Mitei: Undecided

Since last January, Hatsumi Sensei repeats that our actions are “undecided.” In Japanese, the term is “Mitei.” It can be translated by “untruly” or “uncertainly. (1)

In a fight, you will either lose or win, but you will know the outcome only at the end. You cannot decide it. As westerners, we are programmed by our educative system not to be undecided. And Rene Descartes, the French philosopher is the one to blame for that!

He wrote “I did not imitate the skeptics who doubt only for doubting’s sake and pretend to be always undecided. On the contrary, my whole intention was to arrive at a certainty, and to dig away the drift and the sand until I reached the rock or the clay beneath.” From there comes our problem.

“To decide” comes from the Latin “decidere.” It is made of “de” (privative) + “caedere” (to cut). It implies the act of choosing by “cutting” the wrong choices.

Once again this is what we learn in school. We train ourselves not to doubt, and to always “know with certainty.” This type of reasoning applies perfectly to non-animated objects, but not for humans. (2)

In a fight, we do not choose the actions of the attacker. We only adapt our reactions to the situation, like a surfer on a wave.

When Sensei reacts to an attack, he doesn’t know what he is going to do next. He lets the body do it. This is why he often says “I don’t do the same movement twice,” nature cannot be tamed.

He doesn’t make any choice before the movement, as he is always reacting with a natural flow. The brain (thinking process) is not part of it.

Understanding that, is understanding how to control Uke. The control of Mutō Dori is not something we “decide,” it naturally manifests itself. The control is not mechanical, it is total, and includes everything. The control is coming from outside.

Sensei uses only the word “control” in English, instead of the Japanese word “Seishi.” This is because Seishi is more physical and does not imply the non-physical world. (3)

The control of Mutō Dori can exist only when our actions remain undecided. The moment we “decide” to do any movement, we lose the ability to control the attacker.

Mitei, indecision, is a necessity to achieve full control. By full control, I mean the attacker and the space between and around us. This concept of “control” is not coming from the west, is it Japanese.

To improve our Budō, we have to behave and think like a Japanese, it is Seishi, a matter of life and death!

So, decide to be undecided!

1 未定 / mitei not yet fixed; undecided; pending
2 We have the same problem in the “discourse on the method.” It works perfectly for objects but has to be adjusted when dealing with humans.
3 制止, seishi: control; check; restraint; inhibition
4 生死, seishi: life and death, Samsara

Organized Chaos


The first class with Sensei in Japan is always particular. Whatever my expectations are, this is still something different that I find.

In that respect, this first class with him was no different.

Similar in appearance, they are not. Sensei’s classes are like fireworks, it is beautiful, powerful and always different.

Because Sensei’s Budō is unpredictable, yet always the same.
This is “order in a clear disorder,” it is like fireworks.
It is 新設の乱, Shinsetsu no ran, organized chaos. (1) (2)

Mastering the organized chaos is the type of control we are learning this year. Control applies to the whole situation. It encompasses the opponent, but also the space between the players; and the space around them. As Sensei keeps repeating, “the Bujinkan is no sports.” This is about survival at war.

And do not limit the meaning of “war” to the sole military. War is something we face every day. Surviving is not becoming “Rambo,” it is able to survive our everyday problems. Ran are war and chaos, and it is everywhere. But the most important is how we respond to it.

We confront daily situations that are difficult to control. This is Muchitsujo, disorder. (3) Our goal is to change that. In a real fight, at the office, at home, or at school; our interactions with the others are a permanent battle. We are humans, and this is how we deal with adversity. The control we seek in 2018 when achieved, frees us from all trouble. Controlling our life, and our actions is a way to be one with nature.

But Muchitsujo (3) is not a curse, it is a fantastic chance to find control. Because without the disorder, there would no order. Without adversity or risk for our integrity (physical or mental), we would die. This is Howard Bloom exposes in “Lucifer Principle” (1995). (4)

Bloom “argues that social groups, not individuals, are the primary “unit of selection” on genes and human psychological development. He states that both competitions between groups and competition between individuals shape the evolution of the genome. Bloom “explores the intricate relationships among genetics, human behavior, and culture” and argues that “evil is a by-product of nature’s strategies for creation and that it is woven into our most basic biological fabric.” It sees the selection (i.e., through strong competition) as central to the creation of the superorganism society. The Lucifer Principle shows how ideas are vital in creating cohesion and cooperation in these pecking order battles.

The Dōjō is this “magic space” where, as a group of individuals, we can learn and experiment the reality of chaos. There we learn how to control chaos and to be in communion with nature. Sensei’s teachings are way beyond the simple mechanical movements of martial arts. What he teaches is a Budō of life. And the way to get immersed in this Budō of life is by studying the cause of chaos, and to put order into it. Control is teaching that.

When you train in Japan, you learn control, and how to evolve from Michitsujo to Chitsu, from chaos to order. (5)

Then Shinsetsu no Ran becomes only Shinsetsu. (1)


1 新設, shinsetsu: organized
2 乱, ran: revolt; rebellion; war
3 無秩序/muchitsujo/disorder; chaos; confusion
5 chitsu 秩序/order; discipline; regularity; system; a method