経津 Futsu: Reflections on a Theme for 2012

Katori-jingu, Katori-shi, Chiba-ken, Japan photo by TANAKA Juuyoh
Training sometimes seems mysterious. Even more so when Hatsumi Sensei gives us Japanese philosophical ideas to consider.  Sometimes these mysteries come in the form of a stated yearly theme.

The idea or feeling behind the yearly theme continuously changes as our lives and training evolve through the year. So whatever we think the theme is, it's important not to get attached to any set concept and to allow the natural evolution of training to occur.

These yearly themes and ideas Soke gives us are like gifts that resonate throughout the year as reflected in our training, in our taijutsu, and our lives.

As we enter 2012 what sort of starting point might we have for the yearly theme?

UPDATE: 2012 theme seven months later: Shot to the Heart of Kaname 要

I was at a class earlier this month where Hatsumi Sensei gave us some hints. We spent a considerable portion of this class exploring concepts with a sword sometimes against long weapons like a bo or yari.

At the end of class, after bowing out, Sensei wanted to share some ideas with us, so we sat on the dojo floor as he began sharing with us some ideas about a theme for 2012. Connected to the sword training we did that night, he made reference to 沸 Futsu which he used as an onomatopoeia (giongo 擬音語) for different sound effects.  He started out describing its relationship to the sound a katana makes when cutting. But then Hatsumi Sensei was using a lot of wordplay that night.

He continued to explore these meanings by using the ぶすぶす Futsu sound of simmering or boiling. He compared this to 煮沸消毒 shafutsu shoudoku which is sterilization by boiling. He told us this was like a burning away of bad parts of the self.

When I began to look into Futsu with more depth I found a wealth of meaning. One idea in particular seems well suited to the possibility of sword for the coming year.

Please remember that none of us knows where the training or Hatsumi Sensei will take us in the coming year so these connections and ideas are my own.

In his talk, Hatsumi Sensei made reference to the Katori Jingu (photo above), where Futsu Nushi no Mikoto 経津主之命 Guardian deity of martial valour is celebrated.

Even more intriguing is Futsu no mitama 布都御魂 the Divine sword of Japanese mythology, possessed by gods Takemikazuchi no mikoto and Futsunushi no mikoto,
The personification of a divine sword. At the time of Emperor Jinmu’s 神武天皇 (Jinmu-tennō) campaign to the east, Amaterasu 天照 ordered Takemikazuchi to assist the beleaguered Jinmu, whereupon Takemikazuchi miraculously sent his divine sword Futsu no mitama to appear in the warehouse of Takakuraji in Kumano熊野 . Takakuraji found the sword and presented it to Jinmu, whereupon Jinmu was enabled to complete his campaign. In Sendai kuji hongi, Futsu no mitama is called “Futsunushi no kami’s sword of spirit,” presented by Jinmu to Umashimaji as a prize for killing Nagasunehiko and submitting to the imperial forces. It is believed to represent a divine sword worshiped by the martial clan Mononobe, who were instrumental in the early pacification of Japan, and is enshrined as the central deity (saijin) of Isonokami Jingū and other shrines.
--Kadoya Atsushi, Waseda University, Tokyo
Another connection for Futsu is the mirror as in the 真経津の鏡  Mafutsu no Kagami (alternate name for Yata no Kagami, the mirror of the Imperial regalia). When you look for your reflection hidden there it is like a search for the Buddha hidden from view or 秘仏 Hifutsu.

I hope my exploration of Futsu gives you some hints to reflect on for 2012. Happy New Year!

Fushaku Shinmyō 不惜身命: Mind and Body Like Diamond

Diamond Corridor photo by dickuhne
Hatsumi Sensei's classes are often too crowded to do "large" techniques. Or, to train with weapons that need "large" distances. Recently I was lucky enough to be in a class that was small enough for Sensei to have us using Bo, Yari, and Naginata. Along with the big weapons came some big ideas for training.

