The following exercises can be viewed as butoh psychodramas, games, or rituals. They all make use of Jo-Ha-Kyu.
(1) Shadow & Flower | (2) Precious Something | (3) Last Performance, Five Minutes | (4) Child Heart | (5) Back Body | (6) The Weight of Man | (7) Ouroboros | (8) Disco Nightmare | (9) Guardians of the Kingdom | (10) Cthulhu Under Lake Michigan | (11) Blowing a Gasket | (12) Shame On You | (13) Zen Void Fill | (14) Object Frenzy | (15) Fifth Dimensional Being | (16) Sleep Paralysis Victim | (17) Origin | (18) Flower Walk | (19) Waterfall Solace | (20) Birth Parents | (21) Negativity Lens | (22) Winner/Loser For Life | (23) Automatic Saboteur | (24) Zen Behind World | (25) Alchemist of Yes Mountain | (26) Butoh Freeze Tag | (27) Demon Master | (28) Slain In the Spirit | (29) Discarded Sheet of Paper | (30) Happy Quicksand Victim | (31) Ego Feast | (32) Empathy Victim | (33) You Better Not Spill One Drop | (34) Krump Butoh | (35) Wrecking Ball | (36) Blind Beast’s Bluff | (37) Flopping Imbecile | (38) Immovable Force vs. Unstoppable Object | (39) Star Holder | (40) God Paradox | (41) The Passion of Christ | (42) That’s Not Fair | (43) Blue Flower | (44) Phobia & Totem | (45) Sigil Butoh
1. Shadow & Flower
Brainstorm or feelstorm a recent shadow.
(Jo) At one end of the space, a row of participants Ash Walk toward the middle of the space with their personally researched shadow in mind.
(Ha) The shadow begins to express itself via the body. This shadow is grateful for being given the chance to express itself. The closer to the end the participant gets, the further developed the shadow’s expression becomes.
(Kyu) Till there is a climax. The participant is grateful for the show and bids farewell in friendly terms. The shadow then expresses itself melting or wilting into the ground. Here, the participant feels the qualia of being under the earth or becoming the earth.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) A seed forms and gradually, the participant resurrects as a flower.
2. Precious Something
For 5 or 10 minutes, let the participants brainstorm or feelstorm a person, place, thing, or idea that is very special to them.
(Jo) At one end of the space, a row of participants will feel the personally researched special item.
(Ha) In whichever way that resonates (hands, whole arms, head, shoulder) the participants will hold this special item while Slow Walking to the end of the room.
(Kyu) Though there are varying similar scenarios, there are two different ways in which this psychodrama can end.
1. A stream is visualized and the special item is delicately offered to the stream. The participant resonates with the sound and feeling of the stream that has taken the special item.
2. The special item turns into a bird. Gradually the participant loosens their grip and the bird flies away into the horizon. The participant watches as the bird gets smaller and smaller toward the horizon till there is only horizon left. Then the participant resonates with the horizon.
3. Last Performance, Five Minutes
4. Child Heart
(Jo) The participant spends a good time resonating with Earth. followed by the sky, sun, and/or stars. After, the Earth will be said to represent Mother and the sky, sun, and/or stars Father. Because of the deep resonation, a grateful feeling is gained and the participant wishes to send an offering to Mother and Father in some way.
(Ha) Arms reach deep down into Earth and scoop a lump of earth. With a feeling of reverence, the hands gradually make their way up to the sky in Palm Up fashion (see section Gesture). This will be an offering to Father. The participant waits till the gift is received and in exchange, Father gives you fire. You even feel the warmth of the fire. Now again in Palm Up fashion, the arms gradually return deep into the earth. This fire is an offering for Mother. You wait till mother receives the gift and in exchange gives you more earth. This gift exchange is repeated until there is a feeling of strong connection between mother and father. If Mother is below and Father is above, then who are you? You are the child. Feel yourself embraced between Mother and Father.
(Kyu) Because we are in harmony with both Mother and Father, we are free to be the child now. Play. Play and even focus awareness at the heart center. Listen to the voice. If you become cautious, know that boundaries can also be gold. Consider following this exercise with Karate Painter.
5. Back Body
Begin slowly moving across the floor backwards in any of the various walks. Set all the awareness to the back of the body which includes the extremities moving behind you.
