By, Michael Schjerling
The title is ambivalent itself. The question is: What is natural fighting or is fighting natural at all? Yes and no. Let’s study nature.
If we accept that human beings are part of nature we will see that fighting and wars are a part of our history. If fact only 1 out of I believe 336 agreements of peace are being held in history. Animals also fight. The reasons might be different between humans and animals. But does nature fight? Does the water, the wind, the earth trees and the sun fight? I do not see that. Actually nature in that sense always follows the path of least resistance to find balance. I see the same in our own micro cosmos in the cells of the human body. What we call the immune system is actually not fighting bacteria and viruses. It is enveloping, wrapping up and controlling with as little effort as possible, securing harmony and peace in your body. This is very intelligent and natural as I see it, something to study and learn from.
Soke often talks about nature and show us natural movements and lifestyle. To study fighting and to follow the path of budo might seem quite ambivalent. What is the point in studying battle to prevent battle? How does that give any meaning? Well how often do you see big strong dogs being aggressive and fighting compared with small dogs? Mabe you should study nature a bit more if you are against everything that has to do with warrior ship. Actually being against is to be aggressive and not seeking harmony.
The true meaning of Budo
Yari & kodachi in Tartu Estonia
What does budo really mean? We usually translate budo with martial art, martial ways or warrior ways. But what we often forget is; what is the way of the warrior or should I say the bujin (divine warrior)?
We then can go to the kanji for budo. It is compounded of two characters; the character for Bu and the character for Do. Do come from the Chinese Tao or Dao meaning “The way or path”. Actually I feel it means the true way, the correct way, the natural way and the spiritual divine way. Also I have read it as meaning: “the way of the whole universe”. The character of Bu is made up of two separate characters. The first character means “to stop” or “to halt”, and the second character means “spear” or “sword”. My interpretation is that Budo therefore means to stop or halt the weapon. In conclusion for me budo is about not fighting it is about making peace and to follow the peaceful way, the way of natural harmony. For me that is one of the meanings of being ambiguous with both the pen and sword, only using the sword as a last resort. Behave correctly with heavenly justice obtaining the shin shin gan (mind and eyes of God). When following the martial way we should do everything to prevent fighting and to maintain peace. If that is totally impossible we should use our weapons as a last resort knowing that there were no other ways, to regain peace naturally and with as little harm as necessary.
The important lessons of serving as uke for Hatsumi sensei
When trying to explain the way we fight or train in the Bujinkan one easily gets lost. It is like trying to explain the whole universe. There are so many small important factors that make up the whole picture. Therefore luckily enough many people have written about different aspects to try to help others and them self to better understand and grasp this art. This article is just one in the flood that contributes to all the other water drops.
I have had a few opportunities to serve as uke for Hatsumi sensei and for that I am totally grateful. Often after soke has shown a specific movement or should I say control he asks the uke to explain the feeling. This is often extremely difficult and the students often use metaphors to best describe the feeling. It is very much like trying to explain love to a person that have not felt love or trying to explain how miso soup tastes to a person not knowing. The reason why it is so difficult to explain is, in my opinion that the language is not made for this. It actually is impossible, so what we should learn is what is between the lines, the thing which is not visible or sense able to the 5 senses. Actually what is not said is most important. Watch how easily soke controlles uke and how confused uke is when asked to explain the feeling. This is the essence as I see it.
Control without controlling
I heard that if you throw a frog in to boiling water then it jumps out because of pain, but if you throw it in to cold water and slowly heats it up, the frog will not notice and eventually get killed because of thermal stress to its body. This small example very much describes the feeling I have when being uke for soke. I do not feel any pain before it is too late. Then the pain usually is unbearable and total. A very hot pain or sometimes now pain, but it is impossible and too late to escape. You are totally wrapped up. Also I do not feel any action from sensei or reaction from sensei, so he is impossible to control and it feels like he just guides you and let you do your own mistakes that leads you to your downfall. There is no resistance in any of sokes movements. It feels very gentle with no power, yet you feel his extraordinary inner power, his spirit when being uke. It is like he can paly with you any time. It feels very natural. In a way like he is making peace with your actions and kills your fighting spirit.
How nature works
This is actually a natural principle. Nature works the same way. With least effort. Water never runs uphill. Trees do not lean towards the wind. Nature responds naturally to the environment to live a natural balance. In fighting this is the highest level. Actually it is the level of no fighting. Fighting is struggling. But at this highest level you do not struggle but the techniques emerge naturally by them self as needed, very natural. You do not create them. As soke says, they come from the divine, from nature.
