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The Various Forms of Sight for the Martial Artist
Nikugen - This is no more than the actual image received by the human eye on the retina. It is devoid of any mental or emotional process and, in this manner, is the most simple manner in which to see something. Nikugen is phenomenal sight, focused on the simple description of "that which is being seen" as it is. Such a manner of sight is useful in a description of that which occurs without any editorial on the part of the person doing the seeing. It is existentially perfect in the sense that what is described is exactly that which occured. It is the stuff of which Zen Koans are made. For example: "What is the color of the wind?" is most exactly described by blowing on the eyes of the master. That "IS" the color of the wind. Nikugen is, however, limited by being two dimensional, that is, it does limited to the "field of sight" and has no ability to intuit beyond that which exists in the visual 2-dimensional field of the viewer. "Insight" therefore, is not a part of Nikugen. Since Nikugen is limited to physical sight, it can be blocked and the deeper meaning of something cannot be known when it is prevented.
Tengen - Literally translated as "neutral eye", Tengen permits the viewer to escape the limitation of "personal view" alone. With Tengen, one is able to see a scene as if looking at it from a great height, looking down on the "field of battle" as it were, without seeing only those warriors who stand in the visual field of physical perception. Tengen cannot be easily be obstructed because it is not dependent upon the observer's point of view. One can now intuit that a piece of paper has a "back" side to it, rather than merely seeing that part of the paper presented to the observer. This, however, is still a limited form of sight because it still depends on subjective, preconceived understanding of the "nature of things" and the fact that objects exist in more than two dimensions.
Egen - This is a form of "predictive sight" based upon the experience of that which is occuring in the present moment. For example, seeing two cars headed at full speed toward the same intersection, and employing Egen, the observer can predict that there will be an accident. Unfortunately, while most mature adults have Egen with respect to common, physical events, we lack it in other ways. Advanced Egen allows one to predict the "clash of wills" or the "intent of the enemy" before it occurs. This is extremely valuable to the martial artist but still lacks in depth.
Shingen - With Shingen sight, a samurai, for example, can compassionately see the correctness or incorrectness (right or wrong) of slaying a particular individual at a particular moment in the course of things. He is not limited to a pure emotional response to the enemy but sees the consequences of his behavior to future events. A great warrior takes into consideration the immutable laws of nature. One understands the principles of cause and effect, and looks deeply beyond the superficial appearance of events into the very impact which an act will have on events which follow.
Hogen - "Universal Perspective" permits the viewer to stand in "creative indifference" between all polarities of a particular situation with ability to see the ramifications of outcomes depending on many different courses of action. Therefore, the great Martial Artist, does not simply "respond" to the action which confronts him/her, but rather sees (without thinking or considering feelings) the immediate outcome of several courses of action and can, therefore, select the best course to take under these particular circumstances. An example might occur when fighting several attackers at the same time, only one of whom is armed and what the consequence would be of disarming the leader and then using the gun on others when the law clearly does not protect the rights of the martial artist to kill otheres who are unarmed. The same karateka in the same fight with several armed individuals, would be legally in the right to use deadly force against others, unless he/she immediately sees their fear and their desire and intention to flee the conflict. Hogen can also be applied to the outcomes of battles with regard to the total consequences on civilians, the war in general, the army under one's command, etc. Again, Hogen is not based on feeling or thinking, but rather upon an instant "Knowledge" of that which will occur if "such and such" is done.
Hogen is the highest and most noble of sights. It does not come until a martial artist has had many years experience beyond even becoming a black belt, say.
Rokudan, Isshinryu Karate Do, Renshi, OKF