位取 Kurai dori & Context
位取 Kurai dori in the simplest sense means to take position. In Kotō ryū the kurai dori can easily be seen as the five kamae – migi seigan, hidari seigan, hira ichimonji, hōkō and bōbi. Kurai dori though is much more than kamae, it means to take an appropriate position in the physical as well as mental sense. Physical position can be the relative distance to the opponent or opponents, the proximity of objects, hazards, avenues of escape. Beyond this kurai dori is the awareness of the entirety of the surrounding environment and the nature of the people therein. Are you actually being attacked, are there hidden opponents, what is the aggressor hoping to achieve, how will the weather impact on the situation?
Now understand the above as ‘context’. Context is vitally important in the spoken and written word. Taken out of context the meaning of words can be warped, twisted, misconstrued and misused leading to misunderstanding, confusion and the promulgation of falsehoods. Context is kurai dori for the written word – what situation is the author writing about, what are the aims or motivations of the author, what is the author’s background, what assumptions do you have about the author or subject matter, is the text a translation, has the translator embellished?
One example that comes to mind from Hatsumi and the Shitennō “Don’t use strength”. This doesn’t mean “be weak” or “be lazy”… Similarly when speaking of “distance” or “distancing” this should not be polarized to close or distant, near or far, it is every distance from 0 to infinity. In a fight the appropriate distance changes in an instant 一閃.
Remember context and kurai dori any time you read articles and quotes about budō – including the ones I have written here. Hatsumi Sōke quotes Takamatsu ensei in the unarmed fighting techniques book “Things that are written are composed after the event – these are not so important, they are a past matter. The importance lies in the immediacy of the warriors heart”
Pete Reynolds has written a good article on kurai dori that you should be able to find with a web search.