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Diving into Details: Dance All Nights - Kagura

Whether you watched/read Demon Slayer or not, let’s discuss the concept of “Kagura.” There are a few words for “dance” in Japanese, but the choice of using Kagura was deliberate and intentional for this pair of shorts–and not just because of the Hinokami Kagura. If you are not familiar with Shinto, the indigenous religion of Japan, then there are definitely some themes within the story that can be missed and unappreciated. Although the ritualistic aspect is what might catch your eye, the more important aspect of kagura is tradition.

Kagura refers specifically to rituals meant for “god-entertainment.” They are rituals that range from giving thanks at specific turning points in the seasons to purifying shrines of evil spirits. If you thought the Hinokami Kagura was long lasting from sunset to sunrise, there have been some rituals that have lasted at most three days. Duration aside, what is crazy is that the concept of Kagura has existed for at least 1000 years. The oldest recorded Kagura dates back to 1002 AD. This means for at least the last thousand years, these rituals have been passed down through time and the lessons they mean to teach have been preserved. 

Whether it’s poomsae or kata, drill or scenario–the goal of all martial artists is to not only learn these lessons, but to eventually pass them on. To merely learn a surface level understanding of your practice is to do the entire history of martial arts a disservice. There are reasons why these movements are still practiced and their importance should already be established. The beauty in learning a martial art is understanding one principle: it has survived. It has survived through so much adversity that a group of individuals deemed it so necessary to pass on that they created an established pattern of movement to increase the survivability of the student. 

In both dance and martial arts, tradition is an integral part of the practice. In order to create something new, it is important to understand what has already been done. Although it may seem restrictive, tradition provides both the framework and the driving motivation for self growth. Adhering blindly to tradition in of itself is also to be avoided as it diminishes the idea of growth. The goal is to respect the past while paving the way towards the future. There is no point in rediscovering what has already been explored unless there is an aspect that wasn’t seen.

So as you wear these, you don’t have to dance for the gods–dance for those who have walked this same journey you’re on. Give thanks to those that perfected the technique before you for they have created the base which you get to build upon. 

May we Dance and Celebrate together,

John Bassford

Matsuri Fightwear Oyakata-sama