Sunday, 23 October 2016

Martial Arts & Fitness - What do we even know about fitness?

Quality.  This is a word all martial arts instructors live by.
Knowledgeable.  This is another one.
Informed.  Yet another one.

And I would venture to believe that most instructors consider themselves to be all three.  In my many years of martial arts training I find myself, being in my mid-thirties, as having had the fortune of meeting some of the world’s best practitioners and instructors.  One thing they all share in common is their enthusiasm for their sport.

Most people come to martial arts because a specific need arose in their life.  That need maybe fitness or self-defence, and in joining the art the practitioner may end up gaining more than they originally sought.  Many practitioners, having experienced some profound life change through their art, feel incredibly grateful for it and out of good intentions wish to share that experience with others and pass their knowledge on – and so the instructor is often born.

Many instructors begin their journey by way of good intentions.  Few instructors wake up one morning and think, ‘oh, today I want to be the world’s worst instructor’.  However, no matter how good the original intentions to begin teaching, sooner or later, the decision to start up a club and the decision to start teaching brings with it a requirement to bring in students through the front door.  Unfortunately, in my experience, the build it and they will come mentality just doesn’t produce students.

Having looked at many club’s marketing literature one thing they all seem to share in common is ‘fitness’.  This has got me thinking.  What instructors training do instructors actually receive in ‘fitness’.  How do they even define ‘fitness’?  Is it well-being, cardio-vascular endurance, what?  To get their black belt they had to learn moves for sure, but ‘fitness’ theory?  Not so much.  My experience on the main shows me that many martial arts instructors are uninformed, without proper knowledge, and simply unable to provide quality fitness instruction.

For example; all fitness instruction should start with lectures on macro-nutrients.  This is the basic idea that all food is reducible to carbs, proteins and fat.  It is surprising that many individuals do not understand basic nutrition.  This is evidenced by our great love affair with carbs, which are ultimately responsible for weight gain.  No one ever got fat on proteins!  Any bodybuilder knows, if you truly want to lose weight start with your diet, the gym work is secondary to that.

Neurological pathways:-  this is the idea that different forms of intensity produce different results and can only be sustained for a defined period.  These pathways should inform the instructor’s basic programming.  Why?  Because quality can only be sustained with limited repetitions, but quantity will force muscular adaption.  This is why kata only use one move at a time and then moves on to the next, whilst basic training is about repetition and number crunching.  Why is this even important?  Because if you number crunch and expect perfection every time you are being unrealistic.  That neurological pathway is unable to sustain that degree of intensity whilst retaining quality and forcing your student to do the impossible will not only cause them frustration but risk them injury.

It is also important to understand that number crunching is important.  Why?   The brain is structured by way of cellular synapse.  Your brain, much like a hard-drive, is limited in terms of how much space it has.  If memories or knowledge are filing cabinets, there must be a basic pathway to that knowledge, like a road.  As your brain is only able to support so much, the brain will decide which knowledge banks are unimportant and will break down those pathways to free up space.  This process is called ‘pruning’. 

By training through repetition we create numerous pathways to the same filing cabinet.  The more pathways we have the less chance we have of forgetting something, and the quicker and more readily available that cabinet or knowledge becomes.  Again, why is this important?  I have met instructors who themselves hate number crunching.  They find it boring and unenjoyable because they didn’t like having to do it when they were learning, and yet they fail to recognise the advantage they gain by ditching this teaching method, least of which is cardiovascular conditioning, which is itself a basic competent of fitness training.

I think back over the years and think, I’ve never heard an instructor talking about muscular motor recruitment patterns.  This is the idea that certain muscles work together to gain more efficient movement.  If these instructors were really serious about fitness they would be making their students undertake metabolic conditioning (elevated heart rates through repeated repetition), through exercises which improve not just their mid-line stabilisation (balance and core), but which also support their basic martial arts movements.  An example would be air squats and leg lunges to improve basic forward stance or kamae.  

These same instructors fail to isolate muscle groups and use their lessons to isolate muscle areas.  Their lessons, often performed on the fly, are a mix of movements without any observable linkage.  A linked lesson could be: begin with basic foot/body movement, preform a met-con of air squats and lunges, and then do kick work.  This is an example of a ‘leg day’, and is also an example of isometric conditioning, a method of fitness training common to bodybuilders.  

At the end of the day, we all want others to experience that profound experience we experienced when we began martial arts.  As educators ourselves, all I would say is that we require education in the very things that we want to promote.  Our martial art does not teach us about fitness and does not arm us to provide this form of training to others.  All I would suggest is that if you want to take ‘fitness’ seriously, it is important to learn about it yourself just as seriously as you learnt about your martial art in the first place.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Reflections on Martial Arts Strategy

"Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it." – Buddha

One of my students and I sat the other day and discussed martial arts strategy.  “It is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of our martial arts” I explained.  As much as we’d like to believe, no martial art is all encompassing.  As martial artists we tend to favor and prefer the art that we have dedicated our lives towards.  Sometimes our passion towards these blinds us to the obvious.  The reason for this is often that a lot of hard work, blood, sweat, tears, financial resources and time have all been invested into these.  This is why many of us feel committed to what we do.  None of us want to admit that perhaps we have wasted these precious assets on something that was folly.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “if passion drives you, let reason hold the reins”.  It is unreasonable to believe that any martial art is capable of being all things to all men.  Each martial art was after all designed with a specific goal in mind.  Let’s take Aiki-based martial arts as an example.

Toshishiro Obata suggests that Aiki-jujutsu was originally designed to deal with matters relating to castle law and correct etiquette between senior samurai officers in conflict scenarios.  Let’s consider Suwari Waza.  The samurai were not meant to stand above their feudal lords, nor spill blood in front of them.  Doing so was deemed bad manners and could carry grave punishments, including seppuku (ritual suicide).  This is one of the reasons way it is thought that Suwari Waza was originally created, i.e. to sub-due a colleague, without standing and drawing blood.  Likewise, why is it that many Aiki-based techniques begin from wrist grabs?  Some would argue that it was because the wrists of samurai warriors, in full armor, were poorly protected.

All of this makes sense within the correct historical context.  From a martial arts strategy point of view, the goal of these techniques were logical.  It also makes sense why Karate would not work in the same scenario.  The martial arts strategy of Karate is considered by some to be, strike an aggressor, over power him and render him incapable of further violence.  Originally designed by farmers to defeat wayward samurai (i.e. a samurai misbehaving, rather than on the battlefield), these techniques were performed standing and often resulted in great physical damage to the opponent.  There were no Suwari Waza and soft techniques which did not draw blood.  Karate’s martial arts strategy was therefore unsuitable for castle etiquette, which should appear obvious given the context.

The context of a martial art is important to practitioners.  We have become accustomed to espousing the virtues of UFC and MMA, as an example.  However, let us not forget that their martial arts strategy is often one of hand to hand combat which takes place 1 on 1 within the confines of the ring environment with a referee to hand should the fight get out of control.  These techniques, whilst highly effective within such situations, are not always conducive or practical for group combat and police restraining type scenarios. 

Every martial art has its own strengths and weaknesses and it is important for all students of these to understand their martial arts strategy.  It is important to be mindful about our passions and to consider them rationally.  This should allow each and every one of us to act more professionally whilst avoiding making claims about our arts, which to the educated may at first seem unsustainable thereby degrading the value of that art and the professionalism of that teacher to the wider audience.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Why study swordsmanship in the 21st century?

Why study swordsmanship in the 21st century?  This is a really good question.  Its not typical that we all walk around with swords challenging each other to duals.  Its not normal that modern warfare is carried out using steel swords anymore (why haven't we invented light sabres yet?!).  So why study swordsmanship in the 21st century - and Japanese swordsmanship at that.

