By Mark Bannon and Connie Borden The European Shintaido College (ESC) held their fall gasshuku from Wednesday 31 October 2019 to Sunday 3 November 2019 in Reims, France. Reims is…Read more
By H.F. Ito This is my story of using Taimyo Kata for world peace and healing over the past 20 years. It is a story about friendships and collaborations, world…Read more
H. F. Ito
Shintaido Master Instructor
What is Gentle Shintaido?
Since this Spring Gentle Shintaido has been the topic European Technical Committee instructors have wanted to discuss.
Looking back at the history and development of Shintaido, “Shintaido for Everyone” has been an intention and repeated refrain. Although the term Gentle Shintaido makes sense in English, in French it sounds like a diluted version of Core Shintaido − like flying economy class because you can’t afford anything better.
During my Shintaido career I have seen many animated email exchanges on this topic.
“Shintaido without losing the experience”
I have been closely involved in this discussion because Gentle Shintaido mirrors the approach I took starting in the early 2000s. I wanted to make Shintaido accessible to people outside the martial arts. My motto was “Modify Shintaido without losing the core experience.”
In talking with instructors – regardless of whether or not we use the term Gentle Shintaido – I have noticed the following themes:
- When we teach Shintaido to people who have physical, mental or emotional difficulties, the movement has to be gentle and soft. However, if that is all there is the students as well as the teacher may become bored.
- It is important to periodically share some Kaiho-kei techniques, or to do Chudan-tsuki on kibadachi with a firm kiai. Or you can give people the experience of Toitsu kihon movement, even if their bodies can’t sustain it for very long. This allows them to have an awakening experience.
- If we look back over the history of Shintaido, we see that in order to be avant-garde it is necessary to be classical first. From Karate to Shintaido Kaiho-tai to Shintaido Yoki-tai, we continue to build from classical roots. Jigo-kei, Kaiho-kei, Yoki-kei, Seiritsu-kei — all of these keiko forms have advantages, but none of them are as powerful alone as they are together. Good teaching must include them all.
- That is why Gentle Shintaido instructors must be able to switch immediately from one style to another in response to their students.
Should we say that, for example, students might start with Yoki-kei and as they grow stronger advance to Kaiho-kei (or maybe even Jigo-kei), and finish up in Seiritsu-kei?
I suggest that the 2020 examinations for Sei-Shihan and Dai-Shihan should focus on candidates’ ability to understand these points and to put them into practice in their own teaching.
For your information, I’m including a table showing the relationship between Yoki-kei and Kaiho-kei, as well as Jigo-kei and Seiritsu-kei. I originally developed this table to clarify my own thinking about the differences and similarities among these elements of Shintaido.
A reference table comparing Yokitai and Kaihotai
|Style of posture||Kaihotai: The front of the body is completely open. Attitude is full of confidence. Lower back is slightly arched. "Life gate" tsubo immediately behind belly button is closed. Eye direction is forward and slightly upward.||Koshi is flat (not arched). "Life gate" tsubo is open. The back of the body is open. Eye direction is slightly downward. Appears somewhat weak, as if lacking confidence. Expressing humility (unassuming).||Stance is solid like an unyielding oak tree, with a strongly defensive fist. Strength is focused in the Tanden, as if lifting something heavy.||Seiritsu-tai. Stance is erect. Eye direction is straight forward, looking to the horizon.|
|Method of doing keiko, waza and kata||Keiko is based on the fundamentals (Daikihon) of Tenshingoso, Eiko and their applications as well as Shintaido jump, Kaikyakuzenshin, Kiai and Hassei renshu (shouting practice), open-hand techniques, etc.||Seaweed, meditation partner work, Musoi-, Muso-ken, Hoten-Kokyu-ho, Mae-geri (soft & gentle). Meiso-jump.||Jikyo-ken. Uke-zuki Sei-ken. Sumo-sytle pushing practice. These forms are commonly seen in Shintaido karate.||Chusei-ken. Oi-zuiki Sei-ken. Ki-ichi-i. Freehand Diamond Mudra cut.|
|Method of doing Gorei||The strong survive. Go, go - More, more, faster & farther. Gorei is strict and demanding, with no questions asked. Competitive and challenging, like teaching rock climbers how to focus completely on getting to the top. No compromise. Awakens abilities in students that are usually asleep, like being in a fire and finding strength you never knew you had.||Everyone comes together in companionship, holding hands and gradually walking up the mountain together. The Gorei leads people on a cooperative and enjoyable hike, aware of and appreciating the four seasons and the scenery of mountains, rivers, grass and trees. People gain energy and consideration for others, and are encouraged to help each other.|
|Effect of keiko||Transcending the current situation, the body and mind open with flexibility and without hesitation. At the same time, all energy is released and the new self emerges from the old skin. Develops positing thinking. Goes through the Kongokai Mandala.||Accommodating the current situation. Tension and fatigue melt away. and the body becomes like a seaweed in the ocean. Encourages insight into the self and understanding of others. Goes through the Taizokai Mandala.||Taking energy from outside the self and collecting it in a self-defense mindset. This is commonly seen in the kata of Shintaido karate.||Standing in the center of Kaihotai, Jigotai, and yokitai, the posture becomes straight and clear.|
Addendum (Lee Seaman’s experience):
When I started Shintaido, I was 25 years old. Most of the other students were between 18 and 30, and Aoki-sensei had just celebrated his 30th birthday. Everyone was in great physical shape, and we did nothing but Kaiho-tai keiko. Aoki-sensei told us that Tenshingoso and Eiko were the core of Shintaido, and those two forms were also the core of our practice. The bigger the better, the farther the better, the louder the better.
