Shodo 書道 versus Shuji 習字

Here is a link to a recent demonstration from the virtual 2020 Greater Kansas City Japanese Festival. In this video from 2018, Aikido master KINOSHITA Ryoichi-sensei demonstrates writing a kanji character while being restrained by some of his assistants. The character Agatsu 吾勝 means “victory over oneself” and is part of a larger Yojijukugo (four kanji proverb) that states 正勝吾勝 masakatsu agatsu, “True Victory is Victory over Oneself”. He is using sosho (cursive) script in this example.

The point Kinoshita-sensei is trying to convey here is regarding the transfer of energy from the body to the paper. One reason many martial artists chose to study shodo is because while the medium is completely different, the basic tenets can be applied to either art form. It is interesting in that, towards the end, Kinoshita-sensei differentiates between shodo and shuji. Shodo is a practice, shuji is calligraphy. Shodo is the action, shuji the result.

Watch carefully as Kinoshita-sensei brushes his kanji. He makes a point in the beginning about not using muscle, because force will just tear the paper. Note the position of his hand, and how when he brushes, his entire center moves: not just the hand, not just the arm, but his body.

It seems a simple concept, but in practice it can be quite challenging. Shodo not only takes focus, but precision and what I can only describe as “flow”. While it is highly unlikely in real life that burly men will somehow try to prevent you from brushing a character, the idea that Kinoshita-sensei is trying to convey here is that your energy needs to transfer to the writing, through your breath, through your body movement, through the proper alignment of the brush.

The Virtual 2020 Greater Kansas City Japanese Festival has a number of interesting videos regarding Japanese culture. You can find their page here. As the Festival is usually held as a fundraiser, if you enjoy the videos, please consider making a small donation so that they can continue their work in bringing Japanese culture to the Kansas City Area:

Virtual Festival Home

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