Brian Kagen pick: “Shugyo” by Marc Abrams

“A historical context is necessary in order to understand the concept of Shugyo. Japanese Martial arts developed at a time where combat was engaged in primarily with the sword and typically “up close and personal.” Interactions were not about winning or losing, but about life and death. When a man became a samurai, he pledged his life to his war lord. This meant that he had proverbially given away his life- died! This freed that person, because every living moment after that was simply an amazing gift! This deep and profound appreciation for life led to a higher level of decision-making as to what was important and unimportant in life.

When Japan was unified, wars stopped and the life-and-death duels among marital artists were outlawed. Martial artists had to struggle to find a way to keep the “life-and-death” focus in absence of life and death circumstances. Shugyo emerged as a means by which the teachers hoped to keep this important focus alive.”

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