Being a super human or an ordinary person
Then how can we get to this point of so natural movements that everything always is imperfectly perfect?
I think the only way is to study as close to soke as possible and work hard and dedicated, driven by a strong purposeful and sincere heart. All aspects of shin gi tai should be practiced. Too many people focus at the technical part not understanding the power of a super strong body and spirit. And too many people does not study the technical part and practice but just copy the shihan in the dojo not being aware of doing the hard work the teacher did to reach this level. Students all over lack hours of practice in the kihon wasa. Work with your spirit, your technique and your body. Nothing is to be neglected. Here is where the article can be heavy. Therefore you need to study other sources of this elsewhere to get the keys as how to do this. Learn from soke. It is very much about being honest to yourself and work hard on the areas that are your weak spots. For me that changes all the time. Everything needs constantly work. Like you cannot maintain any level. You cannot take a break from watering your plants. If you want them to grow and change you need water them and care for them. This is very much the same as a warrior. You need to constantly focus on being better naturally without forcing the process too much. Then eventually you will not need to fight any more. You will be a tatsujin and a divine warrior. This should go for your all aspects in life as well.
As for my own life I make sure to work with my spirit every day. I do this throughout the day by being aware of my thoughts, words and deeds. I do this by being aware of the 5 precepts from Toda sensei, by trying to be aware of and open to divine guidance, by being grateful for my teachers, parents, ancestors and the wealth in general I have in my life now and by purifying. Also I make an effort to always use the fruits of my hard work to serve nature and humanity the best way I can. I believe this is important and a part of behaving correctly and with heavenly justice.
I also make sure to polish my taijutsu every day by training in the dojo, and when not training in the dojo my taijutsu is being polished with self training and by being a conscious part of my movements throughout the day. When I walk or work with my clients etc. I try to work from hara and my heart and feels this helps my taijutsu in the dojo.
Recently I have been working hard on my weak spots in my body. I have tried to learn from soke and nature (no difference) about how to get the body strong, flexible and healthy. All over the world I see that people in the Bujinkan especially do not have a strong, flexible and healthy body. I feel embarrassed with the little effort people put in to this when looking at how strong and healthy soke and the Japanese shihan are. They are all super strong. Recently I have worked at getting super strong as well and have found that the more healthy, strong and flexible my body gets the easier taijutsu gets. How I do it would be too long a text, but the short version is that I do it with focus on my total lifestyle as described in many of sokes books. A natural holistic approach to health working with nature. The result I can say is that I now at the age of 42, (the unlucky year 😉 can outperform most of my top athletes at my work (Working with world class and Olympic athletes from many different sports). I say this to honor soke and to tell you how special the knowledge is that this man possess. I am very grateful and all the thanks for what I have in my life should go to this man. We should all be really, really grateful for all the gifts he has given us and continues to give us. I often feel embarrassed by how stupid many people are and how greedy many are trying to suck everything out of him not paying attention to the atmosphere. Soke will usually not say no when you ask him for a favor. He is Japanese, so please be aware of the atmosphere to feel if it is appropriate to ask him for that favor. If you are doubtful you might be better off waiting even if this means that you have to wait a year more. I talk from personal experience where I myself was too egoistic and not aware. Luckily enough for us soke has a very big heart to vessel. Sometimes I feel he sees us as his children. Children do stupid things but as parent you always understand and have patience with them. Love them no matter what they do. Soke has a lot of patience with us.
My experience when getting stronger, more flexible and healthy is that my taijutsu is getting easier. It is much easier to not use power and to enter this state of least effort. I feel that there is more energy for perception and feeling because I do not struggle with a weak, stiff and unhealthy body. Before, I did not have flexibility to copy, or power in my legs to make use of proper kamae. Therefore I was much focused on the restrictions and pain in my body and was not as able to feel and naturally respond. I see it as a big tree. The bigger the tree the larger roots and the stronger the tree is. It does not have to be concerned about storms and can easily endure compare to the small tree.
I hope we will all be like big trees and shining stars that inspire people to live natural healthy lives with love and respect for each other and mother earth by living the gifts from Hatsumi Sensei.
Written on a beautiful summer night the 9’Th of august 2012