Over the last twenty three years here in Japan, I often have the pleasure and honor to translate for my teacher Masaaki Hatsumi Soke. Often a student has a question that he would like to ask. It is a always a delight to be able to help facilitate communication between teacher and student. So many questions and so many unexpected answers! One episode comes to mind.
A student asks, “Why are some people friendly to your face but then are hurtful and mean behind your back?”.
Sensei replies nonchalantly, “that is just how people are made.”. As I translate, I can see the look of confusion cross the students` faces. I too am at a bit of a loss. So the question is asked again and once again the answer is the same,”that is just how people are made.”. Then Sensei looks up into space and asks me, “Paul, have you ever seen a bonsai?”. (small miniature Japanese art trees)I nod my head “yes”. In fact, I had just taken some friends to a bonsai garden the day before so I was a bit surprised by the sudden question about bonsai. He continues, “it is like a bonsai, people are made. You can make a person any way. But it is not natural. You would not go to a forest and find a bonsai. It is not a natural state. But you can twist a bonsai into any shape you want. People are the same.”
How true! Just the prior day I was remarking on the branches of the bonsai. Each branch wrapped with wire and forced to go this way or that way. Every branch! Each branch wrapped in wire and forced to take a seemingly natural posture or kamae. And how unnatural it really is. We, too, as humans, each being wrapped in the culture, politics, education, religions and beliefs of those around us and society. Some people wrapped as capitalists, some marxists, some Christians, some Muslim. But all are being bound by the conditioning of the environment and society. Then what you think are your own thoughts can betray you. In a tragic conclusion, we often we take a kamae or stance for or against another wrapped up in a different shape. Both unaware of the wires that trap them in this position.
Unwrapping these wires and constraints is an important step in the practice of Ninjustu. A true ninja will become free and his tree will grow strong and pure into a natural state in accordance with the natural state of his existence. A Ninja is able to explore his true essence in infinite space. That is why in the Go Jou or Five Precepts as taught by my teacher, a constant diligence and watchfulness to your true path is essential. First become aware of where you are now. What shape are you now? When your shape become visible, start unwrapping!