind you naturally, acting as a counterweight when you bend forward. Hatsumi-sensei also threw in this anecdote to discourage us from using our hands, "The other day, Someya-sensei came with me. He had his hand all taped up (due to an injury), but he was able to do this technique. It's because you're not using your hands to cut." The next step is to be in the same ready position, but be able to spin or turn in any direction before letting the sword "fly." We practiced this basic cut for a while. From there, he had us lay down our katana and work with wakizashi. For this smaller weapon, you actually WANT to throw the weapon. You should practice throwing the weapon so it flies straight. Be careful not to hit anyone, and that you don't make too much noise.

We then switched back to the katana and did the first cut down (using the head). As you know, your right leg, which is acting as a counter-weight, is up and wants to find stable ground from there. Rather than just letting it fall wherever, Soke instructed us to try to turn around and cut an opponent behind us. To do so, practice bringing your right leg tight across the front of the left, then as you move into a horse stance facing the opposite direction, come down with a mighty Conan hack.

Things really hit the fan when we moved into the next technique. It was the most difficult and almost no one was able to do it. It starts as the last one (with the first cut), but instead of turning around, you want to bring the right foot forward into an extended front stance and attack at a 20 degree angle. It seems like it would be easy, but the important thing is to make sure the sword proceeds the body. "If your taijutsu is bad, you won't be able to do this technique," Hatsumi-sensei encouraged us as only he could.

After a few minutes of practice, he started calling on people to do the technique in front of everyone. Some of the best practitioners in Japan, including Shiraishi, Nakadai, Andrew Young, Honma, and Yoshida, fell victim to this technique and Soke's grumpy mood.

"No good! Fine, you're cutting something, but it's too slow. You're dead. You're dead again. . . Too weak! No! Too weak! The second cut is too slow. Again. Again. No, no good. That's better. See you're getting it. . .Sloppy. You're overextending yourself. See. . .No! Your limbs are flying all over the place. Your bad habits are showing themselves with this technique. You see that, don't you?. . .Your bad habits become evident when you get a sword in your hands like this. And because you are teaching without addressing your own problems, your students will get your bad habits." As you can see, Hatsumi-sensei was no longer very cheery.

Later, the technique was best explained as draw a line straight out in front of you from your nose. The first strike comes right down on that line. Then without bringing your sword back across that line, just fully extend your arms out at the 20 degree angle. It's a single move (not a "one-two") whereby the first cut flows naturally into the next one. If you bring your sword back over the line (by bending your arms, for example) as you move your foot forward, the body will precede the sword blade and you're dead. Noguchi-sensei also compared the movement with Kihon Happo. "Everything is basics." You're moving your arm forward from that line because otherwise you'd be opening yourself up. Hatsumi-sensei summarized the importance of having the arms extended by stating, "In a real confrontation, your life may depend on the choice of whether to extend your arms or keep them slightly bent. This is very important point." I'm inclined to believe him.

That Friday, we began practice with that same dreaded technique. Perhaps he wanted to see who had actually practiced it on their own. Soke called on the likes of Yoshida and Honma again. Soon after each began, he interrupted them and said, "Don't use that sword. Go ahead, use mine." What an honor, I thought to myself. The same technique done with Hatsumi-sensei's sword suddenly sliced through the air with a beautiful whistle. "Don't use inferior swords to practice this technique. You will be limited by the flaws of the weapon and will never truly get the point."

One person who had practiced was Andrew Young. He pointed to Andrew and said the one word no one wants to hear at Ayase: "Teach!" Andrew chose to focus on the technique using a two-handed grip. Later that evening over beers, Andrew explained that he thought the secret of the technique was to keep the left hand on the butt of the hilt, while you allowed the right hand near the "tsuba" to move freely up and down (from the "tsuba" to the top of the left-hand). When you "throw" your sword forward, you should be allowing the right hand to slide back from the "tsuba," giving you increased range. When you turn to go into the other cut, you are moving your hand back up to the "tsuba" to get a stronger grip.

