|Michael Glenn Holds the Empty Teapot, 深川江戸資料館|
Hatsumi Sensei told us about a very scary moment in his training with Takamatsu Sensei. One evening they were relaxing at Takamatsu Sensei’s house. Takamatsu was drinking sake. He poured himself another big glass and held it up. He said, “Let’s go train!” And he gulped down all of the sake, slamming down the empty glass on the table.
They went to the nearby jinja. It was late and cold, but the moon was shining down on the shrine. Takamatsu Sensei took out his sword and said, “This is where you live or die. You must grab my sword.”
Hatsumi Sensei told us in that moment his fear left him. Takamatsu came at him with the sword. He instinctively grabbed the blade. He told us that it was a cold night and his fingers didn’t work very well, so he couldn’t fully grasp the blade. He thinks that is what saved his hand from being cut.
Soke said this fact was testament to how good Takamatsu Sensei’s teaching was. This made me laugh because it sounds more like madness than teaching. But, teaching is not necessarily a rational process. And, that Friday night in the Bujinkan Honbu dojo, Hatsumi Sensei could see us struggling to understand this type of technique. He told us,
“There’s nothing to do. Wrap him up. The 空き aki, emptiness or the hole is important. In Spain you say aqui, but aki can also be this kukan this emptiness. you connect to this nothingness without doing anything.”
Soke called this idea shinjutsu. Another way of writing aki is 明き. This is like a bright light that opens up to fill the empty space. You don’t think about it, but it’s there when you need it. You can feel this connection with this kind of space.
Hatsumi Sensei went on to tell us the secret to make this happen,
“You won’t see any waza or technique here. You have to become nothingness, make your body nothingness (体無いし tainaishi) and stay in that nothingness. If you don’t have to do anything, don’t do anything. In the end it’s not a physical power that matters. It’s being transmitted through the space. It’s more of an energetic or spiritual thing. “
I bet that Hatsumi Sensei didn’t think about all of that under the cold moonlight so many years ago. Takamatsu’s teaching was an organic process that brought his student Hatsumi to this place of life or death naturally. The sword cut down, and in that moment when his fear left him, that’s when he became nothing.