HOME >  Feature Articles >  【Series of Budo Essay vol.4】“Awareness” [second half]

Why Awareness is so important in Bujutsu?

CHIBA Shusaku,One of the most genius Kenjutsu-ka

2) One night training given by CHIBA Shusaku to a messenger boy

It was middle of 19th century when the long lasted Japanese feudal époque was coming to the end. One of the most genius Kenjutsu-ka in the history had appeared in EDO (Tokyo). He had changed the way of Kenjutsu training completely from old mysterious and accordingly not logical system to a modern logical way by using soft wooden stick called SHINAI. Finally he had got more than 3,000 students in his Dojo which became the biggest Kenjutsu school in the history.
When his name has become well-known all over Japan, he received a sudden visitor in one late evening. The visitor was a man, not Samurai, who worked at EDO castle as a messenger boy. He started to tell his sudden visiting purpose with pale face.
“ This evening I was coming back home from my work. When I was walking along a dark path with no passenger at all, a Samurai suddenly appeared from the side darkness and stood in front of me. He draw KATANA (sward) and tried to cut me. He was a murderer by fun. I got so scared and was about to fell down on the ground but scarcely kept standing and asked him to wait. I explained him that I had such important thing to do as my duty in the next morning accordingly could not die that time. I asked him to wait just one day. Then he told me that he might wait one day if I could promise to come back the same time same place alone. So, I promised him to keep my words. Then he released me.”
After hearing his story, Shusaku told that messenger boy as,
“ So, you ask me to help you by sending a skilful my student to kill that murderer ?”
A messenger boy ignored it immediately.
“ No, sir. It is not what I want from you. I do intend to keep my promise for my pride. But I do not want just to be killed so easily by that murderer. I am fully resigned to die, but I want to attack back against him to give him even a small damage, if it is possible. I never want to die as a poor miserable powerless victim”
His answer impressed Shusaku a lot, so he decided to teach him one technique which might realize his wish.
Next evening that messenger boy came to the place where the murderer was waiting for his return. The murderer draw his KATANA by saying “ What a bravery man to come back here alone. It is pity to kill such a courageous person, but I have to do it.” Then the messenger boy also draw KATANA which was rent by Shusaku, and put it high up then he closed his both eyes. He just kept the positioning without moving.
The murderer came closer to cut the man. When the distance became close enough for his Katana to cut the man, he so suddenly felt strong attacking intention radiated by the man. He felt the man’s upped Katana is about to cut him down at that moment. The murderer stepped back quickly to avoid the man’s counter attack. He was so scared this counter attack that he could not step forward to the man at all. After half an hour has passed when several murderer’s attempt to attack the man failed, he put his KATANA back to its case and left the place by whispering “ You have won, brave man.”
When the man convinced that the murderer had left enough far away and could not feel his existence around him anymore, he lost his tension and falled down on the ground with a feeling he could survive.
On that night Shusaku taught the messenger boy as
1) Be fully resigned to die, never have a hope to survive
2) When fight started, put a Katana up and keep, then close both eyes to avoid any turbulences arisen in your mind
3) Make full use of your sensitivity so that you can feel the exact moment when the murderer attacks you.
4) At that very moment quickly and sharply pull down your upped Katana.
5) By this act, you could make a counter attack against him even the damage he gets might be a small one.
And they trained this simple technique all through that night till dawn. On that night when the messenger boy told the story, Shusaku noticed that the murderer should have a certain high skill from the fact he granted to wait one day. And he thought he could utilize that point. If so, he should carry some level of Awareness which detects attacking intention radiated by the messenger boy if he could do it. Otherwise there is no possibility at all if a messenger boy should simply fight against the murderer by Katana. There will be no match at all between them. No help no hope.
He let the boy resign to die and to concentrate to make a counter attack so that he could radiate an attacking intention. To make this attacking intention’s radiation sure, he also let the boy close his both eyes, because blind situation can avoid the boy to see the murderer’s movement which surely cause him a strong fear and accordingly he cannot make concentration. With that situation the messenger boy finally succeeded starting to radiate attacking intention which might frighten the murderer strong enough. In this case, Awareness is found first by Shusaku when he noticed the murderer’s level according to the fact he granted to wait one day, then by the murderer, who detected attacking intention radiated from the messenger boy exactly as Shusaku expected.

