Interview with Richard L. Haight

In your book, The Unbound Soul, you have written quite a bit about your martial arts and meditation practice. Doesn't the simultaneous practice of meditation and martial arts seem contradictory?
It is relatively easy to meditate and be at peace under ideal, comfortable, nonchallenging circumstances. The martial arts that I teach will help you to meditate through the chaos of life and in the face of danger, and will ultimately bring you to true mastery of the self.
How do you know, for example, which prospective students might prove to be less suitable as users of martial arts?
First, and foremost, you can feel their presence, but their questions also give away their intentions. One such prospective student asked me, “How long does it take to be a black belt?” Clearly this individual’s motivation for training is primarily egoistic, a motivation that is not accepted at my dojo. To such an individual, I usually say, “We don’t train for rank here, so this may not be the right dojo for you, but there is a great dojo down the street that you might enjoy.”

The contradiction of meditation and martial arts begins to resolve when we learn to move courageously into the very center of chaos. Then the mind, like a storm’s eye, is silent, and there we find clarity and power that we never knew we could access. This clarity and power are what we all truly seek in our lives, even if we haven’t yet realized it. With this power we are able to resolve violence without using violence.
How long did you live and train in Japan?
I began my training there in spring of 1997 and continued living and training in Japan until summer of 2012.
Which arts did you train in while you were in Japan?
I trained in Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, which is a school of jujutsu and is the predecessor of aikido and a number of other modern arts. I also trained extensively in Yagyu Shinkage-ryu Hyoho, which is a school of strategy that incorporates several other systems of training such as sword fencing, sword quick-drawing, and short staff skills.
Do you have a black belt ranking?
No, the belt ranking system is a relatively new invention with regard to the martial arts. Very few samurai training systems incorporate the belt ranking system, although there are a few that do. I was awarded under the samurai system of ranking, which consisted of scrolls. I have the menkyo-kaiden scroll and certificate (total mastery), menkyo (total mastery), kaiden (total mastery) the shihan menjo (master instructor certificate) and the mokuroku scroll (instructorship).
As far as rank goes, how do the ranking certificates that you were awarded compare to black belt rankings?
Well, menkyo-kaiden literally means total completion of the training, so that would necessitate that it would be at 10th-degree black belt under a system that ranked from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest possible ranking. I was awarded menkyo-kaiden in aikijujutsu, and menkyo in sword drawing. These are equivalent to the 10th-degree black belt, I suppose, as these ranks indicate total completion of these curricula. The mokuroku rank, which I was awarded in Shinkage-ryu Kenjutsu (fencing) and jojutsu would probably be about 7th-9th degree black belt. I have been tentative to advertize these things, however, as it feels rather self-aggrandizing, doesn't it? Sokaku Takeda, the headmaster of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu during the modernization of Japan after the fall of the samurai, when asked about his rank, would simply state, "I have trained a little...". With this attitude he would have to prove his skills instead of just relying upon his official rank to convince people. Although I prefer this approach to advertizing my ranks, I have a rule that I do not show or teach what a student is not ready to comprehend or to apply. A student has to earn each step in the training all the way to the highest levels. This is an approach that keeps everyone striving without going into hero-worship.
I understand that you also trained in a traditional Japanese school of physical therapy. Is that correct?
Yes, that is correct, I studied Sotai-ho, and I fully completed that training as well. Of course there is always more to learn, so we ought not think that we know everything even if our certificate indicates such.
You have also founded your own training system that combines all of the above arts, as well as a unique form of meditation. Can you talk a little about your system?
What I have discovered through insight and training is that there is a common essence among the arts that I teach, and once we realize and exemplify that common essence through our lives, we find peace within. Through a powerful presence of peaceful being we have access to an incredible field of integrity and power that serves both to protect our physical bodies and to provide deep conscious stability and insight. This essence allows us to transcend the violence of martial arts and life, peacefully resolving violence of all sorts. It is truly marvelous once we have had a taste of the power of true harmony. I call this system of training, Shinkaido, which translates as “open heart path.”
Do all students train in all aspects of Shinkaido?
No, some train exclusively in meditation and others in the martial arts or in the therapy. Of course students who trains in all of these aspects will ultimately reach a greater depth of understanding and ability. As I stated earlier, it is not a race, so someone may train in meditation or martial arts initially and then become interested in the other aspects of training as they mature in their studies. This is natural and appropriate if this is the feeling of the individual. It is important to realize that each of these three aspects of Shinkaido are incredibly deep and intricate, so most people will not have time to train everything.
How long does it take to develop the practical harmony you refer to?
Most training systems (martial, meditation and therapy) are based on building techniques, but one will find that the more complex something is, the greater the odds of failure when under pressure. For this reason the Shinkaido method is not about building technique but is instead about removing complexity at a fundamental level. There is a certain level of technical training in our martial arts method, for example, but it is really just about developing smooth fundamental movement such as walking, sitting, standing and moving our limbs in harmony. It is not really about technique although students may not realize this initially.

So to address your question, it is best not to rush the training process because as we address the fundamental level that I speak of and gain understanding of harmony, we also become aware of the disharmony that we have held onto all our lives and how that disharmony has tainted the structures of our lives, our perception of ourselves and of the world. Through Shinkaido training the way we perceive ourselves and the world naturally begins to change. We want to ease into this change and not rush it. Otherwise our lives will become too stressful. Thus, for people who become interested in the harmony of which I speak, it is fair to suggest that 3 to 4 years or regular practice is sufficient to gain a firm understanding, though for some individuals it will take less or more time, depending on their level of readiness and commitment. It’s not a race.
Published 2016-07-24.
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Books by This Author

The Psychedelic Path: An Exploration of Shamanic Plants for Spiritual Awakening
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 41,720. Language: English. Published: May 15, 2018. Categories: Nonfiction » Self-improvement » Emotional healing, Nonfiction » Religion and Spirituality » Self-realization
5 Stars "Fascinating insights into visionary states. Bound to be a controversial book."―Grady Harp, Hall of Fame, Top 100 Reviewer Are you walking the spiritual path and curious about psychedelics? Journey along with a meditation master and former "pharmacological purist" as he explores the spiritual heart of the psychedelic experience to discover the potential benefits and dangers of entheogens.
Inspirience: Meditation Unbound: The Unconditioned Path to Spiritual Awakening
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 34,430. Language: English. Published: September 11, 2017. Categories: Nonfiction » Inspiration » Meditation, Nonfiction » Religion and Spirituality » Self-realization
What is it you truly seek? The reality is, most of us don't really know. Upon close investigation, we discover, above all else, we are seeking the transcendent, that which resides at the deepest place within us, that which connects us to all that is and gives unconditioned meaning to our lives. Take a journey to the transcendent, so that it can transform your life - and the world!
The Unbound Soul: A Spiritual Memoir for Personal Transformation and Enlightenment
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 75,170. Language: English. Published: May 16, 2016. Categories: Nonfiction » Inspiration » Meditation, Nonfiction » Religion and Spirituality » Spiritual awakening
"This is a must-read for anyone searching to explore spirituality, purpose, and unbound freedom." ―Greg Giesen, Award-winning author of Creating Authenticity #1 best seller in multiple spirituality, meditation, and self-help categories, this fresh, highly acclaimed spiritual guide tells of one man's struggle to free his soul while guiding the reader to their own inner freedom.