The first thing we learn in ShenDo's lesson is the salute that we do at the beginning and at the end of the training. We all bow to the ancient Master (without them there couldn't be no Martial Arts today), than the students bow to the Master and the Master bow to the students because they will be the future Masters to continue the "linage". This is the first big difference between the Traditional Martial Arts and the ShenDo. Normally the student bow to the Master, but he stands, maybe thinking he is already on the top. Of course this is not a critique to the Masters that follows the traditions of their Martial Art but a reminder that in the ShenDo there is not a "supreme degree" and that nobody is arrived on the top yet. In all the styles, there is an ultimate degree, normally awarded only from the founder of the style, in the Japanese style is the "Red belt" the 10' dan.
In the Shen Do the research is almost countless and the degree that it is possible to achieve depends from the seeker. More discipline he will continue to study, more will be the number of his degrees. But come back to the salute. During the "mokuso" we do a meditation that it will be short at the beginning and longer during the years of study, till to be a real long meditation, anyway with a variable length, according with the time of the lessons. During that meditation we will practice some Pranayamas, some Bandhas, some Mudras and some Visualization we learned during the way. All this Yoga's exercises are, in fact, part of the study. Meditation before training will be useful for charge the energy inside the body, to take out the negative thinking and to concentrate to create the base of a good training, while the final meditation will be for recharge the spent energy and to balance the mind before coming back to the worldly life. It is now clear why these are so important. Like the Wu Wei teaches: "Movement inside the immobility", in fact, even if the body look static, all the movement is inside (Bandhas, Visualizations, etc). We have always to remember that: "the Chi follow the Yi", that means that the energy follow the mind, so with the mind You can control your energy.
The training of the ShenDo is composed by many stages that will be different every time for obvious reasons of lesson's length. At the beginning there always be the Nanbutaisho, an excellent combination of physical exercises and Martial techniques created by GrandMaster Yoshinao Nanbu. Another basic part of the training is the technical part, whose we must research the perfection. At the beginning the techniques will be practised in a slow way, following the Thai Chi principle and only after time we will concentrate on speed. The kicks too, even if it's more difficult, are studied slowly focusing the attention more on fluidity and perfection of movements. As is written in an ancient book of the Yang family: "From slowness we get the calm, then we add the awareness and we mastered the movement". The technique, mastered the basic ones, is studied on the form of "Randori", combinations of attach and defence, practised in couple, on the base of 7 pre- ordered attaches. Randori also are a starting point for the fight but in a safety way. In fact, more than perfecting the technique, they help to control the hit and are useful to find "the right distance", essential point during the fight. There are many different Randori, 3 for each colour of the belts and every time they are inspired to a different element. An important part are the "falls down" (rolling) because in almost every techniques there is the possibility to fall down on the ground, so they are studied always, in every degrees. Another difference with the majority of the Martial Arts is that, since from the beginning, the ShenDo's student (ShenDoKa) is stimulated to study others Martial Arts to widen his knowledge ad avoid the big (and common) mistake to think: "My Art is better than Yours". Normally, in fact, nobody spur the student to enlarge his knowledge and the Master himself is the first that doesn't do that.
Every ShenDoKa is always stimulated to enlarge his knowledge, always. The study of the ShenDo is a Martial study as well as a ourselves study. "The nature of the body is to follow the mind, The nature of the energy is to follow the mind as well, The nature of the mind is to follow the will". The will power is, in fact, a pivot for all Martial Arts, nothing is possible without it. So one of the main purposes of the ShenDo is always to fortify the will. The ShenDo follows the law of the nature and like the nature is in continuous changing because the changing is the principle of the evolution. Of course, there is a basic program, but anyway the ShenDo evolves every moment assimilating and absorbing all the knowledge that during the years we will get, following ours researches and studies. Like some other discipline, the ShenDo is in continuous changing and it became richer day by day, getting back the ancient notions that now are property of others Arts. Life is in continuous changing and the ShenDo don't try to escape this eternal law, like others Arts did, but it incorporate that law, being one with it.
Somebody could think that to studying one style is enough but this thinking is based on some "dogma" that has nothing real. Let's say a short example. I like the tiger style, because I'm young, strong, tall and with a lot of power. But what will happen when I will get older? All my knowledge will be lost if my body could not be a "tiger" any more. So maybe, if my knowledge is a bit more open to the "soft" styles, it's better and even in my old age it could be helpful. As an old Chinese saying: "The season don't spare anybody, neither the Emperor". So the best thing is try to understand and assimilate the basic principles of many Martial Arts, not just a short understanding, but deeper ones. It's quite funny to ear somebody saying he is studying the "best" Martial Arts or something like:"with this Martial Arts, I will be invincible".
All the Martial Arts, on top level are good, but they can't be complete because they are just a small part of what they were when they were born. So the comprehension of most of them will bring us to a good starting point. This is the only way. Yes I said a "starting point" because to understand the real meaning of Martial Arts, we have to continue our study for all the life, otherwise we could be a good fighter or a good practitioner for exhibition, but not a real Martial Arts practitioner. The ShenDo start from the point of view to expand our knowledge from the Martial point, but also for the life itself. Even for that reason the ShenDo combine the "Yang" style with the "Yin" style together, following a saying of the famous book of changing, the "I Ching": "Stiffness changing in looseness and looseness changing in hard power".
Alternation of Yin and Yang is one of the basic principles of the ShenDo because the knowledge of the opposite, leads to the balancing of being. It is obviously a long and hard work, but as Sri Yukteswar always said: "Banat banat banjai" (doing, doing, one day, it's done).