The “good old days” were not. There was simply less media and communication, so evil mostly went unnoticed. Except for the recipients and victims. That’s why despots like to control communications. Although ignorant people liked to imagine mythical stories to help them stay in denial of, for example, disappeared loved ones, reality was as harsh then as it is now.
Reflected glory an illusion. Whilst the struggles of human beings against odds can be spiritually heroic personal battles, there is not one life which in some way has not experienced inner battles and conflicts to reconcile with external challenges.
When a grown man dons the garb of a long gone era such as a hakama, a split skirt, and does not know how to ride a horse, then practices a fake re-enactment vaguely resembling real and deadly fighting, something has to be said about that man’s sanity.
When he starts to feel important because of it, something is definitely revealing itself about his lack of sanity.
When the intent is a respectful honouring of a valid tradition, I suppose such insanity can be forgiven. But when it’s an ego riddled show of pretend skill, it starts to get a bit sad.
I think the privilege of practicing any budo path is cause for great thankfulness and humility. It may improve you. Perhaps it may help you to one day survive as well.
But there is no glory in it. Seeking to become awakened is no cause for pride. It can be hard, painstaking, grueling, sometimes painful and often dirty work. Particularly for those who are less than true dilettantes and who make it a choice to put the valid value of anything learnt to practical use, in real high risk, as a professional protector.
As anyone who has participated in real battle without imbibing drugs will inform you, there is no glory in battle. Only gore.
As a child, every boy I knew wanted to be a fireman when he grew up. To me, it held no attraction whatsoever. Nor did the silly uniform firefighters wore then. Brass helmets were an electrocution risk, The Prussian Army uniform archaic. Brass buttons need constant maintenance. I liked the boots though, great on horseback and motor-bikes when you replace the rubber soles with leather.
When I grew up (somewhat), the others got high risk jobs in little square rooms shuffling foolscap. Paper cuts were no doubt as frequent as RSI and the slow growth of spare tyres. Only God knows how, somehow, when nothing else was available, I ended up in the fire brigades.
Glory? I never noticed any. Lots and lots of toxic smoke. Bodies. More bodies. Hard, long, cold, wet, carbonated, unfed hours until the job was done. High risk. Men often behaving badly not knowing how to cope with stress, toxic inhalation, post traumatic stress, long hours, continuous extended shifts when recalled, exhaustion, rigidly over-disciplined military attrition (now all gone in favour of the opposite extreme), lack of sleep and other stuff. Every day, in most stations, it was “on the front.” Did you know that several times more people die in domestic car crashes every year than all the current wars put together?
Glamour? If there was any I never noticed it. No orchestras in the sky playing propaganda music either. Suicides? Yes, a few. Some could not cope. Misbehavior? Yes, some. Heroic action? Yes, much of the time, mostly taken as par for the course unsung and unrecognized. Hard, dirty, uncomfortable work? Yes, lots of it. And other stuff.
Proud? Only now looking back. Then, every day was just another day we thought was ordinary, whilst some part inside of us seemed to die at the almost daily witnessing of death, broken bodies and sad unfair things that happened mostly to careless people.
Was it a good job? Yes. It was a service to life, protecting life and property and maintaining safety in society.
Police, rescue, coastguards, security and others experience similar stresses, as do soldiers and others who PUT THEIR BUDO INTO PRACTICE DAILY.
None of these jobs are either “glorious” or glamourous. They may be nobly intentioned and contribute to great good through personal sacrifice and risk taking, but there is nothing for a dilettante to validly bask under. Simply wearing the garb of a firefighter, policeman, coastguard, paramedic, nurse, men-in-black, marines or other soldiers or protectors and merely mimicking their actions, confers no special power or authority, or skill or any measure of any worth whatsoever. Rather, it insults the trade and those who sacrifice themselves for the greater good.
Doing the real job, risking your life to actually and factually serve, does have merit. This merit cannot cast glory upon one desiring to absorb undeserved light and the idea of “glory” or unwarranted feeling of self-importance by merely pretending in a safe environment.
So also with samurai garb and re-enactment. Were you there in those days? Can you remember the bleak, the deprivation, the atrocities, the hardships and sacrifices? You who are too well off and like to fantasize over movies such as “Last Samurai” and “Shintaro” in mythical context, can you recall the humdrum, frequent humiliation endured by low ranking samurai, the menial tasks, the boredom, drunkenness, the vice in a harsh lifestyle of brutality, privation and inequity. And then the death dealing battles where mêlées selected lives like the feeding frenzies of vampire shark kami gone mad?
Have you ever experienced anything more than those high risk paper cuts to serve life? Have you ever lain injured, shivering in the frost of the longest night, not knowing whether tomorrow’s sun would smile on you ever again?
Have you seen death and crushed bodies? What can you do in the face of real emergency. Other than run? Would you give your life to save another?
The value of any Budo practice is in the increase of the ability to serve life and the personal benefits of awakening that may accrue to those who practice with authentic, sincere intent, to increase real and valid skill that may be in fact deployed in situations of high risk in order to bring about good.
Otherwise it has no purpose and you are making mockery dressed up in a skirt with a crack in the middle, which was designed for riding a horse for purposes of battle. A rank for purposes of re-enactment is as fake as the re-enactment and carries no authority whatsoever.
Most mushy arts only conduct practice of one or two aspects out of a vast array of skills comprising heiho; and gunpo, yet have the temerity to call this hokum; “martial” art. On what basis?
Do you know what the words heiho and gunpo mean and what they imply? If not why not?
If you are training to improve yourself and someone is helping you, thanks and respect are valid, but nothing more than that. Especially if you are parting with cash for the privilege of participating in yoga like re-enactment of quasi fighting that’s not.
Who are we kidding when we dress up and make believe a mimicry of activities the ancients had to do for real; and most likely would have preferred not to, but for dire necessity. We need to wake up to ourselves. After all is said and done, whom are we fooling besides ourselves?
How many died, bleeding out in the fields of battle and what was the net gain? We who inherit these shapes of movement, passed on for generations, to survive, do we honour them enough? Do we like to imagine that this privilege is a right?
Is the spirit of thankfulness present each time we bow in to begin another class and practice session?
The bottom line: You are not a warrior unless you are.
Budo is not for basking. It is for actually and factually serving society, humanity and life, often at great cost to yourself, more-so in places of high risk, immense challenge, under conditions of attrition and danger. Integrity. Protection.
Standing up for what’s right, in less immediately dangerous situations, is within everybody’s reach, however. Strategic capability, wielding due process correctly deployed, can really test a persons mettle to sustain until the greater good is truly served.
Budo, at any level, is not intended to be entirely comfortable. Not physically, not mentally, not morally and not spiritually. Decay is comfortable. Death, once consummated, is comfortable. Budo embraces change, the force of evolution itself. And this whilst meeting challenges. Aikido, is no less a game but a deadly earnest matter of converting discord into harmony, wherever you may find yourself.
Under the play and make believe there is one thing that makes the difference to training: Motives as a human being.
And only one person knows what these really are. Yourself.
In medieval, feudal Japan, ‘Gunpo’ was the name given to field strategies such as troop movement, dam busting, the use of fire, terror tactics, etc., and ‘Heiho’ the collective strategic skills, which included horsemanship, archery, spear, sword, jujutsu and other methodologies relevant to a given situation.