Dr. Kacem Zoughari Interview on Koryu, Ninjutsu, and Practicing
Martial Arts Magazine: Hello Dr. Kacem Zoughari, thank you for accepting to answer our questions. A lot of people from various martial arts have asked different questions for you and we’ll be very pleased if you could answer them.
Dr. Kacem Zoughari: I will try my best.
MAM: First of all, could you explain what a Koryû (古流) is, or what is known as Koryû?
That’s a very good question. The main translation known and used for Koryû by a lot of martial arts’ lovers and adepts, whatever the school or the style, is “old school”, or “traditional school”, “classical school”, etc. At the origin of the Koryû there is a master-founder, mainly a warrior or bushi, who after deep practice and various battlefield experiences, found a deep subtlety of using the body and weapons (in other words, to kill faster and stay alive). During the Meiji period, those master-founders will be named Sôke or Iemoto (宗家). In Koryû the masters use different modes of transmission, such as Shinden, Taiden, Kuden, as well as different writings called Mokuroku, Densho, Shuki,Hiden-sho, Kuden-sho, Hibun-sho (or Himon-sho), etc.
In order that the master will accept a disciple, who is also a bushi, a warrior, (there are also fees and presents from the disciple, as attested by various records), the disciple must have a recommendation letter (suisen-jô) from well known warriors or from the warriors of same sphere as the master, and write an oath call the Kishômon (起請文), where the disciple swear to never betray the master and the secrets of the Ryû. After a certain time, practice and trust, the disciple receives an attestation of transmission call the Inka-jô (印可状), which origin comes from the esoteric Buddhism’s (Mikkyô) transmission mode callInjin Koka no ryaku (印信許可之略). The Inka-jô was used in the Zen’s transmission.
Most sources show that according to the nature of the relation between master and disciple, the content of the Inka-jô, as well as the techniques transmitted, change. According to the period, the position of the master in the bushi’s class, his names, his skill, his motivation, etc., there are also many cases where the Inka-jô was sold. This presentation gives the general aspects of what a Koryû is.
But to be honest, I don’t really think that the translation « Classical school » or « Old school », really covers the deep meaning and all the different aspects (historical, philosophical, practical, ideological, sociological, as well as the human side) include by the word Koryû.
In Japan, in both worlds, scholar and martial arts, most of the people, masters (sometimes very high rank instructors, sôke (宗家), menkyo kaiden (免 許皆伝), practitioners, scholars, etc., often confuse actual facts with their own views, wishes, their own practice and experience, and can not really give a clear answer and explanation of this word.
Even if there are many factors in this confusion, it is very important to know that there are different types of Koryû. According to different studies and researches on various scrolls and chronicles, it’s easy to see that there are various Koryû created at different periods of Japan’s history. Some were created before, during and after the sengokuperiod; others were created during the three parts of Edo period (zenki, kôki and bakumatsu); and finally, a scholar must also consider the different Koryû created during the beginning of Meji restoration’s period. Because of all those aspects I personally think that translating Koryû literally as “old or classical school” is not enough when someone claims to be a scholar or a serious researcher in that field of study.
I can also say that which ever Koryû someone practices, he should be aware of the historical context, the reason of it’s creation, and the different changes (techniqueal, theoretical, ideological). Not being aware of all those aspects is, in my personal point of view, a kind of blasphemy or disrespectful attitude, as well as ignorance toward the art and the various generations who created each technique.
But lets come back to the topic of Koryû and try to explain or give a few different views. The word, Koryû (古 流) is made of two kanji : 古 (ko) and 流 (ryû). Any one can take a japanese dictionary or a kanji dictionary and see that the first kanji (can be read also :furui) means: old, out of date, old fashioned, outdated, archaic, etc. Same for the second one (can be read also: nagare, nagareru, nagasu, nagashi) which means: flow, run, rush, shed, flush, current, stream, etc.
It is very interesting to notice, even eloquent, that the second kanji does not mean or refer to, at all, the english word « School », or even in french, « école ». In Japan the word used for school is gakkô (学校), and the first mention we have of the word Gakkô (学校) stretches back to the Ashikaga family, famous Shôgun family from the Kamakura and Muromachi periods.
There are many theories about the creation of this school. The two mains theories are, it was created by Ono no Tamura during the Heian period (11th century) or by Ashikaga Yoshikane during the Kamakura period. This school is considered as the oldest of Japan, and is located in Ashikaga city, Tochigi prefecture. It was established to form and educate members of the shôgun family. High class monks used to teach mainly confucianism studies and Yi jin’s science, but military science and medicine was also taught, etc.
One doesn’t need to be a PHD in japanese studies to see that there is a big difference between the kanji ryû (流) of Koryû and (学校) from Gakkô! So if already in Japan the historical chronicles and diaries mention the word school, Gakkô (学 校), which refers to a place established and known where young boys from high class warrior families come to learn different disciplines (nothing connecting to Koryû) under professors (mainly monks), it’s easy to understand that there is a difference between gakkô and koryû.
I think that we can easily advance that Koryû does not mean « old or classical school », because in the history of the first Koryû of Japan, there is no indication of such a center, or established place, with the name of Ryû for a house or dôjô with administration, various teachers, fee, etc. We must wait until the Edo period and especially the middle of the second part of Edo period in order to see the settling down of places such as dôjô dedicated to the teaching of different type of Koryû.
It’s important to search were the first mention of the word Koryû comes from, in order to have an idea of what it means and how it has changed. It’s the same for words likeHeihô, Heigaku, Budô, Bujutsu, etc. Since Meiji until nowadays, in most cases, the use of the word Koryû is used to show the difference to the Gendai budô (Jûdô, Aikidô, Karate (different ryû of Karate) Kendô, etc.) created at the Meiji period.
Moreover, the first mention of the word Koryû can be found in different scrolls like in theKage-mokuroku (影目録), written in 1566 by Kamiizumi Ise no kami (1508-1582), founder of the Shinkage-ryû (新影流), as well in one of the oldest densho on Heihô orHyôhô (兵法) written during the Muromachi period, the Kinetsu-shû (訓閲集). In both, we can find the following words, Jôko-ryû (上古流) and Chûko-ryû (中古流). Those words are also used by Kamiizumi ise no kami in all his writings.
Those two words refers to two kinds of ryû : the Jôko-ryû represent the primary Ryû of Japan, from the end of Heian period to the Kamakura period. And Chûko-ryû represent the Ryû from the Muromachi period, like Nen-ryû, Katori shintô ryû, Kashima shintô ryû, Kashima shinkage-ryû, Kage-ryû, Chûjô-ryû, Shôsho-ryû, certain Ninjutsu ryû, etc.
According to the explanations found in those two scrolls, we can say that Koryû cannot be expressed by the word « School », but more by the word « circle » (like a private sphere of transmission and practice), « a private flow of tactics, strategy and combat », « way or vision of life based on battlefield and combat experience », « current of thought and use of the body », etc. This indescribable flow of using all kinds of weapon and applying any kinds of techniques to kill and survive, were created by professional warrior (killers, assassins, survivors, etc) who, for various reasons, dedicated their lives to the art of combat.
In order to have access to those warriors, to meet with them, to receive their knowledge, most of the record show that they did not have any known place, like a fixed « school » where they teach and received money. So in order to meet with them one must be introduced by someone, mainly a warrior (bushi) who has connections and relations, a kind of inner network exclusive to the art of Heihô (using weapons and body techniques on the battlefield, leading troops on the field, strategy, tactics, spying, etc.).
To be introduced, one must have a deep connection, and in order to have those connections, one must have a special position in the bushi class. It’s important to know that the one who had access to those masters, professional killers and warriors, were already warriors themselves, which means that they already had fighting and battlefield experience. For certain reasons most of those masters did not, completely, accept to serve anymore any kind of Lord or Daimyô (though certain chronicles and records mention that certain masters accepted to transmit or present their techniques to a few Shogun, Daimyô and Kuge).
They were free, their way of practice was free, so they could not have any place known, established, because in art of war, it’s important to never fix things, and this aspect is directly connecting with the Kanji Ryû; the flow, the art, the technique must never stop, always adapt it’self to the situation and period where the master lives.
This is natural, because the vision and the art they cultivated and practiced deeply was done everywhere, at any time, in a daily life. Also it’s really important to know that they did not have any kind of methodology of teaching, transmission, etc. They just showed, because it’s very difficult to cut the flow…very difficult…
As you can see, historically the first Ryû did not have known places; of course there were famous temples and sanctuaries where the founder learned some things, but nothing specific. Heihô, Bujutsu, were not taught in a public way. It was always private, deeply private. From that context it is very clear to understand the importance of different transmission modes, such as Ishin den shin, jit’suden, jikiden, naiden, gaiden, shit’suden, etc.
One important aspect to not forget at all about the word Koryû is that it will evolve and follow the time and the history. When the dôjô started to be established, the transmission opened to the public, there was creation of different levels, new methodologies of teaching, the selling of ranks and menkyo as well as scrolls… techniques developed, weapons and tools evolved for the practice, etc. The flow (Ryû) of the art would change in order to satisfy the demands and needs of the period. Sometimes the flow (Ryû) would stop or crystalize it’self… so we must wait for a new generation ofIemoto who could make the bridge between two periods and explain what the people, students, could not understand.
But the main and crucial point is to always keep in mind that this is in a warrior’s sphere, a bushi’s world, where the only question is « who can stand at the end of the combat? », « who has the capacity to fight, apply the techniques and adapt against any kind of style, man and technique, whatever the situation and the context?».
Being presented all those explanations, someone might think I did not answer the question » what is a Koryû » directly. First of all, I think it’s really important to give a large vision, some historical aspects about Koryû. The word Koryû cannot be just translated as « classical or old school » where, nowadays, a master who never challenges himself and presents himself like an old tradition guy that follow real samurai spirit, brainwashes his student with movements and techniques that do not work at all. The goal is mainly for money and self promotion.
Most of the time when someone deeply practices his art (Koryû, gendai budô, whatever the art or the discipline), he always looks through his master’s eyes. If the master has a very stiff, limited, fixed vision and look at other art as « shit », or underestimates others, well, you can be sure that the student will recreate this, and even go deeper in this limited vision…
It’s life, we need different kind of people, like there are different kind of Koryû.
