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|渡月橋 togetsukyō at 六義園 rikugien. photo by Michael Glenn|
Hatsumi Sensei puffed out his chest. His attacker went to grab with both hands, but then Soke collapsed the target. It was like he shrugged the attack away, tossing his opponent aside.
If you have been following my training notes, then you know that this kyojitsu of offering a target is one of the Bujinkan strategies of control that I have been writing about since my recent training with Hatsumi Sensei. He explained that he was teaching control to the Jugodans. He said he wasn’t teaching technique.
I managed to get a few pictures of the snow around the Bujinkan Hombu dojo that morning before class. A few days later it had all melted away. If you are not careful as a Bujinkan teacher, your own days as a student will melt away too.
Soke said that people in sports do technique, but we are trying to have a flow that can’t be copied. Flow is the most important thing in a fight.. This is why he teaches this way. He told us,
“You have to become the kind of person who cannot be copied.”
When Soke puffed out his chest this way, he was offering his opponent an illusion. The target was not real. He used the word 的 mato and told us to control by creating a target.
The way he moved his shoulders was very loose. And next, he made us all laugh by wiggling his ears. He did this to show how you control the opponent by having this very precise control over your own body first.
When he asked me to grab him, he did this with his shoulder and then I went flying through the air. He said,
“I’m lifting the shoulder with this kind of kyojitsu. You have to be able to move every part of your body.”
You offer the target as the 虚 kyo, or illusion. Then hit him with the 実 jistu or the truth. Another time Soke did this with a sword. He blocked the cut with his own sword. But he left his face right in front of his opponent’s blade. It did not look safe!
But this target was an illusion. As soon as the opponent tried to cut, Soke pivoted and hit him hard with the tsuba in the ribs. He looked around the dojo at our confused faces and said,
“Everyone tries to use the sword and that’s why you’re missing the kyojitsu. Kyo comes first and then jitsu.”
When you control your opponent with illusion, you don’t even have to fight at all. In fact, you never have to touch him. Hatsumi Sensei said we could feel it in the air. He used the phrase 空気で殺気 kuuki de sakki.
This can be thought of as sensing the intent of the enemy in the air. But it is also projecting your own threat into the air. It is like you strike with the air or the kukan itself! How does that work?
Many of us have felt this from Hatsumi Sensei. He did this to my friend Yabunaka-san. I watched when Yabu hesitated and then froze up. Next he stumbled right before Soke would have broke his arm. Hatsumi Sensei asked Yabunaka to describe this feeling. Yabunaka said that you feel like he is striking you even when he is not.
This is the opposite of presenting a target as an illusion. You strike with illusion! In fact, Hatsumi Sensei told us that this was 遠当之術 tōate no jutsu (or even 遠當之術). This is striking from a distance.
But Soke said he was not using tōate for striking, he was using it for control. For me, that moment was a big key to my whole trip and my efforts to understand Hatsumi Sensei’s current teachings.
I was lucky to be invited to uke for Soke in almost every class. And these experiences were like a gift. Every day that I train in Japan or in my own classes, I feel humbled by the generosity of my teachers and students. I hope you can have that in your training as well.
|Hatsumi Sensei’s dynamic kamae. Photo by Michael Glenn|
In the first article on Bujinkan Strategies of Control, I described one of the times I attacked Hatsumi Sensei. Anyone who has been Soke’s uke can tell you the same thing. What it looks like and what it feels like are very different!
One common thing we all feel from him is that he disappears. I know that sounds odd, but it’s like he’s there in front of you, then he’s not. In fact, last week he explained how this is one of his strategies for control. He told us to,
“Move naturally like this as they’re coming in. Move naturally without making a fight of it.”
That was the English translation but Soke used the the words 勝負いなく shōbu inaku meaning that there is no fight or the fight disappears. Shōbu implies a contest or a match where victory or defeat is decided. Since we don’t study sports martial arts, we are not attached to either of these outcomes.
いなくなる inakunaru means to disappear. Or, in a definition that will help us understand this strategy, it means “to stop being”. Any fight, match, or contest requires at least two combatants. What happens if one disappears?
This starts internally. You have to remove yourself from the idea of winning or losing. Or even that there is any fight to win or lose. When you step outside of that small world where the fight exists, you will find it very easy to control the situation.
