With Respect, I Disagree

Seen plentiful times on Facebook, courtesy of Daveswordsofwisdom dot com:

“I’m not hot or gorgeous. I don’t have an amazing figure or a flat stomach. I’m far from being considered a model but, I’m me. I eat food, I have curves, I have more fat than I should, I have scars, I have a history. Some people love me, some like me, some hate me. I have done good, I have done bad. I love my PJ’s and I go without makeup. I’m random and crazy. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not. I am who I am, you can love me or not. I won’t change!! And if I love you, I do it with my heart!! I make no apologies for the way I am. Ladies, please SHARE this as on your wall if you are proud of who you are!”

I’m sure someone has created a version for men . . .

What I find challenging about this piece of writing is the phrase “I won’t change!!”

Really?

You are constantly changing. Your body ages. Cells die. New ones are created. When you wake you have new experiences and ultimately you have thousands of choices to make as a result of those experiences. With those choices comes the opportunity to change. If you adamantly insist “I won’t change”, you deny yourself your own ability to improve and evolve beyond your limitations.

I’m sure most people post this piece because they feel it’s empowering. It’s a message that the person accepts who they are, with all their imperfections. From my perspective there is a potential to ignore the truth that the imperfections one accepts may be harmful to one’s self or to others.

I am not advocating obsessing about achieving an illusory state of perfection. I am acknowledging the existence of change and evolution. I am advocating people consider making beneficial changes to their perspectives and behaviour. To me, messages like the above are more limiting than empowering. They convey the falsehood that everything about you is fine exactly the way it is when the reality is everyone can change and choose to improve.

This message encourages people to settle for the way things are, that we don’t need to change or improve and by extension that everything around us is fine “as is”. From my perspective it is not a benign or beneficial message and is certainly contrary to what Kendo stands for.

i-heart-change

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Love in the Dojo

As many of you have heard, either directly or indirectly, I’ve had a “rough” year. Lots of stuff’s gone on in my personal life that needed to be addressed and that was the primary reason I stopped teaching last spring. I’ve gained a few perspectives that I think would be worth sharing, especially on Valentine’s Day.

The modern Valentine’s Day is focused on how much we love another person. This is not a day when we focus on love of all humanity or every living thing. It’s certainly not about loving yourself. I’m not going to critique the day itself (I did that last year…), but I want to shift the focus to the concept of self-love and its relevance to Kendo and life in general.

My feeling is that on the whole, there is a lack of self-love in our society. I say this because although a person may conform to societal expectations of “normal”, there are observable behaviours that suggest they don’t love themselves. This is just my perspective, but here’s what I see that lends credibility to my belief.

If you were in the position of being responsible for the health and well being of a baby, you would probably do your best to take care of that child’s physical and emotional needs. You would nurture it as it grew, would allow it to grow, explore and learn. When it makes mistakes, you would do your best to protect that child from excess harm. You would correct the child if it started straying toward non-beneficial choices and do your best to guide that child in a way that it would grow up to be the best it can be. In short, you would raise and guide that child with love and compassion.

Consider yourself as that child. Do you treat yourself the same way you would treat that external child? Would you allow that child to think itself less intelligent, less attractive, less worthy than it is? Would you allow that child to smoke, take drugs, drink to excess or eat foods you know would harm its health in the long run? Would you suggest it sit on the couch to eat junk food and watch television or spend countless hours on Facebook or playing video games instead of doing something more healthy, productive or beneficial? Would you tell that child to look upon you as an ideal human being?

I know nobody is perfect, but I believe we have the potential to be better than we are. I also believe that potential will never be realized without a strong foundation and I believe that foundation to be be strongest when there is a true love of one’s self. My realization last year was that I didn’t have that foundation. The choices I made throughout my life were based on shoring up the structure of who I thought I should be with external supports but they didn’t address the main deficit of not knowing who I really was or wanted to be. It wasn’t until I uncovered that sense of wonder and joy and love for my own self that I was able to make positive changes in my life. It wasn’t a painless process, but the outcome has been worth it. I am rebuilding my life, redefining my relationship with myself and others and while I face the same challenges as before, they are easier to deal with knowing that I have that inner strength that was previously lacking.

