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December 2013

133. Seitei and the Single Girl

Back in the 60's an author wrote a book by a similar title involving "Sex and the Single ...".   The book, controversial for its time, was (of course) popular with "single girls" buying copies numbering into the millions.  Why?  Because the book popularized the idea that by taking the easy path, by having sex with whoever, that life would be wonderful and all problems solved and it doesn't require a lot of complicated thought processes because it was simple and didn't require a lot of work developing intense relationships.

Right?  Well maybe but sometimes the easy path, or the path of least resistance, or the path with the fewest moving parts and requiring the least amount of work raises more questions than one realizes at first.  Simple, repetitive, uncomplicated, easy, anonymous sex in massive quanties may indeed provide "a" answer but for the discerning and thoughtful person it raises a ton of questions not the least of which is "Where do I go from here?" or "What next?"

Seitei kata, of any stripe, does (or should) raise the same type questions in the mind of the serious Budoka.  Seitei supposedly solves all your problems, has few moving parts and requires (after you "master" it) little complicated thought.  Best of all, in the minds of many martial artists it provides most if not all the answers with the least amount of overall effort and has the fewest moving parts (as compared to much larger and more complicated koryu systems).

So for some, it enables them to bill themselves as an "expert" without having to spend the hours and days and years doing the hard, back breaking sweat-work of grinding through the entire advanced system.   (LOL ... Master Sensei of Clif Notes .... )

Three examples spring to mind.  The first is Nage no Kata & Katame no kata from Kodokan Judo.  The second is the Randori no Kata (The 17) from Tomiki Ryu Aikido and the third is Seitei Jodo from Shinto Muso Ryu Jodo.  

All three are minimalist.  All three purport to be condensed versions of the greater whole.  And amongst too many players (waaaaaaay too many players) all three are held up as being the "only" thing you need to study since each (as contained within its' respective art form) presumes to present the full "flavor" and "essence" of the larger ryu with no further sweat being indicated.

Some Aikido players are fond of saying that "all of Aikido is found in Ikkyo .... or Shomanate ... or the walking and first release".  Sorry Charlie-san but it's simply impossible to extrapolate a martial ryu in any functional way from that.  Saying that all of Aikido is contained in Ikkyo or Shomanate and then teaching classes in that fashion won't result in much at all other than some really excessive kuchi-waza and a lot of posturing and prancing around (drag out that technicolor gi and comb your eye brows before stepping in front of the cameras).

This parochial, narrow-scope view is somewhat dampened in Judo due to its' emphasis on randori; randori cleaning up many errors in the absorption of Nage & Katame no Kata (esp.since most Judo players start in randori anyway and evolve into kata, for promotions if nothing else).  Plus, shiai being what it is, many Judo players eventually go on to learn other much more advanced Judo kata so that they can compete for competion points (e.g. Goshin Jutsu, Ju no Kata. Kime no Kata) so eventually, most Judo players do go onto learning at least some of the greater whole of the art form to gain an increased understanding of the bigger picture that's at stake.

Tomiki Aikido, being much like Judo in its' emphasis on randori of various forms also enlarges the Aikido players' view over time.  Most players (but not all mind you) go on to at least look at the koryu kata as part of promotional requirements and for personal curiousity and knowledge.  In fact, the current trend/fad in the Aiki-verse is internal power (just another pretty face to put on the hard work of properly learning principle) so the quest for the golden flower of aiki results in a larger scope of study of various depths and intensities.

With that said however the tendency in many incompetant Sensei is indeed to promulgate the idea that all of Aikido may be found in Ikkyo and Shomanate and then, horror-of-horrors for the survival of the art and the development of their deshi, back up that statement by making that the only teaching path they follow; looking at advanced kata (such as Roku or Koshiki) only once every 10 or so years (whether they need to or not) instead of making a regular visit.

Jodo on the other hand (or other stick) has this problem (of narrow scoping) in spades; and then some.

When I first started training in Jodo some 30+ years ago, Seitei Jodo was all we had.  It was new and we had very limited access to any advanced instruction from Japan; other than through an Aikido Sensei who had also studied under Shimuzu.  She introduced our Sensei to jodo when he made a trip to Japan and we took it from there and got really focused on jo (but only the Seitei Kata).

Although Sensei was committed, he realized early on that even though she wanted his group to move in koryu jo he'd be unable to.  She came one summer, gave him a copy of "The Big Book of Jo" with all the old b&w pic's and having brought her uke and after having demonstrated Chudan from Shinto Muso Ryu AND telling everyone that we should learn the koryu system he said "Hai Sensei" but it went nowhere after that and we continued only in Seitei jo.

Why?  Well, to begin with there were no authorized koryu teachers in the US at that time, plus there were ego issues involved in having to effectively give up control of his group to an outside teacher until he could learn everything (and earn his menkyo).  In looking back on it now, over 30 years later, I can see where the prospect of having to bring everyone in his dojo up to speed, and then about another 100 to 200 players from outside dojo up to speed (in the Seitei) and only then moving hundreds of people forward into the full koryu system with its' 65+ kata and kenjutsu/tanjo/tessen/hojo and kusarigama work.  A daunting if not a completely impossible task given the complexity of the full jojutsu system.

So he, like some many others, began to preach what I now refer to as "The Gospel of the Seitei."

