Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Taking a closer look at Shu Gyou

I apologize for the long wait. It seems that life and work always seem to have a way of getting busy all at the same time making it very difficult to stay on task. That, however, is the most important challenge, isn't it.

In one of my previous posts titled 'Analysis of the Showa Part 1', I didn't go into very much detail on  the interpretation of 修業 Shu Gyou, that appears in the motivational poem the 唱和 Showa written by the first generation Soke of Chito-Ryu Karate Do, Chitose Tsuyoshi Sensei.  I simply wrote that it means "to study." However, this translation is lacking in substance and doesn't really express the deeper meaning of the kanji. I am very happy that the blog has generated some interesting discussion. After being asked to share my thoughts on the term 修業 Shu Gyou, I've decided to take a closer look at the term. I began by checking some other sources for translations and found one I felt the readers of this blog may be interested in. The translation is "the pursuit of knowledge." Perhaps this more accurately explains the nuance of the term Shugyo, that it requires one to devote their time and energy into a focused pursuit of whatever it is that they wish to attain deeper knowledge of. It is not, simply describing passive learning. However, there is still one more point of concern that needs to be addressed and that is the two different ways of writing Shu Gyou in Japanese; 修業 and 修行, and the differences in the usage of each. I would like to take a closer look at Shu Gyou in this post.
(Chito-Ryu Karate Do First Generation Soke, Chitose Tsuyoshi Sensei)

As I said, discussion lead to the variations of the kanji that can be used to write Shyugyo, listed above修業 and 修行. In this post I will try to address the differences between the nuance of each of these. I also welcome knowledgeable readers of this blog to post in the comment section of this entry to further deepen our understanding of these terms and concepts.

First let's look at 修業 Shu Gyou, this is most commonly used to describe the action of physical practice in pursuit of technical knowledge and developing one's skills in something such as a martial art. Therefore, the term 取り組む姿勢 Torikumu Shisei should also be noted. This refers to the mindset of those devoted to perfecting their skills or 技 Waza, Techniques. In order to better understand Shu Gyou we also have to take a look at both Torikumu and Shisei especially in the martial context.

As I wrote before, the aspect of 文武両道 Bun Bu Ryo Do is a very important part of the martial arts in Japan whether it be Judo, Kendo, Sumo, or Karate Do. One of the most important things necessary in developing one's physical strength and depth of knowledge is first to to be a good student. Within this context, the ability to listen and absorb information is vital. Therefore, references are often made to the  心 Kokoro/Shin, the Heart/Spirit of the practitioner and whether or not they are accepting the information with a pure heart/spirit. The state that a learner is in, mentally and physically, affects their ability to absorb and process the information given to them. It is in this respect that one must pay attention to their own mental and spiritual 'posture' as well as their physical condition. I believe that this is what the term Torikumu Shisei refers to.
Torikumu literally means to Wrestle with a (difficult problem) the difficult problem could be the new information that you are trying to familiarize yourself with, in which case, the term wrestling would become metaphorical to indicate an internal struggle within the learner.

取る Toru, represents to Take or (Receive) and 組む Kumu is often associated with making pairs or groups and can, therefore, be used to represent a partner (we cannot have a 組手 Kumi Te match without an opponent). In this case the translation is not an 'opponent' but 'another' individual. Therefore, Torikumu could be interpreted as meaning "to take or receive from one another." 姿勢 Shi Sei refers to our posture, not only our physical posture but also or mental posture; we need to be willing to accept that which we are being given in order to recognize the benefit of that which is being given to us. With this in mind we are in much better shape to look at Shu Gyou.

While both 修業 and 修行 are often translated as the pursuit of knowledge, the first way of writing the term (修業) deals more specifically with developing one's technical skills and the latter (修行) deals more with a spiritual journey to a kind of enlightenment through attaining spiritual knowledge and is often closely associated with Buddhism. The former is often associated with Japanese martial arts such as Kendo, Judo, and Karate Do, among others.
(修業 - Funakoshi Sensei, Makiwara Training)
The above photo shows Funakoshi Gichin Sensei practicing with the Makiwara, perfecting his punching skills through repeatedly striking the target focusing on such things as breathing, timing, proper muscle control (relaxation and tension), as well as focus of intent on the point of impact and zanshin upon completing the strike. Paying careful attention to these and other details of the technique with each strike is one form os Shu Gyou and would be written as 修業.

 (修行 - Zen Buddhism)
Sitting in silent contemplation, focusing on breathing and working towards spiritual enlightenment through meditation. Repeating this activity also leads to attainment of a specific kind of knowledge and is therefore also a kind of Shu Gyou but would be written as 修行.

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