How to Instantly Flip Out With 豹変 Hyōhen 

photo by genvessel
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 vulnerable feeling to be sure. But then, just as quickly, and without any announcements, we were back to relaxed, light or fun training.

Hatsumi Sensei said that this was something that could only be understood between you and your opponent. By adapting freely to the attack, and flowing in the space , kukan no nagare, you embody what Sensei explained to us was kyuhen no kamae.
Kyūhen 急変 may remind us of 豹変 Hyōhen from the densho of Shinden Fudo Ryu in the secret writings of Tatara Kishin: "Sudden change will always prevail." 豹変して必ず勝つ 
Sensei says that such teachings are passed from teacher to student through ishin denshin (divine transmission). Anyone who has been in a class like that with Sensei will definitely have stories about the feeling in the room.

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

Kamaishi Search and Rescue By DVIDSHUB
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 been the first to bring tea to Japan. After his death, he was awarded the posthumous title of Dengyō Daishi (伝教大師).

Operation Tomodachi By DVIDSHUB
What Saicho meant by “A person who can light up one corner” is the person who can do his best in any situation, wherever he happens to be, to help brighten up someone else and our community.

In the Lotus Sutra, Buddha said to light up one-just one corner. One corner, not the whole world. Just to light up to make it clear just where you are. Ichigu wo terasu. Ichigu is "one corner." Terasu is "to light up" or "to shine" one corner.

Hatsumi Soke says,
"We should always immerse ourselves in sunlight, and in Budo training, never forget to smile, and never be surprised regardless of what happens."
So go light up your corner of the world.

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 people I've never met who were affected by the tsunami.

I was up all night following the reports.

Once in a class at the hombu, Hatsumi Soke told us,
"lightning, storms and earthquakes are naturally violent and sudden. All you can do is ride them out"
So here I am wide awake trying to understand nai no kami ないのかみ / なゐの神【地震神】or jishin no kami 地震の神 the deity of earthquakes

I found this information from the Dr. Gabi Greve at the afterthebigearthquake blog from Okayama, Japan:

"Takemikazuchi no mikoto (武甕槌大神)

CLICK for original link,
Tekemikazuchi standing on a catfish

the "rough spirit" (aramitama) of Amaterasu ōmikami

He holds down the God of the Earthquake, here in the form of a huge catfish, and sits on the famous "key stone" "kaname ishi 要石".

A giant catfish (namazu) lived in mud beneath the earth. The catfish liked to play pranks and could only be restrained by Kashima, a deity who protected the Japanese people from earthquakes. So long as Kashima kept a mighty rock with magical powers over the catfish, the earth was still. But when he relaxed his guard, the catfish thrashed about, causing earthquakes."
Hatsumi Sensei once explained to us how old Japanese architecture was designed without fasteners, rather it had joints that were lashed together with rope so they could flex and give.
"Jishin mushi 地震虫 (じしんむし) earthquake bug

This mythical animal is mentioned in the Nihon Shoki volume about Suiko Tenno 推古天皇紀.
In the year 599 there was a huge earthquake in the region of Nara, so the Tenno ordered the "God of Earthquakes" Nai no Kami「地震神」(なゐのかみ) to be venerated in the country.
The name refers to the attribute of the deity, like the "god of the fields 野の神", or the "god of the sea 海の神".

This deity was later venerated at the shrine Kashima Jingu."

I saw video of the giant stone Torii gate at Kashima toppled over by last week's quake.

In Bujinkan training it is often unwise to meet force with force, because there will always be someone bigger or stronger. I think the earth has made that lesson clear.

Some idiots here in the U.S. are making jokes about Godzilla. They obviously have never watched or understood the tone of the Godzilla stories. Here are a couple quotes from the Godzilla series:
"Just as you distrust us, so we distrust others as well. It's wrong. We're all human. As humans we are responsible for each other. We are related. Refuse us and you abandon your brothers. We must learn to help each other."
--Ichiro Sakai 
“Nature has a way somehow of reminding Man of just how small he is. She occasionally throws up terrifying offspring of our pride or carelessness, to remind us how puny we really are, in the face of a tornado, an earthquake, or a Godzilla.”
Some old wisdom tells us that the best place to be during an earthquake is a bamboo grove. Because bamboo is flexible yet very strong. It will bend and sway without breaking.

Huge earthquake, a deadly and destructive tsunami, hundreds of aftershocks, and a looming nuclear meltdown.  A hellish week has passed, yet my heart and spirit are across the Pacific with my friends in Japan.

