photo from Arnauds Blog
The first day begun with a moment of silence for the late Mark Hodel. We sat in gassho for him.
The morning began with Souke,Nagato and Noguchi Shihan demonstrating Yoroi kumiuchi with Yari and Tachi. Souke wore a Tokugawa Ieyasu Yoroi replica, and stated that that particular yoroi was designed to ” protect at any cost”.
It was asked that everyone consider this years theme when training and in particular address their training with the feeling of wearing yoroi.
The morning session ( for me ) was an interesting and unique experience. I was asked to wear my yoroi earlier in the week. As soon as I was told this, I remembered hearing Souke say in 2004 ” understand that your yoroi will be destroyed “. My yoroi was older and I knew this was going to be so.
My spirit was taken. I was disorientated. In fact, my yoroi felt like it was rebelling against me and attacking my body and spirit. My own yoroi became metsubushi and my own downfall. I realised that all thoughts about Souke were removed when I was having various parts of my yoroi torn from my body, twisted and thrown against me to lock up my body and soul. Souke was there, yet he used my Yoroi to make himself invisible. As a result, it became even more frightening. I knew Souke was close, yet could not tell where he was positioned or what he was doing. I could not see his weapons until I felt the blades on my throat,groin and neck. It was a completely debilitating experience that scared me ( literally ) for the whole day.
It became natural to change my ukemi. The way of falling is like Ryusui or crashing down like a wave of water and then rolling away like a cloud. One must adapt. Infact, I began to feel like a child again. I was having the feeling of rolling down hills and struggling to gain body control to stand myself up. This made it a very humbling experience. Souke made me feel like a child that was being scolded, yet told to stand to receive more punishment ( I hope this wasn`t really the case )
When you are incapable of controlling your ukemi, the yoroi can injure you. I also found that ( at times ) there was hesitation to fall before I could become aware of where my sword and yoroi was located on my body. I would then try to fall to “rock” myself back to a kneeling position.
I split my saya and bent my tachi while falling. I also lost parts from my Kabuto. Souke would then use them against me to stab or use as shuriken. Needless to say, my yoroi will need to be restored after this Daikomyosai. But, it was well worth the experience to be uke for him while studying Yoroi Kumiuchi!
Souke made a clear reference that the Bujinkan is not about “Japan” or only the study of Japanese budo. It is beyond borders and reaches directly toward the essence of humanity.We could refer to our budo as ” Sekai no Budo” - World Budo or ” Jin no Budo ” – Budo of Humankind. We are studying life through the medium of the military arts. And, this by no means restricts us to pure combative training. In fact, souke stated that it has been said that once you know the 18 skills of budo, you can be called a budoka. However, he made quite clear that this was the base from where the true study of budo begins.
In hearing this, it can be understood that we must therefore perservere through the 18 skills to attain the foundation for the real study. There has to be a foundation to an art. This is related to the learning process called Shu Ha Ri.
At the commencement of the second half of the morning session, Souke had 15th dan from various countries explain their study for the past year and then demonstrate an aspect of this. It was very interesting to hear, in particular, law enforcement personnel explain their usage of Bujinkan budo within the world of real fighting, etc.
There were also many godan tests and Souke stopped at a time to mention that 3000 people had passed the test. He asked that this person ( the 3000th ) and the 3001st person remember this.
The second day commenced with a large group photo taken by Sheila Haddad. I usually avoid from being near the front. However, there was no escaping this time while wearing yoroi. As a result, Holger and myself were at the front and to the side of the Shihan and Souke, who were all wearing yoroi. It will be a wonderful memory for all those who attended. I really hope we see it in the Hombu one day soon.
Souke then proceeded to demonstrate tachi waza with Holger in Yoroi. It was a great beginning to the class.
Senouh, Nagato,Someya,and Noguchi were all wearing yoroi and, using myself and Holger as Uke, they took turns ( Sannindori ) while using Odachi,Yari,Kabuto wari, and Tachi. I will say that it was an incredible experience and I was more than happy to have my yoroi destroyed by Souke and the Shihan. In fact, it was not a concern of mine at all. The concern was to just be natural and respond in a balanced way while suited in yoroi. The Shihan exuded a strength and balance in character and body. Approaching them in armor, was a formidable experience. I could feel the warriorship from them. They are true budoka, and it was obvious that they had trained extensively in yoroi over the years.
Holger and I were then told by Souke to stand in Hira Ichimonji no Kamae and kiai before entering into Yoroi Kumiuchi! We were told not to attempt a technique, but also not to hold back and give in. There was NO uke and tori. We practised freely and did our best. It was a great experience for us.
