Shot to the Heart of Kaname 要

Yabusame 流鏑馬, Kumamoto-shi, JP. photo by malfet_
We are more than halfway through 2012 and training has been great! Back in December, I wrote about a class where Hatsumi Sensei suggested some possibilities of a theme for 2012. As often happens the theme has evolved to express other ideas than those Hatsumi Sensei shared in December. One idea that has emerged has been an exploration of the idea of kaname 要.

Kaname 要 can be described as the essential or vital point of a technique, of a moment, or of strategy. It is essential because victory or defeat can pivot at this point. Everything hinges on grasping this moment. But this is not a new idea from Hatsumi Sensei.

At last year's Daikomyosai, Soke gave us a lot of focus on the concept of Kukan no kyusho. At the time, besides having my eyes opened, this concept felt pivotal to everything we are currently studying in the Bujinkan. And, it turns out that kaname and kukan no kyusho are getting at the same feeling. In years past, Soke has also used the terms koshi or koppo to get at this idea of a key point that controls things.

This kaname, or kyusho in the kukan, is very dynamic. So when you connect to it and affect the situation, change the uke's balance, strike a kyusho, or win the fight… The situation changes. And you must change with it to connect to the new vital point of the moment. What is fascinating is that through this process you will discover pivotal points that were hidden from your normal level of awareness and ability.

There is a secret here that I cannot describe or even teach. Soke hints at it in the scroll he painted for this year: shinryuyogo 神龍要護. You will notice the character for "yo" is the same as kaname. And "go" is the same as mamoru which means to safeguard or protect. But another secret here has to do with shinryu or the divine dragon.

Here is an excerpt from my recent training notes on this:
"With both ideas you can use these essential points as pivot points. But what is being pivoted? Certainly you can pivot your body around a point in space that you feel is essential to the execution of the technique. But that is a very flat or two dimensional understanding of kaname.

To expand the concept what is really pivoting is your shin 心 (heart, mind, or spirit) or shin 神 (spirit or kami). Both you and your opponent's "shin" are pivoting around in the kukan. This allows for the spontaneous creation and use of any henka, but also kyojitsu, rokkon shoujou, juppo sessho, roppo kuji, kuki taisho… or any number of principles that respond to the dynamics of the instant!

And our shin 神 are pivoting around each other as well as the real essential point which is the connection to heaven  or: chance; fate; destiny; karma. We can stay connected with 因縁 innen which is the underlying source of all actions or the origin. This is the true shinzui 神髄  of kaname that can lead us to the expression of kamiwaza 神業 ."
What I wrote above is a sample of what I send out 3 times a week to subscribers. If you haven't subscribed to my training notes you can get them here: 稽古記録 Keiko Kiroku

Last year Hatsumi Sensei shared a story that gets at the depth of feeling behind kaname. It comes from a famous moment in the epic tale of Heike (平家物語), During the Battle of Nashima in 1184, the enemy retreated to their ships. They placed a fan on top one of their masts claiming that it protected them from archers on the shore and they dared the Minamoto to shoot it off.

An archer, Nasu no Yoichi 那須 与一 who was known for his accuracy but not his strength, rode out into the sea on horseback to get close enough. With the waves splashing around the horse's neck, and rolling the ship around in the surf, somehow he loosed his arrow and split the fan in two!

Soke explains that this moment had such power that "it pierced the heart (kaname 要)" of the Taira army and the Minamoto were victorious. It was also a pivot point or turning point in the entire war. This moment has power in our imaginations to this day as it is retold and represented by artists with great reverence.

So in my own training for the first half of 2012, I have been exploring Kaname in our training as the essential, or vital point around which the technique, fight, or taijutsu derives its' power. The results have been spectacular for me and I can't wait to study it more and train even harder.


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