Watching Is Not Training!


shoto no waza

The world health situation locked down many Dōjō. Since last April, people have asked me a lot about my thoughts on video training. As you know, my streaming website offers 160 Gb of Bujinkan videos. The platform covers all the aspects of our martial arts. (1) 

So, people expect me to be in favour of video learning. I’m sorry to disappoint them, I am not in favour of video learning. I am confident you will agree with me after reading this text.

As the title says it quite clearly, “watching is not training.” The learning process is not passive, it demands action. If you want to learn, you have to train. There is no magic shortcut. When I was younger, I loved to watch formula 1 races on tv. It didn’t improve my driving abilities in any way!

Watching is not training. A video only shows things in a 2-dimension system. In comparison, live techniques are always in 3-dimension. A screen shows only parts of the movement from one direction captured by the camera. It cannot “show” you what Uke “feels” when he receives the Waza. I organized a few Taikai in Paris for Sensei. It was always surprising to see the camera guys unable to capture the depth of Sensei’s moves. And they were still recording in the wrong direction.

Hatsumi Sensei advises us to watch his DVDs and read his books every day. But he doesn’t say that you will learn the techniques by doing so. He wants us to watch and listen to the things he does and says while moving. By watching the global movement, you begin to dive into the action. Watching and listening is not enough, though. Videos and speech give only an idea. But must be experienced at the physical level, in your body. A Waza is much more than a series of movements. The real knowledge about a Waza, a level, or a Ryū lies beyond the mechanical aspects. À video is only Omote, actual training with a teacher is the Ura.

There is one aspect of videos that I like. Videos are better than texts. Everything happens in one moment, unlike when you read a book because you have to read line by line. That is why many practitioners stay at the “1, 2, 3” level. Many never leave kindergarten, and that sadly includes many teachers.

You need a teacher to improve. Videos are reminders of things you know already, not stuff you want to learn. A good teacher helps you grow in the technique. He adapts his teaching to each individual. That allows you to understand the Waza for you, with your own body. Videos and texts cannot teach that. 

A teacher is much more than a video because he is a “sensei” (2)(3), i.e. “someone born into this path before you”. He made all the mistakes you do. That is why he can guide you through the proper motion and the right understanding. A good teacher will teach on a personal basis, one to one. Actually, this is what Sōke has been repeating for decades. The link between you, the student, and your Sensei is exceptional. Once you accept him, or her, as your teacher, you build indefectible trust. No arguing between master and disciple can take place. 

This precious binding between you and your teacher is why martial arts are nor sports. It happens the moment you decide to do whatever it takes to make it possible. 

Remember, you will never be the disciple of your video or DVD player. You are Human!

___________________

www.koimartialart.com
2 先生, teacher; instructor; master
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensei 
Sensei: “he who was born before another”

https://teespring.com/watching-is-not-training?pid=389&cid=102281

Be Happy With What You Have


Hatsumi Sensei teaches us to be happy, and many practitioners don’t listen to him. The people in the Bujinkan are more into learning many Waza than developing a happy life. When you try to smile and be happy, your life improves. Happiness makes you satisfied with what you have. I recently read a quote saying, “Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.” Where are you?

Why is it that we always want to have more? Why is it that we are never satisfied with what we already have? In these days of Covid, people behave strangely. One day the demand masks, and when they are available, they do not want to wear them. They demand a vaccine, and when it is available, they don’t want to get it. The vaccination process is too long, they criticize; too fast, they blame governments.

With the pandemics, everyone on the planet is a doctor. They know better what to do and how the virus spreads and develops. They all have an opinion. They cry a lot over the supposed loss of their freedom. What loss? We are trying to get rid of the pandemic. This is amazing to see people being so self-centred and narrow-minded.

I don’t know if what the governments do is good or bad. And I don’t care. My concern here is that freedom is more than that. Freedom is not behaving like a 5-year old kid! The world is not a giant kindergarten. Being an adult is to know when to speak, and when to shut up. True freedom is when you find satisfaction with what you have, not with what you want. In Japanese, the word “freedom” can be Tokuritsu (1), and it has many meanings. The Japanese language uses abstract concepts to explain the world. They do not define it. Instead, they wrap the idea in a box. Tokuritsu is also: independence, separation, isolation, or self-reliance. What people call “freedom” is actually the opposite of this.

What they call freedom is, in fact, dependence. Humans have an atavic need not to be separated or isolated.

