How do we define the future of Taido, in practical terms?

What determines the actual, de facto definition of what we consider Taido? Or what we consider “good Taido”?

When I was a child, I simply believed what I was told. Good Taido was anything I did that earned praise from my sensei. Later on, I experienced Taido in other countries and discovered that what I thought was good actually wasn’t.

For a while after that, I used to think that Taido was defined by what Shukumine Sensei wrote in Taido Gairon, but I’m pretty sure I don’t believe that anymore.

Later on, I believed it was defined by what Shukumine taught, which sometimes varied from what he wrote.

Now, my opinion is completely different.

My current feeling is that the thing most of us know as “good Taido” is determined by suboptimal decisions made on the fly by judges under pressure in tournament settings.

Often the judges are not well-rested, well-trained, or well-practiced.

But whatever they decide, whatever flash of action catches their eye, becomes the standard. Competitors will do things that get points, and teachers will teach their students the techniques to win.

It’s human nature.

As a judge, you don’t want to make a mistake. More importantly, you don’t want to look as if you’ve made a mistake, because people will lose faith in your acumen. So if you do make a mistake, you will tend to hide it or rationalize it.

It’s just human nature.

Taido is a martial art that was created on some principles. But it was created by a human. And it’s practiced, taught, and judged by humans.

I don’t have solution, because it don’t see this as a problem, but I think we should all be aware of it.

Maybe you think I’m full of shit, or that my logic is wrong. Maybe you think that your teacher is above these trends and teaches you the pure, true Taido that transcends the laws of human nature.

I’d love to hear about it.

The above is what I think determines the practical definition of Taido, but if you’ve got a different opinion, let me know. Sometimes, I’m wrong.

it’s human nature.

Taido/Blog Is On Facebook

Taido/Blog on Facebook. Go 'Like' it!
See that over there?

Yeah. That’s right. It’s the Taido/Blog page on Facebook. You should probably go and check it out.

I’ll be posting more frequent updates on the FB Wall for things that are cool or interesting, but maybe not worth writing a full article about here on the site. But when I do write new articles, you can bet I’ll also be sure to update everyone who follows the Taido/Blog page.

I’m looking forward to connecting with you more frequently on Facebook, so stop by the page and get in touch. Thanks!

Consider It

The two words “consider it” happen to make up one of my favorite English-language phrases. I was once asked what was required in order to be considerate – my answer was “consider it.”

Taido/Blog Gets Sick

So, foregoing any kind of clever segue, a few months ago, I lost the ability to do anything at all to Taido/Blog. Obviously, I have now corrected the issue, but the nature of the actual problem is still somewhat mysterious to me – it’s something semi-technical that falls under the general rubric of “things I’ve chosen not to bother with learning to understand.” Luckily for me, an upgrade of my WordPress build pretty much took care of things.

I had intended to write this as a simple blurb to say “sorry about the lack of updates – I had a good excuse,” but after rereading that first paragraph, I realize that it’s not actually all that good of an excuse. Things I’ve chosen not to bother with learning to understand? Come to think of it, that’s a really lame excuse and exactly the kind of thinking I claim to be working against with Taido/Blog.

Choosing To Ignore Reality

But. If I take the time to consider it, I can find lots of examples of this willful ignorance in my life, and I have to admit it’s not something of which I’m extremely proud. Not to point the finger, but I’m willing to bet big money that readers of this site would also find a disturbing number of behaviors and attitudes with which they allow themselves to simply get by – things they could easily change.

I’m not referring here to social issues like the rampant homelessness in our urban centers, the horrible outlook for future ecology, or the deplorable state of politics and commerce. I’m talking about things easily within our grasp. Obviously, personal habits are ripe for careful examination. What do you allow yourself to get away with when you know you could do better? Do you sometimes “cheat” just a little bit? Do you allow yourself maybe just a little too much leeway when you’re trying to accomplish a task or goal? I know I do. In the five minutes it’s taken me to type this post so far, I’ve already noticed the following habitual cheats:

  • not shaving on the weekends, even though it makes monday mornings just a little bit more of a pain in the ass
  • not sticking to my scheduled workout plans despite having the time to do so
  • neglecting to practice guitar modal patterns even though it’s probably the best way to rebuild my technique
  • drinking a beer instead of a cup of coffee
  • drinking a cup of coffee instead of a glass of water
  • eating a cookie instead of drinking a glass of water
  • the above-mentioned things I’ve chosen not to bother with learning to understand, such as basic soldering technique, personal financial management, Japanese polite speech and anything above junior-high-level kanji, why my girlfriends cry so much, how to sew, and exactly how the hell the software that supports Taido/Blog actually works.

A lot of the above just comes down to my personal level of self-discipline, but for someone who considers himself to be a student and seeker of applicable knowledge, the existence of that last category really makes me uncomfortable. I realize this now, only a few days after Anthony mentions my name in a post about “people who can think” alongside Richard Feynman. I feel that this category exists, in part, because I’m aware that there are other people whose knowledge I can employ without having to develop my own. But can we really rent understanding? I would venture not.

