Sōzōryoku: Creativity And Imagination

Noguchi sensei’s creative power is impressive! It is called “Sōzōryoku” in Japanese. Now, depending on how you write it, is (the power of) creativity (1); or (the power of) imagination. (2)

After training with him for more than 28 years, I am often surprised by his way of destructuring the Waza. This is still beyond my abilities. All the techniques we train in the dōjō are coming from the Densho.

Each class, Noguchi sensei read the technique as if it is the first time, and comes up with a new interpretation. Over the years, he has developed his own destructuring pattern. But I find the variations of these popular movements always surprising.

I guess this is due to the way the Japanese language plays with concepts and images instead of words, the way we do. By playing with the many meaning of one given set of kanji, you can come up with an infinity of interpretations.

For example, Sōzōryoku as “the power of creativity” is a mix of “genesis+create+power.” (3) (4) (5)
But when Sōzōryoku has the meaning of “power of imagination,” it is “idea+form.”
And with a Buddhist spiritual connotation, it becomes “perception+appearance.” (6) (7)
The many interpretations of the Kanji make Japanese more alive than western languages. In that respect, this is what makes Noguchi sensei’s taijutsu so playful.

Here are the definitions of the dictionary for creativity and imagination.
“Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new that has some kind of value. What counts as “new” may be about the individual creator, or to the society or domain within which the novelty occurs.”
“Imagination also called the faculty of imagining, is the ability to form images and sensations when they are not perceived through sight, hearing, or other senses. Imagination helps provide meaning to experience and understanding to knowledge. It is a fundamental faculty through which people make sense of the world, and it also plays a key role in the learning process.”

Creativity adds value and imagination makes sense. Both are the sources of Mutō Dori. You can see them as two legs, to walk you need both of them. And proper walking is the secret of Mutō Dori. Through creativity and imagination, we will be able to move like Sensei does.

The way Hatsumi Sensei and the Japanese Dai Shihan move, is the result of their fantastic ability to rethink the already known. Keep in mind that they have been repeating the same Waza for more than fifty years! And still, they surprise us every class.

So, remember that, next time your students (or yourself) complain about repeating the Sanshin no kata and the Kihon Happō.

Sōzōryoku is the real training, and the correct path to develop your own taijutsu.

1. Sōzōryoku 創造力; creative power.
2. Sōzōryoku 想像力; (the power of) imagination
3. 創 = genesis
4. 造 = create
5. 力 = power
6. 想 = conception; idea; thought . It is also “perception” for the Buddhists (Samjna)
7. 像 = image; picture; portrait , form; shape; appearance

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 “Sōzōryoku: Creativity And Imagination”

  1. … [John] Boyd had shown the West the possibility of adopting the Chinese way. Even though he did not know Chinese himself, he actively used changing metaphors, thought association, and forced analogies, which are commonly used in Eastern cultures, to make connections and explore for them in order to produce new ideas. The excerpt below demonstrates Boyd’s way and how it is different from the default mode of the West:

    [Boyd] called the Acolytes to discuss the meaning of a word for hours. “What do you see when you hear the word?” He asked. “What picture comes to mind?” It was an exasperating business. Boyd liked ambiguity, believing it opened new vistas and led in unexpected directions. Burton was uncomfortable with Boyd’s lack of fix. “You are taking advantage of the fact that words can have more than one meaning,” Burton said. “You are using words and ideas and concepts in ways that people don’t use those words and ideas and concepts.”

    Deciphering Sun Tzu: How to Read The Art of War by Derek M. C. Yuen pages 182-183

    I think you might enjoy that book.

    You might also enjoy Boyd : The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram. I usually tell people to start reading when he joins the Air Force. His childhood is not that interesting, IMO


    1. Thank you for your comment. I wrote a few posts on this blog using Boyd’s OODA loop theory and adapted it to the Bujinkan. Unfortunately I don’t remember when.


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