The First Cut: Applying The Way of the Sword to Life and Tennis

life way of tennisNote: My actual time with the sword is quite limited. I trained in karate and tai chi during my college years. And at that time, I was on track to begin sword training at my dojo. As part of my initiation into the sword path I was given a bokuto (wooden sword) to sand and polish while I contemplated what I wanted out of my sword training. In the months that followed, my life and my training changed. I kept the bokuto, but only “worked” with it as part of my tai chi practice. And this consisted of contemplation and addressing the sword rather than using the sword as a training tool or weapon. Thus ends my romantic association with The Way of the Sword.

The concept of kendo is to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the Katana (sword). — The Kendo Guide

So, several months ago, the concept of the sword and training with the sword came back into my mind. I’ve had the bokuto with me ever since. Usually it adorns some shelf, not as a trophy or object of respect, but more as a tool (to push closed the attic door) or a reminder of when I “did train.” And as I began to talk to some friends about finding a master, reinitiating my discipline and training, an amazing process started to take place.

One of my close friends wanted to know what I wanted out of training. Why would I be seeking out a teacher at this time, and what role would that person play.

And a few days ago, a friend who has trained for years in Aikido and has been a master teach himself, began to explore with me the ideas behind my desire to “train” and “follow” again.

Here’s what I came up with.

1. I want to re-instate my commitment to discipline and training.
2. I want to follow and be taught.
3. I want the physical hardening that comes with training.
4. And specifically, with the sword practice, I want to embrace the concept of cutting away all distractions in my life, and finding a clearer direction in my life.
5. I want to participate again in group meditation, group spiritual growth and encouragement, and group training.
6. I want to reawaken the snow leopard inside that is patient and quiet to a point, and then deadly with intention and action when it is required.
7. I want to rejoin a tribe.
8. I want a better defense and a better offense.
9. I want to re-enter that moment of oneness, flow, or “way” where all my concerns and challenges melt away into the moment of the practice.
10. Not as an escape, I want to BE HERE IN THIS MOMENT. (In action, contemplation, and reverence.)

And is the written “purpose of practicing Kendo” — The Kendo Guide

To mold the mind and body,
To cultivate a vigorous spirit,
And through correct and rigid training,
To strive for improvement in the art of Kendo,
To hold in esteem human courtesy and honor,
To associate with others with sincerity,
And to forever pursue the cultivation of oneself.

Sooo… Here’s where my friend, my “training aware” friend, went with the discussion.

We talked about “life way” as a part of Aikido. And any training we engage in is meant to support the whole of our life in many ways. And it is the passion for the training and the competition, if that’s part of our path, that fuels our growth and expansion into the higher learning or “way” of the practice, or discipline. We train so that we may apply the lessons and strength in our daily lives.

And we talked about Tennis, since I was suffering from some neck pain related to my competitive tennis play.

And in a eureka moment, he said, “And there’s that guy who wrote that book about tennis.”

My eyes lit up. “Timothy Gallway.”

“That might be it.”

“You mean The Inner Game of Tennis, by Timothy Gallway?”

“That sounds right.”

Holy Cow! He had hit me square in the heart. Not only had The Inner Game of Tennis formed a HUGE part of my youth, and my understanding of tennis as an exploration of self, but more recently I had gotten in touch with Timothy Gallway, in order to support the publication of his new book, The Inner Game of Stress.

“YES!” I said. “The concepts of the Inner Game have been part of my life for a long time. I think they’ve guided me more often than I know. I mean, I learned them when I was about 14 or 15.”

“Well, there you go.”

“I was trying to learn about tennis, and this “self 1” and “self 2″ concept was a bit over the top. BUT… It worked.”

“That’s what I’m saying. I think you have your training. And it’s something you’ve been working at passionately for years.”

“Yeah, since I was about 10.”

“And you still love it.”

So we talked about tennis and Timothy Gallway for a bit and I said something about the tennis racquet being sort of like a sword. And the game being fairly analogous to a duel. And in telling him about my game, I was describing my serve as a powerful weapon.

“The first cut,” he said.

In principle, the serve is a single motion and attack, when executed effectively puts the opponent on the defensive. In my game it is my single strongest weapon. Nothing gives me more confidence than to have my opponents complement my serve at the end of a match. At the completion of a doubles match, hearing “We just couldn’t get a handle on your serve tonight,” is truly the highest complement one can receive in tennis. In addition to the WIN, that is.

I’ll go fish out My Gallway book. And both my friend and I made a point to go seek out the new book The Inner Game of Stress.

Now I think I’d better go hit some tennis balls before the weekend rain starts again.

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

Three more tennis-related posts:

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