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CONTACT: Kenpo

Way of Miyamoto Musashi and Kenpo
Perceive Those Things
Which Cannot Be Seen

by
Will Tracy

The mind can perceive only what the mind can conceive. But how can the student perceive what cannot be seen? Sound, smell, taste and tactile sense cannot be seen, yet we perceive them. But there is more than our five senses, and more than intuition. It is that sixth sense to which Musashi refers when he wrote of knowing time, that you must perceive the opponent's quality and his strong and weak points, and recognize his intention. As in kendo, so in kenpo, kiriotoshi is adopted as the first move of many.

In kendo, kiriotoshi is the first of many, with Ai Uchi being where the blade cuts at the beginning of the opponent's cut. But Musashi had a deeper concept. It was not a game, nor a quest for recognition that Musashi saw. For him, and the kenpo master it is the essence of perceiving the movement which cannot be seen. The beginning of this perception is found in the Tai Chi principle of practice by heart, forget self and keep silent, where silence is the mind/intention/li state of wu chi - that point of nothingness that approaches the Void. It is a state where you become the opponent; where anger, fear and self are abandoned for tranquility, and you treat your enemy as an honored guest. It is that place where your intention is to have no Intention.

Intention is probably the most difficult concept for the student to understand, because the student's perception of Intention is but a shadow of its actuality. It is easier for a master to demonstrate Intention than it is to explain what it is. Tai Chi Chuan tells the student to use intention, not force. Yet few understand this let alone achieve it.

We look in the night sky and say we see the moon, but we do not see the moon, we see the light reflected off the moon. Everything we see with our eyes is but a reflection of the thing. It is not the thing itself. To perceive those thing which cannot be seen, we must look beyond sight, beyond the reflection of the thing, and perceive it.

But you say, one must be mad (insane) to perceive the things we see. But that is the Way, and it is but a step in Zen. It is this perception that allows the master to see that movements are initiated by mind/li/Intention - without thought. Intention moves the body, just as the arrow of the Zen archer releases itself.

I realize this is difficult for today's kenpo student to understand, because these concepts were lost to many students when the Japanese traditions were replaced by new Chinese/western concepts. But it was for that reason that my brother and I founded Kenpo for Self-Defense - Tai Chi for Life in 1967. And it is why after becoming acquainted with many arts, I practice entering the Void as the Way. And perhaps too, the modern kenpo student does not understand that the Void - Wu Chi - is the mother of Tai Chi, and the concepts of Yin and Yang flow from Tai Chi, where in Kenpo we call Chi, Ki.

The Way, as the Taoist would have it, is the same as the Way of Kenpo, which is the same as the Way of Musashi. It is not a religious concept, but rather the natural phenomenon that created the energy of all things. This is, that, which must be perceived, which cannot be seen; yet it can be felt, and the feeling of this energy can best be accomplished through training. The movements of training are observable, and open to sight, but the power behind the Tai Chi posture, or the (inner) Kenpo technique cannot be seen. It must be perceived. Thus, the Way is in training.

The Chinese masters observed animals to learn the Way, and the cat was their best teacher. There were few lions in China, but tigers and leopards were in all the forests. I raised lions and other big cats when I was young and learned a great deal from them. My lions would roar both at night and in broad daylight beginning half an hour before the moon rose and would stop roaring only when the moon was above the horizon. They, like the oceans, can feel the gravitational pull of the moon; and it is quite possible that in the lions minds, they caused the moon to rise. They could lie in a field with grass higher than their heads, and with the wind blowing from behind, they could see the slightest movement of an animal that was completely hidden in the grass. Animals do not smell fear, they sense it as the slightest involuntary twitching of a muscle, or a hair on the prey - or human - as it moves. The lion sees the unseen. My big lion, Shurze, would roar whenever I left, then sleep until I returned. Then he would begin roaring when I was on my way home as my car left the highway and went onto the country road that led to my ranch three miles away.It did not matter if it was my car or another car. He always knew when I left the highway. The Chinese observed things similar to this, and Musashi applied this same human sense in combat and gave us the broad principle to "Perceive those things which cannot be seen."

One does not need to watch lions to observe how cats perceive what cannot be seen. The back of my property is covered with a hundred fruit trees and hundreds of pine trees. Beyond that is a hill covered with sage brush where coyotes roam and make their daily trek across my property (though they know it is theirs). An occasional bobcat will pass through and feast itself on the quail and doves that find easy living in relative safety. My domestic cats have learned to perceive what cannot be seen. Those that do not, disappear. Many times I've watch a sleeping cat awake, rise slowly, and cautiously go to the fence on the edge of the hill and look attentively across toward the next hill. I know it perceives something neither they nor I cannot see, something on the other side of the hill; and, within a minute or two, I will see a coyote come from behind the hill and over the ridge to slink its way down to the obscurity of the trees. My cats eyes will follow it, and they will rise and stalk the unseen coyote, which is hidden by trees and bushes, until it appears again in the valley leading to the hill on the other side of my property. But there's more to this perception. The cats pay no attention to the coyote who is simply passing through. They will look at it, then lie down and sleep. Yet, like the lion roaring to bring the moon into the sky, my cats can sense the coyote that is on the prowl or hunting, and watch it attentively.

What they perceive, and what the kenpo master perceives, is Intention. Again, Intention is a difficult concept to comprehend. I am attempting to explain this elsewhere with Movement Psychology, but that too is a work in progress, and Movement Psychology may be beyond the average Kenpo student's comprehension. However, in its simplist form, Intention is how the mind forms every nerve and physical movement of our body. Nerves react to outside stimuli, such as heat and cold, light and darkness and of course knee jerk reaction. However, when the nerve has been damaged or severed, there is no reaction. Intention, then, is the process, which may only take a nanosecond, when the mind - not the brain - formulates a response or action.

The Tai Chi or Kenpo master who can perceive the formation of the opponent's intention can, thus, act at the split nanosecond the opponent's intention is formed and thereby defend or strike while the opponent is beginning his move. To do this the Kenpo master's intention must be to have no Intention, otherwise his own Intention will reveal his own move. But more importantly, if he has Intention, he cannot perceive his opponent's Intention.

This is the true state of Ai Uchi, where the blade cuts at the beginning of the opponent's cut. Musashi understood this, for in that split second before the opponents intention is acted upon, the master must act, and beat him to the punch - so to speak. He does not anticipate the opponents move, he perceives it, because he is in the Way.

On August 22, 1984 I entered the Void, and then the Way with a perception I had never experienced before, and afterward I understood that perceiving what cannot be seen goes beyond thought/mind to what I call the Primitive Mind. It is a mind that does not think, and is irrational, as rational though denies its existence. But it is within that Primitive Mind that we touch on the perception of that which cannot be seen, and perceive even that which the mind cannot conceive.


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©1996, 1999, 2006, 2015 by W. Tracy. All rights reserved. No portion may be reproduced without permission.

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