Beginners Instruction Guidance – part two

Continued from part one

In writing this article, we have been fortunate to have a number of translations from the wisdom of several very senior kodansha in both Kendo and Iai-jutsu All these masters and many others over the years, emphasise teaching the basics in a sympathetic and stimulating manner. These key skills are particularly important when we are introducing novices to what is exclusively a secretive Japanese culture, one deriving from the warrior tradition over the past fifteen hundred years.  The teaching skill is not based on finding fault with early errors but encouraging newcomers to absorb the principles naturally without the fear of harsh correction.

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Beginners Instruction Guidance

by Roald Knutsen and several senior Yudansha 

One of the most troublesome of subjects in the proper martial arts is the best way to teach complete novices from their very first experience in their chosen dojo. The problem is not the new student but the method of teaching him or her and ensuring that those doing the teaching know what they are about. In other words, are these ‘seniors’ aware of what is required and how to go about it? It is of the greatest importance to the whole dojo membership that mistakes and errors don’t become established. Shakespeare put it quite clearly when he wrote: ‘When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions’ – and he was absolutely right. Mistakes not corrected from Day One will plague the student even thirty or forty years in the future – and will always be a handicap to progress. All the masters of Kendo and Iai-jutsu that I and my fellow seniors have had the good fortune to  their instruction, have followed one set of principles throughout their own careers: basicsbasicsbasics – and when fed up with them – yet more basics!

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Understanding Kata – part two

Continued from part one.

One of the purposes of this article when first written, was to ‘open a window on the past’ and a mere recital of uncertain facts is no real way to do this. Who is really ‘livened up’ by dry as dust academic history other that some specialists? I was going to recount the historical background of the Kashima Shinto-ryu and the famous master, Tsukahara Bokuden, but will keep this back for a separate article on this Renmei Website in the coming months. We have a number of records, some fragmented, concerning this remarkable warrior but we must freely acknowledge that he was an undoubted genius and, despite his background in the bloody strife of his lifetime, he lived through most of the extreme virtual anarchy of the ‘Age of War’ throughout the first three-quarters of the Sixteenth Century, and his legacy is still very much with us today, more than five-hundred years after his death. His passing, in itself, is remarkable as he died in his bed at the age of eighty-two – and for a samurai of his time that was very unusual, indeed.

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Understanding Kata

by Roald Knutsen
© Copyright 2018

Nihon Kendo Kata, Brighton

The following article was first written in the 1970s with the aim of helping experienced and newcomers to Kendo and Iai to understand more of the cultural background to these genuine martial systems than is normally done in the present day. The position then, compared to fifty years later, has hardly improved so this version of the original, with some editing and re-appraisal, is offered in the hope that it may help those who are looking for the serious background to the ‘classical’ development rather than the very one-sided image presented by ‘sport’. I make no apologies for the views expressed here; they are entirely my own as are the conclusions I have reached through the teaching of a number of very fine high-ranking masters both in Japan and here.

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