I have been practicing Shintaido for almost 40 years now, and I have come to the conclusion that Aoki-sensei had a hidden teaching. In my experience, there is something more basic than Tenshingoso and Eiko. It reminds me of the koan about the gateless gate – I call it the techniqueless technique. It embodies Tenchijin, informs Tenshingoso, and is the beating heart of Eikodai. This core Shintaido is the basis of all our practice, and Kaiho-tai, Yoki-tai, Jigo-tai, and Seiritsu-tai are its branches.
I believe that, to give Shintaido to a world that needs it more than ever, we need roots in this core place.
by Mark Bannon
What is the strongest martial arts technique? Over the years, I have heard different answers depending on style, training, and teacher. Some believe a strong kick, others a strong punch (tsuki), others a secret mix.
How would I answer the question if I were asked this morning? My response would be “Shintaido kaishoken is the strongest technique and worthy of daily practice.” In the Shintaido glossary, kaishoken is defined as the “opening and expressing hand”. Maybe that’s a puzzling answer to some. Others may have a different understanding and thoughts on the subject. Here’s my current thinking and perspective.
When I first started studying martial arts, I observed a fascination with developing the most efficient technique to address a perceived opponent. In the Funakoshi-Egami-Aoki lineage, there is a well documented path that occurred to develop the tsuki (as currently practiced in Shintaido) as a proven technique.
As I understand the story, there was immediate joy when Master Egami found his new tsuki (front-punch). Very efficient, elegant, flowing motion, full body application of force that could easily knock a man down with one blow. An elegant weapon if there ever was one.
What followed, however, was a realization that this new technique was so powerful that the traditional blocks and strategies were no defense against this new tsuki. An even stronger technique was needed to respond to this new weapon. A literal arms race had ignited.
The story of the tsuki is in Section Seven of Master Aoki’s Shintaido book. Master Aoki discusses the research he and Master Egami did to become “tsuki specialists” and his discovery of kaishoken as a defense against the new tsuki.
I began trying the open hand as a technique to receive a tsuki. At first, it was not a very satisfying technique. As I continued my Shintaido practice, I heard other students ask about kaishoken. I was apparently not the only one that didn’t immediately get it. In response, more experienced students (senpai) would respond that, kaishoken in Shintaido actually means “open hand – open body.” This expanded definition started to make more sense. Very good. I could practice that – receive the tsuki with an open hand and an open body. My technique seemingly started to improve.
As improvement came, a senpai instructed me to open eyes. Pay attention, see everything. Don’t become distracted by shiny objects. That lesson resonated. It occurred to me that kaishoken was not only open hand, open body, but add open eyes. Don’t fall into the trap of your surroundings and initial encounter. See everything. Look at the situation with soft eyes. Take it all in. I was feeling pretty jazzed with kaishoken at this point. What could be better?
A few weeks later I attended a Shintaido workshop in Quebec. During the exercise, I was instructed to “open my mind” and go beyond this world and travel to the corners of universe. See all the angles, potentials, challenges, look beyond, travel time and space. Wow. Things changed. I experienced something new. From that moment, my Kaishoken evolved from open hand – open body – open eyes – to open mind.
Armed with an open mind, I saw possibilities coming at me before they were in sight. I was no longer on the defense. I was actively receiving intention and anticipating. Now that is a strong technique! I started using my new kaishoken (open hand-open body-open eyes-open mind) in all sorts of circumstances. I was using kaishoken at work improving relations with co-workers, with clients building more innovative projects, and building closer relationships with family and more meaningful relationships friends. A true keiko was developing.
