The name Seishin Tanren was chosen for our dojo by Akuzawa Minoru, founder of Aunkai Bujutsu. Seishin Tanren (精神鍛錬) means “spiritual forging”. But behind the words, what does it really mean?
The word Tanren has multiple meanings: exercising, forging, disciplining, tempering, kneading. The same way a sword has to be forged to remove the impurities of the metal, the body has to be trained to remove its impurities and tensions. Before even thinking of learning and replicating techniques, one has to condition the body properly as it is only by deeply changing the way we move and use our bodies that we will be able to perform the techniques seamlessly, without using unnecessary power. Aunkai’s Tanren exercises aim to deeply modify our body structure, by optimising bone alignment and developing connective tissues, so power can go in and out of the body in an optimal manner.
Body conditioning is the first part of training. Through the repetition of the same exercises on a daily basis, the body changes and becomes more efficient, making it easier and easier to move efficiently and to have an impact on our opponent, to the point techniques merely become an extension of our body. But forging is not just for the body as the name Seishin Tanren implies. Through intense and appropriate body conditioning, we can get a better understanding of ourselves. What are our areas of tension? How do we connect the different parts of our body? How do we deal with the same exercise on a daily basis for a number of years? How do we respond to frustration, pain and other unpleasant feelings? Martial arts by essence bring us outside of our comfort zone. They make us embrace conflict, embrace pain, accept our weaknesses and build on them. This is essential as no one ever improved by staying in his perfectly controlled comfort zone. By going out of it, we discover who we really are, and can work towards who we really want to become. It is in this sense that forging becomes spiritual.