It seemed a mere coincidence that I found Hino-sensei. In retrospect, after almost four years of interacting with him, I can only think of it as a destiny.
It happened during the latter part of 2010. Previously I’d been abroad for many years to study acting and to work as an actress. However, due to some personal circumstances, I had to come back to Japan and work as a masseuse for a while. I was utterly lost as to what to do with my own life.
So, one day I was watching a bunch of YouTube videos about Aikido just to kill time. In the midst of a video stream, I noticed Hino-sensei’s name in one of the related videos. Out of mere curiosity, I clicked the link. What I saw was something I’d never seen in typical martial arts demonstration videos. Even more intriguing was the fact that Hino-sensei spoke with an Osaka accent, the same one I have.
My curiosity propelled me to search more about him on the Internet. Soon afterwards I signed up at the Hino Budo Institute website to observe one of his lessons in Osaka. I wanted to see him in person.
The first time I met him at the dojo in Osaka, he let me sit on a chair and watch while his students were practicing. I was nervous because I’d never taken up Budo (martial arts). I’ve never really been an athletic person. “What could I possibly gain from this?” I doubted myself a little, but excited.
The students were repeating the same sequence of movement over and over after Hino sensei’s demonstration. What struck me most was that they didn’t seem to be just practicing the form. It almost looked as if they were doing some serious research on the body with their own bodies.
Hino-sensei occasionally came up to my seat and explained what was happening. At one point, he smiled and said to me, “You see, the body is a genius, and the head is a fool.”
At that moment I knew instinctively that he is not an ordinary martial artist.
I started coming to the lesson after that. Each time, I was overwhelmed and depressed by the fact that I couldn’t do any of what Hino sensei demonstrated. My only motivation was my instinct that there was something fundamental and applicable to my profession and life behind those astonishing movements of his.
It turned out that my instinct was indeed right and profound.
Since then I’ve been given many opportunities to work with Hino-sensei as his English translator/interpreter. I also participated in his creative project called “RealContact 2012 – Macbeth, Again” as one of the performers. In 2013, he let me translate one of his books “Kokoro no Katachi – The Image of the Heart” into English and publish it worldwide.
I will present the highlights of how Hino Budo has been influencing me under three different topics: bodily intelligence, expression and the purpose of a human life.
Hino sensei’s teaching is not a bundle of instructions or a manual book for the better usage of the body. He has led me to the realization that I know so little about my own body.
He often says during his workshop, “First you have to know that you do not know anything about yourself. That’s the starting point.”
It’s not about knowing one’s physical limitation, however. It’s about realizing how much one’s consciousness can limit and/or dictate one’s movement. In other words, one needs to recognize her own deep-rooted habitual thought process about the physical movement.
“The body is a genius, and the head is a fool.” The body knows so much more than the consciousness can grasp. The body is far more sensitive and intelligent, always adjusting, adapting to the present situation without one’s being “aware” of it. To put it differently, Hino Budo is a way to go beyond the narrow sphere of the ego and embark on a whole new human development process.
“Don’t try to move. Let the body move. Don’t get in the way of its working by thinking.”
Most of his exercises are simply designed in a way that it is easy to see and feel when thought disrupts the whole body movement and efficient coordination. Therefore, they are extremely difficult to practice but essential and effective to activate and refine one’s physical sensitivity. Once I started to get to know my body that way, my awareness got sharpened and widened, which has helped me identify more of my physical and mental habits.
I find such process daunting yet liberating. It almost feels as if I was digging deeper and deeper to find more and more treasures that were hidden in me.
In order to illuminate the relationship between the actor’s expression on the stage and Hino Budo, I need to quote my own essay written about Hino sensei’s workshop in Japan:
Hino sensei asked a pair to stand facing each other in front of a group of other workshop participants. “All you have to do is to walk up to each other and shake hands. If your fellow participants can see the real connection between you two, they’ll say ‘Yes’. But if there isn’t anything, a ‘No’ will be thrown at you.”
What a depressing exercise! You have to take a big “No” one after the other no matter how hard you try….
“You just think you’re connecting. But you’re not doing the actual act of connecting. The audience only sees your desire to connect,” Hino sensei said.
What the performer tries to do is not the thing the audience sees. What is being expressed to the audience is not the thing the performer thinks he/she is expressing.
So, what is expression then?
Hino sensei has given me a big hint on how to tackle and investigate that question.
“In Budo, it is very crucial that I don’t ‘show’ what I’m about to do to the opponent. Otherwise I would get killed. I have to be extremely aware of how I’m being seen by others. This high awareness of being seen is also crucial in the performing arts. The only difference is that you the actors and dancers choose to let others see what you do on stage.”
The third eye, the objective eye… whatever you call it, it is the awareness of being seen and looking at oneself from a distance. It is one thing that allows the performer to really practice expression. To know what it means to express something on stage.
It has been the important, exciting challenge in my acting career.
The purpose of a human life
I’ve often wondered why Hino sensei has been giving his valuable insights and advice to me, to an actress who works abroad. I don’t even have a proper uniform to practice Budo.
The answer might lie in what he said to me one day,
“It doesn’t matter whether you can do the things I teach you. What matters is that you can act on the stage.”
How I interpreted his words is thus: If the technique doesn’t serve me to live fully on the stage, then it is utterly meaningless. If the technique doesn’t lead me to a place of serious inspection and discoveries about myself, then it only makes me complacent and arrogant. I need to follow my passion and focus on getting better at what I love to do, not on acquiring the technique. That will turn into the true technique I can use.
One more thing. This is actually the most important thing of all that Hino sensei has shown and taught me. It is that the true value of a human life is real human connection. I feel that all his teachings point at it as the ultimate purpose.
Once I stand on the stage, there is only the moment of facing and establishing relationships with others. Even with all the well-learned techniques, memorized lines, and hours of rehearsal, that last and most important moment in theatre remains unknown. And its success depends solely on how much my sensitivity can open up and feel the real connection between us in the burning present. Needless to say, the same thing holds true in my daily life as well, in all my relationships with other people.
In other words, Hino Budo is a way for me to thrive in the real human connection as it happens.
What I’ve learned from Hino sensei has changed my perspective on almost everything. It’s been instilled in me as something inseparable from the way I live my life.
And now, I’m working as an actress in Finland, living my dreams, surrounded by wonderful people.
That is how I practice Hino Budo.