Hatsumi Sensei's 道祖神 Dōsojin NSFW Except in Japan

The 道祖神 Dōsojin at Hatsumi Sensei's House, photos by Michael Glenn
Last month in Japan, I gained a deeper understanding of genitalia. It started with the male form. But luckily Hatsumi Sensei paired it with the female for me.

Before I describe what Soke shared, let me explain my first phallic encounter.  A local guy from a certain neighborhood told me about 鬚神社 hige jinja (beard shrine). I was intrigued because I thought I had seen all the shrines in this neighborhood.

He took me to 聖天島 shōtenjima where (土俗の神様 dozoku no kamisama) a local folk kami is enshrined on the island. The island was surrounded by brown, dried out lotus plants in their ugly fall phase.

I followed him to the edge of a moat. There, across the water, was what appeared to be old ruins. We walked across a small footbridge. He pointed at one statue that looked like a giant penis.

But why was it called hige? He told me I had to look at the back of it. I shimmied on the tips of my toes along the edge of the moat to get a look. The ura side of the statue was a depiction of 役行者 En no Gyōja who usually has a beard.
Phallic 役行者 En no Gyōja statue, photo by Michael Glenn


En no Gyōja is the founder of 修験道 Shugendō. In this statue, his pilgrim's cloak is wrapped around his head and shoulders in such a way that from the omote side he looks like a large cock!
Phallic 役行者 En no Gyōja drawing from here
This made me and my guide laugh out loud among the wilting lotus leaves.

He told me that back in the Edo jidai, the neighborhood was known as a place for lovers. There were lots of 出会い茶屋 deai chaya or teahouses that offered sexual services, or where people could have a secret rendezvous with a lover. People may have prayed at the shrine for virility, fertility, or even to protect themselves from disease.

A few days later I went to Soke's house. He showed me the far corner of his yard where there were stones representing male and female genitalia (see top picture). These were examples of 道祖神 Dōsojin, a traveller's guardian deity. You can find these monuments throughout Japan. They often portray a couple in embrace or even lovemaking. But often the stones are in the shape of phallus and vagina.

There is an interesting connection with En no Gyōja. First of all, he was a legendary traveller. Second, he had two servants named  前鬼 Zenki  and 後鬼 Goki. They started out as demons but En helped them become human and now they are a married couple representing yin and yang.

When I look at portrayals of Dōsojin that are of the embracing couple, I am reminded of Zenki and Goki. 前鬼 Zenki means front demon, the yang, like the phallus image I was greeted with on the island. 後鬼 Goki is the behind demon, ura, yin and maybe represented by the parted and open robe or cloak.

So next time you are training with Soke and he paints a big phallus, or a kunoichi with a red vagina on your scroll, maybe he is wishing you safe travels! If you are lucky, no one will ask whose bed you sleep in during those lonely nights in Noda.

潜在意識 Senzaiishiki: Enter Into Subconscious Bujinkan Training

My friends walk into the Shibamata Sun, photo by Michael Glenn
Tuesday night I was in a class with Hatsumi Sensei at Ayase. I watched him throw somebody without touching them. Then he taught us an aspect of toate no jutsu, or striking from a distance.

These things are extraordinary to witness. But it is important to look past the miracles. Because it is the way he taught us these things that holds the key to understanding them.

Soke asked one student to explain what it felt like. The student said that he didn't understand what was happening to his own body. Soke replied that if you could figure it out he would be troubled by that. And then Hatsumi Sensei addressed us all,
"We're studying these things which can't be understood. Although you don't understand it, you might understand in your subconscious. 潜在意識 senzaiishiki, the subconscious, is the most natural part  of your consciousness. Since it's the most natural part it connects to juppo sessho."
Our unconscious training is like an iceberg. The conscious part is the small bit you see above the surface. The 氷山の一角 hyouzannoikkaku, the tip of the iceberg. But what is hidden beneath?

Conscious learning cannot possibly hold all of the Bujinkan, all of the 9 schools, all of the kata, even more henka, all of the knowledge from previous Soke, hundreds or even thousands of years of human experience.

This is why Hatsumi Sensei told us, "I'm not doing technique, I'm changing it into the subconscious. I'm teaching in a way that will be absorbed by the subconscious."

So how do you unlock the subconscious learning of the Bujinkan? One key was repeated again and again over my last two weeks here in Japan. Seno Sensei called it 分散 bunsan during one morning class when he showed my training partner Mats Hjelm and I how to receive a sword cut.

分散 Bunsan means to scatter or disperse.

In another class, during an attack, Hatsumi Sensei said to dissipate each other's strength and power. And another time during a throw he said, get rid of your body. in the middle of it just throw yourself out. It is important to dissipate your body and create this space. This is a type of 体変術 taihenjutsu.

This kind of scattering or breaking up in all directions is like safety glass. Safety tempered glass has outer surface in compression and the inner surface under tension. When this balance is broken, it crumbles and shatters in a web of small pieces. This is much safer than the splintering shards of plate glass.

Doing this in combat makes your opponent crumble and his attacks become harmless. But more importantly, you do this to your own intention or consciousness. You scatter it and dissipate it. Then you will have access to the huge unconscious ability that you have inherited from Soke and the Bujinkan.

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