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Showing posts from October, 2012

鬼ごっこ Onigokko: Let's Pretend We Are Demons

鬼ピキ photo by w00kie One summer day we were having our normal class in the park when something interesting happened. As we were stretching, we watched a team building exercise that some company was doing in the same park as us. There were a lot of pretty women working for this company, so most of my students were riveted. They began a game of tag. They used the entire park. Most of them were athletic, so it was a very aggressive and and fast paced game. At one point one guy came to stand next to us. We were all lined up on the periphery of the field watching this game. I realized immediately what he was doing. Hatsumi Sensei tells us that "a person who understands play has life's greatest treasure." He says that in Kukishin-ryu this idea is taught as 鬼ごっこ onigokko (demon play) which is a children's game of tag. In this game the "oni" chases down the other children. As they are caught, they are "infected" and turn into oni. Until they all become

The Gift of 神輿 Mikoshi

東松山のまつり photo by w00kie How can I ever support this heavy beam on my shoulder? That's what I remember thinking when I looked at the 神輿 Mikoshi. I was intimidated by the size of it. Of course I was only 10 years old. When I was growing up, my best friend was Japanese. His mother invited me to go with his family to a festival. Suddenly I was being conscripted to be one of the 担ぎ katsugi or Mikoshi bearers! I didn't understand at the time what an honor that was. In Japan, not only is it an honor, it is somewhat of a civic duty to carry the Mikoshi. Hatsumi Sensei inherited the 34th Soke of 戸隠流 Togakure Ryū in 1958. He says that in that same month he carried the Mikoshi along the street. Someone found a Happi coat for me and helped me put it on. My friend's mother also found a karate kid looking head wrap that she tied around my head. Then they lead me over to the Mikoshi where it sat on the saw horses... I looked around awkwardly at all the strong men who were d

How to Read the 徴  Shirushi Taught in 口伝 Kuden

Hachiōji, Tokyo photo by LaPrimaDonna One morning during training, Hatsumi Sensei gave us an interesting 口伝 kuden, explaining to us the nature of the footwork we were using. He told us, "There's a reason for this movement of the feet. You're leaving footprints. And it's actually an indication (徴  shirushi sign;  indication;  omen) You're leaving a warning or an indication." Sensei wasn't just telling us about footwork. He was talking about a larger idea. And this idea is that there are subtle signs and hints everywhere for those who are awake, aware, or sensitive to them. You could take this at the surface meaning. For example, a hunter can see signs of his prey as he tracks it. So he follows the tracks to catch dinner. Yet someone who is not a hunter would never notice these hints. Or if you were thirsty, the signs would mean something different. You might follow the animal trails that lead to a stream. But the meaning Sensei was leading us to, was

The Kaname of Ninja Biken with Peter Crocoll

Peter Crocoll Opening a Door Friday I went to Coconino National forest for Peter Crocoll's annual campout. We were up at 7500-8500 feet in elevation in the mountains and the forest was beautiful. After our long drive from Los Angeles, I set up my tent quickly so that I could enjoy the wonderful mountain air and scenery. After a chilly night under the stars, I took a hike early in the morning. I lived in Arizona for most of my life and spent a lot of time hiking and camping all over the state. Returning to this air, this sunlight, this open sky… always feels like coming home and speaks to my body and spirit on a deep level. Saturday Peter's training topic for this event was "The Kaname of Ninja Biken." Training in this mountain terrain connected us to the origins of Togakure ryu in the mountains of Japan. I cannot convey all the details here in these notes. But I will present some impressions. In the morning, we filled the air and kukan with a sw