Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Multitasking Samurai.

Our life in this modern world requires that we are on the go and connected. Your boss expects you to have your mobile phone with you even after hours and on weekends. People expect instant responses to e-mails and I have clients calling at all times of the day and night expecting that I drop everything to look after them even at the expense of my wife and kids.

Image : -
Multitasking has become the buzzword and unfortunately is misunderstood. The fact of the matter is our brains, amazing creations that they are, are really poorly equipped to focus on more than one task at a time, especially if the tasks are complicated. Sure, you will be able to do many tasks in a day, but the reality is if you try to do them all together your will be inefficient and probably make mistakes where if you complete a task, before moving onto the next task you will get more done and make far less mistakes. You can try this simple experiment to see how poorly equipped we are at multitasking:
Make two cups of coffee and stir them both at the same time, one with the left hand in a clockwise direction and one with the right hand in an anti-clockwise direction.

The task is by no means complicated, you have probably made a few thousand cups of coffee/tea in your lifetime, but the simple complication of stirring in different directions adds a dimension which requires considerable mental effort. Imagine how much more effort is required to carry out two unfamiliar task of greater complexity.

In this simple example you will really lose no time by stirring one, completing the task, before stirring the second.

The Samurai had already figured this out centuries ago and have mastered the art of clearing the mind - Mune Muso. In this state of 'no mind' nothing distracted him from the task at hand. It does not matter if that task is making tea or cutting down an enemy the Samurai's focus was complete on a single task. This is definitely the case with competition. You do not enter a boxing ring while worrying about the mortgage or your marketing budget, You do not step up to the line in the All Japan Karate Championships while thinking about which e-mails you need to answer and it is an absolute given that no one in the mens 4x100m hurdles at the olympics will have a mobile phone with them at the starting line.

Yet strangely enough it has become accepted in the business world that while you are working, you will accept multiple calls and answer your email. This does not make any sense at all unless you are a switchboard operator who's job it is to answer calls.

If you want to get the most out of your dojo sessions then make sure you are not multitasking, and clear your mind. If you have a bunch of things rushing through your mind consider making a to-do list, for after the session. This way you have let your mind know that you will not forget a task and it is easier to put the clutter out of your mind.

You can do the same in business. Start your day with a to-do list or with a to-do list created at the end of business the previous day. Then work according to the list and complete a task before moving on to the next task. Consider leaving your mobile phone, and e-mail turned off for the first part of the day, or at least until you have completed critical tasks on your to-do list. I believe you will definitely see an increase in productivity and experience a less stressful day.

I would love to hear what you think.

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The image I used in this post is by The Ghost of a Flea and comes from flickr. It is used with permission. If you get a chance, visit his flickr photostream here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It just drips with irony

At the beginning of the month I wrote a piece entitled Is it a problem to be big and strong?
Well just after that piece was published I was flattened by a diminutive creature. I was taken down by a flu virus.

I was feeling well and attended our seniors Kenjutsu class on the saturday morning at seven o'clock. While having coffee after the class at nine o'clock in the morning I first started feeling a bit poorly, and on the way home I was hit by an incredible weariness.

The weekend disappeared in a blur as I spent the entire weekend sleeping and on Monday morning my GP confirmed it was flu and prescribed drugs. He wanted to give me a note to book me off for the week, but since I work for myself, my boss was already well aware of my condition and would also be the first to know when I was feeling better.

Now, three weeks later I am just starting to get back up to date with all my work. It is incredible how much of an impact a little virus can have on your life.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Is it a problem to be big and strong?

Is it a problem to be big and strong? Is it a disadvantage to be small? Or does size really not matter. 
A while back I was chatting to some of the folk who do kenjutsu with me and the one young lady voiced some concern about her petite form. This reminded me of a passge written by Musashi in the Book of Five Rings.

Small people must be completely familiar with the spirit of large people, and large people must be familiar with the spirit of small people. Whatever your size, do not be misled by the reactions of your own body. With your spirit open and unconstricted, look at things from a high point of view.

Now I am certainly large by Japanese standards, and I use the fact that I have bulk and strength. Because I have been able to get away with using strength I have not learned the more harmonious side of Aikido. Truth be told I have not been very successful with sticky palms and the more sensitive side of any martial arts. So I realise a need to become familiar with the spirit of small people.
Then a friend of mine posted a link to a Youtube video on Facebook. The video showed Sensei Corky Quakenbush of Kakushi Toride Aikido Dojo working on developing the use of Ki in aikido techniques. 

I found Sensei Corky’s manner very relaxed and easy to listen to. The effect was magical and re-awakened a deep desire to investigate Ki.

Please watch these videos and let me know what you think.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

We no longer need a Dojo.

In the post Learning outside the dojo I said that with the information being available from so many sources you are able to learn outside the dojo. This begs the question do you still need to attend a dojo at all?

I have had the good fortune to visit several martial arts training venues in and around my home town over the last 15 years. Some have had a very traditional feel, complete with kamisa in the training area, sprung wooden floors and Japanese calligraphy on the walls to very informal, which are simply a hired scout hall with chairs piled high around the walls where you have to drag the mats out from under the stage when practicing throws or falls. I have even been told of a particular Ninjutsu school nearby where on visiting, the class consisted of watching a video and then practicing what they saw on the video. The students seemed satisfied with the result so is there anything wrong in doing things this way? So given the wide range of venues which are all considered dojo's do you really need to visit one in order to train effectively?

Well in my opinion YES! The dojo, irrespective of its fittings and furnishings is the primary place of instruction. The dojo environment, is where the student must be taught the basics of respect and discipline. It is also in the dojo environment that the instructor/sensei can impart* knowledge to the student. Sure, I am all for self study and believe I am sufficiently proficient in a variety of styles and techniques to learn from videos and books BUT it is in the confines of the dojo that these techniques move out of the theoretical into the functional realm. It is only under the supervision of an instructor that some techniques can be safely practiced in order to become part of the ready arsenal of the samurai today.

Take a very simple punch. This technique is found everywhere, from the pre-school play ground to the local pub. So everyone knows how to punch right... right? Wrong! clenching a fist and throwing it at someone else does not constitute a punch. Correctly rolling your fist will ensure you do not break fingers or knuckles when you make contact. Then all the aspects of keeping the muscles relaxed until the moment of impact. Rotating the fist and ensuring you strike with the first two knuckles and the fist horizontal, punching from the heal through the hip allows you to generate board breaking power. Do not tense the shoulders... I have just touched the surface of a basic Karate punch. What about the vertical fist used for the basic wushu punch... is this poor technique?

