Rekishi: History

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As far as I remember, Sunday classes at the Honbu are special. When at the old Honbu, Hatsumi Sensei always invited a few of us to lunch with him. We moved to the new Honbu in February 2015, and this tradition stopped. Sensei is now more talkative.

 

I used the word “tradition” voluntarily here. What is a tradition? Google says, “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.” What he did was to share the Bujinkan spirit with his older students (October 1997 and February 2015).
At lunch, he would take the temperature of the Bujinkan, and speak about the Bujinkan. I have good memories of those moments.

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But in the recent Sundays, Sensei moved from “tradition” to history. He often speaks now about the old Jidai. (1) With better knowledge about history, he wants us to prepare the future Jidai of the Bujinkan. (2)

He wants us to understand the symbol of Samurai warfare, the sword.

Last Sunday, he arrived from his usual sword dealer with six new swords and detailed them to us. He said, “high ranks must understand the Japanese sword. This is the key to unlock the understanding of Mutō Dori.”

IMG_20180729_120904History is significant when you train martial arts, this is not a sport. Japanese history is about survival, and these weapons made it possible.

By understanding the weapons, you get a glimpse on how you can move with them and survive in battle. And he wants the Dai Shihan to get this.

History comes from the Greek ἱστορία – historia, meaning “inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation.” It is Rekishi in Japanese. History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. (3)

IMG_20180729_120714We have to study Rekishi should and investigate it seriously. That is if you want to get the knowledge of the Samurai.

Our Waza were created during the Sengoku Jidai, (4) -what historians call the “Age of Warring States.” This period began with the Ōnin wars (1467-1477) and lasted for about a century. (5)

Oda Nobunaga emerged from this time of chaos and began the unification of the country. It will end with Hideyoshi, and bring Japan to peace with Tokugawa. This extended period of five centuries is the Bujinkan Jidai!

IMG_20180729_120028The history of the Samurai is what makes Japan so different from our own history. Initiated by Minamoto no Yoritomo with the Genpei War (fall of the Taira in 1185), a new Japan is born. (6)

The victory of Tokugawa at Sekigahara in 1600 completes the transformation. (7)

Our fighting arts are the means with which these changes were carried out on the battlefield.

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Ignoring Rekishi is limiting the Bujinkan to another sport martial arts.

Thus the reason why Sensei wants us to study it.

The dōjō logic replaces the military needs with a form of business at the beginning of the 17th century. It is very far from the Yoroi logic developed on the battlefield.

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This is during this period that the Katana (Edo) replaces the Tachi (Sengoku). As a consequence, Tameshi Giri will develop only after the Samurai stopped fighting. (8)

This is the knowledge Sensei wants us to get.

One thing Sensei said on Sunday, was that “you should know what weapon is good for you.” Study them and use the ones that fit your abilities.

The Bujinkan Rekishikan (9) covers the 12th to the 17th century.

It should be studied like any other Waza.
Rekishikan can lead to Reishikikan, and give us “the intuition to have the correct manners of a knight.” (10)

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1. Jidai 時代; period; epoch; era; age
2. Jidai 次代; the next era
3. Rekishi 歴史; history
8. In times of peace, there is no need to wear the Yoroi. It was then possible to cut with the sword instead of only stabbing (Tachi).
9. Rekishikan 歴史館; historical viewpoint
10. Reikishikan 礼騎士勘; Rei: manners, etiquette 礼; Kishi: knight 騎士; Kan: intuition 勘
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Muishiki: Unconsciousness

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These days Hatsumi Sensei arrives late and leaves late. It is not rare these days to finish three hours after the beginning. And Sensei explains a lot in class and during the breaks.

Sunday was no different. And Sensei is full of projects. He is getting a hundred Ninjatō swords to make an exposition. He wants to show the public how wrong scholars are about Ninpō. He is also preparing a new book with Kodansha on swords.

