Do not fix your mind

From Shiro Kuma's Weblog by kumafr

get him to fix the ind and attack somewhere else

With the study of tachi kumiuchi we entered this year into a new dimension of sword fighting. This is why this year is really important for your martial evolution.

Zen masters have explained martial arts things better that some practitioner. Takuan is one of them and his explanations are so simple that I am quoting here a paragraph of  one of his books.

In the “unfettered mind” Takuan writes: “Although you see the sword that moves to strike you, if your mind is not detained by it and you meet the rhythm of the advancing sword; if  you do not think of striking your opponent and no thoughts or judgments remain; if the instant you see the swinging sword your mind is not the least bit detained and you move straight in and wrench the sword away from him; the sword that was going to cut you down will become your own, and, contrarily, will be the sword that cuts down your opponent”.

In budô if your mind is stopped on the weapon attacking you, on your hand holding the sword or if you give power to your fear, you will not be able to react freely. This is the whole point of sensei‘s teachings. If you want to handle the fight correctly (sabaki) you have to be free in your mind (see the post on isaku kaitatsu) and the solution adapted to the situation will manifest itself freely in your actions.

Being free means not trying to do anything, if you try to do a technique you will die and Hatsumi sensei‘s budô is about staying alive.

Train with no preconceived idea and you will be free. This is the gokui (essence) of budô.

Inyo kyojitsu

From Shiro Kuma's Weblog by kumafr

credit: Stéphane OzounoffThese days sensei speaks a lot about inyo kyojitsu. “inyo” is the Japanese name for yinyang and “kyojitsu” refers to falsehood/truth, similar to when we played with “menkyo kaiden” a few years ago.

Beyond these terms there is another reality that I would like to explore further.


Many things have been said about this Chinese principle on which Taoism is based. The first thing you should know is that those two concepts should never be separate. Where there is in, there is yo. In ancient China (as the kanji shows) these words defined the two sides of the sacred hill. They were created to define the two sides of a mountain: the sunny side (yo) and the darker one (in). It is impossible to cut the first one from the other. If you could split a mountain into two parts you would still have a dark side and a sunny side! This inyo principle is like the two sides of a sheet of paper, or a coin, one side implies the other. When you say “in AND yo” you create duality and do not see the whole picture.

The two kanji gives us more information:

The kanji for yo is 陽 and it is composed of three groups of strokes. The one on the left side looking like a “B” symbolizes the sacred hill where rituals were performed. The second group of two characters one on top of the other, is made out of  hi, the sun (日) on top, and of ame the rain (雨) below. They are separated by a horizontal bar meaning that things are changing and that after rain (dark time) the sun is coming (light time). This is not a judgment on things but merely an observation of the natural evolution of things in Life.

The kanji for in is 陰 and begins with the same “B” showing that the two are linked together. The group on the right is also made of two characters. On top is ima (今, now), and below is a simplified kumo (雲, cloud). It means that clouds are building up now and that change is being expected. This in is quite similar to the “I” of the I Ching used to indicate “a change, a transformation”.

The clear meaning of inyo therefore is that Life is changing permanently and switching from one state to the other. There is nothing negative or positive in this inyo (conversely to the understanding commonly used in the West), it is only a crystal clear observation of nature’s cycles (seasons, days, weather). Remember that the Chinese never invented the gods as we did in the rest of the world. For them Nature was permanent and evolution, and change was its main rule. They invented the I Ching in the first place to help make decisions on agricultural matters and render the invisible world (implicate) visible (explicate).

This is what sôke means when saying: “art is the ability (saino) to render the invisible, visible”.

Kyojitsu is another nice concept. Kyo is 虚 “false, untruth” and jitsu 実 is “truth”. Linking them both gives the idea of playing with falsehood and truth to deceive the opponent, or better, to confuse him so that he is always taking the wrong decisions.

Sometimes in Japan, during classes sensei speaks of “kyojutsu” instead of “kyojitsu”. Truth (実, jitsu) is then replaced by martial technique (術, jutsu). But as it goes with the inyo concept false implies the existence of truth too. Defining something also defines its opposite. As they say “badness is an absence of goodness”, cold creates hot, dark creates bright, female defines male etc. Interestingly, it is always the negative understanding of things that defines the positive understanding as if we were programmed to be optimistic. I use here the terms “negative” and “positive” not in opposition but in the same merging approach as in inyo, this is like the bipolarity of the magnet.

So when they speak of kyojutsu you should understand it as “kyojitsu no jutsu”, jitsu being created by completing kyo. Read between the lines. This is the definition of balance. Inyo kyojitsu allows us during training to understand the permanent flow of changes in Life and on the mats the nagare between uke and tori. Actually all our actions have to be balanced (kyojitsu) to be able to switch naturally into the inyo. Balancing everything we get rid of the thinking process and develop the ability (saino) to react to the non manifest aspects of things. Thinking would stop this process and prevent us from reaching what sensei tries to make us understand this year with rokkon shôjô, the logical consequence stemming from the saino kon ki of last year.

