中途半端 Chuuto Hanpa: Betwixt the Half Assed

photo by roland
Something many of us have heard Hatsumi Sensei say during his classes is the term "chuuto hanpa."  He has been using this phrase for many years to try to communicate an idea that is difficult to teach.

中途半端 chuuto hanpa / "unclear, betwixt and between, vague, half-hearted"
chuu / to / han / pa
The meaning of the first Kanji is "middle." The second Kanji means "way." The third and fourth Kanji mean, "half" and "end," respectively.

Chuuto means "halfway" or "along the way." Hanpa means "to be on neither side and be vague." Chuuto hanpa indicates the state of things which are left unfinished or the state of someone or something that is vague and unclear.

So what are some of the things this can teach us?

One is to let go of technique.  We all learn technique.  Some of us become good at techniques.  But technique is a trap.  The minute you try to apply a technique, people's survival instinct naturally drives them to actively resist or evade somehow.

It is an even bigger trap for learning.  You see your teacher show a kata, and remember, "I know xxx kata, I recognize this technique."  Then you may stop learning and fall back on habit.  Meanwhile, you missed what the teacher was REALLY showing you.  This is why Sensei advises us again and again, don't collect techniques, or memorize kata.

Here is a tip: be a beginner again.  It is like you are an expert guitar player and reading a book on basic guitar.   It is hard to be a beginner there.  Instead pick up a flute and do the same lesson.

When your technique is strong, drop it and try something where you are no good at all.  If you want to learn.  The best teachers create a class where this happens for you.

Another lesson of chuuto hanpa, is that of freedom.  By not taking any fixed technique or point, you may move freely.  When an opportunity arrives you can take it freely because you are not fixed on any technique or situation.

And a surprise awaits-  By half applying one technique and moving half into another, the effect is greater.  For example, if you apply musha dori while doing an omote on the same wrist, you can do something quite powerful without force!  Your opponent cannot counter or resist easily because you are never fixed.  That musha dori could finish with seoi nage, or nothing at all.  How do you counter that?

A greater surprise awaits even further into the esoteric whereby you float in the middle space, opening up the possibility for divine technique to enter.

This may be part of your life journey.  When you have become a great person in your field and are puffing up with pride, move to some other path where you are small and know nothing and be nobody again.  That's where learning happens. 

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