In 1447, Iizasa Choisai Ienao dedicated his life to worshipping at the Katori Shinto Jinja (shrine). While worshipping there one day, engaged in martial arts training, which was an aspect of his Shinto discipline and purification, a divine being appeared to him and presented him with a book on strategy, written reportedly by divine hands. This book, called the HEIHO SHINSHO, literally ‘soldier’s law divine writing’, became the basis of the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu Bujutsu, Iizasa’s systems of martial arts, which included training in; Iaijutsu (sword drawing art), Kenjutsu (sword art), Bojutsu (staff art), Naginatajutsu (halberd art), Shurikenjutsu (palm blade art), Sojutsu (spear art), Senjutsu (war art, tactics), Chikujojutsu (field fortification art), Ninjutsu (stealth art, espionage), and Jujutsu (yielding art, hand to hand combat). Those just listed were the major arts, but within the divisions are special arts that are not openly discussed with those not of the Ryu. The term Bujutsu, martial art(s), is used to stand for all aspects of martial training contained in the Ryu.

What Iizasa passed on to his successor and his followers, was not just a method of fighting, which reportedly came from a divine source, but the light gained from that source. A founding master is suppose to have a Tenshin Sho, divine illumination. This seeing of the light is the most important aspect of the master’s experience. All other facets of the Ryu stem from this seeing of the light. The way the sword is used, the way to fight empty handed, the way to use stealth, all come from the insight created from this seeing of the light.
From the Tenshin Sho that a founding master has he teaches his students in such a way that they can have an insight into that illumination. All teachers, and most especially masters, of a particular Ryu, are suppose to have viewed the light and thus have an idea of how to teach their students how to perceive it. Each perception is known as a Kensho, a seeing of the light. There are a rare few who will see into the light in one experience, but usually it is a matter of constant training that brings about many smaller Kensho, that finally lead to full illumination.
One of the problems that have faced American, and other non-Japanese, practitioners of the martial arts, is that much of the inner tradition of a martial art is spiritual and thus for a long time not made readily available to non-Japanese students. However, ever since certain Japanese and Okinawan masters began teaching serious Occidental students, little by little, the ideal has passed to them as well. Probably the first Occidental person to ever achieve the insight into a traditional Ryu was Donn F. Draeger. Since that time many other Occidental martial artists have been allowed to plum the inner secrets of the traditional Ryu of the Orient.
Today we are seeing, what amounts to a regression in the martial arts, where practitioners of all nations, are turning away from the spiritual heritage of the truly traditional arts and beginning to accept the competitive nature of training as the reason for existence, of what are to many, no more than just fighting systems. Competition has become the motivating force behind training and a desire to be regarded as the greatest fighter in the world, or the toughest man or woman, has replaced the idea of becoming an enlightened human being.
Morihei Ueshiba stated that competition was the antithesis of the cooperation that was the real essence of Aiki. To him Aiki was the basic nature of the universe and that for man to achieve his highest potential, he must develop harmony with God, or as many times expressed, the Universal Spirit. This harmony disallowed any type of competition between people, because the by the very nature of competition, contention is created between them and this destroys the cooperation that is the final result of true Aiki.
Seeing into the light of true martial arts is an acceptance of the unity of life and would actually preclude the desire to combat anyone unless there is no other recourse. Even then self defense is not done in a spirit of hate or enmity, but rather with love for the universe, in the sense that the goal of personal combat should be a return to peace and harmony. In this way the ultimate master of self defense is one who only fights to protect life, either their own or that of an innocent, and even then with a level of concern and love for their enemy.
Technically speaking, when a person has actually achieved Kensho and a merging of the self with the Universal Spirit, in the manner of Aiki, there are no enemies. At this point it becomes a matter of someone who is out of harmony with others. When we begin to view all contention in this manner, then we can begin to achieve a level of peace between all of mankind. What we need to do is strive to resolve conflict by seeking to find the area of disharmony and bring it into dissipation, so that the two opposing parties can be resolved into peace.
When looking at the core of all religious faith as being a matter of seeing the light of God, the Universal Spirit, the Void, or whatever else might be used as the expressed manner of designating the Ultimate, a person who is in harmony with this light has loving eyes that shine that light to others.
It has been a universal belief that the eyes are the doorway to the soul. When you look deeply into the eyes of another human being you will see their innermost core. That is why the Japanese have felt that one of God’s greatest gift to man is the mirror. For the mirror allows a man or woman to look into their own eyes and see their own true nature. That is why so many people avoid looking into their eyes when they look in a mirror. There are many men who have shaved for years and never looked into their own eyes, just as there have been many women who avoid doing so when they are at the mirror.
