“Awareness” Most important and remarkable result attained through BUJUTSU training

What „Awareness” means ?

You can often watch such scene in SAMURAI movies or TV drams that a hero can detect attacker’s presence in his behind and does counter attack right before he is attacked. It might be so hard to understand this concept for Western people that a well established SAMURAI could detect the presence of attacker who hides behind him even he does not see nor hear the attacker at all. It is too hard to realize that one could detect the other’s mind which is still not realized as an act. Westerners simply believe that it should be a fairy tale and could happen only in stories. For Japanese, we take it as normal. For highly skilled SAMURAI, they can detect attacker’s mind quite naturally, so most or even all of Japanese simply believe it is real. How it happens ? Do all Japanese know it from own experience ? Or is it a nation wide illusion which has been build up for hundreds years ?

I would like to mention one Japanese BUDO master, named Akira HINO, a Japanese BUJUTSU-ka whose name is well known not only in Japan but world wide. Once I saw a video where he shows a performance to avoid rifle’s bullet by quickly waving/turning him aside before the trigger is on. Of course the real bullet was not loaded in that rifle, but by observing Mr. HINO’s movement and the timing of triggering sound, we could judge if he could have escaped or not. It was really amazing that every time Mr. HINO could move his body fully aside from the bullet path at the moment trigger was made. Of course the speed of a finger which makes trigger is much quicker than Mr. HINO’s body movement. Mr. HINO surely should have detected or felt the attacker’s triggering intention. This is only one logical explanation how and why it was possible. Mr. HINO should have mastered this Awareness through his long and deep BUJUTSU training. He must be able to detect the attacker’s intention by gazing attacker’s eyes, or delicate change which appears all through attacker’s entire body. Even for Western people, this performance might be understood somehow, although it is still very much mysterious. But they surely still can not accept the concept that well established SAMURAI could detect an attacker’s intention who hides behind and not visible from that SAMURAI at all.  This could be possible if the SAMURAI can pay a sharp attention not only forwards but all around him like a sonar of submarine. And this is nothing else but one of Awareness in BUJUTSU.

The other Awareness is „noticing” It means a well established SAMURAI could notice a serious matter from a tiny evidence on which people could normally never pay attention. The target of this Awareness does not be restricted to the other’s attacking intention but every important intentions or happenings.  Well, let’s explain those two Awareness by referring to examples described in popular SAMURAI stories. Awareness described in famous SAMURAI story „MIYAMOTO Musashi” If I could point out the best story described SAMURAI’s way of living, it should be “MIYAMOTO Musashi” written by the most famous history story writer, Mr. Eiji YOSHIKAWA. This story has been read and loved by a lot of Japanese for over half century. A hero of this book, a SAMURAI named MIYAMOTO Musashi, really existed during 16-17th centuries, when Japan was divided into many small countries which continued wars against each other till beginning of TOKUGAWA SHOGUN époque when Japan was united by the final winner of the wars, i.e. TOKUGWA Ieyasu. Thanks to this book, name of MIYAMOTO Musashi has become so popular that it is well known all over Japan now. Like Mr. OYAMA Masutatsu, founder of KYOKUSHIN Karate school, thousands of Japanese had kept the way of Musashi’s life with full of challenging spirits through battle field and death matches as their spiritual support during their own hard time. If any Western people intend to know and understand the SAMURAI spirits, it is strongly recommended to read this book as the first thing to do. It is not my purpose to explain how interesting this book is, but to explain Awareness itself by quoting several episodes from this book as good examples. These episode can exactly tell what Awareness is.


1) At Yagyu village

Musashi, in his younger days, has just started his long path to establish his KENJUTSU style and tried to meet famous established SAMURAI to receive any hints/suggestion to improve his skills. One day he visited Yagyu village in Nara prefecture, where a well known KENJUTSU master YAGYU Sekishusai lived. Musashi intended to meet that old Sekishusai and receive a hint from him. With staying at a small inn in the village, Musashi thought over how he could meet that well known KENJUTSU master, YAGYU Sekishusai. Because this already retired old SAMURAI did not want to be disturbed his quiet time by meeting hundreds of visitors from all over Japan. At the same time, there are another visitors from Kyoto. They are the party from YOSHIOKA school in Kyoto, which was established by an famous Kenjyutsu master named YOSHIOKA Kenpo. Since this founder, the name of YOSHIOKA family has become well know all over Japan. And one of the family member, YOSHIOKA Denhichiro stayed in the village together with his students . He was waiting for a reply from Sekishusai for the meeting. Denhichiro was so confident that he could even defeat that Sekishusai and wrote him an impolite letter that he wants to make a match as a same skilled SAMURAI. Denhichiro was so sure that Sekishusai should meet him because such famous YOSHIOKA family member came to meet him from Kyoto. A reply from Sekishusai was delivered to Denhichiro. It was just a twig of bloom and nothing more. So, Denhichiro convinced that Sekishusai avoided to meet him because he might worry to loose the match. Denhichiro declared his thought with full conviction and he and his followers left the village to go back to Kyoto. After they had left the inn, Musashi entered into their room so that he could watch the twig. He believed that the twig should carry certain message from Sekishusai. He gazed that twig and frightened when he found its small cut area. It was so sharp and should be cut by highest skilled person. Immediately he realized the astonishing high skill of Sekishusai. Then he tried to cut twigs by himself if he could make such sharp cut area, either. He tried a hundred times but not once came out successfully. Then again he realized that he could be never compared with Sekishusai at that moment and could find his excellent future target. At least Musashi has become quite happy to get it.