The dojo creates the required environment for this learning to take place. While training, your senior students and instructors can keep an eye on what is happening and correct a technique so that you practice a good technique rather than reinforcing bad technique.

But what happens if there just is not a suitable dojo where you stay? Ah, here is a real problem. One I am struggling with as I make plans to move to a new country. I would love to hear your comments and then I'll use these comments along with my thoughts on the issue to draft a post on Samurai Today. I look forward to hearing from you.

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*impart... This is a topic for another post, and I will visit it again later. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Learning outside the dojo

The Samurai never stopped learning. It did not matter whether he was improving his sword technique or practicing his calligraphy or spending time at the temple. He was always seeking more knowledge. Today there is so much information available that the modern martial artist has no excuse for not continually gaining knowledge. bulk of my knowledge of martial arts has been build up over many hours in the dojo. All the while picking up more bruises and bumps, striking makiwara or rehearsing kata. This is the way it must be. Or is it?
As an engineer I have spent the eleven years after my graduation continually learning about engineering, but not always in the class room context. Some has been research, some by working with other engineers, some by making lots of mistakes; bumping my head repeatedly and some from various publications and forums dedicated to engineering. I have even learned some engineering from watching discovery channel. Why should my martial arts be any different?

Musashi wrote in Go Rin No Sho (The Book of Five Rings): "It is said the warrior's is the twofold Way of pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways. Even if a man has no natural ability he can be a warrior by sticking assiduously to both divisions of the Way."

This can be interpreted as seeking knowledge not only in the sword, but in the book is the way of the warrior. Today we have vast resources at our disposal. We have vast libraries with many books on martial arts and history. You are reading this thanks to the Internet which also has many pages which have varying degrees of authority and are a source of learning. A google search for "Kenjutsu" came up with 292 000 pages while "Samurai" has more than 37 million. The information is available.
Here however you do need to be careful. Do not blindly believe anything and everything you find when searching the Internet. That is so important I am going to say it again.
 Do not blindly believe anything and everything you find when searching the Internet.
Most of the content is not in any way audited or moderated so it is very possible that it is of little value. But even identifying what is obviously false is a form of learning.

So apart from what my sensei teaches in class, what other sources of instruction do I use?
I'm very glad you asked. First and foremost, I read quite a bit. Many of the books I have I read many times over. I also enjoy watching films. Some old classics like Seven Samurai, Yojimbo and Sanjuro have interesting lessons on character and history and the way of the Samurai. Yes Kurosawa san, the director of the films I have just mentioned was born into a samurai family. I also watch and re-watch some of the instructional videos in my collection. Video's like 'Crimson Steel' by Obata Toshishiro and Donald J Angier's 'Kenjitsu' series are full of great value. Lastly I use the Internet.

I find that reading a description of a technique in a book to be the most difficult way to learn, and this only really works when I have someone to train with me so we can try and put the words into action together. Obviously this will hold true for any written word, since it is very difficult to describe every movement and attitude of the body in the written word. The next is from videos. Here too there are varying degrees of benefit. I have seen some video's with very poor production quality; The artist stepping out of shot to reposition camera, and technical quality; The artists are not very skilled in the performance of the particular techniques. These can still be beneficial in that even seeing what someone does incorrectly may be key on perfecting the technique or helping me to better explain something to a student. It is also realistic to believe that even if a martial artists is particularly skilled at martial arts he may not present that well on camera. If you are able to look past this and still find value in a piece of video you have a great source of additional and differing technique.

Now comes a warning. Do not let what you learn outside the dojo distract from what your instructor or sensei is teaching. It is very disrespectful to your sensei and the other students to interject in a class with; "but Sensei... James Williams does it like this in his video." or "Don Angier said this or that." The correct response should you do this is to go outside and cut your belly - Harra Kiri! In the dojo you follow what your instructor does without any disrespect. If you would like to offer a different point of view or highlight a different insight then make very sure you have permission from your instructor before you raise it in the class context. It is probably best to discuss this in an informal setting before you bring it up during a class.

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If you would like to get your own copies of the videos I spoke about in this post. I really recommend them. You can get them by clicking the links below. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

James Clavell's Shogun TV Miniseries

There is a special on 'TV series' and James Clavell's Shogun DVD boxed sets are available for £16.98. This is less than half price. Not bad for nine hours of mini-series and one hour of special features. I bought this set a couple of years back and have watched it at least twice. It truly is a spectacle.
The complete collection of Shogun tells the story of John Blackthorne (Chamberlain), an English navigator who finds himself shipwrecked off the coast of Japan. Once rescued, Blackthorne becomes an eyewitness to a deadly struggle involving Toranaga, a feuding Japanese warlord intent on becoming Shogun - the supreme military dictator. Blackthorne is, despite his better judgement, irresistibly drawn into the turmoil and finds himself vying to become the first ever ‘Gai-Jin’ (foreigner) to be made a Samurai warrior.
You can get the Book Shogun for £5.84... or maybe even £1.05 if you are happy with a second hand copy. This is a truly great book. Here are some of the reviews:
'My bet for the most satisfyingly popular novel of the year . . . It has power, it has violence, subtlety and lots, lots more . . . Clavell never puts a foot wrong . . . Get it, read it, you'll enjoy it mightily' (Daily Mirror )

'SHOGUN is a huge exotic, blood-stained canvas of sixteenth century but still medieval Japan, rival warlords and proselytising Jesuits, geishas, seppuku, samurai with the death-with and a shipwrecked Elizabethan' (Guardian )

'Mr Clavell tells his story brilliantly' (The Times )

'One of the great page turners of all time' ( Good Book Guide )

'I can’t remember when a novel has seized my mind like this one. It’s irresistable, maybe unforgettable. Clavell ... creates a world so enveloping you forget who and where you are' (New York Times ) 

You might even consider getting both the DVD miniseries and the Book for £22.82, you will find the link marked "Frequently Bought Together" if you click on the book link.

I'm not sure how long these prices will hold, so if you come back to this page and the prices I have quoted in the text and the prices you see in the links are not the same, accept that you missed out.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Training to be Samurai

Although I will never be a Samurai because I am not Japanese and have not been born into a Samurai family, I do train and work everyday in an effort to grow into the image I have of the samurai. On this road there have been several influences from various teachers and masters. To honour them and give value to the Samurai Today readers, I will, over the next few weeks talk about them.

The first person in this series is my sensei and friend Eugene Botha. I first met Eugene when I joined his Karate dojo in 1995 or ‘96. He is younger than I am but has a character and authority which makes it easy to learn from him.

