Dark side of the moon is a superb album. About 3 years ago I could not have said that as I really didn’t have an opinion on it either way. I would hear people go on about how amazing it is and had no basis to go on. I’d heard it many times, just not taken it in and felt bad about this because being a guitarist, I thought I should like it. Then one evening, while at home by myself doing the ironing, Radio 1 played the whole album from start to finish. Then I was sold. Pink Floyd are great and Dark side of the moon is an amazing album.
I couldn’t quite understand how I’d missed out on this for so long but I quickly came to the conclusion that I had not been ready for it. I think this is the way certain fundamental things in life happen as well. Someone can ply you with advice on all sorts of things, but if you are not ready to understand or accept, it will pass you by. I realised tonight that kendo is exactly the same. You have to be ready to understand a certain aspect and until that time no matter how many times you hear it and try it, the true understanding of the concept will elude you.
During jigeko tonight, while in tsuba-zarei up in jodan, sensei just said “Hit kote from jodan.” I had to ask him to repeat but I got the message, and it suddenly made perfect sense. It was obvious. How could I have not seen this. This is where a good teacher shows their true skill by knowing what the student is ready for. Eureka moment.
We rotate and my next opponent seems to not be susceptible to that technique but I try it a few times anyway. I come close. Then another one hits me.
The concept of mushin crossed my mind and I remembered the words from a translated lecture I’d read on George McCall’s website called PURSUING THE SPIRIT AND MODERN KENDO. It’s in 5 parts and I think it’s a must for every kendoka to read.
He said about during a proper state of mushin you should become like a mirror and the intentions of your opponent will be reflected onto yourself. Suddenly debana made sense and also how to do it correctly. Being a former fencer, the concept of debana is familiar to me as a ‘stop hit’ but it had never really flashed as something I could effectively utilise. As I observed my opponent begin to move to attack me I saw him do it and simply did debana kote, one after the other. Now I think about it, this is employing elements of kata number 6 and number 7 of the Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho. That small debana and/or suriage kote suddenly made much more sense. Eureka moment number 2 for the evening.
I suspect that these eureka moments are a result of my eclectic mentality and methods of learning things. In a previous post I was lamenting the fact that I am a jack of all trades and master of none, but this is probably where my strength lies now. Because I am now focusing my attention towards a specific goal, all these things I have done in the past are starting to join together. I’ve been telling myself recently that I should meditate more to help me cultivate my mushin, but kendo does it too, so I shouldn’t worry so much about it. There is an old saying about meditation. When you get to a certain point, everything is meditation, therefore, everything can bring about or be approached with a state of mushin.
I used to worry about everything, all the time. I was nervous of social situations, didn’t know how to talk to people and constantly had this kind of internal dialogue with myself about what to say next and invariably just sat saying very little. Buddhist philosophy and meditation got me out of that and made me realise how easy life can be if you have this state of mind. It was a personal eureka moment that I had one Saturday afternoon out of nowhere that fundamentally changed my state of mind.
I’ve realised now that like with many things I’ve done over the years, I tend to not start at the beginning of things and try to rush in. I suspect I’ve been a bit like that with kendo too (you’d have to ask my sensei) but I think because I have done so many things that there are certain concepts that I already understand and thus when it comes time for me to understand the new concept in kendo, I already recognise it.
Whenever I want to really understand something I’ve always just read as much as I can, even if I don’t understand it at the time, but find later on down the line, connections are made between the various different bits of information. These are what makes a eureka moment. Most of the time I’m thinking “How did I not see that before?” The answer is simple.
I wasn’t ready to understand.