Well guys! I’ve had another exciting trip to Kumoricon in Portland Oregon. I went with out fellow podcaster London, and we even met up with writer Annalyn as well! I had an amazing time at this convention. I got to interview “Samurai Dan,” J. Michael Tatum (Iida, Erwin Smith) and Justin Briner (Deku). I will write a separate post for each person I interviewed, but first, please enjoy my interview with “Samurai Dan”!
According to his Facebook page,
“The husband and wife team of Daniel and Jillian Coglan are full-time martial art instructors, specializing in 16th century Samurai Arts. When not teaching at their dojo, the Kojokan, they travel the United States performing and teaching the ancient ways of the most famous warriors in history. Beyond their martial skills, the dynamic duo collaborated to write, direct, host, and star in a 12 episode TV series entitled, “The Way of The Samurai.” Daniel is also an author, with several martial art articles published, and is currently working on his second full-length novel.”
I knew that talking to a martial arts master, and knowing how much I like to dig into conversation, there was no way I could avoid the topic of spirituality. I trained in a dojo that was run by Christians when I was in high school. They showed me how I can use my martial art and my faith together. This concept is how I became familiar with infusing my faith and anime, and that is how I found Beneath the Tangles!
When I entered the room, I told Dan about our Christian blog, and he was a little hesitant. His response was, “Wow, really? Good luck with me. I’m shallow.”
The first question I asked him was “How do you infused the bushido honor and loyalty into your work?” This was where he explained how the Boy Scouts and Bible college helped him understand loyalty and honor. He brought up reading The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi, as well as the companion book, Family Traditions of the Art of War written by Yagyu Munenori. These books explain how the sword is life giving, supporting the human race for the sword to only be used when absolutely necessary. This reminded me a lot of Rurouni Kenshin, the swordsman who only used his swordsmanship to protect others.
“As a spiritual person, that really resonated with me…. The use of a sword, when I know what it’s used for. It’s about respect for living creatures… I find that spirituality in everything.”
But of course, we need to talk about anime. He explained, “[Anime] borrows very heavily from samurai culture.” Sadly, he had only ever seen one anime.
“If you are trying to pick an anime to explain to your family or priest, and you have to pick an anime to watch, Spirited Away is gotta be really high on that lot of what you gotta pick because the story line and research they did for it was really astounding to me. I didn’t know anything about anime—I just thought Japanese cartoons, like their version of Bugs Bunny.”
Then I asked him, “You said you went to Bible college. Do you integrate your faith or worldview into what you do as a samurai?”
Then he looked at me blankly and very clearly said, “No.”
He explained how most of the fighting in the world is because people are fighting for their own belief system and they are intolerant of other people’s views.
“And I’m not trying to be over pacifist or touchy feely, but I honestly believe you are entitled to your own opinion. I may not agree with it, in fact if everyone knew what I believed I wouldn’t get hired anywhere. Because I am old-fashioned, stick in the mud, boring guy. I should be 90 living in the mountain by myself… But even having said that, if you distill religions and belief systems down to their base levels, there are common elements that we can all agree on. And the basis for honor, and being upright, and making the world a better place by you having been there and rather then being someone who takes and uses things, those are concepts that are central to every belief system. And that is what we infuse into everything we do.”
Then he talked about leaving the dojo, and any place you walk into, better than how you found it. This stuck out to me. My dad has always been into martial arts and that was a principle that he taught my younger sisters and me. My own sensei also taught me the same thing. And what was evoked was a sense of nostalgia, longing, and the smell of sweat. It’s a wonderful thing, being able to serve by cleaning up (especially if there is blood on the mats). I missed the feeling of working together with the other students to create a peaceful clean space. It brings a sense of camaraderie and belonging, similar to the reason people go to an anime convention. Dan went on to say that if everyone were making the world a better place, by cleaning up tables at restaurants and serving everyone, then there wouldn’t be the divisiveness, overly offensive material, and the political divide we have in the country right now.
I asked him about a Japanese term called, “Maai” that my Sensei used to speak of.
Maai (間合い), translating simply “interval,” is a Japanese martial arts term referring to the space between two opponents in combat; formally, the “engagement distance.”
My sensei used Maai as a spiritual term. Dan told me that was correct, since Maai is about spacing and at it’s core, defending yourself. It can be a fairly spiritual experience as it explores your relationship to others in a physical and even emotional sense.
“How have you seen culture affect your connection with martial arts?” I asked.
“I feel like you are asking the most difficult questions. Now you ask the question that can be offensive. Did you teacher teach you the difference between Mutae and Ura?
Mutae: “Forward.” Public thoughts. Supposed to project curtain things.
Ura: “Rear.” Private thoughts for the family or people you drink with.
He decided to go with Ura thoughts. This culture is a reward system. There is peace in having something that no one can take away from you. If you have a skill that is uniquely yours, it has relevance and value because it is yours. Dojos give out belts too fast. Black belts don’t mean you are a master. There is no strong foundation when training to get a black belt. Black belts now a days are getting bullied at school. People don’t want to make a technique work, they want to be flashy.
Talking with “Samurai Dan” was very inspiring to me. He wasn’t intimidating to me in the sense of how fierce you expect a Samurai to be. He spoke to me like an equal. He was humble and knowledgeable even thought he was hesitant to show as much. Speaking with him was my favorite part of the convention because I got to learn more about martial arts then I had known before. I’m even inspired to try martial arts again!
Have you ever done a martial art or seen martial arts at a convention?
Follow Samurai Dan on Facebook.