What Answer For 2016?

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In this article I want to share some of my thoughts on my understanding of Sōke’s vision. It will seem quite esoteric to most of you. Please forgive me.

On Sunday, at the end of the class, Sensei gave a little speech.  Amongst many subjects, he announced the theme for 2016.

Without surprise the theme is “42”. Sensei explained that the Taikai commemorating Takamatsu sensei’s passing anniversary that will take place on the 2nd of April 2016 will be the beginning of a new cycle of 42 years.

Takamatsu sensei died on the 2nd of April 1972. The 2nd of April 1973 was the first year of the 42-year cycle that ended this year, in 2015.

The year 2016, he said, will be the beginning of a new cycle of 42 years. I already wrote about the symbol of “42” that we find in many ancient esoteric traditions. (1)

Sensei said that it took him 42 years to master what he had received from his beloved teacher. He added, half joking, that, for a long time, he understood nothing (that gives hope to many of us).

Now, is the time for a new beginning. The new Honbu inaugurated on the 22nd of February of 2015 was the end of the previous cycle. When the new dōjō opened, Sensei told us that it symbolized the beginning of a new era for the Bujinkan.
The following is how I understand the logic of the 42-year cycles.

Last year, I wrote that the date of the inauguration of the new Honbu, might not be accidental but chosen on purpose.

As you know, Hatsumi Sensei and the Japanese love numerology. And Sensei is definitely very Japanese in this respect,  and love to play with numbers, symbols and spirituality.

So we have two dates: the opening of the new Honbu on February 22nd, 2015; and the Taikai on April 2nd, 2016.
Both can be translated with “69”.

In numerology, the 22nd of February (02) is 6; and 2015, the 27th year of Heisei is 2+7 or 9. This is “69”, or Roppō Kuji (2), which is another representation of Inyō (yin-yang). (3)  You might have noticed that the concept of Inyō is deeply rooted into the Bujinkan system.

The date of the Taikai is 04/02/2016 which is another “69”. (4)

The old cycle of 42 years that ended in 2015 (based on the Heisei calendar), is reborn in the modern times, next April 2016 (based on the Gregorian calendar).

The previous 42-year cycle was the one of Takamatsu Sensei; the new cycle will be the one of Hatsumi Sensei. And it will be our duty to carry on his teachings, the way he did with the ones he received from Takamatsu Sensei.

This way of understanding reality, might look weird to us westerners, but knowing Sensei, I would not be surprised that this is the kind of thought process, he went through to come up with this new theme.

The new 42-year cycle that will begin in 2016, is another Roppō Kuji (69 or yin-yang). Symbolically, the old world gives way to the new world.

For me, it is his way to tell us that, starting next year, he is going to leave the future of the Bujinkan to us. He is doing what Takamatsu did for him in 1971 when he inherited the nine schools.

The circle is completed: this is “maru no ichi”. (5)

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1. The answer “42” that became famous with the book “the Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy” is one amongst many. You don’t need mice. Check this article to know more: https://kumafr.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/42-the-end-of-the-cycle/
2. Roppō Kuji was the theme of 2004. It was also the year of Yûgen no Sekai,  the  “world of ghosts”. 幽玄/yuugen/subtle grace; hidden beauty; yugen; mysterious profundity; elegant simplicity; the subtle and profound; the occult
3. 陰陽/inyō/cosmic dual forces; yin yang; sun  moon, etc.
4. This is also “69” because 2nd of April (04) is 2+4 = 6; and 2016 is 2+1+6 = 9. 
5. Maru no ichi was the name of Takamatsu sensei’s restaurant in Kobe. This is also another name for Inyō.


Half A Million Views!

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Thank you for your endless support!

Today we passed the symbolic milestone of 500 000 views on your blog. Since the beginning of the blog, you were 114 000 visitors in total reading the 333 articles I published.

When I created it, this blog was intended to be my personal notebook, where I would write the many concepts taught by sensei in class. After a year it became a source of inspiration for those advancing on the way of Budō. Today, it is a live record of our training life.

Without your constant presence,  this would not have been possible.