The core purpose of Kendo is to improve your self. This is not Kendo’s “job”. It is not the role of the sensei to make his/her students better people. As a sensei, I have a responsibility to provide the best Kendo training I can to my students and to offer guidance as necessary but I am not responsible for students accepting those lessons. It is the student’s choice on how they implement the lessons offered. It is your responsibility to improve your self.

I was fortunate to have explored my past experiences with people who helped me examine each formative one and who helped me understand them so I could let go of the limitations I’d created for myself. Through that process I was able to shed the layers of misperceptions I’d held about myself and see myself for the wonderful person I am. For the first time, I felt love for myself. Moving forward, I know I still make choices that limit me, but I am much more aware of them and am mindful of how I am treating my self and whether those choices are helping or harming me. The past is the past, mistakes will be made, but I don’t fear them any longer. How I choose to act right now makes the positive differences that will move me forward.

Education has been a constant in my adult life. I have been fortunate to have learned much about myself in the process. I hope that by sharing part of my journey and my experiences you will see it possible to make positive change, whatever your circumstance. Discovering your own self love can transform your perspectives and drastically improve how you approach life. That’s why I hope to see more love in the dojo. Self-love, that is.

Cultivating a sense of self-love will create a deeper level of self-worth and self-respect. This in turn will foster a stronger sense of discipline and desire to improve one’s Kendo and life. That’s what Kendo’s all about.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

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January 2, 2014 Class Cancellation

Tonight’s class is cancelled due to weather and other circumstances.

Our first class of 2014 will be on Tuesday, January 7th from 7:40 ~ 9:40 p.m.

I hope to see you there!

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Confirming holiday class schedule

As a follow-up to the previous holiday schedule post . . .

We will have practice this Saturday (December 28) from 2~4 p.m. in Welland, then go out for sushi afterward.

We will NOT have practice on Monday, December 30th.

We WILL have practice on Thursday, January 2nd.

Hope to see you in the dojo!

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Welcome to the real world . . .

I believe there is nothing like Kendo or other full-contact martial arts to bring home the reality that life isn’t fair.

I say this because at some point in your martial arts experience, you will think you’re pretty good and you’ll meet someone equal to or better than you. When you spar this person you realize that you are really having to work hard and you’re not getting anywhere. It’s not as easy as it was playing with less experienced players. You’ll get frustrated, and quite possibly you’ll lose.

This is a good thing. Especially for younger people. Here’s why.

My son’s in high school. If he doesn’t hand in his assignments on time the teacher will take a few percentage points off but he won’t get a zero. Life doesn’t work like that.

Our society does a lousy job preparing our children for the demands of the real world. Anything that can hurt a child physically or emotionally is made safer or managed. While I don’t encourage abuse, I encourage parents and educators to question how well our sanitized society prepares the younger generations for the demands of living.

When taught well, martial arts encourages people to understand quickly that the responsibility for themselves lies within their selves. When my training partner is trying to strike my head, they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing. If I don’t want to get hit in the head, it is my responsibility to respond appropriately. It’s up to me. Period. End of story.

Life has its challenges. When children learn to deal with appropriate challenges at a young age they are better prepared to deal with the bigger challenges that will come their way in time. There are plenty of opportunities to fail in life. How you deal with failure determines your ultimate success. Learning how to deal with failure in a safe environment like the dojo is a beneficial way to develop and nurture one’s own strengths.

Life isn’t fair, but if you’re prepared for that reality you’ll deal with it better when situations don’t go your way. Everyone can benefit from martial arts training. The crossover benefits are enormous. Just as in life though, you have to stick with it long enough to see those benefits. There’s no instant gratification in life or in the dojo.

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Holiday Schedule 2013

Just for people who want to plan ahead . . . at the moment . . . we will be on regular class schedule until (and including) December 19th (Tuesday & Thursday evenings, 7:40 ~ 9:40 p.m.). We will NOT have class Christmas Eve, but will have class on December 26th.

We will NOT have class on New Year’s Eve, but will likely switch the class to Monday, December 30th if the dojo is available. We will probably have class (90%) on Thursday, January 2, 2014.

So, for all those looking for a Kendo fix during the holidays when your home dojo may be on vacation, come on down!