He was attaching these weapons to his uke's body or clothing, then moving in a way where the weapon seems to develop a life of its own. He explained he was using a reflection of the attacker. That was a big idea that reminded me of another time when he described 辛抱 Shinbo to us.

 One other large idea he put out there for us came at a moment of evading a yari thrust. He used the phrase 不惜身命 Fushaku Shinmyō. Roughly translated in this context it means sacrificing one's life to accomplish its resolution. It can be related to concepts of Sutemi and throwing away the self.

The roots of this idea come from Buddhism and the Nyorai Juryo Hon chapter of the Lotus Sutra: teaching of devotion that spares neither body nor life.

Some other translations for this phrase read: not sparing one's life for a worthy cause; courageous and selfless dedication; Self-sacrificing Dedication; or to place the cause above one's life.

How do you get to that selfless state? The state where the tip of the spear is no longer a threat and you can move undeterred against the slash of a sword?

One clue I found may come from the study of Goshin no kata. This is when you do a continuous, non-stop repetition of one of the (Sanshin, Gogyo) five forms endlessly without an attacker until one of two things occurs.  The form naturally and spontaneously shifts or changes to one of the other forms, OR you reach satori (a flash of enlightenment).

I found an interesting reflection on this in an essay from Chōjun Miyagi (founder of Goju-ryu) published in 1942. In his style they have a "Sanchin no kata." He writes,
"Kongoshin Fushaku Shinmyō no Kyochi

If you could attain Enlightenment or Satori through practicing
Sanchin, you were beyond life and death, and your mind and body
would become strong enough like Diamond."
Well I think a yari tip would break against diamond armor such as that.

How to Grow Your Own 器 Utsuwa

敲玻璃器 Break on through, photo by .HEI
Did I learn anything? Sometimes I wonder. I watch Hatsumi Sensei teach and then he does something or says something that I find fascinating. So I look around the Hombu to see how other people are reacting. Did they see what he just did? Did they understand what he just said? Did I?

That's the real question. What is my own capacity to understand?

Is everyone at the hombu dojo having the same training experience and are they getting as much from it as I am? Will I understand or experience the training as deeply as someone like Oguri Sensei who has been training more than 40 years and actually trained with Takamatsu Sensei?

The answer is no. We are not having the same experience or learning the same thing. No one there is. We all have different levels of understanding. As for myself, I can only experience training to the fullness of my capacity.

In Chinese they say, 大器晚成 it takes a long time to make a big pot. This suggests that great talents mature late or the idea of being a late bloomer.

The character for pot may look familiar to you 器. A few years ago, Hatsumi Sensei made it one part of the yearly theme with the idea of 才能魂器: ability/talent (Saino, 才能), spirit (tamashi/kon, 魂), and capacity/vessel/container (utsuwa/ki, 器)

That is an interesting idea: capacity.  It may seem like the capacity of a container, pot, or student is set at a certain level. But this capacity may expand or shrink depending on what it is being filled with.

Imagine Bujinkan or teaching like a flowing river. You may have a big glass or a small glass. Both will be full after being dipped in the river.

But you get to decide from what source you fill your container. This is a simple secret.

It is like an ura side to the concept of utsuwa/ki, 器. When we study budo, our capacity to understand, grow, or fill up is set by the size of the glass we drink from.
Did you get that? That is simple but powerful. Drink from a larger source and your own capacity will grow.
From my own training I have discovered just how powerful this is. For example, we might rate the size of various learning opportunities: On a scale from no training; to reading books; watching videos; attending a seminar; attending regular classes; teaching (yes this is part of learning too); visiting Japan to train with the Shihan and Hatsumi Sensei; Living in Japan and training regularly; Learning from Bujin or divine insight…

Or, finally, off the scale and beyond all is learning from or opening to the source that Soke often speaks about. Just recently I heard him say to invite nature into your training. He said if you are having trouble, let nature into your technique and let it take over.