I sincerely thank you all, for helping me with your comments and likes.
I will do my best, to continue writing.

Arnaud Cousergue
Bujinkan Dai Shihan


10th Dan To 13th Dan In A Minute!

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It takes more than just a good body. You’ve got to have the heart and soul to go with it. Epictetus

Today Sensei was late for the class, so I was tasked to begin without him. It’s not the first time it is happening to me, but I must admit that I’m always proud of his trust. 
When he arrived, he continued with the Mutō Dori feeling and we played unarmed techniques, and sword and Bō variations. Some movements included Sannin Dori . The dôjô was packed, so long weapon moved were quite difficult to put into practice, but we managed. 
Sensei was moving his body in a way that always let his uke mentally unable to counter. As he explained since I arrived,  Ninpō Taijutsu is not only physical, it is also mental. One of his uke’s of today said it quite well: “when I attacked, my mind was focused on his right hand applying Omote Gyaku. When his left elbow hit me, I didn’t see it coming.” 
Sensei’s movements are so subtle that we put our intention on one point, and always get destroyed from another angle.

But the Kaname of the day was not the class but what happened during it. At some point he invited a student to attack him. Apparently, it was the first time for him to Sensei’s uke. At first, he didn’t move. Then after Sensei asked him again to join him in the center, he turned twice to see who was being invited. Finally, still hesitating, he stood up. You could see the surprise and disbelief in his eyes. 
Still wondering,  he attacked and was easily defeated. When he was required to share his feeling with us, he said that “I was so surprised, that I couldn’t attack properly.” 
I spoke with him after the class and he told me that never, in his many years of training, he thought that he would be Sensei’s uke one day. That was cute.

But the story doesn’t stop here. Maybe ten minutes later, Sensei seated at the other end of the dōjō, stopped the class, and asked him for his rank,  country, and number of years of training. “Uke” still moved by his experience, looked lost again, and with a small voice. said “19 years, Germany, Jūdan “.

The training resumed, then sensei sat next to him, and called Furuta San in. Furuta San came with pen and paper. Sensei turned to “Uke” and said: “13th dan! Furuta San, get his name and details”. You should have seen his eyes when finally he understood that he got promoted from tenth to thirteenth Dan in a few seconds. He was more lost than when he was invited to be Sensei’s uke. I’m always wondering what Sensei and the Japanese Shihan see that we don’t.

This is the beauty of Hatsumi Sensei’s grading system. Ranks have little value if you don’t live up to them. But to be promoted in such a way by Sōke is a big honor. I’m sure his teacher will be proud, as I would be. When in Japan, when my students are promoted by Sōke, I always see it as some kind of acknowledgement of my teaching work.

At the end of the class,  Sensei rewarded three Jūgodan with the title of Yūshū Shihan and one with the Shingitai . (2) Then he spoke about ranks and rewards. “In the Bujinkan”, he said, “the title and ranks you received, are not given after but before you deserved it.” Too many practitioners seem to forget it. Ranks and rewards are given “a priori” not “a posteriori”. This is up to you to level your proficiency to be worth it.

Last August,  Sensei told Daniel Hernández, that there will be only twelve Dai Shihan. (3) All the others, will receive the Yūshū Shihan,  “important Shihan”. (4) 
As you know,  like the majority of the “jurassic ninja”, I have received all of these titles, I use to say that I have the whole collection. (5)
But the Shingitai diploma is the one I prefer. The Shingitai rewards the three levels of development of the student: Soul, technique, and body. (6) If it is quite easy to get Gi and Tai,  Shin is the hardest.

This is why I fully agree with Epictetus: “It takes more than just a good body (and technical skills). You’ve got to have the heart and soul to go with it.”

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1. In Latin “a priori” means before; and “a posteriori” means after. 
2. Yūshū Shihan: Marcelo Ferraro (ARG ), Juan-manuel Gutiérrez (ARG ), Paul Fisher (USA). Shingitai: David Palau (COL). 
3. Dai Shihan: Noguchi (JAP), Nagato (JAP), Senō (JAP), Pedro (SP), Paco (SP), Sven (SWE), Peter (UK), Arnaud (FR), Phil (USA), Par (USA), Jack (USA), Daniel (ARG).
4. Yūshū: 優秀/yuushuu/superiority; excellence. My understanding is that those two titles only differ in the level of potential responsibility.
5. Check www.arnaudcousergue.ismyreal.name.com
6. 心技体/shingitai/(sumo) three qualities of a wrestler: heart, technique, physique. 技, Gi, is also read as Waza.


