Budô is Mudô (2)


Oguri sensei with Tomiyama san

On Monday I had the chance to train with Nagato sensei and Oguri sensei and once again the complex simplicity (or the simple complexity) of their movements was amazing. I come to Japan three times a year and I still see the distance in levels between the Japanese Shi Tennô understanding and mine. The margin for progression seems huge (and I do not speak about Hatsumi sensei’s level)…

Last Friday Hatsumi sensei made one of his usual puns speaking of “budô” and “mudô” and even if it was the title for my last post on this blog I forgot to explain its meaning.

The kanji for “bu” (武) used for “budô” can also be pronounced “mu”. But “mu” (無) means “without, nothing, empty, emptiness”; like in Zen “mushin”, the no spirit no thinking attitude.

So when sensei said “budô is mudô” he said that “the path of budô was the path of no path”. This new pun playing with the sound emphasized once again the importance of listening to what he is actually saying in his teaching and understanding our budô from a much deeper perspective.

Budô being the path of no-path the bujinkan budô is the path itself and it cannot be expressed in words. The bujinkan arts beyond the mechanical aspect of the waza is simply a kankaku (感覚), a feeling. Training here at the hombu with Sôke is the only way to become able to “read between the lines” as he is pushing us to do regularly. The shidôshi not travelling to Japan to get their knowledge directly at the source, miss an extraordinary opportunity to develop themselves completely. Budô is more than a series of techniques, it is really a way of realization, a true art.

At lunch time on Sunday, sensei repeated his intention to build a jinja (神社), a shrine for the bujinkan and he was not speaking of religion here but of creating a place where the practitioners would find a training place building their taijutsu as well as their “shinjutsu” written 心術 (and not 針術 – acupuncture). If we see budô as the science of growing flowers, we can see the difference existing between learning to plant a seed, caring it, feeding the germ and making the flower blooming; and the art of Ikebana (生花) where the art is to express life through a special flower arrangement based on the tenchijin.

Moving from the physical world to the spiritual world is not the only possible through religions but also through budô.

“Budô is mudô” then makes sense. Our budô is nature and nature is without intention. Being is the solution and attending the classes with sensei transforms us into true human beings.

Nature is simplicity but a complex simplicity. This is exactly the same when you train here with sensei and the Japanese shihan. You watch their movements, you find them easy to reproduce and then you find yourself unable to reproduce them. This is the state of mind in which I was yesterday when training with Nagato sensei and Oguri sensei. One word to summarize that: “WYSINWG” (What You See Is Never What You Get.

Their movements yesterday were based on very simple basic techniques such as: omote gyaku, ura gyaku, katamune dori, ô gyaku but the way the expressed them were beyond the mechanical realm. They were “holistic”!

As I previously wrote it in my other entries on this blog, my words cannot express them correctly so this time I will not try to do so. Only if you were attending the classes can you have a slight chance of getting it. The classes in Japan are like the wind, you don’t see it but you see the movements of the leaves on the trees. Maybe this is why we say: “bufû ikkan”.

Nagato sensei during the tea break

This trip I am becoming aware, more than usual, of the unicity of their movement. A way to express that could be: “bujinkan budô is unity in multiplicity”. Natural movement deals with everything at the same time: uke, tori, the terrain, the feelings, the angles, the bones, the intentions. In fact you must get the general image in order to move simply and efficiently.

Let me state a few rules to make you understand what natural movement is (or should be):

  • the technique is always adapted to the body type of uke,
  • the body moves in one as the tenchijin is united,
  • the angles of the bones of both uke and tori are in harmony,
  • tori is never “doing it” uke is creating the conditions of his fall,
  • strength is useless as softness triggers uke to react more,
  • there is no technique only opportunities,
  • a book will never fight.

So let’s study ikebana and plant the seeds of our taijutsu to get into the world of shinjutsu. An remember that the meaning of this year’s kihon happô speaks about a new germination, sprouting (happô – 八方).

Be happy!