During class, a group of more than seventy were present. Sōke said that Dai Shihan should now train with a metal sword to understand the type of control of Mutō Dori. In the movements, he then detailed more of his understanding of “control.” Control is an essential part of Mutō Dori, but I guess that by now, you have figured it out.

Like in the previous sessions we did each technique with taijutsu, knife, hanbō, biken, and bō.

One concept he developed is “Muishiki,” unconsciousness. (1) This is the mental state where Mutō Dori can express itself. There are no more waza, no techniques.

What he does is beyond that. This also makes it very hard to explain with words. This is why in this post, I will use the words he said during training. Every quote will help you understand what “control is. It is not simple, except when he does it.

“Come close and stick to him.”
As always distance is a crucial element to master control. As there is no technique, what Sensei does is pure taijutsu. When you are afraid of the attacker, he feels it and continues even more to attack. By using “Yokeru Janai” (don’t avoid) and “Tatakai wa Janai” (don’t fight) (2), you stay close to the attacker and stick to him. This closeness forces him to react and stops his actions. Each Uke Sensei used stopped their attack after one movement. As we said earlier, they looked like suspended in mid-air. (3)

“Uke must not know what is happening, it is essential.”
Uke stops because what he faces is not logical. As Sōke is Muishiki, there is no intention he can detect. At the same time, there is no waza. Uke stops because there is no fight. He stays there because he doesn’t know what is happening. All senses are out.

“You’re not attacking or hurting him, you’re controlling.”
The quality of the control makes this lack of feeling possible. You don’t fight Uke, you position your body out of his reach but keeping contact with him. There is no fight, only control.

“Amo Isshun no Tamamushi.” (4) (5)
Ae you don’t use or show any force, Uke is not willing to attack. Sensei used the image of Amo Isshun no Tamamushi. The bee trapped between your hands will not sting because it is blind. It is unaware of what is happening.

“Remember to control within the space. Use the space within.”
Because Uke doesn’t feel, he is not threatened. You keep him controlled within the space. (6)

Muishiki is part of all that. It is like some Buddhist techniques of active meditation. You are free to move and to do whatever is possible. In Mutō Dori you are in control of yourself, of your opponent, and of your environment.

Muishiki. You are one with the universe.
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1. Mu Ishiki 無意識; unconsciousness
2. On Yokeru Janai and Tatakai wa Janai see HERE
3. See more about Ubaku in Hi no Ken HERE
4. 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
5. On Amo Isshun no Tamamushi HERE
6. Control within the space HERE
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I Quit The Bujinkan!

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After trying my best for many years, I have come to the conclusion that I have to quit training. At least, this is the feeling that everyone must have had today during Senō sensei’s class.

Today only fourteen came to the Honbu to train. I found it strange. Friday night, more than seventy participants attended Sensei’s class. I guess the light morning rain is to blame.

Only black belts were training, and a majority of us were fifteenth dan. Everyone was lost. And I guess that many were wondering what they were doing there. No one in the room could reproduce the two techniques of Senō sensei today!

Many like me must have thought: “Ok, this is too much, I quit the Bujinkan!”

And the techniques were simple: Omote Gyaku (taijutsu); and Tsuke Iri (hanbō). Finding something more fundamental is hard. But in Senō sensei’s personal blender, they become impossible.

We could have done them as we usually do them, but then why bothering to attend a masterclass? The others might have thought that. Who needs to get out of the comfort zone? And it was raining, you know?

Even though I couldn’t do them the way he demonstrated them, I will give you here a few glimpses of what he did.

Omote Gyaku:
On a right Tsuki. You absorb the fist with the right hand, your legs are in Shizen once you have the perfect distance. Then with a step to the left, your body gives the attacking hand to your left hand. The right elbow is close to the body to provide the power through the legs. But keep a certain distance between Uke and you. If you get too close, he will attack with the other fist. Your body is now on the right side of Uke, feet in Shizen. Your right thumb hooks Uke’s thumb. At the same time, your forefinger creates a Shiten on the wrist/forearm. There is no force.

