Don’t rush to understand the teachings in the dojo. The most important thing is Bufu Ikkan!
As we sat togehter at a restaurant in Noda after training at Hombu, Soke sneaked in with Shiraishi san and sat opposite us. We were all suprised, not from seeing Soke, but by the fact that he had entered the room without anyone being aware!
Soke changed tables and sat with us all on the tatami. We all ordered and drank. It was a great afternoon and after two glasses of Sho chu, I was pleasently rested.
To train in budo is to learn to understand that you gradually learn to realise how much you don’t understand! Many people would like to pass on their teachings as masters. However, for the majority of the martial artists within the Bujinkan, regardless of rank, we all need to keep training and worry about the roots and not the flowers.
Soke mentioned that for those commencing training with the tachi this year, it will take five years to reach a level where you can actually teach it. I think it is probably ok to “transmit” what you have seen and practised at hombu, but to actually “teach ” it, would be a mistake.
Even those who have had previous experience with the Japanese sword, will need to change their mind set when studying the tachi. It would almost be fair to say that studying the way of the japanese sword would get in the way of understand the tachi.
First came ken, or chokuto ( straight blade tachi ), secondly came the spear, thirdly came the gun ( teppo ), and last of all in the era of the Tokugawa shogunate, came the katana. The evolution of weapons was a result of natural changes in society. This is important to understand.
Soke also mentioned that the era of the tachi was the era of the sanshin no kata. The sanshin tsuki is infact the basis for learning to thrust the tachi. It teaches the correct movement of the legs,body and arms in unison to thrust and make use of the curve of the tachi.
During this conversation, I asked Soke if the Shoshin no kamae of the sanshin no kata was related to this. Soke said “yes”.
In this era, we practise mainly from unarmed attacks and from right handed attacks in fundamental practise. We thus being in hidari shoshin no kamae to recieve the right handed attack with our right hand in boshi ken at our obi. In this era, we carry guns and other weapons or tools that are generally carried at the right hip for the right handed person.
In the era of the tachi, the samurai would have the tachi slung at the left hip and would control the saya by holding it in the hand with the thumb protruding in preperation to draw the sword. Hence, we have boshi ken at the left hip when performing the shoshin no kamae.
Budo is about weapons and therefore weapon retention. The initial attacks we recieve when practising the gogyo no kata can be seen as possible attempts to claim the opponents weapon. The parries are to disrupt this attempt and, give the tachi weilding person the time to draw.
Soke mentioned that the Bujinkan is the only art that changes with the times/era. The essence is maintained, while the techniques evolve with changes in weaponry and unarmed combat methods. Other arts don’t do this. They are stuck in specific era’s in history, and don’t change. Therefore, their art is dead and is not functional in todays society.
Please closely think about this. “Will the way you train in the dojo be effective in real life?” and ” Are your movements still based from basic structure, or evolving to protect against the modern day attacks of fast and skilled fighters?”
Many people move to avoid a strike with a large angled step. This is not only slow, but leaves your lead leg out as a target for a skilled kicker. This is where we have to look seriously at our dojo training. We face an era of sports fighting and highly trained athletes. We are not facting people in hakama or yoroi, of which slows ones movement. The type of weapons used are usually small hidden and concealed wepaons and not that of large battlefield clubs and spears.
If you look at Nagato Sensei and Soke, they move very natural, up right and with a neutral feeling. Of course, there are many aspects and variables in training. I am but choosing an aspect that I feel is important to think about in regards to the evolution and continuation of the Bujinkan.
Soke and Nagato Sensei move their entire body from the attack and not just one part. Moving correctly is to control everything and have no openings. Distance, angles and timing are one and the same. They are in fact, when used correctly, our shield or guard. In conjunction with te sabaki ( kamae ) we can control the upper and lower parts of the opponents body while maintaining correct distance so we can use our weapon freely.
People often say that the kihon happo kata are shinken gata. They try to show that they are. But, all they do is try and do it faster and stronger using the same form. This is not the point. The point is that each waza has specific lessons to be learned and that it should not be believed that the technique will be used as it is practised ( in a form ) in real life. In a real situation, you may at various moments, according to the dictative movements of the opponent, use many lessons from many waza. You may attempt an omote shuto, and then be forced back and held. From there you try to kick ( hicho ) but, you re blocked. You then move using jodan uke to avoid a counter strike. From there you hook the second punch and execute ganseki nage. As you can see, you are using many aspects of the katas, but not in any specific order or form. This is a very basic example of course.
From this, we can see that “henka” is what is crucial to understanding budo. It’s not about understanding the form, and nothing but the form!
What I have described to you is in fact the training we do with the Shitenno and Soke. We are performing “randori” and, making use of the fundamentals of our art in more realistic situations. Does this make sense?
Training ( as Soke said ) is about Shugyo. We are all on our own shugyo.
Soke said Rokkon Shoujou is also about obtaining a high level / position in life/budo where people can’t laugh at you.
Be patient and keep going.
There is no rush! ( isoganai de )