14 February, 2013

Your Own Budo...

I follow a variety of blogs and articles in the martial arts world.  There was a series of posts on Sensei Kim Taylor's blog that got my attention.  For those who haven't heard of him, google him.  He is a well known and respected teacher of iaido, jodo and a variety of koryu kenjutsu.  So when he weighs in on a subject, I think it worth considering.

Since it isn't a traditional blog that I can easily link to, I have provided the link to the page, as well as the title of each post and a relevant section from each to ease the searching.  Just use the Find feature of your browser.  Please visit the original to see the posts in their entirety.  He has a great sense of humour and I have had the privilege of training under him albeit briefly in the odd seminar.

Post: So How Long Before I Can Start My Own Budo?

Less than you might think actually. Less than ten years in the case of the "big 4" post-war Aikido folks, at least according to Stan Pranin who wrote an article here concerning the practice and views of Kisshomaru Ueshiba (7-8 years), Koichi Tohei (2-3 years), Gozo Shioda (9 years), and Kenji Tomiki (8-9 years). All four of these instructors headed important and influential lines of aikido practice.

In the koryu, offhand I can think of Takaji Shimizu in the Shindo Muso Ryu jodo lineage who received Menkyo in 7 or 8 years practice. He went on to establish the jodo line in Tokyo after moving from Fukuoka.
Sensei Kim goes on to discuss how those who don't go and teach and perhaps innovate (gasp) are being lazy or have some misunderstanding of what they are learning.  What have I gained from this line of thought?  Teaching is an important part of learning the art - there is no better way to learn something than to have to teach it.  Also, don't be afraid.  Go and show what you know.  Continue to train and develop yourself, your style, and your take on the lessons learned.  Who knows - you might be a "master" when history smiles upon you...

Post: How To Be Sensei

The most boring of all ways to be a sensei is to go through all the years of training and organizational hoops, not to mention payment of fees to your organization, and eventually be named a sensei. Takes a long time and seriously, way too much hassle.
My personal favourite, and the one I recommend to everyone who is serious about learning the martial art is to lose the tontine. You end up as sensei when everyone who practiced the art in front of you has died or quit. I say lose rather than win the tontine because to someone who is in this stream of sensei development, making it to the top is not a reward.

This was a humbling and sobering reminder - to be the best amongst your peers, you need only wait until they die.  Quite a shock when we all strive to improve ourselves and (perhaps) best others in combat.  I have always prided myself not on pushing to get through things quickly, but focusing on my training and letting the improvement handle itself.  I often think of this as the boring way, but perhaps I am not alone in thinking it is the best way.

Post: How Not To Be Sensei

While this is sort of like death and taxes, very hard to avoid if you hang around long enough, there are some things you can do to prevent being a sensei.
If the inevitable happens and your sensei quits (by getting frustrated, married, dead or bored) you do not necessarily have to step in. You can find another sensei, it's allowed and even encouraged in this case, especially if you're less than 70 years old (if you're older than that you might be told to "grow up" and start teaching whether you like it or not, but it's worth a try).
In your quest not to teach, you should not only consider those older and more highly ranked than you are. If there's some bright young thing who isn't too obnoxious and is more highly ranked than you are, give him a shot.
If you don't like the guy who is just behind you, and you're getting a bit long in the tooth yourself, you could do the junshi thing and retire when your sensei does. This will force your junior to step in as sensei thus saving you from the job and screwing him at the same time. Double bonus.

If you have tried all the above and you still can't avoid the job, take comfort in the probability that you won't have to do it for very long.

Again, the humour is obvious, but a hint of truth rings through to me.  I wonder sometimes if my idea to wait until godan to begin teaching at my own school is a bit foolish.  Perhaps it is selfish?

As always, the way is in the training.


  1. Kim Taylor has no legitimate qualifications in any koryu art. He actually says so with pride (I have no paperwork) He has only been to Japan for a week or two as a tourist. He doesn't speak, read or write Japanese. He trains with Japanese teachers a couple of weekends a year and tries to pass himself off as a 'koryu' member. Like Muramoto he is a wikipedia 'authority' You should try to find teachers who are actually qualified and who spend their time training not writing blogs about it.

  2. Thanks for your input, Dave. Sadly I am not much of an authority in the koryu, just a bit of a fan. If you could recommend any places or people to look at I would appreciate it.