On Asobi, by Magnus Andersson

From Shiro Kuma's Blog by kumafr

Playful warriors

Another interesting comment on Asobi by Magnus Andersson.
Thank you for your comments.

For what it’s worth here are my thoughts on asobi. Feel free to use it or dismiss it.

The concept of asobi which Hatsumi sensei use from time to time can easily be dismissed as children’s play or play with the technique in a light-hearted manner. However, it can be more serious than that. To use asobi in the context of a battlefield martial arts should be interpreted in a different way, I believe.

It is not child’s play but rather the activity between reality and unreality, between the real and the unreal. It’s in a way Kyo Jitsu.

When taking a look at the kanji for asobi 遊, we find that the original meaning is also “to wander” or “to go a distance”. Another meaning is “to freely wield (a sword)”, and it is also the very verb (to “play”) that the Chinese use in the idiom “yóurènyǒuyú” which means “to do something skillfully or with ease” or “to move skillfully or easily”.

So could it be that Hatsumi sensei is knowingly or unknowingly asking us to go through the training with skill and to explore the real and unreal in our movement to be able to move more freely and without any preconceived notions? We most certainly need to aim for zero and become one to make it happen.

It could be farfetched, but I don’t think we can afford to take his “play” as anything, but seriously if we want to evolve. I believe you wrote a few years back on your blog that sensei wants us to be “seriously” playful. Could this be what he meant? I leave it to you to figure it out

I know that you and Hatsumi sensei like to play with words, so I leave you with this little pun based on the kanji for asobi…. It is better to be serious in your training and be a yūshi 遊子 a wanderer (of the path) than becoming a lighthearted yūshi 遊士 (a playboy)

Have a pleasant evening.

On Enthalpy by H. Weill

From Shiro Kuma's Blog by kumafr

Young sensei and young arnaud at the Italian Taikai

Dear Arnaud sensei,

Thank you for sharing your thought with us. The idea of enthalpy is interesting, as a chemist myself I appreciate your vision.
I would like to suggest also my opinion.
Hatsumi Sensei speaks firstly on the idea of high sensitivity that is mentioned in the words “all of the Uke’s actions are immediately felt once they are expressed.Then it is easy to defeat the attacker as long as we are “zero””.

The concept may come from the idea that it is by far simpler to recognise a small signal when the level of the noise around it is near. It is a physical concept for signal identification that is called signal to noise ration (SNR) (1). In practice, this is the reason one can hear the weakest whisper in the silence of the night. Or why fluorescence spectroscopy (that looks for a light signal in the dark) (2) is orders of magnitude more sensitive than UV-vis spectroscopy (the looks for the reduction of an intensity of light source) (3).

To my opinion, at least in part of Hatsumi Sensei words, he talks about creating a subdimension of spacetime (4), a silent mini-universe in which one traps his opponent separately from the noisy universe we exist in. Thus enabling him to feel Uke’s actions immediately even when the sensory signatures that he makes are infinitesimally small (5). Somewhat similar to the way a spider while being totally motionless feels the action of its prey that was caught in its web.
Also, I feel that Soke speaks about controlling the reality that Uke perceives.

One should remember that what we call “reality” is a processed reconstruction of spacetime that is built upon the information collected by our sensory system (6). In other words perception (7) and what we learn with time. To do something (e.g. strike with our fist) we calculate the needed force and the length of time of its application to create the correct trajectory in spacetime. During the performance of the action, our brain receives feedback information from the sensory systems and tries to calculate any needed corrections at that given period of time.
Here we go back to the term of SNR. The sensory system is eventually a collection of sensors that each one has its one unique SNR – the ability to determine statistically if a reading received is a meaningful signal or just an unimportant noise (1).

To my opinion Soke teaches us to make our signal to be as close as possible to zero to the visual and somatosensory systems (6) of Uke – this idea is manifested through the concepts of Ku and Kozushi. The first deals, mainly, with Uke’s visual system and the latter with the somatosensory system (touch and proprioception). When one masters the two concepts, he is able to avoid the Uke’s sensory systems thus creating a new reality for him, an illusionary one. An illusion that the caster disappears altogether or appears where he is not. Thus disabling Uke from calculating the correct trajectories needed for his actions. With that, we can go back to Sokes words: “all of the Uke’s actions are immediately felt once they are expressed.Then it is easy to defeat the attacker as long as we are “zero””.

This is in my opinion what stands for the kanji of Bujinkan – the term Bu Kami – the warrior god/god of war, a god that creates a new universe at will in the context of the art of war.

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signal-to-noise_ratio
(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluorescence_spectroscopy
(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultraviolet%E2%80%93visible_spectroscopy
(4) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spacetime
(5) http://www.dictionary.com/browse/infinitesimally
(6) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_system
(7) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perception

Not Wanting, In Order To Get It!

