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Acting or Coaching?

Leon Tolstoi said, “Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.”
Benjamin Franklin said: “Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I remember. Involve me, and I learn.”

What we train is Art but requires some strong basics to be expressed correctly. Because of that I’m too often stuck between two attitudes: teaching the form or showing the feeling?

Put differently; the question is: as a Martial Arts teacher, should I be an actor or a coach?

The actor is showing his level of expertise to the student; he doesn’t actually teach.
Acting is what you can do when you are teaching high ranks so that they get the feeling, the forms being different for everyone. More or less this is what you get when training in Japan with Hatsumi Sensei and the Dai Shihan.

The coach does it differently. He does his best to transmit his knowledge simply so that each student can get to reproduce the technique.
Coaching is what you are supposed to do when you are teaching beginners.

The more I teach, and the more I turn into a coach. And I like it.
This year has been very active for me. I gave multiple seminars: 4 in France, 3 in India, 2 in Germany, 2 in Dubai, and 1 in Argentina, Brasil, and Colombia. And I went twice to train in Japan. Over the course of the year, I saw my teaching evolve to turn more into coaching. At first, I had the feeling to be lazy, but then I understood that this was the way to go.

Too often, teachers use their seminars as an excuse to show off. The dōjō becomes a theater stage where they demonstrate their excellence to be worshiped by the attendees. And this is wrong when the majority of participants in a seminar are not Shidōshi. Let me explain that.

When you are a beginner or a young black belt, what you need is not to attend a show, you need to learn how to be able to move correctly. When I was much younger, I loved to watch the Formula 1 races. But honestly, it didn’t better my driving abilities! We have many gifted high ranks in the Bujinkan, but not all of them are destined to teach. A high-rank diploma does not come with teaching ability. You have to like to teach. In my dōjō, I teach the beginners and let the Shidōshi show the black belts. I find it more interesting and also more challenging intellectually. Showing your excellence is only challenging your ego. I did it long enough to be aware of it.

The Denshō are for Transmission. (1)
If knowledge were supposed to be just a show, then teachers would be Kenshō, “natural show offs”! (2)

Show your level to the high ranks, and be a coach for the beginners, this is Sekinin, your moral responsibility. (3)

____________________
1. 伝承 Denshō: handing down (information); legend; tradition; folklore; transmission.
Denshō is the name given to the scrolls of a Ryū.
2. 衒性, Kenshō: show off + nature (of a person or thing)
3. 責任, Sekinin: duty; responsibility (incl. supervision of staff) , liability; Moral responsibility


VID_20170802_193919
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Control, Don’t Fight!

Control_hatsumi_arnaud_cousergue

During the flight from Japan to India, I was sorting my training notes, and I remembered this sentence by Sunzi: “the Supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
It is quite similar to “Mutō Dori is not about fighting, it’s about controlling” that Hatsumi sensei kept repeating in each class.

The focus these days at the Honbu is not only about controlling the attacker (Jin), but also the environment in every possible way. Without proper control of the situation, you are limiting your options solely to the Jin Ryaku! If you can manage the space of the Ten Ryaku (weather) and the Chi Ryaku (terrain) together with the Jin, then the control is total.

I call that “Sanshin no Seigyo” (1): controlling the three aspects of the Tenchijin.

The Sanshin no Seigyo is not a technique, it is an attitude that goes beyond the Waza learned in the dōjō. As Sensei said, “everyone can do a Waza correctly, but controlling is more high level.”

It is linked to this year’s theme “Kannin Dokuson”. (2)
By controlling the Sanshin no Seigyo, you apply the three aspects of Kannin Dokuson based upon respect.
They are the respect for your attacker, for yourself, and mutual respect. Respect in Japanese is Tattobu (3), this is also the “Kan” in Kannin Dokuson.

But don’t get it wrong. Respect is not only to esteem, but it also means that you have to pay attention to your attacker’s intent; to show nothing about your intentions, and to develop a full awareness of your space and environment. The management of space includes the attacker, the defender, and the surroundings. Forget this simple complexity, and you lower your technical level to a mere Waza. And control is not about doing Waza!

On a sword attack by a Japanese Shihan, Sensei added that “you have to control the Kûkan in which the sword is moving in”. This space is not static; it is moving and unfolding in the moment. If you try to react to the cut, you end up dead. On the contrary, if you grab the space and control it, nothing will surprise you, and you will be able to react correctly before the blow hits you. Obviously, this requires a high level of expertise. I must admit that I find it hard to achieve. I’m working on it.