As a conclusion, what i can say about Koryû is these two translations that represent what we can find nowadays in Japan among most of the masters:
1) « classical or old school, that teach an old way of using the body and weapons according to a certain historical context and/or a famous warrior’s knowledge. This knowledge or technique, can become fix and stiff with time and completely not adapted for the real world anymore, but still be interesting for various reasons. In many cases the body motions and the techniques are not good for the body’s health and do not respect the bio mechanics. »
2 « classical or old way of using the body and weapon that show a deep flow in order to develop and understand the human’s body and psyche through the experiences of various warriors (famous or not). Those experiences allow to keep an open heart and mind in order to always keep the flow (Ryû) running, to face any kind of situation, weapon, man, fighter, warrior, killer or style. »
Finally, for me, not being able to face any kind of style, man, weapon, situation, etc. with the technique and knowledge based on the flow (basic techniques of the Koryû that someone learns), is not a direct representation of what Koryû means and also what the founder had in mind when he founded the subtle technique and way of moving at the origin of the Koryû. In this way, the Koryû becomes an old style, stiff, fix, not real anymore. So not really good for the body’s health in a certain way. But like everything in life, everyone choose what he wants.
MAM: Could you explain if Ninjutsu is considered as a Koryû or not?
Here again I think that there is a lot of confusion, mainly based on ignorance and lack of practice and studies. It is crucial to be aware of the origin of the words and their meaning according to context and history. We can apply the same idea for the nature of the techniques and the use of the body through different periods in history. It is impossible, stupid and ignorant to say « Ninjutsu is a Koryû », in the same way as saying « Kenjutsuis a Koryû ». Or like some ignorant people who said that « Ninjutsu is or is not a martial art ».
This is because the two kanji used for Ninjutsu express a very general and wide idea, attitude, action, etc. Nothing very specific. It also changes according to the period and the way it was used. It’s the same for the words Kenjutsu, jôjutsu, iaijutsu, shuriken jutsu, jûjutsu, taijutsu, etc. This is the reason why most of the masters, instructors, etc., translate those word according to their own practice and experience. Even if I respect private and personal ideas or development, I must always keep in mind that this does not reflect the deep meaning of the word, and even not the historical reality and facts.
Those words do not express how, when, where, etc. For example, Kenjutsu means the technique, usage and art, of applying and using the ken (what kind of Ken, long, short, saber, sword, etc.). It does not give any information of how to use the Ken and what type of Ken.
It’s the same for Ninjutsu, which means the technique, way and art of applying and using « nin ». Even the Kanji « Nin » (忍) has different meanings and levels of understanding based on practice, experience, etc. The Koryû express the way, the how to, the flow of using the main tools, weapons or art. It can be Ninjutsu, Kenjutsu, etc…
So it’s more logical and correct to say that there are Koryû which propose Ninjutsu in their discipline or curriculum, and some Koryû which use Ninjutsu as main and exclusive flow of using the body and weapons.
MAM: Could you please tell us about how the practice of old weapons like, spear, naginata, sword (of various lengths) are useful in learning bujutsu today? Sometimes people might think those weapons are not relevant, not useful anymore…?
Well, it’s true that all those weapons are now completely anachronic and useless. This is what most people might think and even scholars. But it’s important to look at this according to a practical experience point of view. The use of the weapon as well as the weapon it’self teaches you the correct form, the right distance and measure, the right angle, the control, the accuracy and precision, etc. Because the use of weapons come directly from battlefield experience, where every movement can not allow you to move the way you want or act stupidly. In this case, it is easy to understand that one wrong movement, a wrong step, a wrong angle, a wrong form and you die or lose a part of your body.
If someone practices very deeply and correctly weapons, from both sides of course (right and left in the same way, in order to cultivate the right and ultimate balance requester in all Koryû), then he will also know all the right angle, weak points, timing, distance, space, etc without weapons. He will be able to move as sharp as a weapon. All those movements and techniques will be deadly, precise and accurate.
By learning the use of the weapon we learn to become one with the weapon, in other word we can materialize one of the Gokui we find in a different scrolls of Koryû : « the Form follows the Function ». In this way the body, the movement, becomes a weapon. This will also allow to find one of the ultimate level in Koryû, the economy of movement and not using excessive physical strength.
It’s not easy, but this is the process concealed in the history of various masters and founders of Koryû (according to historical sources, most of the founders were known on the battlefield for skills with long weapons and the number of heads they had cut). They started with long weapon, because on the battlefield, bow and arrow (used from long distance), naginata, yari and nodachi are very long weapons and are more accurate to kill and protect the body.
But once the distance or the long weapon is broken by the enemy’s weapon, in this situation one must be able to adapt and use what we have around the belt, or in the hand or on the field, what the place has to offer. From that experience, the disciple learns how to use any long weapon according to different situations that include various factors, and if he loses the long weapon, he must be able to adapt and use shorter weapon or the body.
After all, the hands and the body are the engine that drive the tools and weapons; if the body is well forged and cultivated, one must be able to face anyone or any style, with or without weapon, with no difference between. A lot of people always say « the weapon is the extension of the arm », but who can really show it and apply it correctly and effectively? Not to many, very few…
Actually the art of weapon should be done step by step, centimeter by centimeter, millimeter by millimeter, in order to grasp every subtle detail; each aspect of the distance, the space between the weapon and the aimed target, different timings, different rhythms, different breaths, and the capacity to read the movement and measure all the aspects of the combat. With deep and correct practice based on the flow and the image of the master, step by step the distance and everything become shorter and shorter, in order to become very close to the enemy in order to kill or control him. Here again we can see the materialization of the Gokui, « the Form follows the Function ».
It’s not easy to reach this high class way of using the body, just like it’s not easy to reach the level where it’s possible to move like a living blade through the art of weapon. But the art of bujutsu, heihô from the Koryû are not easy, because it’s made by the life, blood, tears and sacrifice of many masters. Yes, it’s really not easy, because one must be able to see and realize deep inside the body the common points between the use the body and different weapons, to finally be able to face any kind of style and man. I am really sorry if my answer is not too long. Be aware that it’s possible to explain more and present more historical facts and examples about this topic. But I don’t want to go to much further like I did for the explanation of Koryû.
MAM: During your various seminars you mentioned that Bôjutsu is especially good to practice; why is Bôjutsu so special ?
It’s not the Bôjutsu that is special, but how it helps to practice and to cultivate. It’s important to mention that Bô is not a battlefield weapon, because it will be broken very easily, and honestly only peasants would use it. In the battlefield, if you use a bô, it must be of iron or steel, like a testu-bô, or with metal reinforcements, nails, hooks, etc., in order to face a blade and other hard weapons. We should not forget that even long weapon like Naginata and Yari could be broken during the fight, so the capacity of using half of the weapon, what ever the length, is important in order to survive. From that situation, it’s easy to see that short weapons are deeply connected with the longer ones.
The art of Bôjutsu is deeply connected with the art of Yari and Naginata. It helps to cultivate a wide movement and see the techniqueal application in a large way and scale. It teaches how to be able to apply the techniques from a long distance as well as to be very accurate and precise. It’s also a weapon that helps to reinforce and condition the body, for a more precise way of using the body and to realize how the biomechanics of the movements work.
A very important point, perhaps the most crucial one, is that the art of Bôjutsu teaches to use both sides right and left in the same way, in order to not have one side stronger than the other one. This is very important in a real fight, because if someone is stronger and more accurate from only one side, if he gets wounded or deeply hurt on his best side, he won’t be able to adapt accurately to the situation. Every Koryû teach right and left, and the balance between them. It is really sad to see that in many cases, like in kenjutsu, iajutsu, jûjutsu, most of the people and even the master or the instructor practice and apply techniques from only one side, mainly the right side.
An other aspect we should not forget is that at a certain high level, the art of bôjutsuhelps to understand deeply the art of jôjotsu, hanbô-jutsu, kenjutsu, iaijutsu, kodachi andjutte-jutsu as well as other things. But it’s not easy, really not easy, to be able to make the bridge; only few masters could do it, and in the past most of the founders of Koryû were known for their expertise on various weapons and especially long weapons, which are more accurate on the battlefield.
There are many Koryû that teach Bôjutsu in their curriculum. In my humble opinion, they are all great to study and to learn; it should also be part of the practice of any Koryû to study each other, like masters of the past did. Here there is an other word in japanese,Kôryû (交 流), that expresses the relationship, the exchange between two masters. Whatever the nature of this exchange (great, bad, etc.) it’s good to see that Koryû (古流) = Kôryû (交流). After all, everything in life is about relationship, with people, animals, nature, life, death, religion (by the way the word religion come from the latin wordreligere, which means to be linked, to be connected, to be in relation with God or whatever someone believes).
Of course, if the techniques of Bôjutsu do not allow one to be free, effective, and to face any style, and instead leads to stiffness and limited vision and body… Here again, everyone is free to choose. Like in everything in life, it’s a matter of choice, master, art, women, drink, smoke, etc., but the choice always has a weight and a consequence on us and the people around. One must be very aware of that… it’s really not easy.
MAM: Is it important to practice a school in its correct progression?
« Correct progression » …well if you go to school, there are different classes, levels and of course a progression. Same in university studies and the education system. In the case of sport martial arts, modern martial arts, yes it is very important to practice in the right, and correct progression. Because it follows a scheme of school education system. But in the Koryû it’s very different. We cannot apply a western way of thinking to a japanese classical martial art. There are too many historical, sociological, ideological as well as cultural aspects and factors included. So the idea of « progression » is very different.
In everything in life, there is an order for learning, receiving, understanding and realizing things or an art. This order can be shown in various ways according to the capacity of the master and the disciple. Above I explained that people who came to receive the transmission from a master of Koryû were already confirmed and skillful warriors, bushi. In this case, what is, or what means « the correct progression »?
It is really important to think and keep in mind what the Flow (the Ryû) is and all its aspects. I think that the only progression is the process of practice and transmission itself. So in this case what is crucial is the capacity to copy and keep the image of the master alive in the heart. It’s not a matter or days, months or years, but more a matter of life and heart’s purpose through the continuity of the practice. To keep the heart and the intention clear all the way, not looking for the result or the progression. Because the rightness and pureness of the art are always reflected by the form of the disciple. So if he follows correctly the form and the image of the master, and becomes a part of the Flow, this is what is the most important.
I think that is more important than a « correct progression », because even a « correct progression » has a « roof », an « end », a « limit ». But being part of a flow, never stopping, there is no roof, no limit, no end. Because the word transmission, the Den (伝) in japanese, does not include or express any limit or end – it’s a Flow (Ryû). (Sometimes the one who give the Den can limit it, restrict it, transform it, etc. Here again it depends of his heart and intention, in other words, the master, the man, can make the art great or worse – it’s not anymore a matter of the nature of the Koryû, but more of the one who shows it).
