When you train with Sōke, what is important is not what you see, but what you don’t. If you want to understand Sensei’s techniques, study the way he walks. This is the secret.
Last night there were not so many people attending class, it was good. I guess the heat in Japan is a good reason for many Bujinkan practitioners not to come. Also, the majority have reached the highest rank, so they don’t feel the need to go and train anymore. This will change once again if Sensei creates a new diploma. Then, people will rush back in to get promoted.
With not so many students in the dōjō gives Sensei the freedom to use many different weapons. That was the case in this class. We did taijutsu, hanbō, tantō, biken, and bō. Many Buki gives you a different vision on the technique. It shows the same movement with various angles and different distances. (1)
Our eyes need time to see things correctly. It happened to me last night. It was evident that what Sōke showed us was not what we had to do. When you look at his body movements, you first watch what he is doing, and make a mental checklist. But this is the beginner’s approach to reality. His Mutō Dori is beyond that. In fact, Mutō Dori is simple. It is about controlling Uke in all aspects. Your action or the lack of it controls the attacker. This happens before, during and after the attack. Also, it is not limited to the opponent, it includes the space between and around us.
In a break, I asked Rob how to say control in Japanese. “Control,” he said. He told me that the Japanese verb is “Osaeru,” but that sensei prefers the English “control.” (2)
The word “Control” is more holistic and not as diverse as the many meanings of the Japanese word. “Control” englobes the physical and the non-physical. Senō sensei uses “Osaeru,” but then he is only referring to the biomechanical level.
We began with taijutsu and for the first time “I saw it.” Uke is under control, the moment he launches the attack. (3)
Mutō Dori is the ultimate level of Budō and has nothing to do with the physical technique, it is an attitude. We know that “Kamaeru” means taking a stance, but it also means to “assume an attitude.” (4)
Thanks to my jetlag, I had time to think during the night, and I played with the concepts of Tai gamae and Kokoro gamae. Until yesterday I thought that “Kokoro gamae” was more advanced. I guess I was wrong. As a beginner, you learn that your body posture (Tai) can be different from your mental posture (Kokoro). Until last night this is why I was thinking. Sensei’s “one-body movement” lies above this dualistic vision. A holistic Tai gamae exists at the Mutō Dori.
The Yoroi teaches “One-body movement.” When you have Yoroi on, you have no choice, you have to be one. (5)
The more important lesson of Yoroi fighting is to learn how to walk correctly. The correct way of walking comes from the battlefield, thus walking is the secret of Mutō Dori. This is what I understood yesterday!
Walking is the secret origin of all martial arts. Fight efficiency is coming from your ability to walk. Remember that footwork is the essence of the Bujinkan and Budō.
Sensei’s movements are invisible because like a magician, what he shows is not what you have to focus on. He creates an illusion.
Do you want to understand Sensei’s techniques? It is simple, study the way he walks.
1. Buki 武器; weapon, arms, ordnance
2. Osaeru 押さえる
Here are the different translations of “Osaeru”:
a) to pin something down; to hold something down; to hold something back; to stop; to restrain; to curb esp.
b) to seize; to grasp; to arrest esp.
c) to gain control of something; to govern; to keep down (information); to suppress
d) to catch happening; to determine (important points); to find (proof); to understand
3. My friend Duncan explained in March that “Sensei control me, the moment he asks me to stand up and attack him.” I wrote about it in a previous entry here (March 2018).
4. Kamaeru 構える; to put on an air; to assume an attitude
5. Yoroi 鎧; Japanese armor