Read Between The Lines

“Kyojaku Jūgo Arubekarazu”
One must not depend on strength or weakness, or softness or hardness.
It is a sentence from Toda Shinryūken Masamitsu, Takamatsu sensei’s uncle. (1)
And Hatsumi Sensei repeated it once again in his last class when he was explaining the importance of moving slowly without stopping. Some Bujinkan members misunderstand the “moving slowly” for softness. That is not the case. By moving slowly, you control the movements of the attacker.
When you fight, you are one, the Ten, the Chi, and the Jin are united. Your actions become holistic in the sense that you now move as a whole. (2)
You can achieve this unity when your expression of the Tenchijin is not “3” anymore, but “1”. Once you are “1”, you can achieve “0.”
This is how I understand the “Kyojaku Jūgo Arubekarazu.” At this level of no-waza, there is nothing; you emit nothing, you have no plan, you are surfing the waves of Uke’s intentions without thinking. If you depend on those dualistic concepts of strong/weak; soft/hard; fast/slow, you cannot be zero. The control of the space is not even conscious; it is there because you manifest it by nor trying to do anything. Later during the same class, Sensei referred to Fudōshin: the state of nothingness is part of the control you impose to Uke. (3)
The zero state of Fudōshin is only possible when you disappear to yourself. Having no intention yourself, Uke is alone, fighting his self.
He is the question and the answer. The more he tries, the more chances you have to control his movements and his brain and to defeat him. You are in control, only mirroring and completing his actions.
Henka means “change”, but as Sensei explained, the word “Henka” is, in fact, two Kanji put together: “Hen” and “Ka”. (4)
They both translate as “change,” but Hen means the beginning of change, and Ka, the end of change. They complete themselves, like in-yō. There is no duality, only completion.
In other words, when you apply “Kyojaku Jūgo Arubekarazu”, you understand that Uke’s change (Hen) calls for your change (Ka). Uke begins, you finish. That is the nature of the control of space that we learn with Hatsumi Sensei these days in class. Here at the Honbu, there is a lot to learn, if you listen carefully and research the hidden meanings of the words and expressions used by Sōke.
As Sensei says: “Ninjutsu teaches you how to read between the lines”. Maybe it is time for you to begin to read the invisible.
1- Reminder for the newcomers on this blog. No, Toda wasn’t Takamatsu sensei’s grandfather but his uncle. The misunderstanding goes back to the beginning of the Bujinkan when a translator mistranslated Oji (uncle, 伯父) for Ōji (Grandfather祖父). Once again it shows the importance of the correct pronunciation.
4- Henka: 変化, change; variation; alteration; mutation; transition; transformation; transfiguration; metamorphosis​. 変 = beginning of change; 化, action of making something, end of change

Fun’Iki, Control The Environment

IMG_20170428_211146This year Mutō dori is about controlling Funiki, your environment.
During the class, Hatsumi sensei demonstrated it with Taijutsu, Tantō, Katana, and Naginata. Each time the Uke seemed lost and unable to get him. His main point today was that the weapon, or the lack of it, is not what truly matter. In fact, with or without a weapon, Sensei was moving very slowly, keeping a perfect distance with the opponent, who always ended up cutting, stabbing himself, or getting controlled. There was no fight, no opposition, Sensei’s movements were natural. From the outside, it looked like Uke was fighting alone.

Sensei demonstrated it with the Tantō, using a unique grip that let his Taijutsu play by itself.
You hold the knife reverse, hiding it under your forearm and use either the blade or the Kashira to get Uke naturally. (2)
The key, he said, is not to use the Tantō, and to let Uke cut himself in the process. Correcting a student he told her that thinking about cutting with the blade, created a Teko (3), a point of leverage and focus that the opponent can use against you. Sensei added that in the case of a small weapon, it had to be always hidden.
But when Uke finally sees it, the trick is to let Uke “think” the knife while Tori still ignores it and his mind is not trapped by it. Sensei added that when you want to cut or stab with your knife, you are creating a fixed point in your mind limiting your freedom of action.

With the Naginata; it was even more devastating. Sensei said that when using this weapon, your grip of the weapon should be loose and all the movements executed using Naname. (4)
My understanding is that the physical encounter is enough to cut the enemy, your body supporting the Naginata loosely on top of the forearm. Also, keeping the edge oriented at 45 degrees guarantees a cut when in close-combat. The cuts are done by walking the body around Uke. When he was demonstrating this, I had the feeling the Naginata was alive and moving by itself.

In a sword against sword encounter, he explained to move towards the attack, using the body to support the blade as a shield. With the weapons in contact use the joints to apply leverage. Grab the opponent’s sword and then slide your katana under his helmet.

Finally, in Taijutsu, Sensei reminded us to use our fingers as if playing the piano on Uke. Then one finger extended was often enough to overcome the adversary even when he was armed with a sword.

All these techniques that we did were practical applications of high-level Mutō Dori. Mutō Dori is entirely misunderstood. It is not what we learned at beginner’s level. Mutō Dori is done in every situation, with or without weapons. Because it is about controlling Fun’iki (1), the environment, the atmosphere.

When your mental presence is aware of everything and controls the space between and around you and the opponent, then defeat is never yours. (5) (6)

The essence of Mutō Dori is Fun’Iki, to control the environment naturally.

1. 雰囲気, Fun’iki or Fuinki, air, atmosphere, environment
2. Kashira 頭, the head/top of the weapon/hilt
3. 梃子, lever(age). Teko – lever, and Shiten – fulcrum are one the secrets of the Kukishin Ryū
4. Naname 斜め, diagonal, oblique
5. Sensei used the word Fudōshin (不動心) to express it. And many of his attackers today explained that they cannot get him because of his commanding presence.
6. 不動心, Fudōshin: a) imperturbability; steadfastness
b) cool head in an emergency; keeping one’s calm (e.g. during a fight)

Zero Style Budō

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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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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