I train to strike correctly. I perform keiko to understand the angles of my sword. Swordsmanship and sword combat at that the center of my life, however I am not interested in performing violence on others.
There is a saying prevalent in swordsmanship, Saya no uchi de katsu, victory without drawing the sword. I see horrible violence performed under the ideas of righteous justice. There should be no martial artist involved in the injury of anyone in their pursuit of justice. It is best to find a means to win without the shedding of blood. A literal eye for an eye solves nothing and creates a tidal wave from the ocean of samsara that will wipe out yourself and your enemies ensuring nothing ever gets solved or fixed.
Our physical acts of violence are not the only thing to cause injury. Our speech, as well, can hurt someone, although not the sole part of the problem look at the cyberbullying that lead to Kimura-sans suicide here in Japan. She was a member of Terrace House and felt that she could not handle the mounds of negative messages. She felt overwhelmed and took her own life. When we are wounded, we sometimes say awful and hurtful things. A swordsman with a quick and untempered tongue is just as dangerous as one slashing about with their katana. I learned the hard way about the lessons of a loose tongue.
All of these problems of course, stem from the mind. And it is the mind that creates saya no uchi.
We must find a way to victory without harming others, and creating unwholesome environments. To seek a path that imparts health and prosperity while holding up the ideals of righteousness. To win without bloodshed or pain or suffering of those that oppose us. After all, it is only through ignorance that others misunderstand our ideas. Are we not without some ignorance towards other ideas as well?
Another side of the coin
Saya no uchi de katsu, also has the meaning of winning when the opposition is intimidated enough to concede victory without a fight. Your mental and physical posture (migamae, korkogame, etc.) is strong enough that the opposition realizes it is not worth it to engage with you. This is not empty posturing, however. Acting tough or being an emotional bully is not what saya no uchi is about. True keiko cultivates proper mental, spiritual and physical abilities.
Through experience and wisdom, we can build a stronger spiritual core. We can navigate the fires of the world without getting burned even if we are set on fire by others.
Training in iaijutsu to understand never drawing the sword is a difficult endeavor. It is paradoxical to many; studying violence to commit no violence. As students of martial arts, we must start with the mind. Do not engage in violence to solve the failures of yourself or society.
Saneteru Radzikowski is the head sword instructor of Shinkan-ryū Kenpō. He lives and teaches Iaijutsu and Kenjutsu from Nara, Japan.