Bring death to life to preserve life


Last class Hatsumi sensei played with the meaning of two words “ikasu” and “kaitatsu“. Ikasu means “being stylish or smart” but written differently is “to keep alive, or to capitalize on experience”. But in sensei’s idea it was more like bringing something to life. As far as I understand, the technique does not matter and our kamae should appear by themselves without thinking. This is quite similar to the idea expressed in the Tao (chapter 38):

The Master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done.

Our actions should be the ones of a master not of an ordinary man. By doing nothing we do not interfere with nature, and are able to seize the subtle information lying there for us in space. This is why sensei linked it to kaitatsu.

Sensei defined kaitatsu as some kind of “mysterious transmission of power”. But later he told me “imagination”. So kaitatsu is actually the ability to imagine new development in our action process based upon the information received by our senses. To receive this “power” (nothing mystical there), we have to develop the ikasu defined earlier.

We can understand this as follows: Life is meant to create not to destroy. As often with sôke the words he used are hiding many deeper meanings within them. Plato said that the “knowledge of words led to the knowledge of things”. This is exactly how sensei is teaching. Everything that he teaches has to be understood and assimilated at various levels. If we stay only at the omote level we train a nice martial art not so much different from the other gendai budô. Conversely, if we play with the sounds, the words and their roots (at the ura level) we enter a multiple entry system like a matrix that goes further, leaves the physical world, and give access to the philosophical world in which we will transform our vision of Life. Those changes and interpretations are infinite, they are like the cycle of life beginning with “A” and finishing with “UN”. The baby first sound and the dying man last. But this is also the Japanese pronunciation of the Indian “OM”. Everything is linked.

So if we are not meant to destroy but to preserve life why do we train budô? We train budô to understand death and by this understanding we come to the conclusion that killing has to be avoided. This is pure common sense. But in order to understand death we have to feel it and that is why the techniques we train at the dôjô can be so devastating. We do not injure our partners but we train in such a way that we are aware of the risks and therefore get to understand death. This whole thing about death is linked to kûkan. Kûkan is the “last frontier” where nothing more is manifested, this is the end of things. To get to kûkan we must go to our “last frontier” where nothing more exist, no waza no kankaku neither. Only then can we communicate death (kaitatsu). By knowing and understanding death we reach the level of kûkan. By being into the kûkan we can manifest it, by manifesting kûkan we manifest death, and we communicate it to the opponent who will stop his attack paralyzed by his own fears and tensions.

This is one way to understand the in-yo kyôjitsu that sensei introduced this year. To preserve life, you have to know death. By sending this death feeling to uke, he cannot attack anymore.

Ikasu unleashes kaitatsu and paradoxically our lethal power perceived by the attacker preserves his life. His life is in his hands, it’s his choice to live or die.

Kuki Taisho!

Honbu dôjô experience


Today Noguchi sensei did the first morning class and he taught us parts of the koto ryû. Then it was the regular class with sôke but as he had some obligations, I was honoured by Noguchi sensei to begin the teaching.

This is not the first time it happens to me on Sundays but I always find it strange when it happens.  When I remember my first classes here in Japan more than 20 years ago (no Honbu dôjô at that time) I  measure the long path I have been following since then. Back then, I would never have suspected that the young man I was then, would learn so much on how to become a true human being. What Hatsumi sensei is teaching in his budô is not a set of old fighting techniques but really a way of Life that transforms you more than you think. As he said yesterday night we have to behave as members of the samurai class, the upper layer of the Japanese feudal society.

Our actions should be guided by the code of chivalry. Today during the calligraphy session, I asked him to write “chivalry” and I got “shinobi” … I don’t think he made a mistake. He is teaching us through mysterious ways.

During the break, he told me that we (jûgodan) have to follow him and walk by his side as long as we can and do what he asks  instead of thinking too much by ourselves.

Being a sensei he is guiding us as far as possible, and the closer we are to him the further we can go. This is, he said, what he did with Takamatsu sensei.