Society has taught us not to try to depend on ourselves. We live through social media, reality shows; and phone apps. I have the feeling that this fake sense of freedom is enslaving us. We are the prisoners of our wishes and what we have doesn’t please us. This freedom is the opposite of the Japanese definition, it gives no liberty.

Hegel said, “When liberty is mentioned, we must always be careful to observe whether it is not really the assertion of private interests which is thereby designated.” (2)

This is why I try to be happy with what I have. I do my best never to cry over the things I don’t have.

The health situation is complicated, our governments do what they can. These lockdowns will not last forever, be patient, endure, and develop your resilience. Because this is what Hatsumi Sensei is teaching. So, behave like the ninja you always wanted to be.

Be Happy!

  1. 独立, Tokuritsu: independence; self-reliance; supporting oneself; being on one’s own​; freedom​; separation; isolation
  2. Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/georg-wilhelm-friedrich-h-quotes


A Crisis Is A Mysterious Opportunity


This post will come as a reminder for many readers. I’m not the first one to write about the word “crisis” in Japanese. I already wrote about it a few years ago in this blog.

When it comes to making puns on words, the Japanese language is like the French language. Similar sounds written differently have different meanings. (1)

The word “kiki” means “crisis” in Japanese. Kiki is composed of two kanji: “dangerous” + “opportunity”. So, a Japanese sees “crisis” as a “dangerous opportunity.” (2) It can be risky, but it doesn’t mean it is always wrong. I love this!

Opportunities are always moments where things can go wrong. The ability to take risks is what makes humans different from animals. Some humans will take significant risks; others won’t dare to move. But learning Budō is an opportunity to accept to take risks, and thus improve your survival skills. That is why you should never give up on your training. I know that this period of a pandemic can be challenging to many practitioners. A majority of Dōjō have closed with the lockdown, or are bankrupt after ten months of Covid. That is not a reason to quit! So, focus on “ki” (3), and turn this “kiki,” crisis, into “kikai,” a chance, an opportunity.

The moments we live these days might be difficult for many. But I’m confident they prepare us for a better life and embrace new opportunities. Human history is full of moments where a new paradigm replaces an old one.

Our Society will be different soon, and I want to believe it will be a wonderful (5) change. Kikai (4) will lead to kikai (4), a “chance” to experience a “mysterious” opportunity. Too many people die from the pandemic. And one death is one too many. But Covid is not the “Black Death” of the 14th century that killed 25 million people! (6) It is not the Spanish Flu that killed 20 to 50 million people worldwide. (7)

Hatsumi Sensei often speaks of the mysterious aspects of Budō. Now that we understand those terms better, it might help us get the essence of what he is teaching us. What we do on the mats is both wonderful, strange, and mysterious. The natural movement exists in the ether, and our body and mind render it visible. Each encounter, each fight is potentially dangerous. So, let the mysterious aspect of life deal with it, and there is a chance always to find success.

Success is an attitude. It is an action without intent. Once again it goes back to the Tao when Lao Tzu writes “don’t do anything, and nothing will be left undone.” The path of action is kikai, a course of opportunity and chance; and happening in mysterious ways.

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  1. In French jump is “saut”, a bucket is “seau”, a seal is “sceau”, dumb is “sot, and they all sound like “so” in English!
  2. 危機, kiki: crisis; critical situation; emergency; pinch
  3. 機, ki: chance; opportunity
  4. 機会, kikai: chance; opportunity
  5. 奇怪, kikai: strange; wonderful; weird; outrageous; mysterious
  6. “Arguably, the most infamous plague outbreak was the so-called Black Death, a multi-century pandemic that swept through Asia and Europe. It was believed to start in China in 1334, spreading along trade routes and reaching Europe via Sicilian ports in the late 1340s. The plague killed an estimated 25 million people, almost a third of the continent’s population. The Black Death lingered on for centuries, particularly in cities. Outbreaks included the Great Plague of London (1665-66), in which 70,000 residents died.” from National Geographic.
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_flu

“Lasting from February 1918 to April 1920, it infected 500 million people – about a third of the world’s population at the time – in four successive waves. The death toll is typically estimated to have been somewhere between 20 million and 50 million, although estimates range from a conservative 17 million to a possible high of 100 million, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.”

