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Showing posts from April, 2011

Kihon: The Heart of an Infinite Circle

Enso by Isan Shinko (1740-1815) I'm sure you've all studied kihon happo. But it's one thing to study those eight basic fundamentals and a entirely different thing to study the kihon OF the happo. Hatsumi Sensei says this idea can be expressed very simply with a common Zen symbol of Enso which I will share below, but what will it mean to us? Sensei has said that the word happo suggests infinity. He said that placing the number eight on its side gives us that symbol ∞. Soke goes on to explain that a technique does not have a beginning or end but just flows one into the other like the symbol. A simple way to consider this is with tai sabaki. In angling we often start with cardinal points for evasion or striking (please excuse my clumsy finger diagrams): Then we split those four directions to make 8:  Then split again: You can see how it begins to get infinite... especially if you add the up and down directions so any angle in space is possible leading to

我無し Ware Nashi: No More Us

Desi being shy. My dog Desiree died this week after being part of my family for almost 18 years. Although not unexpected, I definitely feel her absence. As I sit with this feeling, I am glad for the heart found in our training. Hatsumi Sensei said that Takamatsu Sensei gave him a calligraphy which read 我無し ware nashi or "no self." But there is another reading of that concept which can give us a different strategy in combat or life. And since this is a martial arts of distance, we can find a very intimate distance when erasing the self. Something sensei often repeats is that there is no difference between attacker and defender. So one reading of 我無し ware nashi is "no opponent" or "no enemy"... no we or no us. No separation. How do we get that distance? Sensei explained this once in a class at Ayase, "In training you have to understand the opponent's heart. If you don't read his heart, if you only read your own heart and do your own tech

Seimeisen 生命線: Walking the Line of Life and Death

Photo from Gifu Prefecture by tallkev One of the hiden 秘伝  (secret teaching) ideas of the sword is that life and death are just flip sides of the same instant. The reason this is a secret is not because no one talks about it, but because you must discover its mystery for yourself. Hatsumi Sensei is always reminding us that just as we can end life with the blade, we can also protect life or what he calls, the "life giving sword." So what about this secret and how does this translate into sword technique? When you are in kamae, and about to cut or thrust to your opponent's suki , there is a Seimeisen 生命線, or an invisible lifeline between you. If your sword is on this line, it is "live," if not it is   considered dead. This line is very fine and there isn't room for two blades there. So only one blade can give or take life. This is also an aspect of Shisen 死線, the point between life and death. To truly understand this lifeline requires a state of fudoshi

蝦蛄拳 Shako Ken: Strike Like A Hawk

photo by shirokazan Hatsumi Sensei was trying to help us understand an aspect of kosshijutsu while we were studying 隼雄 Shunū from Gyokko Ryu and he said to hold the opponent's kashira like a falcon. He went on to explore henka using variations of 蝦蛄拳 Shako Ken and 指刀拳 Shitō Ken. Soke told us, "Not using just your fingertips, but using your whole body here. Doing this with shuko- it becomes even more scary. It's like a hawk catching its prey. This is not just your fingernails, it becomes like your canine teeth, incisors." What are the talons of a hawk, or the canine teeth for? They are for piercing flesh and tearing it away from bones. This is kosshijutsu. Scary indeed. photo by MJ/TR (´・ω・)