Sanshin no Seigyo seems to me to be the next step of my Budō evolution, maybe it should be yours, too, because controlling is stronger than fighting.
________________
1. 制禦/seigyo/control; governing; checking; suppression; repression; restraint; mastery; management
2, Kannin Dokuson: 貫忍 独尊: Kan 貫/ 貴ぶ/tattobu/to value; to prize; to esteem; to respect
Nin 忍/nin/endurance; forbearance; patience; self-restraint
Dokuson 独り/Hitori/one person|alone; unmarried; solitary and
Son 尊ぶ/tattobu/to value; to prize; to esteem; to respect
3, Tattobu 貴ぶ, to value; to prize; to esteem; to respect.

 


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Flow Around Like Sensei Does

“Mutō Dori is about controlling, not fighting!” said sensei, once again, at the beginning of the class.

But what does he mean? Here some beginning of an explanation.
Watching and listening carefully, I understood the following: Sensei uses his finger(s) as a contact point(s) with the attacker. The contact(s) act as a Shiten, fulcrum. (1)
Once the connection established, Hatsumi sensei only rotates around the fulcrum, and reposition his whole body in a dynamic flow, and in slow motion. Slow is the key.

Since we studied the proprioceptive abilities of the human brain, we know that “speed” is perceived more or less accurately if the shape (your body) is still in view.

Big shape vs. small speed = shape is what matters; small shape vs. big speed = speed is what is important to the brain. (2)

When Sensei touches Uke with one finger, this point of contact becomes the axis of rotation. But what I noticed in class, is that Sensei is not pivoting from this point, he’s turning the whole body around it. That is the difference between Mawashi and Mawari. In Mawashi you pivot from the axis; in Mawari you walk around the axis. Using the image of a merry-go-round, it rotates on the axis, but you on the horse are turning around. We studied that in 2003 with the Kunai.

When you attack sensei, you have the feeling that you’re going to hit him because it seems to you that he’s not moving at all. But the moment you think you hit him, he is not there, and you’re defeated. His movements are slow, but his timing, his distance, and the rhythm of his movements are perfect. He’s like a plane flying under the radar.

This perfection is achieved with what he called “Zentai”, full body movement. (4)

He’s not only walking away at the ideal moment, but he’s also moving his shoulders up and down in a wave-like motion. Noguchi sensei made me aware of this “kata Nami” movement, “look at the shoulders” he told me. And I saw it. Without his help in not sure I would have seen it. (5)

During the whole class, Sensei insisted that we have to use the subconscious mind instead of the
conscious mind to be able to flow naturally the way he does.

I understand, but I’m unable to do it. That is the next level.

Ganbate
_________________
1. Shiten: 支点, Fulcrum
2. Proprioception: Here’s a short reminder. The human brain processes the information following the importance of the “5S”: Shape, Speed, Sound, Spectrum (colour), Smell.
As long as your visibility is more important to the attacker’s brain and sight, that your slow movements, he will not “see” you moving. Technically you’re “invisible”. Conversely, if you speed up your movements, they will get more important for his brain, and he will counter your actions.
3. Mawari: 回り, rotation, around,
Mawashi: 回す, to turn; to rotate; to gyrate, to surround.
Please note that the kanji are identical. It is the conceptual scheme that differs here.
4. Zentai: 全体, whole; entirety; whatever (is the matter) / here: the whole body
5. Kata Nami:
波, wave + 肩, shoulder; To roll the shoulder up and down to open Uke
6.潜在意識, Senzaiishiki, subconscious (awareness)

 


Iwai_stream_arnaud_cousergue
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Did Sensei Gave The Theme For 2018?

