Will You Step Aboard the Boat to Win the Fight?

電柱 Denchuu in front of Bujinkan Hombu. photo by Michael Glenn
Hatsumi Sensei spent all class trying to teach us muto dori. This is not unusual. He mentions muto dori in almost every class. He has been doing so for years. It makes sense, if you are not there when the attack arrives, then you have successfully defended yourself.

We were lucky tonight. Soke was teaching us how to use our legs and footwork for muto dori. People sometimes think Hatsumi Sensei is talking about psychology, or he is using metaphor to talk about esoteric ideas about disappearing or being invisible. Well right now he just wanted us to move our feet, dammit!

But move them in a special way.

He said to step "浮舟のごとし"  ukifune no gotoshi. This means to step like you are stepping onto a floating boat or pontoon. How does one step from the stable dock onto a boat?

If it is a small boat, raft, or canoe… you step carefully. Any big or unbalanced movements will rock the boat or tip it over. If you are in a fight, the boat is your opponent and his intent on attacking you.

You must step by subtly shifting the balance from the stable, dry, safe land where you stand before being attacked… to the unstable, rocking, dangerous boat of the fight. Then you will be on board.

When you step like this onto an actual boat, the boat barely moves. You transition and become part of it. Its motions in the water are now your motions. Anyone who has been in a canoe or kayak knows what I mean.

Some people step off the land like doing a cannonball. They disturb everything and make a big splash. But they also make a big target. They will have to fight hard to stay above water or not get killed by the attacker.

Practice stepping onto a boat. Or a skateboard. Or a balance bar. Onto ice. Onto rice paper.

Shift your weight through the knees and joints. Then shift your consciousness to be on board and floating with danger. Take the ride like the little duck I wrote about here: Fudōshin 不動心 or Fudōshin 浮動心 Floating Heart?

And then step back to safety and stability. How does it feel?

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