Adapt Or Die


adapt or die mockupI’m happy I have studied Ninpō Taijutsu for the last 36 years. Bujinkan trained me to be ready for the unexpected. Like the Black Swan (1), unexpected events occur. The pandemic blew out the world economy. Our way of life is badly hit, and many training halls had to close. Some of them will never reopen.

At the end of June in France, the government allowed us to go back to the Dōjō. With a mask and with little contact. Thanks to the Bujinkan wide range of possibilities, we’ve been teaching Bō jutsu (outdoor) for a few weeks. If it feels good to be back on the mats, but I’m concerned about the other martial arts.

If the Bujinkan is lucky, to have plenty of weapons to train. Gendai Budō (2) such as Jūdō, Karatedō, Aikidō, BJJ need physical contact. When they lifted the ban partly at the end of July, we went to train long weapons, outdoor. My Gendai friends couldn’t resume training, as physical contacts were not authorized.

You know how hard it is to have regular students in the Dōjō and to keep them. The pandemic might spell out the end of martial arts the way we know them. A large part of existing training halls will not reopen after the ban. And those reopening might also die by lack of adaptation.

If you read the “Spirit of Movement” (3), you know that, before entering the Bujinkan, I trained Jūdō for a long time. I let down Jūdō, and chose Bujinkan. I couldn’t learn two martial arts in parallel and manage my daily job. But some do that correctly like my Spanish brother, Juan Manuel Serrano. Not only is he a reputed Bujinkan Dai Shihan, but he also earns a 6th dan in Jūdō! And to achieve this rank in Jūdō is not easy. Even today, he continues to teach both arts at the same time. That’s impressive. During the pandemic, he was able to continue by teaching long weapons. But his fellow Jūdō teachers had to stay at home!

The Bujinkan teaches several qualities such as resilience, perseverance, and excellence. Three aspects impersonated by my friend Juanma. Budō training teaches to adapt and to accept change when it comes. Without accepting change, we cannot adjust our behaviours. Charles Darwin wrote that “It is not the strongest of the species that survives. It is not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” This could be a sentence said by Hatsumi Sensei during class.

In Japanese, “to adapt” is “atehameru”.

The essence of Bujinkan, Budō, and Life is adaptation.

Weapons, tactics, and mentalities evolved through centuries. Martial arts have always adapted to change. It would never have survived to the 21st century if the warriors didn’t welcome change. That is what Bujinkan is and what Bujinkan is teaching.

Today’s change is the “mask”. You don’t need to like it. Wear the mask, and get a new chance to adapt your behaviour to this unexpected situation. Just Do It!

Atehameru to atehameru (apply and adapt).

We are Togakure ninja. Therefore we have been wearing masks since 1161. Stop complaining and go back to training. The freedom you seek resides in your training.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Swan:_The_Impact_of_the_Highly_Improbable

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gendai_bud%C5%8D

3 “The Spirit of movement” exists in e-book or paperback depending on the language, if you are interested check it: ENGLISH, ESPANOL, FRANCAIS

4 当てはめる, atehameru: to apply, to adapt

adapt or die mockup

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Back to Panem et Circenses?


dan mockup (1)Are we Back to “Panem et Circenses,” the times of “Bread and Circuses” as exposed by Juvenal around two centuries before our time? It looks like it! (1)

This metonymy by Juvenal, a Roman satirical poet, was to show a population’s erosion, or ignorance, of civic duty as a priority. If people have enough food and enough entertainment, they don’t see their (civic) duty as a priority. That is what is happening today with the pandemic.

This world pandemic is impacting our daily lives in a way that no one could have predicted. Whether you believe in it or not, is irrelevant here. What is not, is how we react when facing a situation like this.

I see the pandemic as an opportunity for humans to change, adapt, and develop new behaviours. And what I see is different. We are moving backwards, not forward. While the world is changing fast, our actions are still pre-COVID ones.

Let me give you some examples. A majority of humans have now to wear masks. In a few weeks, it became a regular piece of clothing. Every day, millions of people on the planet are saying “Oh no, I forgot my mask again!”

When we did not have them, people were demanding more masks. Now masks are mandatory, and we have enough. And the same people are complaining again. They protest against the government because they feel their freedom is in danger. There is no logic.

What the Bujinkan teaches is to learn how to survive. It is not about judging others, and I am not trying to. But the pandemic forces our Society, as a whole, to evolve. That is why people’s expectations of “bread and circuses” are not helping. Being reluctant to change is not new.

