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Message from Sensei (2003)

Mar. 2003

The weather in America has been very strange this year. This February we had a tremendous snowstorm, which became a hindrance to our day-to-day life. We were out doing the hard work of shoveling three times a day, but if we had waited for the snow to stop, the amount piled up would have made clearing it an even harder task. It was certainly much easier to do a little at a time.

The same can be said for any time something out of the ordinary happens to us physically or in daily life.

It is important to extinguish the spark of trouble while it is still small. If we assume things are still OK and leave them alone as the problem gets bigger, something important can be lost.

The same can be said about Budo. A little effort day-after-day produces big results. You will not improve by training for 10 or more hours one day a week. Spending one hour a day, seven days a week is a much better way to learn. It is truly difficult to train while keeping a steady job. In any society, however, the people who reach the top are those who are putting in the effort even while others rest. Ordinary effort will make you no more than ordinary. If you just practice Budo to relieve stress, enjoy yourself, don't get injured, and work up a good sweat to keep up your energy for tomorrow. Our Budo is wonderful in that an older person, or a person of lesser strength, can still throw an opponent. That can be a source of pleasure in improving towards tomorrow. Let me introduce an expression I like to wrap this message up: Nintai, goki, waga tsurugi. "Patience and valor serve as my sword."

Unsui Sensei

Jinenkan Kancho

July 2003

This issue I would like to discuss my way of thinking about Dan and Kyu promotion tests. Since times long ago in Japan, the first stage of learning any of the arts has been to faithfully learn what was being taught and follow it. This is called " Shu" ("Preserve"). The next stage is to break up what one had been taught; that is, to make variation on it. This is called "Ha"("Break"). The final stage is to distance oneself from what was taught and create something with a flavor that is one's own. This is called "Ri"("Leave Behind"). By going through these steps, one thing can be learned and mastered in its entirely.

With this in mind, I test whether the important basics have been learned for Kyu rank, Shodan and Nidan. If a person passes the Sandan test, it is my judgment that their fundamentals, the most important things, are in a completed state. I can therefore grant them the license of Dojo-cho, so they may instruct others.

Next, on the Yondan test, is the "Ha" stage. This means I look for technique with give-and-take built in; Tai Sabaki (body movement) closer to real fighting.

Finally, Godan test is for the "Ri" stage. I test how the student can put his/her own flavor into the techniques, and also I can see their way of thinking about martial arts by having the student write a short essay. I give permission for students to take the Godan test based on looking at how they train day-to-day.

In the future, I intend to give Dan ranks with 9th Dan (Kyudan) as the highest. I intend to grant the ranks of 6th Dan and above without a test. When the time comes, I will look at that person's daily lifestyle, character, and contribution to the Jinenkan.

In any case, passing these tests is not easy. As I wrote in the last issue, making efforts to advance day after day is the most important thing of all.

Why not set your sights on testing as a way of building confidence and pride?

Unsui Sensei

Jinenkan Kancho

October 2003

This time I would like to tell you about Kyo-jutsu.

In fighting, the best strategy is to win using the least possible power and with the least possible sacrifice. Most techniques we train at in our various ryu-ha are teaching this lesson. Technique, in simple terms, is a small stone that trips a powerful man so he falls. The problem is how to create that small stone.

In Sun-Tzu's Art of War it says, "Know the enemy and yourself, and in 100 battles there is no danger of losing. Know the enemy but not yourself, and you will win half and lose half. Know neither the enemy nor yourself, and you will not win a single battle." Just as this passage says, knowing about the opponent is the most important thing of all.

In Budo, the strength of an enemy is discovered by sensing or by touch. If you cannot tell an enemy's strength, you use kyo-jutsu. This means you employ a feint; or employ an unbalancing technique. By doing so, you can see the enemy's weaknesses. At the instant they appear, you apply your real technique. This is creating that small stone.

It may be fine to leave your techniques to power in regular training while you are young, but you cannot expect progress with only this kind of training. In the future, think about this and devise training methods of your own.

Training is different for every person. Even if people of differing strength perform the same technique in different ways, this doesn't matter a bit. For dan and kyu tests, however, please perform the techniques just as they have been performed up till now; the tests are not to judge a person's true strength.

"Keiko ikkan, subete ni masare" ("By consistent training, excel at all things")

Unsui Sensei

Jinenkan Kancho

Unsui Sensei

Jinenkan Kancho