Skip to main content

Hatsumi Sensei's Use of 指先 Yubisaki

Hatsumi Sensei Directs Sayaka Oguri, photo by Michael Glenn

During one class in Japan I was shivering. It was so cold my teeth were chattering. We were indoors, training on a chilled hardwood floor, so my indoor tabi were little comfort to my feet.

Maybe that is why when Hatsumi Sensei smashed his opponent’s head to the floor, my frozen mind didn’t understand the very important lesson he shared with us. After my brain thawed out, I could grasp the message. He was teaching us about 指先 yubisaki, the fingertips.

I first wrote about this in my personal training notes which you can get here: http://eepurl.com/d0w_r

At that moment, my own fingertips were encased in gloves. And probably tucked under my armpits for the body heat. I watched Hatsumi Sensei’s uke twist on the floor in pain, exhaling vapor in the cold after each gasp.

Soke did henka from the kata 天地 tenchi. Heaven and Earth. But which comes first?

You strike low to 鈴 suzu, and this lifts your opponent to heaven! Then strike high with 手五指 te goshi to 顔面 ganmen. But with this strike, you slam him back down to Earth.

In my own experience, the kick delivers the opponent’s face to your fingertips. Then most people deliver this next strike like a 蝦蛄拳 shako ken. That does work, but Hatsumi Sensei shared a different strategy with us.

Soke constantly tells us to use the fingers to control (yubi osae). But this seems impossible when you have a strong opponent. Can one finger, or even all five, do very much? If you have ever been Hatsumi Sensei’s uke, you know he doesn’t do too much.

It is a very subtle thing. Hatsumi Sensei said 指取りをこみ仮り yubi-tori o komi kari, which is like placing a temporary hold with the fingers as an incentive. He applies a light touch or pressure that he interrupts with percussive strikes.

Soke also used the words 操り ayatsuri and あや取り ayatori. This suggests that he manipulates you like a puppet to line up each strike in quick succession. When Hatsumi Sensei does this to me, I never see the strikes coming, so my body is unprepared to receive them or defend in any way.

Each strike becomes more powerful. They arrive in an uninterrupted flow that you cannot escape. This is because Hatsumi Sensei steers you with his fingers!

But this use of the fingertips doesn’t end with striking. While grappling, Soke used the word 量るhakaru. This is when you size up your opponent. You estimate his strength and ability, as well as his balance or weakness.

Soke does this with subtle shifts in his hands or elbows while grappling. The fingertips control but also act like antennae. These light touches may or may not get the opponent’s attention.

Hatsumi Sensei chooses when he wants you to notice what he is doing. This is another form of control. He directs your attention even with his fingertips.

Soke does this often against a sword or knife. It looks crazy watching him manipulate the blade with his fingers. I think this is more 量るhakaru.

Once you find the measure of your enemy, his weakness will reveal itself. The feeling I get from Hatsumi Sensei when I cut at him with a knife is that he allows you to fall victim to your own weakness. He doesn’t need to do very much.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Noguchi Sensei Surprised Us With Gikan Ryu

They love to crank up the heat in the Bujinkan Honbu. I find it too hot on most days. But today I had been doing photography out in the cold pouring rain, so I found myself ready to embrace the warmth of the dojo.

Noguchi Sensei greeted me when he arrived. He normally shares a few jokes with me, but today he seemed very focused.

Less than 20 students were waiting for him to bow in. He did so promptly as is his custom. Then he announced we were doing Gikan Ryu kata.

I was surprised. In more than 30 years I have not been shown these from any teacher. In between kata, Noguchi Sensei showed me a tattered notebook with the kata handwritten in a numbered sequence. He told me these were his actual notes from more than 40 years ago when Hatsumi Sensei taught these only to him.

if you are interested, I recorded a video of my experiences for 特訓 Tokkun members of Rojodojo: Bujinkan Kuden: Gikan Ryu with Noguchi Sensei

The class was quick and painful. This is koppojutsu after all. But …

Iro 色: Attach to Color, Follow the Color

Many of you have seen Hatsumi Sensei's purple hair. Everyone wants to know what that is about. Iro 色 (color) is a very important symbol in Japanese culture and martial arts. Let's look at that idea first, then Soke's hairstyle.

In martial arts Iro 色 is something that can be observed. For example: the color of your face, color of your sword, color of your attack, color of your Kamae, etc. The opponent's attack or his desire to win is often times described as Iro.

I describe hearing Sensei refer to this on my blog post, Beyond Striking and Kiai Into the Mysteries of Toate No Jutsu:
I was at a Friday night class with Hatsumi Sensei in the Hombu Dojo when Soke described toate no jutsu as a kiai or projection of spirit (maybe 気迫 kihaku?). Sensei said it was like the color of your heart projecting into space. That color comes from your character or can be that which you decide to project. He said all this with his purple hair and made reference to Kabuki theatre in which a pu…

Bujinkan Theme for Spring 2019

The Bujinkan theme for our Spring training is set. Please study the idea 千変万化 Senpen Banka. This theme of innumerable changes is what Hatsumi Sensei gave us earlier this month.

When I returned from Japan, we held the annual 春修業 Haru Shūgyō  All of the students were focused and trained hard to grow from this season’s theme. Here is a bit of what we studied.

We warmed up with 初心五型 Shoshin Gokei. Hatsumi Sensei has had a multi-year focus on 無刀捕 mutōdori, so we next did 五行の型 Gogyō no kata as mutōdori! If you’ve never studied this, it will really surprise you.

Hatsumi Sensei gave us perspective on this kind of 三心 sanshin. In the Hagakure, a famous quote says,
武士道といふは死ぬことと見つけたり The way of Bushido is found in death. But Hatsumi Sensei told us this idea is often misunderstood. He said that in the Bujinkan we study the way of living, and to protect life. Soke said,
“武士道は生死生よう Bushido wa seishi seiyō” This is similar to 生死一如 seishi'ichinyo which means that life and death are the same. But So…