Value What You Have

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

 

FB_IMG_1575890665755The Bujinkan created by Sōke is like a treasure, but few practitioners understand what it is, or how much it is worth. There is a Japanese saying for people not valuing what they have. It is “Neko ni koban,” as our “casting pearls before swine.” (1)

The Bujinkan is a treasure because of its techniques, like any other martial art. But also because it transforms us into human beings. My Budō brother Daniel Hernandez left Japan today with a beautiful message to sensei and to us. Here are some sentences that are taken from it. (2)

I don’t come to Japan only to train, but mainly to see you (Sōke), to see your eyes, feel your immense love, and to know that you are well. You are the only lighthouse in my life. (…) And I come here for the most important thing, you, my dear master. (…) Thank you in advance to all my brothers, and Bujinkan friends, to take good care of Sōke.

If your vision of the Bujinkan limits itself only to the technical aspect, it is good, but it is not enough. The Bujinkan is a holistic experience. And Waza is as valuable as the calligraphy session. The Bujinkan experience is bathing you in a mix of Waza, Japanese and Asian culture, language, and meaning of life. This complex mix allows you to find the best in yourself, and to get rid of the negative aspects in you. But, here, too, not everyone succeeds.

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Over the years, I saw many practitioners entering the path fully committed, and then leaving after a few years. They judged that the commitment was too high a price to pay for their ego. And I can accept that.

There is nothing wrong with loving the mechanical moves of Budō. If it is your case, I have to tell you that you are not Bujinkan. Sōke teaches at all levels and people like Daniel or myself, have been “educated” by Sensei’s vision of Budō. The men we are today have nothing to compare with what we were at the beginning.

All those years of travels and training. All those private moments with Hatsumi Sensei, have carved us into a better version of human. We are not perfect, but we are still walking the path under his guidance and his care for humanity. Sensei is a beautiful human being, and his love has been spreading all over the planet through his Budō. He gave the world a new vision of Budō that will last and blossom.

Stop arguing on social media about changes happening these days. They are not necessary. Stay focus on your training, trying to get what Sōke is teaching us. It is more essential than fighting techniques. Sensei is showing happiness, love, and tolerance. And between two Shutō and locks, we have to do the same.

Begin to value the extraordinary we have to be around a man like him. And don’t be the one not appreciating this beauty.

Stop wasting your time, (3) and accept this marvelous gift that Sensei is giving us.

Value what you have!

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1 猫に小判, Neko ni koban: Literally: Gold coins to a cat. Meaning: Casting pearls before swine / Giving something of value to a recipient that does not value it.
2 From my Budō brother Daniel Hernandez
おせばになりました いろいろと どうも ありがと ございました でわ また どぞ よろしく おねがいします.
De Corazón a Corazón ♥, I Shin Den Shin. Así recibí de usted querido Sōke sus enseñanzas, sólo agradecer todo el cariño brindado a través de los años. Espero sepan entender, ya no vengo a 日本 a practicar, sólo vengo a verlo a ud 先生, ver sus ojos, sentir su inmenso amor, y saber que está bien. Sólo ud 先生 es mi faro. Y no es por que no pueda seguir aprendiendo, de todos puedo y debo aprender. Pero estoy aquí por lo más importante, usted querido Maestro. Agradezco a mis Hermanos y amigos, y les dejo un pedido, cuiden a 先生 por favor. Makoto de Gozaimasu.
3 “Neko ni koban” also means “great waste.” Daniel Hernandez left Japan with a nice post on Facebook.

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Are You A Mindless Cyborg?

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

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Body and mind are one. If you only develop the body and let the soul out, your taijutsu will be artificial. It will look good but miss the flavour. And it will never be alive and natural.

All martial arts in Japan, follow a three-step pattern called Shingitai. (1) Created by Sumo, the Shingitai is now used by all martial arts. Shin is the spirit/mind; Gi is the technique; (2) and Tai the body. But “Shin” is what makes it vital to your progression. Without “Shin”, your taijutsu is only Gitai, robotic. (3) If you don’t improve your general understanding of the art, you will move like Robocop and become a Cyborg!

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To understand this, we have to reverse the order of the terms. Shingitai is, in fact, “Tai Gi Shin,” as it is the natural order of our evolution.

And this is how to understand it:

  • Tai: Since the 19th century and the Meiji restoration it refers to the physical body. This is the first level of development for any budōka. It is purely mechanical. During this phase of your learning experience, you do the basics in a “1-2-3” sequence. It develops a basic flow in your movements.
  • Gi: This also reads as “Waza”. (2) This is not only the technique but carries the meaning of skill. This is the second level of the development of a Budōka. At this stage, you learn the correct form. You can reach this level only if you master the basics, not before. This is a rather formal phase where you must be as close as possible to the form taught in the dōjō. Precision in the techniques is required from the practitioner. It is not the time to create your own flavour.