Then using the other fingers as if playing the piano you turn the soft grip from the right hand to the left. You do the “piano” movement at the same time you move your left leg forward so that his hand is now at this side. You lower his arm, and the Omote Gyaku takes his balance. It is very subtle.

If you did that, the way I describe it, then you are better than me. Let me know in the comments.

Tsuke Iri with Hanbō:
On a Tsuki, you step backwards while being in contact with Uke’s arm. Your Hanbō is in line with the fist. The Waki Uchi is replaced by the Hanbō placed on top of the shoulder. Pulling the weapon and the arm to get his balance, you do a twist to the arm while stepping to the side. When you do that, it keeps the tip of the Hanbō in place on top of the shoulder. If you did the correct footwork, you are now more on the right side of Uke. From there, you exchange hands (arm/Hanbō) and continue to move towards Uke. Your Hanbō goes down vertical on the outside of Uke’s body. It locks Uke, and you take his balance with your footwork.

As I never figured out how to do the change of the hands, I never reached the right end of the movement. Once again, if you succeed, let me know in the comments.

Two hours, two basic movements. And a strong feeling of despair for everyone that attended the class today.

How come after so many years, we are unable to get this subtlety in our taijutsu. Is it time to accept the Bujinkan is not made for us? Or should we come more often, and learn with a “student mind,” the many things we still have to grasp? I guess the second option.

The difficulty of these basic moves is the reason why after many waza it says “there is a Kūden.”

As you all know, with his swollen legs Senō sensei cannot walk. Each step is painful. But, each Saturday, he comes and teaches at the Honbu, no matter what. No one forces him to do it. He does it because of his commitment to the Bujinkan and to Sensei. The Bujinkan is about resilience and perseverance.

And still, only fourteen attended his class!

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One Finger Is Enough!

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Hatsumi Sensei showing the “one finger control” last December


Hatsumi sensei controls distance with only one finger. When you attack him, he moves away enough to place one finger on your attacking arm. He adjusts it on the hand, wrist, or forearm, and applies no pressure. Instead, there is only soft physical contact.

Sensei said that Josei Goshin Jutsu (1), to fight like a woman the last thing he learned from his teacher. He said it is the most challenging thing that he ever trained. Controlling the opponent’s violence without force is the highest level of fighting. This is Mutō Dori.

During wartime, we can use more violence. But in the 21st century, we have to limit our reactions to what is legally accepted. During peacetime, this type of control is vital as everyone must obey the Law. Be aware that legal environments differ significantly from one country to another.

“Self-defense is a countermeasure that involves defending oneself, one’s property or the well-being of another from harm. The use of the right of self-defense as a legal justification for the use of force in times of danger is available in many jurisdictions, but the interpretation varies widely.”

France has adjusted the laws about self-defense since January 2015. The violent terrorist attacks have created a near war state in the country. So, the law has evolved. (2)

Josei goshin jutsu is more powerful because it doesn’t need any strength. It is hard for practitioners to understand they can solve a fight without being violent. This is the famous “Chikara Janai” repeated by Hatsumi sensei in class. (3)

Sōke said that we keep using speed and strength even though he asks us not to do so because of wrong timing. He said that “everybody is rushing because we are late.” Using an analogy, he added, “it is like catchball, expect the point of arrival in space and time and bring in.” Anticipation is all you need.

When studying “Kannin Dokuson,” we learned to control everything: the opponent, us, and the environment. (4)

Last Sunday Sensei said that “if you are controlling yourself, then it is all the same.” By controlling yourself, you do not react too early but at the correct moment. Your timing will match the attacker’s speed and moment, and you will be able to control him with only one finger. When you can control yourself, you do not show anything. If your intentions motivate your actions, you make mistakes.

