By Hiroshi Ikeda,
With translation assistance from Jun Akiyama
A myriad of martial arts has proliferated over the centuries and around the globe, leading countless individuals in pursuit and enjoyment of these various arts. Almost all of the martial arts employ weapons of one type or another.
An accomplished practitioner does not simply swing or brandish a weapon; instead, s/he "masters" the weapon and uses it as an extension of the body, much as a tiger uses its powerful forearms and claws.
In karatedo and aikido, among other arts, certain movements using the empty hand are identified: seiken (straight punch), nukite (spearhand thrust), shomenuchi (strike to the head) and yokomenuch (strike to the side of the head). By forming a "tegatana" (hand blade) or "ken" (fist), one can transform one's hand into a formidable weapon by learning to focus intent and concentrate power in the hand.
This same channeling of power must occur when wielding a weapon, regardless of its size, length, or weight. One must develop an intimate familiarity with the weapon, its physical properties and how one's body relates to it. Achieving a state of mastery, in which a foreign object becomes wholly integrated with one's being, obviously requires a great deal of sensitivity, awareness, and dedicated practice. ¹
Kyudo, the Japanese art of archery, beautifully illustrates the unification of the individual, the weapon, and the target. When all become connected, the arrow looses itself and flies into the center of the target. This is an example of progressing past the "moving" aspect to the "quiet" place. When one connects the weapon, the bow and arrow, to one's body and when one extends that spirit from one's body to the target itself, when everything becomes aligned and connected, the arrow will fly true.
All weapons, including the katana, jo, bo, yari, and naginata, must channel the strength which emanates from the practitioner's center. This will lead to the weapon's becoming "alive" and a part of one's being.
If this all sounds improbable, remember that we occasionally have the privilege of witnessing spine-tingling, breathtaking examples of mastery and perfection - sometimes on the mat, or perhaps at a musical performance, or on the playing field. When it happens, it is unforgettable.
We ourselves may experience fleeting moments of unity and harmony in our own weapons training. At that time of true connection, our weapon becomes a reflection of ourselves, a mirror for our feelings and emotions and strengths.
¹ Mastery is equated with facility. In Japanese, we use a word that translates poorly into "freedom." In this example, mastery might be defined rather ironically as freedom (dexterity and skill) through exquisite control.