Hatsumi Sensei watched all of us trying to do that. He likes to stand in the back of the dojo on the wood floor and observe us. Sometimes I will even see him stand right in the middle of the room watching. He saw that many of us were still trying to fight, so he said we should leave that attitude at home…
“In your own training it’s ok to punch and fight like this, but here we’re studying control.”
He told us we are not learning to exchange blows. That is what happens in sports martial arts, people exchange blows until victory or defeat is decided. Sometimes by judges! But there are no judges in real combat.
Instead Hatsumi Sensei told us to play in the space. It’s not fighting. This is how we learn how to control in the space.
When you understand this at a deep level, two critical changes happen in your training:
First, by not showing that you’re fighting, you disappear from the fight. This is not just a psychological trick. You can learn to physically disappear from the fight.
I felt this when I tried to grab Hatsumi Sensei’s arm. He was teaching tehodoki. When I went to grab he just disappeared. He reappeared after I flew through the air and landed on my back.
And second, you make the fight itself disappear. This causes the opponent to lose strength and ability to fight. Hatsumi Sensei showed me this aspect another time when I stabbed at him. The way he smiled at me, and his kiai in that moment, caused my attack to just deflate because he was not fighting me.
Hatsumi Sensei said again and again that コントロール kontorooru is this year’s theme. Not fighting… just controlling. It’s not a waza or technique that can be taught.
In fact there is only one clear way to learn it. That is through direct experience with Hatsumi Sensei or with a teacher who has had that experience. Then you can learn what Soke means when he tells us that he is not fighting. He says he is just following the path of kami (神の道 kami no michi). We would be smart to follow his lead.
“There are many famous books about Heiho, military strategy, and one of them is the Sanryaku三略. The Sanryaku is, as the Kanji in the name state, three stratagem. The Jo, Chu and Ge, or upper, middle and lower. While some Densho have a Shoden, Chuden and Okuden with the Shoden being the easiest and the Okuden/Okugi being the hardest the Sanryaku is divided into three sections not based on level. The Jo no Maki, or upper book should not be considered to be any “easier” or “harder” than the middle or lower books.”
More on this book in English here.
“The Joryaku of Gyokko Ryu is taijutsu where both are unarmed. The Churyaku deals with doing Mutodori against a short sword/knife while the Geryaku no maki has Muto dori against an opponent armed with a Katana. Each scroll is important in its own right and, just like the Sanryaku, should not be thought in terms of levels. It is important to keep this difference in mind when training Gyokko Ryu.”
25 Monday Jun 2007
A very important point was made by Noguchi Shihan a few weeks ago. This comment has rang through my mind, and I’m compelled to write about it now.
Noguchi Shihan told us that “if you doubt your technique or ability, then you should just leave”. At first glance, this may seem like a harsh comment, but it maybe one that will save your life.
Confidence is a very important aspect if not the most important aspect of martial arts and combat. In budo, we have the specific term “Shin Gi Tai” that refers to the 3 aspects of mind, body and spirit or a more direct translation of Mind, technique and body. All 3 must be in alignment for mastery of a martial art. Without the confidence of mind then the other two will not follow. How can you expect to be skilled if you don’t have the confidence?
Soke often makes reference to “Luck” and how it works with us and against us in life. Therefore, we must have the confidence that we will conjure only the “good” type of luck and not doubt the outcome.
As I stated before in an earlier post, technique is basic and should not be forgotten, but currently there is little value attached to technique. It is expected that one has trained long enough to understand this, or at least be training with someone who does.
If you are in a real conflict, you have to be 100% sure that you will succeed or you are handicapping yourself in a potential life or death situation.
I’m 100% confident that this is why Noguchi Shihan said, “if you doubt yourself or your technique then you should just leave”.
In shinkengata, there is no room for doubt. You must win, it is that simple.
|雪吊り yuki zuri at 六義園 Rikugi-en. photo by Michael Glenn|
The train rattled by the Bujinkan Honbu dojo. I looked down at the knife in my hand. I looked up at Hatsumi Sensei who called me to stab at him. I plunged the knife toward him. He made a kiai that came out like the creaking, groaning sound of an old iron gate.
It was not a human sound. And he was in my face, laughing. I fell to the floor. He asked me to speak and share what I just felt with all of the students in the dojo. All I could say was that his smile made me drop.
It has been difficult to write about my training with Soke during this trip. Not because I don’t have anything to share. But because writing or talking about it is a distraction from the experience itself.
