Muto Dori (無刀捕) Part 1

Graciously written by David Esteban Guzman, permission given to post here.

[dt_sc_pullquote type=”pullquote1″ icon=”yes” align=”left” cite=”Kukishinden-ryu Kuden”]

振りかざす太刀の下こそ地獄なれ
一と足すすめ先は極楽

Furi kazasu tachi no shita koso jigoku nare
Ichi to ashi susume saki wa gokuraku

Hell under the upraised sword
one step forward is paradise.

[/dt_sc_pullquote]

One of the last stages of transmission of the masters of the classical Japanese martial arts is reflected in the transmission of  “Muto dori” (無刀捕), literally the translation of the kanji lead us to the interpretation of “catching a sword with the empty hands”.

“Mutô dori” means to protect against one or several opponents armed with any type of weapon, in any space or land, empty-handed or with small concealed weapons (for example “Kodachi” (小太刀), “tessen” (鉄扇), “Jutte” (十手), “tanto” (短刀), “Shuriken” (手里剣), “Sageo.” (下绪), etc).

Inside of the Japanese classical martial arts the concept of hidden weapons can be found in examples such as terms like “Kakushi-buki” (秘武器), which could be interpreted as concealed weapons, or “Ongyô no jutsu” (隠形之術), that we could interpret it as fighting techniques of hiding or dissimulation.

Masaaki Hatsumi performing Iai
Masaaki Hatsumi performing Iai

First of all “Muto dori” is a survival technique for situations of extreme danger, and included in this instruction there is a complete and deep knowledge of the control of the body through the Form (技) transmitted in “kobujutsu” (古武術). It is a condition of instruction where a holistic understanding of combat is included for use against an armed opponent, where the precise and exact synchronization and the control of distance is vital in movement, a quality of movement that cannot be understood by the armed oponent(s).

However the depth of “Mutô dori” and this interpretation is much more complex even than the definition that I gave in the first paragraphs. “The true value of practice resides within the practice” , and is very difficult to try to capture in words the transmission of the essence of an art in continuous movement and adaptation to the present time. (Note 1)

The art of the “Mutô dori” resides in a space that the masters define as the practice of the invisible and the incomprehensible in the martial arts. This is very intermingled and can only be expressed through the words of something that resides in techniques transmitted in the mystery of an art that is hidden in the space between the life and the death.

It is important to understand that when a disciple receives this type of instruction and transmission, already it is assumed that he is at a level and condition of practice where he forms a part of “the elite of the elite”. This type of transmission is for a practitioner or disciple who has a tested experience, united to a physical and psychic aptitude so that they can join with the current and the transmission of the master and his current “ryu” (流).

This transmission of “the elite of the elite” of “Muto dori” was expressed during the Edo period (1603-1867) with the term “soto no mono” (外之物) that can be interpreted for “object found outside the field of vision”, or with the term that I have used in the preceding paragraphs as “Kakushi-buki” (秘武器) .

This instruction was manifested in a space of confidence between the master and the disciple, in a space that went far beyond that of the dôjô, or the practice space of the warriors, far beyond of the practice of the “Bujutsu” and his more traditional weapons. The space occupied by this transmission comes alive in every moment of the life of the relationship created between master and pupil, and required something deeper than a complete mastery of martial science and weapons, demanding a state of absolute harmony that transcends the natural talent of the warrior to keep his calm in the middle of a dangerous situation, requiring a flexible mastery of the movement of the body in the art; in the art of the breathing, in the art of recognition of the emotions and feelings, in the art of endurance and patience, the art of enduring the heart to survive and cultivate the flexibility in any way against anything, ESPECIALLY AGAINST ONESELF – YOURSELF.

This transfer of martial information between master and pupil is known under the terms of “gokui” (极意) that can be interpreted as the “last state” or “essential principle” or with the term “ura waza” (裏技), which can be interpreted as “reverse technique”.

Takamatsu Toshitsugu demonstrating how to catch a sword wit ha Jutte.
Takamatsu Toshitsugu demonstrating how to catch a sword wit ha Jutte.

—————————————–

Note 1 – Kako genzai Mirai no jutsu (过去现在未来之術) – “Kako” means the past. “Genzai” means present and “mirai” means future. The meaning of all together express that the art created by the founder and refined for the next generation, contains all the information to adapt and confront to any situation or time, contains all the necessary to live, practice and transmit to the next generation the source “ryû” (流).

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