Tokyo, I have a lot of choices of martial arts to practice. If you live
in a small town somewhere, and wish you could find even one
good dojo near enough to your home to commute to regularly, I feel your
pain. I grew up in a small town too. And having too MUCH choice is
definitely preferable to having too LITTLE. But it brings its own
When I lived in Oita, I dabbled in Sekiguchi ryu iai.
Then I moved to Tokyo (through no choice of my own, unfortunately) and
thought, "I ought to continue practicing Sekiguchi ryu - even if it's
with another group." I located another group, somewhat far from my
place, students of another teacher. In the end though, I realized that
this would only end up being bad news. Separate koryu groups, I've
found, like to lecture you not only on how everything you're doing is
technically wrong, but also on how your teacher is a bad person, and how
you were wrong for ever learning from him in the first place. Not a
Shortly after I moved to my current apartment, I saw a
YouTube video on kendo, part of a
series called "Samurai Spirit". In the video, the host pays a visit to a
revered Kendo 8-dan hanshi. It turns out that this dojo is not far
from where I live. I thought to myself, "Wow, what a great opportunity!
I should definitely take up kendo again and practice with this great
Well, I never did quite get around to it, but with that
thought rolling around in my head, I did a search for kendo dojo in my
area. It turns out there is a good dojo right up the street from me.
"Wow, what a great opportunity! So close to my apartment, and
The only problem was that I already have an iai
practice that conflicts with a jodo practice, and if I went to every
scheduled practice for just iaido and jodo, I'd be practicing about 5
days a week. I usually make it to about 3 practices a week. Do I
really need to add kendo to the mix? To go to kendo, I would need to
skip an iai or jodo practice. I would probably end up going to each art
once a week - is it possible to make progress at that rate?
bit later, I was at a Tokyo iaido event, when I saw a Sensei doing Muso
Jikiden Eishin Ryu (my style of iai) and wearing a nametag that said
"Toshima ward". I checked on the internet, and his dojo is in
Ikebukuro, close to where I live, and right where I work. "Wow, what a
great opportunity!" But do I really need 3 iai dojo? This would just
create more conflict. Going to 2 different dojo is bad enough; iai
teachers don't like sharing students.
I was actually heading to
iai practice a few weeks ago when I spotted a man and woman walking with
sword bags over their shoulders, the same as I was carrying. "Are you
doing iai?" I asked them. The man was very cagey and clearly didn't
want to tell me anything. He answered with unhelpful, one-word answers
as much as he could. Eventually, the woman informed me that they were
doing Shinkage Ryu at the local community center. "Wow, what a great
opportunity!" I thought. Another koryu to practice, within 10 minutes'
walk from my place! But do I really need another koryu, especially one
that clearly has some people who don't want me there?
looking in a book on koryu recently, and discovered that the Soke of one
of the branches of Araki ryu lives near where I work every Saturday. I
had seen his demonstration at the Budokan, and been very impressed.
"Wow, what a great opportunity! I should call him and see if I can
practice!" As if I need another koryu, particularly one that deals with a number of different weapons.
I was at an iaido event and met a guy from the US who has been in Japan
for quite some time. He mentioned that he also did kenjutsu; I asked
what ryuha. He said that he does Niten Ichi Ryu with a Sensei up in
Saitama, not far from where I work. "I have done Niten Ichi Ryu too!
Wow, what a great opportunity!" Well, you get the picture.
think we are just programmed to think, "The more martial arts, the
better!" There is a saying in Japan about chasing 2 rabbits at the same
time. The punchline is that you'll end up catching neither of them.
While I think it's possible to practice 2 martial arts, I think 3 is
really pushing it. 3 is possible for some people who are especially
dedicated or for "professional" martial artists, i.e., teachers who
basically do nothing but practice budo all day, every day. For most of
us, 2 is more than enough.
And yet there's always the attraction
of the unknown; something new. Surely that new and exotic martial art
contains all the secrets that my current martial art doesn't have;
surely that new teacher will tell me everything my current teacher isn't
giving me. If I could just learn one more martial art, that would fill
in all the gaps and make me the ultimate martial artist! Ooh, if I
could just learn that really rare koryu, then I could go back home and
be really, really special.
It's all an illusion. I need to focus
on the practices I've already got scheduled, and just GO to them
instead of coming up with reasons why I should be looking for something