When we begin the study of the bujinkan arts we are surprised to hear the teacher speaking of nagare (流れ, flow). Our intention when entering a dôjô was to learn a set of fighting techniques but we finally ended up learning how to flow with things!
The first encounter with this “flowing reality” is when we learn the uke nagashi. Uke nagashi is wrongly translated as blocking and is very far from reality and many should try to understand it in order to better their taijutsu.
Uke (受け) is the receiver of the technique in martial arts but ukemi (受身, the fall) also has the meaning of “passive attitude”, from that we understand that uke nagashi, receiving in a flow, can also mean “flowing passively in a natural manner”. As you see the idea of “blocking” is not the only thing here!
In fact uke nagashi has multiple forms such as: Absorbing, Blocking, Countering, Deflecting, and Evading (remember the first letters of each word read: ABCDE). The flow with which we act is not impeding the movement on the contrary. Flowing in the technique is to follow a natural succession of actions created by the encounter. As sensei said last week, there is no possibility to change what is happening, the only thing to do is to adapt to it. This is the true definition of nagare.
Whatever event happening on the planet we are nothing and cannot modify the outcome of it, but as an individual we have the power to adapt our actions to it and to flow mindlessly with it. This flow is similar to the crossing of a river, thinking and fighting against the stream is useless. Trying to understand it will not change its power, we just have to follow its flow and to drift through it until we reach safely the other bank.
In the dôjô, all our movements should be done according to this natural flow. We should wait “passively” and react when the opportunity emerges. Taijutsu is nagare and nagare is achieved when thinking, analysing and pre-conceiving are abandoned.
Adaptation is the essence of nagare!