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Fueled By death cast



Fueled By Death Cast Ep. 190 - Matthew Lynch

SHINKENDO SENSEI - MATTHEW LYNCH

"The sword is a constant brush with death" Matthew Lynch, Shinkendo Japenese Swordsman, instructor, student

 

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ABOUT MATTHEW LYNCH:

Matthew Lynch has trained in the martial art of Shinkendo and has been studying Japenese Swordsmanship for years under Headmaster Toshishiro Obata Kaiso and hold high ranks in Shinkendo and Toyama Ryu styles of swordsmanship. Matthew is an instructor at Mashuu Dojo in California is also a close friend and teacher of weapons master Anthony DeLongis who was on a previous episode.

TRANSCRIPT:

Jeff:
Matthew, thank you so much for joining me on the show. I am really excited to talk to you because I've never actually talked to someone in your position before, and you are the instructor at the school that, I'm guessing, that I'm seeing you in right now?

Matthew Lynch:
Yeah, it's very quiet here right now what with all the goings on, but the air conditioner works. So I thought I'd come here.

Jeff:
That's great. So can we talk about, a little, in the present then, what's the name of your school, and what it means to be the instructor of the school?

Matthew Lynch:
Sure. I'm an instructor in the art of shin kendo, which is traditional Japanese samurai sword training. I'm lucky enough to study under the founder and headmaster, whose name is Toshishiro Obata. He's had a movie career. So you might recognize him if you look him up, and he's been teaching for his whole life, like 50 years. I've been his student for just over 20 now. It'll be 21 in June.

Jeff:
Wow. How long have you been teaching?

Matthew Lynch:
I started teaching in 2003. So it's been 17 years. I've been teaching.

Jeff:
Wow. Wow. That is excellent. So there's a lot to unpack, and I really want to pick your brain. First of all, I want to go all the way back, because any martial art, any kind of discipline like that is just that. It's a discipline. It's something that you have to put a lot of work, a lot of time, both mental and physical into that thing. And I'm always curious where that started. Were you a kid and were you interested in martial arts and getting into this field, or did that come later in life for you?

Matthew Lynch:
Sure. Everyone will have their own answer for that. For me, the answer was a lifelong fascination with swords and swordsmanship. Not Japanese, specifically, just every culture as a sword, and it's almost always the weapon of nobility. It's the guy whose responsible for protecting others.

Jeff:
Being fascinated with swords, was there a moment where you learned about Japanese swordsmanship and then you gravitated towards that, or was that just an organic thing of learning about swords and learning martial arts?

Matthew Lynch:
I guess it was a little of both, but largely it was just really lucky coincidence. The Japanese sword is the only sword that is currently studied that there's no break in the history. If you study a variety of European swordsmanship, or try to unpack Viking sword craft from half forgotten manuals, there's a lot of guesswork involved and a lot of re creation. I'm studying swordsmanship from a guy who learned it from a guy who fought for a living with swords, who learned it from a guy all the way back through samurai time. So it's a thousand year tradition that I get to be part of. And what drew me to it was the authenticity of that. There's a thousand reasons I stayed, but mainly it was just knowing that I was learning the real thing from somebody. You know what I mean?

Jeff:
Yeah. Yeah. That's so interesting. It makes complete sense when you say it like that, but I never thought about it, that it is truly the only sword that we know the most about.

Matthew Lynch:
Right.

Jeff:
Because thankfully, the Japanese culture have spent their entire existence making sure that they wrote everything down, and they've passed it all along and everything. So that's great.

Matthew Lynch:
They preserved the traditional swordsmanship really well, way after it was physically irrelevant. Nobody fights with swords anymore. We all know that. I don't expect to ever get into a sword fight pending a zombie apocalypse. I just don't see it happening. They preserved it really well. Whereas other cultures, there's still fencing, and there's still sports based on Western swordsmanship, but the practical aspect has been lost.

Jeff:
Yeah. And you mentioned your master, who again, yes, he has been in films, he's a recognizable person, but he is someone who is much more recognizable in Japanese swordsmanship. And can you speak a little bit about how you first came in contact with him and started studying with him?