2) At HOZOIN Yari DOJO in Nara

After defeating YOSHIOKA family completely in Kyoto through over three times fights, Musashi has become somehow famous in KENJUTSU. He was strolling around Japan to seek for a new strong opponent and has arrived HOZOIN YARI(spear) DOJO in Nara. When he was walking through a narrow path in a huge territory of the HOZOIN temple to the DOJO which was located in the backyard of the temple, he saw an old monk plowing ground by a hoe in his way forward. At the moment he reached close to the monk Musashi felt strong attacking intention from the monk and immediately jumped away from him to avoid his potential attack. But nothing had happened. The monk just continued plowing the ground. Musashi walked on with strange feeling and tried to calm down his turbulent mind. At the DOJO, HOIN Kakushun, a head of the DOJO was absent and accordingly one of his superior student Agon was providing matches to the visitors. There are 10-15 visitors who wanted to make match but after seeing several visitors had become invalid or even killed by Agon’s strong and brutal spear attack, they all hesitated to make match and just kept sitting with faces down to avoid Agon’s eye. Then Musashi raised his hand to receive Agon’s proposal to fight with. At that time, through a small window of the DOJO, that monk was watching inside, and whispered “ Agon’s has no chance with that young SAMURAI.” The match ended very shortly. Musashi’s avoided Agon’s speedy stroke and the same moment his BO-KKEN (wooden Katana for training) hit Agon’s head and killed him in once. After this match Musashi was invited to a visitor’s room of the temple by that monk. His name was Nikkan, a head of the neighbor temple of HOZOIN. Musashi talked what he experienced at the path with Nikkan. Nikkan told Musashi that he. as an amateur of BUJUTSU, can never radiate attacking intention and that it should have been a reflection of Musashi’s attacking intention if Musashi felt it. By hearing Nikkan’s explanation, Musashi has got confused and tried to realized what he meant by his words. This episode suggests several important points as followings. Musashi had been paying sharp attention around him all the time even he was just walking. Nikkan noticed or detected sharp intention radiated from Musashi and reflected it back against Musashi. Musashi was frightened by strong attacking intention, which, he though, was radiated by Nikkan. Both Musashi and Nikkan had keen awareness which indicates Awareness could be attained not only by BUJUTSU training but also by the other training like Buddhism.

Why Awareness is so important in BUJUTSU

After reading this article till here, most of the readers might basically understand what Awareness is. Then I would like to explain why it is regarded so important to attain Awareness in BUJUTSU training. It is most important in BUJUTSU to win every match because one loss shall result in death most of the cases. Only few could reach the top who continued winning all the matches. It may sound same as today’s professional boxing. But the difference is the fact that just one loss results in death and there is no more return match in BUJUTSU. That is why in BUJUTSU one must win every time with full of attention and care. They must concentrate and utilize every possible means to win, i.e. to survive their lives. And Awareness should be an ultimate effort to survive. We could say that the strength of Awareness shall decide win or loss, i.e. life or death. Now, let’s pick up interesting episodes from the SAMURAI books written by Mr, SHIBA Ryotaro, who is regarded as a top ranked historical story writer same as Mr. YOSHIKAWA Eiji.

1) YAGYU Munenori’s foul attack

In the époque of 3rd TOKUGAWA family’s SHOGUN Iemitsu, middle of 17th century, when YAGYU family has established its stable position as SHOGUN’s KENJUTSU teacher, a well known high skilled SAMURAI wanted to make match with YAGYU Munenori, a head of the family. Normally nobody can make a match with such top ranked Krnjutsu-ka as Munenori, but the SHOGUN Iemitsu himself wanted to see which could win, so he ordered Munenori to fight. After receiving SHOGUN’s order Munenori studied very carefully about his opponent and found that the opponent was so skilled that even he might loose. Then Munenori specially requested SHOGUN Iemitsu if they could fight with real swards (SHIN-KEN) instead of BO-KKEN and the opponent accepted his offer. As a matter of fact physically the difference between SHIN-KEN and BO-KKEN was not such big. Even by BO-KKEN fight, most of the case BO-KKEN hits so hardly that almost all the cases looser becomes invalid or dead. On the day when the fight was taken place, both competitors walked into the fighting ground from left and right sides to the front of SHOGUN Iemitsu. They stopped at the 2.5 meters distance from each others and turn to SHOGUN to bow. At the moment both bowed and turn up their back, Munenori so suddenly assaulted the opponent unawares by cutting his body from up right to down left. The opponent has died in once. Normally match should start after they bow to SHOGUN and face to each other then hear the start shout by a selected attendance. So, the opponent did not expect this sudden attack by Munenori. When he was attacked he was not yet ready to start fighting. SHOGUN Iemitsu was so shocked to see Munenori’s act and strongly blamed him why he behaved so unfairly. The SHOGUN even thought that he should punish Munenori by ordering HARA-KIRI (die by cutting own abdomen). Munenori answered to SHOGUN’s blaming as followings.

