|"Spectrum" by Tokujin Yoshioka, photo by Michael Glenn|
Soke called me out and punched at me! Now I was supposed to do the technique that had been demonstrated. But how was I supposed to knock Hatsumi Sensei down? Of course, that wasn’t going to happen.
But, I gave it my best shot. Hatsumi Sensei punched at me and I foolishly attempted to capture his punch. As soon as I did this, it was like the kukan shifted. This left me hanging or floating in space. I still don’t remember how he threw me, but I ended up in a pile on the mat.
Hatsumi Sensei then told us we must exist within 虚実皮膜 kyojitsu himaku. I had never heard that term, nor had the translator. But lucky for me, Hatsumi Sensei had left clues for us by referencing art.
Coincidentally, I had gone to Ginza earlier that morning to see an art exhibition at the Shiseido Gallery. The art installation was called “Spectrum” by the designer Tokujin Yoshioka. The gallery was filled with light and fog. Beams of light radiated off of prisms to brush the walls, floor, and the viewers with a spectrum of color. Like any great installation art, you become a part of the art as you experience it.
The term kyojitsu himaku comes from the Bunraku theatre, when the writer 近松門左衛門 Chikamatsu Monzaemon wrote about a theory of art,
"Art is something that lies between the skin and the flesh, the make-believe and the real. ... Art is something which lies in the slender margin between the real and the unreal. [….] It is unreal, and yet it is not unreal; it is real, and yet it is not real. Entertainment lies between the two."
—"Chikamatsu on the Art of the Puppet Stage," Anthology of Japanese Literature, from the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century, ed. and trans. Donald Keene
For us in the Bujinkan, we are familiar with the term kyojitsu. But himaku is a thin membrane or “skin” between truth and falsehood. In fact, it is so thin it is permeable and inseparable from one or the other. Chikamatsu (who was the son of a Ronin) even pronounced it as hiniku, which is the skin over the flesh.
This philosophy is a kind of solipsism. It rests on the idea that we process the entire world through our senses. This means reality is filtered by this processing in our minds. Kyojitsu himaku takes advantage of this by existing in between the mind and reality.
In art, this means the art is created in such a way that the end result only comes to life in the mind of the viewer. If you’ve ever “looked behind the curtain” at a piece of art, maybe looked too closely… you will know that this examination breaks the illusion.
In fighting, we also create these illusions in the mind of our opponent. But we should not care if he “looks behind the curtain” or is able to pierce through our kyojitsu. We strategically place ourselves at the “himaku,” or the place in between. Then if he breaks through, what has he accomplished? Now we are behind him!
Anyone who has attacked Hatsumi Sensei knows that feeling when he seems to disappear and reappear elsewhere. He is not really doing anything. We do it to ourselves in our efforts to understand what cannot be understood.
First draft of the book cover. I will change the font of ”YUDANSHA” on the front page, or I might even draw it as art. If I do it I’ll save it as a collectors item for later, maybe auction for charity or something?
The artwork was done for me by Aidan Hughes (BRUTE).
What do you think?
My name is Mats Hjelm and I have been training Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu under Masaaki Hatsumi Sōke for the past 35 years or so. Read more about me here.
All the time since I started training I’ve been keeping notes that progressively became manuals and then books. First they was for myself, then to my students and now I thought it is time to make it public.
So here is the first book coming, it is all about the basics, something I wish I had when I started training. Bujinkan is a huge system with many schools (ryū-ha (traditions)) and it would be impossible to cover everything in a book. Hatsumi Sōke published many books, videos and publications (I collected and have almost all of them). Every time I learned something new I added it to my own notes. The purpose of this book is to be a training guide, reference and help for everyone training in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, from beginners up to 5’th Dan.
What is covered in this book is
Etiquette and traditions that will help everyone to get comfortable in the Dōjō, from what are we saying in the starting and closing ceremony and what does it mean and why. What is the official uniform, how do I tie the belt so it looks like I’m a pro. How do I bow not looking like Karate Kid. Understanding the Rules of the Bujinkan. How to not look like a fool in front of others in the Dōjō and. And much more.
The whole Ten-Chi-Jin Ryaku no maki which is the three levels of techniques most Bujinkan Dōjō use. There have been a few different versions through all the years. I have included all of them and rearranged some, and even added a few more techniques to make it more representative. For example there was only one Muto-dori technique (I added two more), there was only three seated techniques (I added two more). There is a concept of Kihon technique which is the basic way of doing a described technique, sometimes they added 1-5 Ura-Waza to each Kihon technique to add more examples. I added two Ura-waza to each Kihon Happy technique, and a few other techniques to give beter understanding to the techniques. This is not to be confused with Henka which is never written down in the Densho. Henka is more spontaneous techniques you do because you have to, it is like adjusting because what you started doing will not work. There are thousands Henka to each technique and pointless to even try to describe.
When and if the book is released I will add the full content list here.
But first I will show Hatsumi Sōke on my next trip in January 2018 what I’ve done and ask for his permission to release the book. I can understand if he says no, I’ve put 35 years into this book and maybe you don’t deserve to get everything so easy. Maybe it will trap you in my way of thinking and it is better if everyone evolve without too much influence (I don’t know). Anyway it is the correct way I think.
I’ll keep you updated here and on twitter.
In class, Hatsumi Sōke was speaking of Mutō Dori. In one of his book, he explains the concept of Mutō Dori. The advanced level of Mutō Dori is entirely different from beginner’s level. It is about having the courage to face the opponent even if it means death for us. He added that when Uke attacks, we must “Yokeru Janai”, not avoid the attack. (1) That is a counter-intuitive move, and you have to train a lot to become able to do it.
Anyone facing a threat will try to avoid it. By not avoiding it, you create doubt in the attacker’s mind. And any doubt created is forcing Uke to think. When you think you put yourself out of the realm of “natural movement”.
Often, when we watch the Sakki test, we know before the cut if the receiver will dodge the blade or not. When you can see the examinee thinking, you know that he is going to be hit. But at one point he lets go, and his mind is at peace, the body reacts by itself. When it happens, it is always a beautiful moment to watch.
You should have the same attitude during the fight. Do not think, show no intent, and “play” with the opponent as if his actions are none of your concern. When you reach this level of Mutō Dori, you move in a natural way that Uke cannot understand until it is too late.
Sensei often speaks of Amo Isshun no Tamamushi. (2) This was the case yesterday.
If you trap a bee in your hands but let enough space, it will not sting. To be honest, even if I never tried, I know it works. During the fight, this is the same. You have to give enough space to Uke so that he doesn’t feel threatened by your movements. Your moves must be soft, slow, and not show any strength.
Hide your intent. As Sōke said, “if you don’t know what you are doing next, how do you want Uke to read your actions?
“Mutō Dori, Yokeru Janai, and Amo Isshun no Tamamushi”. That is the new Sanshin of 2017. Develop it to get to your next level of progression.
1. 避けるじゃない, do not avoid (physical contact with)
2. Amo Isshun no Tamamushi: 中一瞬 の 吉丁虫. 中 amo: centre, inside, during. 一瞬 isshun: one moment. 吉丁虫 tamamushi: jewel beetle
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