” There are no short cuts when learning budo!”
Soke Masaaki Hatsumi
Training is personal. The concept of teaching budo is something that cannot be thought of lightly. We cannot just decide to think of new concepts and change the training just to suit our own desires, or limited way of thinking. Budo is not a sport. Yet, people approach teaching budo in the way of a physical excercise or a sports science. Some people believe passing on the martial arts is as simple as learning new teaching methodologies and instructing like a school classroom.
Soke constantly tells us to find a good teacher. What does he actually mean by this? Does it mean someone that can take you through each waza of the densho step by step with undiluted detail? Or, is it someone who possess the ability to follow the path as directed by Soke with sincerity and conviction? The list can go on and on and on.
I remember hearing or reading Soke mention that there are many types of people who are out there studying the Bujinkan. These particular people manipulate or bastardise the training to fit their own personal desires or needs. They add to the training what they think they already know. They do so in order to try and make it better, more appealing to the masses, or easier to understand. Soke called these people the ” under-developed types.”
What is important, as stated by Soke, is that only once you can become transparent and rid yourself of these desires, that you can start to actually understand what is necessary to truly study the martial arts.
Being natural and coming to accept your true self is of utmost importance. Takamatsu Osensei said that Magakoro ( sincerity ) was the most important aspect in order to commence studying budo correctly from the beginning. If we do not enter the training with ” a true love for the art “ and ” a working knowledge of the self “ then we will eventually move off in a strange direction.
As we know, Soke and the Shihan allow students to show their true face. This is a wonderful way to see who people truly are. If we were lined up like a karate-do class and everyone threw 100 punches and then 100 kicks and went home, it would take longer to come to an understanding of the character traits of each person training in your dojo. So, in this “free manner” , Soke is able to see those who truly practise well, don’t practise at all, have a good heart, hold misconseptions about training, values, morals, etiquette, and on and on. This is the Shugyo of the teacher in many regards.
What is important as a student, is to understand that every moment is a learning experience and a possible test from your teacher. If you don’t think this way, then your teacher cannot help you. Their teaching will fall on deaf ears. Ignorance is of course bliss on occassions but, you will never gain the true teachings of your teacher, even if you think you are.
People that already have concepts and beliefs of how things are being done or why they work, are already in their own mind and have stopped learning from their teacher. They may be able to copy them to a certain degree but, they will only be able to develop as far as the conditions they have set upon themselves. These conditions are often believed to be guides to true advancement, but if they hold a corrupted heart, their true self will emerge and eventually sabotage all that they believed in. Therefore, it’s important to rid yourself of ways to better this art, or make it more understandable. By doing so, you are developing your own way ( even if you don’t think so ).
There are so many minds out there that think they know ” the correct way “. The correct way is the way of the ” soul “. It is my feeling that it is our duty as martial artists to remain straight on the path by following the way of the soul. The soul does not waver in emotion, it does not waver from increased knowledge from intellectual study. It’s base is who we are. It’s from this base that we speak our truth. This truth will be seen in our everyday life, and also in our budo training.
Soke is teaching us a budo that holds life sacred. We are therefore learning about life through our dojo training. Maybe the dojo could be called the ” life Dojo”? In saying that, it already is. The Bujinkan is the name Soke gave to his practise of budo as given to him by Takamatsu Osensei. He respects his teacher as a ” divine warrior “. This is a perosn who has seen the truth of life and death and had gone to heaven. Isn’t this the ultimate teaching? Soke once was told by Takamatsu Osensei that he would never become a meijin ( master ) but instead a tatsujin ( complete person ). What a compliment. In my eyes, to become a complete person is in fact to become a master of life. If one is a master of life, than he has obviously gained a masterful understanding of the ways of war.
This maybe is the reason why soke moves us away from the urges to become kata collectors, historians, philosophers, relgious fanatics, etc. The underlying essence of budo is to understand life. We are lucky that he is teaching us this aren’t we!
Eventually, ones true self will emerge and people will then be able to see ones true heart. Through training, we meet and experience training with many people. Many of these people, especially in Japan, are from differing countries and bring with them the “feeling” of their unique cultures, way of life, and values, etc. Over time, we come to see that the “feeling” that enters our body from relating with them has nothing to do with race, color, religion, etc. What we feel is the heart and soul of that person. We feel what it is that makes them human. This is the great thing about everyone coming together and training as human beings. This is what budo is about. Reaching the core of ourselves and that of our nature as humans.