Matthew Lynch:
Sheer dumb luck. I lived in Hollywood, and at the time his school, his dojo, was in Hollywood where the Highland Center is now. It got torn down. It's a parking lot, but I used to walk by it, and I'm like, "Wow, it says Japanese swordsmanship in there." And I just poked my head in one day and God bless them, they didn't kick me out. And 20 years later, I'm still going several times a week.

Jeff:
Wow. So you're still learning from him?

Matthew Lynch:
I have the distinction of being his longest continuing student ever. There are people who signed up before me, of course. Some of them still train, but they took a year or three off to go to college or whatever. And until our current time, I never went a whole month without seeing him since June of 1999.

Jeff:
Wow.

Matthew Lynch:
I trained every week. There's twice ever that I took two weeks off in 20 years. So nobody's got a record like that.

Jeff:
Wow. Wow. Well, it definitely pays off, too. And correct me if I'm wrong, he has a hand in creating this art form. Correct?

Matthew Lynch:
Yes. Shin Kendo, as an art form, is only 40 years old. He studied in Japan under every art he could find, which is very unusual. Usually you pick one school and you stay there. But because he had a job in film and entertainment, the Japanese equivalent of a stunt troupe, he was allowed to do research into how to wear the armor correctly and how to fight with all the different weapons so that he could bring it to film and TV. So he was allowed to cross train where most people aren't. And he realized there was a lot... There were strengths to every school, but there were huge holes where things were missing. And Japanese culture you're not allowed to change or modify. You just have to do what you were shown and nothing else. So he, and this is his words, not mine. He escaped to America where he could consolidate all the knowledge that he had and create a system. So the system of Shin Kendo is 40 years old, 1980, 1981, I think, but it's tried and true techniques from a thousand years of Japanese evolution.

Jeff:
And I hope I'm not... I'm learning about this as I'm talking to you. And the little bit I know about Japanese swordsmanship is, there's something called the way of the sword. And that is this ideal that everything you can learn about that weapon, and about the way to utilize the weapon, and the armor, and everything you want, like the old samurai, the mentality is, learn as much as you could, fight as much as you could, train as much as you could, but like you were just mentioning, there are many, many different types of schools of Japanese swordsmanship. Is that what you were saying?

Matthew Lynch:
Yes. This is going to be a silly analogy, but think of it like pizza. If I say pizza, you know what a pizza is, but if I say Chicago style, you know you're not going to get a New York slice of pizza, or if I say New York style. And all around Japan there are towns or schools based on a particular fighter from back when all of these different schools, they're like Master's PhD level courses without the elementary school training you would have learned from your father, if you were a samurai. They're specialist schools. And if you learn from each of those specialist schools, you learn their tips and tricks, but you still don't have the elementary school background, unless you've studied all of them and can compare and contrast.

Jeff:
Wow. And you were also saying, so if you are studying a specific school of thought of Japanese swordsmanship, and then maybe you study another school, you can't bring in what you learned from that other school. You can't change schools basically. Correct?

Matthew Lynch:
It would be horribly disrespectful to make a Chicago deep dish pizza in a New York pizzeria.

Jeff:
That's true.

Matthew Lynch:
I mean, that's a silly analogy, but it's actually pretty accurate.

Jeff:
Look, as a guy who knows very little about this, having a master Japanese swordsman tell me about the art form with an analogy with pizza. I feel like Splinter is literally talking to me through Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So I'm very happy about all of that. You can-

Matthew Lynch:
You know he was in that movie?

Jeff:
Oh yes. Oh yes, yes. He was definitely in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2. I was throwing that in there as well, but that's so interesting to me because, obviously the culture, and the knowledge that you're learning, you're gaining from these schools is very revered and very, like you said, you can't go in and try to buck the trend, or rock the boat. You're going and doing a singular path. When your master came to America, as he says, escaped to America to do this, was he ostracized at all for that?

