Pull Yourself Together With Bushinwa 武心和

photo by ghindo
In the Densho for Gyokko Ryu Kosshijutsu, one of the 9 schools we study in the Bujinkan, there is a precept which is expressed like this:
 Bu Shin Wa O Toutonasu 武心和を尊 The heart of the warrior holds peace righteous, or, a warrior heart holds harmony as sacred. 
Of course the idea of Wa or harmony is vital to understanding the physical aspects of our training. But there is something deeper in this idea. An idea that is deeply Japanese and connects us to the roots of our art and the history of Japan itself.

Wa 倭 until the 8th century, when the Japanese replaced it with 和 is the oldest recorded name of Japan. The idea of harmony in Japan is expressed in art, the tea ceremony, philosophy and even in daily manners or enforced through law. Many of the codes of honor of the Samurai were the result of an attempt to preserve harmony.

Honor of a bushi was most important in this code. Abusive language was punished by confiscation of the samurai's weapons and property or even banishment. All because it could lead to an armed fight over honor that might end in death. Striking a bushi was such a grave insult, that the offender would pay with his life or serious physical injury.

Hatsumi Sensei says that this Bushinwa idea from the Gyokko Ryu Densho can be traced  back to ideas expressed by Shotoku Taishi (573-621, the Prince of Holy Virtue, a Japanese regent, statesman, and scholar) in his Jushichijo no Kempo. This was one of Prince Shotoku's most important written pieces, the so-called "Seventeen-Article Constitution" completed in 604 AD. The title "constitution" does not accurately describe Prince Shotoku's writing. But, Shotoku's document does set forth 17 specific laws or principles applied to nation-wide behavior.

Hatsumi Sensei says,
 Early Samurai were strongly influenced by the teaching of Shotoku Taishi.  The first phrase from Shotoku Taishi's Seventeen article constitution, "Cherish the harmony among people" is assimilated into the Gyokko Ryu idea that "Bushin (the warrior heart) cherishes the harmony among people."
Here is that first article from Prince Shotoku,
604 AD, 4th Month, 3rd day.
(1) Harmony should be valued and quarrels should be avoided. Everyone has his biases, and few men are far-sighted. Therefore some disobey their lords and fathers and keep up feuds with their neighbors. But when the superiors are in harmony with each other and the inferiors are friendly, then affairs are discussed quietly and the right view of matters prevails.
Shotoku was himself strongly influenced by Confucian and Buddhist writings. So this idea was basically an adaptation of one of the Confucian Analects:
When there are no stirrings of pleasure, anger, sorrow, or joy, the mind may be said to be in a state of equilibrium. When those feelings are stirred and act in their due degree, there ensues what may be called a state of harmony. Equilibrium is the great root from which grow all acts of humanity; harmony is the universal path that guides them.
Let the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in perfection, and a happy order will prevail throughout the heavens and earth, and all things will be nourished and flourish.
When Hatsumi Sensei says that we should not act out of personal desire, but learn how to fight to protect life, this is part of the depth behind those ideas. Peace, Harmony, and a better life for all! That's what the warrior's heart is all about.

As the old saying, " Bushiwa Aimi Tagai," puts it, it is customary with the Japanese samurai to understand and aid one another; and they even extend sympathy and aid to the enemy soldiers, killed or disabled in battle.
In the ego's world of illusion, all things are in flux. But continuous change is constant chaos. When the ego sees itself as the center of so much swirling activity, it cannot experience cosmic harmony.
-Han Shan

Ninpo Ikkan: Find Your Own Treasure

photo by katclay
Understanding Ninpo Ikkan will unravel conflict and obstacles in a way that feels like 解脱 gedatsu (being liberated from earthly desires and the woes of man to reach nirvana). Does that seem unreachable to you? It is nearer than you think. Read on so I can explain where you may find it.

What is Ninpo Ikkan exactly? Well, as with a lot of Japanese to English interpretations you will find many answers (an interesting lesson in itself).  A simple expression of Ninpo Ikkan is consistent devotion to the way of the ninja or the way of perseverance. Ninpo 忍法 being the way of the ninja, or as Soke sometimes writes,  忍宝 NinPo, or the treasure of nin.

Where is the treasure?

First, to find the treasure, you must empty yourself so that Isshi Soden becomes possible. You cannot receive this direct transmission of knowledge from a teacher or from nature unless you are free from your own life. Soke says that Bushido means "to die." This is sutemi. Throwing your life away, erasing the self, making your mind empty and feeling like you are dead. In that place is a surprising treasure! You cannot be trapped or defeated because you do not exist. You may live each day with a peaceful mind.