Fuyû, Asobi: Suspension and Baseball

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What I love about the classes with Senô sensei, is that I always learn new ways of doing what we do.

Like all the students who’ve been here for 25 years, I’m quite aware of the forms. What I still need to learn is hiding in the details. Life is about learning, and his classes are full of insights. The point of visiting Japan three times a year is to improve my abilities.

Today I learned two things:
1. There is more than the “1, 2, 3” sequence in a waza;
2. That we have to create a Fuyû (1), a point of suspension where uke is trapped by his own force.

Senō sensei explained today that in a given technique “1, 2, 3” there is more than those steps. Between “1 and 2” , and “2 and 3” , there are numerous hidden technical points.  Details that change everything,  and make your Taijutsu effortless and powerful at the same time.

The body reacts as a whole because distance, angles, and rhythm are trained slowly to become perfect. Like what has already been said this trip by Hatsumi sensei and Nagato sensei, it is necessary to move slowly in order to unfold the possibilities.

His Uke attacked with a Gyokko ryû like attack. Right fist attack followed by a right kick. Senō sensei went back in line with the opponent’s fist, simply making a light contact on the hand.  It was a simple double shuffling step in slow motion, that put him out of reach (Juppō Sesshō). The target being still reachable,  this triggered uke to continue with the kick in the same side. Effortlessly,  Senō sensei pivoted sideways, he spoke about Kosshi (2), and took the leg with his right leg. At the same time he was controlling the attacking hand by driving it, softly, to the left. This ended with uke falling on his back. From the outside it looked like uke stepped on a banana peel. It was simple and efficient. 
After a few tries,  uke began not to give away his body weight and therefore was able to keep his balance. This is when details are everything.

When this happened, Senō sensei would put the hand on his belt, turn close towards uke, barring the elbow with his right forearm. There was no grabbing, simply body pressure. We then spent a long time on this control. He explained that by rotating the bones of his forearm slightly, it was possible to get uke’s balance without force. It worked. 
I know that it might be difficult to visualize it, but I invite you to try it on the mats during your next training. Try many angles and hopefully you will understand it.

The other interesting point today was Fuyû, suspension. (1)
Senō sensei explained that our body reactions should create a state of suspended gravity. When uke begins to think he is sorted by your body (technically, he thinks he is getting you), this is when you let go. This is the true meaning of Kokû (3). 
Each time it is possible, break contact with your opponent in order to create this vacuum. Hatsumi sensei said that this is the real meaning of Nin, persevere. (4)
To persevere is not to resist but to be brave enough to go at the last possible second. This is the essence of Mutō Dori, the theme of this year. Positioning your body slowly at the exact distance, and at the last second, you create an in-between state. Uke is unaware that he is losing his balance and uses more strength to recover it when he sees it to late.

This is Fuyû.

Senō added that we have to play (Asobi) with this Fuyû feeling. But when you look at the kanji you discover that Fuyû is composed of “Fu + Asobi”, float + play (5).

In baseball, Asobi is “to intentionally throw a ball to lower the batter’s concentration”. This is exactly what Senō sensei wants us to do,  lower the attacker’s concentration by creating a state is suspension. 
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1.  浮遊/fuyuu/floating; wandering; suspension
2. Kosshi is the backbone and symbolizes the pivoting vertical axis of the body. (Gyokko ryû) 
3. 虚空/kokuu/empty space; empty sky
4. 忍/nin/endurance; perseverance; forbearance; patience
5. 遊ぶ/asobu/to play; to enjoy oneself; to have a good time|to mess about (with alcohol, gambling, philandery, etc.)|to be idle; to do nothing; to be unused|to go to (for pleasure or for study)|(baseb) to intentionally throw a ball to lower the batter’s concentration