Matthew Lynch:
He got some resistance, but it's really hard to... He had gained the equivalent of black belt, or mastership, of each of those arts, and the certificate they give you is called Menkyo Kaiden. I don't speak Japanese, but I know a lot of Japanese words. And it essentially means I have nothing left to teach you. And when you get that certificate from enough schools, nobody can tell you what to do. So he's that good. He was that good. So nobody could really argue with him.

Jeff:
So they were kind of miffed about it, but they were like, our hands are tied. You're you're too good of a dude. We can't tell you no, so.

Matthew Lynch:
One of the famous stories, there was an all Japan target cutting tournament that, six years in a row, he won. Six years in a row he won by a long shot. The seventh year they asked him to stop competing and said, "Would you please let somebody else win?" So he didn't compete. Actually, that's when he left for America. And they mailed him first prize anyway, and he called whoever in Japan said, "Why did you send me this? I didn't compete." And they said, "Nobody, this year, came anywhere near what you did last year. So you still won first prize."

Jeff:
Wow. Wow. And I know a little bit about that, but if you can explain it to me a little bit more. The cutting competitions, that is, correct me if I'm wrong, when master swordsmen are cutting those giant bamboo stocks?

Matthew Lynch:
Bamboo, or rolled up, they look like beach mats. They're floor mats in Japan. When you see those big round ones. It's like a straw mat that they soak in water. It's supposed to represent the consistency of meat without being bad for your sword.

Jeff:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And how is that scored? How do you win something like that?

Matthew Lynch:
You know, honestly, I don't entirely know. I know some sometimes it's speed, sometimes it's accuracy, sometimes it's a combination of the two. We don't do it. One of the things Obata, since he came here is, he wanted to remove all sense of competition from the art, because that's how you end up... Like, if you took an Olympic target shooter and put him out in the field with a bunch of combat guys, he'd be useless. He's used to a lighter gun that's balanced different, he can relax. There's no danger to him, and he's shooting targets that don't move. So everything he learned takes him further away. Or like, it's not that boxing doesn't teach you how to fight, but it doesn't teach you street fighting. So he wanted to remove all sense of competition so that it would not dilute the nature of the art. So I don't do it. I don't do target cutting competitions. I do target cutting to test myself.

Jeff:
That's so interesting. So when you're learning this, when you, by happenstance, walked into his dojo and started training and started learning-

Matthew Lynch:
Like I did.

Jeff:
Right. Were you enamored with teaching at that point? Did you think, one day I want to become a teacher?

Matthew Lynch:
No, I was at least a year in before I realized that I wanted to teach. And I wanted to do it to become a better swordsman, because if you can teach it, that means you really know it, kind of. It was not a goal of mine at all. I thought I was going to be playing guitar for Ozzy Osborne back when that was cool.

Jeff:
It's still cool.

Matthew Lynch:
This is pre Reality TV Ozzie. A generation Xer, Bark at the Moon, when it came out.

Jeff:
You still train with him, have you trained with others? Have you trained outside of the country? Do you train all the time?

Matthew Lynch:
I do not train in any other school besides Shinkendo, and I don't study any other art or with anybody else. It's not that I'm not allowed to. That's my personal choice and opinion. And he has complimented me on it a couple of times. He's, "Oh, Matthew, technique very honest," because I don't have any habits, good or bad, that I learned somewhere else. So he said my technique is like clear water. That's actually how I named my school. Mashuu dojo is named, partly because Mashuu sounds like my name, but also it's named for a very famous lake in Northern Japan that is reputed to be the clearest natural pool of water on earth, like the deepest visibility. So I chose that because he keeps saying that what I learned is very honest, and therefore what I teach my students is exactly what he taught me without inflection from anything else.

Jeff:
Wow. That is so, so interesting. And speaking of your students, one of the reasons why we are talking is because of one of your students, Anthony De Longis, who was on this very show, and how long has Anthony been studying with you?

Matthew Lynch:
Oh, I want to say 10 years. I don't have the exact date in front of me, but a long time he and I've been training together. He's a great [inaudible 00:13:46].

