Fun’Iki, Control The Environment

IMG_20170428_211146This year Mutō dori is about controlling Funiki, your environment.
During the class, Hatsumi sensei demonstrated it with Taijutsu, Tantō, Katana, and Naginata. Each time the Uke seemed lost and unable to get him. His main point today was that the weapon, or the lack of it, is not what truly matter. In fact, with or without a weapon, Sensei was moving very slowly, keeping a perfect distance with the opponent, who always ended up cutting, stabbing himself, or getting controlled. There was no fight, no opposition, Sensei’s movements were natural. From the outside, it looked like Uke was fighting alone.

Sensei demonstrated it with the Tantō, using a unique grip that let his Taijutsu play by itself.
You hold the knife reverse, hiding it under your forearm and use either the blade or the Kashira to get Uke naturally. (2)
The key, he said, is not to use the Tantō, and to let Uke cut himself in the process. Correcting a student he told her that thinking about cutting with the blade, created a Teko (3), a point of leverage and focus that the opponent can use against you. Sensei added that in the case of a small weapon, it had to be always hidden.
But when Uke finally sees it, the trick is to let Uke “think” the knife while Tori still ignores it and his mind is not trapped by it. Sensei added that when you want to cut or stab with your knife, you are creating a fixed point in your mind limiting your freedom of action.

With the Naginata; it was even more devastating. Sensei said that when using this weapon, your grip of the weapon should be loose and all the movements executed using Naname. (4)
My understanding is that the physical encounter is enough to cut the enemy, your body supporting the Naginata loosely on top of the forearm. Also, keeping the edge oriented at 45 degrees guarantees a cut when in close-combat. The cuts are done by walking the body around Uke. When he was demonstrating this, I had the feeling the Naginata was alive and moving by itself.

In a sword against sword encounter, he explained to move towards the attack, using the body to support the blade as a shield. With the weapons in contact use the joints to apply leverage. Grab the opponent’s sword and then slide your katana under his helmet.

Finally, in Taijutsu, Sensei reminded us to use our fingers as if playing the piano on Uke. Then one finger extended was often enough to overcome the adversary even when he was armed with a sword.

All these techniques that we did were practical applications of high-level Mutō Dori. Mutō Dori is entirely misunderstood. It is not what we learned at beginner’s level. Mutō Dori is done in every situation, with or without weapons. Because it is about controlling Fun’iki (1), the environment, the atmosphere.

When your mental presence is aware of everything and controls the space between and around you and the opponent, then defeat is never yours. (5) (6)

The essence of Mutō Dori is Fun’Iki, to control the environment naturally.

1. 雰囲気, Fun’iki or Fuinki, air, atmosphere, environment
2. Kashira 頭, the head/top of the weapon/hilt
3. 梃子, lever(age). Teko – lever, and Shiten – fulcrum are one the secrets of the Kukishin Ryū
4. Naname 斜め, diagonal, oblique
5. Sensei used the word Fudōshin (不動心) to express it. And many of his attackers today explained that they cannot get him because of his commanding presence.
6. 不動心, Fudōshin: a) imperturbability; steadfastness
b) cool head in an emergency; keeping one’s calm (e.g. during a fight)

Kantan Janai!

seno1Senō sensei’s class was very technical, even more than usual. Luckily my partner was Holger, and we were both very much into learning because it was not easy.

Too often, when you partner with a beginner, you end up being bored or correcting your partner. Today, thanks to him I enjoyed the research/training we both did.

The locks by Senō sensei were subtle, and we had a hard time finding the right amount of force to apply them correctly.

He didn’t teach many techniques during this training session, but each one he did require a lot of work. We went to him several times for each movement to “feel” them. And even after we had experienced them, we had a real difficulty to get them correctly. It was high-level taijutsu.

I’m not saying that the movements done by the other Shihan are easy, but at least I am more used to their taijutsu. As a joke, I told him that his techniques were “Kantan” (easy), (as they were not), and he kept repeating it after each demonstration while laughing. Senō sensei is a gentleman of Budō. It is hard to accept that he was one of the more dangerous and fierce students of Hatsumi sensei when he was young!

At some point, he changed technique, and we trained the precise timing and rhythm of Uke Nagashi + lateral shutō.
This simple movement made me understand how bad my taijutsu is compared to his. I discovered that I had been far from correct for the last 33 years!

The rhythm of the counter-attack after the Uke Nagashi is more subtle than I thought, and when done properly is much more powerful. This way of delivering the shutō will be my on new personal training list, once I’m back.

What I discovered today will benefit my whole taijutsu so much, that if I would go home today only after a few classes, I think to have enough material to study before my next trip in July.

Senō sensei’s apparent “nonchalance”, hides a fantastic power. This class was a revelation. And when I discover gems like that here in training, I wonder even more why so few people travel to Japan. Visiting Japan once in your life will not suffice to improve your taijutsu. Nothing is hidden in the Bujinkan, but if you don’t come here, it will be hidden to you forever. Because without a teacher, these details are impossible to find.

To help you, here are a few points worth adding to your next training:

1. Receive the attack with the shoulders backwards, and counter with your shoulders forward
2. As much as possible, move in three directions at the same time: hips, legs, arms. This sanshin is the key to create a strong Kûkan
3. Apply pressure with your torso, not your hands. Mainly if your hands are in contact with uke’s body
4. Adjust your movements slightly by “listening” to uke’s body reactions, and do not hesitate to change the form
5. Take your time to understand with your body, and remove any force. Train slowly
1. Kantan 簡単, easy, simple, uncomplicated

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