A long time ago in Mesopotamia, the Sumerian put up the bricks of our civilization. (2) They were the first to invent writing. But when they decided to change the way of writing, things didn’t go without protests. (3) (4)
When the Portuguese landed in Japan in 1543, they were the first Europeans to set foot on the islands. (5) They brought the first set of muskets with them. That was a significant change for the traditional Samurai who rejected this new weapon. Fast forward, in October 1600, Tokugawa unifies the country with brilliant strategy and firearms. Traditionalists lost because they refused to change. Change is happening, and to survive, we must adapt to it, not reject it.
When Emperor Meiji got his power back at the end of the 19th century, he was breaking a rule dating back to 1185. That was not easy, but he did it. The famous Yamaoka Tesshu was also a man of change. (5)

The examples above show that change has to be accepted. Change is permanent and natural. When you refuse it, you stay locked in the past. If we have to wear masks today, it is not to lose our freedom, but to stay alive.

And if you think the pandemic is not real and reject the mask, you make other people nervous. If you don’t do it for yourself, you can do it for your fellow humans.

Personal freedom is vital for humans. It is not in danger because of a mask, some handwash, and social distancing. That is our civic duty to follow and respect the rules so that the majority can be or feel happier. As a Bujinkan member, my goal is to go with the flow, not to fight it. I suppose you are not interested in the immediate rewards of “Panem et circenses.” Because if you are, you might be betraying the Bujinkan teachings of Hatsumi Sensei. Is it what you want?

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1. Bread and circuses
2. Sumerians were counting in base 12, which is the reason why we measure time in multiples of 60. That is why there are 12 houses in the Zodiac.
3. The Sumerian people invented writing. They wrote from right to left and from up to down. Then a few thousands of years later the Akkadians, changed it to write on paper the same way we do.
4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuneiform
5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan%E2%80%93Portugal_relations
6 We covered the life of Yamaoka Tesshu and his achievements earlier on this blog.
7 More on Yamaoka Tesshu https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamaoka_Tessh%C5%AB

 

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Social Distancing Is Budō


ninja t-shirt
Make a mask with a t-shirt

We live in troubled times. Social distancing is now mandatory in many countries. To know the correct distance is essential. 

Hatsumi Sensei’s DVDs are all subtitled “martial art of distance.” The Bujinkan martial arts teach proper distancing. Thus, the forced social distancing we apply these days is practical Budō. In the dōjō, we learn to survive any attacks coming from the enemy. In these days of the pandemic, our enemy is not visible (Omote), but invisible (Ura). Our only option to survive the virus is to keep a proper distance with others. 

As it is often the case in Japanese, “distance” can use different Kanji. It is Michi no ri (1), Kyori (2), or Aida (3). Let’s understand the concept hidden in the strokes.
The first one “Michi no Ri” uses “Michi,” or “Dō.” (4) This is the Kanji that we find in Budō. (5) Budō, the “way of the martial arts”, becomes the “martial arts of distance “as in Sensei’s DVDs. At Honbu, Hatsumi Sensei explains that “Bu” is “to maintain peace and protection.” So, the correct distance in Budō is a means of protection.

The second one, “Kyori”, is even more interesting. If it is “distance or range,” transformed as Kyoryūmin (6), it means “resident.” And because of confinement, we are all becoming full-time residents! 

The last one is “Aida.” It also reads as “Ken.” This is not the one meaning sword, but the one used in the Kanejaku. (7) That is the measurement system used in Japan before the switch to the metric system. (8) For your information, a Ken is 181.82 cm, and this is the size of a Tatami. (9)

In conclusion, Budō, the art of distancing is the best way to keep us protected. As a full-time home resident, when you go shopping, use the distance of a Ken to limit the risks of infection.

A few days after the Tsunami hit Fukushima, I called Hatsumi Sensei on the phone. When I asked him, if he planned to leave Noda, he answered “Banpen Fugyō”, “10 000 attacks, no surprise.” (10) This is the attitude you should have. Don’t complain about confinement at home as you cannot change it. Use this time to do or finish all the things you have been postponing for months, or for years. The pandemic time at home can be profitable, turn it into an opportunity. And make “Kyori” (11) out of “Kyori” (2), a “huge profit” for yourself.

