Protect Your Holes!

IMG_20180308_145258What I like when training with Nagato sensei, is that he often has his way to convey his ideas. Today was no different when he said “protect your holes!” and laughed.

What he meant was about the fight. When you are fighting the opponent, make sure not to let any Suki, holes, in your movements. (1)

When you move closer to him, Uke tries to resist and to hit you. So, when you get close to him, check all the openings in your body and close them before doing any movement. And this is the same with or without the Yoroi. That is an essential point in Taijutsu. Protection and balance are the first things to do.

Too often I see practitioners not protecting their openings enough. Luckily for them, their attacker is friendly (they will be Tori soon), so the outcome is always positive. But this would be different in a real encounter.
In sword, we have a Kamae called “Tōtoku Hyōshi no Kamae.” (2)
In Taijutsu, “Toku” (shield) is like awareness (3), it is a permanent aspect of the fight. If you leave your body unprotected, Uke will take advantage of it.
In Nagato sensei’s movements, the action of his hands is always a consequence of his footwork. Only when your body is in a good position that you can apply the technique. By “having the body in a good position,” I mean that all your Suki are out of reach or closed.
When we watch a movement, we memorize the hand’s actions more or less. We don’t pay enough attention to the other aspects of the technique. That is a whole including footwork, body angle, relative angle, distance, and rhythm. These aspects are all linked together and play a significant role in the exchange between Uke and Tori. In a real fight, Uke and Tori will react to one another in attack or defence; this is why the footwork is vital.

Knowing how to apply the lock is a good start. But understanding how to place yourself well is better. So that Uke is never in a position to counter-attack. That is more important.

Today, Nagato sensei stressed this many times during the class. We did many variations around Musha Dori and Ō Soto Gake. We did them with grabs, reverse kicks, Tsuki, Taiken, Nage and Ashi Rau. Each time he insisted that we closed our weakness points.
As Hatsumi Sensei says, Mutō Dori is about controlling. But it is not enough to control the attacker or the Kūkan between and around us. No, the most important is to control ourselves.
If you control yourself, you control the universe. So, protect your holes!
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1. 隙, Suki: chink (in one’s armour, armour); chance; opportunity; a weak spot
2. 刀匿表紙, Tōtoku Hyōshi: sword + shield + cover or to “shield yourself under-covered by the sword.”
3. Ishiki, Awareness: see one of the last entries in this blog

PARIS TAIKAI REGISTRATION

Noguchi Ryū

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A class with Noguchi sensei is always a surprise. Last class, we covered the Shizen Chigoku Gata (the first level). As often with him, I am lost after ten minutes!
Noguchi sensei has this fantastic ability to make something new with old techniques. And for many of the techniques, his renewed interpretation is impressive.
Over the last thirty years, we have covered these techniques many times. But each time, he gives a new interpretation. I am amazed by his ability to do that, as it shows the technical distance he has with me. For example, his “new” Fū Batsu was nothing like I saw before, his Ryōte Gake Noguchi Ryū was even stranger.
Seeing that, I often paused during training, trying to decipher the pattern of the real Waza. That brought a few thoughts that I want to share with you.
Before going ANY Waza, he reads them from the Denshō. He doesn’t work from memory but interprets the technique as if it was the first time.
He follows a teaching pattern in five steps, like the five elements. The first variation is always a “Chi” like movement, the last one a “Kū” like movement. I mean that for the last change he is hardly touching the opponent.
Whatever the original movement, he continues it against fist attack. Then he changes whatever can be, still keeping the Kaname (key point) alive.
I also discovered yesterday that my understanding of Japanese names is limited. In the West a word is a thing, here it is an image. For example, Noguchi sensei was blocking Uke’s arm from the outside on the upper arm. He used the word “Jakkin” to define the point he was hitting. Until then, I thought that Jakkin was only on the inside of the arm.
Later he hooked Uke’s foot from the inside with his leg, like in Uchi Gake. He called it “Ashi Dome.” Until then, I thought of Ashi Dome as a set technique from the Chi Ryaku no Maki. It is not what I thought it was.
In the new edition of the Tenchijin (1), Hatsumi Sensei writes about Ganseki Nage. He lists the “official variations”: Ganseki Otoshi, and Ganseki Oshi. But there is a third one: Ganseki Ori (2), and we did it. It was a kind of Ganseki turning into a robust Ō Gyaku (you end up facing Uke).
After the Shizen Chigoku Gata, we did some Hanbō Jutsu. Noguchi Sensei reminded us that neither the Hanbō nor the Jō, belong to any one of the Ryūha. We do the techniques with the “feeling of the Kukishin Ryū,” but they are not Waza from the Kukishin. As a joke, he added, “tonight we do Noguchi Ryū Hanbō Jutsu.”
The class lasted only ninety minutes, and still, I learned more than I could ever imagine. The points above might look like details. But once incorporated into your Taijutsu, they will change it profoundly. That is why we have to come and train here often. If you already have been practising in Japan, it is good. But if you can afford to travel every year, I can assure you that you will get a much better Taijutsu.
See you here on the mats soon!
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  1. http://shinden-ediciones.com/es/14-bujinkan-ninjutsu
  2. 折る, Ori(oru): o break; to fracture; to break off; to snap off; to fold; to bend