Then one day I found myself in an encounter and I admittedly didn’t handle it very well. Nothing serous, but I thought about it all day and actions I could have/should have taken to cause a different outcome. It suddenly occurred to me, the answer could be kaishoken. This time, I realized had I approached the encounter with an open heart, the result could have been much improved. I realized kaishoken is really open heart.
My definition of kaishoken started simply as a glossary note “open-hand.” As my practice became more rich, my understanding evolved: open hand – open body – open eyes – open mind, – open your heart. Kaishoken is arguably the strongest technique and one I need to practice every day. A technique to end the arms race.
By Derk Richardson and Connie Borden
On Saturday, August 17, at Marin Academy in San Rafael, California, Master Instructor H.F. Ito led Bay Area and visiting Shintaido practitioners—12 in the morning session, 10 in the afternoon—through two keiko based on the theme “Opening the Door of Perception: Muso-Ken.” Given his intention to cut back on transatlantic travel from his home in France and to visit North America only once a year, this was possibly Ito Sensei’s last summer workshop in Northern California. For some of us, that fact added a subtly poignant undertone to Ito Sensei’s deep and nuanced teaching. Throughout the day, Sarah Baker and John Bevis documented the workshop on video.
Keiko began with a form of warm-ups that was new to many of us. Connie Borden introduced the movements based on the end of Taimyo kata part III flowing into the start of Taimyo part I.
These movements are called Hugging the Sky (ho-ten-kokyu-ho), Three Quarters turn (hokushin kokyu-ho), oodachi zanshin, and kan ki. They focused on breathing (kokyu) while having us rotating, spiraling, and twisting our spine and our being to reach higher into the heavens and lower into the center of earth. We studied contrasts of creating a small circle below ourselves then opening diagonally to draw a big circle and embrace the sky. As we bowed, we studied compressing the air and space in front of us. To start hokushin kokyu-ho, we hugged a tree in front of us and then slowly expanded ourselves upward and downward, experiencing the contrast between up and down while elongating our beings, continuing our focus on deep and slow breathing. Our front hand reached up with the fingers and palm facing back, while the lower hand pointed down and three-quarters behind ourselves with the palm facing inwards.
Throughout these movements we practiced having our eyes follow our movements, ultimately having our eye movement help us go further into space and across time. In the last segment, we opened to Ten with kaisho-ken hands to the sky and then formed a tight tsuki to grasp what was waiting for us, then crossing our arms in front of ourselves we ended in the classic karate stance, kaiho-tai. With kan ki as the opening of Taimyo part I, we reached out in front of ourselves as if to dive out into the ocean of ki, and after making one last big circle around ourselves, we let ki energy land in our outstretched, wide-open palms and made a tight tsuki. We pulled our tsuki back to our sides, letting our elbows point behind ourselves while deepening into kiba-dachi (horse-riding stance). After holding this stance for a moment to allow our bodies to feel warmed, we stood in seiritsu-tai, letting our arms move downwards to our sides with our fingers actively pointed downwards. From the warmups of breathing, twisting, spiraling, and elongating, we ended feeling straight and clear, hopefully ready to study awareness of ourselves and increase understanding of others.
Before we began physical practice, we sat in a circle and Ito Sensei gave a free-flowing talk based on a double-sided handout. With Tomi Nagai-Rothe and Nao Kobayashi assisting with translation, he first discussed the various forms of ki (energy or, in French, esprit), ranging from lack of confidence/fearfulness (yowa-ki) to being resolute and ready (tsuyo-ki) or easy going (non-ki), from taking care of your own energy (ki wo tutete) to being considerate of and attentive to others (ki-kubari), and more.
The thorny concept of sak-ki, which translated to “bloodthirstiness” or “the intention to kill,” was pivotal because it related closely to the second area of discussion, muso-ken. In our practice, we would be working on developing sensitivity to energy behind us, specifically the intention and approach of someone attacking us from behind. Mu-so, Ito Sensei explained, can be taken to mean “dream,” “vision,” “premonition,” and “clairvoyance,” on the one hand, or “no phase,” “no phenomenon,” and “emptiness,” on the other, akin to the complete absence of light or dark matter.
Muso-ken, then, can be thought of as employing the sword of perception, the English definition given by French Shintaido General Instructor Pierre Quettier. And the physical practice of the morning and afternoon was dedicated to learning how to use this sword effectively.
We began with partner wakame, the initiator using a lighter and lighter touch at a quickening pace, and the receiver developing a more and more refined sensitivity to the contact and the direction of the energy through the body. Ito Sensei emphasized that wakame is something that you can never assume to have perfected, something to work on for the rest of your life—in relationships, in the family, at work, and out in the world.
