Just this morning, I had a dream which stuck with me long enough and which excited me enough that I wanted to write about it briefly. First, some background about my current headspace.
I have completed my yondan grading, and with that I intend to spend more time with my wife and less at the dojo. We have been thinking about doing something together, regularly, just to help keep fit and have fun. So I have been looking into another martial arts school, a style I am not familiar with, that we could do together once a week. So mentally I have been thinking about new schools and styles.
Additionally I have been listening to a new podcast (Hiyaa podcast - I heartily recommend it on iTunes) which features martial arts news, style histories (praticularly Chinese arts) as well as interviews with people like Ellis Amdur (mentioned in my previous posts and well known in Aikido and Koryu circles). Any rate, back to the dream.
So I dreamed about visiting a koryu teacher. I was interested in training at this school, and so the teacher was highlighting the aspects of study. I was so excited this part of the dream seemed to run in high-speed. While I can't recall what it is he was showing me, I recall him demonstrating and pointing to students doing weapons and certain aspects that I didn't like. There were some good and interesting things, but the first few were not something I was keen to jump into.
At this point I woke up, and had a realization. I have been doing a lot of research into styles, histories, techniques, etc in addition to my training because I am looking for something. If I am to further understand my own art, I need to have another, very different frame of reference. I need a style whose workings are laid plain, and whose focus is on principles instead of on abstract techniques.
To make my thoughts more plain, I have been often frustrated by my efforts at reverse engineering bunkai from our kata. I also have a hard time figuring out where one technique begins and another ends. I am further confused as to what I (should) think about the bunkai and the kata:
- are they explicit examples of techniques?
- are they idealized, are they training gross motor function?
- are they showing principles?
- where does one technique (waza) stop and the next begin?
- when am I turning towards a new attack and when am I still dealing with the current one?
- are there linking movements between techniques without martial application, or does everything have a martial value?
- are there built-in chi building exercises which are hidden by the external movements?
- when should the hard and soft come in, respectively?
- should my techniques become softer and more subtle as I progress?
So the question becomes: what arts/styles will give me this additional experience? This is as personal a question as any I can think of, but it comes down to what I feel interested in and what will give me the most benefit. Any readers who have a suggestion or would like to chime in would be appreciated!
At the moment, my main choices are as follows:
A) To find and try to join a koryu group in my area. I think it needs to be a larger system, with a focus on jujutsu while maintaining at least two or three weapons (preferably with differing ranges - daito, shoto and bo would be sufficient). I think I would gain some valuable insight into a different mindset of training, some grappling focus, great work with principles, and refinement of handling weapons and working on ma-ai.
B) To find a quan fa school with southern Chinese roots and a focus on internal work. Taking the principles of subtle movement and developing greater power through internal training is tempting. Southern Chinese schools would meld more easily into my existing training as well (karate for one, and the imported Shaolin Quan and Bai He Quan we do as an aside). Plus quan fa schools usually have at least a few basic weapons that are used in a very different manner than the more rigid, Japanese style of movement used in karate. Despite whatever circular, soft motions I attempt to incorporate, the default is still hard and direct.
C) To find a school which has captivated my attention from videos, such as silat or kalaripayat. There is a certain fluidity and directness in their application which I can appreciate, and they are both fairly well rounded styles. I can only imagine the mindset and approach in training of these styles. The trick is in finding something in my neck of the woods.
So I have a potential journey ahead, but I don't know where this will lead, if anywhere. But the dream was as close as I will get to being taught in my meditations. :)