Ishiki Kara 意識空: How to Disappear Completely

Rearview Graffiti, Ameya-Yokochō アメヤ横丁 photo by Michael Glenn
You should know when you understand something and when you don't. Have enough room in yourself to acknowledge it. When you don't, you are trapped in yourself. And you will not learn.

If we go beyond what Hatsumi Sensei calls 一般的 ippanteki, 初歩的 shohoteki - the general, rudimentary or surface level of what we think we know there are many treasures to be discovered. For instance, these very words I write have power in them. It is a transfer of meaning from my thoughts to yours. This power should not be ignored or taken lightly. Do you know how it works?

Hatsumi Sensei refers to this as 口伝言魂 kuden kotodama. This is the spirit or power of language. But it is not simply about thought. This same phenomenon can be harnessed in self defense. This 目的論 mokutekiron or teleology of kuden can be for the sake of survival.

An example is found in muto dori. You don't simply evade the strike. You disappear. But how does one do that, practically?

Here's how Hatsumi Sensei describes it. He says "意識空 ishiki kara" which is making your intent, consciousness, or self disappear.  Or he says  "意識を避ける ishiki o sakeru", or even "意識を割ける" which is evading the consciousness or intent of your opponent, or simply separating from it.

These methods of hiding the self or evading and enduring are ninjutsu (意識を忍ぶ shiki o shinobu) and stem from the same power that we give to words. It's not a question of avoiding at a specific geometrical angle or by so many centimeters. This is another dimension of evasion. This is not a purely physical phenomenon.  

This subtle effect of 隠身遁形の術 onshin tongyou no jutsu comes from 天津鞴韜 amatsu tatara and teaches us how to disappear.

Two of the Best Ways to Hold a Weapon

Japanese Plow (notice grip), 1914-18 photo by A.Davey
There is always a lot of curiosity about how to properly hold a weapon. Different arts and schools have their secret or preferred methods. But there is a simple way to understand gripping a weapon.

You may have seen the practice of linking fingers in shinto (こりてくみ koritekumi, みてわざ mitewaza), or in mikkyo (手印 shuin). Two common variations are 本手 honte for yielding or being gentle, and 逆手 gyakute for vigorous strength. 観音菩薩 Kannonbosatsu often assumes the honte finger position for mercy, while 勢至菩薩 Seishibosatsu applies the gyakute method for wisdom.

So we may apply this to 手の内 tenouchi and holding a weapon:

  • If you are gripping honte style, hold the weapon across your palm with the middle finger and thumb coming together. This method is preferred for freedom and flexibility.

  • With gyakute, you may shift the weapon in your palm so the index finger and thumb come together. Gripping in this fashion shows strength and power.

That's it. Most other variations are specialties for very specific situations or for specialized weapons. You may try to get tricky, but human hands have been holding tools and weapons since our ancestors first grew thumbs.

Of course what I'm not sharing is the knowledge of how or when to use these grips. You must speak to your teacher for that. Only real training can fill in the blanks.

闘多 Touta: Many Fights Lead to Peace

観音寺 Kannon-ji Cemetary, photo by Michael Glenn
It makes me laugh when I hear that someone has "modernized" or "updated" our training methods for modern times. When I hear about the latest guru, self-proclaimed master, or "Shihan" that has reinvented what he never understood in the first place, I can only shake my head. Where do these people think our techniques and the foundation of our art came from?

The trials of warfare and turbulent Japanese history have been like a bloody form of natural selection for the techniques that survived into our time. Those that didn't work died on the battlefield. Which of these modernized systems have been tested in life and death combat over hundreds of years?

But beyond actual technique, there is a quality inherited by fighters that may also be in our DNA. Hatsumi Sensei describes it this way:
"In the long history of natural selection (淘汰 touta), or many fights (闘多 touta), we have survived  because of our killer instinct."
A killer instinct supersedes technique. It can make even bad technique brutally effective. But modern warfare has proven that this too, must evolve.

The modern expression of killer instinct is death for all. Including the killer. Whether this be from weapons of mass destruction, pathetic suicide bombers and idiots with guns, or apocalyptic shock and awe.

What should a killer instinct evolve into? Hatsumi Sensei has suggested a path forward. He tells us that the process of honing the killer instinct leads to an expanding of perceptions and clarity of mind.

Eventually one reaches what Soke calls 超感覚の世界  choukankaku no sekai, or the world of super consciousness. This is like a sort of ESP or greater awareness that moves us beyond concepts of life and death struggle. How does this apply to your training?

You must train tirelessly and simply. Throw away that which you don't need. You will then find a quintessential goal of training which Hatsumi Sensei says is to:
"purify your heart, and gain the calmness of a fresh spirit- then you will know peace of mind."
When you reach that place in class, or in your life, what is on the other side? Well, 超感覚 choukankaku can be read as transcending emotions to wake up. If you have woken up then you will naturally "strive to change the world from one of war and massacre into a true and great world of peace."

I respectfully thank our teacher, Hatsumi Sensei for this inspiration.

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