are the keys...”
So begins the last sentence of the Torah-No-Maki awarded to graduates of the Kodenkan
Dojo by Master Henry S. Okazaki in which he writes, “These are the keys to the esoteric secrets of the Kodenkan into
which I have had the honor to initiate you.” What are these keys and how are they to be recognized by an Occidental
who is not steeped in the wisdom and culture of the Orient?
We hope to answer this question and at the same time provide a background look into Danzan Ryu Jujutsu, how it
differs from other systems and how through the various Maki (scrolls) it provides a bridge from the old Ryus (systems) and
thus can be called a traditional Ryu.
First, let us say what is Jujutsu. Ju is from the Chinese character which means supple or yielding
and Jutsu is the Japanese word for Art. Jujutsu then is the Art of Suppleness or the Art of Yielding.
It is the only Japanese Martial Art which does not take its name from the weapons it uses. It is not, however, to be thought
of as weaponless system, but as a system which concentrates on a body of teaching now often identified as Judo. In Master
Okazaki’s system, he said that “Since the fundamental principle acquired through the practice of Jujutsu has been
elevated to a finer moral concept called Judo, ‘the way of gentleness’, it may well be said that the primary object
of practicing Judo is perfection of character.” His instruction to his students indicates he viewed Dr. Kano’s
contribution to be philosophical as apart from the creation of a new system. Master Okazaki’s system upon close examination,
is vastly different from what has evolved into Kodokan Judo.
Judo is commonly divided into classes of instruction which comprise the following: Nage-waza (throwing techniques);
Shime-waza (constriction techniques); Kansetsu-waza (joint locking techniques); and Osae-waza (immobilization techniques).
Additionally, in Kano’s system, there is Atemi-waza (striking techniques) and the Forms of Judo. There is also a brief
course in Kappo (resuscitation) to reverse the effects of constrictions or other techniques.
The student of Judo must spend many hours first learning to fall (Ukemi) and then learning the basics of throwing.
Again, in Judo, throws are further sub-divided into class: Te-waza (hand techniques); Koshi-waza (hip techniques); Ashi-waza
(leg and foot techniques); and Sutemi-waza (sacrifice throws). After the student learns some of the basics, he may try and
compete against a fellow student to perfect his skill. By improving his technique and defeating many opponents, a student
can attain the rank of Black Belt. It is not necessary to know all the throws, constrictions, locks or grappling techniques
to reach Black Belt. It is only necessary to be a good competitor and be able to defeat your opponents with your “favorite”
techniques. After reaching Black Belt rank, students are encouraged to begin learning the other techniques taught, although
promotion up to 3rd rank usually comes from competition. Later ranks come from knowledge and service as well as attitude.
Master Okazaki’s Danzan Ryu (Hawaiian Island System) resembles Judo of the Kodokan only to the extent that
many of the techniques are the same. The course, requirements and emphasis are all different. Moreover, Danzan Ryu includes
within it the old system of Yawara; techniques of defense against the knife, gun and sword; as well as the use of the Tessen
(fan). It also includes many Jujutsu techniques which have been lost by other schools of Jujutsu.
The course of Jujutsu developed by Master Okazaki begins with Sutemis. Sutemi means “to protect oneself
by sacrificing oneself” as well as to “abandon oneself”. This means that when the student realizes he is
going to be thrown, he is to immediately relax and allow himself to be thrown so that he can land properly, without harm or
injury. In advanced techniques, it sometimes becomes necessary for the Jujutsuka (one who practices Jujutsu) to actually throw
himself in order to protect himself. When someone is thrown with an arm whip technique and Uke (the person taking the fall)
seemingly floats in the air and lands nicely on the mat, it is because he very likely Sutemied in order to keep his shoulder
from being dislocated and it is this Sutemi which makes the technique look nice.
The types of falls taught in Jujutsu are different also. Many resemble the falls seen in Aikido more than those
of Judo because the emphasis is on self-defense. An example is the front face fall. In Jujutsu, a student is taught to fall
face first from the knees and then while standing. Some individuals can do this technique so well that they can jump up and
kick their legs back so that their body is horizontal at what was their chest height, then they seemingly float to the mat
taking a gentle fall and quickly spring back up in line for the next practice fall. The purpose of this fall is when students
are suddenly tripped so that they fall to their face, they will do so automatically in a relaxed and reflex state and thus
avoid serious injury.
The Sutemi course in Jujutsu is designed to prepare the student for the types of falls he will receive in the
course of instruction without any fall being a surprise or one in which he did not know how to fall properly. Some teachers
of Danzan Ryu are so emphatic in this basic course that if their students cannot protect themselves properly in the advanced
courses, then the student must go back and practice Sutemis until their fear is overcome. For in order to successfully master
the advanced courses the student must know instinctively when to “sacrifice himself in order to protect himself.”
While learning the basic Sutemis, the student is also taught the first course - Yawara. Yawara is an old Japanese
term for Hand Arts or what today is called Aikido by some and Kempo by others. The Chinese refer to it as Chin-Na. Basically,
it resembles the Chin-Na or Kempo style more than Aikido, which has evolved into a circular stylized art form. The basic concepts
remain the same though. For instance: when pushed - turn; and when pulled - enter. In Judo, the concept is: when pushed -
pull; and when pulled - push.
So, from the very first course we meet differences with our cousin Judo. In Judo, Ukemi (falls) are taught because
the student will take a lot of falls in preparation for competition. Moreover, the emphasis is to win matches and thus avoid
being thrown. Many are the counter techniques and tricks used in competition Judo to win matches. This results in a different
attitude which is developed in learning to fall properly. In Jujutsu, one may deliberately relax to protect himself, whereas
in Judo, the competitive spirit is so honed that the Judoka resists continuously and often times takes a very hard fall. Thus,
it is obvious that he did all he could to avoid being defeated.
The first arts to be taught are those from Yawara. The first Yawara scroll consists of twenty arts. These are
basic techniques and for each one there is one or several variations. A second Yawara scroll is taught a little later in the
Jujutsu course. It can be combined with the first and taught as a basic course in self-defense for interested groups such
as police, women or those who do not wish to dedicate their lives in pursuit of studying the Martial Arts, but have a need
to protect themselves.
But what exactly is Yawara? Yawara consists of basic escapes to wrist grips, lapel grips, arm grips and chokes.
It also consists of holds to the above as well as arm and shoulder locks. Yawara also consists of knowledge of some of the
basic pressure points in order to effect the escapes. Wrist twists are extremely popular and provide the focus for control
of the opponent. Control is taught so that an opponent can be subdued without injury to him. This is why it is so popular
with police forces in the United States and elsewhere. Without exaggeration, it can be said that Yawara is the most widely
employed method of self-defense anywhere, particularly when one considers the number of individuals who are arrested on a
daily basis and somewhere in the arrest a Yawara Art was possibly employed.
Yawara is also a favorite course of Danzan Ryu practitioners, not only for the beginners who learn it for the
first time, but for the Black Belters who repeatedly return to it to practice their form and pivots as well as their ability
to control their opponent. It is this continued practice which is necessary for the blending of self and Art and Yawara provides
a nice vehicle for this practice.
Along with Yawara, a Fundamental Course is taught by many of the Danzan Ryu clubs. This is a course which is made
up of many of the basic techniques for blocking punches and kicks; employing and escaping from various wrestling holds; and
learning various wrestling take downs. Professor Ray Law, a student of Master Okazaki, taught such a course to his students,
who continue this instruction. As we shall see, to be very advanced in Danzan Ryu is to come full circle back to the basics
but on a totally different plane.
As one progresses in the basics and becomes comfortable with Sutemis, one is then taught Nage-te or the techniques
of throwing. The scroll contains a list of 20 throwing techniques. These are not all the throwing techniques that are taught
in Danzan Ryu, but they are the basics. Master Okazaki taught one should have an understanding of body mechanics with these
20 throws, and also, that these techniques did not require any special clothing but could even be executed against a shirtless
opponent. These arts are taught in two ways. One, from a static position wherein Uke (the “receiver”) stands in
place and Tori (the “doer”) pulls or pushes Uke into the stance necessary to execute the throw. The second method
is the Kata (Form) technique. This is done normally in three steps. On the third step, Tori executes the technique. In both
methods, Tori must recover to a balanced position and be further ready to defend himself. Much time and effort is spent in
learning how to end in the proper position. If this cannot be done, then there is something wrong in the execution of the
technique, and conversely, if it is done right, then there is probably something right with the technique.
If one looks back to Kodokan Judo, one will find many more and varied throws than found in the lists of Danzan
Ryu. This is because many of the throws now taught were developed as a result of competition on the Judo mat and are designed
to defeat an opponent from the peculiar lock-up found in Judo. Many instructors of Jujutsu have borrowed some of the better
throws with specific self-defense applications and have added them to their repertoire. This is in keeping with Master Okazaki’s
teaching that Nage-te is a list of basic throws and not inclusive.
After gaining some skills in Nage-te and having developed a thorough grasp of the basic Yawara Arts, the student
is taught Shime-te. This list consists of twenty-five techniques involving various types of constriction. There are collar
constrictions, naked neck constrictions, as well as torso, leg and foot constrictions. While learning these, the student continues
the practice of Nage-te, for all of the techniques begin from a standing position and Uke, in most cases, must be thrown to
the mat for the technique to be employed. Each technique requires a different throw. In this way, Tori cannot emphasize a
favorite throwing technique and exclude all others. Tori must become proficient in all Danzan Ryu throws in order to progress.