I hope this experiment has worked for you all. This technique does not come easily. Practice hard, understand your weapon, and above all else, have a great time training.


This article was originally distributed at a joint seminar given by Benjamin Cole and Shidoshi Joe Maurantonio with an illustration of the technique described within. (See what you get when you go to seminars!) Ben lives, trains, and sleeps in Japan. He very much enjoys hearing from people via e-mail during his work as a underappreciated cog in the Toyota machine. He may be reached at <6550827@tmail.toyota.co.jp>


TIPS FOR KEEPING YOUR TRAINING FRESH

Jason Bell

Boredom, complacency and egotism are the primary enemies of the warrior. Far more subtle than a murderous attacker or inner frustration, these stagnating viewpoints are therefore more dangerous. Such self-defeating outlooks can sneak into your mind and slowly turn your training dull, fruitless or even counterproductive. By sleepwalking through classes and workouts, you do more than dampen your enthusiasm for the art -- you weaken your current skills and reinforce bad habits.

To avoid this deadly trap, you must be mindful of your training methods. This means actively guiding your training instead of just drifting along with whatever comes to you at the moment. As a starting place for directing your training, consider the suggestions that follow.

USE DIFFERENT UKES

Train with as many different people as possible. Each potential adversary requires a slightly different approach for victory due to their body type, style, etc. The ability to discover the appropriate method and adapt it to circumstances is a crucial skill. And, like any other skill, it can only be developed through actual practice. If you limit yourself to a small group of partners, you will miss the essence of the technique -- the universal principles that make it work, the non-verbal feedback that indicates when it is appropriate and when it is working. Instead, you will merely ingrain a specific set of angles, distances, and responses as the "key" to the technique. Then, in the heat of the moment, with a strange body and unfamiliar feedback, you will miss opportunities and try to force things which have no chance of success. However, if you have practices with a range of partners, your body will recognize and respond to the essential elements that call for a technique and make it work.

VARY YOUR TRAINING LOCATION

As with a limited group of training partners, working in the same space day after day can create a false sense of security in your practice. Your body becomes accustomed to the lighting, the air, the footing, the visual distractions, etc. and no longer has to adapt to moment-to-moment circumstances. That's fine -- even beneficial -- if the only conflict you need to handle occurs in expected places at expected times (such as sporting events or demos). But if your goal has anything to do with applying this art in actual life, you should realize that the truly dangerous conflicts are the ones that come up when and where we least expect them. Thus, by exploring the adaptability of your skills in many arenas, you become more able improvise in times of need, and less likely to be thrown off balance mentally by the unfamiliar. In addition, a variety of training locations helps keep you awake and enjoy the training. The sights and sounds of different environments keep the senses involved in the present -- avoiding the "same old routine" dullness which can divert your attention. Plus, seeing techniques in a literally different context may point out details or insights you hadn't noticed before.

WORK ON A VARIETY OF TOPICS

Don't limit yourself only to those things you're good at or which come easily. As a general rule, you should be spending the most time and effort practicing those things that you have trouble with. The harder the thing is for you to do, the higher its priority should be in your training. To make this approach as effortless as possible, when you go to work out, simply choose one thing that is really difficult for you at the moment and one thing that's always fun to do. Then work on the challenging area for about ten minutes and finish by "playing" in the fun area for about 5 minutes. Such an approach directly addresses areas that need improvement without allowing them to become physically or mentally overwhelming. And, it also allows you to keep your strong points sharp and your attitude up ending on a good note.

VISUALIZE THE REALITY OF THE SITUATION

Remember that success in handling a conflict is more often the result of balanced internal response than perfect external technique. Our forebears in this art did not just hand down a series of mechanical motions for us to walk through -- they gave us a plethora of situations to experience. To get at the feelings our role models in the kata faced, and see how they were molded into success, take a moment to consider the overlying scenario each time you do an exercise. You don't have to engage in full-blown acting or absurd role-play; just take a moment to think about the situation facing you. Perhaps you can imagine a similar circumstance that could happen in your life. . . anything that has some meaning to you. Certainly, avoid things that cause a massive emotional response (you don't want to endanger yourself or your partner by getting carried away); but do strive to put yourself through the experience as much as possible in practice mode. That way, when the real thing confronts you, your body will respond as trained because its "been there before." If you leave out this component -- the heart of training -- the pressure of an actual situation will likely freeze you up or flip you out into panicked, ineffective, habitual responses. But through rehearsal and visualization, tactics used by top professionals in every field, you can increase your skill in "moment of truth" situations -- because, in a way, you'll already be a veteran.

