Re: It Had to Be Felt #8: Saotome Mitsugi: One Strike
I was just thinking about this incident. and thought I would mention it since it is probably the only contribution I have for these threads.
At one of Saotome Sensei's visits to Shobukan, I think it was in 2009, we had bokken and were working on the kasumi no tachi material - entering with strong intention and then, as soon as your partner has engaged in some type of reaction to it, very subtly slipping into a different attack.
The setup was a typical Saotome Sensei kata - nage is in seigan, uke starts off in a waki no kamae. Uke brings their sword into the line with energy, intending to displace nage from the center and thrust forward. Nage practices waiting until the last possible minute to subtly dip their center, bringing their sword "out of phase" with uke and then thrusting forward.
Sensei comes over to me and indicates that i should take uke's roll. So I settle back into a waki no kamae - with my sword out of sight behind me.
I didn't want to screw up so I relaxed myself as much as possible and imagined the tip of my sword going straight through the old man's sternum. I intended to focus on that and simply "let the arrow fly" as it were.
I must have been focusing too hard because I felt the blood throbbing in my ears. Then Sensei threw back his head and cackled! He shook his shoulders and whooped with laughter. He snapped his bokken into a straighter posture and invited me to attack.
I did exactly what I had readied - I released the strike I had gathered up, letting it fly towards the center of his torso. I was going to take the center line and thrust forward along it. I understood that the plan was for his sword to dip and for me to find myself not at all on the center line, but somehow crooked, and his bokken at my throat or chest, but that wasn't on my mind when I let fly.
Sudden change of plans. He didn't move the tip of his sword out of the way at all. We met in the center. There was no crack of wood on wood. The tip of his sword shifted just slightly - a couple of inches? A centimeter? A millimeter? No idea. It was enough to completely absorb all of the energy in my attack.
But then I found the tip of my bokken moving backwards along the path it had taken, with just as much energy as I had put into the attack. It was like my bokken was a tennis ball and the tip of Sensei's bokken was the sweet spot of a tennis racket, but softer. Since I had advanced with my right foot my torso was now turned away. Sensei's bokken had become a piece of rope or a whip, and it once again attained solidity, with the tip in space a few inches from my throat.
I kneeled, thanked Sensei, and bowed.
Later I was discussing what had happened with my training partner. I told him I thought it was funny that Sensei had thrown his head back and laughed like that when I took a kamae. But it kind of loosened me up and made me felt like I wasn't going to embarrass myself.
My friend looked at me kind of funny and said that Sensei just looked relaxed and casual, and I looked very intense. I made my attack, Sensei knocked it out of the way and entered. It looked clean and routine to everybody watching. To me it was surreal and far more than I was expecting.
I have a couple other vague memories of Sensei basically bending space and causing me to fall into the warp, but that is the most complete one. I have not been able to figure out what it is like on his end when he does that - what forms in his mind, what is his experience being on the nage side, what does it feel like? - but i sure hope I can figure it out someday.