Distance and Time, Ma-Ai

From Kasumi An Study Center  霞庵 スタディセンター by Kasumi An Study Center

Ma-ai

The study of distance and time is essential in the martial arts. In Japan, there is a word “ma-ai” which could be said to be the study, application, or the use of distance and time. With distance and time all problems can be solved!

The once gleaming palaces for kings and queens now lay in rubble where only foxes play and birds sing in the trees that grow in the ruins.  The Kings and queens, for all their court affairs, have vanished. Evaporated into the air with distance and time. If you can correctly understand distance and time, your life can become easy and joyous like the foxes and birds.Screenshot_2020-06-16 All sizes Happy foxes playing Flickr - Photo Sharing

My teacher often called his art the martial arts of distance and time.  Ma Ai. It is written with the characters, space/gap 間, and the character 会, meaning to come together or meet. It conveys the space between two objects, and the timing involved in an interaction or aligning of the two.

The distance between two objects or opponents, although often quantified with measurements, can also be vague and elusive.

One meter can be made to appear farther than it is and conversely can also be made to appear closer than reality.   Movement can also appear to be very fast when, in fact, you are moving very slowly and, at the same time,  can appear to be slow when you are moving quickly.

Just as the passage of time can feel different depending upon the situation, time flies when you’re having fun.Time can also drag when things aren’t so happy. As a child, one hour of math class seemed an eternity.  But the hour for play seemed over before it started.

Now as a father every day passes in the blink of an eye and I wish it would slow down like those lazy childhood days.  Some people report a sensation of the slowing of time when in dangerous situations or accidents, as if they were in slow motion. (myself included)

Distance starts with knowing where you are in space. Take the surface of a ball, like a basketball, and use it to represent the universe.  Forgetting for a moment the mathematical inadequacies of the example, wherever you place your finger on the ball, can be the center of the surface of the ball. Understanding that every point can and will be the center of the universe is an interesting to place to start! With an appreciation that all objects have a gravitational pull, the space between two objects becomes full indeed. Space no longer seems empty but becomes an almost tangible and malleable substance. This manipulation of timing and space or, in Japanese jiki and kukan, can be considered an aspect of Ma Ai.  With an understanding of these aspects, the feeling of Ma Ai will start to thrive in you.

My teacher loved to play with words and puns. He often interchanged the Chinese characters to create more subtle nuances for greater understanding and contemplation.  Many years ago, he changed Ma to devil and Ai to love which could be translated, among other ways, as love of the devil. But it has nothing to do with good or evil but an appreciation of the dedicated effort one must make to see the Ma Ai and the bravery needed to enter and manipulate it.

Perhaps if you love your demons enough, their horns will drop off and they can become angels!

Secret Transmission,Togakure Ryu Ninpo!

From Kasumi An Study Center  霞庵 スタディセンター by Kasumi An Study Center

To thank you all for your generosity during this pandemic.  To show my great appreciation, I will try to translate bits of this book by Hatsumi Sensei that stand out to me.   This is one of my favorite books by Hatsumi Sensei and continues to shine bright even after 40 years or so.  Wisdom has a timeless beauty and this book is packed with gems.

This is the very first passage in the book and sets the theme and tone of the book.  Therefore I have decided to start at the beginning.  If this brightens your day or gives you some new inspiration in your training and study, it will most certainly brighten my heart as well!  Feel free to join our chats as well.  Now, lets jump in!

Poster 1

Philosophy of the Martial Way, Philosophy of the Way of Nin

This chapter forms the basis and main theme of this book. Therefore I would be delighted if you read it several times to capture the essence of it.

The Philosophy of Budo, the martial way.

In a grander view, the martial arts are used for the protection of ones` country. In a smaller view, they are used for the protection of the people and for the protection of oneself.

It could be said that striking with a sword using technique and artistry is martial arts. If you were to say that simply striking relying on brute strength in the arms and body is martial arts, then one could foolishly assert that chopping wood is a marital art!

The art of the sword is the study of the proper place, timing, truth of the, way to strike. Just as knowing the manner of wood or way in which a log can be split would be considered true wood chopping.

Using technique is an art. And the basis of art is in the heart. If the heart is not correct, there can be no progress. If the heart is not developed, there can be no understanding (of a proper way, greater truth). This understanding (of a proper way, greater truth) is similar to art. If actions are not proper (aligned with a greater truth and understanding), there can be no art.

