How to Use 精神 Seishin to Rearrange the Body

Michael Glenn visits 鬼の子の木 by 熊澤 未来子。Ichigayatamachi, Tokyo
I watched as Hatsumi Sensei brought his really big, central European opponent to his knees. He did this somehow without force. Even on his knees, the guy was almost as tall as Soke.

Then Soke snapped a sharp kick to a kyusho on the man’s leg. He yelped like a hurt pony. As he twisted to get away from the pain, we all saw that it was a trap that Hatsumi Sensei had set to pin the guy’s other leg.

How does Hatsumi Sensei break down bigger opponents so easily?

Maybe you’ve heard Hatsumi Sensei’s recommendation that we drop technique. Or not to focus on technique. Or that technique is a trap.

For many people who attend a martial arts class, this seems counter intuitive. We came to class for a reason. Why would we be there if not to learn technique?

Many martial artists get stuck at this level. They are happy obsessing over their technique and endless variations of it. You know the type, the ones who argue endlessly about the “correct” way to do kihon. Or which lineage is the “real” one.

Soke has in mind a larger purpose for budo. The purpose of growing human potential. We come together in the pursuit of martial arts to polish each other’s hearts and be polished.

But the mirror of the heart gets clouded by thoughts of technique, rank, of winning or losing, of honor or proving oneself. To study with a clear mind you must drop all of these thoughts. Kakusan Shidō, founder of Tōkei-ji said,
“If the mind does not rest on anything, there is no clouding, and talk of polishing is but a fancy.”
This is the approach of the pure spirit of 精神 seishin. Seishin is the spirit or soul, heart or mind. This is the part of you that defines yourself. Hatsumi Sensei says,
Seishin is the self, the self is found in seishin. There is no self apart from seishin, and this is why seishin doesn’t exist without the self.
In martial arts study, we try to teach this part of ourselves through the physical means of budo. Fighting your way to enlightenment may seem odd to an outsider. But combat has a stark clarity. And it quickly cuts through the noise of ego to hit your body and affect your spirit.

There is even a ninja secret to protect the spirit. Have the perseverance of Ninniku Seishin: "hiding spirit" hide your intentions, don't show off everything, be patient, wait and endure to succeed. This is how you protect seishin.

One of Takamatsu Sensei’s teachers, Toda Shinryuken, The 32nd Soke of 戸隠流忍法 Togakure Ryū Ninpō, said,
 己を空にして, また体に配す
One must empty oneself and then arrange the body again. 
Arrange the body again? What does that rearrangement look like? This cannot be explained or even thought about. It is what Soke wants us to study with the Bujinkan theme for 2015. Hatsumi Sensei has not even spoken much about it, because it really is beyond thought, beyond words.
“Think the unthinkable. How to think the unthinkable? Be without thoughts, this is the secret of meditation” Dogen Zenji
This is also the secret for the student in the dojo. Have you ever had training like this? Try it next time and you might see what your teacher is really teaching beyond techniques.


Jesse Kirschner

Beautiful concept. Can this idea really be "understood"?

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