Happo Tenchi: Ten Directions of Truth

Photo by ePi.Longo
In all ten directions of the universe,
there is only one truth.
When we see clearly, the great teachings are the same.
What can ever be lost?  What can be attained?
If we attain something, it was there from the beginning of time.
If we lose something, it is hiding somewhere near us.
Look: this ball in my pocket:
can you see how priceless it is?
Ryōkan Taigu (良寛大愚)

There is nothing wise I can add to the beautiful poetry above.  Just that, I find my inspiration from many sources.  I am constantly amazed at how these inspirations in martial arts and life mirror each other.
Who has heard Hatsumi Sensei utter similar ideas?

Ryōkan Taigu (良寛大愚)  1758-1831, Japanese Zen Master, hermit, calligrapher, and poet; his name means "Goodly Tolerance."  Another Buddhist name that he took for himself means "Great Fool."  Ryokan is one of the most beloved figures in Japanese Literature, and is especially known for his kindness and his love of children and animals; he even used to take the lice out of his robe, sun them on a piece of paper on the veranda, then carefully put them back into his robe.  He used to smile continually, and people he visited felt "as if spring had come on a dark winter's day." 

His most famous haiku was written after a thief had broken into his hut and stolen his few simple possessions:
The thief left it behind:
the moon
at my window. 

How Can You Learn Shinobi Secrets?

Photo by Son of Groucho
Do you think you have a grasp on this art?  Have you done all the kata in the Tenchijin Ryaku no Maki?  Maybe you have memorized all the (known) kata from our 9 Bujinkan ryuha.  Maybe you have even mastered the Togakure-ryu Juhakkei - the 18 forms of the shinobi (is that even possible in the modern era?).  How long have you been training?  3 years? 10?  how about 20? Do I hear 30?  I know someone with over 40 years in this art and he is still learning new material.

Don't miss the train by not showing up.

Recently, I was at a seminar with my teacher, Peter Crocoll.  I was considering leaving early because I had a 9 hour drive back home.  I brought this up to him, and he said, "you can leave if you want, but what I'm about to show has never been shown in North America."  I stayed.  And it was worth it.

I almost missed training with Peter again this month.  It literally was a coin flip whether I made the trip.  Somehow I pulled it together.  And guess what?  He showed material I had never seen before.

Soke says that he intends to live by the words he heard from his teacher Takamatsu Sensei, "However much I study, it is never enough."

I started training in this art in 1988 (officially).  In all these years, there have been many occasions where I was shown something very interesting and important, and then I never saw it again.  Never in Japan, never at a seminar, never in regular classes, and never in a book or on video. 

Our art runs deep.  Many of the skills in our training could be a lifetime of study all by themselves.  It took many lifetimes and the lives of many warriors to develop this art.  So it is unwise for me to think that my 22 years mean very much.

I was training at one of Hatsumi Sensei's Tai Kai, and Oguri Sensei was there.  Soke showed something and Oguri got a funny look on his face.  Hatsumi Sensei noticed this and asked Oguri to share his thoughts.  Oguri said that he had been training over 40 years and this was the first time he had ever experienced this.

This makes me wonder what I miss when I don't make it to class.  Anytime I start to think about missing a trip to Japan, or going to a seminar, I think to myself, "what if I miss that hidden secret in our art that will make a big difference in my own training?"  And then I am very motivated to go to class.  The simple truth is, I am always happy when I go to class, and missing class just feels empty.

Plan For Chaos, Fight Your Plan

by PhillipC
A commonly heard phrase in military circles is,
No plan ever survives contact with the enemy.
This quote was originally uttered by Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, a German Field Marshal during the 1800's.  But Colonel Tom Kolditz, head of the behavioral sciences division at West Point, sums it up this way:
You may start off trying to fight your plan, but the enemy gets a vote.  Unpredictable things happen- the weather changes, a key asset is destroyed, the enemy responds in a way you don't expect.  Many armies fail because they put all their emphasis into creating a plan that becomes useless ten minutes into the battle.
So what do we do as martial artists?  For the most part, martial arts is learning to deal with smaller battles with individual or few enemies.  But the same conundrum confronts us.  All of our training for battle, the years of classes and techniques we have learned, and all the hard work to stay fit- all of this will be upset by this simple truth of battle.

One answer can be found in the Bujinkan training method.  Soke's classes consist of a cascade of henka.  Unending change that teaches us to be very responsive.  But there is something more than that.  By becoming zero or empty we can respond in combat with tactics that can't be understood or defeated.

You can't teach this.  But you can use certain mental constructs to describe it.  One that I sometimes use in my classes is the concept of Past, Present, and Future in a fight.  If the attacker strikes, he is in the present.  If you respond, you are in the past.  Not the best place to be, especially if he is quicker or better than you are.

Better to connect to his rhythm and respond in the present as he attacks.  Real time.  If you are flowing in the present, it gives you the chance to counter if he falters or provides an opening.  But you also have the opportunity to disrupt his rhythm.

Even better is for you to be in the future.  Make him respond to you.  Or know where he is going to strike so you can trap him.

But the best is to do the unexplainable.  Once Hatsumi Sensei was asked,  "What would you do if a sniper shot at you from half a mile away while you were going out your door?  He said, "I would never walk through that door at that time."  We have many ideas to explain this unexplainable core of our training.  Things like Ku, Shizen Shugoku, Hi Jo Shiki and the like remind us that this art is bigger than any of our plans.
Maybe through this you can know Banpen Fugyou.

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