Furthermore, it is about this time that the student begins to teach. With promotion to green belt, which (depending
on the Dojo) requires the student to have learned all of Yawara, Nage-te and the first ten of Shime-te, responsibility is
added to the list of requirements. This intangible is not found on any list, yet is one of the most significant differences
between Danzan Ryu and all other forms of Jujutsu and Judo. It is embodied in the name of Master Okazaki’s Dojo, which
he called the Kodenkan and which translates to mean “seniors teaching juniors” as well as “School of the
Ancient Tradition”, for Master Okazaki believed that if one has truly learned something, then one should be able to
communicate this learning or perhaps it is not understood at all. So, as learning continues, teaching begins and responsibility
is learned. The instructor is there to help the student help the student. And in many cases, all wind up learning something.
This training continues and the student next learns Advanced Yawara and Oku-te. As he is being taught by senior
students, so too does he continue to teach the lower ranking students that which he has learned. Once the student has been
through all the basic lists: Yawara 1 & 2, Nage-te, Shime-te and Oku-te, he is taught Kappo & Kuatsu (resuscitation
& restoration). Special courses in defense against the knife, gun and club which were derived from a scroll called Kiai
No Maki (Scroll of the Harmonious Spirit) are also taught. Certificates in First Aid and CPR are required for promotion to
Black Belt and every rank thereafter.
Oku-te and Kiai No Maki are part of the Chu-den of Danzan Ryu. That is, they are intermediate arts and signify
some degree of mastery in the Sho-den or beginning level arts. Oku-te consists of basic locking techniques and some rather
advanced techniques that test a student’s confidence. And there are some techniques that require Tori or Uke to Sutemi
for the first time. Demonstrated skill in the preceding is a requirement for promotion to the rank of Shodan (Black Belt 1st
degree). The leading exponents of Danzan Ryu continue to be current or former members of the American Judo & Jujitsu Federation
One might think that with promotion to Shodan, mastery of the art has been acquired. This is not quite true. Mastery
of some techniques may have been learned, but mastery of the system certainly has not been. There are three additional Scrolls
to be learned. All begin with the word Shin, which means Spirit and underlies the philosophy of the Kodenkan as taught by
Master Okazaki. They are: Shinin (Rhythmic Spirit), Shinyo (Yang Spirit) and Shinjin (Spirit Man). Promotion to Nidan (2nd
degree) requires knowing all 35 techniques of Shinin. Third and fourth degree require knowledge of Shinyo. Shinjin is taught
to only selected individuals and rank plays only the smallest role while attitude plays the greatest.
We have now concluded an overview to Jujutsu. We now wish to discuss some concepts which are important in the
martial Arts and their relationship to Danzan Ryu.
A concept taught in the practice of Nage-te was formulated by Dr. Kano. This concept is called Jita Kyoei or “The
Principle of Mutual Welfare”. This means that each student helps his partner to learn during their practice. Little
is to be gained if Uke counters every move by Tori and when it is Uke’s turn to be Tori, the tables are turned so that
both struggle because their egos are grander than their understanding. Instead, Uke remains in position and Tori must first
break Uke’s balance. Tori can then attempt the completion of the technique. Uke neither attempts to counter (that is
resist) nor does Uke freely give in to Tori. Uke should just be. It is up to Tori to find the secret of Uke’s balance
and then off-balance Uke to execute the Nage-te. If Tori continues to have problems with breaking Uke’s balance, Uke
is to explain to Tori how best this is done. In this manner both help each other to learn. As a result, both are benefited.
It may be said that those students who practice the Kata (Form) of Nage-te believe they are practicing in the
correct manner. However, what is meant by Ju? D. Draeger and R. Smith in Asian Fighting Arts (pg. 137) state: “The
common translation of Ju as ‘gentle’ is usually misinterpreted by the Westerner. To him it suggests the complete
lack of functionally applied strength. This was never the case with combat Jujutsu, where frequently great strength was needed
to ensure the defeat of an enemy. Jujutsu techniques are not all gentle, though some times they are made with such swiftness
and efficiency that they appear to be so. They seek to blend with the enemy’s direction of strength, which is then controlled.
This ‘gentleness’ is thus more correctly spoken of as flexibility, meaning that mind and body adapt to a situation
and bring it to advantage for the operator.”
The error of students is half understanding. They understand only half the principle, because they wish to combine
this with their concept of Ju. The result is that the slightest nudge of such an Uke and Uke is thrown. Indeed, many freely
Sutemi without any effort on Tori’s part. They have mastered the role of Uke so well that were they involved in a real
fight they probably would throw themselves into defeat as a matter of reflex.
One of the characteristics of this type of training is the willingness to rise to one’s toes. Judo teaches
one to keep their Ki (Spirit) centered and their Hara (abdomen - where the Ki is centered) down. This is what is meant when
it is said that Uke is to “just be”. Uke’s Ki is to be centered and Uke’s Hara is to be down. Tori
must overcome this and by doing so demonstrates his understanding of Kuzushi (balance).
Judo vs. Jujutsu
Returning to the static position in Jujutsu, practice is often times performed with Uke attempting to strike Tori
and Tori then having to execute the throw. A basic principle is taught in this practice: to give way. Tori must remain in
a defensive position until Uke does something. When Uke does something, Tori responds by yielding, thus allowing Uke to defeat
himself. This is in keeping with the basic principle of Judo. However, in Judo today, we find a very competitive oriented
sport. Indeed, one now included in the Olympic curriculum. What we find is two athletes approaching each other on the mat
and struggling to get a good grasp of the other in order to execute some technique and thereby win the match. In the act of
attempting to grasp one’s opponent, one has gone against the basic concept of yielding and instead has committed an
aggressive act. One has, therefore, defeated oneself because one has gone against the principle of Ju or suppleness. It matters
little that one’s physical and technical skills may be superior to one’s opponent except that one may win some
trophy attesting to these skills. One still has not learned that victory is also achieved over self; for one has put objects
and acclaim ahead of true learning and victory. The practice of Jujutsu still embodies this basic precept as exemplified in
the static posture. Moreover, it still maintains the martial aspect, for in the completion of a throw one is also taught to
strike an opponent to finish him. This can be either a punch or a kick and this strike must be completed with the same focus
on balance and posture that is given to the execution of the technique (Zanshin).
In the Martial arts, there is a concept called Zanshin. This is Japanese for the condition of being in a state
of awareness of one’s surroundings at all times; before, during and after the execution of a technique. It is sufficient
to practice a technique so that the form becomes rote. Many students become so involved with the form that they forget Zanshin.
They have become so supple that they can never win because their mind is focused on the Yielding. A Karate master once remarked
that to be supple is fine, but one must remember that a focused blow against even a Willow tree will break its branches. So
to be supple is not sufficient if the opponent is focused at a particular point. One must be able to react with spontaneity
and, therefore, keep their mind in a state of Mu-shin (No-thought).
The practice of Nage-te in Jujutsu involved learning the concept of Zanshin. Professor Estes (a student of Master
Okazaki) was a master of Zanshin. He had a small Dojo in Chico, California. The students would pair up and then they would
be divided into two groups with one group against one wall and the other group against the other wall. Then they would take
offset positions from one another so that if both sides threw at once, the Ukes would not hit one another as the width of
the Dojo provided no space between the groups when Nage-te was practiced. Prof. Estes would walk down the center of the Dojo,
watching the techniques of his students. Of course, if both sides executed their throws at the same time, there would be no
“center” because it would be filled with Ukes. This seldom happened. However, Prof. Estes would walk this center
line. When students behind him paused in their throwing exercise to allow him to move forward, he would insist they continue
and not be concerned for his safety, for that was his responsibility. What Prof. Estes was practicing was the concept of Zanshin.
He was aware of not only those students in front and to the sides of him, but behind him as well. He reacted as needed to
changing currents in the Dojo so that he would never be in danger of being hit without losing awareness of the techniques
being employed by the students. His body was allowed to move forward, backward and sideways spontaneously and naturally (bu-ji)
as he observed the techniques of his students, looking for “stumbling blocks” that slowed learning. It was sometimes
like a dance, with Prof. Estes first moving slightly forward to avoid the students from behind and then stepping slightly
back and to the side to avoid those in front of him without missing a step. There was no “dogging of bullets”
so to speak. There was movement, but movement as in gliding, without a change in breathing. “...there is stillness in
the midst of movement” is perhaps the best way to describe the flowing movement of the Professor as he walked the center
line with Buji and in Zanshin. So, in learning Nage-te in Jujutsu, one begins learning Buji and Zanshin.
One will probably first master the forms of throwing long before one masters the concepts, but it is the practice
of the techniques, the dedication and commitment to the practice that provides the cornerstone for learning the concepts.
“It may well be said that the primary objective of practicing Judo is perfection of character.” Whenever anyone
commits themselves to practicing something that enhances themselves, then they are building character, and the practice of
the Martial arts leads to enhancing oneself and thus character building. The development of character, in turn, becomes the
cornerstone for comprehending the concepts taught in the advanced courses.