I was always impressed with his knowledge of karate and his mastery of kata, but was really drawn to his abilities in kumite or free sparring. During sparring it became very clear that he is a superb artist, adaptable and confident without any of the arrogance which is sometimes shown in the Hollywood image of the Karate Master.

I remember one session probably around 1998 just before a long weekend where I was frustrated by my inability to defend against a particular technique. My frustration boiled over into action and I attempted to wrestle him to the ground with a bear hug. This was probably my most painful by most valuable lesson. Eugene sensei responded to my attack with several elbow strikes to the top of my head and shoulders to break my grip and then insisted we continue sparring. For the next, what felt like an eternity, he proceeded to strike my thighs with shin strikes every time I came near, a technique favoured by the kick boxers since if you can’t stand you can’t kick. Every time I backed away he beckoned me to come close. All the while with a wry smile on his face.

That long weekend seemed like an eternity as I was bruised and sore and couldn’t understand why he had treated me so harshly. The sparring of that evening kept playing over and over in my mind. What had I done to deserve such harsh treatment? I will not go back! Or I’ll go back and tell him that I will not return after the month has finished. After the weekend, my bruised ego had healed a bit and I had had a chance to rethink the events which had lead to the mild beating I had received. My anger had been replaced by a deep respect for this man whom I had disrespected by loosing my temper. Eugene had firmly taught me to manage my anger and frustrations and above all, never to show disrespect for your opponent/friend/instructor.

Eugene Sensei responds to a student who asks "Sensei, can I do this?" with an emphatic "Yes! You have just done it. It is not the technique we are training, but you can do it." All the while with the same wry smile on his face.

Eugene went on to become a Doctor of traditional medicine and runs a successful Body Talk practice. Over and above this he runs the I-Shin Do Ken Kenjutsu Heiho in Robin Hills, Johannesburg.

Eugene has always shunned the idea of chasing gradings preferring rather to concentrate on learning and personal growth. This has not stopped him from preparing the students who wish to grade for gradings. I was impressed by the fact that all his students who went to the area gradings always had excellent spirit and performed exceptionally well.

Of all the martial artists I have personally met he is by far the most versatile with an extremely diverse skill set which includes, but is not limited to, Kenjutsu, Jojutsu, Aikido and Karate. Eugene also has an appreciation of the true Japanese Sword; nihonto, and much of my interest and knowledge on the subject has grown under his influence. Many of the other people I hold in high regard and will talk about in future articles would never have even come up on my radar had it not been for the instruction I received from Eugene Botha sensei.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Features of the "Samurai Today" Blog site

I would like to show you some of the useful features on this website and how using them will help you get even more value from Samurai Today.
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    Monday, May 4, 2009

    Top five Samurai Sword Websites

    Over the last few years my admiration of the katana, and more specifically the Nihonto has grown. This has resulted in a considerable amount of bandwidth expended in research. ‘Research’ is a euphemistic way of saying that time I should have been working, I spent surfing the Internet.

    So here is a list of my top 5 websites to drool over the Katana or Samurai sword.

    1. Nihonto Australia - This website has a large selection of blades. The resolution of the pictures is not that great. Taking good photo’s of a blade which shows the features properly is not an easy task.
      My engineering mind rebels against their repeated errors of the length of the swords. They insist on giving the length in cm, but stating that it is mm a katana does not have a blade length of 68.3 mm.

    2. - The guys at have also put a lot of work into displaying the work of modern Japanese smiths. When I visited the site recently they did not have a lot of blades for sale, but their gallery is definitely worth visiting.

    3. Rice Cracker - this is not the most user friendly site to navigate. The high quality pictures showing hamon activity in detail are at least 3 clicks away. They do have very good quality photo’s which show the swords beautifully.

    4. Nihonto Antiques - Another site which is not particularly pretty at first glance. You can however find great pictures of nihonto with just one click. The pictures of the products on offer are very good with a rather nice montage for each sword.

    5. - The site appears very cluttered with lots of highlighted and coloured text on the home page. They do however offer lots of information on the swords they have on offer and have good photographs of the blades. My only complaint with this site is that they do not include prices on the site, but then again if you have to ask you probably can not afford it.

    If you have any other website you think should be added to this list please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.

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    Monday, April 27, 2009

    Killing Sword, Life giving Sword, No Sword.

    I am busy reading Soul Of The Samurai. This is a modern translation and compilation of three works: Yagyu Munenori’s. “The book of family traditions” and Takuan Soho’s “subtlety of Immovable Wisdom” and “Notes of the Peerless Sword.” What struck me is that Yagyu Munenori’s work speaks about the Killing Sword, The Life-giving Sword and No Sword. I wondered how to practice these three aspects, particularly the “No Sword” since this seemed a very vague yet noble idea.

    I first heard about the Killing and Life-giving sword in a DVD by James Williams, then came across this again in Soul of the Samurai, then again while reading about Morihei Ueshiba in Wikipedia I found this:

    The real birth of Aikido came as the result of three instances of spiritual awakening that Ueshiba experienced. The first happened in 1925, after Ueshiba had defeated a naval officer's bokken (wooden katana) attacks unarmed and without hurting the officer. Ueshiba then walked to his garden and had a spiritual awakening.
    ...I felt the universe suddenly quake, and that a golden spirit sprang up from the ground, veiled my body, and changed my body into a golden one. At the same time my body became light. I was able to understand the whispering of the birds, and was clearly aware of the mind of God, the creator of the universe.
    At that moment I was enlightened: the source of budo is God's love - the spirit of loving protection for all beings... Budo is not the felling of an opponent by force; nor is it a tool to lead the world to destruction with arms. True Budo is to accept the spirit of the universe, keep the peace of the world, correctly produce, protect and cultivate all beings in nature.

    What jumped out at me in this was that Ueshiba was attacked by a warrior, Naval Officer. Next he defeated the officer without hurting him and this happened while Ueshiba was unarmed. This is a complete realization of Munenori’s No Sword. This struck me as very civilized and far removed from life today.

    This is so different from the image of the warrior which is fed to society. It would appear that the world is caught up in the state of the killing sword. Our television stations spew forth hours upon hours every week of professional wrestling which seems to consists of little more than name calling and gratuitous violence, where the idea of honour is just to ensure that you win at all costs.
    Sport programs like Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) gain greater following the more blood and gore they produce. School playgrounds are rife with bullies and violence. Films with more violence reach cult status all in the name of the true warrior.

    What have we missed? How do you bring society out of the Killing Sword mindset into the Life giving Sword state and finally the No Sword state?

