Aunkai Martial Arts in Japan

If you are a martial artist visiting Tokyo you will want to pay a visit to Akuzawa Minoru, he teaches an art he calls Aunkai which is a hybrid of Chinese and Japanese arts.
When I first found the studio, I looked in to see a bunch of guys in boxing gloves hitting boxing mitts.   My first thought was, oops wrong class.  But it was in fact the right class.  They use Sanda as a base for skills development and as a warm-up.

Akuzawa Sensei's website is worth reading, especially the Bujutsu section.  Towards the end of class he was kind enough to show his skills to me directly and let me test him in various ways.  He also partnered me with his senior student Miyakwa Kazuhisa for a significant portion of the three hour long class which gave me a good sense of what he has been able to transmit.

Although, I believe it is quite difficult for most students to grasp, Akuzawa Sensei is using an apophatic method,  "...[W]e aim to give our students the physical tools to forge a Bujutsu body able to bring its own imperfections to light, address them, and come to its own answers--all of this eventually leads the practitioner down their own path in the Martial Way."  While most people would read that statement in context as iconoclastic or individualist, to me it is simply explaining that the methods themselves primarily point to what you are NOT supposed to do.

Take for instance these two exercises:  sessyoku1_01sessyoku1_02Both have fixed foot positions.  The one top goes up and down.  The one on the bottom goes forward and backward.  They are both designed to take all arm and leg power out of the system as well as any size advantages or gravity/momentum/positioning advantages--  Thus leaving only "internal"  mind-energy changes of the torso for generating force.  What the practice reveals is all the possible things you could do that are wrong.  This is really important because all those "wrong things," like tension in the shoulders, might seem like they are giving an advantage in a more dynamic or volatile exercise.
No matter how much you simply copy the external shape, it is impossible to simply copy movement that happens internally. To add to this, the concept of bujutsu, unlike martial sports, does not adhere to rules, so you must be able to flip your perception and look at things in a completely different light.

Here I think he is suggesting that the mind limitations normally associated with social dominance also limit power and options.  To practice 'internal' arts is to fundamentally play a different game.
You must not get bogged down on the "shape" of things in practice. I also strongly believe that you should not create a method that is set in stone. Bujutsu itself is the ability to use the body in any situation, any environment, and as such is the embodiment of change. This means that training must be tailored to yourself by endless trial, error, experimentation, and adjustment if you want to understand the true essence behind movement.

Again he emphasizes the apophatic; make mistakes and learn from them.  Sure, there is a method here, but  the method is pointing to something.  When you figure out what it is pointing to, the method can be burned away.

Akuzawa Sensei is a warm, generous and open guy and his students were all welcoming.  The best test of his power I got was when he asked me to hold his arms down at his sides.  I was instructed to use any kind of force adjustments I wished to try and stopping him from lifting his arms up for the opening movement of Tai Chi.  I was ready, in position, holding his arms with all my creative effort, but he unconsciously decided to scratch his head!  His "head scratching" power was totally unstoppable, he took me with him.

He is clearly offering a method, it uses boxing gloves and some Shaolin and Xingyi type repeating lines, and a bunch of two person resistance/cooperation exercises that teach various things, and he advises students to do standing meditation practice on their own.  But he is also clearly saying, don't get stuck on the method, the method is all about limitations, the fruition is about freedom.

Weakness With a Twist in Japan: Sumo

I have been in a whirl wind of change.  I moved from San Francisco to the suburb of Lafayette, and then I got on a plane to Japan.  At the moment it is 7 am in Tokyo and I am sitting down in line to see an all day Sumo match.

If anyone has contacts in Japan that they would like to introduce me to, please send me an email.  If you are in Japan and you want to meet up, same.  If you happen to know of something particularly cool or weird to do, particularly in Tokyo or Kyoto, I’m all ears.

The report on radiation:  There is none in Tokyo,  we brought a Geiger counter from home and it shows no change.  Second, the abundance of cheap delicious food is Japan there is no sales tax, and no tipping and my American Express card is not charging for currency conversion.  Sarah is at my side playing angry birds, we are in need of coffee and snacks but we must sit here for one more hour before the tickets are handed out.


sumo-ceremonyUpdate...the Sumo was awesome. Here are my quick observation which are certain to offend someone so let me preface them by saying they aren't meant to offend, just to provoke thinking:

1.  I would like to see what Sumo was like before the spread of Fascist movements in the early 1900's.  Was it more or less theatrical? comic?

2.  Are the Sumo guys meant to be Cosmic Babies?  I ask this because Tangki in Taiwan are often seen that way and the defining characteristics are sometimes said to be bare feet, bare chest, and bib (They wear two kinds of bibs in Sumo, a fighting one and a ceremonial one.)  When baby or child deities are made into icons or puppets or actors in China, they also have these characteristics.

3.  I was reminded of Indian Monkey wrestling several times.  The "dirt" that gets watered and swept at regular intervals on the Sumo stage has similarities to the 'dirt' that gets mixed with gee and nice smells and gets shoveled into even softness in the Indian wrestling temples between fights.  Also a Sumo guy did a bow (as in bow and arrow) dance at the end which looked a lot like a monkey king spinning a staff.

4.  Between each fight there a singer comes out and does a short dance with a fan, it looks closely related to the Shimai (Noh Dance/Drama interludes) I studied at Oomoto 23 years ago.  So does the officiated Shinto priest's vocalization and movement.

5.  The wood clappers are used at certain times, for theatrical effect?

6.  I believe there was a ritual in which each match was formally announce.  It seemed like the reading of imperial decrees.

sumo tea cup7.  I have heard from several sources that the Japanese do not think Sumo and Mongolian wrestling are related.  I heard for instance, that the squat dance they do with their arms out to the sides, hands together than up then down, is to show that the wrestler has no weapons.  But it looks a lot like a version of the Mongolian eagle dance.  (check Youtube)  Also the side balance with one leg up in the air and then coming down with a heavy stop looks just like Mongolian wrestling.  As a demonstration of prowess it has a lot in common with the stamps in Chen Style Tai Chi too.  Maybe Mongolian wrestling came from Sumo?

8.  I really appreciated all the dancing and posturing and throwing salt and slapping and grunting.  It really gave me a chance to see who was likely to win and why!  Especially when looking at the early junior matches-- the (not)-eagle dance instantly let me know if they had good shoulder integration which is key to winning.  The squat let me see head integration and uprightness, and the four legged prone posture let me see if they had any spine problems.  Later in the show when they started reaching for and then throwing salt, they sometimes really looked like gorillas.


We've got tickets to I gotta run.