THE CONTEMPLATION OF NAKAGAWA SENSEI REGARDING CONTEMPORARY IAI, WRITTEN ON THE OCCASION OF THE FIRST ÓSHU TAMESHIGIRI TAIKAI
As a Japanese I am very proud and happy that nowadays rather than just in the place of its origin people from all around the world are practicing iaidó. It is however ture that sometimes the teaching style of japanese teachers is an incorrect one. Such iai and kenjutsu basics as hasuji (the angle of the blade while cutting) and tenouchi (grip on the sword) are not being taught. Japanese senseis (hanshi, kyóshi) are often ignoring the study of hasuji. Instead they are putting emphasis on the movement of the body, and by that the martial art is degenerating into some kind of a sword dance.
Martial art is, above all, technique which determines whether we have won or lost our lives. Japanese sword is a tool made for cutting people and kenjutsu are cutting techniques. Talking about „life giving sword“ (katsujin no ken) without the „life taking sword“ (satsujin no ken) is a big mistake. In my style hasuji and tenouchi are being tested as basics by practicing tameshigiri. Can we talk about bujutsu without even having cut at least one makiwara or bamboo?
Tameshigiri practice is basic training to confirm the rightness of our own cutting technique. When we are not able to cut adequately, it means that the problem lies in our body movement, or technique. When watching videos of some practicioners with high dan (7th or 8th ) we can see bad hasuji, bad tenouchi, inability to properly use hips, just nonsensical, flashy sword waving that cannot be called a martial art technique.
In the end to merely cut an air is no different from dance. Some oblivious, high-dan teachers are asked for guidance by foreign samurais, which is trully regrettable. However even in the ranks of tameshigiri practicioners one problem seems to be common. They focus only on cutting alone, and that is often accompanied by barbaric, rude behaviour lacking proper etiquette. Budó practice is bound to include a study of the etiquette and manners. Techniques, in their highest form, are becoming elegant, and their dignity becomes more visible. The life with Budó becomes a spiritual one. The need to act morally, protect the world culture and civilisation becomes clear. Martial arts, merging with the pure bushidó become a heritage protected by those non-Japanese, who have a strong sense towards them, projecting a marvellous sight.
In the 32nd year of Meiji era (1899) Inazó Nitobe published „Bushidó, the spirit of Japan“ in the U.S.A., and not after long the book has become a world bestseller, explaining to western reader bushidó culture and concepts such as Yamato damashii (Japanese spirit), and these are nowadays becoming in Europe and America subjects of study as a cultural phenomenon.
In the present day the japanese martial arts and culture, that has been passed through generations, is no longer the Japanese domain. It has become the heritage for all people that lean towards it, pass ir on and will, as I sincerely hope, protect it.
In this era of peace the japanese sword is percieved as a beatiful piece of art and martial arts have become an object of study of many western academics as a part of traditional cultury. European samurai, overcoming the abyss of time and space will, as I expect, thrive to preserve the peace on Earth.
欧州武術交流斯道会 会長 中川欽詞
Óshú bujutsu kóryú shidókai kaichó Nakagawa Kinji