View Full Version : Dento (Tradition)

Nathan Scott
29th September 2009, 22:21
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1st October 2009, 16:52
Hi Nathan, nicely put. As far as I'm concerned, the tradition is what makes the arts interesting and worth doing.

I am reminded of a comment made by a Japanese friend who said that they felt sorry for the imperial family because they can't be human.

Nathan Scott
1st October 2009, 21:07
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Benkei the Monk
4th October 2009, 08:17
Thanks for your post, Mr Scott. I totally agree with you. The knowledge of Dento is basilar in trasmitting what we call "living tradition". I think the "dento" part of the martial art helps not only to understand the technique but also in keeping in mind that some techniques are rational even if the don't seem applicable. Many times I heard "Yes, but this technique doesn't work and it isn't useful for the art". I think this is the result of a lack of knowledge of the dynamics of the warfare or habits and tradition of the era. This can be lead to a serious misunderstanding and a wrong judgement.

In a living tradition we are supposed to practise techniques that are some hundreads of years old and were properly used by professional men at arms of those days. If they are "inefficient" (perhaps it is more correct "not suitable nowadays in any situation") now this doesn't means that some centuries ago they are valuable on a real battlefield on in narrow rooms of the palace

Benkei the Monk
4th October 2009, 12:53
CUT---Furthermore, one of the main benefits of studying history in general is the opportunity to learn from the mistakes and successes of others, rather than waste valuable years of life reinventing the wheel yourself. History does repeat itself, and the essence of human beings does not change significantly over the generations. ---CUT---

I'd like to remark also this quote of Scott sensei's text. I think we must reflect if the contemporary martial arts world needs more innovators or more students trusting their tradition

Cady Goldfield
4th October 2009, 15:43
Yeah, you gotta love that "Imperial Tradition." :rolleyes:

At least the crown prince knows he's not a deity.

I've found that some of the most interesting and beneficial parts of studying traditional or classical martial arts is the "dento" ( 伝統 ), or tradition. The tradition includes ideals of Japanese culture, as well as history. Such things are important for learning these types of martial arts for a few reasons:

1) Culture - these arts were developed, in most cases, over a course of many, many years. As such, cultural aspects of the country of origin were understandably intertwined with the technical sections. This can be a big stumbling block for non-Japanese, but even for native Japanese it takes some effort to understand what is increasingly becoming "obsolete customs". In the case of Daito-ryu and Aikido for example, attacks and defenses are sometimes dictated by the culture and etiquette that was popular at the time the methods were developed. Techniques to be used within the palace, or from seiza, are good examples. An understanding of etiquette can also explain the reason for certain types of attacks and defenses, as well as methods of generating power, or body movement. Obviously, many - such as myself - find the "ideals" found in traditional Japanese culture refreshing and beneficial for living in our modern world as well (from a non-martial arts aspect).

2) History - the area in which an art was developed, as well as the time period, can bring significant insights as to the correct understanding of kata, techniques, and movement - but in particular, the verbal transmission. Each art was developed for a specific purpose and intended usage, and level of sophistication and type of tactics will typically be reflected in this. The sword art of Toyama-ryu, for example, was not initially intended to be comprehensive or sophisticated. It was developed with a specific purpose in mind, and the methods selected for the art reflect this clearly. Looking at Toyama-ryu as an independent sword art nowadays, it is important to understand the context in which the art was developed in order to correctly understand what the best way might be to supplement the areas that were excluded within the historical military context. This is important for the student as well as the teacher. Furthermore, one of the main benefits of studying history in general is the opportunity to learn from the mistakes and successes of others, rather than waste valuable years of life reinventing the wheel yourself. History does repeat itself, and the essence of human beings does not change significantly over the generations. Building on the shoulders of others' sweat and blood is simply the most logical way to deepen a field of knowledge (although not at the exclusion of self-discovery and innovation, of course).

* *

Traditional and classical arts aren't perfect, but more times than not it is because of the proponents of the arts - not the arts themselves. Most don't have enough patience, or commit the time necessary, to understand the culture and history that is intertwined within their art. As such, they are not able to pass down the teachings with a full understanding to the next generation. For example, older martial arts contain stories and "koan" (riddles) of sorts, that are typically designed to only be understood by those who are at an appropriately deep enough level of understanding of the art. Such kuden and dento can be invaluable clues and validation for the appropriately initiated student, while at the same time, appear vague or confusing to others. They are, however, a critical tradition within the art - whether they are proven as historically accurate or not.

I thought to bring up this subject for discussion partly because of a short speech I watched on Japanese TV recently, which was given by the current Empress of Japan:

I found the Empress Michiko's speech interesting, partly because I realized while listening to her, that the role of the Imperial Family is largely - if not mostly, either supporting or continuing historical traditions and customs. Preserving traditions are, largely, their whole life. Their thoughts on the subject are probably worth considering.

In my experience, being a part of a "living tradition", such as the traditional and classical martial arts, can be a very interesting and gratifying pursuit. Such arts can easily be adapted to practical, modern-day conflicts as well - as long as the culture and history of the art is correctly understood, and the student has been conditioned and "tested" realistically. These types of arts, nowadays at least, represent a life-time endeavor, rather than some of the more modern arts that emphasize a "faster and easier" approach. But in my opinion, the increased depth of teachings and sophistication of methodologies makes the pursuit a worthwhile investment. And just to be clear - a "life-long endeavor" does not mean that it should take your whole life to become effective and practical at the techniques. It simply indicates a depth of study available that is often times limitless.


Nathan Scott
6th October 2009, 04:58
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