Skydiving Anyone?

img_20180302_202715.jpgThese days, this is precisely the feeling I have when training at the Honbu. When skydiving in free fall, you have this incredible feeling of falling within your fall. It is like being into a vortex. The fall seems infinite like falling into an endless fractal. If you had the chance to experience it, you know what I mean. Speed keeps increasing. And you feel you are falling inside your fall until you reach terminal velocity.

Kūkan is like this; it is part of Ūchū, the Universe. (1)(2) Flow with this natural aspect and be one with Kūkan. If you think you can influence the universe, you’re mistaking! You can feel Jūryoku, gravity, on Earth (Chi level), but it exists everywhere in the whole universe (Ten). Being one with the Kūkan, Tori is in control (Jin level). That is the Tenchijin of 2018! (3)

There is a broad relationship between Humanity and Kūkan. Sensei said “Ningen to Kūkan Tsunagaru,” “humanity and space are connected.” (4)(5) When you connect yourself to your own inner Kūkan, you are part of the whole. The Waza are only a means to reach perfect control. As everything is linked in the universe, we just have to use this feeling and move freely. Nothing that we do is relevant, the only thing that matters is the natural flow. Sensei doesn’t do any Waza, he only controls. Control applies to the attacker, but also to the situation, space, and to yourself. If you can control your space, then the rest is natural, because you are moving in harmony with the forces of the universe.

Kūkan is the space between, inside, around Tori and Uke. It is only the place to be. Connected to Kūkan, we are moving into the natural and powerful flow surrounding us. Our intentions, our willingness to do something hinder the natural expression of Life. Hatsumi Sensei does his movements without thinking. He has no intent and is always in phase with the universe. He lets things happen. But Uke trapped in the “I want to attack,” blinded by his intents, cannot see his defeat coming. By not fighting, “Tatakai Wa Janai,” you are one with all things and Uke is your toy. (6) That is why the Bujinkan system is about peace, not war.

I love Sci-fi, and my last sentence reminded me of the end of the book “2001, a Space Odyssey” by Arthur C. Clarke. “and the star child understood the universe was his toy.”
That is what the Dai Shihan must do: play with the universe.

This year is Mutō Dori with an emphasis on justice and peace. Phil Legare on his blog wrote: “I asked Sōke if he had any instructions or advice for the Dai Shihan for the new year 2018. He said, Justice and Peace. Sensei wishes all Dai Shihan to bring about Justice and Peace in their own countries. He noted that we now have Dai Shihan in 55 countries around the world and more all the time. Sōke said that each Dai Shihan must figure out their way forward with Justice and Peace. He hopes they will foster the same goodwill within their own countries and in their groups. Honbu training is still Mutō dori, Control, and No power for each, as before. But there is also an emphasis on the five virtues of the Buddha: the Gojō.” (7)

