As it says on the back of the book, “DON’T PANIC”. I’m not talking about the things motivational people say like “Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement”. When I talk about goals I mean your perception of purpose in our training, from a very broad sense in the meaning of ‘Bu’ all the way down to the purpose for a specific drill in order to learn a skill. This then is our second awareness task, figuring out what we are trying to accomplish, what our goal is.
I had the pleasure of listening to An-shu Rumiko Hayes talk about the meaning of Bu from Budo or Bujutsu. Most people in the west translate these terms as way of the warrior, martial ways, or martial arts. The term, martial, having its origin in the Roman god Mars, who most believe to be the god of war. Mars however represented military power as a way to secure peace.
Like this misunderstanding of Mars there is also a misunderstanding of Bu. The kanji is made up of two parts Mrs. Hayes explained, the first translating as ‘arms of war’ or ‘violence’ and the second translating as ‘to stop, prohibit, or bring to an end’. With this translation we can say that the cessation of violence or creating peace is the ultimate goal for our training.
The importance of this cannot be understated because it separates us from martial competition or performance martial arts. We are not studying to defeat an opponent in a ring or out perform them aesthetically in a competition. We train to maintain peace and in order to do this we study the creation of violence and how to stop it.
How then do we train to do this? It is through the cooperation of training partners, one acting as attacker (uke) and the other as defender (tori), each of them having a goal in order to make training work. If the defender’s goal is the cessation of violence then the attacker’s goal while training is the creation of violence.
There are countless ways the attacker can engage us that are represented in our kata and techniques. To maintain clear goals in an effort to improve training all these choices can be put into two simple goals, push away or take control. If you think about it all of our techniques, punches, kicks, locks, etc. can be put into these two goals.
The understanding of this helps solve the problem of attacks that are only simulations of punches or grabs. We have all had the experience of a technique not working because the attack we were getting doesn’t match. Now as an attacker if you are asked to punch to the face it is with the goal of pushing that target away. You can move at safe speeds but still have the energy that you would in a real fight because you have the correct goal.
The defender then has their goals, which are the same as the attacker with the addition of evasion and escape. These general goals then become more specific with each kata and drill. This doesn’t mean memorizing the movements of a kata but understanding the purpose of each part. Even something seemingly as simple as punching a pad can benefit by understanding the goals in the drill.
Let’s take this example of punching a pad and look at the goals that make it up. You could think I just have to hit the pad, that’s the goal, but for any of you who have been training awhile you will know that people do this many different ways. A goal drill for striking I have used before with our group starts off with the first goal of picking a target (pad or person) and a weapon (jab, cross, etc.) in kamae. The second goal is to walk closer to the target covered and in kamae. The third goal is actually striking the target using gravity while in…kamae.
This understanding of goals helps people to move more like people rather than trying to duplicate memorized movements and looking robotic. It was this understanding of goals that helped me to pass the sword test back in 2003.
In a couple of earlier attempts I had the wrong goals. The first time I tried to expand my awareness to sense when the sword was moving and then get out of its way. I did sense it coming but it was too fast and I got hit in the back as I tried to avoid it.
The second time I tried to pass the test it was suggested I just relax and clear my mind. I relaxed and remember clearly having the thought ‘here it comes’ then of course came the sensation of it smacking into my head. Maybe a bit too relaxed.
It was later that I came to the understanding that my goal was wrong. I was trying to pass a test. That goal had gotten in the way of the reality of the event. Someone was trying to cut me down from behind.
My goal should have been to survive, to live, not pass some test to make my ego feel better. So I knelt one more time under the sword not wanting to die. The next thing I knew I was ten feet away bowing in the direction of the sword. Can’t tell you what I did but I did achieve my goal.