Beyond Striking and Kiai Into the Mysteries of Toate No Jutsu

There are mysterious things in life. Or maybe not so mysterious if you understand the secret behind such things. Then they become normal, or just part of being alive.

One mysterious thing in our art is the idea of Toate No Jutsu (techniques for striking from a distance). How can this be real? If you haven't experienced it or delivered such a strike youself, then perhaps it is not real for you... Yet.

If you subscribe to my training notes (if you aren't a subscriber yet, you miss a LOT of free Bujinkan notes), you know that we studied this the other night in my basics class.

One secret of this technique lies in connecting to your opponent and the void. And in trying to understand this mystery it can be useful to make connections. So here we go,

I was at a Friday night class with Hatsumi Sensei in the Hombu Dojo when Soke described toate no jutsu as a kiai or projection of spirit (maybe 気迫 kihaku?). Sensei said it was like the color of your heart projecting into space. That color comes from your character or can be that which you decide to project. He said all this with his purple hair and made reference to Kabuki theatre in which a purple scarf on the head denotes death.

He asked Someya Ken'ichi to describe a time when Sensei "threw" a shuriken at his foot. There was no shuriken but Someya felt frozen in place and the spirit drained from his body. You can find a more detailed description of this event in "My experience of Toate Fudo Kanashibari no Jutsu" (Someya Ken'ichi, this article originally appeared in the Bujinkan Sanmyaku Densho in 1996)

Soke then went on to say that a true Bugeisha does not maim or kill, but rather removes the fighting spirit and the will from the enemy. Have you ever done this? Do you know how? Or do you just punch and kick about blindly without connection? I have heard Soke say many times, there is no attacker or defender. No distinction if you are connected.

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To Bujinkan Teachers: Stop Teaching!

Running classes is an interesting lesson for me. From the beginning my goal for having classes was to further my own training. It was never a selfless act of giving or sharing. And because of that goal, I work on things in class that I want to learn.

Seems selfish. But what I have discovered is that is really all that can be done. I believe you can't really teach Bujinkan. It can be felt, experienced, and lived. But each student must discover it for themselves. Ultimately we are all responsible for our own training.

One Friday night at Hombu, Hatsumi Sensei suggested that teachers should be discovering as they teach, learning and teaching at the same time. I am pretty sure that's what he has done all these years. It certainly shows in the freshness and vitality he brings to every class.

In that same class, Soke also said that if we train with him, we are walking beside and in parallel with him. If not we fall into a hole. That is a path of discovery. The hole is the ego and the belief that you have accomplished something.

So I don't feel guilty about not teaching the students who train with me. Instead I invite them to join me on the journey. The gift of discovery is one of the most selfless things Soke has given us. I hope I can be that example for someone else someday.

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Can You Tap-Out A Bee?

Have you ever tried to capture a wild animal? Or just hold an animal that doesn't want to be held? The results are predictable, in that they involve emergency rooms and injury. If you haven't tried it, then come at it innocently, without aid of guns, tranquilizers, or nets. You will be humbled. That is why people use the phrase "a force of nature" to describe something gone wild or that is unstoppable.

People like to train in submission fighting. Or they view a tap-out as something to strive for. I have never seen Hatsumi Sensei use a submission hold or go for a tap-out. Sure his Uke's tap plenty, but he often ignores it. That is not his goal.

At the risk of creating controversy, I suggest that you not water down your Bujinkan training with MMA, submission fighting, BJJ, or any other sport martial art. Unless your only battles will be on the mats. Where you can tap-out, or the ref can stop the fight.

In real life, people or animals do not tap. You may break their arm, but that doesn't mean they will stop trying to hurt or kill you. You can choke them out (at great danger to youself), but few situations give that opportunity. It is important to ask, what is the goal of a choke? Is it stategically sound in most situations? You may have to kill or they regain consciousness. And good luck choking out anything wild.

There's a reason police prefer to overwhelm a suspect with many officers or tasers, or finally, firearms. Because it's very difficult to apprehend someone who resists. In fact, in almost any scenario, police prefer to use psychology or tactics that convince the suspect to submit willingly. Otherwise, someone gets hurt or killed.

Soke often suggests that we control our attacker by not holding them too tightly. Oddly, the tighter you hold the more unpredictable they may be. Their struggle becomes more frantic, wild, and dangerous. Adrenaline kicks in and a cornered animal will fight with everything its got.

Instead, if you hold lightly, give it space to move, you can let it defeat itself. Or submit from confusion or exhaustion. This is like a net. Or a spider web.

I heard Sensei describe this idea with the phrase:

Amo issun no tamamushi.

From Mats Hjelm,

"The Gokui secret teachings of our Takagiyōshin-ryū tradition contain a story about catching a bee. There is a power phrase that goes “Amo issun no tamamushi” By saying this mantra and grabbing a bee without hesitating, you will avoid being stung."

Every time I have heard Hatsumi Sensei talk about this he demonstrates by cupping his hands or making a very loose fist. The idea is you give the bee room to move, holding it loosely. Then it will crawl around looking for an escape.

If you clamp down or hold the wing, you will likely be stung.

I find this in life. The more I try to control, the less I have. And when I try to force my will, more surprises confront me. Better to be zero where submissions and control are like the mist.

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