Seitei contains the essence of all jo.  Seitei is all you ever need to learn.  Seitei will bestow the power of the "Magic Whack" upon your stick.  This IS the Seitei that you are looking for.  Seitei is "It" and to study beyond Seitei is, in a word, "Simply Not Necessary".  Sorry.  That's three words but then again it gets across the point he and others preached then, and continue to preach now.

Put your lips together, push out your tongue and make the sound of a woopie cushion being deflated while you snort through you nose like dust got all up in there ....... that's my response to that idea (of Seitei being "it").

Now please don't misunderstand me here.  If Seitei is all you have; then do it.  If there is no other way; then do it.  If you don't have and can't find access to qualified teachers of koryu jo (but you do have access to a good Seitei teacher) then doing only Seitei is completely acceptable and it's exactly what I did for 30 some years.  It's fun and it does teach some good sword and stick work (as long as you stay within proper form) and it can be an incredibly valuable addition to whatever your primary martial art form may be.

However, I think that the second you have reasonable and dependable access to a good jojutsu teacher who can take you beyond the Seitei then you should glom onto them like a sucker fish onto a shark's belly and get really serious about learning.

For the last two or so years (omg, has it been that long already?) we've worked with a jodo teacher who has spend more time in Japan on the boards training in both iaido and jodo than most people have spent reading bad Samurai novels on the life of Mushashi.  I've know him for decades and he graciously agreed to teach us the full jo ryu.  Currently we're all working on Omote, Chudan, Ranai and the kenjutsu & tanjo and while we've still got a long row to plant in the rice paddy, we're working on it.  Everytime he shows up in Houston if we can get him to the dojo we put a stick in his hand and pay attention.


Simple.  While with my old Sensei I listened to him talk about how the Seitei was/is the be-all & end-all of Jodo, all the while remembering what his jo teacher wanted him to do; learn the larger system and teach/preserve Shinto Muso Ryu Jodo, the entire system.  So I thought about it for years and knew, from my study of Aikido, that Seitei by itself couldn't possibly provide the answer for all possibilities.

Once we went beyond the Seitei set and really got into the Omote and the kenjutsu, all of us began to have more questions.  Instead of answering questions, it just raised more, and the way it did that was by exposing openings or branch points in kata.  Do a kata and get to the middle and jump into a movement in a different Omote kata or Chudan kata (or suddenly realize that you took too large or too small a step and are now essentially hung out to dry with no way back) and you suddently see that while the Seitei showed "a" answer, it left an opening in the movement, a branching point as it were, that Seitei provided no good answer for because of its limited scope.  Seitei became the Clif Notes that someone in the Student Bookstore on the commons took, and tore out half the pages; leaving you not only with a brief summary of Canterbury Tales but not even a complete summary at that with half the summary being gone.  

You were now fully exposed to the opponent (via a gap in your kamae and sen) but had no answer, no way back, no way to understand how to not do it a second time, no firing solution to utilize so-to-speak.  The Seitei, in and of itself, provided no good idea to solve the issue.  Another set of answers has to be provided to explore those branching points/exposures; answers as provided by Omote, then Chudan, then Ranai, then Kage, etc., etc.

I've heard stories over the years about dojo where senior jodo ranks went to teach and while there ran into people who have done Seitei jo the same way for 20 or 30 years; albeit incorrectly.  When offering correction (or if you're PC, "enhanced ideas and alternatives"), the senior jo teacher was told specifically, "No thanks.  I've always done it this way and I don't care to change."  

Wow.   Just O-M-G ... WTF ... Wow.  What a closed mind attitude, not to mention WTF are your students doing talking to a senior teacher like that; esp. when the senior jo teacher was there at your request to begin with.  What kind of absentee landlord are you ... really .... to not keep control of your dojo's environment?  Never mind not being able to progress in your learning.

So all of my people are taught manners (i.e. how to learn and take instruction).  After all; someday they'll be a senior teacher and how would they like that kind of crude response.  I once heard a Japanese Sensei describe some American students as being little more than "White Barbarians".  After hearing stories of another Sensei's jodo students basically refusing instruction from a menkyo holder while attending a jodo session, then that description is apropo.

And, all of my people are taught to not stop their learning at whatever "seitei" is being proferred.  Go on to all the advanced work as quick as you can (and are ready).  Seitei or Nage no Kata or Randori no Kata (the 17) are only Clif Notes; and not very good versions at that.

And perhaps most important of all .... this "moving past the seitei" idea applies not just to jodo, but to Judo and Aikido.  Seitei is seitei and just because Aikido calls it "the 8 releases and the 17" or Judo the "Nage no Kata" doesn't mean that it isn't still a condensation of the larger art form; granted, a very important part but still not the whole.

In fact, take every description where the word jodo appears and replace it with Aikido.  That's how fundamental this idea really is.

For example .......................... 

"So he, like some many others, began to preach what I now refer to as "The Gospel of the Seitei."

The 17 Randori no Kata contains the essence of all of Aikido.  The 17 is all you ever need to learn.  the 8 Releases and The 17 will bestow the power of the "Magic Whack" upon your push-hands.  This IS The 17 that you are looking for.  The 8 Releases and The 17 is "It" and to study beyond the 8 Releases and The 17 is, in a word, "Simply Not Necessary"...................................... "


L.F. Wilkinson, Aikibudo Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston, Texas

December 2013