Who Is The Boss?

IMG_20170723_121157It’s been a long time since I got angry. Today I am.

Hatsumi Sensei has announced a few modifications to the way we deal with the Honbu Dōjō. These changes concern the Dai Shihan in the first place, and their followers. They will the ones putting into place this new organisation. I have read a few comments criticising the number of newly promoted Dai Shihan.

Strangely, the critics come from those who don’t have the promotion yet. That is wrong! Whatever Sensei does, he has a reason for it. If you don’t know it, it is because you don’t see the big picture.

He also insisted that we DO NOT use the internet to communicate about it but to do it face to face. I wrote about it and still, I get personal messages on the internet from people asking to know more. What is wrong with them? Sensei said NO internet!

Next Sunday, there will be a Bujinkan gathering in Atago. We will celebrate the 50 years of the creation of the Bujinkan. Sensei might (or might not) explain his new vision at this occasion. Until then, be patient.

I see all that I described above as a lack of respect for Sensei’s decisions. The Bujinkan is not a democracy, it belongs to Hatsumi Sōke and follows the Japanese ways. Hatsumi Sensei is our leader. He is your boss, and his decisions you have to respect them, even if you do not understand them.

Hatsumi Sensei is the Bujinkan. If you don’t agree with how he deals with his Bujinkan, then shut up and leave. There is nothing to argue. His words define what the Bujinkan is, and how it evolves. No one should discuss his choices.

You can exchange in private, but questioning his authority is not the way to go. We have a boss, we have chosen him, and your rank is not an excuse to rant about his actions.

Please remember that, accept it, or leave the Bujinkan.
No one is forcing you to stay if you don’t like it.

Who is the Boss? Hatsumi Sōke.

Kashiwa November 28th, 2017
From an angry Polar Bear


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Be Like A Butterfly!

FB_IMG_1511541272692During Friday’s class, I asked Sensei to write: “It is not about fighting, it is about controlling.” What I got was “Chochō Hanami Maai” or “Butterfly, flowers, distance.” (1)
Since then I tried to see the link between my request and his answer. During the Sunday class, he spoke about the butterfly. It helps to shed some light on the hidden meaning of this cryptic calligraphy. Sensei said that we should move like a butterfly and don’t give any feedback to the opponent. When you don’t use strength, the adversary cannot react and wonders what is happening to him. This activation of his mental process slows him down and allows us to take the advantage. Uke of Hatsumi sensei and Senō sensei, I felt no physical contact at all on my arm and body. The way they touch you is similar to the touch of a butterfly. There is nothing to feel, and as Tezuka San put it “it is like fighting alone.”
Sensei often defines his art as “the martial art of distance.” I finally understood it yesterday. Distance is not limited to our leg movements. It also implies the quality of the contact between Uke and Tori. A butterfly landing on a flower will not bend the flower. In this allegory of Chochō Hanami Maai, we have to become the butterfly. Uke is the flower, and the distance is the quality of the strength or the lack of it that we apply to the movement.
Demonstrating this with Adonis Mitrou from Greece, he asked him to explain what he felt. Thinking for a moment, Adonis came up with a Gyokko Ryū concept. “Kokū no Naka ni no Kūkan,” or to find the emptiness in the centre of space. (2)
Sensei welcomed this interpretation. It was showing the connection between his body flow and the Gyokko Ryū. This concept is central to the understanding of this essential Bujinkan fighting system. The quality of your control is what matters. It is your ability to find the perfect distance between you and the opponent. Like the butterfly landing on the flower.
I miss the old days where training was only about the mechanical aspects of technique. But I have to admit that this more profound approach to Taijutsu is much more fulfilling. The butterfly attitude is far more complicated. But the results are beyond your wildest dreams.
It is very high-level Budō. It explains why Sensei said that the 50 years of the Bujinkan arts, led us to get the real essence of Budō.
Kantan desu. (3)
Everything is easy when you become a butterfly, so I wish you a happy flight. Ganbatte!
_______________________
1 – 胡蝶, 花実, 間合い, butterfly, flowers, distance
2 – 虚空の中にの空間, the emptiness in the centre of space
3 – Kantan desu: 簡単, simple; easy; uncomplicated
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Tatakai Wa Janai

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Chochō, Hanami, Maai: 胡蝶, 花実, 間合い

The more I train here, and the more I am lost.

Today, during Senō sensei’s class, I partnered with my friend Michael Glenn (Santa Monica dōjō). We were lost. How those who come here once or twice in their life can understand the Bujinkan arts. Yesterday night, Hatsumi Sensei’s class was another moment of solitude. Sensei is hardly moving and stops you without applying any force.
As his Uke, I felt like I am suspended in mid-air alone, unable to continue the attack. Sensei is like a ghost, holding with a tiny point of contact. In fact, it is as if he is not there. One thing for sure, he is not fighting you. Uke is the only one fighting. He is fighting gravity, balance, tensions because it feels like there is nothing in front of him.
To “help us” understand, Sensei repeated many times “Waza Janai,” there is no technique. (1) And he was right. Writing these lines, I have a hard time explaining the unexplainable. You have to feel it for yourself to begin to get it; there is nothing to understand. It is beyond the technical realm. Sensei moves in such a perfect way that the only thing you get is a feeling of powerlessness.
In the past, it was easy to explain what he was doing because we had the support of the Waza. Now it is mission impossible.
Sōke’s central teaching yesterday is to get to control the opponent by controlling the situation. It is about full awareness.
Last year, this year, and next year, we are studying the art of Mutō Dori. That is a very high-level approach to the concept of Mutō Dori.
He summarized it when he said:: “Tatakai Wa Janai”, there is no fighting. (2) He added it was only about control. To control without intention, and without technique, is the Mutō Dori level we have to study this year. I never suspected something so tricky. Once again, the only chance you have to understand it is to be Sensei’s Uke. I am lucky to have felt it, even though I am far from being able to do it myself.
During the calligraphy session, I asked for “It is not about fighting, it is about controlling.” And he wrote “Chochō Hanami, Maai,” or “butterfly, flowers. The distance”. That is the picture illustrating this post. (3)
I still have to get the hidden meaning behind this cryptic kōan. That will be the subject of another post if I can fathom what he meant.
_____________________________
  1. Waza Janai: 技じゃない
  2. Tatakai Wa Janai: 戦いわじゃない. Tatakai: battle; fight; struggle; conflict
  3. Chochō Hanami, Maai: 胡蝶, 花実, 間合い

