|Kashiwa Annex Frosted Window, photo by Michael Glenn|
Bujinkan fighting is an illusion. You will never find two witnesses of a fight who see the same thing. Even if you haven’t seen this in a fight, you have in the dojo. Most of the time, no two students in the dojo witness what Hatsumi Sensei has shown in the same way.
One day Soke said this was like 詒転三転 iten santen. I had no idea what he meant until I realized it was a play on words as he is fond of doing. The standard phrase is 二転三転 niten santen. This means being in a state of flux, a sequence of never ending changes.
The way Sensei said it was to imply that these never ending changes are full of deception. A result of 虚実 kyojitsu. This is why Bujinkan is an art. You might say that art is neither truth or fiction.
Soke told us that the real essence of the technique or of kyojitsu exists in
“The place where one cannot see. It’s here where changes to the extraordinary happen.”
This is akin to the short story 藪の中 Yabu no Naka by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. If you haven’t heard of it, it is better known as the basis for the movie 羅生門 Rashōmon. The plot has various witnesses to a murder describing what they saw. Of course no one’s version of the crime matches.
What happened? What happens in Soke’s classes? What did anyone actually see? Something extraordinary that will never be discerned with the rational mind.
The name of that story, 藪の中 Yabu no Naka has become a common phrase to describe an event where no one can really say what happened.
When I train or teach, I am striving for something that cannot be comprehended. Beyond technique and form. When I succeed I have the pleasure of seeing the confused looks on my student’s faces.
That part is amusing. But what really is fantastic for me is to see my students do something I myself cannot comprehend! When that occurs it is sublime.