(Jo) Both physically, emotionally, and subconsciously, we begin to feel awareness of that which is hidden. Without mirrors, we cannot physically see the back of our body. The subconscious is the same, unless we develop mirrors, figuratively speaking. Let butoh be our mirror.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) Said feeling goes into climax. Dance that which has changed in you due to acknowledging/dancing the Back Body.
6. The Weight of Man
Exercise 1: Physical
This is an exercise in resistance. One participant performs a slow walk and one or more other participants will physically push via the whole body while the slow walking performer continues walking forward.
(Jo) The slow walking participant feels the weight of the physical bodies as he/she/they pushes forth. What feelings (physical, emotional, or psychological) come up? Are there people in your life that feel like this?
(Ha) As the antagonists continue pushing, develop and/or act the feeling.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) Till climax. Near the end, the antagonists disperse or give up. How does it feel to walk now without anybody pushing against you? Perform this.
Exercise 2: Vapor
This requires you to remember the feeling of Exercise 1.
This exercise exemplifies an age gradient.
(Jo) At one side of the room, begin in a fetal position as if the head and the tail were desired to be together. There is nowhere to go, nowhere to be.
(Ha) Something extraordinarily subtle provokes a break from this position into that of a newborn baby on its belly. Gradually begin crawling on the belly. Crawl till you reach a walking baby followed by walking toddler, teenager, adult, and old age. Upon old age the head is attracted to the tail.
8. Disco Nightmare
This disco series is to be executed with actual disco/house music.
Exercise 1: Body Shell
(Jo) You are at a disco when you suddenly feel an invisible encasing around every surface of the body (even the fingers). The space is only one centimeter.
(Ha) You hear the music and still want to dance. You want to dance just like everybody else, but you do so only with the one centimeter of space surrounding the body. Various feelings may come up despite dancing like a club-goer, e.g. boredom, frustration, etc.
(Kyu/New Jo) Whatever comes up reaches its climax. Break out of the shell and dance the new feeling of no longer being in the shell.
Exercise 2: Behind World
(Ha) The participants trailing behind feel envy because they want to dance, but cannot. Perhaps the dance takes place imaginatively, but the only movement that can be physically executed is trailing behind like a ghost or ash body.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) Feel the climax of the despair. Dance the acceptance of the situation.
Exercise 3: Bullies
(Jo) The participant is stuck in a frozen ash or ghost body due somehow to some lively club-goer bullies who dance around you in a show-off or mocking fashion. They show you that you are as good as dead, and that yet they could not be more alive and well.
(Ha) Though you cannot move, feelings of anger and resentment surface. How dare they take away your ability to live and dance. You wish they would leave, but they continue mocking. The dancing bullies get more and more intense.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) The bullies have exhausted their fun with you and go away to another dance party. You are alone now and wish to dance, but alas you cannot. Resonate with the feeling.
Exercise 4: Benzo Disco
After so much butoh school, the participants wish to go out for a night of disco partying for a change, so they locate a disco. To spice the night up even more, they find drugs, thinking they are uppers or psychedelics, but instead, they unknowingly consume Benzodiazepine.
(Jo) They in result find themselves very sleepy, but wish for that not to spoil the fun, so they dance at the disco while in a very sleepy state.
(Ha) More and more the Benzodiazepine kicks in, and they get more and more sleepy.
9. Guardians of the Kingdom
The following are mindfulness exercises that can also be viewed also as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) metaphors for coping with difficult experiences.
Exercise 1: Treasure Monsters
(Jo) At one side of the space during ash walk, the participant sees a majestic kingdom full of innumerable treasures. The participant begins walking toward it. Meanwhile, there are monsters awaiting in front of the kingdom like gargoyles.
(Ha) By the middle of the journey, however, monsters appear and approach nearer every time the ash walker comes forward. The ash walker ignores this and continues, but the monsters keep approaching. They keep approaching till they are in the personal space. The ash walker, finding this unbearable, turns back around and discover the monsters gradually dispersing. Though this leaves temporary relief, the idea of the magical kingdom returns. Now the ash walker finds it unbearable to ignore the kingdom, so he/she/they turns back around for a second round.
Again, the monsters approach with every forward step. Despite, the ash walker keep going. He/she/they keep going even though the monsters intrude the personal space. They even take their intensity to the maximum. The ash walker begin noticing that they can actually do no physical harm, that it is all commotion and drama. So the ash walk continues forward.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) The majestic kingdom is reached. Here, the participant breaks out of Ash Walk and resonates with success despite the obstacles.
