Watching Is Not Training!

From Shiro Kuma by kumablog

shoto no waza

The world health situation locked down many Dōjō. Since last April, people have asked me a lot about my thoughts on video training. As you know, my streaming website offers 160 Gb of Bujinkan videos. The platform covers all the aspects of our martial arts. (1) 

So, people expect me to be in favour of video learning. I’m sorry to disappoint them, I am not in favour of video learning. I am confident you will agree with me after reading this text.

As the title says it quite clearly, “watching is not training.” The learning process is not passive, it demands action. If you want to learn, you have to train. There is no magic shortcut. When I was younger, I loved to watch formula 1 races on tv. It didn’t improve my driving abilities in any way!

Watching is not training. A video only shows things in a 2-dimension system. In comparison, live techniques are always in 3-dimension. A screen shows only parts of the movement from one direction captured by the camera. It cannot “show” you what Uke “feels” when he receives the Waza. I organized a few Taikai in Paris for Sensei. It was always surprising to see the camera guys unable to capture the depth of Sensei’s moves. And they were still recording in the wrong direction.

Hatsumi Sensei advises us to watch his DVDs and read his books every day. But he doesn’t say that you will learn the techniques by doing so. He wants us to watch and listen to the things he does and says while moving. By watching the global movement, you begin to dive into the action. Watching and listening is not enough, though. Videos and speech give only an idea. But must be experienced at the physical level, in your body. A Waza is much more than a series of movements. The real knowledge about a Waza, a level, or a Ryū lies beyond the mechanical aspects. À video is only Omote, actual training with a teacher is the Ura.

There is one aspect of videos that I like. Videos are better than texts. Everything happens in one moment, unlike when you read a book because you have to read line by line. That is why many practitioners stay at the “1, 2, 3” level. Many never leave kindergarten, and that sadly includes many teachers.

You need a teacher to improve. Videos are reminders of things you know already, not stuff you want to learn. A good teacher helps you grow in the technique. He adapts his teaching to each individual. That allows you to understand the Waza for you, with your own body. Videos and texts cannot teach that. 

A teacher is much more than a video because he is a “sensei” (2)(3), i.e. “someone born into this path before you”. He made all the mistakes you do. That is why he can guide you through the proper motion and the right understanding. A good teacher will teach on a personal basis, one to one. Actually, this is what Sōke has been repeating for decades. The link between you, the student, and your Sensei is exceptional. Once you accept him, or her, as your teacher, you build indefectible trust. No arguing between master and disciple can take place. 

This precious binding between you and your teacher is why martial arts are nor sports. It happens the moment you decide to do whatever it takes to make it possible. 

Remember, you will never be the disciple of your video or DVD player. You are Human!

___________________

www.koimartialart.com
2 先生, teacher; instructor; master
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensei 
Sensei: “he who was born before another”

Be Happy With What You Have

From Shiro Kuma by kumablog

Hatsumi Sensei teaches us to be happy, and many practitioners don’t listen to him. The people in the Bujinkan are more into learning many Waza than developing a happy life. When you try to smile and be happy, your life improves. Happiness makes you satisfied with what you have. I recently read a quote saying, “Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.” Where are you?

Why is it that we always want to have more? Why is it that we are never satisfied with what we already have? In these days of Covid, people behave strangely. One day the demand masks, and when they are available, they do not want to wear them. They demand a vaccine, and when it is available, they don’t want to get it. The vaccination process is too long, they criticize; too fast, they blame governments.

With the pandemics, everyone on the planet is a doctor. They know better what to do and how the virus spreads and develops. They all have an opinion. They cry a lot over the supposed loss of their freedom. What loss? We are trying to get rid of the pandemic. This is amazing to see people being so self-centred and narrow-minded.

I don’t know if what the governments do is good or bad. And I don’t care. My concern here is that freedom is more than that. Freedom is not behaving like a 5-year old kid! The world is not a giant kindergarten. Being an adult is to know when to speak, and when to shut up. True freedom is when you find satisfaction with what you have, not with what you want. In Japanese, the word “freedom” can be Tokuritsu (1), and it has many meanings. The Japanese language uses abstract concepts to explain the world. They do not define it. Instead, they wrap the idea in a box. Tokuritsu is also: independence, separation, isolation, or self-reliance. What people call “freedom” is actually the opposite of this.

