Sunday, May 24, 2009

Kukan: The Final Frontier

So, what the hell is this thing we call Kukan? You have heard the term over and over yet how do you know what it means. I hear a lot of teachers say things like “take his space” but do the student really understand what that means? Hell, does the teacher even know? Sometimes I think yes and sometimes, not so much.


Kukan; it is normally referred to as space, but I like to think of it as potential space. I have also heard it referred to as tactical space, which I don’t think this is inaccurate, just an incomplete description.


To understand Kukan we have to understand the relationship between uke and tori in relation to our surroundings or some might say terrain. Once you understand your relation to uke and everything around you, then you can work on understanding some of the concepts of infinite directions (happo hikan)  and our space/time relationship of past, present and future (juppo sessho). Still with me? Ok good. Now I believe the key to not only understanding Kukan but also utilizing it, is understanding the idea of potential. With potential the possibilities are endless. Soke says, ”wonderful thing can be born in the space”. I believe we have to let go of preconceived notions and ideas about what we are going to do in order for the creation in the space to take place. We must first just put ourselves in the space and like a good ninja read and adapt to what is born in the moment, it is only here where true mastery can exist. (Reference made by Soke in ayase may 2009)


If you watch Soke, how he controls his uke, he does so with the kukan or the potential of what could happen, not necessarily the reality of what will happen. In this way he can make his uke control himself through fear and doubt and confusion, all while Soke exerts no energy.


Kukan in a basic description is all the space around an opponent that the opponent is not occupying or using. This includes around, above and below (3 dimensions). But I believe that the concept of kukan reaches further then that. You have to understand what the space will be after the uke moves. The kukan changes as the uke does. This is one of the reasons why Soke says” it’s the next one.”


By keeping your uke in the past, while you’re in the present, you can know the future. This is another type of kukan.


Here is one way to look at space and how it changes. My good friend Rob Renner explains it as: “ look at a bowl, you understand the space of the bowl right? Now smash the bowl into pieces on the ground. Where is the space now?” This is a great way of understanding kukan and the concepts of this year of kukan no nawa! You have to go beyond the space and start to understand how the spaces are connected.


This is the next level. This is what we are currently training in this year,

We are not training in the stupid rope! Soke is only utilizing the rope as a metaphor to help us understand this concept.


If you understand the kukan and kukan no nawa then you learn to let go of your attachments to an outcome. You know that the spaces are connected so you travel through space as it changes without the desire of a result. This is why Soke says, “its not decided” this is like the godan test. Move through space with that feeling!


My good friend Dan Ordoins said this brillant qoute “attach to nothing to control everything” wow that one nails it! Like taijutsu,  that quote was born in the moment of being in the right space with the right feeling.


So all you have to do is understand kukan, be able to read the kukan, move in the kukan, have the right kukan of the heart and know how it’s all connected and you’ll have it!


Until our next journey through space….



P.s. am glad I could help make this topic clear as mud for you. J

Friday, May 22, 2009

Just Another Bokken...

Learning a new technique is like having 100 bokkens and going out and buying another one. While each new bokken is nice to look at and fun to brag to all of your friends about, purchasing one more is pointless. What purpose is really served by having yet another bokken?

One could argue that comparing a technique to a bokken is not valid due to the fact that techniques are not all the same and are in fact very different.  However, I beg to differ. Techniques, while on the surface may look different, are actually based upon similar principles; timing, position, angle, leverage, etc. These underlying principles are the essence of the technique that come together to make them work. The techniques themselves are dead; they are only windows into the minds and lives of the martial artists of the past. Technique is our history book, a history that can only be brought to life by the movement and principles of taijutsu.

Now, back to the bokken. If you have been training in the Bujinkan for any length of time, you know that Soke says we must use our weapons as other weapons. As Soke says, it is all the same. So again, if you use a bokken like a hanbo, or a rope, or sword it makes no difference because only the taijutsu behind it will matter. This is why Soke says to throw away the technique. While we may think that it is the accumulation of technique that will save our lives in an attack, the truth is it will be that very thing that gets you killed. The technique cannot save you, only YOU can save yourself!

Now, this is not directed to the beginners. This is for the people who have been around long enough and have learned enough techniques to finally be able to forget them. Do you have to go out and practice the technique of driving your car? No! It is automatic; it is ingrained in you. You don’t even have to think about it. You can drive while illegally texting, eating a hamburger, and checking out the hottie in the rear view mirror; all while switching lanes and controlling the wheel with your knee so you don’t drop the burger on the floor and interrupt your texting. This is just like taijutsu, once you understand how and why and when an omote gyaku will work, you do not need to spend countless hours re-learning it again and again and again. You can simply apply the principles that make it work, especially the distance and timing necessary to even put you in the right position to do it, and let the magic happen.

If you want to be a bokken collector, that’s fine. They are fun to own. But if you want to know how to really use them against a skilled opponent, then stop collecting them and start learning the principles that make them work; juppo sessho, biken ishin, ikkan hasso, distance, timing, angling, and by far the most important of all, kokoro no kamae.

By the way, I have some really cool bokken for sale if you’re interested….

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Interpretive Dance?

Taijutsu: is there a method or is it just interpretive dance? It seems as though most people approach this issue as if it were open to personal interpretation. Taijutsu means roughly “the way of the body.” It is therefore a system centered on body movement, but what body movement? Is any type of movement fine? Or are there specific ways of movement?

From all of my trips to Japan and watching and listening to Soke Hatsumi, I have come to the realization that, yes there are very specific ways that we move, and no these ways are not open to interpretation. In order to achieve the kyojutsu and understand the kukan, you must be moving with a specific taijutsu. But where is this source of taijutsu? Where do we get it? How do we learn it? The answer is simple, yet everyone goes looking everywhere else other then the source. Soke Hatsumi!

This is not anyone else’s art! It is Soke's. If anyone else shows or tells you something, it is only that person’s best interpretation of what Soke has created. I personally don’t want filtered taijutsu, so I go to the source and watch, and feel and listen!

It seems that many students overlook the obvious. They either think that Soke is too far beyond their reach or that they don’t want “old man” taijutsu. Well, if I get the results that he does using this “old man” taijutsu, I will gladly have it! Soke moves the way that you have to move in order for everything to come together. Any deviation and it won’t work. Can you really see Soke out there wrestling some guy for an arm bar or trying to throw somebody? The answer is NO!

Soke does not try to do anything; he utilizes his movement and understanding of juppo sessho to have as he says, “wonderful things happen in the space.” He is always in the right spot because he understands and reads the space. If you use the correct movement with the correct heart in the Kukan you will win.  There is a saying “if you keep doing what you’re doing then you will keep getting what you’re getting.” If you want half-decent jujutsu, keep doing what you’re doing.  However, if you want to do Ninjutsu start doing what Soke's doing, not your interpretation.