In the most basic of terms, there might be thought to be three types of people who exist in this world. Of these three types there are gradient levels in each type. First of all are those with loving eyes, who are full of the light and shine it strongly out whenever they meet other people. These are people who have achieved Kensho in their respective beliefs and it shows in the brightness of their eyes and the love shown in their lives.
Next are people with haunted eyes. These are people who let the problems and worries create shadows in their lives so that their light is dim. So many times these are people who have a set of beliefs, but they do not have the light to support their beliefs. Thus when problems and the pressures of life come upon them, they are burdened by them.
Finally there are people with empty eyes, those that have no light within. The emptiest of eyes are those of the stone cold killer, who can destroy a human life in the same way a person kills a roach. There is no remorse, no feeling, because there is no light. Not all people with empty eyes are yet at such a low level, but someone’s whose eyes are empty need to be helped right away before it is too late.
Now it might be asked, what does all this have to do with martial arts training? A fair question and the answer is that the founding masters of the martial arts recognized that these three types of people existed. They, in their religious experience, found that in the practice of the martial arts existed a type of spiritual discipline that brought them closer to the light. These masters also realized that people with haunted and empty eyes have a real tendency to persecute and physically attack people with loving eyes, because they recognize that these people have something they do not have. Out of envy, jealously, and covetousness, these people will seek to destroy the presence of the light within their environment.
Starting with Bodhidharma, many of the religious masters of the past, began to teach their students martial arts so that they would have the skills to survive until they could achieve enlightenment, and then live on to teach others to see the light. Also loving eyes can many times reveal to others who are haunted or empty, the light, if they can keep the people at bay and get their attention. It is a sad but true fact, that sometimes defeating a person opens them up to your influence. There have been muggers who have been changed by the people who were able to thwart them and then showed them loving eyes. This takes a high level of spiritual development, to combat someone and then show them love, but this is the goal of true martial arts training.
Actually the highest goal is to become so full of love that no one feels compelled to attack, but are instead drawn by that love and transformed without conflict. But love that strong takes a lot of training and discipline. And once again that is where the martial arts come in. The martial arts are a discipline that allows someone when working out by themselves to be aware of the spirit of God. During Kata and Kihon, those times of working out all by oneself, if the art is taught as based on the Tenshin Sho of a real founding master, then the time will be a time of spiritual growth and awareness of being in the light.
Kihon Kumite, Renzoku Ken, and Embu, those two man training forms of the martial arts, are times to develop the loving eyes. Whenever you train with another human being, should be the time to develop the outpouring of love. This creates a stronger love within and turns your eyes into loving eyes. With so much media pressure emphasizing the divisions between men and women, young and old, and between the races, the Dojo should be a place where people come together, train together in a spirit of love, so that all prejudice and chauvinism are purged. Love is the light and any genuine Tenshin Sho will have it’s foundation in teaching people how to love and live at peace.
The main goal of the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu Bujutsu, is to go from Heiho, written the ‘soldier’s law’, to Heiho, written the ‘peace law’. If an art founded during the warring time of Japanese history can be so oriented towards peace and love, Why is it that in the wonderful advanced time in which we live so many people are specifically avoiding the development of peace and love?
Competition has turned from the idea of developing fair play, if that ever was it’s real goal, to being a concept of win at any cost. A local coach rewards his football players for every member of the other team they hurt, who cannot continue the game. This is modern competition. At a local Karate tournament, in the senior masters division, for men over thirty five, a ‘master?’ was behind on points, and it was obvious he was going to loose, so he purposely broke the nose of his competitor.
Competition was never intended as part of the martial arts. Yasutsune Itosu, the great Okinawan Karate master, specifically stated that he never wanted to see competition develop for Karate. He instead said that the martial arts of Okinawa were ways of life to be followed so that people were healthy, strong, and capable of defending themselves. Itosu said that Karate was a killing art and only to be used as a last resort, and never in a sporting match. Unfortunately, it seems that very few people listened to him.
Anyone who says they practice a traditional martial art, and are not involved in trying to grow spiritually, are only fooling themselves. Anyone who says they have founded a martial art in the traditional way, and are not teaching their students how to grow spiritually, helping them achieve Kensho, are showing ignorance. And anyone who sees competition as a part of traditional martial arts, are those who know nothing about real martial arts.
Truly traditional martial arts are involved with teaching legitimate fighting skills, that in truth can kill, but are kept in check by the spiritual training that is a must for real instruction. While competition is a part of the modern life, students should be brought past it as quickly as possible, and most of all they should be taught that it is a small part of the martial arts and to be put aside when the person has grown out of the need to prove themselves. Then they should be encouraged to train for life. They should be taught to practice in order to be healthier, safer, but most of all to Kensho, the true goal of real martial arts training, to ‘see the light’.


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