Play!

Originally posted by Pertti Ruha

More of Ingvar Hulterström analyzes!
[My own thoughts and comments I have marked so here // Pertti].

From: Some thoughts about the instructor’s role in the Bujinkan by Ingvar Hulterström

Play – This is an interesting word in many ways, with an enormous number of connections in Western culture. This is a word we need to analyze more in depth to understand what Sensei says.

[Hatsumi Sensei usually ends his demonstrations and lessons with the shout “Play!”]

But before I do that, I need to start with a different word, a word that is often misunderstood in total, and in my experience almost always used as their total opposite. Because I have never heard the word “structure” used without it, you mean is what I usually summarize as the word “ritual”. The following illustration shows this:

That is, most people believe that when you have a chaotic situation it needs the structure. The problem is that what you then really get into is the following dichotomy:

The problem then is that what we want to achieve in-training in the dojo, that creativity and the ability to act at all times in relation to particulate / together with the whole system the person is in communication with, are not found in either of these two positions.

Thus, there must be a third position, so to say, incorporating aspects of both positions simultaneously.

  • In the chaos , there is nothing to react to, no time, no learning, just because every single moment is total particulate.
  • In the ritual , this cannot be, there’s no need for time learning history as ritual always proceeds in exactly the same way every time.
  • This third position is what the word “structure” really means.

A first example, to start introducing the concept of structure, I borrow from the language.
Natural languages (Swedish, English, Finnish, etc.), namely on its symbolic level is highly structural. This means that a single word, as a symbol, has no inherent meaning.
Thus, we cannot say what the word really means when we only have one word. An example of this is the word “where”. If we go into a dictionary to find what this word means, we find probably (depending on which dictionary we look into) something like this:

What the word “where” means depends on which other symbols that come before and after, that is, it’s meaning comes from its position in a structure.
Another example is a chess game. As a beginner in chess could be led to believe that the bishop’s strength is innate, it is built like a queen and is stronger than a pawn. So it’s obviously not. A checker strength, importance, defined by its position relative to the other playing pieces right now. The meaning is thus determined by its position in the structure, and as time here is included as a variable, it is also a structure that changes over time.

When people speak our mother tongue we do not do it in a deterministic way (Ok, Donald said so, then I take 13b phrase from the list), but we improvise in the language. Unless we are autistic, then it is very common that the language is deterministic.
The thing that makes it possible for us to improvise in the language is that we have internalized (not learned, but the depth has been altered or structured by) language structure.

That is the way I, emphatically, believes that Hatsumi Sensei has created the Bujinkan like a language. I’m not saying that it s a language, but it is like a language, ie, that the Bujinkan is a symbolic structure where it is not possible to understand such a technique in isolation. And it is also at this point Bujinkan differs from most martial arts I have encountered over the past 30 years.
So, how does one do when one internalizes a structure? Here we should go to the champions in the field, namely children. And this is also where we link back to this text’s title, for the children do, as often as they can get away with it is to just play.

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