The core of the practice was developing sensitivity with our backs, making our entire backside a sensor (or an array of sensors), like radar, detecting and becoming aware of what’s coming at us from behind. As we cultivated sensitivity to someone approaching from behind, we worked on two different stepping patterns to receive the attack. One involved stepping forward and slightly out (with the right foot, for instance), opening a path for the attacker by pivoting and drawing the left foot slightly aside and “welcoming” her to enter and pass with a Tenshingoso “E” motion with the left hand. The second stepping pattern involved stepping back and slightly behind (with the right foot, for instance), again opening a path by pivoting that leaves room, but not too much, for the attacker to pass, and again welcoming and urging the partner forward with a right-hand “E” motion. Both techniques are ways of managing space and time. Although Ito Sensei did not talk much about it, receivers were encouraged to be aware of and experiment with A, B, and C timing on the early-to-late-response spectrum.
After working on the stepping, the receivers took up weapons—a rolled magazine playing the part of a short stick, and then either a boken or bokuto—and added gedan bari and ha-so movements to their receiving.
As for the attackers, they approached their receiving kumite partners from behind with different techniques (and weapons), as well: using the first movements of the Diamond Eight Cut kata and stepping forward with a spearing motion; using a rolled up magazine as a short stick; and using a boken or bokuto. During the afternoon keiko, Ito Sensei had us receive dai jodan sword attacks from behind, eventually receiving two attackers so that we could gauge and deal with their different energies. Between sessions, we retreated to the home of Jim and Toni Sterling for a potluck brunch that became a continuation of keiko through social communion and philosophical discussion.
Toward the end of the afternoon keiko, Ito Sensei talked a bit about Tenshingoso in metaphorical terms, likening the patterned movements to a constant turning inside out, as we might do with socks; extending ourselves to the other side of the earth and beyond the boundaries of the universe; holding our planet with loving kindness and bringing it inside ourselves. Finally, he charged us with solo “homework” practice of the Muso-Ken movements he had taught us, and reminded us that we need to apply our Shintaido practice in general to the way we think about life and death, and the way we live our lives in the world.
By Matt Shorten
In June 2019, ten Northeast American retreatants ventured across the pond to Achill Island, a wind- tossed haven on the westernmost coast of Ireland. Led by Rev. Sue Foster (Roger Solomon’s wife) and Rev. Maebh from the Sacred Path Retreat Center, our quest was to explore how the wisdom of Celtic spirituality might enlighten our daily lives.
Ireland is renowned as a beautiful and hospitable land, and one that has experienced terrible hardships and suffering, but at times, it’s also been the center of Western civilization and culture. Their deep spirituality can be traced back to Druidic traditions, centuries before the arrival of Christianity. Like the Shintaido founders, the Celts were focused on developing an organic relationship with nature and connecting with the grace in all of creation, asserting the life-affirming aspects of our elemental existence. In contrast to the Roman church’s dogma of “original sin,” the leaders there promulgated the notion of “original blessing”.
Although the North Atlantic winds there are strong enough to blow your chi away, the natives feel a powerful sense of alignment with the sacred earth and sky. It’s a good place to develop Ten-Chi-Jin. (Ten = heaven; Chi = earth; Jin = self)
In 563 Columba came to the isle of Iona and established the first monastery in Scotland. One of the earliest centers of Celtic Christianity, they practiced a radical gender-neutral egalitarianism, sometimes being led by a female abbess.
Influenced by the ancient texts of the Wisdom Tradition and the writings of St. John (he who listened to the heartbeat of Jesus), this movement resisted the authoritarian, hierarchical Roman Catholic Church as long as they could. According to legend, young warriors would spend their final year of training living in the gender role of the opposite sex to seek a more attuned balance of life.