True victory lies not with oneself but with the opponent. The opponent will naturally offer us the key to victory. Do not seek victory yourself but allow it come naturally to you. For it will come to you as surely as a spark is born when metal strikes flint.

It matters little if you are an Eighth degree black belt or a Master, it proves nothing. You must only taste deeply the essence of the most beautiful, subtle, and mysterious technique; If you think it exits, it does not. If you believe it is not, it is.

When the energy of the heart and the sword become one, this is the origin of the martial way.

 

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KYOKETSU-SHOGE and NAGE-NAWA

From 8þ Kabutoshimen by admin

KYOKETSU-SHOGE AND NAGE-NAWA. This article is about the weapon (actually farm tool). At the end is a video (from Bujinkan Kaigozan Dojo previous week).

KYOKETSU-SHOGE

Kyoketsu-shoge (距跋渉毛) translates as “to run about in the fields and mountains”. It is one of the weapons used in Togakure-ryu and Kumogakure-ryu.

This weapon is believed to be the forerunner of Kusarigama. Wikipedia says it is a double edged blade with a curve edged blade attached. I don’t believe that was true. I think the double edged blade was just as dull as the Kunai. And only the inside of the curved blade was sharp.

The Kyoketsu-shoge was used by the rural peasantry class from the Iga province. If they was caught with something that looked too much like a weapon, they might have been executed on the spot.

KYOKETSU-SHOGE
Kyoketsu-shoge as it probably looked hundreds of years ago. Except the rope, it was made of hair.

I think it was a multi purpose farm tool. You dig the earth, cut the grass, tie up the grass with the rope etc. Why would a farm tool have chain. Rope made of hair was less suspicious. The farmer could stick into his belt and not cause too much attention.

NAGE-NAWA

NAGE-NAWA

Nage-nawa 投げ縄 (rope throwing) is not as easy as it looks. The trick is to throw the loop and make sure the rear end of the loop passes on the other side of the hand.

On the video below I show you two common techniques we in the Bujinkan Dojo use at demonstrations. In the first technique I hit down on his hands to unarm him. Threaten him with the blade and protect the sword (we had no room to do this on camera).

Throw the ring towards his head. He steps to the side and catch it. Yank it out of his grip and prepare for the throwing. Do the first loop around his hand. He grab the rope with his other hand. Make it look like a tug of war. Loop his other hand.

Blind his eyes with the rope (or Shuriken, powder etc), he covers his eyes with the hand. Continue and loop the rope around his hand and neck.

He kicks. You do Kerikaeshi and take him down. Tie him up more with the rope. Put the blade to his neck and cut his neck.

The second technique he is attacking you and you deflect withe the blade and strike with the ring behind you to hit him. Loop the sword and yank it out of his grip. Loop his hands and neck as previous technique.

Do these techniques with good choreography and acting and it will look good in demonstrations.

Yes I know looping around the sword and yanking, the sword would probably just cut the rope. Even looping around his hands he can cut the rope. These techniques is mostly for demonstrations and just fun training.

KYOKETSU-SHOGE and NAGE-NAWA at KAIGOZAN DOJO

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BŌ-SHURIKEN at KAIGOZAN DOJO

From 8þ Kabutoshimen by admin

Last Tuesday I practiced BŌ-SHURIKEN at KAIGOZAN DOJO. I made up my own Bō-shuriken Kata. I will explain below. Enjoy!

I’m not going into detail how to start practicing because it is too difficult explaining. But basically you always start close to the Makiwara. I tell my students to start close. When the Shuriken is hitting the target good, they should take one short step back. If the next Shuriken does not hit good, do not step back until the next Shuriken hit good. If they manage to hit with all five Shuriken, they can start further away and repeat. As long as all five hit good they can start working on longer distances. When learning a new throw or with the non dominant hand you always start close.

Scroll down to see the video.

手の内  TE NO UCHI
手の内  TE NO UCHI

This is the order I throw the Shuriken. I’m throwing the 4’th Shuriken with my left hand. So I prepared by flipping it with the point outward.

BŌ-SHURIKEN KAMAE
TENCHI NO KAMAE

Prepare by taking this Kamae. Aim with the left hand against the target and hold the right hand over the right shoulder and head. Zanshin.

HON UCHI
MIGI HON UCHI

1. Migi Hon-uchi. Shift the weight forward to the left foot and throw the first Shuriken with the right hand. Bring the left hand to the left hip.

YOKO UCHI
MIGI YOKO-UCHI

2. Migi Yoko-uchi. Step forward with the right foot and throw directly from the left hip as you would do an Ura-shutō with the right hand.