You can discard your container's limitations and toss it away (捨身 sutemi) by connecting to the deepest source of knowledge. Opening yourself up to nature itself instantly makes your capacity limitless. Any training or experience then becomes rich with joy and insight.

I personally have had surprising results from this process in my training. But it is easy to feel overwhelmed and some days I crawl back inside my old jar. When I return to my old home it isn't as comfortable or as big as I remember.

You may be familiar with this concept if you've ever returned to your childhood home. It seems smaller and less vibrant somehow. Your experience and capacity has grown to encompass so much more of life.That is the same wistful yet amused feeling many people experience after going to Soke's classes.

Hatsumi Sensei tells us not to get caught up in thinking. Throw that away. Release yourself from it. Have this 生命反射 seimei hansha, or  reflection of life in your training.

Hatsumi Sensei VS. Pro Wrestler Rikidōzan

During a recent Sunday class at Hombu, Hatsumi Sensei was showing techniques  against a double lapel grab. He made a point of demonstrating these techniques on some of the largest foreigners in the room. He tossed them around easily and made them groan or whimper in pain.

He then said that all of the Jugodans in the Bujinkan should be able to defeat any pro wrestler. He wasn't talking about the kind of pro wrestling we see now that is full of theatrics and largely staged, but he was referring to the kind of athletes and matches that were common during his youth.

Hatsumi Sensei then told us about a story from his past when he had accepted a grudge match against one of the most famous of those wrestlers, Rikidōzan.

Soke shared with us the surprise ending to this event, but first let's learn more about this legendary fighter. From the Rikidōzan Wikipedia entry:
Mitsuhiro Momota (百田 光浩 Momota Mitsuhiro?), better known as Rikidōzan (Japanese: 力道山, Korean: 역도산 Yeokdosan, November 14, 1924 – December 15, 1963), was a Korean Japanese professional wrestler, known as the "Father of Puroresu" and one of the most influential men in wrestling history. Initially, he had moved from his native country Korea to Japan to become a sumo wrestler. He was credited with bringing the sport of professional wrestling to Japan at a time when the Japanese needed a local hero to emulate and was lauded as a national hero.
Here is more about Rikidōzan from a Wrestling Revue article in 1964:
"Though born in Nagasaki in Kyushu, Rikidozan was of Korean descent. And in Japan, Koreans are usually objects of contempt, often discriminated against. Rikidozan fought hard to overcome this stigma. In the process he developed a trigger-like temper, rebelled constantly, against authority. "Nobody tells me what to do," he used to boast."
"Riki, who was given the Japanese name of Mitsuhiro Momota (literally, "Bright Child of the Hundred Ricefields"), never dwelled on his early years. But he was known to have been a sullen, bad-tempered youth who, shunned by his prejudiced schoolmates and deserted by his parents, left home at the age of 13 and journeyed 800 miles to Tokyo.

Seeking a living-and an outlet for his repressed hostilities-he enrolled in a sumo training gymnasium and after three years of incredibly arduous training was ready for his first match. All the bitterness erupted out of him as he tackled his opponent. Riki now weighed 300 pounds, with the big, blubbery but tough-as-steel belly characteristic of sumo wrestlers.

Despite his weight, blown up from downing 18 rice bowls and four cases of beer at a single sitting, he was as fast and agile as a cat. He could run the hundred yards in 11 seconds flat and was so superbly trained that he could write a letter by holding a pen between his powerful toes. Riki pounded his foe savagely. with every blow, every kick, he avenged the hardships he had suffered in the gymnasium-getting up at 2 A.M. to work outside in the freezing cold...smoldering at a thousand humiliations...absorbing insults and beatings from advanced classmates... Well, things were going to be different from now on, he vowed, as the fans hailed his victory.

With dynamic drive, he battled his way up in the sumo ranks. At 23, he made the sekiwake grade and was on the verge of entering the ozeki domain which would put him in line for the grand championship. Then he destroyed a brilliant future by quarreling with a gymnasium official over a technical decision. In a rage, he quit sumo forever.

