My Experiences in Budo
by Susan Jean Eddie

Busaganashi

"My experiences in Budo" sounds rather grand and a little egoistic, but actually I feel very humbled to have had the great privilege of walking some of the way along this path of "Budo". In fact, since being asked to write this piece I have had a lot of trouble to put pen to paper, or should I say fingers to key board, as so many things keep going around in my mind, but I guess this is because my experiences in Budo are so entwined into the tapestry of my life that it is difficult to separate. Even so this exercise has a great value for me personally as I have had to reflect and look deeper, and in doing so, to my surprise, I found that I have a deep appreciation and gratitude. You may wonder why I was so surprised, as of course we should have appreciation towards our art and our teachers, and you would be right. But what was surprising was that I wasn't really consciously aware of this and it seemed to just sprout up naturally, so please don't think of me as a "good person" as I had no control over this. But any way this is the result of what? So, I would like to share with you some of the experiences and teachers that I have met along this path.

My father was always interested in anything from the Far East and also practiced Judo for a while so I guess that this sparked my interest in the Martial Arts, and actually I did practice Judo for a while when I was at still at school. At University, I joined the Karate club, this was a Saturday morning event and mainly for the students to let off steam and move their bodies after being cooped up studying. Even so this wetted my appetite and when I got my first job I was introduced by a colleague to Richard Barrett Sensei's Dojo. I was accepted as a student and from then on I was hooked!

Barrett Sensei was, and of course still is, a "Real" Sensei and even though I am now physically far from him, as I live in Japan and he lives in Spain, I am still learning from him. How can I say this? It is because a real sensei plants seeds or a seed in their students, and at the right time this will sprout and develop.

When I was first training, so many years ago, of course I started from scratch to start to learn the Goju Ryu system, and like a baby learning to walk, I focused all my energies on the physical movements unaware of what this was going to lead to in the future. The training was never easy and Barrett Sensei skillfully took us beyond what we thought were our physical or mental limits. Of course, although we think we are free and that we control our lives, actually we are limited and controlled by many things, for example culture, time, age, social status, sex, etc., etc. So, by experiencing a breaking of some of what you thought were your limits, pushing yourself in the dojo, is a chance to wake you up to questioning how your life is controlled, a chance to realize, if you like, your karma. Of course, when I was training in the dojo, I first just thought great I can now do 50 press ups instead of 20, and then 100 press ups instead of 50 etc. I was unaware of deeper/other lessons also to be learnt.

Training with Richard Barrett Sensei

As I said before, the training in Barrett Sensei's Dojo was never easy and always challenging so that we could grow as Karate-ka, which of course also means to grow as a human being. The strictness taught us to be responsible for our actions and to respect the dojo, our art and others. This sometimes meant you were not allowed to train in the dojo, but sent home to reflect on your actions, a harsh lesson, especially for one's ego, but then again who wants to be controlled by their ego?

Training in the Hastingwood Dojo (U.K.) with Richard Barrett Sensei

I will always be grateful for these lessons and for the great support and encouragement from Barrett Sensei for me to go to Okinawa and train in the Jun-Do-Kan. Wow, what an amazing experience that was. To suddenly be in a culture so unlike my own and to be sitting in front of Miyazato Eiichi Sensei, it was like a dream and one that I will never forget.

You might be thinking "here we go again, someone else boasting about training in the Jun-Do-Kan with Miyazato Sensei", but please believe me when I say that I mention it here to share with you what I learnt most from that experience, and that was the warm and generous heart of Karate.

Here I was, a foreign female, please remember this was about 30 years ago, couldn't speak the language, had only been practicing for a few years, etc., etc. but this great man with other high ranking teachers spent much time teaching me, making sure I had enough to eat, worried about me when they saw all my mosquito bites and arranged a farewell party for me when it was time for me to go home.

The author with Miyazato Eiichi Sensei

Miyazato Sensei wouldn't even accept any dojo fees. I was overwhelmed by such kindness and generosity. Sadly, Miyazato Sensei passed away 16 years ago but his memory will never die. In the dojo where I train now in Kyoto his name is mentioned most days, and when I get the chance to train in Okinawa or a sensei from Okinawa visits the dojo in Kyoto, it is obvious that he was and still is much respected and alive in people's hearts. So please listen whenever you hear his name mentioned and learn something.

The author outside and inside the Jun-Do-Kan
Yasuda Tetsunosuke Sensei gave up his valuable time to come to the Jun-Do-Kan nearly every afternoon of my one month stay, to teach me for a couple of hours.

