4 The Theme of Niseishi Dai (Nijyushiho):
If Arakaki had created nothing else in his lifetime he would be considered one of the greatest martial artists of all time. But he created more kata with deep esthetic value than what I can even believe. Not only did he create the Niseishi but also the Unshu and the Sochin. What a remarkable life as a martial artist he must have led. But, that is the subject of another day. Arakaki had his Niseishi. But Niseishi had Arakaki, too.
He could not leave it alone any more than you or I can leave our names behind. He ventured out again into the NOW! experience and rediscovered new vistas in unique ways. Arakaki interacted with his environment much the same way that we do. The environment offers us both accommodation and resistance. We learn ways of dealing with the environment’s resistance to us by sweat, energy, ki, work, intelligence, meditation, kata all the while calling on the resources of our past-experiences. We don’t always learn ways of dealing with the environment’s accommodation to us but rather take it for granted, ignoring the glory of simply being. Arakaki developed a new “kata of a thousand movements” based on the interaction of resistance and accommodation in the NOW! Years passed as he worked on his kata.
One beautiful spring day Arakaki walked into an open meadow. Suddenly a flash of intuitive spark ignited into a firestorm of emotion. The meadow was beautiful. There were flowers in blossom, butterflies flitting around the field, frogs croaking, a breeze blowing. He couldn’t catch it all at once. It was as a symphony played in time against a multicolored meadow of activity, flowers blowing in the breeze with butterflies in hot pursuit of each other rising in never ending spirals to the clouds. Arakaki became instantly smaller than his scene and infinitely larger within the same NOW! BAAAMMBB!!!!
Niseishi Dai was born.
Years of pregnancy including many false labors evolved into one instant of delivery NOW!
Churning the milk into butter that very beautiful spring day in 1898 Arakaki began opened the first Nijyushiho Dai with the intake of the field through his own perception and then sprung forward his own expressive genius into the NOW! (movements 1 and 2.)
There he stood poised in reverse renoji dachi in the beautiful present elbow to the horizon as far as he could see bespeckled in blues, yellows and reds. Arakaki then turned to face the past as he had done in Niseishi Sho but this time with scissors he cut the thread leading to life in retrospect and split it into the opening of life’s NOW! experience. Altering the enbusen laterally Arakaki fought his way back into the NOW! only to find himself in the midst of the field of flowers and butterflies of the real NOW! The butterflies flit away. The flower blossom blooms. The frogs croak in the bases of the bull-rushes. (movements 8, 9 and 10)
Consternation impales the fight between the NOW! and the past-future. The enbusen is twisted for the petals of the flower on the ground during the desperate fight between the NOW! and the past-future but more than this the enbusen is twisted by the time-space illusion of our past-experiences and future dreams. Arakaki flashed his genius across the kata of all time by the multifarious conflicts of twisted reality, desperate battles, and life in the wonderful meadow.
Hinting at the uselessness of battle in the meadow of twisted reality Arakaki reiterates a theme (once with variation) three times. Each is the same battle but presented in different twists of time-space illusion. It is only via the final receptive action when the performer retracts from the battle for the first time since the first movement of the kata that the last desperate reiterative scene is engaged successfully. The twisted enbusen is brought back into allegiance with a focused kiai (concentration of power) and a butterfly flies away to eternity of NOW!
The kata ends. But the depth of its collateral worlds of intrapersonal and intra-environmental resistance and accommodation continue on different planes within the same kata. Doing the kata once is like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon. It takes many trips and sometimes you spill the content of the teaspoon before you put it where it goes.
Let’s look again at just one little but brilliant physical maneuver in strategy that Arakaki used. There are only two movements in the kata that move backwards by one stance. (movement 1 and just before the ending repetitive sortie). Both of these are done slowly, building ki rather than releasing ki. These movements scream at us for our attitudes towards NOW! They scream “become receptive!” This subject, receptivity in the martial arts experience, is central to escaping time-space illusion and is certainly great enough to fill volumes of words. In one kata Arakaki states (with his first move) receptivity, and then restates receptivity just before the final and successful last battle with the twisted enbusen.
These only two backward movements of receptivity compliment the twisted enbusen of time-space illusion. The play on the field of the meadow with flowers and butterflies and frogs contrasts the accommodative and resistive environmental life-experience of the bushi. While the hands are following the smooth arcs of butterfly wings and flowers just beginning to open the feet are struggling with the ever-present distortion of reality beneath our feet travelling upward and inward into our lives. We battle but we battle in the field of evanescent flowers. We battle with ourselves, too. I said let’s take one example out of the kata but here is a second I just can’t let slide by without very honorable mention.
The future movement (only one and it is movement 2) consists of two upper body strikes and a wild shuffle in okuriashi, tsugiashi culminating in a slow rise to reverse renoji dachi. It is curt and held within the confines of a minimal fighting volume. The kata appears to be expansive but it is near volume-less. The NOW! is expressed in the kata’s minimal volume and its apparent massive volume. How we see the past-future is the same illusion. We see the past-future as a voluminous mass little realizing that such illusion is confined to the power of the NOW! and does not exist in and of itself. There is no entity of time in the past or the future that we can hold, operate on, change, or even see. All enters the past and the future through the
NOW! The volume of Nijyushiho at first is held to one curt flash forward in vital expression ending on the limits of sudden realization. (Misogi) Then the volume of the kata expands into the past by broken lines.
The debacle of the past is dealt with in broken lines in contrast to the smooth sliding forward movements of the future (movement 2). Noteworthy the scissors (hasami) cut the thread on the past-future junction. No direct forward motion towards the past is allowed from the first turn onward. All action towards the past is miss-aligned and hidden in complex twisted angles of reality. Returning to the point of departure is challenged by the very complexity of the twisted enbusen, all of which hints at the same truth in facing the NOW! while the illusion of past-future hovers over our heads. It is in broken lines we return to the NOW! It is not in direct paths.
There is something stupid about trying to explain a kata in words.
Final Reflections of War on a Meadow
Kata is art. It cannot be explained any more than the overture to “Orpheus in the Underworld” can be explained in words. Art exists for its own, on its own, with its own, as its own.
Kata cannot be dissected either. No movement can be taken out of Niseishi or Nijyushiho that has any meaning whatsoever beyond itself as a body movement devoid of intimacy. But, put together the kihon make awhole of the kata that becomes infinitely greater than the sum of its parts. Some say, it comes alive.
Yes, the kata is complex unity. It has nothing to do with its individual kihon. It has to do with expression reaching far beyond kihon or even combinations of kihon. It is unity as it is. It contains and cannot release itself except in the totality of its own contrast, battles, receptiveness, expressiveness, distortion, time-space illusion, resistance, twisting actions, kihon, tension, release and final culmination on the beautiful meadow of blossoming flowers and flitting butterflies.
But, doing battle in a meadow crushes the flowers. (The side kicks used to be low before tournament days.)
Arakaki expressed NOW! via the kinesthetic delight of Niseishi in his two potentially transformational kata.
Both Niseishi Sho and Niseishi Dai (Nijyushiho) are resplendent kata in kinesthesia. My words are useless. Description is foolishly playing a dangerous game. Those who feel they know the kata now better have missed the mark by far distance. It is only through the kata that the mark can be hit. Practice, not discussion, will allow the kata its reality, and that reality will be, hopefully, in the NOW! of practice rather than the remembrance of a discussion about the kata. Niseishi exists for you and I to revel in and, just perhaps, incorporate into our own interactive environmental life-experiences. Are you ready for NOW! NOW! ?
Go do one, NOW!