Kouketsu Dojo Blog



Training and never giving up!

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Yamaoka Tesshu (1836-1888)
 
Yamaoka Tesshu’s seigan training has become quite well-known in the English speaking martial arts world thanks to John Stevens’ book, The Sword of No-Sword.
 
Tesshu’s “basic” examination required 1,000 days of consecutive practice, completed by 200 consecutive contests in a single day with other students of the Itto Shoden Muto Ryu.
 
The second level examination consisted of 600 matches over a three-day period. The highest level examination was a seven day ordeal with 1,400 matches.
 
Several of his students left accounts of their experiences. This is one:
 
Yanagita Ganjiro completed the two-hundred-match seigan on the final day of his thousand-day training period. He then practiced five hundred more days in a row and undertook the three-day, six-hundred-match seigan. Blows received from the short, thick Muto Ryu bamboo sword (shinai) were extremely painful. Yanagita recalled: "After the first day my head was full of lumps and my body covered with bruises, but I did not feel weak. On the second day I began to suffer. I thought I would have to give up halfway. I managed to continue and near the end of the day I experienced 'selflessness' - I naturally blended with my opponent and moved in unhindered freedom. Although my spirit was strong my body was weak. My urine was dark red and I had no appetite. Nevertheless, I passed the final day's contests with a clear mind; I felt as if I was floating among the clouds."
            (The Sword of No-Sword, J. Stevens)
 

Tesshu not only viewed swordsmanship as a way of disciplining the mind; he was also a practitioner of Zen and a master of calligraphy. Only his swordsmanship was passed down directly; the ‘spirit’ of his calligraphy was revived, (and is carried on by the Hitsuzendo) but perhaps it is better to say that it was by his example and spirit that he has most influenced modern disciplines.

2019-08-29
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