As some of you might know, I’m recovering from hand injuries I sustained at work. This has impacted my life like a moon-sized meteorite slamming into San Francisco. Not only do I have to use a voice recognition program to write — both at work and home — but for the time being I can’t wield a bokuto, much less an iaito or katana, until my hands are in better shape. While shinkendo is highly ergonomic — way more so than any sport — it’s best that I rest my hands altogether.
Bushido on the Bench
Until I recover, I can only observe in shinkendo class, which is exactly what I did today. And just as I have been pondering bushido and what it means to be a samurai when not practicing the martial arts, Sensei brought to class today some notes compiled by Nicholas, one of the top students at Honbu dojo. He had compiled several ideas and philosophies that Obata-kaiso discussed at a recent class. (Thanks, Nicholas!)
Bun Bu Ryo Do
One of the philosophies was of Bun Bu Ryo Do — the twofold path of pen and sword. The samurai were successful for so long because they studied both cultural and martial arts. They mastered both the pen and the sword, making them formidable intellectual and military opponents.
People sometimes ask me “Which is mightier, the pen or the sword?” This question bugs the shit out of me. It’s not only cliché but completely fuckwitted. So if you can possibly restrain yourself, please refrain from asking it. But what I can say is that being a writer makes me a better warrior. I’m a complete person. And apparently the samurai agreed.
Isshin Nigan Sanzoku Shite
Another concept that Obata-kaiso spoke of that startled me was Isshin Nigan Sanzoku Shite, which is a sort of hierarchy of the body. Obata-kaiso says that we must take care of our bodies in the following order: heart and mind; eyes; feet and legs; and hands.
This kind of rocked my world because, as a samurai in training who is currently “handless,” I would have thought that the order would be reversed, that we would start with our hands, feet and legs. But as part of my recovery, I’ve been studying biofeedback and this hierarchy perfectly matches what the biofeedback specialist Dr. Stephen Sideroff talks about on his CDs. When healing from injuries, first address your thoughts and feelings, as well as the way you “look” at events, because if you’re stressed, you lose vital blood circulation to your limbs — which is how I got into this hand mess to begin with.
“Sword = Soul” Bitches
At some point, I will ease back into things. I’m perfectly productive with the tools that I have with which to write, but I long for my sword. Your sword is an extension of your soul. That’s why, whenever a friend shows you an edged weapon that he or she bought, you must be respectful of it, even if it’s a rusty piece of junk from the bowels of Beijing. Because insulting their sword is like insulting their soul – something I generally try to avoid. It’s just the right thing to do when you are on this path.
The Blade Goes Both Ways
Life is full of setbacks. You have to keep moving forward however you can, keeping your eye on the goal. Yet in many ways, this doesn’t feel like a setback. I’m learning more about swordsmanship and bushido than I ever could on the mat or in front of the target. My spiritual life is richer and I understand certain concepts far more accurately from watching than from doing. And more than ever, I appreciate my Sensei and dojo mates for the good friends (and in some ways family) that they are.
Wishing you all health and happiness these holidays!