I’m been grappling with this question for some time and answers come in dribs and drabs.  The answer I give below, I believe, is a rational one and one that hopefully many of you will share.  It essentially comes down to the concept of what does swordsmanship teach.  I believe that swordsmanship teaches self-defence, at least in the historical context.  There was once a time when you could be challenged to a dual, and when your skills as a swordsman would have dictated whether you lived or died on the battlefield.  Those days are of course gone, so where then does the threat originate in the 21st century?

Its interesting that many people still take up martial arts because of the threat of physical violence.  It is interesting to note that last year an estimated 22,000 muggings and robberies occurred in the UK, the majority of which occurred without physical injury to the victim.  Thats 0.037% of the UK’s population.  

However, in contrast 24,000 people died year from diabetes and 9.3% of the population continue to suffer from it.  64% of adults were classed as obese, 124,000 individuals suffered from heart attack, a massive 44% of people were clinically diagnosed with stress, and 9% of the population suffered with depression.  A massive 80% suffered from a bad or weak back, 47% suffered from repeat chronic migraines, and 51% suffered from asthma.  The list could go on and on.  

Coming back then to the point in question, by trade I’m a risk manager.  I assess and advise people of the risks they are exposed to, the likelihood of them occurring and what options are available to them.  I don't believe I have to tell you that the risk of physical death or injury from poor health is more likely than that from physical violence.  This to me is what swordsmanship directly combats in the modern world.  This is what modern self-declare guards against.  

Martial arts use traditional methods to allow the practitioner to reshape and redevelop their body.  We use traditional systems and concepts to challenge and stimulate the brain.  Patterns, forms and routines are used to teach.  They are also used to better learn fundamental concepts of what it is that you are doing, whether these be timing, balance or distance routines.  According to a study published by Neurology in 2010, these brain teasers also help prevent dementia in those who practice them.  Now that, to me, is an interesting byproduct of training.

Swordsmanship has numerous benefits over hand to hand combat systems.  In Judo, Jujutsu, Aikido and Karate physical contact is required to train with another.  These sports are often deemed high impact in that you are often thrown and land on the mat with a thud.  To limit the impact the person being thrown learns to break their fall (break fall), thereby limiting the impact.  The problem is that an impact still occurs.  This is usually unproblematic when you are in your 20s, not so unproblematic by the time you are in your 50s and 60s.  Swordsmanship doesn't suffer from this in that there is little physical impact on your body, bar the movements that you yourself are making.   This results in swordsmanship being nick named, the “grandpa” art, in that you can keep doing it until you are very advanced in age.  Threat of injury and degenerative bodily ageing rarely stop a practitioner from practicing, meaning that practitioners can continue to keep themselves socially mobile and physical fit for longer thereby improving one’s quality of life.

Anyone who has ever done a hard sword session can attest to the physical demands it can place on the body.  This core bodily routine is an excellent way of losing weight and keeping in shape.  On the contrary, the speed or variability of the routine can be tailored to a slower audience allowing the session to be more mentally challenging and less physically demanding should the occasion require.  This, I feel, is the great versatility of swordsmanship.  It can be made to carter for all needs depending on one’s audience.

Swordsmanship isn't however just a session of physical wellbeing, it still continues to teach the traditional elements of martial arts such as:-  how to use the body as a weapon, how to use a sword with precision and how to defend one’s self in a fight.  But in a true fashion of self-defence I also believe that swordsmanship also protects it’s practitioners against the greater threat of injury or death, that being the threat of poor health.  With this in mind, this is why I believe we should study swordmanship earnestly.

So why Japanese swordsmanship?  Firstly, Japanese swordsmanship has survived the transition into the 21st century, unlike many western forms of swordsmanship.  Secondly, the impact of zen on the martial arts has meant that the Japanese typically look at martial arts a little differently from westerners.  In the west when boxing and sword fighting were no longer deemed the latest in warfare we switched those arts to sports.  In Japan they switched those arts to ascetics.  The Japanese method of ascetics often means that older unfit individuals can still continue to train and benefit from something that is both historically authentic but which meets the physical needs of the practitioner more relevantly.  After all, sports are great when you’re in your 20s and 30s, but beyond those years their appeal begins to wane for some.

