The practice of Shodo, has many similarities to the practice of Te (in general). Learning to master this art (like any martial art) requires a great deal of practice.
When I began the practice of Shodo, I had been
practicing Martial arts for about 15 years. My first Calligraphy
instructor was an individual in Denver Co. I was there working for a
few months (during the day), 12hrs/day, 7 days/week. I wasn't one for
hanging out at the
bars, so I started perusing the local yellow pages and found an
Instructor who taught Shodo (and happened
to be about 6 blocks away from my apartment).
He also taught some (sorry to say, lame)
version of Kempo (Chinese? I believe). But, that wasn't why I sought
his tutelage. He introduced me to official,
LOL, instruction in Shodo. (In hind site) he wasn't great, but I did
meet an individual (who happened to be a friend of his) who lived in
Denver, and had authored (what I consider to be the best book
available) an instruction guide on Shodo for the Nihon Shuji
His instructor was
talented, and a pleasure to observe performing with the brush. My
(at that time), but
had enough skill to at least to get me on the right beginning
path with the brush. He showed me how to
”break-in” a new brush, how to properly clean a brush (and the
suzuri) and the basic motions involved with brushing “Ichi”. He
aided me with doing some of the Strokes that I was having difficulty
with, Proper posture,
arm position and breathing while brushing the strokes.
I studied with him (several months), until I returned home (to K.C.).
After returning home, I contacted Nihon Shuji (the N.Y. Branch) and
enrolled in their course. Their first lesson entailed me doing a
“full” page version of the kanji for Towa
(eternity), and a few other kanji (which I
returned to them for grading).
In a few weeks I received my next lesson, the previous (now graded)
lesson and a Ranking (to
represent my "kyu-rank" level of learning). I began at 4th kyu (just as in M.A.,
ranks count down to 1, then go back up in Dan ranks).
After receiving my Shodan
certificate, I additionally received a Menkyo
(teaching license) which allowed me to teach beginning strokes,
kanji, kana etc. (similar to much of what I had been shown while in
Since that time, I have had numerous students, some
good, some “not-so-much”. What surprised me the most I believe,
was the Artists who
came to me to study. Most were simply wanting to learn “how to
write kanji” (I presume for inclusion in art pieces they were
doing?). Every one of them quit!
For some reason, they couldn't handle the brushing
(?). From talking with artist friends of mine, I was informed that
some artists develop their own brushing technique? And
don't/won't/can't seem to vary from that method. This of course,
makes it very difficult to teach how to do certain strokes (that
later are modified when doing the different styles of Japanese
brushing). Hence, most of them could only accomplish a very simple
form of Kaisho (and it was usually being incorrectly
executed, in my opinion).
My own interest (in relation to “Te”) was the
many similarities between the two. In the concepts
area they both shared many of the same or similar ideas (in regard to
execution). There is an old maxim, that states “One practice, One
encounter” (there are several variations, but all are similar).
This saying (in regards to a martial art) implies that every practice
(training) session, should be treated as the only one you will ever
have before you have your own Life and Death
encounter. Therefor, one should put their heart and soul into
whatever techniques are taught/learned in that “one” training
The same maxim is used in Shodo practice also, in
Shodo there is no re-do
or touch-up (it can be
seen quite clearly if attempted) you only get one
opportunity to make the correct strokes. How ever you do them, they
are DONE. Therefor, practice is essential to gaining any level of
skill even on the most basic strokes/kanji (mistakes, can happen
during any stroke). Though perfection is the goal and is obviously an
goal, one strives for it while doing Shodo. That is what gives
individualism to works
of Shodo (as the individual develops their own style.
Correct, but different).
Some shodoka choose the “Zen(-ny)”
look, when trying to
be original. More
often than not, it only looks “amateurish”.
Some of the numerous intricacies involved while doing
Shodo include the following:
Holding of the brush
The Individual Strokes
Proper Brush Pressure
Correct amount of Ink (on the Brush)
Securing the Paper (From motion while brushing)
Spacing of the Kanji
If Seals are used, The Placement of them
These can all be related to the practice of
“Holding the Brush”
The manner which the brush is held, is almost
identical to the “Finger-tip” strike. In both, Many techniques
must be performed in a precise manner.
“The Individual Strokes”
Each of the individual strokes can be related to
different “strikes/technique” motions.
The Breathing techniques that are used with Martial
arts are done exactly the same with Shodo. One breathes in through
the nose/mouth, and exhale through the throat
in conjunction with the motion one is preforming (be it a strike
w/MA, or a stroke with
“Proper Brush pressure”
With Shodo, stroke size
is most often determined by pressure on the brush (light
for thin lines, heavy
for thicker lines). With MA strikes, Light contact can cause a
reaction (for direction change or reflex response) or with a Heavy
strike, which can cause damage.
“Correct amount of Ink”
Loading the brush with
Ink (presumably to complete the whole work (without having to reload)
This can be compared to how much energy is expended at various points
of an altercation.
Some times it's prudent to expend large amounts of energy right at
the beginning, but sometimes it entails not exhausting your own
energy on “set-ups” (and be too “exhausted/weak/slow” for any
necessary follow-ups and/or control technique).
“Securing the Paper”
(From motion while brushing)
This is similar to securing the aggressor with
“Spacing of the Kanji”
This is similar to the “spacing/timing” of
techniques with combinations (each varies by techniques and/or
situations used, just as spacing can vary by kanji, number of, and
work space (paper size).
“The Placement of Seals"
This can be related to the use of “Kyusho”
techniques. Correct placement is considered important depending on
the “type” of work the piece is and which type of “stamp” is