 

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A Pointed Attack

shrine to 蔵王権現 Zaō gongen. photo by Michael Glenn
At a Friday night class in the Bujinkan Honbu Dojo, Hatsumi Sensei's opponents cut in at him with a sword, and he literally pointed their cuts away! It looked bizarre. But there is a foundation for why and how this works.

Earlier that afternoon in Japan I visited a mountain shrine to the Shugendō deity 蔵王権現 Zaō gongen. The Meiji government had abolished such shrines, but this one was still hidden in the shade of the forest. Probably too small to bother with.

Through the broken sunlight, I spotted the stone monument. A bleached white object caught my eye at the base of the mossy grey stone. Someone still active in the shamanistic practice of Shugendō had laid a lone antler and a skull on the rock.

Zaō gongen is often portrayed forming the 刀剣印 tōken-in sword mudra by his hip. This mudra is a wrathful hand gesture for conquering evil. I did not expect that later that evening I would see an active variant of this mudra used in combat.

When the attacker came in, Hatsumi Sensei would point and his attention would be caught. Then Soke would redirect it. This is a method for shaping the kukan. You must understand that kukan is not just the physical space between the fighters. It also holds the much larger space that exists in the fighter's mind. If you control that, you control the fight.

In Japan, there is a similar practice for controlling one’s own mind and manifesting this in the physical world. It is called 指差喚呼 shisa kanko (pointing and calling)  and is a safety measure. You will see it at train stations with the white gloves. It provides the engineer with an extra indication as to whether a switch has been turned on or off, or whether the train station platform is clear before and after departure.

When Soke pointed he caused the opponent to change his focus or move his intention in a certain direction. The ability to do this comes from a strong kamae and the ability to manage the space and the psychology of the opponent. In fact, in one instance, Hatsumi Sensei waved the finger through the air like he was erasing smoke (it looked like 千早振る chihayafuru). When Soke brandished the finger this way, the opponent stuttered his attack and his ability to stand just collapsed.

Hatsumi Sensei told us that to do this, "You can't focus on any one point. It's like cutting through the kukan. This is what defines 気 ki."

I certainly felt a kind of atmosphere and mood when I saw the antler that afternoon before class. And later that evening, I felt different when Hatsumi Sensei changed the spirit to one of laughter. I can't wait to go back to Japan next week!

Keiko#33 DOWN UNDER 2017 with MATS HJELM

  $19.99

Down Under 2017

  $19.99

Three video files, total playing time is 106 minutes. 5.7 Gb (H.264, AAC, 1280x720p)

This was filmed in Australia in the middle of Mats Hjelm’s #JapanTrip38.

The instructions on this film is in English. Each technique is demonstrated several times from all angles. The techniques are a mix of basics and new techniques from Japan trainings this year.

14-15 OCT – Port Macquarie Seminar

On Saturday the training started with all three forms in Sanshin no kata, then moved on to Muto-dori. Muto-dori and especially Shinken-shiraha-dome is this years theme in Japan, it is unarmed defence against knife and sword where you grab the blade.

Sanshin Gokei no kata (5 techniques)
Sanshin Gogyo no kata (5 techniques)
Sanshin Goshin no kata (5 techniques)
Sanshin with Kunai (5 techniques)
Muto-dori and Taijutsu (many techniques)

On Sunday the training started with Ashirau with is techniques trapping his legs and take him down. Then Taijutsu and Muto-dori against sword and knife was taught. Finally the five Jutte techniques from Kukishin-ryu was taught.

Ashirau (4 techniques and henka)
Muto-dori and Taijutsu (many techniques)
Jutte-jutsu (5 techniques)

 

The video is edited down to 62 minutes

17 OCT – Newcastle extra training

Some of the people was at the seminar and requested more Ashirau techniques and Jutte techniques. A little Kunai was taught and also Muto-dori and Taijutsu.

The video is edited down to 17 minutes.

18 OCT – Sydney extra training

Taijutsu and Muto-dori was taught at this extra training.

The video is edited down to 27 minutes.

 

Title: Down under in Australia with Mats Hjelm
Instructors: Mats Hjelm
Theme: Sanshin no kata, Kunai, Jutte, Muto-dori
Recorded: Recorded in Port Macquarie, Newcastle and Sydney, Australian October 2017

Kind: Apple MPEG-4 movie
Size: 5 703 149 641 bytes (5,7 GB on disk)
Dimensions: 1280×720
Codecs: H.264, AAC, Photo – JPEG, QuickTime Text
Duration: 106 min

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