Munenmusō  無念無想: Free From Worldly or Worthless Thoughts

photo by Frogman!
There is a common saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  We see this all the time in training.  People begin to grow in their skill with taijutsu and two things often occur:

  • They injure themselves or others.
  • Or... they stop learning because they think they got it already.
This blind spot is very dangerous, because by their nature the person that is full of "knowledge" is unaware that they are ignorant.  And sometimes they convince others that they know something or have "secrets".

Hatsumi Sensei talks about this knowledge as if it is a burden.  A weight that should be shed.  Soke said that people want to possess the densho or secret scrolls.  But that when people learn the secrets they were searching for, they become too tense to move freely.  They are burdened with the knowledge and trying to use it correctly.
I am sure it is a great mistake always to know enough to go in when it rains. One may keep snug and dry by such knowledge, but one misses a world of loveliness.  - Shakespeare
Sensei likened this to kareteka who used to train with iron geta.  This is a similar principle to the modern fitness training with ankle weights.  At first they are heavy, but eventually the wearer gets used to them and doesn't even notice the burden.  But how freeing and light it will feel to remove them entirely!

I am amazed at people who attend classes or train at a seminar yet miss everything being taught because they are full of knowledge already.  Their consciousness is heavy with what they know.  Leaving no room for anything new.

A great example for us is the theme for 2011.  How many people think they know kihon happo?  There are teachers already teaching this theme or planning their seminars for 2011.
Alexander Pope shared this idea:
That a little knowledge is apt to puff up, and make men giddy, but a greater share of it will set them right, and bring them to low and humble thoughts of themselves.
 I watched Hatsumi Sensei write the scroll with this theme for my teacher on November 23.  He said it was the first time he had written the theme for next year.  But the kanji were not the "normal" way kihon happo is written.  This signifies Sensei's intention to take a fresh approach to the kihon.  Or, at least, to get us to drop our preconceptions and learn it anew.

So what effort in learning can you make?  Sensei suggests:
From nothing (not thinking), something (an action) comes forth, and the person who masters this idea is the one who can comprehend the secret teachings.  This understanding in your heart is more important than the techniques.  The mind of "munen muso" (no thought, no mind) in the heart is the real secret teaching rather than the waza.


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