Adapt Or Die


adapt or die mockupI’m happy I have studied Ninpō Taijutsu for the last 36 years. Bujinkan trained me to be ready for the unexpected. Like the Black Swan (1), unexpected events occur. The pandemic blew out the world economy. Our way of life is badly hit, and many training halls had to close. Some of them will never reopen.

At the end of June in France, the government allowed us to go back to the Dōjō. With a mask and with little contact. Thanks to the Bujinkan wide range of possibilities, we’ve been teaching Bō jutsu (outdoor) for a few weeks. If it feels good to be back on the mats, but I’m concerned about the other martial arts.

If the Bujinkan is lucky, to have plenty of weapons to train. Gendai Budō (2) such as Jūdō, Karatedō, Aikidō, BJJ need physical contact. When they lifted the ban partly at the end of July, we went to train long weapons, outdoor. My Gendai friends couldn’t resume training, as physical contacts were not authorized.

You know how hard it is to have regular students in the Dōjō and to keep them. The pandemic might spell out the end of martial arts the way we know them. A large part of existing training halls will not reopen after the ban. And those reopening might also die by lack of adaptation.

If you read the “Spirit of Movement” (3), you know that, before entering the Bujinkan, I trained Jūdō for a long time. I let down Jūdō, and chose Bujinkan. I couldn’t learn two martial arts in parallel and manage my daily job. But some do that correctly like my Spanish brother, Juan Manuel Serrano. Not only is he a reputed Bujinkan Dai Shihan, but he also earns a 6th dan in Jūdō! And to achieve this rank in Jūdō is not easy. Even today, he continues to teach both arts at the same time. That’s impressive. During the pandemic, he was able to continue by teaching long weapons. But his fellow Jūdō teachers had to stay at home!

The Bujinkan teaches several qualities such as resilience, perseverance, and excellence. Three aspects impersonated by my friend Juanma. Budō training teaches to adapt and to accept change when it comes. Without accepting change, we cannot adjust our behaviours. Charles Darwin wrote that “It is not the strongest of the species that survives. It is not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” This could be a sentence said by Hatsumi Sensei during class.

In Japanese, “to adapt” is “atehameru”.

The essence of Bujinkan, Budō, and Life is adaptation.

Weapons, tactics, and mentalities evolved through centuries. Martial arts have always adapted to change. It would never have survived to the 21st century if the warriors didn’t welcome change. That is what Bujinkan is and what Bujinkan is teaching.

Today’s change is the “mask”. You don’t need to like it. Wear the mask, and get a new chance to adapt your behaviour to this unexpected situation. Just Do It!

Atehameru to atehameru (apply and adapt).

We are Togakure ninja. Therefore we have been wearing masks since 1161. Stop complaining and go back to training. The freedom you seek resides in your training.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Swan:_The_Impact_of_the_Highly_Improbable

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gendai_bud%C5%8D

3 “The Spirit of movement” exists in e-book or paperback depending on the language, if you are interested check it: ENGLISH, ESPANOL, FRANCAIS

4 当てはめる, atehameru: to apply, to adapt

adapt or die mockup

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Back to Panem et Circenses?


dan mockup (1)Are we Back to “Panem et Circenses,” the times of “Bread and Circuses” as exposed by Juvenal around two centuries before our time? It looks like it! (1)

This metonymy by Juvenal, a Roman satirical poet, was to show a population’s erosion, or ignorance, of civic duty as a priority. If people have enough food and enough entertainment, they don’t see their (civic) duty as a priority. That is what is happening today with the pandemic.

This world pandemic is impacting our daily lives in a way that no one could have predicted. Whether you believe in it or not, is irrelevant here. What is not, is how we react when facing a situation like this.

I see the pandemic as an opportunity for humans to change, adapt, and develop new behaviours. And what I see is different. We are moving backwards, not forward. While the world is changing fast, our actions are still pre-COVID ones.

Let me give you some examples. A majority of humans have now to wear masks. In a few weeks, it became a regular piece of clothing. Every day, millions of people on the planet are saying “Oh no, I forgot my mask again!”

When we did not have them, people were demanding more masks. Now masks are mandatory, and we have enough. And the same people are complaining again. They protest against the government because they feel their freedom is in danger. There is no logic.

What the Bujinkan teaches is to learn how to survive. It is not about judging others, and I am not trying to. But the pandemic forces our Society, as a whole, to evolve. That is why people’s expectations of “bread and circuses” are not helping. Being reluctant to change is not new.

A long time ago in Mesopotamia, the Sumerian put up the bricks of our civilization. (2) They were the first to invent writing. But when they decided to change the way of writing, things didn’t go without protests. (3) (4)
When the Portuguese landed in Japan in 1543, they were the first Europeans to set foot on the islands. (5) They brought the first set of muskets with them. That was a significant change for the traditional Samurai who rejected this new weapon. Fast forward, in October 1600, Tokugawa unifies the country with brilliant strategy and firearms. Traditionalists lost because they refused to change. Change is happening, and to survive, we must adapt to it, not reject it.
When Emperor Meiji got his power back at the end of the 19th century, he was breaking a rule dating back to 1185. That was not easy, but he did it. The famous Yamaoka Tesshu was also a man of change. (5)

The examples above show that change has to be accepted. Change is permanent and natural. When you refuse it, you stay locked in the past. If we have to wear masks today, it is not to lose our freedom, but to stay alive.

And if you think the pandemic is not real and reject the mask, you make other people nervous. If you don’t do it for yourself, you can do it for your fellow humans.

Personal freedom is vital for humans. It is not in danger because of a mask, some handwash, and social distancing. That is our civic duty to follow and respect the rules so that the majority can be or feel happier. As a Bujinkan member, my goal is to go with the flow, not to fight it. I suppose you are not interested in the immediate rewards of “Panem et circenses.” Because if you are, you might be betraying the Bujinkan teachings of Hatsumi Sensei. Is it what you want?

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1. Bread and circuses
2. Sumerians were counting in base 12, which is the reason why we measure time in multiples of 60. That is why there are 12 houses in the Zodiac.
3. The Sumerian people invented writing. They wrote from right to left and from up to down. Then a few thousands of years later the Akkadians, changed it to write on paper the same way we do.
4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuneiform
5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan%E2%80%93Portugal_relations
6 We covered the life of Yamaoka Tesshu and his achievements earlier on this blog.
7 More on Yamaoka Tesshu https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamaoka_Tessh%C5%AB

 

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