Once again I would like to review a metaphore used by sensei not long ago. He spoke about “photon & stardust” to me, it is the best way to explain how things should happen in the dôjô.
From our perspective, a photon is invisible. Stardust in space is also invisiable to us. A photon is moving at the speed of light in space and stardust is moving also at a permanent speed. Now until they meet there is o way for you to see them. When they collide a spark of light is created. This spark is the movement/technique. Both the photon and the stardust become visible when the spark of light appears. Before the collision they “are non existent” (to our senses), after they are not existent any more. When you fight your opponent what happens is identical.
In “l‘esprit du geste“* this is what I tried to explain. There is no thinking process, no intention, only a spark of light. In a fight, there is no technique there is only an opportunity of possibility. It is only a probability of occurrence. Adapt!
Chi does not think
Sui does not think
Ka does not think
Fû does not think
Kû does not think
So why do you think? the sixth element shiki (consciousness) appears, it is not the product of the analytical brain. It is given as everything in Nature, natural movement is only that.
*the book is now translated into English and soon available.
Yesterday during my seminar, one student was waving his sword held to his wrist by the rope at the tsuka kashira and the ring at the end broke releasing the sword.
Training weapons are NOT real ones and might break easily. Do not get over excited while training and keep high security levels. There was no harm but an accident could have happened.
We are now training with metallic blades instead of padded ones. Therefore our ways of training should adapt accordingly. Permanent adaptation is not to be applied only during the techniques but should include all the elements of the class in the dôjô. Adaptation is what tachi kumiuchi is teaching us. Stop thinking always in the same ways. Last month sensei said: “don’t hold to what you know or you won’t improve your skills”. The key point is to adapt.
A weapon designed for training purpose is still a weapon. Please be careful. You can influence the actions of a sentient being during the fight but there is no possibility to affect an in-animated object.
When you get older your students get older too and you can learn from them!
Yesterday on tachi kumiuchi seminar at the Bujinkan France in Vincennes I learnt two things. One of my old students followed a few seminars to become a blacksmith.
I was teaching the particular way of waving the blade horizontally and was telling the students that the point of pivot is done around the first third of the blade. He told us that the sôri (curve) of the blade is not the same in a tachi and on a katana. The katana is balanced more or less at the middle of the blade but the tachi is often balanced at a point closer to the tsuba. The apex of the curve being closer to the hands it is logical (ans easier) to turn the blade from this point adding more momentum and speed to the blow. Remember that you do not cut with the blade but only try to get uke‘s balance. Also the burden of the yoroi makes it also easier to move the blade that way.
Rotate your blade on itself and do not pivot from the kissaki (tip of the blade). A tachi is not a katana therefore your movements have to be different.
Also, you can find the same blade displayed with the katana mouting and the tachi mounting which confirms what I was writing in a previous post.
Here is a speech taken from Shakespeare’s play “Henry V”. It carries some values that rings a bell to what Hatsumi sensei explained a few weeks ago (cf. post on chivalry below). Reading this text I wonder if sensei didn’t meet Shakespeare when we did the ’96 Taikai in UK in Stratford Upon Aven, Shakespeare hometown…
This is a text I really like and I thought you might be happy to read it. Enjoy!
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
We have been training quite a lot with the tachi in the past weeks. When in Japan I was quite surprised to see that the blades used by sensei and the shihan were not that long after all.
I have a few tachi (long and normal) and I found that the qualificative of tachi only applies to the mounting (edge up / edge down) as it gives or close new angles in the drawing process.
For example the hontai nuki gata is given when using a tachi as the edge is aready down. Then the size of the blade doesn’t matter that much. In fact with a long blade the movement is as difficult as when using a regular size blade.
In tate nuki gata, the blade is used not vertically but a shield (tate) this can be done with both ways of wearing the sword but proves to be easier when having a koshiate (holster) hanging down from the belt as it gives more space to turn around the blade even if it stays totally or partly into the saya.
In my opinion the terminology defining the tachi as a long blade was added after the war period not when they were using the tachi but after during the peace time period.
One day I asked sensei about the size for a tachi: “Arnaud, size doesn’t matter as long as you can use your sword freely”.
This Japanese proverb means “mind, sword, and body are one”. This “ki ken tai ichi” is very close to the “ken tai ichi jo” of the ten chi jin ryaku no maki.
On the battlefield, the three elements must be united in order to survive the fight. Ki refers to mental energy, the soul. Ken refers to the weapon (often the sword). Tai refers to the broad definition of body. It includes not only the physical body but also the yoroi (and the horse).
When you mind is fudôshin (inmovable) and determined,
When your weapons move as if they were natural extensions of your physical body,
When your body is reliable because of hard and stenuous trainings,
Then you are ichi, one, united; and when unity is achieved you can become zero, mushin
In this blog I have been speaking a lot about muromachi, azuchi-momoyama, edo, meiji periods. A short listing of the previous periods of Japanese history seem to be a good idea now.
Japanese history is very rich and goes back to the beginning of mankind. As you know, every ryû tries to be linked in time as far as possible in order to give credential to their fighting system. They often try to be originating from the first emperors. Even though one can doubt about the veracity of those facts, it is good to have an overview of Japanese history. As you will see, religions, China, and wars are closely interconnected. Learning the Bujinkan is also trying to understand how this culture is coming from.
Disclaimer: 1) the big periods can be divided into smaller ones named after the emperors, 2) depending on the point of reference there can be discrepancies in the exact duration of any period*. History is not always accurate. But we can see 12 large periods from the beginning to today. I have added links to wikipedia for those interested in having more information on the periods preceding muromachi.