Jeff:
Because he is so proficient in so many things. And obviously, also been in a lot of films and TV using a lot of skills I'm sure you, yourself, have taught him it. Do you find yourself teaching lots of people who are in the industry because you're based in California?

Matthew Lynch:
I don't know how to compare that to anyone else, but yes, I've had, I don't know, three or five professional stunt fighters, fight choreographers who wanted to study with me, which I love, partly because Anthony is the opposite of me. He's got so much outside experience that it's easy to talk to him and teach him things. He picks it up really fast. It's just, I have to watch out for other habits, whereas I had no other habits, but it took me a long time to get at all good at this.

Jeff:
Right.

Matthew Lynch:
But I love him because he keeps Hollywood off my back. Every now and then some director or producer would be like, can you come train our actor? And I did it once. And I realized I have no stomach for actors, directors and producers in the Hollywood ego-driven crowd is not my thing, but I could say, here's your guy, go study with Anthony. He knows your language, he knows movies, or one of my other stunt guys, and then I don't have to deal with that. I can just do what I do.

Jeff:
That's awesome. You basically are imparting the precious knowledge into the world, into these other guys, and then being like, "You go do it. I'm just going to stay here."

Matthew Lynch:
I don't want [inaudible 00:15:10]. That's all great for you guys, but I don't want any part of it. I don't want to sound all narcissistic, and pure, and anything like that. I just... Ego-driven people bother me.

Jeff:
And it's also, as so many people know, Hollywood and the film industry is a whole other beast. It's a whole other mental and physical dynamic. And especially from a teaching standpoint, I'm sure it's very different being in your school, teaching your students, and then being on a set, or some sort of type film or TV type scenario and having to teach there as well, but when stunt men or women come to you looking to train, is that different? That must be different than just normal school training because they must be coming with a specific skill they want to learn, right?

Matthew Lynch:
If it's a stunt person or an actor who wants to specifically learn a skill, I'll give them to Anthony or one of my other students who does that. If you want to study with me, you're going to study what I teach you. And the reason for that is I can't put a deadly weapon in the hand of somebody who's only had a couple of weeks to train with it. That would be incredibly stupid. If you're an actor and somebody says, "Could you play a French chef?" You could say, "Mais oui." Even if you've never done it and you can act like you know how to do it, but you can't put them in a Lamborghini if they've never driven and say, "Go ahead and race around this corner really fast." They'll kill themselves.

Matthew Lynch:
And the analogy is very clear. My sword that I use, and the swords that I let my students use, are incredibly dangerous. You could lose a finger, you could die very easily. So I can't corners, and I can't teach a Hollywood person five tricks to go look good on camera. Anthony could do that. He knows what those tricks are, but I can't afford to treat people [inaudible 00:16:52].

Jeff:
Yeah, no, that's keeping you safe, that's keeping everyone else safe, and it's preserving the knowledge as well. That's really awesome. Are you a fan of film that deals with Japanese swordsmanship, or can you not watch it at all because you're just like, this is wrong? I can't take it?

Matthew Lynch:
I'm going to... Kind of a function of those two things. I've never watched Kill Bill and I'm probably never going to. There are movies that [inaudible 00:17:21] you should have hired somebody that knew what they were doing. I can usually turn that off, but what happens is every time somebody signs up for my school, and we all have our different reasons to train, they're all like, "Oh, Sensai, I want to show you this cool Japanese sword movie." I was like, "One, I've seen it. I'm pretty sure I've seen it. And two, it's not a genre I was drawn to that much in the first place." And now it's being forced fed down my throat all the time. So I'm like, samurai movies, it's fine. There's three that I like, but otherwise, I'll just watch something else. Thanks.

Jeff:
Can you tell me those three?

