魅剣 Miken: Bewitching Blade of Bisentō Jutsu

Ghostly photo by didbygraham
When I was studying the Bisento kata 魅剣 Miken, or bewitching blade, I wanted to understand what would make the blade bewitching. I know the movement is meant to confuse the opponent with kyojitsu, but what I found in my study takes this "bewitching" to another level.

Often in our Bujinkan training we encounter supernatural ideas. They are woven in the fabric of our art and in Japanese legend. This is an aspect to training that makes the art so mysterious and fascinating. Mystery brings another level of power to the art and to stories of the Ninja.

The challenging thing for pragmatic martial artists is to connect the myth to something that can be used in battle. I personally am not a pragmatist in these things. I am an artist by profession and it is natural for me to accept mysterious ideas and inspiration in my training. What really stops my mind cold is when I glimpse the supernatural at work in the pragmatic.

With Miken, Hatsumi Soke says that it is the same as 魑魅魍魎 chimimōryō in 幻実 genjitsu which is a phantom reality, or possibly 幻術 genjutsu magic/witchcraft.

He justs drops this statement on us like it is a normal way to use the Bisento.

So what is 魑魅魍魎 chimimōryō? It is translated as evil spirits of mountains and rivers; monsters, goblins, and ghosts; all sorts of weird creatures.

But to understand 魑魅魍魎 chimimōryō (chimei-wangliang in mandarin) we must know that the beginnings of Bisento in our art stemmed from Yoshiteru either learning it in China, or directly from a Chinese monk. Then for chimei-wangliang we have to go back to the very beginnings of Chinese myth. Back as far as the 26th century BC.

In the beginning… (I always wanted to say that)

There was the battle of Zhuolu. This was a battle fought between the Yellow Emperor, who is considered the founder of Chinese civilization, and Chi You. Wikipedia describes Chi You:
According to legend, Chi You had a bronze head with metal foreheads. He had 4 eyes and 6 arms, wielding terrible sharp weapons in every hand. His head was that of a bull with two horns, but the body was that of a human. He is said to have been unbelievably fierce, and to have had 81 brothers.
So you see we had quite a battle brewing.

Chi You used 魑魅魍魎 chimei-wangliang as a battle tactic. He summoned forth the demons of the swamps, forests and mountains to fight in his army, and employed 幻術 genjutsu producing a poisonous mist against the forces of the Yellow Emperor.

This poison mist was used to confuse and cause the enemy to become lost in the thick fog. The Yellow Emperor suffered several defeats because of this and eventually had to ask for help from a dragon to win the battle.

I tell this story because in our (somewhat smaller) battle with the Bisento, we can employ Kasumi (mist) techniques and cause the enemy to become lost in confusion through kyojitsu. The kata itself demonstrates the physical foundation for creating this feeling, but as Soke reminds us, "Separate yourself from the waza so that you see the whole picture. If you think "this is how we do the waza," that is very dangerous." We have to go beyond what we think we know.

I wrote about one way to reflect this feeling here: 平常心 Heijōshin: a Heart Like Clear Water.

He tells us that breathing in this life force, or  生命 seimei is of great importance to martial artists.  This is the Bufu Ikkan that blows through our lives.

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