Quick! Change Your Bujinkan Training with 早替わりHayagawari

Kabuki Performer, photo by Michael Glenn
One of our Bujinkan gokui comes from the secret writings of Shinden Fudo ryu and it says, 
豹変して必ず勝つ hyohen-shite kanarazu katsu. 
"Sudden change will always prevail." This kind of change suggests sutemi or discarding the self.

Hatsumi Sensei tells us that this kind of change can come from the unconscious. He uses the expression 早替わり hayagawari to describe this quick change.  And it can lead to a complete transformation in combat, your Bujinkan training, or even your own life.

What is 早替わりhayagawari? Like many of the references Soke gives to us, it originates from Kabuki theater. It is a quick change technique for actors on stage. The tricks they used allowed them to quickly change from one occupation to another, male to female, young to old, good to evil, etc.

Sometimes actors would even play more than one character in a play. Then they would need tricks called 外連 keren to make a quick change on stage, or hayagawari. They might have one costume hidden under the layers of another. Or, the actor could add makeup to quickly transform his face. Actors used different masks over the face, or even 後面 ushiromen which were masks on the back of the head.

All of this calls to mind the ninja techniques of 変装術 hensojutsu. There were a number of stock characters the ninja might employ like a craftsman, priest or monk, traveling entertainer, or even a samurai! A quick change of mannerism, accent, language, or attitude could complete and really sell the effect.

Add to this other kabuki/ninja effects like 宙乗り chûnori, and you could fly. Or the tricks used for rapid appearance or disappearance of the actor. I saw a demo of some of these last April in 墨田区 Sumida and I was reminded of Ninja disappearing tricks I have learned over the years.

One secret to all of this is that by adopting the outward, physical change, there is an inward change that occurs. This is a secret for life. We learn it as children with our play and the art of pretending to be something you are not. Fake it till you make it.

If you want change in your training, or in your life, use sutemi and discard the self. Act the part. Take on the role. Learn your lines. Before you know it you will achieve 早替わりhayagawari. You might be more surprised than anyone else at how quickly you transform.


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