    I believe that Ueshiba’s revelation stems from his satisfaction with himself. He had a healthy self image. He had obviously made peace with who he was and his place in the universe. He had put down an attack without injuring his attacker. This; in my mind, shows a lack of malice. He had reacted, or better yet responded to a situation without overreaction.

    It is, I believe an imperative that you are comfortable with who you are to be a useful warrior. If you are not comfortable with who you are at this very moment, you must step back and take stock before you continue with anything else.

    In saying this I am not advocating a lack of ambition or not trying to be all you can possibly be, I am instead saying you should be content with who you are at this very moment since there is nothing you can do in the present to change anything. You are able to plan to reach a life or career goal in the future, but you cannot do anything about who you are at this very moment. So be content with who you are now while working to become all you are able to be.

    This is how the Samurai or Bushi tried to live each moment. Understanding that life is temporary and if you were to die now, that was all right, because you had been the best you could be in the moment. This did not stop them working at better sword technique, better skill at calligraphy or Sumie but they were forced by their code of bushido to come to terms with the reality of their station and place in the universe.

    This also entails taking responsibility for who you are, since this is the mature path. Blaming your current situation on a parent, the government, an abusive partner or a colleague is destructive and in no way improves your situation. You are who you are at this point in your life because of all the influences on your life up to this point including every choice you had made. The way to ensure that you are in a better place in the future must be by leaving all of that behind you, in the past, and making sure you do not make the same mistakes in the future.

    Once you have made peace with yourself you are able to approach others from a position of security rather than insecurity. This will manifest itself in your training in Kenjutsu or any other martial art, as a desire to learn rather than a desire to defeat your fellow students. Your mind will be able focus more on training than on your perceived enemies and short comings. In all you will be a better bushi. This is a realization of No Sword.

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    Monday, April 20, 2009

    Ronin and Business Today.

    In feudal Japan, a samurai who had lost his master was an outcast, a ronin, a “wave man” tossed aimlessly by the sea. The reasoning was simple, the samurai had been unable to protect his lord, so what good was he. Another reason for becoming masterless was by deserting your lord. Neither of these is a particularly laudable reason for becoming unemployed and as a result the Ronin was generally shunned by all. Other lords were discouraged from hiring these ronin for fear of offending the previous master or the local Daimyo or the Shogun.

    The truth was in many cases quite different. It should be understood that Feudal Japan was a very stratified society. It was virtually impossible to move through the various castes of Japanese social hierarchy. When the Shogunate wanted to consolidate power, it did this by removing power from various Daimyo, often times stripping them of their lands along with titles. The children of samurai so disenfranchised were very often born into the ronin class. The result was many samurai suddenly in the position where they no longer had a lord. There is evidence that at one point in history, there may have been as many as five hundred thousand ronin roaming Japan.

    This was a lightbulb moment for me. I realized that a group of very capable men, who were devoted to a cause were suddenly outcast in the very towns ad society they had served. This is exactly the same as what we have seen happen in South Africa over the last 15 years. Various well intentioned government policies have left a large number of skilled workers out in the cold. Policies of Affirmative Action (AA), and Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) are our present government’s efforts to achieve a particular political objective which is subject to the laws of unintended consequences. The fall out from this is that a large portion of the educated white population lost their jobs, or find themselves unable to find a job because a company is doing what it can to comply with some demographic quota. The ronin who now becomes self employed or a one man concern is perceived by many to be of little value because they are unable to find a job. Or they were retrenched because they were just not good enough. This is a label often placed on the person without any effort to understand the full facts

    The response of the ronin was varied. Some looked for employment with another lord which met with mixed success for reasons both economical or political. Some turned to crime, gathering other ronin around them to form bandit hordes to terrorize and pillage. Some became mercenaries, bodyguards or muscle for hire, some became wandering teachers of philosophy or martial arts or became itinerant priests while some became tradesman changing profession completely. There was no easy road for the ronin. Their success was based purely on their character and tenacity in following through.

    We have seen a very similar trend in South Africa where the Policies, which left a man out on the street, have forced him to find a different paradigm in which to continue to make ends meet. Some have been able to find alternate employment, some became mercenaries or contractors while some have jumped on the entrepreneurial wagon and have carved out a niche for themselves in this economy.

    An interesting aspect of this in the Japanese context is that many Samurai were envious or jealous of the freedom of their ronin contemporaries. Where the Samurai was bound by his lords will even if that appeared to be contrary to his ethical, moral or warrior code, the ronin were free to act as he chose and was accountable to himself only.

    In our modern society with technological and business advances like the Internet and email the entrepreneur has all the advantages of business with less of the overhead. The entrepreneur is able to change tack far quicker than a larger business. This makes a lot of sense in a volatile economic climate.

    So if you are a ronin and are looking for a way to thrive in a system which may appear to be stacked against you, then take heart. The ronin in feudal Japan thrived and succeeded, and it is possible to weather the current storms which we face in South Africa, or any part of the world for that matter, and thrive. What is required is passion and hard work. Do not believe anyone who tells you you can do anything worth while without putting in the effort. It is not sustainable.

    So revel in your ronin freedom and make everything you do count.

    PS I bought an online marketing package which I found very valuable. They do not promise instant wealth, but do give you all the information required to make a good living using the Internet. Be warned! It will take work, but you will not be disappointed. Take a look at The Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet.

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    Sunday, April 19, 2009

    Easter Tameshigiri

    On Easter Sunday I decided I would try something I had not done before. I thought I would try my hand at cutting eggs.

    Interestingly enough the dozen eggs were not sacrificed purely in the name of fun.
    I found out that I was not as accurate with my cutting as I initially believed. Sure I can break an egg. But the question became can I cut an egg exactly where I wanted to? You see to when cutting mats a centimeter here or there does not make much difference as long as your cut-line "Hasugi" is correct your cut is good, but is that really enough?

    When you are aiming at a specific target, the throat, the eyes, a wrist, then being slightly off the mark could be the difference between life and death. I realised that close is not good enough. So after I had cut a couple of eggs, I re-adjusted my thinking. I tried various specific goals. Was I able to cut the egg without cutting the yoke? Was I able to cut part way through the egg? Was I able to hit the mark even with a full speed attack?

    The answer to some of these questions was a definite NO! In order to get better I need a lot more practice.

    So if any of you are thinking of trying this yourself... Well remember this:
    Do not try this indoors unless you have a drop sheet or paper on the ground.*

    Make sure you have tissue or cloth nearby. The albumen dries or hardens very quickly. Make sure you wipe it off your blade immediately after your cut. Under no circumstances should you re-sheath the blade before cleaning it.

