The nature of the thing
For the New Year a short entry with a martial arts philosophical spirit. Some time ago I heard two things from my Sensei, related to kendo, but most likely to all martial arts. First one was, that when practising, one has to fight according to his nature. If he does not than he cannot make a real progress. The second one was, that after putting on men, we are all equal (if by any chance a non kendoka is reading this: a “men” is the kendo helmet). The two things connect of course, meaning that even, or maybe especially with people with higher grades, someone should fight without any restrains or self doubt.
My fellow kendokas may anticipate, what was my question just after. What about tsuki (again, for an unlikely non-kendoka, a thrust to the throat, considered an advanced technique, unpleasant for the opponent if not done properly)? Can I do it when fighting with senseis? The answer was: yes, of course, just be prepared for retaliation.
I am always prepared for retaliation and I was since my second attempt to tsuki. It is not difficult to figure out why since the second. I am often so prepared, that after my attempt, successful or not, I become so tense that the following fighting is close to useless (apart from defending from the opponent’s tsuki, the activity somewhat orthogonal to the spirit of kendo). Should’t I be? Should a normal fight just continue? In terms of the fight itself, of course. However there is another issue - the feeling that I did something inappropriate, present from the very first attempts. No such feeling should exist if I understand the teachings of the sensei correctly. But I am not sure if everyone practices in the spirit of these teachings.
Some time ago, before I heard those teachings, I won an ippon shobu with a 7-dan sensei with a tsuki. He decided it was a proper point, so it must have been. However, since I was not sure if it was appropriate, I decided to ask. He told me, that if it is a proper tsuki, it is perfectly fine for me to do it on a sensei. A few weeks after I was on a beer with three Japanese, one 5-dan, two 6-dans. My action must had been seen and remembered, for they asked me themselves, what was the reaction of sensei to my tsuki. In general they seemed quite agitated about me doing a tsuki on a much higher grade. It is not the first and surely not the last contradiction that I will see in Kendo.
It seemed like they would never tried themselves. However I see people practicing here, that try. They just fight differently. Maybe that is the difference in nature? But then it should be well understood by everyone and no such questions should happen. But if someone explicitly tells me to focus on something, is it not going against the nature? I guess not, since it happens quite often to many kendokas. So what one’s nature during a practice fight? The question for the new year.