Kieru no Kankaku

Kieru no Kankaku is indeed as elusive as the name implies. I feel at this point in time that the attitude required in order to obtain this feeling of disappearing is one of being diligent and taking notice of the kihon of the kihon, the basics that form the basics. Therefore, the following blog will look at the concept of Kieru no Kankaku from a fundamental taijutsu point of view. If we consider the traits of the flight or fight responce and it’s effects on the individual, we can see the application of deception and kyojutsu from a physiological point of view. In a life and death scenario, it has been researched that particular body functions change to aid in better or more desicive function. For example: the vision of the eyes can change. Our senses sharpen, pupils dilate (open out) so we can see more clearly, even in the darkness. Our hairs stand on end, making us more sensitive to our environment. At many times people experience tunnel vision. There is always an omote and ura to life. We can then appreciate that the involuntary responce instinctualy turned on by the body for self preservation ( tunnel vision )can also be something manipulatable by the opponent. The simple teaching of moving ” off line ” or ” 45 degrees ” for example, can totally remove oneself from the sight of an attacker experiencing tunnel vision. This fundamental movement is possibly one way to observe in a raw and pragmatic manner the concept of Kieru no Kankaku. This is in turn should remind us the importance of correct basics. In my eyes, the principles of Taijutsu ( distance, timing, and angles ) should not be catergorised as seperate skills, but as a unified and constantly changing entity in both the physical and spiritual realm that exists to sustain life. These principles are devised to ultimately place us in life preserving positions to avoid or deal with adversity and move more freely in life. This is what Kurai Dori means to me. When the principles are mastered, we begin the move freely in the kukan. Only at this stage can we truly “play” in our training. Within the kukan ( life space ) that we create or is given by the opponent, we move with kamae of the heart and feel the “echo” from our adversary or environment. From a position not understood or percieved by the opponent ( mie nai no tokoro ) as created by the principles of Taijutsu , we have time to respond or remove ourselves from danger before it happens. Maybe this can be related to the concept Kieru no Kankaku aswell. Please don’t misinterpret my words as words that I understand. I am but putting pen to paper in a hope that it will help me and maybe others step a little further along the true path of budo. Please also take to heart that contradictions will inevitably occur with the accumulation of knowledge through life experience and the constant teachings of my many teachers in life and budo. The Hara

Soke uses his fingers in such a manner on the opponent that ones life is forgotten. I have alongside many other buyu experienced the devil’s claws of Soke. The pressure on ones body is intense and your ability to maintain equilibrium and sense of ones environment is diminished to a tunnel of darkness. Soke recently expressed that this feeling was caused by ”Air pressure” or the “pressure of space”. As the theme of the year is KU, Soke holds us down with the pressure of the void. After experiencing this either physicaly or visually, we are asked to go and experiment for ourselves. Many of us have but produced a feable attempt to create the same intensity demonstrated by Soke. For those who have studied Oriental therapies such as Shiatsu or Seitai, we can possibly use these modalities to better understand the penetrating pressure that Soke demonstrates so easily. In Shiatsu, the student practises tonification of the kyo areas of the body using the thumbs and four fingers. The proper usage of the digits on each hand is of the upmost importance when administering Shiatsu. The ability to penetrate deeply is from the concentrated focus of energy from your hara. From this point, it is important to become rooted to the kyo, ( weak point ). From your hara with your extremities relaxed, you direct ones ki through the tsubo into the recipients body. In this case, the practitioner is attempting to deliver energy to the recipients weakened areas by providing concentrated and energised support. In the case of budo and the art of kyushojutsu or koshijutsu, we can see the deliverence of ki is of a martial sense and not that of a soothing attempt at restoring an individuals depleted essence. The kyusho are in fact Tsubo, yet the energy directed is delivered with debilitating intention. The art of “sedation” in a budo sense is slightly different isn’t it, lol.

The essence of approach is indeed similar in my eyes. The penetrating power of the fingers in Shiatsu comes not from the digits and wrists alone, but from the hara and the elbows. This is similar to budo isn’t it. I have once heard Soke mention that “ Budo is about the elbows “ and that the mark of an accomplished budoka is his skillfull use of elbows. Rikyu, the founder of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, also once said ” Don’t shake your tea wisk with your fingertips, but with your elbow. “ From those who have experienced Sokes Devilish digits on their faces,hands and fingers, it is a feeling of not being pinned or attacked by the finger/s alone, but by something greater, something far stronger, and deeply rooted. It has been said that masters of kenjutsu hold their swords with their hara, yet beginners and amateurs hold their swords with tensed fingers and arms. I feel we can relate this to the blog quite well. An interesting point Soke made in regard to Fudoushin was that the kanji for Fu is the same as the Fu in Fuji san. The point was that even though fudoushin refers to the “immovable spirirt/heart”, we still are very much alive and able to move freely. This is the same as Mount Fuji. We can see the symmetrical grace and it’s solid presence. However, we must remember that it is a volcano. Fuji san is alive and moving and able to change it’s shape very quickly. I feel that Sokes fingers are strengthened by his hara that permeates Fudoushin.

“The mind and heart are but two parts of the sanshin. The third part is the hara.” Hatsumi Soke. As a result, it may be wise for us to concenrate on developing our hara. From there our body and spirit will strengthen from the inside to out, all the way to our fingertips. Bufu Ikkan.

Ukeship

” Every moment is a new moment.” Take this philosophy with you into training. As an uke, we have to deliver convincing attacking movements for our tori. To constantly do this, we have to treat the beginning of each technique as a new beginning, regardless if we have been repeating it hundreds of times! What is necessary, is to commence each new practice as if it was the first time we had practised it. In this way, we are learning to clear our intent and understand how to enter the “now“. If we are thinking about the past or future, then we are not fully capable of entering the moment to ensure our training partner recieves the fullest conviction of our whole body. Training is not about just delivering effective movements, but more importantly, carrying with each change the spirit to give it real substance. I hope you can understand what I’m saying here. Soke often states that we should grasp the heart of a three year old child. This is one aspect of Sanshin. In this way, we learn to play and be moved by each new moment without grasping onto the past or future. In this way, we can “play” in and with every moment. Imagination is also extremely important here.

To be able to understand why we train the way we do, is extremely important. There are many that feel that the Bujinkan manner of keiko is unrealistic. If people were actually mature and open in their mind, they wouldn’t be saying these things. Safety is crucial. We learn to move in order to protect ourselves. If we do not, then we will be injured and our training life will be reduced. Is this not common sense? Those that wish the person to ”really do” the technique on them have something wrong with them. I once had a person ask me to put a wrist lock as hard as I could on them. I tried to reason with them, but they insisted that they wanted to feel if they could actually avoid it. It is very important to understand the words you speak and to take full responsibility for everything. Soke often warns everyone that you may get injured or killed in the dojo, and that if they can’t accept that, they should leave! Anyway, the persons wrist was lucky to not have serious injury as they dropped to the floor in pain. ” In a real fight, you will be hit and you must not be shocked by contact. Being hit lets you know you did something wrong and need to work on it until you get it right. Simply practise properly.” Nagato Sensei. Being uke requires you to understand the body and your natural responces or reactions to particular situations,strikes,hits,etc. How can you understand these things? The only way is from strong training. This is reiterated by the Shihan and Soke. Those that just try and perform the seemingly effortless movements of the Shitenno and Soke without knowing this important point are in a state of delusion. You have to know how pain manipulates your body, mind and spirit. If you do not “feel” this over a length of time, you will not understand the true potential of the techniques you attempt to perform on your partners.

The most important aspect of this point is this: Through experiencing the pain, or actual contact from strikes etc, you come to understand how your body and mind/spirit naturally responds. Therefore, in future training scenarios, you are able to respond naturally in a less vigorous training setting to the same attacks. Ultimately to assist in realistic , but safe training. ” First know yourself, then your enemy.” Sun Tsu.

Unfortunately, there are some uke that take being uke to the extreme. They fly around too easily, and land with a gasp. They treat it more like a show, rather than budo. Some uke already have made their mind up to take ukemi before tori has even committed to a waza/henka. They are training in a different space. This is dangerous in reality. This is also dangerous in training. This is not being a real uke. This is being a performer. Just like people who clap after a class has finished at the dojo, they have forgotten the concept and truth behind the budo in which they think they study. ” There are Shidoshi out there that have never been hit. Yet they are professing to be teaching Budo.” Nagato Sensei. Unfortunately, people often jump to this type of training before the body knows how to move. This therefore breeds disbelievers, or people that try to “hold their ground” while a technique is being practised on them. This is a sickness from pure lack of training, and / or ignorance to the way of training. I’d like to also state here that Soke recently mentioned the cultural learning concept of Shu Ha Ri. This may have some significance to this current post aswell. Nagato Sensei once said. ” If you are training correctly, then you are actually doing randori.” Training is only going to be realistic if both the uke and tori have a working knowledge of the truth of training and the necessary mind set in order to produce the “feeling” of reality when practising. There is much responsibility for both the uke and tori. It’s about ” give and take or give and return.” It’s about training correctly right from the beginning!

“ Many people look at my training and say. ” that hurts.” Then when they train iwht me , they feel that it hurts and don’t want to come back. It is very important to get used to getting hit and learning to deal with it. Otherwise, how could you survive in a real fight.” Nagato Sensei Being an uke is about learning the “feeling” of Bujinkan Budo. You will sense the good and the bad teachers. This is important. Soke asks us to learn to discern the good from the bad and train with the good. This is something we have to learn ourselves. Unfortunately, there are many students out there ( even in Japan ) that have not been able to see the truth of some teachers. They therefore are treading further from the true path without even realising it. The “feeling” you recieve from your teacher depends entirely upon how open you are or, how empty your cup is. If your body understands the taijutsu, then your mind should ultimately be free from any thoughts. Therefore, being an uke is just like the godan test( thank you Lance ). If you enter the state of Mushin ( no mind ) , and your teacher is moving from the same inner peace, then the connection between you both has developed to a larger capacity. The projection of intent is more acutely felt and utlisied. Training

moves into a different space. From a sense of bushin no wa, uke and tori trip into the kukan and recieve a greater chance to experience the gokui of budo.

This capacity requires both uke and tori to develop their Sainou and Tamashii. They can increase their capacity to understand Budo through harmonising their efforts, rather than fighting against one another. Soke often states that fighting is not what we do. Can you gain a better appreciation of his words now? It is gaining the ability to harmonise with the opponent that enables us to defeat them him/them without fighting. This is only possible from obtaining shin gi tai ichi. Soke wishes us to develop martial friends ( buyu ). This is the first step to learning the secrets of budo. From becoming friends, we come together and train. We laugh, feel pain, but enjoy the training. Because we enjoy it, we relax and have fun. These pleasurable times in the dojo lead us away from our debilitating thoughts. We begin to connect with our buyu, and we therefore advance our lives further by opening our hearts. Opening our heart also empties our cup. We become much more accepting of people, different values and cultures, etc. We develop a larger capacity to live more freely and happily. The art of giving is the important thing here. This is what the role of uke teaches. It is also the necessary trait required to progress along the correct path in budo.

I have many more thoughts about being uke. But, I will leave it there. Being uke is personal. It’s up to you to try and understand what lessons are to be learned by being uke. Good luck. Shizen no Ninniku

Cole Point, Bruny Island. Tasmania. While still living with the crystal clear sands and green emeraled seas surrounding the majestic island of Tasmania, I was halted in my space by an overwhelming urge to fulfill a heart felt desire. This feeling welled deeply from my core and I felt it emerge with conviction. I had felt within myself a truth of knowing that I had never experienced before. I had no choice but to trust this expansion within, knowing full well that my life path was going to change forever. I had no power to resist. If my true self had felt it to be wrong, I would have found the power within to fight it, but I did not. I felt at last I had begun to trust my inner self.

The main island of Japan was to become my new home. Days later, I was kneeling facing the kamidana at our dojo in preperation for training. Upon closing my eyes the words “know that patience comes first” came to me. The conviction of these words opened my eyes. At that moment, I truly began to treasure those words of wisdom that mark the first code of Ninpo. Time passed quickly as my mind, body and technique worked in harmony ( Shin Gi Tai Ichi ) toward moving to my new island home. Finally I found myself in Japan. Life moved in a rhythm that I was unfamiliar with, yet I flowed with little resistance. I would at times of silence hear the words of the code. Listening and sincerely accepting these words the best I could, I continued in training and everyday life with a new inner belief that all obstacles would be made transparent by following the words of our Soke,” Keep going.” I have read, re-read, and continue to read the code of the Bujinkan Dojo, yet I have never had a spirit settled enough to truly allow for the teachings to be absorbed. I feel that recently I have felt closer to accepting the art of patience in my heart, but I am still but at the tip of the iceberg in regards to developing the depth and fullness of maturity required of becoming a true martial artist. Everyday, my desire is to allow the virtue of Shizen no Ninniku ( natural patience / forbearance ) reach my heart as deeply as possible in a hope that I be granted the teachings of budo from kami above. I believe that maintaining focus on correct training with a sincere mind will naturally develop the virtue of patience and allow the true heart of a budoka emerge.