    Have a dog on hand*

    * Raw egg is not easy to clean up without canine assistance :)

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    Friday, April 10, 2009

    Virtue of the Sword

    by James Williams, Kaicho of the Namiryu Aiki Heiho and is used with permission.

    Training in various, seemingly antiquated, military arts is becoming increasing common in our 21st century society. Why pursue these arts that require so much effort, discipline, and often pain? Why do we seek to test ourselves in struggle and training for combat? What brought us to these arts, and what do we hope to get out of this training?

    I am frequently asked why I practice and teach classical warrior skills and adhere to a philosophy that appears outdated to many. The sword has defined the warrior for thousands of years. It has defined the power, ethics, duty and self-defense of a class of people who have shaped the face of civilization on this planet. The skill, exercise, mental development, and sheer pleasure of using a sword is unique. Hand-to-hand combat with edged weapons is the most demanding form of human physical combat. It not only requires the most skill, both physical and mental, it develops in the adept abilities that separate him from others and elevates intuition, reflexes, and technique to the highest degree. For the warrior, the sword represents his duty, his honor and his responsibility.

    This is, for the most part, no longer a society that values the warrior and his virtues. Ours is a society that has forgotten the sacrifices and struggles of so many who came before them, the fruit of whose effort and sacrifice we daily enjoy; it is a society that will ask of its military, but not honor or care for its men. It is a society where virtue is often looked at askance, where character is not required of those who would seek to lead us. A society that enjoys enormous plenty yet denies its military the necessary munitions to train to protect this very wealth. Why do a significant number of its citizens seek training and embrace virtues that seem passe? Perhaps not all have forgotten that less than 60 years ago the entire world was involved in a great struggle to determine if a free nation could exist. And most of us know someone who participated in that struggle and through whose efforts we have the gift of choice and plenty which seems to be taken so lightly by so many.
    “Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival”.
    Winston Churchill

    “For without victory there is no survival.” These words define the role of the male in history, his service to life. The harsh reality of freedom in a nation—a fact that is overlooked or denied by many—is that our freedom is the direct result of our strength. It was by struggle and conflict that we became free and have kept ourselves that way. We have received from our ancestors, at great cost, a precious gift that must be cherished and nurtured if we are going to pass it on to our children. It must be protected, fought for if necessary, and we must not let this gift be taken from us by those whose rhetoric and actions are nonsense. These are people who seek things for themselves at the expense of the whole.
    Freedom means responsibility and that is why most men shun it.
    George Bernard Shaw

    Everywhere that you look in history this is the case. When our strength goes we will no longer be free. We will be dictated to and ruled by those stronger than ourselves. Does this mean that it is necessary to cultivate aggression and belligerence? Absolutely not! It does, however, mean that we need to cultivate in ourselves those virtues that guide a free people: courage, honor, truthfulness, responsibility, perseverance, charity, strength tempered with compassion, discrimination tempered with tolerance.

    Virtue as a prerequisite for freedom
    It is the very cultivation of virtue that ensures the will and ability to be a free people. A society degenerates with the loss of virtue and the high regard in which it is held. This has been the lesson of history. It is always surprising to me that the events and lessons learned from the past are so quickly forgotten. It is as if we deliberately purge them from our memory. Human history is fraught with the folly of this peculiar mechanism, yet we continue it at our peril.
    “If you lose the past,” the 9th century Chinese poet Meng Jiao says, “The will easily crumbles.” This blurring and removing of the past is a valuable tool of social architecture as is evidenced in modern China, one of many such examples in the 20th century. The misinformation and disinformation that make up so much of our current social and political agenda separates us from our past. This deliberate perversion of truth should be anathema to those who value virtue. It is anathema because those who use it seek to change the order of society with falsehoods. As warriors we do not have to go far back into history to find instances where the courage and sacrifice of a few have so benefitted the whole.
    Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
    Spoken by Churchill in reference to the debt owed by the British people to the RAF during the Battle of Britain.

    The reason we are called to cultivate classical warrior skills and virtues is out of a feeling of duty to the whole of society. We prepare ourselves for those times when we may be called upon to protect and defend. Any other reason is selfish and ultimately self-destructive. Being tough and a good fighter is not in and of itself noble. For me, training in kenjutsu and related military arts prepares me to be a good citizen. It enables me to be of assistance when it is necessary to protect and defend. It teaches me self-discipline that I may moderate my behavior. I learn perseverance and courage in the face of difficulty so that I am not easily deterred. All of this adds up to the courage to live life not just for oneself but also for others. For me, teaching is giving to others what has been given to me. Like having children, it is the completion of the cycle. What a benefit it will be to society as a whole if those of us who aspire to a noble nature strive to imbue society with care, commitment, and positive action! Look out for and protect those in need! Support each other when faced with those of evil nature who would prey on the weak and defenseless!

    The noblest aspects of human consciousness, our virtues, become passe ever more quickly as we find substitutes for living a life connected with the reality of our existence. The less we grow, hunt, and gather our food, the less directly involved we are in protecting ourselves and our families and nation, the more readily we lose our virtue. The less we know of and value our past, the less we honor those who, with their courage and sacrifice, have bequeathed to us our current state of freedom and plenty, the less likely we are to pass this enviable state on to those who follow us. Are we so self-absorbed that our decisions are made on the basis of our personal wants and our ease? Are we as a people so easily bought that we will sell our freedom and that of our children for comfort?

    Warrior as protector of society
    The warrior protects and defends because he realizes the value of others. He knows that they are essential to society and, in his gift of services, recognizes and values theirs. This responsibility translates to children as well. When in a public bathroom, keep an eye on any children that may be in there. Even wait an extra moment or two to make sure that they are safely out of the restroom before you leave. It is an unfortunate fact that public restrooms are frequented by pedophiles and potential kidnappers. Being a father myself I feel a serious responsibility to all children and hope that other males will help look after mine when I am not present. I cannot count the number of times that I have seen nervous mothers waiting outside of a public bathroom for a young son. Make a point, even to telling the mother, that you will keep an eye on the safety of her child in an area in which she cannot go.

    There are other ways in which we can be of daily use. For instance, take the extra moment in dark parking lots at night to make sure that a woman gets into her car safely before leaving yourself. Daily involvement in acts such as these are as much a part of training as time spent in the dojo, and indeed should be the reason for that time spent training.

    The role and ability to protect and defend does not give the warrior-protector the right to misuse this strength and knowledge. You are not superior to nor do you have the right to take advantage of others by means of this strength and ability. If you breach this trust and your sacred responsibility then you are not a warrior-protector. Over the centuries this power has been misused all too often in societies to dominate and control others. This is the dark side of power and has no place in the life of the warrior seeking to live a life of virtue.

