At this summer’s private seminar for 15 friends at my personal house dojo, I explored 3 specific open-ended topics the high rankers in To-Shin Do will focus on this year.
As a first consideration, we are challenged to translate a late 1500s Japanese martial art into relevance in 2016. I wrote about this challenge two newsletters ago. Last newsletter I covered the 2nd consideration, making the training as viable and appropriate as possible for our students at each belt level of their training.
The 3rd consideration is to make the curriculum a relevant learning process for what is held in the mind, heart, and guts of each individual student. Each one of us has a lifetime of previous experiences. We are all the product of our pasts. Each of these encounters has left a distinctive memory of our interpretation of how the conflict or confrontation affected us.
Some have deeply complex memories of past abuse or victimization. Our curriculum must take these memories into consideration when instructing on how to proceed in future interactions. It is not enough to simply teach a technique and assume the student will learn it and apply it the next time such a scenario comes up. We are all of us complex learning machines, affected on many levels by what has transpired before and how we relate to the prospect of future conflict. Some people become breathless, freeze and stiffen up to brace for impact, or rush blindly and furiously through imagined ways to ward off attack. Even in training or testing scenarios with friends, these people cannot experience simulated combat as a well-timed experience of watching an attacker move and meeting him with an appropriate response. Panic or anger or survival sets in. All transpires as a blur of frantic activity.
Other students have no experience whatsoever with violence. They bring a sense of naivety to the training hall. Unable to imagine what it will feel like to have an attacker plot his or her humiliation or mauling, such people treat their training as a merely physical thing. They have no idea how the mind and spirit will change in response to a directed attack. They often move and grip lightly, with lowered hands and a consistent speed to their movements (as opposed to covering and accelerating as things become more dangerous), and more often than not on straightened knees typical of “a casual stroll around the block.” They do not have any idea of what a violent encounter feels like and how they will physically respond.
As a realistic and practical martial art, we have an obligation to work with the student’s individual mind set as part of the development process. This extends to training in attitude, verbal response kata, confusion guiding, disengagement, and deescalation — in addition to the obviously expected physical techniques. We need a system of coaching people into new realms of heightened mental awareness.
In 1500s Japan’s Sengoku Jidai Warring States period, every day brought the possibility of a battle to the death. People grew up under such an outlook. Little emphasis was placed on mental training in the dojo, as everyone was already used to the protector attitude. 2016 America or Europe are different. To authentically call ourselves teachers of self-protection, we must pay attention to internal training to ready all of our students for the possibility of realistic threats that they may face. Throughout years of training, we not only teach new techniques and responses, but address and upgrade old patterns of thinking and reacting.
This is my third commitment to offering the most relevant self-defense system we can.