Isshin means “with one-heart” - to throw oneself into something with one’s complete heart /
spirit / mind. It is the complete singular commitment to one action or impulse. In Judo, it is the total effort given to executing
the “One” throw in competition. Since there is total commitment of Shin, there cannot be a remaining Shin, a Zanshin.
We take the meaning of Zanshin vs. Isshin to be different than that taught by some. Isshin demonstrates only the technique
and ego centered thought of victory. Zanshin demonstrates the principle of the Way. Zanshin exists at the beginning, because
every action is understood to be in the past tense so Zanshin is always the present tense. Moreover, the quality of Isshin
misses the character traits one hopes to develop in following the Martial arts. This does not mean it does not exist. Indeed,
Isshin is far more common a trait than the others and as such, is one more hurdle to overcome.
Mu-shin is a Zen concept meaning “No-Mind”. It is described as “a relaxed, mirror-like state
of Mind.” This state of mind is necessary to allow one to react spontaneously to events occurring around that person,
“without any preconceived ideas or thoughts (Mu-nen)”. An example might be a student who attempts to block a punch.
Uke throws the punch and Tori blocks. So far, everything is fine. This practice is repeated in a static manner several times.
Finally, Uke becomes bored and instead of throwing the same punch, fakes the punch and does something else. Tori, not expecting
any change in plan does not know how to respond, because Tori has been concentrating on the punch and the block. Tori’s
mind is in a state of Yu-shin, that is cluttered thoughts. Were Tori able to respond automatically, in a relaxed and reflexive
state to this sudden change of tactic, it might be said he was in the state of Mu-shin. This concept will be explored more
fully a little later as it is one of the principle goals of mastery of the Martial arts.
Though repeated practice of Nage-te, one thus develops an understanding of several concepts and principles not
only in Judo but in the Martial arts and Zen.
Shin and Ki
Shin is the Japanese concept for mind / heart / spirit. It is the essential life-force of the individual. It is
what some call character so that the “perfection of character” refers to the development and perfection of Shin.
Shin is closely associated with Ki or Vital Energy. Ki is the animating force of Shin. Ki comes from the eternal cosmos and
is the vehicle with which union of the Divine (Cosmic) Spirit manifests itself. According to Legget (ZTW, pg. 130), “If
training in Shin is being undertaken, training of Ki and physical training become natural, and the whole process forms a Way.”
A Shin which is developed is one free from cares and worries - one where the Ki is allowed to flow freely. A stifled Ki finds
itself concentrated in some area of the body thus causing stiffness and hesitancy as well as a sort of clumsiness. This is
because it is not flowing freely - there is a constipation of the Shin - one entrapped by too many concerns, burdened down
with cares and worries, fretting without relief. Even sleep is not always restful.
Training of Shin first begins with training of Ki. As the Ki is thought to reside in the Hara (abdomen, or specifically
the Tanden which is located about two inches below the navel), training must begin by concentrating on developing the breathing.
Proper breathing is not clavicular. It is from deep in the abdomen which in Japanese is called Hara breathing. Without proper
posture, proper breathing cannot be attained and without proper breathing the Ki cannot flow freely. So all training begins
with learning to breathe properly, then learning proper posture. This is why Zen mediation and the Martial arts are so similar.
The Martial arts also place great emphasis on breathing and posture. One cannot execute a throw if one’s posture and
breathing is not correct. The opponent will not be unbalanced if Tori is without balance.
The development of Shin and Ki takes a long time. It is not something that happens overnight as our day to day
lives are full of distractions and nuisances which disturb our breathing and thus interfere with our Ki flow. Only after much
time does one learn to refocus one’s Ki, regain one’s breathing rhythm and thus bring one’s spirit back
into harmony. This is Shin development and this is what the Way means.
According to Kissohomaru Ueshiba (TSOA, pg. 15) Master Ueshiba’s goal “deeply religious in nature,
is summarized in a single statement: the unification of the fundamental creative principle, Ki, permeating the universe, and
the individual Ki, inseparable from breath-power, of each person. Through constant training of mind and body, the individual
Ki harmonizes with the universal Ki, and this unity appears in the dynamic, flowing movement of Ki-power which is free and
fluid, indestructible and invincible. This is the essence of Japanese martial arts as embodied in Aikido.”
Again (TSOA, pg. 25) “When concentration permeates mind and body, breath-power becomes one with the universe,
gently and naturally expanding to the utter limit, but at the same time the person becomes increasingly self contained and
autonomous. In this way when breath works together with the universe, the unseen spiritual essence becomes a reality within
oneself, enfolding and protesting and defending the self. This is an introduction to the profound essence of Ai-Ki. Ki, then
is twofold: the unity of individual/universe and free, spontaneous expression of breath-power. The former inherits the idea
of Ki held by the ancient Chinese thinkers, but it is to be realized through unifying Ki-mind-body in Aikido training. In
the process of training, oneness with the Ki of the universe is achieved spontaneously without effort. The latter part of
the statement teaches that a person’s breath controls his thoughts and his bodily movements. When the rhythms of breath
and Aikido movements become harmonized with rhythm of the universe, one’s mind and body become centered and every movement
becomes a spherical rotation.” (Note: It should not be unnatural for the reader to insert the word Shin as appropriate
in the quotations taken from Aikido, either in exchange of mind-body or possibly as Shin-Ki.)
When “breath-power” is spoken of, one must understand that breathing is a driving force to the harmony
of Ki, which is free flowing Ki. When Ki is allowed to flow freely, its natural power manifests itself in a positive way.
It heightens Charisma, promotes healing of injuries, as well as long life by providing an uplifted and healthy spirit.
Tao is the Chinese for the Japanese Do or Way. The Way is enlightenment. To seek the Way is to seek enlightenment.
To work at a specific activity and practice that activity with diligence is to choose a part to the Way. This part may be
(according to Zen) painting, music, dance, calligraphy, flower arrangement or any of the martial art Arts. Many of the martial
Arts have changed their names to reflect this meaning: Ju-do, Aiki-do, Karate-do, and Ken-do, to name a few. (SoS, pg. 445)
“Almost to a man, the most reputable martial arts masters who have written about or taught their specialization’s
have claimed that Bujutsu was (and is still considered to be) something more that merely a variety of practical and effective
methods of combat. They indicate that these arts are “Ways” or disciplines of moral advancement intended to further
the formation of a mature, balanced and integrated personality, of a man at peace with himself and in harmony with his social
as well as his natural environment.” This is a clear influence of Zen on the martial arts. For it is the concentration
on the effort that is important as has been previously mentioned. Without focusing on something, one just goes through life
listless. Life can only be fully lived if one becomes harmonious with it and this is attained through “self-actualization”
found in the meditative practice or the effort to focus on and become master of some art. This “self-actualization”
is the enlightenment that is often mentioned.
In Zen and the Ways (Z&TW, pg. 117), Leggett states: “What are called the Ways are fractional expressions
of Zen in limited fields such as the fighting arts of sword or spear, literary arts like poetry or calligraphy, and household
duties like serving tea, polishing, or flower arrangement. These actions become Ways when practice is done not merely for
the immediate result but also with a view to purifying, calming and focusing the psycho-physical apparatus, to attain to some
degree of Zen realization and express it.”
The difficult thing is to describe what realization / enlightenment is. One may say that it is to find the Buddha
spirit that exists in each but what does this mean? Indeed, how can one who has not attained the Buddha spirit explain what
it is, and conversely, how can one who has attained the Buddha spirit explain it to one who does not know? Since this is beyond
our experience, we can only cite what others say it is.
In A First Zen Reader, (AFZR, pg. 150) Legget quotes: “‘The sutra teaches that by the practice
of meditation the lake of the heart becomes pure and calm, and when the lake of the ordinary man’s heart becomes pure,
the reflection that appears within it is of Bodhisattva. When the wellspring of the heart is purified, the wrong paths which
otherwise appear as a result of his wrong actions, to that man become as if non-existent. How should these be wrong paths
from him? The Pure Land is not far. As the phrase goes “This heart becomes the mediation room”. The world of light,
or virtue, appears, and now our daily life has changed meaning. In fact, for the first time our ordinary life becomes radiant
with real meaning.’”
Here, Bodhisattva is the Buddha nature or the “true self”. Enlightenment is attained when the positive
side is accented: when light conquers darkness; virtue conquers evil; greed and envy hold no grasp. Here there is no longer
any dualism - positive and negative. Dualism has been conquered. One can not now speak of a positive aspect because to do
so still entails the negative. To overcome the Dualism is to fully conquer the negative and integrate it with the positive
so there is a harmonious blending of both - the union of the Yin and Yang.
To the Zen mind, this blending or conquering results in what is termed Mushin (No-mind). (ZWMA, pg. 98), “The
true, traditional martial arts training strengthens Ki (spirit), destroys egoism and fear, moves the student beyond dualism,
and develops Mushin consciousness, consciousness that has forgotten the self. It’s not necessary to want to win; only
then can one win. Abandoning the ego is the secret of right living. In life, as in the practice of the martial Arts, it is
important to strengthen the will and develop strength and skill. The main thing, though, is to strengthen the spirit and find
freedom. Mushin - nothing.”
This positive side or spirit is called Shinyo (Yang Spirit). The harmonious blending of both, the union of Yin
and Yang is the Pure Spirit / Spirit Man - Shinyo / Shinjin. As Darwin hit upon the idea of evolution of the species, so too
is there evolution of the spirit. With effort one can progress from where one is to higher levels of spiritual development.