Willful Ignorance In Taido

Of course, this question is also applicable to Taido. How often do we simply take at face value the basic skills and concepts that make up our art? Too often, I think. I had a discussion after the Tama Taikai last weekend with Watanabe Sensei from the Takushoku Uni Taido Club about reasons for blocking at jodan rather than chudan in sentaizuki. We discussed this for about ten minutes as we ate and drank. I’m not trying to make myself sound like an intellectual badass, but I wonder how many people actually have taken the time to consider where to block in sentai and why. And there are thousands of such details about Taido (40 years’ worth of development) which we could benefit from analyzing.

Now I’m not suggesting that we should make life hell on our instructors by questioning every detail of every movement they try to teach us. What I’m really saying is that we should consider these things for ourselves rather than simply relying on the knowledge we receive from others to bring us true understanding. Perhaps it’s impossible to think deeply about every detail, and I’m not suggesting that it’s necessary or desirable. Much of the time spent in attempting such an exercise would be better spent actually practicing movements. However, it must be said that the more we practice various modes of thought, the more efficient and effective we become in applying them to various problems and ideas.

So after spending ten minutes this week discussing one seemingly very specific issue about sentaizuki, I have learned one thing, yes, but I have also improved my capability to learn similar things. In dissecting the reasons for blocking at a certain level in a certain technique, I added to my set of mental tools. Specifically, I’ve increased my understanding of the entire sentai family of movement and of blocking technique. Both of these could potentially be applied to any number of applications in Taido.

So I guess the point of this whole post is just to ask you to be aware of those aspects of your Taido practice of which you are engaging in willful ignorance. Maybe spend a few minutes thinking about how that affects your experience of Taido and contribution to Taido. Of course, any value judgments are yours to make. I’m simply asking you to consider it. And now I’m off to learn more about my blogging software.

2007 Year End Review

So another year has gone by, and Taido/Blog is officially two years old now. I’m pretty excited about that, and I’m also excited about the end of 2007 and all of the symbolic meaning of an approaching new year. I’m already looking forward to a ton of great things that will be happening in 2008. But first, a short look back.

So far, 2007 has been a super-great year for me. In addition to marking my 30th birthday, I’ve enjoyed a deepening relationship with my girlfriend, a job that I find rewarding and fun, and a general sense that things are moving in the right direction.

My health has been good, and despite an inconvenient work schedule, 2007 has given me plenty of opportunities to practice using my body in creative ways. I’ve managed to spend a good deal of time practicing Brazilian Jiu Jutsu (even if I’m still not any good at it) and Yoga (at which I’ve gotten much better). I also feel lucky to have had the chance to be a part of the development of Kaikudo, a new martial art put together by former US Taido black belts John Okochi and Michael Issa. Kaikudo is not going to replace Taido for me, but it’s really cool practicing something that attempts to marry the internal and external martial arts in actual practice.

As far as Taido goes, it’s also been an eventful year. My former teacher has now refused to speak to me for about eight months. As regrettable as this is, it’s not nearly as sad as when he stopped teaching me. I think the real change occurred when he stopped being “Sensei,” and began insisting we call him “Kaicho.” (As my father remarked at the time, you can love a teacher, but not a president.) Though this all sounds pretty bad at face value, it’s actually helped me to understand and accept the realities of what Taido really means to me and what my continued development as a Taidoka and as a human will require. Though martial artists are supposed to remain perpetual students, I believe there comes a time for all of us to cut the umbilicus and take responsibility for our own learning and growth. That’s the area I’ve been exploring for the past year.

On a more positive note, I was able to travel to Holland in August for the International Taido Friendship Games and European Taido Championships. It was my first trip to Europe, as I stayed behind to mind the dojo during US Taido’s expeditions to previous European Taido events. I got to meet a lot of very talented and friendly Taidoka, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to begin new relationships and see a different perspective on what Taido is all about. I’m sure that I’ll be seeing many of those same faces again at the next World Championships in 2009, and I’m looking forward to making a European Taido tour sometime in the future.

But before the future, there is always the present. Presently, I’m busy preparing myself to move back to Japan in spring of 2008. That’s right. Despite having lots of reasons to leave when I did, life is pointing me in that direction again. I’m not sure where I’ll be living this time, but I’m about 99% certain that I’ll be teaching high school English in a large southern city for the next couple of years. This isn’t going to be a permanent relocation, but it’ll be a good stop on the way to some of the things I want to achieve over the next few years.

Spring 2008 will also bring the Asia Pacific Games in Australia and the 30th Sakura Matsuri tournament in Aomori. I’m truly hoping I can attend both of these events, but funds may a little tight for the first couple of months after my move. Still, I’m trying to save my money and plan ahead. I also encourage everyone who can spare the time and money to visit either Japan or Australia and participate in at least one of these two great events. I’ve had a killer time at both of them in the past, so I can guarantee that they are both worth all efforts to attend, even if you can’t compete. If you have any doubts at all as to how awesome these events are, read this and this.

And that’s about as far ahead as I can see right now. The first half of 2008 is going to be super busy – new job, new home, new dojo, and lots of places to go and people to meet. It’s going to be great, but I have a lot to prepare in the meantime (saving money is a huge priority right now). At any rate, I’ll do my best to keep Taido/Blog as up-to-date as possible and maybe even add a few technical articles if I can.

I truly hope that everyone who reads this has had the best year of their lives so far. The next few months are going to kick ass.