J. Philip Newell writes “The passion of the Celtic mission lay in finding meaning in the heart of all life, a sense of wonder in relation to the elements, to recognize the world as the place of revelation, and the whole of life as sacramental. The western isles developed a rich treasure of prayers that referenced the sun, moon and stars as graces, and the spiritual coming through the physical. God is seen as the Life within all life. The Celtic crosses, triangulated knots, and illuminated texts incorporated designs that symbolized the interlacing of God and humanity, heaven and earth, spirit and matter.”1
I see clear parallels here with the mystical and anthropomorphic aspects of Shintaido. Aoki Sensei quotes sword master Sekiun to the same point: “We call the highest level which could be attained sei or “holiness”. This realm is yuiitsu muni- just as the sun is one and the moon is one. It is the highest and the holiest.”2
As Michael Thompson Sensei wrote in the Introduction to the Shintaido handbook, “Where does the body end and the mind or spirit begin? He (the budoka) is a specialist of that invisible and yet very physical part of ourselves which our doctors have not yet discovered. His ‘treatment’ is to teach us to communicate with our deeper selves, with each other, with nature and with God through the medium of our bodies”.3
One of the sacred practices we did on the retreat was to walk a stone labyrinth, situated on a peaceful hillside between a towering waterfall and a pristine sandy beach. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has only one way in and one way out, but is nevertheless replete with surprising turns and discoveries. As one enters, you set an intention, and then just perform the movement with sincerity, trusting that when you finish, a clarity will arise upon emerging. Or as Aoki Sensei has said, “The locus of one swing of the sword is itself a sign”.4
On the last day there, when our spirits were high, but our bodies restless after a long sitting meditation, I offered to lead the group in some uplifting movement. We did Ritsu-i-ju Meiso-ho (10-position standing meditation), wakame (seaweed), and aozora-taiso (blue sky exercise), all with beach and sky visualizations. Although some in the group were limited physically, our hearts were open to what was within and without.
1) J. Philip Newell, Listening to the Heartbeat of God, p. 3, Paulist Press.
2) Haroyuki Aoki, Shintaido, p. 31, Shintaido of America.
3) ibid, p. 12.
4) ibid , p. 35.
Springtime in New England means many things. For Shintaido Northeast (SNE) it has come to mean “Springeiko” – a gasshuku to welcome the return of warmer weather and outdoor practice. This year, like last year, we met in South Deerfield. However, unlike last year, this year we had to deal with the absence of our beloved Joe Zawielski. The loss of Joe, who was often SNE’s Director of Instruction for gasshuku, and a mainstay of SNE, has left us facing some major shifts. We decided to have a meeting over the Saturday night potluck to think about new directions.
At lunchtime, three questions were proposed for our unconscious minds to ponder during the afternoon keiko. After dinner, we looked at our individual responses. The two fundamental themes that emerged are community and a holistic practice. But rather than interpreting these responses, they have been collated here. I invite you to think about how you would answer these questions for yourself.
- What did Shintaido give you when you first encountered it, and what did you bring to it
- What does Shintaido give you now – and what do you give to Shintaido?
- What do you hope Shintaido can give you in the future – and what do you envision you could contribute to Shintaido?
- What did Shintaido give you when you first encountered it?
- A new universe to explore, and a willingness to do so. An opening for a new way to look at the world
- Energy – and lots of it! Vitality!
- Beginner’s mind and fresh eyes
- An excitement about life’s journey and a new lens to look at it through.
- Showed me the whole body-mind-spirit connection.
- Strong legs and a wonderfully toned body. Sore thighs. A broken nose!
- A completely new way to be with my body. I was able to feel (and be) strong, graceful, capable.
- An opportunity to learn that my body was more than just flesh and blood and bones – that there was whole being who encompassed also memory, spirit, energy and will. This was news to me at the time.
- A community of people. Community is fundamental to Shintaido. Fun, laughter. Welcome. A sense of belonging.
- A place where it was important to express all of myself, and not have it be viewed as ‘too much.’
- An outlet for self-expression and extension of one’s interest into a bigger realm.
- Big nature: Ocean Beach, Tennessee Valley, Golden Gate Park…Hard practice on the beach in the cold and not-so-cold, but being one with the beach and cold and the others practicing.
- A sense of community and a practice to develop and work on.
- It challenged me to open my body and heart and spirit. Physical, mental and existential challenge. It gave me many, many opportunities to challenge myself.
- Stress relief. Bright, shining world.
- The thought of “Wow! This is pretty neat stuff.”
- It gave me a different way of connecting with my undergraduate students.
- Shintaido gave me hope for extending a truncated life, being more expressive, feeling more deeply.
- It gave me license to be weird, and made my body stronger.
- It gave me a lot of challenges – for years I felt that I would never improve; I was just terrible at it. So it gave me difficulty, and that intrigued me, I think it kept me coming back.
- Commitment and enthusiasm. Back then, I gave it my enthusiasm, going to as many classes as I could. My time, as an eager student.
- A lot of energy, interest, and thought.
- I gave an injection of foreign perspective to French Shintaido practitioners.
- A level of participation both in and out of keiko.
- Perseverance – it took a long time to “get” certain movements.
- I gave Margaret Guay a student!
- Not so long after starting, I volunteered to serve as SOA treasurer, SNE board member, etc.
