Kendō

剣道.. (1 of 1)

A few days ago I participated in an international kendō tournament. Martial arts come in all sorts of colours and displays, but it is said by some that essentially, they all share a common core. They are all paths set out to enable expression of the human soul.

Kendō is the sportified version of Japanese sword fighting. Samurai without a bend to kill. In battle, however, the mind is not concerned with whether the katana is made of sharpened metal or of bamboo. It does not matter that the opponent is wearing a mask. During the duel, these and all other irrelevant details are blinded out by the intense experience of standing before another human soul and looking deeply through their eyes, knowing that at that moment, you two are the only thing in the whole universe that their mind is centered on, and that you are being watched. Every subtle muscle twitch in your body is being scrutinized…listened to and read….waiting for an opening.

Still as mountains, cries of thunder are let out by the fighters. Their origin is from something much more ancient and powerful than the humans themselves, but that the humans themselves are a part of.  Their calls aren’t simply belted out to hit and crack against an unreceptive wall,  they are a communion. With his volcanic roar, the warrior says “this is me. this is what you are standing in front of, trying to cut down. Strong or weak, simple or complex, this is what I am. This is me.” To which is opponent replies “and this, I.” The cries are spontaneous and uncontrived, but all that they commune is stated equally-well simply by the presence of the two standing before each other in silence.

The entire dual is a dialogue. The language is that of violence and destruction, but in heart, there is some core about it no different than drinking tea with an old friend or holding the tender hand of someone that you love. How strange is is that love and destruction function under the same essential principle. Whether your aim is to give your heart fully to another individual or to slice them with a sword, the requirement is the same: you must abandon yourself and listen.

If you try to control the world to flow the way you want it to, you will fall. Both in love and in killing. The real world is beyond your petty concepts and predictions of how you believe it will act. In all actions, full and total receptiveness is the key. The Japanese word for this is mushin (無心), no mind.

Bring to mind an image of a mukade (centipede). 100 legs pumping like little pistons at different times, so perfectly synchronous that the creature seems to flow like water. Does the mukade think about lifting and setting down each leg? There is no time for this. Rational thought must be abandoned if one wants to be in harmony. You cannot stop and attempt to put every little detail under your control. You must trust, listen, and flow.

I am waiting for him to lift his blade. Please, どうぞ. Will he be focused on his will and how he wants things to go so much that he leaves an opening? Or is he listening, too? Like cocked springs, we can explode and strike at the drop of a grain of sand. It is a pleasure to dance with you, my friend.

2 thoughts on “Kendō

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