The Ego’s Defense

We were training some years ago and Furuya Sensei said something like, “Don’t drop the tip,” to a fellow student, and the student’s response was, “I am?”  Sensei’s response was not aggressive, or frustrated, but it was matter-of-fact, “Duh, I wouldn’t have said it if you weren’t doing it.”

When the teacher corrects us, we need to implement the correction immediately, yet many times we have an automatic response, physical, vocal, or mental that indicates that our mind is not on the training.  This particular student’s ego thought it was doing the technique correctly and uttered the comment in line with its discord.  His response required Sensei to say that he was, indeed, dropping the tip.  This is a second correction on the same moment.  This is inefficient in training, but it happens very frequently.

The goal of the teacher is to get the student to learn the content, and when the ego is an obstacle, it must be addressed.  Though the response was not indignant, it did require a follow-up.

In batto, the right hand follows the line of the sword so that sword and saya may work together.  The right hand should never cross the center line over to the left side of the body.  This movement creates an opening for attack and puts the sword in an inefficient position creating a reduplication of movement.  Reduplications create gaps in timing that a trained opponent will exploit.

I was teaching someone how to do the initial batto as part of our noto practice, and I told him and showed him how to do it, and then he tried to do it, moving his right hand to the left side of the body and he said, “Like this?”  I said, “No, like this,” and showed him how to do it again; he tried again and said, “Like this?” again taking the right hand to the left side of the body.  I said, “No.  Like this.”  I again showed him how to perform the movement and added, “The right hand follows the line of the sword and never crosses your centerline to left side of the body.  He tried again, “Like this?” again crossing the right hand to the left side of the body.  “No, like this.”  This interaction continued in a similar fashion and I am sad to say that I’m not really sure if the student ever got it right because his mind and body were not connected.  His mind/ego, was too busy focused on getting affirmed, with his repeated, “Like this?”  He was looking for me to say, “Yes, very good,” so that he could feel good about himself instead of thinking about doing it correctly.  When the body and the mind are disconnected there is no point in training.  Mindless exercise is not the purpose of a Do.  Had I confronted his ego, I might have gotten him to learn it then.  This is a failure of mine as a teacher, just as much as it is a failure of his as a student.

Somehow we must get past the ego’s defenses so that we may learn together.  O’Negai Shimasu>