It is with all the above in mind and to this end that I would conclude that to be passionate about swordsmanship, to fully train in it, and to fully understand it, is to fully protect one’s self, and one’s family, from the greatest threat posed - that of poor health, not just physical violence.  I believe, and I might be biased here, that the art I study and teach - Shinkendo - is the exact embodiment of what such a style of swordsmanship should be in that it is interesting, exciting, and fun, but it also has an massive beneficial impact on one’s physical wellbeing and health the longer you train in it.  This to me is good self-defence and exact why you should train in swordsmanship.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

On the importance of attending seminars

Within the last 2 months I have had a pleasure of teaching firstly on the BAA Summer School Seminar, held over 2 days in Yorkshire; and secondly at the 1 day Introduction to Shinkendo Seminar held in Milton Keynes.  This has reminded me of the importance of attending such events.

The phrase martial arts is effectively made up to two words (rather self-evident).  The first is martial, which is defined in the dictionary as being “suitable for, or associated with war or the armed forces”.  The second is art, which is defined in the dictionary as being “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form”.

In the first instance the study or suitability of what we learn, specifically relating to “war” can only truly be learned in parallel with ours.  As we often explain, a martial art school, at its core, provides you with a platform to learn key skills whether that be distancing, timing, balance or power generation.  Many of the techniques taught are at their simplest, expressions of these ideas.  However, to truly understand and learn these principles a significant level of experience is required.  This experience must be gained in association with a training partner, and the more training partners you have the greater the width of the experience you gain.  People often ask me whether my martial art works?  This is often the wrong question.  The correct question should be, can I make my martial art work?  And for me to give an answer to this question would require a great breath of experience encompassing a wide variety of people, gained via first hand experience.  This is because if I can only make my techniques work on small skinny guys weaker than me then a question on whether I can really make it work, and whether it is in fact suitable are inevitable consequences of this.

The interesting thing about martial arts is the various breath of styles out there.  From Karate, Judo, Jujutsu, Hapkido, MMA, UFC to KungFu and Crane.  What becomes even more interesting is that even within those styles, such as Karate, these often break down further into system such as Shotokan, Wado-Ryu or Kempo.  Even further these styles break down again, from Soft to Hard styles to Competition Focused, Kata Focused or pure martial/street training.  Martial arts are just so wide and yet they cater for absolutely EVERYONE.  The reason people pick their martial art is often various, but the reason they stay is purely because that style offers them something that they are after, which is often very personal and distinct.  This is a key reason that the “my martial art is better than your martial art” is often a flawed argument.  Aikido is a key example of this.  I may be late aged, a little unfit, an office worker, and crave some social interaction.  The style that may appeal to me maybe very soft, focus a lot on internal/spiritual ideas, and may lack a high degree of martial elements (i.e. hard style training).  Whilst it may not be for everyone it does offer “me” what I am after and to that degree few can argue against that.  You may disagree with my choice but ultimately that is the benefit of consumer choice.  This idea ultimately relates back to the point raised prior of art being the “expression or application of human creative skill and imagination”; i.e. the art I choose to study ultimately forms the basis of how I choose to express myself.  As I’m an individual my choice of expression is rarely likely to match that of yours.  For reference my own martial desire relate to high martial practicability, scientific biomechanics and pure logical efficiency - but that maybe a symptom of the way my brain is wired.

On the other completely opposite side of the spectrum is the reality that techniques evolve and change.  My martial experience may offer me a new insight, which allows me to be “creative” with what I have experienced through my training with others.  This hard earned wisdom may help me to develop or change my techniques in new directions, directions that I may deem to be more efficient, applicable or suitable.  It is arguable that as martial “artists” this creativity/imaginative element is our duty to learn and refine.  This ultimately is why we continue to train isn't it?  To become more effective and efficient at what we do?