FOCUS ON DIFFERENT POINTS IN EACH KATA FROM TIME TO TIME

If you are always approaching kata with a sort of "soft focus" in an attempt to "get the feel of the whole thing," you will slow your progress immeasurably. Instead, as part of your practice, pay close attention to one or two fundamental points within the drill. This does not mean you have to look for deep undiscovered lessons or secrets. Rather, it means going back to the cornerstone concepts you've already heard (like bending your knees, relaxing, good alignment, etc.) and see how well you're doing those things within this particular context. Check if you're doing as well as you used to, before you "knew" the concepts so well; see if your increasing skill and experience enable you to do them better than last time you looked at them. Further, examine the point you are focusing on to see how it reveals itself in the current exercise. See how a particular point may be crucial to a technique, or may be superseded by another concern. Note how a concept is defined by this example in contrast to others. As an aid to this approach, try keeping a list in your notebook of fundamental points that recur in your training. Then, before any session, you can review and select a concept or two for close study during a portion of the class. One caution: when choosing different foci for training, don't switch every time you do a kata. Spend some time -- maybe even several workouts -- looking at a point before moving on. Otherwise, you'll simply scatter your attention and inhibit improvement.

TRY DIFFERENT TEACHERS

. . .and while you are training with them, imagine sharing their approach. It's a waste of your time to always listen in the same old ways to the same old people. It stagnates your ability to pay attention, to flex mentally, and to analyze and interpret material. So instead, on occasion, work out under the guidance of someone other than your regular instructor. Moreover, listen openly to this alternate teacher; give their ideas and tactics the benefit of the doubt during the session and see what the experience is from that point of view. This does not mean bastardizing or surrendering the critical understanding you have worked so hard to develop. Rather, it means being open to an experience -- so you actually have something to take home with you to forge into a tool. Later, on your own time,. you can and should examine the material/approach: compare it to what you regularly do and see what lessons you can glean by running it through your usual filters. You have to see what works for and applies to you and your goals. And to do that, you need to be open enough to gather new information. With that new information, you can add to, modify, or reinforce what you've already learned.

THINK ABOUT YOUR TRAINING

Why did you start? More importantly, what do you want from it today? Sometimes we establish routines to get us toward a goal and then simply continue them through inertia even thought he goal has been achieved or is no longer useful. Ask yourself which parts of training really trip your trigger. If you're not enjoying the art you're practicing, you'll certainly restrict your development. What parts of the training frighten you? Most likely, these are the parts that confront internal or external issues that reach you deeply. Look hard at these areas. Discover what bothers you and refuse to be limited by that reaction. Where are you spending most of your time in training? Is that most efficient for you now? Or are you avoiding challenges? Or simply getting off track? And where do you want to be a year from now? Three months from now? A month from now? Self analysis and assessment will enable you to direct your training for maximum benefit -- whether you are seeking peace of mind, self-defense skills, or simply enjoyment. As you should have learned almost the day you began training in this art: It isn't going to happen unless you go after it.

Staying interested in something requires openness and effort. You must apply your brain. If all you can do is flit from one thing to the next as your interest wanes, you'll be trapped like an animal. Observe with your eyes, your mind and your heart. Then you'll discover the richness of what is before you.


This article was expanded from one which previously appeared in Stephen K. Hayes' Musubi Journal. Jason Bell, a NYC-based actor, is an instructor at New York Budo under the direction of Jean-Pierre Seibel. Jason can be reached for comment at <72143.1234@compuserve.com>.