In Japanese there are a few words to express the idea, the action of « practice », such asShugyô (修行), Keiko (稽古), Tanren (鍛錬), Renshû (練習), Gakushû (学習), Narau (習 う), etc. The famous one which include all the aspects of the Flow (which are to practice deeply, study, research, experiment, apply, act, repeat, copy, polish, reinforce, condition, etc.) is Shugyô. The second kanji (行) refers to the way, the path, to follow the path (the question will be what or who to follow?), the way where you accumulate various experiences. This word come from the religion of Japan and is very old. I honestly think it is really difficult and incomplete to translate Shugyô by « practice », « exercise », « training », etc.
Actually it is too much limited to use those translations. But like in everything, it depends here again of what you have in your mind and how deep you consider your practice. In order to consider oneself as a Shugyô-sha, it’s not about going to the dôjô for practice, doing seminars, sell few DVDs, rank people, promote oneself… it’s beyond that – even if the aspects that I just mentioned are considered a good test to see if the one who claimed to be devoted to the Shugyô did not corrupt his heart…
The idea behind the word Shugyô is close to the way hermits, saints, religious men, devoted men, monks, ascetics, etc. practice and apply their faith and prays. Everyday, every minute, action, talks, silence, breath, etc., are devoted to God, Buddha, or what ever they believe. So for the founder of Koryû, master or sôke, this the way they live their art, because in the kanji Gyô (行), which can be read iku or yuku (even okonau), there is also the idea of Flow, something we must walk with and become one with.
The other word included in Shugyô and crucial to every person who practice Koryû, is the word Keiko (稽古). Here again these two Kanji do not express the action of practice. Many scrolls use this word, but the one that uses it in a wide meaning is the scroll fromKitô-ryû jûjutsu. These two kanji can be read as « inishie wo kangaeru », which can be translated as « thinking about the past », « reflecting about/on the past », « meditating on the past, in history », « Pondering about the history, the past ». In other words, this means that the disciple must, think, search and research how the masters and founders of the past used to practice – use their body, for which different reasons, aspects, concealed and hidden factors – behind each technique, movement and kanji of the scroll.
What I wanted to present here is that the common aspect of the word « practice » is really more than just going to the dôjô, follow a logical order and repeat, over and over the technique or movement without a deep purpose or high spirit attitude. If you consider that most of the people in the Koryû’s world look what he wants and see the way he wants, what about the meaning of words like Shugyô and Keiko ?
Like in everything in life, there are degrees and levels. If someone is looking for the highest and deepest level of Koryû’s science and knowledge, if he wants to have a subtle movement and understanding of the deepest’s aspect of the art and become one with his master and the Flow, well the contract is simple – you must be ready to offer more than what you expect and more than you think you will deserve. And the more interesting in this, is that there is no guarantee that you’ll be chosen or even reach the highest level of the art. But at least, I honestly think that you will learn something incredible and priceless – the meaning of Patience and Humbleness, as well as the true Value of the Art. And this is already « Gold » on itself.
This is my point of view. Anyway, I understand the fact that someone who starts to practice a Koryû, an art or a sport, should start from the beginning and try to keep his practice constantly on the right way. This can be call a « correct progression », don’t you think so?
MAM: During the lecture you gave at the university, you mentioned to take care not to make a « form from a form » and that it’s important to try to practice the form correctly but at the same time take care not to become too fixed on the form. Could you please tell us more what you mean by a « form of a form » ?
This is not really easy to explain in just a few words, but I will try. In an easy way, it refers to a situation where the student, whatever his level or how many years he has practiced under a master, has the arrogance to do his own way from something he deeply believed he understood. The disciple is so confident about himself that he convinces himself that what he found or does is the form, the technique shown by the master he follows. In the Koryû system, the main pillar is the master disciple relationship. This relationship is based on a deep trust. The master shows something, a form, a technique, and sometimes he explains it.
The student listens and tries to copy. But the student or disciple can not understand, because he doesn’t have the same experience, curriculum as the master, even the same age. So the arrogance is that after a certain time of practice, the disciple thinks he has already mastered the form or the technique and deeply believes in himself that what he does is the same. But he forgets many mistakes and creates his own way, because most of the time he listens and tries to understand with his limited experience, his own education, religion, eyes, own vision, body experience, etc.
So what he saw is already « corrupted » and « contaminated » by different filters he has. Those filters’ nature depend on many factors, such as culture, ideology, religion, education, value of life, etc. Plus one very important thing which is the nature of the disciple himself, his character, the way he is deep inside. This is what will allow him to follow the master or to create his own way and leave the master as well as the flow (Ryû).
An other crucial aspect of the transmission is the real fact that the master does no tell him his mistakes or really corrects him. Because a disciple, who is an adult, should be able to correct himself and follow the right way without direct indication or explanation. Like i explained above for Kôryû, it’s not a school with the typical education system; people who had access were already bushi, adult, with strong experience and background. It’s not an education system – you walk with the flow or you die. The master does not have the time to correct you. The capacity to correct yourself just by copying is deeply connected with the capacity of surviving and evolving, which is one of the main points of the meaning of Ryû (the Flow) and all arts of combat, fighting methods, military science and strategy. Because if you can not adapt yourself, evolve with the Flow, you just stay attached to a fixed, limited and dead form.
The master can even just praise and push the disciple’s ego (which is a very good thing to see the true nature of the student and his desires), by saying phrase like: «You are very good, you are better than your senior», «you are so good that you have the same level as me», «you can be my next successor», «everything you do is great», «you have no equal», etc. This kind of situation happens even now. Human stays human, and when there are emotions involved, most of the time the disciple feels betrayed… But, what ever the reason or the situation, the disciple’s true nature and intention came out and finally he does just his own way, believing strongly that he is right. Nothing more.
Rather than being part of the Flow, he tries to create things by himself. Never forget that the form represents a sequence of the Flow (Ryû). This Flow’s sequence represent the image of the master (and the previous masters’s knowledge) that the disciple should never stop to copy, to re-copy and copy again – deeper and deeper without trying to analyze and/or understand in an intellectual way. This is the only way to become part of the Flow. It’s very rare when someone can do this; most of the time, and if he has the right heart quality and the necessary capacity, he is the next one – the one who will be the successor of the Iemoto.
The disciple wants or thinks he can perform (whatever the reason behind) that which requests time and experience (I should say a practice and experience based on quality of time rather than a quantity of time), also he creates a form from the Form he saw or believes he saw and understood. It’s like a baby who asked his parent to explain linguistics to him before learning how to repeat correctly the sounds, because he think he knows all the sounds… this is impossible of course. There are rules in the practice and learning of Koryû’s science – if someone wants to cross over, well there is a price that will be payed one day…
When the master is older and the disciple is young, this kind of situation is more clear to see, especially when the ego and the arrogance in the disciple are strong. But this is how it is and you can see this in many Koryû’s history and episodes (not only in Koryû, but also in art, religion, family, etc.). This is the big difference between the one who is chosen to be the next Iemoto, and the one chosen to be a Shihan (which is, by the way, not a old word in the Koryû’s history – the first words were Heihô-ka, Gunpai-sha, Shinan-yaku).
It’s important to mention that in the case of Shihan there are many kinds as well: stiff, stupid, great, lazy, cupid, crazy, clever, violent, arrogant, wise, gentle, fake, polite, over polite, etc… This is the reason why I use the word Flow (with a big F like always for me) which is by definition limitless, with no roof, unlimited… In a Koryû, in the master disciple relationship context, creating a form from the Form, is creating his own roof or limit and losing the Flow. This is also connected with the word Shihan-ke, the « Shihan’s house » or « the Shihan’s speciality », « expertise », etc.
This aspect is also deeply connecting with the Gokui I mention earlier, «The Form follows the Function». If the original « Form » learned from the master is the materialization of the Function of the Koryû, the materialization of the flow, well, if the student change the form because of lack of knowledge, lack of experience, or by arrogance, he might think he can do better and different (we all had this thought at least once!), and the form he’ll find will not be an expression of the Flow anymore and will not follow the function. He’ll create his own way, what is known in japanese as jikoryû (自 己流). « Own style, way, flow ». When master said this about a student or disciple, it’s never a good meaning. In this case, it’s easy to understand that the disciple did not at all apply the idea and history behind the word Keiko that I mentioned above. Or he just interpreted and understood in his way, all the possibilities are open.
In order to be more complete, there is one important aspect I should not forget. This aspect is called Kôfu Tanren (工夫鍛錬), that most of the records about Koryû, famous warriors and founders of Koryû, mention. This word refers to the capacity and the talent to go deeper in the Form received and practiced day and night, and the result of that deep practice (Tanren means to reinforce, train, discipline the body, forge the body like a weapon, in other word a constant deep practice) allows you to explore deeper dimension of using the body and the weapons.
The Logic in every combat science, military and strategy method is to evolve and to adapt to any kind of situation, weapon, enemy and of course, the period. Because the Form or the Flow created and practiced by the master is a reflection of this spirit and attitude of life, it is certain that if the capacity and the heart of the disciple allows it, if he is the chosen one, he will be able to see how the Form he received has already everything concealed inside. There is nothing new, just what already exists that the next generation,Iemoto, dig more, explore more deeper, always deeper… it’s the same aspect between father and his son. It’s really human.
One thing more, because I don’t want people to think or misunderstood my words and comments about Shihan. Don’t imagine one second that I don’t respect the level or title of Shihan. The position as well as the role of Shihan is extremely important in a Koryû as well as in the transmission. In the best case, he is here to protect the next generation (Iemoto) and help him the best he can to the Flow that he himself could not reach. Thinking about the other one rather than himself with out any kind of secret desire or agenda. Not looking to create his own way, school, system or try to show the real way that the previous master could not do or forgot for various reasons.
The Shihan is there to help and serve the next generation, by his advice, his memory and souvenir of the past, of the master, etc. It’s a great role and it’s not everyone who can do that too… The word Shihan is generally translated as, « master teacher » or « master instructor » (in other word not yet a master). But if you study more deeply the two kanjiof this word, you can read Môhan wo shimesu, which means « showing the model » or « showing the example », show the model – in other words, the one who shows the model (to follow). It’s a great responsibility to show what is correct, but one must have what is correct first…
Great or worse, bad or good, Violent or soft, weak or strong, what ever the character or the capacity of the Iemoto, Shihan, instructor, it’s all right. Because a Great master, a good master can not teach the wrong thing, because he is great and good by definition. What he does is correct. This why the disciple need also bad, violent, crazy, business type of Iemoto and Shihan, because they teach what a disciple should not do… The difficult things is to wake up, to open the eyes, to be aware – and this is not easy, because most of the time we look what we want, rather than what we really deserve… but this also is part of the practice.
Finally, I would like to finish by saying that the Form and Function are not fixed and must adapt themselves to the time, the period, the people, the weapon. Nothing is fixed or granted, this why it’s crucial to not create a form from the Form…
MAM: What does it mean to practice deeply? Practice the same thing over and over? Or by changing different attacks, weapons, etc., when exploring the Kata to understand more why is it so important to take care about introducing our own ideas?
