Archive for Hatsumi

Flow’s Way

Posted in Buddhism, Daoism, Fighting, martial arts, Monasticism, Religion, Stayin' Alive with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Somewhere along the way, internal martial artists and “soft” Aikido-type people got the impression that being gentle was the path to power. But really, the point is that experts on power no longer have to use much effort to exert themselves. It becomes subtle, natural, easy. I think when the Dao De Jing says things about soft overcoming the hard, it really means that the strong or unyielding are destroyed by the flow or tide of the world, mostly because they don’t take the time to recognize the changing direction of life.

Hatsumi’s philosophy interested me for the way it turned me on to one major concept: that one resists illusion and the destruction of powerful people by failing to stand out. Normally this sounds like some mass-religious peasant nonsense, but I am willing to accept that his message tells us to live internally aloof from the way of the world.

But if one has no interest/investment in the world at large, they will become a martyr or a loner. And one with strong interests in the world (“the world” being material wealth, power and prestige, sexual desire and conquest — basically violence, anger, greed and lust) will often become blind to their own presence and actions.

One must go with the flow in life because the flow is life. Even the most powerful people are destroyed if they resist the flow of life and society. However, on the other hand, it seems a person becomes self-aware by resisting the flow of the world, purportedly pointed out by the Buddha upon achieving awakening (religious figures! yay!). I really would like to believe that some people are so totally beyond the competitive world that they just aren’t moved to act in its vicious ways. But resistance is not enacted by some mystical nonsense, it’s all done by people like you and me. It’s not hard at all to do, it just takes persistent effort. The effort that happens right now is easy, it’s just hard to keep doing something consistently. And I think that’s what I forgot to mention in that slightly delusional post about martial arts enlightenment the other day: martial enlightenment is possibly the ability to keep going regardless of one’s circumstances.

I just wonder where all this interpretation that internal martial arts are magically soft and relaxed, and therefore stronger than “normal fighting” (a debate continuously ruminated over on the Formosa Neijia blog). Every martial art is fundamentally the same (in their original theories, not how they are dogmatically taught) because there is only so much efficiency to moving the body. I happen to think some arts like Taijiquan and Baguaquan merely have a much better teaching method of transmitting the body’s subtle movements and personal health and combat applications. This does not make them internal or mystical, it just makes them more complete “boxing” strategies. I feel like older dudes don’t need to spar (and probably shouldn’t) because their perception of space and intent is so developed from their rougher, younger days. 85 year old dudes may not still be able to drop kick you in the face so easily, but some of them sure as hell can still toss you around in push-hands.

But everyone who practices something long enough will figure out how to make it work. That’s why all success is only hard work. Even if you suck or are magnificent, your hard work will be the final word. And individuality, internal individuality compared to the flow of the world — that takes a lot of work.


A Bunch of Ninjas

Posted in Fighting, martial arts, Religion, Shintoism with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2008 by wizardsmoke

Today I watched Naruto for the first time after a long hiatus, and I realized yet again that the Naruto series has the same charming energy as Hatsumi’s art and books. You could learn a thing or two about illusion and strategy from both works.

Clearly the writer(s) for the Naruto manga and show have read Hatsumi’s stuff. His books are the best ones on real ninjas widely available to the public. And his writing on genjutsu (illusion techniques) is just delish. A bunch of other things in Naruto were picked up from Japanese mythology and culture and so on, so if you’re interested in that stuff, you know what to do.

Hatsumi himself gives off such strong energy, he could pull some serious illusions on you. And I guess that’s sort of his game to begin with. Not only can he make and see through illusions, he’s pretty talented artistically — he’s a good writer. So he can pull people into his art through that alone.

Now, there are tons of high-level martial artists out there, many of whom are pretty comparable. Every martial art has the same belief that their lineage is the toughest, that some guy in their lineage is the best fighter the world’s ever seen. It’s a pretty narrow-minded belief, and as a show, Naruto demonstrates that stuff in a cool way; the various ninjas are exceptionally skilled at different areas of expertise. ‘Coz the various martial arts are like that, too. And in real life, and in the show, the person who survives is usually the genius of strategy and deception and perceiving when to act. And that’s what ninjutsu seems to be about as well, at the end of the day.

Naruto is such a bangin’ show when it does its stuff well. I know anime elitists don’t like it, because they need to keep everyone else off their scent (we can’t know what their underground tastes are!). And Naruto is a serialized show, so due to it’s high ratings and popularity as a money-maker, it probably won’t ever end. But if you can watch 4 or 5 episodes per sitting, you’ll be pretty set.