Often ‘Shugyôsha’ (修行者), or those engaged in an intensive physical or mental practice, often refer to the phrase ‘munen musô’ (無念無想). The idea of ‘munen musô’ is to make oneself free of worldly thoughts and desires. However, the term ‘munen musô’ is not what describes a correct state of mental unity. The reason is that within ‘munen musô’ is a concept known as ‘Boga no Kyo’, or a state of forgetting the self.
In other words, ‘munen musô’ is exactly the meaning of the four ‘kanji’ that make up the phrase. They are: 無 No – 念 Desire – 無- No – 想 Thought. Further, unification of the mind by eliminating the myriad and unending onslaught of ideas and thoughts as taught in various doctrines of religion and cultural programming is nothing like the unity of mind and spirit found in a true ‘Heihôsha’ (兵法者), or one engaged in the intensive practice of the subtle methods of combat and military strategy. True unity of mind and spirit is the state of utter selflessness and intensive singular focus.
In the mythology of the schools of the Bujinkan, there exist a person called Kiichi Hogen [鬼一法眼] (also sometimes romanized as Kiitsu Hogan) as mentioned in Takagi Yoshin Ryu’s Ryuko no maki. He is a legendary figure, who we do not know much about. Hogan lived in the 1100s in the areas around Kyoto.
He is said to have been skilled in onmyojutsu (陰陽道) a form of Japanese Taoism — and was a famous strategist.
Among the documents that are left behind after the “Kyoto’s eight schools,” Kyo Hachi Ryu, mentioned him as a prominent figure, whose teachings have been embraced among many of the martial arts schools that came from western Japan. Among other things, he must have left behind the piece of text included in Ryuko no maki;
“If the opponent comes, welcome it; if he goes so send him away. Add five to five and to receive ten; add two to eight, and to receive ten. How to create harmony.
Assess the situation, see through the intention; the large larger one ten square feet; the little penetrates the smallest things.
It can get hectic, but when you face whatever is in front of you, keep a cool head. “
According to a book from the early Edo period this was most like Chujo ryu. The tachi used was short and a characteristic technique was to squeeze close to the opponent.
The brief description of the sword he used is similar to our Togakure ryu sword and the techniques of Kasumi, Fuma and Aranami with movements that oshi kiri and Raikou ken etc., are extremely similar.
A temporal link with the Togakure Ryu is also a legend that Hogan was Minamoto Yoshitsune’s sword teachers, the same Minamoto Daisuke Nishima fought before he was forced to flee into Iga mountains.
If this connection is true, then one can also speculate that Chujo ryu, a famous but now extinct school, could have links to Togakure ryu and Gyokko ryu.
In the photo the Sōke of Bujinkan dōjō performs 刀匿礮姿 – Tōtoku Hyōshi, that is to use the sword as a shield against attack of outside or inside, this can be understood inside the Kobujutsu (古武術) as Naka-zumi (中墨) , Shinmyō-ken (神妙剣) or Seichū-sen (正中线). Basically it is the concept of maintaining a center-line with your being, with your body and with the tools that life has to offer, inside of sanshin (三心) this sanshin is an attitude of the being in spite of the external or INTERNAL circumstances (omote and ura / 表裏).
For this there is necessary the transmission and the practice of a corporal attitude of the being inside the one, the unity (一), From the unity to the multiplicity
Shūmoku (撞木), Hitoe (偏身), Ichimonji–goshi (一文字腰), Hanmi (半身) and Ichimonji (一文字) are some of the terms used in the kobujutsu for this corporal attitude inside the science of the art of the war (the art of the peace).
There are multiple guards, but only one guard will give us the victory over ourselves and our reflections projected on the outside.
What time is it? Now.
Where are you? Here.
Who are you? This moment.
Everything is in one, in the unity (一).
Presented by Dr. Kacem Zoughari, transcribed by Luke Croker
You see this as a scholar, then after you have the faith. Of course, the book needs to be read with faith, but what kind of faith? It’s the same as the scrolls, with the scrolls you have to read with a certain faith. The faith in the master, the faith in the art, the faith in your practice. You have to understand those books, well it’s hard to use the word “book for them, anyways, those texts, those writings, they are written with a certain cleverness. Do you understand that? With a certain intelligence, a certain faith, a certain love. So, automatically they talk to your cleverness, to your intelligence. You have to read them with a certain state of mind, a certain psychological predisposition, then it’s clear. If you don’t have this, then no matter what, if you are a scholar or a religious man, you will always turn to a kind of fanaticism. That’s why it’s really difficult; the book is for everyone, but the way you use it is your problem. Don’t blame the book. If you blame God because everyone is bad, he gave you the chance, everything is in front of you on the table. You don’t want to take it, you take the knife. It’s your choice. But don’t blame the writing, blame the interpretation. The interpretation is free, it’s already a big gift.
