Cutting Edge Issue 2 - Page 30

After returning from the WKC in Sapporo, and once back in Kawasaki, I put it to Ishido Sensei that he might like to come back to the UK with me for a visit as I knew Vic Cook, Sam McKay, Loi Lee and Chris Mansfield had all been doing a bit of iai and didn’t have a high grade teacher. Len Bean had already been training kendo and iaido with Fujii Sensei in London and had already taken his kendo yondan and his iaido nidan at the Summer Budo Seminar in Kitamoto in August 1976. peas, gherkins and pickled onions and sleeping it off in the park. A word about Ishido Sensei: For nearly all of my time studying Japanese budo, I had been told over and over again “you won’t understand you aren’t Japanese,“ the sub-text being “so we won’t really expect too much of you, or get too upset if you get it wrong or do something stupid.” Over the years I had read lots of books on many aspects of Japanese history and culture, expertly written by learned Westerners and it dawned on me that “you won’t understand because you aren’t Japanese“ was actually pretty close to insulting or, at the very least, going to restrict any understanding of budo to the study of technique alone. . . . how modern budo fits into, and reflects, a very particular aspect of “old style“ Japanese thought and social interaction that is in danger of being lost in modern times. Along with Doctor Omura – who always tried to explain the why, as well as the how we should act in a social situation while living in Japan – Ishido Sensei was the first, and only budo sensei who ever made the effort Our first visit was to Glasgow to see Sam’s group and Sensei asked them to show him their iai. Then, very quietly, he asked me in Japanese, if he should tell them what he really thought or should he be polite. When they asked for his real opinion he was pretty uncompromising, but that set the standard for all his subsequent teaching in Europe – never “oh that was really wonderful – you are all so talented“ but absolutely honest opinion. We next went down to Brighton to see Vic Cook, and while we were waiting for Vic to finish work. So I decided to introduced Ishido Sensei to a great English custom – filling up on fish and chips, mushy 28 | CUTTING EDGE to explain the very particular do’s and don’ts associated with the more traditional budo arts and the proper relationship between shisho and deshi. For many years, I felt there has been the dichotomy between “sports budo” on one hand, and “traditional budo” favoured by those who somehow feel that competitiveness in budo is wrong or somehow impure. Thanks to Ishido Sensei’s hours of painstaking and careful explanation, a whole new fascinating area of study was opened up to me; specifically how modern budo fits into, and reflects, a very particular aspect of “old style“ Japanese thought and social interaction that is in danger of being lost in modern times. In the autumn of 1979, I was taken on, straight from the City and Guilds Art School, as a carver and gilder in the picture Framing Department at the National Gallery. Although it sounded like a great job, it turned out to be less than ideal. On my first day I was advised to always carry a hammer because certain workmates sometimes had “funny turns.“ The workshops were in a basement with no natural light, so we were bought to the surface twice a day to stop our skin from going white and our eyes