It was important not to grasp for a technique. It is a battlefield, you have to survive. This is the feeling!
As a result, I remembered back to the feeling I receievd from Souke on the first day. He used my yoroi and made it fight against me. I was helpless. So, I attempted to move with this “pragmatic” sence and use anything at my disposal. I even stripped away my obi to attempt to bind him. It didn`t work.Lol. Many other things happened in the moment. It is the concept of Ichi go Ichi e. This is crucial for fighting. You have one moment and one chance to make a difference and live or die.
Souke said that the way we trained was the way he wanted the 15th dan to train. Interesting.
After we had finished, the Shihan and Souke congratulated us and said that this Daikomyosai would be great memories for us. we agreed.
Souke also asked Senouh,Nagato, Noguchi,Pedro and Jack, to give their impressions or thoughts on the godan test. Pedro mentioned that many years ago that he was told by Souke to treat the test beginning as if you were ringing the bell at the jinja to awaken the gods and summon their assistance.
Noguchi mentioned that it is about Sakkijutsu and that the 15th dans must acquire ShinGiTai to truly grasp the manner in which to perform the test. The test is to give the 15th dan an experience to see if he/she has unified his body,mind and technique. It is a question of these three elements.
Nagato Shihan mentioned that you must believe that you are using a “real sword” an will cut him. The cut must be straight and true.
Jack mentioned that he wanted the receivers after passing to realise that the martial arts is about “life”. He said it is rather an oxymoron that we are learning to kill, yet strive to give life. The important thing is to understand it is about living and survival, not technique.
I was once told here in Japan that the test was actually an aspect of the “Mercy of a warrior” or an “Act of compassion”. Sending out Sakki is something a professional would not do. The actual sending of Sakki is a test of the jugodans ShinGiTai. That is, the unification of the spirit,technique and body. Giving “intention from Mu” and controlling the individual without touching them, is the highest level of budo. The role is for both parties to enter a state of Mu. So, one can look at the sending of intent as a warning that the sword is coming. By doing this, the jugodan is “trying to save” the reciever. It is thus an act of mercy.
As a result, we are told to seek a harmony with the reciever first. When this is achieved, we then break this harmony.
Next years theme will be Kihon Happou. Apparently Souke mentioned that he has changed the kanji. However, I didn`t hear anything more. It is very interesting to not that we are returning to the “root of budou”. After all these years of moving through the ryuha and the various weapons, we are now doing full circle and going back to the fundamentals. Well, we are either forming the kanji “wa”, and therefore completing an era of harmony, or we are going back to basics because noone can do them! Of course, we really don`t know until Souke personally tells us.
It is so important for us all to not forget ( in body and mind ) where our training comes from. There are people who leave the basics because they believe the structure or forms are not relevant anymore. Everyone is at a differing level of practice in their shugyou. But, the fact is, noone is beyond the basics.
On the last day, Souke asked the jugodans to comment about their feelings from the last three day Daikomyosai. My thoughts were that the expression of henka is teaching us the philosophy of Banpen Fugyou. If we can delve into various situations and learn from them, then we will be able to live life without surprise and therefore may realise this years theme – Rokkon Shoujo.
I also stated that I believed that the concept of Shu Ha Ri was prelevent in the evolution of the Bujinkan. If Souke had not entered the level of RI, then we may not have had the chance to experience this art. Ri, is to break with tradition and make everything transparent. The Bujinkan is now a “world budo”, not a Japanese budo.
An exceptional and very emotional highlight for the three days was the presence of some very impressive men. Brian from the United States has no legs and only one arm. He uses prosthetic limbs, however, he also trains without them. Everyone was amazed and moved by his ability to move with his limbs and without them. His wonderfully heartfelt and honest words to the participants of the Taikai moved many to tears. He was awarded the Gold medal by Souke.
Steve from England is bound to a wheelchair. his teaching and demonstrations were exceptional. A great lesson for us all. He was able to control his distance while also using his wheelchair as a weapon and obstacle to control his opponent. Steve was also awarded the gold medal.
These men are ( in my eyes ) avatars of the Bujinkan heart. They have perserveared and endured through extreme hardships ( in all realms ) to continue living and pursuing life with passion and vigor. Bufu Ikkan.
The party was a great party. Souke was very happy. I was really happy to have the chance to perform on stage with Nagato Sensei. He said he had never sung in public with the Shihan or Souke in 30 years. It was his surprise to Souke. I think he did a great job and, everyone was pleasantly surprised!
The after party at hub was fun as well. Many great conversations and lots of drinking.It was great to meet again with so many wonderful buyu from around the world.
Everyone, good luck and the best in health and happiness for the New Year.