What they call freedom is, in fact, dependence. Humans have an atavic need not to be separated or isolated.

Society has taught us not to try to depend on ourselves. We live through social media, reality shows; and phone apps. I have the feeling that this fake sense of freedom is enslaving us. We are the prisoners of our wishes and what we have doesn’t please us. This freedom is the opposite of the Japanese definition, it gives no liberty.

Hegel said, “When liberty is mentioned, we must always be careful to observe whether it is not really the assertion of private interests which is thereby designated.” (2)

This is why I try to be happy with what I have. I do my best never to cry over the things I don’t have.

The health situation is complicated, our governments do what they can. These lockdowns will not last forever, be patient, endure, and develop your resilience. Because this is what Hatsumi Sensei is teaching. So, behave like the ninja you always wanted to be.

Be Happy!

  1. 独立, Tokuritsu: independence; self-reliance; supporting oneself; being on one’s own​; freedom​; separation; isolation
  2. Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/georg-wilhelm-friedrich-h-quotes


A Crisis Is A Mysterious Opportunity

From Shiro Kuma by kumablog

This post will come as a reminder for many readers. I’m not the first one to write about the word “crisis” in Japanese. I already wrote about it a few years ago in this blog.

When it comes to making puns on words, the Japanese language is like the French language. Similar sounds written differently have different meanings. (1)

The word “kiki” means “crisis” in Japanese. Kiki is composed of two kanji: “dangerous” + “opportunity”. So, a Japanese sees “crisis” as a “dangerous opportunity.” (2) It can be risky, but it doesn’t mean it is always wrong. I love this!

Opportunities are always moments where things can go wrong. The ability to take risks is what makes humans different from animals. Some humans will take significant risks; others won’t dare to move. But learning Budō is an opportunity to accept to take risks, and thus improve your survival skills. That is why you should never give up on your training. I know that this period of a pandemic can be challenging to many practitioners. A majority of Dōjō have closed with the lockdown, or are bankrupt after ten months of Covid. That is not a reason to quit! So, focus on “ki” (3), and turn this “kiki,” crisis, into “kikai,” a chance, an opportunity.

The moments we live these days might be difficult for many. But I’m confident they prepare us for a better life and embrace new opportunities. Human history is full of moments where a new paradigm replaces an old one.

Our Society will be different soon, and I want to believe it will be a wonderful (5) change. Kikai (4) will lead to kikai (4), a “chance” to experience a “mysterious” opportunity. Too many people die from the pandemic. And one death is one too many. But Covid is not the “Black Death” of the 14th century that killed 25 million people! (6) It is not the Spanish Flu that killed 20 to 50 million people worldwide. (7)

Hatsumi Sensei often speaks of the mysterious aspects of Budō. Now that we understand those terms better, it might help us get the essence of what he is teaching us. What we do on the mats is both wonderful, strange, and mysterious. The natural movement exists in the ether, and our body and mind render it visible. Each encounter, each fight is potentially dangerous. So, let the mysterious aspect of life deal with it, and there is a chance always to find success.

Success is an attitude. It is an action without intent. Once again it goes back to the Tao when Lao Tzu writes “don’t do anything, and nothing will be left undone.” The path of action is kikai, a course of opportunity and chance; and happening in mysterious ways.

