Admonition for New Students
To practice the ‘way of the sword’ means to enter a dojo. It consists of much more than going in and out of a school room. It is a pledge between teacher and student. The reason for this is that in the ‘way of the sword’, instruction is imparted directly, face to face, from teacher to student. To receive that kind of individual instruction a formal pledge must be made upon entry. The relationship between teacher and student is like that of a parent to child. Certain people consider this to be an exaggeration, but it is the proper attitude to take. While it is better to obtain one’s own set of equipment, it is permissible to temporarily borrow equipment from the training hall (dojo).
Although practicing the way of the sword includes learning how to conduct oneself in contests, more important is the ‘way’ of training the body and of setting right the mind in a polite and civilised manner. If, during the course of sword training one’s deportment is lax it will produce negative results. A proper attitude is essential. These admonitions have been in effect for twenty years and it should be common knowledge among swords people, but I have written them down for new entrants.
Proper attitude for beginning students:
Those who study the way of the sword, must not get caught up with concepts of good-bad/victory-defeat during the initial years of practice. In order not to develop improper habits, strive with your entire being, forcefully and without restraint, swing the sword over and over and over, extend yourself to the fullest, and concentrate on executing the techniques naturally. Eventually real strength will be fostered, all stiffness will vanish, and the techniques can be performed in a free flowing manner. Your opponent’s movements can be detected before they strike, one intuitively knows where to cut and any attack can be repelled. Have no confused thoughts or doubts, do not distort the techniques and without delay train harder and harder.
Yamaoku Tesshu - June 1885 (with slight modernisation, from "Sword of no sword" by John Stevens))
This admonition was presented to me when I started kendo by my first teacher, Liz Dutton, and is as relevant today as when it was first written.