Jōtai 状態: The Art of the Situational

Making His Move, photo by Petteri Sulonen
Hatsumi Sensei often speaks in English. Of course his accent is Japanese so you may not notice or understand. One English phrase he says often is "case by case." When he says this the translator will often repeat it just because it is hard for ears not accustomed to the Japanese accent to catch the meaning.

What might he mean when he says "case by case?" In English, when someone says to consider something on a case by case basis, it means to judge each situation independently and as unique, even though it may appear similar.

Hatsumi Sensei also uses the word 状態  jōtai which is the current status;  condition;  situation;  circumstances;  or state. This suggests the ever changing state cause by the bufu blowing through the kukan and our connection to this.

When we study fighting in class, our actions often become fixed. The opponent repeats the same attack as we attempt the same technique over and over to study it. This is not real. And students often get confused when they realize this. A question that I often get from them is, "What if?"

What if the opponent changes his attack? What if he had a weapon? What if there are multiple attackers? My opponent would never let me do this, what if he resisted?

So of course, each individual situation is unique. We can't study them all. So we build adaptability and flexibility into our taijutsu. Like a rope.

Jōtai can be written with different kanji: 縄体 meaning rope. Hatsumi Sensei has used the rope as a tool to help us reach this understanding. And I highly recommend this study. In my Sunday classes we are making a thorough exploration of Hojojutsu, Hayanawa, and all flexible weapons. It is challenging indeed.

Here's something you can try. Take any kata. One that you feel you know well. You know you can do every step blindfolded while eating tacos. Then introduce a rope into the movement. Try to use the rope during the kata.

What happens next is that the rope has a mind of it's own. It will do it's own thing. So every time you do the kata it will be unique. Most people's results end up being sloppy and awkward as their taijutsu is abandoned while they try to cope with the chaos of the rope.

One hint is that the effective use of the rope is in connection. Connecting to your opponent through the kukan. The rope can physically represent this connection like in a game of tug of war. Or the connection can just be through your kamae. Or even further, the connection is not just with your opponent. It is like the spider web from heaven in Hatsumi Soke's Daruma painting.

One day in class Soke said that Takamatsu told him,
"What works most effectively is to make the connection and then push. Don't think of doing anything, just think of making that connection there."
Sensei then went on to remind us of our larger connections and responsibilities,
"When you're fighting or  tied up like this, and you think of trying to take a lock or something that doesn't work - these things are very effective. This is martial arts. Therefore don't teach anybody bad. Only good people. Just know budo and teach those people with good hearts and keep going."
Even though I am too young to have met Takamatsu, it's nice to feel that connection from Hatsumi Sensei back through Takamatsu and to all the Bujin that have gone before.

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