Budo (Japanese martial arts) and spirituality. That’s a topic that has been on my mind for a while. When I began working here at Tozando, my awareness of budo and its different aspects wasn’t particularly good. Through my work here, the training, events and moreover the budoka (practitioners) I have met from all over the world, I have come to understand how powerful budo is.

mokuso meditation in dojo

Of course, I think every sport will help someone to connect with their spirit, but that judgement that exists around very popular sports about winning and losing can be very stressful and distracting.

This is something that I haven’t seen happen that much in Kendo, Iaido or other budo. The point is not about winning/losing or how to get better, stronger than the other. It is about self-evolution. All budo require one to be focused, to be in the moment, to know your weak and strong points and use them all effectively and positively. Something you think is a weakness for example it can be turned into your strength. There is no good or bad. Everything is a process of learning about yourself and evolving through a medium. Whether that be Kendo, Iaido or any other martial art.

Ando Sho striking Men at the 66th All Japan Kendo championship

I came to the above conclusions after watching many keiko (training), shiai (tournament/match) and events and also happened to talk to budoka. Regardless of the outcome, they all have a big smile after their keiko or their shiai is done. You don’t hear, “Oh this guy cheated, so I lost.” or anything similar. You hear, “The opponent made some great moves. I will try to employ them in my practice from now on.” or “I lost, but I learnt a lot and am looking forward to the next opportunity.” In general, there is a positive vibe around budoka that, personally, I haven’t happened to see a lot of in my life from other people.

What really impresses me about budo, is how it inspires people to better themselves. After starting work here in Kyoto, I wanted to start a budo that will fit that purpose. Kendo came to mind first – all the kendoka (someone who practices kendo) I have met here are always so energetic and positive that their motivation and enthusiasm is infectious – unfortunately due to a hand injury it would have been dangerous to start due to the physical contact. Luckily, one of my colleagues has been doing Iaido for many years and after talking with him I thought that Iaido may be what I am looking for.

Drawing Japanese sword Katana

In Iaido you don’t have an opponent and need to “create” one – this requires an awful lot of focus. Of course, this is not easy, not easy at all to be honest. Especially if you are self-conscious, it is going to take a lot of time. But whether there is a real opponent or a fantastic one, you learn to be comfortable yourself, you learn to be confident, brave, positive: you’re connecting with people without exchanging a word.

Budo requires focus on present, the mind and body to be there in that exact moment. By learning that you learn to have control over your thoughts, that your brain loves to make you spend time with, you get a deeper connection with your spirit and learn the real you, I think. There is nothing that makes a person stronger than being in the present and connected to their spirit. I am excited about continuing my exploration into Iaido and to see what positive changes I can make.

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Tozando - From Kyoto to the World since 1989