From Shiro Kuma's Blog by kumafr

collage_glassclockBeing a student of the Bujinkan Martial Arts system is not easy and requires a lot of commitment. You have to keep the connection with everything, learn, memorize, and always be eager to improve your skills. This is a long path but it is worth it.
The life of a Bujinkan practitioner can be seen as a glass of water in which you pour the desired quantity of liquid. The water level in the glass will only depends on you.
If you want to drink water, you will have to define three things:
How much water do you have in the jug.
How thirsty you are.
How big the glass is.
If we compare the glass of water to training, we can see the Bujinkan martial arts like a huge jug of water. First you have to understand that it is your responsibility to “drink” it (and not your teacher’s).
A teacher is like the jug of water. A sensei is an older practitioner who has been thirsty long before you (see the meaning of sensei)*; and who learnt to quench his thirst. Because he “experienced” this, he is now capable of explaining it to you. But if you are not thirsty or committed to learn, you will not drink. Whatever you chose to do is always your choice. Your sensei will not be thirsty for you.
Your brain can “drink” more than you think as long as you believe you can learn and improve. Even if you have a small glass you can learn a lot, you simply have to refill the glass many times until your thirst is satisfied. But to be satisfied requires high expectations. Sadly many students stop training after black belt because this is what they wanted (low expectations). But Shodan is nothing, it is only the beginning. Be thirsty!
This “water sanshin” of  the “jug-thirst-glass” is another way to understand the concept of Sainô Konki (ability-soul-container). The soul wants to drink and prepares the glass (container) to receive the ability (water) through long training because the path is long.
The Bujinkan path follows three steps:
1) learn the basic forms (kihon, waza);
2) turn them into situations (kata),
3) in order to forget them and to be yourself.**
Before forgetting the forms you have to remember a lot of them. Your kamae (attitude) in that respect, is important. If you don’t pay attention to the details and go with the “in ninjutsu we can do anything we want” that we often hear, then you will go nowhere. You have to be curious of everything. As Richard Whately said “Curiosity is as much the parent of attention, as attention is of memory.”
Without curiosity/attention/memory you will simply mimick the movements and never reach the ura of things. What Hatsumi sensei is teaching
us is not a set of techniques but an ability to discover and understand the world by ourself. This is why kokoroe is vital. You have to learn and memorize.
Everyone one of us uses clocks, watches, or a phone to know the time, but when those tools are missing (or more likely when the batteries
are dead) do you know how to estimate the time and direction like a real ninja?*** I guess not: this is what “curiosity” is about, always having a “plan B” for everything you do.
When in the army I learnt those things, and even today where GPS devices are available, we still train with the compass and the map.
This the “just in case Murphy was right” attitude.****
In the Bujinkan we have a huge collection of techniques (our “jug of water”).
The techniques are first taught as basics in the Tenchijin. This is our compass and map. But then the second step is to learn them “anew” in their  original Ryû. Now, even though some of  these fighting techniques are included in the basic Tenchijin that we studied, they change completely when reinserted in their original system. A Ryû presents the waza in a very specific order because in each level the second technique is the evolution of the first; the third of the second etc. Ignoring that will get you misled and you will never get the kokoroe***** of fighting in this specific system.
One you have done that with the Tenchijin and the Ryûha, and with the weapons you are entering the third level of training where things are not decided but come naturally to you. You have learnt to surf the flow of possibilities and became able to survive by your own ability. But until you reach this third level, everything you will try to do will be unnatural, forced and lack nagare. Someone once said: “How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?”. And this is exactly where you will arrive if you forget before studying; think before act; and want before accepting the natural flow of the Universe.
The Universe is there to serve you as long as your ego is not in the way. Stop with the “I want to do a natural technique” and move to “I flow with nature”. Remember the concept of 真如, Shinyô (the ultimate nature of all things)******
*先生, sensei means “the (one) born (in the art) before (you).
** do you remember the last glass of water you drank? no, once you drank it, you forgot about it. Techniques are the same, you learn them to forget them more efficiently.
*****kokoroe is knowledge (see previous posts)
******Shinyo (tathatâ in sanskrit).  In “Advanced Stick Fighting”, book by Hatsumi sensei, P38, Kodansha Edition or the definition here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tathat%C4%81

Genkaku no Sekai

From Shiro Kuma's Weblog by kumafr


This is an illusion! it is not me.

In Japanese 幻覚 genkaku is illusion or hallucination. This is the “gen” from genjutsu.
But when you try to understand what illusion really is, or why reality is considered an illusion, you need to get some advice from our elders. Plato has always been one of my favorite philosopher and today I stumbled upon this sentence that made me think a lot about this “illusion/reality” duality. I know now that where there is duality there is lack of unity, and unity is what we are looking for in the Bujinkan. So I tried to unite this dual aspect. 


