Recently, while reading the book Martial Arts Teaching Tales of Power and Paradox, by Pascal Fauliot (Inner Traditions; Rochester, Vermont, 2000), one of the illustrative tales recounted by Msr. Fauliot reminded me of a conversation I once had with Fuku Soke Tsumaki Kazuo Genwa Sensei regarding the topic of advertising.
Several years ago, Fuku Soke asked me: “Why don’t you advertise your regular Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu classes at the Dojo in the local newspapers, magazines or other media?” I replied, in answer to his query, that we have always felt “word-of-mouth” advertising to be the best way to attract prospective students to the Dojo. Our intention, I explained to Fuku Soke, was not necessarily to be the biggest Dojo or Organization in the martial arts community, but to be a group that is firmly and deeply committed to learning to be the best at what we do…whether we stay small or become large. To this day, our primary means of advertising Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu here in North America is still “word-of mouth”, which is supplemented by our United States Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu website and Introductory Seminars that we hold on a regular basis.
We have never made “fame and fortune” a priority with respect to the dissemination of Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu in North America. We would prefer to have people find us, rather than have to go out and ‘beat the bushes’ to acquire new students. If this means that our enrollment is small, then so be it. We would much rather have 5 truly committed deshi (students) than 50 mediocre ones any day.
Which brings me back to the tale in Msr. Fauliot’s book I mentioned at the beginning. In this particular story, there is a conversation that occurs between the swordsman Otsuka Tesshin and the Zen monk Ryuko as the young Otsuka is preparing to set out on a journey to test his skills with the sword against various Masters throughout Japan. Learning of this plan, the monk Ryuko says to Otsuka:
“The world we live in is far larger than you can begin to comprehend. It has to have many men in your profession who are superior to you. The outcome of your adventure could be disastrous.” The young man, having made up his mind, showed no signs of reconsidering his decision. Ryuko continued, “Look at me. I also once desired to be better known in the world. I have practiced meditation here for dozens of years and how many disciples do I have today? We should recognize who we really are and be content with our lot. As the proverb says: ‘Do not regret being ignored; regret being ignorant.’” (pp. 85-86)
I believe that this exchange speaks volumes to those of us who are involved with the propagation of Koryu Bujutsu here in the West and that this proverb quoted by Ryuko is one that should be kept at the forefront of our thinking constantly. One has only to look at the massive amount of “McDojo” out there today to see the truth of what Ryuko is saying.
As deshi and teachers of the Koryu Arts, we must all do our utmost to focus our energies, both in the Dojo and outside of it, on our training and on our studies in an effort to combat ignorance. If such efforts on our part are ignored by the masses, so what? We know deep within our heart of hearts that we are following a path that is right for us, and if others see our progress and desire to tread the same path, we will be there to assist them…happily. Not out of any desire for notoriety or profit, but because of the sincere wish to see others benefit from what we have learned and, in the end, help make the world a little less regretful because of ignorance.