Jin no Budô

Sensei with Peter King

From today’s training at the dkms I really enjoyed one sentence from sôke: “we are not training Japanese budô but  jin no budô, the budô of mankind”. As humans we are all equal and there is no one better than any other one. The kumite of the bujinkan is not only Japanese and it is obvious when you see so many people (around 400 today!) coming from all over the world and joining to train together here in Tokyo. Sensei’s budô is beyond borders and by spreading it in our countries we are actually working to better humanity. Jin budô is the same in every country and the techniques developed in Japan are no different from the ones that developed in the other cultures. This is why the bujinkan is a world budô. When sensei demonstrated the yoroi kumi uchi today he was taking anything that would be possible: helmet, sode, ropes hanging, belt, weapons. And with this in hand he would take the balance of his uke. At the end of the session, Duncan’s yoroi was a wreck. Efficiency is not in the techniquess but in the attitude one has when facing an opponent. As Nagato sensei said once: “it does not have to look good it has to be efficient”. Our budô is beyond the forms. We have to learn the basics and the schools and the weapons in order to create this space where everything is possible. By not finishing the techniques (hanpa) and by using the josei no goshin jutsu, we can adapt our movements without putting any thought within them. Uke attacks and we simply react, taking his balance and crushing him. In sannin dori this ability is necessary and hanpa gives us the possiblity to overcome the intentions of the attacker. In traditional budô everything follow a predefined pattern and creativity disappears behind the veil of the form.

In real fight, this cannot be as we have to be aware of the dangers of the situation. By not finishing a particular technique, we are free to move and deal with a second attacker. In sport there is only one opponent in real fight there are often more than one. Dwelling only on a “Japanese form” is not possible for those who want to survive. The only way to survive is to open up and become creative, by sensing the changes occurring in our environment and by reacting to these influences. Jin no budô is the ultimate level of fighting because it implies our whole being and not a set of technical forms. Jin no budô is freedom and when we can manifest that in the dôjô it changes our perception of reality and allows us to apply it in our daily lives. Bujinkan practitioners for their majority still consider the bujinkan to be another martial art and they only focus on the “martial” and not enough on the “art” part.

Sensei wants us to become creative like an artist not to become a budôka. And this is the objective of such a seminar.

Tomorrow will be another interesting day!

Kihon Happô of 2011

Daikomyo Sai apart from being sensei’s birthday is always a very particular moment in the life of the bujinkan. People from all over the world gather here in Noda and Tokyo for this occasion and this year more than ever. I spoke with some residents who told me that they were expecting between 300 and 400 participants this year! Friday night we were almost 200 in the Honbu and 230 on Sunday!

This moment is also special as sensei concludes the theme of the year and introduces the new theme for the next year. On Friday he told us that “kihon happô” will be the theme for 2011 and added: “same sounds but not same writing…”. As sensei invited a few of us for lunch on Sunday, I took this opportunity to ask him about the meaning of this new “kihon happô”. Hatsumi sensei said that “ki” was “season” and “hon” was “reverse”. He didn’t explain about “happô” but I will give you my interpretation.

Before that I would like to share with you a few concepts he detailed last week during the previous classes.. Tuesday he demonstrated a few techniques where instead of hitting uke he would hit the space on the side of uke creating a moment of total fear in his opponent and opening endless possibilities of action. He said that we should “hit the kukan” to influence uke’s reactions. On Friday he defined our movements as being “chûto hanpa” or “half way half finished”. To illustrate this he spoke again of the goshin (ken, tachi, juo, katana, modern weapons). Modern weapons were compared by him to “robots”. Your actions cannot influence a computer or a machine following a program. And if you train budô in a “robotic” way your actions can be interpreted and deciphered by your opponents. On the opposite if your budô is artistic and does not follow a “beginning-end”; if your techniques are not finished then the opponent is not able to counter your actions. In the fight, he added, you have to feel the “fun iki” i.e. “the atmosphere, the ambiance” of the situation and to move accordingly. All the information you need is available to you if you have no intention of doing anything in particular. Your movements are natural ( i.e. not created) and participate of the feeling you get from the situation at hand.

Our footwork is the key to adapt our movements to the situation. Hatsumi sensei said that until recently he didn’t understand why Takamatsu sensei had taught him the “josei no goshin jutsu” (woman self defense). With the small footwork of a woman trapped by the limited amplitude of her kimono (traditional kimono are very narrow at the legs) you can, with tiny movements of your feet, take the balance of the opponent in close-combat (remember that we were around 200 in the dôjô that night and that moving was difficult).

In a situation like that using “josei no goshin jutsu” is the only solution. Instead of doing a technique we move in an artistic manner invisible to uke’s analysis. In the name “martial art” this is where the “art” is to be found. Art is not about applying a technique. This is not the answer. Sensei added that the new mission of the jûgodan was to transform their mechanical robotic budô movements into artistic ones. Through Art one can feel the atmosphere and respond with natural and unfinished movements.

This vision of taijutsu was repeated on Sunday when he insisted on the flow of our movements coming from the feet: “Nagare comes from the legs” he said. In fact uke thinks and then acts (ten-chi process) and tori should do the exact opposite (chi-ten process). It reminds me of Dr. Paul Watlawicz explaining that action should always precede reflection in human relations, and fighting is part of human relations. Too bad for Descartes and his “cogito ergo sum!”.

How come all of the above can be linked with the kihon happô of 2011?

When sensei spoke of kihon on Sunday during our lunch and said that “kihon” is “season reverse” he didn’t explain the new meaning of happô.

When you look in a dictionary happô (hachi hô) has many meanings. My interpretation (possibly wrong) is that hachi is the recipient (bowl, basin), a little similar to the “ki, utsuwa” of 2009 (sainô konki) and “hô” is information. Happô becomes the recipient of all the possible information of a situation. As we understood it in the sainô konki year, the bigger the utsuwa, the bigger the kûkan.

Therefore if “kihon” is the beginning of a new cycle (season reverse) and “happô” as the sum of information in the kûkan, then the “kihon happô” of 2011 could be interpreted as follow: By feeling the atmosphere (fun iki) of the situation i.e. reading the information of our environment (happô) we can change the cycle of action (kihon) and turn it to our own advantage by reacting without any preconceived ideas to the definite actions of uke.

Moving softly with the “josei no goshin jutsu” attitude, uke has no possibility to read our actions because we do not know ourselves what we are going to do next. Each one of our movements having no end we only do things half-way,  “chûto”, and never finish them, “hanpa”. Hitting the kûkan will send false information to uke and gives the ability to overcome his intentions.

Everything above is my own interpretation and can be totally wrong. 🙂

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