_________________

  1. In French jump is “saut”, a bucket is “seau”, a seal is “sceau”, dumb is “sot, and they all sound like “so” in English!
  2. 危機, kiki: crisis; critical situation; emergency; pinch
  3. 機, ki: chance; opportunity
  4. 機会, kikai: chance; opportunity
  5. 奇怪, kikai: strange; wonderful; weird; outrageous; mysterious
  6. “Arguably, the most infamous plague outbreak was the so-called Black Death, a multi-century pandemic that swept through Asia and Europe. It was believed to start in China in 1334, spreading along trade routes and reaching Europe via Sicilian ports in the late 1340s. The plague killed an estimated 25 million people, almost a third of the continent’s population. The Black Death lingered on for centuries, particularly in cities. Outbreaks included the Great Plague of London (1665-66), in which 70,000 residents died.” from National Geographic.
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_flu

“Lasting from February 1918 to April 1920, it infected 500 million people – about a third of the world’s population at the time – in four successive waves. The death toll is typically estimated to have been somewhere between 20 million and 50 million, although estimates range from a conservative 17 million to a possible high of 100 million, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.”

Adapt Or Die

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

adapt or die mockupI’m happy I have studied Ninpō Taijutsu for the last 36 years. Bujinkan trained me to be ready for the unexpected. Like the Black Swan (1), unexpected events occur. The pandemic blew out the world economy. Our way of life is badly hit, and many training halls had to close. Some of them will never reopen. 

At the end of June in France, the government allowed us to go back to the Dōjō. With a mask and with little contact. Thanks to the Bujinkan wide range of possibilities, we’ve been teaching Bō jutsu (outdoor) for a few weeks. If it feels good to be back on the mats, but I’m concerned about the other martial arts.

If the Bujinkan is lucky, to have plenty of weapons to train. Gendai Budō (2) such as Jūdō, Karatedō, Aikidō, BJJ need physical contact. When they lifted the ban partly at the end of July, we went to train long weapons, outdoor. My Gendai friends couldn’t resume training, as physical contacts were not authorized.

You know how hard it is to have regular students in the Dōjō and to keep them. The pandemic might spell out the end of martial arts the way we know them. A large part of existing training halls will not reopen after the ban. And those reopening might also die by lack of adaptation. 

If you read the “Spirit of Movement” (3), you know that, before entering the Bujinkan, I trained Jūdō for a long time. I let down Jūdō, and chose Bujinkan. I couldn’t learn two martial arts in parallel and manage my daily job. But some do that correctly like my Spanish brother, Juan Manuel Serrano. Not only is he a reputed Bujinkan Dai Shihan, but he also earns a 6th dan in Jūdō! And to achieve this rank in Jūdō is not easy. Even today, he continues to teach both arts at the same time. That’s impressive. During the pandemic, he was able to continue by teaching long weapons. But his fellow Jūdō teachers had to stay at home! 

The Bujinkan teaches several qualities such as resilience, perseverance, and excellence. Three aspects impersonated by my friend Juanma. Budō training teaches to adapt and to accept change when it comes. Without accepting change, we cannot adjust our behaviours. Charles Darwin wrote that “It is not the strongest of the species that survives. It is not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” This could be a sentence said by Hatsumi Sensei during class. 

In Japanese, “to adapt” is “atehameru”. 

The essence of Bujinkan, Budō, and Life is adaptation. 

Weapons, tactics, and mentalities evolved through centuries. Martial arts have always adapted to change. It would never have survived to the 21st century if the warriors didn’t welcome change. That is what Bujinkan is and what Bujinkan is teaching.

Today’s change is the “mask”. You don’t need to like it. Wear the mask, and get a new chance to adapt your behaviour to this unexpected situation. Just Do It!

Atehameru to atehameru (apply and adapt).

We are Togakure ninja. Therefore we have been wearing masks since 1161. Stop complaining and go back to training. The freedom you seek resides in your training.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Swan:_The_Impact_of_the_Highly_Improbablehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gendai_bud%C5%8D
3 “The Spirit of movement” exists in e-book or paperback depending on the language, if you are interested check it: //ws-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=FR&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=koi20-21&marketplace=amazon&region=FR&placement=2361570645&asins=2361570645&linkId=14325edccfb9ed7d876300455e54cd45&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff“>FRA //ws-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=FR&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=koi20-21&marketplace=amazon&region=FR&placement=B00PUKZY9C&asins=B00PUKZY9C&linkId=085802a038abb8f70224718c77fd0fd2&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066C0&bg_color=FFFFFF“>ENG //ws-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=FR&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=koi20-21&marketplace=amazon&region=FR&placement=B00VA0TVW2&asins=B00VA0TVW2&linkId=27aff3f2a8f064fd6faac02deb06371a&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff“>SPA
4 当てはめる, atehameru: to apply, to adapt

adapt or die mockup

 

