Monday, March 13, 2017

The Kamae are not like Bonsai

Japanese Bonsai Tree
I often get asked by new students or potential students, "How does this art compare with (Karate, Aikido, Taekwondo, Judo, Jujutsu)." This can be a difficult question to answer because they obviously have an idea of what martial arts should look like or be like and any answer I give will be a compare and contrast or could contradict what they already think martial arts is. The best thing I can do is get a person on the mat and actually experience and feel true Budo in action. Two of the fundamental components of this art that have to be learned early on are Sabaki (movement) and Kamae (postures).

I want to focus on Kamae. These postures aren't static, they are adaptive and fluid and are what make this art so effective. And they are natural for the human body to do. I read a blog by Paul Masse about a class he translated for Hatsumi Soke where Soke spoke about humans being like Bonsai. Read his blog post here. Essentially Bonsai are beautiful trees, but not natural. They can't be found in nature. A person wraps wire around the branches of a young tree to force it to take shape and the roots are constantly trimmed to stunt growth. Humans are the same way, we allow ourselves to be molded and stunted by factors and influences outside of ourselves. It's really a great lesson, and it got me thinking about Kamae and Bonsai.

Kamae can be static and forced. Some martial arts develop their Kamae, their postures, in what are unnatural, either unnatural for creating great power, or unnatural in the way the body moves, thus leading to injury. The Kamae of the schools in the Bujinkan are very natural. Yes, they still have to be learned, but they develop natural power through movement that is natural for the human body. They adjust and change in a constant flow of movement, ever adapting to the course of a fight. Very unlike a Bonsai tree.

Bonsai have their own beauty, but it is not the same beauty as found in nature. As soon as a person stops caring for a bonsai, they either die or start to grow wild. This is what also happens if the Kamae of a martial artist is not natural. If it doesn't develop natural power through natural movement, it can lead to injury and the inability to be adaptive. And in a fight, being adaptive is vital. So, it you are thinking of getting into Karate, Kendo, Taekwondo, Jujutsu, Aikido or other marital arts, or already study, feel free to check out our dojo to learn what I'm writing about here.