As Doug Wilson describes Hatsumi Sensei's Ninpo,
"It is often misunderstood that since the meaning of “Nin” in Ninpo, means to endure, that one must endure and persevere in a fight.  But the ultimate goal is to feed the fight nothing but emptiness, on a physical and mental level, resulting in no physical conflict whatsoever, and ultimately no need to exert any effort or need to endure.
This is the Ninpo that Hatsumi Sensei teaches."

Soke says you can begin to learn this through fuza,
"... straighten the spine and breathe through the belly. It is also effective generally for maintaining good health. You start to understand Ninpo Ikkan when you achieve mental patience by sitting for a long time. The value of looking about one meter ahead with half closed eyes is to teach you that if you open your eyes fully and try to look far, you may not recognize the satori right around you..."
A Zen story about Banzan describes this moment:

When Banzan was walking through a market he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer.

"Give me the best piece of meat you have," said the customer.

"Everything in my shop is the best," replied the butcher. "You cannot find here any piece of meat that is not the best."

At these words Banzan became enlightened.

This helps us see that if you can be grateful and take things as they are, then everything is good for you. When you accept what is, every piece of meat - every moment - is the best. The moment you are living right now is the best — because it is the only one you have and the only one you can live right now.

My friend Paul Masse describes it this way,
"No matter where you are, no matter what time it is, no matter what is happening, isn't is always the best time, the best place?  If you grasp this, you can fully appreciate this moment.  When you have appreciation, light will come into your life and you will begin to perceive the miracles all around you."

This is one way to read the air like 気学 kigaku and create your own fortunate victory!

雨遁 Uton no Jutsu: a Rainy Day Escape.

photo by J.J. Verhoef
Tuesday night my class was training on an aspect of Ongyojutsu 隠形術. This topic is vast and one not often covered in most Bujinkan dojos. We have the fortune of training outdoors in an area that is part urban and part natural so we were able to explore.

Out of the 30 methods of escaping, let's look at one that is contained in the tenton juppo section: 雨遁 Uton no jutsu (Rain Evasion). Using the elements of weather to aid in escape and evasion is a very natural technique, but that same weather can work against you. The trick is to be in harmony with nature's laws. As Hatsumi Sensei says, "... everywhere in the world, the trees are growing towards the sky and the rain falls towards the ground." Bearing this in mind, remember that Soke has also stated that modern military stealth methods may supersede the old densho and that we should keep up with the times. But there is still much to learn in our tradition.

To begin to use the rain, it helps to know if it is coming. Forecasting is an old and honored tradition, one that is sometimes filled with pseudoscience but will work when paired with observation skills. This is what is known as tenmon. Soke says that in the old days people observed closely the natural cycles:
"they studied the animals and plants and found ways to make predictions. For example, if sparrows enter the thicket or stay high up in their trees after busily eating food, or if insects start to enter buildings, or carp jump out of the water, or frogs start to croak, it is a premonition that rain is going to fall."
Of course modern weather forecasting and meteorology gives us some advantage, but there is still no substitute to sticking your head out the window or being in tune with the weather patterns of your region. Sensei says it is "natural to be alert."

Here's what the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency says about a product they designed for evasion and survival:
"When Air Force Captain Scott O'Grady was shot down over Bosnia during June 1995, one of the items he acknowledged that assisted in his survival was the Evasion Chart (EVC) he carried in his vest pocket. In addition to using the chart to pinpoint his exact location, he used this unique product in a seemingly unusual way, but in fact one way that it was designed for--as a protection against the elements.  Sized specifically to fit in aircrew flight suit pocket, the EVC can be used:To catch rain for drinking water; As a shade from wind and rain, and as a shelter, cape and blanket; As a bag to haul and purify large quantities of water or food; As a liner in a hole to serve as a wash basin; As ground cloth on moist ground, or as camouflage when sleeping; To wrap clothing in when swimming or fording streams; To wrap torso with as an extra layer of clothing; To wrap sleeping gear in it during foul weather; To splint a broken wrist..."
Once the rain starts, we can use it in many ways, practical and mysterious.
  • The sound of the rain can mask the noise of your movement. Even the soggy leaves and twigs become quiet when we step on them. Be careful of splashing and slipping!
  • People tend to stay inside and off the streets. The rain can cause patrols to change. Guards are maybe not as alert while they try to keep dry. Some may abandon their normal posts to seek refuge indoors. Of course, that means you are also getting wet. Your gear and clothing may not function as well. And your stamina or immune system may become weakened.
  • Rain can be caught for drinking. This may make you lighter if you don't have to carry your own water, or just save your butt if you didn't have any. But rain does make your clothing and gear heavier.
  • Rain affects vision. Visibility decreases and at night and heavy rain reflects light back to it's source, creating a blinding effect. Umbrellas are also useful cover against cameras and being identified.
  • Another aspect of rain is that it changes geography. Large puddles or flooding washes make areas inaccessible or impassible. This creates opportunity for evasion or escape into areas where you will not be pursued. Don't drown or get trapped!
Here we come to some mysterious effects. Rain creates a definite feeling of yugen. Places and activities that would seem normal in the sunlight can take on another quality in a gloomy rain. This can be used for psychological effect.

