Secrets of 歩き Aruki

Takayuki Ishihara photo By CobraVerde
A big "secret" in our training is so basic that it is hidden in plain sight. I can tell you what it is and you will very likely ignore it. People always nod their heads when it is explained to them, as if it were old news, and then begin training on something else. This secret is 歩き aruki or walking.

After typing this I already sense people clicking some other link. Looking for the next flashy blog post or training video. Or worse, being convinced they already understand this "secret." Sensei often reminds us that enlightenment is under our feet. This is like 脚下照顧 kyakkashouko, where the best way to begin to know yourself is to look where your own footsteps fall. So let's start walking.

We have many types of walking in the Bujinkan to consider. Some of these skills are called ashi. I've written about many of these types of walking before: Like a Walk Through Yūgen 幽玄
But today I want to explore some ways to make your footwork more dynamic. If you are ready to really learn, here are some drills you can begin with:

  • Use yoko aruki to lead into or out of sanshin striking. This will strengthen both your footwork and give you new insight into sanshin. Now do it in eight directions. 

  • Then yoko aruki evasions (with an attacker!) in eight directions transitioning into all varieties of kaiten, nagare and taihenjustsu. 

  • Then yoko aruki evade and strike before taking evasive ukemi. Striking after the aruki creates interesting distance and angling puzzles. Use many different fists and kicks to target specific kyusho. 

  • Do some 足馴らし ashinarashi walking practice. Focus on ukemi with 膝行 shikko transitions between each roll. I have found nothing as powerful as this to improve your kamae and overall ukemi ability. 

  • To really know how to move effectively, one should practice 膝行 shikko in all directions. Work on forward, backward, and sideways. Do ukemi from shikko with shikko transitions. 

  • Do shoshin gokei from shikko. Prepare for some sore and raw knees, especially with the pivoting required. 

  • Do taijhenjutsu and ukemi using yoko aruki footwork. Practice 3 timings: aruki before the roll, during, and after. Otens are particularly challenging depending on when you yoko aruki. 

  • 骨指基本三法 Kosshi Kihon Sanpō using yoko aruki. Look at the inside cross, then the back cross. And eight directions! Both of these have unique considerations for our kamae and structure in the kukan. 

All of these footwork drills can also be done with happo tenchi tobi. Leaping skills are a unique and fun type of footwork. They come from the basic footwork ability but with increased distance and energy.

  • Next add a grappling component starting with a drill called the Jūtaijutsu shuffle. Starting from kumiuchi, you may begin with a three step variation. for example, right foot forward, left to the side, and right foot back. There are many variations depending on the foot or direction of the steps. Each step breaks the uke's structure a little more till he is thrown. This drill is about setting the footwork to take the uke's balance for the throw. 

All of these drills should also be done with weapons. As Soke often says, it is all based on walking. You can learn the most elaborate sword technique or have the quickest iai, but if you don't know how to walk it will be useless.

  • Train on basic sword kamae kihon. Do walking and drawing drills connected to each sword kamae. You must develop the proper rhythm to draw effectively while walking.

  • Practice all the different types of sword draws while walking in 膝行 shikko. When you have mastered these (:o) move on to aruki variations. Then combine aruki rolling and drawing.

This brief review of some basic walking drills should get you started. Many people walk in a stilted robotic fashion where they pose in the beginning, middle, and end positions of any technique. This is what happens when learned from a book or video or poor teaching. But if your teacher understands the nature of these aruki, then you can be more dynamic.

VIDEO: Paul Masse 書道 Shodo and 水墨 Suiboku

Besides training in the Bujinkan with Paul, I have had the privilege of many great discussions with him as an artist. I am an artist myself, so we connect easily on that level. We got together one afternoon during his visit to Santa Monica to discuss his artwork. If you can't view the video above, here is the link: Paul Masse 書道 Shodo and 水墨 Suiboku

If you didn't already know, Paul has studied Japanese Calligraphy or 書道 Shodo, Japanese Ink Painting or 水墨 Suiboku, and Japanese Pottery. He has even been reviewed by Hatsumi Sensei! Wait till you hear what Sensei said about his work…

He was kind enough to share some of the feeling behind his work as well as some tips for beginners at this style of art. If you train in the Bujinkan, or are an artist yourself, I know you will find a lot to be enthusiastic about in our video.

Paul Masse, kickin' it in Santa Monica

Paul Masse puts Dante in some weird Yoga Bondage
I was lucky to organize some last minute training when Paul Masse called me a few days ago to say he was going to be in Santa Monica.

Paul has traveled to India recently and studied yoga in Rishikesh. He was overflowing with an abundant need to share (or torment) us with some of his unique yoga experiences. So we began with Paul's 柔軟体操 Juunantaisou by way of India.

In between our normal taijutsu study, Paul would insert yoga experiences throughout the day. At one point when I looked around at everyone who was groaning as they tried to get into a pretzel, I raised my fist and said, "damn you Paul! Why did you have to go to India?" Even though these yoga poses were difficult for me, I gained a lot from Paul's enthusiasm.

As far as the taijutsu went, it was fantastic. Paul moved very quickly through concepts and henka to present the feeling he wanted to convey. If I had to pinpoint a theme for the day, it would be that kyusho are everywhere in the kukan and we attack them with kyojitsu..

If you know the meaning of these words, then you may realize what a deep idea this becomes. Someone asked Paul what kyojitsu means, and he worked hard not to fall down an ontological rabbit hole as he tried to explain. Simply put it means the interplay of real and unreal, or true and false in the moment. But the hard part to get your head around is that the real and unreal exist simultaneously, all the time, and everywhere.

After a yoga break, or was it the neti break, or maybe the handstands break? Paul focused on using the hanbo. Or rather, not using the hanbo. He and I spoke in some detail about our experiences in "not using" weapons and he riffed on that for the rest of the day.

He described one end of the hanbo could be the kyo, and the other could be the jitsu. His uke's might get hit with either. He shared the concepts of 中途半端 chuuto hanpa, and 決まってない kimatenai with everyone as a way of "not using" the hanbo.

At the end Paul did some calligraphy for us. He brushed out kamiwaza for me and did a variety of others for everyone there. He shared some of his new artwork with us. To my eye it was more refined than ever. Some of it was based on gokui. This matched up with the whole day as Paul was dropping the gokui on us with gusto!

Thanks for your visit my friend...

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