Senpen Banka

dkms 2011 - during the first break
dkms 2011 - during the first break

Today was a fantastic Autumn day. The sun was shining, the 300 attendees full of joy to be together again for this very special bujinkan moment, and sensei was joyful and playful like a kid.

The whole was dedicated to the depth of the Kihon Happô and he asked many 15th dan to demonstrate their understanding of it. As an introduction he said that this day (and maybe the following ones) would be a “Jûgodan test”…

After speaking about some writings by Takeda Shingen ( who said that men until 20 were working to be strong and then to understand weakness, he moved on to some very interesting concepts.

From this whole day of training I did my best to remember three things that he said and showed the depth of his budô.

“Gyokko Ryû is up and down, inside and outside”

Pedro trying to explain what he felt after being used as Uke by sensei, said that he had the feeling that sensei was up and down him, inside and outside his distance, to finally realized that he (Pedro) was alone as sensei was not even there (zero state). Sensei reminded us that this particular feeling of attacking the Ten and the Chi and the ura and the Omote was the main concepts of fighting of the Gyokko Ryû.
Distance being short the only way to use the body efficiently is to play with all these directions and deceive Uke on your real intentions. He added (as for everything this day) that no chikara (strength) was to be used and, as he said in our previous classes, that holding Uke without actually holding him was the key of true taijutsu.

As a joke he added that being 80 years old, he had no more physical strength and that his minimalist movements done with the whole karada (body) were creating the same effect as the use of the force. Age advancing physical strength is replaced by mental strength. Once again to way to control Uke it is not about using force but on the contrary to give him the feeling that you have disappeared.

“find the Kûkan no Kyûsho”

At some point he spoke extensively about finding the kûkan no kyûsho (空間の急所) or the weak point of the empty space in which the fight is happening.
In a movement, you should be able to understand where the Kyûsho is located, to avoid it and to throw Uke into it. He said that this was the real mastery of budô and that not so many martial artists couls even understand that.

In whatever situation you encounter in life lies a kyûsho somewhere. Being able to discover this kyûsho and to use it to our own benefit is the key to happiness and safety.

“senpen banka”

But the most amazing thing that sensei told us today concerned the concept of “senpen banka”.
Senpen banka is another “Hatsumism” composed of three different concepts reshuffled together to create something new.

“sen” is 千 thousand
“man” (here “ban”) is 万 10000
“ben + ka” is in fact 変化 henka cut in two halves (hen and ka are separated)..

Senpen then is “1000 changes” and “banka” is 10000 changes. note that both hen and ka mean “change”.

The concept of senpen banka is quite similar to the concept of “banpen fûgyô” (10000 changes no surprise) from the Gyokko Ryû but stronger. Sensei said that we should move in a relax manner with no preconceived ideas on what to expect or what to do, in order to be able to find the kûkan no kyûsho hidden in the situation.

Also if we think a little further it can also mean that whether there are 1000 changes or 10000 changes our attitude should not be modified. Losing or winning is not the point (he reminded it to us in a recent class saying that this win/lose vision of the world was childish). By keeping the proper attitude in life one could overcome any difficulties (here the changes) that he might find on his way and lead a happy life.

Once again it was for me the proof, if need to be, that the bujinkan is much more than a simple bio mechanical martial art but a real school of wisdom from which one can grow the true warrior spirit and become a true bujin.

Thank you sensei for this fantastic Autumn day on the inner secrets of the kihon happô.

Use a Telescope to see through Space and Time

On Sunday I did a technique at the opening of the class that sensei used to teach us the shizen karada – the natural body movement.

Karada – body ( 自然 体) is a often used by sensei during his classes as everything we do is based on a body or “non body” movement.
On a ryôte dori ( 両手取 り) slide your arms inside Uke’s arms and take his balance. When sensei did it to me I felt nothing he just vanished (melted?) in my grab in such a natural way that I had the feeling that my grip was returned against me.
There was so much softness in his counter action that there was no way for me to counter it or to think on how to react to it.
This feeling is quite strange and happens every time you have the chance to be his Uke. There is power within softness.