JUST7: Budô is Mudô


Bufû Ikkan Menkyô

Those last 2 days have been very busy budo wise. On the “nature and nuclear” side nothing to report, life here is as safe and normal as usual except maybe that the air conditioning is not “on” in the trains in order to save energy. And yesterday with over 23° some aircon would have been very nice on the back from Kashiwa.

Saturday we has two classes with Senô sensei and Oguri sensei, and Sunday two classes with Nagato and Sensei.

Saturday Senô sensei taught in his inimitable manner some apaprently simple moves that I had a hard time to reproduce (as usual). Event though words cannot express it properly I will try my best to set up the technical aspect of it. As you know only personal experience can describe it. uke is grabbing your right wrist and punches. Dodging the attacking fist with your left shoulder you step in to the right and apply shutô while doing a te hodoki on the grabbed wrist. Controlling the right arm of the opponent you continue to walk in and to the rear left of uke transforming the te hodoki in a grab, and lifting and extending the left arm of ule in order to control his balance. Uke is arched backwards and pressure is applied on his lower back by the pressure on his extended left arm. Very technical and soft at the same time. Footwork is capital here (I know this is knew) and the correct angling on uke’s arm to the shoulder allows the control with no strength at all. The whole class was based on this feeling. Lesson: move in a natural manner and get into uke’s space using a kind of koku feeling.

Oguri sensei’s class was good for two reasons. first it was the first class I had with him since his heavy surgery and I was pleased to see him again in such a good shape. As usual his fantastic knowledge about the human body; his power on the controls given with a “one body movement” were amazing. I played the uke a few times and even though he is much lighter than me, I was crushed by his body at all time. Once again it is hard to express with words. Technically we did katamune dori and ryômune dori but having said that there is no way to explain his “zero point” control of the body. The hands are controlling your body at all time but you feel it only when you try to move out of the control. Soft power is what comes to mind when experiencing it. It looked simple when watching it but was impossible to do when you tried. Classes like that give you the feeling that the path to perfection is far from reach. Lesson: go down on your hips by stepping backwards and moving your fingers around the grab(s) and rotate your whole body around uke to reach the zero point of balance. Oguri sensei explained to Tanaka san, Akira san and me that at jûgodan level, you do not have to step too much to the rear. It reminded me of the chûtô hanpa. You half apply the technique and uke’s reactions is finishing it for you.

Sunday at Nagato sensei’s class we did again some kind of katamune dori with a fist attack. And Nagato sensei used his elbows in an amazing way, going inside or outside depending on uke’s reactions. We did many henka ending with Omote gyaku, hon gyaku, musô dori, O gyaku; pushing on the elbows or in the upper  thigh to take uke’s balance. The way Nagato sensei is able to grab the attacking punch from behind his head at the neck level is impressive. This class passed like in a dream. Lesson: develop the flexibility of your wrists and do not finish the movements Uke’s reactions are the solution. The elbows are used freely and they should rotate in all directions together with the footwork to trap uke.

Sensei’s class was interesting as we did a lot of playing around a technique by Pedro using the hands, the sword in  uke’s obi, tori’s obi, or two swords techniques. Pedro’s technique was some kind of musô dori from a fist attack and applying a kind of take ori/O soto gake. Sensei used that in line going backwards and ending each one of his variations with excruciating pain at the fingers; He said again that his was the way of theTakagi Yôshin ryû.
At one point his uke screaming in pain he reminded us of a saying by Takamatsu sensei when he was his uke: “if you still feel the pain it means that you are still alive”.
When we began to do sword techniques, sensei also commented on the difference between the sport budo and the shinken budô where surviving is at stake in each encounter. What we do is not what they do and shouldn’t be compared in any way.

But for me the main event on Sunday was that I was rewarded a new diploma by sensei that gave me a strange feeling and let me dizzy for the rest of the class.

