A few years ago, Sensei said that if you wanted to control the opponent, only one finger was enough, or Yubi Ippon Jūbun.
In fact, since then, he has been insisting a lot on the piano-like manner with which we have to play with Uke, using only the tips of our fingers as if writing on a keyboard.
Grabbing is not the solution. When you grab Uke, you grab more than his mind or body; you create a fixed point of contact from where he can determine your next actions. The grip becomes a new Teko/Shiten. (2)
But when you use a series of Shishin Ken (3), using your fingertips as if playing a piece of music on Uke’s point of contact, you do not give him a start from which he can be reacting.
For the last classes, Hatsumi sensei has been repeating it. In the world of Mutō Dori, the use of our fingertips, running on Uke, touching him, but not grabbing him, prevents the opponent of beginning a counter movement. You do not stay long enough in contact on the same spot. Because you do not stop, Uke’s body is always “listening” to the input created and cannot make a correct decision.
Playing with the attacker is a significant aspect of Mutō Dori, which is why is why Sensei used the word “Asobi” when detailing the moves. (4) The definition of “Asobi” gives us a hint on how to “play”. It says “margin between on and off, gap before pressing button or lever has an effect.” When you understand this definition, you see how similar it is to the “Ishitobashi”, the skipping stone, of two years ago. (5)
Sensei explained that the spaces between the contacts of your fingers on Uke are those “air pockets” he was mentioning. The rhythm of the contacts on Uke’s skin, give the tempo of his demise.
Not grabbing firmly, but creating a rhythmic touch with your fingertips, allows Tori to overcome any intent of Uke. Uke is lost in plain sight as he cannot take a winning decision. That maintains him at the logical level. His only course of action is to follow Tori’s movements, and hoping that the control of his body and mind with the fingertips, will eventually stop.
A few times, Shiraishi sensei attacking Sensei with a sword cut, was stuck in mid air. Sensei was holding him only with the tip of his forefinger.
I guess it is time to go back to your keyboard training in search of this magic and playful way to control the fight. Mutō Dori is purely about controlling the situation.
- Yubi Ippon Jūbun: 指一本十分, One finger is enough
- Teko/Shiten: 梃子/支点, lever/fulcrum. That is one of the major concepts of the Kukishin Ryū and the Takagi Yōshin Ryū.
- Shishin: 指針, needle (compass, gauge, etc.); hand (clock); indicator; pointer; index . Shishin is often used as a name for a stabbing action of the pinky. But when you understand it, you realise that in fact, you can use any of your fingers for it. Thus a series of Shishin Ken as if playing the piano. You move from one finger to another.
- Asobi: 遊び, 1) playing , 2) play (margin between on and off, gap before pressing button or lever has an effect)
- Ishitobashi: 石飛ばし, skipping stones on a body of water
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