Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Images of John Evans Sensei

These are some photos of John Evans Sensei, SMAA Senior Advisor, and his students in London. Evans Sensei is a seventh dan in Nakamura Ryu swordsmanship as well as an accomplished teacher of yoga. He lived for many years in Japan, where he studied directly under the founder of Nakamura Ryu.

Interested in iaido? The SMAA has a well-established iaido division lead by Nicklaus Suino Sensei and Guy Power Sensei, both seventh dan. Membership is open to legitimate practitioners of authentic systems of Japanese iaido. Within our iaido section are accomplished students of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, Toyama Ryu, Nakamura Ryu, Muso Shinden Ryu, Hontai Yoshin Ryu, Takeuchi Ryu, and other iaido systems (or ryu that include iaido in their curriculum). To learn more about the SMAA Iaido Division, visit www.smaa-hq.com.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Member Profile: John Evans Sensei

John Evans Sensei is our first SMAA Senior Advisor in Europe. Mr. Evans’ training in martial arts began in his teens when he visited the Anchorhold, an Anglican monastery in the UK, where tai chi chuan and yoga were taught as ways to facilitate contemplative prayer. At Oxford University, he trained in Shotokan karate-do. After graduation, he lived at the Anchorhold for five years, continuing his study of tai chi chuan and yoga.

In 1981, John Evans Sensei travelled to Japan, where he was introduced to Mikkyo (esoteric Buddhism). He studied Mikkyo with yamabushi near Mount Takao. Yamabushi ("one who lies in the mountains") are Japanese mountain ascetics, or hermits, with a long tradition as warriors said to be endowed with supernatural powers. They follow an integration of esoteric Buddhism and Shinto elements (Mikkyo). Largely solitary, in old Japan they sometimes formed loose associations with certain temples, and they also participated in battles alongside samurai and warrior monks. Yamabushi emphasize asceticism and feats of endurance for spiritual training. White & saffron-robed yamabushi carrying conch-shell trumpets are a common sight in the sacred mountains of Kumano and Omine.

Mikkyo (literally "secret teachings") refers to the esoteric practices of Shingon Buddhism and related methods which make up part of Tendai Buddhism. Mikkyo is a little-understood, and sometimes sensationalized, synergy of esoteric Japanese religions, and it lies at the core of Japanese mysticism.

Teachings and practices that came to be called Mikkyo began in Indian and Chinese esoteric traditions. In the early ninth century, the concepts which became the core of Mikkyo—Shingon and Tendai Buddhism—were brought to Japan by monks who traveled to China to study. To these beliefs were added magic and healing methods that gradually reached Japan through itinerant shamans, who left China after the fall of the Tang Dynasty. Blending with Shinto practices and pre-Buddhist folk traditions connected with sacred mountains, these new teachings, combining Chinese Tantric Buddhism, magic, Taoism, and eventually Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, became Mikkyo.

Evans Sensei’s training also included a mixture of Shugendo and kenjutsu (traditional swordsmanship). Shugendo is an ancient Japanese religion in which enlightenment is obtained by studying of the relationship between human beings and nature. Shugendo, "the path of training and testing," centers on an ascetic, mountain-dwelling lifestyle and incorporates teachings from ancient Shinto, Buddhism, and other Asian philosophies (including folk animism). The goal of Shugendo is the development of spiritual experience and power. En-no-Gyoja first organized Shugendo as a doctrine.

After three years of intensive practice of Mikkyo, Shugendo, and kenjutsu, Evans Sensei was introduced by the yamabushi to two of the most senior teachers of swordsmanship in Japan, Nakamura Taisaburo Sensei, founder of Nakamura Ryu battodo, and Danzaki Tomoaki Sensei, head of the Kenshukan Dojo of Muso Shinden Ryu. At the Kenshukan, Evans Sensei studied Muso Shinden Ryu iaido and Shindo Muso Ryu jodo (“the way of the four-foot staff”). One year later, he also began weekly trips to Kashima in Ibaragi prefecture, where he trained at the Kashima Shinto Ryu school of classical swordsmanship under Yoshikawa Koichiro Sensei. In 1987, his training regime of swordsmanship and Shugendo was profiled in a 30 minute NTV program in Japan entitled Igirisujin no Musha Shugyo (“An Englishman’s Warrior Discipline”).

Following his return to England in 1993, he decided to concentrate on Nakamura Ryu battodo and founded the Fudokan dojo in London. Incorporating the training methods from Shugendo and Shadow yoga, he developed a system of tanren (“spiritual forging”) and misogi (“purification”) to cultivate the internal energy required to perform the kata of Nakamura Ryu. Fudokan students also use wooden sword drills and kendo armor to enhance the paired kata of Nakamura Ryu. Since Nakamura Sensei’s death in 2003, Mr. Evans has continued his Nakamura Ryu training in Japan with Suzuki Kunio Sensei, eighth dan, and Sato Shimeo Sensei, ninth dan. Evans Sensei received seventh dan in Nakamura Ryu in 2008.

In addition to his high rank in Nakamura Ryu, Evans Sensei has obtained rank in the following traditional Japanese sword and weapon arts: Muso Shinden Ryu iaido (third dan), Kashima Shinto Ryu kenjutsu (shomon certificate), Shindo Muso ryu jodo (second dan), and Kurikara ryu kenjutsu (third dan).