The Hidden Kūkan for Bujinkan 無刀捕 Mutōdori

山田 記央 photo by Michael Glenn
It was the normal chaos at the Bujinkan Honbu dojo. The training had just ended, and everyone rushed to get their photos with Hatsumi Sensei. I rushed to my notebook.

I did this because Soke finished the class with a huge surprise for his teaching of 無刀捕 mutōdori. He showed us 空間を作る kūkan o tsukuru, or how to create space. So I scribbled a note about the hidden location for this opening before that secret disappeared into the night.

Earlier that day, I had gone into Tokyo to visit Norio Yamada-san. He makes 江戸手描提灯 Edo Tegaki Chōchin, Edo style hand painted paper lanterns. He called to say my order was ready to pick up.

It never occurred to me that there could be a connection to Soke’s teaching later that night. Hatsumi Sensei said,
“You’re not evading, 空間  浮かす Kūkan ukasu, you’re floating the opponent in the space.”
If you’ve ever held one of these paper lanterns, they feel like you’ve caught light and air itself as it glows softly in the night.

Hatsumi Sensei catches swords like that. My training partner, Tezuka-san, swung a metal blade at Soke. And this is when my surprise arrived. Soke told us,
“Don’t do this with 刀意識 Tō ishiki.”
This means don’t put your mind or consciousness with the sword. Remember this is 無刀 mutō and the sword is nothingness. Instead create or open up the kūkan and float your opponent in it.

But where is this kūkan? It's the space in the opponent’s mind or consciousness. The physical space is only so big, but the kūkan in the mind is infinite. Control that space and you have already won. Tezuka-san said it feels like Hatsumi Sensei catches him in between thoughts.

Soke nodded and said,
“You have to know those spaces, those openings, those little cracks…”
When Hatsumi Sensei creates kūkan between your own thoughts and floats you in that empty space, you are very exposed. Anyone who has attacked Hatsumi Sensei might relate to that blanked out feeling. Whenever he asks me to describe it to the other students in the Honbu dojo, I fold up like a paper lantern.

Bujinkan Theme for Spring 2019

Bujinkan 提灯 Chouchin, Hatsumi and Takamatsu Sensei's 位牌. photo by Michael Glenn
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 Soke added the third idea of rebirth.  He said humans are born, then die and are reborn. This is Sanshin.

Every practice of mutōdori should be like this. Especially the Godan test! You must die under the blade to do proper mutōdori, but then you are reborn when you survive the attack.

We explored these ideas further with the kata 奏者 Sōsha and 引脇差 Hikiwkizashi. And we even did some basic 歩き方 arukikata and 足運び ashihakobi with the katana. This led to weapon retention henka.

All of this was to come at one idea from different angles. Because Soke told us,
“Wrap him up in the 空気 kūki. That’s everyone’s study from now on.” 
We took a small break to have tea and springtime mochi (ひとくちすあま和生菓子). There was lots of silliness and dojo humor which I cannot share here! But this seemed to energize everyone for more training.

The students went hard with the kata 虎倒 Kotō. Everyone really got the spirit of what Hatsumi Sensei called 気合わせ kiawase. This is a matching or meeting of the attacker’s energy.

I shared my experience of attacking Hatsumi Sensei in Japan. He used the principle of 意識出す ishiki dasu. You remove your own intention from doing any technique. This is when the students said it felt like I disappeared!

Yep, that is how it feels to attack Soke.

Please study with us or go to Japan to keep your training fresh and up to date. If you are part of our dojo, or connected to us through Rojodojo, I think spending time with these Bujinkan themes during your Spring and early summer training will make you a better Budoka!

RSVP: the 夏修業 Natsu Shūgyō will be July 28, 2019

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