During Friday’s class, I asked Sensei to write: “It is not about fighting, it is about controlling.” What I got was “Chochō Hanami Maai” or “Butterfly, flowers, distance.” (1)
Since then I tried to see the link between my request and his answer. During the Sunday class, he spoke about the butterfly. It helps to shed some light on the hidden meaning of this cryptic calligraphy. Sensei said that we should move like a butterfly and don’t give any feedback to the opponent. When you don’t use strength, the adversary cannot react and wonders what is happening to him. This activation of his mental process slows him down and allows us to take the advantage. Uke of Hatsumi sensei and Senō sensei, I felt no physical contact at all on my arm and body. The way they touch you is similar to the touch of a butterfly. There is nothing to feel, and as Tezuka San put it “it is like fighting alone.”
Sensei often defines his art as “the martial art of distance.” I finally understood it yesterday. Distance is not limited to our leg movements. It also implies the quality of the contact between Uke and Tori. A butterfly landing on a flower will not bend the flower. In this allegory of Chochō Hanami Maai, we have to become the butterfly. Uke is the flower, and the distance is the quality of the strength or the lack of it that we apply to the movement.
Demonstrating this with Adonis Mitrou from Greece, he asked him to explain what he felt. Thinking for a moment, Adonis came up with a Gyokko Ryū concept. “Kokū no Naka ni no Kūkan,” or to find the emptiness in the centre of space. (2)
Sensei welcomed this interpretation. It was showing the connection between his body flow and the Gyokko Ryū. This concept is central to the understanding of this essential Bujinkan fighting system. The quality of your control is what matters. It is your ability to find the perfect distance between you and the opponent. Like the butterfly landing on the flower.
I miss the old days where training was only about the mechanical aspects of technique. But I have to admit that this more profound approach to Taijutsu is much more fulfilling. The butterfly attitude is far more complicated. But the results are beyond your wildest dreams.
It is very high-level Budō. It explains why Sensei said that the 50 years of the Bujinkan arts, led us to get the real essence of Budō.
Kantan desu. (3)
Everything is easy when you become a butterfly, so I wish you a happy flight. Ganbatte!
1 – 胡蝶, 花実, 間合い, butterfly, flowers, distance
2 – 虚空の中にの空間, the emptiness in the centre of space
3 – Kantan desu: 簡単, simple; easy; uncomplicated
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One thought on “Be Like A Butterfly!”
Arnaud asked me to post this here from my comment on Facebook. There is that cool story of Takamatsu Sensei’s butterfly dream leading him to create a series of methods called the “butterfly dance technique”. Also, there is a waza: “Kocho Dori” that has this principle to it. Basically we try a throw but they can counter so we quickly back out and let them reset their structure and mind thinking they stopped us and then jump quickly back in and the throw works in that moment! Small Butterfly Capture!
TAKAMATSU’S BUTTERFLY DREAM:
This is a story from when Jutaro (Takamatsu Sensei) was 26 years old. In various places in China he entered martial arts contests and was never beaten. So, he was recommended to be the chairman of the Japanese Association of Young Martial Artists.
Lord Ren, the uncle to the former Emperor of China, treated Jutaro as if here were his own son. He always bragged that his Jutaro was a top-rate martial artist. This was no wonder because at this time Jutaro had more than eight hundred Chinese, Japanese, American and French students. Every night, he taught 70-80 students. Even in the raging heat of midsummer, he did not show a drop of sweat.
Hearing these facts, a Shaolin kung fu master, Choshiryu from the Santo province, challenged Jutaro to a match. Choshiryu lifted a 248-pound barbell 100 times every morning.
Jutaro refused twice but Choshiryu would not accept his refusal. That night, Jutaro dreamed of a red giant demon who swung a heavy iron bar to catch a little butterfly. The butterfly effortlessly avoided the blows time and time again. Sweat poured off the red demon and in a while he fell down and yelled, “Enough!” The next morning, Jutaro conceived the butterfly dance technique.
Lord Ren came to see Jutaro and said, “Jutaro, Choshiryu has come again. What shall we do?”
Jutaro replied, “This is the third time that he has proposed a match. This time I will accept his proposal.” Lord Ren said, “Thank you, this will be a great event!” Lord Ren told everyone he passed in the city and then informed Choshiryu of Jutaro’s acceptance. Choshiryu was 37 years old, weighed 248 pounds, and was approximately 1.9 meters tall. Jutaro weighed 165 pounds. The match was held in the plaza of the English settlement. With Lord Ren acting as referee, the match began with Choshiryu giving a yell and jumping 5 meters closer and kicking with the speed of a giant dragon.
Jutaro jumped to the right by 3 meters.
Choshiryu jumped up, down, right, and left within an eye’s blink.
When he came again with the deadly striking hand kick, Jutaro saw an unguarded point. He tried to use the crawl position blow. Choshiryu jumped up 2 meters and returned fierce kicks and punches.
The heated battle had gone on about two hours when he noticed that Choshiryu was out of breath and was sweating profusely. His movements had clearly slowed. The weak point of a big fighter – inability to endure long battles – started to appear. Choshiryu’s vision was impaired because of the sweat that ran down his face. Jutaro did not perspire a drop. When Jutaro said, “Here I come,” with a calm smile on his lips, Lord Ren stopped the fight. The audience yelled for them to continue fighting. But Lord Ren could see that Choshiryu had no chance of winning.
Jutaro and Choshiryu smiled at each other in congratulations for having such a good match.
After the match, Lord Ren, Choshiryu, and Jutaro went to a restaurant to celebrate a newfound friendship, the kind that can only come from respect earned during such a competition as they had. Choshiryu praised Jutaro, while the younger man modestly returned the older man’s compliments. Choshiryu announced that he wanted Jutaro to be his brother, so they sealed this martial bond with a drink of sake.
There are few ties between friends that are closer than those of brothers in martial arts.