|Michael Glenn Strikes Emptiness|
Last night in my class one student said, “This is pretty basic.” I did a double take and said, “Really? You think so?” I told him that the kata was more advanced than it appeared.
We were studying 一文字 Ichimonji. This is a 無刀捕 mutōdori kata from 高木揚心流 Takagi Yoshin Ryū. And it does look simple. But mutōdori has so many levels.
One morning when Hatsumi Sensei taught this kata he said,
You make him cut the air. This is mutōdori, like he’s practicing by himself and striking emptiness.
The question I posed to my students last night was, “How?” How do you get your opponent, ostensibly a competent swordsman, to just cut the air and miss you completely?
As an answer, I gave them three insights into advanced mutōdori that I received from Soke. If you are interested, I share these kind of tips for anyone who joins my mailing list, which you can do here: eepurl.com/d0w_r
First, give the enemy what he wants. He is seeking violence and destruction. Let him have it.
Offer him a target. If you try to evade, then you always take away the target. He will then try to reacquire a target. But it may not be one that you are prepared to defend. Give him what he wants, then let him strike emptiness.
In another class I had with Hatsumi Sensei, he did a mutōdori against Oguri Sensei. Soke asked Oguri to describe the feeling. He said he couldn’t get any clear focus on the target for his cut. He said he felt his own kamae collapse.
In response, Hatsumi Sensei said that this is not the movement of sport martial arts. It is a level above that. For Ninjutsu, Soke told us that techniques become “透明 tōmei,” or transparent.
Transparent technique means you have something that cannot be seen or countered. I suggested that my students not plan or decide on a technique before executing it. If you don’t know what technique you will do, your opponent cannot know either. It is difficult for your opponent to counter a technique that doesn’t yet exist.
He will strike blindly at emptiness... At transparency... At a Ninja who cannot be seen.
I finished our class with a third suggestion for mutōdori. It is related to 扞技扼 kangiyaku, a kiai which can be verbalized or expressed silently. This kiai calls the opponent to cut.
Hatsumi Sensei did it while holding a kodachi. His opponent tried to cut, but then he collapsed. Soke didn’t even need to hit him. He said,
Give the opponent the feeling to cut. Draw him in. Then your movement will disappear. Disappear from the opponent's perception.
We make him cut emptiness.
When we finished class, the student who thought the kata looked simple now had a big smile. I could see that he was inspired by these ideas that I shared from my own experience with Hatsumi Sensei. I hope he can carry this forward in his own training and share it with future generations.