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Hanbo Enrichment

November 24, 2015
The past few weeks I have been teaching stick drills to a couple of neighbours.

It all started when one of them (who has a son in the same school as my boys) was complaining about pain and numbness in her arms and wrist. I taught her a few simple arm exercises, and after a week of them she didn’t need to go for surgery anymore. Some surgeon somewhere is probably hating my guts right now…

The results got her hooked and she kept asking me for even more exercises. The grandmother of another kid going to the same school joined in, and after I taught them the various rehab-type exercises I knew I started teaching them those that involved the jo (4-foot staff). And now in the mornings they meet me to work on stick spinning and striking drills.

I’m already used to weird stares from my other neighbours by now, haven’t you guessed?

The end goal of what I was teaching them is rehab, joint mobility and some coordination, so I wasn’t being that fussy about the details that would give them effective fighting skills with the staff. Even then they still ended up having lots of fun working through the frustration of making the same mistakes over and over again. We laugh it off and keep going. Just keep going.

The main thought: the finer points of coordination are quite hard to grasp for people who do not have previous martial arts training. They would, as I said, make the same mistakes over and over again. I’ll tell them that the left foot steps forward with the left hand, and they would end up with the left foot and RIGHT hand moving, while muttering “Left hand with left foot”. Then turn to me and ask “Is this correct?”

You can imagine how frustrating it was for them!

Why did they keep turning up then? Because 1) it is interesting; AND 2) it worked their brains more than their usual lifestyle would. Moving and coordinating a stick between your left and right arms, then coordinating that with footwork gives you a mental workout you won’t get with Sudoku. And this is certainly much healthier than sitting down behind the computer or jabbing the iPad screen for hours on end.

When I was taught all those stick drills, they were for studying historical Japanese combat. Any health or brain benefits were incidental; my sensei never made mention of those. But after these few weeks of playing with sticks every weekday morning and explaining stuff to my neighbours, I realized that the sticks really helped enrich their lives. It’s quite humbling to consider the sheer value of what my sensei taught years ago. These ladies will probably never have to use sticks to defend themselves (fingers crossed), but this traditional Japanese art has already made their lives better. As a compulsive teacher, this is pretty much what I live for!

Junjie 俊傑
Bujinkan Ninjutsu
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