I read something recently about the art of Jo which I had once learned. What was said reminded me of a correspondence that I had lately which someone who lamented that he could not practice without a partner or teacher.
This what I read :-
Who do you think was uchidachi for Gonnosuke Muso? He was a master of “kenpo” or swordsmanship. He was probably his own uchidachi. He devised the techniques against an imaginary uchidachi based on his rich experiences in actual combat with his enemies. Not being satisfied with the imaginary uchidachi, he worked on creating techniques by secluding himself away at Kamado Shrine in Mt. Homan. And finally he is said to have received an oracle and then founded Shinto-muso-ryu Jo. His original techniques have undergone the test of time and have developed into 64 kata or forms today. The last form of Okuden is Aun, which is just a single hidari-honte-uchi.
With the spirit the founder cherished we, the Jo students, should practice suburi in the correct form fully aware of the importance of the basics. Night and day, we should study and brush our techniques with untiring perseverance: characteristics of the Jo and sword, the intention behind the form, eyes, an effective connection between one technique and another, movements of hands and arms, movements of feet and legs, timing of hitting, and posture. Without studying them, your Jo is superficial. You can never grasp the quintessence of Jo. If your teacher is away from you, heaven is your teacher. You should make the most of his absence, regard it as a chance for self-practicing and improvement of your techniques. I sincerely hope that you will keep brushing up your techniques.
What is interesting about this is that the art of the Jo involves the practice of short sequences with a partner unlike the typical art where you have solo forms to work through. The author raised a good thought provoking question by asking who was the training partner of the founder Gonnosuke Muso when he was in the mountains reflecting on his defeat by the sword saint Miyamoto Musashi.
The author speculated that Gonnosuke Muso probably acted as his own training partner. How is this possible?
Of course it is. Unfortunately, many students today do not believe in training forms, preferring to focus on doing drills with a partner thus missing out on an excellent chance to use their mind to practice instead.
Did you know that professional athletes are taught to practice with their mind by visualizing their practice with their mind when injuries prevented them from doing actual practice? Amazingly, they actually showed improvement despite not partaking in physical practice.
In Tai Chi it is common to hear students complaining that they cannot “see” the technique. The paradox here is that if you do not practice long enough you won’t be able to do so even if I tell you what you should be seeing. Elsewhere, in the same book the author made the following good points in relation to this :-
Today, the teaching of Jōdō is theoretical. It seems as though you are learning Jōdō mentally. When I was young, I learned Jōdō physically.
Recently it seems the method of teaching Jōdō has been influenced by the Western way of thinking. Usually, Westerners do not want to learn things unless they first understand them theoretically.
The longer I teach Tai Chi the more I can appreciate what the author wrote. It is quite true. The typical student today wants to know but fail to put what they heard into practice. As such, it is as if they never heard anything because knowing is not doing and without doing there will be no understanding. This is why students always complain that Tai Chi is difficult to master.
However, I say that to Master Tai Chi Today is not impossible. Difficult, yes but impossible, no. You have to keep working on your basics, exactly what the author of this Jo book said. You need to keep faith and soldier on. Giving up is the easy way out. This is why so few actually master the inner essence of Tai Chi. The author pointed out a similar situation when he wrote :-
Although Jōdō students today have a lot of chances to see Jōdō techniques, they cannot understand the true techniques. They cannot get the core. Therefore, Jōdō-ka today thinks it is all right to show techniques publicly.
Have you ever seen forms being performed but seem to lack martial flavor and spirit? Now you know why. Its easy to deviate from the true path. This is why we need to practice hard to find out way back. Then perhaps our Tai Chi can survive for another generation.
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