The 改善 Kaizen of Charlie Chaplin

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Michael Glenn Holds Hatsumi Sensei’s Chaplin Caricature. photo by Lisa Peters

Hatsumi Sensei did a quick drawing of Charlie Chaplin for me. This was after he had just quoted Chaplin in one class at the Hombu Dojo. I even witnessed Sensei emulate the shuffling Chaplin “Little Tramp” walk with a pantomime cane when he was explaining how to walk in 義鑑流 Gikan Ryu.
This drawing that Sensei made looks cartoonish. But it contains a very deep insight for our Bujinkan training. This comes from a Chaplin quote that Soke is fond of. The quote that Hatsumi Sensei frequently refers to goes like this,


To paraphrase, a reporter asked Chaplin, which of your films do you consider the best? Chaplin replied, “the next one.” This means the one that hasn’t been created yet. Or as Sensei implies, the henka that hasn’t happened yet.
This concept in Japan is tied in with the idea of 改善 kaizen. or continuous improvement. You continually work, evolve, and change. Never stopping because the next one will always be better.
Hatsumi Sensei told us that this next one is the one you cannot see. It is shrouded like 幽玄 Yugen. Floating in a world of potential. Thus, it cannot be countered.
Soke described it further,

“It’s almost like a ghost or a ghoul. If you look at the classic films of Chaplin and the other mime actors, they’re creating that space. If you understand this, this will take you in a very different path in your long progression.”

He wants us to have that space in our movement. To be comfortable in not deciding anything. No technique. Just floating in that kyojitsu space that you create. This is a safe space for you, but deadly for your opponent.
Below the drawing of Chaplin that Sensei made for me, he wrote: 次 次 次 tsugi tsugi tsugi Next next next…


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