Well my english is not very good, and I apologize for the mistakes I did in my previous answer as well as my previous interviews. Moreover, I think that everyone have his own understanding or interpretation of what « practice » and the word « deeply » mean. I already talked about the word «Practice » I think, so let’s see the word «Deep ». First for me, if it’s « deep », this means that no one can reach it. For me, only God knows the depth of anything. There is no limit, otherwise it’s not deep!
For example, in many occasions I met people who tell me : « I have finished to learn all the technique of the Okuden (奥伝) from that Koryû », or « in the Okuden part of thatKoryû there is just this number of techniques ». I always answer to them that what they did, reach, count and practice, was not the Okuden, but the idea they think it was, which mean, for them, just a technical level in a curriculum of a Koryû.
Okuden (奥伝), means the deepest transmission – if you reach the end of what took one life, many generations, tears, sacrifice, wounds, tragedy, etc. to create, well I am sorry to tell that we don’t have the same way of looking, the same studies, research, practice and respect for the art as well as seeing what the word « deep » means. And beyond that the meaning of « Practice » as well. Anyway if it’s « deep », the definition is that it takes time, a lot of time, Patience and Endurance, and there is no guarantee that there is an end or a limit (even that you reach something you « deeply » aim), because the word Okuden does not tell or specify if there is a end or not. This is also connecting with the work Koryû and its nature as well as the word Kôfû Tanren.
How can we limit or fix the science and knowledge of a Koryû to just a certain number of techniques and some different levels? Honestly, I don’t think that what took many lives, generations, etc. to create, can be limited and restricted to just a number of techniques.
Like I explained earlier, the Form of the Flow, and the flow itself offer everything, and everything is concealed inside. One very important aspect of Koryû is Kako genzai mirai no jutsu (過去現在未来之術). We can find this mention in the Nen-ryû Seihô Heihô Mirai-ki Mokuroku (念流正法兵法未来記目録) makimono of the Nen-ryû (念流), one of the most old Koryû of Japan, written in 1596. It’s also used in different Koryû, even inninjutsu as well. This words refers to the deep nature of the technique that represent the soul of the Flow – the base where the Koryû was created.
Kako means the past. Genzai means the present and Mirai means the future. The meaning of the three kanji together express that in the technique created by the founder and polished by the next different generation of Iemoto, there are all the aspects of combat and strategy of the past that help you to face and adapt to the present situation or moment, in order to live and practice as well as pass down the knowledge to the futuregeneration.
In this case the words « practice deeply » means to consider all the aspects, various factors that allows a technique, a way of using the body to evolve and adapt to the time, people, situation, etc., It’s also connecting with the idea of Keiko, isn’t it?
There is no reason to add our own idea, unless someone is part of the Flow and is aIemoto or Sôke. Everything is already in the art, in the technique. One must practice with a deep and true humbleness and not have the pride and the arrogance to think that « I have changed the technique in order to make it better », or « before it was not good or correct, i have change this or this »…
In order to judge the technique and say that it’s wrong or incorrect, ineffective, inaccurate, etc., someone must know the technique deeply in his bones, flesh and soul. He must also remember the work and background of the previous generation and all the aspects and factors that push them to practice and interpret the technique in the way they did. It’s always with great respect and a deep humbleness that a Iemoto changes or adds things, and it’s always for the good of the Flow.
(By the way, I mean the same for levels like Shoden (初 伝) and Chûden (中伝), they are not really fixed; for me I consider deeply the phrase that Toda sensei said to Takamatsu sensei, and Takamatsu sensei to Hatsumi sensei: « shoden is okuden, okuden is shoden»… It’s written by Takamatsu sensei in his autobiography and in some of the densho of the nine schools of Hatsumi sensei. But we can find something similar in other Koryû.)
To answer your question more directly, the meaning of « practice deeply » depends mainly of the purpose of the practice, the love for the art and the master, as well as the relationship between them, the devotion, etc., of the one who practices. And all those aspects should be seen through the continuity, because the Time is the ultimate Test in everything in life… Why, what for, for who and how someone practice?
The answer of that will explain the meaning of « practice deeply ». The movement and form reflect the practice, as well as who the disciple is deep inside. Every high classIemoto can read this in anyone; some are more skilled and deeper in this way of reading disciples.
Now, about practicing over and over the same thing, exploring the Kata, the own idea, etc… this also depends on the disciple and the different questions and conditions I mentioned above. But what I can say here is that it’s very important to not be blind, to not be satisfied, to always go deeper and higher. The Practice in itself is already exploring. In the word « exploring » you can find « ex », of « exterior », « experiment », « exercise », « exterminator » and also ex- like ex-girl-friend, or ex-wife, and finally experience (by the way, my knowledge of english is very limited, but it’s interesting that I never heard words such as that ex-friend, ex-master, ex-jackass….).
It’s easy to understand that a disciple must experiment, try outside with different people, crazy, strong, effective, different styles, weapons, bodies etc. In order to see if the technique or the kata works, one must apply them against any kind of style, weapon, man, situation – not only one time, but over and over. And it’s never over. If it’s over… well… it’s not Deep.
If the techniques learned do not work, there are a few possibilities: first one, the way the disciple learned was wrong or incorrect. So this means that what the master showed was incorrect and did not work – by extension, what the master learned is wrong. (But if the disciple can not do the technique even if he saw the master apply the same technique to different kinds of men and face any situation, the disciple should blame himself). Second, if the way the disciple practices, studies, see sand applies the technique is wrong and incorrect – is it the fault of the Master? Well, we like to blame the teacher, the parents, the friends, the government, etc… this the moment where most of the time the disciple creates his own way.
In many cases, during talks with various masters, scholars, etc., I always try to point that between what the master shows, does, etc. and what the disciple (student, client) saw, thinks he saw, understood, and what he’ll do, there are few filters, which will « corrupt » the capacity to copy the master. The first and main one is the arrogance to try to understand with the brain something that should be copy to the perfection by the bones, flesh, shape, senses, etc. and this, as long as he is not the chosen one or a genius, will take a lot of time.
This why in most of the history of Koryû, religion and mystic, when a disciple meets with a master, the first thing he learns is to forget himself in order to be empty and ready to received. To learn how to and what to unlearn… Here I am pretty sure that everyone will understand the reason of words from esoteric buddhism and Zen like Munen musô, Musô no ken, Kokû, Mushin, Môshin, Bôshin, Muga, Yûga, Yûgen, etc… Those words express a state of mind, a sincere and true attitude of humbleness and emptiness in front of the Transmission (Den), the Flow (Ryû), the Master, and life in general.
About the fact of taking care of introducing our own ideas, well this is connecting with the question about not creating a « form from the Form », Keiko, Kôfû Tanren and the Kako-genzai-mirai no jutsu I already discussed. But after all, everyone chooses the way he wants, practices the way he wants and believes. It’s really free, like for being stupid, stiff, limited, etc., it’s open to everyone. When someone chooses to do something, to change, to follow someone, he does it because of his intentions, desires and emotions, but he should never forget that there are consequences…always.
Anyway, people who really wants to go deep in the practice of Koryû, should never forget that, ultimately, the art is about facing any kind of situation, man (especially strong ones, professional killers, dangerous guys, warriors, soldiers, not just the friend and the « slave-blind-over sincere-student », etc.), style, weapons, and to not stay blind. Always keep the feet in the reality, live with/in the reality. Not practice in a kind of closed place, closed heart, closed and limited vision, with closed and same people too. If what you practice, your best technique do not work or it’s not effective against someone stronger than you, more skilled than you, faster than you, well question yourself and what you learn, how you learn it and how it is teaching to you. Or you can become the student of the one who knock you down – this is how it happened in the past, and still happens again nowadays. « To learn from the enemy » is a pretty well known advice isn’t it ?
At the same time you should question yourself about the relation with the one you choose as master or instructor. Who are you for him? A client, a student, a disciple, a slave, or a Client-slave-student who think he is close and is his disciple? How does he treat you and why? Does he take care of your mental and physical health? Etc. All those questions will bring answers or the Answer based on facts. Must be ready to accept and face them, because like I already said, everyone sees what he wants to see, never the reality. The reality and the facts are always direct, brutal and with no compromise.
MAM: From the form there is also henka, could you please tell us about the different kinds of henka, ones that are written down and ones just that appear in the right moment? How is it different from just creating something yourself or because you cannot do the basic form correctly?
Here again it’s not really easy to explain, but who said the practice of Koryû was easy? First in my case, I do not create technique or my « own Henka ». It’s pretty much overestimating oneself to think in that way and very far away from what Koryû’s practice (or whatever the art) is about. To my opinion it is also disrespectful toward the master and the art or Ryû. But everyone has his own definition of the word « respect » and how to give it. I must say also that everyone studies, practices and learns the way he wants and feels it. Being able to recognize that is already a big step i think. I don’t mean to mix and confuse our own desires with the Rules of Koryû and the master’s transmission.
In my case being able to copy perfectly what has been shown to me is already a gift and enough for me. I am deeply thankful, yes deeply thankful. I love and prefer to stay in the art of copying the master and his Flow. I do not have the pretension or the arrogance to create my own style, my own school, etc., because I am deeply aware that it took years and centuries as well as many lives to create one Koryû. I need to tell you that first.
In order to do a technique, something, or try a technique, anything, you must see it first. After that it depends on your own capacity to copy and to polish the Form in order that your movement and technique deeply reflects the image of the Master. For me the wordHenka goes only in that way. If you think that Mozart woke up when he was young and could play music and write incredible song without having someone who inspired him first, who touched his soul with something, well, you need to study more and open your eyes more!
Henka is very interesting word and every Koryû uses it in is technical lexical (even in all the art as well). This word can express something correct, great, good, or worse and bad, something against the main current, idea, form, etc. Especially in a society like Japan where everything should be fixed and formatted, Henka is not something always well seen or welcome in a group, organization, company, school, office, where everyone must follow the same idea, clothes, logic, work, hours, etc. You find this also in all the martial arts organization, Koryû or not.
First of all, we must understand what Henka means and its logical application according the context of combat, battlefield situations, weapon and body use, as well as the historical context and the Koryû’s rules. Most of the people translate the word Henka (変 化) as variation, or change (the meaning of henka according to the situation is, change, variation, transformation, shift, turn, variety, diversification, etc.). It’s too simple in my point of view, or too general.
First the word Henka is constituted of two kanji. The first one hen (変) can be readkawaru, kaeru, and means « change », « turn», « alter», « vary», « strange », « peculiar », « odd », « unusual », « eccentric », and it is used for many situations and actions, not only in the Koryû’s world. The second one, Ka (化) can be read bakasu, bakesu, kawaru and means « bewitch», « enchant». When you add the two kanji’s meaning together, of course in a general point of view it means « variation » or « changement », but it’s more deep, like always with Koryû’s science and knowledge.
