Nagare: Sanshin to Mushin


As individuals our actions have very little chance to change the way the Universe is running because Nature does not take our human desires into account.  The meteorite that crashed in the Yucatan 65 millions years ago might have been obeying the laws of the Universe, the dinosaurs didn’t agree with it crushing them all!

As we cannot influence what is outside our Body&Mind (B&M) complex/entity, we must recenter our actions for the exclusive benefit of ourselves by flowing and drifting aimlessly within (or on top of) the outside world. The B&M has to learn to achieve “total coordination” in order to develop this natural ability to flow.

The 流れ(flow, nagare) is more than a movement it is above all an attitude in Life, and this is exactly what I have  been learning during the last 26 years with Hatsumi sensei. We train to suppress the thinking and analytical process in our actions. This is the secret of Hatsumi sensei’s budô.

In a real fight if you are (body + mind + intention + analysis) you are dead . Fighting is about reacting without intention 無想 (musô), and not about having a perfect body shape, a fantastic mind, and a lot of intentions!

Our first objective is to find this unity and  instead of being three (body, mind, and consciousness) to become ONE. This unity is possibly achieved by training thoroughly the fundamentals and the basics of the bujinkan.

Unity is  結束 (kessoku) but the first kanji is 結 (like in yûgen) from which we understand that from the ONE we can find the invisible nagare and become ZERO.

When the practitioner reaches this level of “oneness” he gain access to the “zero state” of 無心 (mushin) he can flow without intentions on the stream of Life.

And the proof is that  無心, mushin has also the meaning of “innocence”, like the innocence of a 3 year old kid (cf. sanshin no kata). leads to mushin.

“3” becomes “1” and “1” becomes “0”

Simplicity is the Key to Elegance


One night during the 1997 Taikai in New Jersey Pedro and I were having some green tea with sensei in his room after a hard day training.  At one point sensei told us that he had taught us everything we needed and that from that day we had to get rid of all the small movements parasiting our taijutsu. That was 13 years ago and yet I consider that it has been one of the best lessons I received from him.

Each one of us does the movements with useless extra moves damaging or hindering the flow of our actions. My understanding today is that the objective of  taijutsu is to go towards simplicity and that by reaching simplicity we enter the world of yûgen, elegance. Actually the translation of yûgen 幽玄 is “elegant simplicity”. This is what sensei has been explaining recently concerning the wabi (佗) and sabi (寂) of the samurai. Instead of warriors we have to become true artists.

Wabi is defined as the “beauty to be found in poverty and simplicity” whereas sabi also translates as “elegant simplicity”! Therefore our movements should always be simple in beautiful to be efficient. Strength and violence are not necessary as they add useless intentions to our actions when fighting. Often when training I am amazed to see how the simplest action can lead to actual winning. Moving elegantly with simplicity opens up a new dimension of action out of regular time. When yûgen is achieved the timespace paradigm illusion disappears and uke‘s movements are perceived as if before he or she intended to do anything. Nature doesn’t believe in time, only humans. By transforming our perceptions beyond the human realm and becoming a tatsujin 達人 (a master, an expert) our “elegant simplicity” shines out and solve the problem at hand.

Our budô is much more than learning how to fight it is path teaching us to be simple and elegant. As we already stated here, yûgen also means what is not visible. Beauty is this subtle grace, invisible to the common people that transcends the form to touch the soul, tamashii (魂). Simplicity is the key to elegance.

“art is making the invisible visible” (Hatsumi sensei, honbu dôjô, April 2010).