LEARN HOW BRUCE LEE'S "OLD SCHOOL" TRAINING PAID OFF!
Did you know that Bruce Lee's jeet kune do strikes are partially are rooted in boxing? Find out more in this FREE Guide — Bruce Lee Training Research: How Boxing Influenced His Jeet Kune Do Techniques.
As part of their samurai education, new students of the blade are schooled in the fundamentals of the ancient fighting techniques. The movements they learn and the tools they use — wooden swords or dull metal swords — are designed to pose minimal risk. The omote or shoden techniques, which deal with the basics, are practiced first. The samurai education curriculum at this stage focuses on distance and timing, with speed being limited so that students will unconsciously absorb sensory input regarding the length of the weapons and the distances involved. Students undergoing samurai training learn their strengths and weaknesses before they think about those of their opponent. They’re guided by seniors, who strive to push them beyond their current understanding. Mistakes are pointed out and corrections made. The second level of samurai education is referred to as chuden, or middle-level, transmissions. The curriculum revolves around timing and distance. The speed of the techniques doesn’t necessarily increase, but the response time shortens. Timing is still predetermined, and the distance between combatants is smaller, meaning that strikes arrive at their destination sooner. The risk of injury remains the same when a practitioner is paired with a person of equal or higher skill, but the potential severity of a mistake is greater.
The three-disc set Advanced Samurai Swordsmanship details a variety of cutting techniques, various attacks and defenses in two-man sword-sparring situations. Some of these situations involve equal swords, some are long sword vs. short sword, and some are even sword vs. an unarmed man! These methods for practice are explained first by Carl E. Long and then demonstrated with his sensei, Black Belt Hall of Fame member Masayuki Shimabukuro (Weapons Instructor of the Year, 2006), with particular attention paid to footwork, timing, hand positions and rhythm.
Second-level students of samurai education go through a forging process during which their nerves are tested by intense training. They begin to comprehend the dynamics of combat in which timing and distance vary. Kihaku, or aggressive intent, changes according to the partner. Yoyu, or the ability to leave a margin for change according to the circumstances, is stressed. During paired drills, the attacks become more realistic. If a counter or block isn’t properly performed, the results quickly and painfully become apparent — which is why training weapons are still used at this stage of samurai training. Instruction and correction are given kindly and with the students’ best interests in mind. Advanced students find themselves being initiated into the okuden, or innermost level of samurai training. Here, a push for deeper understanding and ability takes place. Sei to do (nonaction and action) is emphasized, as are rhythm and an intuitive connection between opponents. The student-teacher or junior-senior relationship manifests itself as a deep trust and respect for each other’s abilities and weaknesses. But trust is foremost. Either person is capable of changing the technique when necessary but chooses not to out of respect for his partner. So within the parameters of these samurai training drills, the action and intent become very real, nearly identical to the original intent of the combat techniques. Mental discipline and an immovable spirit are byproducts of this type of samurai training. The mind and the moves must be razor sharp, which is why live blades are sometimes introduced during kumitachi. Few people ever make it to this level of samurai education. Even fewer will experience it with a master swordsman. It’s marked by a relationship and understanding that develop over decades between members of a martial tradition. It’s not meant to be experienced by everyone, nor is it necessary for those who are capable to always address this level. Advanced samurai education is reserved for those who are willing to occasionally take risks to preserve a national treasure. About the Author: Carl E. Long has earned advanced rank in shorin-ryu karate, shito-ryu karate, Okinawan kobudo, aikido, shindo muso-ryu jojutsu and muso jikiden eishin-ryu iaijutsu. He’s the senior student of Masayuki Shimabukuro and the highest-ranked member of Jikishin Kai International under Shimabukuro. Long currently serves as vice chairman and director for the organization.