So, what I’m trying to explain to you here about the densho, Sometimes the densho is very simply: “grab, hold…” I do this sometimes with the translation of scrolls, and it means nothing. Why do I do that? I do this in order to show you that if you don’t have the practice, and the relationship with the one who wrote this, when you read this without that support. And everyone in your line of work, your everyday life, for example in your duty or your specialties, you know what you are doing because you have read many things, and when there is information that comes from another part of the country, or from someone else, you understand each other because you have pretty much the same background. You have something in common. So, when they send you something, you can analyze, see, observe, what is good inside, and what is bad; you have to read it in that way. But we need keys, to read a scroll, like any kind of book which talks to the intelligence, you need keys; keys of course the practice, a certain culture of your own brain, etc.
I hope this is clear for all of you. This is why where I know? where I see this? It’s easy, I did the technique, one day, I saw the boss, and what the boss is doing is clear as water. When he moves, he doesn’t shake; me? When I move I shake, and when I do the techniques, he says, “dame!” (no good; ダメ). I hate that word in Japanese. But its good, that means you know where you stand. If he says “ah, very good!” you know something is off on your legs. He said “very good” and you say “I’m not really sure ya’know…”. So, he said “dame!” and at that moment you make yourself very small, you don’t want to try again because you know you are going to do the same thing. “Dame koshi wo takai” (ダメ腰を高い), “your hips are high”. And here, it’s like an insult, like common! It hurts my heart, I practice, and he’s right. And like that everything froze, he can freeze the moment like a second.
There is a tendency, especially in the modern martial arts, for one to aspire to be the top performer in their preferred practice, be it karate, jūdō, wrestling, MMA, etc. This however tends to drive one towards sheer training, pure unbridled physical drilling. It is however, quite obvious, to me at least, that the fabled masters of a bygone era didn’t acquire their mystical level of performance by pure practice.
In the classical martial arts (as opposed to tradition; archived into traditional ritual), there was not the concept of black belts, ascension to “grand masters”, etc., instead the layout of the pedagogy in koryū (classical currents) often begins at an initial transmission (shoden), then delves into a middle transmission (chuden), and finally the deepest transmission (okuden).
One aspect of this is that just like the contemporary practice of combative sports today, one could proceed in their whole career in the gym and in the ring (or octagon for the more pedantic out there). The classical master certainly could have done this as well, but why, instead, did they chose to instead head into isolation in the mountains, forests, and ravines? These masters were driven to something different, something deeper, almost religious in their practice. In every case, this was how the quintessence (Gokui) of their school (ryūha) was developed, polished, and to a certain extant, codified.
One of the reasons that just sheer training in repetition and conditioning the body and techniques in a gym doesn’t usually bring about the birth of such insights as these gokui is that the gokui is not simply about the most effective technique, or best strategy against different fighters. Instead, much of it is a matter of how one organizes and computes dynamic information in action.
Drilling, sparring, and dueling in a ring, gym, or dōjō can be good for best case scenarios, but training in the dōjō will never make you an effective fighter in a forest. Whereas the gokui needs to be applicable anywhere, at any time, against any opponent.
Context aside, the gokui is located deep in a practice, in the mind and heart (kokoro) of the practitioner. It is very much a mater of neuro-plasticity; the mind is shaped by profound experiences. When one’s practice becomes profound, their techniques, strategies, and understanding of a situation becomes a mater of feeling, which is far faster and more efficient for impromptu critical decision making than human cognitive processing. This is a reason why many modern martial arts speak out against “technique dependent” arts and praise “dynamic” or “principle based” martial arts.
The paradox is to go deeper in a practice in order to ascend higher.
In the upper tiers of many classical Japanese composite martial arts (sogobujutsu; 綜合武術) there exists the practice of arresting a prisoner with a length of rope for the purpose of presenting to authorities or interrogation. The skill itself is called hayanawajutsu, and is considered quite a difficult technique to master and thus, few learn it and fewer still teach it. Though not clearly revealed or explicitly coupled, a hypothesis has been formulated that connects the elusive hayanawa techniques of Kukishin-ryū with the more readily available techniques of Shōshin-ryū and Musō-ryū.
