The following is a summary of a talk I had with sensei in Japan earlier this year. He specifically asked that I spread the following message(s) to the Bujinkan in Scandinavia and elsewhere, and so I do not want to muddle anything with my own opinions or interpretations here. Instead, I have done my best to convey his words accurately, but as you’ll understand it’s not always easy with Sensei – some of his meaning may or may not have been lost in translation.
I wrote down the following statements immediately after our talk, without the intent to actually share the specific task bestowed upon me with anyone. I might be too worried about ruffling any feathers in the community, or I might be overthinking things, but here goes:
“So Elias, you’re going to host next year’s TaiKai. People from Scandinavia and all over the world will meet there, and I want you to tell them all this: TaiKai Norway may be my last TaiKai. Make sure you tell them that, so they understand that this might be the last chance they have to capture the feeling.”
On seeing and learning
You know when Sensei asks someone, or everyone in the room for that matter, if they understand what was just demonstrated? You see some people nodding understandingly, others frantically try to think of a poetic way to explain what they saw, others yet answer honestly that they don’t have a clue what he’s doing. Yet, to all of us he always says not to worry, and that we’ll get it someday.
But as time passes, new questions arise. So when are we supposed to understand what used to be when new mysteries await around the corner every time we try to catch up? The talk I had with Sensei started along those lines. I wanted to know exactly what constitutes Koppojutsu, the theme of the previous year at the time. As usual with Sensei, his answer trailed off onto something else. Or did it?
The first thing he said was “Don’t think too much about it. We’re doing Koshijutsu now, so that’s more important. You were at last year’s TaiKai and I’m sure you had many moments where you understood new things; that you thought you got the feeling”
“Yes, Sensei”, I said. “Maybe a few when you used me as Uke. I thought I could just about grasp something special.” Sensei nodded approvingly even before my answer was fully translated back to him in Japanese, and he continued:
“The Uke is usually the only one who understands what’s happening. The people who stand around and watch might think they understand, but they don’t. All they see is what I show them. That part they can do themselves, and teach on to their own students. What Uke experiences cannot be replicated afterwards. Even if they truly feel it, they can’t explain it afterwards. I always ask people to explain the feeling back to me. This is how I know how good they are. Sometimes silence is the best answer. When I ask them to explain and they just shake their heads and laugh, that’s when I know they understand.”
“If Budo was so simple that someone could come to me just once, and then go home and teach it to others, what challenge would there be to it? No, Budo is not that simple, and never will be. Sadly, there are people like that. They come here to me once, and then they go home and make a name for themselves.”
“You have to be present in every moment. When you are Uke, it’s much easier to understand what it is I’m teaching. It’s not enough to just keep your eyes open. You have to absorb with all your senses and capture the feeling. Only then can you understand the essence of what I’m doing. It’s not enough to just memorize my words or my rhytm, and then pass it along. Not when the body tells a different story. Anyone can see through a lie like that.”
“To learn is to endure! For every good person, there’s two or three bad ones. There are plenty of good people around the world who come to me every year and train. They have families and little spare time, and yet they spend their time and money to come to me to learn. Others perform acts in their dojos and teach things that they do not know about. They earn money from other people’s need for security. I feel sorry for their students, who do not get to see the truth.”
“Unfortunately, if you don’t take part in the evolution and changes that happen from year to year, you will not keep up. It’s just like a computer. Today it’s fantastic, and tomorrow it out-of-date. People who are out-of-date in your country and in Scandinavia are not good for the Bujinkan. You must see to it that we do not have people like that. Go home and bring all the good people together and together you must see to it that the bad people are brought up to speed. The ones that aren’t interested, shouldn’t be in the Bujinkan. Everyone must take responsibility for their own country. We are headed towards a new era.”
“Make sure you tell people in Scandinavia all this when you get home, Elias”
Not long before the talk I had with Hatsumi-sensei in Japan, I attended the Madrid TaiKai. The following is a direct (translated) quote from what Sensei said at the Shihan dinner party:
“For many years I have presented you with a lot of lies. White lies, just like those parents tell their children to raise them well. But now you’ve all become adults, and I can’t lie to you anymore. You would notice!”