I now live in Japan, and have done so now for a good number of years and was lucky to have found a great dojo which was at that time a branch dojo of the Jun-Do–Kan. The dojo is situated on the famous "Heizan" mountain in Kyoto and my Sensei, Ueno Yoshiaki, a strict but also kindly man, as a Buddhist priest also brings Buddhist values in to the dojo.

After a private meeting and practice with the Sensei, helped by his wife who can speak a little English, I was accepted to train in that dojo. At first I found it rather difficult not only because of the language and cultural differences but it takes time to trust another teacher especially when you have only had one teacher previously.

The name of the dojo is Jun-Ei-Kan Shi-Kan-Dojo (順栄館止観道場). This name is showing that this dojo is a place (kan) of respect and memory for Chojun Miyagi Sensei and Eiichi Miyazato Sensei (Jun-Ei-Kan). Shi-Kan means to stop and look or observe. Not only to stop and check your technique but also to stop and look at your heart.

At the entrance of the dojo you will find written:

  • あいさつをしよう (Aisatsu o shiyo) Let's greet each other

  • そうじをしよう (Soji o shiyo) Let's clean

  • せいりせいとんをしよう (Seiriseiton o shiyo) Let's keep things tidy and in order

Of course, there are many reasons for these words, but I think it teaches us to have respect and appreciation, i.e. for the dojo, for the equipment, for your Sensei, for all the teachers that have gone before, for the other members of the dojo, and of course for the Spirit of the Art. This doesn't of course only apply to the dojo. Recently I have started up my own Shiatsu Practice in my home and the same applies here, to have respect for the space, for your teachers and the patient.

Jun-Ei-Kan Shi-Kan-Dojo was opened 20 years ago by Miyazato Eiichi Sensei
Ueno Sensei is wearing the Buddhist robes

The Jun-Ei-Kan Shi-Kan-Dojo is quite big, and along the sides there are two big mirrors, with a smaller one behind the makiwara. Sensei wants us to stop and check ourselves from our little toe upwards. He has an eagle's eye and can notice if you are not well balanced, timing is out, even if your little fingers are not even. He expects us to be able to see this in ourselves and in others, to notice, to ask yourself why, and then to find the way to correct yourself. Sensei wants us to think and be responsible for our own training. Of course, you shouldn't always use the mirrors or rely on them too much as you should feel your Karate, it should become natural. In contrast with what I said earlier about thinking about your Karate, about your technique, Sensei also tells us to do without conscious thought or focus. Ha, ha, maybe this is a Buddhist riddle or Zen Koan.

Some members of the Jun-Ei-Kan Shi-Kan-Dojo after training with Tokuda Ryoyu Sensei (centre)
Sensei Ueno Yoshiaki 3rd from the left.

There is a big Buddhist Altar which is the whole width of one end of the dojo, this is Shomen. You have to step up into it to light the candles and incense before practice. The incense is to purify the space, the dojo. The candles symbolize light in the dark, realization, and as the flame continues to burn, this symbolizes your devotion and determination to continue your practice. Fresh flowers are also always placed in the altar as an offering to Buddha. Also around the dojo there are many sayings from Buddhism along the walls for us to contemplate.

The Buddhist Altar of the Jun-Ei-Kan Shi-Kan-Dojo
The 6 precepts of Buddhist teaching
On the wall of the Jun-Ei-Kan Shi-Kan-Dojo

The 6 precepts of Buddhist teaching: (see pict above)

  • Fuse - Donation. Giving anything, not only material things, with pleasure. (Could be a smile)

  • Jikai - Keep the rule. Keep reflecting on your heart and action. Don't hurt people or give them cause to worry.

  • Ninniku - Be patient. Sorrow or suffering, but believe that peace is coming to you.

  • Shoujinn - Effort. Do good things. Never do bad things. Always do your best, don't do half-heartedly.

  • Zenjou - Focus. Don't be moved by anything.

  • Chie - Wisdom. The teaching of Buddha is your friend. Make a good society by co-operating with others.

Goju Ittai - Hard and soft in one body
Caligraphy by Miyazato Eiichi. On the wall of the Jun-Ei-Kan Shi-Kan-Dojo.

There are children's classes twice a week, the youngest being 4 years old. For the kids, and any adults who join with the kids, the class starts with junbi-undo, usually with one of the older children leading. If you teach, then you are taking some responsibility and you will also improve. Of course, Sensei or a senior is watching and helping. After the junbi-undo it is on to kihon. Sensei is very strict with regards to kihon. We usually translate kihon as basics and thus think of it as for example "a basic course" meaning simple, but kihon is far more than this. The kids are then divided for kata.

