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Archive for the ‘peeps’ Category

自由な変化: Free henka

A 先輩, sempai, senior was beside me today in training. I struggled to interpret what Hatsumi Sensei was showing us, and kept looking at sempai. What could I steal from him, stealing from Hatsumi Sensei? My 相手 aite, partner, is awesome to train with – so balanced, really hard to throw, and quite strong. I felt like I sucked at the waza.

I kept looking at sempai. What possible meaning could I derive, how could I get the better of my worthy opponent?

After training, my sempai took me aside and told me something . I struggled to understand what he was saying. Sometimes it’s not my comprehension of Japanese that slows me down. It’s my comprehension of meaning.

He was telling me something about dealing with a balanced opponent. He said something about not using power. Yet he crushed me to the mat when he did the waza on me. What?! This guy has never even talked to me before…

And then I got what he was saying – that sometimes, the waza as is doesn’t work. You have to henka. Everybody, “every body”, is different and requires the freedom of a different approach.

After we bowed out, he demonstrated on me what he was saying.

Why did he bother sharing with me? He’s got a generous heart. And he didn’t worry about my lack of comprehension of his message. He just kept going. He didn’t agonize over whether I’d get the message or not. He didn’t assume whether I had heard this before or not. He just understood that I needed to hear it in that moment.  

Right on, sempai. And thank you.

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What an old lady knows about looking like and being:

My German-speaking great grandmother was not impressed by post-war fashion worn by the young ladies of a house she worked in. They were impeccably dressed but their rooms were filthy, which outraged my usually reserved Oma so much, she remarked, “Oben hoi, und unten foi.” The nuance of this expression is hard to translate, but it means that the outside looks hoi, classy, but the underside is foi, lacking redeeming qualities.

When you hold a rank in our art, in principle you  should have sufficient skill, and when you don’t, to admonish yourself for not hitting the mark. You need to know when you’re hoi or foi.  

I’m working on my kihon these days so as to be not foi. How about we start there?

And now, a haiku:

The waza slips out

Of my hands this time but I

Know spring comes again

On to some art:

Lyssa, budoka and artist, has now got her prints, often inspired by her trips here to Japan for martial training, at Okami Press on Etsy. You can see her remarkable rendition of Fudomyo, the immoveable wisdom king.

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Lyssa is an amazing woman. She can knit, sew, design costumes, dissasemble, paint, reassemble and ride a bicycle, grow plants, cook great food and be help desk diva to others. And she’s also a Bujinkan student. Lately, she’s been applying her artistic talents to the production of Ninja Gears, an online shop featuring her designs for budoka. The design that appeals to me most is the 眠り猫, nemuri neko or sleeping cat.  The original cat, a wooden sculpture by a left-handed artist, is to be found at Nikko‘s Toshogu Shrine, and is said to both represent the spirit of Nikko itself (a shrine complex designed to honour Tokugawa Ieyasu) and the healing Buddha. Sleep is a great medicine, sensei reminds me, and says that, when you’re injured or sick, lie down and rest yourself as long as you need to.

Lyssa’s graphic of the sleeping cat captures the shape of the sculpture beautifully. Hidari Jingoro, the artist who created the original, was fascinated by cats. Cats, like any animal that hunts, have natural 無心, mushin, or no mind. They are completely aware and ready to react. The famous tale, 猫の妙術, neko no myojutsu or the Uncanny Skills of the Cat, tells us about a feline who has mastered the ability to react out of no mind, and totally unnerve his opponent.  Lafcadio Hearn’s Japanese folk tale, recalling the theme of Neko no Myojutsu, about a boy obsessed with cat illustrations in The Boy who Drew Cats, brings to mind this uncanny quality of the cat.

Lyssa is a girl who draws cats…

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In his new book, Unarmed Techniques of the Samurai, Hatsumi Sensei included some of his calligraphy on 色紙, shikishi, the coloured boards, often with gold edges, that are so often used for keepsake Japanese writing such as calligraphy or haiku. One of them featured in the book is 忍友, ninyu. I suppose one of the meanings could be keeping company with fellow learners, helping each other to persevere. Sensei has also used the word 武友, buyu, or martial friends to encourage us to learn together.

Two people I consider 先輩, seniors, are writing insightful blogs. Doug Wilson’s Henka and the Paul Masse’s Goshinjutsu pick up themes from our budo, the authors’ life experiences and study of 文武両道, bunbu ryodo, or book and martial learning. Paul’s artistry comes out in his photography, too.

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Sunday, violent winds across Japan disrupted the train lines. The Joban Line trains couldn’t cross the Arakawa and Edo Rivers until the afternoon because the winds were roaring down the channels.

By late afternoon, I was able to get to Spiral Hall on Aoyamadori to take in the drum solo concert by Akira Hino. Hino sensei lives an amazing life in motion, blending his martial arts study with contact improvisation dance and drumming. His concert blurred the line between performer and audience by having everyone sing Sakura Sakura, a haunting Japanese folk song often invoked to represent Japan. We sang the second verse as the lights slowly dawned on Hino at the drums bringing us into a 40 minute thunder solo. After, he was joined by a pianist and standup basist for a medley of jazz standards. Amazing that he could sustain that energy for so long, first beating out that sometimes blinding and often tender solo, and then working within the trio, riffing off the base and piano.

He’s so part of the music, it all becomes one. Our nature flows out of us to other people through music and movement.

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