A Different View

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   There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same
~ Chinese Proverb

Different Paths, Same Goals

I recently had the opportunity to photograph a Naginata workshop. It is a Japanese martial art in which you spar with a partner using a polearm. It is essentially a big stick with a sword like blade attached to the end. They wear armor and practice prescribed strikes or kata. I am told they do some free sparring as well.

I noticed that listening to the teacher running the workshop was like being back at our dojo. He kept saying the same things that our instructors would say. Points like, bend your knees, be aware of your balance, slow down, don’t just go through the motions.

It was a two hour class and I learned all kinds of things, not just about the Naginata, but about our own art as well. I am slowly beginning to see how everything is interconnected. Even though this was a weapons class, they were still concentrating on things like balance, form, awareness, committing to your attacks, having solid defenses, not telegraphing your movements. Yes their form is a bit different and their motions are a bit different, but the underlying principles are the same.

Different View Points

I was speaking with my Aikido instructor and she was telling me how some of the students are struggling with the new teachers. They have recently promoted two students to Shodan and those students have been running class. She spoke of how they are teaching the same techniques but might use different words or emphasize different points. She talked about how the students need to begin to understand the underlying points despite the differences in the delivery of the message.

This got me thinking about Rushmore Jujitsu and how blessed we all are. In the Aikido school they have had 2 instructors for the last 10 years. They are a couple who have studied under the same teachers and often teach very very similar to each other. It is only recently that they have begun to diversify with the new instructors.

At our school, we have a much wider variety of instructors. You have the masters and old school instructors who have studied at the school that was at the YMCA. You have the next generation of instructors who have come up the through the ranks at Boxing Club and Swim Center. You also have an instructor or two who have moved into the area from other schools.

With all this, diversity comes different views and life experiences. They will focus on different points, different things they will watch. In the end, they are teaching the same techniques. You have to learn how to recognize the common threads as well understand how the differences can make you a more rounded student.

A Twisty Trail

It is confusing at first, and can even be a little frustrating, to have teachers show you variations. I know when I was first starting, I would get so confused on the little differences. In the early days, it seemed like I worked with a different teacher every night. It took me a long time to appreciate the differences each instructor brought to the table.

You will find that you will gravitate towards some instructors and struggle with others. You may not connect with their personality or teaching style or demeanor or just not connect with them for seemingly no reason at all. I have discovered over the years that I have still learned plenty from teachers I felt like I didn’t connect with as well as others.

While you may not connect as closely with every one you train with, I still charge you to learn what you can from everyone you train with. There are no wasted encounters, only squandered opportunities. Ultimately, your path to the top of the mountain is your responsibility. Good luck on your journey…

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About the Author

My name is Clayton Søby and I am a Nidan from Rushmore Jukite Ju-Jitsu. I started studying Jukite Ju-Jitsu in August 2001. I still train when I can. In the meantime, I keep busy writing a monthly column for the website and studying Aikido here in Maryland. I hope to see you in class whenever I can make it back to visit.