自然力 Shizenryoku in San Francisco

San Francisco from Alamo Square, photo by Michael Glenn
I was preparing for my seminar in San Francisco this weekend, and I wondered, what is the best way to share the feeling I have gotten from Hatsumi Sensei this year?

I have told my own students that I don't know how to teach this year's theme. But that is no longer true. After my trips to Japan this year and a lot of study in my home dojo and elsewhere, I have had some breakthroughs and insights.



Damion tabi shopping in Noda, photo by Michael Glenn
My friend Damion was very gracious to help organize a day of training in San Francisco.  To help people who were there to connect in a deeper way to their experiences, here are notes about what I shared on Saturday. But these notes can also be useful to any of you studying the 2014 Bujinkan theme.

We can start with the basic concept, "don't use your own power or technique." But if not, what do you use?

It is best to approach this question from various paths. For each person and moment there is an effective path. When I help students explore more than one path we may find it together. And if we are lucky we can stumble to a path Soke has pointed out to us, 神の道 kami no michi.

I wrote previously about 神韻武導 Shin Gin Bu Dou and creating space for it in your training. But there is a natural progression for this that students of different levels may take. The first is moving from technique to 自然力 shizenryoku or the path of natural power.

1. Power in combat is not what you deliver, but rather what is felt.


The forces of nature are far greater than any of your muscle. What natural forces do you have at your disposal? Which powers of nature can you summon to your aid? The first that we all learn about is gravity.

It seems that nothing needs to be said about gravity. But far too many martial artists use muscle where gravity can do the job and do it better. Good technique, leverage, and bio-mechanics all address this. If you only study these, you can go far.

2. Power in combat is greatest when the source is not perceived.


Hatsumi Sensei told us that training after godan is mienai keiko. Unseen training, invisible training. Some other natural paths in combat are psychology, strategy, and kyojitsu.

The fastest strike is the one that is not seen. The scariest enemy is invisible. And the toughest combat of our lives is with ourselves. Bring all of that to bear on your opponent.

Strike in ways that cannot be perceived. Disappear or make yourself zero so he doesn't even know to fight you. And reflect back or magnify his internal struggles. Give him no easy choices.

3. Real power cannot be understood.


Soke continued by telling us that after mienai keiko we pass into wakaranai keiko. This is training that cannot be understood. He has been saying this all year.

In class, he says if we don't understand something, that is good. It is purposely not understandable. He said things that are understood will get you killed.

Think of a natural disaster or even random violence like a bombing. Why some survive and others do not is incomprehensible. No sense can be made of it.

This is the path Soke wants us to find in our training.

So it is with Shingin, you connect to this incomprehensible force. You get on the same path with it and invite it into the kukan. Live in that place where you've found it or created it.


A big thanks to Damion and my friends in San Francisco. It was fun training with you. I look forward to the next one!


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