I watched the sunrise last Saturday – it was a hazy beginning to an otherwise beautiful weekend. November 1st and 2nd was our annual Gasshuku, a training retreat, and I was optimistic about what we had in store: the site was 132 acres of prairies and pine woods, located on the banks of the pristine waters of Lake Beulah, Wisconsin. I had lined up some of the most talented Midwest teachers in the Bujinkan to share their ability, created some challenging night training, and Sunday morning we had a 40-foot climbing wall to conquer. And we had a blast.
The theme of the weekend was Kyojitsu, deception, and we explored it through the principles of Taijutsu, namely: position, leverage, and initiative.
When using the word position, I’m not referring to anything stationary. Position in Taijutsu relates to Kamae and Kamae are anything but stationary. Kamae are active, vibrant, living examples of one’s will connecting with an opponent’s intent. Unless we first understand this connection, any talk of Kyojitsu is premature. Kyojitsu lies in the luring, confidence building that occurs when we have effectively connected with the opponent to get them to believe something with four possible outcomes: something that is …
1. True that is true.
2. False that is false.
3. True that is false.
4. False that is true.
The Kyojitsu Tenkan Ho, interchange of the concepts of falsehood and actuality, are the means by which the four outcomes above are juxtaposed within the Kukan to present reality as illusion and illusion as reality. The primary means of training deception are the very means we use to train regularly, except employing a different perspective.
We began by examining various Kamae for their intrinsic and extrinsic values beginning with the basics:
- Seigan no Kamae
- Ichimonji no Kamae
- Shizen no Kamae
Each Kamae has a slightly different feel and purpose. Each Kamae captures space, allowing us to connect with the opponent in different ways and by examining the ‘positives’ and ‘negatives’ of each, we can soon see stark differences. For example, Seigan is a resolutely protective, expansive Kamae, meant to interrupt and even stop an attacker’s advance and precede a counter-attack. It severs the connection to the opponent by closing off any gap they may be lured into taking advantage of. It commands the Kukan, pressuring the opponent to stop resisting, allowing us to take advantage of the opening created at the moment their Kamae is broken.
Ichimonji no Kamae is a defensive, contracting movement meant to draw opponents into an attack and become the target of a debilitating counter-attack. By acting as bait, we lure the opponent to willingly enter our trap and seize control of us, only to find the bait and the trap are one in the same.
With Shizen no Kamae there is no obvious offensive or defensive movement connected with it. It is by far the most difficult Kamae to master because it relies on no formal positional nature, much like a castle without defensive walls, it is simply a bare, natural, everyday position. It begs the question, what is it that protects one in Shizen no Kamae?
Once we understood the concept of position and how it could be employed, we looked at leverage, which can be thought of as the position within the position. Just like the macro view gives us the greater perspective, so too does the micro view give us the detailed understanding. Leverage is the means by which position becomes effective. Position locates the gap in the opponent’s defense and leverage is used to exploit it. If we learn to manipulate leverage, juxtaposing truth and falsehood – real leverage from simply perceptive – we can in turn manipulate the opponent toward a quicker loss, an easier end, a false survival.
How well we are able to take advantage of that position has to do with when we decide to create Taijutsu. Timing is the glue that binds position and leverage together. Without it, there would be no cohesiveness to the moment, the canvas upon which Taijutsu is rendered. To use timing deceptively, we must first understand the way of timing.
When is the time to capture the initiative?
- Initiative before the attack
- Initiative at the moment of attack
- Initiative after the moment of attack
Like every part of Taijutsu, timing is linked to the next phase of the wheel, position, thus providing the inertia for Taijutsu’s constant movement, its own perpetual motion. When we look at how to deceive an opponent with the use of timing, we must realize it is an issue of position and leverage, how we connect with the opponent. This ‘Tsunagari’ leads to the comprehension of the opponent’s intent and the beginning of how to lead them astray by providing them with true, false, or irrelevant information to confuse them.
And so went our first training session for the weekend. But like all great retreats, it was the participants making it all worthwhile; their enthusiasm and energy kept morale high. I need to thank Shidoshis Jeff Patchin, Joe Bunales, Kevin Clarke, Jim Delorto, and Roger Rutz for their outstanding teaching and guidance. Thanks, guys.
Let’s do it all again next year!