Nara Period (710-794): Capital Heijô (Nara prefecture). Shintô based on the Kojiki (712) is the religion of the Kami. The Kojiki depicts the mythology of Japan. More on Narahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nara_period
Heian period (794-1192): Heian capital (Kyoto). Creation of hiragana. Writing of the Genji Monogatari. Many embassies are sent to China to learn the crafts and Buddhism. Shingon Shu and Tendai Shu are imported to Japan by Kobo Daishi (810) and Dengyo Daishi (805) respectively. This is also at this time that the Gyokko ryû and Kotô ryû are supposedly introduced to Japan from China. During the Genpei war (1182) Minamoto no Yoshinaka captures Kyoto. He is defeated by Minamoto no Yoshitsune. After the defeat, Daisuke Nishina retreats to Togakure mountain (today Togakushi) and changes his name into Daisuke Togakure. He supposedly founded the Togakure ryû. Myôan Eisai comes back from China and establishes the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism (Linji in Chinese). More on Heianhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heian_period
Kamakura period (1192-1336): Samurai culture is spreading. The Daibutsu is erected in Kamakura city (Kanagawa prefecture). Minamoto no Yoritomo establishes the Kamakura government (1192). Go Daigo Emperor (1318-1332) saved by Kurando the founder of the Kukishinden ryû. It ends with the overthrowing of the Kamakura government 1333). Foundation of Sôtô Zen by Dôgen coming back from China where he studied Ch’an Buddism. More on Kamakurahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamakura_period
Muromachi period (1336-1573): Muromachi government in Kyoto established by Ashikaga Takauji. Nô at its peak, Ikebana starts. Ônin wars (1467) opens the sengoku jidai period. Introduction of firearms (1543) by the Portuguese.
Azuchi-momoyama period (1573-1603): Nobunaga overthrows the muromachi government (based in Azuchi castle). Unification of the country finalized by Hideyoshi (momoyama castle). Sen no rikyû perfects sadô (tea ceremony) and becomes the sadô master of Hideyoshi. Many castles are built. Sekigahara wars.
Edo period (1603-1868): Tokugawa Ieyasu creates the Edo government and moves it to Edo (Tokyo). In 1853-1854, Commodore Perry (USA) forces the opening of the country.
Meiji period (1868-1912): Meiji restoration. The samurai lose their power. Japan adopts modern standards. Clans are abolished and swords are banned (1871). The Empire is given a constitution (1889).
Taishô period (1912-1926): The Taishô Emperor is enthroned. Japan gets into WWI in 1914.
Showa period (1926-1989): Enthronement of the Showa emperor Hiro Hito. Japan attacks Pearl harbor (Dec. 1941) and forces the USA to get into WWII. After Japan’s defeat, a democratic constitution is established (1946).
Heisei period (1989- today): Enthronement of Aki Hito. Modern times.
Those 12 periods are the main ones creating the backbone of Japanese culture. It will not change your taijutsu but will help you understanding the “invisible” aspects of our art.
Not long ago a student told me that he finally understood the importance of thinking we are wearing a yoroi when training the tachi kumiuchi techniques in the dôjô.
Since 2003, each black belt in my dôjô have been wearing the yoroi on a regular basis and they have experienced physically how to train with it. When you wear the yoroi, your movements are modified and you cannot move as freely as when you only wear your gi. Many practitioners have a tendency to move only their arms and/or to keep them too close to the body this is wrong. With the yoroi the extension as well as the bending of your limbs are limited. Imagine that your torso and your arms draw a pentagon (a geometrical shape with five sides). the five sides are: chest,left arm, left forearm, right arm, right forearm. Each angle between two sides is a body joint (shoulder, elbow). Because of the encumbrance of the yoroi your arms are always extended (not fully) and limited in their movements. It is as if your uppe body could not move indepedently.
This is why the key in yoroi fighting is footwork. Your shoulder line is always parallel to your hip line making your walking look strange. Because of the yoroi the Japanese developed the famous nanba aruki or way of walking where arms and legs move one side after the other and not in opposite way as we do in the west (left arm with left leg and right arm with right leg). You can still see this way of aruki in use with the sumotori.
Actually the “modern way” of walking (military) was brought to Japan at the end of the Tokugawa shogunate when the Japanese began to learn modern military warfare. Historically (sorry Mr Cruise), the first westerners to teach the Japanese samurai were the French military advisors, rapidly replaced by the Prussians after the loss of the 1870 war with Napoleon III.
I often say that if we are centered in the tanden we can easily pivot like the hinges of a door. This is what I learnt by wearing the yoroi often. Footwork is the most important thing.
Tachi waza is mainly done katate (one hand) the other hand holding the reins of your horse or another weapon like the yari. The two-handed grip was developed later with the use of the katana. Sometimes you can use the second hand to reinforce the momentum of your blade but it is not its general use. When riding a horse the left hand holds either the reins or the second weapon (yumi, yari, naginata) and the blows are given with the right hand only.
In general, sensei said that you do not cut, or hit, nor crush with the tachi but that you should move around the opponent in order to stab through the openings of the yoroi. Tachi kumiuchi fighting is to understand how to stab the opponent who is fully protected by his yoroi by aiming at the holes in the protection opened by your actions.
If the yoroi is the utsuwa (container) and the opening is kûkan (open space), don’t fight for the omote, but for the ura. In life, the invisible is more important than the visible.