Good Or Bad, Keep Laughing!

Only 40 participants yesterday night at Sōke’s class. We had so much space to train that the Dōjō felt empty.
It was my last class for this trip, and Sensei taught control with taijutsu, hanbō, knife, sword, and bō.

He insisted again on the importance of control being the theme for this year practice. Controlling is beyond action. At the beginning of the class, he said that “It’s not about taking or not taking, it’s about control.” When we train, we try to copy his movements and do not focus enough on the invisible aspects of what he does. By copying the visible, we cannot grasp the subtle essence of the control. Often he will repeat the same action a few times, but he will adjust it depending on how his partner reacts. Even though we see the different movements, we only do one of his many variations.

When this happens, we tend to forget that control is not about a given technique. About Mutō Dori technique, he said, “I’m not avoiding, I’m just controlling.”

We also trained with two swords. Sensei blocked and controlled the sword of Uke, then swept it away. The sweep action was done by one body movement. This body flow creating a whiplash effect. After letting us try it a few times, he said that “I’m not spinning the sword but going with the flow. It is the body and not the sword that controls the attack.” A whole body movement is the only way to get this. To do that, keep your arms close to the torso and move the body.

Alex Meehan from Ireland was training next to me. He told me that some physiotherapist watched some videos by Sensei. This therapist doesn’t train martial arts at all. But after watching a few clips, he said, “this man [Sōke] is amazing. He has the rare ability to move each part of his body independent of the rest.”

This comment from an outsider is fascinating. We are used to seeing Sōke move the way he does. Because of habit, this prominent aspect of his body movement is so natural to us that we don’t see it anymore. Moving one part of the body, while being fully relaxed in the rest, is what makes the Bujinkan a fantastic martial art.

Unfortunately our insistence in “doing a waza,” doesn’t allow this to happen. If we want to move like Sensei one day, we have to train this.

The “nonchalance” of Sensei’s body, is how he is able to control us. He is not fighting (Tatakai wa Janai) but he is not avoiding either (Yokeru Janai). He said, “I’m teaching all aspects of control, not how to attack.” Control is a complex ability in which our actions can “fool” Uke without the mind even trying to. It is not a decision put into motion, it is a natural body attitude. To reach this, we need to train more, and for a long time.

This is why we fail so often. And this is good. Failing a lot on the mats is the only way to get it right, the day we will need it. In training, there is no right or wrong, only learning. We do our best and fail until we succeed. This is the “fake it, until you have it” principle.

In any case, good or bad, we have to be happy to train.

During the class, Sensei took the knife from Tezuka san and asked him to explain what he had felt. Tezuka san was going to speak when Sensei threw the knife at him. Still caught in his thoughts, he grabbed the knife. He was not watching and was surprised to see it in his hand. Sensei laughed and said, “It is essential to laugh whether it is good or bad.”

Sensei was in an excellent mood, and we laughed a lot. That was a memorable Bujinkan moment. I’m leaving today with this in mind, and I cannot wait to be back in a few months to continue my training with him.

“Good Or Bad, Keep Laughing!” and be happy!

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I will be back in November 2018 for Sensei’s birthday. Thank you for reading my posts,  I hope they help you. Please share your thoughts and experience in the comments. I hope to meet you on the mats one day, in Japan or during a seminar.

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