Training With Seno Sensei
by Billy Ristuccia
Bujinkan Yotsume Dojo
Often I think about the wonderful trainings I have had with Seno Sensei in the past. He was always very open and willing to correct my Taijutsu directly by allowing me to be his uke. Lord knows there is a lot of correction to be done! Here is an experience I will try to explain from being his uke during one class. It is not very easy to put it into words, so please bear with me.
With both of my arms captured and my elbow locked, Seno Sensei makes me ‘think’ or I ‘mistakenly’ think, he will throw me over with a hip/shoulder throw. Because I have been thrown many times before with a shoulder throw this ‘image’ of: I will be thrown once again comes rushing to me. This seems real (Jitsu) to me but in fact was false (Kyo). So as my mind prepared to be thrown and hit the ground in one direction… Seno Sensei naturally makes a sudden change of direction.
The truth (Jitsu) is then shown in an instant when Seno Sensei twisted his clenched fist around and sharply struck the side of my face with a Koppoken. This knocked me over in the totally opposite direction I had ‘thought’ I was going to be thrown in. Seno Sensei road his knuckles all the way down to the floor though the bones of my face into the ground. So much pain, such a shock, such a feeling, such an incredible lesson!
The lesson was not just about how to make another variation of a shoulder throw!
When we achieve ‘Mushin’ we can control the images/perceptions of our own mind from making us assume what things will come by how they look or may seem to us. So we must guard against the appearance or image of what we see in our mind.
Because we have experienced something before, like a shoulder throw, our mind often assumes that we will be thrown again in a similar manner when our body is in that similar position we have experienced before. In a way, our own muscle or cellular memory is often used against us without us knowing it.
Our opponent, if they are aware, can use these mental images/assumptions against us. When they create the ‘image’ and ‘feel’ of a throw, lock, or some other ‘form’ of technique, our mind often assumes the outcome… too soon! We get a quick flash of an image of our future in our mind. So we think…
However, if we can keep our state of ‘Mushin’, then the Kyo (false) and Jitsu (truth) that we ourselves projected into our own mind, like a mirage, simply disappears! In this manner, our own techniques become very difficult for the opponent to defeat. With Mushin on our side, we can also see the opponent’s techniques or ploys much more clearly.
This is what Seno Sensei shared with me directly by allowing me to be his uke. The transmission of this feeling/lesson happens from mind to mind. It is not something I can easily forget. I will always be thankful for the times he allowed me to be his uke.
Seno Sensei began training with Hatsumi Sensei when he was only a teenager. He is one of his original students to have met and trained with Takamatsu Sensei. In this old photo Seno Sensei together with fellow students of Hatsumi Sensei all traveled together to visit Takamatsu Sensei and train with him. They performed demonstrations for Takamatsu Sensei who in return trained with them and performed some Kenbu (sword dances) and a special needle inserted into his arm with a lit candle ceremony called “Udeka” 腕香. Seno Sensei was one of the treasures of the Bujinkan.
It was sad news to learn of the passing of Seno Sensei. Such a great teacher who always took the time with me to make personal and direct corrections. Such a man is never really gone from us. He will always live on through the many students’ hearts he has touched during his wonderful training. Often, a candle is lit in his honor on my dojo’s Kamiza.