Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Everybody was Bujin fighting

I found a link to some great photos from that Bujinkan seminar I went to some months back and thought I'd share some of them with a little commentary. Click on each for a larger version.

Here's the official photo, to give you some idea how many people were there:

Ahhh....the luxury of an entire hall covered in soft matting and lots of room to wave your sword around in. Bliss. Sword work is actually my favorite part of Bujinkan, it feels very natural and I can pick things up with ease...unfortunately. Unfortunately because it's really of less use than the hand to hand stuff we do and learning to fight against things like knives and batons. People just don't walk around with a cutlass on their belt like they used to in the good old days.

You can see me on the left side of the photo right against the stage, I have a green belt on and my sword is sticking straight up in the air. I'm highlighted by a sunbeam know...I'm just naturally angelic:

An integral part of Bujin is balance...ensuring that you have it and your opponent loses it asap. Swords are multi-use weapons and can easily be used as a long lever rather than just a cutting edge.

In this example, the attacker (orange shirt) would have had his strike somehow rendered ineffective...probably by Ed Lomax (black shirt) simply moving out of the range of the blade and then coming back in while the attacker was finishing off his swing. Ed then moves in to wedge his sword behind the leading arm of the attacker and in front of his thigh. The attacker now cannot turn back toward Ed, so can't use his own sword.

I don't actually remember what Ed did at this point to make the attacker drop his sword. Let's just presume it was nasty and sudden.

Ed now uses the leverage he has to push the attacker off balance by stepping forward. Note the attacker's hands are ineffective because he can't turn and he can't kick at Ed with the near leg because to do so would likely mean him losing his balance altogether. Best he can do is continue on the turn that Ed is urging him on, present his back and move away...not the best strategy when the person behind you has a sharp Japanese sword.

This would have ended with a mat-kissing session for the attacker in some way.

A sword, though, needs to be OUT to be useful. You can use it as a lever (above) when it's still in it's scabbard, but you can't do much with it when it's still on your belt.

In this case, the attacker is holding his sword, getting ready to unsheath it and trim Ed's haircut by...oh...5 inches.

Ed isn't armed, so he has two choices to get out of the reach of the sword. He can retreat, which is a rather short term option unless he has somewhere to run to - fast. Once that sword is unsheathed it gives the attacker a couple of feet of extra sharp reach and the decided advantage.

Ed also has a different option - to step in. This is surprisingly effective in cases where the attacker is relying on some distance or superior reach to make their weapon or their hands most effective. I've foiled M's plans (he's 6'5, I'm 5'11) more than once by simply stepping in very, very close and punching/pushing/whatever from there. He loses the advantage of his greater wingspan.

Anyway, here Ed is choosing to step in. It's important to do this BEFORE the sword is unsheathed, for obvious reasons.

The guy with the red hair sitting far forward on the mat on the left, by the way is M...or as I have begun calling him lately 'The Ginger Ninja'. I'm standing at the far left of the photograph...concentrating...

Ed does something rather smart...and unexpected. He simply stops the attacker from unsheathing his sword. Now look at Ed's advantage here - he's stepped in, he's probably unsettled the attacker and definitely disrupted his plans. Ed also has a hand free, where the attacker has both hands engaged.

More getting-to-know-the-mat-intimately action would have followed after this one.

Serious though the topic was, we did goof around a bit. There was a lot of love in the room.

And this is my favorite photo by far. The seminar was made up of classes from all around the country. Halfway through the first day, we had a lunch break. Some people wandered off, some stayed. Most of my class stayed...and stayed together. We weren't really talking, we just gathered loosely, sat and reflected a little then - one by one - a few of us lay down and slept in a corner of the hall. The others sat off the edge of the picture and ate lunch.

Afterward, someone from another class came up to me and said:

"That was really nice"


"The way you guys all slept in the one sort of shows...that you trust each other, you know? It's like your class gives off this great vibe."

And in a way, it dawned on me that we did. Kidding aside, we all trained hard every week and did things that could be dangrous. There had to be some trust - trust that when that fist was coming for you, it would stop just in time, trust that when someone's arm is around your neck, they will have the control necessary not to squeeze too hard, trust that when someone is twisting your arm to throw you to the ground, they're not going to do it with the speed and strength that would snap a bone. With an art as effective as Bujin, it's just too easy to hurt your partner if you're not conscientious. Every. Single. Time.

So I like that photo. It encapsulates to me how lucky I am to be training with those guys - most of the regular class is made up of black belts or guys who are within a couple of grades of it. It's always an honour to be there.


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