Utsuru 映る: Is Your Mind Reflected in Your Taijutsu?

Dusk, Moon with Sunset Reflected in a Bubble. photo by arhadetruit
What have you been studying for the Bujinkan yearly theme of 2011? It seems that every year we start out on a journey of exploration. At the beginning of the year our minds seek something concrete to study. And Hatsumi Sensei puts something out there for us to consider. But as the year goes on, the theme evolves so that by the end of the year it feels like something else entirely.

However frustrating this may be for those of us who don't live in Japan to try to keep up, this is a very natural way of learning. And it is a lesson in itself. This year started out with Kihon Happo, but has transitioned to also include 万変不驚 Banpenfugyo and Juppo Happo.

There are many ways to look at Banpen Fugyo (Infinite change, No surprise). But how do you train on this? A very simple but profound example can be found in nature when we observe the reflection of the moon. I wrote about this before in my post "Ninpo and Mu: Waxing and Waning Like the Moon" but with this year's theme I think there is more to consider.

In Japanese there is an idea that can be expressed as utsuru 移る. This word has many interesting meanings for training, Like: shift;  move;  change;  drift;  catch (cold, fire);  pass into or to change the target of interest or concern. Or written another way, utsuru 映る - to be reflected;  to harmonize with.
"The mind is like the moon on the water
Form is like the reflection in a mirror

This verse suggests that the mentality proper for the martial arts is that of the moon’s abiding in the water. It is also the reflection of your body abiding in the mirror. Man’s mind moves to an object like the moon moves to the water. How spontaneously this happens!"
Yagyū Munenori translated by William Scott Wilson
The light from the moon can be considered like our shifting focus. If the water is disturbed (or changed) the reflection does not disappear, it rides on the ripples of change and as the water settles it remains pure and clear. Our focus never falters, only the water was disturbed.

Whether in everyday life or in a fight, no matter what happens, our focus should remain clear and undisturbed.

The moon can also be reflected in more than one place. Here in a puddle, in a cup of tea, and there in the lake… all at the same time. Our attention can shift but take in anything. It comes out from it's source at the clear center to be reflected everywhere.
"Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water.
The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.
Although its light is wide and great,
The moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide.
The whole moon and the entire sky
Are reflected in one dewdrop on the grass."
Dogen (1200-1253)
Violence in a fight happens very fast. But this does not have to present any problem for us. Our minds can move as fast as light from the moon. Yagyū explains that "… man’s mind moves to an object as quickly as the moon pierces the water." If you cover your teacup with your hand and then remove it, how quickly is the moon reflected?

What we train with our taijutsu is the ability to flow with this natural state. As natural as a moon's reflection. As Yagyū describes, "When the mind moves, the body will move there as well. If the mind goes, the body will go. The body itself follows the mind."

Of course if your heart and focus are unclear, then the movement of your body will be unnatural and slow. Please look at the moon tonight and consider that people in Japan have the same moonlight reflecting in their eyes. Try to catch that feeling in your training!


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