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To Feel the Movement of the Sea

Updated: May 4, 2019

A strange title but it has a lot of meaning to it. Within my Budo training the concept of water and movement in relation to controlling an opponent has become quite evident. This is shihan level understanding to the principles of taijutsu.


At training levels below godan we study and think about techniques and how to apply techniques. This simply means that when Uke strikes, I will move and apply one of the many waza from the densho. There could be numerous henka (variations) to this waza but essentially the one technique is done to get an opponent to the ground. This is a very basic understanding of how the art of Bujinkan works.


To take this simple idea of waza and apply the analogy of the sea; it would be like someone standing in the ocean and as the wave comes taking one form, one kamae, in the hope this will strengthen their resistance to the onslaught of the force of nature. The wave comes crashing down and maybe they will resist, maybe their kamae is strong, but they will still cause a crash, a violence in the sea around them as they are splashed, bashed and likely crushed. This sort of budo requires a lot of effort in terms of its determination but leaves little chance to change when situations and circumstances shift.


For example, to rely on particular waza does not allow for change to the variation of human experiences, or the change in situations, or circumstance. Maybe the uke is tall, short, or there are many opponents?


This kind of way of thinking is like a stone dropped in the water; it makes a big disturbance, a big splash and a lot of ripples, but soon fades into nothingness. The ripples continue and make change and may cause harm to nature from the violent impact that causes ripples. Ninja need to move in a natural way that does not cause notice or disturbance, so we are not like stones that make big waves.


So this moment of impact can be thought about more. It is referred to as setten 接点 and describes a moment that things connect; the moment of impact. So much happens before the setten happens: distance, air, feeling, position, mind, energy, emotion - too much to cover here so I will keep the focus on the contact point.


Training before godan, as mentioned above, means that the setten happens, once. Uke will attack, usually a punch, and tori will block, and perform a waza from the densho. And switch roles before moving onto the next technique. To the trained eye, a beginner is someone who is performing a complete technique, to a good or perfect degree. Like someone standing in perfect kamae to resist a wave as it comes crashing upon them!


The high level practitioner, however, is one that can perform imperfect small waza, incomplete waza, and has the freedom to move, change distance, use illusion to alter the critical point of contact, to know and 'change' the setten - this is higher level.


Hatsumi has talked about this as ishi tobashi 石飛ばし , which is a Japanese saying meaning skipping stones. Like when you throw stones so they skim along the top of water and lightly touching the water the stone gets lower and lower until it slips into the watery element without a big splash.


To move and use many waza, not completing each one, to control the setten is to gently encourage the uke to give, to invite, to see shapes in the space (kukan). Meaning that we do years of technique training and practice thousands of waza with 10,000 variations so that we learn the shapes of the body resting in the air. For example if an uke is bent to their left with arm stretched out, palm open and hand twisted we can see the omote gyaku, we don't need to perform this, we just see it. So opening the setten to many points, different angles, and changing it by soft, freedom of movement we see other shapes, of waza, we can move through, change, until uke does not understand where they are or where tori is. This means that there needs to be a revolution of the mind, so that we do not think about 'doing a waza to uke' but rather just moving with uke and exploring the waza as they happen.


It will be like using the many kamae and moving with the water as the waves come crashing down and swirl around your feet. To become the water and move with it, not fighting against it because there is nothing that can defeat water; not even the strongest structure can stop the erosion of the ocean over time.



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