To achieve that Hatsumi sensei was simply joining his shoulders between my arms as if he had no bone structure, no rib cage in the middle! By moving the shoulders in a wave action back and forth he slide himself in between my grip and took my balance. The naturalness of his body movement was amazing as nothing could be done to avoid it. Using the karada (体) without chikara – force, strength (力), he then used the gan shi nankotsu (眼指軟骨) to inflict excruciating pain to my eyes and mouth, forcing me to bend backward and therefore to lose my balance.
I can understand it what he did to me but I wasn’t able to reproduce it. As always it is one thing to understand and another one to be able to do it.

When sensei was in between my arms I felt I was facing a wall advancing towards me and I couldn’t avoid it as I was stupidly still grabbing his lapels. Funnily I know I could have let it go but I didn’t. He was controlling my body and my brain together. The only thing I could do was watching my demise. Using the whole body is not moving the body it is being one with your body and Uke’s body at the same time so no free space is available for you to escape.

If I try to describe the feeling a little more it is like there is no strength at all opposing yours and then nothing to fight against. The simple shoulder wave movement together with a body that has been polished for tens of years is what is doing it. Once again, your rank doesn’t prevent you from training and you have to train for a very long time in order to get this ease in action that comes from pure consciousness.

Later during the class sensei used the image of the circle and of pi. Actually when continuing the movement your footwork should be in accordance together with uke’s movement of attack so that you pivot in a circle inside Uke’s attack at a 180° angle to go with him where his body is leading him. By doing so, Uke is not aware of where you are and loses his balance because nothing is opposing him. This pi application has been developed in many other martial arts like Aikidô for example but here in our case there is no grabbing of Uke. Sensei merely used the space created by this dynamic and natural body positioning to stick to Uke so close that he is invisible to Uke’s awareness. Sensei’s body moves like in cloud. It is at the same time a mienai waza, a kûkan and a nagare with nothing to stop Uke’s body but diabling him to perceive you. As they say in the Takagi Yôshin Ryû and the Kukishin Ryû: “ahead lies paradise”. As nothing prevents Uke’s movements Uke falls by only fighting his own strength.

To summarize the whole training that day sensei used a nice image. He said: “don’t be strong, don’t be weak, be zero and through this zero you can see the solution”. Saying that he put his hands in a circle and looked through them as if using a telescope.

Once again everything is linked. telescopes are used to see through sideral space and the stronger they are, the further back in time they can see. You should become a powerful telescope and see through time and space in order to be aware of what is coming next even before Uke knows about it.

Then gan shi nankotsu of this year (眼指軟骨) turns into gan shi nankotsu (眼 其 軟 骨) where shi (其) is oneself; nan (軟) is soft; kotsu (骨) is knack, skill, secret. The “eye, finger, cartilage” is now through our telescope a means to see through yourself, the secret of softness that will defeat the opponent.

A Needle will not Blow a Balloon

In any Japan trip the first classes with sensei give some insight on what is going to be taught next. My first classes last days were fantastic, full of insights … and full of pain!

About 80 students are attending the classes (and more are arriving every day) and I have the feeling that the dkms 2011 will be a hispanic one as many friends from Spain and South America are there: Alex, Christian, Nestor, Rafael, Marcello, Jose and many others.

I must say that sensei is in a very good mood and shape and that his minimalist taijutsu is getting more and more impressive.

I had the honor to open the classes and once again he went into the “gan shi nankotsu” concept that he has been unveiling since last summer. I already wrote about this “add-on” t to the kihon happô theme and concept on my Facebook notes, check it if you didn’t read it it is called “ken tai ichi jo”.

As I said the class was full of insights, I will try to explain three things that Hatsumi sensei explained during the class:

A needle will not blow a balloon  i.e. Kosshi and Koppô are complementary:
This was really mind blowing! Westerners have a tendency to split everything in closed boxes were in fact reality is based on a more higher understanding of these concepts. Even though Kosshi and Koppô are different they mix nicely together to create a flow that is like a third reality. From now we should see these two concepts as the “plus” and “minus” of some magnetic field.

Hatsumi sensei explained that our fingers controlling Uke softly were actually the Kosshi jutsu and that our bone structure, our squeleton moving freely around this point of control would allow us to deal “softly” with the opponent’s intentions. He said,that,when this Kosshi/Koppô mix is mastered, you are able to deal with any opponent whatever his body shape. This is when he used this image: “when you master this you can push a needle so softly into a balloon that eventually itwill not blow up”. This controlling action of the whole body is so soft that no force at all is used in the process.
Intellectually easy to get, but I still don’t know howto do it.