Hatsumi_Arnaud_cousergue_Bujinkan
Is Mutō Dori the first step to knighthood?
Is it possible to become a knight in the modern times (Jidai), or was it only possible in the past (Jidai)? (1)
Here is an occidental Knight’s oath that reminded me of the Mutō Dori theme:
Be without fear in the face of your enemies.
Stand brave and upright.
Speak the truth always, even if it means your death.
Protect the helpless and do no wrong.
When you read this oath from the past, you see similarities with what Hatsumi sensei is teaching at the Honbu dōjō. The Mutō Dori of 2017 is to move towards the opponent with no fear even if you might die. And this whether you have a weapon or not. Ethics and values will keep us brave and upright. But this requires physical courage and high values.
How many Bujinkan Shihan and practitioners understand that today?
Sunday after the calligraphy session, Sensei was speaking to us, saying that the next year’s theme would be “Ninkyō”. “There are many meanings for it” he added. In this post, I’d like to share with you some of them.
Ninkyō 任侠 means chivalry. Thence my interrogation about knighthood.
It also carries the ideas of generosity; heroism; chivalrous spirit; and helping the weak and fighting the strong. Aren’t those values what Sensei tried to achieve by developing the Bujinkan during these past forty years?
We all know that the Bujinkan has developed without any “master plan”, as Sensei only follows the path of nature, and adapts his vision permanently to the situation. In fact, Sensei, like the Ishitobashi of 2015 (2), bounces on the surface of life following the changes on the surface of the water. After the Fukushima catastrophe I phoned Sensei, and when I asked about how he felt, he answered: “Banpen Fugyō”, “10000 changes, no surprise”. Change is permanent, and as a Bujinkan member and a follower of Sōke, we have to go with the flow of things. The Bujinkan is not an organization; it is a gathering of people following his understanding of life.
Or it was supposed to be like that. Because these days, things are changing (decaying?) fast, and I am witnessing abroad, and also in Japan, a negative evolution in the Shihan’s behaviors and values. Respect and obedience are disappearing, and I’m concerned that some turbulent times are coming. I hope that Sōke’s dream will prevail, and maybe this is why the next theme might be Ninkyō, chivalry.
Chivalry, knighthood, regroup values that our society has discarded to a more profit-oriented life. If money and power are the only values the majority is seeking, then no wonder why our Budō is not developing in the proper direction. But don’t blame Sensei for that, blame yourself! We are the Bujinkan, and now is the time to stand up and to fight for re-establishing our values.
Ethics and morality might be outdated, but they are the real foundations of the Bujinkan Budō. I’m not referring here to the modern vision of Budō exposed in the Hagakure or the Bushidō, even if some aspects of these books can still be of value today for the serious practitioner. (3)(4)
With Ninkyō, Hatsumi sensei’s Budō is turning us into new knights, and this is our duty to make ours, the values of the old Jidai (時代) to bring them into the Jidai (次代) of the future because the future is now. If we do not act rapidly, all that Toda Sensei, Takamatsu Sensei, and Hatsumi Sensei have created might vanish like a “puff of smoke”.
Toda Sensei showed the correct path:
To know that patience comes first. Know that endurance is simply a puff of smoke.
To know that the path of man comes from justice. Know that the way of men is justice.
To renounce avarice, indolence, and obstinacy. Forget the heart of greed, ease and relying on others.
To recognise sadness and worry as natural, and to seek the immovable heart. One should regard both sadness and malice as natural laws, and just gain the enlightenment of an unshakable heart.
To not stray from the path of loyalty and brotherly love, and to delve always deeper into the heart of Budō.
In your heart, never leave the ways of loyalty and filial piety, and aspire greatly for the ways of the pen and the sword.
Written on New Year’s Day in 1891 Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu
If we don’t take action rapidly to correct our attitudes, follow the guidelines set up by Toda Sensei, and the ethics and values of chivalry, then the Bujinkan will turn into anarchy and tyranny, and prove Plato right. (5)
Ninkyō (任侠), “chivalry” is also our Ninkyō (任今日), our “duty for now” (6); if we do not want to become Ninkyō (仁虚), “evil humans!” (7)
___________________________
1. 時代 vs. 次代, Jidai vs. Jidai: If the first Jidai, 時代 means: 1. period; epoch; era; age ; 2. the times; those days ; 3. oldness; ancientness; antiquity; it is interesting to know that Jidai, 次代, means “the next era “
2. Ishitobashi: 石飛ばし, skipping stones (on a body of water)
3. Hagakure and Bushidō: The Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo was written by a clerk (?) during peace time in the 18th century, fifty years before Meiji. The author had no clue of the Sengoku Jidai period. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagakure
4. The Bushidō by Nitobe Inazō was written even later in 1899 and published in the 2oth century! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushido
6. Ninkyō (任今日), obligation; duty; charge; responsibility + today
7. Ninkyō (仁虚), human + falsehood

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Did Sensei Give The Theme For 2018?

Hatsumi_Arnaud_cousergue_Bujinkan

Is Mutō Dori the first step to knighthood?

Is it possible to become a knight in the modern times (Jidai), or was it only possible in the past (Jidai)? (1)

Here is an occidental Knight’s oath that reminded me of the Mutō Dori theme:

Be without fear in the face of your enemies.

Stand brave and upright.

Speak the truth always, even if it means your death.

Protect the helpless and do no wrong.