Exercise 2: They Will Laugh at You
This is a similar exercise, except the monsters are now drunkards that disapprove of the protagonist’s choice. They laugh to the point of obscenity with every forward step. Instead of the palace on the other side, the protagonist sees their true self. It is vital for the victim to keep a straight face. Do not break character.
10. Cthulhu Under Lake Michigan
(Jo) After discovering multiple shadows, the participant dances them until they feel extraordinarily heavy or ill.
(Ha) Then the participant suddenly plunges into a body of water. He/she/they finds themselves in the middle of a very stormy Lake Michigan and descends down toward the bottom for a great while. Eventually, the participant reaches the bottom where another participant takes the form of Cthulhu. Cthulhu is extraordinarily hungry. If the protagonist wants to come out of this alive, he/she/they have to feed Cthulhu all the physical, emotional, and psychological baggage. These are delicacies to Cthulhu. Cthulhu dances a barbaric consumption of the baggage.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) Hence, under the lake, the protagonist dances the release of all those things that weigh him/her/them down. As the protagonist does this, he/she/they find themselves becoming lighter, and hence are able to ascend till they reach the top.
At the top, a beautiful ship awaits. The storm has passed and there is sunshine creeping from the clouds. Dance the new character.
11. Blowing a Gasket
(Jo) In a statue or frozen state, the participant feels an inescapable edge or pressure.
(Ha) Suddenly, the participant jumps into a complete temper tantrum or loss of control. This is their personal freak out. The voice channel is open too.
12. Shame On You
(Jo) From an erect position, the participant slowly bows his/her/their head down in shame. Another participant stands in front gazing with eyes of judgement.
(Ha) From one end of the room to the other and with head remaining in shame, the participant walks forward toward the other end of the space. The accused does not want to go on but must do so. The accuser in front walks backwards while pointing and embodying that of extreme or exaggerated accuser or judge. By the time both the participants reach the end of the room, the accuser leaves the space, but the person in shame freezes in the shame posture for some time.
13. Zen Void Fill
This exercise works best when the participants have never done the exercise.
(Jo) The group is to be gathered into a circle. Then give no further instruction for five or ten minutes. People might feel an awkward space and begin fidgeting or moving out of boredom or habit.
(Ha) When the five or ten minutes are over, everybody is told that the movements they unknowingly generated will be their movement research. Utilizing the whole space, they research various aspects of the specific movements.
14. Object Frenzy
Just about anything can become a prop in butoh. With the group, take any and whatever items are available and place them into the performing space. The participants are to resonate with these objects and form subbody and cobody Jo-Ha-Kyus.
15. Fifth Dimensional Being
(Jo) The participant is in statue or frozen state, and the fifth dimensional world begins opening up. These are the personal parallel worlds of possibilities.
(Ha) While remaining in statue, the participant see the very many selves flooding the space, some sitting, some dancing, and/or others engaged in various cobodies. Many selves are seen till it is as crowded as a Tokyo subway train.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) The participant awakens from the statue while seeing all the various parallel personalities. Then he/she/they imagines all of these like clothes or gloves that can be fit right into at will. He/she/they fit themselves into the pre-formed parallel personalities. From here, the participant engages in jumping wild.
16. Sleep Paralysis Victim
Exercise 1: Frozen
(Jo) One participant lies on his/her/their back in frozen state and with eyes open. The victim wants to move, but is unable to do so.
(Ha) As the victim continues trying to move, one or more participants acting as demons approach to tantalize. The intensity grows and grows to the point of being absolutely intolerable.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) They are so intolerable that the victim decides to surrender his/her/their entire being. Suddenly, the victim awakens in shakes or convulsions. Immediately, the demons disperse. The protagonist sighs the most soothing sigh of relief. He/she/they then begin to gradually wake up. The protagonist is grateful for having control of the body again.
Exercise 2: Sleep Walk
(Jo) One participant ash walks toward the end of the room. They want to move normally, but can only move in ash walk.
(Ha) The participant physically pulls from the ash walk in whatever direction but it is extraordinarily difficult. The victim feels as if he/she/they are connected to a heavy band. The further they come out from the ash walk, the more resistance there is, and the force gets so strong that the victim is pulled right back into ash walk. This happens till the victim reaches the end of the space.
The participant(s) research the answer to the question, where is my origin?
(Jo) With the origin found, the participant(s) begin transitioning from this world to the origin world.
(Ha) What happens in the origin world?