- It gives me an indomitable spirit. When I do the movement, even it is only ten-part meditation, I am reminded of the many instances when the body was weak but the spirit was willing. And there’s also a sense of community that is, I think, a vital part of Shintaido.
- A place to start over.
- Rebirth, new beginning.
- A different perspective and philosophy.
- A community of people. (Several peple said this in different ways.)
- Connections that go back a very long way.
- Knowledge to share in my own voice and in my own way (example: teaching at Senior Center)
- The confidence and expertise that comes from doing something for more than 40 years.
- A wholeness of spirit.
- It still gives me community and a practice to work on. But Shintaido also helps me grow spiritually, and it provides a form for me to express my physical self with.
- It gives me a community of people I have known and done something with for more than half my life, and friendship – or really, more like family.
- When I practice with others, it give me energy and joy.
- It gives me a depth of contact with myself, my body, my spirit that I can count on, and that I can find when I need it.
- Now I know how to relax, and how to deepen.
- Shintaido provides a form for me to play with physical expressions in nature. It also provides what has grown into a long-lived community of friends.
- One can understand the value of Shintaido in Jungian terms – that it allows us to grasp our shadow and bring it forth in creative and constructive ways if the forms are allowed their full spiritual breadth, depth and energy. But it is still shadow and can overwhelm and even terrify people (I think this is really why people stop.) It can also put people into a frustrating tension if it is dampened by focus on linear hierarchy or mere from, since the spirit understands its bounded nature, senses the great sky. Of course this is easy and in some ways formulaic thinking in the part of someone who has lived in the more visceral tension of shadow-fear for a lifetime! That’s my rant!
- It continues to give me a way of thinking about my body as embodied spirit, which is helpful in my current situation.
- It gives me connection. Ten, chi, jin. It gives me a remote connection to others, and a spiritual practice.
- A door into Japanese culture that enlarges my understanding of their art, film and literature.
- A chance to reconnect with other practitioners, some of whom are close (or closer than) family. It also reminds me of the physical person I used to be, and even though I’ll never get back there. I am more aware than many people about what’s going on in my body.
- An embodiment and practice of a life philosophy.
- A framework in which to continually question evaluate, and reconsider my choices in life, and a way to work through them with a very valued physical, mental and spiritual practice.
- I still volunteer on the SOA and SNE board.
- I’m not currently practicing, but I’m on the SOA and SNE boards.
- A desire to contribute to Shintaido’s ongoing existence.
- 48 years’ experience.
- Some tribal knowledge.
- Lots of sharing and work at the organizational level of the Shintaido community.
- As I am aging, I trust it will continue to support me throughout my life journey. And I also see that the physical part is less, and the spiritual is more.
- Community, continued community.
- I hope Shintaido will continue to provide this community that gets together throughout the year on different levels.
- I hope that it will help to keep me healthy physically and mentally.
- An option to share knowledge and movement in my own way separate from the Shintaido hierarchy.
- A changing practice that will sustain me even as I become less able to execute physically challenging movements.
- I hope it continues into the future. I worry that it will become extinct.
- I hope to get back to teaching and possibly giving Shintaido retreats and classes at other venues.
- In the future I plan to continue practicing as best I can despite aging. I hope my practice and insight will deepen.
- A legacy to pass on/lineage.
- Continued enjoyment with sword!
- In-home services for the elderly? I expect there will always be some kind of practice for me if I continue to stay in touch with Shintaido. But there will always be the core movements of Shintaido that have kept me well in spirit over many years. Simply doing tenshingoso in the morning or evening or maybe both helps me to maintain an attitude of gratefulness, humility and wonder.
- I hope to share more through teaching.
- Continued time and commitment to practice and share Shintaido with others.
- I will continue to volunteer as best I can during a big transition in life.
- What I give is my most sincere effort in keiko, and I try to bring what I’ve learned to other aspects of my life.
- I’d like to contribute to planning special events, like Anne-Marie’s memorial in Montreal, and special classes with James Cumming.
After we had reflected and written in silence for several minutes, people were asked to come up with two sets of ideas to share: one abstract, and one concrete. Perhaps you’d like to do the same? Here are the combined lists from SNE Springeiko 2019:
- Tribal knowledge
- Integration of physical and spiritual self
- Embodied spirituality
- Practice of opening body and heart
- Bring one new person each (1 + 1 = 2; would double our group)
Concrete (something we’d like to see happen within the next two years)
- Let’s collaborate with thriving organizations!
- “Collaborative teaching”
- Hold a longer gathering with multiple teachers
- Bring keiko up to Bill Burtis!
- Collaborative workshop on “mindful movement” with EMI (Judy Tso)
- Have Margaret Guay teach a weekly class again!