It’s also important to underline the fact that the meaning of the Henka should be transposed to its historical context and not use the first definition found in the regular dictionary – it’s too easy in this way, don’t you think so? If research and understanding is just about opening the first japanese dictionary, well everyone is a PHD or a high class researcher!
The studies and researches on various records, Densho, Denki, Shuki, Shiki, about Koryûand founders show that it’s always during a moment, an instant crucial in combat, where the question is about live or die, that something happens and the founder or master who was in a very bad position, did an unexpected technique which surprised his enemy.
It’s not about a special form, it’s how to adapt and transform the techniques that do no work on something more accurate and deeper that come suddenly from nowhere. Sometimes the master can remember what he did and try to work on that. The main problem is when the disciple who learn the Henka, creates a form from that or a Kata, and thinks, « this is the real form! ».
An other very good example of Henka is in the art, knowledge and technique of applying the kyusho (weak-points). The kyusho or weak-points work differently according to different people. The pain, the pressure, the strike, as well as the pain can work on some, not on others, also some are less sensitive than others, etc. In this case, during a fight that deals with life and death, when it does not work, one must be able to adapt and attack an other weak-point, this means to be able to become one with the distance, the breaths, the spaces, the Form, the Flow, to be able to read the movement and body structure of the enemy, etc. It becomes even more dangerous and deep when there are weapons involved.
The Henka is the kind of technique that are impossible to see, to understand, to read, to expect. In the case of Ninjutsu practice (and it’s the same in other Koryû’s science), I always say to people when the technique is performed, that if they can see it or understand it, well it’s not Ninjutsu. It’s the same in Koryû at the very high level of practice. It’s not a question of speed or strength (physical aspects that’ll be gone one day with the age), it’s beyond that.
A real fight, fight for life, battlefield, everything, details, movements, techniques, strikes, attacks, weapons, angles, world, enemies, etc., that deals with life and death are unexpected and unknown. The heart of this unknown and unexpected is called Henka. What ever the Koryû, the military science, the fighting method someone follows or practices, even if he is a soldier and he studies at the military academy, same for the police, once he is on the field, on the real situation, it’s never like it was shown and taught in class. This is Henka.
It’s also very important to notice that even in most of the Densho and such writings, the enemy is never identified, the enemy’s attack is always general, never specific. This mean that the one who reads the technique in the Densho must be able to do it against any type of man, enemy, attack, style, weapon, etc. This is also why it’s always written « Kuden », after some explanations or after some technique names. One of the reason of that transmission method is that the one who received the Densho should have seen, experimented and practiced with the master first.
He need to have seen the master apply those technique many times against various men and on different situations. From that, if is able to copy and that his form deeply reflects the image and movement of the master, he can, if he has the capacity, to apply and understand what is written by the master in the Densho. I have heard many masters, Iemoto, say to their student, top student or not: « if you don’t practice, you won’t understand me and even less the Densho!! ».
Of course the master or Iemoto does not say what kind of practice, what to practice or how to practice. But in the lifetime of a master you can be sure that phrases or orders like : « Copy what I do! », « Watch carefully what and how I do!! », « Listen carefully to what I say! », « Do you see!! », « Don’t create your own style! », « Practice correctly the form like me », « Study deeply and cultivate your body and mind, it’s very important », etc. Here again, I think that everyone will interpret those phrases like he wants. The master does not really give instruction, because He is the Model, the Form, to copy and to fit. It’s hard to be like him, really hard, only one can do it… this is also the meaning ofRyû.
I should not forget that some masters say also phrases like : « You are good! », « you are very good! », « Great technique!! », « Don’t push to much, you might hurt yourself or someone », « Do what you want, what you feel », « express what you want to do and how you understand », etc. Here also the master gives you an invitation to see if you prefer being on stage and show how great you are, because you show your own things, your interpretation, rather than taking his words like a test of your ego. Rather than to keep on practice in the shadows, to not listen to awards and beautiful words that praise your ego. The only sound should be the sound of the Flow, the Ryû. There are many case like that, in any Koryû.
The master says, shows, and the disciple or student listens and tries. The master is responsible for the way he does, how he applies it and how he treats the student. But about the understanding, the correctness, the rightness, the accuracy, the effectiveness of what he said and show, if the student does not understand and can not make it, well it’s not really his fault.
(It’s really important to tell to everyone who’ll read this interview, is that by Master or Shihan, I mean high class (with a big M or S), the highest and deepest level reach by few man. Not everyone – it’s not because someone has high rank or whatever, in Japan or outside, that he is really what he claim. I don’t believe in rank sand diplomas, i believe in one’s capacity and knowledge based on live practice, live experience.)
In this case it’s also clear that creating one’s own style, one’s own Henka, is very easy. It’s always easy to express what we want, to create and do our interpretation from something we saw and we believe we understand. But to copy correctly the master, his Flow, etc. this is not easy – not at all!
It’s the same aspect for the Densho. This make me remember that some people, even some shihan, think that Densho are written for kids, or mean nothing. This is really a proof of their lack of knowledge, practice, and in a certain way it’s disrespectful toward the art and the master. It’s really stupid, how is it possible to not respect the value and the work of previous masters ?
The Henka always come from the original technique, waza or the original Form which is the source of the Ryû or Flow of combat founded by the Founder after a deep and intense practice, battlefield experiences, etc. The Henka appear naturally from the practice and his accuracy as well as rightness. The quality of the Henka depend on the many factors, of course the rightness of the practice and the Form, but also it depends on the heart, intentions and purpose of the disciple. It’s not easy and it’s really not about doing things like, during a technique with a student, turning around him for a few minutes, taking all the time to apply something which obviously does not work and is not accurate, like we can see in certain dôjô.
In many cases, it’s not the art or the Koryû or the master that should be blamed, but just the student, the disciple who does things like he wants. And this is the Point, because theHenka do not come from an intention, desire, envy, but more from the sub-conscience which was cultivated to respond naturally through the deep practice of the technique of the Ryû.
There is an other word, Henkei (変形). Here the second Kanji, kei (形), means « shape », « mold », « form », « structure ». Henkei refer to that the technique, a strike, a lock, a way to use or hold the weapon, a direction of the feet, angle of strike or apply the technique, etc. change according to a situation where the previous technique applied could not work for many reasons (body wounded, slide, rain, snow, psychogical problem, clothes, eat to much, stronger enemy, etc.). But the application of the Henkei is also part of the Henka, it’s more about the form of the technique, the body, etc.
The Henka is and was considered as Gokui or Kyukoku Ôgi, or Ogi, which means the highest and deepest state of applying a technique and reading the enemy’s movement. When the master could remember it, after trying to refind the state of body and mind he had when the Henka happened, those Henka as well as the Henkei were written in order to be practiced. But the problem is that many students and disciples took this as a Katasometimes and forgot to practice what was the more important, which is what led and drove to the Henka.
Each Koryû have their own Henka. Some have them written in a Densho, some not. Being able to face the Henka of the enemy, to adapt and transform is also part of the Henka; in certain Koryû they call this Shirabe-waza (or kata), Hakari-goto, etc.
There is no difference between the written one and the one who appears at the right time, because they both proceed from the same Flow, the same respect of the art and the deep culture of precise Form. Chance and opportunity, catching the moment, finding the right time, spot, etc. is also very important, not easy at all. Not easy at all.
MAM: Talking about henka and changing technique-there are many students with quite serious injuries from road accidents, sports and work injuries, etc. Is it possible to adapt the technique for this? And is it possible to stop it from becoming different? (In old times I guess many warriors carried injuries and had to accommodate for that?)
There are Chronicles, Memoirs, Diaries, etc., which tell that some masters got hurt or wounded in the battlefield, in combat, etc. Some of them could find a way to recover and their technique became better and deeper, because they applied constantly the idea ofKeiko (ponder, reflect, think, mediate about/on the past/history) that I already mention. Some did not question themselves, and kept the same practice, and one day one disciple more bright or who observed, practiced and listened more carefully to the master, would find what was done incorrectly and for what reason. Here again it’s important to study deeply (again deeply) the context and the historical reason for certain movement. But whatever the period or the time, a body (the anatomy, etc.) is pretty much the same; it works in the same way and suffers the same way.
Student who had accidents and injuries from previous things before they practice or while they practice a Koryû (or anything else) need to know the reasons of the accident and how they can use their body from that situation. It’s obvious that they need to be more careful and must study deeply how the biomechanics works and all the influences on other parts of the body (organs, mind, etc.) before starting anything. Second they need to be aware of what they want to practice and with whom. This is really important. It’s always a matter of choice, isn’t it ?
In order to adapt a technique, first, one must know all the aspects of the technique (history, transmission, biomechanics, sociology, mind, shape, form, how and why it works, etc.) and this is not easy. And after that it is possible to adapt, when, why, how, etc. for how long? Because in Kôryû practice everything is about long term, not short term. Same as life, it’s a Flow (Ryû) concealed in the Way, the Gyô of Shugyô.
Here again the word « adapt » brings us back to the Henka. You adapt when you know the nature of the pain and where it is, how it happens, etc. Warriors carry injuries, it’s a fact. But some of them could live a long time and reach 70 years old and keep on practice and put down young warriors. How could they do that ? Did they warn the next generation about certain kind of movement? Of course, because the goal is the long term… and a real Master always takes care of the disciple, normally…
Even some chronicles talk about incredible flexibility of some kenjutsu master, like in the Yagyû family, etc. The question is how they could stay flexible and take care of their body during periods of war? Like always, a student needs to find by himself, to see and study by himself, and for that he has many things around him like the example of the Master and the Shihan etc.
There are cases also when the student had his injuries from previous practice, or from a violent shihan or master. Here again, the student must face his choices, and realize what was wrong, how, why, etc. From that, after he can recognize where are the pain, injuries, etc, he can find a way to practice and see what can be correct and healthy for his body. It’s not easy, but it’s not easy-jutsu.
MAM: Please could you tell us what is meant by “fudôshin” (不動心)?
Well the word Fudôshin (不動心) come from Buddhism, where most of the time it refers to a certain state of mind called « immovable spirit, state of mind, heart or emotions ». Historically, first the founder founded their Ryû after a long, intense and deep practice in a temple or sanctuary, where while practicing, they were also praying and fasting at the same time in order to receive the most pure transmission from the temple of the sanctuary’s divinity. All the Koryû’s foundation are deeply connected with Sanctuary and Temple where spiritual practice and ascetic were done by monk. Because they were looking for the most pure technique, they practiced in that way.
