martial arts

Beats and Budo

Beats and Budo

Several months ago, one of my fellow iaidoka (AKA, “The Tiny Samurai”) posed a question to Kim Taylor sensei of Sei Do Kai with regards to beats and budo. Taylor sensei shared some of his thoughts here, then made a reference to me (AKA, “The Tinier Samurai”) to try tackling the question.

When I first began my Iai journey in the mid 2000s, I recognized immediately the many shared themes between music and martial arts. Beats and budo, now this is something that I have been grappling with since Day One.

Renshikan Karate Demonstration at the 2013 Calgary Omatsuri

Some information and a video clip of the karate demonstration at the 2013 Calgary Japanese Festival.

I’ve got rhythm…do you?

" Rhythm is everywhere. It surrounds us constantly in our environment and lives continuously within us." ~ Craig Cooke, CEO and Co-Founder, Rhythm Interactive, Inc.

I found this particular quote apropos for this week. Rhythm is extremely important in music but have you ever noticed rhythms in your everyday activities and environment?

From the soft breathing of a sleeping baby to a car alarm blaring in the night; from an egg jiggling in a pot of boiling water to Maestro’s “roll-roll-check” rhythm to force treats out of his Have-A-Ball -- these steady rhythms are soothing and comforting. They give us a point of reference.

I began studying the martial art of Iaido this month. Right away, I learned that there is much to gain by figuring out a steady rhythm to my movements. For instance, it takes five beats for me to complete a basic cut with my bokuto (wooden sword) and ten to complete first half of hajime no saho (beginning etiquette). The steadier the beat, the more fluid my movements became. The more fluid I became, the closer I came to attaining a state of mushin (no thought). Yes, it’s active meditation. I won’t dare go further because I am still learning the basics and don’t want to lead anyone astray.

Most people pay little or no attention to the rhythm in their lives. Only when the rhythm is off do they notice. A dancer automatically stumbles if the music is cut off suddenly or changes speed, a student may forget her lines in Romeo & Juliet if she hears a noise, while a daily commuter will notice the difference in the flow of traffic on the way to work if he wakes up ten minutes late.

As I say to my students, pay attention to the rhythm. Teachers often ask students to tap out tricky rhythms before they even attempt to play the notes. For if they don’t have the rhythm right from the beginning – it will always be off.

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