Show the Truth in Your Training

The Robbery photo By gcfairch
Here I will share a story I heard from Kan Junichi during Daikomyosai that proves Hatsumi Sensei is not a superhero who can dodge bullets. Of course I joke, but the story does prove something very important about the essence of training. First let me explain why I am not a superhero myself.

I screw up often when I teach. I get things wrong, I slip, stumble, misspeak, let myself get hit by my students, use the wrong words, or misremember facts. If a mistake can be made, I've made it. But I always do my best to acknowledge and recognize this humbly. My mistakes are my most important teachers. Training is not real if there are no mistakes. Teachers are not real if they don't allow themselves this honesty.

I've met many martial arts instructors who are terrified by this. They must always project some kind of superhuman perfection to their students and others. They only demonstrate with uke's who make them look good. And they won't try anything that could make them look bad in front of their students.

Show truth in your budo. The only way your budo can be effective is for you to train honestly. Be honest with yourself and with your training partners or students.

Kan Junichi told us this story about a visit to a U.S. military base with Hatsumi Sensei:

"Near Albuquerque there's a military base. We all visited that base with Sensei and as we were walking in there were cameras everywhere. Sensei said, "Don't speak with words, speak with your eyes." And then Sensei was giving us directions without speaking but by using his eyes. 

There were many people watching and Sensei asked us to do a demonstration. Then a military instructor came and stood three meters behind Sensei and pulled out a gun, then asked, "What would you do in this situation?" . Sensei replied by putting his hands up and saying, "I can't do anything. I leave my life up to you."

Then everybody watching began to clap. The instructor told Sensei that many other martial arts instructors had done demonstrations before and they all tried something like a back kick or grabbing dirt off the ground to throw it. The gunman said to them, I am much faster on the trigger than you are with that kick.

So then he bowed to Sensei and said, "Thank you. You are real."

He continued on to say, "There are three ways to make martial arts teachers from Japan happy: One is with Sake; Another is by letting shoot exotic guns; And the third is by having pretty women there." But Sensei turned down all of these.

They had all manner of weapons and machine guns available. They brought a bunch of ammunition, rounds… They said here, go ahead shoot all these guns. Sensei said, "I don't need that." I don't need women. I don't need Sake."
The truth is like this. It's really nothing. At three meters here, of course the gun is faster. You try to throw sand or kick, you're finished, right? And so Sensei showed the truth here in his gesture. And I thought that was very important when I saw this."

Show the truth in your training. Show it to your students, but more importantly... to yourself.

The Kyūsho 五輪 Gorin: Sun Crossing the Belly

Navel Lady photo by Candida.Performa
Ideas as fundamental as Kyūsho 急所 (vital or tender points on the body) can seem mysterious when you try to really understand them. We have many Kyūsho 急所 in the Bujinkan. They have interesting names which vary according to the ryu. But their names and locations on the body are just the beginning and a door to understanding something deeper.

Let's consider the meaning of the kyūsho 五輪 Gorin.

I thought I was comfortable using this kyūsho until I read what Hatsumi Sensei wrote in his Advanced Stick Fighting book,
"The kyūsho known as "Gorin" means to point at "chi-sui-ka-fu-ku."
I was confused but curious about this statement. This inspired me to examine 五輪 Gorin more closely.

Gorin is normally explained as five vital points around the navel. That seems simple enough. But what are the five? and what about the variations of 五輪月影 Gorin Tsukikage and 五輪稲妻 Gorin Inazuma?

You will be hard pressed to find any Bujinkan teacher to explain more than the name and general area of 五輪 Gorin. But what does it represent? What does it do exactly? Why are there five points? And what about Hatsumi Sensei's reference above?

Usually 五輪 Gorin is translated to 5 rings. If you search for it online you will get the rings that symbolize the Olympics. Not too helpful for our study of ancient Japanese kyūsho.

In Mikkyō or tantric buddhism 五輪 Gorin is often symbolized by the Gorintō 五輪塔 which you will find all over Japan commonly used as memorial markers for the dead. These stone markers have associations with the five elements.
from JAANUS:
"Each piece in the five-story pagoda (Sanskrit = stupa) corresponds to one of five elements. The bottom story is square and corresponds to the earth ring (Japanese = Chirin 地輪). Next is the spherical water ring (Japanese = Suirin 水輪), surmounted by the triangular ring of fire (Japanese = Karin 火輪). Above this is a reclining half-moon shape (Japanese = Fūrin 風輪), representing the wind, and topmost is the gem-shaped ring of space (Japanese = Kūrin 空輪)."
Now we are getting somewhere! Hatsumi Sensei also made reference to these five elements. But where do the directions come from and why does the stone monument look nothing like 5 rings?

To go deeper we have to dig into the source of this imagery. The morpheme -rin can mean “wheel,” “circle,” or “ring,” but in this usage it translates as cakra (chakra) in the yogic sense of the five power centers of the subtle body. The gorin no tõ shows each of these power centers as having a different shape, and each of these shapes indicates a different great element. From bottom up these are: 1) square for earth, 2) round for water, 3) triangular for fire, 4) semicircular for air, and 5) a crescent moon-shaped jewel for space (or the three-dimensional equivalents of these shapes).

Historically the source of these 5 elements goes back to India, then through China and Taoist ideas and into Japan as often seen with the influence of Mikkyō. Some of the earliest references in Japan of these ideas come from 五輪九字明祕密釋 The Gorin kuji myō himitsu shaku (Commentary on the Secrets of the Five Cakras and Nine Syllables) composed by Kakuban 覺鑁 (1095-1143AD). In this text the five cakras 五輪 of the body are correlated with the Taoist theory of five viscera 五藏.

What does five viscera have to do with Gorin? Kyūsho are points to be struck, poked, prodded, stabbed or otherwise disturbed to have an effect on our uke's body and spirit during a fight. The five viscera in the Chinese system are: heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and spleen.

How does poking someone in the stomach affect the heart? Well, just have someone try it and you might find out! But this also connects to traditional Chinese taoist medicine: "Blockage of the six bowels causes imbalances of the five viscera." I've been hit in the stomach myself and I could well imagine striking these kyūsho around the belly contributing to this sort of imbalance.

The five phases of the chinese: wu hsing 五行; or Japanese: gogyõ are also correlated with these five directions: Earth is considered "north"; Fire is "south"; Ku is "center"; air is "east"; Water is "west". 
五輪 Gorin above the navel

These directions are related to the path of the sun, rising in the east, passing across the southern sky, overhead or centered at noon, setting in the west, then travelling under the earth through the darkness of the north at night. We can see this path represented on our kyūsho chart and as Soke Hatsumi has shown in his drawings.

I'm glad I found all these connections to help me understand Hatsumi Sensei's simple instruction about Gorin. Of course this rabbit hole I climbed into is deep and twisty. The information in this post is what I discovered out of my own curiosity and may not at all represent what Hatsumi Sensei had in mind in regards to Gorin. I'm sure I missed something or even could be completely wrong but that's what makes learning in the Bujinkan fun!

Our training is constantly evolving so we cannot be attached to any definitions. In fact, Sensei recently said he had written the kanji of Gorin五輪 with a different reading as Gorin 五臨. He said it was to encourage people to find and re-establish a dialogue and speak from their essence, face to face and dealing with the truth head on.

It is so important to train with good teachers and experience their truth directly in person. This is what I strive for in in my own classes and in every class with Sensei or with any of my teachers in the Bujinkan.

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