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There are many reasons people enter the martial arts dojo. Some, because they want to achieve a particular rank or status, others for physical, mental and spiritual self development. Regardless of why one enters the dojo, in order to pursue their chosen martial art, one has to relinquish thy self to the philosophy or conditions presented. The dojo is not a democracy and you ( as a novice ) don`t decide what you do and do not want to do, or participate in. If the reason is medical, than this in my eyes is an obvious exception. However, those who wish to pursue martial arts, need to exercise some restraint, and understand that they will have to endure times of discomfort, or at first, non acceptance and resistance when coping with the different culture of a traditional martial arts dojo. This may seem harsh to many. But I urge you to understand that martial arts is the arts of war. Not, just a means of self enjoyment or appeasing ones desires. The martial arts is a life way. Soke once threw me to the ground and said, ” There is no escaping the Bujinkan!” 🙂
Now, if the person enters the dojo with too much ego, the need to maintain their image or, maintain their firm beliefs in the way ” things should be for them”, then it will be difficult.
Many people nowadays enter the dojo with a consumer mentality. That is, they believe that the teacher is a service provider and as they have paid money, the teacher has to give them what they want or answer the questions they ask. Well, I laugh at this. But, it is an unfortunate state of society and in some cases creates Mc Dojos that have agreed to cater to these mentalities for pure business.
In the case of studying the classical martial arts, it is important to enter the dojo with an open mind and heart. Most people who enter a dojo, really do not have an understanding of what they are in for or to expect. Therefore, it is only with time, that the student will slowly develop the spirit of studying the martial arts if, this is their destiny. Regardless, if a person with a balanced perspective and openness to change internally and externally can continue, they will enjoy and grow from their training.
Takamatsu Osensei apparently told Hatsumi Soke that ” There are many real people in the world who are not budoka.” I think this is something very important to understand.
In regards to being an uke, we have to understand the current manner of training as experienced in Japan. In order to appreciate or come closer to understanding the level of subtlety and skill, we must be able to let go of our preconceptions of what martial training should be like. We have to be able to put ourselves aside and step into an empty sponge and soak in the truth. Quite a task!
Understanding the role of uke is a stepping stone here to really understanding the many messages and secrets of budo. In order to develop oneself, one has to thoroughly practice to enter the moment of nothingness and strike in the space while being nothing yourself. This is moving with the feeling of Mu and can be seen as Mu Taijutsu with the heart of fudoushin.
Allowing oneself to experience pain,discomfort and the feeling of not being in control, is the role of uke. The initial attack is about control, however, the role is to then to allow oneself to feel the opposite. If one has an healthy ego, one can allow their partner/teacher to administer these lessons.
And, this is exactly what this is all about, the ability to receive lessons!!
There are 15th dan that receive painful fingertip lessons to their face and bodies from Soke. To receive from Soke is an honor!! You need to accept it, no matter how painful! This is a lesson of the highest and also gives the receiver and understanding into their own psyche and coping mechanisms.
Soke uses the 15th dan to explain and transmit these painful experiences. However, many try to brush his hands away with their own, as he does. Soke just puts it on harder. Well, no one likes pain, but, this experience has many lessons, and if you understand these lessons, you will relinquish yourself and trust Soke. People obviously still haven`t learned that the more you struggle, the worse it becomes for you.
Sensei is giving you the experience of human fragility and also the feeling of complete loss of control and helplessness. This is important to experience to maintain a humble and compassionate heart. Especially for the jugodan. Experiencing this is also about trust. I will not go into my many experiences with this with Soke but, he clearly stated this on many occasions in class.
If one attempts to escape or fight back from sokes painful lessons, it clearly shows that the individual is not ready for the lessons, does not trust, understand, or even want the lessons.
Budo is about understanding ones frailty as a human. with this comes greater respect for others. However, people nowadays are sheltered and have not experienced pain and discomfort. People are growing weak they say. The dojo is a place where one can develop internal and external training in a safe environment. The teachers who administer these lessons with the correct heart are doing so with the desire to help the students develop and be able to cope with life and it`s challenges outside of the dojo.
Often we can look at budo training as ” being cruel to be kind.” To the outsider, martial arts training can seem just mindless strength and pain tolerance training. These words come from those who have never trained. Soke has said that people may view you as cold hearted or the like, but it is important to maintain your ground in the knowing that it is the true way of budo.
Budo teaches life. And, as we all know, life is not often observed as fair or always plain sailing, enjoyable, pain or sorrow free. This is what budo training reminds us. It conditions us to be able to cope better so we may endure and preserve right to the end. as happily as we can.
If we look at the dojo kun ( dojo code ) we can see they are 5 precepts that are essential for living life and not just budo.
