Skip to main content

Hatsumi Sensei Tells Us to Study the 空気 Kūki

My study of 空気 Kūki on the train platform
Advanced Bujinkan training is a mysterious path. It’s not often that Hatsumi Sensei reveals what he himself is studying, or even that he tells us directly what to study. So when he does, we should listen.

In a recent Friday night class at the Bujinkan Honbu Dojo, Soke told us we were continuing to study 真剣白刃捕 shinken shiraha dori. This is catching a live blade. He demonstrated this against various swords, knives, and even the rokushakubo.

But what happened next was a surprise to all of us. Nagase-san stabbed at Hatsumi Sensei with a knife. Without touching him, Soke waved his hand through the air and the knife fell to the floor. Nagase next lost his balance, stumbled, and dropped one hand to the mat to catch himself.

Soke told us, “全体くる意気 zentai kuru iki,” or, that we should take his whole spirit like this. Easy for him to say! But how do we begin to understand this type of training?

From the outside it appears fake. I completely understand someone who watches this thinking that it would never happen to them if they stabbed. But from my own experience, when you attack Soke, he takes away your will along with your weapon.

Hatsumi Sensei knows how critical this is. He told us,
“This moment is important. Because in just one moment you die. It’s kukan. It’s 自然力 shizenryoku."

Shizenryoku is the power of nature itself. What force of nature can we use? What can we draw on inside the dojo or out?

We have the empty space, the 空気 kūki, the mood in the moment, or just the air itself. Hatsumi Sensei uses that in every movement. And the results are always surprising. I wrote before about how to fill that empty space with 空き Aki

After I watched Nagase-san get disarmed without being touched, I assumed this was a one time thing. I felt lucky to witness it. But Hatsumi Sensei did it again in the Sunday class!

He once told us teachers not to teach, and I think he follows that rule himself. But he is working on his own training in every class. So when he told us what to study I was listening closely,

“Wrap him up in the 空気 kūki. That’s everyone’s study from now on. That’s good enough right there. 全体まあね空間でら Zentai mā ne kūkan de ra. The whole has to be in the space. Practice that.”

I think that should give me a lot of homework when I get home to my own dojo. I expect to surprise my students with this. And my own surprise will be in the discovery. I will do my best to follow Hatsumi Sensei’s example.

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…