2017 Jan 05 : Don't be mean during practice.

Today at practice, I used the word "mean". I said something like, "When you hit someone, don't hit them with a gentle, loving feeling. You should have a little bit of a mean feeling."

I wish I didn't use the word "mean". It's not the correct word. I should have used a word like "intense" or "focused" or "strong". Any of these words would have been better. I shouldn't have used the word "mean" because we can do a strong, focused cut on someone without any mean or cruel or angry feeling.

When we practice kendo, we have to strike other people on the men, kote, do. If you think that the shinai is a sword, why should we practice cutting someone with a sword? Isn't using a sword to cut someone a very violent action?

Yes, of course it is. Any time we intentionally use a sword to cut a person, we are doing a violent action.

Which leads to a reasonable question: Why should we practice something like kendo, which has violent actions in it?

From my perspective, I don't believe all violent actions are the same. Some violent actions can be morally justified, others cannot. For example, a violent action used in an attempt to protect yourself (or someone else) against an attacker is not the same as the violence used by an attacker.

For example, I don't believe that becoming violent just because we are angry can ever be morally justified. We should not use violence just because we want to take something from someone by force. Or because we enjoy feeling a sense of having power over someone else. But depending on the situation, I think sometimes it is acceptable to use violence - for example, to protect myself, protect a loved one, or protect someone or something that is defenseless. If a dangerous person suddenly appeared and wanted to hurt my mother, I would be willing to use violence to stop them. If someone was trying to kick my cat, I would be willing to use violence to stop that person too.

I don't want to say that using violence is always the best option for defense - actually I prefer resolving conflicts through talking whenever possible. But I don't rule out the use of violence as a legitimate form of protection. In other words, any time we use violence, I think we should have a very, very good reason for doing so. And the reason has to be morally justifiable.

I think we should think carefully about this when we practice kendo.

Every time we practice kendo, at the beginning of practice we make rei to each other and then draw our swords (shinai). When we draw our swords, we should remember that we are not taking out our swords just to carelessly do a violent activity. We should feel that we are drawing our swords in order to fight for protecting something. I think this is a morally acceptable reason to fight, and to practice fighting. And we should practice how to fight because if we ever have to fight for something good or important, we wouldn't want to give up or lose easily. We would try our absolute best, and very naturally we would fight with intensity and focus.

It's good to be kind and gentle and loving. But that doesn't mean that we can't also have another side that is strong, fierce, and skillful in fighting.

Try to imagine how different the world would be if violence was only used as a last resort, and only used for protection. Imagine if everyone was strong and clear and principled, and also willing to fight to defend the vulnerable or the defenseless.

Anyway, that's why it was wrong for me to say, "When you strike someone, it should feel a little bit mean." We can be strong without being mean.

~ jks

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