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Showing posts from March, 2011

How to Instantly Flip Out With 豹変 Hyōhen 

One of the gokui or essences of budo is change. But changing what? Where does the change come from?  Here I try to catch the feeling or kankaku in the air of a class with Sensei. He often reminds us we should pick up the scent of the gokui on the breeze blowing through the room.

That day Hatsumi Sensei was teaching us about kyuho no kamae. Or so I thought. As the class progressed, the naturalness of Soke's taijutsu allowed for unending variation. He had his uke basically throwing himself. It was the kind of thing if you saw a photo or video you might think it was BS. But in that room... the effect was palpable. Everyone watching knew that if they were his uke he would capture their spirit and work their body over in the same way. In fact, it felt as if we were ALL exposed.

The "winds" in the room had changed. Part of the lesson that day was perceiving this change and where it had come from. The atmosphere of the class went from casual and jovial, to very scary. It was a …

一隅を照らす Ichigu wo Terasu: Light Up One Corner

Like a lot of Bujinkan members worldwide, I have been watching the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan from afar. It is a helpless feeling. Reading the news and unable to do anything but hope things improve. If you are like me, you feel like you want to do something. To help in some way. Of course, we can donate money, but Hatsumi Sensei has a suggestion for us that can help in any situation.

He reminds us of the Japanese saying 一隅を照らす Ichigu wo terasu, which means to light up a corner. Hatsumi Sensei says,
"to be a light that brightens the surroundings."This phrase was brought to Japan from China by Saicho:
From Wikipedia:
Saichō (最澄, September 15, 767 – June 26, 822) was a Japanese Buddhist monk credited with founding the Tendai school in Japan, based around the Chinese Tiantai tradition he was exposed to during his trip to China beginning in 804. He founded the temple and headquarters of Tendai at Enryaku-ji on Mt. Hiei near Kyoto. He is also said to have bee…

Kinkyu Jishin 緊急地震: Earthquake Emergency in Japan

Kinkyu jishin 緊急地震 (earthquake emergency). This is a new phrase I learned just one week ago. I had just finished our Thursday night training (Friday afternoon in Japan) where we practiced mawashi dori along with tachi kumiuchi. I had a quick dinner and was just settling into bed when I received the alarm.

Since I live in a high earthquake danger zone here in Los Angeles, I have alerts that are sent to my phone when any large quakes strike. My phone was telling me 8.9 in Japan (revised later to 9.0). I knew that was huge. I got out of bed to check the news.

I sent e-mails to my friends in Japan, hoping they were safe. The news reports were showing me pictures and video of places I had been to many times. I was just there in December. The images of destruction were heartbreaking. My worry for my friends increased. I just had dinner with my friend Craig Olson the week before when he was stopping in LA on his way back to Tokyo. I felt helpless. I wished I could be there to try to help peo…

神妙剣 Shinmyoken: a Victory Without Killing

There is a Buddhist idea that when we kill another being we assert the radical difference between us and them. And this would ultimately be an incorrect assertion. But killing is all around us. It is part of the very fabric of nature. So what do fighters do with this?

This is a great mystery in life and martial arts. One of the most mysterious secrets is that of 神妙剣 Shinmyoken  or the life giving sword. At its most basic level it is a technique for overpowering your opponent without injuring him with the sword. This simple idea contains many mysteries, the first being, why would you endeavor NOT to kill your opponent?

This lesson comes to us in the form of a sword, but it could be any weapon. The sword clarifies the feeling of life and death because it is a very fine (and sharp) edge between the two. Hatsumi Sensei constantly reminds us not to kill. It takes a lot of control with such a dangerous weapon to use it without killing. Sensei tells us that the Ninja understood that ultimate…

How to Win a Sword Fight

If you are any good with a sword, Hatsumi Sensei says you can win without drawing your sword. He suggests this to us by pointing out the example of the famous Zen sword master, Yamaoka Tesshū (山岡 鉄舟, June 10, 1836 - July 19, 1888), a famous samurai of the Bakumatsu period, who played an important role in the Meiji Restoration. He is also noted as the founder of the Itto Shoden Muto-ryu school of swordsmanship.

One day Tesshu had a sword contest with a famous sword teacher, Asari Gimei. They fought for half a day and Tesshu was defeated. Tesshu became Asari's student and threw himself into Zen practice to try to understand the nature of his defeat.

As part of his search to understand what happened to him, he was given a koan to study by Tekisui Roshi'
"Crossed swords; neither permits retreat.
The sword-master, like a lotus in the fire,
Has a heaven-soaring spirit."This advanced koan shows both the problem presented by a fight and the solution. Tesshu sums up his proble…