Friday, May 1, 2009

To Shin Do Black Belt Question

As I compile thoughts and inspiring quotes for elaborating on the last question on the To Shin Do Shodan written test, I realize much of what I'm writing would be of benefit to you lovely lurkers who come here to read about the movement arts and how they shape our world.

Why do you think that you should receive a To Shin Do Shodan black belt?

The center of my answer is that I've earned it. How so? To elaborate, I went to the "Black Belt Quality" section of the Special Testing Procedures handout to see if I could positively, honestly live up to the elements of black belt quality detailed there. I've condensed and answered them below. The image is from my Shodan test in ninpo taijutsu, August 2003.
  • I understand the purpose of the technique / can demonstrate knowledge of technique details. ~I can say with confidence that my understanding has been there from day one (probably because of ninpo training), and my knowledge of details is vast. Any details I have missed, I make a point to focus on and refine in training. It helps that I'm not starting from square one.
  • I rely on unified body movement / retain control of my balance. ~In the past, when I've observed myself in photos and videos of myself moving, I notice that I tend to get cut off at the waist. The cause of my lack of focus on my lower body is no doubt due to my bad knees. I have seen this improve more and more, until the most recent footage I've seen of my movement has shown centered balance, bent knees, and aligned spine for optimal power.
  • I demonstrate mental focus /concentrated fighting spirit. ~Look at the picture in the Nexus post below: that's focus. I practice zanshin consistently. However, I must respectfully disagree with the "no grinning" clause I see on this handout. On the contrary, the joy and laughter I foster when teaching or practicing is an essential facet of warriorship. It's one of my best attributes, and is central to being a ninja. Shoto Tanemura said that the heart of a ninja should be "as peaceful, joyful, and lovely as that of a flower" (Ninpo Secrets). Stephen Hayes said it plainly in the recent Nexus interview: "it's fun; there's a lot of laughter." I'm all about laughter as power.
  • I am ever carefully observant of safe and controlled technique practice. ~As a Stage Combat instructor, safety is key. So is doing techniques correctly as far as execution/effect. The balance of these two things makes for a good partner either onstage or on the mats.

To close, here's a verse from an old handout from Shoto Tanemura:

If one holds a sword,

one's spirit should be like a sword,

If one holds a staff,

one's spirit should be like a staff,

If one holds nothing but air then

one's spirit must be as air.

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