Ninpô Taijutsu Gen

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Jack began sensei’s class with a mix of Katame Dori, ending in a sort of Omote Gyaku / Ganseki Oshi. Sensei used it to develop the concept of Kyomu, nothingness, which is at the core of Ninpô Taijutsu. (1)

This Ninpô Taijutsu Gen (2) is a holistic fighting. The physical is reinforced by the spiritual. Uke is not defeated by the body movements, but rather by his wrong perception of reality. His mind is played by Tori’s attitude. Again the class yesterday class was about illusion.
It is interesting to see that “Kyomu” bears the same kanji as Kyojitsu (3), the alternating stages of truth and falsehood.

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Ninpô Taijutsu Gen

Sensei did many henka on Omote Gyaku, showing tens of variations. The Omote Gyaku Waza imposed itself at some point in a natural manner.

I find interesting to study it again, after the class we had with Nagato sensei on the same subject. It looked like “the next step” that sensei keep speaking about.

When you move with this natural reaction,  everything is soft and looks quite slow. But the key point is to awaseru, to meet the opponent’s attack, fearless. It felt like going back to the year of Kuki taishô (4) I guess it is hard for the new generation to comprehend what sensei is doing these days,  because everything is based upon the teachings on Juppô sesshō that we began in 2003. In fact,  he said that because of Juppô sesshō,   there was no left,  right,  fast,  slow,  win,  lose. Everything that he did is logical with the understanding of the situation he is facing. And it looked logical, soft and natural.

He illustrated this Juppō Sesshō with some sword techniques. As the theme this year is Mutô Dori,  he began unarmed and then moved to two swords, which is also mutō dori (5). In Koteki Ryûda Juppō Sesshō Hibun no Kami (6), theme of 2003, the eight directions of the happō are completed with the vertical axis of heaven and earth. Heaven is ryûda, the flying dragon; and koteki is the crouching tiger. In the encounter you are dragon and Tiger alternatively, soft and hard, slow and fast. In the sword techniques  sensei explained that you do not try to cut but apply multiple hits like if uke was attacked by a swarm of bees. This reminded me of the Amo Isshun no Tamamushi. (8) Uke is defeated by the many micro attacks he receives. In unarmed defense the sword his are replaced by Yubi Kudaki.
This holistic movement is what sensei calls zenten (7). The body adjusts naturally to the suki (openings) of the attack / of the attacker.
In both situations (with and without sword), you are soft and react naturally to the attack. Because of zenten,  you move either in one direction or another like a skipping stone. Uke is the wave and naturally surf on his intentions.

Last class was really magic and helped me to grasp the essence of Ninpô Taijutsu Gen.
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1.  虚無/kyomu/nihility; nothingness
2.  忍法/ninpou/ninja arts
体術/taijutsu/classical form of martial art
幻術/genjutsu/magic; witchcraft
3. Kyojitsu vs kyojutsu: there is often a misconception about this two terms. Kyojitsu 虚実/kyojitsu/truth or falsehood, and kyojutsu is 虚/kyo/unpreparedness|falsehood + 術/jutsu/art; means; technique. Therefore,  kyojitsu is the concept used in kyojitsu techniques.
4. Kuki taishō (theme of 2007): 九/kyuu/nine,  気/ki/spirit; mind; heart|nature; disposition|motivation; intention|mood; feelings|atmosphere; essence,  大勝/taishou/great victory; crushing victory
5. Reminder Mutō Dori is not only defending oneself unarmed facing a weapon. It is above all, having the courage to face a potential death. I wrote a few posts on that last year in this blog. Check them.
6. My book on ” Koteki Ryûda Juppō Sesshō Hibun no Kami” can be found at http://www.budomart.eu and will soon be available in ebook at Amazon.com (January 2016).
7. Zenten is 全天/zenten/all heaven,  but can also be understood as 全店/zenten/the whole (store).
8. Amo isshun no tamamushi 中一瞬 の 吉丁虫
中 amo:center, inside, during
一瞬 isshun: one moment
吉丁虫  tamamushi: jewel beetle, bee