Archive for July, 2009

Tuesday training at Ayase, Hatsumi Sensei talked about 虚空, kokuu, which is the name of a technique in 玉虎流骨指術, Gyokko-Ryu kosshi jutsu.

But what is in the kokuu? The word 虚実, kyojitsu, means falsehood and truth. It starts with the same kanji as kokuu. The 虚 part of the word means variously empty and false, and can imply the empty thing is something abstract. The 空, ku part of kokuu is about emptiness, too, and often indicates a void in a object.

In Japanese, people often refer to the sky as 虚空. Hatsumi Sensei remarked that a dying person will grasp at the kokuu as they are departing this world.

He tells us again and again the same words – use the air as your shield.

He also made a comment to the effect that, one moment, you think, “There it is!” and the next moment it is not.

Here is a shakuhachi performance of a piece called 虚空. The sound is created essentially by air, shaped by the movements of the player’s hands and breathing, through a reedless bamboo tube. What makes the sound? The player, the air, the bamboo tube, your ears catching the sound, or your mind?


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A martial artist is called a 武芸者 bugeisha in Japanese. Yes, the  last two kanji and the pronunciation of them are the very same as geisha, and the three kanji together mean “martial art person”.

The geisha and the bugeisha have a lot in common. In order to become profficient, both practice long years at both form and art. The geisha spends years practicing dance, music, voice, kimono, makeup and conversation, and the idiom of being geisha. A bugeisha must practice learning the waza, fine control, building composure and learning to take care of all the gear used in training.

A maiko is a junior geisha, and her charm and growing repertoire of skills make her alluring even though she is not as accomplished as her senior geisha. A naive attempt at some difficult dance or an innocent response to a customer may reveal stunning genius unencumbered by preconceptions of the right way to do things. Likewise, the junior budoka free from preconceptions about how some movement should happen is able to be free and sometimes do remarkable, natural movement.

Either discipline leads to greater skill, freedom and self expression. It’s not just about skill but about drawing something out of yourself, a reserve of power that each person has. Hatsumi Sensei has told us that we expand our 器 ki, or capacity, and in turn we push our 才能, sainou or talents.

Today, I’ll put in about four hours of training. 頑張っています。 I keep going.

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