強弱柔剛 Kyojaku Jyugo: Like a Dream in the Void

Paul Masse Santa Monica Training
We had some great training with Paul Masse last weekend. One idea that Paul shared with us is:
強弱柔剛あるべからず 故にこの心から離れ 空という一字に悟り  体また無しとして 之に配す
Neither strong or weak, soft or hard, separate from the heart of these and enlighten yourself to the one character of nothingness. Make your body nothingness and reside therein.
This comes to us from Toda Shinzaburo Masahide of the Togakure ryu. Another translation of this phrase can be found in Hatsumi Sensei's book, "The Way of the Ninja,"
"One should be neither strong nor weak, neither soft nor hard. Leave such thoughts behind, awaken to the Void, and make your body Null to abide by this."
Paul had us exploring these ideas through 虚実 kyojitsu, 無心 mushin, and 縁 connection.

Paul explained that for kyojitsu to be effective you have to sell it. He likened it to a magician performing an illusion. In order to sell it, he has to believe in it himself. In the world of magicians this is called misdirection. The next day Paul and I shared our personal stories as magicians with each other. We both studied and performed magic when we were younger. It was a lot of fun sharing memories on prestidigitation and coin sleight of hand methods.

With kyojitsu you can show the kyo to the opponent (misdirection) and then you hit him with the jutsu. The interesting part is, if he doesn't fall for the kyo, it becomes real- it becomes the jutsu. Maybe it was never fake to begin with?

Soke on Kyojaku Jyugo,
It's not whether you're good or bad. If you think you've reached a certain skill level then you probably haven't. That's why there's this saying, strong or weak, it doesn't matter. You have to have the balance of these points (heijōshin 平常心).
Mushin 無心 means "innocent" or "free from disturbing thoughts" or simply, "empty mind." Mushin is held in the fourth, intuitive level of Godai:
"The fourth dimension is that of the world of Mu— nothingness— a world haunted by death, a world of spirit only. It is a world with no physical existence, where everything simply disappears. That is why in that world you must not let an opponent see or sense your form- you must wipe it out entirely." -Masaaki Hatsumi, The Way Of The Ninja
In Zen, Mushin is the thinking of the body. In the Bujinkan we often describe this as flow. And it is obvious when watching someone whether they are doing technique from their heads or from the wisdom of their body using flowing taijutsu.

Under heaven nothing is more soft and yielding than water.
Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better;
It has no equal.
The weak can overcome the strong;
The supple can overcome the stiff.
Under heaven everyone knows this,
Yet no one puts it into practice.
-Lao Tzu

Hatsumi Sensei describes Kyojaku Jyugo further:
"This means that in Budo, it is naive to get caught up in thoughts of strong weak or soft/hard; in the end, even concepts such as skillful/unskillful simply fade away, Jutaijutsu contains fifteen strong arts and fifteen weak arts, making thirty in total, which can be seen as three sets of ten (as in Sanshin no Kata: Tenchijin and the Juji idea). Nevertheless, one deliberately and willfully eliminates all of that to make oneself Void."
Mushin is like looking at your own reflection in the moonlit water. If the water is still, maybe you see the moon reflected there with your own shadow. You  might forget that the moon is in the night sky behind you! Don't trouble the calm water with your worries and doubts. Allow your mind to fill the sky and be with the moon.

This type of connection to heaven is something Soke reminds us about constantly.

Thank you Paul! It was all like a dream (夢 yume).

忍辱の鎧 Ninniku No Yoroi: Patience as Armour

"Caution. The simulated protective device was not safety device and offered no protection."                                               photo by Sam Howzit

 鎧をつけている人は、転ぶと大きな音がする。

He who wears armor falls with a big crash!

This saying reminds me of medieval knights of old, encased in metal, then falling off their horses, only to bellow on the ground like a sick overturned tortoise. anyone who has worn yoroi may have experienced similar sensations. But the armour that really weighs us down most often and acts against us is in our own hearts. We wear our pride or technique on our bodies like it will stop bullets. Ninniku offers us a different choice. In our Bujinkan training this is some of the most powerful armour available.

Hatsumi Sensei has explained to us how he dissipates the attacker's energy. This is one aspect of three methods that make up 忍辱の鎧 Ninniku No Yoroi. We will look at these three strategies after we try to understand Ninniku.

Soke describes it this way,
Ninniku Seishin. There is a saying, "Enduring insults and humiliation, I drop all
rancor, I desire no revenge," which implies bearing no hatred and holding no grudges.

This word derives from Ksanti-paramita (Ninniku-haramitsu Bosatsu, "Arrival at the Other Shore of Patience"), Ksdnti in her Sanskrit name means "patience" and is translated into Sino-Japanese as ninniku. She is also called "Nin-haramitsu"

Ninniku is the third of ropparamitsu, the six paramitas or disciplines of Mahayana Buddhism.  Here the patient heart tempers and subdues anger and hatred. Enduring insults originating in men, such as hatred, or abuse. And surviving distress arising from natural causes such as heat, cold, age, sickness, etc. The symbol associated with ninniku is a flower.

Hatsumi Sensei also tells us,
The Ninja uniform is like the Kesa of the Buddhist priest,
and Takamatsu Sensei used to call it "a taste of Zen."
Buddhist priests wear a kesa or scarf which has another name, 忍辱鎧 ninniku-gai, or armour of patience. Or patience as armour. 忍辱の鎧 Ninniku No Yoroi - armor of perseverance.

The idea of ninniku no kesa comes from the Lotus Sutra, where the preacher is described as cloaked in "the thought of tender forbearance and the bearing of insult with equanimity."