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1 道のり, Michi no ri / Dō no ri: distance; journey; itinerary​, path (e.g. to one’s goal); way; process; route; road
2 距離, Kyori: distance, range
3 間, Aida, Ken: space (between); gap; interval; distance​, time (between); pause; break​. Span (temporal or spatial); stretch; period (while)​. Relationship (between, among)​, members (within, among)
4 道, Dō: Road; path; street; route​; way; set of practices; rules for conducting oneself​
5 武, Bu: martial arts
6 居留民, Kyoryūmin: A resident
7 曲尺, Kanejaku: carpenter’s square (for checking angles)​, common shaku (unit of distance; approx. 30.3 cm)
8 https://taikosource.com/glossary/kanejaku/
9https://www.traditionaloven.com/tutorials/distance/convert-japan-ken-unit-to-centimeter-cm.html
10 万変不驚, Banpen Fugyō. Read the excellent post by Luke Crocker https://medium.com/classical-martial-arts/banpen-fugyo-9bbbc64a9487
11 巨利, Kyori: Huge profit

Omnia Causa Flunt


Omnia causa flunt, “Everything happens for a reason.”

I like this Latin expression. This is precisely the same in Budō. We don’t do movements to look good, but to stay alive. If being elegant was the goal, we would be dead. At war, the only goal is to stay alive, to carry out the mission. In life, awareness will do the same. If you want to live a successful life, you have to accept the law of causality. Because whether you want it or not, “Everything happens for a reason.”

During the warring period of feudal Japan, the Samurai might have followed the same rule. Marshal Bugeaud, a French officer from the 19th century, said, “at war there are principles, but they are few.” It is the same in Budō and in life.

Hereunder are six basic principles that each practitioner should train and apply. Let’s review them together. They are suitable for Budō and for life.

Don’t fight!

That is the best principle of all. Often, speaking and communicating will get you out of a bad situation. But it will not work every time, and you will not be able to avoid the attacks. Then accept it, stay relaxed and let your training do it for you. The same applies to Budō and in life.

Don’t get hit

Don’t dream! In a fight, you will get hit, and it will be painful. Abandon any romantic vision displayed by the movies. You are not an actor in Hollywood, this is the real world. Wake up! Focus on the situation you are facing, and limit as much as you can, the efficiency of your opponent. The same applies to Budō and in life.

Keep a proper and correct distance.

This is the first thing to do. If you are out of reach, Uke will not touch you. Now don’t overestimate your chances. When you have a gun in a holster and him a knife in his hand, you cannot draw fast enough if he is at less than 8 meters. So instead of trying, move away from his line of attack. It is always better to avoid direct confrontation. The same applies to Budō and in life.

Move out of the line of attack.

To do so, you have to react by the lines of cutting, punching or kicking. Against a sword, visualise the plane of cutting and stay out of it. Training your distance and understanding the angles will keep you safe. Move where your attacker will not be expecting you. Every attack generates dead corners preventing the opponent from getting you. Learn these. Usually it is by putting the attacking fist or weapon between you and Uke’s body. His body will serve as a shield. Look at how Sensei is always well positioned. Don’t be a target. The same applies to Budō and in life.

Expect the moves

Expect Uke’s moves, understand the loss of balance consecutive to his actions. When you move at the right moment, the attacker is unable to change his direction and to adjust his actions in time. If he does, it will be detrimental to his balance. He will crash faster. The momentum of his movements will make him fail. Your ability to expect what is coming next is the key to your success. The same applies to Budō and in life.

Send false signals

Begin one thing and do something else. A deception is a vital tool in your arsenal. The body reacts before the brain has time to analyse what is happening. Thus any move out of the logic forces Uke to change his attack, but this is useless. The momentum of the initial steps will forbid him to change his movements. The same applies to Budō and in life.

When you look at this list, you have, more or less, the exact definition of the Mutō Dori we learn these days in Japan. What Hatsumi Sensei teaches is not mechanical anymore. It is a holistic understanding of life and Budō. This allows us to get the intelligence of the moment. His Mutō Dori is not limited to Budō, it is something that you can use in your everyday actions. Every move we learn was not created by chance. The waza are there because they are useful. When it comes to applying these techniques, everything is always “undecided.” This is how Sensei’s movements look so natural.

The reason why he moves the way he does is that his body has ingrained all movements. He expresses them now without thinking. He is Mutōsei, uncontrolled (1), and because of that, he can control the attackers.

Omnia Causa Flunt, “Everything happens for a reason.”