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 ultimately no one is victorious in war. Everyone loses. Hatsumi Sensei says the Ninja's idea of Shinmyoken was born from this understanding.
"Good weapons are unfortunate instruments.
People hate them. So someone with Tao does not rely on them . . .
Weapons are unfortunate instruments, and not the wise man's instruments.
When he uses them because there is no other choice,
he stresses straight-forwardness and, in victory, does not praise himself."
Lao Tzu, Section 31
But Hatsumi Soke doesn't suggest we become pacifists. Wrapped up in the mysterious sword of shinmyoken is also a strategy for combat. Shinmyoken is used for judging the crucial point on the body and it can be where the tip of the sword settles and finds its target.

There is an interchange of tai and ken. Sometimes you present the attitude of your body as the sword and the sword as your body. But you must also see this exchange in the opponent's body and sword. So your observation (見ken) finds the correct point on his body. The mind must be in perfect harmony with the body and sword.

Shinmyoken is also a part of understanding this admonition Soke often tells us,
"Hell gapes beneath the upraised sword... Step in! And Heaven is your reward!"
That's nice to think about, but how do you step in? With shinmyoken! Entering with
shinmyoken means entering with a free and natural body, and free and natural mind, mind
and body and sword as one.

Shinmyoken was deeply promoted by Yagyū Munenori 柳生宗矩(1571-1646) a Japanese swordsman who was appointed official sword instructor to two Tokugawa shoguns. Yagyu’s style is known as the Shinkage-ryu, for centuries the official style of the Tokugawa dynasty. His spiritual mentor was Zen priest Takuan.

Munenori proposed the idea of a “life-giving sword” - the notion of controlling an opponent by the spiritual readiness to fight, rather than during the fight. This may end a fight before it ever begins. But it also is the ultimate sutemi, because you must be willing to stake your life on it. This is how the old cat wins in the Neko no Myojutsu story.

Munenori wrote,
"If you want to strike at your opponent, let him strike at you first. The moment you succeed at having him strike at you, you have succeeded in striking him."
This really gets to the heart of the idea of no separation between attacker and defender. You kill him and you are killing yourself. Something Hatsumi Sensei often reminds us. The shin of shinmyoken can refer to the divinity, core or spirit of the combatants. This shin gives rise to the mystery, or myo, of the outward appearance of the clashing swordsmen. Even if you slice him open you will not find his shin.

I was in class with Hatsumi Sensei when he told the Jugodans that were present that they are always taking the godan test. They are also always giving it. Taking the test is like dying, and giving it is killing. But the killing happens through you. Soke said it is kami binding with kami. Shinmyoken as divine sword.

This transforms the nature of killing into the natural flow of life and death.

How to Win a Sword Fight

Edo Wonderland Sword Fight, photo by -ratamahatta-
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 problem here:
'[When] two swords cross, all thoughts turn towards striking the opponent.'
Tesshu explains that the desire to strike an opponent while avoiding being struck is deluded. Not because this is a physical impossibility but because 'Originally, the mind is thoughtless like a bright, unclouded mirror...When the mirror is completely clouded, nothing can be reflected.' He continues 'When confronting an opponent, thoughts of striking or being struck indicate ignorance and illusion.'

Tesshu struggled with the crossed swords koan for three years of training. One morning while sitting in Zazen, he had a breakthrough. He stood up and went to fight his teacher Asari in the dojo. Asari realized right away that Tesshu had pierced through the lesson and declined to fight. He formally named Tesshu his successor and never again picked up a sword. Tesshu became a famous sword instructor who taught the way of the sword as a spiritual path.

So what happens when you cross swords with an opponent? If you are not in Zanshin, you may experience two states of mind. One is a calculating, worrying state where the mind is constantly questioning: Can you hit your opponent? Can he hit you? How can you enter, is there an opening? Does he see an opening? Can you trick him? Can you try this move or attack? Does he know that strategy and will he use it? This state is limiting, creates fear and you are defeating yourself. The limiting thoughts are never ending...

The other state lets the whole universe run through you. You erase the self and there is no you, just boundless possibility, unafraid of being cut or cutting. Your opponents efforts are no problem whatsoever. Attacks dissipate like mist.

Hatsumi Sensei says that Tesshu found this enlightenment by hearing the song of the gods in his heart. Soke describes this gokui (essense):
"In the world of martial arts, one should not stick to strength or weakness, softness or hardness; rather one should transcend physicality and understand the void, 'ku,' regarding the body also as empty."
Hatsumi Sensei goes on to explain how to use this gokui to win without drawing your sword,
"...prepare your body and show courage, the true gokui is the mind. Win without without drawing your sword. If you draw, do not cut down; bear patiently, and know that taking a life is a grave thing."

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