Kamae Gokui: My Tiger Kamae is Strong.

1985. I'm having lunch with my friends from high school. We chose this spot on campus because no one bothered us there. We could be the goofy teens that we were without trouble. Except today.




I was about to experience maybe the most important lesson about kamae that Soke has offered us. I had been obsessed with ninjutsu and devoured every book, magazine, or VHS tape I could find. I was still a few years away from any real training. It just wasn't available then. There was no such thing as the internet in '85, and very few legit teachers of Hatsumi Sensei's art anywhere.

We were sitting on a bench, eating our lunch, and around the corner comes some guy I had never seen around campus. He asks for a cigarette. None of us smoke. He demands money from me. I tell him to leave us alone. He states that he will take it from me.

I stand up. "You can try," I tell him. Then I take a deep pose in what I now know as doko no kamae (sometimes called the angry tiger posture). He suddenly looks quite insecure. He considers his options and says, "You're crazy." Then he leaves.

My friends sit frozen on the bench looking at me, lunch falling from open mouths. We burst into laughter. I collapse back to the bench. My voice and hands shake from adrenaline. We eat for a minute, then each decide that maybe we should get to class early today.

I was lucky he didn't call my bluff. I had no idea what to do if he attacked. I had zero training. I was just copying a pose I had seen in a book. But with kamae it is all about spirit. And apparently I sold it.

Hatsumi Sensei makes reference to this gokui of kamae often, for example, "In referring to seigan no kamae one may be in any stance. What is important is the spirit. Not the form. In fighting it is what is inside of you that counts."

Soke also describes this as an aspect of Banpen Fugyou (many changes, no surprises). "This is the truth of spontaneous change. Therefore, I never go against nature and favor the quiet mind that is never surprised, that remains free from conflict."

Soke describes kamae simply as "the moment before change."

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