Being wrong is good
The first class with sensei is always a fantastic moment that I enjoy pretty much. And this one was not different. It was rich and full of new feelings that will brew in my brain and body to create a new flavored taijutsu.
As often when I arrive in Japan for my first class, Hatsumi sensei asked to open the class and as I have recorded recently the Takagi Yôshin Ryû with my Indian Buyu, this is a Takagi like movement that came out. When you are asked to show it is always better to have nothing “ready” so that what you are doing reflects your own personal evolution since your last trip and not a fake movement repeated over and over to “look good” in front of the Sôke. Over the years I noticed that often the simplest movements are the best to trigger his creativity and in that way everyone in the class whatever rank he or she is wearing is able to get something out of it.
Uke is attacking with his right fist and you ura jodan uke his attack with the left elbow then grab his left hand softly, extend his left arm and bring him to the ground in a kind of musô dori. At least this is what I remembered showing but when, five minutes later, sensei asked to repeat it again he watched and said: “no Arnaud do the first one you did”. I am sure I looked confused and lost because I honestly thought that this was the one I did. I will not take any responsability here, I will blame the jet lag.
We found out later that the first technique ended with a jûji dori on uke’s arms using the right one under the left to add some leverage and ease the throw. This “leverage thing” is one of the basic concepts used in theTakagi Yôshin and the Kukishin and is called teko (梃 – lever) shiten (支点 – fulcrum) it uses also the second main principle of these two fighting systems the jûjiron (十字路 – crossroad), the principle of always using a perpendicular control whatever you do.
The interesting thing (apart form the techniques) is the state of confusion I experienced when sensei stopped me in the demonstration. Funnily this was one of the very interesting development he taught during the class. Confusing your opponent is the best way to create openings in his attacks; it changes distances and overall it modifies his perceptions of reality in front. Actually uke is sure to make the good choices where in fact he is living in an illusion. Remember that ninjutsu is genjutsu (幻術 – magic). This holistic attitude (body and mind) creates a fake reality for him and triggers his actions. The distance he sees is wrong, the timing he perceives is wrong, his whole world of certitudes is off balanced. Off balancing uke’s brain, is always the key and your movements should always allow you to react instantaneously to the changes he is creating.
As always Sensei did many applications with weapons, manly daisho sabaki ones and insisted a lot on not grabbing. If you grab, he said, you are locking yourself and become unable to adapt to uke’s changes. Since he redefined for us at dkms the meaning of henka (beginning and end of change) I see it everywhere. But here it was making a lot of sense. Every minor change in uke’s intentions and actions is addressed immediately because we are not grabbing. Uke is the one grabbing himself. To me it looks like if we grab uke we shut down our ability to read the next step: grabbing reders you totally blind. Controlling uke with the body on the contrary gives you the eyes of the hawk. As hawk is taka (鷹) and gi (or waza – 技) is technique; the Takagi becomes a technique of a hawk.
Sword and daisho sabaki
The Daisho sabaki (大小捌き) forms add an infinite set of new possibilities. Sensei explained that the goal here is not to draw uke’s blade but to use it to trap his mind and apply basic controls with the body as if you would be using a simple stick. The blade still sheathed there is no risk for you, but in uke’s mind you are going to cut him soon and he freezes. This freezing created by his inability to read your intentions creates new opportunnities that you use to finish him. And this works also when more than one opponent is facing you. At one point, sensei applied the technique against three opponents. When weapons are flying in the air everyone tries not to be hit or cut and this creates another illusion for each uke. First they don’t want to injure one of their friends, and second they do not want to get injured themselves. At one point sensei was controlling effortlessly three opponents with swords on the ground. Each one trying not to die and having no understanding on where he was and what he was going to do. In this situation, the group disappears and each one thinks individually to escape from the situation. Everyone was confused… except for sensei.
Jin is Hanpirei
Another interesting point sensei developed was that we must learn how to do the technique as tori and how to avoid the technique when being uke. Only when you are able to do this are you really in control of the technique. To illustrate this sensei played with the kanji for man, 人 jin, and he said that in this kanji there is one line splitting in two lines like the ura/omote or the yin/yang. This is to symbolize the ability to reverse any action and to transform defeat into victory. Everything comes in a flow and you keep reversing the situation by surfing on uke’s intention.This is why grabbing is out of the question (tsukamidori to grab – 掴み取り). Sensei’s movements were “hanpirei”, inversely proportional to mine. Grabbing the opponent would be stopping the flow of things and locking the brain; and leading to defeat.
It felt like a wave
During the class I went to sensei to feel the technique as I didn’t get it. It was amazing. While receiving the technique I got the feeling I was caught by a wave. I told him and he confirmed it to me. This nami (波 – wave) sensation was soft but there was nothing I could do to avoid being drawn. It seems that letting go was the best thing to do. It was amazing because sensei was not using any strength at all, he was only playing subtly with my body reactions. I was the stupid witness of my downfall, and it seemed logical. In fact his relaxed movements were creating tension in my brain and body and my automatic reactions were opening a kûkan. Once a new kûkan would open, sensei would reverse it proportionally to his own benefit. To understand it better, it was like supporting yourself on a collapsing wall. Suddenly, there is nothing and there was no warning nd no violence.
Shuko and Kaname
In every technique we did, sensei insisted how much easier it would be if we would have worn a pair of Shuko or a pair of ashiko. The Bujinkan is a martial art where everything is used and we have to keep an open mind on what is possible…even if it is not in the book. The kaname (要) of this year, the “essential point” is exactly this. Actually we can define two types of kaname, one addressing the body/technique; the other one the brain. After some point you will figure out that those two are one but for today seeing these two aspects can help you improve your taijutsu.
So during the class sensei apparently spoke about confusion. At least this is what I thought until I checked in the dictionary… During the class sensei used a specific term but then I am not sure of what I heard exactly. Once again our senses are the one creating our off balancing. I thought he spoke about “confusion” when he used the word “jûkyo”, and speaking after the class with some resident on the platform at the train station, he confirmed it to me.
Now back in my hotel room I went through my dictionary and found that jûkyo meant house, residence. So I thought that my Romaji transcription or my hearing were not good so I tried every close possibility:
- chûkyô: Communist Chinajûkyo: house, or residence
- jukyô: Confucianism
- jikyo: retiring leaving
- jikyou: confession
- shukyô: primary mirror of a telescope (the telescope again!) or main mirror
- shûkyô: state boundary, or religion
- shûkyo: removal, or religion
Now was there any “confusion” in the translation between the sound “confusion” and “Confucian” pronounced by a Japanese? I don’t know but I will ask him tomorrow; but one thing I do know is that the class was confusing and let me with even more questions.
At the end of the class sensei said that he was teaching exclusively for the fifteenth dan. I wish I was only fourteenth to have an excuse to be so lost.