Tatakai Wa Janai

Chochō, Hanami, Maai: 胡蝶, 花実, 間合い

The more I train here, and the more I am lost.

Today, during Senō sensei’s class, I partnered with my friend Michael Glenn (Santa Monica dōjō). We were lost. How those who come here once or twice in their life can understand the Bujinkan arts. Yesterday night, Hatsumi Sensei’s class was another moment of solitude. Sensei is hardly moving and stops you without applying any force.
As his Uke, I felt like I am suspended in mid-air alone, unable to continue the attack. Sensei is like a ghost, holding with a tiny point of contact. In fact, it is as if he is not there. One thing for sure, he is not fighting you. Uke is the only one fighting. He is fighting gravity, balance, tensions because it feels like there is nothing in front of him.
To “help us” understand, Sensei repeated many times “Waza Janai,” there is no technique. (1) And he was right. Writing these lines, I have a hard time explaining the unexplainable. You have to feel it for yourself to begin to get it; there is nothing to understand. It is beyond the technical realm. Sensei moves in such a perfect way that the only thing you get is a feeling of powerlessness.
In the past, it was easy to explain what he was doing because we had the support of the Waza. Now it is mission impossible.
Sōke’s central teaching yesterday is to get to control the opponent by controlling the situation. It is about full awareness.
Last year, this year, and next year, we are studying the art of Mutō Dori. That is a very high-level approach to the concept of Mutō Dori.
He summarized it when he said:: “Tatakai Wa Janai”, there is no fighting. (2) He added it was only about control. To control without intention, and without technique, is the Mutō Dori level we have to study this year. I never suspected something so tricky. Once again, the only chance you have to understand it is to be Sensei’s Uke. I am lucky to have felt it, even though I am far from being able to do it myself.
During the calligraphy session, I asked for “It is not about fighting, it is about controlling.” And he wrote “Chochō Hanami, Maai,” or “butterfly, flowers. The distance”. That is the picture illustrating this post. (3)
I still have to get the hidden meaning behind this cryptic kōan. That will be the subject of another post if I can fathom what he meant.
  1. Waza Janai: 技じゃない
  2. Tatakai Wa Janai: 戦いわじゃない. Tatakai: battle; fight; struggle; conflict
  3. Chochō Hanami, Maai: 胡蝶, 花実, 間合い


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