A very important point that Soke has been making over the years, is his desire to teach the arts of the Bujinkan via direct Man to Man transmission. Although Soke is using a western connotation in the Japanese language, as you might infer, Man to Man is simply kuden. As presented before, kuden is the way martial arts are meant to be transmitted and have been transmitted for thousands of years. Important emphasis should be made that kuden is something that is gained via this Man to Man process consistently over the course of many years. Naturally, you can imagine that the teaching or the transmission may hold a different emphasis depending on the receiver. It may also be interpreted differently depending on the level of the receiver. Even more simply put, it will differ just because people have their weaknesses and strengths.
Soke also chooses this method, because it is Man to Man, and therefore requires physical presence to determine the truth or meaning of the lesson. It is often said that Budo is not something that can be remembered or taught. It is something that must seep slowly into your subconscious via constant training and closeness to the source. The transmission becomes distorted and more personalized as it passes along the chain. Simply being said, do you want firsthand knowledge or second hand knowledge? The very exact reason that many in the early 80’s came to Japan to learn from the source.
If the receiver of a teaching or transmission is receiving this information second hand and not direct, then I would think that it would require tremendous faith in the quality of the transmission from the receiver. People will relate to those that ring home with their own tone. Hence people have their favorite Shihan and will spend their majority of time with this person. Something rings home. Simple. The danger is when the source is not a grounded source. A tree with shallow roots will not withstand the coming seasons. This tree may drop seeds still, but will only produce more trees of its kind.
If Man to Man to Man is not good enough, then the ONLY way to improve your line of communication is to go to the source. I must also add here that the most critical skill in learning Japanese martial arts or any Japanese tradition is to listen and not speak. Many traditional masters will not teach and will charge a very high sum to even watch. Students of these traditions in Japan (even if they do) will not ask or speak until they have gained a level of respect in the training hall that has demonstrated consistency. Then if you even have the need to ask a question, it might get you a sincere answer. Violation without respect in place may result in being pushed out. Most of the time this push will not come from the master. The master is above petty dealings.
To give you my own little man to man, I believe that due to the eccentric personality of our Soke, the Bujinkan Dojo is not treated as a traditional martial art, although it is a very Japanese tradition. A Soke is by right, the owner of the traditions held and it is by the Soke’s decision only if it is to be passed on. In my opinion, Soke has been taken advantage of, and regardless of Soke’s unique personality, he is still Japanese and this is still a Japanese tradition. It is expected for the student to understand this and posses the awareness to adjust to the situation. It is also expected that if a person is non Japanese and studies in Japan they must understand the culture and the dos and don’ts. I think that the source for many “problems” is that it is all so too easy now and taken for granted. In the past, it was different, there were no translators, no training times posted and locations were not always set. Not too mention that living or staying in Japan was not necessarily luxurious. Naturally, things have changed, and therefore the training has too. Maybe we should think about where the responsibility falls and why?
Something that might also often be missed is that in Japan conflict is avoided. The utmost effort and self sacrifice will be made to avoid conflict. Struggle is an everyday thing. What is important in life, and therefore in Budo, is to become comfortable in a state of struggle. This is Fudoshin.
Another very important aspect of Japanese culture (that also has weight in other cultures) is the concept of Meiwaku, which can be loosely translated as trouble or imposing difficulty on another or the group. It is implicit that in Japan, one must avoid causing trouble for others. One who does so may be deemed a fool and will only conjure pity. Naturally, a student of Budo must not cause trouble for the teacher, school or organization (group). You can see this in action all the time in Japan when a politician or company president will be caught in a scandal and will immediately resign or sometimes even go to the extreme to commit suicide. This is their self sacrifice for bringing trouble down on the group or superiors, and is the expected thing to do.
The road of martial arts training is not paved and there is no final destination. What can be learnt on this road is what is critical and useful and thats why it is called “Budo”. Many will blow past without taking the time to take in the view. I guess this is the nature of our world today. We have no time to waste on the course, and only desire to get somewhere. The risk is once you get there, it will be nowhere.
The wise thing to do would be to take your time (if you can manage the self control) and stop to talk to the man on the way-Even if it is not you who is doing the talking!