Togakure Ryu Kenjutsu – Ichi no kamae The Code Of The Dojo: 1. To know that patience comes first. 2. To know that the path of Man comes from justice. 3. To renounce avarice, indolence, and obstinacy. 4. To recognize sadness and worry as natural, and to seek the immovable heart. 5. To not stray from the path of loyalty and brotherly love, and to delve always deeper into the heart of Budo. To follow this code is part of the dojo’s guidelines. Meiji 23 (1890) Spring, Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu Showa 33 (1958) March, Takamatsu Toshitsugu Uou Hatsumi Masaaki Byakuryu Distance

In class recently I heard Sensei talk about the manner in which to engage with your opponent. For me, it was as if I’d heard my thoughts all over again and I was pleased to recieve clarity that my feelings where on the path of true budo. Sensei motioned that it was important to wait for the movement of the opponent and not to attempt to produce something. The feeling is more of dis-engaging or preservation rather than engaging in a battle to the death with your opponent. We can say that all our movements are dictated by our opponent and environment if we are living in accordance with nature. If we are not living in accordance with kami, then we are moving from our own will, and thus our movements will be seen, understood, and manipulated against us. We have to lay our trust fully into the training and listen to our teachers with a clear and pure heart. From there we will come to truly experience the ability to live life in harmony with our environment and adjust naturally when required. In taijutsu training, we see many people after recieving a punch move on to perform an elaborate technique with complicated footwork and hand changes. Why? Nagato sensei stated recently, and this is the reason for this post, that “after your uke has punched and stopped, you can just move and stop too.” There is no need for you to do anything more if he doesn’t do anything more!” I remembered a time when I was playing in a band and we were staying in the bar late after it had closed chatting with the management and security. One security member knew that I was teaching budo at the University and asked me to show him something. I declined. He continued to ask and I finally accepted as long as he showed me his style of Kung Fu first. We moved to the dance area and I asked him what attack he would like. He said, ” just a punch”. I punched and he proceeded to perform a set waza that ended with him on one knee, facing away from me in a praying mantis type of pose. He hadn’t touched me at all, but I saw his foot near mine, so I said ” what about this?” I then stood on his foot, which twisted his body into the floor in pain. He got up and looked shocked. He said it was my turn to show something and he threw a punch. I stepped back and stopped. There was a long pause. I said that I don’t think I can show him anything else. He looked puzzled. I told him that because he had only thrown one attack that I felt no need to respond further. He said, “ok” and we sat down again. The security officer produced a waza from desire and therefore gave me something. In this case, it was his foot, and I decided to take it. I gave him nothing to take, and thus we stopped and sat down again as friends. We can also related this to the words of Soke, ” Give and take or give and return.” Nagato sensei recently reiterated that this type of feeling needs to be understood in training. It is crucial for survival. We must know when to act and when to not act, when to take and when not to take, when to give and when not to give, and when to return or not to return. The ability to take distance in all aspects can teach us this. Distance gives us the time to breath and respond intelligently to adversity. Distance gives us time to feel what is needed to survive. Do not fight, just move to safe positions to live and destroy the enemies power. This is the true power of budo. Bufu Ikkan Jissen Gata

September 7, 2008 in 1 (Edit) Nagato Sensei made an important comment on the reality of martial arts and the art of learning budo. Sensei mentioned that everyone was moving with the desire to produce a technique. Everybody was trying to hard to defeat their opponent. In reality, if we try to produce a waza, it will most likely fail. If we train in the dojo to attain perfect waza and become conditioned to this way of training and thinking, we will be shocked in reality and be overcome. In real life we never know what will come and thus we can have no idea of what to do. With correct training, we will train our bodies in such a way that whatever attack arises, we will naturally move to a position to minimise it’s effects and thus gain better control. Jissen gata is not about training in techniques that will work in real life, but infact training the body to move into places to continue ones life. The kihon teaches our body fundamental physical responces that over time and with correct repetitive training become second nature and thus we move more instinctively. We then enter the world of Mushin and move as dictated by our opponent, removed from the thoughts of winning and losing, being strong or weak, killing or dying. Zanshin is crucial to surviving. We must keep going to the very end. Moving with desire produces “what you want”. Nagato Sensei stated that what you want may not happen in a life and death situation, thus one has to remove that desire. The most important thing is to be free and henka. However, there is something that can’t be overlooked in my eyes. There are peole that have not gone through basic training in ukemi, striking, kicking, etc. These people who have entered the dojo and listen to their teacher stating that no power, strength, technique, kamae is necessary and believe it, are in a state of delusion. Within the dojo, one can probably progress well as most training partners are cooperative and can help give you a false sense of growth by physically pleasing your light, nimble, and free movements. I often see these people take the position of uke and are visibly surprised when they are hit, feel pain, dumped to the ground, or even just feel a slight sence of intention from their training partner. Training is far from reality. However, ones mindset has to be deeply set on reality during training. If you do this, and develop this mindset, it will permeate during your training and psychologically affect your opponent. They will feel the conviction in your

movements, no matter how subtle, light, or small, and be weary of you whole being. With Soke and Nagato Sensei for example. They move very lightly and manipulate everyone easily. However, for those who have been uke, we can sense a strength and real ability. A real grounding in their bodies and spirit. We can feel that any moment they could decisivaly end your life with skillfull attacks. I think the truth of ones ability is shown through ones skill to control any opponent and the environment from “being” or from truly “knowing” oneself. As Sun Tsu stated, ” first know your self, then your enemy.” For me, relinquishing ones preconceptions on the ” way things should be” and truly emptying ones cup to ” see what is real” is the essence to knowing oneself, life and budo. It is my desire to train as sincerely as I can whenever I’m in the dojo. Although I feel myself give way to weakness more often than not, I’m happy. I’m happy that I’m aware of these undesirable traits and bad habits. As a result, I can try to develop the courage to grow and learn. There are many things about myself that I am probably unaware of. I but hope my peers, teachers and the environment ( if I have an open heart ) can help me become aware of my shortcomings. Many times we have felt in the dojo that what our teacher is commenting on relates directly to us. In this moment we can choose to accept this as a gift to help us move forward as budoka or, live in a state of denial, forever living in a false world of budo and learning. Jissen gata is taught in the Bujinkan Dojo. Soke states he is teaching us to live. If we truly contemplate these words and watch, listen and accept Sokes teachings, we will discovere he is indeed practising what he preaches. As students, our goal is to follow this path as closely as we can. There are people who misunderstand the training in the Honbu. People sometimes feel and report that the training is soft and not realistic. These people as we have heard before do not have the eyes to see real budo. Budo cannot be understood visually. It is only those who train sincerely, that the truth of budo can eventually be seen. This is the Jissen gata of the Bujinkan Dojo. The truth is open to those with magakoro. Renshu

“Training is the most important thing” Soke stated this recently at an Ayase class. He also said that ” talking about things, or thinking about things will not get you far”. The only way to understand this budo is to train the body well and hard. Soke also mentioned that breathing is something that we forget. It is something so natural that we are sometimes not aware that we are doing it. This is the level of taijutsu we want to achieve. The level of awareness of literally non awareness. We have to reach a heightened state where we move instinctively, free from thought and concern of right or wrong technique. Our taijutsu has to become one with our body ( shin gi tai ichi ) and appear and disappear as quickly as a breath of air. This is an aspect of living in the kuukan, but also an important point regarding the concept of kieru no kankaku, or invisible movement. We can appreciate now that the more natural our movement is, the less likely it can be seen and read by the opponent. This is Ninpo Taijutsu. This reminds me of a period in my life when I was employed as a plain clothed store detective. I had observed a male select and conceal on his person over $700 of designer label clothing. He left the store and I approached him to make an arrest. We were located on the corner of two CBD streets on a busy Saturday morning. The male refused to return and proceeded to remove the garments and drop them to the sidewalk. I asked him to pick them up, but at that time he lunged at me with a right punch. I rocked back into natural kamae and felt his punch fly over my head. I sensed the next strike and I rocked in naturally without stepping, and struck his suigetsu with my left elbow as he was in full swing with his left fist. Needless to say, he flew back into a shop window. At this moment, my work collegue was walking to work and had witnessed the commotion. He was concerned about my well being as he had viewed the male striking wildly at me. I was more than ok, but later I thought about why bystanders and my work collegue acted so concerned. They also could

not understand why he fell back away from me with such force. From replaying the incident, my movement of defence was extremely natural and fitting with the attacks. In no way did I come across as fighting aggressively or moving like a martial artist. At no time did I raise my hands or legs to strike. My body had just lowered, rockered to and forth and my arms were held with elbows out at chest height. As a result, people automatically thought that I was the victim and was in trouble. People automatically were drawn to the shoplifters larger, faster, and more aggressive movements. To onlookers, my dropping low and lack of overt movement would have looked like a sign of being overwhelmed. To me, this helped me gain a better appreciation of knowing the basics of budo and also that the natural movement of Bujinkan Taijutsu is infact the way to understanding kyojutsu, and moving invisibly. Basics will save your life. Good footwork is what is necessary to survive. When the flight or fight responce kicks in, the legs are extremely important and utilised by the body to remove oneself from danger. The better we learn correct taijutsu and ashi sabaki, the greater chance we have of moving unconciously to the right places and surviving. The body takes over in times of crisis, not the mind. Therefore, I’d like to stress the importance of what Soke said the other night: “The most important thing is the training. You won’t get better by talking about it or thinking about it.” Soke is teaching us Shinken Gata. It is important to draw on experiences out of the dojo to gain a greater appreciation and understanding of his teachings. “It is only the people that have experienced it that will understand.” says Soke. This is why he gives people the chance in the safety of the dojo to feel shinken gata. We are encouraged to develop this feeling outside of the dojo in our own lives to enhance our awareness of reality and the importance of living in the void to survive. Next year we will apparently train with the feeling of going beyond the kuukan and practising with a sense of continuance, as in ING. If this is so, we must learn to release ourselves from ourselves and allow the air from our lungs and blood from our veins teach us the truth so we can move into a new stage of life and training. Ninpo Ikkan Duncan Shikami I have been given the opportunity to perform an Enbu with Soke and the Bujinkan Dojo in Japan at Fuse Benten Jinja. It was my feeling that I wanted to produce a presence that would both thrill, humour, and scare the crowd. Masks have been used in Japanese culture and also by the ninja to depict mythical demons,characters and beings to create theatre of dramatic interest and instill fear into adversaries. My enbu will be “Hensojutsu”. That is, I will distort the truth and invoke change in my environment,opponents and the audience by changing myself. What is important in Ninjutsu is the ability to take on the role of many characters to ensure survival. What is even more important is to maintain a strong and correct heart to not forget ones true self. If you cannot do this, you will be consumed by the techniques you have learned and lose your way. This is ninjutsu.

Takamatsu Osensei said: “The skills of self- protection, which should provide a feeling of inner peace and security for the martial artist, so often develop without a balance in the personality and lead the lesser martial artist into warped realms of unceasing conflict and competition which eventually consume him. If an expert in the fighting arts sincerely pursues the essence of Ninjutsu, devoid of the influence of the ego’s desires, the student will progressively come to realize the ultimate secret for becoming invincible – the attainment of the “mind and eyes of god”. The combatant who would win must be in harmony with the scheme of totality, and must be guided by an intuitive knowledge of the playing out of fate. In tune with the providence of heaven and the impartial justice of nature, and following a clear and pure heart full of trust in the inevitable, the Ninja captures the insight that will guide him successfully into battle when he must conquer and conceal himself protectively from hostility when he must acquiesce. The vast universe,beautiful in its coldly impersonal totality, contains all that we call good or bad, all the answers for all the paradoxes we see around us. By opening his eyes and his mind, the Ninja can responsively follow the subtle seasons and reasons of heaven, changing just as change is necessary, adapting always, so that in the end there is no such thing as a surprise for the Ninja. “

Ninja wearing Shikami men Shikami (wry face), written 顰 in kanji and also written “獅噛” (the grimacing face of “shishi “, a legendary creature) or “歯噛” (grimace) in old times, is a wooden Noh mask categorized as a fierce god in Noh theater. The mask exhibits horrifyingly well a ferocious moment of a shishi with its mouth open and a demonic grimace.

“Shikami” is the derivation of a word, “shikamettsura” (a wry or frowning face) used today. The mask is quite popular, appearing in a number of plays including Ooeyama, Momijigari and Tsuchigumo. Shishi is a legendary lion like animal that has been passed down since ancient times and is regarded as sacred, and in some cases, a symbol of evil. Some might think that it’s cynical or even comical to think that by a human actor putting the mask on and playing shishi, he becomes awed and feared by the audience. In fact in Kyougen Theatre, animals are mostly used to make scenes funny. Yet, once an actor appears on the stage with this mask on, he instantly turns into an object of fear and audiences become captivated by the story. This shows Japanese people are fascinated by awesome and fearsome figures.

Ninpo Ikkan Tanjun “the Simple life is the good life”.

