Becoming the Divine Warrior

Soke Masaaki Hatsumi chose to call his dojo the “Bujinkan” in honor of his teacher, Takamatsu Toshitsugu, who taught him the 9 traditions we study to do this day. The term Bujin is more than just an honorific title, but also describes a philosophy and concept of Budo.

“Bujin” translates to “Divine Warrior”. It may sound a bit egotistical, but it’s more about giving your opponent every opportunity not to injure themselves. Sounds a bit strange, since we often think of self-defense or combat in terms of injurying an opponent, and there’s validity in that view point. However, becoming a Bujin involves transcending those normal limitations and becoming “divine” – or better yet benevolent – as a warrior.

Benevolence of Freewill

While the ryu-ha (lineages) encompasses many techniques that involve preempting attack, we need to acknowledge that we all have free will. We cannot know what an opponent may, or may not do; we can only react to what they do. Strangely enough, that means to some extent our opponent is in control – to the extent they determine their own choices out of their free will. We of course react to those choices with our own.

Imagine a Chess Game. At the beginning we our faced with many choices of how to begin (and even the choice of not to play). Each choice of where to move opens new choices until there are no choices left to make. We can influence our opponents choices, but is at last up to them how they will play the game. The result of the choices leaves us a winner or a loser in a match.

We often view martial arts or fighting as forcing an attacker to our will. Instead, we should think of it as presenting them a set of choices. As the opponent makes a choice, new choices are presented. But at any point the opponent can decide to no longer fight, to cease engaging. And if they make this choice – we still have won in a benevolent kind of way. Unless we specifically of the goal of hurting or killing someone, victory is had in self-preservation.

However, if they continue to choose to attack, then it is up to us to create consequences for them face.

It’s about Consequence

Every choice has a consequence. If they choose to stop fighting, then they can stave injury to themselves. If they continue to fight, greater and greater consequence will be presented to them in the form of pain and injury. To put it simply, the more they attack, the more pain and injury they face, until they give up or they die.

To illustrate this concept, let’s look at an everyday example: speed limits. It’s our choice whether or not to obey them. If we speed the possible consequence is we get pulled over. When we are pulled over, we face the choice of stopping and getting a ticket, or to attempt to out run the police and face the greater consequence of a police chase. If we are in a police chase we can choose to stop at anytime or face the consequence of escalating police action and additional legal trouble. If we choose to resist the escalating actions of law enforcement, we risk injury and death. It is up to us what consequence we face. Most of us choose the consequences of obeying speed limits because it’s better to be late than get a speeding ticket, better to get a speeding ticket than a police chase, better to give up in a police chase than to possibly die. The consequences are created for us – we just choose what it is.

This idea plays into self-defense: a person throws a punch and it is blocked. Is the fight over? They throw a second, and pain is inflicted on them. Is it enough? The continue to fight and things start to become injured or broken. Did they stop? In fact, we can view “Kata” or techniquesas illustrations of predetermined choices and consequence, where by we learn to react to certain choices by presenting a certain consequence.

Sealing Fate

This idea is what Soke often refers to as “Cat and Mouse”. A mouse is helpless against a cat. Yet a cat will sometimes play with the mouse depending on what it does. The mouse’s fate is pretty well sealed – it’s going to be a meal – but what happens before that is based on the choices of the mouse and the consequence of those choices. The cat has sealed the mouse’s fate, yet is allowing the mouse to make choices.

We train to become the cat. We learn how to seal our opponent’s fate and ours as well: we will be victorious by surviving – they will lose in trying to harm us. Everything else is simply presenting them with consequences to their choices until they accept their fate. It’s allowing them to play a game that they cannot win, but only affords them degrees of losing until there are no choices for them left to make. This is the concept of being a Bujin.

What are your thoughts? Can you think of examples where this can apply beyond Martial Arts? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Shidoshi Hamilton

Scott Hamilton is an 8th degree black belt in the Bujinkan, and travels regularly to Japan to train. In addition to being the owner and head instructor of Todai Dojo, Scott is also the CEO of a national manufacturing company. He has also received training in other martial arts, and in-depth modern weapons training.

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