- Teach Shintaido at USJ again.
- Anne-Marie Grandtner memorial in Montreal
- Make a new video – to preserve knowledge
- More active social media presence
- Teaching at Senior Center(s)
As many of you know, in the summer of 2017, our friend Joe Zawielski was found to have a brain tumor. The Shintaido community wrapped itself around him, sending messages, positive energy, and love from all over world. After surgery and treatment, he began his recovery.
That fall, Joe came to a Shintaido Northeast event in Worcester. It was the first time I had seen him since his treatment, and it was very hard for me to see the change in this once vibrant man with seemingly boundless energy. During lunch, he said that he wanted to do the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC), the bike ride that raises money for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI), where he had received his care. At the time, his balance and stamina weren’t great, so I toyed with the idea of partnering with him, perhaps the two of us riding a tandem to complete the ride. I’d known Joe nearly 30 years and this was the least I could do to repay all those years of instruction and friendship.
Unfortunately, the cancer returned, and his health declined rapidly. Many of us were lucky enough to attend Joe’s last keiko, which was a truly blessed event. On my last visit with Joe before he passed, I asked him if I could ride the PMC in his place. Though he wasn’t able to articulate his answer, Joe started to cry; his wife Deb assured me this meant “Yes!”
I’m riding this year in honor of Joe. I’m doing the one-day Sturbridge to Bourne route, a 108 mile ride. I haven’t attempted a journey of this length in nearly 20 years, but I’ll have the spirit of my friend and sensei whispering “Gambatte!” (Do your best!) in my ear as I ride. My fundraising goal is $4000. Last year the PMC raised $56 million for Dana-Farber; 100% of all rider-raised funds go to directly support DFCI and the Jimmy Fund, the charity which raises money for adult and pediatric cancer care and research at DFCI.
If you care to donate, my PMC webpage is: https://donate.pmc.org/RS0435. Contributions can also be sent to:
Roger Solomon 39602-8
77 Fourth Ave.
Needham, MA 02494
I truly appreciate any help you can give. Thank you!
On April 13, 2019 in Bruges, Belgium, I presented Shintaido for a second year at the 2nd Global Conference on Death, Dying and the 21st Century. This year 22 people from 10 countries came together for 2 days as an interdisciplinary research community. We discussed the ways culture impacts the care for the dying, the overall experience of dying, and the ways the dead are remembered. Attendees came from the Netherlands, Australia, Portugal, Switzerland, Wales, the UK, Israel, Lebanon, the USA, and Canada. Our interdisciplinary group included scholars from philosophy, ethics, the law and literature; experts in the field of design for both products and processes; photography and videography; writers; and healthcare professionals including me as both a healthcare professional and student of Shintaido.
I presented Tenshingoso with overtone chanting, as part of an array of topics from personal reflection on the journey through and after death of a loved one to review of literature and poems that gave voice to the illness experience. During the 45-minute interactive demonstration, the participants used their voices and their bodies to explore the sounds of Ah, Oh and Um to express grief and facilitate mourning. Participants were first given the opportunity to stand facing inwards in a circle, and then with alternating groups they were invited to stand in the center of the group while these three movements were being done by the external circle.Participants reported feeling soothed and relaxed. Many reported feeling the vibrations of sound within their bodies. All agreed the simplicity of the three repeated movements made it easier to learn and potentially use in the future. Many were eager to work with their colleagues and explore how patients might benefit from these movements and sounds.
Our group quickly formed an intimacy and connection through our mutual sharing and teaching over these two days. For almost everyone, these two days moving toward the unknown and mystery of death brought us closer together. I received feedback that the inclusion of body movement was welcome to both “get out of our heads and into our bodies” and to facilitate our interconnection as a group. I am making plans for next year’s meeting already!
Here is my paper on my presentation:
Kotodama Applications for End of Life; a performance/audience participation presentation
Abstract: The use of sound combined with body movement crosses all cultures, languages and religions to provide a physical means for spiritual growth that for end-of-life purposes can provide a way to express grief and connection with the deceased. When the voice is added in Japanese martial arts such as Shintaido, the sound can be a spiritual basis for teaching. The Japanese word for sacred sound or word spirit is Kotodama. In the Japanese belief system, mystical powers dwell in words or names and ritual word usages can influence our environment. The Japanese martial arts body movement is Tenshingoso, with specific attention to the sounds “Ooo”, “Uumm”, and “Aaa”. This presentation will bring the results many years of weekly practice and instruction for use in celebrations of life.
