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Thread: "Kendo embodies the essence of the Japanese fighting arts"?

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    Default "Kendo embodies the essence of the Japanese fighting arts"?

    Hey guys.

    I did some minor editing on the Kendo-article on Wikipedia, (minor stuff), and ran into a disagreement with another editor. As most of you know, Wikipedia strives to be neutral in it's point of view when it comes to presenting material. This is especially true of religions and politics. You can't post a statement on Wikipedia that proclaims: "Buddha achieved enlightenment..." but rather you must have a Neutral Point of View, or NPOV: "Buddhists believe that [the first] Buddha achieved enlightenment...".

    With that in mind; I came across the statment in the Kendo-article that stated "Kendo embodies the essence of the Japanese fighting arts". This sounds to me like a blatant biased statement pro-kendo and not very neutral as there are prolly lots of other opinions on what truly embodies "the essence of the Japanese fighting arts". I myself have heard, (thats HEARD not TAUGHT ), that kata as taught in koryu is the "essence" of the Japanese arts.

    So what do you guys think? I admit it's a tricky and perhaps sensitive topic but nevertheless it's prolly something that needs to be discussed from time to time.

    This is not a kendo-bashing topic, or bashing in any way but simply an inquiry of opinions from both kendoka and budoka in general on what "embodies the essence of the Japanese fighting arts", and if the statement (in the topic-title) is a fairly accurate claim or just an exaggeration (which I personally think it is).

    Thank you for any input.
    Fredrik Hall
    "To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." /Confucius

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    I don't really have much experience with Kendo (other then seeing some people, and reading heaps of Kendo-World), but most generalized statements such as that (and this ironically) are usually silly. Every art represents a different aspect of styles and mind-frame of the culture and of the individuals within the systems (specifically teachers and headmasters). It really only matters what you define as the essence beforehand (and once understood and defined to ask such a question proves redundent).

    Frankly I think that Japanese Martial Arts represent the essence of Japanese Martial Arts... Nothing else would really.

    But then, that's just me, and vexing philosophy has always been a source of headaches.
    -Amir Barak

    "You get what you pay for, But I had no intention of living this way" - Adam Duritz

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    Given the annual death toll from kendo I don't see how thats accurate at all ;-)

    Kendo is kendo, it's a deliberate compromise and modification of older stuff because the context changed. It sounds like the author is like a guy I trained with once, was all caught up in the idea that budo originated in temples as a kind of yogic thing to be used for Good if the need arose, didn't seem too chuffed with the possibilty that it was more likely people just wanted to hurt/maim/kill each other for various reasons and it was developed to achieve it or defend against it....
    Jim Boone

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    Quote Originally Posted by yoj
    Given the annual death toll from kendo I don't see how thats accurate at all ;-)
    Heehee, from what I've read on Kendo-World it's more like death trolls...
    Maybe Jedijutsu, or Yodaryu are the essence then (being the hero and all).

    But seriously, I stick by my convictions, it depends solely on subjective understanding of what essence is, although I do agree that there are definite guidelines as to what Budo is or isn't. (E-Budo = Budo, Ashide Kim = Crazy Ninja Clown, for example)...
    -Amir Barak

    "You get what you pay for, But I had no intention of living this way" - Adam Duritz

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    Quote Originally Posted by Inazuma
    But seriously, I stick by my convictions, it depends solely on subjective understanding of what essence is, although I do agree that there are definite guidelines as to what Budo is or isn't. (E-Budo = Budo, Ashide Kim = Crazy Ninja Clown, for example)...
    Agreed...The "Kendo embodies..." statement is a point of view statement and not a neutral observation. Thanks for yer input guys.
    Fredrik Hall
    "To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." /Confucius

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    The statement isn't actually exclusive, although it may seem so at first glance. Kendo embodying the essence of the Japanese fighting arts does not exclude any other art from also embodying that same essence.

    This is because the word "essence" in this context is meaningless. "Essence" is a word copywriters love because it sounds great but doesn't tie you down to anything. Bad writing. Get rid of it altogether.