After the bowing, sensei called me in and I kneeled in front of him, and Nagato read the diploma to everyone. So far, I do not know the exact content of the text but it is a reward for my many years in the Bujinkan named “bufû Ikkan shin gi tai”. Basically it says that this honorary menkyo is given to me in the name of Hatsumi Sensei and the whole Bujinkan community to thank me for the consistency (bufû ikkan) of my training all over these years in learning the form and the spirit (shin gi tai) of the Bujinkan budô. the diploma is topped with a real golden bujin patch. And this is what is surprising me the most as this is the patch that only sôke is wearing on his gi. I know that we keep repeating “banpen fûgyô” (10000 changes no surprises) but I must admit that yesterday I was really surprised by the really formal way this diploma has been given to me by Sôke but also by the patch attached to it.

The Japanese Shi Tenno: Oguri sensei, Senô sensei, Nagato sensei and Noguchi sensei received it at the beginning of the year and last February, other old bujinkan members got the same certificate: Pedro, Paco, Natascha, Sheila (and maybe others too). For me this a major honor to receive this new diploma as it represents more than a nice text but also a new responsability. As you know each time we get a new rank we get a heavier weigh on our shoulders, this one is very very heavy.

Sunday lunch

After training, as it is often the case on Sundays, Sensei invited a group of high ranks for lunch and it was a very delightful moment, even more special for me yesterday after this reward. Lots of laughter and happiness were filling the atmosphere and the shoshu was not the only reason for it.

Be happy!

JUST2: Arnaud in Japan


Sensei and his two monkeys

Tonight was the first class of this trip. Selfishly I was hoping for a very small group and we were already around 30, it seems that fear is going away.

It was nice to meet my buyu and the Japanese Shihan again, but most important it was nice to see sensei and to train with him. He was in a great mood and I often question if he is really 81 years old as he moves like a young man.

What did we do tonight?

After I demonstrated a kind of musha + omote, sensei used it to apply many different omote, ura, musha and musô to his poor uke ending always by pressuring one or more fingers at the nail level. “this is the way yo control in the Takagi Yôshin ryû”.
The general idea is not to do a technique but mainly to react freely to the flow of the opponent until he gives you one or more fingers that you use to pin him down with a lot of pain.

Then Pedro did a very interesting mix of half-cooked movements trapping uke in his mind in such a way that exploding to the floor seemed to be the only logical solution. Uke attacks with a right Tsuki, you deflect it softly with your right hand by walking to the right (inside – ura); uke reacts to that and you begin an omote gyaku that transforms itself into an ura gyaku when goes to the ground in pain (quite similar to the omote-ura gayku of the gyokko ryû).  Very nice piece of Taijutsu by Pedro that many in the dôjô had a hard time too understand and to do.

From there sensei used the start of this half-cooked technique to develop once again on the “chutô hanpa”. He did like a dozen variations on this on one tsuki double tsuki, with two uke, etc.

Finally he did it with the sword in Uke’s belt (daisho sabaki technique) explaining a few times that the Tsuka, or the saya is going itself into the hand. “Don’t try yo grab it, it comes naturally into your hand”. Sensei stressed the importance in all the techniques to use the “karada” body instead of using the hand and the head. We can summarize that with the sentence: “don’t think or grab, don’t use power, walk”.

Calligraphy session: you can see the number of attendees tonight

At the end of the class we did a biken technique similar to the kukishinden ryû Tsuki komi np sayu gyaku. Uke attacks daijodan and tori move lightly and slowly to position the kissaki on the left wrist of uke. If uke tries to cut dô kiri, then tori’s sword rotates around the point of contact and deflect the blade naturally, tori lift his sword and hit (not cut) the right wrist with the power of the legs bending. Sensei insisted a lot on not cutting uke: “it is simple to cut, it is much more difficult to control uke without cutting him”. The secret is to move slowly with the body; Sensei added that what is common sense to sport budô (gendai budô and MMA styles) is uncommon sense to us. Fighting is not about power and speed it is about softness and slowliness.

We did many variations around this theme absorbing backwards while moving forward, giving uke a wrong sense of distance as explained by Nakadai sensei.
The class went fast like in a dream and it was already time for the sakki test. The bujinkan is richer by 2 shidôshi: Pedro did the sakki test on an Australian guy and I did it on a Swedish one. Speaking of which, Christian Appelt who tested heavy pain tonight under sensei was promoted to Jugodan, congratulations!

