Bujinkan Kyūdan 九段: Reaching the Source

Reaching the Source, digital c-print photograph by Andrew Binkley
Hatsumi Sensei describes the journey of a Bujinkan student through the Dan ranks as being akin to the Ten Oxherding pictures in Zen Buddhism. These pictures describe the seeker's journey to enlightenment.

If you haven't read my other posts in this series, please check them out. You may find them useful no matter what your rank is:

Bujinkan Shodan 初段: Searching for the Bull
Bujinkan Nidan 弐段: Discovering the Footprints
Bujinkan Sandan 参段: Perceiving the Bull
Bujinkan Yondan 四段: Catching the Bull
Bujinkan Godan 五段: Taming the Bull
Bujinkan Rokudan 六段: Riding the Bull Home
Bujinkan Nanadan 七段: The Bull Transcended
Bujinkan Hachidan 八段: Both Bull and Self Transcended

Now that we are at kyūdan, we have not only reached the source, we have returned to it:
Woodblock print by 德力富吉郎 Tokuriki Tomikichirō
返本还源 Reaching the Source

Too many steps have been taken
returning to the root and the source.

Better to have been blind and deaf
from the beginning!
Dwelling in one's true abode,

unconcerned with and without -

The river flows tranquilly on
and the flowers are red.

I have abandoned the whip and ropes

From the outside looking in at this stage of training is confusing. From the outside it makes your entire training regimen seem pointless. From the outside it appears the destination of training is to return to where you started.

Your black belt has frayed and worn so much that it is a white belt again. Maybe you should have just kept the white belt in the first place! There have been many temptations to give up training altogether.

Good technique, bad technique are exactly the same. Winning or losing are no different. Attacker and defender are exactly the same. So you may never have trained at all, and you will be at the same place.

From the outside, students see teachers at this stage sometimes acting like unskilled white belts, and the students may lose faith in their teachers or in their own path.

The truth is, this way of understanding taijutsu starts long before kyūdan. It starts as soon as we begin to develop natural henka. It can be found in the expression of 梧心の型 Goshin no Kata. The difference is that by this level, you no longer simply perform henka, you embody 変化 henka.

Henka exists as not only variations on technique, but as a continual metamorphosis.

We are no longer concerned with being or non being. We don't distinguish between technique and henka. Being is non-being. Technique is henka.

We might then say, "ただこれこれ tada korekore," which translates to "only this, this," or might suggest that everything is just as it is.

You stand in the middle of the dojo and see black gi and students doing keiko. In an airport are travellers and luggage. Does it matter where they go or only that they travel? In a field, red flowers and green grass are growing.

You put on your obi.

Shikin haramitsu daikomyo!

Our final step in this series will be: Bujinkan Jūdan 拾段: In The World

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