The steps to this spiritual growth appear to follow the following pattern (although as in meditation this is not the only
The individual must select some path to follow - an Art.
This path must require discipline in concentration with activities becoming more complex
so that the effort towards concentration is increasingly taxed.
There should be some requirement for the individual to practice Zanshin as a step in the
development of the mind towards to goal of Mushin (No-Mind).
There should be within the activity a requirement for blending - for learning to feel
the rhythm of the activity and become part of it - Shinin (Rhythmic Spirit).
There should be an effort made throughout to accentuate the positive spirit (Yang Shin
or Shinyo) and subdue the negative spirit.
There should be an instruction in understanding the above so that progress is not abandoned
when the final goal is within reach.
The perfect achievement of Mushin consciousness is Shinjin (also called the Buddha nature)
- the true nature in each of us.
If we understand that in our daily activities our minds are being deluged with all kinds of impulses and that
our concentration is seldom focused (we walk into the house and set our keys down and later cannot find them), we know that
to concentrate on only one thing at length is extremely difficult. Yet, if we cannot focus our mind on one thing, how can
we focus our mind on No-thing? So the first step is to develop the mind’s ability to focus at length on the one thing.
For many, this is a significant accomplishment and they do not go beyond this.
The next thing to do is to feel/blend with that upon which our mind is focused. This is true in activity - not
repose. The activity and the mind come into harmony. The mind is no longer thinking of aspects of the activity but sees the
activity as one big picture and steps right into it and becomes a part of it. It is not distracted and looking at the activity
from the outside, but is seeing the activity with the person in it, in the proper place and proper perspective - a unified
and harmonious scene or setting.
This causes the Positive Spirit to be accentuated - that is all that is good and virtuous. The negative is to
be subdued. Light is to conquer darkness. The ego is to be overcome, for how can one’s character be perfected if selfishness
is a large part of one’s life? How many have a chief concern for the table they set in their own household and never
for the tables set in all household’s? Certainly, few can do anything to overcome the distress in the world, but the
development of character in all philosophy entails this larger Weltanschauung (world view), rather than the ego view. Buddha
had his enlightenment, then taught all who would listen. The one who carried his message was the one who understood when he
said nothing, he only pulled the pedals from the lotus flower held over his head. While this meaning escaped the multitude
sitting there, it demonstrates that enlightenment can come in myriad ways.
The development of the Positive Spirit is essential to the attainment of Mushin. One may learn to concentrate
on something but it is the negative impulses that continually bring us back to the world. Therefore, our mind has to overcome
these negative impulses and focus on a positive aspect. With great effort this concentration can be maintained. Then, the
next step is to focus or concentrate on No-thing. This is the state of Munen Musow (No thought / No substance). The Positive
Spirit has conquered the Negative Spirit - Yang has overcome Yin. The Dragon has overcome the Tiger. Heaven stands above the
earth. Now the Spirit Man can develop. Such a person is free from all negative impulses as a baby is from all thought at the
time of birth. This does not mean one does not think. It means one has found true sincerity.
Again, not everyone can attain Shinjin. Not everyone can find their Buddha nature. Not everyone can attain enlightenment,
but that does not mean that no one should try. Not everyone may be us and not you. Each has a path and how far this path takes
them is to be seen, but they must first take the path and begin their journey.
Legget says (Z&TW, pg. 120), “There are many people who have no wish to transcend individuality and
enter a realm beyond mental constructs, a region of transcendental aloneness. But some of them would like to experience some
inspiration, to be able to enter into harmony with the universe, not simply on great occasions but at ordinary times. It is
for such people that the Ways were developed. They are fragmentary manifestations of Zen which depend only minimally on circumstances;
to practice them means to be able to experience a breath from beyond, to have freedom for a time at least from the drabness
and cramp of life, and to become able to recognize in a particular field the cosmic life, and give it play.”
To further help clarify the meaning of Mushin we provide the following Mondo (Z&TW, pg. 47).
“Question: What is Mushin? If it means absolutely without mind, then who is it who sees the nature, who
is enlightened, or who teaches this doctrine?
Answer: Mushin means absolutely without that heart that is all foolishness, it does not mean without the heart
that knows wrong and right. When he does not think about living beings, or long for the Buddha, or think of confusion or seek
Satori (enlightenment), or follow after the regard of the people, or hope to increase name and profit, or hate poison and
injury and revenge, when he is without any thought coming up of distinctions as to good and bad, that is called a man of the
Way of Mushin. So it is said, ‘The way, without thinking, lies before the people, and the people, without thinking,
tread the Way.’”
Zen is a philosophy which is properly termed Zazen, Zen being the shortened form. Zazen means to meditate. Zen
teaches that through meditation one finds enlightenment and truth. All learning is for naught because all answers are to be
found within oneself. One need only search within oneself to find these answers as we are all part of one Universe and the
Universe is part of us.
Zen developed as a result of many learned Buddhists not finding any answer to the deeper questions of life in
their learning. They had spent a great part of their lives in pursuit of knowledge only to discover that with the more they
learned the more unhappy they were in finding the answers. This gradually led to the conclusion that only by looking within
oneself could one find true meaning and this meaning could only come through an enlightenment or Satori which was brought
about through the process of meditation.
To quote D. T. Suzuki (Zen and the Japanese Culture, pg. 16, 17), Zen can be summarized in the following way:
Zen discipline consists in attaining enlightenment (or Satori, in Japanese).
Satori finds a meaning hitherto hidden in our daily concrete particular experiences, such as eating,
drinking, or business of all kinds.
The meaning thus revealed is not something added from the outside. It is in being itself, in becoming
itself, in living itself. This is called, In Japanese, a life of kono-mama or sono-mama. Kono- or sono-mama means the ‘isness’ of a thing.
Reality in its isness.
Some may say, ‘There cannot be any meaning in mere isness.’ But this is not the view held
by Zen, for according to it, isness is the meaning. When I see into it, I see it as clearly as I see myself reflected in a
This is what made Ho Koji (P’ang Chu-shih), a lay disciple of the eighth century, declare: ‘How
wondrous this, how mysterious! I carry fuel, I draw water.’ The fuel-carrying or the water-drawing itself, apart from
its utilitarianism, is full of meaning; hence its ‘wonder’, its ‘mystery’.
Zen does not, therefore, indulge in abstraction or in conceptualizing. In its verbalism it may sometimes
appear that Zen does this a great deal. This is an error most commonly entertained by those who do not at all know Zen.
Satori is emancipation; moral, spiritual, as well as intellectual. When I am in my isness, thoroughly
purged of all intellectual sediments, I have my freedom in its primary sense.”
Since Zen had its greatest influence on the Japanese martial
culture, we shall examine it in this context. One reason for this success is (Suzuki, Z&JC, pg.63), “Zen has no
special doctrine or philosophy, no set of concepts or intellectual formulas, except that it tries to release one from the
bondage of birth and death, by means of certain intuitive modes of understanding peculiar to itself. It is, therefore, extremely
flexible in adapting itself to almost any philosophy and moral doctrine as long as its intuitive teaching is not interfered
Since the Samurai was ultimately concerned with matters concerning
life and death, Zen came to play an important role in freeing the Samurai from this bondage and allowing him to grow and function
in Mu-shin. With the attainment of Mu-shin, the Samurai could become the complete warrior, unfettered by the commotion about
him in time of battle. Since the goal of the fighter is to go forward, with training in Zen this became possible. To quote
Suzuki (Z&JC, pg. 62), “Zen discipline is simple, direct, self-reliant, self-denying; its ascetic tendency goes
well with the fighting spirit. The fighter is to be always single-minded with one object in view; to fight, looking neither
backward nor sideways. To go straight forward in order to crush the enemy is all that is necessary for him. He is therefore
not to be encumbered in any possible way, be it physical, emotional, or intellectual.”
Prior to going straight forward, the student must first learn
to practice the Tao of Zen (Way of Zen). An example quoted by Suzuki (Z&JC, pg. 31, Suzuki quoting Georges Duthuit, Chinese
Mysticism and Modern Painting) is as follows: “When the Chinese artist paints, what matters is the concentration
of thought and the prompt and vigorous response of the hand to the directing will. Tradition ordains him to see, or rather
to feel, as a whole the work to be executed, before embarking on anything. ‘If the ideas of a man are confused, he will
become the slave of exterior conditions...He who deliberates and moves his brush intent on making a picture, misses to a still
greater extent the art of painting. Draw bamboos for ten years, become a bamboo, then forget all about bamboos when you are
drawing. In possession of infallible technique, the individual places himself at the mercy of inspiration.’
“To become a bamboo and to forget that you are one with
it while drawing it - this is the Zen of the bamboo, this is the moving with the ‘rhythmic movement of the spirit’
which resides in the bamboo as well as in the artist himself. What is now required of him is to have a firm hold on the spirit
and yet not to be conscious of the fact. This is a very difficult task achieved only after long spiritual training.”
Therefore much practice is required in the basics prior to approaching
the stage where one can attempt the more complex task of grasping the “spiritual rhythm” and attaining Satori.
To experience the Satori experience is to attain Mushin.
