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  • Alessandro Vadalà

First themes post, first lesson

Here’s the first thematic post. This kind of posts will be the expression of the emotions of these days and a mix of reflections. It’s written following a flow of thoughts…

In “tao” of research opposites don’t necessarily fight. The pursuit of a “path” is the research of a balance between two things that seem to be opposite but often meet. The result is something complete and efficient, to use a pragmatic expression. The examples could be many. Let’s talk for example about the dichotomy “hard-soft” while doing a technique. The soft attitude (or low intensity but with high activation” will give the movement fluidity and spontaneity while the hard attitude (high intensity with high activation) will make the hit or the main focus of the technique effective.

In the opposite representation we often find as a metaphor Ying and Yang, “man and woman”. A binomy capable of generating life. And of creating the most powerful and conservative act possible for humanity. Opposite doesn’t necessarily mean the poles can’t have the same nature. Talking about almost all the “bipolarism” we could say "in medio stat virtus" (virtue is found in the middle) and that finding a medium spot of balance could be our best chance to grow and develop our potential.

This was meant as an introduction to talk about yesterday evening and the new year of training at the dojo. It is always nice to go back to the family and it is always a special evening. I’ve been running a dojo for many years now but the first evening after summer vacations always moves me almost as my first lesson or my first day of school. Could it be the motivational push towards training, the will to grow, the preparations and the news for the years, or seeing again those I consider my traveling companions before my students. I appreciate particularly those who travel many kilometers to come to the “opening”.

As often happens, laughs and entertainment covered an important part of the lesson but we started right away with a physical training in all respect and a technical part (though a bit cut short because of obvious initial greetings and introductions) focused on a strict and serious study of one of our schools, Takagi Yoshin Ryu.

This is what I consider one of the true distinctive characteristics of Bujinkan and of how Hatsumi taught us to train: intensively but smiling. Hard and soft. Absolutism in one way or the other hardly can lead to good results. While mental relax is the background of our best performances. It also has a healthy side effect. That’s how you get addicted to training… The collective dimension of training is really something unique. In Bujinkan we have a very particular concept for the martial environment: the “buyu”, meaning “martial friend”. Something that develops naturally amongst practitioners and that binds every person’s path in their own dojos but also in Japan or during national or international seminars.

Hatsumi Sensei always shows one thing: to be a great budoka you need to be a great human being. A person capable of living happily and of going beyond contrasts, paradox and difficulties as he always says: “going beyond”. This, if you wish, can be a synonym of “persevere”. When you see this kanji 忍, you should know it doesn’t mean “ninja”, but just “nin” and one of its meaning is “persevere”. This concept can’t be anything but fundamental for Budo practitioners, Budo being a lifestyle, something you see yourself facing every day, on tatami and outside (another interesting dichotomy!). During years of practice this distinction slowly fades until our existence isn’t filled with humanity that this discipline brings. This means “training” isn’t just at dojo anymore, as well in our daily life. This is the most incredible ninja secret, sensational and unexpected. It is called training. As a single event (going to the dojo), daily (solitary training), constant(living!). Cultivate ourselves is the most important thing in Budo. Hatsumi Sensei said many times he did many discoveries in solitary training and that he improved himself and his general awareness. Many things can be done in solitary as "junan taiso" (physical part and stretching), San Shin No kata, Koshi Sanpo, different weapons handlings, meditation… just to make a few examples.

Particularly Hatsumi Sensei said: “Junan taiso and San Shin No kata are the way to accelerate the progress of our own taijutsu” (cit not exactly literal). And this is just the beginning… the most basic part…

Some kind of ascetism is inside Bujinkan history and in Togakure ryu. Takamatsu Sensei in particular, coming back from China, isolated himself twice from the rest of the world to undergo a strict diet and training, especially for the legs. He told Hatsumi that a ninja needs to do ascetic training experiences, especially on the mountains. Not to mention the Yamabushi (warrior monks), that is another argument that deserves to be treated in another moment…

Back to the present I believe every instructor, at the right time, should initiate people to a plan of personal grow. The planification leads to mental discipline and organization not to mention the attitude to look for a goal and to reach it.

Instructor’s attitude should be the same of a coach who tries to teach people how to be a coach of themselves. Of course, that after having become a coach of themselves... And this is the real challenge… because on your own you have to deal with the most absolute truth about yourself. And this truth gets carried to the dojo as well by the real instructor… my 2 yen…

Yesterday I appreciated a lot coming back to the dojo. While I was training, I thought at my august training, mostly solitary, and interrupted for a week before September. I missed it, exactly as I missed Dojo’s activities in the past month.

“Collective” and “individual” are two things that semantically speaking are opposed, but in Budo they are just two faces of the same coin. Their combination, that leads to a mutual improvement, leads to better result. Both are part of the same path: our personal growth.

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