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Demo: The Intelligence Of However

The waves keep crashing on the shore, they change to adapt, but they are all the same. Water flows on what it finds on its path.

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change,” said Stephen Hawking. That is what we learn in the Bujinkan.
A friend in Japan noted that Sensei always finished his sentences by “Demo” (however). Sensei leaves all his answers unfinished. (1)It reminds me of the concept of Chūtō Hanpa, (2) where you do NOT finish the technique.
It is easy to understand it in a fight where many right solutions are possible. There are many ways to adapt to a given attack. But it seems more difficult to apply it on a daily basis. Our problem is that we are too judgmental. We always an opinion about everything. Sensei doesn’t have any firm position. He never closes the door, and never get things fixed permanently.
His answers are flows of possibility fitting the moment. All through these last thirty years, I often saw it. One day Sensei would answer a specific question. Two years later, he would give a different answer to the same problem. The first time, I thought my memory was defective. But when the same occurred many times, I began to believe that he is only adapting his answer to the moment. There is no truth, the only possible course of action is to adapt.
In life, as in technique, there is no right or wrong answer. There is only a flow of opportunities leading into one direction or another, both being good. In one of his book, he wrote: “[…] you must know when to bend with the wind, and know that there is no need to bend when there is no wind.” Later he adds “[…] If you ask if there is truly such a thing as the fundamental techniques of ninjutsu, we will have to say “no.” If you ask if you are doing the fundamentals correctly, we will tell you that there is no right or wrong way. These movements we call the fundamentals are only a means for the attainment of the natural-appropriate responsive movement that comes with personal enlightenment.”
Strangely in the text above he keeps letting things open, one moment there are no fundamentals, the next sentences he says there are no right or wrong to do these fundamentals! This the “Demo” attitude that is so characteristic of Sensei’s personality.
The Bujinkan is not about learning hundreds of Waza, it is about being able to adapt, to not be judgmental, and to be happy, Demo…
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1.Demo: でも, but; however; though; nevertheless; still; yet; even so; also; as well
2. Chūtō Hanpa: 中途, in the middle; half-way + 半端, fragment; fraction; halfway

Online streaming

Cincinatti, Ohio January 2018

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Bujinkan Strategies of Control Part 7: 中心 chuushin

Hatsumi Sensei and Michael Glenn
I got off the plane and went straight to the dojo. This is extreme. And maybe a little foolish.

I got up at 5am in California, went to the airport to fly across the Pacific Ocean for around 12 hours. When I land in Japan, I get on one train for an hour, then another for half an hour, and the last one to the dojo for another half hour.

When I arrived for Hatsumi Sensei’s class, he decided to throw me around the dojo. Then I got back on a train to go check in at my hotel. When I finally lay in bed, it is 22 or 23 hours since I left home. But I lay awake trying to understand what just happened in training.

Even if I only had this one class, the whole trip was worth it. Hatsumi Sensei was teaching us about control. But it is not accomplished by purely physical means. In fact he said, “Don’t grab, it’s neither grabbing nor not grabbing.”

What is in between grabbing and not grabbing when you are trying to control someone? This in between space is what he was trying to show us. And here is a huge revelation for your training if you are ready for it. Soke said,
“Don’t do more than necessary by grabbing. But trying NOT to grab is also doing too much. you have to be in the middle. that middle space is where you can disappear.” 
What does this type of control look like? Well, I just felt it and witnessed it in the Bujinkan Honbu dojo. The opponent ends up fighting himself. Soke was doing this against knife attacks. And every time the attack came in, Soke pivoted around it and was able to redirect the knife so the attacker stabbed or cut himself.

This can happen when you are neither taking nor not taking. But what you do “take” are things you can’t see. Those in between things, those invisible things are really controlling the opponent. とってでとってない totte de tottenai.