I have sometimes jokingly protected my lack of intelligence and awareness about myself and life through saying “Ignorance is bliss”. It is also strange that Soke has over the years mentioned that knowledge can in fact dull your senses and interfere with your budo studies. I recently have become confident enough to trust these words of Soke and therefore find an inner knowing that the path I tread daily has lead me to many wonderful things. Trusting yourself and removing your concern for being right or wrong, intellectual or not, rich or poor, or any of the sorts, allows you to function in life with a grounding yet resilient nature able to accept and discern freely what comes at any time. Simplicity is only found when one moves with conviction and understands the truth of his desires. Tanjun can imply that a person is rather superficial, or more commonly simple-minded or simple hearted. However, we can also relate it to Taijutsu and the sense of “ease of movement” or “lightness of being”. We can also relate this to mushin. Eventhough mushin translates more so as “no mind”, it

doesn’t mean “stupid”. The simplicity stemming from the realm of mushin derives from hara and the inner knowing, or the mysterious breath of the subconscious. So, in regards to tanjun, I’d like people to understand ( as I am trying to understand ) that the simplicity as looked at in this blog is infact a feeling or truth that naturally metamorphosizes through correct, hard and diligent training. There is always an omote and ura to life, so we must also be resilient enough to accept any contradictions as avenues for further growth. I would like to return to the thought of “ignorance is bliss.” Sometimes knowing something can create boundaries and obstacles for true learning and growth. We can appreciate the saying “what you don’t know , can’t hurt you”. Yet everything has an opposite doesn’t it! Simple minded people can also create problems through lack of knowledge. However, if the simple minded person has awareness, they can void unecessary situations and live as they wish. In the animal kingdom we can see that awareness and natural instinct is something that ensures the survival of the species. If as humans we can learn to develop our mind,body and awareness as one with balance ( shin gi tai ichi ) we can learn to live a life of happiness and freedom. People are very earnest about training and becoming better. This is good. However, I’d like to add something from Joji Ohashi’s site on this matter: As the proverb goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” For example, you can disgrace the Bujinkan with the opposite intention. We have to be very careful about this type of Kyojitsu that is found everywhere in our life. People need to believe something and when they do, attach themselves to it. From there, the belief can alter it’s face through the desire of the person who has become attached to it. We can see the changes in religion from the desire of man as well. Takamatsu Sensei wrote on this type of matter in regards to learning Ninjutsu: “The skill of the Ninja is the art of winning. In the beginning study of any combative art, proper motivation is crucial. Without the proper frame of mind, continuous exposure to fighting techniques can lead to ruin instead of self-development. But this fact is not different from any other beneficial practice in life carried to extremes. A religion, when based on faith developed through experience, a broad and questing mind, and unflagging pursuit of universal understanding, is of inspiration and comfort to people. Once a religion loses its original focus, however, it becomes a deadly thing with which to deceive, control and tax the people through the manipulation of their beliefs and fears. It is the same with the martial arts. The skills of self-protection, which should provide a feeling of inner peace and security for the martial artist, so often develop without a balance in the personality and lead the lesser martial artist into warped realms of unceasing conflict and competition which eventually consume him. If an expert in the fighting arts sincerely pursues the essence of NINJUTSU, devoid of the influence of the ego’s desires, the student will progressively come to realize the ultimate secret for becoming invincible – the attainment of the “mind and eyes of god”. The combatant who would win must be in harmony with the scheme of totality, and must be guided by an intuitive knowledge of the playing out of fate. In tune with the providence of heaven and the impartial justice of nature, and following a clear and pure heart full of trust in the inevitable, the NINJA captures the insight that will guide him successfully into battle when he must conquer and conceal himself protectively from hostility when he must acquiesce.”

The most important thing in my mind is to rid the desire to know. Through achieving this I feel we will make transparent all preconceptions about what we think budo is. We are then able to absorb the teachings directly and gain the “feeling” that Soke wishes us to grasp with an open hand. The simpler we move in life, the more we will see. What was once trivial or blurred from our vision will be now observed and wondered over like a three year old child. The greater we understand and live in this manner, we will be able to witness and acknowledge very quickly those who have mastered the art of “the simple life” through their taijutsu. It is those who we should move toward and learn from. The art of discernment is something that can help us only once we have a pure heart. If we haven’t purified our heart, we will make mistaken decisions and lose the path. “Nintai to wa kokoro o yashinai waza o hagemite suenagaku shinken ko so ma no ninja nari” The ninja’s body is to nurture one’s mind and to train the body to endure to the end. One who can do this is a true ninja.” NINPO IKKAN! Meigen – words of wisdom The following are words spoken by Nagato Sensei.

There are many good 15th dan shihan. The idea of menkyo kaiden is to transmit the teachings through training and developing a community feeling among everyone. When menkyo was given to Soke by Takamatsu, he was told that he had past on everything he had and that as Hatsumi was the only one with him, he had to give it all to him. It has been 50 years since Soke met Takamatsu. The concept of menkyo kaiden is one not of teaching but of transmitting the feeling of budo. Do not become a collector of techniques from the densho! You must be able to do Koshi nage correctly. It’s important to train slowly and correctly. The form must be correctly performed before real training can begin. Budo is about weapons. Move in a way that is unseen or understandable by the opponent. The young generation must train hard for the future. You have to hit and be hit. Shinogi kezuru Shinogi – a particular section of the blade of a katana. Kezuru – to slide,shave,slip past, press past, against. This concept was used by Nagato in a class to train in creating a deflection of the opponents attack by using the correct distance and angle of your body / limbs. Training nowadays is difficult to grasp. To understand the waza, the finer points, and the transition between the levels of the denshos’, you have to be instructed by a good teacher. We have to trust the training we receive and try and get better at what we are taught, to the best of our ability. Listen the best you can, train the best you can, and just feel for the training at this present moment. Thinking about waza, finer points, ways to do techniques and philosophy is fine, but we must understand that budo is not an academic subject. To collect tit bits from teachers about “how to do things” is great, but only if you study them through physical practise. The physical training is the most important. We should not forget that it is important to develop strongly both our body and spirit through training. “The power I use is not physical power. Soke would get angry. The power is mind power.” The Kukishin ryu densho was lost. Toda taught Takamatsu the Kukishin and Takamatsu wrote down the waza as he remembered. The densho was then handed to Soke. The kanji in the densho can be read in many ways. They are not important. The learning was from teacher to pupil directly through the training. The feeling and waza was then naturally absorbed by hard training. The body would then understand and thus the kata and ryuha is brought to life. Just collecting the waza and not training means nothing. When Nagato Sensei first met Soke it was at his clinic. Nagato said Soke approached him and said. “Would you die if I said DIE!” Nagato said he didn’t reply. Soke returned to his clinic. Kokoro

Soke stated recently at training with his back turned and facing looking at the Kamidana the importance of a phrase that was taught to him by Takamatsu Osensei. GOKUI NO UTA “Chihayaburu Kami no Oshie wa Tokoshie ni Tadashiki Kokoro Mio Mamoruran” From my memory, Soke asked that Shidoshi from next year include this phrase at the beginning of each class with Shikin Haramitsu Dai Komyo following directly. The phrase reminded me of Sokes desire for all students to continue budo for the sake of developing the true heart of a budoka.This is above all the most important point. Takamatsu Osensei stated to Soke ( I believe ) that ”Sincerity” is the most important thing. Therefore, I believe the words that are spoken by our Soke and are now being transmitted to the Shidoshi and Shihan are of extreme importance to ensure we train to protect the truth of budo. We are told that the budo dojo is a place to repent and polish the heart. We should maintain this feeling close to our heart and train with conviction and focus, but with a light and happy spirit, open to the teachings of Soke and the masters who held the horses tail before him. I think the creation of buyu is also important. Soke said that in the period that Takamatsu lived, the life of the “lone wolf” was common. However, the world is changing. We are now in a world of mass communication. The survival and development of the world is depended on creating a firm working companionship,common understanding and communication with the people of the world. Is this not an aspect of the Bujinkan code stipulating the importance of brotherly love, and delving deeper into the arts with balanced determination for the betterment of ones family and country? Training encourages you to improve in all areas of life. We can justly say that it is indeed a holistic art for the betterment of all. Through training hard, we can develop in areas naturally. People will gravitate toward us, and we will have both good and bad aquaintances. Both are fertiliser for our growth, and we should view every moment as a lesson in itself. I remember hearing Nagato Sensei state that he was told by Soke to use more power in his training. However, Nagato sensei said to us that he saw it as a test from Soke. For years he had been instructed by Soke to use less strength, and now he was contradicting his words. As a result, Nagato Sensei decided to maintain his focus and train as he had been told. Soke was using no strength, thus sensei wasn’t going to either. Nagato Shihan is a true shihan and a man of his word. Sensei developed a physical concern and spoke to Soke about it. Soke said, “congratulations!” Soke apparently said the percieved concern should be infact seen as a gift from the gods to help ones improvement in training. Sensei was then happy to hear this, and now trains with the feeling that his brush with bad luck was in fact good in disguise. A smile came to his face. It’s always good to see him smile.

That same class, I was training with a buyu who travels nearly four times a year to Japan and had not been ranked in quite some time. I mentioned this to Nagato sensei. Sensei replied to my friend, “congratulations!” Another lesson…. Patience is a virtue. It is something we learn in order to see what the gods see. Without patience, we will not develop Sanshin or Shin Gi Tai, the essential components of a budoka. Kokoro is a kanji that generally means Heart. We can seperate the kanji into three ( sanshin ) and read kokoro with different kanji or kana to view various meanings. One form of ko means Child, a second form of ko can mean Lamb, while Ro can imply a fireplace or warm centre dug into the earth. Each seperate kanji eminates the feeling of warmth and love. We can see that the kanji for kokoro infact consists of three hearts ( sanshin ) and is teaching us that love is infinite and unconditional.

I have read that Takamatsu O sensei in his younger days when instructing budo and faced with a troublesome student would without hesitation ask them not to return to the dojo. However, according to

Soke, in his older years he was much more accepting and allowed nature to take it’s course and weed out the undesirable students. The only student remaining was Soke. We can see that Soke follows the concept of natural justice and allows the universe to discern who continues or disapears. In my eyes, to appreciate and respect the greatness and intern acknowledge ones place within the vastness of the kukan, is a sign of a true master. Soke is a true master and is definately living freely from the constraints of the normal man yet to understand the Gojo and be blessed as tatsujin. Soke once stated that he trained physically 3 times harder, spent 3 times as much money, and put 3 times as much mental effort in learning budo than anyone else. It seems that he understood Sanshin and the concept of Shin Gi Tai Ichi right from the beginning (these are my own thoughts at present.) We can also see that this effort adds to 9, and can maybe gives us an indication of the capactiy required of a person to become the Soke of 9 ryuha. Soke is indeed teaching us about life. He says that we need to fall in love with budo, immerse ourselves in the “feeling”, direct our energies toward the betterment of oneself and others, and move naturally to develop the capacity to understand the gokui, the kukan. The essence of budo.

Happy birthday Soke! Ninpo – Thoughts on a theme

photo by Steve Olsen The following is a combination of my notes and thoughts regarding this years theme. Soke has stated that this years theme is KU – the void. We began this years study with concepts and waza form the Togakure Ryu. Soke then as usual made everything transparent to teach us the truth of budo. The truth is ” If you thing there is something there isn’t. If you think there is nothing, there is.” Therefore, we must learn to breath and live within the Kukan to truly grasp the secrets of life and budo. This is the way of Ninjutsu. The way of budo. The way of life. At the beginning of the year, Soke painted a kakejiku ( scroll ) for the Honbu dojo. It read menkyo kaiden. However, the most common meaning (complete transmission and mastery of an art ) was obscured by Sokes use of different kanji. Soke wrote the scroll with different kanji for the “K yo” in menkyo and the “Kai” in Kaiden. The “Kyo” is the same kanji used in Kyojutsu ( truth and falsehood ) while the kanji for“Kai” as in Kai butsu ( monster ) or Ayashi which can be interpreted as mysterious / strange, or suspicous and suspect. There are those who can perform the fundamental waza of ninpo and believe that they have achieved knowledge in ninjutsu. These practitioners are low class students and know nothing of true Ninpo. Kyojutsu works against those who study ninpo before they have first sincerely worked at Seishin teki ryoyo ( self refinement ).It’s easy for people to change into monsters from personal desires. It is important to remove the desire to “Know” what ninjutsu is. By this I mean “knowing” ninpo is something deeper than the conscious mind and intellect. It’s secret to understanding is sincerity. The real knowledge and realm of ninpo is hidden in the subconscious and can only be understood through training with a clear heart during Isshi Soden (direct transmission from a real teacher or mother nature .) As you sincerely accept that you don’t know, you will open the door to a path of true learning and understanding. Ninpo is an innate feeling lying dormant within us all. Through training, we can come to sense the feeling of Ninpo and appreciate that it is an art for living and enduring with the flow of time. The feeling of Ninpo can be naturally experienced to those sensitive enough to Shisei ( the cycle of life and death.) The Godan test of the Togakure ryu is a step into the gate of budo. With many more small steps of perserverence, we hope to become awakened to the Gojo ( the five essences to enter the path of enlightenment ). Maintaining Ninja no kokoro ( the ninja heart ) is essential. The practitioner must have the virtue of Ninniku ( patience ) and Ninpo Ikkan ( consistently flowing with the way of ninpo)..Ninniku and Ninpo Ikkan are the basis for understanding ninpo taijutsu, while Ichi go Ichi e ( one moment, one chance ) is the heart of the ninja. Recently Soke has stated “ If you cannot understand, this is normal because it’s Ninjutsu. If you could understand, it wouldn’t be Ninjutsu!”

