Sanshin is Kihon Happô (2)

First of all I want to thank you for your comments on the this subject, and if you did not read them, I invite you to do it now on the blog. 

After publishing the first article on this subject, I remembered that I forgot to tell you a few things. It is mainly about chance and memory.

1. tenchijin 1987:
When I received the first version of the tenchijin in English back in 1987, the “shoshin gokei gogyô no kata” (gogyô) was described as: “chi-mizu-hi-kaze-kû” this is the reason why it caught my eyes when I discovered it in the first edition of the “unarmed fighting techniques of the samurai”.
At first I thought that this were the real names but then one day, I was on skype with one of my students. Because I wanted him to discover this by himself I asked him to go on the sanshin no kata page and to read them. He did. But there was no comment at all. I insisted that he read them loud and this is when I discovered that his edition was different from mine. I couldn’t believe it so he showed his book on the screen. This is how I discovered it.

Sensei often says that we have to “create chance” and until that day I didn’t understand what he meant by that. I think that I understand it better now. Chance is keeping your eyes and your mind open. Keeping your mind open develop your intuition. Intuition comes from “intuitus” in latin that means “glance”. If you watch carefully what you see around you, then the illusion of what you want to see vanishes and you see the things the way they are, and not  the way you think they are. 

Keeping your mind open is also important. The way we see and understand the world is conditioned by our education or, sometimes our lack of education. Some time ago I gave sensei a book called “the black swan”. The whole idea was the following: “All swans must be white because all historical records of swans reported that they had white feathers”. This proved to be wrong when black swans were discovered in Australia in the 19th century. It is not because we don’t know something that this something doesn’t exist. In the book the author details a theory about “unexpected events of large magnitude and consequence”. (more on this at:

We learn to create chance by expecting the unexpected. In a technique if you react according to what you think is going to happen, there is big probability that you will fail. Remember the words of Takamatsu sensei: “opening his eyes and his heart, a ninja can react  adequately to the subtle changes from heaven so that there should never be for him anything called surprise” (in “ninjutsu” by Takamatsu sensei).  If you expect the unexpected, there is no surprise and you learn to create chance for yourself and for those around you.

2. Kihon Happô of Gyokushin ryû:
At the turn of the century, whike in Japan, I asked sensei about the Gyokushin Ryû. He told me that we had lost the techniques* but that the concept remained alive in our taijutsu. Then he decided to show me some of these concepts. We were in his house and space was difficult to find. I was stuck between the table covered with piles of documents and objects, the ground was supporting piles of videos and books, and the small corridor between the wall and the piles was about 50 cm width. No space to move at all.

Nevertheless he showed me the “kihon happô of  the Gyokushin ryû”. In fact he showed me the feeling of the Gyokushin ryû, but instead of showing me the kihon happô as hesaid he would, he did the sanshin no kata. In the Gyokushin he explained, you have to “be” the element you are manifesting. For example, when doing ka no kata, you move as if you are walking barefoot on burning coals, in the sui no kata you move as if you were swimming in water. After throwing me on the wall, the armchair and the table, and after I added some mess by crashing all over to the messy room, I asked him: “sensei why did you say “kihon happô and did the sanshin no kata to me?”. He looked at me and said: “the sanshin no kata is the kihon happô”. I looked stupid, behaved as if I understood, and accepted his answer.

We know that both sets of techniques are origining from the Gyokko ryû**. The kihon happô is the entry point of the school and the sanshin no kata is the juppô sesshô of the school (the exit point). They are the beginning and the end; the alpha and the omega; the hen and the ka. 

Permanent changes and permanent adaptation are only possible when you stop asking “why? and begin to ask “how?”

*note: sensei told me once that we have no techniques either for the kumogakure ryû, only the concepts. This is why we never studied those two schools as we did for the other ones.
**note: Gyokko ryû gave birth to the Gyokushin ryû and to the Gikan ryû

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