Time is now  i.e. create time when you are in a hurry:

In each class sensei insists a lot on being able to create time within time. If you have been training long enough you already have experienced this feeling. Uke attacks full speed and you have the impression that he is moving in slow motion.
What sensei explained was about the same except that the use of the little pains generated by the “gan shi nankotsu” movements prevent Uke of carrying out his attacks at the normal speed. This hindering of his intentions delays his actions and therefore creates time that you can use to control, hit, or destroy him.
Since Einstein we know that time is relative and when our actions are forcing uke to think and to adjust his intentions in order to survive then we force him to “slow down” his efficiency. In a way this is E=MC² where E = extermination; M = mind, C = control. Then we can write that the Extermination of Uke equals Mind Control to the square!

Tenmon (天 門), Chimon (地 門 ),Gakumon (学 門):

But the main point made by sensei was when he spoke about the trilogy of Tenmon, Chimon and Gakumon. As far as I understood, We can see the martial art as a mix of biomechanical techniques – Chimon (waza) and of higher understanding – Tenmon (kûden – nearly spiritual). These two aspects are completed by another one Gakumon or knowledge. Hatsumi sensei said that many martial arts are stuck at the Chimon level and that others are focusing more on the spiritual level. The Bujinkan is including the Gakumon from the real beginning and the three become one.
How is it possible? It is simple if you think that two levels of Gakumon are there. The first Gakumon is basic knowledge allowing you to link the first two aspects of Chimon and Tenmon.
The second one, taught in the bujinkan by sensei is beyond forms and words and can nly be reached when your taijutsu has been polished for more many many years.
When the three are mastered a new dimension you reach is that of pure consciousness – shiki ( 識).
Thereforeand if my interpretation is correct we understand sensei’s last comment at the end of the class: “I teach you the three together because they are one, and this is the bujinkan and the higher form of martial art”.

Be Happy!

Freedom & Happiness

This is Daikomyo sai time again and I cherish this moment of the year more than any moment.

I arrived yesterday afternoon for another Daikomyo sai in Japan. After a fex hours I alrready met with Hugues, Cédric, Philippe, Indrek, Peter and Sheila. It is always a very nice moment and brings me a lot of happiness.

Being happy is what Hatsumi Sensei has been teaching us since the beginning but many bujinkan followers don’t get it and it is sad. Freedom and happiness is the core teaching of the bujinkan. As Epictetus said “those who are looking for power and money will fail, the only objective of human beings is to find freedom and to be happy”.

Everything in Life is changing, as it is said in the I ching, change is the only permanent thing on earth. But why is it that we are always looking for permanence when change is everywhere? Bujinkan followers often get lost on their search for power and money. Instead of focusing on the things we can influence, we often force things that are not in our power to serve our own selfish interests. By doing so we lose our freedom and become unhappy.

Epitectus said: “What bothers humans is not reality but the judgments we make on reality”. Then stop judging others try simply to be happy with them. We have to train only for ourself with no expectations and then freedom will be achieved and we will find happiness. Each time we replace personal actions by selfish desires we get lost. Our desires, our attachment (power, money) are enslaving us. Be what you are and stop trying to be someone you are not. Everything is created in our brain. This is not reality this is an illusion.

An Indian sage called Ashtavakra wrote:

It is true what they say:“You are what you think.” If you think you are bound you are bound. If you think you are free you are free.

Choose to be free and Happy. Being happy is a personal choice and nothing can give it to you if you don’t make this choice.

I really think that Hatsumi Sensei is a philosopher more than a martial art teacher. His martial art classes are only an excuse and a tool to help us get the proper attitude in Life that will make us happy.

This year of kihon happô was dedicated to the start of a new cycle. Decide now to be what you are, choose to be happy, walk the path of freedom.

So enjoy these magic days of Daikomyo sai and start anew in this new cycle by taking the good decisions and being open minded.

“You are pure Consciousness— the substance of the universe.
The universe exists within you. Don’t be small-minded” Ashtavakra

Be Happy!

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