Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Art of a Zen Master - I

The Hojo Kata of the Jikishin Kage Ryu - a Koryu (traditional) style of Kenjutsu was created by Matsumoto Bizen no kami Naokatsu in the middle of the Muromachi period (1333-1573). He received the teachings of the Hojo in a dream.

Note that this dream deal is very convenient. When your students know that some sort of God visited you in a dream, they tend to not question you so much. 
This also was the case Muso Gonnosuke Katsuyoshi who founded the Shindo Muso-Ryu of Jo Jutsu.  After an encounter with Miyamoto Musashi he went to spend some times in the mountains of Kyushu in training and meditation. There he had a dream. A God, Kami or Tengu visited him and revealed to him the secret art that would enable him to finally beat Musashi with a single stick !

But back to the HOJO. In this video of the late 70's, the Kata is performed by Omori Sogen Roshi (in white) and his disciple Terayama Tenchu Sensei. Omori Sogen Roshi was a Zen, Kenjutsu and  Calligraphy Master.

If you compare  this version of Hojo kata to others (fancier) available on Youtube, you will be impressed by the intensity displayed in this old version.

In 1929 Omori Roshi underwent Hyappon Keiko, the grueling practice of performing the Hojo a hundred times a day for seven days. in  Hosokawa Dogen's book "Omori Sogen : The Art of a Zen Master"  he recounts his experience : 

Onishi Hidetaka - who was captain of the Kendo Club of Hitotsubashi University  - and I were told by Yamada Sensei, "In our style, after completing the hyappon keiko (one hundred time practice) one is able to receive the final certificate” It was decided that at the end of July, we would be confined to a mountain temple in Yamanashi prefecture. After 20 days of preparation we began the hyappon keiko. 
We got up at 4:00 in the morning, went down the mountain, and bathed in a river. Before breakfast we did the Hojo 15 times. After that we rested awhile then practiced 30 more times. After lunch we rested and did the Hojo 55 more times until dusk. We did zazen in the evenings. 

By the third day I could shout more loudly and powerfully during practice, but my voice was so hoarse I could not speak at all. At night my body was so hot that I couldn't sleep. Food would not go down my throat; I had only water and raw eggs. My urine was the color of blood. The arms that held the wooden sword could not be raised. We were resigned to death. I couldn't go before Yamada Sensei and say, "I failed." Onishi and I got out our notes and letters and burned them all as we prepared to die. 

On the fourth day, a strange thing happened. The same arms that had difficulty in even holding the wooden sword went up smoothly over my head. As my arms went down, I felt a strength that was not physical coming out of both arms. It felt as if this downward cut extended to the other end of the world. For seven days, we practiced the Hojo a hundred times daily in this manner. We finally finished at the beginning of September. Later Yamada Sensei praised me saying, 'That is the Muso (No-thought) Style.' 

I was able to cultivate mental strength entirely because of this Hojo.

And we thought we were training hard...

1 comment:

Edwin Brand said...

You can find this Hojo (Omori's) Hojo taught at Daiyuzenji Zen Temple in Chicago on ravenswood. The folks there learned it from Hosokawa Roshi and Gerald Yamamoto Sensei who both learned it directly from Omori sogen. This Hojo is a part of the curriculum used by Daiyuzenji Zen Temple to deepen Zen Training through the breathing, posture, concentration and personal energy that is developed through this art.