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”.
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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Zero Style Budō
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,
Learn and study the Ryûha and the weapons,
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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