The Essence of Movement Volume 1 - Dissecting Sui no Kata from the San Shin no Kata



In the martial arts it is beyond important to explorer further than what is on the surface. What is seen to the eye (especially in the art of ninjutsu) is often times ko-jutsu, or a distraction. It is a bold face lie to the eyes while something much greater is happening. We in the bujinkan are taught to learn wazas and katas as a form of exercise and are often used as a basis of curriculum to award rank accordingly. The idea of waza or kata is not simply to learn a scripted movement, but rather to learn the essence of a feeling.


Take from the San Shin No Kata the kata of Sui (Water form).

Sui teaches to evade to the inside of a punch by moving out in a semi circular movement to a 45 degree angle while blocking, then the tore will crash into the uke with an omote shuto to the side of the neck. The movement itself is not important. What is important is the essence of the movement. Allow us to break this down. Beginning with the first punch the tore moves outward in a semi-circular movement (this is the type of movement used by the school of Gyokko Ryu), the idea is that you want to move out like the tide being pulled out to sea, Once the tide is pulled out to sea, it crests into a wave that then comes crashing into the shore (thus giving us the idea of water). But more can be drawn from this movement. The idea of water is a complicated one to grasp. We have discussed the idea of a wave which is easy to visualize even for a beginner student. However water in itself has more characteristics that are being examined here. Water will always find a way. Water will mold around any obstacle, it will flow to the side of barricade, and it will flow under, around, over, and sometimes even through the barricade. Water has properties that make it tranquil and still but yet water has the potential to become quite destructive and powerful. Think of the peaceful aspect of a stream gently flowing through the woods, then imagine that somewhere down stream that stream might flow through a narrower channel condensing the water into a more concentrated stream that flows around rocks and mounds of earth until it gains full white rapids and flows off a ledge into a waterfall. Now imagine if someone was to get caught in that current rapidly approaching the ledge. Imagine if a building or house was beneath that waterfall the type of destruction that once tranquil water would have on the integrity of the structure. Water also has the ability to use “ko-jutsu” as well. Think of a beach with children playing in the gentle surf, One might, see the tide is low and the waves are gentle and believe there is no danger present. But once you get out a good ways you might find yourself struggling to get back to shore because you have been caught in a tremendous undertow. You might also examine that perhaps all of the other scenarios aside you are swimming in a little tranquil pond and have no idea that the water is hiding the presence of an alligator, or snake, or even some form of bacteria or other potential danger, hidden beneath the surface. The idea of water is a complicated idea to grasp. Once you begin to understand the things that water represents then you can force yourself to “become as water” in your mind. If you mimic your movements after the movements of water, and you work to embody the characteristics of water while you are moving through the technique then you can begin to see the essence of the kata.


Another thing to keep in mind is that as the uke enters the space between the two of you, that person is entering the “void” so to speak. If you pay close attention to the movement then it can be established that the evading outward can actually draw the uke into the “dead space” you once occupied. This is because of the connection established between you. The tore can then after drawing the uke in can reverse the direction of the energy in preparation to make the shuto strike, if you pay close attention you will notice that the reverse of energy can actually push the uke from the “void” allowing your energy to control and occupy the space. IF you pay close attention you will notice the uke’s body being pushed out, his balance being manipulated and when the strike comes in the uke will actually open his neck up to the strike allowing the shuto to land right on target. This is another fundamental movement taught by the technique that most practitioners don’t even know exists, much less how to use it to their advantage. Soke is always so famously saying the following phrase “learn the technique, drill the technique, master the technique, and then forget the technique”. What is he trying to say? That is yet another piece in learning the essence of the movement. Soke is explaining here that the movement should be learned the way it is taught. The practitioner should train to make the movement second nature, with out thinking (no mind). The practitioner should also over the years dissect the technique much as we have above, and once you have understood the essence of the movement, then the concept of learning to do it freely without trying to move in exact, scripted movements. You should learn to flow with the “idea” as a “breathe”, following the “heartbeat” of the attack. The movement should be natural and with out thinking. At this point you have used the technique combatively (budo taijutsu), while hiding the technique and without using a lot of unnecessary movement, at this point you have forgotten the technique and are moving freely (no mind). This is the essence of the kata, the essence of the movement that Soke is trying to teach us. At least this is my humble opinion of it anyway.


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