In the example cited above, the student must first master the
techniques of painting as well as the concept of the bamboo. This may take many years, after which he may be ready to paint
a bamboo so that bamboo represents a bamboo and not what he thinks a bamboo represents. The same holds true for the martial
arts for only in the Orient is fighting referred to as an Art. The reason may that as there is Zen in the Art of the bamboo,
there is also Zen in the martial arts, and this is a distinguishing characteristic, this is what sets it aside as an Art.
In the martial arts, students study the basics for many years
as we have already discussed. The place of study is called a Dojo. Dojo has come to mean gymnasium, however, it is made up
of two Kanji - Do and Jo. Do is the Japanese form of the Chinese Tao or Way. Jo signifies Place. Dojo then, is a place where
the Way is studied or practiced. In other words, it is a temple. In the practicing of any art, if one practices with the right
“spirit” or “mind”, one is practicing the Tao and this is striving to develop one’s spiritual
character. For this is what is meant by “perfection of character”. There can be no “perfection of character”
without spiritual growth and perfection. Only after years of practice in the basics can one become in tune with the “spiritual
rhythm” and thus prepare themselves for Satori.
To quote Suzuki again (Z&JC, pg. 220), “The Satori
experience, therefore, cannot be attained by the ordinary means of teaching or learning. It has its own technique in pointing
to the presence in us of a mystery that is beyond intellectual analysis. Life is indeed full of mysteries, and wherever there
is a feeling of the mysterious, there is Zen in one sense or another. This is known among the artist as Shin-in
(shen-yun, Ch.) or ki-in (ch’i-yun, Ch.), spiritual rhythm, the taking hold of which constitutes Satori.”
This is a very real statement to the students of Danzan Ryu (Kata
Style). In their introduction to Shin In No Maki, they are told that it is a very special time, a special event in which they
will now begin practicing the arts on a different plane. Up to this time (the time of study of the arts up to Shinin), they
were learning just the basics and often just going through some motions. Things were taught and done in a set pattern. Now,
with this new list, they were to begin to feel the art as they practiced it, so that in time they could become harmonious
with it. They were to try to blend with these new arts and in so blending become one with them. They are also told that Shinin
is made up in part by the word Shin which means spirit, so they are to put their spirit into their arts. Doing so in actuality
constitutes the meaning the Shin In.
An interesting point is that some spell it Shinin or Shinnin,
others Shinen or Shinnen. No one has turned up any relevant Kanji and the only available spellings are recorded in photos
as Shin In and Shin En as well as the notes of Okazaki’s earliest students. From the above, it is the Japanese homophone
for the Chinese word and so would not be found in a regular dictionary at all! It is a Zen concept and is often spoken of
as Myo or mystery. To quote Suzuki (Z&JC, pg. 220), “Conceptual knowledge has its technique, that
is, its progressive method, whereby one is initiated into it step by step (Applied Style - author). This does not allow us
to come in touch with the mystery of being, the significance of life, the beauty of things around us. Without an insight into
these values it is impossible for one to be master or artist of anything. Every art has its mystery, its spiritual rhythm
(Shin-in - author), its Myo (Miao), as the Japanese would call it...The true artist, like a Zen
master, is one who knows how to appreciate the Myo of things.”
To understand what is meant by “rhythm” we should
like to offer a quotation from Musashi (TBoFR, pg. 23), “There is rhythm in everything, but the rhythm of Heiho (strategy)
is something which you cannot gain mastery over without practice.
“The rhythms of the path of dance, of the minstrels, and
of the wind and string instruments are among the commonly known and obvious ones. In the path of the martial arts also, there
are rhythms and timing for firing arrow, shooting firearms, and riding horses. Rhythm in the various arts also should not
“There is also rhythm in the abstract. For Bushi, there
is the rhythm of being able to serve, the rhythm of failing, the rhythm of achieving one’s purpose, and the rhythm of
not achieving one’s purpose. In the path of commerce too, there is rhythm by which one becomes wealthy, and the rhythm
by which the wealthy go bankrupt, with the differences in the rhythms according to each path. The rhythm which things progress
and the rhythm with which things deteriorate should be understood and differentiated.
“There are many different rhythms in Heiho. It is one of
the main takes in Heiho to first of all learn the rhythm which is appropriate and differentiate it from those rhythms which
are inappropriate, to know the differences among the various rhythms for various sizes and speeds in terms of which are appropriate
and which are not, and which rhythm will cause the circumstances to be over turned. Your mastery of Heiho cannot be considered
firm unless you understand the rhythm with which you can avoid being drawn into the rhythm of the opponent.
“Victory is achieved in the Heiho of conflict by ascertaining
the rhythm of each opponent, by attacking with a rhythm not anticipated by the opponent, and by the use of knowledge of the
rhythm of the abstract.”
Perhaps to better explain how this concept applies to the list
of this name, we need to look at an art and discuss how it is taught. We shall choose for an example Hiki Tate Tori Shime.
This is a formal kneeling art and thus compels the students to adopt an Oriental posture and attitude to properly effect the
This art begins with two students kneeling with their feet under
their buttocks. They are a short distance apart and are calmly looking at one another. Uke attempts to punch Tori. It is blocked.
Tori steps to Uke’s right and applies an armbar causing Uke to rise to his feet. He then escorts Uke one or two steps
and sweeps Uke’s hip out, throwing Uke to his back. Tori then changes his left hand grip and rotates Uke over to Uke’s
face and applies an armbar. Tori then steps back into a defensive posture after Uke submits.
It is clear from the above description that several moves are
involved in this art. Each move must be mastered, first individually, then all together so that the art may be done smoothly,
effortlessly. Then all this must be forgotten so the art may be done as Art, without thought or mind - in rhythm with the
art. Thus, it transcends technique and becomes Art. How many have sat in repose in this art and complete this art in the same
repose they began it with, as if the end and beginning were one? Such is Shin In.
Musashi admonishes one to “Know the rhythms of intervals”
where an interval is a gap in activity or consciousness of which one should take advantage. Examples are when an opponent
tenses or slackens, blinks or inhales, motions and hesitates. Through the careful study of these rhythms, victory can be attained.
(TBoFR, pg. 66), “In one-on-one conflicts it is essential to understand the flow of the opponent’s personality,
to find out his strengths and weakness, and to plot against the opponent’s expectations. Know the ups and downs of the
opponent. Know well the rhythm of the intervals between them, and thereby take the initiative.” While these things are
commonly taught, the vocabulary is different, and to understand the concept of Shinin, we must understand the vocabulary associated
with it, which is one based upon the concept of rhythms.
Let us take another example. In Hando Shime (Jumping leg waist
lock), many students do step 1, step 2, step 3, etc.. Done properly, Uke attempts to throw Tori with O Goshi (hip throw).
As Uke enters, Tori quickly springs up and encircles his legs around Uke’s torso, while continuing with the turning
motion of Uke. Tori then just drops to his left side and Uke in effect throws himself. No effort, no thought, no concern.
It is as natural as breathing. This is Shinin.
In this blending of the individual to the art, what is necessary
is that the individual Not engage his mind on technique or movement. What is required is the individual realize
a state of mind where there is complete union with subject and object, actor and role, thought and action. Such blending or
unification is called Samadhi (Sanskrit; sammai in Japanese). Of course, this is that goal of practice. It does not come easily,
and to most it never comes at all. That does not mean it should not be pursued. Indeed, it should be pursued.
As long as progress was being made, the Way was being followed.
(AFZR, pg. 215-216), “The Ways have each two wings: first, the technical attainment without which Satori will not express
itself fully in the particular Way, and second, transcendence of technique and manifestation of the inspiration always radiating
from the Buddha light in man. by studying one of the Ways, the student keeps his Zen practice in touch with activity and life.
If he does not receive inspiration to some extent in his chosen Way, he knows that his eye has not yet begun to open. going
deeper and deeper in a Way, the student finds a koan (puzzle) or problem naturally arising. This is not something
expressed in words (thereby tempting him to solve it with words), but a koan which can only be solved by inspiration in action. Success or
failure is generally easy to judge, and so is overcome the worst of Zen obstacles; self-deception.”
So how are any of the martial arts part of the Way? If Zen is
meditation, then how can the activity be a Way? As the above quote highlights, there are two sides to the coin, but these
still make up only one coin. The first is activity and the second is meditation. (AFZR, pg. 132), “An ancient sage said:
‘Meditation in activity is a hundred, a thousand, a million times superior to meditation in repose.’” It
should be mentioned that no one considers Zazen to be the only method for enlightenment. They feel that it is the quickest
method. (Harrison, ZCJ, pg. 145), “The prescribed formula of Zazen should not be regarded as the only way of attaining
the desired goal, while on the other hand it must not be discarded as useless. On the contrary, the teachers of Zen maintain
that this formula is the surest and easiest means whereby ordinary mortals can acquire mental tranquility.”
Each time a student steps on the mat and begins to practice,
he must concentrate on the art or technique he is learning. Not only must he concentrate on that one thing at that one moment,
but he must repeat this effort for one to two hours of class time. Many find the effort more strenuous that the techniques
and so become distracted. They have not learned to fully focus their mind on the here and now and as a result begin idle chattering
or worse, lounging around. To progress in the martial arts as well as the Way requires concentrating on the here and now.
This is one of the secrets - open to all but learned by only a few.