Those who believe they understand have begun to die as a martial artist. We can relate this, and the following words to the Kakejiku in the Honbu. Regardless of ones rank or position achieved, there is no real evidence of mastery. Those who claim to be a master of the martial arts because they hold menkyo kaiden ( complete transmission in the arts ) have progressed no further than a beginner, and have become lost.. This is the Shinken gata ( cutting truth ) of ranks in budo. For those sincerely pursuing the martial arts, the more they train, the more they feel humbled to the truth, and thus train harder. The true masters are people who remain natural and develop with balance. Wisdom and knowledge permeates from their eyes, and a strong, spiritual presence moves with them as they live with the heart of a budoka. Living with Ninpo is achieving harmony with life, enabling them to walk freely, with no adversity. This is also Kieru no kankaku, the simple and invisible movement and life of the ninja. They have become transparent. They have become zero. They have become ninja. Having mastered bushinwa ( the harmony of a warrior ) due to jihi no kokoro ( a benevolent heart ), these practitioners tread the path of a meijin ( master of the martial arts ).These people are the avatars of the Bujinkan Dojo. From this we can come to appreciate more clearly the words of Toda Sensei, the 32nd Soke of the Togakure ryu: “Know the secret of Taijutsu is the foundation of peace. If you can learn this, you can walk the path of the immovable heart.” This year, Soke has naturally moved forward with Banka shizen no ninpo taijutsu ( forever evolving and adpating nature of ninpo). Moving with kage no ugoku ( shadow movement ) Soke plays freely in the kukan, always sensing the echo of the opponent and his environment. Keiru no kankaku, ( feeling of disappearing ) is gained through mastering the kihon, moving in the kukan with no openings, using kurai dori ( life preserving positions ) and understanding the heart of Ninpo. Soke has also mentioned the concept of yoyuu. This expresses the idea of giving enough” slack” to move freely while also giving the opponent the feeling he can move freely, yet, he mysteriously cannot. This is a form of kyojutsu. You are holding your opponent with shinnenjutsu ( spirit/mind control with an over-powering will). He thus feels enveloped by this spiritual pressure and cannot move ( Fudo Kanashibari no jutsu ). Ninjutsu is about manipulating ones environment to survive. This not achieved from academic study or from simply outwitting an opponent based on intellectual ability. It is based on living the life of a real human being. From exploring the effects of kyojutsu from an evolutionary point of view, we can come to understand natural justice and specie preservation not only within the human realm, but within the animal and plant kingdom aswell. Through consistent focus on shinobu inochi ( the ninja warrior life ) your life will naturally move in the correct direction. Kyojutsu will mysteriously act to protect you as a result of living in harmony with the world. We can now see that manipulating your opponent to survive is not a conscious decision, but a result of naturally moving in the void with Magakoro ( a sincere / pure heart ) and Mushin ( no mind ). The ultimate goal of the Bujinkan Budoka is to achieve Shin Gi Tai Ichi ( the unification of the mind ,technique, and spirit ). The kukan ( life space ) exists within this unification. Within the kukan we feel the echo produced from our connection / radio wave with the opponent. This sensitivity to the echo enables one to live and sense the future response of the opponent and the changes in the environment. This can also be related to Banpen Fugyo ( 10,000 changes, no surprise ) and Kanjin Kaname ( Heart & Eyes of God ). Soke has said that as practitioners of the Bujinkan we must learn to live between the space where air and nothing exists. We must study to reach such a high level of existence that we can survive on mist like the Senin ( mountain mystics.)

Togakure Ryu Ninpo Enbu. Togakushi 2007. Nouryoku Kokoro Utsuwa

It seems that Soke hinted the theme for the following year last Sunday at Honbu. However, it is still unclear exactly ( as always ). Soke mentioned the following words to conteplate. The translaters did well on the spot to pass to us all what Soke was trying to say. It was mentioned that these three points are crucial for development in the martial ways and aslo life in general. We can observe them as having a relationship with Shin Gi Tai and Sanshin aswell. Soke has always mentioned that the controlling / knowing / or utilising of three points is necessary to maintain control over your opponent and inturn your life. However, in regards to the following, we can maybe think and view the points below as the three essentials for knowing the secrets to a happy life ? Nouryoku – this is translated as ability,power,talent,competence or capacity. Kokoro – kokoro is generally translated as heart, but can also mean mind or spirit. Utsuwa – translates generally as a container, holder,receptacle or vessel. However, according to the dictionary, it can also relate to caliber,capacity, or a person of high/low caliber. I think if we view these points as entities to teach us the truth of truly living life to the fullest, we can appreciate that the three must be unified ( shin gi tai ichi ) in order to become a tatsujin. harmonious and positive unification of the three is crucial. The person may be in the best position, but have a bad heart. Thus they will only be able to reach a certain capacity and have little power, or true capability. We can have a large amount of ability and a great heart, but not be in the correct environment ( utsuwa ) to fully develop our true / innate potential. We must be able to unify the three to fully express our true capacity and power in life. It’s no use being meek and mild and not expressing oneself. This is a sickness and hinders ones true potential. Many people have these necessary traits to fully achieve their true potential. However, they are unable to tread the right path or feel for the right way due to an inbalance in of the three components. As budoka, it seems Soke wants us to delve deeper and encourage everyone to find the truth of their lives and follow the direction chosen by the Gods. It’s often that we meet wonderfully talented people who have progressed naturally but do not continue to reach their full potential. Many people rely on their natural talent. This will only get them so far. It’s important to understand this and forever research and learn new things. We as friends try to support our gifted friends by giving praise and advice on what WE see as needed for them to reach their true potential. However, we cannot make people do things. There is a saying. ” You can lead a horse to water but you cannot

make it drink.” It all depends on the person. It depends on how thirsty they are for real growth and development as a human being. Also, this topic may help us appreciate the story about the big fish in the little pond. Both goldfish and plants are greatly affected by the environment in which they live. Eg: fish bowl, or pot. If we increase the size, we can influence change, and they are able to expand and experience more, gaining a greater capacity.

Soke also mentioned at one Taikai that there are people of varied qualities and therefore influence different people in different ways. Some of these peole will naturally grow into large trees, and some will only become small trees. This does not mean that the large ones will become the best and the small ones will have no influence. It just means that everyone has a capacity. Some people have a larger capacity than others, but the affect they have on their students is no different to the teachers with a smaller capacity. We attract those who can relate to us. The connection is the most important thing. We can stand and wonder at the Californian Redwoods that grow to 90 feet, or stand and wonder as we look down at the beautiful bonzai that grow proudly at our feet. It’s the same. Soke has said that ” the larger capacity you have, the more you can accept.” I think we can relate these words to nouryoku kokoro utsuwa. For me, what is important is to trust ones inner self and learn the art of discernment. That is, we must “know” and “see” instinctively what is good for us and make a decision that will truly assist in developing ourselves further as a budoka and a complete human being. Gambarimashou! Koppo

How to approach training nowadays is plagued with doubt by many throughout the world. Everyone has there own thoughts on budo and personal reasons for becoming involved in the training. However, there are things that cannot be denied. I think the truth is often misunderstood by those who truly hang of every word of Soke. Soke is a Ninja. He constantly uses the art of Kyojutsu Tenkan Ho to maintain harmony within the Dojo. Not everything he says is clear and true. In respect to this, it might be good to remember that the buddha said that the use of “white lies” with the right heart can be used for the betterment of society. It is once people leave the dojo and begin to “think” about things without truly understanding his words and the context in which they were said, that problems occur. Everyone returns to their respective countries and believe they “know” what is required for the betterment of the Bujinkan. Honestly, what is required is for people to “shut up and train”. Is this not preaching the first code of the Dojo? If we cannot firstly accept these guidelines and learn that the martial arts are actually movements recieved from the gods to protect us, we will move with our own desires and produce what we want. People feel they are doing the right thing. A puppy wants to please it’s master and jumps to attention and paws his legs, giving affection. However, the puppy doesn’t realise that he is in fact making his masters pants dirty! This is the same for us as students allowed into the dojo of Soke Hatsumi. We must constantly realise that we are but lowly students attempting to understand an art that cannot be understood. Soke himself has recently stated that he is but a puppet moved by Takamatsu Sensei from the heavens. I am recently more aware of how selfless and in love Soke is with the budo he was taught by Takamatsu. As foreigners engaging in training, we must do our best to imitate Sokes movements the best we can. As for other Shihan, when we are in their dojo, we should honor and respect their teaching by performing the movements as close to their manner as possible. Freely doing the waza as you wish, or performing the waza like another Shihan is disrespectful in my eyes. If you attend various classes, I feel this etiquette is essential for truly gaining an appreciation of each Shihans movements while intern visually respecting them by emptying your cup at the door and mimicking them as closely as possible. Nagato Sensei once mentioned that he was nicknamed ” Kage” by the longer standing Shihan at that time. For many years, Nagato Shihan closely followed Soke everywhere, and in as many forms possible, mimicked Soke in both movement, clothing, habits, hobbies, routine, etc. Nagato sensei also said that it has been all he has ever thought of doing. The reason being that the closer he could imitate Soke, the closer he could get to understanding him and his budo. To do this requires a ” letting go of the self “. If anyone has viewed the 1990 Daikomyosai in the Kashiwa Dojo, there is a moment where Soke performs a henka on Nagato Sensei. Soke then ask Nagato to show and explain what had happened. Nagato Sensei moved to the place where Soke had been, and with his uke, performed the henka exactly as Soke had! Now, I haven’t seen anyone in my life in training be able to imitate Soke exactly, let alone after being his uke. To me, this is true talent. This “Visual recording and replay” ability is often told by both Soke and Nagato as something that must be developed within ourselves. This ability is so important. If we cannot perform what we see, then what are we doing?! People, including myself, must constantly be honest with themselves and be more earnest in their training. Soke often says to people, “play”. This is said for many reasons. It is important not to take this to literally. If we do, we are thinking like children. Soke isn’t teaching children. He is teaching adults. We have to think deeply about things and train with conviction.

Many years ago I was told he was very serious and earnest about training. Nagato Sensei said that when he began, that he would copy down all of the techniques Soke performed at every class and then study them. He said after a period of time this was something that became not necessary and he followed Sokes instructions about no taking notes and also asking questions. He himself explains that once he stopped asking questions, he recieved the answers.

Nagato Shihan Training is about being honest with yourself. It’s about coming to terms with your shortcomings and having the courage to persevere and train to filter out your weak points. If you cannot endure, then budo is not for you. Soke recently stated that everyone must take responsibility for themselves and the training. We must realise that we could be injured or even killed. If we cannot accept this, well, the door of the dojo is left open for many reasons. People are free. Soke hit me quite hard on the asagasumi kyusho. I fell and people gasped at the impact. He asked me to reiterate what I have just written for those present when I stood back up. Budo is about life. However, I feel that budo by many is misunderstood as something beyond what it is.Budo is about killing and using weapons to survive. If you cannot develop the mentality to kill, then you are not able to truly understand budo. People move through movements and kneel lightly on peoples heads to control them. They put a knife to their training partners throat. They hit him on the head with a hanbo. They stab with a knife into the floating ribs. I feel that many are not in the mindset to truly be able to perform these movements or the thousands of variants in a real situation with real weapons. If we don’t train with the mentality for war, then when it comes to a time when we are required to use the skills we have been studying, we will fail. Budo is about developing the spirit,technique and body together ( shin-gi-tai-ichi). If these three hearts are fully understood and mastered, then the man of budo can come to realise Kanjin Kaname, and do what is necessary maintain life. We have to foster the spirit of a budoka. It is important to understand “yu i ga doku son“. This implies that we must develop the self before we can truly assist others. Therefore, the budoka must have a righteous heart and train single mindedly toward gaining true mastery of the self in order to fully care for his family, his land and country.

Budo is something we must “give our life too” or ” die for“. Reading between the lines is important here. It’s the feeling of Sutemi. Self discovery is true discovery, only after we have understood sutemi. Therefore, keep going, trust the questions and feeling from your subconscious and move knowing that living is but a series of changes or experiences giving us the chance to fully appreciate nature,the art of living and the way of budo. Duncan Bugeisha and Saino Kon Ki While in Tasmania, I recieved a letter from Soke. He reminded me that the theme for the year was Saino Kon Ki. He also mentioned that upon mastering these components, the person can finally call themselves a true bugeisha. The kanji used by Soke for Kon can be read as Katamari.In a general sence we can understand katamari as meaning a mass, a cluster, group, or crowd. Saino tranlsates as talent, gift or ability. Ki translates and reads as Utsuwa. Meaning Vessel, or container.