Matthew Lynch:
I loved Last Samurai. I went there fully expecting to hate it. I'm not Tom Cruise's biggest fan. I don't like the cultural appropriation style film enhances with avatar or whatever, but it was really well done and the swordsmanship in it was really good. The guy who plays the blue warrior, who's now in Westworld Sonata, is really, really good. And if he's in the movie, he won't let bad swordsmanship happen, so he's trustworthy. And he's been in two or three other movies. Twilight Samurai was one. And then there's a few other that's like, well, that was really good, and it was a good story. It was compelling. And it's not just Kill Bill.

Jeff:
Exactly. Exactly. That leads me to the theme of this show. We're all fueled by this one thing. We're all fueled by that finish line. We're going to die someday, but we want to leave the world a little different before we inevitably do that. And with everything that you've learned, and all of the students you've had, training yourself, but also training at your school, what fuels you to keep doing that? What fuels you to keep wanting to learn and also wanting to teach?

Matthew Lynch:
Boy, there's so many reasons I do what I do. I really love every aspect of training and swordsmanship, but because you mentioned being fueled by death, which we are, the sword is a constant brush with death. Even when we're training with wooden swords, they're going really fast right at your head, and if you block poorly, or if somebody else fails to check their strike, you could get maimed or killed. And that concentrates your focus to such a degree that you can think about nothing else.

Matthew Lynch:
So no matter what kind of stressful day I've had, where money or any other part of my life may be impacted, when I'm in the dojo I can't afford to think about anything else. That constant attention to detail improves my life in every other facet of it. And also, the sense that I've been given something thousands of years old that I'm responsible to care for, and pass onto someone else before I die, so that this art will live through me. From my beginning until after my end it will continue, because I helped it continue, is an honorful and powerful thing that I didn't realize would be such a motivating force in my training, but it really, really is.

Jeff:
That's so inspiring. And I know that what's incredible about the art form, and also, just everything that you've learned, and what you're teaching your students, Japanese swordsmanship is not just learning the way of the sword. It's also, everything translates to living your life. Is that what really drew you to this as you started training with your master and really learning more about that? Have you found that it's completely changed your life since, now you becoming a master of this?

Matthew Lynch:
In so many ways that I did not predict, the sword is everywhere in everything I do. You said it exactly right. We learn from the sword, we don't learn sword, we learn from the sword. Shinkendo literally means the way of the sword, but figuratively, it means to do it like it's a real sword. Like in English, you might say the gun's loaded, or the gun's always loaded, or something like that, so that people never don't take a gun seriously. And in Japanese to do something shinkendo means do it like you're holding a real sword, and to live your whole life that way. That life is an art and that every moment of it is critical and crucial. And you should do it like you mean it, because you have this one shot at it, is really what shinkendo means in English. And that everything from how I drive, to how I keep my personal hygiene, to how polite I am with others, and how cautious but driven I am about everything I do. I think almost all has been improved, if not completely revolutionized, through the study of the sword.

Jeff:
Wow. That's really cool, and very, very inspiring. I have to ask. In the beginning you were talking about what really drew you from a young child to this was just your love of swords in general. Just swords period. Are you a collector at all?

Matthew Lynch:
I don't know that I... I don't have the money to really collect those sorts of-

Jeff:
Yeah. I hear that.

Matthew Lynch:
I have a few swords. That's my sword behind me, and I've had it for two decades, and it's not an antique. It's only a little older than that. I got it when it was new, and it's not pretty like a Ferrari, it's pretty like a Ford truck. It's very utilitarian. I wouldn't collect the priceless antique swords because you can't use them. It would be horribly disrespectful to take something that's a 500 year old sword, made by a master craftsman, that can never be duplicated, and then cut targets with it. No matter how careful you are, you're going to scratch the sword, you're going to damage it. And so the kind of person that collects swords like that doesn't use them. The kind of person, like myself, that uses them tends not to collect swords that it would be disrespectful to use. So I have a few that I'm very fond of, but I don't really collect. That would drive me nuts.

Jeff:
I totally understand that. I that that's-

Matthew Lynch:
We all saw Ferris Bueller. It's like, if you have a car like that and you don't drive it, your priorities are so out of whack.

Jeff:
Exactly. Exactly.

Matthew Lynch:
I couldn't do it.

