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.

Bujinkan Jūdan 拾段: In The World

In The World, 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
Bujinkan Kyūdan 九段: Reaching the Source

Now as a Jūdan, you may stroll casually through the dojo, yet your steps are not misplaced.
Woodblock print by 德力富吉郎 Tokuriki Tomikichirō
 入鄽垂手 In the World
Barefooted and naked of breast,

I mingle with the people

of the world.

My clothes are ragged and dust-laden,

and I am ever blissful.

I use no magic to extend my life;

Now, before me, the dead trees

become alive.

I have abandoned the whip and ropes

All ideas of shuhari 守破離 have been swept away. Anyone still in the cycle of shuhari will not see the source of your freedom. Simply,
"You destroy whatever needs to be destroyed, you subdue whatever needs to to subdued, and you care for whatever needs your care." - Chögyam Trungpa
As one who has reached the peak of our Bujinkan training experience or found enlightenment as in the Oxherding poems, you appear remarkably unaffected. You have internalized our art and this is reflected purely in everyone you meet. In this reflection you see wonderful taijutsu expressed by any student of the art.

This stage is one of freedom. You don't consciously show any signs of ability or seniority. Nor do you adhere to any rules, forms, or training regimen. Yet simply and without striving, you express mastery.

Hatsumi Sensei quotes Confucius, "Those that understand play have life's greatest treasure."

It is strange to no longer show any skill. Skill is too limiting and you have slipped free of that trap. Yet you are a great help to others who may be seeking skill. Students grow just by being around you. This is Shinden 神伝.

Some may turn away from you or critique your abilities. You reply with a smile. Tenkataihei 天下泰平, all is peaceful under the heavens.

People expect that someone of your level will have incredible skill and almost supernatural technique. You know those skills are there but realize they are actually ordinary illusions and even unnecessary.

Your pure state is reflected in everyone. As you shine forth, anyone may collect some of your light. You simply help anyone you meet to grow and learn. This happens naturally without concern for compensation or worry about who accepts your help.

Hatsumi Sensei says that Shōsan had the feeling of "The heart that thinks of oneself, suffers. The heart that thinks of others, is free."

This journey through Jūdan and the ten Oxherding poems and pictures was inspired by Hatsumi Sensei's teacup that has these ten drawings. He says as he sips from this cup, "It is the moment when tea and Zen are one."

And you are there like the moonlight reflecting in a hundred cups of tea. Each reflection is whole, yet nothing takes away from the moon itself.

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

Bujinkan Hachidan 八段: Both Bull and Self Transcended

Both Ox and Self Transcended, 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
So what kind of training do we do for Hachidan?

Woodblock print by 德力富吉郎 Tokuriki Tomikichirō
人牛俱忘 Both Bull and Self Transcended

Whip, rope, person, and bull -
all merge in No Thing.

This heaven is so vast,

no message can stain it.

How may a snowflake exist
in a raging fire?
Here are the footprints of
the Ancestors.

I have abandoned the whip and ropes

At this stage of our training we have reached the state of zero Hatsumi Sensei often speaks about. In the dojo we neither train nor not train. We neither attack nor not attack. We neither defend nor not defend.

By being in neither position we become invisible. This is an aspect of ninjutsu and disappearing in plain sight. It is difficult for students because they will never see what the teacher is doing or not doing. Teachers cannot really explain it to students because they neither teach nor not teach.

In the original oxherding pictures from India and China, this was the last stage. Kakuan fleshed these ideas out from his 12th century Zen perspective so that the emptiness of the circle would not be the final goal of zen. But what is the quality of this emptiness in our training?

We can borrow a Buddhist phrase and parody it here: We do not linger where there is technique and we pass quickly through where there is no technique. Stopping to admire technique or no technique is the same trap as being tied to the Ox or the self.

We become a person who is nowhere. Hatsumi Sensei describes this in what it means to be Soke:
"Soke" signifies nothingness, zero, emptiness, void. Something that exists, and yet does not. The Soke is just an ordinary person, and yet, somehow, he is someone who is living his life according to some invisible divine command. You see, I do not live by my conscious mind, not at all, so that whatever I have thought up till now can just suddenly change in my mind, though it is not a consciously engineered change."
And here is the same idea from Zen:
"A distinguished Zen teacher, questioned as to how he disciplined himself in the truth, simply said: 'When I am hungry I eat; when tired I sleep.' The questioner remarked that this was what everybody did and asked whether they could be considered as practising the discipline as he did. The teacher replied: 'No; because when they eat they do not eat, but are thinking of various other things thereby allowing themselves to be disturbed; when they sleep they do not sleep, but dream of a thousand and one things. This is why they are not like myself."
The emptiness of this stage burns away every thought of technique or no technique. It burns away any thought of attacker or no attacker. Defender or no defender. As the poem above states, dualistic and discriminating thoughts are burned away like a snowflake in a raging fire…

This is at the heart of 万変不驚 Banpen Fugyo, as Hatsumi Sensei describes, "It's where you're not expecting anything, but you're ready for anything. You're all potential."

At this stage we are connected to our ancestors and the Bujin.

From this place we will explore Bujinkan Kyūdan 九段: Reaching the Source

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