18. Flower Walk
(Jo) In ash body, the participant holds a flower (or weed) in the hand, physical or imaginary. All the focus is on the flower till the flower alone begins to move the participant.
(Ha) The participant moves across the room in ash walk. The participant is not moving the flower. The flower is moving the participant. The flower is even holding the participant.
19. Waterfall Solace
The participant is to brainstorm or feelstorm a recent negative emotion, especially that of resentment, anger, shame, or guilt.
(Jo) The shadow the participant(s) have been forming have turned them to stone. They are a stone body. Feel this heavy physical, emotional, and psychological state.
(Ha) The participant begins the stone walk toward the end of the space. It is very difficult to walk, but he/she/they do anyway. Midway, however, the participant feels something wet forming on the stone body. A waterfall begins to form.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) The waterfall completely forms. The embodied heaviness begins to ease. Though there is stone underneath the waterfall, the participant is now also the water that knows when to drop what is not needed. The participant feels the prior rough edges of the stone body now smoothed out. Then the participant feels the water eroding the body entirely until he/she/they are a smooth pebble.
The participant is suddenly back in the world with a tender body, and he/she/they are holding the pebble in the hand. This pebble is now precious, a power object.
20. Birth Parents
Exercise 1: Mother’s Shadows
(Jo) The participant begins by embodying the biological or adopted mother. She/he/they are to feel her whole being.
(Ha) Though everybody has both light and shadow, the focus here is on the shadow. The participant develops their mother’s shadow or weakness at every angle.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) The shadow is taken to the point of exhaustion. Any more now is redundant like beating a dead horse with a stick. There is no more room for interest in her shadow. The only thing left is light. Dance your mother’s light.
Note: Same exercise can be done but with father.
Exercise 2: Abandoned By Mother
(Jo) One participant takes on the role of a mother and holds her standing son/daughter while travelling toward the center of the space. Gradually the mother lets go and leaves a vulnerable and naked-feeling child.
(Ha) The child enters into this feeling of loneliness and feeling unloved. The child even looks pathetic and weak in the joints.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) Take the abandonment feeling to its climax. Give up. Mother returns, but either as the mother within or the mother as nature. The child feels cherished and never truly abandoned.
Exercise 3: Things Mother Needs to Know
This exercise is based out of the empty chair exercise from Gestalt psychology.
(Jo) One participant is the mother sitting in statue. The other participant resonates till he/she/they feels this statue as his/her/their mother.
(Ha) Through movement, tell mother something you always needed to tell her but never could.
21. Negativity Lens
This exercise brings to the surface the cognitive distortion of minimizing and discounting the positive from Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
(Jo) One participant begins in ash body inside a large circle of slow walking participants. They slow walk with a gift toward the center participant. The gift will be placed on the floor next to the center participant. There is another participant, however, a provocateur, and he/she/they are out on the side or just outside the window looking in.
(Ha) Despite all the gifts coming to the center participant, he/she/they are fixated on the provocateur who gradually increases intensity. The center participant embodies anger, which increases with the prevaricator’s actions.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) The center participant embodies so much anger, he/she/they reaches a threshold and freezes in space. The provocateur gets bored and leaves the space. The center participant then breaks out into shakes or convulsions that transition into sways and gentle breath.
22. Winner/Loser for Life
This exercise brings to the surface the cognitive distortions of catastrophizing, labeling, and/or black-and-white thinking from Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
(Jo) Two performers sit in front of each other with a playing card front side down. In ultra slow motion, they turn the cards over to expose a winner and a loser. A variation can be done with dice.
(Ha) The winner embodies complete success in all of life, past, present, and future, while the loser embodies complete failure in all of life, past, present, and future. Both gradually take their embodiments further.
23. Automatic Saboteur
These exercises bring to the surface the cognitive distortions of mind reading and/or personalization from Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
Exercise 1: Vicious Ash Body
(Jo) One participant stands in ash body and remains there for the remainder of the exercise. A second participant (the victim) approaches and embodies a strange sense of fear from the ash body participant.
(Ha) The victim feels danger out of the motionless ash body participant even though it is the victim that keeps approaching. Now the victim embodies being physically, emotionally, and psychologically attacked.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) The victim performs this complete attack to the point of collapsing on the floor in a pool of blood. Depersonalization begins as the body freezes on the floor. The ash body participant wakes up and leaves the space. The victim begins shakes and convulsions followed by gentle breath and sway.