Having developed the ability (saino), and our spirit/soul (kon/tamashii), we encompass the container (utsuwa/ki). Please note that the bigger the container, the bigger the kûkan. Being alive in the kûkan we understand the balance of all things and react accordingly.

Having no intention we develop happiness and protect Life.

Rokkon shôjô

Kanji game

From Shiro Kuma's Weblog by kumafr

Taijutsu is the “martial technique of the body”. The kanji for body (tai 体) is composed of two others Jin (human) is 人 and moku  本 (tree) i.e. nature but meaning also “true, real”. Therefore, Taijutsu can be seen as “the way to protect nature”; or “the way to become a true man”.

Bring death to life to preserve life

From Shiro Kuma's Weblog by kumafr

Last class Hatsumi sensei played with the meaning of two words “ikasu” and “kaitatsu“. Ikasu means “being stylish or smart” but written differently is “to keep alive, or to capitalize on experience”. But in sensei’s idea it was more like bringing something to life. As far as I understand, the technique does not matter and our kamae should appear by themselves without thinking. This is quite similar to the idea expressed in the Tao (chapter 38):

The Master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done.

Our actions should be the ones of a master not of an ordinary man. By doing nothing we do not interfere with nature, and are able to seize the subtle information lying there for us in space. This is why sensei linked it to kaitatsu.

Sensei defined kaitatsu as some kind of “mysterious transmission of power”. But later he told me “imagination”. So kaitatsu is actually the ability to imagine new development in our action process based upon the information received by our senses. To receive this “power” (nothing mystical there), we have to develop the ikasu defined earlier.

We can understand this as follows: Life is meant to create not to destroy. As often with sôke the words he used are hiding many deeper meanings within them. Plato said that the “knowledge of words led to the knowledge of things”. This is exactly how sensei is teaching. Everything that he teaches has to be understood and assimilated at various levels. If we stay only at the omote level we train a nice martial art not so much different from the other gendai budô. Conversely, if we play with the sounds, the words and their roots (at the ura level) we enter a multiple entry system like a matrix that goes further, leaves the physical world, and give access to the philosophical world in which we will transform our vision of Life. Those changes and interpretations are infinite, they are like the cycle of life beginning with “A” and finishing with “UN”. The baby first sound and the dying man last. But this is also the Japanese pronunciation of the Indian “OM”. Everything is linked.

So if we are not meant to destroy but to preserve life why do we train budô? We train budô to understand death and by this understanding we come to the conclusion that killing has to be avoided. This is pure common sense. But in order to understand death we have to feel it and that is why the techniques we train at the dôjô can be so devastating. We do not injure our partners but we train in such a way that we are aware of the risks and therefore get to understand death. This whole thing about death is linked to kûkan. Kûkan is the “last frontier” where nothing more is manifested, this is the end of things. To get to kûkan we must go to our “last frontier” where nothing more exist, no waza no kankaku neither. Only then can we communicate death (kaitatsu). By knowing and understanding death we reach the level of kûkan. By being into the kûkan we can manifest it, by manifesting kûkan we manifest death, and we communicate it to the opponent who will stop his attack paralyzed by his own fears and tensions.

This is one way to understand the in-yo kyôjitsu that sensei introduced this year. To preserve life, you have to know death. By sending this death feeling to uke, he cannot attack anymore.

Ikasu unleashes kaitatsu and paradoxically our lethal power perceived by the attacker preserves his life. His life is in his hands, it’s his choice to live or die.

Kuki Taisho!

Honbu dôjô experience

From Shiro Kuma's Weblog by kumafr

Today Noguchi sensei did the first morning class and he taught us parts of the koto ryû. Then it was the regular class with sôke but as he had some obligations, I was honoured by Noguchi sensei to begin the teaching.

This is not the first time it happens to me on Sundays but I always find it strange when it happens.  When I remember my first classes here in Japan more than 20 years ago (no Honbu dôjô at that time) I  measure the long path I have been following since then. Back then, I would never have suspected that the young man I was then, would learn so much on how to become a true human being. What Hatsumi sensei is teaching in his budô is not a set of old fighting techniques but really a way of Life that transforms you more than you think. As he said yesterday night we have to behave as members of the samurai class, the upper layer of the Japanese feudal society.

Our actions should be guided by the code of chivalry. Today during the calligraphy session, I asked him to write “chivalry” and I got “shinobi” … I don’t think he made a mistake. He is teaching us through mysterious ways.

During the break, he told me that we (jûgodan) have to follow him and walk by his side as long as we can and do what he asks  instead of thinking too much by ourselves.

Being a sensei he is guiding us as far as possible, and the closer we are to him the further we can go. This is, he said, what he did with Takamatsu sensei.