KUSARIFUNDO: A BASIC OVERVIEW

Liz maryland

Traditionally, a kusarifundo consisted of a metal chain, ranging any where from one to three feet, with small iron weights attached to the ends. Many different shapes of weights were used, but on average, the weights were rectangularly shaped and from 1 1/2 to 2 inches long. A kusarifundo was just about arm's length in total, so that if one weight were held in the right hand, the outstretched chain would barely reach the person's right armpit.

As with any weapon, using a kusarifundo efficiently entails having good kamae and flow. Your kamae is the foundation for all movement, armed or unarmed. Therefore, your movement with a weapon should be very similar to, if not exactly like, your unarmed movement. Make sure that you practice moving fluidly and efficiently in and through your kamae. Check your positioning frequently, as a beginner, and remember to go over key points? Are your knees bent? Is your back straight? Are you stable? Are you breathing properly or are you holding your breath? If you drill bad habits and practice improper kamae, then under pressure your body will revert into inefficient ways of moving. Depending upon the severity of the situation, this may get you killed!

Along with kamae, make sure that you watch your distancing. You should be using all of the chain's length to keep your attacker at bay, making sure through your kamae that you are not hitting yourself or entangling yourself with the weapon.

At New York Budo, kusarifundo applications and movement are emphasized at sixth kyu, along with the circular, evasive footwork of Hira no kamae. However, you can use the kusarifundo from other postures as well, so don't get hung up as to what you SHOULD be standing in. Make sure that your feet are moving, not just your hands or arms.

Here are five basic kamae directly associated with the kusarifundo:

In Goho no kamae, you stand in a good shizen no kamae. Holding one of the kusarifundo's weights with the three lower fingers of your right hand, you allow the chain to drop and coil into your palm. Then you can grab the remaining weight with the index finger of your right hand, allowing the top of the weight to jut out by the thumb and the end to jut out between the index and middle fingers. Holding your hands in front of your body, you place your left hand over the right, effectively concealing the weapon, ready for whatever may come your way. From this position you can launch the chain forward into a tsuki thrust at the attackers face, or you can let the chain slip out from between your fingers to prepare for a strike.

In Issei no kamae, you also stand in shizen, this time with both hands naturally at your sides. You can either keep the kusarifundo coiled up and concealed in your right hand or you can allow it to hang down by your right side.

For Tenchi no kamae, one kusarifundo weigh is held in the right hand and the other end is held in the left hand. Allow the left hand to hang naturally along the left side of the body. The right hand is then held at the left shoulder with the chain taut between the hands.

Shumoku no kamae is similar to Tenchi in that the chain is held taught in both hands. This time the left arm is extended backwards from the body, with the right hand in front of the left shoulder. Think of launching a strike, then catching the chain and pulling it back to get it ready again.

Finally, in Ippu no kamae the kusarifundo is again held taut between the right and left hands. This time the right hand is up and positioned by the right shoulder. The chain falls along the back of the body and the remaining free weight is grabbed by the left hand, which is roughly at abdomen level.

Remember that these kamae are only moments in time. You will flow from one to the other as you execute and recover from your strikes. Think of how silly standing Ippu no kamae for an extended period of time would be. . . then practice going from one kamae to the other.

Try practicing the nine-directional strikes with your kusarifundo. The most important things to remember are to keep your flow from strike to strike, and to use your footwork to efficiently deliver the strikes. The kusarifundo can also be used as a striking weapon -- striking a kyusho or the fist with one of the weights is very painful. Finally, the kusarifundo can be used as an entangling tool, i.e. throwing it around an adversary's neck for a choke.

These days, carrying around a kusarifundo may not be too practical, and is illegal in many states. However, improvised kusarifundo are easily made. These include, but are by no means limited to, a belt with a heavy buckle, an orange in a plastic bag, the infamous sock full of quarters, a bike chain with a padlock on the end, or a woman's handbag. Any of these improvised weapons can be effectively used with the same body dynamics as a regular kusarifundo -- with equivalent results. I've heard one story of how Hatsumi Sensei knocked out an uke using an improvised kusarifundo -- a piece of gauze cotton on a string!

