Monday, April 03, 2006

Teaching the Ultimate

"In early times in Japan, bamboo-and-paper lanterns were used with candles inside. A blind man, visiting a friend one night, was offered a lantern to carry home with him.

"'I do not need a lantern,' he said, 'Darkness or light is all the same to me.'

"'I know you do not need a lantern to find your way,' his friend replied, 'but if you don't have one, someone else may run into you. So you must take it.'

"The blind man started off with the lantern and before he had walked very far someone ran squarely into him. 'Look out where you are going!' he exclaimed to the stranger. "Can't you see this lantern?'

"'Your candle has burned out, brother,' replied the stranger."

- Paul Reps, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, Tuttle Books.

Similarly, we arm our students with the tools for enlightenment when we teach correct budo principles. However, though they may be carrying the lantern of enlightenment, they themselves do not know whether it is lit or unlit. It can be the role of the training partner to show them.

To you I ask: if my student gets thrown, ass over teakettle, by an opponent, has his lantern gone out?

Nicklaus Suino teaches iaido and other martial arts at seminars throughout North America. Information about his seminars can be found at He teacher iaido, judo, and jujutsu at the Japanese Martial Arts Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of the University of Michigan.

1 comment:

Priori2ude said...

What a great metaphor for martial arts training! I think if your student gets thrown, ass over applecart, then the student has done a good job of being an ukei. And I think he learns how useful the technique to throw can be. It's one thing for one to practice throwing someone, but it adds so much more to the learning experience to have the technique done on oneself by adding meaning to movement. On the flip side of the coin, he has helped the person throwing him by giving him the meaning of the technique as well.