    When faced with a woman or child in a situation in which they are vulnerable, there are two types of men: those who would offer succor and aid, and those who would prey upon them. And in modern society, there is another loathesome breed who would totally ignore their plight
    I remember the first time my friends and I read about an incident that happened in New York City where a woman was attacked and eventually killed over an extended period of time. This was in the early 1960’s, and I think the duration of the attack was 15 to 20 minutes. Neighbors in the area could hear her calls for help, however, no one had the courage to go to her aid. My friends and I were incredulous that something like this could take place in America. How could anyone, most especially men, hear a woman being murdered and not involve themselves in her defense. Many current laws actually place the person who would come to another’s aid in legal jeopardy. Is this a sign of social and psychological health in a society?

    In 1977 I was teaching and competing in boxing and kick boxing and teaching women and seniors self-defense through the Institute for Better Health in Santa Rosa, California. An incident took place in Rancho Cordova, California that had a big impact on me both as a man and a martial artist. This incident was a home invasion rape and murder. A husband and wife were both home when they heard a noise in the master bedroom. The man went to investigate and was confronted by an intruder with a knife who had entered through the bedroom window. Being threatened with the knife the husband capitulated and allowed himself to be led into the front room and tied to a chair. The criminal then raped the wife in front of the husband who could do nothing but watch. After finishing with the rape, the criminal got a hammer from the garage and proceeded to beat the husband to death in front of the wife. After he had brutally killed the husband he turned the hammer on the wife leaving her for dead. The wife, who was not dead, managed to crawl out of the house where neighbors heard her mewling and came to her aid. She suffered physical and emotional scars that marred her for life.

    I often wonder what would go through a man’s mind when he fails through fear and lack of training to fulfill his responsibility in such circumstances. We all have fear. That is why it is necessary to prepare, to train, to understand the part that we play in the dance of life. How much more honorable, more noble, to have engaged the assailant, even if there was slim chance for personal victory, and in doing so give your wife the opportunity to escape! Preparation for such an eventuality could have provided a better outcome for both.

    In 1984, a good friend of mine, Toby Threadgill, who now teaches samurai arts in Texas, was faced with a more difficult situation. He was wakened from sleep by two men who had followed his wife home from her nursing job late one night with the intention of raping her. One held a gun to his head while the other went looking for his wife. Realizing their intent, and at the risk of his life, my friend managed to disarm the gunman by driving him through a sliding-glass door. Then confronted by the knife wielding second man he managed, although sustaining a serious wound, to disarm and incapacitate him. Although a likeable and easy going person, Toby had prepared himself mentally and physically so that when faced with a dangerous situation he had both the tools and the courage to use them. How much better the outcome!
    Society becomes vulnerable to every kind of threat when men no longer feel the need to prepare themselves by acquiring skills to protect and defend society, especially women and children. When men no longer take responsibility for being male and when a sense of duty is replaced by self-concern and self-indulgence, society looses its greatest strength—the mutual caring and commitment of its citizens for each other.

    Courtesy: a show of respect
    Courtesy is an essential element for the warrior. It should be a defining act that can be practiced daily
    To be a samurai is to be polite at all times.
    Hojo Nagauji
    Chivalry frames an ideal of heroic character. It combines invincible strength and valor, justice, modesty, loyalty to superiors, courtesy to equals, compassion for the weak, and devotion to God; it is an ideal which, even if never achieved in real life, has been widely acknowledged as the highest model for emulation.

    These acts of courtesy are first and foremost for yourself. The respect and care that you have for yourself can then extend to other human beings. This altruistic value and most virtues are being sacrificed to the right of the individual to every form of indulgence. And, in that very process, the individual is then pressured to conform to the mores of the current political thinking of the State.

    Showing courtesy is indicative of inner strength and security as a male. Courtesy is the lubricant of a culture, and should be the hallmark of the warrior. No situation is made worse by the exercise of courtesy and many situations are made the better for it. I enjoy showing courtesy towards women in the many ways that are available. When I hold a door open for a woman or help her carry an object, it is not that I think that she is not capable of doing it for herself. I do it in recognition of her intrinsic value to society and to me. Men are respected and shown courtesy as they earn the right. This process of earning respect is an important part of its value. The word loses its meaning and value in an atmosphere where many think that respect should be given just because a person exists regardless of his actions or value to the society.

    An attitude of self-concern has grown more prevalent as our lives have become easier. Risking oneself for others or for a principle is less and less common. We have become less committed to each other and have created a world in which we seemingly do not need each other to survive. Virtues such as courage, honor, and integrity even carry a stigma in some circles. The very foundations of character are under attack by those who do not understand that there is nothing noble in being human without these virtues.
    It is not the role of everyone to be a warrior, however, those of us who respond to this calling should train and study to be the best that we are able. The are many guides and heroes that we can look to as warriors, and not all are male. One of mine, Mother Teresa, has just recently died. I find great inspiration in her life. Here is someone who found her life purpose and lived it steadfastly and, from my standpoint, even gloriously by giving to those too wretched for others to even consider. The courage, love and selfless sense of service that she displayed should serve to inspire us all. If I can live my life while giving just one fraction of what she gave to others it will be an accomplishment.
    Teaching then becomes a means whereby we can pass on to others the knowledge and wisdom acquired from those who have preceded us. It is not about self-aggrandizement or superiority. It is not about titles and rank, or organizations or profit. Most of the time I feel that I am learning more from my students than they are learning from me. The teacher becomes the student and the student the teacher. Neither can exist without the other.

    As human beings we are all different. Having different skills, strengths, or abilities does not mean that an individual does not have abilities that benefit himself and society. I shun the sameness that is a part of much of modern social theory. It is abhorrent and detracts from what makes us human. I am a large, strong male, over six feet tall and weighing over 200 pounds who has spent the majority of his adult life involved in military and combative activities, studies and training. My wife is a foot shorter and over 100 pounds lighter. We are physically suited for different tasks in life. I respect and cherish her strength and femininity. And the more so because I have been at her side, in what limited capacity a man may provide, while she bore our two children with only her courage and my meager assistance and encouragement to sustain her.
    When the choice is between cowardice and violence, I would strongly recommend violence.
    Mohandus Ghandi

    We are no longer training our children, especially our young men, to deal with pain, defeat, and discomfort with a brave heart and stoic spirit. We seem to think that by removing consequences for their actions we are actually benefiting them. They do not build true character based on trial and effort.

