Ren Bu Kan

Japanese budo

As most people know the budo (bu ~ fight, do ~ the way) are descending from Japan. In the early middle ageís many jutsu (~ art) forms where practised. In those various jutsu the fight comes in the first place, as in aiki jutsu (a former name of aikido) ken (~ sword) jutsu, hojo jutsu (art of binding) or the more common ju jutsu.

Opposite to jutsu, in budo morals, discipline and ethics are the most important aspects; a much deeper study !

There are a number of principals used in the various budo. The validity of these principals is, through centuryís of evolution in fighting, training and thinking about budo, unquestioned.Budo principles are frequently intuitively applied and are not easy to explain. You got to work with them to achieve real understanding. In most budo schools they are noticed, but mostly unconsciously applied.

Here are some of the more important principals in random order:

Junanshin Zanshin Kiai Kime
Muga Mushin Ri-ai Metsuke Ma-ai
Shisei Sei to do Yoyu Kan ken
Misogi Fudoshin Shu ha ri

Some of these concepts may be known, some may not. I will try to explain the most addressing and applicable for training, further on.

Junanshin (~ a malleable mind)

If you want to learn something, you will have to open up your mind for the ideas of the other person. Openness is a must to learn something. Patience is indispensable. To learn budo is something you can easily fill you life with and you will never stop learning. Picking up some quick tricks has nothing to do with budo.
Trust in what a teacher tells you and not be sceptical towards everything he tells you is very important. Maybe he has a deeper meaning with the excersise you have to repeat boringly, and does not seem very logical at first site.
Humbleness is a very good quality. The arrogant behaviour of some people who think they know a lot, if not all, about budo works contraproductive. They are getting stuck on there level and are blocking there own development.

Zanshin (~ a state of awareness)  Japanese zanshin

The concept of zanshin actually contains some of the other principals to deal with later on, for instance kiai, metsuke, shisei and kime. Readiness means more than just lifting up your arms, as it sometimes looks like. No, zanshin is a total state of awareness, where you are totally fixed on your opponent(s). This must be the case before and after performing a technique. The tense must be physically felt.

Kiai (ki ~ mind, ai ~harmony)    Japanese kiai

A more common concept in this line. And no appropriate translation is available really. Something like an outburst of energy. A loud yell when you perform a kick or a hitting technique, or when you use strength when throwing your opponent. Kiai can be an affective tool for regulating your way of breathing. For instance try to make a throwing technique while holding your breath ! So, often kiai is used naturally is the right way.
Kiai should not be exaggerated, to much kiai, on every kick or hit is overdone; as long as you breath out every time. With good kiai you can put your opponent in unbalance. Maybe not literally but it makes one unsure, which gives you a bigger chance on winning.

Kime ( ~ check, decision)

We know the name kime from kime no kata, a well known judo and ju justsu kata (for godan and up) Every time you perform a technique you must use kime. It has to do with the timing and the moment of reacting on an attack. When you react to early for instance, your opponent will notice this and will adjust his attack at the last moment so you can not defend properly against it.
There are three moments of reacting to an attack. This is called mittsu no sen. The first form of sen is to wait until the attack of your opponent can not change anymore and then react to it. This is called go no sen. The second form of sen is to react simultaneously with your opponent. This is called sen no sen. The third form of sen is the ideal the samurai where striving for. A sixth organ of sense; to feel when a foe is thinking of attacking, before he actually has made a move. With this sense you can avoid a fight !

Metsuke (~ looking, seeing)

We all probably saw a picture of an old Japanese master gazing as if to mount Fuji on a distant. This man or woman sees everything ŗnd nothing. This means to see everything around you but not focusing to anything. This is the way we have to look when we are performing a martial art. So donít focus at the point where you e.g. want to make a mae geri. You will probably bend your head forward, witch again breaks your balance. And what is more dangerous; you will not see other movements your foe(s) makes.

Ma-ai ( ~ distance)

Ma-ai is a bit harder to explain, especially in the unarmed fight. The distance between two persons as in judo is very small. Though when the distance is to wide, if you want to throw your opponent, he can pull you backwards easily and you can not make a proper technique anymore. This is the same when you are to close to one another.
In kata ma-ai is also applicable, in the beginning of a kata distances are wide (to-ma), no direct danger yet. When you come nearer (chika-ma) danger is increasing and in the end (uchi-ma) you are at a distance where in one step you can perform an attack (I to no mai). At this moment there is zanshin !
It can be compared with a tiger on a long chain. It is lying there looking at you approaching towards it. Out of reach of the chain there is no danger, but when you come into the circle...

Muga Mushin ( ~ an empty mind)

When someone begins to practice a martial art and learns his first techniques, he will have to think hard to remember what his sensei told him, were to look at, how to move and so on. After learning some (or a lot) of these techniques, some people stop with budo, thinking they know everything there is to learn. But they are only half-way. Someone who is practising martial arts for many years, often does not have to think anymore. He moves and reacts naturally and adjusts his defences according to the attacks. In a fight, fear is a bad advisor. In feudal Japan a samurai was thought that whoever took up his sword, had to be prepared to die. If he wanted to survive than, he could not win without muga mushin.
In our modern society this seems a bit exaggerated, but for making the adjust defensive moves, human thinking and than reacting is to slow.

Ri-ai (~ coherence)

With ri-ai coherence is meant between e.g. ma-ai, the knowing what or where we are going to hit and the very moment (kime). If you would be to close to your opponent so that you would strike him with the middle of your sword or jo, you could consider to use a shorter weapon. It is also logical to first choose a target to aim for. Both cases sound very simple and are simply learned, but the third part, the right moment is a lot more difficult to understand.
That is why it is important to try to train the element of danger in practising kata. Because only when you feel more danger real zanshin can be achieved.
A feudal samurai had only a chance of 33 % to win a fight. In the other 66 % he, maybe together with his foe, would be killed or wounded. You can imagine that this despise of death helped him with assuming real fighting situations.

Sei to do (~ action - non action)

When you perform a kata, were the movements are prescribed, sei to do is important to make the kata look tight and neat. Taking a fighting posture (kamae) at the beginning or putting away the weapons at the end (osamae) are those moments of alert rest. But also when performing a common technique there is at the beginning and at the end a alert rest.
When a series of free attacks is performed, you mostly see that sei to do is totally forgotten. The movements are hastily made in too high a tempo and there is no rhythm what so ever.It is not by chance that etiquette (reishiki) has a great rest in it as a counterpart to the actions of the training.

Yoyu ( ~ margin)

When you see a Japanese master perform a technique or a kata, you will experience this as a special happening. Hard to tell what is so different..... With a minimum of exertion gaining a maximum of effect. Also minimal moveís, only the most necessary, is typical for the real master. Yoyu is not a really to be indicated or to learn concept, but points to the interspaces that appear between different techniques. It looks as if there is a lot of time in-between techniques. Only when these techniques are fully mastered you can speak of yoyu. It is important therefore to make the different moves as sober as possible.

To be continued...