The spirit forges the blade, the blade forges the spirit
I started studying the katana techniques back in 1997, using in my daily practice a sword crafted by one of my students from a steel blade. Back then, it was aterrific weapon and which I used to execute hundreds of hits every day. I was practicing IttoRyu – ‘the school of a single sword’. The first lesson of IttoRyu is Ai Uchi. And this is the first of hundreds. Ai Uchi means ‘strike your opponent exactly when he strikes you’. This way, one learns the importance of the element of time, which is essential for Ken Jitsu (Ken – sword, jitsu – technique). An element you would never lose sight of. Ai Uchi is the lack of anger. So, treat your opponent as if he was a guest of honor. This means: let go of your life or forget any trace of fear. Ai Uchi is the essential technique and also the ultimate. It is the circle of Zen.
At the same time, the sword practitioners need to learn to avoid any negative emotion during combat, as well as in day to day life.
When facing an opponent, the mental, physical and spiritual states are all altered. My message is the following: while in the heat of battle, the practitioner must ignore fear or weakness. He must also have faith in himself and his ability to wield the sword. If he focuses on finding a way of winning the fight, he would end up losing it. Only an irrational reaction would provide the answer. Same as a tiger attacking its pray, with all the senses focused on quenching the hunger, not resting until he has reached its goals, so should be a warrior – focused on gaining victory.
When one shows an excessive concern for the physical side, he would end up letting his guard down.
The practitioner must have the ability to trust his own instincts, which have been sharpened during hundred hours of training. And the training can go on for years, but if the system used is not the right one, all the long years of work can crumble in seconds. The spirit controls the body, but from my point of view, there is a mistake in focusing excessively on the body. The physical strength can prove to be an advantage while young, but intelligence and technique will overcome it – and there is no age limit here. If the body is trained according to the rules of the spirit, the chances of victory increase. Hence, the absence of pain indicates the right path, but the victory is never fully certain. The physical body has to die in order for it to fully surrender to the spirit. At that point, the victory will permanent and complete.
The mistakes done by the practitioner during his career are lessons for the future. No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. The practice of martial arts, especially IAI-DO (the path of the sword) should prevent us from repeating those mistakes, both in the practice of katana, as in our everyday life.
Our decisions and attitude, all have good and bad consequences on our life. Everything has a price! Conceiving the solution of the problem does not mean actually solving it. The key to solving our so-called problem without later complaining about the consequences is our attitude. And, one way or another, the consequences become obvious – the ones that are good, they simply are good; and the others, are part of life – thus creating balance.
This post is also available in: Romanian