Soke often mentions “the next one” as being a key point of focus in taijutsu and our study of Budo. In the concept of taijutsu this is best described as preparation movement, always moving one step ahead in such a way to be on balance, off balancing the opponent and seeking awareness of what the next attack might be, regardless of the number of attackers.
Soke has recently spoke of this concept in detail and I personally believe that this is one of the most important lessons in the study of Hatsumi sensei’s mindset. It could be said that being capable of knowing all possibilities, a juppo sessho mindset, is singularly one of the most important aspects of the mastery of martial arts and life in general. Furthermore, this is banpenfugyo and the aspect of fudoshin 不動心or heijyoshin平常心.
Soke also went as far as to say that the Bujinkan should not be considered the ultimate martial art, as it is the mindset wherein the value exists. Over the course of history, all cultures and countries posses their own fighting styles. The fighting style is not the point of strength, but the mindset in how one fights or controls is where the true strength lies. Having Soke say this outright was inspiring and makes perfect and natural sense. In my training, I too have come to believe that the Bujinkan style should not be considered superior, but the mindset combined with the freedom of correct movement is superior. I also feel that this aspect is becoming more and more out of balance as further Bujinkan “product” is released into the market. The responsibility of the 15th Dan is that of the next one and goes beyond the Bujinkan.
In Soke’s message it is my understanding this we must proceed with our training in such a way that we are constantly keeping the next one in mind, or in similar sense, all possibilities. This mindset must permeate all aspects of training and life- Shingitai.
If we begin with the simple context of physical training, then we need to start with basic and natural movement for the purpose of self defense. It surprises me to see practitioners, even senior practitioners, moving in such a way that disrupts their own balance, resulting in a position which clearly limits freedom and a can be considered a position of danger. This is basic and natural. We must always strive to observe our own movement and be the most critical when it comes to our own training. Simply moving in such a way determined to be correct, or of the Bujinkan style, is not protecting the mindset of the next one.
This mindset should accompany the study of taijutsu and must permeate your life. Bujinkan practitioners are not war makers, but peace makers. This is the ultimate goal according to Soke and one of the key reasons for anyone to choose to pursue this particular martial art. Therefore, it is critical to train towards finding this aspect of peace, first within oneself, before it can be passed on or taught. Striving to change the world at the sacrifice of self is not practicing self defense. We must strike a balance in self and others in order to best prepare self and others for the next one.
This may be a large responsibility that goes beyond ego, as it naturally should. Can the ego truly be controlled or eliminated? I think not, as it is human nature to be egotistical, but it is the eternal fight to keep it in control and balance that allows perseverance and awareness of the next one.