“A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it and nothing true”.

Asian philosophies (and many others) have taught us that the world in which we live is not “reality”, that it is “illusion”. And we’ve all accepted it, thinking: “if those clever Asian guys said it so long ago, it must be true”. But is it really true? And here, Plato, who wasn’t really from Asia, helps us understand it better.

The “relative emotional values” (REV) he is referring to are created by ourselves (brain, education, ego) and these REV, in fact, act like shields preventing us from seeing clearly was we have in front of us. It is because we are unable to see correctly with the 心神心眼, shinshin shingan (the eyes and the mind of the gods) that we are stuck in the world of illusion*.

The first problem is that people have accepted this and are happy with it, not trying to see beyond the veil. They know it is wrong but they are too lazy to even try to change it. This is the same in the dôjô, where many come from an illusion of what ninjutsu is and once taught properly stay or leave the dôjô because they do not want to change their initial wrong vision.

The second problem is the concept of “morality”. And the main issue is that the concept of morality bears many definitions** if it refers to onself, the group/family, the city, the country, etc. But whatever morality is, is it still morality when based upon emotions? No.

Our emotions are flawed and make us see things different from what they are. Therefore when morality derives from emotions that are based upon our inability to see reality; what we obtain is a “system of morality” that is not able to provide us with the tools to survive in the real world. The Chinese were the first to understand the difference between theory and praxis. Apparently this system of morality is only theoretical and not at all practical.

So I would rephrase Plato’s sentence and say instead: “A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values defines a theoretical reality, and a practical illusion”.

We do not live in 幻覚の世界, genkaku no sekai (the world of illusion) but in 現実の世界, genjitsu no sekai (the world of reality). The Bujinkan is an art based solely on practical reality.

 * This is the blue pill/red pill of the Matrix movies

得心 or 心得 (kokoroe 2)

From Shiro Kuma's Weblog by kumafr

 hscollageI do not speak Japanese but I love to “understand” the meaning of Japanese kanji.

This is one of the many things I learnt from Sensei during all these years.
Today, a friend sent me an interesting comment about “kokoroe” (cf. recent post). Kokoroe, “knowledge” is written 心得 shin/kokoro + u/toku. But when the two kanji of “kokoroe” are reversed: i.e. 得心,  it is “tokushin” and means “understanding”. So knowledge is also about understanding Nature and Life.
This is good but it gets better!
The sound of the first kanji “toku” in tokushin can be written with different kanji and have different meanings in Japanese. For example, we all know that  Karate, 空手 (“empty hand” today) used to be written Karate 唐手, Chinese boxing before Funakoshi Sensei changed it to have it accepted as a Japanese Budô at the end of the 19th century. Obviously a Chinese fighting system couldnt have recognized as a Japanese Budô.
So for “tokushin”, if we keep the sound but change the kanji, we get three interesting meanings.
1) The regular toku: 得, is the kanji we used so far, and it means “benefit or gain”. This is the one in tokushin, but change it (same sound) and you obtain (toku) two other interesting meanings which are:
2) Toku: 匿. This “toku” means shield. Tokushin then can also mean that our mind/heart is shielding us, protecting us from the outside world. Kokoroe, going from Omote to Ura is protecting us from what is bad or wrong. Because through hard training we reach the level where we obtain (toku) the “intuitus” (see “intuitus” in blog), or the awareness and ability to see through; we are protected.
But there is more, and I was totally amazed with what I discovered.
3) This last “toku” written 徳, becomes “benevolence”! In the post on Kokoroe, I quoted Takamatsu sensei writing about “Jihi no Kokoro”, the “benevolent heart”. This new kanji gives a deeper interpretation of the above mentioned text by Takamatsu sensei. In a way, we can see that tokushin (written Toku no Kokoro  得の心) is conceptually similar to Jihi no Kokoro (慈悲の心).
The Bujinkan art is not about war, assasination; it is about peace and this new Sanshin made out of “kokoroe, tokushin, and jihi no kokoro” is there to help us achieving this “benevolent heart” through long study. The only thing to do to get that is to commit oneself to the art. Ranks are nothing if they are not supported by high skills. Training is the key and will lead to true knowledge, the knowledge of the heart!
Takamatsu sensei confirms it when he writes: “Personal enlightenment can only come about through total immersion in the martial tradition as a way of living. By experiencing the confrontation of danger, the transcendence of fear of injury or death, and a working knowledge of individual personal powers and limitations, the practitioner of Ninjutsu can gain the strength and invincibility that permit enjoyment of the flowers moving in the wind, appreciation of the love of others, and contentment with the presence of peace in society.
Peace is our goal, and Ninpô our tool.
Remember that “Budô is not made in Japan, it is made in Human” (Hatsumi sensei). And this is why the Bujinkan path is open to anyone with a pure heart.