  • Shin: This is the heart or the spirit. The Japanese do not differentiate the two meanings. It is the last level of development that you get after many years of training. If Shin is the last part of the path, it is also the longest. Many Bujinkan practitioners will never get to this level. To go there, you need to commit more to the art. Actually, I don’t know many who succeeded. Many are good at mastering the forms, very few can learn the essence.

When you have a free “Tai” thanks to good basics, you can enter the world of techniques. As we said earlier, the Gi is the second level of your training. See the “Taigishin” as three steps that you have to walk up in the proper order. The low level of many teachers comes from this lack of understanding. I get it, Waza can be more attractive, but if your body is not ready to play, the results will not meet your expectations. As always, going too fast is not the best way to train. Some things need time, and you cannot compress time.

But one thing you must never forget is that each technique is there for a reason. Because what you see is not the technique, it is only the “Omote”, the outside of it.  In a Densho there is always a line after the description of the Waza saying “there is a Kuden”. (4) (5)

The Kuden is the essence of the technique, and it is often transmitted in a class by the teacher. Without the Kuden, the form is a set of mechanical movements. There is nothing “magic” in a Kuden. It is the key to help you unfold the power of the technique. Within a given Waza, there might be more than one Kuden. And that is why it is so important to train slowly. Slow speed will help you extract the essence from each sequence of movements. When your professor performs a technique that you try to replicate, you often fail to succeed. Because you only do what you saw, but did not grasp every aspect of it, the essence is missing. It is like copying the Mona Lisa, one square centimeter after the other. In the end, your painting will “resemble” the original, but the essence will be missing. Copying a masterpiece will not make you capable of making a painting of your own. When you copy, you are not a painter. It is the same in Budō.

Teachers have a responsibility to teach their students to learn how to paint; hold the brushes, mix the colours, and structure a painting. But a teacher will never paint for you! This is why the Kuden is essential to teach things that are not visible to your naked eye. If you want to improve your Waza, stop seeing them as a checklist. Do them many times, until the outcome is like the essence and the form the teacher demonstrated. I insist: A Waza is not a checklist, it is a result. Create conditions to achieve the same result.

During one of my stays in Japan, a Japanese Shihan used a beautiful metaphor to help us understand. He said that each Waza is a canal with different angles. When you learn the sequence, you only have to stay in the middle of the channel, equidistant from the banks. This is the 1-2-3 pattern. Once you know it, you can go downstream, and “cut” the angles to gain speed and efficiency. You repeat it until you can do it right.

channelThe three phases are:

  • Phase #1: You learn the steps (TAI) in a “1-2-3” form. At this level, it is not essential to understand the Waza.
  • Phase #2: You understand the waza (GI), and you begin to cut the angles. The movement starts to flow, you gain speed.
  • Phase #3: You are efficient (SHIN), you have developed your movement, that is the one suiting your body. And you can do it your own way.

Shingitai is one of the secrets of Budō. If you don’t train the “Shin,” in each training, you will move like a Gitai, a robot. So, are you willing to stay at the Gitai level, or do you prefer to become a Shingitai practitioner?

Hint: Sensei said that “Budō is made in human,” it means that we are not Cyborgs!

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1 Shingitai
2 技, Gi or Waza: No difference! “技” is pronounced either “Gi” or “Waza.” As always you have the Japanese pronunciation, and the Chinese one.
3 義体, Gitai; Cyborg, artificial body
4 伝書, Densho: book or scroll that has been handed down through generations; book of secrets
5 口伝, Kuden: oral instruction​, passing information by word-of-mouth. It is also sometimes used as “experience”. The one you develop by making mistakes and correcting them.

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Gikan-ryū Koppōjutsu and my JapanTrip#48

From 8þ Kabutoshimen by admin

On my last trip Noguchi Sensei surprised us by teaching Gikan-ryū Koppōjutsu. I think he just recently decided to start teaching this Ryū-ha. He said he learned the techniques from Hatsumi Sōke four years ago in a private session.

I have trained techniques that was claimed to be Gikan-ryū by western teachers before. I did not see any similarity what so ever, this was completely different.

There is 10 techniques in all, they don’t have any names. He showed us his notes and it was 3-4 pages with descriptions of the techniques. I attended two of the Gikan-ryū trainings he did in November this year. Fortunately I got to train all 10 techniques (I think?) with a lot of henka. It was a blast training with such good friends as Ari (Dai Shihan from Finland) and Philip (Dai Shihan from Denmark).

I’m not gonna give any descriptions here, but Noguchi Sensei said that the characteristics of this school is to attack the opponent from the side. Several techniques you hit his kidney. Many strikes was done with Ura-ken for example.