Presentation: Tenshingoso is called “The Cycle of Life” so that through body movement one can study life as measured from moments to a lifetime, while using the voice to increase the flow of energy. Tenshingoso is derived from esoteric Buddhism with each movement accompanied by a Sanskrit sound. For this presentation, the sounds of O-Um-Ah will be presented and practiced. This movement with voice will advance to transition from one sound to the next sound ultimately doing three sounds with one breath.
O – Reaching out into the universe to reach what is omnipresent
Push hands forward and up as far as possible with the palm facing forward, fingers pulled back so as to open the palm of the hand. The sound of “Oooo” is made throughout this movement and as the movement Um is started, the sound changes to “Uumm” to start the stage of Um.
Um – Bringing the universe, perhaps those who have gone before into one’s center
The right-hand rests lightly inside your left hand. Eyes can be half closed or completely closed. Bring all your concentration into one single point where everything else disappears. Release all tension from the top of your head to your feet. Bring the hands back to rest lightly over your lower abdomen. The sound of “Uumm”” continues through this movement and begins to change to the sound “Aahh” to start the stage of Ah.
Ah – Opening Space – asking those who have died to reappear.
Opening your eyes, drop your arms down and backwards with shoulders relaxed, your fingers open and palms open, leading with the thumbs pointing backwards. Look toward the skies. Your chest will be open, head tilted backwards so that your chin and face is looking up. Your arms with palms open will be at your sides. Making the sound of “Aahh” and transitioning to the sound “Ooo”.
In 2006, Bela Breslau and Stephen Billias founded the Shintaido Farm, a center for the practice of Shintaido. Many, many Shintaido events were held there during its ten-year existence. In 2016, Bela and Stephen sold the Shintaido Farm. What has become of it since then? The Shintaido Farm is now known as the Windhorse Hill Retreat Center, housing the Engaged Mindfulness Institute. It is a thriving enterprise under the leadership of Fleet Maull, a student and Dharma Successor of the late Roshi Bernie Glassman of the Soto Zen Buddhist sect, and Kate Crisp, who lives at the farm and is the Executive Director of the Prison Mindfulness Institute.
The guest instructor list of the Engaged Mindfulness Institute reads like a who’s who of American Buddhism: Joan Halifax, Pema Chodron, Joseph Goldstein, Rick Hanson, Jack Kornfield, and Sharon Salzberg have all taught there.
Fleet and his business partner Kate Crisp have expanded the house in several interesting ways. They converted the two-car garage into an office. They extended the dojo entryway deck and added a bathroom off it. They finished the basement. They added sconces on the dojo walls, a very attractive lighting change.
The dojo, which Stephen kept empty as a sacred space for the time it was the Shintaido Farm, is now a multi-use space. The front east-facing part with the two big windows is a meditation room. A large statue of Jizo, the bodhisattva who is the protector of travelers and the unborn, stands in the northeast corner of the room, a gift from Roshi Glassman. A set of shoji screens divides the room. The back third of the dojo is now a meeting area with tables and chairs. The piano has been brought into the dojo from the living room.
We like to believe that the spirit of Shintaido still resonates in the space. A young organizer named James Frank told us that he occasionally sleeps in the dojo for the good feeling he gets from doing that. He said that many people have commented on what an ideal meditation space it is. The room still has glowing ash floors and bright yellow pine walls, now covered with many lovely Buddhist scrolls and paintings.
If you visit the website, you’ll see many pictures of the place as it is used now, with students in meditation and meetings. Bela and Stephen are excited and gratified that the Shintaido Farm has become a lively and active place of spiritual development. All who participated in the Shintaido Farm experience contributed to the feeling that we created, and we can all be thankful and that good and important things continue to happen there.
On October 19th, 2019, from 2:00-4:00 p.m., Bela and Stephen are returning to the place on River Road for a book launch/book signing/book party to celebrate the publication of Stephen’s collection of short stories entitled A Book of Fields: Tales from the Pioneer Valley. A local band called The Green Sisters, made up of four real sisters who play and sing Appalachian folk and other musical styles with wonderful sisterly four-part harmonies, is going to provide music, taking advantage of the amazing acoustics in the dojo. See The Green Sisters Gigs web page. This is an opportunity for those who cherished the Shintaido Farm to pay a remembrance visit.
Best of all, the Shintaido spirit that flourished in New England before the founding of the Shintaido Farm continues to burn brightly in the hearts of Shintaido Northeast (SNE) practitioners even after the Farm is gone. SNE is still dealing with the loss of its leader Joe Zawielski.
We have hundreds of pictures of Joe giving gorei in the dojo and on the fields of the Shintaido Farm. His teaching and his spirit imbued the Farm with some of its special magic. Gambatte all!