//ws-eu.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=FR&source=ac&ref=qf_sp_asin_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=koi20-21&marketplace=amazon&region=FR&placement=B00VA0TVW2&asins=B00VA0TVW2&linkId=27aff3f2a8f064fd6faac02deb06371a&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff“>GET YOURS HERE!

Back to Panem et Circenses?

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

dan mockup (1)Are we Back to “Panem et Circenses,” the times of “Bread and Circuses” as exposed by Juvenal around two centuries before our time? It looks like it! (1)

This metonymy by Juvenal, a Roman satirical poet, was to show a population’s erosion, or ignorance, of civic duty as a priority. If people have enough food and enough entertainment, they don’t see their (civic) duty as a priority. That is what is happening today with the pandemic.

This world pandemic is impacting our daily lives in a way that no one could have predicted. Whether you believe in it or not, is irrelevant here. What is not, is how we react when facing a situation like this.

I see the pandemic as an opportunity for humans to change, adapt, and develop new behaviours. And what I see is different. We are moving backwards, not forward. While the world is changing fast, our actions are still pre-COVID ones.

Let me give you some examples. A majority of humans have now to wear masks. In a few weeks, it became a regular piece of clothing. Every day, millions of people on the planet are saying “Oh no, I forgot my mask again!”

When we did not have them, people were demanding more masks. Now masks are mandatory, and we have enough. And the same people are complaining again. They protest against the government because they feel their freedom is in danger. There is no logic.

What the Bujinkan teaches is to learn how to survive. It is not about judging others, and I am not trying to. But the pandemic forces our Society, as a whole, to evolve. That is why people’s expectations of “bread and circuses” are not helping. Being reluctant to change is not new.

A long time ago in Mesopotamia, the Sumerian put up the bricks of our civilization. (2) They were the first to invent writing. But when they decided to change the way of writing, things didn’t go without protests. (3) (4)
When the Portuguese landed in Japan in 1543, they were the first Europeans to set foot on the islands. (5) They brought the first set of muskets with them. That was a significant change for the traditional Samurai who rejected this new weapon. Fast forward, in October 1600, Tokugawa unifies the country with brilliant strategy and firearms. Traditionalists lost because they refused to change. Change is happening, and to survive, we must adapt to it, not reject it.
When Emperor Meiji got his power back at the end of the 19th century, he was breaking a rule dating back to 1185. That was not easy, but he did it. The famous Yamaoka Tesshu was also a man of change. (5)

The examples above show that change has to be accepted. Change is permanent and natural. When you refuse it, you stay locked in the past. If we have to wear masks today, it is not to lose our freedom, but to stay alive.

And if you think the pandemic is not real and reject the mask, you make other people nervous. If you don’t do it for yourself, you can do it for your fellow humans.

Personal freedom is vital for humans. It is not in danger because of a mask, some handwash, and social distancing. That is our civic duty to follow and respect the rules so that the majority can be or feel happier. As a Bujinkan member, my goal is to go with the flow, not to fight it. I suppose you are not interested in the immediate rewards of “Panem et circenses.” Because if you are, you might be betraying the Bujinkan teachings of Hatsumi Sensei.  Is it what you want?

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1. Bread and circuses
2. Sumerians were counting in base 12, which is the reason why we measure time in multiples of 60. That is why there are 12 houses in the Zodiac.
3. The Sumerian people invented writing. They wrote from right to left and from up to down. Then a few thousands of years later the Akkadians, changed it to write on paper the same way we do.
4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuneiform
5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan%E2%80%93Portugal_relations
6 We covered the life of Yamaoka Tesshu and his achievements earlier on this blog.
7 More on Yamaoka Tesshu https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamaoka_Tessh%C5%AB

 

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