Hakuda (白打, "White Strikes") is the martial arts practiced by the Shinigami. It is regarded as one of the four Zankensoki; the fundamental combat styles that Shinigami strive to master. Over the course of a million years in Soul Society's history, Hakuda has come to incorporate the teachings of every martial art style that has ever existed while simultaneously permitting the growth and development of entirely new styles; delving into not only the physical but the spiritual. As such, it is a constantly evolving craft that is often made unique by each practitioner who seeks its mastery. Within the Soul Society, the greatest practitioner of Hakuda is aptly known as the 'Hakuda Grandmaster', which is a title currently held by Seireitou Kawahiru.
It's impossible to pinpoint a beginning for a fighting style that utilizes the most basic and immediate source of offense available to a living creature. However, what can be said about the codified system of Hakuda is that it has a start that precedes even that of the Soul Society. In the past, the use of powerful spiritual techniques like Kidō were those that could only be accessed by the nobles of the world who had such knowledge available to them, while commoners were forced to survive with their own power and whatever they could learn from their own experiences in the wild. It is said that Hakuda was given its name based upon the White Tiger, who is commonly held in mythology as a deity that stands in opposition to the ruling class. Kings were always represented by the symbol of the dragon, while the tiger stood in opposition, said to have granted commoners the means of being able to take back their land. Many families throughout the Soul Society, such as the Shihōin Clan, eventually became known for their martial art prowess and this had started the process of Hakuda becoming recognized as an equally important combat field that would become known as the four fighting styles of the Shinigami. The title, Yonkō, was given to the greatest masters of the four respective fields of combat, and the Yonkō of Hakuda was said to have been tied to the Shihōin Clan for many centuries. That was, however, until the defeat of Yukara Shihōin at the hands of Seireitou Kawahiru, who had not only become the succeeding titleholder but also became recognized as the foremost master of Hakuda in all of Soul Society. Schools would begin to emerge throughout Rukongai for centuries that would teach various forms of Hakuda, and among them, a group known as the Eight Sage Fists were acknowledged as the leading specialists in the martial arts.
The basis of Hakuda is to "fight with one's own body" (体術, Taijutsu; Japanese for "Body Technique"). At the Human level, this is entirely physical, but for Shinigami, who possess bodies of reishi formed from their Soul, this takes on a new meaning. Although it is not widely practiced among conventional Shinigami, the true core of Hakuda lies in the shaping of the soul through training. Those that practice and specialize within Hakuda are sometimes referred to as Hakudaka (白打家, "Hakuda Practitioner").
Hakuda is an embodiment of all martial arts, including both the modern styles and those that have been lost to history. It can be best described as the trunk, with every martial art that has ever existed or ever will exist serving as a branch on an ever-growing tree. As such, Hakuda can be seen as both a martial art of its own, forged through the perfect merging of countless other unarmed fighting styles, as well as the foundation for all existing and potential martial arts. As a singular amalgamation of martial arts in their entirety, Hakuda takes on a form dependent on an individual; a culmination of every lesson they have taken, every victory and defeat they have experienced, and ultimately, every circumstance and every entity they have ever encountered.
While Hakuda is generally practiced as solely a physical fighting style by the Shinigami, the true purpose of Hakuda lies in the molding and shaping of the mind, body, and soul. The goal of Hakuda, therefore, is to bring these 'aspects of self' together as one. It is unlikely for Shinigami to ever pursue Hakuda in an intimate way because they develop their soul through the use of a Zanpakutō. However, for true Hakuda specialists, they learn to how to harness their Reiryoku and cultivate their soul through their own means. In order for them to do this, it demands mastery over their three aspects of self
Hakuda begins with the body, and as such, Taijutsu (体術, "Body Technique") is the primary focus for most Hakuda specialists. The basic physical techniques and forms of a Hakuda style are referred to as the "fundamentals" (基本, Kihon).
Physically, Hakuda can be classified as either hard or soft, but it is not inherently either form. It depends on the practitioner and the style which suits them. Many Shinigami within the Gotei 13, such as Kensei Muguruma, display a predominately hard nature to their fighting style, consisting of straightforward hand and elbow strikes that focus entirely on brute force. This is most likely due to the fact that they are taught by the academy to attack Hollows at their masks in order to quell them, meaning that hard-type attacks would be best suited to the task. While the Onmitsukidō agents also show similar characteristics, their style is centered toward assassination and handling their opponents as covertly as possible. However, this is not always the case. During his time as an Onmitsukidō soldier, Kisuke Urahara demonstrated having remarkable soft-type skills, being able to completely neutralize the attacks of various aggressive inmates in the Nest of Maggots. It should be noted that he trained most of the time with Yoruichi Shihōin, a specialist that uses primarily hard-type technique, while he favors the use of soft-type technique. This is but a mere example that proves how Hakuda does not favor any particular format nor notion, but is molded to suit the needs of the practitioner.