Soke stressess the importance of developing in a balanced way. I think by following and listening closely to our teachers in Japan, we can do this. If the Japanese shihan have been able to pursue training and maintain positive progress in life and budo with Soke over 30 -40 years, then all we have to do is trust them.
Blind faith is not what I’m talking about. It’s simply being able to naturally and with balance, discern the right way for true development. I think it all goes wrong when people bring too much of themselves into the dojo. By this I mean, their cups are already overflowing. Soke says that these people may continue with budo, but never really understand it because they are unable to “let go” of themselves.
People give Soke their money for training and think they are learning, and even personal students. However, they are not. They are learning what they want to learn. Soke has also said that there are people that pay and train but are different. These people actualy get the pearls.
It’s important to be able to see the people that are actually getting the training from Soke, and those that are believing they are.
I personally do not believe that Bujinkan Budo can be taught effectively ( in all realms ) from a sports science point of view. If one does, they loose the life and human aspect that is necessary for true development. Concentrating on physiological parameters and scientific frameworks defining human movement is a manner that disrupts ones search for the “essence” of all things through ” feeling”.
There are many ways to approach training. I feel that one has to search for the truth by living with conviction and endure through ones doubts and trials. Soke admonishes us to “keep going” in the training no matter what our life situation is. This is a life art, so we must not distinguish it as a seperate study, hobby, or job. Budo is life and life is budo. They are the same.
Soke was told by Takamtsu Sensei that there is ultimately nothing different between people who study martial arts and ones that do not. The only difference is the heart.
To discover ones way in the martial arts / life, we must just continue with a positive mind, heart, and spirit. This purity will teach us many things. Patience and natural living seems to be a key points here too.
Getting back to training in physical techniques, I strongly believe that practising kata and forms are an integral aspect of learning an art and tradition. Therefore, we should not neglect the kihon and waza that form the densho. Soke and the shihan have all studied the basis of the Bujinkan for many years, and continue to do so. They can all do the waza and that is why they are the masters we see today.
People have missing links in their training, as do I. If we a serious about learning, we will honestly look at ourselves and see our shortcomings. That is why the basics were performed at the last Daikomyosai. Nobody can do them!
I will complete this page with words spoken from Soke.
I have trained myself and instructed others in Kihon Happo (basic eight rules) and felt that those who have had previous training in Karate, Judo, Aikido, Kung Fu, and other fighting techniques tend to stay with those forms and have trouble learning Budo Taijutsu from a “blank slate.” The fighting forms stay with the student even though he starts the training of Budo Taijutsu. When do the previous learned techniques disappear? I think it is up to a person’s individual talent. The phenomenon is just like a dialect disappearing after one lives in a different part of the country.
No matter how hard one tries, he will never be a professional announcer if he speaks in dialect. The same can be said for Budo. I also studied various martial arts such as Judo, Karate, Aikido, old-style Budo, and Chinese Budo. In other words until I encountered Takamatsu Sensei, I was a Budoka (martial artist) with many dialects. One day I began to wonder why and when did I lose those “dialects?” I realized that it was after I lost all my muscle tone after five years of illness.
Discovery of your own dialect is one way of improving Budo. When one reaches a certain degree of skill, he comes up against the “wall,” something he has trouble overcoming. This is the so-called dialect of Taijutsu (body technique).
I want to write about how to train yourself when you reach a higher rank during Budo training. I would like to use a Cat Competition as an example. I have had lots of experience in the competition because my wife served as judge of the World Cat Club and I was also vice chairman of the club.
Suppose five top cats are chosen out of hundreds of cats. All of them are wonderful and beautiful, but that alone cannot be judged. With no other way to judge which cat is more beautiful then another, the judges start to look for faults. The one with the most faults drops to fifth, the next, fourth, then third, and so on. The one with the least faults becomes Grand Champion.
Bugei is the same way. If one reaches to a higher rank, he need only eliminate his faults. It may sound easy, but eliminating faults is very difficult to accomplish, because we tend to think we are faultless. Faults can be translated into something different in Budo. They can be suki (unguarded points), or carelessness, presumption, arrogance, etc. – they all become our fault. No fault, zero condition is the best. I am ZERO. I joke that the Soke (Grandmaster) has no Dan. Zero, no fault – that is the target of Bufu Ikkan (living through the martial winds).