Maybe we can look at this grouping of kanji by soke to have a meaning far greater than the self. If people of various talents bond and group together in one place, wonderful things may arise. For example: Soke has always responded by saying that the Bujinkan is only for high quality people ( Saino ). He has always promoted the importance of Taikai and the development of Buyu throughout the world ( Katamari ). And lastly, soke has always asked that these people maintain the link to the “feeling” by attending the Honbu ( Utsuwa ).

As with the concept of Shin Gi Tai, we can see that Saino Kon Ki has three components that when understood and unified harmoniously will serve as the base fundamentals required for becoming a true master of the martial arts. Therefore, above all other things we should move toward understanding out true selves in order to become truely proficient in the martial arts and help society. Self realisation can only come about from sincere and strict training. We must learn to be our own teachers and perservere through our own insecurities and weed out our physical, and spiritual weaknesses. Utsuwa also can imply a person of high caliber or capacity. As in Utsuwatakai. A person may have Saino & Tamashii, but must have the caliber to understand, unify, and use these together in harmony to there full potential. If this is realised, the person can become someone of a very high level and influence ( Utsuwatakai ).

I cannot help but link this years weapons ( rope and sword ) with the warrior god “fudomyo-o” ( my thoughts only ). With a sword and rope in either hand, fudomyo-o lives with conviction to destroy evil and protect and serve martial artists and those on the path of justice.

Fudo is a personification of Dainichi Nyorai, and the best known of the Myo-o, who are venerated especially by the Shingon sect of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism. Fudo converts anger into salvation; has furious, glaring face, as Fudo seeks carries “kurikara” or devilsubduing sword in right hand (representing wisdom cutting through ignorance); holds rope in left hand (to catch and bind up demons); often has third eye in forehead (all-seeing); often seated or standing on rock (because Fudo is “immovable” in his faith). Fudo is also worshipped as a deity who can bring monetary fortune. He is portrayed holding a sword in his right hand and a coiled rope in his left hand. With this sword of wisdom, he cuts through deluded and ignorant minds and with the rope he binds those who are ruled by their violent passions and emotions. He leads them onto the correct path of self control. He is also portrayed surrounded by flames, flames which consume the evil and the defilements of this world. He sits on a flat rock which symbolizes the unshakeable peace and bliss which he bestows to the minds and the bodies of his devotees. Fudomyo’s nature is essentially one of compassion and he has vowed to be of service to all beings for eternity. It is for this reason that the figure of he is placed first among the thirteen deities. His vow is to do battle with evil with a powerful mind of compassion and to work for the protection of true happiness. To pray for recovery from illness and for safety while traveling is to rely upon his vow and power to save. He is also the guide for the deceased, to help save them and assist them in becoming buddhas for the first seven days after death. While observing Saino Kon Ki and training with the rope and sword, may we come closer to understanding the gods of budo? If we do, we ourselves may come to realise our roles more clearly, as protectors of the martial arts with an all seeing middle eye?

Shisei – life & Death. In order to understand our path, we must first master ourselves. Soke is giving us a road to travel unlike those before us, so we may see how far we can endure. If we perservere and endure without setting conditions, we may one day stumble upon enlightenment. By purely entering the training with a feeling of bettering onself and purifying our heart and soul, we may finally get a glimpse of Kanjin Kaname ( the mind and eyes of god ). From there, we may possibly see our destiny as protectors of budo for the sake of life. I feel that the Gojo ( five precepts of Budo ) have an integral link here. Soke has also mentioned “Tamashii”. Most commonly translated as “soul”, we may also acknowledge that in order to understand the duty of fudoumyo, we must accept fully the teachings to understand the soul of bushido. In order to be accepted into heaven, we must cleanse our soul through training by enduring hardship, pain, sweat and tears. I believe soke has mentioned that the sweat from training evaporates into the heavens and we are rewarded by the gods of budo in the form of luck? Therefore, we should not become obstinate, indolent or become complacent in our training. We should learn to talk with the gods of budo through our sweat and determination for understanding the truth of the martial arts.

Developing the soul of budo is the aim of the true budoka. This is far more important to me than continually learning new skill sets. While training, we will inevitably learn new waza. However, if there is no soul or heart to the movement, there is ultimately nothing, only an empty shell. Only by emptying our cup at the dojo door, and stepping with sincerity ( magakoro ) can we hope to gain true lessons from those masters that teach physically and spiritually from both realms. I truly believe that “forgetting yourself” while having a playfull mind and the ability to absorb the teachings directly is essential. A character free from intellectual, preconcieved, and intervention based on desires, is the only way to learn this budo. As we have heard before, if we aim to create business, fame, and fortune from this art, we will ultimately fail. We may see some immediate gains from those with these desires. Their path may be tempting for a moment. However, If we take another step,we will also be able to see their shortcomings and that failure is inevitable. You can see this at the Honbu on occassions. I must congratulate Soke and the Shihan for tolerating the many that exploit the Bujinkan name for their own personal satisfaction. But as Nagato Sensei has said, “budo is not that trivial”. These things are natural in humans and is a part of our training. Experiencing these people are chances for you also to see yourself and where you stand in the scheme of things. If they act as a mirror, than maybe you have some work to do on your own character. It’s all training. We must relinquish ourselves to the fact that we may never know or master budo. This is the cutting truth. However, if we can accept this, and acknowledge our frail and uncertain knowledge, we may be actually able to learn something. But this something will only be real learning if our heart and soul is in the right place.

Pain. An indicator that you are still alive! Training with sincerity and trust is all we need. Soke has said that a zen wind is blowing within the martial arts. We have to catch that wind of peace. If you love something fully, great things can happen. But with love ( as we know ) comes times of difficulty, despair, and confusion. This is just like life isn’t it. Doesn’t soke say he is teaching life? I have chosen to follow with my heart and believe in something that I see as being beneficial to me and the people around me. The more I train with soke and the shihan, the more I believe this. From belief comes connection. Soke sends the teachings of budo through radio waves across the world to those who have the ability and desire or luck, to tune into them. It is our job to maintain and keep these frequencies open and heard to ensure peace in society. I feel that this years theme requires people to search their soul ( tamashii ) and acknowledge the truth of their abilities ( Saino / nouryoku ) and become acutely aware of where they stand in life ( utsuwa ). If we can master ourselves, than maybe we can eventually be called a bugeisha and come to understand that grimace on the face of Fudomyo-o - Destroyer of evil ways and the protector of life.

Gambatte Kudasai! Sanshin As we left the Ayase Budokan, the snow fell over us. It had a calming affect after such an excellent training session with Soke and Noguichi Shihan. It’s always hard to sleep after Soke’s evening classes. Maybe that’s why we drink beer?!

Walking with Doug, we began to talk about our blogs. He mentioned that as three residents ( including Paul Masse ) we managed to encapsulate the concept of Sanshin and Shin Gi Tai. Even though we are often situated in the same environment ( utsuwa ), we are all receiving and absorbing the teachings in a different manner. We can see the principles of taijutsu at work here. Timing, Distance and Angles.

Each of these principles give us a unique opportunity to discover the “feeling of moving in the kukan”. In my view, these principles are one in the same, but until our body can understand this, we often categorise them as separate entities. In this way, we could maybe look at the three blogs as representatives of these principles of taijutsu. Sanshin ( three hearts ) is an essential component to achieving the ultimate goal of the bugeisha – Shin Gi Tai Ichi ( heart,waza,body as one ). In respect to people’s interaction and experiences in the dojo, we can appreciate that if we come together and share, we may come to another level of understanding. The heart of the martial artist is essential in this regard. Without a heart as straight as bamboo, we will only become further confused and become more clouded from the truth.

Paul and Doug’s Japanese is of a very advanced level, especially in regards to budo and understanding Soke. As for myself, I can but mumble enough words to get my wife to make me dinner! In this regard, I respect them greatly and encourage those who don’t regularly view their pages to do so more frequently. I actually like to read them after a few days after posting my own page to see if there are any commonalities. More often than not, there is. http://henka.wordpress.com/ http://web.mac.com/phmasse/martial_profile/Go_Shin_Jutsu.html

I find it also very encouraging, stimulating and inspiring to hear Soke at training express further views on recent concepts that have coincided with my own brainstorming. I therefore feel that the decision to commence this blog has been of great benefit to me and my training. For one, it helps me stay on the path. I am also pleased that upon looking back on my original welcoming words of this blog, that they were expressed from my real truth. Being able to hear your truth and also hear your falsehood is important. This is what budo training is about, cleansing your abilities and soul with the world as your dojo ( Saino Kon Ki ).

How do we know if your heart is in the right place? I believe that just living life simply, with no expectations, will give you the answer. Good things will happen, relationships will ripen, and those superficial worries will give way to a deeper knowing that ” all will work out just fine.” This post is not about Doug, Paul or myself. It’s about coming to understand that “the connection” with people is very important. This is one of the reasons why many people move and/or travel many times to Japan. They need to be in an environment that is complimentary to their studies. By this I mean being able to develop communication and connections ( both verbal and non-verbal ) with like-minded persons.

We are all linked. It will just be a matter of time and weeding out until the people studying this art can reach a level of understanding that working together is in the best interest of the Bujinkan. I believe this time is drawing close with the evidence coming from the many Taikai being organised around the world. If we can all master Saino Kon Ki, than this is the beginning. Gambatte kudasai. Nawa no Kankaku Iv’e just returned to training and have enjoyed attending Sokes classes as always. Last night at the Honbu, Soke once again mentioned that the theme was to move and wrap up the opponent with the feeling that he is becoming entwined by rope. This is Nawa no Kankaku. We shouldn’t move just like we are tying someone up with a rope. It’s far deeper in significance as always. The concept is that we are tying our opponent up with our soul or Tamashii. Being captured by ones soul or spirit can be likened to being wrapped up my an invisible cord or rope. The feeling of restrictivness and entrapment is the ultimate aim of obtaining Nawa no Kankaku.

In a sence, this feeling may be linked to Sanninjutsu and Kannashibari. By this I mean a feeling of mind control while subduing the opponent by giving him a sence of being “frozen” on the spot, unable to move a muscle. We can maybe appreciate that this feeling can be interlooped with the current theme Soke has been talking about.

In regards to training, we see that when mastering the principles of taijutsu and understanding the kihon, we can literally slow down time and observe that each movement is connected ( like knots/links in a rope/chain ). I feel that Soke is helping us realise the feeling of mastery and also helping us to achieve it by creating thought around the concept of Saino Kon Ki. In order to become a bugeisha of the finest, we need to fully integrate,understand, and master the concept of Saino Kon Ki. Upon doing this, we will be able to live within the freedom of the Kukan. With the time we generate from mastering these principles, we will come to understand that “performing a waza” is a very low aspect of budo training. I’d like to try and explain from my very limited understanding. The consistent success one has in training is a result of understanding Shin Gi Tai and Saino Kon Ki or Saino Shin Ki. As a result, one controls the Kukan and can therefore come closer to having a sence of Kanjin Kaname. By this I mean that from moving in the kukan one can see the future actions of the opponent that ultimately dictates ones responce. Being able to recognise this enables one to move with confidence and with naturalness. From a new found sence of inner knowing and confidence, we can move in a more neutral manner, free from the restraints of kamae and technique. I think we can observe this mastery in both Soke and Nagato Shihans taijutsu quite easily.

Knowing that one is always in a safe position or Anzen no tokoro that enables your techniques to work effortlessly, will ultimately allow one to know the invincibility of the ninja’s taijutsu and true mastery of budo. One needs not to be concerned about fighting, strength, power, or the skill of the opponent. It should feel like fishing. One opens his heart and soul, and in a sence casts a line out. When the opponent moves toward him, the line tangles and according to the situation, more is let out or wound in. It all depends on the opponents movements.The art of kyo jutsu tenkan ho is a linked aspect in this regard. Therefore, even though one looks like he his retreating from strong attacks, he is infact holding the opponent with Tamashii ( his soul ). The soul can be likened to a rope, and entwines around the opponents whole being to render his attacks useless. This inturn takes the opponents will to fight, as the rope cuts deeper and becomes tighter the more he struggles. How much rope do you need? It’s situational isn’t it. If we can observe this rope as human blood vessels, we could use the following analogy. Upon stretching out all of the human’s blood vessels ( Shin / kokoro ), we would have a length of about 60,000 miles long ( enough to go around the world twice ) This capacity ( Saino ) is more than enough to control your environment ( Utsuwa ). We can also look at how cowboys use a rope to break-in horses. Initially, the manner of breaking-in is quite a difficult process and there is much resistance. Initially it is found that creating a safe zone that removes the horse from any more unesessary stressess will aid in better results. From there, the horse is introduced to various noises and commands while slowly adding equipment. This stage is about developing a trust relationship with the horse. Often the rope/reigns must be tightened to control and take away the rebelious nature of the horse. Upon being re-conditioned, the reigns/rope can be removed, but the feeling remains in the horses soul. At this point, it understands it’s place, respects it’s master, and has no sense of rebellion. This is control.