Exercise 2: Slow Zombie
This is the same concept except the ash body is a very slow and stupid zombie. The victim is also hysterical and gets too close and so gets bitten. The resulting Kyu is the victim finally turning into a zombie.
24. Zen Behind World
(Jo) One participant ash walks toward the other side of the space as various hostile monsters trail behind at a distance. There is a beautiful sunrise in front of the ash walker.
(Ha) The closer the ash walker gets to the other side, the closer the monsters trail behind. They even grow more intense, yet the ash walker is only focused on the the beauty of the sunrise.
25. Alchemist of Yes Mountain
Life is composed of both medicine and poison. Oftentimes, it is a matter of dose. One person’s medicine is another’s poison. A gift to one person may be a Trojan horse to another. The alchemist navigates through both medicines and poisons and is never harmed. The alchemist accepts all gifts even if they are poisons because he or she knows how to work with the gifts. The alchemist is also grateful for all gifts. Whether or not the alchemist can transform a poison gift into medicine, the alchemist accepts the gift. This does not mean the gift (especially poison) is consumed. A gift may be given back as a gift to something or someone else who may be able to use it as medicine.Dance your Alchemist of Yes Mountain. Embody gratitude, acceptance, taking, and giving. Feel the open palm of both acceptance and power.
(Jo) Identify the ambiguous something that you do not know is medicine or poison.
(Ha) Accept the gift whether it is perceived as medicine or poison. If poison, maybe you have to let it go. If medicine, feel it as a medicine.
26. Butoh Freeze Tag
This game is made up of beasts and victims and requires at least four participants. Make sure to embody beast or victim. The beasts will try to touch as many victims as possible. Any victim who is touched freezes. Other victims, however, can unfreeze frozen victims.
(Jo) There is no time to think. Action takes place automatically (either for the beast or for the victim). The flight response of the victim is triggered.
(Ha) Beasts or victims enact their roles in gradual intensity, going towards most intense (trying the hardest). If a beast touches a victim, the victim go into a freeze response. The victim feels that the beast might eat him/her/them at any moment.
27. Demon Master
Exercise 1: Candyman of Demons
(Jo) One participant (the candyman) begins in statue in front of a gang of demons.
(Ha) The demons gradually approach, increasing intensity in provocation and noise. All the while, the candyman begins moving the hand which is full of candy. Immediately, the demons notice and go from provocation to curiosity and anticipation like a dog to a treat. The candyman approaches slowly and lays the candy on the floor as the demons crowd with excitement. The candyman leaves the candy and steps away slowly.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) The demons go wild over the candy and some even fight over it. The candyman returns to statue statue which gives power. The demons become allies and adorn the candyman.
Exercise 2: Princess of Demons
(Jo) The princess begins with an immobile ash body inside a circle of demons approaching the center.
(Ha) The demons approach with increasing intensity. Eventually they have invaded the princess’s personal space. Gradually, the princess breaks out of ash body and transforms into a demon herself. The surrounding demons are taken off guard and settle down their intensity in order to see what ensues. The princess’s demonic intensity gradually grows beyond anything they could ever imagine.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) Climax is reached. The princess gradually transforms back into a princess and slowly beyond walks in any direction she pleases. The surrounding demons take on her behind world but as allies. They are now her personal legion of demons.
Exercise 3: Beast Entertainer
(Jo) One or more beasts approach to attack or eat the victim.
(Ha) The victim then does something entertaining (dance or type of movement) to distract the demon. The demon may either immediately get distracted or gradually come out of beast mode, but the beast also gets quickly bored of the distraction and continues approaching to attack, so new things entertainments have to be generated.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) The victim escapes and the beast has been entertained enough to turn into a happy beast.
28. Slain In The Spirit
(Jo) One participant is a slow moving pastor in white eye possessed by the spirit. One or more other participants sway before him/her/them in absolute trance.
(Ha) The pastor approaches in a slow walk. With gesture and voice, the pastor suddenly shocks one of the participants, provoking the participant to collapse and remain in complete prostration and surrender. If there are any other participants, the pastor goes down the line and repeats the slaying in the spirit.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) Everyone is in a state of collapse. The pastor leaves the space and the participants awaken reborn.
29. Discarded Sheet of Paper
(Jo) One participant goes into the qualia of a sheet of paper and walks across the space. He/she/they feels the lightness, flatness, and any subtle outside forces such as air current.
