Playtime is over !
These words have been heard by many in Japan over the last few months. Many are shocked and confused. Let me try to explain sensei’s meaning.
After one of his training sessions in Tokyo, he came to me and explained, starting with the words: „Play time is over,“ after showing us the importance of correct stances.
We trained with tools; one attacked with a shinai and one defended with two knives. Sensei showed how to block a cut from above and then he gave the shinai to Ishizuka sensei and the knives to a Japanese shihan. But the shihan didn’t block correctly, so sensei went to him and showed him the right posture and said „Once again.“ But he still did the technique incorrectly and sensei said „Once again.“ Yet again he did it wrong and sensei took the shinai from Ishizuka and said to the man „Now you block“ and hit him hard, fast and for real. The man still didn’t do the correct blocking, so sensei hit again and again.
He was taught the „hard way“; he didn’t block correctly and he knew that because sensei hit through his kamae and banged a hole in his head resulting in pain and blood. So sensei came and said „The play time is over. We have to show the real thing and show the power of the art.“
I was looking at him and had to ask him if he meant that we should beat people and students up. The answer was no, but you have to be more observant on the correct things; you have to show the real ninjutsu. That gave me something to think about and while talking with Hatsumi sensei, Manaka, Ishizuka and the other shihans, I now understand it.
I notice that many people who train in ninjutsu live with a certain misunderstanding. They say „if this technique is not functioning I just change it to a henka“ or „I can do what I like because ninjutsu is a free art.“ We look at sensei and see a person moving freely, improvising, flowing… and we try to copy him, forgetting that he’s reached this level after 50 years of training. These people think they know the basics, know the kihon. But how can they think so…?
There are a series of „techniques“ in the different ryus named „kihon“ or „no kata“ which teach basics. These basics are taught, not as fighting techniques, but for our development. If the „techniques“ in „KIHON“ or „NO KATA“ don’t function, you should not do a henka or variation. If the technique doesn’t function, it does not mean that the technique is wrong or not okay for you. It does mean, however, that your taijutsu or kamae is not correct. You must keep on practicing and training in the basics thousands and thousands of times until you really know them. Those basics are there for you to develop your taijutsu; to make you understand movements, timing, hardness and softness. This is absolutely necessary – there is no way out of it.
And then, when your „KIHON“ and „NO KATA“ come naturally to your body, you can start to find and create henka out of the movements. Sensei says about „KIHON“ and „NO KATA“ that after godan „They will have their own face, but before that, no.“
You and I are normal. We want to do all the things that Sensei teaches us. Sensei shows many special things, special movements, but he also says „What I can give you is the feeling. You have to study with other teachers to learn the techniques.“
Do you really know your basics, do you really know the „katas?“ From what does your „HENKA“ spring from? How much is your own face, how much is there for you to learn, and for you to give to others? How far have you come in your enlightenment, in the understanding of taijutsu and what is what? Many questions, I know, but I also know they are necessary to ask yourself and for you to find out the answers. What is technique and what is feeling. How to combine those and when and why.
To be more critical of yourself, to be more correct in your postures is the hard way, along with not hurting others, not beating others up. Feeling is important and so is intuition. But the way to train and find that out is by going through thousand and thousands of hours of correct basics training. Therefore I wish you good luck with your basics and keep on going.
A vous les N91,
pour ceux qui ne connaissent pas encore l’auteur de cette article,
Sveneric est un grand Shihan, un grand sage, un ami et un de mes profs préférés.
Je vous souhaite à tous de le rencontrer, de recevoir ses leçons et encore plus son enseignement.
Amitiés et bonne journée