Alas, there is really nothing good torecommend. As you might expect, people who study Confucianism in Japanare interested primarily in abstract philosophy. Few of them have anyfirsthand experience in Confucian methods of training. Peopleinterested in Japanese martial arts, alas, often know even less aboutConfucianism. It really is a topic that cries out for study. If I hadtime, I would argue that neo-Confucianist methods of self-cultivationconstitute about 80% of the training in (old-style)martial arts, so it is a pity that no one has bothered to explain thesein English. There is some information about Confucian methods oftraining used in China, but it cannot be automatically applied to theJapanese context.
If you have never practiced any form of swordplay, it can be very useful to learn modern styles of foyning fence with foil and epee, as it is a descendant of the rapier. But be aware at all times that these are very stylized forms of duelling sport far removed from Renaissance martial arts. They are taught and practiced with a number of artificial rules, limitations, and restrictions that have nothing whatsoever to do with the combat effectiveness or history of how earlier swords were actually used. The polite ritual swordplay of late 19th century duelling was a far cry from the savage ferocity of Medieval and Renaissance hand-to-hand combat. While there are core movements common between them (and between most all forms of swordplay), the differences in the weapons and the conditions they were used under are important.
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The traditional practice of Martial Arts is now experiencing a renaissance of sorts, and this is largely due to the fact many people are realising the existence of the esoteric spiritual components behind widely known styles. The Arts are no longer considered remnants of old cultures, but valid and effective methods of achieving spiritual growth. The Martial Arts were actually formulated for this purpose all along.
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In Aikido like all Martial Arts, physical and emotional balance is codependent. Physical balance helps to engender emotional balance. An understanding of the nature of our spirit will help the practitioner create an effective alignment of thought and action. When every aspect of the individual is aligned the individual is better able to adapt and change.
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There are a number of annual events at which Japanese cultural traditions are presented to the public, the largest of which is "Japan Fest," held each fall at the New Orleans Museum of Art and in the adjacent Dreyfous Meadow in City Park. The largest annual celebration of Japanese culture in the Gulf South, it features traditional music, dancing, martial arts demonstrations, and crafts. The majority of the performers and presenters come from other areas such as Houston, but the performers of Japanese country dances, artists and craftspeople, and demonstrators come from Orleans and Jefferson parishes in Louisiana.
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The discipline of aikido is gaining in popularity with men and boys, and it is attracting increasing numbers of girls and women, in part because it is strictly for self-defense and is more about movement than force. Some take lessons as mental and physical exercise in the way that others practice yoga or Chinese tai chi, as aikido aims to promote bodily health and heijo shin (an unperturbed or calm mind). Traditionally, aikido's techniques are practiced in pairs, and the graceful motions are often compared to classical dance. In contrast to some other martial arts, the object is not to meet force with force or resistance, but to move with, and redirect, the force of an attack in order to maintain the safety of both people. Kaori Keyser takes children's lessons at Aikido of New Orleans on Magazine Street, and says, "Aikido is designed to fight without force. It is great for girls." This dojo makes presentations at Japan Fest every year.
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The largest and most notable aspect of this festive time is Bon Odori, the public dancing performed during Bon. The dances are very basic folk dances that many people know. Anyone unfamiliar with the dance, though, can join in and can easily learn. In Louisiana, the most public Bon Odori festivities have been held for the past several years at the Lakeside Mall in Metairie so that as many people as possible can be invited to join in and can learn about Japanese music and dance. Each year a program is presented that includes taiko drumming, traditional music, martial arts performances, and the main event-dancing. Sanae Kayser describes Bon and Bon Odori: "We greet our ancestors coming back to see us on the earth with folk dances, flowers and food on those days. There are many different folk dances that are unique to each regional culture. I grew up in an old city called Osaka City in Japan. Even though it is known to be a big high-tech city, people in Osaka like old culture and tradition, and I keep the traditions, even here. I particularly enjoy wearing Japanese clothing with my daughters."