Reflection on Furuya Sensei’s Posts

I have kept my opinion and perspective out of Furuya Sensei’s posts purposefully.  I have edited some of the misspelled words due to his frantic typing as opposed to his lack of skill, and I have edited out some unrelated responses to people who wrote to him and to whom he addressed specifically.

There are some reoccurring messages.  One of these is that many who practice swordsmanship today really have no idea how to use or experience with using a sword.  Much of the swordsmanship we see today is colored by still images of famous martial artists, or is changed from what it was.  The U.S. occupation of Japan at the end of WWII is partly responsible for this as many of the martial arts had to go in front of an approval board that removed pieces of the training that were too martial or instilled the spirit of sacrifice that made the Japanese such a formidable enemy.  The Kendo that emerged from that time was very different from the Kendo that predates WWII.

More than the U.S. occupation and its influence on the process of teaching and the techniques taught, was the Meiji Restoration and its employment of a conscript army that received little, if any, training with sword.  Western military strategies and weapons after the Tokugawa isolation and the subsequent dissolution of the samurai class pushed many remaining samurai to sell their swords, move to isolated areas of Japan, or, in some cases, sadly and honorably, end their lives.

Further, still, was the influence of the Tokugawa hegemony itself.  At the end of the warring states period, the relative 268 years of peace that followed transitioned the samurai out of their roles as warriors and into bureaucratic roles where wearing a sword was the extent of their swordsmanship.  Training with a sword became a duty as opposed to a necessity.

The last time swords were used as an element of combat on a large scale was over 400 years ago.  Of course, the Tokugawa Period allowed the best swordsman to refine and develop the practical techniques from their days on the field and develop and test their ryu against other ryu through sponsored tournaments and back alley duels.  Swordsmanship goes through an incredible refinement, but the number of people using swords begins a steady decline as well.  History happens, and aside from very few who seek to learn the art and preserve it, exactly as it was taught to them, swordsmanship is lost.

This is the core of Furuya Sensei’s first message.  When we find a teacher who knows swordsmanship, we must copy and remember every single element.  It is our duty as students to guarantee the transmission of the art exactly as it is was given to us.  We must train and practice and keep every lesson unique.  If we have multiple teachers over the course of our lifetimes, we must keep each lesson and technique from each of those teachers distinct from the lessons and techniques of our other teachers.  Most importantly, if we become teachers ourselves, we must resist the urge of the ego to create and teach anything other than the exact techniques and methodologies passed down to us from our teachers until we have guaranteed the complete and accurate transmission of techniques and methodologies.  If we fail, or stray from this path, Furuya Sensei’s fear will be realized and those who practice swordsmanship will just be pretending and role-playing their fantasies and will really have no idea how or ability to use a sword.