Sunday, 29 July 2007

武道 Budo

Since your humble servant and reporter from the land of the dragon (龍) desires to unveil all the aspects resp. mysteries of this ancient lands to you, this time he went into Japanese Budo (武道), Martial Arts.

At first he accompanied another trainee to a 柔術 (Jujitsu) class, since this guy was already practicing the art for 10 years in France. The class is held in the city we live, Atsugi 厚木, in a huge sports center right next to the station. It wasn't really was I expected, but of course you can practice everywhere. However because of the place the fees were pretty expensive: 10.000 Yen a month (~ 80 Euro).
Since we didn't pay the month immediately we were only allowed to watch. At the beginning the 選手 (senshu, it means someone practicing sports) just did rope hopping for over half an hour. Then they practiced some kicks with partners and finally they went into sparring and light sparring. In the latter two, especially the last one, they mainly tried to grab the others legs, make him fall down and sit on him to make him unable to move.
When they started Sebastien, the French trainee, was a bit disappointed, because he thought they were all below his level, but in the end stronger 選手 appeared and he decided to join. For a beginner like me however, he advised me not to join, since the class was not fit for beginners in his opinion. So I declined.

But I didn't give up. I wanted at least to try 武道, preferably something more traditional Japanese, and something that pays less focus on body strength and attacking. And indeed I was lucky, since Sebastien told me, that there was another trainee practicing some ancient Japanese 武道, he's never heard of. The other trainee he mentioned was Daniel from Sweden, and he has been practicing 武神館 武道 体術 (bujinkan budou taijutsu) for a couple of years. Alas because it is not as big and popular than 柔術 the nearest classes are about 2 hours per train away. Nevertheless I wanted to see and feel it, so I joined him and his friend Eliza from Canada for their Saturday training trip, where they travel across the country to attend classes at two different 道場 (doujou). Getting the train at 7 am on Saturday was no problem for me, since I usually get up early. Do I arrived somewhat after 9 am in 取手 (Toride) in 茨城県 (Ibarakiken). We met up and took the Toy Bus (a community bus, decorated by children) out of the city. In 取手 we already met some of the other 選手, which joined us in the bus. After a traffic jam we arrived a bit late at the 道場. However this was not such a great problem, because our 先生 (sensei = teacher, master) was already in the bus with us all the time, and I didn't notice. That might have been due to the fact, that he was Canadian. In spite of this fact, he was a real 武道 先生 and teached a lot of advanced Japanese guys in perfectly fluent Japanese. Luckily he sometimes repeated something in English, however the others told me, that this was not common. I was allowed to join the class immediately and could practice with the others. The lessons included mainly strategies what to do, when you are attacked by a knife or a big stick. The interesting stuff about it was, that you didn't need any force to evade and disarm your opponent. But more about that later.
Then we went back to 取手 station and took trains further into the country. After a short meal on the way, we arrived at another more traditional 道場. We were a bit early, so I could watch the opposite 道場. Were people were training the art of swords. All the swords were sharpened and they attacked and cut through bamboo tubes stuck on a pale. It was a bit terrifying, but interesting to watch.
Then our class started. The majority of our class were foreigners from all over the world, so this time, though the 先生 was a real Japanese master 猛者, he spoke mainly in English. Again the training was not focused on strength, but rather how to redirect the attackers strength against him. It was really impressive! With a slight knowledge about balance, it is so easy to make an attacking opponent fall over and tick him to the ground. Since this is rather uncommon, I always tried to achieve the desired goal with a bit of force and always noticed how easy it was for my partner to use this force to nail me down or to theoretically hurt me really bad. The trick in 武神館武道体術 is to not use force at all and to easily control you opponent and his balance with your movements redirecting his force.
What's nice about it is, that this kind of idea is open to anyone: female, male, old and young. And indeed. In contrast to the 柔術 class many girls and women were attending this class. What's also nice about it is, that on the one hand, you can profit your whole life from the training, because it is rather a feeling about balance and redirecting force, than harsh training and gathering power. So it's easier to remember than fixed patterns and more natural to apply. On the other hand there is no upward top you can reach, you can always grow and become better your whole life being like floating water or rubber in the end: Never withstanding malicious intent by force, but rather avoid, bend to it and let it snap back to itself.

It was really a wonderful experience, despite of the fact that the weather was somewhat above 30 degrees Celsius and the 道場 had no air conditioning. But I didn't mind, I found myself able to easily enjoy any kind of weather :). What's also really nice, is that both 先生 only wanted 1000 Yen for their classes, that's about 7 Euro and not much in/for Japan. Also you could voluntarily pay that money, less or more, after the class. That shows, that they do it to teach the idea, the feeling and their love for it, rather than to earn money.

The only downside about doing it regularly is that even if the classes are fairly priced, you have to pay for all the trains in beneath. So I don't think I'll be able to do it every Saturday. On the other hand I want to use my weekends to experience and learn about Japan. But if I have no plans for a Saturday, I think I'd love to join then again, rather than to stay at home idling.

Your apprentice of 武道
天下無敵 mika-chan

Thank you Daniel and Liza for introducing me to this way of life and taking me with you, as well as taking care of me!

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