Thank You For The Gift!


The Daikomyō Said is always a magic moment in the life of the Bujinkan. This year was no exception.
The format has evolved over the years. Training halls have changed many times until there were no halls and no training sessions.
The formal dinners at the Hilton or the Noda Park hotel, replaced the open party at the Honbu until there was no more dinner.
Today, there are regular classes followed on Sunday by a small lunch party. And this is fine because the feeling is still the same.

Daikomyō Sai is not only about Budō, but it is also more about respect Kumite. Apart from the techniques taught during this period of the year, this is the chance to spend some quality time with friends from all over the world, around our Sōke, for his birthday.

Every year the group gathering in Atago is about the same. Sensei has created a formidable group of friendship where borders don’t exist anymore. This is really a very special moment for all of us. This year again, many made the trip for Sōke’s birthday.
Moti from Israel; Sheila, Jack, Jay, Michael, Phil, Par, Ed, Doug from the USA; Juan-Manuel, José and Rosa from Spain; Peter from the UK; Koosje  from the Netherlands ; Laszlo from Hungary; Oliver, Stefen and Jacqueline, Michael, Alexander, Raphaëla, Simon from Germany; Christian from Argentina; Lubos from the Tchech Republic; Lauri from Finland; David from Colombia; Harry and Adonis from Greece; Faraji from Iran; Jorge from Chile; Ole from Denmark; and many others. Sorry for the many names I forgot, and for the students that made the trip to the Honbu this year. But thank you all for being there.

During his birthday speech, Sensei said the Bujinkan has spread a lot in the last 42 years of its development. Today the Bujinkan regroups more than 500000 practitioners worldwide.
Sensei went back on the “42” cycle. When Takamatsu Sensei told him “I taught you everything” back in the seventies, Sensei said that he had no clue at all. But after “teaching for 42 years what he didn’t understand, I now know what he meant at that time”.

We are beginning the third part of the Sanshin. And he is confident that the next 42 years will be good. (1)

Being now 85 years old, he has covered two “42-year cycles”. The third period of this Sanshin cycle is beginning, and that it is our responsibility to take over, and to bring it to the next level.

Later, he added that “we now have over 450 Jûgodan and 4200 Shidōshi (another 42) in the Bujinkan, I’m confident that within this vast group, many good men and women will continue to walk the path initiated with Takamatsu Sensei”.

“Ichigo Ichie” (2) he added, “it’s not an issue of time, but moments in time, a continuation of moments. I have a happy life. Enjoy your life, enjoy those moments, and don’t think so much”, were his words of conclusion.

Thank you Sōke for the gift!

__________________
1. Sensei likes to play with numbers. He was 42 when Takamatsu Sensei passed away. He taught us for 42 years since. Now that he is 85, the third “42-year cycle” begins. For the twisted like myself I would add that 42 = 6. 3 x 6 = 18. 18 = 9. Everything is in order.
2. 一期一会/ichigoichie/once-in-a-lifetime encounter (hence should be cherished as such)

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The Depth of Quality


When put in jail in Japan after the war, the famous German Zen philosopher, Karl Durkheim, had time to meditate.
One day in this cell, his hand on the table, he understood that “the depth of a quality, is related to the quality of the depth.”

This sentence is what came to my mind today when attending Senō sensei’s class. The quality of his movements is so subtle that it is impossible to get them from the Omote. With Liz, a  Canadian and Japanese resident, we had to feel the techniques at least ten times to begin to understand the Ura.

When you are his uke, there’s no strength at all. It is like fighting a cloud. You are trapped softly, as is he was not there. At some point, he quoted Hatsumi sensei repeating that you have to “throw yourself away”. To disappear. Becoming zero is the only way.

We did many similar techniques today. I’ll try to share one of them here. You receive uke’s attack softly with the arm, the thumb protruding at the triceps level. Then you twist slightly your forearm which in turn locks uke’s wrist. The ability to keep a relaxed body is important, and this twisting of the limb, so typical is Senō sensei’s movements is a major part of it. When the is no tension in your body, each part of your anatomy can move freely and independently. There is no intention at all. This is zero.

The movement is so soft that the attacker has no knowledge about it. After receiving the attack (ukeire) (1), entering with your leg in a sort of Ô Soto Gake, you threaten his face with the top of your elbow and wrap/rotate uke’s shoulder with your open hand flat on the shoulder blade. Uke doesn’t know he is trapped before it is too late. His spine is composed, and he flies away with no force at all. Naturally.

Senō sensei’s explained that the “gake” was different from the usual one (2). Here, the idea is to suspend the opponent between two points, so that he is never aware of what is happening to him (3).

