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.
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: basics – basics – basics – and when fed up with them – yet more basics!