“Then he [The Star Child] waited, marshalling his thoughts and brooding over his still untested powers. For though he was master of the world, he was not quite sure what to do next. But he would think of something.” ― Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey
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1. 空間, Kūkan: Space. Space is the boundless, three-dimensional extent in which objects and events occur and have relative position and direction. Physical space is often conceived in three linear dimensions, although modern physicists usually consider it, with time, to be part of a boundless four-dimensional continuum known as spacetime.
2. 宇宙, Ūchū: the universe. The universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary, and similar terms include the cosmos, the world, and nature.
3. 人間, Ningen: a human being; person; man; mankind; humankind
4. 繋がる, Tsunagaru: to be tied together; to be connected to; to be linked to; to be related to
5. 戦いわじゃない, Tatakai Wa Janai: There is no fight.
6. 重力, Jūryoku: Gravity, is a natural phenomenon by which physical bodies attract with a force proportional to their masses. Gravitation is most familiar as the agent that gives weight to objects with mass and causes them to fall to the ground when dropped. Gravitation causes dispersed matter to coalesce, and coalesced matter to remain intact, thus accounting for the existence of the Earth, the Sun, and most of the macroscopic objects in the universe.
7. The Gojō are:
滅の不施, Fumetsu no Fuse, endless giving
真道の持戒, Mamichi no Jikai, awareness, right path of self-justice
自然の忍にく, Shizen no Ninniku, perseverance, forbearance
光明の悟り, Komyō no Satori, the light of enlightenment
自然の超越, Shizen no Choetsu, natural transcendence

PARIS TAIKAI 2018

Satori, Gojō, Gogyō

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Master and students

DISCLAIMER: COMPLEX CONTENT

I have not been in the dōjō for three months, and I have the feeling that Sensei’s movements gained in subtlety. How can it be possible? I am amazed. After class last Friday, I spoke with Liz, a Canadian resident about it and she agreed with me.

I will not detail here what he does because every one of his moves is the expression of high-level Mutō Dori. It is beyond explanations.
Sensei controls his Uke from the very start, and all along the movement. When asked to share what he felt, Duncan said: “Sensei controls me at the very moment he calls me to attack him.” There are no more Waza, only natural adaptive movements.

But his teachings are also getting much more profound. And I want to share some of his lessons from Sunday here. I will give you a few keys to understand, but I will not try to explain them. You can share what you got from it, later in the comments.

Sensei introduced the class by speaking about 悟, Satori. (1) He said the Kanji contains three parts: Kokoro (2), five (3), mouth (4). This new sanshin links the Gojō (5) to the Gogyō. Understanding that, he said, is the goal of the Dai Shihan.

Before I expose the Gojō, I want to explain what a Dai Shihan is in today’s Bujinkan. I heard many people being critical about this evolution of Sensei’s vision. First, once again, Sensei does what he wants and if you are unhappy, then shut up or go away. Second, during the last class Sensei said that with the Mutō Dori of 2018, the real Budō was beginning. He noted that the Dai Shihan are entering the Shōden level of Mutō Dori. That means that we are only beginning to scratch the surface of a new dimension of Budō. Dai Shihan sounds much better than Ōkudo (old beginner), don’t you think?

The Gojō are the five virtues of Confucianism. (6)

In “Advanced stick fighting” (48), Hatsumi Sensei lists the Gojō as:

  1. 滅の不施, Fumetsu no Fuse, endless giving
  2. 真道の持戒, Mamichi no Jikai, awareness, right path of self-justice
  3. 自然の忍にく, Shizen no Ninniku, perseverance, forbearance
  4. 光明の悟り, Komyō no Satori, the light of enlightenment
  5. 自然の超越, Shizen no Choetsu, natural transcendence (7)

Confucianism defines them also as (same order):

  1. JIN: Benevolence, charity
  2. GI, JINGI, O: Justice, rectitude, righteousness, morality
  3. REI: Courtesy, politeness, tact
  4. TOMO, CHI, SATOSHI: Wisdom, knowledge
  5. NOBU, SHIN, SATORI: Sincerity, trust, fidelity (8)

Sensei has been using the verb Tsunagaru (to be connected to), a lot these days. (9)
So, the mission of the Dai Shihan this year is to “connect” the Gojō and the Gogyō, through Satori (Kokoro, Go, Kuchi).

I hope the next classes will shed some light on how to achieve that. Because right now, I am lost. I wish I were a Satori (10), a monster that can read minds.