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1 無統制, Mutōsei. Uncontrolled

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omnia

Put The Bar High, But Not Too High


When you want to improve your skills, you have to define your objectives. How you choose them will make you successful or not.

Success is not only about reaching your goal, but it is also how you passed the obstacles on your way to getting to it. Saint Exupery wrote, “what matters is not to reach your destination, but to walk towards it.” (1) That is why you have to find goals that will force you to overcome some difficulties. But as in the Indiana Jones movie, I would say “Choose wisely!”

If your goals are too easy to get, you will not improve. When you have low standards, you get low abilities. I see many people on the mats with small objectives, they reach them, but do not get anything in exchange. Then it is better not to define any goal at all! Everything you gain without hard work in this life is not suitable for your development. It is a loss of what you could get by having higher standards. When your standards are poor, you don’t evolve, you regress.

A real goal has to be challenging to reach, but it has to be reachable. If your goals are too high, you will never get to them. And as a consequence, you might lose faith in yourself and quit. Quitting is never the right solution. The “keep going” principle given by Sensei at the start of the Bujinkan adventure is our strength. More than a quote, it is a credo.

Never give up. Fail and try again. As the Japanese saying says “Fall 7 times, get up 8 times.” (2) Failure is always your best teacher.

In defining those goals, you have to get a chance to be successful. Success is a state of mind. If you become successful in the dōjō by improving your skills, you will find the same success in any endeavour you do.

Success is also a habit that you build every day through failure. The late Arthur Ashe said, “Success is a journey, not a destination.” (3) The doing is often more important than the outcome. That is where Budō becomes a school of life. Your evolution on the mats will reflect in your daily life, and lead to happier living. Everything is connected.

I hope it is now clear how important it is to set achievable goals for your practice. This will have a positive effect on your life and bring you happiness. Isn’t being happy what Hatsumi Sensei teaches at every class?

We will never be perfect, as perfection is divine, but our commitment to Budō brings us every day closer to it. The more we train, the better we get. Our techniques get more straightforward and efficient.

Here is another quote by Saint Exupery. “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” (4)

Get rid of your self-imposed limits, aim high (but not too high) and be the happiest Budōka you can be.

_________________________

1 “Ce qui importe, ce n’est pas d’arriver, mais d’aller vers.” Antoine de Saint Exupéry in “Citadelle”
2 七転び八起き, Nana korobi ya oki. Fall 7 times, get up 8 times
3 Arthur Ashe was a great American tennis player in the seventies. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Ashe
4 “La perfection est atteinte, non pas lorsqu’il n’y a plus rien à ajouter, mais lorsqu’il n’y a plus rien à retirer.” Antoine de Saint Exupéry

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Make Mistakes By Doing New things


IMG_20171125_104614This week should have been Senō sensei’s birthday. And thinking about his classes at the honbu, it reminded me of the soft precision he used in his teachings. He was also the only Dai Shihan asking to be hit, to show the perfect timing. His Taijutsu was impressive, and he was never afraid of making mistakes. We should be doing the same.

Somehow it resonates with my recent article on failure. You must make mistakes to improve our Taijutsu. (1) I spoke about Shippai, failure. But Shippai also means a mistake. (2) As often in Japanese, an action (mistake) can be a result (failure).

The moment you decide to change, you make errors. And as a consequence, you improve your skills. Albert Einstein said, “anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” We have to stop being afraid of change, and always try new things. This is the path Sensei is showing us to develop our Taijutsu. Accept it today, even if I know how hard it is to turn a decision into action.

Humans are reluctant to leave their comfort zone, they avoid trying new things. Humans love routine and hate changes. Even though we know that in life (or in a fight) everything is about accepting change. Did you know that “Henka” that we translate by “variation” also means “the beginning and the end of change?” (3)

Because we make mistakes, we can correct them and get better at our Taijutsu. Any new learning, or any further action we take, will see us fail. Accepting our errors is the best way to excel one day. With each try, we change the form until we reach the correct way to do it. What is wrong becomes good. But this way to train demands to be relaxed. This is why stiffness in the body or in the mind while training cannot be. Hatsumi Sensei often tells us to relax. Only when you release all tensions, that change is possible. 

In an ancient interview, Sensei explained that “what is not natural is not in harmony with life. Life changes constantly, everything is naturally evolutive, because nothing is static. In this perspective, everything that tends to remain static is not natural. And thereby, because it goes against nature, is doomed to disappear for it is fruitless.” The nine schools survived all these centuries because they didn’t remain static.