Awareness, utilized as a tool of tactics/strategy

Awareness, which can be attained thorough BUJUTSU training, could also be diverted to a tool of tactics and strategy. It is quite natural if we think over what Awareness is. A few numbers of best established Kenjutsu-ka like Munenori and Musashi who attained the highest level of Awareness, they finally recognized themselves that they are not only skilled Samurai warriors but tactics or strategist who can teach those principles even to kings or Shogun. This is because they noticed the essence of Awareness.
For Kenjutsu-ka, Awareness can be used as a tool to win the match/fight. In the same way it can be used as a tool to make tactics and strategy for a country. That is Awareness.
When TOKUGAWA family had made final victory in the long lasted war period and has united Japan by name of Shogun, there was no more possibility of war in all over Japan. As a result, all Samurais had started work just same as public servant in western world. They had lost their original duty to fight and kept working as a clerk or civil officer who wear KATANA as a symbol of Samurai. In such circumstance there could be only a small numbers of Samurai who were superior in Bujutsu. Almost of all upper classed Samurais were not good at Bujutsu at all, they could not understand Awareness at all. Accordingly those upper classed Samurais, i.e. upper classed officials regarded well skilled Samurai who deeply mastered Awareness like Munenori and Musashi, just as well skilled soldiers but not more.
When they hear that Munenori or Musashi talking about state matters from point of strategy, they all thought “how this soldier could talk such difficult matter as a strategy ” and showed their unpleasant behavior against Munenori and Musashi. Especially for Musashi who did not carry any title at all, their behavior which arose from their lack of understanding of Awareness, should be unbearable at all. He should have spent a lot of his energy in his later life to struggle with such unreasonable treatment given to him.
In 1904, time passed 3-4 hundreds years after Musashi and Munenori’s epoch, Japan faced to the severest crisis that it had to fight against Russia, one of the biggest and strongest country in the world, for the sake of its future. At that time it had passed only 35 years since Japan stopped feudalism and started as a modern country. Nobody believed that Japan could win the fight against Russia. It looked like a fight between small kid and big wrestler. The governor who ruled Japan at that time were all survivors from MEIJI revolution civil war and accordingly they all equipped excellent Awareness with which they noticed well enough the extreme difficulty to carry out that war. So, they tried almost everything so that Japan could survive. They convinced that Japan could never ever win but they wished not lose in any mean which was the only chance Japan could survive.

It was a miracle that Japan could win both in sea and field with a tremendous one side victory, but they knew Japan would surely be defeated if they continued the war. So they accepted peace conference without a certain compensation paid by Russia which was normal to receive for the war winner. The all the Japanese newspapers claimed their cowardice and even criticised them as traitors. But they did not change their tact because they believed it was the only way to let their motherland survive for the future, and it was right.
Again 35 years passed since the miracle victory against Russia, Japan had started war against China and later U.S.A. U.K. etc. At that time Japanese military which were controlled by a group of arrogate stupid high ranked officers governed entire country. They had repeated stupid thoughtless plan without strategy and drove Japan to the death end. There was nobody among them who had Awareness. They caused Japan and neighbor countries disaster and killed ten millions people in Asia.

How to attain this Awareness, after all

Although Awareness could be attained not only through Bujutsu training but other training like religion and art, as mentioned before, Bujutsu training is the best and shortest way to get it. It is because in Bujutsu one can lose life when he loses match and accordingly he must do every possible effort to win, i.e. to survive. And it is one of the most important key factors to win whether one has sharp Awareness or not. So, to attain sharp Awareness was definitely necessary for Bujutsu trainees.
One who keeps the strong and serious will to win could only attain Awareness. On the contrary one who keeps such strong confidence that he shall always win could never attain Awareness. It is a good example that the former mentioned arrogant war leaders of Japanese military in 20th century.
Then many readers might get a doubt as
“Could we attain Awareness by training such modern Budo with which we never fight for life? “
This is quite important point and my answer is clear as “No”. One can never attain Awareness through the training of modern Budo which has become competitive sports. If one really intend to attain Awareness, one should train Budo so seriously that he puts his life on it. It is easy to say but quite hard to realize this.
When somebody asks me if I have Awareness, I just have to say “No unfortunately”. 15 years ago when I was travelling in south France with my family, I was stolen my purse in my pocket by Romany kids. My wife and daughter criticized me so hard with saying “How it is possible that a Budo-ka like you got your purse stolen by kids?” I also admitted their blame was reasonable because I myself thought I was blamed to be unconscious at that moment and was ashamed of it. If I had paid some attention around me I surely could notice it and could avoid that situation. Then after 3 years have past sine that affair happened, when I was sitting in a coffee shop in Warsaw with my wife, I suddenly felt strange mood on the man sit behind me. Soon I noticed his right hand was approaching to my left side pocket of my jacket. Immediately I stood and turned him with choking his neck by my left hand. It happened without thinking but my body just moved automatically. And thanks to this happening, although my level of Awareness was such low, I could recover my honor among my family.
Coming back to the theme, nowadays there must exist not many Bujutsu-ka in Japan who really mastered and attained high level of Awareness. And the number is surely deceasing every year. After a half century Japanese will not believe Awareness anymore because they cannot see such person who can show Awareness any longer. And they will take same response as Westerners when they watch Samurai movies where the skilled Samurai noticed the attacking intention behind him and make counter attack before he is attacked. They all might take it as not real and just a play in movies. I do regret it a lot.

At the end of this article, I would like to express my thanks to Mr. Sean Leather, my Jujutsu student comes from U.S.A., for his big effort to have corrected my Japanese English to formal English.

18 September 2017 Makoto KURABE – SHISEIDO
representative of

th_DSC_0246Text by Kurabe Makoto Shiseido

Born in 1950. When he was in his 30s, he began learning Gyakute-do Jujutsu, which was derived from Hakkoryu Jujutsu in the 1970s. Just before reaching the age of 40, he moved from Japan to The Netherlands and continued to master and develop Gyakute-do. In October of 2013, after adding the system of Aiki-Jutsu that he developed himself, he transformed Gyakute-do into Aiki-Jujutsu Gyakute-do, and became 2nd Soushi, grand master, of Gyakute-do. After retirement, he left The Netherlands and began promoting Aiki-Jujutsu Gyakute-do both in Japan and in Poland  as his main pursuit. He is also teaching his Gyakute-do to Budo fan in the world via corresponding course.