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