Be Aware!


For the second day of dkms, it was raining so we had to retreat to a nearby building. Space was limited and sensei began his teaching by telling us to be aware of our environment. In a crowded area accidents might occur and like in a battlefield he asked us to add this element to the techniques we were doing today.

Warrior awareness was the theme and the introduction of today’s classes by sensei and he displayed many small weapons (kusari, nekote, and other shuriken) and asked us to be aware of these kinds of weapons, and to learn how to use them in order to know how to defend ourselves against them. Hidden weapons are very common in today’s street fights so we should develop our awareness in that respect.

To summarize this day of hard training (the floor was concrete), I would quote one sentence he repeated a few times during the training: “this is not about power, this is about control”.

Too often in martial arts, emphasis is put on physical power instead of the control (space, mind and body). Controlling the opponent means controlling his body and his brain (jin) and his environment: chi (floor), ten (weather or light conditions). Without controlling the outside, the above, or the behind of the attacker a winning action can bring defeat. This is why the bujinkan arts are more interested in controlling Uke than showing strength or force that are often mistaken for power.

On a ryôte dori type of technique sensei once again used the wave like movements of his shoulders and his body to control his attacker. This type of movement is done nearly without moving. By solely moving the shoulders up and down and turning around Uke at a very close distance uke is defeated. This shoulder movement would be effective in a very confined environment like a hole or on the battlefield.

Like he did yesterday he played again with the concept of kûkan no kyûsho. But Kû which is not only emptiness is encompassing all things within, and kû is the leading path to “zero”.

Sensei often speaks about becoming “zero”. This state can only be achieved once kû is understood and integrated in our body. He asked us to find the kûkan no naka no nagare (空間の中の流れ) because within this kûkan exists a flow that is kû and which is allowing us to transcend the form and to move naturally.

This is achieved by finding the kûkan no teko (空間の梃), the leverage or the various leverages (teko) to use to open Uke and to defeat him. By using these teko (familiar concept studied in the kukishin ryû), or their opposite known as “teko gyaku” (梃逆) we unveil all possibilities naturally and submit the opponent without using any strength. Our body if relaxed allows the natural movement to appear and to be used without any thinking process or any preconceived motion. I admit that I find it hard to put that into practice in my taijutsu but this is the goal to achieve.

He illustrated that by biting into the flesh of his opponent (hand, forearm, tit) and Tim’s reactions were quite self expressing.

From there we moved to some shime waza (締め技). A short reminder here, shimeru (shime) applies not only to the chokes but to any kind of constrictive action on the body. The basic hon jime and gyaku jime were demonstrated with the whole body (karada) and were sometimes completed by hits to the face or crushing actions to the throat and the body.

Sensei insisted also that we should use the whole body when applying those chokes, “karada no shime” he explained, while choking his opponent by moving around him. Footwork is the key element in the success of these movements. By moving the elgs you off balance Uke and cerate opeinings for the chokes or the hits.

What I understood today was that chokes are:
a) dynamic;
b) done with the whole body (and not only the arms);
c) can be completed by fists attacks.

Pain by sôke is a good teacher!

He was also changing his grip from one choking waza to another using pushing (oshi -押し) movements of the choking hand. Depending on the opening he was pushing or pressuring Uke’s upper body (not only the throat) with his pinky used as a blade to cut the flesh; with the heel of the palm to crush Uke’s Jûjiro or with the tip of the fingers to dig into the face or the neck. This ability to change the way to hold the opponent became obvious when he added a hidden knife and pulled it of his sleeve so that it was appearing like by magic in his hand. This metsubushi action (目潰し) was done while already applying the choke.

He warned us to learn these “bad guys” techniques in order to survive a real fight. The bujinkan, he said, is not teaching “bad guys” techniques but is teaching these things to be able to react correctly in a life threatening situation.

To avoid defeat, learn the ways of your enemy.

The way he was revealing the tantô hidden in his sleeve was very interesting. He was not pulling it out of the sleeve instead he was levelling his shoulder so that the weapon would pop out by itself. The karada was pulling the weapon not the hand. This is also how we should learn to draw the sword as in the nuki gata (drawing the sword) the blade is expelled from the scabbard by the body action not with the hand. This is quite different from regular and traditional sword practice.

Leaving the weapons we went back to unarmed combat and from the original ryôte dori technique we learnt how to use the pressure of the thumb and the pinky to dig into Uke’s skull, face, eyes, ears, etc. We did also a few nasty pinching techniques combined with striking hits to the chest.

In a limited space the “gan shi nankotsu” system finds here a logical application. Space being limited, the movements do not have the same momentum and pain is not coming from a distance but at very short range. Once again he insisted on finding the “kûkan no kyûsho” of the situation.

We did many techniques today around these principles and sensei said that this was a very important training for the jûgodan. No strength is used in these techniques, there is no power at all as Sôke is controlling Uke only with micro movements and mega pains. Pain without injury is the best way to calm down a dangerous situation.

On a side note, Sôke insisted that we should pay attention to avoid injuries and of the importance of being aware of our environment (reminder).

This apparently effortless full control he has at all time of his opponent(s) is always amazing to watch and to think that tomorrow he will be turning eighty is even more surprising. Sensei is not using any strength but he keeps full control of anyone attacking him.

This is why the bujinkan martial art is “not about power, (but) about control”.

Be aware and live happy!

3 thoughts on “Be Aware!

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