Interview with Akuzawa senseï (9)

Google translation with my tweaks, and [french] where I was at a total loss.

Interview with Akuzawa senseï (9): Reïshiki, importance of the label

Is Reishiki important?
Unfortunately this is something to which I did not pay much attention in the past. Twenty years ago, my teacher taught me an important point: always maintain etiquette, whatever the circumstances. This emphasis is probably a particular character of Japanese culture related to the traditions of the samurai.

Without doubt this is my fault but in the past I accepted attitudes of some students that were too casual. The respect and even friendship manifested by a certain etiquette is not necessarily rigid or stiff. Compliance with this etiquette is an expression of spirit. [Tout comme son absence.] The same goes for its absence.

Currently there are many foreigners among my students in Japan and I teach regularly in the United States and Europe. Many misunderstand the nature of Reïshiki and this is probably the fault of people like me! (laughter) An advanced student told me that the culture was different and so we could do nothing. But whether one is of Anglo-Saxon, Latin or Japanese, there are decent people, wrong people everywhere. If the spirit and desire are there, the understanding of cultural particulars is possible.

Today Reïshiki is often regarded as a rigid and anachronistic ritual. [Certains élèves se plient en quatre et répètent “senseï, senseï” tout en parlant dans l’ombre.] Some students will fold into quarters and repeat “Sensei, Sensei” while speaking in the shade. This is in opposition to Reïshiki, where the form should come from the corresponding feeling. When one practices Bujutsu, the body becomes sensitive to motion but also the spirit. I just need to touch someone to feel his spirit. We must be able to feel the way a person thinks on first contact, then simply see them move. This is also Bujutsu.

Recently I turned forty-three years old and I felt very acutely that it is necessary to preserve etiquette. “Always maintain etiquette, whatever the circumstances.” Many of my sempaï noted this emphasis I have given recently and shared with me their joy.

“Unfortunately this is something to which I did not pay much attention in the past.”
Akuzawa Sensei started to teach while he was young in a country where it is rare for a person under the age of forty years to do so. This probably explains how, living in a natural way, [he came to use] an etiquette that seemed self-evident to him; he probably felt that it was also a goal for his students. There is unfortunately a cultural and generational gap that exists probably not only for the foreign students but also his younger Japanese students, without exception.

“If the spirit and desire are there, understanding the cultural is possible.”
Japanese etiquette is undoubtedly one of the most subtle that persists in today’s world. Armed with good will it seems to me it is simple enough to learn the fundamentals. Far from the sophisticated rituals that are preserved in Koryu, Budo practice does not ask but to respect some key elements. Some elements when absent, however, make for a phenomenal difference …

“Today Reïshiki is often regarded as a rigid and anachronistic ritual. Some students fold into quarters and repeat” Sensei, Sensei “while speaking in the shade. This is opposed to Reïshiki, where form should come from the corresponding feeling. ”
It is clear that martial concepts are reflections of a state of mind. But there is a link in both directions and martial concepts also mark the spirit. It struck me to see that by changing a few words, Akuzawa senseï could comment on the practice, regretting that it became a rigid and anachronistic ritual where form took precedence over substance … In contrast to his research.

The gesture without the intention is nothing
The greeting has always been for me a special moment. Whatever their technical virtuosity, I have never had the slightest desire to encounter a teacher who was acting only mechanically, without heart. In martial practice as in everyday life, I consider that the act without the intent is nothing, an animal reflex, almost an accident. When you greet a person or a symbol (eg a kamiza, portrait of the founder, katana, etc.) it is essential to do so with the heart. Better to stop oneself, not do it in a fashion that is empty and mechanical, almost hypocritical.

“When one practices Bujutsu, the body becomes sensitive to motion but also the spirit. I just need to touch someone to feel his spirit. We must be able to feel the way a person thinks on first contact, then simply see them move. This is also Bujutsu.
Akuzawa senseï stated here an essential point to martial practice. It is often said that it’s enough for master to see just a greeting to evaluate us. A key point in a practice where the origin was for its followers not to cross the thin line separating life from death in battle, when assessing the opponent needed to be instantaneous …

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