Budo and life are the same.
To receive lessons both physically,mentally and spiritually, one has to trust. And with trust, one looses fear. Fear is the base emotion that hold most martial artists from transcending and growing in all realms.
The first stage is to trust. With solid kihon training, one develops skill and confidence and the abilities to control oneself. With this, comes eventual trust of the self. In connection to this stage, the student is developing a trust and relationship with ones teacher and peers in the dojo. Together, everyone builds confidence and trust in each others abilities. When this reaches a healthy stage, then training in the dojo can become highly stimulating and spirited.
As you can see, the Ten Chi Jin or fundamental training and repetitive movement, initially by oneself, is essential to mastering ones body , mind and spirt.
Being uke is learning how to survive with out having to fight back. It is learning the lessons of how not fighting and allowing nature to take it`s course can keep one alive. If your training is just about learning how to “fight back”, then at a time when this is futile, you have not developed the capacity to accept and the lack of control you face.
After all, fighting back is about trying to maintain control. The importance of being uke and receiving is to develop the capacity to understand there a times when fighting back could get you or your family killed or placed in a worse situation.
Being uke is learning about staying alive at times when one cannot fight back. In fact, taking ukemi is about staying alive and is in a sense kyojutsu. Fighting to stay alive without actually fighting.
Takamatsu Osensei once said to Soke that his understanding of budo was getting better as his ukemi was improving. Now, this art is about survival and ukemi and the art of being uke is about just that.
Their are martial arts that only teach how to be the tiger. They only teach how to fight back. If one is set upon by a dozen people and some with weapons, do you fight back like the movies? There are obviously times when there is no other choice, but unless you are very lucky, you may not survive.
This is where we have to understand the difference between fighting and surviving. And, this is the difference between Ninjutsu and other budo. Ninjutsu is a holistic art teaching self preservation through understanding the fragility of our own existence. This is also a lesson one receives from being uke.
Ninjutsu encompasses ways to hide,run,jump,climb,distract,roll and fall to maintain ones life. These are methods of removing oneself from danger as skillfully and as quickly as possible. These techniques were devised by people almost always outnumbered. Lessons to take to heart.
I once heard a foreign shihan say that he felt the Santo Tonko no Kata was a waste of time. Well, all I can say here is, it is true that the rank does not explain ones true level of budo. Look at the form and see through to the secrets or lessons. Here are a few simple ones:
1. Men,woman and children are grabbed every day for various reasons in these ways and abducted,raped,and murdered.
2. Stepping three times is just a “formal way” of learning to regain composure and balance.
3. Throwing something is a very natural method of self defense for mankind and even apes.
4. Hiding is also an instinctual method of self defense for humans and animals alike.
From there, the student can view abductions and also what people do when being pulled. Often people develop a “tug o war” mentality and physically when being dragged. And, they use their free hand to grasp on to something to maintain their position or to reach for something to use in defense. Hence, we have natural applications based from Hachimonji no kamae! If you just look at the kamae without using your brain, it will look useless and ” a waste of time” 😉
These are very simple examples to show that all kata in the Bujinkan are real and have real life applications if you have the correct mind, heart and training to see. This is why I laugh when people, even those that claim to practise the Bujinkan arts, state that the training is not realistic and not applicable for todays society. I care not for these people that obviously do not see the pragmatism and naturalness found in all waza. It goes to show that these people have a mind set in the way they believe martial arts training should be, rather than give some time and space in their heads to discover that 2000 years of techniques handed down in blood,sweat and tears may actually have something worth learning from.
Also, people often try to adapt the waza or “improve” on them before they have even practiced or studied them long enough to “see” and understand the depth and reasoning for such a technique. People are too trapped in the form and just see in a superficial manner. This is low level training in the martial arts. Some people have even said they would not perform sword kata like written and try to improve on it. Firstly, the people that wrote these waza most likely used the waza to stay alive. The kata is literally signed in blood. I find it incredible that instructors who have never been on a battlefield sword fighting or experienced a one on one dual with another expert swordsman can have the audacity to improve on it. These people need to be cut down in my eyes.
Training is about breaking down your habits and searching for your weak points. Writing and expressing yourself helps you to do this. But, this takes courage. Often speaking your mind can disturb a harmony yet, this harmony is often only disturbed due to the receivers inability to accept but, not necessarily agree. Training for me is learning about where I am in the moment. From there, you move freely and live as your environment dictates. If we listen to our elders, we learn that ” k sera sera ” is very important. It is about allowing the world to be as it is and, accept everything for what is, going with the flow like flowing water and drifting clouds.
Water and clouds have naturally been free for an eternity. There is much to learn from nature.
Shizen Gyoun Ryu Sui.