What you do when you are at the right distance and at the right moment depends on the attacker. It is not your fight, it is not your decision. Your actions are natural it is not a technique. He said that “whatever you have, use it.”

There is no technique because, at this level of Mutō Dori, we are way beyond the technical realm. (6)

Do you want to be invincible? Fight like a woman with “Josei goshin jutsu,” and you will always get the finger distance right.

And don’t forget: “One finger is enough!” (7)
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1. Josei Goshin Jutsu: 女性護身術; woman art of self-defense
2. Terrorist attacks of Charlie Hebdo, the Bataclan, The Stade de France, Nice, etc
3. Chikara Janai 力じゃない; there is no force
4. Kannin Dokuson 貫忍 独貴; respect Uke, yourself, and the environment.
KAN 一貫/ikkan/consistency; coherence; integration; 貫/kan;
NIN 忍/nin/endurance; forbearance; patience; self-restraint;
DOKU 独り/hitori/one person|alone; solitary;
SON 尊/son/tattobu/to value; to prize; to esteem; to respect; revered; noble
5. Read https://kumablog.org/2017/01/20/kannin-dokuson-first-approach/ and after

6. Mutō Dori: check our streaming platform www.koimartialart.com
7. One finger is enough: Yubi Ippon Jūbun, 指一本十分

Sōzōryoku: Creativity And Imagination

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Noguchi sensei’s creative power is impressive! It is called “Sōzōryoku” in Japanese. Now, depending on how you write it, is (the power of) creativity (1); or (the power of) imagination. (2)

After training with him for more than 28 years, I am often surprised by his way of destructuring the Waza. This is still beyond my abilities. All the techniques we train in the dōjō are coming from the Densho.

Each class, Noguchi sensei read the technique as if it is the first time, and comes up with a new interpretation. Over the years, he has developed his own destructuring pattern. But I find the variations of these popular movements always surprising.

I guess this is due to the way the Japanese language plays with concepts and images instead of words, the way we do. By playing with the many meaning of one given set of kanji, you can come up with an infinity of interpretations.

For example, Sōzōryoku as “the power of creativity” is a mix of “genesis+create+power.” (3) (4) (5)
But when Sōzōryoku has the meaning of “power of imagination,” it is “idea+form.”
And with a Buddhist spiritual connotation, it becomes “perception+appearance.” (6) (7)
The many interpretations of the Kanji make Japanese more alive than western languages. In that respect, this is what makes Noguchi sensei’s taijutsu so playful.

Here are the definitions of the dictionary for creativity and imagination.
“Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new that has some kind of value. What counts as “new” may be about the individual creator, or to the society or domain within which the novelty occurs.”
“Imagination also called the faculty of imagining, is the ability to form images and sensations when they are not perceived through sight, hearing, or other senses. Imagination helps provide meaning to experience and understanding to knowledge. It is a fundamental faculty through which people make sense of the world, and it also plays a key role in the learning process.”

Creativity adds value and imagination makes sense. Both are the sources of Mutō Dori. You can see them as two legs, to walk you need both of them. And proper walking is the secret of Mutō Dori. Through creativity and imagination, we will be able to move like Sensei does.

The way Hatsumi Sensei and the Japanese Dai Shihan move, is the result of their fantastic ability to rethink the already known. Keep in mind that they have been repeating the same Waza for more than fifty years! And still, they surprise us every class.

So, remember that, next time your students (or yourself) complain about repeating the Sanshin no kata and the Kihon Happō.

Sōzōryoku is the real training, and the correct path to develop your own taijutsu.
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1. Sōzōryoku 創造力; creative power.
2. Sōzōryoku 想像力; (the power of) imagination
3. 創 = genesis
4. 造 = create
5. 力 = power
6. 想 = conception; idea; thought . It is also “perception” for the Buddhists (Samjna)
7. 像 = image; picture; portrait , form; shape; appearance