When you read this oath from the past, you see similarities with what Hatsumi sensei is teaching at the Honbu dōjō. The Mutō Dori of 2017 is to move towards the opponent with no fear even if you might die. And this whether you have a weapon or not. Ethics and values will keep us brave and upright. But this requires physical courage and high values.

How many Bujinkan Shihan and practitioners understand that today?

Sunday after the calligraphy session, Sensei was speaking to us, saying that the next year’s theme would be “Ninkyō”. “There are many meanings for it” he added. In this post, I’d like to share with you some of them.

Ninkyō 任侠 means chivalry. Thence my interrogation about knighthood.

It also carries the ideas of generosity; heroism; chivalrous spirit; and helping the weak and fighting the strong. Aren’t those values what Sensei tried to achieve by developing the Bujinkan during these past forty years?

We all know that the Bujinkan has developed without any “master plan”, as Sensei only follows the path of nature, and adapts his vision permanently to the situation. In fact, Sensei, like the Ishitobashi of 2015 (2), bounces on the surface of life following the changes on the surface of the water. After the Fukushima catastrophe I phoned Sensei, and when I asked about how he felt, he answered: “Banpen Fugyō”, “10000 changes, no surprise”. Change is permanent, and as a Bujinkan member and a follower of Sōke, we have to go with the flow of things. The Bujinkan is not an organization; it is a gathering of people following his understanding of life.

Or it was supposed to be like that. Because these days, things are changing (decaying?) fast, and I am witnessing abroad, and also in Japan, a negative evolution in the Shihan’s behaviors and values. Respect and obedience are disappearing, and I’m concerned that some turbulent times are coming. I hope that Sōke’s dream will prevail, and maybe this is why the next theme might be Ninkyō, chivalry.

Chivalry, knighthood, regroup values that our society has discarded to a more profit-oriented life. If money and power are the only values the majority is seeking, then no wonder why our Budō is not developing in the proper direction. But don’t blame Sensei for that, blame yourself! We are the Bujinkan, and now is the time to stand up and to fight for re-establishing our values.

Ethics and morality might be outdated, but they are the real foundations of the Bujinkan Budō. I’m not referring here to the modern vision of Budō exposed in the Hagakure or the Bushidō, even if some aspects of these books can still be of value today for the serious practitioner. (3)(4)

With Ninkyō, Hatsumi sensei’s Budō is turning us into new knights, and this is our duty to make ours, the values of the old Jidai (時代) to bring them into the Jidai (次代) of the future because the future is now. If we do not act rapidly, all that Toda Sensei, Takamatsu Sensei, and Hatsumi Sensei have created might vanish like a “puff of smoke”.

Toda Sensei showed the correct path:

To know that patience comes first. Know that endurance is simply a puff of smoke.

To know that the path of man comes from justice. Know that the way of men is justice.

To renounce avarice, indolence, and obstinacy. Forget the heart of greed, ease and relying on others.

To recognise sadness and worry as natural, and to seek the immovable heart. One should regard both sadness and malice as natural laws, and just gain the enlightenment of an unshakable heart.

To not stray from the path of loyalty and brotherly love, and to delve always deeper into the heart of Budō.

In your heart, never leave the ways of loyalty and filial piety, and aspire greatly for the ways of the pen and the sword.

Written on New Year’s Day in 1891 Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu

If we don’t take action rapidly to correct our attitudes, follow the guidelines set up by Toda Sensei, and the ethics and values of chivalry, then the Bujinkan will turn into anarchy and tyranny, and prove Plato right. (5)

Ninkyō (任侠), “chivalry” is also our Ninkyō (任今日), our “duty for now” (6); if we do not want to become Ninkyō (仁虚), “evil humans!” (7)

___________________________

1. 時代 vs. 次代, Jidai vs. Jidai: If the first Jidai, 時代 means: 1. period; epoch; era; age ; 2. the times; those days ; 3. oldness; ancientness; antiquity; it is interesting to know that Jidai, 次代, means “the next era ”

2. Ishitobashi: 石飛ばし, skipping stones (on a body of water)

3. Hagakure and Bushidō: The Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo was written by a clerk (?) during peace time in the 18th century, fifty years before Meiji. The author had no clue of the Sengoku Jidai period. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagakure

4. The Bushidō by Nitobe Inazō was written even later in 1899 and published in the 2oth century! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushido

5. The Plato Republic, book VIII: http://www.mc.maricopa.edu/~davpy35701/text/plato-democ2.pdf

6. Ninkyō (任今日), obligation; duty; charge; responsibility + today

7. Ninkyō (仁虚), human + falsehood


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