Ward Black is an experienced martial artist and recently has taken the role of a 16th century Samurai in a medieval battle group.
What is your background in martial arts?
I have taken many over the years. I studied Tae Kwon Do, Hop Ki Do , Kum Do , Ju-Jitsu and brazillian ju-jitsu mostly. Ever since I was nine I have been studying. Tae Kwon do was my first. I went to Korea and did some teaching of Kum Do (sword fighting) for a while. Been involved on the martial arts for about 30 years now.
What art are you currently practicing and why are you involved in martial arts?
Currently I am studying Bushido. Or the art of the Samurai. Literally. I have been studying with a medieval reenactment group called the Society for Creative Anachronism, or just SCA for short. Their primary focus is recreating medieval life from a certain time period and certain place. I naturally study Japanese from around 1550. They dress up in clothes, eat foods, dance, and practice other arts from that time period. Of course they fight as well. Armored combat is one of the big attractions to this game. So you have to make the armor, wear the armor and fight in the armor. Since I am doing Japanese I naturally am learning the ways of the samurai. Currently there are about 30,000 people worldwide that are doing this. I am learning sword fighting (katana and nodachi) as well as naginata (polearm). My teacher is a very wonderful master who not only teaches the martial art or combat but teaches the lifestyle of being early period Japanese.
I am involved in this particular martial art right now, because it has been everything I have been looking for in a martial art. To me being a martial artist is not just about going to a dojo and working out then going home and moving on with your daily life. I am involved because this group sort of makes you encompass everything there is to be about a samurai. The way you act, the way you think, the way you eat and take care of your body. Yea sure you can get some of that from other martial arts here and there. In this group you have to make the armor, make the weapons, make the clothing, make the fighting garb, make the food, make the tents. All of it is there. Even how I act is supposed to be that of a samurai.
I know that you are involved with a reenactment group, does this reflect your beliefs of martial arts? If so, how?A little yea. It has made me a little jaded at the dojos out there that are just cash grabs. I mean those that do not teach the beliefs or traditions of an art. Look at Brazilian Jujitsu for example. It is a fantastic art. lots of real skills. But it is just that. skills. It has not been around long enough to be anything but that. Then look at Kyudo (Japanese bowman ship) there is a art that is just oozing tradition. With my group, you can learn Kyudo from actual Japanese masters who make the bows, make the arrows and shoot the bows all tradition. It gives me a connection to those times. Makes me feel more involved I guess. Plus I learn so many skills in the process about it. I enjoy that to just make a weapon, there are like five other skill you have to learn as well. Very involving. Real skills.
How has practicing martial arts influenced your daily life?
Well now I look at life with a different outlook. I know if I work at it and struggle hard enough I will be able to reap the rewards. I never give up without a good fight. I never start a fight, yet I will be the first to finish it.
Fighting has given me a sense of calm. It clears my mind and allows me to focus on the task at hand. When I fight, that is all there is, some other guy in armor wielding weapons and going to hit me full contact. The rest of the day doesn’t matter, just there and now. I approach people who have conflict in their own lives with a different outlook. Something about wielding a 5 foot blade the night before gives you that confidence to approach those obstacles and overcome them.
Lately with this group I am part of. One of the great things is that I am learning so many other skills besides fighting. I didn’t know how to sew before this, and now I can sew and repair a pair of pants or hakama if needed.
What advice to you have for other martial artists?
Don’t get pigeon holed into one art. Try what you like. Try what works for you. Some people get all hung up on one art and bash the others. Makes me sick. I do what I do because it moves my life forward, not theirs. Variety of arts is a good thing and keeps your opponents guessing. Definitely do not knock other arts, there is a reason those people are doing what they want to.