(Ha) Is the participant being written on or being held by someone’s hand? Gradually, the participant develops what is happening till someone decides to crumble up the participant and discard him/her/them.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) The participant becomes a balled up sheet of paper. They are to feel discarded. Now the participant is somewhere else. They are no longer the balled up sheet of paper, but are inside the balled up sheet of paper. The participant gets out of the balled up sheet of paper and dances the new character.
30. Happy Quicksand Victim
(Jo) The participant steps in quicksand and is very happy about it. He/she/they have always wanted to be overtaken by quicksand since childhood.
(Ha) Gradually, the quicksand overtakes the participant, and the lower the participant goes, the happier the participant gets.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) The participant is now completely engulfed and transitions into a new world between life and death. Where is this new world?
31. Ego Feast
(Jo) One participant enters into an ego pose around a circle of fans.
(Ha) In this large circle, the fans sway in place in trance and gradually approach the egomaniac. Midway, the fans transform into hungry beasts. They get more and more hungry and depraved the closer they get to the egomaniac. Eventually, they reach the center and begin eating the egomaniac, but he/she/they do not care. This egomaniac is actually “too good” for pain so he/she/they remains in the pose, even though the ravaged fans are bringing him/her/them down to the ground.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) By the time the egomaniac is on the ground, he/she has already died, but the fans continue eating like vultures. The dead egomaniac wakes up as another ravaging beast.
32. Empathy Victim
This exercise bring to the surface the cognitive distortion of control fallacy from Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
At least three participants are needed for this exercise. One participant is motionless in ash body while another is a perpetrator, and another an empathy victim.
(Jo) In various ways, the perpetrator attacks the ash body participant even though the ash body participant neither moves nor is affected. Somewhere in the vicinity, the empathy victim feels every single attack given to the ash body participant, and embodies every detail.
(Ha) The attacks gradually culminate.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) The empathy victim is so brutalised, he/she/they dies. The ash body participant then wakes up and walks away. The empathy victim gradually rises and relocates to the ash body participant’s prior place.
33. You Better Not Spill One Drop
This exercise brings to the surface the cognitive distortion of blaming from Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
(Jo) While in ash body, one participant carries a glass of water full to the rim. Another one or two participants invade the ash walker’s personal space and await hypervigilantly for any spill. If the ash walker spills even one drop, the hypervigilantes turn into ferocious beasts. But they also subside in order to continue awaiting for another accident.
(Ha) The walk goes on and increases in intensity. The more the ash walker spills, the more angry the hypervigilantes get. If, however, the ash walker is so talented as to not spill a drop, the hypervigilantes get bored and secretly tap the ash walker so that he or she has an accident, which will of course be followed by explosions of beastly anger by the hypervigilantes themselves. By the time the ash walker reaches the end, he/she/they has had enough.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) He/she/they feels the peak of frustration. Gradually, the ash walker tips the glass, spilling all of the water. The beasts are furious. Then the ash walker drops the glass. The beasts cannot believe it. The ash walker breaks out in shakes or convulsions, which frightens the beasts. The former ash walker now embodies a water body, wild and free.
34. Krump Butoh
(Jo) Two characters face each other in statue at the center of a circle of frenzied onlookers. The two in the center are adversaries and decide to have a butoh off. Choose a time limit.
(Ha) One at a time, the butoh krumpers release their inner hostile beast. The two try to outdo each other with escalating viciousness and cruelty.
35. Wrecking Ball
This is a variation of Dmitry Datskov’s Wrecking Ball exercise.
(Jo) 1. The participant gradually pulls a chain out of the heart center which dangles far beneath the feet. At the end of the chain forms a wrecking ball. Though this chain is connected to the heart center, it can pass right through the legs or body parts.
(Ha) 2. The participant begins the most subtle lateral swing. Gradually, the lateral swing increases to the point of creating half circles and eventually full circles. He/she/they feel the varying pressures of the heart center. The participant lets the body compensate for the weight placed upon it. Then the half circles return followed by subtle swings till the wrecking ball is just dangling.
3. The participant jumps or jolts up with the body and feel the heavy pull.
4. Now the participant subtly begins with anterior/posterior swings (front and back) then eventually returns back to the dangle. Remember, that the chain can go right through the body. The pull is heavy.
5. The participant jumps or jolts up with the body and feels the heavy pull.
6. Now the participant begins forming small circles beneath. The circles increase till the wrecking ball noticeably revolves around the body and is completely horizontal. The pull is felt and the body compensates for the weight placed on it. Eventually the ball settles back down.
