JU PO SESHO – JAPAN 2003 – Second article
Themes in Ju Po Sesho
Author - Ofer Cohen


1. Muto Dori: Muto dori is considered the highest level of performance in real Budo. It is the case when we stand against an armed rival with our bare hands and can overcome his apparent advantage over us. There are two main points here. First, we assume that our opponent has the best, most dangerous weapon that he can have.
In traditional Japanese Martial Arts the sword is considered to be such a weapon; yet we should know how to do Muto dori against Naginata and other deadly weapons. The second assumption is that our opponent is very professional both in his martial art and in using the sword. Being proficient with a sword will not help us because it is not available to us at the moment. Being very good in tai-jitsu will probably not help either because our opponent also has a very good tai-jitsu. In addition, he is pointing a sharp sword towards us with a killing intention. To bridge our positional disadvantage we have to go beyond technique.

Muto dori is the starting point of Ju Po. You stand in front of an opponent that is armed with a sword. From his point of view, you are in a Muto dori case. He sees that your hand is placed in front of your body, and thinks that he has got an advantage over you that he could now use – to cut it. He attacks you with his sword. You act as you have learned many years in the Muto dori practice; sliding to the left or right, diving down or any other option that you choose. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, a weapon shows up in your hand, treating his soul as you closed on him and continue to bring him off balanced.

2. Beyond technique: Hatsumi Sensei stresses the importance of Kihon, a concept that in its broad sense includes the range of all the combat techniques that are possible. Yet he also teaches that trying to win a confrontation by applying specific technique or a sequence of techniques is a deadly choice for us. The Muto dori scene magnifies this reality. If we think that when our opponent strikes we will move in, punch him and do Uni-ku-daki on him; and by that maneuver will be able to take control of the sword, we will be surly dead in a minute (If the opponent is a worthy one).
Here we can find connection to the Go Dan Test. No thinking, no planing, no noises in our mind, no Ego involved, not even a winning wish. With an Empty mind we close in and our opponent is not able to read us, or know us, yet we know him. Ju po Sesho practice is not Kihon and couples practice of applications. Students should distinguish between these two essentially different kind of approaches to practice to the point where their Kihon would be very good and at the same time they will be able to apply this body and mind state of being beyond technique.

3. Off balancing his soul: When you first enter you don't hit your opponent. In all five basic Katas of the Ju Po Sesho, your first move after you have closed in is to treat him without actually hurting him. This is a case of winning before actually fighting. You get a winning advantage without even touching him.

4. Winning from a distance: having a psychological advantage. Never consider your opponent to be stupid (this is a deadly assumption to have. He is standing within a striking distance with his sharp sword drawn and a killing intention in his mind and he sizes the situation. He knows that you may have concealed weapons that he can't see right now. He assumes also that you are a good martial artist. He sees that he has positional advantage: he has a sword; your front body is exposed; your front hand is placed in a way he can cut it. He is the initiator of this confrontation. He has to make a move, because no normal human being will stay for a long time in such an unfortunate state as you are now. So sooner or later he must attack. This is the psychophysical state you wished him to have.

5. Multi Weapons: Hatsumi Sensei says that sticking to only one weapon is a very dangerous choice for us. He wants to free us from the limitation of focusing on specific weapons. Ju in that respect (as in Ju Po Sesho) means also endless weapons. Also, for unknown number of opponents we need unlimited number of weapons. When we have one weapon, our mind is fixed on it even if are conscious about this notion of fixation. We have to be careful not to lose it, or find that it has been taken from us. If we throw it on the opponent, we must find ways to fetch it. If it is damaged and is not effective any more, we regress to a less favorable position of having to fight with our bare hands. Having many weapons such as Kunai, Jute, Tessen, all kind of sticks and daggers and Shuriken and such, give us an opportunity to bring more surprises to our bewildered opponent. He can assume we have two weapons, even three, but to have six Kunais or ten different kinds of weapons is out of the way of what he expects.
Why does Hatsumi Sensei teach us Ju Po with a Kunai? He could teach us Ju po Sesho only with a knife. There are many kinds of knives, but all the knives from a specific kind are practically the same. Yet, there are never two Kunais that are the same. Kunai is a garden tool; it is not intended to be a weapon. It can be a weapon if we are open enough to see it as such, and use its specific structure (big or small, with smooth or jagged blade, heavy or light) in efficient ways. The fact that we can use not only formal traditional weapons but also any object as a weapon brings creativity and survival into unification. Hatsumi Sensei teaches us that any other way is not realistic. It is living in a dream, and it can turn into a nightmare if we will not wake up.

6. Concealed weapons: Using multi weapons entails that we will conceal at least some of them, waiting for the right moment to apply them. The question is when the confrontation is settled in our favor. We wish that it would be done as soon as possible, preferably before the battle has started. The Muto dori scene is the initial state. Here we should win already, yet there is always the option of the unexpected. For these unexpected situations we are always, at least in principal, able to bring our own unexpected triggers (weapons) and surprises that helps us maintain our victory to its best end.

7. Making mistakes: In real life situations, let alone intensive confrontations, people cannot act perfectly. They make mistakes. If they realize that they have made a mistake, it usually make them reconsider, or hold them back for some psychological reasons. In combat scenes this unfortunate state can lead to immediate defeat, since the opponent takes advantage of this lack of Nagare and moves in on us. Hatsumi Sensei teaches that our mistakes are part of the Ju (as in Ju Po Sesho). They are valid possibilities because we train ourselves not to be held down by mistakes. A mistake is not the best option (sometimes it turn to be the best option), but when we keep our Nagare despite the mistakes, we don't let the opponent have any additional opening. The opposite thing happens. When seeing a mistake; our opponent is conditioned to see us moving out of Nagare. Not meeting his expectations can hold him back. This by itself is an advantage that can help us turn the situation in our favor.

8. A spiritual human aspect of Ju Po Sesho: The fact that you don't hurt your opponent in the first move is very important aspect of the Ju Po Sesho ethics and is a part of the Ninpo heritage. It means first that we actually try the best we can that our confrontations will not contain a use of violence. Second, it means that we prefer that negotiation over disputes that lead people to draw swords and have killing intentions, will not start with actual hurting. Third, that we give our opponent two chances to withdraw his aggressiveness. One is when we place ourselves in a disadvantageous position and second when we choose not to harm him in our first move when we close in. Now it is up to him. One chance is given when we are seemingly in an unfavorable situation and the other is given when we are in a winning position. This kind of training and morality represent a very high level of conduct and chivalry. It exhibits the deep conviction that any opponent is a complete human being and that resolving a conflict is not just a matter of winning and losing but of finding harmonized solution that brings peace and new creative opportunities to both sides. It means that winning alone is not enough for self-preservation in the long term and against worthy opponents.

Ofer Cohen 6Dan, Israel
Student of Danny Waxman and Doron Navon.

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