I came across this phrase today provoking some thought on the approach to training – gaijū-naigō.
One translation of this is ‘gentle-looking but sturdy’. The kanji themselves read outside-soft-inside-hard. Some ways to think about this phrase for me could be ‘externally soft and malleable, internally solid’, ‘outwardly changeable, internally immovable’.
Thinking about taijutsu look at the two parts in reverse:
Naigō – this is the strong, solid, immovable heart of your movement – your kihon. Kihon does not just mean the kihon happo. Kihon 基本 means foundation, therefore a solid base from which you build. Kihon is the fundamentals, the basics – including sanshin no kata, kihon happo, as well as walking, falling, striking, kamae etc. You should always be working on, developing and reinforcing your kihon – do not neglect your kihon – just as a neglected building will erode, weaken and fall, so will your budo. This links back to the phrase Fudoshin 不動心 the immovable heart.
Gaijū – taihenjutsu, movement, flexibility, reacting to stimulus such as an attack and then applying ‘technique’. This is the ability to move, change and adapt – maybe a better word is to apply – the kihon in each circumstance. The kihon is the core, however each and every attack is unique – the person may be tall or short, muscular or large, sober or drunk, experienced or naive, alert or fatigued, armed or unarmed – so how you apply that understanding is everchanging.
You need a strong core as one element of the whole and the flexibility as a medium to interact/negotiate with or apply to the world around you. Another way to look at this external softness-internal firmness can be when you travel to a new place – town, city or country – by understanding the environment around you, you adapt your attitude, language, posture, dress so as not to cause offence or draw (too much) attention. This doesn’t change who you are but shows a maturity of understanding for the environment around you (especially in foreign countries) as well as making you less of a target for petty crime, racial or religious phobia in the extreme
All this really leads me to saying – practice, reinforce and never neglect your kihon.