After the class sensei spoke to a group of jugodan and insisted once again upon the importance of jugodan working together and keeping the connection between us all. It reminded me of the “en no kirinai” studied last year.

He also spoke about the new book he is working on, called “ninja daizen” (I’m not sure about the title) that will expose many new things about ninjutsu (sensei spoke of ninja in Kyushu during the Edo period). He added that ninjutsu was not limited to the sole Iga and Koga clans… I guess we will have to wait for the book to be published to know more about that.

Conclusion:

  • If you should have been here tonight and didn’t come: too bad for you!
  • The bujinkan is still alive and the many people coming from all over the world were there to prove it.
  • Sensei and all the shihan are in good health and life is back to normal (too bad you didn’t come).
  • Today: no earthquake, no tsunami, no radioactive cloud, but a very good class (too bad you were not there).
  • Tomorrow two classes: Senô sensei and Oguri sensei (yes he is back on Saturdays). I keep you updated.

PS: Many airlines have empty seats on their flights to Japan these days. The Kashiwa Plaza is quite empty too… it is still time to join us and train.. :)

Bô jutsu: Weapon of Consciousness


When in 1993 Hatsumi sensei began to teach the now famous “themes of the year” he decided to begin with the study of bô jutsu. It opened a five year cycle dedicated to the weaons of the bujinkan.Amongst all the weapons of the bujinkan the bô jutsu is the most complete of all with an extensive set of techniques and levels that influences greatly our taijutsu both at the technical and spiritual level.Sensei speaks of “roku shaku bô jutsu” (六尺棒術) and this is the title of his first bô dvd. But many see only the size of the weapon. It is right to say that in the past the roku shaku was the size of the weapon. As you know even if the Japanese government began to follow the metric system at the beginning of the 19th century he kept alive the kanejaku (矩尺), the old measurement system. Even today people refer to the size of a room in number of tatami (疊).One tatami represents the surface of a measurement unit called the “ken” (間) and which has a length of 6 shaku. Until the 19th century all temples, castles, and houses were built with this unit. For more on this please look for “kanejaku” on the net.

But when it comes to the training we have to keep in mind that Japanese people before the 20th century were not tall (often around 150 cm). So, for us westerners, in order to keep the same ratio size/length in the buki waza (武器), our long staff should have a length of at least 2m. Note that buki (技) means also technique or art…

Now, when sensei speaks of the roku shaku (六尺) he is speaking of shiki (識), consciousness (vijnana in buddhism). Sensei implies that bô jutsu is the key to reach shiki (識) the 6th element of the gogyô, consciousness. By training the many waza of bô jutsu you are in fact developing your consciousness and become able to use it in every aspect of your life. By introducing this concept of shiki back in 2005, sensei forced us to do a major leap in our understanding of the bujinkan arts.

And remember that training the weapon -omote (表)- develop our consciousness of life – ura (裏). This is why bô jutsu is so important in the bujinkan.

Bô jutsu is the first step to free our taijutsu from the form. But to free yourself from something you must first be “trapped” by it. But how is it possible to achieve formlessness from something you don’t know?

We have to learn and study a lot to get the forms correctly until we can strip the forms off.

The bujinkan is a paradoxical system in which we are looking for something “natural” by studying things that are “not natural”. In fact the bô is the entry gate for the weapons and the necessary step to take in order to improve our whole taijutsu.

Until now no tools were available to review all those techniques this is why we have decided to record them all. We have also added for each technique, the kaeshi waza (返し技) to show you how to win against the bô. It took us four days of recording to do so and many bruises too.

With www.koimartialart.com (online streaming) or with www.budomart.com (dvds) you can now discover or rediscover the richness of the bô jutsu from the kukishin ryû. We recorded all the techniques (11 dvds) to help you unleash the power of your taijutsu with this fantastic weapon.

The bô (棒) is the link to the ten (天) and the chi (地) to become a real jin (人), a shiki no jin, a conscious human being (識の人間).

