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We enjoy sharing knowledge and subjects around Kobudo and the martial way.

By Jikishin Kobudo, Jun 22 2016 11:37AM

The 'Shin' ideogram is drawn to represent the heart, the lines drawn show the ventricles and where the blood travels. For martial artists in days gone by your spirit is considered to be held within your blood. At one time the whole world agreed on that. However modern science and the 'ologies have yet to explain such a concept in definitive terms and so the ordinary science fearing child of the modern world finds talk of 'spirit' uncomfortable and mystical. So perhaps talk of lymphocytes, globulins and basophils may have to enter future dojos so that modern students can understand how the heart defines/reflects the character of the person.

By Jikishin Kobudo, Apr 9 2014 12:00AM

It has been stated by academics that the ninja (忍者) are a misrepresented phenomenon. Some writers assert that peasant ninja-clans are the work of romantic fiction and Ninjitsu as an art is a modern invention. Those who practice Ninjitsu object to this, and refer to certain historical texts that served as training manuals (such as the ‘Banshenkukai’ and the ‘Ninpinden’), as providing the legitimacy for claiming a continuous line of knowledge transmission from the past to present day.

From an independent viewpoint, evidence strongly supports the notion that “ninja” is simply a term that was sometimes ascribed to spies and covert military operatives throughout Japanese history. It is by no means an exclusive term either; other terms found within historical literature include Kyodan, Mitsumono, Shinobi, Yato, Monomi, Rappa, Kussa, Nokizaru and Suppa, all of which describe the same or similar type of person. In fact, ninja as a term is scarcely found in Japanese historical documents.

Whatever the true history of covert operatives in Japanese history may be, what is interesting for Okinawan martial artists is that many of the weapons associated with the “modern ninja” are also found within the practice of Kobudo. Is this simply because the ninja are proposed to have been peasants and therefore would have characteristically used non-military tools and weapons? Or could there be some connection between Okinawan martial artists and the Shogunate spies?

All writers agree that covert military techniques in Japanese history appear to have their origin outside of Japan and many point their fingers towards China as the source. This is predominantly due to the influence of Chinese military authors such as Jiang Ziya (姜子牙) and Sun Tzu (孫子) who specifically identify methods for selecting and training covert operatives in their writings. However there is also another area of consideration, the islands of Ryukyu.

Ninja are classically associated with the Edo period (1603-1867), this is when they first start to appear in artwork, become more prevalent in literature and their legend most often dramatised. This is precisely the period during which the Ryukyu kingdom was attacked, Okinawa was invaded (1609) and subsequently assimilated into the wider Japanese political landscape. It is well discussed that Okinawan martial arts were at their zenith during this period in history and firmly established that their fighting techniques and strategies were heavily influenced by the Chinese.

There are some Okinawan martial artists who reputedly claim their ancestors were employed by Japanese generals due to their martial arts skill. There are also Japanese who claim descent from ninja clans who also have links with Okinawa. If we observe traditional Okinawan dress we can see many similarities between this clothing and Edo period depictions of ninja. Perhaps most implicating however, is that the traditional weapons of Okinawa Kobudo are those associated with the ninja.

Ed: Nowhere in translated literature has the link between the “Ninja” and Okinawa been made. Though this area is significantly under researched, to the best of the author’s knowledge, it has never been witnessed, documented nor asserted.

By Jikishin Kobudo, Nov 14 2013 12:00PM

Here is one of the earliest photographs of the temple of Confuscius (or Kongzi) in Chu Fuo, China. The straight path symbolises the discipline of those following the legendary philosopher. In martial arts we also follow a path, this is the "Do" or "Way" of martial arts.

Some martial artists follow their own path, some choose to follow a Sensei/teacher or one who has gone before. Which is right?

It is up to the individual martial artist to decide, do they follow or do they wander? Sometimes, if you wander, you may discover new realms, on the other hand your own path may take you in circles. Sometimes by following one who has gone before, you can be guided in a clear direction, other times your Sensei may be going in circles themselves.

Each martial artist must choose their own path depending on their confidence, wisdom and experience. As Lao Tzu said "No-one should follow a path they do not trust".

In "Do" we cannot separate the physical and spiritual journey. As such, two things can be certain: It shows poor spirit, to pretend to follow a Sensei, when you wish to follow your own path. Similarly it is without virtue to think of yourself as a Sensei, when the path you tread has led you nowhere that anyone would choose to follow.

A beginner knows little of "the way" and it is for this reason, a kind Sensei will help students to follow the path that is right for them.

By Jikishin Kobudo, Nov 1 2013 12:00PM

The fall of a Temple and the rise of secular martial arts

Large organised groups of martial artists were considered a threat to the governing elite of the Qing dynasty (1644 – 1912), this meant that the Shaolin were heavily scrutinised. As such, due to the political insecurity of the Qing and after being identified as a possible source of insurrection, the Southern Temple was regrettably destroyed. From that day forth, fighting traditions in Southern China were often practised in secret and in small groups for fear of persecution. As a result the practice of martial arts became secularised.

The convergance and celebration of styles and approaches that reputedly took place within Shaolin had ended and as the centuries passed, martial artists in isolation began to diverge in techniques and outlooks. This can partly explain why today, we see many different martial arts styles, most of which claim to have been developed from Shaolin traditions. These styles can often appear quite different in application and ethos. Could they really share the same root?

The similarities between Sanchin kata from Karate and Sil Lum Tao from southern Chinese Kung Fu are clear to even an untrained eye, as are the locking and throwing techniques of Chin Na and Jiu Jitsu. In weapons practice, many of the Okinawan kata (particularly for the staff) are named after Chinese experts and we can see the same weapons used in Hung Gar Kung Fu can be found in Kobudo. The key principles of strong stances, considered breathing and body conditioning form the foundation of most martial arts and it is perhaps through these that we are best able to see the true legacy of the Shaolin.

By Jikishin Kobudo, Sep 20 2013 11:00AM

Zanshin Is a term frequently used by martial artists to describe a state of mind that will benefit martial ability, but what does it mean?

If we look at the etymology of the word we see that it is composed of two kanji. The first (Zan) is a character commonly used in Japan to describe those with a disability, whilst (Shin) is the character for heart.

So how does 'disabled heart' become "awareness"?

(Zan) is better understood of we consider it to mean 'not fully achieved', 'hesitant' or 'cautious'. Though this may not be a politically correct way to describe people with disabilities, we can understand why during less enlightened times this character may have gained its current usage. A preferred definition for the martial context is 'non-committed' or 'aware'.

(Shin) is more than just a character used to describe the physical heart comprising aorta and ventricles, it can be more poetically used to refer to the 'soul', 'spirit' or the 'unconscious mind'. Similarly in the west we will refer to somebody as a 'braveheart'.

By fighting with an "Aware Mind' (Zanshin) a martial artist is less likely to make mistakes.

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