Of the countless classical martial arts found in feudal Japan, there is a particular collection of traditions and lineages that carry within them a certain body of knowledge recognized for their unconventional utilization of the human body. These particular currents(1) of practice and thought (koryūha; 古流派) are either found within the regions of Iga and Kōga, or at some point in their lineage have passed through this region and were influenced by the sciences found there. One of the many biomechanical principles that contribute to the uniqueness of the martial arts of this geographic area is a detail called “Hichō” (leaping bird; 飛鳥),(2) which refers to the practice of maintaining one’s weight distribution over a single leg. Though there are many pros and cons to this practice, some of the effects include the ability to deliver kicking techniques without telegraphing the action to the enemy, the capacity to position one of the legs in any position without having any influence over any other component of the body, and the ability to suddenly displace one’s weight without any hesitation regardless of the encumbrance of ones armor or field gear.
Though the current practices of martial arts body culture has been profoundly influenced by what is often referred to as “sports movement”, that is to say a reliance on muscular strength and explosive speed in one’s effort to execute a technique, the classical theories of body culture was very different.(3) Instead, observing the advantages of subtly in movement (sabaki; 捌), positioning (kamae; 構), and situational awareness (ma-ai; 間合い) to allow the classical warrior to observe the maximum amount of intelligence about the enemy, while providing the minimum to him. One of the greatest advantages in utilizing the principle of Hichō, is that one is able to instantly deliver a kick, from any angle, in a single movement, as opposed to the common practice of relying on speed and tension to shift one’s body weight to a supporting leg in order to lift the leg without disrupting one’s balance negatively. This common method creates a proprietary movement before being able to lift the leg off the ground to be implemented, in turn both delaying the technique, as well as telegraphing the nature of the technique to the enemy and effectively negating the element of surprise. The combative techniques of the province of Iga and Kōga all took advantage of the ability to deploy any technique or weapon without relaying such an intention to the enemy.
Another major advantage of this principle is the capacity to stand perfectly profile to the opponent, hiding the rear half of the body, while allowing the lead leg to protrude as an appealing target for common stratagems such as leg sweeps, and low-striking attacks with weapons (Figure 1). The ploy is of course, the fact that there is no weight on the lead leg, allowing the recipient of the initial attack to retract (Figure 2), reposition and/or counter attack without having to shift one’s weight. If the response of repositioning the lead leg is timed correctly the opponent would be taken by surprise and unable to defend for a well-placed and timed counterattack.
A much undervalued yet exceedingly valuable quality of this sort of positioning is that it was devised and implemented with the use of armor in mind. Firstly, the leg positioning allowed for movement without the haidate(4) (thigh guards; 佩楯) to shift, exposing the thighs to attack, as well as delivering kicking techniques, as described above, again without exposing openings in the armor.(5) Furthermore, one is than able to drop the weight from one leg to the other suddenly, without telegraphing or delaying the movement with proprietary movement, effectively breaking the inertia of a fixed position and yet not generating uncontrolled momentum often resulting in unbalancing oneself. This type of movement allows the classical warrior to discreetly shift from a neutral position (shizen gamae; 自然構) to the defensive position commonly regarded as Ichimonji gamae (positioning on a straight line; 一文字構) all the while taking an effective defensive position as well as being able to deploy any form of weapon or technique from said position.
The above three effects are only a few of the resulting qualities and details developed from the biomechanical theory of Hichō, and this principle of Hichō is only a small yet significant aspect of a much larger holistic system of thought and movement found in the classical martial arts of Japan, and most particularly in those systems found to have been influenced by the inhabitants of the province of Iga and Kōga. From something as simple as a special distribution of weight in the body one is able to deploy the supposed slowest form of attack and technique in the martial arts without the enemy perceiving nor understanding the nature of the attack, laying out a stratagem to lure in the enemy for a counter attack, as well as building an effective platform for which to suddenly and without warning, displace one’s own weight for disguised methods of evading and defending from attack.
