Thursday, May 14, 2009

Black Belt Questions: Addendum

Mary Casey had some questions about the Black Belt answers I illustrated earlier here in the Bonzuko blog. She and Kevin asked respectfully that I reiterate and expand on certain aspects of my previous post, and I am happy to oblige, both for their and my illumination.

Question One came across to the Caseys very differently than my intention. Here is the essence of my previous answer: My knowledge of technique detail is quite good. That's it. I didn't mean that I had nothing left to learn. Martial arts is a lifelong study, and it's only after a lifetime that one should ever claim mastery (which I certainly do not). My knowledge of the little details of ninpo technique has added to my continuous learning anew through To Shin Do. The biggest difference I can relate as far as my first day at the BQC compared to my previous training boils down to zanshin. I look at the video of my shodan test in ninpo taijutsu and any number of test videos in TSD and the difference is enormous. I don't have samples for you lovely lurkers other than the two images here (and those hopefully should say something towards this paragraph). I have a lot more firm warrior spirit, I stay "in character" and I have much more confidence now than I did then. My knowledge of detail has just been a helpful step in the right direction, and a way to train from square three or four instead of one. As far as physically, I am more fit and my kamae is consistently stronger now than it was then.

2. I have re-posted two pictures: one from my shodan test in 2003, and one from the recent SKH seminar at the BQC, here in this post so you can see the difference.

3. In my earlier post, I postulated that I disagreed "with the 'no grinning' clause" in the Black Belt Quality handout. I didn't go on to averr that I assumed the handout referred to goofy laughter and not the sort of joy I wrote about. I think we all agree that goofiness with a lack of focus isn't warriorship. Real joy is. Suppressing laughter is just as detrimental to good training as is a distracting joker. Hopefully all you lovely lurkers assumed that also, but it's nice to say it outright and be sure.

4. Lastly, Kevin-san asked that I respond a little about the difference between my ninpo training and my To Shin Do training. Particularly getting a TSD black belt as compared to my ninpo taijutsu black belt. This is a pretty involved answer, and I'm not sure I may not want to post a whole new post just about this. Certainly I touched on what a TSD black belt means to me in my essay for those testing me. As far as the difference in training... One of the differences I've noticed most has been in the level of detailed correct technique (ninpo) and a general capacity for strength and quality (TSD). I would not say either way is better, but that my experience with both has added to my improvement and excellence in both. Ninpo was steeped in kata (what we called kihon) rigorous practice and especially lots and lots of ukemi (what we called taihenjutsu) practice. If I had one wish about TSD it's that it had more emphasis on all taihenjutsu from day one. In ninpo, we did all break falls and all rolls every class as a warmup, and I sincerely think that's some of the most valuable training anyone can have. If I had one wish about ninpo, it would be more free response, or what ninpo folks call randori, as soon as an intermediate level or further was reached. Though free response in the dojo is still a relatively staged experience, it still gets one in a different emotional space than kata practice, and I have discovered it's likewise invaluable.

5. Now that I'm practicing in the upper levels of colored-belt TSD, I get a taste of the best of both worlds. I'm starting to be asked for more detail in my practice along with the demands of free response at the drop of a hat. All ukemi (taihenjutsu) have been taught at this point in my TSD practice so I can have more experience with all of them.

6. In conclusion, I am proud and happy with my TSD experience, and look forward to my next test and especially the test after that. I also appreciate the warm and supportive network the Quest Centers offer to all their practitioners. In addition, I bow to the Genki Kai for the amazing new world of martial arts they introduced to me and others through the ten years I was with them.

Please, comment here if you'd like to discuss this and/or related topics further. The martial arts (especially IMO the ninja arts) are a constantly relevant, organic practice. I welcome your comments, and I hope if you want to hear more about any of this that you'll speak up and ask. ~Jenn

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