A couple of weeks ago I went to an aikido class at Master Gardner’s school. We spent the entire class learning how to correctly perform aikido demos. Specifically, how to stand so that the attacker knows what technique to attack with. It was very difficult when being the attacker to know exactly how the defender wanted to be attacked. For example, a defender that is slightly leaning forward with their side slightly turned wants to be grabbed on the shoulder but the same posture with the head slightly inclined means the defender wants to be attacked with a knifehand strike to the neck. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what the defender wants, which causes the attack to be wrong, which in turn causes the defender to not be ready for the attack. Big mess.
Before the physical class started, we spent some time talking about why Aikido students and black belts do demos. The reason shocked me and no I’m not going to talk about why they do demos. I don’t think the reason is bad, just very different from ours.
Ok, so why do we, as Shin Ho Kwan practitioners, do demos? First of all let’s look at Kyudo (it is after all one for the arts that help form the mental aspects of Shin Ho Kwan). There are two main governing bodies for Kyudo, the one that views it as a sport/martial art, that has ranks and competitions, and the other one, Zenko, that is run by Shibata Sensei (my instructor). Sensei teaches a Kyudo that is practiced solely for the improvement of one’s mind. There are no ranks and no competitions to inflate the students’ egos. Only practice. When we shoot at the target, the thought of “I hit” or “I didn’t hit” the target never enters our minds. Instead, the arrow and the target simply reflect the true nature of our shooting back at us. This reflection becomes our instructor, and sometimes it is a very critical instructor. Over time the target fades and there is no distinction between the target and the kyudoka (archer). Think of it this way, your arm is your arm but it is still part of your body. Ok, back on the topic of demonstrations. I’ll come back to the target in another post.
In Kyudo, when we shoot for a demonstration we are revealing our true nature to the people that are watching. All of our flaws and imperfections are presented for all to see. It is how we, as the students doing the demo, conduct ourselves while faced with these flaws, that is the true beauty (or ugliness) of the demo. Imagine a student that is shooting for a group of people. As the student raises the Yuma (bow) to shoot, he drops the arrow. There are two ways the student could deal with this. He could protect his ego by acting like that never happens and start over or even have a small temper tantrum and get upset at either himself or his equipment. After all, there has to be something wrong with the arrow or it would never have been dropped. On the other hand, he can continue on with the shooting, never breaking his form (as if the arrow falling was suppose to have happened), and finish with no expression of emotion. This is a true demonstration of a martial artist. None of us are perfect and that imperfection will come out during a demo. It is how we, as the student doing the demo, handle this imperfection that demonstrates our martial art.
This approach is exactly how Shin Ho Kwan views the reason for doing a demonstration. It is a learning experience for the student. The demo, like the target, reflects all of our imperfections back at us in crystal clarity. Anyone can break a stack of bricks, however not everyone can remain calm and in complete control when they don’t all break.
Something to think about…