Study the proper dynamics, and above all be careful. A recommendation for beginners is to make a practice kusarifundo of rope with large knots on the end. If you must use a real kusarifundo, wear a bike or motorcycle helmet and appropriate eye protection. Finally, have fun. The kusarifundo is a very free and powerful weapon to use.


Liz maryland is the editor of this newsletter and may be reached via e-mail at: <ashidome@usa.net>.


SOME TIPS ON UCHI MATA

Frances Sanchez

The throw Uchi Mata (inner leg reaping) is more advanced technique that involves a bit more skill and understanding of body dynamics in order to be done effectively. It is currently taught at the ni or 2nd kyu level in the Kasumi-an curriculum, due to the complexity and potential danger of the technique. For this reason, I strongly advise you to be careful when trying out the suggestions that follow. You first need to understand the throw itself, so if you don't even know how to perform Uchi Mata, don't try to make it up as you go along. It can be dangerous for both you and your uke.

As with all throws, Uchi Mata involves unbalancing your opponent by using your kamae, or body movement. One set-up for Uchi Mata involves two people struggling around, trying to unbalance the other. The winner takes control of the situation by unbalancing the opponent with a push-pull motion -- pushing into one shoulder while pulling down on the opposite arm, while simultaneously cross-stepping into the attacker's center-line. This causes the opponent's upper body to turn sideways and slightly downwards, placing his weight over the lead leg, and sets the winner up to finish out the technique by kicking out the rear leg.

The following tips may help make your Uchi Mata technique smoother:

1. Make sure that your uke is unbalanced and that his weight is over his front (supporting leg.) This prevents him from being able to stand up or struggle further. When his rear leg is kicked out, the uke's front leg can not support all of his body weight and will collapse causing the throw to happen.

2. The closer you can cross-step back into your opponent's body, the better the throw. Try to get as close to the center line as possible. Vary your entry into the technique until you find the position that you need to be in.

3. Uchi Mata usually involves a kick to the rear leg. If your legs are short, or the distancing improper, you may still be able to finish the technique by slamming your whole leg and not just your foot into the uke's leg. Slamming the back of your thigh into their leg may also be dynamically better suited to you if you are a smaller person.

4. Use your body to turn your opponent, not just your hands. Remember to also use the power contained in the yoko aruki -- the twisting of the hips, the bending of the knees. Good taijutsu will make the throw happen effortlessly. If you find yourself struggling or having a hard time moving your partner around, it may be because you are concentrating solely on your upper body. Examine what your feet are doing as well.

These are some of my insights into Uchi Mata, my second favorite throw -- Taki Otoshi winning the prize in my book. I hope that they've helped to clear up some of your questions. Try them out -- carefully -- and let me know the results!


Frances Sanchez has been training for over four years and is a close personal friend of the editor. She may be reached via the editor at: <ashidome@usa.net>.


TOGAKURE RYU: THE HIDDEN DOOR SCHOOL

Mats Hjelm

"The information presented here is based upon the research of me personally, with great help from others (mentioned where appropriate) and has not been verified by, nor received the approval of Hatsumi Soke. It is presented only as the researcher's interpretation of history and should not be taken as fact."
History of Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu Mount Hei-zan is where the Enryakuji (headquarters) of Tendai monastery is located. So-o was a monk at this place, but left to live for three years in a cave as an ascetic. It was after a dream that he formed the Tendai Shugendo sect of Buddhism. These monks still exist today and some are still engaged in the Kaihogyo (the proper name for what everyone is referring to as Shugendo). It was within this sect, in a small village called Togakure (now Togakushi) in the prefecture of Nagano (close to the Nagano/ Gunma-ken border) in Jyoshinsetsu National Park, in approximately 1165 that Daisuke Nishina, a Samurai, was born. It is within the Tendai sect that 750 years later the 33rd Soke of the Ryu is supposed to have become "an Abbot", on Mount Hiei-zan.

