|Michael Glenn at 王子神社 ōjijinja, Mabashi, Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, Japan|
I wrote earlier this year about my experiences in Japan with the iconography of Aka-Fudō holding the 倶利伽羅不動剣 Kurikarafudō ken. Back then I was seeking to understand what felt like a bomb Hatsumi Sensei dropped in the middle of our taijutsu with one part of the Bujinkan theme for 2013, The 剣 Tsurugi/Ken.
This Chinese style sword holds lessons and qualities of movement that challenge what you think you know about Japanese martial arts.
So it was really a sweet surprise that just the other night, after 10 months of study with this weapon, I found a personal breakthrough in my movement with the tsurugi.
If you want to attempt what I discovered, try two things, one difficult, the other absurd. Or even better blend these two for the full madness that is the tsurugi.
剣 Tsurugi Madness Number One:
You see the pointy end of your ken? It is tiny and sharp. Let that one point become immovable. Just like the immovable spirit of 不動明王 Fudō Myō-ō, it will occupy the kukan and expand out from its physical position to embrace all the combatants.
Then you pivot around it. This is like 要 kaname that Soke taught us about last year. The confusing part comes when you learn that this still, immovable point doesn’t have to stay fixed in space or time. This feels like a contradiction but isn’t.
剣 Tsurugi Madness Number Two:
When you embrace that previous contradiction, then you let the sword shatter stillness. As I wrote recently in my training notes, at that moment, all hell breaks loose when the ken flashes and writhes through the kukan from one point to another. To manage this, you must embody 不動心 fudōshin.
Not many people know fudōshin in the midst of combat. It is hard enough to do just sitting in meditation, without someone fiercely trying to gut you. But I think the power of the tsurugi doesn’t just require it, it causes it.
When Fudō Myō-ō wields the Kurikara ken, he is cutting through ignorance with wisdom. I must really need to swing that sword around a lot. Lucky for me, Fudō Myō-ō is the patron of people born in the year of the rooster. And so I was.
Here is the Fudō mantra if you want to say it while cutting through ignorance with your sword:
なーまくさーまんだーば さらなんかん Naamakusaamandaaba saranankan
Don’t ask me how to pronounce it, I think I need more training.