7. The participant jumps or jolts up with the body and feel the heavy pull.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) 8. The chain is pulled back into the heart center till the wrecking ball is reached. The wrecking ball is taken into the arms and held in position for some time like a hug. The participant will then eventually feel the wrecking ball shrinking. The wrecking ball shrinks enough to be collected back into the heart center, which increases the heart’s integrity.
9. The participant dance the voice of the new heart center.
36. Blind Beast’s Bluff
This is the butoh version of the blind man’s bluff game.
(Jo) The game begins with one blindfolded beast in a freeze response. The beast shakes or convulses out of the freeze response and tries tagging the other beasts around who are either trying to avoid the blindfolded beast or are tantalising him/her/them.
(Ha) Intensity develops.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) Climax is reached. Whoever is tagged goes into a freeze response and will be the new blindfolded beast.
37. Flopping Imbecile
Exercise 1: Flopping Imbecile Competition
The following exercise is one of the hybrid clown/bouffon.
(Jo) Two characters face each other in statue at the center of a circle of frenzied onlookers. The two in the center are adversaries and decide to compete for who has the most stupid and disastrous falls or flops.
(Ha) One at a time, the falling imbeciles attempt to out-pathetic each other into increasing intensity.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) The depravity reaches its climax. The time limit is reached and the frenzied onlookers decide the winner by falling onto them like deranged good-for-nothings.
Exercise 2: My Flop, Your Fault
This exercise brings to the surface the cognitive distortion self-serving bias from Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
(Jo) One character is in statue or ash body as another character flops/falls.
(Ha) Each time the character flops, he/she/they automatically blames the ash body in some way by either looking back in disappointment, anger and/or disbelief. Also see gesture. Each flop increases this certitude that one has done nothing wrong or made no mistake at all.
38. Immovable Force vs. Unstoppable Object
This is a paradox exercise.
(Jo) One participant embodies an immovable force while another an unstoppable object.
(Ha) The immovable force stands in statue as the unstoppable object slow walks toward the immovable force.
39. Star Holder
(Jo) One participant ash walks while holding an object near the core (or lower Dan Tien). The object has immense power, as much power as a star, and the ash walker knows this, yet is able to withstand the power without breaking the ash walk.
(Ha) Another participant sees this and steals the object because he/she/they lust for power. This thief tunes into the power qualia and lets the power take control. The power possesses this thief to the point of a frenzy. Having been ravaged, the thief tries to return the object with every bit of effort he/she/they have left. It is very difficult, but the object finally gets returned to its rightful owner.
40. God Paradox
This is a paradox exercise.
(Jo) The participant turns into a solipsist and is all-powerful. He/she/they becomes God.
(Ha) The participant can lift anything, yet makes a mountain so heavy, he/she/they cannot lift. Yet, the participant can lift anything, even what he/she/they cannot lift.
41. The Passion of Christ
(Jo) One participant takes on a collapsed or weak walk while holding up an imagined large cross.
(Ha) Upon reaching the end of the space, the participant takes the cross, embeds it into the ground and climb onto it. All of this is very difficult. Eventually, the participant is hung on the cross. Heart center is open the entire time. One or more participants then degrades and humiliates Christ on the cross as if he weren’t having a terrible time already. Heart center is still open.
42. That’s Not Fair
This exercise brings to the surface the cognitive distortion called the fallacy of fairness from Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
(Jo) One row of participants are in statue or ash body while having their hands open. Then along comes either the teacher or another participant that will give them all one piece of candy minus one person. What does this make the empty-handed participant feel?
(Ha) Everybody except for the one participant who did not receive the candy slowly disperse their own way, leaving the empty handed participant engaging in a walk with the open hand. This feeling of being left out or not being treated well increases in intensity.
43. Blue Flower
This is a psychodrama about depression, one of the major psychiatric complaints.
(Jo) The participant begins from one side of the room and feels the feeling of deep sadness. They take on a droopy or collapsed qualia.
(Ha) As the participant walks, the guide gradually speaks out the following statements that can be broken down into Aaron Beck’s Triad Model of irrational beliefs about: (1) the self; (2) the world; (3) the future. The model stems from Cognitive Restructuring Therapy, a form of Cognitive Behavior Therapy.¹
1. You are a sad human being. (An irrational belief of the self.)
2. Everything is hopeless. (An irrational belief of the world.)
3. Nothing will ever go right. (An irrational belief of the future.)
4. You are useless. (An irrational belief of the self.)
With every line, the body collapses or droops more than before, till by the time the last (or 4th) line is recited, the participant is one lump of feces on the ground.
