„Bujutsu is for killing people“ (engl.)

„Bujutsu is for killing people“ U. Kenji

This sentence by Ushiro Kenji, who is well-respected in Karate as well as Aikido circles, should provide some food for thought regardless of what martial art we are training.

All the things we practice were once intended to kill or maim people. Are we ready to train with this in mind? If worst comes to worst am I able to break someone’s neck or fingers, or, or, or…?

The first step should be to ask oneself: „What am I ready to do and when?“

One has to be honest with oneself, has to be able to look into the mirror with all this fear and rage. Am I afraid of pain? Afraid of legal consequences? Am I generally against hurting others? What are my constraints? What is my attitude towards my fellow men? Can I be furious, if yes, when and how do I handle to it? If not, why not?

Combat and the ability to fight is concerned with our own emotions and our handling of them in the highest degree. What does violence provoke in oneself? When one sees it, reads about it, executes it? What form of violence does one use when, against whom and why?

Is violence something positive or negative for you? Why?

Formally we are training „martial arts“ but who did actually think about the consequences of these words before? Lets be honest, one trains ( how often a week? 2,3,4 times?) and wants to learn to punch, kick and throw friends, receive punches, be succesful in tournaments, improve the quality of ones movements, etc.

One wants to meet friends, to gossip, to serve the „social environment“. Nobody wants to hurt someone in training FOR REAL, the same goes for tournaments (although one may hazard the consequences, the oppenent has to be able to live and work after the fight. This is an attitude one expects from the opponent towards oneself, but THIS changes everything!!!).

We all train to have fun, to be comfortable, to feel good (and maybe even to „stand out“ among others). We hope to feel stronger by learning a martial art, to be „superior“. We hope to conceal our fears, to silence the voice in our head that constantly says „You are weak, helpless, worthless“. We fight against the rage that surfaces because of this voice. Simultaneously we are afraid that while training we may experience what the voice tells us agin and again: „You are weak and helpless.“ We create artificial rules and external circumstances that let us seem to be better before ourselves. We „roll“ together and do „friendly randori/sparring“. We tell ourselves it is totally okay if our partner catches us in a lock, with a throw or strike.

Sure there have to be forms of exercise allowing to practice against increasing resistance, it has to be practised through „laughing and playing“. There have to be chess drills, one step sparring, slow rolling, gradually increasing jiyu kumite, etc. BUT this has nothing, really not a thing to do with FIGHTING! As long as I can be sure that I am living and aren’t maimed at the end of a fight, it’s not a fight. Fighting means one opponent stays down. There is no second place.

We want to conquer this feeling of weakness and helplessness because it scares us. We don’t want to feel small and worthless and if it has to be, only through rules so we can excuse us before ourselves (It was just a randori, I am „second winner“ in a tournament).

To learn how to fight means to stand up to this voice inside of us. To admit that one does never want to be weak and helpless again. Not to break down means to get to the bottom of this voice, to take a look at this feeling of weakness and hopelessness, why it is there, what causes it and how can I handle it?

To learn how to fight means to confront people with their own weakness and helplessness, without making excuses, without apologies. Confrontation through fear, pain, exhaustion and excessive demands. Through helplessness. To learn this you need people that are able to let others suffer. People that are ready to exercise violence (mental and physical). That do not have mercy; on the contrary their goal has to be finishing the other one, despite being their friend. To not break because of this as an „examiner“, one has to have lived through this, know the freedom that the acceptance of ones own fear and weakness has brought and has to realize how oneself has achieved this.

The way one has to follow is either the brutal and direct, meaning „sink or swim“ or one can desensitize ones students slowly but surely and acclimatize them to exercising and experiencing violence. For people that have already experienced massive violence the slow way will seem „ineffective/needless“. Anyone knowing this dark place will always find his way back to it, anyone not knowing it fears the bare notion of it ( even if it may bear a morbid fascination).

We hope to feel stronger through learning a martial art, to be „superior“ to others. We hope to conceal our fears through it, to silence the voice saying „You are weak, helpless, worthless“.

To become free means to listen to this voice, to approach it, embrace it, look at it and accept it as it is.

We are precious just as we are. Thats what we have to let this voice feel.