Physical Training Feb 2012
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Half-Formed Ideas

copyright 2012 Jeff Broderick, all rights reserved
I was thinking about the idea of budo and self-improvement. This is something that people talk a lot about but I don't think has been clearly elucidated very often. Exactly how is it that martial arts make you into a better person?

I think it has a lot to do with the sempai-kohai relationship, and the student-sensei relationship. When the sempai-kohai thing is abused, it's pretty bad; it essentially boils down to a master-servant relationship. But I think, at it's best it is the key to self-improvement...

You enter into an art and, acknowledging that your seniors know more than you do, and recognizing the years of dedication they've put into the art, you voluntarily take on the role of "junior" and all that goes with it, in exchange for the chance to learn what they know. You develop your sense of social awareness and try to respond appropriately in any given situation - for example, a good kohai jumps to his feet to help when he notices somebody struggling to carry luggage into the dojo, and offers a helping hand. And he is constantly on the lookout for such situations. How can I help somebody else? What should I be doing right now?

Ideally, this mindset continues outside of the dojo. It is not something that we do because we want sensei to notice our efforts and promote us at the next grading. We should have this mindset towards everybody, everywhere. It is exhausting and I can only maintain it for a short time, but the goal is to think this way all the time, and to extend this feeling to strangers, to society in general, to other countries, to the world...

I dunno. Kind of hippy-dippy, I know. But there have been lots of times when, in the course of helping out with a seminar or something, I've seen beginner or intermediate level students just wandering around the gym with their heads in the air, meanwhile there are dozens of little jobs that need doing. Iai is about being ready for any situation, all the time; how can somebody expect to develop a mindset that will prepare them to defend themselves if they aren't even looking around them or thinking about their place in relation to their surroundings?

Just something that occurred to me recently...

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