Sakki – Killing Intent

In the Bujinkan – the test for Godan (5th Dan/Shidoshi) is where one is subjected to “sakki” or killing intent.  The teacher stands behind you with an upraised sword while you are kneeling facing away.  Both teacher and student have their eyes closed.  The teacher will then without warning cut down with killing intent at the student’s head.  The student senses the attack and rolls out of the way to safety… or doesn’t.  Pass.  Or Fail.  Very binary.  Usually this happens in front of a large audience of other senior students and instructors.  No pressure.  🙂

Although the reason for my post is not about any sort of suggestions or “tricks” on how to pass the test (you are either ready or you are not), I am interested in sharing a story with you.  I took my test well over 15 years ago and it STILL resonates with me today.

I feel very lucky to have received it from Soke (the world has changed and that is as it should be now). And I tell my students about a CRAZY dream I had the night before my test. It is the lens or filter through which I view the test and the moment then and now. In the dream I was in a room looking at a piece of Soke’s artwork hanging on the wall, and he beckoned me to come closer. I did. He beckoned again until my face was almost touching the paper. Then he said to get even closer and now I was looking at the paper thickness itself from the side. Soke beckoned yet again and said look closer still. When I did, the layers of the paper seperated and I saw the space between the micro layers of the paper itself. He beckoned again and now I was inside of the paper in between the actual layers and the space between the layers was enormous! At which point in the dream Soke just smiled and nodded. I woke up absolutely convinced that there was space inside the space or time within the time and knew that when the test came there would be all the time in the world needed to sense and evade. No need to rush, no need to try and be “faster” than the cut. Time would simply slow down and expand. The more I focused, the more time there was. An infinite amount. Kind of like the concept of how many points are there between two points? Infinite. I passed on the first attempt and like so many others I found myself halfway across the pads in the Hombu to applause and a smile/OK symbol from Soke wondering what the hell happened.

Keep training.

Being an Uke

The role of Uke is a critical one in the Bujinkan and it has several layers to it.  At it’s base level, being an Uke is all about experiencing an technique.  One of the best ways to understand something is to have it done to you, or to “receive it”.  Our art is alive and being an Uke is one of the areas where you experience first hand how alive it really is.  On another level, being an Uke is all about being a good training partner for your partner/Tori.  We practice specific attacks with proper resistance so they have the opportunity to learn and grow.  Too little resistance and they get a false sense of security.  Too much and it just becomes a “wrestling match” and the specific concept being studied at the time is lost.  If you want to do free randori, then please be my guest.  But label it as such.  Another layer in our Dojo is a practice of rotating between training partners after each time.  This forces you to train with folks bigger/smaller/taller/shorter/stronger/weaker than you as well as an opportunity to train with folks of varying skill levels.  I think this is critical to a deeper understanding in a shorter amount of time.  And lastly, the interaction between Uke and Tori is really the crucible in which your own skills are forged over the years.  You have a role to play and it is a conduit for deep learning.  Respect it as such.  Take it seriously and realize that knowledge is gained by being on both sides of the equation, not just one.

3 Essentials in Budo

“In budo, too, there are three important essentials: 
first, seeing and knowing oneself, one’s own strengths and limitations; second, the sword of discrimination, of decisiveness, for eliminating faults, weaknesses, and the unnecessary; 
and last, the sincerity, feeling, devotion, insight, and understanding of the heart.”
– Soke Hatsumi