Time passing . . .

Wednesday 9 August, 2023 - Articles

Time passing . . .

Making a difference.

Most Japanese martial arts are designated with the term 流 at the end of their name. This word is pronounced 'ryu' (phonetically something like ‘ree-ooo’) and it comes from the Japanese verb 流れる (nagareru) which the super useful Jisho.org online dictionary gives ten translations for.

The one that most martial arts practitioners will know is 'to stream' or 'to flow'. So from our point of view, the meaning is 'something that flows', like a current or a stream and we usually understand a ‘ryu’ to be a school of martial arts, a way of practicing budo. But it also has a connotation of something that flows through time, through the people that practice it and on to a new generation.

We see it in names like Koto Ryu, Kukishin Ryu etc but it’s not just found in martial arts – it’s also used in other traditional cultural pursuits in Japan like flower arranging and calligraphy etc.

I was doing a clear out of my office at home recently and came across some papers. They’re periodicals published by Hatsumi Sensei in Showa 57 (1982) and Heisei 3 (1991) for the Japanese Shidoshikai, or instructors association. Mostly they’re an account of Hatsumi Sensei’s travels that year teaching, along with articles by some of the older Japanese Shihan. 

The oldest of these I have was published when I was 6 years old. Some of (probably most of!) my students today weren’t born when the older one was published. Time passes. It’s at once the most obvious of things and also the most surprising. 

I last saw Hatsumi Sensei earlier this year while in Japan. We got to spend some time chatting over lunch, and I got to ask him some questions about his life and thoughts on various aspects of budo. He’s a witty and entertaining man, and while he’s no longer as physically strong as he once was, his spirit is extremely strong. He has enormous presence. 

He is now enjoying quiet retirement at the age of 91, something I think he’s profoundly earned. In the end, what does any of us have other than the legacy of the lives we’ve touched positively? By that measure, I think he’s an inspirational guy.