When I brought Gary into the Ann Arbor ballroom and started moving with it, some folks approached me with consternation, “What are you going to do with that?” I was taken aback. They may as well have been asking what I intended to do with a hanbo, or sword, or rope. “Train with it,” I replied. They smiled, “Yeah, but … how?”
Much of the talk at Taikai revolved around basics – how we needed to concentrate on them, practice them more often, make certain we understand them more fully. All of which begs the question: what exactly are the basics?
This to me is reasonable. This to me is basic. Why? Principles are the basic: distance, balance, and timing. Getting Jill in shape, and giving her a raw, visceral understanding of advantageous position and leverage on an opponent, at their weakest, most inopportune time grants her the very best chances to escape and survive. Not fighting back, mind you, escaping. Ninpo Taijutsu is based on escape; every aspect of the Shinobi’s life was dedicated to this ideal. They didn’t duel like the samurai, they used their Taijutsu for deception. They created all kinds of funky, freaky tools to assist them, while feeding the superstitions that would expand their legend and create hesitation in the mind of their next enemy. Ninja took the notion of the Bushido warrior and flipped it on its head, because they knew, if they didn’t return with the battle plans, or the reconnaissance map, or the secrets of the enemy, they knew people were going to die. Maybe their own people.
So, when asked “how” I would use my warhammer the answer was simple - with Taijutsu. But the better question, “how do you not know how?” is answered by our training perspective. Are there warhammer techniques out there? Yes, Shinden Fudo Ryu has some. Do I know any of them? Not yet, but I imagine I will at some point. Does it matter in the interim? Not really. When we can clearly comprehend the principles, opportunity and advantage become apparent, allowing us to capture the kukan in the right place, in the right way, and most importantly, at the right time. Techniques then fit into the captured space.
The techniques of our art are there to guide us through the mountains and pitfalls in our understanding of advantage. Position, leverage, and initiative are the adjustments we make in our application of technique. But if we cannot recognize those foundational concepts, if our movement becomes myopic and intent on ‘winning,’ we lose the vitality of the kukan, and the space around us contracts, choking us of the few precious moments we may need to get home to Jill.
I'd want her to own this understanding. I think she'd want me to own it too.