Anyway, next Sunday is the first Buyukai meeting at Hana. I guess Sensei will give us the direction to follow during this year. (11)
Ganbatte! (12)

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1. 悟, satori: comprehension; understanding; enlightenment; spiritual awakening
2. 心, Kokoro: heart, mind, spirit
3. 五, go: 5
4. 口, Kuchi, mouth, gate, opening
5. 五常, gojō: the five cardinal Confucian virtues (justice, politeness, wisdom, fidelity, and benevolence)
6. More on Confucianism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucianism
7. The Five Constants are:
Rén (仁, benevolence, humaneness);
Yì (義/义, righteousness or justice);
Lǐ (禮/礼, proper rite);
Zhì (智, knowledge);
Xìn (信, integrity).
8. In a recent post, Duncan lists the Gojō as being:
滅の不施, Fumetsu no Fuse, Everlasting giving
真道の持戒, Mamichi no Jikai, Vow of the true way
自然の忍にく, Shizen no Ninniku, Natural resolve
自然の超越, Shizen no Choetsu, Transcendence of nature
光明の悟り, Komyō no Satori, Illumination of the awakening
9. 繋がる, Tsunagaru, to be tied together; to be connected to; to be linked; to be related to
10. 覚, satori: folklore monster that can read minds
11. Since January 2018, the Buyukai replaces the Shidōshikai. The new organization is now accessible to any practitioner. The first Buyukai meeting will take place at Hana. That is the usual restaurant in front of the old Honbu. Lunch begins at 2 pm after Sensei’s class.
12. A Personal message to Phil. So? What do you think?

PARIS TAIKAI REGISTRATION

Ishiki: Awareness

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I wrote many times about Japan being the country where one makes mistakes.
I arrived Thursday in Japan and made the first one on arrival. That made me think about Ishiki, awareness. (1)
Before I go further on the philosophical lesson learned, let me tell you the story.

Landing in Narita in the afternoon, I was happy to be there. After buying the yen, getting a wifi router, and a bus ticket to Kashiwa, I went for a smoke (yes, I know it’s terrible, but that is not the point here).

With my suitcase in tow and my small backpack, I went to the designated smoking area located outside the building. I let my luggage outside and went into the booth. A few emails needed my attention, and I answered them. Having finished, I went for a coffee.

Fifteen minutes later I felt that something was missing. My suitcase was still outside the smoking booth.

When this happens in any other country, you panic. But not here. Japan is so safe that nothing can go wrong. As I didn’t want to spill my coffee, I walked calmly to my luggage, and it was waiting for me. I was not even relieved as I was sure it would be there. And that is what I call my mistake.

In the “Lucifer Principle” (2), Howard Bloom explains that when not in danger, any species will die. In short, we only survive because there is a risk of dying. When potentially nothing is threatening you, you lower your defences, and you die.

In my story, the opposite happened. My “Ishiki” level was close to zero. Knowing that Japan is safe, I did something that I wouldn’t do in any other country.

The first lesson I learned is that, even when in a safe environment, you have to be ready for action. For a martial art practitioner, Ishiki must be a permanent state of mind. And not something you activate once in a while. It doesn’t mean you have to become paranoid; it means that you have to be having a permanent awareness.

See that as the “black swan” of Bujinkan.

“The black swan theory is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a significant effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.
It comes from an ancient saying which presumed black swans did not exist until we discovered them in Australia.”

In short, it is not because something never happens, that it will not happen.

In martial arts, we train to be ready for anything. Friday night I met my friend Christophe Ayen (French Dai Shihan), and I told him my little adventure. He said, “I know what you mean.” I looked at him, and he continued. “Last week I was training at the Honbu with Noguchi Sensei when he got an urgent phone call. He had to go. He came to me and said Christophe can you please finish the class? He went, and I finished the class in English, even though I don’t speak English!”.

You can use Ishiki at any moment inside or outside of the dōjō. Don’t let your awareness down only because you feel safe. Always be ready so that, as Takamatsu sensei said, “there will be no surprise.” Banpen Fugyō.

The second lesson is that smoking is terrible. But that I already knew.

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  1. 意識/ishiki/consciousness|awareness; sense|mano-vijnana (mental consciousness, cognizer of sensory information)
  2. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lucifer_Principle by Howard Bloom
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_swan_theory

PARIS TAIKAI 2018 JULY 13th to 15th