Master-founder who created their Ryû did not yet have the technical lexical to express and name their Ryû and the technique they find, so they used various lexical that already existed, like the one from Buddhism (Mikkyô and Zen), Shintô, Nô, etc. When they reached a certain high level based on very intense situations connected to the art of combat and deep practice, they use the word that expressed closely what they felt. The words they used came from the religion and the ethic they followed and believed. It can be Buddhism, Zen or Mikkyô or various school of Buddhism, Shintô, or from their knowledge about the chinese classical treaties on strategy, war, Confucianism, Taoism,Fusui, etc.
In the Koryû’s history the word Fudôshin is used by many masters and founders in order to express the highest state of mind and body in the practice and application of combat technique. This word was introduced by Zen monk Takuan (1573-1645) who influenced various masters and wrote the famous Fudôchi shinmyôroku, also called theShinmyôroku. Two of the main masters he deeply influenced were Yagyû Munenori from the Yagyû Shikage-ryû (call also the Edo-yagyû) and Onojiro Tadaaki from the Ittô-ryû.
But it seems that the relationship with Yagyû was deeper according to various letters, correspondence and chronicles. Yagyû Munenori in his writing, mainly the Heihô kaden-sho, mentioned Takuan and use different kinds of word all connected more or less with the idea of Fudôshin. There are 4 copy of the Heihô Kaden-sho; Muneori wrote only 3 by his own hand, and on those Densho he used the word Fudôshin as well as other words which are connecting to it.
(The fourth copy of the Heihô kaden-sho was done by a disciple of Munenori, one of the best ones, named Nabeshima, who came to visit Munenori when he was close to dying. One disciple of Nabeshima who was familiar with the Shinkage-ryû’s technique and methodology was present and wrote what Munenori was saying, and when they finished, Nabeshima took the hand of Munenori to help him write his signature or Kaô. This is the main version used by most the researchers, unfortunately.)
The word Fudôshin is not only connected to the application of the technique or to keeping an immovable spirit during the fight. It also expresses a state of mind to have during hard times, turmoil of life, etc. For example a master can badmouth one of his beloved disciples in order to see how deep he can Endure and cultivate the Patience to go beyond that heart pain without have any kind of anger. This is also part of Fudôshin and it represents the highest and deepest aspect of the Fudôshin, because in this situation what ever the problem or the psychological pain, one must be able to endure in the long term. It’s not something which will finish in few seconds like a combat. In this case, the culture of Fudôshin’s state is deeply connected with Shugyô.
The word Fudôshin includes many other aspects connected to the practice and application of the knowledge and science of Koryû. Words like Heijô-shin, Bôshin, Mushin, Honshin are also deeply connected with the level and state of mind of Fudôshin. In the practice of the Koryû, they are the highest reflection of the Flow, which are concealed in different states of mind and body that the Sôke or the high class Shihanshould have.
Each word (Heijô-shin, Bôshin, Mushin, Honshin) expresses mainly the psychology and spiritual state of mind, and of course the body is the reflection of those states. For example, how to control the emotions, to remind calm and quiet, flexible and fluid, to know how to adapt and to keep a state of mind calm, state of mind clear and open, highest level of Endurance, Perseverance and culture of Patience, keep the same state of mind in the front of an offense or an award, not being touched by peoples’ bad mouthing, etc.
Some believe that someone only needs to practice meditation, to pray, in order to reach that state of mind. In an other hand, some believe that they could have that state of mind just by practicing Koryû’s technique. Well in both side there is a key word : « Practice ». Now what kind of practice, what to practice, and when in life? After what kind of situation or accident? Etc. Here again, the answer to those questions depends on the disciple’s journey, experience based of living practice, relationship with the master and people, etc.
MAM: Hatsumi sensei was a bonesetter (seikotsu in) and knows other kinds of traditional medicine; do you practice or have much knowledge of this kind of thing? Could you say something about the relationship between studying bujutsu and studying how to care of the body?
Hatsumi sensei is a bonesetter (he does not rule his own clinic now since a few years), he studies as well pharmacopeia and moxibustion. I have seen his diploma from various universities and also medical school. He received from Takamatsu sensei a lot of knowledge and science on the human body; how to heal certain injuries, the art ofsakkatsu-jutsu (art of kill and reanimate (heal)), etc. The art of Sakkatsu-jutsu, known as well as Kassatsu-jizai, is deeply connected with Koryû’s science and knowledge. Most of the Koryû have this art in their curriculum. After, according the level of the sôke and also his job (if he is or was a medical doctor, therapist, etc.) the knowledge of the body and the movement could be deeper.
In Japan there are a lot of master and sôke who were bonesetters or still practice it and help people. Lets mention Shimazu sensei from the Yagyû shingan-ryû, Kuroda Tetsuzan sôke of 5 Koryû, Higuchi sensei who is a medical doctor, sôke of the Maniwa nen-ryû, etc. In jûdô practice also the bonesetting studies is quite extending as well. Lets mention also various therapies and disciplines like Seitai, Shiatsu and other kind of chiropractics and physiotherapies that are studied and also applied by various masters and instructors as well as sôke.
The practice of the technique of combat include always the aspect of kyusho, weak point, art of healing and massage. Some master, sôke, go very deep in those fields of study and become very accurate and effective, but there is no question to heal cancer here. It’s more like taking care of the body and be able to see the injuries, bones pain, tendons and muscles wounded in ourself and after recognize in anyone. Of course find and apply the right treatment as well.
Battlefield’s experience, combat, knowledge of weapons, deep and intense practice push the master, the disciple, to face a certain level of pain, injuries, wound, more or less dangerous. There is no doubt that the science of Koryû include the aspect of regenerator movement, heal the body, massage, etc. After it depends of the one who practices, the age, what he is aiming for (goal and purpose), what is his job, etc. Most of the Koryû, especially the jûjutsu Koryû’s master were known, back in Edo period, to be able to heal and fix bones and other problems.
The Akiyama yoshin-ryû is very famous for teaching the technique of jûjutsu as well as healing methods, as well as all the various Yôshin-ryû currents, the Tenshin-ryû, theKitô-ryû, etc. The kenjutsu and other bujutsu’s Koryû propose, at a certain level, the same knowledge. If you can kill, you can heal and help – that was the logic of combat. In this way, the relation between both are very deep and intimate. To my point of view they are like the right and left arm, they need each other for the balance. It’s also the perfect balance in the Koryû. Some of them lost part of this science, others focus only on the healing and massage therapy and forget the base of this knowledge, the combat. Others keep both but can not express it clearly.
In my case, I have and still study the method called Hichi buko goshinjutsu, I received scrolls of that, and I practice it many times. First on me, and I try help people who want or need. I did many times and no one died!!! Yet!!!! I’am not effective for that!! But yes, I practice this method and help people who want; not for money, because the scroll of that science mention it: « never help for money, but for the sake of the human », « do not trade or sell this art for money, it’s for help ». This is really important. It’s not like being a medical doctor or a specialist who work in hospital or private office.
It’s the ultimate test to see if the understanding of the movement, to read someone’s body and movement, understand the pain and the weak point to press, the application of the technique, the skeleton and muscles’s knowledge are right. To practice and study everything that allows me to become better, deeper, more accurate and effective and make the Master Proud – it’s essential for me.
MAM: How did Hatsumi sensei teach when he first started teaching the Japanese shihan?
Honestly, I don’t really know because I was not in Japan at that time, and I don’t think I have the age for those kind of questions; I was more focused on my brothers, toys and with my parents. But right now, I have met enough japanese Shihan, stayed very close with some of them, I met other people who were involve with Hatsumi sensei and knew him and the shihan very well. I talk with them, question them very politely and compare each other’s souvenirs and sayings in order to see how accurate their souvenirs are about that time. Of course I stay mainly around Hatsumi sensei, listen to him, watch him and I think this is enough to have a clear image of how it was.
I must mention Ishizuka sensei who, in my point of view, knows a lot about that time; the ambiance, how it was, the techniques, the kihon, etc. He used to write down all the things he learned, Hatsumi sensei’s phrases and words, various meetings (with the late Nawa sensei, Fujita Seiko, Don Dreager, etc.) and what happened at that time. He let me see, read and study all of his writings. I am talking about hundreds of small booklets, and really I am deeply thankful to him, because I could see how the man was involved in the practice of the 9 ryû-ha of Hatsumi sensei. It’s also possible to measure and appreciate the devotion and the dedication as well. This give me more respect about how the practice should be done.
He even wrote down clearly everything about the encounter with Takamatsu sensei, with many pictures of that time (with the 6 other shihan who was there). What is more interesting is that he even wrote the date of each class, menkyo shiki, event, henka, dôjô kaishiki, important moment under Hatsumi sensei’s guidance. It’s a great source for understanding how it was and see the situation through the eyes of Ishizuka sensei, who met with him when he was 16-17 years old. I don’t know if other shihan did the same as Ishizuka sensei. I have asked Ôguri shihan, Senô shihan, Kobayashi shihan, and it seems that they did not do it, and if they did it, they, according to their own words probably lost most of their writings. And they told me that the one who had everything was Ishizuka sensei. Maybe Manaka Shihan and Tanemura Shihan did write, or not, I did not ask to them.
I never met Tanemura Shihan, I just saw pictures and tapes. I know a lot of people who knew him back in the day, like the shihan I mentioned above, and I think it’s enough right now. I have met Manaka Shihan twice when he was member of the Bujinkan; but i was just shodan, no one, in order to become close with him. So here also I did not ask. But for both of them, and with all the respect toward shihan/senpai and seniors I have, the way they move, acted, their form, words, behavior, etc. gives enough example and information in order to see or choose if someone wants to learn or be with them or not – and more important, if they are same as their first master, Hatsumi sensei.
So I think it’s pretty much easy to have a good and clear image of how was the practice at that time. Even if I’am deeply thankful and respectful to Ishizuka sensei for everything, the main and deeply accurate source remains Hatsumi sensei. No doubt on that in my heart. Because after all, at the end, after everything that happened between them, who is still the sôke of the nine ryû ha? Hatsumi sensei.
Who is the one who spend the most time under Takamatsu sensei (15 years until Takamatsu sensei die)? Hatsumi sensei.
Who is the one who has the most information, scroll, Essays, Memoirs, Takamatsu sensei’s biography, weapons, pictures, old films (there are many not only one), densho, etc.? Hatsumi sensei.
Who is the one who always mention with a deep respect Takamatsu sensei even now at 80 years old? Hatsumi sensei.
Who is the one who never broke the line, always respected Takamatsu sensei’s transmission and still cultivated a deep respect toward him ? Hatsumi sensei.
