Tonnes to think about.

Keiko last week at the hombu (and two days at the Butoku at Kashima Jingu) was like nothing I had ever experienced. Intense, focussed, hard, fun and filled with epiphanies and revelations.

Initially, Sensei wanted us to focus on Shuhen Shiya (周辺視野) and Chushin Shiya (中心視野). The first, shuhen shiya, relates to peripheral awareness, i.e. turning your peripheral vision on and maintaining that awareness throughout your keiko. The second, chushin shiya, refers to focusing in on your opponent or on a certain point in your vision. The key is to maintain both at the same time. This is where it gets tricky as tunnel vision is often the immediate result when shit goes down and we fall under duress. However, being aware of this and remembering to fall back into peripheral awareness will help your performance, mental equanimity and keep you together. For those of you who meditate or 'sit', falling back to the focus of your breath or your last count is kind of like the same thing and, I guess, this practise will eventually become something natural and habitual.

Sensei also imparted the idea of kakusei mushin (覚醒無心) and its importance in keiko and everyday life. Mushin, as we all well know, refers to the zen idea of 'no mind' (please note that another Japanese translation for this compound is 'naïvety' or 'to be childlike' - this has no relation to the way we use the phrase). Sensei gave us examples of not having any thoughts during keiko and combat and not to think of an outcome or what kata or technique we might use. Doing so would be fatal and would also prevent us from moving naturally and freely. Kakusei, on the other hand, refers to being aware or awakened as both kanji refer to the same sort of thing. Therefore, awareness coupled with no mind. Sensei propounded the idea that by maintaining kakusei mushin we will be free of the opponents deceiving tricks, taunts or traps and we will not be taken in by them.

Some pretty heavy concepts with a lot of underlying facets, right? Well, of course. This kobudo, remember? The learning of the old and the esoteric with the idea of relating it to the present or learning something new from it, i.e. onko chishin (温故知新).

I found kakusei mushin maintainable during normal one-on-one kenjustu no keiko (well, most of the time) but as soon as we started performing 'one against many' kenjutsu no keiko it fell apart almost immediately. I guess more keiko is the key to becoming better at this. Interestingly, when we returned to the usual paired keiko, my movement felt better and had a sense of 'mushin'. The last day, i.e. the 6th day of keiko felt incredibly pleasant and I ended the seminar's 6 days of keiko with a feeling that I still had a three quarter tank available and ready. I commented this to Sensei whilst getting changed telling him that funnily, this last day was my best day of them all and that I felt elated. He said that I was most probably paying attention to my state of 'kakusei mushin'. I will now endeavour to do this during each and every session of keiko along with paying attention to my tanden, my feet, relaxing my shoulders, keeping my back straight, getting lower and the hundred other things he has as asked me to pay attention to in these past 16 years!

Next time, I'd like to talk about 'brotherhood' and how it relates to us in the Jinenkan, particularly in relation to our time spent together during the dojo-cho seminar.


Maurizio Mandarino
Chiba, Japan


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