Mental clutter. It’s not just about things. (The Purge part 2)

First off I want to say congratulations to my sensei, Matt Marley for passing his Sandan at the weekend.
Omedetōgozaimasu.

Last nights training consisted mainly of sensei trying to pass on as much as he could within the time we had from his weekend at the Watchet Seminar. I would have gone myself and attempted my Shodan, but it is just one month too soon for me to try. I’ll be doing that in July.

The main thing we worked though was getting into our heads that you cannot just attack blindly. You have to create an opening one way or the other and you can’t just expect something to work. The other thing that really stuck out for me was the concept of employing a kote-men but also being prepared to to stop and go through if the kote strike was successful. Using kote even if you miss, is a good way to open someone up for a men cut, but if you actually perform a good cut, on target, the men cut is unnecessary. It occurred to me that this is true with every single cut. If you miss your first cut, have good zanshin and are prepared to strike again, you may well have opened something up with your failed cut.
I was once told that the basic essence of kendo is to be ready at all times. It has made me realise the futility of thinking things like; “On this next cut I’m going to do kaeshi dou.” Where is what I should be thinking is more along the lines of; “For this bout of jigeiko, I will practise my kaeshi dou when and if the opportunity arises.” These are mental seeds as opposed to fixations. A good bit of Fudoshin.

Interestingly last night, sensei set us the homework of going home a looking up the four sicknesses of Kendo. In looking these up there seems to be some confusion on the net as to what they actually are. Some show different things than others but if I understand them correctly they are: fear, doubt, distraction/surprise/confusion and anger.
Fear is pretty common for us relatively new kendoka, especially when you come up against someone of much higher grade and experience than yourself. Fear of not performing a good cut, of getting hurt, of looking stupid or anything. It prevents you from acting instinctively and in life can prevent you from doing things you actually want to do.
Doubt is also universal. “What’s the point in trying that as I’ll get it wrong.” So what. Doubt serves no purpose in anything. Do not suspect you will not be able to do something, know that it is not in your skill set first, but you have to try it to know. So you should try everything to know if you can physically do something. When you fail, you will probably know what you did wrong and how to not do it wrong again thus giving you something new to do, but of course do not stray into arrogance.
Distraction/surprise/confusion. These are all just different ways in which your concentration or ki is broken. A surprise technique from your opponent, a noise from the other side of the dojo, a lack of concentration. It’s a lack or disruption of focus and this is something you can exploit in you opponent through the various forms of semei. There is plenty to distract you in life.
Anger is just your mind fixating on some perceived slight or thing that your opponent does that annoys you, or getting hurt. It clouds your focus and mental discipline. Anger at yourself for not doing a cut very well. This does not matter. We learn by doing and making mistakes so make your mistake and learn from it. Don’t beat yourself up over it, you’re opponent will do that for you, no trouble.
During all this last night, I tried to concentrate on being patient. You cannot rush in blindly to do an attack or perform the waza if they are not open and subsequently you have to wait for the moment that they do become open. More than once with different opponents I slowed down dramatically and in doing so, caused confusion in my opponent leaving them open for a fairly slowly performed dou cut. It was like I could see the point where they were in process to strike, their shinai is raised, their brain short circuits as to what to do next and I did a deliberate dou cut slower than I normally would, just with the right timing and much better accuracy.

I’m reminded that the odd few times I actually feel like I have hit a state of mushin within training, everything faded away and left only reaction. The first time I did a kaeshi-dou really nicely, I done it, gone through and turned round before I even knew what had happened. My opponent didn’t see it coming and I did not think about employing it.
When I used to meditate everyday I reached a point such as this in everyday life and found I had managed to drop all preconceptions and fear about what was about to happen. I realised that what ever happened in life, I could deal with it and I’d still be here.

So what has all this got to do with The Purge (not the film)?

As I stated in my last post about removing those possessions that bring you guilt, you also need to try and resolve those issues in your head with people that cause you guilt or pain or suppress you in some way.
I used to be good friends with someone who was very good at being able to understand a person’s problems and help them understand and transcend them. I was friends with him for many many years and also feel that for a while he managed to help me in the same way. There was only one problem though. Once the person he had helped had overcome their issues and managed to fulfil some of their deeply suppressed desires, he became highly critical and upset if not included in things. This is like releasing a bird from captivity, telling them to be free and do what they wish but then telling them their sitting on the wrong branch and building their nest wrong. To the person on the receiving end of this it becomes emotional baggage and a piece of guilt because you believe you owe that person something for helping you and because they seem to be expecting this that’s what you do. They’re you friend, right? Wrong. Friends do not act like this and as such are just adding to your emotional baggage. You have to recognise the people that do cause you this and detach from them.
Although it sound selfish, you are only responsible for your own mental well being. If someone causes you pain in some way it’s because you let them cause you pain. If someone tries to make you feel guilty for not doing something for them or not including them in something then they are not truly at ease with themselves. It is not something for you to feel guilty about but something that maybe as a friend, you want to help them with. If they do want to be helped you cannot help them.
If you’re wondering what happened with me and my friend, I don’t see him any more. I had to go and pursue my own path and one day maybe we will reconnect. I bear him no malice and hope , like I hope for everyone, that they get everything they wish to get from life.

This is exactly the same in Kendo.
Removal of the mental blocks, pre-conceptions, fear, doubt, distractions and guilt lead to the a state of mushin and being ready. I also think of it this way.
There’s no mind in ki-ken-tai-ichi.

!m!

UPDATE:

I now realise that what I had put down as the four kendo sicknesses are not completely correct. The more I try and read on the subject, the more I find different explanations and specifics. Please update me in the comments.

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