Who is the one who never traded the 9 Ryû-ha he received to create his own ryû-haorganization, federation, or buy various certifications and add new ryû-ha to his koryû’s curriculum? Again, Hatsumi sensei.
Who is the one who can really pretend to know the true and deep meaning of being a disciple? Hatsumi sensei.
Who is the one who always sticks to Takamatsu sensei’s transmission, always mentions him, always lives with him in his heart and soul, always practices and talks with him with a deep respect, who has more than 500 letters from Takamatsu sensei, who has tears when he reads them, who always talks with deep and great respect about Takamatsu sensei? Hatsumi sensei. (I might repeat myself, but I was witness of that many times, yes about the tears…)
And just to finish, who has the skills and the charisma that no one of his so called disciples have, no matter how long they practiced under him? Again Hatsumi sensei. And there are many question again and again, the answer will be the same.
Back to the question, so how was it? Well it’s simple and clear to my eyes. What and how was the practice between Hatsumi sensei and the first generation of shihan, is pretty much the same thing and situation in many Koryû’s dôjô. There are common point. First lets see the facts.
One very important fact, a crucial one, is to have in mind the difference between the age and the background of Hatsumi sensei and age of the young japanese who started under him (background close to zero, maybe a bit of jûdô practice, their age was between 16 to 18 years old, some among them will say that they learned from their father or grand father before, what ever it’s fine, they knew nothing when they came in Hatsumi sensei’sdôjô which was not really a dôjô but a room of his home managed as a dôjô when it was the day of practice).
It’s important to mention that the gap was huge between them and I don’t really think that student from various Shihan (whatever the shihan or organization), are really aware of how deep and huge the gap was (and still is) between them (but like I said previously, students or disciples are the reflection of their master so in that case it’s not a problem, because if the master already does not recognize it, there is no reason the disciple would recognize it as well).
Hatsumi sensei was high ranked in many gendai budô, many times champion of jûdô where he holds 5th dan, was deeply involved in the practice of the gendai budô and in close relation with many top practitioners and masters of that that time. He also have great relationship with Koryû master such as the late Nawa Yumio sensei. (I had the great honor to meet Nawa sensei twice before he died. I received also letters from him where he highly mention Hatsumi sensei and other things to take care of during research on Koryû. I keep those letters as treasures and I’ve shown them only once). He received many menkyo kaiden from Ueno Takashi shihan (he never hid it and still keeps everything, densho, menkyo, that he bought to Ueno Shihan).
Finally he was already receiving a big part of the transmission from Takamatsu sensei, before the future japanese shihan started to practice under him and when they were not aware of the difference between Koryû and gendai budô. This is a very important fact. If you keep this, well…the conclusion is obvious : Hatsumi sensei was deeply aware of the meaning, the true nature, the state of mind and heart of what means to be a « disciple », and the difference between client, student, and disciple.
One other fact, is that Hatsumi sensei did not have time to teach many times in the week; according to what I have heard and a few sources of that time, it was one time per week so this was enough to let people develop their own habits, ways and forms (they could have met more, but it was not the fixed frequency. Among them some had the chance to spend more time under Hatsumi sensei in private. But to have the chance is not enough – being able to use it wisely is more important).
One of the main proofs of this self development of their own form and way, are the old videos and pictures where anyone can see each Shihan’s kamae, form and movement, as well as their attitude. A very good expert on behavior science can even say that most of the movements and forms express a lot of interesting character information. This information will for sure give intel about how they will become in the future.
Because if you look carefully and deeply the way they were, it’s pretty much the same shape and form that they have now, just the age brings its influence (stiffness, back and shoulder, flexibility-less, less hair, etc.), but in the movement they did not really change. It’s not a question of being worse or better, skills or not (this is not the matter or what i look for here), just the form they have are the same.
The question is, how and why those japanese shihan did (at that time) and do (even now) not have the same form as Hatsumi sensei? They were young, which means not yet fixed and formatted in their mind and body (even if they are japanese?), they could copy easy and clearly, isn’t it so?
But instead of Copying the Master, they developed their own ways and forms, sometimes own views and even pretended, later, much later, that they knew better than Hatsumi sensei himself – the one they could not copy, never copy. Why? It’s very simple and a natural process we can find in all Koryû, group, school, organization, family, friendship, etc. In the lifetime of someone, everyone has thought one day that he knows better than his father, teacher or old friend, that his time is over, etc. So why not them ?
When you know that they were around 4 to 7 young teenager, not yet men (I’am talking about the ones who started before Takamatsu sensei died in 1972, so this does not include the shihan who came after), in Hatsumi sensei’s class… quite the private class isn’t it? So they were present at the moment when Hatsumi sensei received every week-end the transmission directly from Takamatsu sensei. They have seen the same technique from different Koryû, listened to the same story, history, and ideology, some have seen different kinds of weapons, scrolls, technical applications, etc. But the result is eloquent – no one has the same form, technique, control, flexibility or charisma as Hatsumi sensei.
No one has the same form and attitude as him. Especially nowadays… (According to Ishizuka sensei, they never saw the densho of Takamatsu sensei. Just some paintings, drawingss, calligraphies, may be some letters, but never the densho. They never had the chance to read them or to open them. They had only the chance to copy notes of notes of densho. In this case, I let you imagine the mistakes, confusion, misunderstandings of kanji, language structure, lack of history knowledge, meaning of the technique and technical words, etc. that can be done when a young man copies a writing that he can not understand.)
Lets add the fact that Hatsumi sensei changed the form for them because they could not make it, (this stretches back to « create a form from the Form ») and that he did not really teach, but showed the technique. Why? Well, the reason is simple: whatever and how much he explained to them, they could not understand how to do it, because « the art chooses the disciple », and it is part of the Transmission and Practice process’s Immovable Rule.
It’s also important to mention that Hatsumi sensei was involved in various TV shows, public demonstrations, lectures, action star teaching, etc. So for the demonstrations he created forms, movement, techniques, that satisfied the audience and fit the camera’s angle. He was (and still is) very good at this because he did studies on that, even Nawa sensei. So he taught them those kind of forms, kihon, basics, techniques, for demonstration and they practiced and made those form as the real Form. But the only one who knows what and how was the Form, was the Sôke, Hatsumi sensei. Moreover, they had the chance to attend the class where Hatsumi sensei was doing the technique in front of them, they had the notes of the densho. For what reason I don’t really know, it seems that their form could not allow them to have the essence that goes with. Because in the art of Koryû, ninjutsu, whatever, the Essence and the Form are the same entity. It’s impossible to have one without the other.
Let’s mention the fact that Hatsumi sensei could not explain what he was trying to realize deeply through his body and that requests time to master. This is a logical process of practice, you understand after practice, practice, copy, copy, re-copy and copy again the image and form of the master, in this case Takamatsu sensei. So what someone think he learn and understand, at one moment of his life, will be different, even incorrect after a certain time of practice. In the art of ninjutsu, Koryû, in everything, the true knowledge is based on living practice experience. In other words, you know only what you really and deeply practice, and this is always a matter of time, or should I say, a matter of Life.
Do you really think that Hatsumi sensei, who was deeply involved in the crucial process of being the successor of Takamatsu sensei, could teach and explain the same way Takamatsu sensei was doing toward him? Do you really think that they could understand what Hatsumi sensei was showing to them? The difference between Koryû, the art of difference weapons, the ninjutsu, the master disciple relationship, etc.? So do you really think that they could copy him ?
An other important aspect and fact is the emotions and the relationship between them. All the pictures we can find are also a proof. Hatsumi sensei as a human being, started to attach himself to those young teenagers, they were like his sons, a second family, a Koryûfamily, and this in a master’s heart has a special position and taste – it’s deep. So of course, even if they could not make it, could not copy him, or not understand it, Hatsumi sensei just encouraged them for every kind of effort they did, even if it was not in the right direction. He pushed them and let them grow in their own way and form; it was only positive for them.
From his relation with Takamatsu sensei and everything he learned from him and keeping on in practice, Hatsumi sensei was aware of one thing: in Koryû the only rule is « only one disciple, the next one ». It’s history, it’s life. But He opened his heart to them, he open to them a world, a dimension, that they could never expect in their life. Hatsumi sensei was for them the Godfather, Yoda, Zorro, James bond, Spiderman, Batman (of course I should choose japanese hero for them, but i think that everyone will understand the meaning here)… everything a teenager wishes to have and to meet one day.
It’s obvious that they wanted to be like him and did everything for that, but one thing they could not change, is their Ego, and the form, is the reflection of the ego… this is very important to never forget. Hatsumi sensei, who was the chosen one by Takamatsu sensei, knows deeply the sacrifice of the practice, the devotion and dedication for the practice and how deep is the art and the practice. It’s clear to understand that Hatsumi sensei knew deeply in his heart, no matter what was his sentiment or relationship with each of them, who was practicing correctly and who was doing his own things…
Because the master knows his student, he is the one who shows, knows what he shows, how and why he show it. To who, with which words, etc. But more important, like i mentioned before, Hatsumi sensei, as Takamatsu sensei’s next and unique successor, knew the deep meaning of being the chosen one and also the meaning of being a disciple.
It’s clear that a master, whatever the Koryû, the time and period of history, knows his art by heart and body, and it is obvious for him that he has the capacity to recognize himself in his disciple. He can see if the one in the front of him will be the one. And obviously, no one of them was that one, even if he pushed them to practice, to learn different languages such as English and Chinese, to read and study old japanese, study various things and always go deeper in the study, at university, etc. Did Hatsumi sensei fail? I don’t think at all.
Because when some see where he stands, how he moves, how he is, the knowledge he has and the fact that he is not attached to it, etc. is enough details, sign, image and example to say that the man is still blessed by Takamatsu sensei and the various sôke of the 9 ryû-ha. No one can reach this state without the right model, master, direction, blessing, duty, mission and right form and practice, because it’s always global – because this is the Flow, the Ryû.
If we look at the other shihan, with two who created their own style and organization. They did so years after, when they reached the middle of their 30’s (more or less) or 40 years old, at the moment of life where everyone struggles for various reasons, when you need to change, when you want to believe that what you do is better, more accurate, more true, more real, more traditional, more « everything » than what the one they thought they could copy (but never copied after all) is doing. Let’s also add the important fact that deals with power, control, money and fame as well, because this is also important. There is always a question, more or less, of power, control, money, fame, etc.
What will be very interesting to see about those two Shihan, Mr Manaka and Mr Tanemura, is how their (hi)story will keep on going on or end it. Because the way they acted, practiced, taught as well how they acted toward the one they call master (and wanted deeply to be like), will reflect at the end. It’s really interesting as a scholar and historian to be a witness of that, because there are already examples in Koryû’s history and in the History in general. Never forget that in the word « history », there is the word « Story ». Everything starts by a story, doesn’t it?