By the way did you notice that the kanji for “ken” (間) is identical to the second kanji of human being (間) …

Tokyo VIP travel


JL408 to Tokyo

On Wednesday night at the airport it seems that the world has changed.

When I entered the boarding gate the room was empty or nearly. This is what one month of media howling have done! The news have been exaggerating so much the radioactive situation here in Tokyo that the whole world has the feeling that Japan is forbidden to go to. Once again I do not try to minimize the gravity of what happened but as Takamatsu sensei said:  “By opening his eyes and his mind, the ninja can responsively follow the subtle seasons and reasons of heaven, changing just as change is necessary, adapting always, so that in the end there is no such thing as surprise for the ninja”. So following Takamatsu sensei’s words please adapt to the misinformation and learn to read where the real dangers are. Fukushima Daiichi is a real problem but the radioactivity in Tokyo is far under the limits. Actually it is well under many other areas in Europe.

But let’s be honest, as a standard Frenchman  I love it when I have the feeling that I belong to some privilege group of people. And yesterday it seemed to me that I was belonging to the privileged group of “those allowed to fly to Japan!”

The plane, a Boeing 377-300 – no doubt the best flying machine in the sky these days – also was empty. I could have guessed it, though! and it reminded me of my early business years where I flew back from the Middle East one night with only 13 others persons. I love empty planes.

A B-777/300 can host 272 passengers and needs 13 crew members and 3 pilots to operate. We were 108 passengers traveling which, apart from the Buddhist symbol of 108, represents more than 1 stewardess per person!

The flight with JAL was awesome because:

  1. I had three seats for myself,
  2. I slept like a baby the most part of the flight,
  3. The food was good and served rapidly,
  4. I had an aisle AND a window,
  5. I got a lot of attention from the charming JAL stewardesses,
  6. the flight was quiet: no baby crying, old men coughing, or young playing,
  7. and JAL doesn’t stop in Seoul for obeying some pilot union (add 2h to your flight) and arrived on time 11 hours and a few minutes later!

It was like being a VIP or living in some kind of a dream.

A very quiet flight to Tokyo

Why was that?

Only because of the “nuclear terror auction” spread by the media since the catastrophe. For weeks they were not speaking about the 260000 people that lost everything but about something that sells more: “the terrible nuclear accident”. They got so much our attention that in the plane there were only Japanese people and nearly no one from Europe going to Japan and I guess that it will not change soon.

So if you want to train with a small group of buyu; if you want to enjoy calmness; and if you want to save money on your flight then do not hesitate, come now to Noda as this is the opportunity of a lifetime.

Training bujinkan is about learning to make good choices in life. Did you make a good choice recently?

Japan: Stop Howling, Act!


What happened in Japan a few days ago is a terrible thing but I am sad to see the way things are covered in the media and at the political level.

Japan has suffered one of the biggest earthquakes in the last 140 years and after the destruction caused by the tsunami they expect at least 10000 casualties. But our media in Europe are only speaking about the possible nuclear catastrophe and rarely speak about the people in Japan who lost everything: a parent, a friend, their house, car etc. Some countries are even checking already the level of radioactivity of the Japanese products imported (sent before the earthquake because the Japanese industry is down), others are checking the air pollution even if they are located 3000 km away from Japan and not in the direction of the winds!

This treatment of information is revolting as it only emphasizes the human appetite for cataastrophe.

I am not trying to minimize the nuclear accident but I think that we have to focus primarily on what is important: the people in difficulty trying to survive after the tsunami.

Can we individually do anything about the nuclear problem? Can we seriously howl with the politicians and the media and use this accident as an excuse to stop our own nuclear plants?

We are behaving like a drunk driver blaming a tree for destroying his car after a crash. The nuclear problem is not the cause of the problem but a negative consequence of the tsunami so we must first do whatever we can to help the Japanese people.

Be logical:

  1. The moment it is dangerous to go to Tokyo because of the radiations, the airlines will stop their flights.
  2. The moment it will be risky for your health to go to Japan, the Japanese government and our own governments will prevent us to go there.
  3. The Japanese are the most experienced people to deal with nuclear problems.