We are all animals. To advance our lives, we need to engage in training. We need to be led until we can learn to lead ourselves. Until then, we search for information and teachers to guide us. In relation to domesticating dogs, we put them on a lead and walk with them while introducing survival skills in the concrete jungle. If the dog breaks this connection ( the lead ) than it often runs away, only to be found run over by a car, starving, or diseased. Therefore, it is important to know how much we don’t know, and maintain the connection with our masters/teachers. It is only when our teacher gives us his permission, may we begin to tread away from his shadow and experience a different life. Until then, we must follow the rules and conditions set. These are defined for a reason. The reason is to learn how to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our country. If we cannot learn this essential teaching, or break from the rope that leads us, than we would surely die, or become overwhelmed by the pressures of modern day society. I feel we can liken this to training. Soke has mentioned that he wants us to become “death doctors”. From my memory, he wanted us to learn how to take away the diseases of people that would destroy them. These diseases are not what we commonly see as diseases such as cancer, but the emotional,psychological, and spiritual diseases that lead people astray in life. That is why students experience hard training from their teachers. The teachers are just trying to remove the “restrictions” of the students and their “evil ways” that stop them from becoming a true martial artist. If we relate this to nawa no kankaku we can appreciate that as students we are being whipped,tied, restrained, taunted,but most importantly led by the rope to possible saviour. Please don’t misinterpret this as Sado Masochistic behaviour. lol. This actually reminds me of something Nagato Sensei once said. ” The difference between the Bujinkan and Sado Masochism is that in the Bujinkan, there’s a meaning to the pain!” All we have to do as students is hang on tightly and not let go. Much like the horses tail. If we let go, or don’t have the ability and heart and are shaken or whipped off, we have lost the connection and will be left to swim alone, around and around in a dark ocean of desires. This is the link, the connection we need to maintain with Soke and the Shihan.

It’s just like driving too. If we follow the road lines ( rope ) that curve, straighten and change direction ( henka ) but stay on the right side, we will eventually reach our destination. However, if we fail to follow them, we may end up in a crash or in prison. So, with this sense, entangle yourself lightly but firmly with the rope ( teachings of the Bujinkan ) and tie the knot ( if you will ) with love until the day you die! Bufu Ikkan!

Shu Ha Ri This page will feature an article written by Yukiyoshi Takamura. I think it is important for people within the Bujinkan understand that there are no short cuts in learning budo. To develop strong roots or a solid foundation, is the key to understanding. Form must be made before it can be broken and then left behind. So many people are avoiding this structure that is inherent in ALL arts. To appreciate all arts, and recognise the essence of them, we must move through these essential three stages of development.

People come to Japan and observe the “shitenno” move freely and without form. Students try to imitate. What is often seen is interpretation based on lack of fundamental training. Students can only see what their capacity can let them see. It’s easy to see the lack of skill,and capacity in many. Soke states that the “feeling” is the most important aspect of budo. I believe this %100.

To understand this deeply, we must be honest and recognise that we cannot neglect kihon. Where does this feeling come from? The kihon teaches the body, mind and soul. When these entities are unified, the body can move freely without intervention. This is when we can begin to “feel” at a more effective level. Those that don’t have fundamental waza will of course have feeling, however, to be effective and survive, one must have technique. For example: you may “Feel” that someone has a knife, but it’s no good if you haven’t any skill to stop it from killing you! “Feeling alone is not enough!” Hatsumi Sensei Soke and the Shihan for many years trained very hard in the kihon waza of the nine schools. What we see today is a result of their conviction to understand the path of budo. They are the avatars of Shin Gi Tai Ichi or Saino Kon Ki. The reason why they can transmit these essences is because they are walking evidance of mastery of the martial arts through Shu Ha Ri.

“Shu-ha-ri” literally means embracing the kata, diverging from the kata and discarding the kata. The pursuit of training in a classical Japanese endeavour almost always follows this educational process. This unique approach to learning has existed for centuries in Japan and has been instrumental in the survival of many older Japanese knowledge traditions. These include such diverse pursuits as martial arts, flower arranging, puppetry, theatre, poetry, painting, sculpture and weaving. As successful as shu-ha-ri has been into the modern era, new approaches to teaching and learning are altering this traditional Japanese method of knowledge transmission. Whether traditional Japanese arts and endeavours are successfully passed to the next generation of practitioners is up to the sensei (teachers) of today and their wisdom in confronting the inherent strengths and pitfalls of shu-ha-ri. In this essay I will focus on shu-ha-ri and its unique application in the honourable martial discipline of Yoshin-ryu jujutsu. Shoden: The beginning level of training

Shu (Embracing the kata) The kata or form is the educational core of all traditional Japanese knowledge schools. It is the most visible representation of a schoolís knowledge packaged into one seemingly simple set of movements or concepts. Because the kata is so accessible it is often mistaken to be the most important aspect of determining a students ability or progress. In fact, properly taught, the kata does contain within it the ura or hidden level of information, but this information lies beneath the surface or omote of simple observation. Without first devoting oneself entirely to the mastery of the omote of the kata, the student is destined to remain forever a beginner, never able to progress towards the true depth of knowledge that rests hidden in the ura before him. To experience shu and embrace the kata, the student must first resign himself and his ego to a seemingly random series of repetitious exercises. Often these beginning or shoden level kata are by design intended to challenge the students concentration levels and devotion to learning. In some of the more rigorous traditions, kata are intended to create physical discomfort in addition to this exercise. Overcoming physical discomfort in this type of kata is just the first level of training the student to mentally focus exclusively on one task. As the student progresses through the various kata, different aspects of stress and distraction are encountered. As these challenges grow more intense the studentís mind learns to process information and stress in a much more efficient manner. In time different neuro-muscular processes become intuitively ingrained in such a way that they are no longer consciously realized by the student. Once this level of kata is absorbed and executed satisfactorily, the student has reached the first level of his or her training. Other more advanced kata will be presented throughout training which present greater and more diverse challenges, but the mental methodology for learning is now in place. The most basic reason for kata training has been achieved. The pitfalls of teaching at the shoden level At this level it is possible for kata to teach all by themselves. They are after all physical repetitions that challenge and instruct in an almost totally private experience. Although it might seem an exaggeration, anyone who knows the basic movements of a kata can take a student to this first level of training. It is even possible for some students to reach this level of training entirely by learning from a device like a book. However, this hands-off approach to learning by the sensei places the student in a perilous situation, especially in the teaching of paired kata. The most common downfall here is a senseiís lack of diligent attention to physical form and proper timing. Simply stated, many low-level instructors teaching ability suffers due to their own mediocre instruction. Due to this they now instil poor habits into their students that must be unlearned at a later time. This is not only potentially dangerous, but can be quite frustrating to the student. This teaching flaw has resulted in many excellent prospective students becoming disenfranchised from their training experience and discontinuing their pursuit. Diligent instruction even at the most basic level of kata training is absolutely mandatory. Basics are at the core of any pursuits proper execution and should never be undervalued.

Chuden: The intermediate level of training chuden level

“Shu” at the

At the chuden level kata study includes a new element. This element is the application or bunkai. The deeper reason for the kata and its construction is now presented to the student. The scenario in which the kata exists is also studied and evaluated. This study and evaluation is however strictly limited to the pure execution of the kata without variation. Only through this strict study can the kata accurately demonstrate its relevance to the student at a level he can comprehend. During this process the sensei helps the student begin to grasp the existence of the ura, those aspects that lie hidden beneath the surface of the physical form. For some students this realization is a revelation while to others it has been obvious for some time. Either way, the sensei must now accurately present basic concepts on a more abstract level than before. This paves the way for the second aspect of shu-ha-ri. Ha (diverging from the kata) In the traditional Japanese concept of shu-ha-ri, ha is the first hint of creative expression allowed the student. It is when the henka waza or variation is first experienced. It has been called the “divergent form existing within the form” or the “orthodox variation that co-exists within the confines of the strictly defined greater kata.” This is when the student is encouraged to consider any response to a failure within the pure kata. Extremely attentive instruction is required by the sensei at this juncture because too much deviation will lead to sloppiness or bastardization of technique, while too much restraint can cripple any underlying intuitive talent. Encouraging intuitive creative talent is the purpose here but this creative experience must be diligently tempered by the confines of the greater kata. The kata must remain recognisable as the kata. If the kata diverges too far from the norm, it is no longer related to the original kata and becomes an altogether different expression of technique. It is imperative that such a deviation be avoided at this level of learning. Ha, at the chuden level Once the student discovers the boundaries of his training within the greater kata he will find the possibilities of learning almost endless. Progress comes now in leaps of ability not experienced in the past. Most excellent students first demonstrate their real potential during this stage of their study. The concepts and forms of the ryu integrate in a manner that intellectually stimulates the studentís mind. He now more fully appreciates the kata and recognises the technical wisdom that exists within it. Consequently, many sensei find this time the most rewarding in a studentís progress. The fruits of a senseiís labour manifest themselves powerfully during this period. The pitfalls of teaching at the chuden level. Strict adherence to the core concepts of the particular tradition must be adhered to at this time. To deviate from the core concepts that define the ryu will allow the student to proceed in a direction not intended by the Ryuso (founder). The boundaries of the kata must be adhered to for the ryu to maintain its identity and focus. Stepping beyond the confines of the kata at this point can be disastrous and a studentís ultimate potential compromised. Sensei often fall into the trap of becoming too unstructured in their teaching at this level of training. They misread the studentís progress and take him too far beyond his level of comprehension. The studentís mind and technique must be constantly challenged during this intermediate stage of learning, but occasionally an overzealous student will attempt to move too far too fast. This tendency must be avoided or it will compromise further progress and learning. Joden: The advanced level of training

Ri (discarding the kata) Some practitioners of modern martial traditions dismiss kata and shu-ha-ri as being too confining or old fashioned. In truth, this position is flawed because they misinterpret the purpose of kata. Like so many armchair experts, they have not been properly trained beyond the shoden level in kata and are commenting on a subject about which they simply are unqualified and therefore unable to comprehend. Like most observers outside the experience of deep study, they see the kata as the art itself instead of a sophisticated teaching tool that is only a surface reflection of an arts core concepts. The kata, in their flawed interpretation “is” the art. This is like the flaw of assuming a dictionary to be a complete representation of language. Unfortunately, numerous older martial traditions in Japan unintentionally reinforce this misinterpretation by overemphasising the kata. Often with these schools significant core elements and knowledge have been lost to antiquity so that all that remains is the omote or outer shell of the kata. With nothing left but the kata to embrace, these schools often reinterpret their mokuroku (technical syllabus), making the kata the primary driving force of the ryu. When this happens the ryu inevitably degenerates into a simplistic dance where the ura and applications of the kata become of secondary focus. These traditions are effectively dead. They are like skeletons attempting to represent a total person. “Ri” What is it? “Ri” is difficult to explain as it is not so much taught as it is arrived at. It is a state of execution that simply occurs after shu and ha have been internalised. It is the absorption of the kata to such an advanced level that the outer shell of the kata ceases to exist. Only the underlying truth of the kata remains. It is form without being conscious of form. It is intuitive expression of technique that is as efficient as the prearranged form but utterly spontaneous. Technique unbridled by the restriction of conscious thought processes result in an application of waza that is truly a moving meditation. For one who has achieved ri, observation becomes its own expression of reality. The mind is now free to operate on a distinctly higher level than previously possible. To the casual observer it appears that the exponent has become almost psychic, able to recognise an occurrence or threat before it actually exists. In truth the observer is just fooled by his own mindís mental inertia. With ri, the lag time between observation and cognitive response is reduced to almost imperceptible levels. It is “ki”. It is “mushin”. It is “ju”. It is all these things in combination. It is the manifestation of the highest level of martial ability. It is what we refer to in the Takamura ryuha as “wa”.

The level of technical execution associated with ri is realistically beyond the ability of many practitioners. Most people are simply incapable of reaching this, the most advanced level of expression of a ryuís potential. Frequently however, practitioners who never reach this level of technical execution make excellent sensei, able to take a student to the edge of mastery even though they themselves are incapable of making the jump to the intuitive execution that is ri. Some observers try to dismiss this recognition of limitation as elitist. I find this thinking odd. I would like to remind these observers that not all human beings are innately capable of mastery in all pursuits. As individuals we are endowed with certain talents and deficiencies. It is these individual talents and deficiencies that make us humans the diverse and unique species we are. To try to deny this truth is to deny what makes up our individuality. With this in mind it is imperative to remember that the humble individual realises that mastery in one pursuit does not guarantee even average talent in another. Likewise, technical expertise does not necessarily guarantee teaching expertise.