    When there is no pain, no death, no challenge, no struggle, no adversity, and no disappointment we will lose the best part of being human. When we structure a life and society devoid of every human challenge there will be no courage, no perseverance, no honor, no compassion, no caring, and no commitment. We will have lost the best parts of who we are because we will have let our fear steal them from us. We will no longer need each other and this will be the greatest tragedy.

    Being a warrior means being committed to making the ultimate sacrifice and also committing the ultimate act. The gentleman warrior must take responsibility for his actions and use his power for the good of society and his fellow human beings. As the old samurai saying goes, “To kill when it is right to kill and to die when it is right to die!” In a similar vein, the code of the Sumerian warrior-king stated that he was to act as the shepherd of his people. The role of the warrior as a stabilizing influence in civilized society and protector of the weak is as old as civilization itself.

    Sparta vs. Greece
    Many, women more often than men, feel that being a warrior means being an oppressor. History, however, does not necessarily bear out this idea. In Sparta, the strongest warrior culture that the Greeks produced, the woman had the most freedom of any Grecian woman of the time. The women received much the same education as the young men, and shared a life with their men far closer than did the women of Athens.

    In sexual matters, the Spartans, true to their nature, seem to have had the highest rate of monogamy in all of Greece. They held their woman in high esteem and Spartan women had greater equality than their Grecian sisters who were treated according to the more Oriental standards towards women of the rest of Greece.

    The Spartans were also renowned for their virtue and being the most pious of all Greeks. There is a story told by Plutarch about the Spartans at one of the Olympiads. In the crowded throng at the Olympic games, an old man was looking in vain for a seat from which to watch the events. His stumbling attempts to find one were noticed by many Greeks from other states, who mocked him for his age and difficulty in finding a seat. When, however, he came to the section where the Spartans were seated, every man among them rose to his feet and offered him their seats. Somewhat abashed, but nevertheless admiringly, the other Greeks applauded them for their behavior. “Ah,” the old man is reported to have said with a sigh, “I see what it is. All Greeks know what is right, but only the Spartans do it.”

    Woman also fared well in other warrior societies. Viking woman owned their own property and could divorce their husbands if they were mistreated. The Celts of Britannia often had women as rulers and many tribes were matriarchal. It is false to think that because men are warriors that it follows that they look down on women.

    “He experienced that the ultimate ethical values, on which all human existence is based, must, as a last resort, be defended even by force and with the sacrifice of human lives…”
    Max Born on Albert Einstein’s realizations prior to the Second World War.

    Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, according to her laws we lie.
    Epitaph written by the poet Simonides at the ancient monument celebrating Spartan courage and sacrifice at Thermopylae

    Virtue must be taught and practiced; it must be nurtured and passed to each generation. Freedom must be taught and practiced as well. If not, it easily perishes. Virtue and freedom go hand in hand. Not to cherish the one is not to cherish the other. A society that looses the warriors’ virtues is the poorer for it and will soon be a society whose freedoms are lost. The male has a genetic prime directive—a service to life—to protect and defend. In this service he is historically more expendable than the female and the children. Every man is responsible for defending every woman and every child. When the male no longer assumes this role, when he no longer has the courage or moral responsibility, society will cease to value honor and virtue. Neither laws nor government can replace this personal caring and commitment. In the absence of the warrior-protector, the only way that a government can protect a society is to remove the freedom of its people. And in such a society, the sons and daughters of lions become sheep.

    My heartfelt thanks go out to James san for allowing me to re-publish this article. Please visit the namiryu website for more articles and videos.

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    Saturday, April 4, 2009

    Crisis of Credit

    A reality of being a leader or Samurai today, is that you need to pay attention to far more than simply your martial arts. The Samurai were not only fierce warriors on the battlefield, but also diplomats, businessmen and land owners. In every sphere of their life they were required to excel. Feudal Society can be very intolerant of the weak.

    27. Hence it is only the enlightened ruler and the wise general who will use the highest intelligence of the army for purposes of spying and thereby they achieve great results. - Sun Tsu, The Art of War

    In the interest of providing some intelligence which you may not already be in possession of, I offer the following: -

    Image from'm sure that by now you are all very aware of the financial black hole the global economy is in.
    Just in case you are not sure how it all happened, this video clip is the best description I have ever seen to explain the sub-prime lending crisis which hit the US.
    Take a look at this video to see how the hunt for money has put us all in a rather prickly situation.
    If the video loads very slowly you can also view the same 11 minute 15 second clip in two parts on Youtube. Crisis of Credit Part 1 and Part 2.

    Yes this is a US problem, but we are all affected by the fall out. The bank which owns your house may have been one of the investors or others in the video. Even if you are sitting in New York, Johannesburg, Alice Springs or Timbuktu the sub-prime crisis will have an effect on you.

    In the spirit of the warrior, now is the time for all warriors to work especially hard to ensure that they survive this changing battle field. Indeed this battle is easily survivable, but we need to adapt our thinking. Act decisively and with courage.

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    Image: "Corporate Shogun" found on Flickr.

    Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    The Purchase of a Samurai Sword (Katana)

    I had been busy with kenjutsu for a while when I finally decided I needed to get myself a Katana. Till now I had used the bokken for all my training. I new that soon there was going to be a seminar which would culminate in test-cutting, 'Tameshigiri.' This aspiring Samurai needed a Katana.

    That simple decision had some far reaching consequences. In this article I just want to highlight some of the pitfalls involved in the simple act of buying a sword. Believe me there are many ways that having a limited budget or only limited knowledge can be a serious handicap. Caveat emptor - Buyer beware

    Let me start with some background. I had received a Katana for my eighteenth birthday from my father. Apparently Spanish in origin and the blade was blunted 'Iaito' and appeared to be chrome plated since it has never lost its initial polish in more than twenty years. My father had been assured that the blade could be sharpened if desired, but the whole family agreed that an eighteen year old with a sharp sword sounded like a recipe for disaster.
    I took this sword along with me to my first few Kenjutsu classes. Sensei had told me that since it was blunt I would be allowed to use it in some of the kata or form work. Sensei was doubtful of the quality of the blade and advised me not to sharpen the blade, but to continue to use it as an Iaito. I started to use it to practice drawing the sword but found that the scabbard "saya" was deformed or warped and was gripping the sword once it was drawn about 50 mm or so, the result was a draw and cut "nukitsuke" which hesitated and did not flow.

    Sensei is vocal in his belief that the only true sword is a Tamehagane Nihonto. Thats right, It must be made by a Japanese smith from Japanese steel in Japan. Well, the truth is that I cannot afford a Nihonto yet. Even when I do, one day, buy a Nihonto I very much doubt that I will easily use it for actual cutting. That is however, another story all together.