Daisuke was on the losing side of a battle in the 1180s and was forced to flee to Iga. Here he was found by Kain Doshi (possible known as Kagakure Doshi). He adopted Doshi's warrior teachings to his own Shugendo and the beginnings of Togakure Ryu were formed. Togakure Ryu never had an official founding as other martial arts have. The founders were Daisuke and Shima who was also alive at the same time and worked with Daisuke. Goro Togakure is recognized as being the person who officially formed the family of Togakure into the Ninjutsu system that we learn today. Of the first 8 generations, 5 had the name of Togakure; as with most martial traditions it is possible that they passed from father to son. It is said that it continued in this way until the 1600s(?). When the immediate family died out, the chief branch of the clan Toda took over leadership. The 33rd Soke Takamatsu, was the last member of the Toda line. It was interesting to note that the 11, 12 and 13th Soke of the Ryu are named after the main town of Iga, Ueno. It was the tradition in those days to be named after the town or village that one came from.

The 2nd Soke of the Ryu, Shima Kosanta Minamoto No Kanesada was a Samurai retainer having the rank of Kosho, for one of the most powerful Samurai, Kiso Yoshinaka, a general in the Minamoto army. The Minamoto were to become, in time (1185), the first hereditary Shoguns. When he was 16, Shima fought against the Tiara family, the rivals of the Minamoto family. That battle took place at Awazu, Yoshinaka was on the losing side. It is thought that Shima was wounded in the battle, and fled to one of the nearby mountainous areas near to the battle site. Shima only did this at the request of Yoshinaka.

Kagakure Doshi, a Ninja of the Hakuun Ryu found Shima and together they fled to Iga. Kagakure was also one of the teachers of Daisuke Togakure, who later on took Shima into his care. The Hakuun Ryu of Ninjutsu was founded by Garyu Doji, but was later completed by Hakuun Doji who later gave the Ryu its name. 32nd Soke of Togakure Ryu, Shinryuken Masamitsu Toda was also a master in the Bikenshin Ryu and was the sword instructor for the Tokugawa Shogunate in the mid 19th century.

SOKE OF TOGAKURE RYU

HAPPO BIKENJUTSU

The 18 forms of Togakure Bujutsu :

* Kyojitsu Tenkan Ho: -- Unarmed Combat -- Swordsmanship -- Staff fighting -- Blade throwning -- Sickle and chain -- Spear -- Halberd -- Horsemanship -- Swimming -- Gunpowder -- Strategies -- Espionage -- Infiltration -- Lying low -- Disguise -- Meterology -- Geaography -- Spiritual refinement -- Philosophy.

THE DISCLAIMER & END NOTES

The original text and research was done by Peter Carlsson who may be reached at <datortek@sbbs.se>. Translation from Swedish to English was done by Mats Hjelm who may be contacted at <helmet@algonet.se>

This work is absolutely not to be taken as "true fact" since it is quite impossible to prove the Kuden. We would be happy for any kind of creative and serious research that you have found out, so if you have noticed some errors in this text or would like to point out something else worth noting please let us know so we could update and make this even more accurate. If possible, please try to back up your claims with some sort of verification or serious references. A big problem when one does research about the history of ninja and the Bujinkan is that when one compares information in books about the subject with general acknowledged history in history books they often do not agree. This means that all information in circulation is to be considered as gossip until it can be compared and proven against general history. This includes the text above.

Some of the people we wish to thank for the sources are here listed in no particular order. . . Sveneric Bogsaeter * Perti Ruha * Stan Skrabut * Mariette V. D. Vliet * Charles Daniels * Bernadette V. D. Vliet * Stephen Turnbull * Ben Jones * Paul Richardson * HATSUMI Masaaki * Gothenburg ninposaellskap (and possibly many others)

For more information like this, get hooked to Internet and browse over to http://www.algonet.se/~helmet/BUJINKAN/ or phone ++46-8-985948 to MokoNoTora FidoNet BBS.