Another important aspect is the rhythm of your movements. Senō sensei’s spoke of Jiki, the time between the steps. Like when you are playing music, rhythm is vital. A technique is not flat. There is a tempo. Going too fast or not respecting those breathing moments will prevent your actions to be efficient.

That was another great class. When you have the chance to train at this level, you understand how foolish it is to train fast, using speed and strength. Softness is much more efficient. It is the only way to reach the quality of Budō you’re striving to achieve.

“the depth of a quality is related to the quality of the depth”.

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1. Ukeire: see previous posts
2. 翔る/kakeru/to soar; to fly|to run; to dash
3. 架ける/kakeru/to suspend between two points; to build (a bridge, etc.); to put up on something (e.g. legs up on table)
4. 時期/jiki/time; season; period; phase; stage

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On Asobi, by Magnus Andersson


saitama-8
Playful warriors

Another interesting comment on Asobi by Magnus Andersson.
Thank you for your comments.

For what it’s worth here are my thoughts on asobi. Feel free to use it or dismiss it.

The concept of asobi which Hatsumi sensei use from time to time can easily be dismissed as children’s play or play with the technique in a light-hearted manner. However, it can be more serious than that. To use asobi in the context of a battlefield martial arts should be interpreted in a different way, I believe.

It is not child’s play but rather the activity between reality and unreality, between the real and the unreal. It’s in a way Kyo Jitsu.

When taking a look at the kanji for asobi 遊, we find that the original meaning is also “to wander” or “to go a distance”. Another meaning is “to freely wield (a sword)”, and it is also the very verb (to “play”) that the Chinese use in the idiom “yóurènyǒuyú” which means “to do something skillfully or with ease” or “to move skillfully or easily”.

So could it be that Hatsumi sensei is knowingly or unknowingly asking us to go through the training with skill and to explore the real and unreal in our movement to be able to move more freely and without any preconceived notions? We most certainly need to aim for zero and become one to make it happen.

It could be farfetched, but I don’t think we can afford to take his “play” as anything, but seriously if we want to evolve. I believe you wrote a few years back on your blog that sensei wants us to be “seriously” playful. Could this be what he meant? I leave it to you to figure it out

I know that you and Hatsumi sensei like to play with words, so I leave you with this little pun based on the kanji for asobi…. It is better to be serious in your training and be a yūshi 遊子 a wanderer (of the path) than becoming a lighthearted yūshi 遊士 (a playboy)

Have a pleasant evening.

Tama, The Sphere Of Zero


img_20161201_120325Gyokko Ryû is an excellent school, profoundly related to the new theme for 2017 of “controlling the space”.

Let me explain. In Sensei’s last class, he spoke about Tama, the Sphere. Tama is also read Gyoku, and Gyoku is the “pearl” find in the name Gyokko. (1)

We read on the Internet that Gyokko is the “jewel tiger”. This is incorrect, Gyokko is the “tiger Pearl” or the “Tiger sphere”.

When we say “zero” we see a circle. But what if “Zero” is not a flat circle, Maru (2), but in fact symbolises the sphere of the controlled space that Sensei is speaking about?

We leave the world of the second dimension of Nijigen no Sekai for the Sanjigen no Sekai, and the sphere of controlled space is created. (3)

My feeling is that this is what Sensei wants is to understand. We are at the centre of this sphere, this is why “zero” he keeps saying that “zero” is not empty.

But as it is often the case in Japanese, there’s more.

Zero is also Mu (4), and Mu is nothingness. Nothingness is the secret to playing in the controlled space. In this space, everything is possible because we are not emitting anything. We are Mushin, free from obstructive thoughts. (5). We do not try to win, we play with the attacker’s intentions. This is Asobi, being playful. (6)

While walking in Kashiwa yesterday, the sign “OIOI” caught my eyes. “OIOI” is a Japanese department store on the platform next to the station. It is pronounced “Marui, marui”, spherical. (7)

Was it a sign from the gods?

___________________
1. 玉/tama/ball; sphere; globe; orb|bead (of sweat, dew, etc.); drop; droplet|ball (in sports)|pile (of noodles, etc.)|bullet|bulb (i.e. a light bulb)|lens (of glasses, etc.)|bead (of an abacus)|ball (i.e. a testicle)|gem; jewel (esp. spherical; sometimes used figuratively); pearl
2. 〇/maru/circle (sometimes used for zero)|’correct’ (when marking)
3. 二次元/nijigen/two dimensions vs 三次元/sanjigen/three dimensions; three-dimensional; 3D; 3-D|(joc) real world; IRL (in real life) +
世界/Sekai/the world; society; the universe|sphere; circle; world|renowned; world-famous; well-known outside of Japan|realm governed by one Buddha; space
4. 無/mu/nothing; naught; nought; nil; zero|un-; non-
5. 無心/mushin/innocence|free from obstructive thoughts
6. 遊び/asobi/playing|play (margin between on and off, gap before pressing button or lever has an effect)
7. 円い/marui/round; circular; spherical|harmonious; calm

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Zero Style Budō


img_20161125_202433
A bear carving of 1947

The last class with Hatsumi Sensei was so intense that I dreamt of it all night long. In my dreams, what he showed and taught made more sense, I will do my best to explain now what I got out of it.

To control the space with mutō dori, you have to be zero.
To be zero, you have to be one.
To be one, you have to be complete.
To be complete, you have to be sanshin (3).
To be sanshin, you have to know your basics.
To know your basics, you have to enter the dōjō.

When we begin our training, we are formless. We have expectations and no knowledge. The teacher shows the basics, and with practice, we are starting to move in the appropriate form. Then we have to acquire the basics of the Tenchijin.
When we begin to understand the simple complexity of the Tenchijin we are three. This is the sanshin of the Ten, the Chi, and the Jin. There is no unity yet in our movements, and our taijutsu looks like robotic movements. With time, the differentiation of the three parts of the Tenchijin vanishes, and we start having a more unified way of moving.
When this process is complete, we can enter the world if the Ryûha and to study the weapons. After some time, we mix the Waza, the Buki, the basics, and a nice body flow emerges. We are complete.
But the hard work doesn’t stop here, as it is only the beginning. Give it a little more time, and you become “one”. Only when this state of “being one” is achieved, that you can start the long path of becoming “zero”.

It is a long process because you have to get rid of everything you have learned to be “zero”. Sensei said that “there are no techniques”. What I understood is that at this level, techniques are useless, you have to forget them. And you can do that only because you spent at least twenty years learning them (1). Again, you can only forget something you have learned.

Gradually, you can become zero and ride on uke’s intentions. Because you have no expectations, because you do not try to win, you are in control of the space. Uke’s attacks originate from the same point in space that you can now clearly see. Controlling this point defeats uke. Sensei said that whether attacks using taijutsu or weapons, there is a common point, and it is always the same. As you fill the space of battle, you can see this point. Control it, and things are easy. Sensei insisted twice on the importance of Kokyû, respiration. (2) He said that if you are out of breath at the end of the exchange, it is because you are still trying to do something. But you don’t have it.

When you are finally capable to ride uke’s attacks, to dodge them, and still be relaxed, it is the proof that you are zero.

Once again here is the path to follow:
Learn and study the basics,
Learn and study the Tenchijin,
Become three.
Learn and study the Ryûha and the weapons,
Become One.
Unlearn and forget everything,
Be Zero and control the space.

“Zero is not empty. There’s a point in the middle”, Hatsumi sensei, July 2016.

________________
1. I write “twenty years” here, but it might be thirty. In just beginning to grab it after more than thirty years in the Bujinkan. But I guess some are more gifted than me. On the other hand, if you have been training less than twenty years, and have achieved a high rank in the Bujinkan, I am confident that this will require some more years of training. Rank doesn’t mean competence.
2. 呼吸/Kokyû /breath; respiration|knack; trick; secret (of doing something)

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Kawasu: Chatting With Uke 



I feel gifted to have access to so many fantastic teachers when I train in Japan. But I feel even luckier when I have two classes in a row with the same master.

That was the case yesterday as Senō sensei opened the Sunday training after teaching us on Saturday. When we teach, we often keep unfolding the same idea over a few classes. The Japanese Dai Shihan do the same.

Yesterday, Senō sensei continued with the Binkan concept (1) he taught on Saturday.

Budō is about developing this sensibility in the middle of the encounter. When your six senses are in tune with the opponent, then your body reacts without thinking. This sensitivity begins with your ability to detect the enemy with your skin, binkanhada (2).

This is why when we move we have to keep the body relaxed. The less tension we put in the body, the better we feel the other’s intentions. When this feeling extends to the whole body, this is Taikan (3).

Taikan doesn’t only concern the bodily sensation; it is also the result of your experience. We know it because all of us have already experienced it before. The more you train, the better you can “sense” uke’s movements. Sometimes it feels that time is slowing down.

This ability to sense the opponent doesn’t come overnight. It is something, like the Sakki test, which builds up gradually. One day you have it. It is something you acquire with consistent training and study. Some practitioners will develop it in twenty years, others in thirty years. But at some point, I believe that everyone training seriously within the “Bujinkan borders” will get it (4).

At the end of the class, Senō sensei explained that in the time and space where the exchange is happening, Uke and Tori are exchanging: this is Kawasu (5).

I see Kawasu be similar to modern chatting. When you chat with a friend, each one writes in turn, and exchange ideas. But as you have all experienced, due to the speed of writing, there are moments where ideas get mixed up. Your answers come too late; your correspondent is already speaking of something else. And it gets hard to follow.

When this is happening you get this type of exchange:

– uke: how are you?
– Tori: excellent. What about you?
– uke: I’m going shopping.
– tori: maybe we meet there?
– uke: I had a bad night.
– tori: I must get some fruits.
– uke: I think I ate too much yesterday.
– tori: I have to eat healthier.
– uke: when?
– tori: every day.
– uke: no, I meant when do we meet?
Etc.

At some point, each one is following his train of thought and doesn’t listen to what the other is writing.

The same thing happens during the exchange/fight with the opponent. If Uke attacks, we should not try to put our intention in the exchange, but sense him with Taikan, and go with the flow until we can defeat him.

Kawasu is an important part of the fight and will benefit us, as long as we don’t try to impose anything on the opponent. As Hatsumi sensei says “be zero, don’t do a technique. Anyone can do a technique and therefore, becomes visible. Be unexpected”.

The best way to be unexpected is to develop sensibility.

_____________________

1. 敏感/binkan/sensibility; susceptibility; sensitive (to); well attuned to

2. 敏感肌/binkanhada/sensitive skin

3. 体感/taikan/bodily sensation; sense; experience

4. Bujinkan borders: to me, the Bujinkan is a complete system that doesn’t need extra “add-ons” from other fighting systems. Teachers that are adding MMA, or sports-like techniques to the Bujinkan syllabus, are missing the point. The Bujinkan is perfect in itself, anything you add, proved your lack of competence. Would you put a Mp3 player inside a guitar? No. Don’t cross the “border” before you understand all that you have to understand.

5. 交わす/kawasu/to exchange (messages, greetings, arguments, etc.)|to intersect; to cross; to interlace|… with one another; … to each other

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Using Tōate To Control Space


img_20161125_210544_1Sensei speaks a lot about controlling these days (see previous entry in this blog). But during his last class, he detailed it a little more.
Controlling the space in Mutō Dori should be the theme of the study for next year, he said, this is why I will try here to share with you what I understood.

The control he is speaking about is the control of space with Mutō Dori. Technically, it is the theme of this year with a deeper understanding. Managing the space is mainly done with the legs. As always, footwork is important.

Proper footwork will give you the perfect distance needed to control the space. Not too far, and not too close.
This control is done at the physical level as well as the mental level. Sensei spoke about Tōate a lot during the class, in both taijutsu and weapons. Tōate is the ability to influence uke’s perception by throwing your determined mental attitude onto him (1). Tōate impacts uke’s perception of distance and gives Tori more space to move during the exchange.
This way of controlling affects the space at the physical level but also the attacker’s brain. Uke’s senses are unable to deal with the movements he perceives.

Sensei insisted that to control uke, you have first to control yourself. To control yourself you must be “zero and one” at the same time. You emit nothing, and you have no preconceived idea of what to do. You are “one”, body and mind, and you move freely, surfing on the movements of the opponent in this controlled space you have generated. The outcome of the encounter doesn’t matter. It is irrelevant. Sensei said that at this level “there are no techniques” (2). It is the flow of your movements that make things turn out positively for you. Controlling the space in battle, you also control the time within this space. You react swiftly but without any precipitation.

You occupy the space with your body, walking around uke to create the perfect distance. You shouldn’t be focused on ending the technique, simply the first step matters.

When space is controlled, then your Taijutsu and your techniques with weapons are the same. This is the superior level of Mutō Dori.
In a sword against sword attack, Sensei said you block by avoiding only, with body movement (footwork). “Don’t do sword techniques” the waza will pop up and apart into the controlled space by itself.
Later, against a Dō kiri knife attack, the Kaeshi was simply to hit happa Ken on the driving hand. Timing and distance were paramount.

This ability to control the space of Mutō Dori was hard to get. I hope that in the next classes, I will be able to get a better feeling about it.

Stay tuned.
_____________________
1. 投/tō/throw/ (Kun-Yomi = nage) +
宛/ate/aim; object; purpose; end|expectations; prospects; hopes|something that can be relied upon
2. When sensei says there are no techniques, it didn’t mean you don’t have to learn them. This is a common mistake amongst young teachers. Forgetting the techniques means that you spent time learning them. The only way to forget something is to have learned it in the first place.

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JISEI: CONTROL


20130505_175906_13

When I arrived in Kashiwa yesterday, I met my friend Philippe from France, and his students for dinner.

They have been here for a few days now, and speaking of sensei’s latest classes; Philippe said that Sensei was emphasising a lot about control.
During the last years, we’ve been mainly focusing on zero and Mutō Dori. How can we link these concepts to self-control?
As always in Japanese, there are many words to express “control”, but Philippe explained that Sensei was referring to self-control.
When we parted, I tried to put some thinking to it. As I have not attended any class yet, the following is only possible interpretation.
Amongst many other meanings, self-control can be either Kokki (1), Gaman (2), or Jisei (3).
Kokki only means “to overcome the self”. Gaman goes a little deeper adding to it the Bujinkan concepts of patience, endurance, and perseverance.
But the one that makes more sense to me is “Jisei”.
Jisei with the idea of self-restraint seems to be the summary of Kokki and Gaman. By adding the idea of self-restraint, you are zero. Like in the Mutō Dori, you are in control of yourself. You do not emit intention; you monitor the situation until it is time to react, and you do so by not overdoing it. In Jisei, you are “zero and one”. Remember what sensei told us last July “zero is not nothing”, well, my guess is that this Jisei state is exactly that. Your attitude is matching uke’s intentions, and like with Ishitobashi (4), the skipping stone, you surf on uke’s movements until you finish him. It requires a lot of self-control to do that.
You act like a magnet, invisibly pulling uke into your reality, to destroy him.
Jisei (the control you have) is the result of Jisei, your magnetism (5). Remember that magnetism is one of the three aspects of the Gyokko Ryû.
Anyway, I’ll know more tonight when I go to train at the Honbu.
___________
1. 克己/kokki/self-denial; self-control
2. 我慢/gaman/patience; endurance; perseverance; tolerance; self-control; self-denial
3. 自制/jisei/self-control; self-restraint
4. 石飛ばし/ishitobashi/skipping stones (on a body of water); skimming stones
5. 磁性/jisei/magnetism
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DŌSHIN IKKAN SURU


doshinAs often, before I return for training in Japan, I like to read the notes taken during previous trips. I don’t understand everything that I wrote, but I’m not the only one.

So, I was reading notes taken in July 2014 during my 55th trip.

In one class Sensei spoke about Dōshin Ikkan Suru or “keeping/ make everything with a child mind”. (1)

Dōshin Ikkan Suru is another way to express the Sanshin of a 3-year old kid (2). If there is one secret in the Bujinkan, well, this is that. When you move with a child mind, you do not think; you only react to the outside. In fact, you do not know what you will be doing next. When you reach this state, you are “zero”.

Zero, as Sensei explained last August, zero is not nothing, it is full. To be entirely yourself you have to be empty and have no intentions. Zero is the secret. It is not hidden. It is right in front of you, but you don’t see it because you “want” to do a technique; because you “want” to win. There is no such thing as winning or losing repeats Hatsumi sensei quite often. Many practitioners hear it, but they don’t get it. (I’m not saying it is easy though)

This Dōshin Ikkan Suru is the key to the Mutō Dori of this year. “Sanshin”, “zero”, “no intention”, is the result of your evolution as a martial artist, and as a human being. Values like honesty, resilience, commitment, honour, morality are the aspects of your Budō personality. Maybe this is why Sensei used this secret formula of “Dōshin Ikkan Suru”. Because when you change the Dōshin 童心 for Dōshin 道心, the sentence then become “keeping/ make everything with a moral sense”. (3)

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1. Dōshin 童心, child’s mind; childlike innocence; naivete / Ikkan 一貫, consistency; coherence / Suru 為る, to do, to make,
2. 三心 mind, heart, spirit; by extension, the mind of a 3-year old
3. Dōshin 道心, moral sense

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KUMA SEMINARS 2017


SEMINARS

achs2016.jpgDear friends, I just created a new website where to find my next seminars for 2016 and 2017.

This year again, I will be travelling a lot.

Tokyo (3 times), Dubai (2 times – UAE), Paris (5 times), Annecy (FR), Bangalore (3 times-  IN), Berlin (GER), Gottingen (GER), Budapest (HON), Buenos Aires (ARG), Fortaleza (BR), Bogota (COL), Lugo (SP)…

This list is not complete and more dates will be added soon.

SEMINARS