Perhaps this is why Prof. Estes only remonstrated those who did
not show “the proper attitude” rather than those who digressed somewhat from the teachings. The first, no effort
was being shown to learn - there was a total lack of discipline and concentration; whereas, in the second, concentration was
there as well as some discipline, but it was not fully directed to the technique being taught - the here and now. This latter
behavior could be easily corrected, the first had to be reproved!
Another point to be made in the relationship of Zen in the martial
arts is that of adopting ideas and ways that fit and discarding ideas and ways that do no fit. In this respect, if concentration
on a subject is the goal and this is obtained through the training of the martial arts, then there is no reason to force individuals
to protract their limbs in such a uniquely painful manner as required for the Zazen posture. The same goal can be accomplished
in an erstwhile fashion by other means. An example is related by Harrison where he tells the story of a dispute between one
of his Jujutsu instructors and a Zen priest. (ZCJ, pg. 123), “The important point is that meditation is not the be-all
and end-all of mundane existence, and it was in connection with this phase of the subject that Mr. Kunishige and the priestly
advocate of Zen came to verbal blows. ‘Yes,’ said the former, after listening politely and attentively to a long
disquisition from his antagonist on the virtues of the system, ‘That is all very well as long as you remain squatting
upon your three-by-three platform with no one to bother you. There you can develop your shitahara (lower
abdomen) to enormous proportions free from rude and sacrilegious interference; but the moment you descend from your perch
and run up against a bujin (warrior) who has developed his shitahara, not by constant squatting but by constant movement, where are
you?’ And Mr. Kunishige showed him as he had showed me how by a simple touch with a single finger he could topple him
over. Needless to say, the sacerdotal disciple of Zazen waxed exceeding wrath over this attack and illustration and departed
in high dudgeon.”
This is the reason there is no emphasis in Danzan Ryu on the
Lotus posture for meditation because meditation is included in the teaching. As previously stated, when Professor Estes used
to practice Zanshin, he was meditating in an active state so that he could expand his awareness before him, to the sides of
him and behind him. Many classes are ended with a period of meditation, however, the posture is the kneeling (Seiza) posture
with the hands placed at rest on the thighs. While this is one of the accepted postures, it is not the posture.
Little matter - there are as many teachings as there are teachers. The primary goal is “mediation in movement”
which is attended to in the practice of Jujutsu.
Kiai is a well-known term in Japanese martial arts. It is usually understood to mean “Yell” and it
is sometimes translated as “Spirit Yell”. A well-time Kiai in combat is supposed to startle one’s opponent
during combat, or at the beginning of an engagement it is to foster courage in the defender. This is much like soldiers crying
“Charge” or “Aiii” as they careen with abandon into battle.
In reality, Kiai is more than the understanding with which it is most often associated for it is composed of two
words, Ki and Ai; the first meaning Spirit and the second Harmony. Ki comes from the Chinese Chi and means the Vital spirit
or the animating Spirit. It is associated with the Hebrew word “Ruash” or breath and the Greek word “Logos”
or Word found in the Gospel of St. John. There is the heavenly Chi and the chi that is in each individual, which comes from
the Heavenly Chi through the function of breathing. One of the goals of Taoists is to purify the chi within the body so that
it can reunite with the Heavenly Chi and thus the individual can end the cycle of incarnation. So Ki or Chi is more that simply
spirit. It is the vitality that animates the Universe as well as man. Kiai is the harmony of this vital force and this too
has a broader and deeper meaning.
When the spirit is in harmony, one is calm, at peace. The mind is unattached to thoughts - it is free. Where do
thoughts arise from? Where do they go? Neither the arising nor the going disturbs the mind of one who is still. This is also
referred to as Mushin consciousness, Sutemi, Munen Musow and still other names. This spirit that is in harmony is free to
roam and soar the Heavens. It is uncaring, untroubled by bills, laundry, shopping, chores or anything. It is at peace.
In the martial arts, some teach that Kiai and Aiki are different. It is said that the reversal of the terms denotes
the difference between external and internal Ki. External Ki is that which is projected, e.g. the “Yell” while
internal Ki is the composure or attitude one has at a point in time. These are superficial definitions given to a difficult
concept which do not do justice to the concept. By stating there is a difference between the external and the internal is
to create a duality that does not exist if the Ki is in harmony in the first place. The reason they are spoken of as separate
is more of convention, a learning tool, really. For it is often easier to understand a portion of a concept rather than the
whole concept. So the concept is broken up, that it may be discussed and absorbed with the goal of bringing the pieces back
together at some future date - when the time is ripe. To often the future date never occurs and individuals continue believing
they have full understanding. The first real exposition on the teaching of Ki in Danzan Ryu comes with the introduction to
the course entitled Kiai No Maki (Scroll of Kiai).
Kiai No Maki
Within the syllabus of Danzan Ryu is a list entitled “Kiai No Maki” or Scroll of Kiai. It is accompanied
by Oral tradition. This list completes the middle techniques or Chuden and is preparatory to the black belt lists prefixed
to Shin- or Spirit. The Kiai scroll (the 1st four techniques) consists of some basic tricks used to amaze people. There are
several variations to most, but the basic techniques are: to break a block across one’s abdomen with a sledge hammer;
a second is to break chopsticks using rice paper; a third is to escape from Chinese bamboo finger locks; and the fourth is
to stand on a sword. The last is clearly dangerous. Following these four are additional lists for defenses against the knife
and gun, and usage of the Iron Fan or Tessen as well as escapes from the Bo or long staff. The importance of the scroll is
twofold; its position in the syllabus and its composition.
Due to the nature of the arts, most students never attempt to stand on a sword, let alone walk on a horizontal
sword ladder - nor should. Many do not learn how to time their Kiai with the explosion of a sledge hammer coming down on the
lava rock laid on top of their abdomen, as they do not practice this art either. The arts that are practiced are the knife
and gun defenses and occasionally the Fan Arts. However, the method by which many students practice is the same as that learned
in the basic Yawara course, which does little to distinguish the Kiai No Maki list from it. Yet, in Danzan Ryu, the Kiai Arts
were taught as preparation to the Black belt rank. They are part of the Chuden or Middle Tradition (intermediate level) and
come after Oku-te (combination arts) and before the first of the Black belt scrolls. This leaves many curious as to their
tradition and placement. The reason is obvious - the use of Kiai. The student can continue and practice these new arts in
the same manner as they learned their basic Yawara, and as a result, see no difference in these arts and the basics. However,
from the meaning and teaching presented in the Scroll, this course begins a new study in Okazaki Judo.
Again, the purpose of the scroll of Kiai is to teach the proper use of Kiai. When one learns to do the basic hand
arts, one is told to Kiai. Since this is a rather new experience (we are all told since childhood not to shout), most are
very self conscience about Kiaiing. It is enough for the instructor to get the students to give a loud and forceful Kiai in
practice. With time, this becomes rather second nature and the practitioner Kiais without much ado. With the presentation
of the scroll of Kiai, The When becomes important. If someone is going to break a lava rock
on top of one’s abdomen, one needs to know when to Kiai. The timing is important. The same is true of breaking chop
sticks with rice paper - timing is important. So, too, timing is important in escaping from six foot staffs, whether it be
a loud Kiai or an internal Kiai. When facing an opponent with a knife or gun, a misplaced Kiai can be fatal. Again, timing
is important. Yet, so many who have been introduced to this scroll do not appreciate the difference or distinction between
this course and the preceding instruction. As such, it remains much like the basic Yawara they were taught, which does not
improve with the knowledge to be gained from this scroll.
What is this proper use of Kiai? One requirement is a forceful shout that should originate deep in one’s
abdomen. This should be directed towards one’s opponent, directly to the “third eye” (if the opponent is
directly facing you) or just behind the temple (if the opponent is turned sideways). The key to a successful Kiai is timing.
It is to be delivered just prior to any aggressive movement so that it completely startles an opponent. As an example, if
one were to strike me, I could block the blow, then Kiai directly at my opponent to momentarily stun him prior to executing
a throw or some other art or I could Kiai the moment of his attack, then quickly execute my defense. However, were I to block
and Kiai at the same time, by the time I attempt to execute my defense, my opponent has had sufficient time to overcome being
startled, and immediately counters my counter to my dismay. As another example, assume someone has grasped my wrist and I
wish to execute a simple wrist escape. If I begin my escape and grunt a Kiai at the same time, my opponent immediately is
aware of my actions and is free to counter. If I Kiai first, he blinks his eyes and to his surprise he still has a grasp of
my wrist. Then I quickly execute the escape and my opponent is startled a second time. The first time, his brain was waiting
almost immediately for something to happen and in that split second nothing did. It then becomes confused. Once the brain
was confused, the escape occurred and again the opponent is startled and confused.
This is the proper use of Kiai. It must be directional, forceful and it must occur at the right time. If a person
is attacking with a knife, they are concentrating on two things, the knife and their opponent. In fact, we can concentrate
on only one thing at a time, so their concentration is wavering back and forth; one, to ensure where their opponent is; and
two, to ensure they have the knife gripped tightly. With a proper Kiai, this concentration can be interrupted so that it is
no longer on the opponent or the knife. In that moment, one can execute a defense and possibly survive the attack (no, there
are never any guarantees). Let us assume a backhand slash to our abdomen. The opponent may have a double bladed knife that
he is holding backwards in his hand so that the blade is pointed towards his elbow. He attempts a forward slash to our abdomen
and as his arm reaches the end of the arc, quickly comes back for a back-slash. Now, if I Kiai and block at the same time,
I may have success with an arm-push counter-move, but if I Kiai just as his arm begins the back-slash, step forward and execute
the arm-push counter, I am assured of better success. In the first situation, it is not uncommon when the knife wielder’s
arm is grasped, that the attacker attempts to turn out of the capture and protect his precious knife. In the second situation,
confusion is again introduced and the attacker does not know what is happening, then the counter is effected, and again the
attacker is confused.