This inspired me to create a new page to the web site, click the button below.

Nagato Sensei on his first day as Shindenfudō-ryū Sōke

Earlier this year I heard that Ishizuka Sensei had been appointed as the new Sōke of Gyokkō-ryū. Now Nagato Sensei said that he had been appointed as the new Sōke of Shindenfudō-ryū. At the Buyukai I heard rumours about Noguchi Sensei was going to be the next Kotō-ryū Sōke (which now has been confirmed). No one has been appointed Sōke for Gikan-ryū yet, but I have my suspicions.

Sōke is now 88 years old

88 is an important number in Japanese, not only because it is a “double infinity”, but…. The eighty-eighth birthday is the occasion of beiju (米寿), “rice age”, because the Chinese character for rice, 米, looks like the characters for eight tens plus eight (八十八).

Hatsumi Sōke imitating Frank Sinatra, he looked so cool.

Hatsumi Sōke was in a good mood this trip. His knees are weak so he have trouble getting up and down on the floor so we do standing bow ins and outs in the training now.

Senō Sensei said a few years ago, he felt energised during Hatsumi Sōke’s birthday because there was so many familiar places coming and giving him good energy. I think Hatsumi Sōke feels the same way.

I have added several more pictures on the Kaigozan Dōjō Instagram page.

New Books and DVD
New Ninjatō DVD and Book. Also a relatively new Mutōdori Book now in the collection.

The post Gikan-ryū Koppōjutsu and my JapanTrip#48 appeared first on 8þ Kabutoshimen.

Are You A Failure?

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

Are you used to fail? I hope for you. This is good and the best way to improve your skills. When you learned to ride a bike, it was not easy, but you got it. It was the same when you learned how to swim. I am sure that today when you ride a bike or swim you don’t think about the “how to do it?”, you do it without thinking. Failure is the best teacher you can find. It teaches you more than success.

Edison said it took him 1,000 tries to make the light bulb working without exploding. A journalist told him that he failed one thousand times. He answered, “I have not failed 1,000 times—I’ve successfully found 1,000 ways that will not work.” When you learn Budō, this is the kind of attitude you should have.

In the west, our society forbids us to fail. This comes from our catholic education, our philosophy of life and our culture. But in the East, they regard failure differently. They consider it a chance to do better.

Failure in Japanese is Shippai. (1) It is made of two Kanji, the first one is “error” and the second one is “failure.” We fail because we make an error, and we make an error because we are not good enough yet. This is the learning process. Whatever you learn, it will take you a lot of time before you can master it. You need a mentor to guide you in this learning process. That is where the sensei enters.

In Japan, a series of three concepts: Taihen, Kuden, and Shinden explains transmission. In each word, the last kanji is “Hen” (or Den) which means “transmission” or “change”. (2)

  • Taihen (大伝) is the body. This is the physical transmission learnt through repetition. (3)
  • Kuden (口伝) is the knowledge acquired with experience (doing, learning, studying). (4)
  • Shinden (神伝) is the ingrained knowledge (as if transmitted by the gods). (5)

 

taihen kuden shinden drawing (2)

The Human learning process always follows the same three-step process.

First, you learn the physical movement step by step. Speed and strength are not critical at this level of learning. Second, you fail until you learn how to do it well. This is also at this level that you are speeding up your moves. And third, you integrate the experience and stop thinking on how to do the movement. But the learning process doesn’t stop here, it continues. After you reached the first Shinden, begins another Taihen. Another Kuden follows, then another Shinden. This is a continuous process because perfection is never possible. You can always learn and improve your skills a bit more. Do not stop at what you know. Push the boundaries of your knowledge so that every day you can better your skills.

I see the Taihen, Kuden, Shinden process as a spring. Each full circle leads to the next coil, and it is going upward. You make progress by repeating the same things over and over. And you do that until you reach a new level, where you learn new things again. This is a continuous process.

TKStime (2)

That is why it is vital not to give up. Excellence takes time and is based upon multiple failures. You have to learn to fail better. Senō sensei said that when you learn a Kata, you make many errors. After many repetitions errors become smaller. And one day, you have it, but there is still room for improvement.

Hatsumi sensei has a beautiful sentence to explain it: “Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter! Try again. Fail again. Fail better! (6)

So, are you ready to be a better failure?

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1 失敗, Shippai; Failure
2 伝, hen; To transmit. Connections; influence. Change
3 大伝, Taihen; Teaching through the body
4 口伝, Kuden; oral instruction​. Passing information by word-of-mouth​. Oral tradition
5 神伝, Shinden; Teachings conveyed by the gods
6 From the book “Understand? Good. Play.” by Benjamin Cole

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