Simplicity is the Key to Elegance

One night during the 1997 Taikai in New Jersey Pedro and I were having some green tea with sensei in his room after a hard day training.  At one point sensei told us that he had taught us everything we needed and that from that day we had to get rid of all the small movements parasiting our taijutsu. That was 13 years ago and yet I consider that it has been one of the best lessons I received from him.

Each one of us does the movements with useless extra moves damaging or hindering the flow of our actions. My understanding today is that the objective of  taijutsu is to go towards simplicity and that by reaching simplicity we enter the world of yûgen, elegance. Actually the translation of yûgen 幽玄 is “elegant simplicity”. This is what sensei has been explaining recently concerning the wabi (佗) and sabi (寂) of the samurai. Instead of warriors we have to become true artists.

Wabi is defined as the “beauty to be found in poverty and simplicity” whereas sabi also translates as “elegant simplicity”! Therefore our movements should always be simple in beautiful to be efficient. Strength and violence are not necessary as they add useless intentions to our actions when fighting. Often when training I am amazed to see how the simplest action can lead to actual winning. Moving elegantly with simplicity opens up a new dimension of action out of regular time. When yûgen is achieved the timespace paradigm illusion disappears and uke‘s movements are perceived as if before he or she intended to do anything. Nature doesn’t believe in time, only humans. By transforming our perceptions beyond the human realm and becoming a tatsujin 達人 (a master, an expert) our “elegant simplicity” shines out and solve the problem at hand.

Our budô is much more than learning how to fight it is path teaching us to be simple and elegant. As we already stated here, yûgen also means what is not visible. Beauty is this subtle grace, invisible to the common people that transcends the form to touch the soul, tamashii (魂). Simplicity is the key to elegance.

“art is making the invisible visible” (Hatsumi sensei, honbu dôjô, April 2010).

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I share here on a regular basis my thoughts about the Bujinkan martial arts, training in Japan and all over the world, and

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