"Slowly the thinker went on his way and asked himself: What is it that you wanted to learn from the teachings and teachers, and although they taught you much, what was it they could not teach you? And he thought: It was the Self, the character and nature of which I wished to learn. I wanted to rid myself of the Self, to conquer it, but I could not conquer it, I could only decieve it, could only fly from it, could only hide from it. Truly, nothing in the world has occupied my thoughts as much as the Self, this riddle, that I live, that I am one and am separated and different from everybody else, that I am Siddhartha; and about nothing in the world do I know less than about myself, about Siddhartha."
-- Herman Hesse, Siddhartha, Bantam Books.
Similarly, most of us try on many hats as we learn the martial arts. It can take many years to realize that we can be ourselves as we practice, that our practice has value even if we do not adopt an artificial persona, that of our teachers, perhaps, or of a martial arts actor. It is only when one is fully oneself in practice, in fact, that one can make real progress in the internal goals of budo. Moreover, the genuine martial artist is the only true teacher of budo. By being genuine, the true teacher leads by example as well as by words.
Nicklaus Suino teaches iaido and other martial arts at seminars throughout North America. Information about his seminars can be found at www.artofjapaneseswordsmanship.com. He teacher iaido, judo, and jujutsu at the Japanese Martial Arts Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of the University of Michigan.