Pitfalls of teaching at and beyond the joden level Once a student has reached the level of realising ri on a regular basis he has essentially achieved all the technical ability a sensei can strictly teach him. The process of instruction and teaching must now evolve. The relationship between teacher and student must be allowed by the sensei to evolve as well. At this point the student is charged by the traditions of his ryu and the vows of his keppan (blood oath) to maintain control of his ego and recognise that without the sensei and the ryu he would never have achieved his ultimate potential as a student. He must acknowledge that he owes all that he has learned to his senseiís devotion to teaching and his senseiís sensei. His behaviour must reflect that he is forever in debt to the ryu and that he is compelled to be humbled in his teacherís presence. Likewise, the sensei must now allow autonomy and self-expression by the student in a way never previously permitted. More a leader and pointer of the way, the sensei should proudly stand beside his student with a glad heart. He is likewise humbly compelled and called by his responsibility to the ryu to continue to live up to the principles and standards he impressed upon his student. His task of teaching is over. He is now a grandfather instead of a father.

Unfortunately, it is at this time–the time of a sensei’s highest calling to the ryu–that many fail. Instead of demonstrating confidence in themselves and pride in their studentsí accomplishments they fall prey to vanity and insecurities of the spirit. The failing of a sensei now is usually associated with a perceived end of respect from the student, an end of respect that doesnít actually exist. Frequently this problem manifests itself when the sensei attempts to reintroduce a strict student-teacher relationship that prevents the student from realising his mature position of authority within the ryu. At this time some sensei perceive deviation from their own path as a students rejection of their teachings. In truth, some of a senseiís teachings must be denied for a student to reach the highest levels of selfexpression within the ryu. Some sensei are also unwilling to recognise that a deviation from their own teaching at this level is actually a manifestation of the studentís individuality and mature confidence. This confidence–it must be remembered– was imparted by the senseiís own teachings as part of the bargain between student and teacher. The sensei must remember his duty and charge as simply a member within the ryu. He must humble his heart and reacquaint himself with his own past as a student. This he must do to remain an effective leader of “the way.” Conclusion: White becomes black, becomes white again. It is the calling of every member of the school to acknowledge his charge and regularly peer into the kamidana (household altar) mirror, the mirror that reflects undistorted truth. And to humbly ask the kami to assist him in viewing his own heart and motivations with a critical eye, to scrutinise that small voice that is the harbinger of vanity and rationalisation. Only through the expression of truth can the process of shu-ha-ri successfully embrace student and teacher in the charge of passing the knowledge and wisdom of our schoolís ancestors forward responsibly. Yukiyoshi Takamura, 1986. Having undergone special training in Shindo Yoshin-ryu jujutsu as a boy, Yukiyoshi Takamura left Japan while a teenager and eventually settled in San Jose, California, USA. He operated a dojo in California in the 1960s and 70s choosing to provide rigorous training to a small group of dedicated students. His art, now called Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin-ryu, embodies the philosophy and spirit of an earlier era of Japan adapted to a Western setting. Takamura’s deep insights into the essence of martial arts stimulates modern budo practitioners around the globe. Shugyo ” The softest substance in the world goes through the hardest. That which is formless penetrates that which allows no entry. Because of this truth I know the benefit of taking no action. Teaching without words. And the benefit of taking no action are without compare in the universe. ” - Lao Tse.

Experiencing difficult times during your shugyo is unavoidable. Enduring physical conditions is part and parcel with the study of budo. We just hope that they are not too debilitating and completely stop us from continuing the training. Hardship and the feelings we come to experience from personal introspection are the most important for our true growth as a person. How we deal with these ” inner demons ” ( that we all possess ) is crucial for our development as a bugeisha and our roles as a father, husband, son, daughter, and so on.

To try to help others is important. In fact, helping others helps us to forget ourselves. However, we can not hide from ourselve for long. If we focus on others too much, we can develop in an unbalanced way. I was once told by my Shiatsu teacher that many therapists of Shiatsu ended up with heart problems because they ” gave too much ” and recieved ” nothing in return “. Life is about ” give and return “. Soke too has said this I believe. This is not that someone should expect something in return for a supposed good deed, but the natural knowing that we need to survive and grow through a mutual ” heart to heart ” connection.

Training in the martial arts is ” Shugyo”.

Shugyo (修行) may be defined literally as “conducting oneself in a way that inspires mastery”. While the meaning of the kanji used in “shu” was originally translated as ‘using a brush to strike away the dust that obscures the viewing of a persons original elegance’, the combined kanji of “shu” and “gyo” (carrying out, walking along) is now generally translated as simply “severe or austere training”. The kanji rendered for this version of “shugyo” is most commonly associated with Buddhist asceticism, and most notably, the “shugenja” (修 験者, ascetic mountain-dwelling monks).

In addition to ascetic Buddhism, the act of shugyo can be applied to any serious endeavor or “michi” (path). For example, the term “musha shugyo” (武者 修行, an exponent of martial [arts] conducting themselves in a way that inspires mastery) refers to a “knighterrantry” tour, a practice of travelling around the country in order to train and test their martial skills that was followed by many serious budo-ka of pre-Meiji Japan (and to a lesser degree post-Meiji). The kanji used in the term “shushi” (修士, master) also combines the same shu character with the character for “man” (alternately read as “samurai”). The implication of this kanji combination is that the person, and perhaps only the person, that follows the way of austere training can obtain the skill level of a “master”. A related term worth mentioning is “kugyo” (苦行), which translates literally as “carrying on while suffering”, and is understood functionally as referring to asceticism, penance, or mortification. In centuries past, shugyo were periods of time where the adherent (usually certain types of monks or warriors) would submit themselves to extreme conditions – mentally, spiritually and physically, in order to achieve certain enhanced or enlightening experiences. This was viewed as an important forging process that, among other things, taught one what their actual limitations were; or more appropriately, what their lack of limitations were. We all fall prey to our ego and weakness. What we in my eyes should do is come to accept them. In accepting these traits, we can learn to pay them no attention. By this I mean not giving them the power to affect or overcome us. But first, we need to come to have the confidence to pursue the development of the true self with sincerity. I personally am very bad at this, but I constantly try to keep on a path that is positive and fruitful for both myself and my family regardless. Deciding to study the martial arts to me is a hard path. A road less travelled. Only those with the true warrior heart will pursue the training to the very end. Or as Soke says, ” only those foolish enough.”

Gambatte Kudasai. Play

Soke uses the word ” Play ” to send us of to experience for ourselves the taijutsu of his nine schools. Recently he mentioned a very interesting and necessary point in regards to studying budo with him. Soke doesn’t teach. His method of teaching, or should I say ” transmitting” his art is from man to man interaction. This transmission is not something that he plans, but is an occurence in natural rhythm with his surroundings. He also stated that the themes chosen from year to year, are not predetermined or planned either. The themes just naturally arise and fit to finally complete what is necessary to pass on the “feeling” of the nine schools. If Soke was to plan the way things were to occur, than the training would become predictable. If he was predictable, than the training would not be “alive” and teach students how to deal with henka or “change”. It would also not be Ninjutsu. To “play” with the teachings of budo, Soke mentioned that you must first learn it ! He also related it to understanding music. First you need to know the scales/rudiments etc, before you can “play” and actually make music free of thought. This is the same as budo. It also can be related to Shu Ha Ri.

To “play” with taijutsu too early in ones training can be detrimental to future positive changes. One has to firstly understand or maintain and on going appreciation of the kihon of budo. It is important to remain in touch with the kihon and the principles that ultimately teach us the way to live. I have once heard that Soke thought he learned more about life from the study of the kihon than that of techniques. Therefore, this can be a lesson to those that neglect kihon practise just because they view it to be “physical practise only”. Nothing is quite as it seems. After all, we are studying the art of Ninpo!

The ultimate aspect of budo is to internalise everything to the point of “no thought”. This is also the path of englightenment, or satori. It is said that we must strip away the unecessary to reach satori. It is only once we can do this, that we can understand the simplicity of life. Having asked to describe my experience as uke for Soke during class recently, I could but mutter to Soke that I didn’t understand/feel any feeling from him. From memory, I believe he replied by saying that this is the ultimate “feeling” to have. You could say “no feeling”? By this it was explained that by not permeating any feeling, the opponent is unable to determine the next move. Therefore, what ever movement occurs, is a suprise and unsettling for the opponent. From this point, I believe momentarily one is unbalanced psychologically and therefore it naturally affects the body. From confusion breeds weakness. As the mind and body are one, the confusion felt in the mind creates hesitancy and there after indescive body movement and lack of control. Soke maintains this “mind/body control” consistently and is easily able to manipulate is uke’s. Soke also asked that everyone take responsibility for their own training and not to think that they are being taught while in the dojo. Now.This does not mean that one has no respect or does not follow the teachings as well as they can. What this does mean ( in my eyes at this present moment ) is giving students a chance to “show their true face “ and allow themsleves to freely experiment and express themselves as indivivuals. This is a wonderful manner of teaching in order to empower people and help them obtain their true potential. Soke is is helping us all understand the Sainou Kon Ki to live life to the maximum.

Unfortunately, there are always people that follow their own ways and disrupt the balance ( wa ) that is required to maintain healthy relationships. When this inbalance occurs in the dojo, the concept of natural selection and justice can be viewed. It is also an excellent way for students to observe themselves, and see how easy it is to fall prey to desire and deviate off the path of true budo. In saying this though, I have no idea if I am on the true path or not. I may never know. What is important is to remain connected to Soke and the Shihan the best you can. From there, if you are open, then your relaitonships, actions and overall life will act as a mirror in the dojo, giving you the opportunity to weed out your shortcomings and weaknesses. What is also very important to understand is that this may go on for your whole life!

It is my personal opinion, that we are being shown the path on how to be our own teachers. After all, we are ultimately alone in this world. To do this, we have to have a sence of self worth and confidence. Soke often tells people that they are good and very skilled. I believe these affirmations passed on are just like the ones he recieved in the many letters from Takamtsu Osensei. Soke has said before that he is just transmitting the arts as he had them transmitted to him. This is important to remember, as is the concept of Sakizuke. The path of true learning is right in front of us. We have to decide whether or not we take the step to experience or not! Also, Don’t become too serious about budo. You have to have the heart of an Artist and play !! Gambatte Kudasai

Gojo 悟宝 Soke has given us the physical and spiritual methods to form a life with no form, but with the brightness of light to guide us and help those around us. Through the teachings of the Gyokko Ryu, we have been given training in the oldest forms of budo. These forms are know as the Godai no Gogyo no kata and we are told that from training in these forms,we can come to understand the essence of the martial arts. With all martial arts, philosophy is integral for the martial artist to develop fully as a complete person. This is the reason for the Gojo.

Soke over the last few years has mentioned in his classes and written publications, the five precepts denoting the ” correct path of a man ”. The word Gojo, literally means “honored writings.” For people in the various Nichiren Schools this title is given to the written works of The Great Sage Nichiren (Daishonin means great sage) whom most of us regard as the founder of a unique stream of Buddhism. Unlike many religious founders, hundreds of these endure as originals or as copies in the archives of the various schools. His disciples collected and catalogued them, treasured them and copied them. These Gojo came to be treasured to this day by both his original disciples and us later day disciples, as much for their wisdom and common sense about day to day and religious matters as for their doctrinal value. The “Great Sage” Nichiren was truly a unique individual. And for that reason his writings are worth reading and understanding even by people who aren’t practicing a Buddhism connected with his teaching. Far more so by those of us who find his teachings worth following. The Religious Law is always the same. It is based on the Gokai or Gojo, the five commandments of Buddhism, which correspond to the well-known five principles of Confucianism jin, gi, rei, chi, shin . It adapts itself to the various circumstances of human life. Its presence in a man may be known by his observance of the King’s Law. 礼 Rei:- Courtesy 義 Gi:- Truth and Justice 智 Chi:- Wisdom

仁 Jin:- Love and Sympathy

信 Shin:- Faith

The above shows the Chinese characters from the sho or shodo (calligraphy) on the tenegui with the Japanese pronunciation and in English, their Confucian meanings. The Combination of the characters 仁 義 礼 智 信 (Jin-Gi-Rei-Chi-Shin) is called Gojo in the Japanese pronunciation. Gojo represents the five ethics which should be kept by a human being in Confucianism. The Tokugawa Shogunate adopted Confucianism as an official ideology. Gojo therefore became a samurai’s ethics standard. These are also the five values represented by the five pleats in the front of a hakama.

The Gojo as written by Soke

Fumetsu no Fuse 滅の不施 Mamichi no Jikai Shizen no Ninniku Shizen no Choetsu Komyo no Satori 真道の持戒  Vow of the true way 自然の忍にく Natural resolve

Everlasting giving

自然の超越

Transcendance of nature

光明の悟り  Illumination of the awakening

I was once told a story by Nagato Shihan about Fumetsu no Fuse. There was once a monk who was proud of his ability to fulfill the goal of being able to selflessly give endlessly. Hearing this, a man approached him and said,” I’d like your ear please.” The monk looked at him, then cut of his ear, and gave it to him. The man took it and when he turned to walk away, he threw it into the bushes! These precepts are given to aid those in developing a balanced life. If ( like anything ) you develop in an unbalanced way, then you loose the capacity to discern right from wrong and live in society harmoniously with the self and others. Developing in a balanced manner also allows you to see the truth and falseness that lies everywhere around us. It also minimises the chance of being manipulated.