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Um, your shinai’s in my throat . . .

One heck of a tsuki . . .

On occasion you’ll encounter a person in keiko who tends to hold a strong kamae. When attempting an attack, you may experience the tip of their shinai impacting your do at the chest level – or if it’s an experienced person, your throat will be the recipient of the shinai’s point.

For those of you who are wondering about whether this is a good thing, here are a few ways I look at it when I do that to training partners of various levels.

  1. Please try that again (Sempai to kohai)
  2. I’m being kind of lazy (Sempai to kohai)
  3. I’m pissed off with you so I will passively-aggressively stick you in the throat or chest (Sempai to kohai)
  4. I’m not concentrating on the match so this is all the effort I feel like putting in (Sempai to kohai)
  5. I feel like seeing how strong my kamae is (Sempai to kohai)
  6. That wasn’t a point!!!!!!! Look how you ran into my kensen!!!!!!! (Usually for ippon-shobu or shiai – with anyone regardless of rank)
  7. Oh cr@p – you hit me and I wasn’t ready so standing in strong kamae is all I could muster in response. (Usually when I’m playing someone faster or the same or slightly higher rank than me. Not recommended for use on hachi-dans.)

I’m sure there are more, but you get the idea.

So, in case you’re wondering why you’re running into shinai more than usual, there are a few reasons you might consider your training partner is sticking you like you’re to be roasted over an open fire.

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Annual Keishicho Seminar

Kendo Ontario and the Etobicoke Olympium Kendo / Iaido Club are hosting the 7th Annual Keishicho Sensei Kendo Seminar on Saturday, August 10, 2013 at the University of Toronto Athletic Centre, 55 Harbord St., Toronto from 9:00 a.m. ~ 4:30 p.m.

For those of you not familiar with the term “Keishicho”, it is how you say Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department in Japanese. Kendo is a part of police training in Japan and police officers have won the All Japan Kendo Championships many times. Naoki Eiga and Shoji Teramoto are two that come up quickly in Google searches – and I’m sure there are many more.

Police Kendo has an interesting ring to it. Kind of edgy. Dangerous. Tough. To train in Kendo at Keishicho must be even tougher, right? Probably :)

For those of us who don’t make it to Japan on a regular basis (or at all), this annual seminar is a great chance to learn from sensei from Keishicho and perhaps to gain a different perspective or appreciation of Kendo.

The seminar is open to all Kendoka, regardless of rank or experience. If you can just come to watch, that would be awesome. This year, Hideyuki Adachi sensei (7th Dan) will be leading the seminar. There is no cost for this seminar, however, generous donations from individuals and participating clubs will be most appreciated. There will be a dinner following the seminar – cash payment required prior to dinner.

For members of the Hayakawa Kendo Club who are interested in going, please contact me as soon as possible so I can let the Etobicoke Kendo Club know.

I took video at the 2010 Keishicho seminar, available here: https://vimeo.com/album/855915

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Away and back again

Thursday, July 25th will mark the end of almost three months away from Kendo. It was as much a surprise to me as it was to my students and those who’ve known me in the Kendo world. I am grateful for the understanding of all as I’ve made my way through the challenges I faced in my life.

To some, Kendo is just another martial art. A competitive one at that. For me, it’s evolved into more. It’s been a way to discover, explore and express my own spirit, my own energetic signature as a being. It’s been tough to be away from it and yet I feel this break was for the best for my self and my students.

As I work on other areas of my self that require healing, I appreciate the words of support I’ve received from students, parents and other Kendoka. It is my hope that I will be able to instruct and do Kendo with a proper intent and strong spirit going forward. I thank everyone for the energy they’ve contributed to the club and to the development of their selves through Kendo.

I look forward to seeing you in a dojo soon.

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Maai

One of “Murphy’s Laws of Combat” states: “If the enemy is in range, so are you.”

This is usually true in Kendo as well.

When it’s not true, it usually means you’re fighting someone shorter/taller than you or a man/woman/youth (depending on who you are).

In theory, a player taller than you can strike your men from further away than someone your height. The opposite is also theoretically true – and may apply in some cases.

I hope to see you in issoku-itto-no-maai soon!

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