I didn’t want my own thoughts or preconceptions to intrude on the direct transmission of the teaching that Soke is giving us. So I waited. Just absorbing as much as I can. And now I feel I can begin to share.
In every single class, Hatsumi Sensei tells us not to fight, but to control. In fact, he says that this is the theme that he is teaching from. He uses the 外来語 gairaigo (borrowed from English) pronunciation of the word control. In the Japanese pronunciation this becomes コントロール kontorooru.
He tells us that what he is showing us cannot be taught. He says,
“I’m not teaching how to fight. I’m showing control. If you try to fight then it’s a very low level of budo. Please learn to control.”
Why can’t this be taught? Because it’s control, not waza. Waza (techniques) can be taught. But this is not waza. It’s control.
Soke says he’s not teaching technique anymore. He told us to have this control of あも一寸の玉 虫 amo issun no tama mushi. In a real confrontation, this “amo” is very important.
Hatsumi Sensei’s classes are all about control. But first you have to control yourself, only then can you control the opponent. He demonstrated this over and over by controlling his opponents without even touching them. It happened to me every time I faced him. He explained it like this:
“You have to be able to not do a technique yet have it happen anyway. This is the theme for the 15 dans this year.”
One of the ways he does this is kukan no コントロール kontorooru… to control the kukan or use the kukan to control. But here is a warning: Any method you use to try to do that will probably not work! That is the mystery of this strategy.
Since I cannot possibly share everything I am experiencing here in Japan in just one article, I will write a series of articles. Maybe I will call them Bujinkan strategies of control. If you want to receive all of them, make sure to subscribe here.
When I attacked Hatsumi Sensei with the knife, he asked me to share the feeling I got from him. In that moment it was overwhelming, so I couldn’t say much except that his smile made me drop to the mat. But now that I’ve had some days to consider what happened, my feeling is that he used one of the strategies I will write about next. 次次次… The next one is the best one!
Hatsumi sensei said in class that “you cannot be good doing Bujinkan, if you’re good, you are not doing Bujinkan”. It reminded me of Salvador Dali’s quote: “Don’t be afraid of perfection, you’ll never reach it”. This quote could summarise what we are training these days. Don’t try to be perfect.
The essence of controlling the space is not to do a perfect movement. We move in a way that is a simple answer to Uke’s intentions; that is all. It doesn’t have to be pretty; it has to be “good enough”. Too many practitioners try perfection, by doing so, they meet defeat as they cannot adjust their moves to the ever-changing situation.
The idea is to derive power from indirect and forceless movements. What you do, the way you react makes it impossible for Uke to guess what is coming next, and therefore it keeps you alive. Sensei called this concept “Kaitatsu Gairyoku”, indirect strength or indirect transmission. (1) (2) (3)
Indirect strength is using no force at all. And when you use no power, Chikara or Ryoku (4), Uke cannot use it against you as leverage.
“A perfect technique gets you killed”, added Sensei, “because when you try to do a technique you are trapped mentally”. You can be lucky once, maybe twice, but in a real fight, it is about staying alive. The Tao Te King means that when it says “don’t do anything, and nothing will be left undone”. (6) The water flowing downstream doesn’t think the many rocks it encounters, nor does the water try to avoid them. The water is not trying to do anything; it flows naturally and reaches the sea. It is as simple as that.
And as Kary Mullis Nobel Prize 1993, said about DNA duplication, “it is very complicated to make (things) simple.” (7)
When you watch Hatsumi sensei doing Kaitatsu Gairyoku, it seems very simple, but it is extremely complicated to do.
If you don’t come to Japan regularly, you will never get the actual depth of the Bujinkan martial arts.
You can fly to Tokyo with a “direct” or an “indirect” flight to receive your transmission…
1. 回り/kai/mawari/circumference; perimeter; edge|surroundings; locality; neighborhood|rotation; circulation +
経つ/tatsu/to pass; to lapse
3. 外力/gairyoku/external force/transmission
4. 力/chikara/force; strength; might; vigour (vigor);
energy|capability; ability; proficiency; capacity; faculty|efficacy; effect|effort; endeavours (endeavors); exertions|power; authority; influence; good offices; agency|support; help; aid; assistance|stress; emphasis|means; resources.
5. 力じゃない /chikara janai/there is no strength
6. Taoteking or Tao Te Ching: modern translation by François Jullien §37, 48 in “le traité de l’efficacité”, (French edition).