Budo and satsujinken (the murderous sword)
Budo training should lead to the betterment of oneself. Those who choose the path of bushido must remain mindful that to approach training with a malevolent heart is destructive, a mindset known in kenjutsu as satsujinken (the murderous sword). Examples of swordsmen of old whose budo paths led to misfortune merely because they lacked upright characters are not as rare as one might think. But if we always approach training with a pure heart, conflicts can be faced with the confidence needed to quell hostilities and find peaceful solutions, an attitude known in kenjutsu as katsujinken (the life-giving-sword).
With this message Katori sensei opened the kenjutsu budo seminar in Vietnam March 2016. His teachings during the seminar focused on the mental challenges of training budo first. Later he spoke of budo’s many physical challenges. He spoke about the deeper meaning of budo and koryu like Katori Shinto ryu for him and for his family members who live very close to the Katori Shrine.
We then performed kenjutsu embu for Sensei so that he could gauge the level of the students. Both beginners and advanced students demonstrated their budo skills. After the embu Sensei gave advice on things he had seen in the demonstration. We noted his remarks in our notebooks so that we may practice these point later and correct them.
Next, Sensei trained with all of us and corrected all of the students. Some received new kata others were encouraged to train harder and more slowly. During the two days of the budo seminar our students trained in full yoroi. This pleased Katori sensei as it is a way to understand where to direct your cuts in kenjutsu. It also helps to strengthen the body and fine-tune kamae.
Katori sensei impressed us all with his life story and how he had started practicing budo. He also shared memories of the early times at the dojo. How people used to train in Shinbukan dojo when he just started. He indicated which things were deemed of importance in the past. He stressed that Otake Risuke Sensei would not only teach the physical aspects of budo. Otake Sensei would share his wisdom about life. The goal was to strengthen your personality, not just become physically stronger.
The second day of the seminar Pascal Krieger visited Shobukan Vietnam to meet Katori sensei. Both are highly respected in the world of budo both in kenjutsu and jodo. It was a great chance for all of us to engage with these two Sensei at the same time.
At the end of the seminar we enjoyed a traditional lunch with Sensei. We drank sake, “Can” wine and ate traditional food. We interviewed Katori Sensei about his life and his training in the past. During the many discussions Sensei reminded us: “Budo without a focus on personality is not budo at all”.