The Space Within


During the break, Sensei displayed a new katana. But unsheathing it, inside was a ninjatō. He told us that he was collecting a hundred of these ninjatō to make an exhibition. He said that he wanted to show the world of scholars how wrong they were. Truth is not in the books, it is in real life. A theory doesn’t supersede praxis. He then spoke about history.

“In history,” he said, “the names of the important players are often hidden. They are not forgotten. The ones we learn about in our textbooks, are there to help us not to forget, but they are not always the major ones. Important actions in life are being conveyed in the shadows”.

What you don’t see is superior to what you can. This is what differentiates the Omote from the Ura, exactly like in a technique. When Sensei moves, the things you see are not always what makes it possible. It is the invisible, the Kūkan, that gives life to the movements.

At the beginning of the class, Sensei spoke again about “controlling the space” with Mutō Dori. He said that we “do not have to control the space, but to control within the space.”

When you only control the space there are not so many options, you wrap the situation. But when your control applies “within the space,” you can create many actions. In an instant, you act on it, or not. Doing nothing is always a possibility. You are free in your body and your mind, everything is open, you are at the Ura level.

This is not the case with Uke. As he sees (or feels) what you can do, his mind is being trapped in an endless analytical process. The vast number of your possible reactions overwhelms him. His decision process is stuck at the Omote level. As a consequence, he can only react, too late, to what you are doing. When your control applies “within the space,” you are at the master of the game.

Whatever Uke tries to do, based on the Omote analysis of your actions, is visible to you. As you have no preconceived idea, your awareness is total. You see Uke’s reactions like waves you can surf when they unfold before your eyes.

During the class, Tezuka san launched a Tsuki with a knife to Sensei. Sensei stopped him with one finger to support him. He seemed like suspended in mid-air as if Sensei was “not there.” Sensei was not emitting anything.

Waiting for Sensei’s next move, he couldn’t carry out his attack to the end. Instead, he stood there frozen in time and space. When Sensei stopped supporting him, Tezuka san fell straight to the ground. It was like watching a Roadrunner cartoon. The coyote stays suspended in the air before dropping down from the cliff.

Tezuka san explained that he got locked there because he was unable to know or feel what Sensei was going to do next. And at the exact moment he made a decision to move, sensei “disappeared” and gravity took over.

In the dōjō as in our lives, we have to use the Ura more than the Omote. Remember that what you show is less valuable than what you are.

%d bloggers like this: