On the 28th of January 2014 we will be entering the year of horse of wood. This will be my third year of the horse in the Bujinkan like it has been the case on 27th of January 1990 and on the 12th of February 2002. I see this third occurrence as some kind of Sanshin.
Every year of the horse that happened always brought for me some major outbreak.
Horse 1990. This is the year when I came to Japan for the first time and I experienced this as an epiphany. Everything I saw during my first stay in Japan inside and outside of the dojo was like magic: to train with Sensei in Japan; to meet with the Japanese Shihan; and to discover Japan and getting a taste of true Japanese culture.
Horse 2002. With “Menkyo Kaiden” or 面 虛 怪 伝 as the yearly theme. Somehow the primitive magic of 1990 was gone but a new magic was arriving, a magic leaving the sole mechanical movements to enter something more mental, more spiritual. Techniques are easy but this evolution (revolution), this new paradigm was much more difficult and impossible to grasp. Menkyô Kaiden introduced us to a reality that existed behind reality; it introduced us to a 世界 sekai (world, society, universe) that existed only beyond the physical world. Please remember that 2002 was the last year of Budô Taijutsu and that Sensei was preparing us to grasp the pure magic of the realm of Juppô Sesshô opening in 2003. The year 2002 can be actually considered as Juppô Sesshô 101.
Horse 2014. I don’t know exactly why but I have the feeling that this new horse, will bring us another one of Sensei’s conundrums. And this transmission will undoubtedly bring us deeper into his magic. Trying to understand Hatsumi sensei’s Sekai through our occidental preformatted minds is useless and will never lead you to get the 極意, gokui (essential point, essence) of what he is showing and explaining.
The year of the horse in the Bujinkan reminds me of the story of the Kachi mushi, “the dragonfly holding the tail of the horse will travel further and faster”. This story has been repeated over and over by Sensei. This is a metaphorical story. The dragonfly never flies backwards and therefore was assimilated to victory by the Samurai. But in Sensei’s perspective, it is not only that but also that by training with him, we become this dragonfly and go further and faster at his running speed. We are the insects and Sensei/Bujinkan is the horse we are holding on to.
We have been holding the Bujinkan tail for many years now and with the help of Sensei’s unstructured system we have come to understand several sekai (worlds) of magic. But if Sensei is the horse and we are the insects, the “tail” is our excuse to evolve.
The tail is only a tool, don’t worship it. The Bujinkan is the tail, it is not the horse!
His magic is revealed and demonstrated in each class. But how many bujinkan members are really able to see that what he is teaching us goes far beyond a mere collection of waza and fighting skills? Not so many I guess and this is a pity.
But for those able to see, this is how we learned to see through the illusions of “reality”. The “real” world is not WYSIWYG, it is more like WYSIDNWYG (what you see is definitely not what you get)!
In fact what Sensei teaches is true genjutsu 幻術 (magic). Sensei used to repeat during class that we were all “doctors”, now I understand that we are all becoming “magicians” if we train properly under him and see the world through kanjin kaname 観 神 要 “to see the truth through kyojitsu”, the magical reality is ours.
Thank you Sensei for these magical gifts that you have displayed for us to take! I cannot wait for this new year of magical discoveries.
In my previous entry I tried to establish that Mutô and Butô were identical. As always I got messages criticizing the article I put online to share with the bujinkan community.
In his books, Hatsumi sensei is often playing with the various possible meanings of a given Japanese term.
Even though I tried to state it clearly, some were very critical about Mutô Dori not being only a technique done when you have no weapon. So here are a few more explanations that might shed some light to my previous explanations.
“Many people think that Mutô Dori is about the opponent wielding a sword while you have none, but this is not the case. Even if you have a sword, Mutô Dori starts with the development of the courage to face an opponent with the preparedness of not having a sword.
This means if you don’t thoroughly train in taijutsu you will not obtain the knowledge of the refined skill of Mutô Dori. Therefore, you must first know the purpose of the path of training. If you are unaware of this and proceed down the path of thinking that sword training is only about cutting and thrusting, then there is a danger that you will go down the path of the evil sword. The sword harnesses a pure essence that is life-giving – one who cannot live the way of the sword saint will foolishly think that the sword is only a tool for cutting. Those who do this can never achieve enlightenment.
The warrior’s heart is ruled by preparedness, and nature’s heart, or god’s heart, is fundamental. The heart also governs the warrior’s physical kamae. Therefore if there is no unity in spirit and body, you will never understand the reason for being a martial artist. You will leave no vulnerability or opening (suki) if you remain consistently prepared.(…)
Many people do not fully understand Mutô Dori, and believe it is simply the knowledge of defending against a sword attack, but I would urge you to understand that it is the mind and skill of disarming the opponent, whether they wield a yari, naginata, bô, shuriken, or gun.
You must understand the mind of “ten thousand changes, no surprises” (Banpen Fûgyô), and attain the knowledge of Mutô Dori in response to infinite variations.
Attaining knowledge of real Mutô Dori means you will earn the protection of the gods.”
I hope that this text clarifies definitely the previous entry of this blog.
The text above is taken word for word from Hatsumi Sensei’s book “Japanese sword fighting”, pages 64 and 65 (published 2005 by Kodansha).
We will cover this aspect of the Chinese Ken and Mutô dori Hiden during the next Yûro Shi Tennô Taikai in Paris. The taikai will be held as usual in Vincennes (Paris) from Friday 12th to Sunday 14th of July. If you feel like joining us, please register here
Studying the Bujinkan arts is like going back in time. In this respect the study of sword is typical.
Historically, the Chinese Ken evolved into the Tachi, that evolved into the katana.
In the Bujinkan we have always studied the sword but some years were specifically dedicated to it.
In 1996 we studied the kukishin biken jutsu.
In 2003, the shotô.
In 2004, the Kukishin again.
In 2010, the Tachi waza.
In 2013, the Chinese Ken.
As you know I am training and researching a lot to understand the theme of this year. The many hours spent so far with this new weapon lead me to find similarities between the ken, the hanbô and the Tachi.
The Tachi is the closest type of sword to the Chinese Ken that we have in the Bujinkan. surprisingly knowing Tachi waza was a great help to understand the basics of Chinese Ken.
The Japanese samurai were using the Chinese Ken at the origin but the development of horsemanship has created a need for a different weapon. They created the Tachi.
Tachi waza is one hand as the Ken is.
Tachi is used mainly to stab not to cut. Exactly like the Ken.
Tachi can change from right hand to left hand. The Ken too.
The Japanese developed the techniques from Ken to Tachi to katana but in the Bujinkan we are studying it reverse. Why is that?
My understanding is that the only way to be proficient with these weapons was to learn it that way. Going back in time allowed us to rediscover the reasons for which the movements were created.
Hatsumi sensei once again made it possible for us to increase or understanding if this fantastic. And he used the best approach possible: going back in time.
Learning the katana facilitates the learning of the Tachi.
Learning the Tachi facilitate the learning of the Ken.
Koimartialart just uploaded the Tachi waza online. The Kukishin and Togakure biken jutsu are also available there.
You want to be proficient with the sword? Good! Then study hard.
Knowledge comes only through and with physical training.
Whenever we are waiting or listening we naturally put ourselves in seiza no kamae. Over the years, this kamae has been assimilated and we do it without thinking. This is the objective we should have for every movement we learn in the dôjô; i.e. being able to do everything without thinking. By forgetting the self we forget the form and the flow is born.
One day I went with a buyu to attend a sadô seminar of the ura senke school in a Zen Rinzai monastery.
Even though we had explained to the superior priest and the sadô sensei that we were martial artists, our natural way of walking, kneeling, and standing was so natural that they suspected us from being sent by the Zen headquarters in Japan to check on them! Luckily we were not trying to infiltrate them like ninja.
The seiza 正座 or 正坐 (kneeling with the tops of the feet flat over the floor, and sitting on the soles) or the seiza 静座 or 静坐 (sitting calmly and quietly in order to meditate) are the same but differ in their meaning; the tai gamae (体構え) is the same not the kokoro gamae (心構え).
The first set of seiza is the one used in court when the samurai deserted the battlefields and the yoroi and began to live in the palaces. This is why one of the meaning of 正 is “righteous”. The second half being either 座 or 坐 and meaning respectively “cushion, seat, and “to sit”. From this we understand that seiza has the meaning of using the correct form of sitting 1) in general; 2) with a superior. It deals with the omote (表)
The second set of seiza is the one used in the temples for meditative purpose. The meaning of 静 is quiet, calm. Therefore “sitting quietly” can be done with or without a zafû (座蒲 or 坐蒲) and can be done even in fudôza (不動座). It deals with the ura (裏).
Technical tip: the left foot is on top of the tight foot to be able to draw rapidly the sword or to move from seiza to fudôza. Train these kamae.
I am just coming back from the Ayase class (exceptionally on Friday). The first class with sensei after four months of diet is always a good experience. Before the class I gave him his “official” Yûro Shi Tennô t-shirt made specially for him and he wore it right away. This is our little “post Paris Taikai ritual” that has been going on for a few years now.
As usual he asked me to open the class and we did a nice “flowing” movement receiving an attack in a very soft uke nagashi, moving uke off balance with the footwork, changing hand an ending in a sort of omote gyaku. No grab, no violence, only a nice nagare keeping uke in motion preventing him from attacking twice and taking his balance. On top of that sensei did it better with less movements and a better efficiency. I guess this is why he is the teacher and me the student. Every time I have the chance to demonstrate a technique I am always amazed at his ability to simplify my movements and to make it so good that I cannot reproduce it, even though it was my movement in the first place. I did three other techniques during the class and each time sensei was developing more flow by moving less. when you watch him moving you easily forget that he is over 80 years old. He looks like a young man!
His natural movement is really like “magic” as he is able to grab a form and to add life into it. When you are his uke you feel no danger at all and when he controls you on the ground he is hardly touching you, but you still cannot move. In fact this is not that you cannot move, you could but you do not want to move as if his presence manifested by a very slight physical contact was draining any intention of retaliation from your brain. All those who have had the chance to be his uke can tell you that. Power is expressed in such a subtle way that your decision process is blocked. In a way you feel so safe that you are not willing to move anymore.
Today during the class sensei covered many aspects of budô. He insisted on the importance of understanding the juppô sesshô to be able to fight without fighting and to be in control of the utsuwa (器 – ki) with our tamashii (魂 – kon). He didn’t use these terms from last year but this is the easiest way to express it. In one technique that I did that was ending with yoko nagare, he insisted that we move in a direction opposed to the other possible opponents. That is what I prefer in the bujinkan training. It is not only two fighters but always more than two fighting and our actions should unfold in a natural manner in order to stay protected in any directions potentially dangerous. The movement is limited and by using uke as a shield we are able to protect ourselves using our first opponent against his partner(s). This is to me the real difference between sport martial arts and true budô. In the bujinkan strength is not the point and violence is useless, the whole thing is to develop the correct attitude to help us flowing without thinking in the action.
The true movement is not a technique it is a response to a situation where no preconceived answer can be applied. Sensei insisted once again in not grabbing the opponent. When you grab uke you are actually showing your intention, grabbing yourself, and freezing your flow. This is why he insisted again in the juppô sesshô concept in the sense of “negotiating” (折衝 – sesshô) in all directions (juppô = 10 directions). On controlling uke he said that we have to control uke not with our strength but with our legs activating the kûkan (空間). The known concept of yubi ippon jubun (one finger is enough) to control uke was used extensively to create the sanken (a series of three hits) followed rapidly in different part of the body and to prevent uke from thinking properly or understanding what is happening. We did also techniques against kicks and used the kake taoshi hitting uke to sai with sokki ken. Once again sensei insisted that we hit with the body not the knee. He used the same explanation when controlling uke on the ground “choke him with kûkan” by using your legs.
Finally he referred to henso jutsu explaining that historically there were 7 ways to disguise yourself (cf. sarugaku, kumuso, yamabushi, hokashi, sukke, tsunegata, akindo). But this was for us to understand that we must adapt the techniques to the type of clothes worn by the opponent. Part of our study of budô should be dedicated to learn how to adapt a given technique to the type of cloth the opponent is wearing.
In conclusion quite a nice class full of tips and tricks to work on in the future weeks.
Tomorrow at lunch I am invited with a few other jûgodan in his second house. I will take a few pictures of Takamatsu sensei’s memorial and of the lunch and share them with you on this blog (hopefully tomorrow). Stay tuned!
One of my friends who has been living in Japan for many years told me once that sensei was not teaching taijutsu but mejutsu (eye technique). By training we learn to watch things differently, to think outside of the box.
For the last ten years I have traveled the world quite a lot from snow countries such as Canada, Finland or Sweden to hot countries such as Brasil, Mexico or India; and because what we are taught is to see through the appearances of things, I noticed that people do not walk the same. In fact we can say that depending on the ten, the way the jin use the chi is different.
Aruki waza is part of our basic training but not so many students try to understand the importance of it. The way you walk can save your life and the waza should adapt to the reality on the tenchi in which you are. To make myself clear I took a picture of my feet to illustrate this article. Footwork is the basis of the bujinkan taijutsu. We should see the foot as being divided into three parts related to the tenchijin: The heel is chi, the ball of the foot is jin, and the toes are ten.
When you move your feet on the ground this knowledge allow you to pivot from any combination of this 3X2 matrix. You can move tenten (toes/toes), tenchi (toes/heel), tenjin (toes/ball) etc. In fact you have 3² possibilities of walking. Now the interesting thing on top of that is the type of ground you are walking on. One day in Canada I noticed that the Canadians were attacking the ground “flat” with no unrolling of the sole (tenchijin as one). I confirmed this observation recently in Finland. A few weeks ago in the the Indian jungle we went to some kind of procession in a deep valley of the Nilgiri (the blue mountains of Blavatsky) and the tribal people we met were barefoot and were attacking the ground only in a chijin sequence, letting the toes coming long after ground contact. What I got from these two observations can be related to the Japanese and the funny ways they designed the waraji where the toes are out of the sole protection.
To synthesize, in snow countries we attack the ground as one, perpendicularly to avoid falling; and in hot countries we attack the ground from heel to ball to balance the footwork and ground our body.
The picture shows the diagonal heel/ball to learn how to walk correctly. But understand also that your way of walking is giving informations to your opponent. Last month I welcomed a new student in the dôjô and watching his footwork, even though I knew nothing about him, I told him that he had spent his youth in the mountains. You should have seen his face fullof astonishment when he said: “how do you know that?”
After this discovery I decided to change/modify my footwork and I trained walking in the streets, it changed totally the way I am balancing my body.
The bujinkan is not about techniques it is about learning to see.
Kan (勘 – perception) will lead you to become kanpeki (完璧 – perfect).
When you get attuned to the tachi, you discover that it is using the specificities of all the other weapons.
The tachi is a hanbô, a jo, a bô, a yari, a naginata … and sometimes a sword…
You lock the opponent like you would do with the hanbô,
You control the distances like you would do with the jo or the bô,
You stab like you would do with the yari, the naginata or the sword.
Like an hourglass, the tachi is the beginning and the end (in-yo) of our weapon training. All weapons lead to the tachi and the tachi leads to the understanding of a new training dimension for the weapons. The whole training of the past 18 years begin to make sense. We learned the ways of the weapons (1993-1997), then the ways of the taijutsu: taihen, dakentai, koppô, kosshi, jûtai (1998-2002), then the ways of the shin/kokoro with the juppô sesshô (2003-2007). Then it was menkyô kaiden, saino konki, and this year rokkon shôjô with the discovery of tachi waza mixed with happiness!
But the tachi (大刀) is also the tachi (質 – quality, nature of a person) and tachi (館 – a castle or a nobleman) so the choice of this weapon might actually be more profound than it seems and it might imply that the bujinkan has now reached the point where we can all become kishi (騎士 – knights) the archetype of the nobleman; or the kishi(旗幟 -flag, banner, emblem) of a new era in the development of mankind. Like the sand passing through the middle of the hourglass the triangle of man can link the opposite triangle of the divine: kanjin kaname.
In a few minutes we will begin our seminar in Bangalore on kukishinden ryû bô jutsu.
The kukishin bô is amazing and always a pleasure to rediscover: the kotsu, the kamae, the bô no uchi, the gogyô no bô, the three levels of shoden, chûden, okuden and the devastating keiko sabaki gata.
Bô jutsu is the essence of the long weapons in the bujinkan system. This is the entry gate of the sanshin of bô, yari and naginata. Rokushaku bô can be seen as reaching consciousness (roku = 6th = consciousness) through the bô linking heaven and earth. Maybe that is why we began weapon training in 1993 with the bô…
The weather is nice even though humid, the camera crew ready, the sticks polished, the 9 demons can enter now into the arena.
Those of you who have registered to www.koimartialart.com can now download a small MP4 or MOV movie (338Mo) about the tachi principles that we studied in Japan since January. This movie lasts 30 minutes.
Disclaimer: the techniques demonstrated are based on my interpretation and understanding of the tachi kumiuchi. It was recorded with a small camera it is not DVD quality but gives you tips & tricks on how to move your tachi.