At Jodo keiko the other day, I was practicing with one of the
senior students. He is an extremely kind and considerate guy, but when
it comes to practice, he is pretty intense.
Some jodo groups are
quite "friendly" (meaning they seem to take into account the fact that
different people have different goals when it comes to martial arts)
whereas other groups are more traditional - if you don't bring 100%
intensity to practice, then maybe jodo isn't for you. I think our dojo
is mid-range, although a bit towards the "friendly" end. This senior
student used to practice at a dojo that was further towards the
"traditional" end, and he brings a severity to practice that is good, I
I hadn't seen him at practice for a few weeks. I guess he had
been busy with work, and it seemed like he was trying to make up for
lost time. His movements were very sharp, fast, and strong. We were
practicing Ran-Ai at the time, and I was on the tachi side. I had just
been kuritsuke-ed when one of the Sensei, who was watching from the
sidelines, called out, "Jeff, your hands are wrong!" I looked over at
the Sensei, to try and get more information about what I was doing
wrong. But my partner didn't slow down. Instead, he attacked me with
"Don't take your eyes off your partner!" he growled. I
barely blocked his strike, and stumbled backwards, off-balance. "Ignore
what's going on in the dojo!" He attacked again, pulling his strike at
the last possible instant in a way that let me know that he could have
brained me but chose not to. "That's how people end up getting HURT!"
Attack, block, counter-attack, avoid. He was getting more intense as we
went along. I had recovered a bit of balance and realized with full
clarity that he was totally right, and that by momentarily taking my
attention off of him, I was doing him a terrible disservice as my
The kata continued to the end. The jo side
threatens the tachi side with a large strike. I barely avoided this by
tucking my arm under my chin, and jumped back as the tip of the jo
whipped past my face. He waited with his jo low, inviting a
head-strike. I cut down, and he bashed the bokuto to the side so firmly
that I almost lost my hold on it. Then, he finished the kata by
hitting me in the suigetsu, harder, I think, than I have ever been hit
I had been thoroughly beaten up, but he was totally right.
When we practice with our betters, not only are we at their mercy, but
we are asking them to teach us. We owe it to them to give them our full
attention and respect.
We returned to our starting positions.
"Again!" We went through the kata again. It is a long kata (for jodo)
and by the end I was panting. "Again!" We ended up doing the kata
about 5 times, and I was only saved when the top Sensei said, "Alright
everybody, let's take a break. Or else Jeff is going to die, I think."
bowed deeply to my partner. He was panting and sweating profusely,
too. He smiled and said, "Good practice. Remember, don't ever let your
attention wander when you're practicing. This is Budo." I think I
learned my lesson.