In Hakuda theory, the movements of the body have both a "rhythm" (律動, Ritsudō) and a "flow" (流れ, Nagare).
The aim of Hakuda Taijutsu is to achieve absolute control over the body. It can be considered a manipulation of physical form, in which the Hakuda specialist seeks to attain mastery over their own movements to such a degree that they can move in whatever way they wish without being limited by physical restrictions. For souls, they are capable of achieving a high degree of command over the body by learning to control their own reishi. It is said the highest level of Taijutsu is the ability to perform "self-movement" (身勝手, Migatte; meaning "the body moving of its own accord"); in order words, achieving such natural control over the body that each and every part of the body can move of its own accord without depending on responses from the brain to act.
The mental state of a Hakuda specialist during battle is called Zanshin (残心, "Remaining Mind"). This refers not only to the state of mind during battle but also the mental exercises that a Hakuda specialist undergoes in order to strengthen their mind. Zanshin can also mean the strategy and tactics formulated by a Hakuda specialist as well.
According to Saku Hashira, the ultimate goal of Zanshin is to achieve Mushin (無心, "No Mind"). As its name suggests, Mushin is a state of no-mindedness. It refers to a mind completely untethered by thoughts or concerns, allowing the Hakuda specialist to act without hesitation and move in such a way that it becomes a natural response to any situation. The body in a state of Mushin is able to move in a way that is natural to the situation and acts on opportunities based on the Hakudaka's own intuition without needing to rely on forethought nor on the hesitation that arises from emotions such as anger or fear. By always existing in this flowing state of no-mindedness, emptying the heart so that it remains open to everything, the Hakudaka can respond to any threat without needing to make a plan or even consider what action is needed, for their body has acted.
The spiritual element of Hakuda is known as Reiketsu (魄決, "Spiritual Decision"). Hakuda is a martial art for spiritual beings. Because of this, it does not only demand mastery over the body and mind but also mastery over the spirit. Reiketsu, therefore, is the aspect of Hakuda associated with learning how to control and manipulate Reiryoku. Mastery of Reiketsu means not only to achieve mastery over the Reiatsu exerted by the Hakuda specialist but also the Hakudō (魄動, "Spirit Movement") within the body itself. One will never manage to progress in their Hakuda training without first gaining a foothold in Hakukime. Otherwise, they will never be able to rise above the physical level.
According to some historical accounts, just as humans mimicked animals and incorporated their behaviors into their martial arts, Hakuda specialists observed the spiritual density of Hollows and imitated their use of spiritual pressure, in feats such as Cero, when refining their own martial arts system. The basics of the skill was once taught many centuries ago to early students of the Spiritual Arts Academy, though it has since then fallen out of use in favor of a dependence upon Zanjutsu. Still, there are those who still practice the skill, refining its effectiveness as a valuable battle technique.
In the process of training in Reiketsu, one eventually learns how to recognize Reinen. For Shinigami, Reiketsu training is what enables them to first awaken to Shinuchi. While souls that lack Shinigami powers cannot achieve a Shinuchi, it is still possible for them to develop their spiritual powers and even awaken to unique abilities as a result. These powers end up becoming the basis for their own Hakuda fighting styles.
- "This force can be felt when the wind is howling or from the rushing waters of a river. It is given off by people whenever they do anything; while they're thinking, the sound of their breath, their scent, and even when their muscles are in movement. What makes a dragon's wings theirs? What makes a tiger's claws theirs? What makes a Shinigami's reiatsu 'Shinigami reiatsu', or a Hollow's reiatsu 'Hollow reiatsu'? Significance, distinction, meaning... It is called all these things. That is what is known as Ki."
- —Seireitou Kawahiru speaking of Ki.
Higher-level Hakuda is predicated upon the concept of Ki (氣, Qi; Japanese for "Breath"). The idea behind Ki is that there is significance with every entity and phenomenon. What determines what something is, what it is supposed to be, what it is doing, and what it can be, are all aspects referred to as Ki. Whether it be Taijutsu, Zanshin, or Reiketsu, all of the aspects associated with their characteristics can all be called forms of Ki.
In physical terms, the way muscles contract and expand during certain movements, or how a master swordsman swings their blade as opposed to a novice, could all be called aspects of physical Ki. In spiritual beings, such as Shinigami or Hollows, what makes their reiatsu unique to their individual existences is the difference in their spiritual Ki. According to Seireitou Kawahiru, when he described Ki to Minato Kuramoto on a spiritual level, when you feel reiatsu from afar and can determine that it belongs to a Hollow, or when you can pick up on emotional fluctuations in someone's reiatsu, are all cases of perceiving what is called Ki. The same goes for when a Hakuda practitioner is able to notice the push and pull of another's reiatsu or when they notice the wavering of their hakudō.
