Following my seminar in Reutlingen, I travelled north by train across the beautiful countryside of Germany to Gottingen. Awaiting for me on the platform was my good friend Oliver. It was good to see each other again.
Oliver and his family, Henning and myself at a Thai Restaurant in Gottingen.
Oliver had lived and trained in Japan for nearly 8 years. While in Japan, Oliver studied for his PHD. He recieved his Doctorate and was quickly asked by a University in the Yokohama area to follow through with his very important studies of researching the evolution of man and other organisms through DNA. Oliver is a great martial artist and has alot to offer with his Taijutsu and knowledge recieved while living in Japan. Oliver has the heart of a bugeisha and moves within his environment and around his peers,family and students with respect and integrity. Soke states that one must develop as a man in a balanced way and wield the pen and the sword with equal determination. Oliver has followed these teachings and now holds doctorates in the ways of the pen and the sword. Oliver is an excellent example of Saino Kon Ki.
I strongly urge those in Germany ( and around the world ) to train with him when you can!
That evening we had budo practise at his dojo. Everyone in the dojo is very highly educated and are high standing members of society. The feeling of a ” real desire to learn” was evident in the conversations, actions, and overall demeanour of the participants. Immediately I knew that the seminar was going to be very rewarding and enjoyable for all.
Seminar Day One Participants
The following day, we commenced the seminar. It was my desire to try and pass on feelings and thoughts that have been growing in me from being open to this years theme of Saino Kon Ki and Nawa no Kankaku. I passed forward with conviction a current belief - Only from a solid foundation can we aspire to tread the true path of budo and obtain real skill.
Jyumonji no Kata – Koshi Kihon Sanpo
I believe that standing naturally and moving in a natural manner, allows us to appreciate and understand what being human is all about. Being human is the basis of taijutsu. We must understand our own body and through training gain control of everything. This is Shin Gi Tai Ichi.
Training naturally, and using our natural power generated from the posture innate in man, we can freely move and perform taijutsu without stress on our bodies. The ultimate aim is to move as naturally as breathing. I remember hearing Soke state this.
Walking, breathing, and our heart beat is as natural as the wind blowing through our hair. The art of the ninja is the art of moving like the wind. The taijutsu of budo is transparent from its naturalness. By correct learning, our taijutsu will disappear from our consciousness, just like breathing, and walking.
Only through remaining natural in all areas can we come to appreciate that naturalness is the key to invisibility and all philosophical studies within the martial arts.
“We study budo to better ourselves. To master ourselves. This is the theme for this year – Saino Kon Ki. This is our ultimate aim. Our training is about “feeling” and moving to areas of opportunity. It’s not about being strong, fast, or making things look good. What matters is Kurai Dori ( life preserving positions ). The principals move you to this space. From the kukan you develop and hold, you have more time, can see and think more clearly, and naturally decide through the body the next best position for your life.”
My job ( as I saw it ) was to give people a sense and feeling of training as it is experienced in Japan. This is indeed a challenge. Therefore, I commenced the seminar by asking a participant to show a technique. This person was Heinz Meyer. He had travelled from his hometown in Bremen and it was nice to see him.
We freely changed the training according to the experiences and possibilities that were passed on through the open bodies and minds of everyone present. Just like Japan, the training at Nagato’s and Sokes dojo is based on the people present and training that day. We therefore Seized the day ( carpe diem ) and attempted to develop and advance on whatever we experienced – Saino Kon Ki.
Philip from Prague attended my seminar again and so did Cavin after just returning from Japan. It’s always enjoyable to have good buyu around you to support each others training. I felt that the higher judan ranks present helped me maintain a balance in the seminar and keep the good feeling of training in Japan alive. Thank you!
I also concentrated on ways to understand the kukan. This is very elusive, but very simple in some ways. I don’t state that I understand, but at my current page of training in life, I have opinions on ways to “feel” or gain an appreciation of the life space known as “the kukan”.
I integrated and explained the absolute importance of training well in the kihon. Good basics is a must for being able to see what Soke is talking about in his training. Even if we don’t understand fully now, our training will let us know in the future. The better you lay your foundations, the more simpler and consistently effective our budo will become. I believe this.
As I have said before, walking is an action that requires no thought. However, initially we all struggled and our body trembled as we took out first steps. Eventually through “keeping going” we could walk and reached the ability to literally go anywhere we wanted to! If we can’t walk, we use a tool. We learn it, and then our movement becomes easier and also stronger. Eg: driving a car. Basically all transport requires the use of the legs in some way. So walking is a life skill of extreme importance.
I believe taijutsu training is the same. Initially we struggle, but we finally gain a naturalness of movement free from the intervention of the mind. We then move freely without fear or doubt.From there, we learn various Ningu ( ninja tools ) to aid in our survival and protection. The use of the ninja tools has a basis of taijutsu and the use of the legs aswell.
Walking is of the utmost importance for the survival of man, taijutsu, and being able to wield a weapon.
As a result, I stressed the importance of not using kamae in it’s basic form in my seminar. I asked everyone to remain straight and true and walk with the posture of a man. We need to learn to stand tall while keeping our feet deeply grounded, yet flexible with the earth. Our natural body is at it’s stongest when we let it move as it should.
Through taijutsu training, we come to realise that this art is extremely humane in it’s approach and makes use of man’s natural body construct as effective as possible for natural self defence.
When a real life situation occurs, the body takes over. Whe adrenalin is released naturally by the body, our trained responces become more effective. For example: the art of shoten no jutsu or tobi no jutsu. I for one have experienced jumping and clearing a 6 foot fence when I was 17 years old in a moment when my flight or fight responce kicked in.
Maybe understanding the body and how it gives us energy in extreme moments can give us a further insight into the many stories of the ninja and their super human feats?! It’s very natural isn’t it.
The ninja apparently understood their body very well. Therefore, by understanding what they can do in life and death situations, they trained accordingly in techniques ( that with a spurt of adrenalin ) could actually aid them in jumping or running up a tree or over a high wall!
The week was fantastic. I met new people and was re-introduced to students I’d met on my first trip to Gottingen. We trained,ate,drank,laughed and talked together on various topics over the week. I had a very enjoyable time, but I feel the German food and wonderful beer played havic on my body. Now that I have returned to Japan, I’m on a strict diet and excercie routine!
We also travelled to train an evening with Heinz and his Shinden dojo in Bremen. We had an enjoyable training and talked over some beer afterwoods. Thank you Heinz, and I’m looking forward to next year!
Finally, I’d like to say a big thank you to Oliver. Our friendship has grown over the years ( largely due to eating and drinking at the Thai restaurant in Ayase I feel ) and we continue to have great conversations about budo and life.
My best wishes in health and happiness to Oliver, his family, and students of the Arashi Dojo. I’d like to thank them for their friendship, hospitality and support.