    Or define "essence".

    b
    Last edited by ichibyoshi; 25th September 2006 at 12:43.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ichibyoshi
    The statement isn't actually exclusive, although it may seem so at first glance. Kendo embodying the essence of the Japanese fighting arts does not exclude any other art from also embodying that same essence.

    This is because the word "essence" in this context is meaningless. "Essence" is a word copywriters love because it sounds great but doesn't tie you down to anything. Bad writing. Get rid of it altogether.

    Or define "essence".

    b
    Well..thats a good point as well.

    I have invited a kendoka to e-budo from the wiki-article, although not the original instigator of the "embodies.." statement though. If he accepts he should be here soon.
    Fredrik Hall
    "To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." /Confucius

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    The guy in question is awaiting approvement of his e-budo registration. He should be here shortly. While we wait, read the below to bring you up to speed what we discussed over at wikipedia:

    Note: Bolded text indicates the author of the poster.

    Similarly to the above, the 'Kendo embodies the essence of the Japanese fighting arts' quote at the beginning of the history section strikes me as POV mumbo-jumbo. Why not karate, or anything else? How can any one specialized martial art really be said to embody the fighting arts of an entire culture? If nobody objects, I'm going to remove that fairly soon. -Toptomcat 01:21, 23 September 2006 (UTC)

    No argument from me. To be precise on why: Some believe koryu-kata is the essence of Japanese fighting arts. So there are obviously people who disagrees with the "'Kendo embodies the essence of the Japanese fighting arts'". There are prolly other arguments as well. Fred26 09:56, 23 September 2006 (UTC)

    Fair comment, but I disagree, kendo players continue to become enlightened through the rigours of difficult practice and study. Particularly some of the metaphysical concepts of kendo and bushido in general. It may be a POV, but it is a POV of kendo players, so does belong in this article. Karate is mentioned above, but it, nor any other art is excluded from the possibility of enlightenment. This article though, is about kendo. Therefore I have reinstated the enlightened statement. Similarly the embodied statement has been reinstated. Chardy

    I can only speak for the "enlightenment"-stuff. Again: There is no difference in claiming "he/she achieved enlightenment" and claiming "he/she ascended into heaven". The proper thing to do in this case would be to proclaim, (just as a crude example), "Many kendo-practitioners claim to have achieved enlightenment throughout the years...". If you insert the removed statement: "many kendo-practitioners have achieved enlightenment" (or however it was put), then it will not be a NPOV statement with regards to religion and it will be removed again.
    This whole "'Kendo embodies the essence of the Japanese fighting arts'" still sounds like a POV to me but not as tangible a POV-statement as the "enlightenment"-part. I'll ask a few budo-friends what they think. Fred26 05:40, 25 September 2006 (UTC)

    I agree with you, Fred. The statement needs to be qualified with something like, "Many historians of Japanese budo claim that kendo embodies the essence of the Japanese fighting arts", and then, that statement should be referenced to a reliable article/source that supports that claim. If there's no good reference at the moment to be found, I believe that it should be removed under Wiki standards to maintain NPOV and a professional encyclopedia-style tone. --Gar2chan 08:21, 25 September 2006 (UTC)

    Enlightenment; embodies and essence. Three "e" words!
    The online Oxford has: Embody : ... to embody one's ideas in a treatise. Essence : The constituent elementary notions which constitute a complex notion, and must be enumerated to define it; sometimes called the nominal essence. Enlightenment : ... or the state of being enlightened or instructed. Treatise : A written composition on a particular subject, in which its principles are discussed or explained; a tract.
    I argue and ask you to consider the above and that the use of the word "embodies" and "essence" are appropriate in the context of the learning or enlightenment required to do kendo well. I also acknowledge that words may have differing meanings in different contexts, take "essence" as an example and that a minor edit may benefit the entry.
    Fred, you suggest that you'll ask some "budo friends" for their opinion. Will they include kendo players? We all are probably aware that perspectives may differ depending on ones own experience. Even though I have met and trained with the former son in law of "O-sensei" and some of his students, I would not dream of expressing an opinion about aikido.Kendo 66 12:22, 25 September 2006 (UTC)

