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,
精神が己であり、己が精神でありまして、精神から離れた己はなく、己から離れた精神もないわけです。
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.

八方睨み Happonirami: Stop Staring at Me!

Daruma with 八方睨み Happonirami eyes, which way is zen? photo by Michael Glenn
I grew up in the southwest United States. Where the desert sky is so big that at night you feel like you can run away from the moon. This feeling grows while driving very fast. You feel as if you are pulling away, but then you look back and the moon is following you.

In Japanese there is the phrase 八方睨み happonirami, which means staring in all directions. There are many famous paintings of dragons and phoenixes with eyes that follow the viewer.

Maybe you’ve seen a creepy picture like this. No matter where you stand it seems to be looking at you. Hatsumi Sensei has even painted Daruma this way.

But happonirami is also a way to ward off evil. By watching in all directions, you are vigilant and can see the enemy approach. How do we do this?

One key is to not look at any one thing or dwell on technique. Unfocus. One day Hatsumi Sensei told us,
“Don’t look at the attack. Don’t watch it. If you try to evade, block, and take a kamae you will be too slow. Be like stardust in the sky.”
If you go stargazing (放心状態 houshinjoutai), you become abstracted or dazed out. You lose the self and any technique along with it. Your mind can be empty and clear like the starlight.

But don’t focus on attacking or defending. Don’t let your gaze fall on any one spot. If you do, your mind becomes cloudy.

Another day Soke told us,
“You're not looking at a specific place to kick. You're feeling where to kick. In budo you don't use your eyes to look at a specific place.”
In Bujinkan training and in all martial arts, there is the problem of perspective. When you study something deeply, you get too close to it. You don’t see the bigger picture that might be obvious to someone on the outside.

We have a phrase in English that says when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Or, if you hold a gun in your hand, every argument looks like a target. Someone who doesn’t have a hammer, gun, or martial arts will find a different solution that could be better.

Most fights are over something that only the combatants care about. Anybody watching the fight might just be amused. That is why the crowd gathers.

Arguments occur because people get attached to their position. Instead, don’t take any position, or you take one that allows you to see a bigger picture… Like 傍目八目 okamehachimoku, which means having the perspective of a bystander. Or, 岡目八目 okamehachimoku, that suggests you can see in all directions from the top of a hill.

Have this distance or perspective to see the big picture. For example, if you watch sports you often see more than the players do. Some people even yell at the TV because they saw an opportunity to score that the players didn’t see.

We have a ninpo gokui in our Kukishin Ryu Densho about the moon,

    月影の いたらぬ里は なけれども 眺むる人の 心にぞすむ
    Tsukikage no itaranu sato wa nakeredomo nagamuru hito no kokoro ni zosumu.
    

    Though the moon shines all over the world

    Leaving no corner in darkness,

    Only those who gaze upon the moon

    Appreciate its serene light.


Make your technique soft like moonlight. Disappear like stardust. Not only will you see from a great distance above everything, but you take on the ephemeral quality of magic and nothingness.


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