When one mentions the phrase “special training” with regards to the martial ways, it usually conjures up Shaolin Monks standing on one leg on the top of a 10 foot tall post for hours on end or perhaps being blindfolded while training partners throw knives or steel shuriken at you so that you can improve your ki and other senses.
In reality, special training is much different than these extreme examples. It is more often a variety of different practices that the student may already be familiar with but done over a longer period of time and often with multiple classes held over a weekend or sometimes even a full week. Each different art has their own version of this training and it is sometimes held at the home dojo/dojang but more often is held in a more remote location that helps the students focus only on the training at hand.
One well known form of special training that comes from Japan is called Misogi. Misogi (禊) is a Japanese Shinto practice of ritual purification by washing the entire body, often in the running water of a waterfall or river. Misogi is related to another Shinto purification ritual called Harae – thus both being collectively referred to as Misogiharae (禊祓). The Founder of Aikido Ueshiba Morihei was very fond of misogi training and used it in many ways to challenge himself and his students. There is an organization in Japan called the Ichikukai, which means the 19 Society. It is a very challenging dojo focused on meditation and chanting. The Ichikukai describes itself as a place where the “practice of misogi shugyo is the desperate, ravenous, fierce and relentless seeking of truth and purity.”
Special training is an added hardship that not all budoka wish or need to endure. More than anything else, Tokkun is a way for students to face themselves and their egos; it is a dialogue between whom you think you are and who you really are; it does not extend to comparison between students. One should not talk about any special training in a way that implies that participation makes one superior to others. Take care that one’s thoughts and words do not reflect an egotistic attitude of “I have suffered more than you so I am stronger.” In fact, thinking about it in such a way is proof that one needs this sort of additional training in order to further polish their hearts.
If this type of special training interests you, read this account of an American Aikido practitioner’s special training weekend at a highly regarded dojo in Japan.