1 Koryūha 古流派: Classical or old way of using the body and weapon that show a deep flow in order to develop and understand the human’s body and psyche through the experiences of various warriors (famous or not). Those experiences allow to keep an open heart and mind in order to always keep the flow (Ryū) running, to face any kind of situation, weapon, man, fighter, warrior, killer or style. (Zoughari, New interview with Dr. Kacem Zoughari on koryû, ninjutsu and practice)
2 The posture of Hichō (Hichō no kamae; 飛鳥之構) is described in the written manuscripts as “The left foot is raised to the right knee joint, make a fist with the right hand with the thumb extended, this is positioned over the left elbow.” (左足を右足中関節のところに上げ、左手を半開き前方に右手拳と親指を立てて、左手肘関節の辺に位取りのこと。) (Hatsumi 212)
3 “According to the most recent report presented at the gathering of the Nihon Budô Gakkai, we see that after a century of modernization, the Japanese combative sports, collectively known as the martial arts, are now at an impasse. This sentiment is shared by large number of researchers and high ranking practitioners. This impasse extends itself right down to the way of moving in everyday life, as the modern martial arts claim to be the end result that is founded on the way of movement of the greatest martial arts masters of Japan such as: Yagyû Sekishûsai (1529-1606), Yagyû Munenori (1571-1646), Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1646), Itô Ittôsai (1550-1618), Tamaoka Tesshû (1836-1888), etc.” (Zoughari, THE HISTORY OF MOVEMENT IN THE JAPANESE MARTIAL ARTS: Structure, Way of Thought, and Transmission)
4 Haidate (佩楯) Thigh guards which tied around the waist and covered the thighs. These were made from cloth with small iron and or leather plates of various size and shape, usually connected to each other by chain armour (kusari; 鎖) and sewn to the cloth.
5 “In Japanese armor, there are two parts; haidate (thigh guards which tied around the waist and covered the thighs. These were made from cloth with small iron and or leather plates of various size and shape, usually connected to each other by chain armor and sewn to the cloth; 佩楯), and suneate (shin guards made from iron splints connected together by chain armor and sewn to cloth and tied around the calf; 臑当). When you walk it moves to protect you on the side. When you do the sweeping side kick that a lot of people do in the Bujinkan, this plate moves out of the way and exposes your own flesh and thigh. Thus if you are always in Hichō gamae, the plate will stay in place, and you can safely position to kick with zenpō geri.” (Zoughari, Stockholm 2010 Gyokko Ryu & Toujutsu)
Japanese systems generally place less emphasis on punches and kicks than the adjacent systems in China, Korea and Okinawa (there are exceptions such as Shuai Jiao, Qinna etc.). The Japanese jujutsu systems emphasizes throws, control grips, joint breaks and fractures and attacks, what we in summary call crude wrestling.
Atemi (striking techniques; 当身) are of secondary importance in most Japanese systems, while Chinese Chuan Fa (jap: Kempo) have punches and kicks as their primary method of action. It is thought that the Japanese systems koppojutsu (Science of Bone Methods; 骨法術), kosshijutsu (Science of the bones of the hand; 骨指術), dakentaijutsu (Science of striking with the fists; 打拳術), hakuda (Rhythmic strikes; 拍打), kempo (Principles of the fist; 拳法) Shubaku (Seizing with the hands; 手搏) and others are influenced by various Shaolin and Wudang systems in their use of close combat and hand striking, while systems with roots in Japanese Chikara Karabe and Sumai (roots stretching to the Chinese mainland and the Chou dynasty Jiao Ji) is little affected by such techniques, but uses them when necessary.
There are three basic reasons why the Japanese systems were developed in this direction.
During the Sengoku Jidai (1467 – 1568) it had been necessary to fight in armor on the battlefield, an environment where punches and kicks were used only for approaching the opponent and raw wrestling techniques were used in order to subdue him unto unconsciousness and then be able decapitate him. This reason is valid even today for people who are physically smaller and/or weaker than their opponents. A lightweight can not expect to be able to knock out a heavyweight.
International statistics on Lethal Head Injuries (LHI) shows that unarmed brawling is the cause of 85% of deaths in fighting. LHI occurs at 80% of these situations when the victim falls and hits his head against something hard, such as curbs, etc.
Another reason was that even if the opponent is not encumbered in body armor, it was hard to beat him unconscious with hands and feet because he was probably battle experienced and could evade. If one fails his surprise attack, the opponent will have time to deploy their weapons.
While this reason has validity in today’s acute emergencies. Everyone, regardless of experience in street fights, thanks to the media a heightened awareness of how an attack can be carried out and therefore most have built readiness to react (flinch reflex) away incoming punches and kicks.
