If you have ever trained in Japan, you have heard Soke talk quite a bit about the Kukan. Kukan roughly means “space” or “opening”. This can (and is) often be interpreted in a number of different ways. I find it easiest to think about it as “an opening where your opponent is vulnerable”. As simple as that sounds, it can be difficult to find that opening since it is so fluid.

Kata means “example” in Japanese, and each of our Kata are simply that; each kata is meant to demonstrate principles of timing, distance, and even where the Kukan is. This make sense if we look at a technique in terms of static steps: at point A this is here, at point B it’s here, etc. etc. However, in reality none of these movements are static – everything is in a constant state of flux. Move to early, or too late, and the Kukan or opponents vulnerability is lost – like a breath being exhaled. This is particularly important to grasp since fighting in real life is like this – with moments coming and going quickly.

You could also understand the ever changing opening in terms of quantum physics: in Physics there is what called the “Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle”. Put simply, it states the more you know the exact position of a particle, the harder it is to determine it’s momentum – and vice versa. You can visualize it as looking at both a photograph of a runner, and a movie of a runner. In the photograph you can see exactly where the runner is at a specific moment in time, but it’s very hard to determine how fast they are moving. If you watch a movie of the runner, you can better determine the speed of the runner, but it becomes more difficult to isolate exactly where they are at a given moment.

The Kukan is a bit like this; we know at each static point in a technique where it is, but it’s in between these points that it changes: where does it begin? Where does it end? How does it change from within the movements? How does it change with different opponents? This is where training comes in. As we rehearse these movements, we begin to find where the kukan moves, grows, and shrink within an example (this is why it is often described as “breaths” – expanding and closing). Eventually, we become adept at operating within it as it changes regardless of the circumstance, always finding the opening.

This can also – like most things – be applied to life. Where is your “Kukan” for your business? In your personal life? Where are there breaths of opportunity that you can function within outside of martial arts? Understand? Hai – play!

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.

2 thoughts on “Finding the Kukan

  1. life insurance says:

    Excellent blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.

    Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go
    for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any ideas? Bless you!

    • S. Hamilton says:

      Thanks for the comment! On the writing side of things, I just tend to write like I’m having a conversation (except I can read things to check for grammar). I would suggest just getting things out, and then read them as if you were the audience, and rewrite as necessary. It’s a process, but it helps you to find your own “voice” so to speak.

      As far as the platform – I very much like WordPress.com. With very little to no money (some themes like this one are “premium” that you have to buy) you can have a pretty professional looking site that is relatively easy to build. You are limited in some areas though (I can’t turn this into an ecommerce site, for example), and certain code can’t be put into pages. But for just content/videos/etc., it’s a great platform.

      The other option is to go self-hosted. If you do that it takes a little more work but you’re really flexible with what you can do to build your site. I’m actually building another site on the WordPress platform (WordPress.org) and with only a few hundred dollars you can really make something impressive. You can also add all kinds of plugins – kind of like apps for your phone – that add tons of functionality to your site. It’s also much easier than I expected.

      Eventually I will turn this into a self-hosted site – but for now WordPress.com is fine. I would say start here and play with it until you get an idea of how it works, and then decide where you want to take it. And if you feel you need to take things to the next level, go to a self hosted site. Hope that helps. Thanks again!

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