Back in my day . . . . .

Circumstances had me teach another beginners’ sword class recently, which seems to inspire one towards ranting in disbelief.

My impression of relatively new students is that they lose focus very quickly. After as little as five minutes doing one form of solo kata they begin to fidget; they look around, they scratch themselves, they check that their sword is still made of metal, they wonder how cool they would look if I allowed the curtains in front of the wall mirror to be opened, etcetera, etcetera.

Naturally this, and the fact that I am old, leads me to question as to whether people are different now than when I first learned battojutsu.

When I began training with katana all classes were on a wooden floor, no mats. We had mats, we just were not allowed to use them and for the first few years all techniques were suwari waza; no one ever stood at any point during a class. People bled from the knees and feet.

Our teacher lived in Japan and taught us the first quarter of one technique to practice during one of his visits to Australia. He then taught each of the other parts on subsequent visits, roughly every six months. So, after two years, we had one complete form to practice. It was some years after that, that we were shown our first standing technique.

We simply do not teach it like that now.

If we did, would we still have any sword students left?

Are our current students so limited in their ability to maintain focus and lacking in any willingness to push through the pain and discomfort, that, if I taught battojutsu the way I was taught, it would quickly solve my ever having to deal with beginners again?

Or is it simply that I no longer have the patience to watch them struggle through? That I am misjudging them and that they would relish the opportunity to train the way I did? That the fault lies not with them, but with me? Should I grant them the benefit of the doubt and maintain a training regime from this point on, whereby no battojutsu students will be shown any standing techniques until after their shodan, leaving the mats in the store room and instead stocking up on bandages and antiseptic wipes?

Sadly, my observations over the past few years inclines me to believe, that, for the majority of new students today, I am not wrong in my assessment.

Though it might be an interesting exercise as a ding an sich



Back when I was young, old people never complained.

Kai Cho

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