After about an hour the class is called to an end, the kids have to line up and then sit correctly in seiza (kneeling) back's straight and in neat straight lines. Sensei then gives a short talk. He talks about various things for example, about how to behave in the Dojo, the meaning of a seasonal traditional festival, appreciation for your parents, teachers, natural surroundings, your life, etc. Then the kids have to clean the dojo before they go home.

When I first joined this dojo, there were only 4 or 6 kids, then suddenly the number went up to 25-30. We just couldn't understand why such a sudden jump. I think that may be the parents in this day and age are especially concerned about their kid's well-being physically, mentally and spiritually. Because Sensei is a Buddhist priest as well as a karate sensei, the parents felt that this dojo was an ideal place for their children to learn such values.

No one is ever turned away from this dojo and we have kids with mental disabilities and physical disabilities. One of the kids had had a traffic accident when he was very young and one side of his body was partially paralysed. After joining the dojo, you could see a great improvement in his physical condition which of course raised his spirits. It was a joy to see him so happy and self-confident. We also have a member who is now over 80 years of age and still training regularly. He started when he was in his late 60's and sick, on recommendation of his doctor, who knows Ueno Sensei. I have to say that this gentleman actually looks younger as each year passes.

As I mentioned before the dojo is on the mountain Heizan and it is a bit inconvenient to get there especially if you don't have your own transport. In the winter the road is often covered with snow so it is sometimes impossible to get there. Still there is one member of the dojo, a 72 year, long term karateka, who travels about two and a half hours from Osaka to train usually once or twice a week. Anyway, for adults the dojo is open for you to come any time. The key is outside. Even so because of work, etc., most of the adult members congregate at the week-end. You enter the dojo and before training you check if anything needs doing, for example cleaning, lighting the candles etc. Then you start your own training. Sempai or Sensei will correct you or you may pair off for two-man training. Of course, you look around and help others. It is like the dojos I have seen in Okinawa. Practice is usually not done in a group except for kihon, special training days, or if Sensei feels that we should practice something together. As I said before, kihon is very important and it is also easy to get lazy or into bad habits. After practice, of course we clean the dojo.

Once a month we have a special training day for black belts and after that we usually have a dinner together in Sensei's garden or in the dojo. Also, just before New Year we all gather to give the dojo a big clean "o-soji" in appreciation for the year and to prepare for the next year's training. As members of the dojo get older and reach the age of 60, Kanreiki (還暦), which is a special birthday in Japan, they are presented with a new belt. A nice idea, don't you think? Well any way I was happy to receive my belt and grateful that my health still allows me to pursue my study and continue training.

When I first was in Japan I also joined a kiko (気功) class which one of my English students had recommended. The class started with some kiko(ki) exercises, some of them being very similar to what we do in our jumbi undo. After this we would then meditate for about an hour. This was when I was first introduced to the "Micro-cosmic Orbit" (see the picture below), the pathway of Ki which flows along the back and front of the body, and later to the "Macro-cosmic Orbit" which includes the Ki pathways along the arms and legs.

The Microcosmic Orbit path way

I have to confess that at that time I wasn't good at sitting, I wanted to move my body more, but actually it is active sitting, you visualize and physically move your Ki along the pathways with your imagery. The circulation is much slower than in Sanchin but the focus and visualization is the same. If you find it hard to visualize this in Sanchin I think that it would be a worthwhile exercise to do it in either sitting or standing as a meditation, meaning to do it slowly.

Also, I would just like to mention here that in my various studies in Japan, visualization or to image is really important. It doesn't mean that it is just in your imagination as a kind of fantasy but something that you can feel, something that really exists. I really became aware of this when I started my Shiatsu study. But any way more of that later.

Another one of my experiences of Budo was in Tai Chi and I met my Sensei quite by chance (actually there are no such things as coincidences). Before I had found my dojo, I used to visit a nearby gym and a small elderly Japanese lady saw me doing some jumbi undo and invited me to join her Tai Chi class. I hadn't paid in the gym for that class, but she said don't worry I am the teacher. Any way, off we went and I had my first experience of Tai Chi. From then on I continued my practice with this wonderful teacher and learnt about softness (this doesn't mean weakness) and the beauty of the movements. Actually, I was always confused in the Karate dojo when Ueno Sensei would say "beautiful" if I managed to do some movement so, so correctly. I didn't want to be beautiful I wanted to be powerful and strong. I thought he just said beautiful because I was a woman and that this had nothing to do with being strong. But now I am a little wiser. I think that when there is harmony and synchronization with your movements and also your heart and spirit, it is so natural and it is like nature. When we say of nature that it is beautiful we don't think of it as weak. So, in our Kata, in all our movements, in our life, let's show the beauty and strength of nature. After all weren't the movements of Budo born from observing nature?