GYAKU-UCHI
MIGI GYAKU-UCHI

3. Migi Gyaku-uchi. Step forward with the left foot behind as in Yoko-aruki. Throw the third Shuriken from under with the right hand. Use the momententum from the left step to increase the power.

YOKO-UCHI
HIDARI YOKO-UCHI

4. Hidari Yoko-uchi. Spin around anti-clockwise and throw the fourth Shuriken with the left hand directly.

HON-UCHI
MIGI HON-UCHI

5. Migi Hon-uchi. Finish by throwing the fifth and last Shuriken with the right hand.

Analyse your Shuriken hits.

As you can see only one Shuriken hit good. Most Shuriken are “dead” and only one is “live”. The rear end of the Shuriken should be lower than where it hit, if it is higher the weight is not going into the target so much. It is rather going upward. These hits are called “dead”. When the Shuriken is completely level or the rear end is lower than the tip it is called “live”.

I did a Gyaku-uchi where the rotation was the opposite way. I don’t know which Shuriken that was, maybe it was “live”. Also the two Yoko-uchi might also be “live” as it was rotating sideways.

BŌ-SHURIKEN at KAIGOZAN DOJO, The VIDEO

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Social Distancing Is Budō

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

ninja t-shirt
Make a mask with a t-shirt

We live in troubled times. Social distancing is now mandatory in many countries. To know the correct distance is essential. 

Hatsumi Sensei’s DVDs are all subtitled “martial art of distance.” The Bujinkan martial arts teach proper distancing. Thus, the forced social distancing we apply these days is practical Budō. In the dōjō, we learn to survive any attacks coming from the enemy. In these days of the pandemic, our enemy is not visible (Omote), but invisible (Ura). Our only option to survive the virus is to keep a proper distance with others. 

As it is often the case in Japanese, “distance” can use different Kanji. It is Michi no ri (1), Kyori (2), or Aida (3). Let’s understand the concept hidden in the strokes.
The first one “Michi no Ri” uses “Michi,” or “Dō.” (4) This is the Kanji that we find in Budō. (5) Budō, the “way of the martial arts”, becomes the “martial arts of distance “as in Sensei’s DVDs. At Honbu, Hatsumi Sensei explains that “Bu” is “to maintain peace and protection.” So, the correct distance in Budō is a means of protection.

The second one, “Kyori”, is even more interesting. If it is “distance or range,” transformed as Kyoryūmin (6), it means “resident.” And because of confinement, we are all becoming full-time residents! 

The last one is “Aida.” It also reads as “Ken.” This is not the one meaning sword, but the one used in the Kanejaku. (7) That is the measurement system used in Japan before the switch to the metric system. (8) For your information, a Ken is 181.82 cm, and this is the size of a Tatami. (9)

In conclusion, Budō, the art of distancing is the best way to keep us protected. As a full-time home resident, when you go shopping, use the distance of a Ken to limit the risks of infection.

A few days after the Tsunami hit Fukushima, I called Hatsumi Sensei on the phone. When I asked him, if he planned to leave Noda, he answered “Banpen Fugyō”, “10 000 attacks, no surprise.” (10) This is the attitude you should have. Don’t complain about confinement at home as you cannot change it. Use this time to do or finish all the things you have been postponing for months, or for years. The pandemic time at home can be profitable, turn it into an opportunity. And make “Kyori” (11) out of “Kyori” (2), a “huge profit” for yourself.

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1 道のり, Michi no ri / Dō no ri: distance; journey; itinerary​, path (e.g. to one’s goal); way; process; route; road
2 距離, Kyori: distance, range
3 間, Aida, Ken: space (between); gap; interval; distance​, time (between); pause; break​. Span (temporal or spatial); stretch; period (while)​. Relationship (between, among)​, members (within, among)
4 道, Dō: Road; path; street; route​; way; set of practices; rules for conducting oneself​
5 武, Bu: martial arts
6 居留民, Kyoryūmin: A resident
7 曲尺, Kanejaku: carpenter’s square (for checking angles)​, common shaku (unit of distance; approx. 30.3 cm)
8 https://taikosource.com/glossary/kanejaku/
9https://www.traditionaloven.com/tutorials/distance/convert-japan-ken-unit-to-centimeter-cm.html
10 万変不驚, Banpen Fugyō. Read the excellent post by Luke Crocker https://medium.com/classical-martial-arts/banpen-fugyo-9bbbc64a9487
11 巨利, Kyori: Huge profit