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  • Alessandro Vadalà

Sharing DO - Intterview with M° Maurizio Petito, Bujinkan Shihan 15° dan

I’m glad for two reasons. The first is that we are officially opening the interviews to teachers and instructors of Budo Taijutsu. The second is that we are starting with one of the most qualified people on the Italian territory. Maurizio is a friend even before a “coworker” and after years of meetings on tatami, trainings and travels to Japan, we found ourselves as interviewer and interviewed to deepen some fundamental thematic about Budo Taijutsu. A roleplay in which I had a confirmation of what I already knew: Maurizio is a budoka of substance and in this interview he proved himself to be a great communicator. I thanked him as well for taking some time out of his vacations to do this interview, giving his precious contribution to the beginning of this section of the blog. I suggest practitioners of every level and interested in the topic to spend 5 minutes to read Maurizio’s answers, that are everything but obvious… I added some notes to make some words or concepts we used easier to understand.

Maurizio teaches In Naples at Polifunzionale di Soccavo, Via Adriano, Napoli, on Tuesday and Fridays from 8.45 to 9.45 pm. He also keeps courses for instructors on a monthly bases also for transfers. All the infos here

Alessandro: let’s begin with an easy question. Maurizio, what is Budo Taijutsu for you?

M° Petito: good thing we said easy! …it’s a method, created by our beloved Soke, to pass life teachings, from the point of view of a martial art, to keep improving ourselves…

Alessandro: well you handled it fine, in 3 lines you gave a remarkable definition… what benefits do you think it brings? What do you think is the value that lies in this discipline?

M° Petito: the beauty and the depth of Soke’s teaching are reachable by everyone according to everyone’s possibilities. Someone might be happy to learn a self-defense system, someone is fascinated by traditions and the imaginary of the Japanese warriors and someone else manage to get a real life revolution, changing their way of walking, breathing, approach people and looking at their image at the mirror… everyone has their own ability, a potential, then their spirit allows them to improve their abilities according to this potential (Saino, Kon, ki).

Alessandro: in all your answers I see mentioned Soke Hatsumi. You and I have been traveling companions in multiple journeys to Japan… what do you think is the feeling during Sensei’s classes?

M° Petito: well… there are a lot of people that had (and still have) the luck to have a complex relationship with Soke, instaured during the years, made of chances of learning, long discussions, lunches together, teacher-students confrontations, as for example our dear Giuseppe and Aurelio Costa… I never had the honor, if not occasionally, to share with them these moments, except from the collective lessons at the Hombu dojo, but at the end of the day I have my own idea. He is always there, in good and bad times, for everyone, like a fountain from which knowledge flows, and he transmitted a lot to us during the years, with his books, his videos and through the experiences and stories of our teachers.

We are all reflected images of Sensei Hatsumi’s Budo… there are curve surfaces that reflects distorted images and there are perfectly flat surfaces that show a more faithful to reality images. Fortunately, or unfortunately, everyone lives its feeling in its unicity. When I’m in Japan I try to learn Budo, but like many others, also to get to know the person, his unicity, his being a perfect through between old generations and us, today. It’s simply fascinating, for me it is a very deep experience and extremely forming every time.

Alessandro: you mentioned earlier the different shades that characterize our discipline and the different possibilities for interpretation that instructors give. Ancient and modern. Tradition and self-defense. Harmony and pragmatism. Where do you think the point of balance is?

M° Petito: Budo Taijutsu is a “living” art, despite what many people can believe, every single kata (form) that we repeat to learn a form of defense, has inside a lymph that pulsates and that everytime makes it take a different vibration. Like an oak, the lymph moves from the root in the ground through the trunk and flows through the branches until it reaches the smallest leaf. If there weren’t the traditions and the teachings from the past to make a solid base (root), the Soke and all his students instructors (trunk) wouldn’t be able to carry this teachings around the world, in the dojos placed in the four corner of the earth (leaves), where the youngest student learns to do ukemi (falling techniques) and repeats the kion happo (eight basic forms). You have to consider one thing, every tree as leaves adequate to its root and its foliage can’t be too big or the trunk wouldn’t be able to carry it… this is how every tree generates dead woods that break and others that give fruit and even generates new trees. We have seen many of those in the years and we will see more for sure. The right balance, I think, is what brought us today to recognizing Budo Taijutsu as a Martial Art always alive, capable of being utilized even in special corps, despite its “traditional” matrix. Who doesn’t understand that tradition is what it is because it is renewd every time by new lymph is destined to become a dead wood…

Alessandro: let’s focus on the technical aspect of what you are argumenting… school’s kata, henka*. How important is to you the practice of the firsts and what value do the second have?

