Wednesday, 23 November 2011

MMKDG - Session #6 Our mindsets during Keiko

Date: Sunday, November 20 starting at 11:30am in the Heritage Lounge at the JCCC
Participants (6): P. Schramek [5D], N. Chau [3D], M. Suen [3D], P. Suen [3D], Yunle [2K]
Topic(s): Our mindsets during Keiko

We began with a generalization of what it is we are doing in class. While it is important to strive for perfecting each and every movement, we should also be aware of how our body feels and what our body is telling us. This is not easy, and requires great effort of body and mind.

For example: Balance - The body is most efficient when everything is in balance. In this state, your body can relax fully, allowing you to be flexible to move and to think.  So whenever you are struggling with something, try to analyze yourself. Are you in balance?  

In the discussion, each brought up instances where we felt our balance was off and required further examination:
  • Simply standing
  • During Kamae (Jodan, Chudan, etc..)
  • Taking first two steps in a standing kata
  • Stepping backwards after chiburi or setting up kamae.

To maintain an overall balanced stance, we can think of our lower body (hips and down) as a platform that our upper bodies are resting on, but not attached.  Like a spinning top balancing on a point, a lean, even slightly, will cause it to topple over.  Using the same mindset, we must keep our upper body straight, so that we do not topple over. We must also keep our lower body moving in such a way that it does not cause our body to lean. For example, if you were spinning the top on a book and you suddenly jerk the book to one side, the top will fall over. But if you start slowly and gradually accelerate, the top will remain standing.

What is a reason for this? Nature.  When the body is misaligned and off balance, you either fall over, or muscles tighten up to keep you in position. When your muscles are not relaxed, your body is not free to move and not able to attain it's maximum potential in power and range.

Each person must think about this deeply and constantly. Only you are able to know how you feel, even if it is difficult at first.

Different people learn better in different ways. Some prefer to analyze more and be precise in each movement. Others prefer to just go at it, and let what feels right come out of the repeat practice. Neither way is wrong, but like all things, balance is the key.  Being from a high education population like Toronto, our tendencies would be towards the analytical, so how do we not let our minds get in the way? Are there examples of this type of learning? 

As it turns out, yes! Almost everything we know about how to move our bodies come from repeat trial and error, and letting it come.  It's like:
  • Learning to swim when you're a kid (just throw you in the water)
  • Learning to ride a bike (parents holding on, kid says "don't let go!", parent says "I've already let go 10 meters back")
  • Learning to play tennis (hit this ball back to me)
  • ..and countless other physical activities.

If we can just let our bodies figure it out, why do we need instruction?
Because it is important to start out right! This was stressed to us very heavily by a Hanshi 8 Dan Kyudo Sensei:
Doing things incorrectly is like a creating stain, and while a stain on your shirt can be washed, a stain on your heart stays forever. When you're learning  a martial art, the right basics keep you clean. The wrong basics create a stain in your heart. You must not create this stain in the beginning or it will stay and grow, and you will be stuck with it years and decades down the road.
What are these basics then? Is it technical? It is physical? Is it mental?

The method of transmission of the martial arts and the definition of "keiko" infer that we are to maintain the teachings of the ancients. To feel and understand what the originators of the arts were thinking when they created them.  To maintain this connection.

According to the AJKF Kendo Dictionary, the definition of Keiko is:
The term "keiko" is often used to denote the practice or training of budo (martial arts) and geido (arts). It originally meant to study or consider (kei) ancient times (ko), which implies contemplating and researching the teachings of the ancients. Furthermore, historically speaking keiko also contains nuances of aesthetic training to forge the body and mind (shugyo). Thus keiko in kendo does not mean simply improving one's technical skills and getting physically stronger, but also has the objective of reaching the ideals of "finding the truth that underpins all of the 'Ways', and contemplating how one should be as a human being"
To this end, we must keep our minds open and try to understand other perspectives and other ways of doing the art.   That is one of the goals of this the MMKDG.

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