So we must redefine our priorities:

  1. While the nuclear specialists (from Japan, the USA, the IAEA) do their best to contain the nuclear risks, our job is to support the victims of the tsunami.

    In the last days I have seen many Bujinkan groups organizing seminars to collect money for Japan and one dôjô is going to give the benefits to the Japanese red cross. This is the Bujinkan I like.

  2. Whether nuclear power is “good” or “bad” is not of our concern. We must only do our best to live a happy life where we are.

    We often have the feeling that our governments are not always telling us the truth, but there is nothing we can do about it. But as Bujinkan members we should listen to Sensei when he stresses the importance of being happy. So let’s recenter our lives to be happy and stop howling with the crowd.

  3. The nuclear catastrophe is only a scapegoat. We are the ones to blame because we were unable to develop (in the 20th century) a society fuelled by nuclear power (80% of the electricity in France). As long as we do not find a real alternative to nuclear power we have to live with it.

    We are responsible. Accept that and move on as the Japanese did, do and will always do. Sensei was still teaching on Sunday (not on Tuesday as the Budôkan was closed) and I guess he will teach on Friday, so keep going!

As far as I am concerned, I will continue to support the Japanese as much as I can and I am still planning to train with Sôke next April.

If you want to actively help Japan, the best support you can give is to continue to travel to Japan as long as:

  1. Sensei is teaching his regular classes,
  2. the airlines are allowed to land at Narita airport,
  3. our governments let us travel to Tokyo.

The Bujinkan is teaching us to be ourselves and not to behave as a flock of sheeps. It is time to show the world that you didn’t train for nothing during all these years.

And remember that “tsunami” 津浪 is a Japanese word!

See you soon on the mats in Noda.

    Nuclear Info


    Fukushima nuclear plant

    As for many of you I have been watching extensively the frenzy around the nuclear problem in Japan. Journalists are speaking without knowing and they are “honestly” transforming the news (I think it is hopeless) to get more viewers. At the same time our politicians see here a good way to cash easy votes. Do not believe everything on the news, make you own inquiry. I do not want to minimize the nuclear accident that happened but the attitude of the media is just not correct.

    For those interested and concerning the nuclear problem, I received this link today and I thought that it would help many to understand what is a nucelar plant and what has happened in Japan after the earthquake and the Tsunami: http://theenergycollective.com/barrybrook/53461/fukushima-nuclear-accident-simple-and-accurate-explanation

    As far as I know, the main problems that our Japanese friends are facing are the repeated earthquakes and the consequences of the Tsunami. Relatively (so far) the nuclear problem seems to me as not being so important. Thousands of people have died because of the tsunami and the country will have difficulties with food, gas, and elctricity.

    I hope that all our friends there will get over these bad times and that Japan will recover fast from this nightmare.

    Also I invite you to read Duncan’s last post with the possible interpretations of the theme of the year: kihon happô at http://tazziedevil.wordpress.com/ it is excellent!

    I am still going to Noda mid April (unless our politicians forbide it and/or the situation evolves in an unexpected dramatic manner).

     

    Earthquake in Japan


     

    Dear friends,

    March 11, 2011, major earthquake & tsunami in Japan

    I hope that Hatsumi sensei, the Japanese Shihan, and all our friends training and/or living in Japan are in good health after this major earthquake (8.9 on the richter scale).

    Stay tune with facebook as many of our friends in Japan communicate  through this network.

    Arnaud

    Balance


    balance is everywhere

    Everyday during training we are trying to learn more about balance. Actually in sensei’s first dvds you could read: “bujinkan: martial arts of distance”.

    Proper distancing is given by footwork and proper footwork is created by balance. Take a cat for instance. Cats have this ability to always land onto their feet when they fall. This is what we are training to do in the dôjô. But this training requires years of hard work and can only be achieved through trial and error. Cats learn that from early age and when they grow up it is a natural ability they have developed.