“The fight should have started since we both agreed to fight with SHIN-KEN. Because I am KENJUTSU teacher of SHOGUN, which means I should be superior to all other KENJUTSU-ka in Japan, I should not and could not loose. That is my strict duty so I tried all the possible means to win. It was quite natural behavior to be blamed as BUJUTSU-ka. The opponent was to be blamed his unawareness not to be ready against my sudden attack. His mind was too dull as a SAMURAI. He lost the match because of his lack of Awareness.”

SHOGUN Iemitsu had to accept Munenori’s explanation because it was a logic, although he did not feel very happy with own retainer, Munenori’s win. But at least he did not make any punishment against Munenori. In BUJUTSU, Munenori’s behavior should not be blamed as an unfair act. As he explained, the serious fight had already started since both agreed to use SHIN-KEN. It meant a death fight, so they should and could utilize every possible means and materials to win. Not realizing such serious important fact, the opponent was so easy and though he could start fighting after hearing start shout. Such being the case, although SHOGUN Iemitsu felt unpleasant with Munenori’s behavior, he did not punish Munenori by ordering HARA-KIRI.

Now most of the reader surely got an doubt that Munenori’s behavior should violate fundamental BUDO spirits as REISEST(politeness) and fairness. How and why it could be tolerated even it was a matter of Awareness. It is quite natural that such doubt arises. Before TOKUGAWA SHOGUN époque had started, war and fights were taken place everywhere in all over Japan. Samurai trained BUJUTSU so hard to defeat the enemy and to survive. They could and should take every means to win. There were no RESETSU nor fairness in their discipline. It was only one purpose to win. In KENJUTSU it actually happened a lot that a student with strong ambition attacked his teacher to take over the teacher’s famous name by defeating him. When TOKUGAWA SHOGUN period had started, all the Samurai had to work as administrative officers with carrying their KATANA which has become no practical usage at all. They had to keep wearing KATANA as a symbol of Samurai, otherwise they will loose status as Samurai and accordingly loose their job. So far as they keep wearing Katana, they had to train it. Or because of the pride as being Samurai, they kept training of KENJUTSU. We as a human beings need purpose when we had to do something, especially it take a lot of time and effort. We can never put our big energy for nothing. So Samurai tried to find a good reason/purpose to train BUJUTSU and they had found that it is to cultivate their mind to become a respectable person, just like as religion training. In this way BUJUTSU, as fighting system, has become BUDO. In the beginning of TOKUGAWA SHOGUN period, this change was not yet completely done. Both Bujutus and BUDO existed together. So, SHOGUN Iemitsu already had a mind of BUDO, but he had to accept Munenori’s BUJUTSU concept.



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 skillful my student to killing 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 man 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 any more, he lost his tension and fall 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 though 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 can not 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 strategy ” and showed their unpleasant behavior against Munenori and Musashi. Especially for Musashi who did not carry any title at all, their behavior which arised 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. When it was middle of 20th century, time passed 3-4 hundreds years after their époque,

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. In last year one Japanese BUDO delegation visited Nederland. A head of the delegation made a speech at the beginning of demonstration.  He told as

“In the past a lot of young men learned BUDO to become a good person who can work for own country and family. BUDO was the important subject to be mastered which raise respectable soldiers and officers in Japanese military.” This person’s intention might be to mention just general military and not for the military which started 2nd world war. But the audience, mostly Dutch people, had become negative immediately after hearing his applause to BUDO and Japanese military. For all the Dutch people it was a nightmare to be invaded by Japanese army in their former colony Indonesia and suffered from its brutal acts against them. Even now after 65 years past from end of that war, Dutch people never forget Japanese military’s brutal and arrogate behavior. It was quite natural they showed immediate refusal.

Unfortunately not noticing the audience atomosphere, this person repeated his talk on this same point as 3 times. But the translator who has lived in Nederland quite long took correct reaction. She did not translate his 2nd and 3rd meaningless refrain. If she repeated her translation, that person might received a strong booing from all the room and the following demonstration could not be performed.

This happening shows the important fact that any messaging should be transmitted with a deep consideration how it could be taken by the receiver’s side. If not, the receiver might take the contents completely wrong way in spite of the good will of the speaker.

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 loose life when he looses 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 put his life on it. It is easy to say but quite hard to carry out this.

When somebody asks me if I have Awareness, I just have to say “No unfortunately”.  7 years ago when I was traveling 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 can not 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 regret it a lot.

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