So this weeks session consisted mainly of running through the basics of kirikaiesh with 4 of our new members.
As it goes, it was a fairly sedate session, for those of us who’ve been doing it for a while anyway. I’ll have been doing kendo for 2 years in August so I’m still a newbie too but in terms of the club not so much.
During our suburi, we did 100 jogeburi. As it was called out I suddenly felt for my newest dojo mates and remembered the first time I had to do 100 of any suburi. It’s really hard.
These days I don’t even think about doing that. 100 is normal and fairly easy and it’s all down to efficiency of movement.
At one point I had to stop doing kendo for a couple of weeks because I found I couldn’t lift my left arm above shoulder height. I had no idea what was going on or how to sort it. The doctor did little more than give me anti-inflammatory medication and the inevitable physio referral form. The medication did wonders but I skipped the physio. I’ve had physio before for various things and to be honest it’s never really made any difference. What has made a difference is careful examination of what is causing the pain and then how to fix that.
I used to get terrible neck pains, all the time that would drive me to the brink if insanity. Physio did nothing, acupuncture had much better effect but didn’t cure it. Repositioning my monitor and keyboard at work did. Fixed it completely because I carefully examined my physical state and worked it out. I’ve never been exactly in tune with my body and having dodgy eyesight has never helped my hand eye coordination so to actually work something out physically was a big step forward for me.
Coming back to the arm, I realised I was just being too tense and jerking my arm as I was cutting which resulted in pain and weakness. I fixed it by relaxing during suburi and refining my cutting action to the point that it takes nearly zero effort. I was told to do this on many occasions before I properly worked it out, I don’t always catch on quick, but it took me time to properly assimilate the information and work out how to apply that to myself. I am reminded of the Buddhist adage: “You have to find the truth for yourself.” This is true in all things.
So while I was imparting this information about efficiency, something occurred to me. How do the concepts of mushin and Hitotsu o Motte Kore o Tsuranuku fit together? Mushin is about cultivating a state of absence of thought or anticipation. Simply being in the moment and performing the cuts as and when needed. Not thinking about what to do next. They should just happen.
Hitotsu o Motte Kore o Tsuranuku is about concentrating on one thing. This makes perfect sense in terms of a training session. Picking one thing that you want to work on throughout the whole session and during ji-geiko is a superb idea. I distinctly remember one night just concentrating on my seme to great effect.
But to the untrained mind these seem like contradicting things. How can you be of no mind and not thinking when you are concentrating on one thing?
When I first started to meditate, I found it hard to empty my thoughts and not think. You try not to think, then you think about not thinking, then you scold yourself for thinking about not thinking. It’s hard to get the thinking mind to stop. It’s like your reality filter. Everything you see, hear and experience is passed through the mind filter and some sort of conclusion is made. That drink was sweet, the sun is hurting my eyes, the tree is far away. This is unnecessary.
One of the main texts I read on meditation said that in order to cultivate emptiness of thought you have to first be able to focus the mind on one thing. The mind wants to jump all over the place and wants to look at things so you have to give it a focus. It states about picking a point in your nose where you can feel the air moving over it and concentrate on it. Because your breathing is mainly automatic, you should be able to just observe and concentrate on the feeling without thinking about it. Every time the mind drifts, you bring it back to that point.
The more you do this, the more it becomes easier and easier to do, to the point where your mind is no longer making a conclusion about things and becomes quiet. Something we should all try to remember is that the mind is a tool and as such does not have to be switched on all the time. You don’t keep a hammer in your hand while you’re trying to do up a screw. You have to cultivate the simple fact that the mind does a job but the mind is not the be all and end all of who you are. Once you manage to quiet the mind properly, the true experience of life suddenly comes crashing through in much greater detail, colour and texture but you are no longer thinking about it. It simply is, as are you.
So this is where the Hitotsu o Motte Kore o Tsuranuku and mushin come in for me. I feel like Hitotsu o Motte Kore o Tsuranuku is a preparation. A seed to be sown in the psyche before mushin. You don’t have to be constantly concentrating on the one thing. You’ve sown the seed of concentration. Concentration is not the same thing as thinking either it is focusing your attention while drawing no conclusion.
This all links to the efficiency as well. It’s not just efficiency of the body but also of the mind. I primarily focused on the concept of efficiency after reading the following book:
Matrix Warrior by Jake Horsley. Not only is it a wonderful piece of overthinking, but a superb piece of focus on how to cultivate efficiency of body and mind. I picked up my hardback copy in Poundland and it’s £1.50 on Amazon for the hardback. Just buy it. Okay, it’s based on a fictitious world, but that hasn’t stopped most religions.
This is how the third part of The Purge is being built for me. Cultivating efficiency in everything, mind, body and life is extremely important. If your mind is distracted by many different things (thank you internet) then you are not being mentally efficient. Why should your concentration not be constantly focused towards your goals in life? Why distract it with frivolous things for the sake of entertainment? This is the mind doing it’s best to be used, it doesn’t want to let go. It wants to run everything.
Lastly I feel as though I have always fallen foul of doing too many things. I work IT support and in the past have tried my hand at everything. I’ve been a jack of all trades and a master of none in all aspects of my life. This ends now. Outside of work I have in the past, played guitar in a metal band, played solo acoustic gigs, done drawing, sculpting, snowboarding, skateboarding, car modification and customisation, writing (okay, I still do this), prop replica building, electronics, old computer collecting and repairing, theramin building, guitar effects building, DJing, PC gaming, kung fu, fencing, theatrical sword fighting. The list goes on and I have had and still have some of the things that enabled all these things to go on. It’s just a big mess.
I have now vowed not to let this continue any more and focus on much less. If you spread yourself too thin then you get good at nothing. I’m not great at any of those things listed really. I’m better at some that others but in no way would I call myself an expert in any of them. The things I have worked most on are guitar playing (about 25 years), fencing (about 12 years), various computing activities (30 years). I consider myself an expert in certain computing fields, but in no way am I an expert in others. I’ve spread myself too thin.
Too many things, possessions, activities, attachments, are all fuel for the mind to have something to do and take control of you.
Efficiency must be applied to everything and to do this I must purge it all.
Update: I’ve changed this post a little as I was somewhat confused before about the concept of fudoshin. I have now changed that terminology to the correct one as I don’t wish to confuse anyone or myself. I will explore fudoshin another time.