• Raven

Neither Strong nor Weak

"Neither strong or weak, soft or hard, separate from the heart of these,

Enlighten yourself to the one character of nothingness,

Make your body nothingness and there exist."

-Toda, Soke of the Togakure ryu.

I wanted to write about this poem I was taught while training in Japan with the buju-community. The importance of this poem was so vast to my training and the way I understand ninpo that I have thought about it often since then. I was reluctant to write about this subject because it is very ‘out there’ but I hope that someone gets something from this!

This poem is Kyo Jaku Jyugo arubekarazu. To understand this poem is to transcend beyond strong or weak, soft or hard. These are all opposites and something we understand to be real. The yin and yang, the light and dark, are concepts within many different cultures of the world and represent opposites but each opposite is a truth. For example, when we do a particular lock against an opponent, this lock is something real, both the uke and the tori know this because it is applied and changes the body, manipulates a body reaction. This body reaction is also known, which means both the action and reaction are truths.

Ninjutsu is about invisibility, this isn’t to mean vanishing like a superhero but rather it is about hiding our movement, disguising our intention. So, it was explained to me, that when a true technique is applied, and both uke and tori know what is happening, then this is not beneficial. This is even more so when a technique is demonstrated and if others see and understand what happened then this is also not beneficial; it means our techniques are working within the human realm of understanding.

To transcend beyond the realm of human understanding is to actually form nothing of truth, nor deception, neither soft nor hard, light or dark. When this is achieved our body movement changes, to move within and around the flow of others, to exist in a divine nature and depend on divine providence.

Another way to understand this concept is to consider that if a truth is performed, a technique that is understood, it can be countered, moved from or resisted. But when a technique is not known by either the uke and tori, then it is beyond human understanding to be able to adapt. The technique then becomes kamiwaza, a divine technique.

Drawing on the idea of divine providence is the concept of fortune, good fortune, but to make use of good fortune is to be open to change and not set on creating something. For example, when moving through kamae to notice, by any of the six senses, an opportunity for a form / technique to be applied. Like if a hand is open and the back arched this could lead to a omote gyaku so to perform this technique in a natural way is good. The trick is, when you see an omote gyaku then it becomes truth so it is no longer something to try and do.

Ultimately, to be neither Kyo nor Jaku is to exist in every moment and take fortune when it comes without thinking about it but moving with the flow. To have no mind. I am still thinking about these concepts and learning, changing and trying to let go of all techniques I have learnt to be able to be free and move with freedom.


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