What I can say at least, is that those Shihan who created their own organization or company (it’s pretty much the same especially if you live from), had the courage to do it when the master was alive and not dead. They did their own way (it was already like that when they were young) with courage and faced one day similar problem that Hatsumi sensei faced as well, but at a very different level. Hatsumi sensei is the successor chosen by Takamatsu sensei – not them. They chose their way, their mind, and they have the people they deserved. If they are happy and their students are too, it’s enough and good for everyone, isn’t it?
For the other Shihan it’s very different. May be they did not have strong enough ego, or they just followed without asking any questions, like a social club where it’s cool and fun to go, or just by duty. Same for the different Shihan who will come to join the « club » after. Some are waiting that Hatsumi sensei will die (whether he chose a successor or not) in order to create his own « club-kan-bank » by saying: « I was the more close to Sensei ! », « He taught me everything! », « I was always with him! », « He said to me that I have the best technique! », « My technique is same as his technique », etc. And, they will find believers, students, people who will « bite », « drink » and believe blindly what they will, or might say… History always repeats itself. They will even change and modify the history in order to create their place, and make their position more high, more real, more close to the master…
When there are emotions and feelings involved in the art, in the relationship, rather than be based only on the practice itself and the sake of the art and the transmission, it’s always difficult to see, talk and practice in an objective way. In other words, in an effective and accurate way. Hatsumi sensei experienced this deeply in his heart. But all of us need to experience that aspect at a certain level and degree that depend on our capacity, talent, position, character, stupidity, etc.
But what is funny, is where is the art, the Flow, the Ryû here? Well, for someone who respects and practices deeply, as well as studies the history of every Koryû and respects them, he will understand that the Form, the Movement, the Technique, the Knowledge, the Capacity and the Talent are the only Proofs chosen by a Sôke, what ever the Koryû. It’s not a matter of how long someone stay around a master, because some have been ukefor more than 20 years of Hatsumi sensei and do not move like him, no flexibility, it’s even worse each year, and Hatsumi is the opposite, each year is deeper, higher…
If you stay close to someone like Mozart, Elvis, Steve Jobs, etc., during a certain amount of time, years and you don’t learn anything like how to lead, show or create, how and what to see and recognize talent, etc… well it’s better to stop frequenting great and wise people. Most of the time, people are like insects; they are attracted by light, some of them are completely consumed and some use that light in order to back up their own desires and wishes of fame and celebrity, money, etc. Art is very deep and not easy…
Finally, in order to finish my answer to you, because I could argue more and present many other facts. Everything I already present in this interview, all the words, Kanji and explanations, even if they are general, incomplete, unpleasant to read, they all present all the different aspects that the japanese shihan who started under Hatsumi sensei, experienced in their own way, flow, etc. Some of them did the way they wanted and were deeply convinced that what they do is the right way, and what Hatsumi sensei told them, tell to them, practice, show, was wrong or not accurate anymore.
They developed their own way, Shugyô, Keiko, Kôfû Tanren, Henka, Henkei, Koryû and finally created their own form. We can find this in the history of different Koryû. I’am not here to judge and I cannot tell if it’s correct or not, bad or good, etc. Not at all. Everything in life is a matter of choice, definition of value and quality, taste, wish and character. The only thing I can say is that Time stays the best Test of Truth, in order to see who was right and who was not.
They were all young and experimented something different, with different kinds of pain, techniques, views, wishes, desires, etc. with a real Sôke – someone who deeply loved and sacrificed his life for a master, Takamatsu sensei. Someone who deeply experienced the love of the master, the love of the art. What you see when you are young does not have the same value, size and quality as when you grow up. Every period and time has its difficulties, pain, goods, etc.
I think that all of them had a wonderful chance and time, a unique chance to be close, a witness of a master, a sôke, to see Takamatsu sensei, to be in, involved, inside, the art… to see the process of transmission and practice, etc. Did they really and deeply realize that ? (Even now?)
How many of us now would love to be in their place at that time, where everyone still thinks that was the best time, the real time? Me first! But this is stupid, because I must live with my time, my struggles and life. And I am sure that, maybe, I will do like some of them – but this only God Knows and time will tell me. What is important is what we’ll do with that knowledge, now and tomorrow. Not what we could have done in the past.
They were too young to see and understand, and I’am not sure that even now they realize it, because it’s when you are close to dying that you realize, when you get older that all the souvenirs come back. But if you forget and still keep a stiff mind, and still think that you are the « one », whiteout being chosen, well, what can I say ? Good luck? Vaya con Dios? Here again, The Future will tell.
In conclusion, what I can affirm is that they did not have the same form [as Hatsumi sensei] at the beginning when it was easy and simple for them, so it’s logical that right now they do not have the same form and movement. Their form reflects the degree and depth of their practice, devotion, knowledge, etc.
I did not answer more specifically, and honestly I don’t think it’s really important, because if the message is not understood, why go into details of the practice? Because in the Koryû as well as in ninjutsu, between the master and the disciple, everything is about Form and Message. They go together. Like always, I prefer to give different kinds of information about the context, the history, the relationship, and the one who reads me and practices will interpret it the way he wants, wishes and desires. According his own filters.
MAM : And could tell us about your lessons with Hatsumi sensei and Ishizuka sensei?
Interesting question. To tell you the truth I am too young to explain with enough objectiveness and rightness the relation, if there is one, with both of them. Because I need to practice more, study more, go more, even more deeper and higher, never stop, in order to honor what they have allowed me to watch, observe, see, witness, read, feel, experiment, what they have given me, etc. Why talk about lessons, talks, etc. that I can not clearly apply, practice and understand? If they are lessons, I keep it for me – it’s private. I don’t have to talk about that, especially when it comes to someone like Hatsumi sensei, whose entire life, actions, movements, words, etc. are piece of Transmission to my eyes… I’am nothing in the bujinkan, no high rank. The only thing I can really do is to practice deeper, study deeper, read, copy, re-copy what I think I have copy, and copy again!!! In order to honor them, and this takes time. There is no end in the fact to honoring someone, like to honor ones parents.
The souvenir of a young man about his parents is different when he is old, I mean the way he talk about them, because like in everything there is cycle, a process to learn, to see, to live. Right now i have nothing to say, just practice. Copy, copy and copy again. What and how to copy them and what they do, honor them, nothing more, nothing less. But if you really want to know if there are any relationship or lessons with them, well the best is to go in Japan, in Noda, and to ask them politely and you will know. I’am not different than other lower ranks in the Bujinkan.
In the Bujinkan, some have been in Japan before me, like Mark O’Brien, Mark Lithgow, Andrew Young, for the more older, and they lived in Noda, they met Hatsumi sensei many times, went with him in many occasions, heard him, talked with him, saw him, have been ranked by him, etc. Other foreigners, some who hosted Hatsumi sensei, came from different countries stayed months, or weeks, or a few days (some will even lie about the time they really stayed and the relation they have or believe they have), some come between 2 to 3 times per year, they had their time with sensei, restaurant, talks (with translator most of the time, and they still said « Hatsumi sensei told me », in which language ? I believe in the language from the heart, but…), etc. Everyone is treated according to his knowledge, what he brings to the organization (all the high ranks received the same rank and title), and everyone is treated with respect and the same way by Hatsumi sensei who always invites everyone to the restaurant and pays for everyone. (I wonder if all who claimed to be like Hatsumi sensei copy also this aspect of him, or if they let the students pay, because this never happen with Hatsumi sensei and Ishizuka sensei. I have heard also the same attitude with most of the japanese shihan). Anyway, what is important is what each of them does with this Gift.
But like always at end, in the Koryû’s world, the form, the practice, the knowledge, the movement, the character, are the proofs, the only proofs of the degree of the relation as well as the nature of the relation someone has with Hatsumi sensei or any other shihan. And I have to say that in the Bujinkan, the form and movement as well as the knowledge of everyone (Foreigner or Japanese, High rank or low rank) speaks and reflects everything.
MAM: Finally, we can see that a lot of people (from different organizations, especially in the Bujinkan) are bad mouthing you. With all your studies, research, meetings with various masters, the way you practice and move, etc., why don’t you answer back to them?
Sincerely I have nothing to say about that. I think that what I have already said during this interview is enough, don’t you think so? You don’t seem happy? Ok, I’ll answer to you. What can i say…really nothing, I know that people badmouth me, but it’s ok. I know some of them; some even shake my hand and say hello in the front… it’s life. The only thing i can say is that I am enough aware of who is who, who does and says what – it’s very easy. But it’s really sad, because this does not help one to move better. Because if bad mouthing someone will help to move better, well the Bujinkan, the Genbukan, the Jinenkan, and all other organizations and groups will be great warriors and high class fighter. But that’s not the case…
I think that people forget what Koryû practice, Koryû essence and ideology is about: Combat and survival. To fight and combat strong and skillful masters, fighters, crazy guys, etc. and knock them down. After, if they can become your student this is a great things. If anyone has something to say to me, wants to open his mouth, well, he should come in front of me and ask me directly and tell me directly what he wants or believes. This will be more in connections with Koryû’s practice and even sports practice. This is one of the reason why i prefer to hang around with MMA fighters, Muay Thai, Boxers, because with them it’s direct. I like directness and sharpness like a weapon.
If someone wants to argue with me on the subject, I’am open too, but at the university. And please prepare your argumentation based on solid japanese sources that you can read in japanese with a certain degree – otherwise stay at home and play with GI Joe toys, it’s better. Because arguing is for university and in Koryû the only argument is the combat.
Now if anyone wants to try me or thinks what I do is not effective, well, here again – you are welcome to try me: I am open too!!! I don’t practice in order to write behind a screen! This is the reason i don’t have a group, web site, etc. I am OPEN to everyone who wants to see me. And I think that Koryû, whatever the practice, is about the encounter and to meet reality. When you want to know someone, to be sure of who is who, who he is it, if what people say about someone or me is true, go to see and meet with him or me, and you make up your own idea. But most of the time, no one comes. And it’s ok, because life goes on. And while they are talking behind me, I am still practicing, studying… because i love the art, nothing more and I don’t have time to spend on that which is not connected with the practice of the art and to honor the master I follow. The Flow does not wait…
MAM: Thank you very much for your time and generosity, do you have anything to say to finish?
It’s my pleasure! I think I have talked too much, don’t you think so? Or you make me talk too much with your questions! Anyway, I hope that my words did not offend anyone, because this was not my purpose. And if I hurt anyone, well, be sure that it was not my purpose. Thank you.
Copyright © 2012 Shinsei Dojo & Kacem Zoughari. All rights reserved.
This material is listed and translated here with the permission of Shinsei Dojo.