Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cute and Cutting: Musashi Kitty and Aikido

I know enough about Aikido to get myself in to a lot of trouble so I'll try not to go into too much detail about it's roots in the various martial arts of Japan. Suffice it to say, the founder Morihei Ueshiba was trained in a number of the martial arts of the samurai. I'll let the experts argue over which art influenced him the most, but one art that is pervasive in Aikido is the art of the sword.

Most people don't associate the sword with Aikido, but it is there literally in the Iwama tradition (Aikiken) and in many of the taijutsu or "empty-handed" techniques. Attacks simulate sword strikes and many techniques are in response to multiple attacks/attackers - something you'd expect to find on the battle field or if you're Steven Seagal or in a Jason Bourne movie. Partner practices often involve wrist locks and grabs - not exactly life-threatening, but to a swordsman, a wrist grab usually meant you might not be able to draw the sword.

There are many, many links between "culture of the sword" and Aikido, but it goes well beyond my comprehension and the scope of regional Hello Kitty. Nevertheless, since Genyo and Gotochi released a number of sword and samurai regional Kitties it bears the cross-referencing. Eventually there will be a food connection made depending on how hungry I get...

My reinterpretation of a classic depiction of Musashi

When it comes to the sword, one name comes up as THE big kahuna: Miyamoto Musashi. He is somewhat of an archetype of the samurai character - in youth he is violent, volatile, boastful and careless; but in his twilight, he is centered, focused, humble and peaceful. In his late writings, Musashi writes about the continued pursuit of mastery and how this feeds into other aspects of life; the ultimate goal is to find harmony between "strategy and skill."

His most famous duel was with another accomplished swordsman by the name of Kojiro. Kojiro showed up to the duel with a large samurai sword. Musashi, on the other hand showed up with a bokken or wooden sword made from the boat oar he had previously used to row his boat to the duel. In Aikido, some traditions train with this type of wooden sword.

I believe the Kojiro duel is the subject of this Musashi Kitty from the Yamaguchi region. Despite having her traditional swords with her, Kitty comes ashore with her paddle/bokken bearing the name of Miyamoto Musashi. For a small plush, Kitty displays an very good ken kamae or sword stance!

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Kitty Version I'd Love to See...

Been busy the past six months dealing with life's usual surprises, unsure at times whether I'd manage to stay afloat amidst an unending stream of bizarre dramas. Nevertheless, I did keep my head up with lots of help from good friends, family and some good things. One of those things (that also include some good people) is Aikido -- that Steven-Seagal-martial-art-thingie that no one can really describe in one sentence. Unfortunately, neither Genyo or Gotochi have taken advantage of this "peaceful warrior" theme and quite frankly, I think Kitty is the perfect spokes... err... thing for Aikido. She's gentle, grounded, calm and aware amidst chaos. Her uncanny sense of "kawaii" is her powerful connection to ki.

Even though there is no O Sensei Kitty, Hombu Dojo Kitty or even an Iwama Kitty, I thought I could sneak in a few Aikido-related regional/limited Kitty versions over the next few posts. This way I can pay hommage to the two things that have made me laugh and kept me dancing circles through the fire (Kitties and Aikido respectively). In the meantime perhaps Gotochi might take on the challenge of Aikido Kitty mascots!

Here are just a few of the regional/limited Kitties that pay hommage to warriors, peaceful, not-so-peaceful, historical and mythological. All of them share a role as a source of teachings for many of the Japanese martial arts. Backrow (left to right): a ninja, a shinsengumi, Shingen Takeda, Sakamoto Ryoma and Saigo Takamori. Front row: Mushashi, "author" of the Five Rings

Next Post: Cute and Cutting - Musashi Kitty