    Well its true, enlightenment has many meanings, but since this article put this text: "In this period kendo developed under the strong influence of Zen Buddhism. The samurai could equate the disregard for his own life in the heat of battle, which was considered necessary for victory in individual combat, to the Buddhist concept of the illusory nature of the distinction between life and death." right before the "many kendo practitioners have achieved enlightenment", I naturally assumed they are talking about the religious concept of enlightenment which of course is still POV. If we are strictly speaking of the more non-religious version of "enlightenment", I would personally not choose the word "enlightened" over the word "instructed".
    As for the "budo-friends" they are located at the www.ebudo.com/forums. Namely this topic http://www.e-budo.com/forum/showthread.php?p=422825. The reason I asked for their help is because as you hinted: I'm not a kendoka and might not be well-versed with what kendo is. But I do know, mostly anyways, what wikipedia is and what wikipedia strives for. There are kendoka at the forum which have given their input, I would apreciate your input there as well. 81.216.27.2 13:45, 25 September 2006 (UTC)

    I await an ebudo moderator to allow me to view the forum, but no offence, I probably won't bother with ebudo. In the meantime, I think the author of the words that we are debating may be known to many budoka for his translation of Musashis 5 rings book. I am quite happy that his knowledge from extensive research and his kendo experience is credential enough for the choice of words that we are debating and is "above" the POV problem, therefore is a reliable source.
    Try performing a search, using key words like "embodies the essence of the Japanese fighting arts"
    I don't interpret the "essence" claim as being exclusive to kendo. Just that if one studies kendo properly, then enlightenment may be gained. The same may happen by studying other subjects as well.Kendo 66 03:29, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

    Tbere is a problem in the base assumptions being made here. The consensus is that the statement is POV, but because it is a POV that all kendoka share, it is acceptable. That is untrue. Do we edit the Church of Scientology page from the perspective of a Scientologist, the Republican Party page from the perspective of a Republican? Should we? It would seem self-evident that the answer is no. Similarly, editing our article on kendo exclusively from the perspective of kendoka, to the point of preserving an admittedly POV statement because it is consensus among them, is also flawed. -Toptomcat 03:38, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

    Also keep in mind this is not a debate to dissaprove the positive mental/metaphysical effects of kendo, its about trying to figure out of what is actually a Neutral Point of View for an encyclopedia article.
    Fredrik Hall
    "To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." /Confucius

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    Wow. I've never heard anyone who actually does kendo talk about it as a means to Buddhist enlightenment. Does that mean that those of us who are not Buddhist either risk being enlightened against our wills or will never be able to reach the top levels of skill? The most I've ever been told or read is that kendo is a means of personal development, both physical and mental, and they pretty much leave it at that. "Ningen-keisei no michi de aru." I'd like to know who all these people are that keep getting enlightened via kendo practice.

    I also have no idea what "the essence of Japanese fighting arts" is. Its vague enough to be meaningless. I suppose this is why I generally leave Wikipedia alone.

    I don't know among which group of kenshi this view is the consensus, but it's not in any of the groups I've been involved in.
    Kent Enfield
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    The phrase "ken zen ichinyo" or "ken zen ichi mi" are often used to say that kendo and zen have the same goal or same purpose. It's a big step to say that kendo can be a means to enlightenment. Most people will never achieve capital "E" enlightenment with simple sitting meditation, much less so with a dynamic and complex activity like kendo.

    b

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    Quote Originally Posted by Enfield
    Wow. I've never heard anyone who actually does kendo talk about it as a means to Buddhist enlightenment. Does that mean that those of us who are not Buddhist either risk being enlightened against our wills or will never be able to reach the top levels of skill? The most I've ever been told or read is that kendo is a means of personal development, both physical and mental, and they pretty much leave it at that. "Ningen-keisei no michi de aru." I'd like to know who all these people are that keep getting enlightened via kendo practice.

