In my training, I have come to learn (and I have stated many times before) that one of the most critical aspect’s of Budo is Distance and distance is entirely dynamic and multi-dimensional. Soke’s distance is elusive, intangible and detached to any specific outcome other than the manifestation of the space of each unique situation. This is freedom, this is detachment, this is creative, this is abstract and this is intuitive=Goshinjutsu (五心術)-5 methods of the heart).
If I look back on my almost two decades of living and training in Japan with Hatsumi Soke, not surprising enough, the message I have learned and been able to implement into my life is a simple aspect of distance. One must resist the need to immediately react, take the elusive distance and be patient-not a concept easy to follow in my youth. Eventually the pursuit of martial arts, one must not just become zero but must accept zero. Eventually, you must learn to find victory through defeat.
In the current times, it is becoming ever so clear that the teachings of Soke are very relevant for the present and coming future. The world is rampant with conflict on many levels and it is becoming extremely evident that total self-defense cannot not simply be a simple physical aspect of self-protection, but must include that of the heart, soul and mind. We must learn the distance of sanshin. Why put yourself in harm’s way, why take action that would make you a target, why abuse your body to promote sickness, why not pursue what makes you happy? This is self-defense, in my humble opinion.
Furthermore, we must protect ourselves from nature, while at the same time becoming more natural. We must seek shelter from our changing climate, while calming the inner storm. We must protect ourselves from those that intend to induce harm , only to further protect ourselves from those that impose the laws that allow you to protect yourself. We must learn to fight in the dark, without the sword. The highest level of self-defense is muto dori. Weaponless fighting, fighting at a disadvantage, fighting without standing your ground and fighting without inflicting harm. This may seem as an impossible feat, and I believe that it is, however, the pursuit of Budo provides the peace of mind to carry on.
This concept I feel is very much tied to this year’s theme of Muto Dori; we must learn to fight the fight without the sword. Or more so with that of the mythical sword or sword of truth and greatness. Muto dori is the pinnacle according to Soke and maybe the most ethical and least incriminating. We must dissipate conflict with the goodness of the tsurugi or sword of heart, or sword over heart.
Simply said but difficulty done, there is much more than can be perceived with the eyes. One cannot simply watch, listen and learn. You must feel, perceive and let go. In doing so, this requires presence and only presence can lead to that of transparency of the heart.