44. Phobia & Totem
Exercise 1: Phobia Ash Walk
This is a psychodrama about phobias, one of the major psychiatric complaints.
First, the participant(s) are to take 5 to 10 minutes to explore any phobia or irrational fear they have. Then, everybody gets into pairs and one person tells the other person their phobia, whether it’s fear of spiders, closed spaces, or fear of germs. Any fear.
(Jo) One participant ash walks while another participant approaches who represents (and acts out) the ash walker’s phobia. It may be that it’s easier to act out something like an animal, but will take more creatively to act out something like open spaces or needles. This is the challenge for the perpetrating participant, to resonate with the qualia given to them.
(Ha) As the ash walker reaches the other side, the embodied phobia participant gradually intensifies the fear. Phobias are known to be overblown, so the perpetrator is to also amp up the level toward the max.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) Max intensity is reached. Because of the ash walker’s continued ash walk representing resilience despite the circumstances, the perpetrator begins transforming into a pet instead of an attacker. The ash walker can now move in different directions, and the pet will now be a loyal protector, totem, and source of self-power.
Exercise 2: Fearless Mirror
The following is based off of Albert Bandura’s modelling technique from Social Learning Therapy.² Modelling involves a change in behavior by simply imitating. The activity calls for 4 participants.
1. 5 or 10 minutes are taken to search for a personal phobia.
2. Two participants are active (A and B) while the two others (C and D) mirror them.
3. Participant C (The Phobic) has a phobia that will be embodied by participant B (Scary Thing).
4. Participant A (The Model) has no problem with Scary Thing.
5. Pariticipant D (Scary Thing Mirror) merely mirrors Scary Thing.
(Jo) The Phobic and Scary Thing Mirror have to mirror the The Model’s interaction with Scary Thing even though The Phobic would not him/her/themselves behave in such a manner due to irrational fear.
(Ha) No worries. The focus is on copying. The Phobic only has to mirror and leave all the responsibility on The Model. The Model plays/interacts with Scary Thing for a while.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) The Model and Scary Thing leave the scene. The two participants left will now shift from passive participants to active as if the training wheels have been taken off. What interaction will happen now?
45. Sigil Butoh
Sigils are associated with magick, and magick is defined as, “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.”³ Because ritual is heavily associated with both movement and psyche, it can be incorporated into butoh.
A sigil is a symbolic representation of an intention or desire. Because sigils are shapes, and shapes can be embodied, then sigils can be taken into the movement world. The symbol will speak directly to the subbody and can sometimes be like an encryption if we happen to forget the original intention.
There are many ways to craft a sigil, but for the purposes of this manual, we are going to with a more free-form of sigil creation. The steps to this sigil creation are as follows.
(Jo) 1. Be in a space that allows for creation, and in this space generate your intention into one or more words or a short phrases, such as “stop judging others.”
(Ha) 2. Write this word, words, or statement on a piece of paper and optional to cross out any repeated letters.
3. The remaining letters will be mixed together in whichever way you feel best (let your creativity run wild). See Figure 12.2.
4. Remix the symbol if you wish to make it an easier shape to embody or dance. See Figure 12.3. See next section for what to do next.
Now that we have created a new symbol, we must do something with it. We must activate it. There are many ways to activate a sigil, but we are going to activate the symbol with movement. Essentially, we are going to resonate with the shape in whichever way we can. You can walk the sigil’s path or draw it with any body part within and outside.
To take the charging to the next level, we work intensity into the sigil. What situation will bring on intensity? Here are some possibilities:
1. Dance the sigil along a scary height or while being incredibly uncomfortable.
2. Utilize breath of fire breathing while moving the shape.
3. Utilize the Stop! Sigil Vaporizing exercise.
4. Loop any movement for a very long time until it loses all meaning (like how a word loses meaning when it is repeated over and over for too long). As soon as the movement is robbed of meaning, switch to the sigil movement.
5. Hold any position for a long time until it gets unbearable or until there is muscular failure. Once you reach it, immediately switch to the sigil movement whether it is in the 3d world or vaporized.
(Kyu/Kyu to New Jo) Whatever you do, take it to a climax. When we are finished with dancing the sigil, we have an option of keeping the sigil or discarding it. Burning the sigil is a popular move.
Important: Once the sigil work has been done, don’t think much of it again. Even try to forget anything even happened so as to avoid the lust of result.