Jeff:
Well good. You're good. I'm glad. Finally, for anybody listening and watching this, if they happened to be in your area, or I know that there are schools of Shinkendo all over, and they're looking, this is something that they'd want to do, how would they go about that? Just come and visit your school or...

Matthew Lynch:
Really that's it? Most of us will ask you to make an appointment first, because somebody just barges in the door, we tend to grab weapons and say, "What are you doing here?" But all you have to do is come and watch a class. I don't offer a free trial class, but I ask to watch a class to make sure this is really what you want, and to make sure I'm someone you could study under. Because the greatest martial art in the world, if you learn it from someone you can't click with is pointless. We all joke, it's better to learn climb tree, throw rock from a master than it is to learn the best martial art from a teacher that you can't learn from. If you like what you see, and you like how I teach it, you could sign up. That's all I want. Somebody that can [inaudible 00:24:28].

Jeff:
Wow. So how many students do you currently have?

Matthew Lynch:
Oh, you know, they don't tell me when they quit, so I don't always know. I keep attendance. Like I haven't seen this guy in three months, but then he reappears, but I have about a dozen. At any given time the class is between six or eight people. Sometimes only two or three, which is fine with me. Fewer students means I get to pay more attention to each of them. More students means I get to feed off of their energy. Either way, as long as they pay enough to keep the dojo running. I'm never going to get rich doing this, but it's very rewarding.

Jeff:
How long do classes usually go for? How long is a training session with you?

Matthew Lynch:
That will be different for each school. I'm not required to do it any given way. At this time my classes are 90 minutes each.

Jeff:
And then you, yourself, you said still train once a week, you said?

Matthew Lynch:
Yeah, I'm down to once a week just because I moved into the Valley and my Sensei moved into Little Tokyo area. So it's a long ugly drive. So I study with him once a week on Mondays, but I study for three hours every Monday.

Jeff:
Wow. Wow. That is-

Matthew Lynch:
And he kicks ass. When you're teaching you can go at your own pace. And even if I train really, really hard, it's only as hard as I want it, whereas if I'm studying under him, if he says do it again I do it again. And if he wants more I give him more, and I'm wiped out more in that three hour session than I am the rest of the week.

Jeff:
Wow. So when you study with him, is that in his class or is that more of a one-on-one?

Matthew Lynch:
No, that's at his school, the world headquarters at this time. We're building our own dojo. Right now we're borrowing space in a Buddhist temple during construction, but we're building our own dojo. There'll be a permanent home. He bought land and is custom building his own space.

Jeff:
Wow.

Matthew Lynch:
But that's where the regular classes are. It's mostly for instructors. Anybody could go there, but he's trying to create instructors, so people come here from Hungary, and Australia, and all over the US to study intensively with him for a couple of weeks so they could go open their own schools back where they live. I just happen to live here. So I get to go all the time.

Jeff:
Wow. That is so cool. Final question. And this might be just a loaded question, but if you could think on something that you've learned from training with your master, and training with shinkendo this entire time, that has resonated with you more than anything, do you have a teaching that you constantly think back on it a rock from all of this?

Matthew Lynch:
It's not a loaded question, but it's a tricky question. That's a hard one. I'll give you the answer that, I hope, will do. When I started teaching, I realized that every time a student would ask me a question, I only had three answers. It all distilled down to three answers. So, being a fan of things Japanese, I wrote a haiku based on the things that my Sensei taught me, because every time I'd ask him a question it would pretty much be the same three answers.

Matthew Lynch:
Answer number one, and there's five syllables. Do it one more time. Nine times out of 10 the student will answer his own question. Was that right foot, or why do I block this way? If you do it again, you'll see. Answer number two, now picture your enemy, which is seven syllables. And usually if you can see the other guy you'll understand why it's left foot over tip forward block, or whatever. And then the last answer is, bring your balance down, which just translates to put yourself back into full mindset. Don't relax while you're doing it. Those principles I try to apply to myself constantly and it's my guidelines, and it's also pretty much all I ever tell my students is, well now I've got it down to the last few questions. I'll go, "Line two." And they go, "Oh, picture my enemy." "Line three." "Oh, bring my balance down." And they know, because I always say those three.