So heres the crux of it all - seminars are just so important to attend because they directly feed into what it means to be a martial artist.  Firstly they offer you the opportunity to train with new people who you have never trained with before.  To put your metal to the test and see whether what you do is truly suitable when done against someone who is not your usual routine training partner.  Secondly they offer you an opportunity to see A) what others have in terms of their style (whats the differences between theirs and yours); and B) they give you an opportunity to see the “creativity” and “imagination” element of others and what wisdom their training has brought them that they might be able to share with you.  In some instances they may have gone down a completely different path from where you are, and thats okay.  In others they have be a little further along your path than you and may provide you with a small new insight that helps you progress just ever so much.  Ultimately I can’t stress the importance enough of just how important and beneficial it is for us as martial artists to attend these events with your fellow budoka should you get the opportunity.  The opportunities they offer you to grow cannot be espoused enough.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Martial Arts vs. Bodybuilding

The other day I was discussing bodybuilding with this personal trainer friend of mine and it got me thinking.  Many of the things he described directly relate to Martial Arts.  For this blog I thought I’d recap our discussion for you.

The conversation began in terms of how much weight could I bench press.  We’ll call the trainer Al for the purposes of this blog and to protect identities.  Al explained, no matter how much I thought I could bench press he personally guaranteed me that in reality I could only bench press half that.  Looking at him incredibly I asked him to explain why he felt that to be true.

Al explained to me, most of the guys pushing weights in gyms all had this idea of what pushing weights looked like.  He felt that on the face of it, it looked easy.  Barbell up, barbell down - easy.  Except Al felt it was anything but easy.  Al said to me, yeah, most of the guys in the gym looked big but looking inward you’d miss the context.  Al felt that the context was time.  These people had been training for so long, throwing anything and everything at themselves, that eventually some stuff stuck, but if you asked them what had contributed to their growth inevitably they wouldn't really know nor understand.  Al then made a bold prediction.  He proclaimed that if a person truly understood what they were doing they could get big and ripped in under two years.  How big I asked him, Schwarzenegger big he explained.  It was at this point that Al really caught my interest.

In my mind I started doing the math and relating it back to martial arts. It is true that over the years I have met many individuals who have trained for longer than I, but occasionally some were nowhere near my level.  On reflection this was often because anatomically I have a better idea of what was going on than they, and my own teacher taught me the principles and ideas behind what I was doing rather than the up - down mentality.

Back to the topic of how much weight could I bench press.  Al turned to me and said, 99% of the people in the gym don’t really understand the technique of bench pressing.  They all rock up at the gym expecting it to be easy.  In terms of the tempo they see guys on the internet going a million miles an hour and automatically assume that that’s how its done.  Again Al said, watching it in this way misses context.  In the first, those going fast who know what they’re doing have years and years of body conditioning behind them hence why they go at that speed.  In the second, there are those who truly don't know but feel they do know, and matching there technique and speed would be the blind leading the blind.

Sitting there I said to Al, is there really that much technique behind a bench press - surely its up, down - go home.  Al laughed and said, you’re as bad as the rest of them.  Al explained to me, that to do one repetition correctly the arms and chest had to be aligned just right.  With the bar balanced on the chest, weight applied against the muscle, feeling the correct tension in the fibre, you lowered the bar keeping the weight applied all the time.  Slowly the bar goes down, once the bar touches your chest, slowly push the bar back up, never allowing the muscle tension to slack or slip.  The speed you go down must match the speed coming up, whilst keeping arm and wrist alignment all in the same place.  Al said, doing a bench press like this, concentrating on all elements at once, your muscle will struggle.  To cope you’ll have to drop the weight, hence half what you can currently do.

