The Art is to Copy the Image of the Master

Written by David Esteban Guzmán, who has provided permission for me to share his works here.

There exists a concept that we can find inside the documents of transmission of the culture and the art of movement of the ”Koryû” (古流). This concept expresses the importance of the union between the interior and the exterior of holistic form in the art and the way of developing the techniques “waza” (技).

The term is “Te no uchi” (手之内) and is commonly translated as the interior of the hands, however this is much deeper in meaning than the simple translation of the concept, we could understand like the perception inside of the hands in the developing of the techniques in the art of “Kobujutsu” (古武術).

The use of the hands of an artist reveals his state of evolution in any kind of art, whether “Kobujutsu”, “ikebana” or “kadō” (way or ceremony of the flowers; 華道), “Shodō” (the way of the writing; 書道), sadō/chadō (way of the tea; 茶道) , playing a musical instrument, etc…

kacem anza iaiA master collects all the necessary information about the state and depth of practice in his disciple, with a moment of observation when perceived as holding a weapon, grab, writing, wave (karuku) etc…

Some masters of “Kobujutsu” use the concept of “Tai no uchi” (体の内) the interior of the body, to invite their disciples to penetrate more into the concept of the interior of the hands.

This “Te” (手) hands, and “Tai” (体) body. It might be understood like analogous and synonymous of the technique, the interior of the technique.

How to copy the technique of the master? How to copy something that has been created to be kept secret and hidden to the perception of the five senses (“mienai” – invisible; 見え ない) and to the comprehension of the intellect (“wakaranai” – incomprehensible; 分から ない)?

From the unit to the multiplicity. “shoden” (初伝) is “okuden” (奥伝) and “okuden” is “shoden”, the basic transmission contains the secret transmission and vice versa… The search without end nor beginning of the comprehension with the mind, the body and the heart of the interior of the hands, body and the essence of the master and his current (流).

The repetitive practice of the basics is vital and necessary for any follower of the “kobujutsu”, nevertheless it is not a question of sowing a mechanical practice, with rigid seeds and without life. Through the conscious repetition  one wants to cultivate a deep sensation of the movement of the body, the interior of the body is visualized, the practitioner wants to feel the body, a state of movement is created where every repetition is a call of the practitioner to the unit with the technique in a deep relation with his body and spirit.

This unit in the technique will take the practitioner to a multiplicity in the strategy; this strategy can be understood in the “kobujutsu” as “Heihô” or “Hyôhô” (兵法).

“Heihô” is literally the “method of the soldier” (this methodology are the rules, practices and techniques of the soldier, the disciplines called “Bugei Juhappan” (武芸十八), nevertheless the Kanji of “heihô” (兵法) refer to deeper meanings, like the terms of strategy or tactics.

takamatsu toshitsugu jutte 001
Takamatsu Toshitsugu demonstrating how to catch a sword with a Jutte.

This strategy consists of the unit of being that is able to adapt to any type of situation of danger, physical, psychic or emotional imbalance (E.g. economic crisis). This involves the acquisition of a state of deep technical knowledge transmitted by the masters, a way of life where adaptability, flexibility, and humility are essential.

A fruitful repetition of the technique takes root in the capacity, the talent, and the intuition of the practitioner of understanding the what, how, when, and where to practice the technique. When to take the body to the limit and the most important thing as to recover and to rest the body, the mind and the heart, to be able to continue in a deep practice of the art when the youth grows to maturity, and the maturity to the wisdom of the oldness.

This forms a model (be modeled on) to transmit the movement of the master through the repetition of the technique to the paroxysm, and takes the practitioner to a space of more depth in his discipline, to the comprehension of the “heihô”.

Through constant and deep repetition, the body of the practitioner is waking up to a corporal attitude of practice beyond simple repetition of movement, this movement is gradually becoming the form of daily life: walk, sit down, get up, take objects, etc…

The breathing changes in part from the practice, the form in that you communicate to yourself and with others is a way of practice, sleeping, eating, drinking, is all recognized as a way of practice.

Then the repetition of the technique turns into something vital for the sincere practitioner; this repetition is the seed of something deeper in his interior, the meeting with an art, with the current (流) in his life.

Every state and internal change causes changes in the outside and vice versa.

The masters of any spiritual or artistic current repeat their form habitually, not to establish difference between the regular practice and the daily life. They understand that the art and the artist have to establish a relation of unity that leads to the multiplicity in the interior and the exterior of his life.

The practice of an art is like a Japanese bamboo plant during the first seven years. Is very exiguous in growth during his first seven years of existence, scarcely it is possible to estimate its growth potential. Perhaps an ignorant farmer would not have the patience and give up. However, once it reach it’s seventh year, in just six weeks the Japanese bamboo plant can grow over thirty meters.

What happened? Why not grow during the first seven years? It’s not that it didn’t grow, but during the first seven years of apparent inactivity, the bamboo was generating a complex root system that would allow it to hold when growth began.

Come to this point is important to meditate about this concept used by the masters “Take no uchi“ (The interior of the bamboo; 竹の内).

How to copy the technique of the master? How to copy something that has been created to be kept secret and hidden to the perception of the five senses (“mienai” – invisible; 見え ない) and to the comprehension of the intellect (“wakaranai” – incomprehensible; 分から ない)?


“The way should not be hidden. To make known is the best means of keeping it hidden” Yagyū Munenori

For information about the kanji, see here.



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