Jeff:
Oh, that's excellent. That's excellent. Finally, I just got to ask, as we're talking through the wonders of technology, which is great over Skype, I notice that you are fully dressed for this interview as well. Is this part of your school or is this your own style, or... Basically what I'm asking is, is what you're wearing specific to your school or is it just...

Matthew Lynch:
Okay. The white pajama looking thing, which in Japanese they call a dogi, do meaning the art or the training, and gi literally just means clothes, is just the equivalent of Japanese sweats. Every time you see somebody in a martial arts movie wearing one of these, they're just wearing sweats, basically, because nobody else is bothering to look cool, so we all wear them. So every martial arts has this. I'm not going to stand up, but I have on the goofy black pants that looks like a huge pleated skirt. That's specific to sword arts. It was what a samurai would wear, like a cowboy wearing chaps, and actually for the same reason. It was horseback attire, and the samurai were the ones that did that. So it's still associated with samurai arts, but it's really about wearing a sword, because the extra straps in your belt will hold the sword in place.

Matthew Lynch:
So sometimes a very high ranking member of another art will start wearing a Hakama as a symbol of rank, but it really implies that they're high enough rank they should be studying sword also, is why they wear it. So that is more specific to sword. And then this brown jacket, this is specific to Shinkendo. In Japanese, they call it a [mati gi 00:30:02], which just means an around town vest. It's something with pockets, so I'm not just wearing my sweats as I walked down the street, but my headmaster made them, and this one's embroidered. It says International Shinkendo Federation in Japanese on it. So these are really cool. We have one instructor in Australia who's our hookup. So this is real nice kangaroo leather.

Jeff:
Oh, that's awesome. I don't know if you'd know this answer. How many instructors have Shinkendo are there now?

Matthew Lynch:
The last I saw there's about a hundred branches worldwide. So there are 100 head instructors, and then each one of them might have instructor level students under him. Like I've got five guys. They're a high enough rank to open their own school should they suddenly move to Des Moines, or further into the Valley then I'm willing to drive, but yeah, about a hundred branches around the world.

Jeff:
That's so cool. And when you say, again, this is me being naive, but when you say rank, the little bit that I know is the Karate Kid with a belt ranking system. Is it the same in Shinkendo, or is that a different ranking system?

Matthew Lynch:
No, Obata Sensei deliberately did not use a colored belt system because he didn't want us comparing ranks to other schools. It's very apples and oranges to do that anyway. And again, puts people in the wrong mindset if they're comparing their ranks. In the school we have white belts and black belts, black belt means you're instructor level, and that's the only outside symbol that you'd see that will tell you that, but if you train for more than a week you know who's better than you, and you know who you're better than, and you stand in between those two guys.

Jeff:
Makes sense.

Matthew Lynch:
I've got a rank. I've got a whole bunch of ranks. They're all Japanese words that means something.

Jeff:
You know you're good enough. That's all that matters.

Matthew Lynch:
I know who can beat me and I'm never going to challenge them to a fight.

Jeff:
Your master. Oh wow. Well, it was so incredible hearing all of this from you because again, it's something that I know very little about, but it's so interesting. And it's so eyeopening to hear someone who is still so passionate about this, because you've been doing this for so long and yet you still have such a reverence for it. And I think that it really stems back to, like you said, it is such an old and revered cultural touchpoint that you feel you not only get to still be a part of, but you get to impart onto people too. And that's really awesome. Matthew, I just got to thank you one more time for being on the show and talking with me and our fans and listeners, because this is really, really inspiring.

Matthew Lynch:
Well, thank you. And on a side note, although I drink green tea here in the dojo because it's traditional, I don't get up in the morning without coffee and this Death Wish stuff is really amazingly good. I honestly can't tell that there's that much more caffeine in it, but it's delicious. So thank you for the coffee.

Jeff:
Love it. Love it. That's awesome.