Humans learn new things because they make mistakes. The late Senō sensei used to tell us that when learning a new form, we make big mistakes at first. And then, through repetition, we make smaller ones, until they nearly disappear. Step by step, we get the correct movement and get it right.

“Machigai” also means a mistake. (4) So please accept “Machigai” and don’t “Machigae,” “wait to change.” Do it now! (5)

To accept change is the key to adaptation, and to natural movement
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1 https://kumablog.org/2019/12/05/are-you-a-failure/
2 失敗, Shippai: Failure; mistake; blunder
3 変化, Henka. change; variation; alteration; mutation; transition; transformation; transfiguration; metamorphosis
4 間違い, Machigai: mistake; error; blunder​. Accident; mishap; trouble​. Improper conduct; indiscretion
5 待ち替え, Machigae: Machi, waiting; waiting time. Gae, change; alteration; substitute.

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Value What You Have


 

FB_IMG_1575890665755The Bujinkan created by Sōke is like a treasure, but few practitioners understand what it is, or how much it is worth. There is a Japanese saying for people not valuing what they have. It is “Neko ni koban,” as our “casting pearls before swine.” (1)

The Bujinkan is a treasure because of its techniques, like any other martial art. But also because it transforms us into human beings. My Budō brother Daniel Hernandez left Japan today with a beautiful message to sensei and to us. Here are some sentences that are taken from it. (2)

I don’t come to Japan only to train, but mainly to see you (Sōke), to see your eyes, feel your immense love, and to know that you are well. You are the only lighthouse in my life. (…) And I come here for the most important thing, you, my dear master. (…) Thank you in advance to all my brothers, and Bujinkan friends, to take good care of Sōke.

If your vision of the Bujinkan limits itself only to the technical aspect, it is good, but it is not enough. The Bujinkan is a holistic experience. And Waza is as valuable as the calligraphy session. The Bujinkan experience is bathing you in a mix of Waza, Japanese and Asian culture, language, and meaning of life. This complex mix allows you to find the best in yourself, and to get rid of the negative aspects in you. But, here, too, not everyone succeeds.

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Over the years, I saw many practitioners entering the path fully committed, and then leaving after a few years. They judged that the commitment was too high a price to pay for their ego. And I can accept that.

There is nothing wrong with loving the mechanical moves of Budō. If it is your case, I have to tell you that you are not Bujinkan. Sōke teaches at all levels and people like Daniel or myself, have been “educated” by Sensei’s vision of Budō. The men we are today have nothing to compare with what we were at the beginning.

All those years of travels and training. All those private moments with Hatsumi Sensei, have carved us into a better version of human. We are not perfect, but we are still walking the path under his guidance and his care for humanity. Sensei is a beautiful human being, and his love has been spreading all over the planet through his Budō. He gave the world a new vision of Budō that will last and blossom.

Stop arguing on social media about changes happening these days. They are not necessary. Stay focus on your training, trying to get what Sōke is teaching us. It is more essential than fighting techniques. Sensei is showing happiness, love, and tolerance. And between two Shutō and locks, we have to do the same.

Begin to value the extraordinary we have to be around a man like him. And don’t be the one not appreciating this beauty.

Stop wasting your time, (3) and accept this marvelous gift that Sensei is giving us.

Value what you have!

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1 猫に小判, Neko ni koban: Literally: Gold coins to a cat. Meaning: Casting pearls before swine / Giving something of value to a recipient that does not value it.
2 From my Budō brother Daniel Hernandez
おせばになりました いろいろと どうも ありがと ございました でわ また どぞ よろしく おねがいします.
De Corazón a Corazón ♥, I Shin Den Shin. Así recibí de usted querido Sōke sus enseñanzas, sólo agradecer todo el cariño brindado a través de los años. Espero sepan entender, ya no vengo a 日本 a practicar, sólo vengo a verlo a ud 先生, ver sus ojos, sentir su inmenso amor, y saber que está bien. Sólo ud 先生 es mi faro. Y no es por que no pueda seguir aprendiendo, de todos puedo y debo aprender. Pero estoy aquí por lo más importante, usted querido Maestro. Agradezco a mis Hermanos y amigos, y les dejo un pedido, cuiden a 先生 por favor. Makoto de Gozaimasu.
3 “Neko ni koban” also means “great waste.” Daniel Hernandez left Japan with a nice post on Facebook.

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