Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A connection with the past

A modern day samurai?
    One of the things I love about martial arts is that it represents a connection to the past.  I'm not delusional enough to think that I am some sort of modern day samurai because I practice aikido, but there is a common thread.  The movements I am practicing are based on, if not replicating, movements done by Japanese warrior hundreds of years ago.  I practice swords arts, not because of their battlefield application, but because of what the sword, and kenjutsu represents.  With all of our modern conveniences sometimes we forget that life is supposed to be difficult.  Thinking about things in terms of swords and armor often puts that in perspective for me.
1963 Edition of The Secrets of Judo
    There is also the direct connection through people.  I learned from my instructor, who learned from his instructor, who learned from... and so on.  This creates a tangible influence from people in the past.  People we probably never knew, but they are touching our lives none the less.  I only had to opportunity to meet Dr. Moses Powell twice, and because I was very low ranking at the time, I never had a chance to work out with him.  But, my instructor was a student of his.  There is a knowledge and philosophy that gets transmitted to me, albeit vicariously, from Dr. Powell, and indeed all of his instructors he had.
    With that same idea, I got a pleasant surprise connection when I ordered a used book from the Internet. The book, The Secrets of Judo by Jiichi Watanabe and Lindy Avakian, is a classic book first published in 1960. It was, and still is, a great book for those who want the science, history and philosophy of Judo.  I'll post a full review once I finish the book.  The version I received was published in 1963.  My surprise came right on the inside cover.  There was a note which read "AC Whiley Jr.  A 82nd Birthday to myself Nov 22, 1965."  I love this.  Every time I read the book now, I read the inscription and smile  I have a book that was bought be someone in 1965 trying to understand Judo at age 82.  I know I'll never know who Mr. Whiley was, but I hope he would appreciate my reading, learning from, and enjoying the book over 50 years after he did, because I appreciate his reading it 50 years earlier than me.

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