Our primary objective at Meikyokan dojo is to practice kendo (剣道) as a vehicle for deepening our understanding of who we are as human beings, and to use that understanding to create positive change in ourselves and the world around us.
The "Concept of Kendo", as defined by the All-Japan Kendo Federation in 1975, states:
The concept of kendo is to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the katana (sword).
The purpose of practicing Kendo is:
To mold the mind and body,
To cultivate a vigorous spirit,
And through correct and rigid training,
To strive for improvement in the art of kendo,
To hold in esteem human courtesy and honor,
To associate with others with sincerity,
And to forever pursue the cultivation of oneself.
This will make one be able:
To love his/her country and society,
To contribute to the development of culture
And to promote peace and prosperity among all peoples.
Part of our learning at Meikyokan dojo is based on the continuous contemplation and critical analysis of the above statement.
WHAT DOES "MEIKYOKAN" (明鏡館) MEAN?
Meikyo refers to the phrase meikyo shisui (明鏡止水), which evokes the image of clean, calm water which becomes mirror-like and reflective when absolutely still. The character kan (館) literally means "a building."
MEIKYOKAN KENDO: WHY?
Many people begin practicing kendo with the desire to become "stronger." This is reasonable - enduring many years of training often has the effect of making people stronger, both physically and mentally. I can't think of any downside to becoming stronger.
But if we practice kendo, and we are successful at becoming stronger, certain questions arise quite naturally: What will we use our strength for? We may learn how to "fight," but what will be willing to fight for? If the character do (道) in kendo may be translated as "way" or "path" - what would be a good way for human beings to live at this current moment in history?
One of my favorite writers is the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. One of his books, Being Peace (1987), affected me very much when I read it.
"Meditation is to be aware of what is going on - in our bodies, in our feelings, in our minds, and in the world. Each day 40,000 children die of hunger. The superpowers now have more than 50,000 nuclear warheads, enough to destroy our planet many times...
Many of us worry about the situation of the world. We don't know when the bombs will explode. We feel that we are on the edge of time. As individuals, we feel helpless, despairing. The situation is so dangerous, injustice is so widespread, the danger is so close. In this kind of situation, if we panic, things will only become worse. We need to remain calm, to see clearly. Meditation is to be aware, and to try to help."
Thich Nhat Hanh's way of looking at how meditative practice is connected to the difficulties we face in everyday life, both in ourselves and beyond, can also be applied to how we practice kendo. In fact, when I read his thoughts about meditation, I like to substitute the word "kendo" for "meditation", because kendo is a form of meditation. I also like the sequence of nouns he uses - body / feeling / mind / world - it's a useful map that people can use to better understand ourselves and our place in the universe.
. . . . .
In terms of time spent, learning kendo at Meikyokan dojo has much in common with practicing kendo elsewhere - lots of repetitious footwork, striking, techniques, and so on. When practiced sincerely, kendo becomes complex, deep, beautiful. We work hard everyday to try to make our kendo more like this.
We also explicitly follow a conceptual framework - a framework with spiritual and ethical dimensions - that provides a clear structure for learning and teaching not only kendo but also the arts of transformation. Many important aspects of this framework are rooted in the basic principles of Buddhism. These very old concepts live alongside, in tension, with more contemporary modes of critical inquiry and radical education. It is not an easy or seamless combination, but practicing in this way is our response to the need for deep change in how we care for both ourselves and others, as well as this beautiful and ravaged planet we live on.
jks, June 2014
< end page >