The most common and dangerous form of knife attack is a blow in the hand, a blow that comes surprisingly from below while the attacker is approaching the victim with the knife concealed. This happens probably just because of a heightened awareness also of the aggressor to the victim may be able to protect themselves and fight back.
The criticism that can be leveled against many of today’s self-defense systems is that they do not have methods for dealing with this type of attack, despite it being so common.
3. The main reason was probably correct, is that the raw wrestling was the most effective way to prevent the opponent to use his weapon on the battlefield. If he had a sword, it was important to prevent him from drawing it. On the other hand, if one was armed with a sword, it was important to be able to free themselves from the opponent so you could use it.
In today’s emergencies, it must be assumed that the attacker is armed, even if the weapon is not worn visibly. Moreover, one must assume that he has friends in the neighborhood who can jump in as reinforcements if the battle is prolonged.
For these three reasons, one can conclude that what was useful 500 years ago are highly topical today.
In martial arts, the victor is the strongest, fastest and and one with initiative, because the rules throttle and control the options.
On the battlefield one could intensify the situation with weapons and tools to improve their situation against faster opponents with tactical game and strengthen their weaknesses with armor and helmet. This resulted in the development of systems that emphasized maneuver and decisive battle with the raw wrestling.
Our Taijutsu is the engine that drives the techniques and tactics of raw wrestling. The Japanese names we use for our form of raw wrestling is Kumiuchi (Close grappling; 組討), Torite (Seizing with the hands; 捕手) and Jutaijutsu (Science of the flexible and subtle body; 柔體術) and derives first and foremost from Gyokko-ryu, and to some extent from Koto-ryu.
In the higher order of taijutsu training requires that you act on the inner emotions. In order to know how to act on an intuitive emotion during an acute emergency, requires a body and mind that is free from tension and stiffness. If we are free from tension, the emotion can penetrate to the “oscillation” we have built into us and can thus avoid and counter all forms of attack. Note that sentence began with the word “If”. When the word “if” is replaced with the word “when” we’ve got fantastic way of our development.
There are many people who may feel “Sakki” (killing intent; 殺気), but it is not everyone who can act on that feeling and move aside the attack.
All our lessons begin and end with “Shikin haramitsu daikomyo” (詞韻波羅密大光明) is a mantra to integrate our external and internal, our physical appearance with the environment, etc. Haramitsu translates to “to get to the other side.” The first state referred to what we call “uso” (universal concept; 宇想), the formal side. On the side of our kata and strive to understand and experience the physical movements conscious.
The other side is what we call “muso” (without conception; 無想), the formless side. Where we act intuitively and instinctively all menacing pre-incident signals (PINS) from our environment. Sometimes we become consciously aware of the signals, sometimes we just “act” without understanding why (often called being “lucky“).
When we are first sitting of sakki test we are in the state of uso. If we do not act in “haramitsu” (波羅密), ie intuitively duck and the muso-state takes over, which is demonstrated clearly because we are not beaten in the head. When we duck and roll away from danger. But it is not enough just to duck to be initiated into the higher form of taijutsu training. There are many who have dodged the Sakki, but then not dared remain on muso-side and that has turned back. It is safe to be left on the side where everything has an explanation, where everything is rational and logical, but it can be felt extremely unsafe and dangerous to let go of control and go into the unknown within.
These people have the right to call themselves Shidoshi but has still not fully come to realize what the advanced part of ninjutsu consists of.
Ninjutsu does not belong in the comparative world; where we say this is better than that, one is more important than the other, nor in the field of physical comparisons where it is better to be the strongest or the fastest.
The purpose of ninjutsu is to live and survive and there is no objective value of properties that make it more or less easy for us to do it. Nor is ninjutsu a species in which subjective emotional or volitional manifestations increases our survival, for example, wins are not always from acting the most aggressive or being wiser. Nor the best trained or have the most black belts in various martial arts.
Actions in the sakki test are defined in mikkyo Buddhist theory as the contact between subject and object. It is the meeting between the inside and the outside, the link between intention and effect, between the uso and muso. This is seen in Buddhism as a sign that the body and mind are one.
Acting can not coexist with subjective thinking or to objectively feel with their minds – because acting is not in the same space of time as thought and perception. The present is the state (that is a synonym for Kukan) for all actions and thus ninjutsu, while thinking and fixed perception belongs to the past.