    I also have no idea what "the essence of Japanese fighting arts" is. Its vague enough to be meaningless. I suppose this is why I generally leave Wikipedia alone.

    I don't know among which group of kenshi this view is the consensus, but it's not in any of the groups I've been involved in.
    This discussion is about the use of three words on Wikipedia. Enlightenment, Embody and Essence, that are used in the context of kendo; and a perception of POV.

    I wrote in the wiki discussion that "a minor edit may benefit the entry", so lets concentrate on that on the wiki talk page.

    Kendo is not a science, so it is very hard NOT to include some words that someone else (from their own perspective) may interpret as the POV of another.
    Richard Ward

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    So I guess my take would be that over at wikipedia, people are discussing whether the article is written from on objective point of view, whereas I'm pointing out that however you word it, it's probably not even accurate.
    Kent Enfield
    Kentokuseisei

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    I suspect what you're actually trying to define is seishin shuyo, or meditation of the inner spirit. Reflecting on the inner spirit is not necessarily something restricted to Buddhism, as there are similar concepts in Christianity and Islam, and for that matter, in Maoist Communism.

    ***

    As an aside, here is Prof. Bodiford's view on the relationship between Zen and swordsmanship: "Such broad categories exist more in the popular imagination (in the eyes of the beholder) than in any identifiable, historical reality." The quotation is from the conclusion of Prof. Bodiford's essay, "Zen and Japanese Swordsmanship Reconsidered," in _Budo Perspectives_, Vol. 1, ed. by Alexander Bennett (Auckland: Kendo World, 2005), pg. 95.

    That said, there is an argument that *kata* embodies the basis of Japanese culture as a whole. Not just in kendo, but in Japanese life in general. See Boye de la Mente's book, "Kata: The Key to Understanding and Dealing with the Japanese" http://www.amazon.com/Kata-Key-Under.../dp/0804833869

    Viewed this way, kendo could be said to embody the Japanese culture. After all, it teaches kata (small k) in the sense of formal kendo movement, and Kata (big K), in the sense of wearing wearing Japanese clothing, acting in response to Japanese commands, and so on. In this way, kendo (or judo, aikido, or whatever Japanese martial art one does) truly could be argued to embody all that many foreigners will ever know of Japanese (or even Japanese Canadian) culture. For more on this, see YAMASHITA Yasuhiro's speech, "The Role of Judo in an Age of Internationalization," as recorded in Bennett, 2005, pg. 410.

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    But then, what is there in the essence of a culture, does the Japanese culture revolve simply around the concepts found in the martial arts? is that a culture, or is that THE culture. I agree that there is a strong case to think that it embodies the culture simply because that is all that others may view of the culture, but the views are all subjective, while a culture is composed of a wide panorama of aspects within a socially connected people. In a way the Martial Arts are a culture, and as such fragments within it will reflect upon themselve the whole as well, and so Kendo in fact is the essence of that particular defition, but then again, so will any other Martial Art which teaches kata, Kata, and the rest.
    The Japanese culture however is far more complex (and I do not pertain to have an understanding of it, or even a fraction of it, but I do speak from the glimpses that I did have into the culture).
    And also one has to understand that a national culture evolves, it is not a static beast, so that the values of yesterday are not the values of today. Does Kendo represent the essence of nowadays Japanese culture, does any of the Koryu, or the Gendai arts?

    Or do we simply wish it so because to us they seem to be noble aspects of what we want of ourselves?
    -Amir Barak

    "You get what you pay for, But I had no intention of living this way" - Adam Duritz

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    What Amir said, and the fact of the small numbers of Japanese participate. But why make it this difficult? Edit the sentence in a way that the many will understand what the few know or feel about Japanese budo/bujutsu.

    But I'm an old judo player, what do I know?

    Mark

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