Robin Hood is famous for his archery skills, but when it comes to Bō Jutsu, he is clueless!
Everyone remembers the scene in every Robin Hood movie. Where Robin fights Little John with a Bō, across a river. Well, did you notice that they are only hitting the staff and not the hands of the opponent? This is often what you see on the mats. When two partners fight with swords, they only try to hit the weapon instead of the hands of the opponent. If you want to do that, then forget Budō, and go train Chanbara! (1) The Bujinkan teaches battlefield fighting techniques, this is not a sport.
In a recent class, Hatsumi Sensei said that “Controlling the weapon of Uke makes you control his body.” You control Uke not by hitting the sword, but by controlling the way Uke is wielding it. By doing so, you control all his body movements and can read his actions before he does them. This is another aspect of Mutō Dori.
When receiving an attack, you have three possibilities. You hit the weapon, the opponent’s body, or Uke’s hands. See that as another Tenchijin. On May 5th, Sensei said that “Mutō Dori is connected with the past, the present and the future.” (1)(2)(3)
The past here is the blade (delayed reaction).
The present here the hand (perfect timing).
And the future is the body (overdoing it).
Last year, Sensei explained that putting your blade on the fingers of Uke, you control his actions. You don’t need to cut deep into his flesh, micro cuts will be efficient. The reason why it is better to hit or slice the fingers is that they are accessible. The Yoroi doesn’t protect the tips of the fingers. If you go for the body, you need to enter the distance and take the risk of a counter attack. Also, hitting the body can only be in the unprotected spots. You need to be more precise and aim at the two Suki of the Yoroi: Butsumetsu or the neck (between the Menpō and the Kabuto). (4)(5)
When you place your sword on Uke’s Tsuka and the fingers, the momentum of his attack will get him injured. This is the easiest way to control him. The only thing you have to do is to be slow and lift the tip of your blade to meet the space where Uke will end. Perfect timing is crucial, and speed and strength will not help. They are counterproductive.
The Shintō religion has one word for that specific moment. And Sensei repeats it often, it is Nakaima, the middle of now. (7) Total awareness is being in a permanent present.
You can live in a permanent present can only if you let your body do the movements for you. With no preconceived intention.
Stop fighting like Robin Hood and Little John on the river, train like a professional. This applies to anyone because, in the street, there is no camera, and your nice patch will not protect you.
1. Chanbara: Check the link and don’t laugh. https://www.internationalsportschanbara.net/video/
2. 無剣取り過現未繋ぎます, Mutō dori kagenmi tsunagimasu
3. 過現未, Kagenmi: past, present, and future; three temporal states of existence
4. 繋ぎます, Tsunagimasu (Tsunagu): to connect; to link together
5. 面頬, Menpō: face guard
6. 兜, Kabuto: Helmet
7. 中今, Nakaima: the present (esp. as a privileged moment in eternity)
8. 中今, Nakaima: Definition