    I started doing some research to make the correct decision when it came to putting down dollars.

    I visited several online sword dealers, looked on e-bay and scoured the various books in my library. Everything from $20 display swords to $30,000 Nihonto's. But how do I know that the sword which is going to be shipped to me will be any good? How do I know the sword will be able to cut without being dangerous to me and those around me? What will be a realistic budget? What will pass muster with sensei and be good value for money?

    You see although there are many really honourable shopkeepers online there are also many scoundrels out to make a quick buck. There are thousands of display swords with no body under the handle; called rat tailed tang. These are usually ornamental and have great photo's on the shop site. On e-bay they are usually very cheap with very expensive shipping. The reason for this is ebay does not require a merchant to refund shipping costs, so they profit from shipping and know that it usually will cost more than the cost of the refund to ship the defective item back to them.

    Many swords are made from a steel which is not suitable for manufacturing swords. You see the amount of carbon in a piece of steel determines its hardness, but the harder the steel, the more brittle the blade becomes. For pocket knives and daggers this is rather insignificant since a four inch blade which breaks when used as a screwdriver is obviously not as deadly as twenty-eight inches of steal being swung with spectators watching. One of the greatest hazards is a blade with a chrome content or plating since chrome is very brittle and can easily splinter off creating needle like shrapnel. Surgical steel usually contains chrome because it does not oxidise, rust, the way a normal carbon steel does. The most common metal used for a usable sword is 1060 spring steel. The 60 says the iron contains 0.60% carbon. Ten forty-five is also used sometimes, and is a pretty safe option but it will loose its edge sooner than the ten sixty blade.

    I printed out plenty of detail from various sites which I took to class one evening and discussed my options with sensei. He graciously conceded that the sword I had set my heart on looked safe enough to use in training so I placed an order.

    I settled on a katana made by Chen Paul san of Cheness Incorporated. I chose the Shura which is made from silicon steel which is extremely tough. Unfortunately this particular type is no longer sold by Cheness. Now the wait began. The service from Cheness was excellent and the total wait was less than three weeks. Then it arrived.
    The first thing which struck me was the weight. I had chosen the version without fuller; 'Bo-hi,' and it felt very heavy after the Bokken. I was extremely apprehensive of getting near the edge. Then came the realisation that 'noto' or returning the blade to the saya was also a bit more difficult than I had anticipated ... this was partly due to my distrust of the edge.
    Sensei's advice was practice, practice and more practice. Within a short time I had grown more comfortable with using the Shura. The sword sat securely in the saya and did not slip out when bowing or rolling. It released easily with a little pressure form the fingers or thumb and came out of the saya as if by magic.
    The next logical step was to test the blade. Fortunately we had a weekend seminar with a visiting sensei. The Gashku covered various short sword, 'Wakisashi,' techniques. I learned a lot but now new I would probably need to get a Wakisashi as well. The seminar was rounded off with a session of Tameshigiri. I watched the sensei and senior students do the cuts. With a bit of trepidation I stood before the mat, Slowly drew the sword and executed my first ever cut on a mat.

    What surprised me was the lack of resistance. I had put tremendous strength and effort into the cut, including a loud kia. The mat before me was cut cleanly. It offered no resistance. The Shura had not let me down.

    Since that initial cut there have been several tameshigiri sessions and the 'Shura' still cuts well. I have now got used to sensei's little comments that it is not a real sword and merely a tool. I have been extremely happy using the 'Shura.' The blade is tough and has held its edge well. This sword will continue to serve me well for many years to come.

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    Monday, March 30, 2009

    Why Japanese, Why the Samurai

    Why a Samurai blog from a man who has never been to Japan?
    Well it all started many years ago in a karate class. Seriously. I remember that I can't have been more than six or seven years old when I first learned to count in Japanese. Ichi Ni San Shi Go Roku Sichi Hachi Ku Ju.
    In truth I did not carry on with Karate. I do not know why, I just know that the next time I was in a Karate class was when I was 18 years old.
    Some where in the time between my first and second Karate classes I had the opportunity to watch the television mini-series "Shogun" based on the James Clavell novel of the same name. In this series, Mariko san teaches Anjin san (Pilot Major John Blackthorn, played by Richard Chamberlain) to speak Japanese. I wonder how many other people learned their first few Japanese words from the Shogun series?
    I must confess I have yet to read the actual novel but it is on my to-do list.

    Anyhow, I practiced Karate for a few years and for the last few years I have practiced Kenjutsu. While I thoroughly enjoyed my Karate I am finding the Kenjutsu to be more fulfilling both physically and mentally. Training with the Japanese Sword requires an understanding of the mindset of the Samurai and I believe the underlying character of the Japanese People. Many times in the class, I am drawn to the simplicity and effectiveness of a technique. More often than not my western mind rebels against this simplicity but the more I practice the clearer the wisdom becomes.

    With this in mind, I decided that I needed an outlet for all this, and that I needed to put it in a place where all could see.
    This blog is the result.

    Friday, March 27, 2009

    Samurai Today

    This blog is an attempt at generating an outlet for my interest in The Samurai, Japanese martial arts and Japanese in general.

    Hopefully I'll get some time to actually update this blog.

    Saturday, January 3, 2009

    About Me.

    Here is a little about me. 
    I am an Husband, Father, Engineer, Entrepreneur and Martial Artist.
    I have run my own business since 1998 and actively involved in Martial Arts since 1996. Karate and Kenjutsu are my pursuits of choice. Along with my introduction to kenjutsu came a desire to learn more about the Samurai and understand Japanese culture.

    And a bit about the site and its links.
    This blog contains affiliate links. That is to say, I will get something if you buy something after clicking advertising  links from my site. I only advertise products or services I have used and feel are worth while. The "Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet" is a phenomenally comprehensive course. I would recommend it to anyone who would like to use the Internet as a source of income.
    The folk at Japanesepod101 make learning Japanese Easy and Fun. The course is presented by native Japanese speakers and depending on your needs you can learn to write Kanji and even prepare for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

    I am a Business Warrior. The Business Warriors are a great bunch of folk who have helped me and hundreds of other small business folk with all manner of things related to running a small business.

    If you would like to contact me, you can email me at or use the email address on my Blogger profile page.

    The Book of Five Rings

    It is said the warrior's is the twofold Way of pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways. Even if a man has no natural ability he can be a warrior by sticking assiduously to both divisions of the Way. - Shinmen Musashi No Kami Fujiwara No Geshin