Victory: A New Kuki Taishô

The Kukishin Ryû stone
The Kukishin Ryû stone
We don’t train in the bujinkan “to win, but not to lose” repeats sensei.
Those who train to win and/or to avoid losing are in fact missing the beauty of Sensei’s teachings. Victory is achieved by rejecting this duality.
This win/lose is inyo. There is no victory in winning and there is no defeat in losing (as long as you are not dead). This concept of “win or lose” is called 伸るか反るか, norukasoruka in Japanese. Funnily it also has the meaning of “sink or swim” or “make or break”. Once again the conceptual schemes attached to a Japanese term are full of wisdom. If you don’t swim you drawn.
But sensei is not following this common dualistic interpretation when he says “we don’t try to win but we try not lose”. As if there would be another way to this inyo porblem. And by saying and teaching that Sensei is closer to what the famous Zen Master Takuan who wrote in “The Unfettered Mind” the following:
“Presumably, as a martial artist, I do not fight for gain or loss, am not concerned with strength or weakness, and neither advance a step nor retreat a step. The enemy does not see me. I do not see the enemy.   Penetrating to a place where heaven and earth have not yet divided, where Ying and Yang have not yet arrived, I quickly and necessarily gain in effect”.
This vision of the fight is much stronger than the 伸るか反るか which embodies an opposition. When you are caught in a fight the only thing that matters is how to survive, it is never a question of winning. When you are into “winning” then you lack thefreedom of adapting your movements to the situation. Reacting is the best way to stay alive. When you put all your strength in trying to win, you cut yourself from the natural movement and consequently you create the causes of your downfall.
When we began the study of sanjigen no sekai in 2003, Nagato sensei said that “when you think about the technique, you can be read by your opponent. Do the movements naturally without thinking. This is the spirit of Juppô Sesshô.”
Juppô Sesshô is the real essence of our training and if “you think about a specific technique or about what to do with your weapon, you lose Juppô Sesshô” said Hatsumi sensei. Adding that “if you consider yourself as a tenkan (pivot) then everything around you is the world of Juppô Sesshô.
Being in the middle of everything is being out of the dualistic win/lose concept. By simply trying “not to lose” we have a better chance to survive. Because you don’t lock your brain, and only react according to the attacker, uke cannot read your intentions. Everything revolves around your tenkan and your footwork reveals the answer.
If you cannot understand this then maybe should you stop considering yourself as a warrior. A true warrior does not fight, a true warrior is there only to prevent the fight to begin. The Bujinkan system and philosophy is in reality a peacekeeping martial art. Muscle, force, power are useless to the one who can see the outcome with 九鬼大笑 kuki taishô (bujinkan theme 2007), no fear, like the ninth demon at the north-eastern gate of the temple.
This non fighting attitude where there are no enemy (cf. Takuan) brings 茎 大勝  kukistaishô, the “root for a great victory”.
Victory is yours because you do not try to win

Author: kumablog

I share here on a regular basis my thoughts about the Bujinkan martial arts, training in Japan and all over the world, and

3 thoughts on “Victory: A New Kuki Taishô”

  1. I was in a situation this morning in the car where I made an illegal turn into a parking lot which I did not realize at the time was illegal. Another driver coming out from the other way lurched from a standstill and swerved almost is if to try to block or hit my car. His horn was blaring and he was clearly furious, but I kept moving past him and went on to park the car without any problem and he eventually moved on as well. I was pretty steamed at his aggressive maneuver and walked around the block a few times to cool down. I saw the ‘No left turn into parking lot’ sign and realized my error, but still felt that the other driver’s reaction was way overboard in a world where double parking or going over the speed limit is a normal everyday occurrence. Why get so steamed about a wrong turn into a parking lot?

    As I walked, my mind was full of things I could have said and rude gestures I might have made! I wanted very much to be able to ‘rewind’ and somehow ‘put the other guy in his place’.

    In a word, I wanted to ‘win’.

    And now I read the first line of your post and I have to laugh as it all comes clear. Trying to ‘put someone in their place’ can escalate in unexpected directions often with dire consequences, just as the other driver’s wish to put me in my place almost caused him to ram his car into mine. He could have simply looked over his shoulder, taken my plate number and called the cops at his leisure, but the desire to win in him too was much stronger, to everyone’s detriment. We’re talking Boston, of course, so this sort of thing is very normal. In my imagination, after the fact, I wanted to win too. A sarcastic comment or a put down and maybe an “Oh yeah? Waddyagonnadoaboudit, eh?” or two.

    Very, very foolish and I thank the Fates that my natural instincts during the incident were simply to press on and ignore the other driver. Better for both of us. I have friends who are at times just like that driver, and in differing circumstances that driver and I could surely be friends.

    So I didn’t win. That driver and probably several others probably all think I’m an idiot for making the wrong turn, and to some degree they’re absolutely right. But did I lose?


    I didn’t get in a fight and go to jail or the hospital.
    I didn’t make an enemy.
    I didn’t act foolishly in public in ways I would later regret.
    My car is fine.
    I got to reflect on the situation and learn from it.

    Lastly and most importantly, I enjoyed a tasty breakfast (which was my only intention in the first place) and went on with my life!

    I remember years ago my own instructor used to say, (jokingly?) “You’re not trying to beat the attacker. You’re just trying to get home safe to watch TV and enjoy pizza with your family!”

    Those words, those of Hatsumi Soke and your own are finally starting to sink in.




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