Only when this is understood can one master the higher arts. Only if this new knowledge is put to practice can
experience be gained so that the Black belt arts make sense. This is in keeping with the Danzan Ryu system (as well as traditional
Japanese Ryus) were some things are held back until the student is ready to learn, either demonstrated through rank or attitude
or both. As with other “secrets”, this use of Kiai is to be put into practice with all the arts one has learned
to this point and with those arts one is about to learn. In this way, proficiency is gained and demonstrated.
So we can see why this list is called a scroll (which separates it from the basic arts). We can understand why
it is not among the Black belt arts, for without the proper use of Kiai, it is for the most part, little more than basic Yawara.
Once we understand the use of Kiai, we can understand why it is in preparation for any introduction into the Black belt arts.
The success of the next series of arts is dependent on one’s skill and understanding of Kiai. Indeed, one of the true
“secrets” of the martial arts is the use of Kiai, whether internal or external. Only with many years of practice
is an acquaintance established, for few ever fully master this secret.
Looking at the first four Kiai arts, one sees that they have something in common. They require deep concentration
focused on the immediate subject. Moreover, this concentration is demonstrated by a steady, rhythmic breathing. As the sledge
hammer comes down to break the rock lying on one’s abdomen, one must be focused on the here and now - the immediate
moment. As the hammer meets the rock, one releases a forceful Kiai that strengthens the abdomen at the moment of impact. If
the force of exhalation is strong enough and timed to meet the blow of the hammer, the rock will burst from the center outwards
as the two forces meet. Sometimes, to further test one’s ability to remain focused on the here and now, an individual
is placed prone between two chairs with his lower legs upon one chair and his shoulders, neck and head on the other. There
is nothing supporting his back and the rock is lying on the abdomen. Again, hammer blow and Kiai. Focused attention and Kiai
at the right time allows one to avoid injury. This is an important lesson and if it cannot in some way be demonstrated, then
one is not ready to advance any further.
In the above example, two things are clear. The first is the shout or external Ki (Kiai). The second is the inner
harmony; the focused concentration, the rhythmic breathing - the internal Ki (often referred to now as Aiki). The two must
work in unison in the climax of the art or there is no art. This is very important. Many who do not Kiai, say they do an internal
Kiai. Try that with the rock and hammer! Others Kiai as a grunt or Oomph or Ugh or some such sound. The sound one makes is
important. There is a sound for slapping the mat or ground and a sound for attacking. One is to absorb shock to the body and
the other is to project energy towards something - be it a rock or an opponent. The first is learned quite readily, as one
practices falling and absorbing some sort of punishment on a regular basis. The second, attempting to startle an opponent
is practiced less often and so few become its master. Instead, they use the defensive shout as offensive and neither they
nor their opponent is convinced they mean any harm. Thus, there is no masteryof their art - no Kung Fu as the Chinese would
At this level of skill (pre-black belt) it is not necessary to master the Yell. This course is to introduce one
of the basic concepts of internal and external Ki. It is at this time that meaning is to be given to these concepts. We must
recall that one first learns falls, then hand arts, followed by throws, constriction and basic combination arts. In the old
systems, these arts would be demonstrated and the students would be expected to mimic the Sensei (instructor). They would
practice these arts repeatedly, until they became second nature. They would be in no position to vary the class curriculum
or teaching and so would follow the established pattern. In their practice, as their bodies became more coordinated and they
became more familiar with the principles of balance and leverage, they would discover for themselves certain things which
would make the arts more effective. These might be called “little Satoris” or small enlightenments and were as
much a part of the learning experience as the pure practice itself. The only problem with this approach is the inordinate
amount of time it takes to learn something. This was fine in agrarian times, but in the modern era people seemingly do not
have the same amount of time. One of the ways to shorten this learning process is for the instructor to give things earlier,
out of sequence so that as the student advances, he incorporates some of the “advanced” concepts in the basic
curriculum and is thus prepared for demonstrating higher skill at an earlier level.
In the Kiai No Maki list, the students become introduced to the arts, but in the Shinyo list we find a technique
called Kiai Tori. This is the practice of the yell so that one is not disturbed by the shout of one’s opponent, but
one’s shout is strengthened to enable one to completely startle one’s opponent. Now, if the Yell is strengthened
at the brown belt level, then what is the purpose of having the exercise at the middle black belt level.? Clearly, not all
secrets were to be taught at lower levels. There were to be introductions into basics and later these basics would be developed
If we examine this scroll considering the development of one’s skill, we can see why Professor Okazaki structured
his system in the manner he did. First is the basics, pure and simple. Basics, basics, basics. Then there are the intermediate
techniques and finally the advanced arts. The Kiai No Maki arts are the transitional arts from the intermediate to the advanced.
Proper practice of these arts requires devoted concentration, something basic Yawara does not. Indeed, the arts to this point
can be done without the same devotion is required for the “proper feel” of execution of Kiai No Maki.
This gets back to the way Professor Estes instructed. In teaching Kiai No Maki he would tell the students if their
Kiai was “right” or not. He did not tell them how to do a “right” Kiai, only to keep practicing and
they would know when it was right by watching their partner. This would be when the partner would be suddenly and completely
startled. It would be “as if a window shade was closed and snapped opened”. This is the effect of being startled.
So, Professor Estes (it would seem) did not expect his brown belters to become masters of the Kiai course. Indeed, for years
Professor Estes only taught the scroll to his advanced black belters, but when confronted with the syllabus as the way Professor
Okazaki taught, Professor Estes meditated and began teaching “the way he was taught”. (As an aside, Professor
Estes remarked that there was something lacking in his 3rd and 4th degree black belters. This was their ability to demonstrate
Kiai to Professor Estes’ satisfaction. The fault was not theirs (the students) but Professor Estes’ for teaching
the Kiai course out of sequence.)
Back to the point of mastery. When watching black belters demonstrate their understanding and skill of Kiai No
Maki today, it is apparent that certain of Professor Estes’ teachings have not been passed on. One is when to use Kiai
and the second is how to use Kiai. Many, doing the arts, show they have never learned The When or The How. Thus,
there is no art in their technique. In real life it would be ineffective. Prof. Estes would say that without proper understanding
of The When and How, then one was only doing basic Yawara or some other basic art and just giving it a different
name. That is not he purpose of the Kiai course (according to the late Prof.), And to that, we agree. So, there are numerous
techniques that are designed to explore The When. In turn, this skill must become secondary nature. This is accomplished
Prof. Estes, after teaching “an insight” would encourage his students to take what they were taught
and apply it to all that they had learned to that point in time. As one advances in the martial arts, one must always return
to their roots or basics. They are to take the new knowledge and explore the arts anew to see how the arts can be used or
modified with this new knowledge.
Thus, Prof. Okazaki provided for continual growth in his system. For the basics take on a new and deeper meaning
as the student progresses. The unfortunate aspect, is that so many have taught all the advanced knowledge at the basic level
so this repeated experience of marvel is dampened if not somewhat lost.
It is hoped, that by pointing out one of the teaching concepts which Prof. Estes employed, others will see that
they were taught in this manner. Indeed, this is the key distinction between Prof. Estes and all other students of Prof. Okazaki.
Prof. Estes taught the way he was taught. He kept the curriculum at the proper level and left it to the student to discover
the secrets. Only given frustration and seeming hopelessness would Prof. Estes intervene to keep progress going at a steady
pace. For he understood (as all great teachers do) that nothing is to be gained by stifling a student. Give them some knowledge
to distill but allow them to discover many of the “little secrets” themselves and if they falter, then it is time
to give an assist. Thus, the student could take pride in what they learned and discovered for themselves. There is a particular
feeling of joy that goes with this discovery which is lost if the instructor never provides this opportunity to the student.
Shinin means Spirit Rhythm. By itself, it means very little but as we shall see it is at the root of all that
is considered art in the Orient. Its origin is to be found in the Mustard Seed Garden Manual written in the 500’s
in China. In this book, there are six canons for painting. The First Canon is Chi Yun Sheng Tung (which in Japanese is translated
as Ki-In or Shin-In Sei-do). The literal meaning is “Spirit Rhythm Life Movement”.
The First Canon of Painting was to make an important contribution to first, Chinese Painting,
then later to the whole of the culture of Japan. For it is this Canon combined with the Taoist concept of space/emptiness
that is most often seen in the best of Oriental art. For a fuller treatise on the subject the reader is urged to consult The Way
of Chinese Painting (WCP), by Mai-Mai Sze, Vintage Books, 1959.
