WSKO Official Instructor
Tama Toyota Branch Master, Japan
--- To start with, since you became a WSKO Instructor, to what countries have you traveled?
I've gone abroad for the International Taikai in France, to the western United States, to the eastern United States, and to Turkey.
At 2003 Western North-America Regional Study Session
--- What sort of things impressed you?
Let's see, the International Taikai in France was one. And then, the Turkish martial arts delegation. Also, in North America I could feel the vastness of the United States. The size of the academic city, and... overall it is truly large.
--- In France, what sort of experiences did you have?
I did judging at the international taikai, and I instructed at the international study session.
--- At the International Taikai in France, which language group did you instruct?
It was the English regions. It seems like I have some sort of fated connection to English. Of course, I still can't speak the language (laughter). What I felt was the sheer difficulty of other languages - certainly they are essential - but speaking from the requirements internal to Shorinji Kempo as a technical method and philosophy, I think after all that it is something in which we go through the technical art to achieve a communication of hearts (ishin denshin). This wordless communication via the body comes across with great ease, as a joy. In short, it's what we mean when we say "to feel."
--- Please tell us what it was like in Turkey.
The delegation to Turkey was part of Nihon Budokan's annual Japanese Martial Arts Delegation, so there is a set pattern to it. There is always some kind of interaction with local people and we do an experiential training session. In the experiential training, there were a lot of junior high and high school age kids with absolutely no experience in martial arts. Being young, they mostly had pragmatic questions. Things like, "In a fight in Turkey we do such and such, but what would you do in Shorinji Kempo?"
--- Does that mean Turkish people are especially combative?
It's not that they're combative, but if you think back to the days of Turkey in the Ottoman Empire, it was continuous with the continent so the spirit of being able to defend oneself physically was characteristic. They also assert their own thoughts very clearly. Their way of expressing things is specific, compared to Japanese people. They come right out and say, "Ow," or "I'm stuck," or "I don't understand." Europeans and Americans are the same in this. To that extent, their joy when they understand is that much greater.
--- So, you also performed a demonstration?
In the morning we did an experiential training session, then we paid a courtesy visit to the hosting city's mayor at city hall, and in the evening we performed the demonstrations. The demonstrations began around 6 p.m., and it took until around 10 p.m. to do them all. The people there were all well disposed toward Japan and a crowd, including kids, participated until around 10 o'clock at night. They seem to have an affinity for Japan as a country. They participated earnestly, wanting to know even more.
--- Tell us about the study session in Ann Arbor too.
Participants came from the U.S. and Canada, and of course, the thing common to them all - you could see it in terms of Shorinji Kempo interpersonal relations - was that because they are a small minority, I could really feel a strong spirit of solidarity among them. Each of them knows well where the others are. So, they join their strengths. It was a good atmosphere.
--- Apparently there were people who drove by car for ten hours to come to the session.
That's right, that's right. Really, when I think about whether or not we could carry out such an event under those conditions in Japan, well, it would be really tough. You know, it's the charisma of Shorinji Kempo and the people involved in it that makes that happen.
--- Were there any technical characteristics that you noticed?
Well, this is not limited to Ann Arbor, but what comes across in general is that people overseas spend time practicing repeatedly both the right and left. Japan really needs to learn from this. Intrinsically, self defense has neither right nor left. Also, when you're doing it for fun, if you can do the right, then next comes the left... In short, the idea is to try doing things not just on your good side, but also the other. They spend time on that.
--- When you instruct overseas, what do you keep in mind?
Of course, if you know local culture in advance, it's easy to distinguish between things you shouldn't do and things you must. There are times when Japanese culture doesn't work without adjusting, and sometimes the reverse is true. I'm careful about things like that.
--- What about in technical instruction?
Moreso than when I'm in Japan, I express clearly when something is ineffective or defective. Then, when they do get it, I praise them. In this way I distinguish clearly the effective and ineffective. I often use this gesture that says, "mistake" (hands crossed in an "X"). The attendees also seem to want to know what counts as a mistake. Unlike in Japan, they are not in an environment that allows them to study anytime, so they have a strong desire to look and listen. A part of them seems famished. Also, at Ann Arbor I got a sense that the local branch masters are of two minds. One idea is, "in order to increase the number of kenshi, it seems better to emphasize technical aspects," and on the other hand, "because it is the essential matter that makes Shorinji Kempo what it should be, it seems better to pursue the moral aspects." In other words, it's a problem of amount or a problem of quality.
--- Are there countries you'd like to go to next time?
Let's see. I have no wishes in particular, and I'll go anywhere. What I want is to enjoy meeting people. That goes within Japan as well. I'll think, "I wonder what sort of new members will come this month?" or "I wonder what kind of people I will meet." In the end, it's about encounters with people. Learning over time that there are certain kinds of people and certain kinds of cultures is also fun for me. I think that if I practice giving back to Shorinji Kempo what I receive, then that is good for both myself and others.
--- Any words for overseas kenshi?
If you have the chance, come to Japan - I would like you to experience for yourself Shorinji Kempo's home base. If that is not possible, I would like for you to go to a WSKO study session and make contact. If you are wearing the chest patch and can do gassho rei, then you can understand people's essential character via techniques, and so you can become part of the circle. I would like to increase our circle of friends as much as possible.
--- Thank you very much.
Interviewed on December 14, 2003, at the WSKO Secretariat