Truly incredibly I sat there flabbergasted.  Al concluded, most come to the gym, do their number crunching and go home.  After a while they make no gains and get frustrated.  Shortly after they quit and never come back.  So there it is, to a do a bench press you have to concentrate on body alignment, correct balance and hand positioning, and the timing and speed at which you move.  All of that directly applies to martial arts also.  

Sitting there I connected the dots and conceded to Al’s point.  He was right.  Doing the math it made me think.  How often do people see jiyu-waza (free form), done at speed, either unarmed or with sword (tachiuchi), and think - ah thats how its done.  You see it at seminars.  You show a technique or a form and everyone rushes off to badly execute it over and over again in a zorro like fever.  As a teacher I often sit back shacking my head thinking, yes you’ve seen what I’ve done - just - but you lack the context.  I’ve been doing this for years hence my speed.  If you want to gain that speed, slow down, do it exactly, and concentrate on the exact technique.  Concentrate on your body positioning/posture, your balance and your timing as that is far more important than any speed you think you might have.  I knew this, I often lectured on it, and here I was hearing my own thoughts thrown back at me but in a different context - i.e. bodybuilding rather than martial arts.

For my part, these days when I train with others I often abandon the speed and concentrate solely on my form.  Is it exact?  Is it economical?  Could I improve my balance etc.?  By doing this my speed increases naturally, I don't aim for it, its a natural byproduct.  After all, speed masks a 1000 mistakes.  If you want speed don't rush what you’re doing - slow down.  Make your technique exact and speed will be a product of that economical body movement.

On reflection I often think that it is perhaps this method of training that has helped me advance rapidly given my relative time served.  Anyone training in the same way could achieve the same results.  Knowing this I had to stop and agree - this PT knew what he was talking about and probably could get you to Arnold like proportions within 2 years, providing you knew how to do all the techniques correctly.  In my mind it was easy to see how this directly correlated to martial arts.  I’m not sure I’d repeat the same bold claim but I do share the sentiment.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Creating a Milton Keynes dedicated dojo

To all my students.

As many of you may know, I began Shinkendo UK in 2008 with the express purpose of promoting and regulating Shinkendo and Aikibujutsu within the UK.  Since its formation the organisation has hosted Toshishiro Obata Kaiso twice and Nidai Soke Yukishiro Obata once.  Our local dojo has taught classes non-stop, uninterrupted for some 7 years without break.  Annual seminars and gradings have been run and organised - and overall everything has been run pretty smoothly.

In all this time a dream of mine has always been to one day open a full time dojo - a true UK honbu.  This dojo would be available to students 24/7 and provide an authentic feeling and a degree of thrill factor to students who train in it.  Take for example the superb looking dojo owned by Sensei War Lewis:

I must admit that every time I look at War’s dojo I feel envious.  

Learning Japanese Martial Arts is rewarding, but it is also my feeling that the environment in which you learn is equally important.  Over the years I have trained in halls that are filthy, where fire alarms have gone off non-stop and where the temperature has been sub-zero.  Where the mats are not owned by us, have on occasion been covered in blood and have been ripped up and ruined by others.  The upshot is that I have begun to feel that renting or using space owned by others begins to hinder the overall experience of learning, and thus reduces the student’s enjoyment and experience.  Who of you wouldn’t like to train in the dojo pictured above?

I have begun to research what is needed to create a venue of our very own, to call our home.  The costs are not terribly prohibitive and overall I feel that the proposition could be turned into a reality by Q1 2016.  However, as you may recall - the organisation runs non-profit for the purposes of promoting and regulating Shinkendo and Aikibujutsu only.  To this degree we would, as an organisation, have to fund raise in order to meet our initial outlay - and that is where you come in.

Currently we are taking steps to upgrade our website, which is long overdue.  It is expected that this will go live shortly.  Once done we will be launching a “kickstarter” type programme, which I hope and pray you will all be positive towards.  My plea is that you share this link with all your friends, family, enemies, pets and anyone who will listen - with the express plea of assisting us in raising the required startup fee.  This campaign has not yet been launched but nevertheless a preview can be seen below:

Please don't share this link yet until the campaign has officially been launched.

