Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Otake-shihan on Freeplay

I just found a great quote I wanted to share with anyone reading this blog. You've all read things I've written about Otake Risuke, the current Shihan of Tenshin Sho-dan Katori Shinto-ryu. This ryu is the oldest extant Japanese martial arts school and is listed as an ‘intangible cultural asset’; it comes from the days when bushi fought for real. Otake-shihan is considered a living national treasure of Japan and is the only one who holds a full license (gokui kaiden) in the art. In my opinion he is the greatest swordsman of any system living today. This quote can be found in its entirety here: http://www.cateransociety.com/Joseki.htm:

"Kata is still the teaching method in the classical Japanese sword arts precisely because it preserves the essence of the art's history—the art as it was understood by those who created it. Some schools, such as the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu … pride themselves on the fact that they have never used any type of free sparring in their practice.

{Otake-shihan said:} “(I)t is said that a shiai, or competitive contest, is synonymous with shiniai, which means ‘to meet for the sake of death.’ That is another way of saying that any kind of combat is a serious matter of life and death. As a result, from then until now, competitive matches have been forbidden in Katori Shinto Ryu...”

Otake-shihan then went on to say that, in bouting, "the vital responsibility and danger of handling a real weapon is replaced by the mental approach of the game-player with a toy weapon."

Game players with toy weapons. Perfect. Real swordsmen don’t do freeplay.

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