|Hatsumi Sensei TV interview last month. Photo by Michael Glenn|
Right now in the Bujinkan, we are starting from zero. Hatsumi Sensei says he has taught us everything. What will come next will emerge out of zero.
Sometimes there is this weird incongruity when training with Soke. He tosses me around the Bujinkan honbu effortlessly and I am almost 40 years younger than he is. His mind and wit are quicker than most people I know. But the fact is, he is an old man. He himself remarked that “I’m kind of stupid so I didn’t realize I was getting older.”
Last month when I was in one of Hatsumi Sensei’s classes, my friend Silvio Herasme asked Soke how does he feel right now? Hatsumi Sensei said that right now he feels very satisfied or content.
He continued to say that he felt happy that Takamatsu taught him and he could experience this life of budo. He was content to be surrounded by many friends who have been studying for 20-30 years or more. Then he mentioned how dangerous it is to be Soke.
One of these dangers is the onset of age. when we are young, we just train and don’t really think about what is next. Soke has grown old and IS thinking about what comes next. And even though Soke can knock me over easily and put me in great pain, he recognizes his age. He said,
“of course my physical body is deteriorating and getting weaker, but my spirit is unbalanced with the flesh.”
Hatsumi Sensei says his memories of the years of training with Takamatsu are like images in a dream. When he looks at old photos and the 8mm film of himself with Takamatsu Sensei, he recognizes how bad he was.
Hatsumi Sensei described these days of training,
“Takamatsu Sensei wasn’t very specific or hung up on form. He probably saw that I was just so bad at form and I couldn’t do anything so he didn’t care about the form. Maybe so I wouldn’t feel bad.”
Can you imagine being a young man like Soke was then? Just training hard and fumbling through what his teacher was trying to share. Then suddenly, Soke said,
“About a year before he died he said I’ll pass everything onto you. I was kind of disappointed when he did that to be honest.”
This must have been a strange time. One day you are just a clumsy student, the next… you are in charge of the entire legacy. Today Hatsumi Sensei reflects on this time with humility when he describes his younger self,
“They say if you flatter a pig he’ll jump up a tree, but then he’ll fall out again. That’s like me. I’m sort of like that.”
We all burst with laughter. The whole dojo was amused by this country adage. But this great humility was coming from our Soke!
During my whole trip last month Hatsumi Sensei was very reflective on the past 42 years. He said it has taken him 42 years to internalize what Takamatsu Sensei taught him. During those years, he said he has taught us everything that was taught to him.
There’s nothing left to show. No more to teach. We are at zero again.
This brings us to an odd kind of reassurance from Soke. He says that within zero there’s 意識 ishiki. This awareness or consciousness will guide us forward. He speculated that maybe this comes from kami.
Moving forward in the Bujinkan, we are going to continue with this zero feeling. The important thing will be how to internalize that. If you do it with clarity, then what comes next will be born from that.