Ishiki: Awareness


I wrote many times about Japan being the country where one makes mistakes.
I arrived Thursday in Japan and made the first one on arrival. That made me think about Ishiki, awareness. (1)
Before I go further on the philosophical lesson learned, let me tell you the story.

Landing in Narita in the afternoon, I was happy to be there. After buying the yen, getting a wifi router, and a bus ticket to Kashiwa, I went for a smoke (yes, I know it’s terrible, but that is not the point here).

With my suitcase in tow and my small backpack, I went to the designated smoking area located outside the building. I let my luggage outside and went into the booth. A few emails needed my attention, and I answered them. Having finished, I went for a coffee.

Fifteen minutes later I felt that something was missing. My suitcase was still outside the smoking booth.

When this happens in any other country, you panic. But not here. Japan is so safe that nothing can go wrong. As I didn’t want to spill my coffee, I walked calmly to my luggage, and it was waiting for me. I was not even relieved as I was sure it would be there. And that is what I call my mistake.

In the “Lucifer Principle” (2), Howard Bloom explains that when not in danger, any species will die. In short, we only survive because there is a risk of dying. When potentially nothing is threatening you, you lower your defences, and you die.

In my story, the opposite happened. My “Ishiki” level was close to zero. Knowing that Japan is safe, I did something that I wouldn’t do in any other country.

The first lesson I learned is that, even when in a safe environment, you have to be ready for action. For a martial art practitioner, Ishiki must be a permanent state of mind. And not something you activate once in a while. It doesn’t mean you have to become paranoid; it means that you have to be having a permanent awareness.

See that as the “black swan” of Bujinkan.

“The black swan theory is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a significant effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.
It comes from an ancient saying which presumed black swans did not exist until we discovered them in Australia.”

In short, it is not because something never happens, that it will not happen.

In martial arts, we train to be ready for anything. Friday night I met my friend Christophe Ayen (French Dai Shihan), and I told him my little adventure. He said, “I know what you mean.” I looked at him, and he continued. “Last week I was training at the Honbu with Noguchi Sensei when he got an urgent phone call. He had to go. He came to me and said Christophe can you please finish the class? He went, and I finished the class in English, even though I don’t speak English!”.

You can use Ishiki at any moment inside or outside of the dōjō. Don’t let your awareness down only because you feel safe. Always be ready so that, as Takamatsu sensei said, “there will be no surprise.” Banpen Fugyō.

The second lesson is that smoking is terrible. But that I already knew.


  1. 意識/ishiki/consciousness|awareness; sense|mano-vijnana (mental consciousness, cognizer of sensory information)
  2. by Howard Bloom

PARIS TAIKAI 2018 JULY 13th to 15th

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

2 thoughts on “Ishiki: Awareness”

  1. Reblogged this on Classical Martial Arts Research Academy and commented:
    It has been my observation that I can’t live in an overly comfortable environment; soft carpets, fluffy couches, and generally lulling spaces make me uneasy.

    Though I understand that this comes from a complex upbringing that makes me feel that I don’t belong in such an environment, this article by Arnaud presents to me a somewhat different perspective of the dangers of comfort!


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