構え Kamae of the Hunter

Michael hunts toys and candy. 駄菓子屋 Dagashiya, 柴又 Shibamata
Recently I was studying the kata 水鳥 Mizu Tori. The name of this kata means waterbird. The 構え kamae even mimics the pose of one of these birds.

I am a birdwatcher and have observed many waterfowl over the years. When I see them freeze very still in the water and strike this pose, they soon dart out and catch a fish. It is a hunting kamae.

We don't usually consider kamae as hunting. Normally we think of their defensive properties. Or maybe we train some offense. But hunting? That really creates a different feeling. Because it suggests strategies of stalking, stealth, and deception.

If you're a skillful hunter (rather than just an accidental or lucky one) you know that you become one with your prey. You think as they do, mirror their movement. A natural form of 自然の構 shizen no kamae grows in you.

This is how we evade the sword of our attacker in Mizu Tori. Move in accordance with his cut. Make small movement like the focus of a bird's eye as he stalks the fish.

In Mizu tori, you take a risky position with your 潜型 moguri gata. There are only a few reasons to ever take this kind of risk. One is when you are caught unprepared and you dive down as a desperate escape. But another is for deception while hunting.

And maybe most important is what happens to your body and mind when you assume this type of kamae. During tense situations, people sometimes hold their breath. Tension caused by apprehension or fear can move through your body, locking it up along with your breath. Fear can even shut down the mind.

Instead, let awareness take over the same space occupied by fear. Simple attentive watchfulness of your opponent or prey as you stalk can push fear out of your mind. 虎視眈眈 koshitantan, watch your prey vigilantly. Then you have pure awareness, which is the right kamae for this moment.

You take a kamae of life or death. The moment where you decide to kill your prey. You may also decide not to. Hatsumi Sensei tells us often to protect life and not to go for the kill.
"万一獲物が死に絶えれば、狩人いなくなるだろう。If the hunted should perish, the hunter would, too."
Your kamae gives you this choice. Remember, kamae can also be translated as your position or attitude. The wrong kamae leads to death.

You can watch this preview of my 水鳥 Mizu Tori video if you'd like to see more.

The Art of Disarming With 十方軌喝 Juppo Kikatsu

Discarded Tabi Along Route 3, 県道3号線. photo by Michael Glenn
Hatsumi Sensei gave directions of how to do a kata. I needed these instructions desperately. Because the opponent has his sword ready to cut me down, and I do not have a sword. How do I not get killed?

Soke's instructions are,
「門空一閃、十方軌喝で取りをとる」 "a flash of nothingness, the art of disarming with juppo kikatsu." 
Yes. Right. That's what I was going to do anyway.

But, before my opponent kills me, can I ask a question? What does that mean? I'm not dead yet, so I will try to understand.

I was working on this in my class the other night. I surprised one of my students with the way I captured him. He said, "It didn't feel like you had anything until you had everything."

A flash of nothingness. You yourself become this emptiness. Zero.

This is what allows the room in the kukan and in yourself for this year's theme of Shin Gin to be real. This has a funny effect on your opponent. It may cause him to falter or freeze. Like a flash across his mind he is trapped in a moment.

Then you take the entire space, his body and weapons, and the entire spirit of the opponent.

If you've ever seen one of Hatsumi Sensei's opponents afraid to move, this is because he feels attacked from all directions. There are threats from ten different angles. Every escape appears cut off or filled with pain.

When I've done this to someone, it is amusing from my perspective. Because it feels like nothing. But the opponent is wrapped up in it and can't move. This is Juppo Kikatsu.

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