All physical activity in the dojo tends to rewire the circuits in one’s head – but none more so than the investigation of “kyo” : the trajectory through air that feels like the path of least resistance for a staff or sword, and in particular the places where gravity and momentum are perfectly balanced so that the weapon seems to float.
The term “kyo” is a buddhist term – it’s one of the Japanese words for “emptiness” in “emptiness is form, form is emptiness”. And the experience of it is profoundly counter-cultural. Our culture, more than any previous culture, surrounds us with a plethora of objects and leads us to interact more with objects than with other human beings. Thus, we are entrained to pay attention to the moment of grasping the object, and then to the manner of manipulating it. When two people try to grasp the same object, conflict arises, and so we also pay attention to the moment of hitting – – – more than we live in the movement that precedes, and in between the hitting, and the grasping.
Now, learning to move in and stay in the “kyo” moments is profoundly practical. It is finding, and training your body to move in, the path of least air- and gravitational- resistance: thus, at the endpoint of training, the potentially fastest trajectory.
But also, the experience of concentrating on the infinity of moments in between the hitting, and the grasping, trains the mind to be other than consumer capitalism trained it to be.
We do something similar in the rehearsal room – – – – concentrating on the play of emotion in the room, and on the way air moves in the room in harmony and concert with the emotion, is also a way on concentrating on the moments in between.
But I can report – – – the experience of concentrating on a physical object in those moments in between – on a staff when it literally is hanging in the air – is a profoundly startling and mind-altering experience.
– – – Peter John Still