Sensei has been very consistent in his advice around jigeiko and the execution of any kind of waza. In effect, he says that less is more and that our attacks should be less in number but done with full commitment. With full commitment comes the requirement that we invest ourselves completely in that action, going through the stages of gamen, seme, and then sutemi when we engage with our partner.
Done this way, there is no chance that you will be able to do a series of meaningless attacks, exhausting yourself and putting yourself at risk of injury. Instead, you will funnel yourself into engaging in an authentic way with your opponent, training yourself in the deeper principles of individual combat as well as having a far more meaningful experience.
A recent article in The New Yorker covered the old concept of whether or not practice makes perfect. My takeaway from that article was that simply doing 10,000 hours of practice in itself does not equate to success. Genetics and environment play a key role and, while we can’t change genetics, we can certainly ensure that our environment is one that supports positive results.
This means that we should collaborate with each other, ensuring that we give the best of ourselves so that we get the best of each other in return. This kind of environment is the kind found in successful companies, musical bands, and artistic groups. It puts the “art” in the term “martial art.”
In Kenji Tokitsu’s book on Musashi, he talks about the transition of swordsmanship from pure combat into a more personally reflective practice as Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate entered a period of peace and order that lasted 250 years. “The way of the sword itself proposed a meaning to life, an existential direction…”
During that period and now, sword schools focused upon both the technical skills of swordplay as well as on the mental and spiritual training required to go beyond the physical element and to be prepared for actual combat.
Part of that process was engaging fully in what one was doing. This was actually quite common in all levels of life in Japan as in other countries of the time. Before the rise of technology and the myriad ways of quickly communicating using multiple channels and methods, people in that time were restricted to more simple and personal communication methods.
The quality and sincerity of a bow to a customer or verbal communication to a person of higher rank were important in the excellence of that simple action. Having less to use, people put more effort into what they had.
In that same way, kendo affords us the opportunity to step out of our complex and busy lives and engage in a way that is both simple and yet provides a much more in-depth experience.
Something to consider next time one is in the dojo.