This translation is allowed to be posted electronically or printed as long as it is left unedited or changed in any way. It is not allowed to be reprinted in any way for commercial purposes without permission. (c) MATS HJELM 1996


END NOTES

Liz maryland

There's a famous church near the dojo where I train. It's the Marble Collegiate Church, where Norman Vincent Peale, the author of "The Power of Positive Thinking," used to lecture. I also believe that its one of the oldest churches in America. Each week they put out the title of the lecture that is going to be given at their Sunday service. The titles in and of themselves, aren't very long. . . but they say a lot.

My friend Tracy got me into the habit of looking at the board each time I passed the dojo. She used to come in from Connecticut to train at the school and would often stay over at my apartment, in order to train during the weekend. On our way to class on Saturday mornings, she would read the messages to herself, looking to see "what the universe had to tell her." Funny thing was, sometimes the "universe's" message was dead on. There were many times that the message on the board amazed us.

Tracy taught me to look at the messages and intuit some meaning for myself. Often, the words had direct relevance to my life -- to what I was feeling or going through. Tracy's habit soon became my own, and I now go out of my way to read the board outside the church. I really look forward to "my" new message, my new direction each week. I can remember the board reading "Relax and Enjoy" weeks before my shodan. Another time it read, "The Power of Unanswered Prayers." Yet another message was "You Can Do It!"

Two weeks ago the title was "A Case for Optimism." These words came at just the right time for me. I was feeling all but optimistic then -- about my training, the dojo, my family life, my personal life and my career. In my eyes, the whole world was falling apart around me, and even my friends couldn't help pull me out of the downward spiral that I felt myself being sucked into. When I saw those particular words on the sign on my way to class one Monday, it sparked something in me. It made me think of how much I have to be optimistic for. . . and how my attitude would affect whether or not I would effect the changes that I wanted in my life. After all, if I wasn't optimistic about my training -- if I didn't believe in myself or my teachers or this system -- then I wouldn't train very hard nor would I attempt to learn. I realized that being optimistic would change my attitude -- force me to work at making things better. I started to slowly change my tune. I began to try to be more optimistic about everything -- and I worked very hard at making things better! Suddenly, life didn't seem quite as bad any more.

These messages, simple as they are, have meant a lot to me over the years. I usually smile and think of Tracy, who due to physical ailments, can't train right now. This was one of those "silly New Age" things that we shared as friends. A renewed outlook each week, to get us through the problems we were having with the training, with our lives. I remember, laughing at some of the messages that made no sense to me, but Tracy would look serious, and I knew that something had struck a chord within her.

I now try to look for the message's meaning and relevance in my life, no matter how obscure it might be. This may not be the "universe's" way of sending me a hint, but who knows? It's definitely helped to change some bad attitudes into good ones. And above all, it's kept me trying -- trying to improve my taijutsu, trying to sort out the messes in my life, trying to be a tatsujin. . . which is all one can hope for anyway.

That's it for this month, guys and gals! As always, please e-mail the authors with your support and recognition. Also, please e-mail me with any errors or adjustments to this newsletter.

One last note: SEND ME ARTICLES, PLEEEEASE! (I would hate to stop producing the newsletter as it is such a valuable service to all those who train. Trust me, I get tons of e-mail from people world-wide saying how much they appreciate the information in her.)


Liz maryland is the editor of this newsletter. She has the distinct honor and pleasure of training at New York Budo under the guidance of Jean-Pierre Seibel and his out-of-control instructors ("Hannibal's teaching." "And?" "Well. . . he's teaching San-dan techniques to white belts, again." "Doh!"). When she's not begging for articles, she spends her free time rollerblading with her friends, cooking vegetarian meals (Sorry to all you carnivores out there) and watching bad movies. Having had the recent pleasure of meeting Benjamin Cole and Hiroko, his beloved, Liz now has the Japan bug (Where's my passport?) and is busy learning her kana for an upcoming trip, hopefully next year. Write her, cajole her, and above all, please, please, please send her articles at: <ashidome@usa.net>.
2017 jún. 28.
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