The Six Canons of painting were the work of Hsieh Ho in the 500’s AD. To this would be added the Six Essentials
by Ching Hao, which contained the principles of landscape painting. Of importance is the modification of Chi, the
Spirit of Heaven, to chi, the spirit of man. This distinction is not to be found in Hsieh Ho’s First Canon
(op. cited WCP, pg. 56). It is because of this distinction that the first Canon is translated either as Ki-In or Shin-In in
Japanese. The first indicates a symbiotic relationship with the cosmos through the action of breathing, while the second is
the spirit one has which makes one unique. Since the act of creating art requires the artist to put his “spirit”
into his effort, this alteration of meaning changes from “breath” or Ki to one’s
inner spirit or Shin.
The Japanese word Shin (Spirit) stems from the Chinese Chen. (WCP, pg. 98), “Chen is the
term used in Taoist and Buddhist works in discussing the spiritual, the pure, the divine, that which is held to be real. As
it is yet another way of describing harmony with the laws of Tao, it stands as a key term of Chinese thought and painting.”
Originally, Yun was written with the character that means to “revolve” or “turn”.
In the XI century, Kuo Jo-hsu changed the character to “rhythm”. It is pronounced and transliterated the same
(Yun), but now the meaning was given a more profound meaning. As Kuo Jo-hsu said (WCP, pg. 58), “In a picture, the Spiritual
harmony originates in the exercise of the mind; its full exposition comes from the use of the brush.”
Chi Yun Sheng Tung
The concept of Chi Yun means that the artist must imbue his spirit into his work. Only when this happens is Art
created. Otherwise, it is merely demonstration of technique. This is because creativity is not as much valued as the effort
that is put into something. One would study the use of the brush for many years as well as painting the basics as found in
the Mustard Seed Garden Manual - the bamboo, the pine, the bird, etc. After mastering technique of brush work, a painter
might meditate on some subject for a period of time. This does not mean that the painter is just beginning to meditate, for
meditation is part of all practice. The beginning and end of a practice period were usually times of meditation. Two things
were accomplished with the passage of time; one, mastery of painting technique; and two, a deep and introspective meditation.
The combination of these two is what determines Art in the Oriental sense. After meditating on some subject, the painter would
take up his brush and put ink to paper. There could be no hesitation, no uncertainty, for mistakes could not be erased, they
could not be covered up with more ink. Any blemish resulted in a ruined effort and showed that the painter still was not accomplished,
not a master of his craft. This is why meditation was so important, for it stilled the painter’s spirit and with a spirit
that is quiet comes the harmony needed to breathe creativity into a painting. (AL&NJ, pg. 23), “They are taught
that a good painter ought to be ashamed to think of working over a drawing once made, just as a warrior, intent on hitting
the target, never thinks of taking a second arrow in his hand. ‘Never take up a brush until you are ready to sacrifice
not only your fame but even your life for the sake of the forthcoming work.’ This is an artist’s proverb, and
another is, ‘Know that there is life or death, even in a stroke or dot, and it is your brush that has this mighty power
to kill or give life.’” So the same spirit one was to have in painting was also necessary for the practice of
martial techniques. This is the spirit that has overcome doubt, avarice, fear and ego and which is reconciled to and in harmony
with the universe.
(WCP, pg. 59), “In the First Canon, Sheng Tung (life-movement, ch.) is a direct result of Chi Yun (circulation
of the Chi, ch.), whether in its characteristic revolving movement or as an all-encompassing order and harmony. The key phrase,
therefore, is Chi Yun; this concept of Chi in action governs all principles and every work of art, down
to each brush stroke. Chi Yun, literally describing the circulation of the Chi, has
often been translated as “Rhythmic Vitality”...to render it as “Rhythmic vitality” is to omit the
central point and to put the emphasis in the wrong place, for rhythm is only one aspect of the total action of the Chi.”
This Sheng Tung is the result of Chi Yun. When one looks upon Art and sees something unique, something
mysterious or enchanting, then it is said to have Sheng Tung. This is the result of the spirit the artist has put into his
work and this resulting effort is the life inherent in the Art. Life-movement is then, what D. T. Suzuski might term “isness”
of the work. It is that quality that makes something Art as apart from being just a sketch or doodle. Another quality of Art
is mystery. This mystery is a glimpse of insight into the Tao.
The importance of Chi Yun cannot be understated nor the complete expression of the First
Canon put aside. It is this concept that was adopted by the Zen artists in Japan and became such an integral part of their
cultural expression. It is this concept that transformed martial practice into martial Ways. It is this concept that transformed
daily activities into Ways and by this transformation made them Arts. (WCP, pg. 63), “‘Chi Yun may
be expressed by ink, by brush work, by an idea, or by absence of idea...It is something beyond the feeling of the brush and
the effect of ink, because it is the moving power of Heaven, which is suddenly disclosed. Only those who are quiet can understand
Thus, we are dealing with something that involves the spirit or what might in western terms be called the “character
of the individual”. It is a fact that there are subtleties of meaning between the two but if we set aside our western
understanding of “spirit” and try to approach it from the eastern framework, then we should try to understand
it in the sense of character. (AL&NJ, pg. 120), “The practice of archery, horsemanship, fencing, and swimming was
regarded as a method of spiritual training as well as a matter of professional discipline and proficiency. These arts were
not cultivated, they were pursued as the key to life or death.” In the West, we might term these undertakings as “character
development”, yet in the East they are methods of “spiritual growth”. This distinction has been a great
obstacle for many who have no “spiritual inclinations” to accept the vocabulary used to describe what is otherwise
termed “character development”. Yet it is this character development which Prof. Okazaki stress was the goal of
the practice of martial arts. It is this character development that is meant in the following quotation (AL&NJ, pg. 121),
“Cultivation of the military arts without fundamental composure of the mind is merely a means to acquire proficiency
in brutal combat, and the spirit that brings composure to the mind is intrinsically the same spirit that makes for refinement
in art.” This is the same spirit which D. T. Suzuki speaks of when he says, (Z&JC, pg. 36), “When it is said
that Sumi-e depicts the spirit of an object, or that it gives a form to what has no form, this means
that there must be a spirit of creativity moving over the picture. The painter’s business thus is not just to copy or
imitate nature, but to give to the object something living in its own right.”
To understand the feeling one must acquire in Sumi-e, one must think of the following (Z&JC, pg. 31 and quoted
herein on page 22), “Draw bamboos for ten years....This is a very difficult task achieved only after long spiritual
training” and this spiritual training is in large part meditation. For it is meditation that provides the quickest route
to inner awareness. For those who are inclined to activity, as the sage said, “meditation in movement is a hundred,
a thousand times better than meditation in stillness” (Saikontan classic).
This movement is reflected in martial training by practicing with the “proper spirit”, that is one
that is quiet, in repose. In some Ryus, Kata is called “meditation in movement” because it is to be practiced
in a slow, meditative state (and in complete harmony with one’s partner when it is a partner oriented style).
In Danzan Ryu, all techniques practiced by one who had obtained a black belt were to be performed in silence.
This silence is the Stillness spoken of by the masters of old and discussed in the above paragraphs. It is not just everyday
silence or acting without speaking, but it is the inner silence or repose acquired only after years of practice. Moreover,
the arts were to be performed with realism and, at the same time, with control so no one was hurt. In this way, the arts maintained
their martial character and provided the vehicle for the practitioner to move from the practice of technique to the creation
of Art, which in the East is often equated with a “perfected character.”
The first technique on the Shinin list is Isami; Tasuki Nage. The technique is really the
Tasuki Nage (collar throw), but the Isami is important for it begins the list. According to Nelson’s Japanese-English
Character Dictionary, 1989, Charles E. Tuttle, Isami comes from the verb Isa(mu), (Kanji # 726, Yu; bravery,
courage, heroism). This is translated to mean “to cheer up, to be in high spirits”. Inoue’s Smaller
Japanese-English dictionary, 1987, Charles E. Tuttle, defines Isamu as “to be embolden; be inspired with courage”.
So the idea is to get “fired up” and charge into action, to put one’s total spirit into the technique. Isami
is the Shinin Bow!
After all, this is a martial art and was this to be done to protect one’s life, one would have to clearly
demonstrate a fighting spirit or possible die. Additionally, it is this spirit which one must put into their practice to make
the practice worthwhile. It is this action, which in a Dojo, changes the technique into an Art form. The martial technique
is just the vehicle for creating Art. It is the combination of skill acquired through exhaustive practice of technique which
when infused with the spirit of the practitioner causes the technique to be transformed into Art.
To apply the concept of Shin In to martial practice one might say:
Shin In is the perfect execution of technique where the attacker has no fore knowledge
of the defense.
It is being in tune with one’s breathing and with the breathing of one’s partner/opponent.
It is the ability to take advantage of one’s partner/opponent’s breathing.
One is weakest while inhaling and strongest while exhaling; to feel one’s partner/opponent
breathing and take advantage of his weakness is Shinin.
Most importantly, it is putting one’s spirit into the technique.
So it was taught that the application of Shinin in martial practice can be experienced. It is experienced when
the practitioner and partner practice in such harmony that their practice becomes Art.
To sum up this short discourse, (Z&JC, pg. 17), “The Zen-man is an artist to the extent that...the Zen-man
transforms his own life into a work of creation, which exists, as Christians might say, in the mind of God.”
Note: One thing which must always be kept in mind is that Oriental philosophers are not so attached to unique meanings of
words as to the overall theme they wish to communicate. For this reason, there may be no differences in meaning between two
words, subtle differences in meaning or extreme differences in meaning. It is the theme which must be understood in order
to put meaning into the words.