By learning how to recognize, harness, and cultivate Ki, a Hakuda specialist can learn how to best utilize their own powers. With greater mastery, it becomes possible to reshape the aspects of one's own Ki, allowing them to recreate the Ki of others. Beyond even that, some Hakuda masters learn how to restructure their own souls.
Kei (勁, "Power") is a significant component of Ki in terms of combat. When the Ki of a movement is altered, the force that is produced may change as a result. That resultant effect is what is called Kei. In Taijutsu, Kei refers to how force is emitted through physical combat, while in Reiketsu, Kei refers to how spiritual pressure is being applied in combat. Putting it differently, if a punch were to project force explosively rather than smash through its target, or if reiatsu were to produce a burning force rather than a concussive force, that means a difference in Kei is being employed in the Hakuda specialist's movements. Mastering Ki cultivation means being able to freely alter Kei into any desired form.
Kikōdō (氣功, "Way of Qigong"; Japanese for "Way of Ki Cultivation") is the act of shaping and developing Ki. Once a Hakuda specialist has learned how to recognize Ki and how to harness it, they are then able to shape and mold their own Ki in any form they wish. By then learning how to imitate and recreate the Ki from other sources, it is possible for them to develop power that exceeds their own capabilities. In order to cultivate Ki, there are two important steps: Kenshō and Kata.
The method in which a Hakuda specialist is able to perceive and understand Ki is called Kenshō (残心, "Seeing Nature/Essence"). Before Ki can be cultivated in any manner, it must first be understood. While some Hakuda specialists will undergo scholarly studies in order to learn about certain phenomena, the only surefire way to truly understand Ki is to experience it firsthand. As such, Kenshō is a process that a Hakuda specialist undergoes usually through their training and also through battles. There is no definite way to go about Kenshō, although every school has their own philosophy with how to best absorb an understanding of Ki. It comes down to how a Hakuda specialist is able to make sense of the concept in their own way. For Ki to have a significant effect when integrated, it must be understood at an intimate level. If the comprehension of Ki is too impersonal, the effect will be minuscule at best, if not negligible.
The method in which a Hakuda specialist adopts the concepts they have experienced into their martial arts is referred to as Kata (型, "Form"). This is the stage in which a Hakuda specialist starts to learn how to shape and mold their soul in a manner that suits their whims. All martial arts throughout history have looked to the world and its natural aspects for inspiration on how to transcend their limitations. It is said that one must look to the wind, to the mountains, to the rivers and the animals in the forest, and that all things in the world must serve as your teacher. "Study how water flows in a valley stream, smoothly and freely between the rocks. Also learn from holy books and wise people. Everything — even mountains, rivers, plants and trees — should be your teacher." For humans, this principle can only be expressed by attempting to physically replicate certain behavior that they observe. However, for those of the spiritual realm, who possess bodies forged by their own souls, it is possible to further apply this principle and actually personify it. In other words, Hakuda specialists of a certain level are capable of resonating with the Ki that they have come to observe and understanding, seemingly manifesting certain phenomena and attributes as a result that go beyond their normal capabilities.
All of Hakuda is encompassed within the Four Realms of Hakuda (白打の四領域, Hakuda no Shiryōiki; Japanese for "Four Areas of the White Strikes").
Kiai (氣合, "Joining of Ki")
Kiroku (氣力, "Power of Ki")
Kihaku (氣迫, "Spirit of Ki")
Hibiki (響, "Echo")
Known Hakuda Styles
- ↑ Bleach manga; Chapter 175, page 9
- ↑ Bleach manga; Chapter 219, page 15
- ↑ Bleach: Official Bootleg KaraBuri+, page 83
- ↑ Bleach manga; Chapter -106, pages 17-19
- ↑ Bleach manga; Chapter 567, page 14
Behind the Scenes
The author developed his own article on how he perceives Hakuda primarily because he believes that, among the four Zankensoki, the art of hand-to-hand combat often goes unnoticed as a craft which can fight on even terms with each of the other combat fields. There are many finer points to the martial arts that should be recognized as a powerful system of combat if it is handled correctly. Furthermore, the author wished to further show how Hakuda is best seen as a system of conditioning and refinement of physical capabilities rather than simply a medley of special techniques piled on top of one another, which is why this system came to be. As the martial arts master, Morihei Ueshiba, has said: "Progress comes to those who train and train; reliance on secret techniques will get you nowhere." The author wishes to make note, however, that the content of this article is strictly in accordance with how he perceives the art of Hakuda and should not be taken as established fact.