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Showing posts from September, 2011

Kill Assumptions with 捨て身 Sutemi

Hatsumi Soke Painting For Me Assumptions are deadly. They kill the chance to learn anything in class, and they can get you killed in combat. Sometimes they are subtle and you are not aware that you are making them. One simple interaction I had with Hatsumi Sensei illustrates this. I was training at Hombu dojo one Sunday. Sensei was generously making calligraphy and ink paintings for the students. When he had my blank shikishi 色紙 board in front of him, he took one look at me and said, "You like manga right?" For some reason this question threw me. Sometimes Sensei takes requests from people. People often request calligraphy of a certain phrase or kanji that is meaningful for them. Some people just let Sensei decide. In the many times Sensei had painted something for me before, he had waited for my request. This time he did not. He just asked that question. So what were my assumptions? I had two. And they were both off the mark. One had to do with my poor understanding of

百景 Hyakkei: One Hundred Famous Views of My Mind

Footprints, Gifu Prefecture, Japan. photo by tallkev Well I've done it. Something no one else in this office would ever have thought possible. I've done something that most would consider a foolish and wasted effort. Something that only history will judge in it's fickle wisdom: I've written ONE HUNDRED blog posts. This one makes 101. I never set out to do that many. In fact, I don't know what I set out to do exactly. I simply started writing. One every week. And then I persevered. Just like people start with training. They start for many reasons. None of those reasons matter so much. Just starting and then showing up for class every week. It's the perseverance that leads to growth and enlightenment in our art. You eventually find yourself with a lot of knowledge under your belt. Enough knowledge so that you are courageous enough to admit you know nothing. Hatsumi Sensei says that he didn't start out to teach: "When I first started accepting studen

The Natural Form of Gogyo Hidden in Steam

Steamed Hokkaido potato seller, photo by robizumi The study of form. It is where most classes begin. But it also leads to some of the biggest failures and flaws in martial arts training. So much so, that Hatsumi Sensei constantly reminds us not to focus on or memorize forms. Yet, it is hard to teach or learn anything without using form as a starting place. How do we resolve this paradox? We can look at one of our basic forms to seek answers to these questions: Gogyo no kata : why and how does form corrupt our training of this basic concept? I will give two examples that have far reaching implications in the Bujinkan worldwide. In the first, it comes from a natural human tendency to take something new and compare or relate to something else we already are familiar with. This happened many years ago in the Bujinkan with the Gogyo. It was the concept that the gogyo should be a spiritual concept like the godai. Sensei has said this isn't the correct approach: "We are trainin

Purifying the Senses with Less Muscle

photo by davco9200 There are different ways to consider the words rokkon shoujou .  When Hatsumi Sensei put this idea out for us as a theme for 2010, many of us gave the concept a lot of thought and smiles (he did say it was the purification of the senses through laughter). But it is not only about thinking. To succeed with rokkon shoujou, we need to include it in our everyday practice and training for it to have any effect. Our training consists of fighting and combat. How does one purify the spirit while fighting? I can give you something to work on in every training session that will get you started. But first please consider how training reflects your spirit. Maybe you've heard a song of the gokui that says, "If you possess a heart like clear water, the opponent is reflected as though in a mirror." Well the opposite of this is also true: if your heart is muddled and confused it will be reflected and magnified in your taijutsu. Another gokui reflects this idea,

嵐 Arashi: Don't Get Caught in Your Own Storm

when it rains in HK, photo by rocksee I read a curious poem this morning in a story from Saigyō. The Japanese poet Saigyō (1118-1190) was a Buddhist monk and lived most of his life as a traveling mendicant and hermit. His poems often relate the tension he felt between renunciatory Buddhist ideals and his love of natural beauty. In the story I read this morning, he was caught in a rainstorm during his travels through Osaka. He tried to take shelter at a brothel. Yet he was turned away by a prostitute. But this was no ordinary prostitute. In the legend, she was an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Fugen who symbolizes meditation and practice. Knowing this, Saigyō was frustrated that someone so enlightened would  force him back out into the rain. He wrote: How difficult I suppose,     to reject This world of ours.     And yet you begrudge me         a temporary stay. In his frustration, Saigyō could get angry at this teacher in disguise and miss an important lesson. Do you eve