The author (middle) demonstrating the Tai-Chi Sword in Kyoto

Of course, living in Japan I have had to work to support myself, and until recently I worked in a small English conversation school as an English teacher. The working hours in Japan are very long so any free time was very precious and I wanted to train as much as I could. One day my Tai Chi Sensei invited me to go with her to watch some Japanese traditional dancing. As this was a Sunday and one of the days that I could go the dojo I declined the offer saying that I had to train. My Sensei got rather angry quoting "Bunburyodo" to me. I still didn't join her as at that time I couldn't see any connection. Another missed chance!

Budo is wide, Budo is deep, it is an element of Nature, of the Universe, and it has a heart, it has a spirit. We usually just think of Budo as a fighting art but actually it also includes the art of healing and I have been lucky enough to study under a Master shiatsu practitioner Ryokyu Endo Sensei. He is also a Pure Land Buddhist monk and his teaching of shiatsu is directly connected to Buddhism. On the back of one of the tee-shirts of the "Shinsokai" (that I was lucky enough to receive in the post last year) there is the Kanji 心技一如 meaning "Heart and Technique are the same". You may just think that this is a nice saying or, I just have to be a nice person, or even it has no relevance. But any way I really became aware of the truth of this when giving and receiving Shiatsu. It is not so much as being a "good" person rather than actually facing your true self "positive and negative aspects". It is a matter of laughing at your-self and of course a lot more. But the state of your heart reflects in the effectiveness of your technique, that I know for sure. In the Shiatsu class the Sensei will ask us to see some part of our heart, but if we can't then our technique is ineffective, i.e., the receiver can tell. I also experienced this in "Ki-shindo", Ki and heart practices which we also do as part of our Shiatsu Studies. Your heart affects your Ki which affects your body, and actually can also affect the person in front of you, i.e., partner, patient, opponent. You just have to experience.

Without growing as a human being there is no progress in your technique.
人間的成長なくして技術的進歩なし
Trying to walk with the heart of a "dark future for all" or walking with the heart of a "bright future for all".
That's me in-front. I couldn't move with "dark future for all". Just by changing my heart to "bright future for all" I could move forward.

Any way to help us develop our heart we have the Dojo kun, we have our teachers, and as for me I am also studying Buddhism. This is the core of the Tao Shiatsu of which I am studying. Actually, to say, "I am studying Buddhism" is rather passive, I am actually practicing Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism. Through this practice I realise that there is something beyond our understanding beyond our own physical strength "Tariki" 他力 "Other Force" "Great Universal Spirit" and that this can be experienced physically. Of course, this is also "Budo".

Sitting in front of the Buddhist Altar after a special ceremony to become a follower of Pure Land Buddhism.

Well I guess I have written about some of the experiences which are the reasons of my appreciation and gratitude that I spoke about at the beginning of this text. There have been many other encounters and each one of them is precious, but of course these are my memories and each one of us has our own path to tread and our own adventures to experience. Karate was born from a long history and a rich culture so it is very deep and very wide, it has a spirit. Don't just take some part and say that this is Budo. Of course, you may want to concentrate your study or practice on a specific part, style or art because of interest, ability, etc., but don't cut that part from the whole. For example, to just take the physical side is to dilute the art, is to limit your experiences, to limit the richness of your life. So, let your art broaden, deepen and enrich your life and those around you.

These days we have the internet and can get lots of information and see lots of videos of different martial arts, which is good but it is rather passive and it doesn't challenge you, it is not your experience. Please sometimes face or challenge something outside of your usual life, your usual culture, feel lost, don't know what to do, then something new is born. I am just an ordinary person, with no special skills or natural abilities, but through my practices I have met some amazing people and had some unbelievable experiences. So, if you have determination and an open heart, Budo will for sure enrich your life. I am over 60 years old now but I am still facing new challenges, new experiences and looking forward to those yet to come.

Revisiting the Jun-Do-Kan with Barrett Sensei.
The circle is complete

With much appreciation and affection to my family and all my teachers, past, present and future. Gasshou

Susan Jean Eddie
2016

“No matter how you may excel in the art of Karate, and in your scholastic endeavors,
nothing is more important than your behavior and your humanity as observed in daily life.”