Soke threw his opponents very painfully. But they couldn’t take ukemi because he controlled them. He laughed and said 親切 shinsetsu. which is the word for kindness, but the kanji means killing the parents. Like you’re killing them with kindness. He said that throwing them is a type of kindness.

He also used the word たすけて tasukete which suggests that he is helping them find the destruction they seek. You are helping them and using kindness to throw them, but then you have to be able to immediately kill them. Kill them with kindness.

I watched as he demonstrated a type of 手の内 tenouchi which is the way of using the palm or the fingers. He would catch the opponent’s finger right in the center or palm of his hand and move it around like a joystick.

He told us 力を感じさせない chikara o kanji sasenai… don’t let the opponent feel your power. You control through connection, but when you connect these ideas, they become zero.

Remember, it’s not your hand that is connecting to the opponent… and it’s not the place on the opponent where you put your hand…. it’s the connection. It’s the zero in the middle. In between your hand and the opponent is where the connection exists.

When you block or place a hand on the opponent, it’s neither the hand or the opponent that matters. It’s the connection or the place in between. That moment of zero.

Soke says we are studying mutō dori. And when we do mutō dori we are not really taking their weapon. He said we are taking 中心 chuushin, or their central point. This is their essence or core spirit.  Another way to write the kanji for 衷心 chuushin can mean their innermost feelings or inner spirit. Hatsumi sensei called this type of control “zero-style.”

Soke reminded us that he cannot teach this. We have to discover it for ourselves. We have to try to get this feeling from him in person.

I had travelled 5497 miles or 8,846 km for tonight’s class. I closed my eyes and dropped my head into the 蕎麦殻枕 sobagara pillow. I was exhausted, but for a lifelong budo addict like me, every mile was worth it!
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The autumn moon

By Tomoe Gozen

Take a look out the window tonight(October 4th) and you will see the Chushu no Meigetsu. The Japanese have an ancient tradition of gazing at this moon on this particular date. They like to eat snacks, sing songs and quietly contemplate.

According to the lunar calendar, Chushu, 中秋 which means in the middle of autumn, was the 15th of August. They also call this moon Juugoya, 十五夜、 the night of the fifteenth. It used to always be a full moon but since the Japanese no longer use the lunar calendar, sometimes it is not completely full. But if you have not taken some time to look at the moon recently, dont miss this opportunity to slow down and enjoy some nature beauty and moon rays. You will be glad you did!

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Nikko(日光) Trip :Things not to miss in Japan

BY Tomoe Gozen

I really liked visiting Nikko Toshogu(日光東照宮). It has so many decorations of animals like monkeys, elephant, cats, horses, Kirin, Dragons…and so on!

Sleeping Cat

Three wise Mokeys

Dragon on the ceiling

Now I see how these places have perhaps influenced the way Hatsumi Sensei decorates the Bujinkan Honbu dojo and even how my husband, Paul, decorates the Kasumian Study Center.

They both really like using animals in the Dojo and offices. I honestly thought that Paul was putting too many animal statues and things at our study center. But I found out that each animal has a symbolic meaning or important mythological role.

I truly enjoyed listening to the stories about each animal. I grew up in Shiga/Kyoto or Koga region, famous for Ninja. You can find many Ninja related spots in my hometown. The temples in this area and Kyoto seem more simple and less decorated than Nikko Toshogun.

“Wabi Sabi” is the word for a more simple and austere Japanese aesthetic. And it is this Wabi Sabi that I am more accustomed to in the Kyoto, or Koga area.

This was my first trip to Nikko and it was very interesting to see the differences between Kyoto’s temples and Nikko which is 17th century’s architecture.

Thank you to Stephan from Germany and Ricky from the USA for joining me on this lovely day trip. If you have not visited Nikko, I highly recommend it. It is an easy day trip from Noda city and it’s beautiful temples and inspiring forest paths with towering sacred trees will certainly refresh you and nourish your spirit! I will definitely visit again.

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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)

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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


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