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When you begin to feel like you are a tough guy, a warrior, a master of the martial arts or that you have lived a tough life, just take a moment and get some perspective with the following:

I've stopped knives that were coming to disembowel me

I've clawed for my gun while bullets ripped past me

I've dodged as someone tried to put an ax in my skull

I've fought screaming steel and left rubber on the road to avoid death

I've clawed broken glass out of my body after their opening attack failed

I've spit blood and body parts and broke strangle holds before gouging eyes

I've charged into fires, fought through blizzards and run from tornados

I've survived being hunted by gangs, killers and contract killers

The streets were my home, I hunted in the night and was hunted in turn

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Shugyo - austere training, training, apprenticeship

Ahhh, new things and many things a wonderful new discovery. Normally martial artists interpret "shugyo" as "austere training." In a nutshell it does mean "training" but for the Japanese it goes a lot deeper than the English word we use to describe this technique (a limited word for this).

Apparently its deeper and broader meaning in Japan is "apprenticeship." This is used in an older more traditional sense for the Japanese. It refers to a younger person who is apprenticed to an older person, generally speaking. The older person is considered a "journeyman" in a particular discipline much like a Sensei in martial arts. This apprenticeship is for a minimum of ten years and can go as far as twenty years under a master-disciple hierarchy.

The goal of "shugyo" is for the disciple to gradually absorb knowledge about the discipline and this is to be done "intuitively." They get little or no input or feedback. They don't get it regarding their performance in the discipline. They don't get any direct input or feedback as to what and how to do things. They are expected to "figure it all out on their own."

Since perfection is the end goal of all training where perfection is not attainable meaning there is absolutely no end to that training and goal of perfection. Shugyo is then seen as an "ongoing process."

In Japan the culture is to train and work which has greater importance than the results of training and/or work. Take learning Kanji. The student is expected to learn far more than simply the mechanics of the strokes needed to create the character. There is form, order, aesthetics and the all important "wa" or "harmony."

Before leaning such things as what it takes to be productive they are  required to learn about the philosophy and culture that drives the discipline and of course the Japanese culture.

The lack of feedback and input is geared toward the belief that it is more important to instill the ideology, belief, and culture that something harder to learn that requires more effort to learn it is more valuable than the actual skills or knowledge.

The characteristic that the culture instills in the Japanese is that this type of training and knowledge motivates them to continue learning and striving to improve because since the don't get any feedback about what they are doing they never know where they stand so they give more. When you add in that basic culture in Japan is group oriented where peers can bring about group sanctions that result in "shame or loss of face" and shame or loss of face to the entire group the continue to strive to improve.

Shugyo is not just austere training, it is tied into the Japanese, the Japanese culture and the Japanese group oriented mentality which is alien to Westerners. Every Japanese must be a member of a group, every group has to as as a collective, group members must cooperate and support one another for the benefit of the group.

Why we will find many meaning to the words we use in martial arts is because without the Kanji and Kana characters even the Japanese can interpret only about 70 percent of what other Japanese say. It is often seen that when communicating a Japanese will often resort to the actual Kanji/Kana characters to clear up the meaning with the other Japanese. Often in a group oriented culture the individual groups will also have their own meanings for the same words and characters. Kanji/Kana are not absolutes like English words tend to be and this is why there is more to Shugyo then simply "austere training."

Shugyo is austere training, it is training, it is a traditional form of training, is is an apprenticeship between a master and a disciple in a ranked hierarchical group system. Sensei is one who comes before and is one who has the discipline, knowledge and experience that makes them what we call a journeyman. It is a matter of observation over a long period of time which also has its benefits toward the Japanese culture, discipline and behaviors.

DeMente, Boye Lafayette. "Japan's Cultural Code Words: 233 Key Terms That Explain the Attitudes and Behavior of the Japanese." Tuttle. Vermont, Tokyo and Singapore. 2004.

1 comment:

Rick said...

The uchideshi who is undergoing shuugyo is expected to learn by example over a long period of time.

The onus then is on the teacher, who has to provide the example!