    Learning balance is learning from being unbalanced. It is the permanent teaching in the dôjô that will help you improve your own personal skills. As Malcolm Forbes put it: “Failure is success if we learn from it.” – so learn from your actions. “Shikin haramitsu daikomyô”, “in every action in our life there is something to learn from.”

    Often I am amazed by how much we can learn from our daily mistakes. Accepting to make mistakes is accepting to learn. In the dôjô nothing matters and being wrong often ends with only a few bruises. There is no risk to be wrong in training as long as we learn to learn from this practical teaching. An error is not like a black spot on a white linen, it is a reason for improving ourselves. One of the Japanese shihan said one day in class that when we learn a new waza we make many mistakes and that by repeating and learning from these mistakes we make gradually less and less mistakes. This waza will never be perfect but at least will be heading towards perfection.

    Balance in your taijutsu will bring balance in your life and this is the most important in the Bujinkan martial arts. Errors are making it possible for us to become better practitioners and better human beings. This is why accepting changes is of utmost importance. If you think you know and never change what you take for granted you cannot evolve. The things you know will work for you well in some occasions but will also bring more troubles in the long run. Remember the tao (道), and its “don’t do anything and nothing will be left undone”. Inaction will never bring action, actually by not accepting those permanent changes you are preventing yourself from success; it is like betting your life on a toss of a coin! This is wrong.

    Whatever you do always consider that things are not stuck, everything evolves and everything flows. This is the nagare (流れ) that we are looking for. Footwork, distance and balance are linked and we accept to change. As Aristotle said “change in all things is sweet”, so we need to look for these changes in our lives and become true human beings.

    Yoroi Kumi Uchi


    Today we had an amazing demonstration of yoroi kumi uchi by the Sensei , the Japanese shihan and Duncan and Holger. Yoroi kumi uchi is not about doing a technique it is about seizing the opportunities arising in the middle of the fight. At one point today, Duncan lost his helmet and immediately used it as a weapon against his opponent.

    Sensei congratulated him and explained that in a fight everything should be used to stay alive. Often martial art practitioners are more interested in looking good in their techniques rather than being in a position of staying alive. This is during the Muromachi period that Japan has developed what has become the martial arts of today. But in that time it was not about being precise, it was about not dying on the balltefield. Too often people think of the Edo period (beginning in 1603) as the best period of Japanese Budô. This is wrong!

    Everything has been discovered much earlier during the Muromachi period. Muromachi began in 1333 so the Japanese had nearly 3 centuries to develop the arts of war. Sensei insisted once again today on the goshin (ken, tachi, juo, katana, nukes) being the real “gorin no sho”. If I understood well he will speak about that extensively in his new book due in a few months. Tachi waza is the weapon of the Muromachi together with the use of the yoroi.

    Japanese budô and the culture of the katana came shorlty after the peace time of the Edo period. Japan being unified, there were not so many battles anymore and the Japanese warriors stopped wearing the yoroi rendered unnecessary. This is when they developed the blade to be cutting like razor blades as it was possible (without the protection of the yoroi) to cut the opponent instead of stabbing him. Tachi waza doesn’t include cutting only stabbing.

    In the yoroi kumi uchi it is obvious. The body can take any blow at short distance (less momentum) the objective being to open uke in order to find a hole in the protection and to stab him in one of the openings created in the action. Therefore our movements do not have to be perfect they have to be created “on the spot” and adapted to what is possible. Sensei insisted a lot today on this aspect of fighting, we do not try to apply a waza we “read” the openings, take the balance and do what we can to stay alive. Once again we are learning survival not kata.

    Furthermore, yoroi kumi uchi makes it obvious that speed is not  the priority as our movements are limited by the weight and encumbrance of the yoroi. We move to keep our balance and to take uke’s balance. Whether we a re doing mutô dori, tachi waza or yari waza is just an add-on to our body movements. The dvd on the dkms will be an eye opener for many bujinkan members as it was one for those who were lucky enough to watch it today.

    Train with a yoroi in mind and a tachi in your hand and adapt your good looking movements so that they can be of any use in a real fight.