Out of a job and missing the adulation of the fans, Riki was at a loss in the big metropolis. But not for long. Tokyo was starting to boom-it was during the MacArthur occupation-and he easily found work as a construction laborer. Swallowing his disappointment, he worked for a year.

In his spare time, he continued to train hard, concentrating on karate, the deadly art of open-handed fighting that later became his trademark. Then, with a small nest egg, he rented a hall for wrestling exhibitions. In no time he built up a rabid following. As his fame spread, he accepted an offer from promoter Al Karasick in Honolulu. Riki was a sensation there.

He followed with other triumphal tours, capturing a fistful of titles all over the world, beating Haystacks Calhoun, Fred Blassie and even the great Lou Thesz. He was now down to 250 pounds. A siege of illness had melted off 50 pounds and Riki decided to stay that weight after he saw what happened to Tamanishiki, a prominent sumo wrestler. Tamanishiki, a 400-pounder, joined his honorable ancestors when doctors were unable to cut through the mountain of blubber during a stomach operation. 
Except for Thesz, Riki had nothing but contempt for American grapplers. He sneered at their hippodrome showmanship, called them soft compared with the Japanese. He called Blassie the "dirtiest wrestler" he had ever met. In the boxing and wrestling stables that formed part of his vast business empire which also included hotels, night clubs, golf courses and apartment houses, Riki was a hard taskmaster, demanding the utmost from his men and whipping them with a bamboo stick when they failed to measure up to his stringent standards.

By December of 1963, Riki had successfully defended his "International Title" 19 times."
Around this same time there was a Ninja boom going on in Japan. Ninja were appearing all over the media and Hatsumi Sensei was in demand for TV interviews and sought out for demos and his expertise. Sensei has never hidden his idea that real budo and sport fighting cannot be compared. Maybe he said something in an interview, maybe Rikidōzan was simply seeking publicity by challenging and criticizing the legendary Ninja.

There were exchanges of words and letters back and forth. Rikidōzan basically calling Hatsumi Sensei out to a challenge. Hatsumi Sensei wrote to Takamatsu for advice. Takamatsu being a veteran of many such matches in his youth, told Sensei to accept the challenge and began coaching Hatsumi Sensei on how to handle this opponent.

A week before the fight was to occur, Riki was killed by a Yakuza in "the chrome-striped restroom of a plush Tokyo night club." Here are two versions of the murder,
"On December 8, 1963, while partying in a Tokyo nightclub, Rikidōzan was stabbed with a urine-soaked blade by yakuza Katsuji Murata who belonged to Bōryokudan Sumiyoshi-ikka. Reportedly, Rikidōzan threw Murata out of the club and continued to party, refusing to seek medical help. Another report states that Rikidōzan did indeed see his physician shortly after the incident, and was told the wound was not serious. He died a week later of peritonitis on December 15."
Another account:
"On the night of December 8, tragedy struck. Riki, whose business interests brought him into contact with one of the numerous gangs which dominate Tokyo's night life, was in the restroom of the New Latin Quarter when a gangster approached him. The gangster reportedly warned Riki to "stay out of this territory." Riki, who never took any lip from anybody, told him to go to hell. They tussled. A switchblade flashed, And Riki collapse, spilling blood. Rushed to the hospital, Riki was told the wound was minor and would soon heal. But a week later, after bleeding copiously, he died of peritonitis at the age of 39."
Hatsumi Sensei simply stated to us that the wrestler was knifed by the yakuza. Sensei went on to tell us that it was a lucky break for him because he would have likely been destroyed by the wrestler in the fight.

Lucky indeed. I have also heard him say that Ninjas make their own luck. If you subscribe to my training notes (if you aren't a subscriber yet, you miss a LOT of free Bujinkan notes), you can get even more stories Hatsumi Sensei shares during my classes with him. 

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