Observing how rain and water itself falls, or human and animal behavior in the rain gives many lessons for evasion. Sensei says that rain takes on different aspects and a Ninja makes use of each phase.
"Rain becomes water vapor, rises into the skies, turns into clouds, and then becomes rain again, or a heat haze. Turning and turning, it is in a perpetual, cyclical motion."
Being rained on by the 幸雲 Cloud of Happiness (Good Fortune)
Hatsumi Sensei says that "one can perform uton no jutsu using cigarette smoke." and "If a ninja detected a stimulus from the outside world, no matter how slight, they would respond immediately."

Soke describes this feeling of gokui as that of being a jellyfish floating in the ocean. And he says that,
Takamatsu Sensei used to call himself senile and then drift about in the air of Kashiwara City, drawing and painting, and finding joy in it. This is to drift and feel the existence of the world, empathize with flowers and enjoy the harmony, and to reach heaven as a live human being."
Perhaps like smoke rising among raindrops.

Dissipate Your 隙 Suki With 正願 Seigan

Ginza Rat photo by OiMax
Suki are strange vermin. You think you see one, then it's gone. You train your ass off to get rid of them, then find they are all over, and in places you never looked! And if you ignore them, they seem to multiply.

What are these intransigent vermin and what can be done about them? 隙 "Suki" is the Japanese term for "opening" or "gap" and refers to a weakness in your or your opponent's defenses. Suki can present opportunities to attack or be presented to draw an attack. These suki can be found in the timing, distance, angle, mind, or even spirit. This is partly what Soke Hatsumi means about being Zero. He says,
"If one reaches to a higher rank, he need only eliminate his faults. It may sound easy, but eliminating faults is very difficult to accomplish, because we tend to think we are faultless. Faults can be translated into something different in Budo. They can be suki (unguarded points), or carelessness, presumption, arrogance, etc. - they all become our fault. No fault, zero condition is the best."

Suki 好き can also mean likes or preferences. So the things you like and your desires or attachments can become suki. The kamae seigan when done properly gives no easy opening. To defeat this kamae maybe you look for an opening of desire. This is why seigan is sometimes written as 正願 "correct desire," to help you purify your desires and give no 隙 suki.

We first try to learn about suki through kamae. An ideal kamae has no suki. No openings or opportunities for attack. It also means no wasted or futile movement.

Next we learn about suki through ukemi. Paraphrasing Jim Vance: we learn more through assuming the role of uke, the focus on receiving techniques or sutemi allows the uke to feel the connection between them and their partner, or how a particular technique affects them. The uke is feeling suki (openings) in the connection; the body can feel suki through ukemi, it is aware of suki through sutemi (there is no self and other, only the connected unit).

Hatsumi Sensei describes this:
Takamatsu-sensei often told me, 'Mr. Hatsumi, to receive techniques is to take a person in, to take in their whole being--in other words, if a person's capacity for generosity and courage are not great, they will not be able to do it.
' An uke who selfishly tries to escape is not an uke.

Suki discovered through kamae and ukemi are the basic suki. They appear during regular and consistent training. Suki such as "a weakness of the mind” or “a weakness of the spirit" are more difficult to ascertain. And more esoteric still are the suki of the kukan or the universe.

Ueshiba (the founder of Aikido) wrote: As your Bujutsu training approaches perfection you will be able to detect the [weakness in the enemy's technique], the suki, even before he can, and as if to satisfy some deficiency in him, you can fill the opening [weakness] with your technique."

There is a feeling when you take your opponent's suki as if you are filling a void. Just be careful not to be sucked in by the emptiness!

The Zen monk Takuan Soho wrote about avoiding “suki” by means of the “mind abiding nowhere.” 

Hatsumi Sensei describes this as a point where there is no difference between attacker and defender. It is all one. The suki or opening is between your mind and his mind. Your body and his body. As you close that opening, you may sense his weakness and your own... and surely you know how to exploit that!

Soke also suggests to us that being shielded or having suki ultimately are inseparable concepts.  He says that being connected in the Kukan can create Kukan no tate, where the kukan itself protects your openings. Further, there is Kukan no suki whereby your life is in the kukan and you open up a space (suki) for you to live.

Or, as Doug Wilson describes it, you "allow your shield to protect your openings and your openings to lower the shield of the opponent."

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