M° Petito: in our Art, I dare say Kihon needs to be practiced every day, even in the study/practice that each one of us does, according to our possibilities, by themselves at home or dojo. The meeting with our martial friends is what allow us to try this bases out, to fortify them, correct them and understand how they can be the fundament for everything else. What strikes me is that not everyone (and I’m not talking just about the beginners) can “read” the connection between a kion kata and a particular School technique. Learning Budo means also learn to do this kind of “read” of the techniques, to reach the maturity that allows us to adapt the form to the necessity of the moment, to give life to Henka while keeping the bases “alive”.

Alessandro: talking about the present… The actual level of teaching of Hatsumi Sensei is really high. Muto Dori seems to be the emblem of something extremely dangerous that actually gives us the principle to handle any kind of situation. Something that seem to suspend space and time in a line that separates life from death. But everything can be brought back to the basis…

M° Petito: I believe that is the ultimate purpose of the study of Martial Arts, the real reason why someone practice starting from bases a series of techniques with or without weapons is what is inside the ideogram NIN: perseverance of existence, learning to avoid dangerous situations instead of training to confront them. Handling potential conflicts with the natural forms of control using the 5 distances is what allow us, in a naturally thin and hard to perceive level, to move to the other side of the globe when an atomic bomb is about to blow there. This “magical” dimension is the natural survival, inside every living being and we have to get there, following with trust the straight line from the bases (ichimonji***).

Alessandro: let’s talk about Bujinkan and Italy…

M° Petito: two things that I love…

Alessandro: ahahahaha this ninja answer will be faithfully reported… anyway…

M° Petito: Bujinkan’s path in Italy has been definitely tortuous but not less fortunate than other countries’. The problem, in my opinion, is only the dimension of communication… and communication is fundamental in Bujinkan. If we could establish a good communication, there would be an exponential growth in all the city where a dojo exists. We should all forget our ego, some past event and get to a communitarian dimension where we can think about everyone’s sake instead of our own.

Alessandro: I absolutely agree. This is the real challenge for us, but also for the future generations… do you want to give practitioners some advice?

M° Petito: absolutely. My advice is especially for those who ask a lot from Bujinkan. If you practice to have a serious improvement and to notice a true change both inside and outside ourselves, we can not limite ourselves to the training at the dojo. We need to study, deepen, confront with each other on theory and practice without being afraid of looking obsessive. Practice seriously in Bujinkan means a true investment on ourselves.

Alessandro: thank you very much Maurizio for the time you gave me and whoever is going to read this interview… your answers are truly interesting…

M° Petito: thank you Ale to give me this opportunity, don’t make me get emotional though… I hope your blog can give a clear vision of what is Bujinkan to us…

*Henka: word we are going to deepen in the future. Henka could be translated as “variation”. In Bujinkan it’s the system of changing a technique to adapt it at the situation when needed. This concept greatly evolves the horizons of study and the adaptive potentiality of the Art itself, making it alive.

**Muto Dori: literally: “fight without a sword”, more specifically means fighting an opponent with a sword without a weapon. The concept is obviously extendable to any weapon and it is the highest representation of a very difficult to handle situation. It is something very complex and frightening mortal. Anyway, it is exactly in the understanding of this extreme situation that the true essence of the fight and of the survival comes out. In Bujinkan many schools address this topic and in the last few years Hatsumi Sensei uses this kind of training a lot, centralizing every day more many shades of the discipline, to the point of making pointless a distinction of what is muto dori and what isn’t, if not just for didactic purpose.

*** Ichimonji no kamae: (posture) belonging primarely to the school Gyokko Ryu but present in various forms in many other schools with slight different postures or names (es.: in Koto ryu it’s called Seigan). It is this kamae (here beautifully shown by Hatsumi Sensei):

Ichi means one and in Japanese it’s written as a horizontal line (instead of our vertical one). Line that you can clearly see starting from the shoulder on the back until the outstretched hand of Sensei. Maurizio’s mention is metaphorically the follow up of this vectorial line that points (and accompanies) the path pf the practitioner in the years of study… wow. The curious part that I’d like to point out are the Chinese origins of this school that can be seen in this technique. It is possible to find positions with similar proportions in Chinese styles that use (I suppose) a more goniometric but mostly static (es: wing chun) while we could describe it as a vector for the maintenance and management of distance. It’s not a coincidence that the first kata we study gets its name from this kamae and it is a central point in learning Budo Taijutsu.

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