This kind of armor shields you in ways that will seem supernatural. You cannot be insulted or degraded (fujō 不浄). You are also free from attachment to the uncertainty and undecidability of the cause and effect of a fight (fujō 不定). You float outside that cycle of violence with these three tactics:

  • Awareness: this allows us to evade an enemy's attack naturally and disappear. By showing no intention to fight you can be invisible. 
  • Hard training prepares you for any situation, so you may experience banpen fugyo in the midst of chaos. Then use natural principles and methods to prevail.
  • Have the perseverance of Ninniku Seishin: "hiding spirit" hide your intentions, don't show off everything, be patient, wait and endure to succeed.
"If your heart is small, one unjust word or act will make you suffer. But if your heart is large, if you have understanding and compassion, that word or deed will not have the power to make you suffer. You will be able to receive, embrace, and transform it in an instant. What counts here is your capacity." -- Thich Nhat Hanh

三心の構 Sanshin no Kamae: Silent and Deadly

photo by ngader
We can learn a lot from the Kamae in our art. For example, there are three Kamae that are often associated with hanbo that Takamatsu Sensei called 三心の構  Sanshin no Kamae. These three simple looking kamae contain important insights about the nature of fighting and combat that can change everything about the way you understand Kamae and Bujinkan Taijutsu.

Hatsumi sensei says these Kamae are "three phases:"

型破の構 Kata Yaburi no Kamae – form breaking

無念無想の構 Munen Muso no Kamae – no intention, no thought

音無しの構 Otonashi no Kamae – silent posture

The stances betray no outward signs of readiness for action, offensive or defensive. You stand exposed, weapons lowered, and your body square to the opponent. This emptiness makes these kamae positions of pure, unlimited potential from which all manner of henka can arise. These kamae all pass rapidly from stillness into motion and motion into stillness. Offense and defense are one and the same. Emptiness and reality are embodied in the stances with kyojitsu tenkan ho being a primary strategy.

With 型破の構 Kata Yaburi no Kamae you move in a way to break or destroy the opponent's form. Whether that be the form of his attack or breaking the "form" of his spirit. But this also suggests the destruction of your own form. Or the erasing of your own ego. Which leads us to,

無念無想の構 Munen Muso no Kamae, sometimes referred to as mugamae (non form), is the intention of no-intention, no-thought throughout your body or any weapon you hold.

So with 音無しの構 Otonashi no Kamae, you are lying low;  saying nothing and waiting for an opportunity. It is critical to use space, without showing your weapon, the form, the shape, or the sound. Use it in the unguarded space to take away the opponent's fighting power.

Soke describes this,
"you stand silently in otonashi no kamae (the silent posture) with both hands lowered. Even against a strong opponent you maintain this form. The cross style of this form has a secret meaning that includes both desperation and sacrifice."

The power of this stance often appears in cinema and theater.  Sawada Shojiro returned to Tokyo with Daibosatsu Toge, 1921-1922).  In this performance Sawada played Tsukue Ryunosuke, a ruthless and nihilistic swordsman who goes blind but his swordsmanship does not diminish. Ryunosuke's "soundless stance" (otonashi-no-kamae) sword-fighting style inspired many chanbara heroes that followed including the blind swordsman Zato Ichi.

The role of Ryunosuke Tsukue was reprised in the movie "Sword of Doom" by Tatsuya Nakadai in 1966. In this clip we can see Otonashi no kamae at work (WARNING graphic sword fight):

Fudōshin 不動心 or Fudōshin 浮動心 Floating Heart?

photo by London looks
I was talking with Paul Masse about recent events in Japan. We were contemplating the appropriate "safe" distance from these disasters. Hatsumi Sensei often suggests to us that we evade by the width of a piece of paper. He gives us this image as a hint to take a small evasion, or, just as much space as needed. I have even heard him say that it should be the width of air. Now that seems risky for sure!

But there is another way to evade that isn't evading. And Sensei does this but it is not easy to see. To open our eyes let's look at one example from nature and one from Hatsumi Sensei.

While talking with Paul, I was reminded of a different kind of distance from a favorite poem. I shared this idea with Paul and he seemed to enjoy the feeling of it:
The Little Duck -----  By Donald C. Babcock
Now we are ready to look at something pretty special.
It is a duck riding the ocean a hundred feet beyond the surf.
No, it isn’t a gull.
A gull always has a raucous touch about him.
This is some sort of duck, and he cuddles in the swells.
He isn’t cold, and he is thinking things over.
There is a big heaving in the Atlantic,
And he is part of it.
He looks a bit like a mandarin, or the Lord Buddha meditating under the Bo tree.
But he has hardly enough above the eyes to be a philosopher.
He has poise, however, which is what philosophers must have.
He can rest while the Atlantic heaves, because he rests in the Atlantic.
Probably he doesn’t know how large the ocean is.
And neither do you.
But he realizes it.
And what does he do, I ask you. He sits down in it.
He reposes in the immediate as if it were infinity—which it is.
That is religion, and the duck has it.
He has made himself a part of the boundless, be easing himself into it just where it
touches him.
Paul said this is like Fudōshin 不動心. Which is often translated as "immovable heart." But another reading of it could be Fudōshin 浮動心 "Floating Heart."

Well we had our conversation about The Little Duck a couple of weeks ago, and today I came across Hatsumi Sensei suggesting what seems to be the same kind of distance for muto dori:
Understanding muto as "Like a boat floating on water." Whether the waves are gentle or rough, it is good. Hicho no ken (the sword of the flying bird). Regard the opponent's attack as natural. This is Niten Itto, Niten Ichi-ryu. Board the floating boat, and stop the attack. The boat's motion prevents the opponent from moving freely.
I am humbled at this connection that appeared today. And it opened up some ideas for me that I have felt in Hatsumi Sensei's classes but been unable to get my mind around. I can't wait to explore this feeling in class tonight!

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