So why am I doing this?  Picture the benefits and ease of access to a dojo that is 24/7.  Greater frequency in when you train allows a wider breadth of chance/ability to train.  Next is the ease at organising weekend seminars, sessions with other teachers (e.g. I'd like to invite Sensei Joe Thambu over), ability to have private lessons and tameshigiri events.  Its all easy and cost effective when the venue belongs to you.  Another benefit is the thrill factor and the enjoyment factor students get from being able to train in such a dedicated environment.

So what are the draw backs?  Well, the likelihood is that our mat space would reduce.  Our existing hall is big and any venue I get would be smaller than what we currently have.  Also, the fees would need to go up to represent the new cost of the venue and to reflect the scheduled availability of training.  This would require your buy in.  If we raised the current fees in advance of our launch this would certainly help speed the process and reduce the startup outlay we need to raise in the initial.  This again would require your buy in and support.

Overall, the project itself will require a lot of work but I am confident and motivated to do it.  Its been a long term ambition of mine and seeing others make it a reality has given me the push to do it also.  The benefits out way the draw backs to me - and the increased availability should hopefully feel very positive to you, plus the improved training environment.  The purpose of this blog post is to keep you appraised of whats going on behind closed doors, to put you on notice of our intentions and to begin to secure your buy in.  To this degree I strongly encourage all of you (past, present or future students) to please provide feedback on this proposition at the earliest convenience.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

25th anniversary of the founding of Shinkendo

The 10th of May 2015 marked the 25th anniversary of the founding of Shinkendo, which began in 1990.  its only right to start this off saying Happy Birthday Shinkendo and say thank you to Obata Kaiso for his dedication to our art.  To put this period into perspective:-  Judo began 1882, Shotokan Karate began 1930s and Aikido began 1930s.  When put along side these classical martial arts Shinkendo is relatively new.  This becomes apparent when we consider the volumes of literature written about each of these arts.  Lets consider the stats:

1.   Google

“Karate” - 94, 700,000
“Judo” - 52,400,000
“Aikido” - 15,400,000
“Jujutsu” - 625,000
“Shinkendo” - 73,800
“Aikibujutsu” - 16,200
“Aikijutsu” 1,190

2.   Amazon

“Karate” - 5,587
“Judo” - 2,582
“Aikido” - 1,738
“Jujutsu” - 406
“Aikijutsu” - 10 
“Shinkendo” - 4
“Aikibujutsu” - 2

In one respect these stats are expected.  Those arts with the highest hits have greater periods of maturity behind them.  So here is the questions to my fellow Senior Instructors, is it time that we began to contribute to the future of our art and begin to write our own books and literature with the direct aim of spreading, developing and maturing what we have learnt directly from Obata Kaiso?

This applies equally to Aikibujutsu.  The name of our organisation is Aikibujutsu Tanren Kenkyukai.  This effectively means that we're a research society, attempting to understand and re-learn classical Samurai Aikijutsu.  To my fellow Aikibujutsu Senior Instructors; over the years we have all trained with various martial artists and experienced many different styles.  All of our classes have slightly different spins and points of focus to each other.  Do we likewise not owe it to the future of our organisation to begin to put our experiences and knowledge down on paper in order to spread, grow and expand what we have accumulated from Kaiso, and others, so far?

Finally, Shinkendo and Aikibujutsu are international organisations with dojos on nearly every continent in the world.  Is it time that we began to build bridges with our foreign cousins with a direct aim of getting together Senior Instructors and allowing them each periods to teach slots?  This format of Seminars is already common and well established within the Karate, Aikido and Kendo communities.

I myself have no answers to these questions, neither can these questions be answered by one individual alone.  I would therefore directly challenge my colleagues to consider these questions and offer their thoughts.