I believe the words of Takamatsu sensei say the same: “Wood, fire, soil, metal, water and spring, summer, fall, winter cannot exist without the earth. The five elemental manifestations and the four seasons balance the earth in the same manner as heaven is balanced by truth. If a person is honest, virtuous and faithful, he is walking on “the path of heaven”. When he goes with the path of heaven, he is following the will of heaven. This is the mind and eyes of god. Therefore,a ninja has to be a sensible and righteous person. Ninjutsu methods of perseverance can also be understood as methods of perception. A ninja is always calm and never surprised by any situation.” Bufu Ikkan Tamashii ” The soul is a sphere which retains the integrity of it’s own form if it does not bulge or contract for anything, does not flare or subside, but keeps the constant light by which it sees the truth of all things and the truth in itself.” The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius At a recent training session in Ayase, I felt that Soke had entered the room with a feeling I had not felt from him before. The class started and I quickly felt Soke and his spirit move the whole room to a sence of deathly seriousness.

The intense feeling permeating from Soke quietened down the large group people attending the training that night. Paul Masse was standing beside me at an instant after Soke had moved the dojo with his taijutsu. I turned to Paul and said ” Soke is on fire tonight”, and Paul stated something the same. Soke returned to the mat and said that he is pursuing training tonight with a strong sence of espressing “the soul” in everything he does. He said we should express ourselves, or be completely in touch with ourselves in absolutely everything we do. This means %100 – from the fingertips to the toe nails. Do not get this confused with going 100% in a physical “sporting” sence, but a sence of placing ones complete being or soul ( tamashii ) into the training.

This reminded me of a drum clinic I attended with a master drummer, Dave Weckl. He stated to the audience of budding hopefulls that everything he played, he played with his soul. And that meant %100 intention and focus. He went on to say that no matter how light a stroke on the cymbal, or tap of a drum with a stick, he did so with %100 conviction.

It’s true. In essence, everything is the same. We in this lifetime have chosen the study of martial arts as the medium to get closer to the essence of all things. Others have chosen different arts and pursuits. Many people who study from the “soul”, experience similar “moments” as we do as budoka. This is why Soke admonishes us to interact with people outside of the Bujinkan and martial arts. Doing this gives us a greater capacity to appreciate and understand more clearly our own path, the path of man itself, and also the world of art.

Soke has recently mentioned that “the controlling or taking of the opponents soul” is extremely important. To do this, one must also know oneself. I think the ability to control the kukan is the crucial catalyst here for developing this ability. Soke applies extreme pressure to the limbs or face of his uke. As a result, they are completely immobilised and have their fighting spirit taken from them. Many people state that they feel their energy has been drawn from them and their life essence depleted. I believe this is Soke walking the talk – taking the soul. I have been one of many who have felt this feeling from Soke. It’s definately something very difficult to explain. I always feel that Soke is not physically performing the techniques. There is something greater enveloping you. I feel his superior spirit and soul is the pressure I feel. This is what makes me sweat. I feel that because we are physcially feeling intense pain, we automatically assume it is pain delivered from a tangible source. This is true, but the source of the depth of pain is not from a physical realm. The physical body is but the medium to induce the force of the spirit. When mastered / unified / connected ( shin gi tai ichi ), the truth can be felt! Soke made a comment that explained the effectiveness of controlling with just one finger. If we try and grasp an eel or snake firmly, it is often very difficult to hold still or control. The same is with a person. However, if we hold down just one point, we can often manipulate and control the movement of the eel, snake or person to a point that all resistance is futile. It is quite interesting to experience this from both the perspective of uke and tori.

The animal kingdom has many lessons and answers for people following the way of true budo. So, with the focus of our inner being or soul, we should endevour to develop the ability to control our environment and adversaries with just the point of a finger. We can see how pointing with focus can decieve people. I believe Noguichi Shihan gives excellent examples during taijutsu training of using the soul and body together to control people. With just a point of the finger, he takes our soul and wraps us up in his! Soke is the same. His being is so natural that as soon as he calls on us to be his uke, we can feel our soul being reeled in like a rope. We then become weakened, and as we move closer, Soke looks larger than life! Why? Because our soul has been taken! We then become bound by Sokes soul like a rope or spider web. From there we cannot move and experience the feeling of Kannashibari.

Since I have lived in Japan and trained, I have come to accept myself much more. From this acceptance, I have been able to pursue training with a feeling of groundedness that has removed any concern of failure, or lack of knowledge. Now, I view the struggle and confusion we encounter in training as inspiration! Soke wants us all to develop confidence in ourselves and grow. If we cannot, then we will not understand the teachings of Saino Kon Ki and the depth of our very own Soul. Soke was instructed by Takamatsu Osensei and was left to continue his budo studies of the nine ryuha on his own. Soke apparently went through many trials,doubts and hardships during the period in which he pursued his studies and daily practise after his teachers passing. It was with Sokes own determination, guts,soul, spirit,desire to improve, and the affirmations handed to him from Takamastu that he managed to get to the level of life and budo that we see today. I believe that Soke is infact, teaching us how to prepare for the time when we must pursue the path alone. This is inevitable.

However, Soke stresses the importance of the Bujinkan heart and that of “buyu”. We will never be alone if we develop trust relationships with others on the path of true budo. Saino Kon Ki is to me about coming to understand ones whole self. Soke often says to us that we are “all very good” and that we should all “have more confidence in ourselves”. I believe this is Soke giving us teachings that are vital for our continuance in the study of budo for the future. In order to lead or pass on the skills of the Buijnkan, we must move with conviction. Saino Kon Ki is about reaching into your soul and developing/trusting the self enough to fulfill your duties with passion and control your life and other in order to protect the Bujinkan way. The concept of Sakizuke ( rank before actual attainment of skill ) is very much alive in the Bujinkan. This is how Soke was taught, and this is how we are taught. Those people that have gone off alone ( while Soke is still teaching ) have misunderstood this teaching. Soke himself didn’t believe in himself as Soke until 15 years after the death of Takamatsu Osensei! So, who are these people that act like masters after only having the 15th rank for 6 months or so?! Basically, the 15th dans cannot rest on their laurals and become teachers and lazy. When Soke was given the Sokeship, he continued his training harder then ever! So, in my eyes, those who obtain the highest rank in the Bujinkan, should understand that this is a vital time to really train and maintain the right mind for learning. Teaching is learning, but to have the mindset of “only” being a teacher, is not healthy for ones life as a budoka. Keeping connected to the “soul” of things is the important point here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8u5gm_JcYY Train hard and enjoy every moment you can. Don’t take it for granted. Please remember that without Soke, we would not be living the life we live today. The life of the Bujinkan Warrior. Gambatte Kudasai! Uke ” If all you are, are uke in your martial arts career and survive. Then, you have succeeded as a martial artist !”

To write about being an uke, or for that manner, anything about budo is extremely difficult. One cannot even hope to express fully the reaches of the soul to explain it’s travels. Regardless, I will pass on my thoughts at this present time in regards to being uke for your teachers. When I say teachers, I mean every person that you engage in training with. I do not limit my teachers to the men who stand in the middle of the dojo. The closest teacher you will have during each training session will be your training partner for that day. If one can think like this, then you will be looking at developing a common wave length to connect in both mind and body to truly get the most from your training. This does not mean that you firstly question your partner about their life, but “feel” for a commonality between you both and drive toward creating a harmony.

Being uke is about cleansing yourself. It’s about controlling your mind and body and unifying yourself ( shin gi tai ichi ). Being uke is not about trying to “beat your opponent up”, or ” fight them”. Being an uke is training. We are training in the principles of taijutsu. We are training to make use of the kihon ( punches, kicks, kamae, ukemi, cuts, etc ) We are aiming to deliver effective, and straight attacks at the right distance with an awareness of timing and flow. Being uke is about understanding your Kihon. The better your kihon, the better your training experience.

” Training is a promise. You trust that your partner won’t hurt you, and you do so in return. Take things slow and practise them properly. It will do you no good to creat bad habits by practising improperly. There are countelss ways to punch, but you as Uke, you should punch straight and true for the beneift of your tori – none of those tracking, side-like punches that float all over the place. That type of punching does not benefit anyone.”

Nagato Shihan If a person is not able to be a good uke, than he has no chance of understanding the budo he endevours to learn. Learning budo requires one to understand the relationship and feeling of both victory and defeat. There are two sides to everything, and budo is no exception. Understanding and performing the role of uke requires the student to relinquish the ego. If one cannot do this, than they will only be able to learn %50 of what it means to study Taijutsu. To hold onto ones ego actually, is a means of ” killing oneself “. The abililty to absorb attacks requires one to release ones conscious mind to the point of responding subconsciously. To do this, one must move away from ones desires. People who are unable to accept the role of uke hold fear within themselves. To be able to perform sutemi, one must transcend fear and move forward with a single mind. This feeling to me, is required for a good uke and tori training relationship. If you cannot forget yourself, and move forward with a mind of ” giving “, you are holding back your discovery of the self and budo. As an uke, you are giving yourself for the betterment of not just your tori’s life, but for your’s and possibly those who are viewing your training. You must look at the greater picture! Training is not just about you. Training as uke is about assisting everyone in obtaining a better life and understanding of living.

There are diseases in people. These diseases are shown in their taijutsu. It is shown greatly during their role as uke. Please watch people carefully. Your ability to understand budo is from obtaining a healthy, natural understanding of both the role of uke and tori. Many people (of generally higher ranks ) from my observations give no energy when being uke. As a result, the partner is unable to assimilate the “feeling” of the waza. Why? Budo is about fighting. Budo is about energy. Fighting is energy. You have to give energy that is focused with a sence of conviction or committment. This energy is not malicious, but is energy that enables the tori to feel for the correct taijutsu. What I am trying to say is that there are people who just put their arm out like a wet and dead fish and just let it droop with a dead limp whenever someone tries to perform a waza. What is this!!!???? Is that a realistic feeling for two people engaged in a possible life and death situation?! These people hold selfish desires through their insecurities. There is no use trainin with someone like this. Sometimes these people fancy themselves as teachers and like to show you that you cannot do it. If you experience someone like this in training. Reply by moving your body the same way and tell them that you are just mimicking them! If they don’t get it, train with someone else, or hit them! Some people like to purposely change the attacks to make it difficult for you, or counter everything you do. If this happens, you must never do what they expect. From the beginning, you both have viewed your teacher and will go and try to emulate their teachings. If your training partner changes the attack constantly, how can you learn what was shown? The person changing is adhering to their own ego and has their own agenda. Don’t waste your time or money. They are only concerned about their own training, not yours.

Soke often asks us to accept new things and forever evolve by not becoming obstinate or adhering to ones desires. Those with the inablility to rid themselves of debiliating desires will forever be immersed in ego and have a strong sence of competitivness with everyone. We can often see this in the dojo. To be uke, means understanding the opposite side of life. It means coming to terms with ones true character, personality, and heart. The tests of being uke are in fact sometimes greater than that of being tori. To recieve physical pain is one aspect, but to endure the psychological element is far greater. Being an uke is a spiritual path. You feel your emotions, and have to learn to control them at all times. Ukeship is an incredible journey.

Many people cannot endure pain or discomfort. Many of these people have been training in the martial arts for a long time and are highly ranked. Noone likes pain, but when it comes to learning budo, there is no way to avoid it. Pain is an indicator that you are still alive, so be thank full !! Perservering with strenuous training gives you the chance to develop your character, learn about your body, and how to let go of your ego. A balanced character is important. Uke that are too soft, are not realistic. So to are those who resist everything. For those that have endured real fights, we know that the body has moments of intense strength and also moments of relaxation. For the professional or experienced fighter, the effective use of energy is important to last the distance, especially if there are many attackers. There are many more aspects that can be discussed in regards to topic.

In one experience at a seminar, I asked my uke to throw a basic right punch. My uke threw two punches insetad? I will cut a long story short….Do what your teachers asks you! If you want to fight or test teacher, do it outside. If you pay money and want to learn, do what your teacher says! Isn’t it obvious that he has a plan to teach a particular point or two or three?! I’ll put this to you. Would you throw wild hay maker punches at Nagato shihan if he asked you to grab him by the collar? No need to answer that one, eh. We are told to “show” our partner his openings or “suki”, but this doesn’t mean that we should knock his block off! You can see some people take great pleasure in showing that their training partner has a weakpoint. Remember. Two can play at that game! Training in the Bujinkan Hombu is unique. Every martial art around the world has it’s own unique training manner. What is important is to train according to what is expected at each school. When in Rome, do as the Romans do! Many Bujinkan dojo’s around the world train according to their culture or the desire / experiences of their teacher.This is fine. What is important is that we transcend individual desires and follow the path of this Japanese budo as closely to the Japanese Shitenno and Soke as possible. If we do not, then we are doing our own thing!

Also, over committing with strikes or under committing is not balanced ( unless desired to study a particular waza ). The important thing is to have the right mind. In the Bujinkan, we can see a varied level of skill in regards to uke and attacking. Nagato Sensei himself has said that there are very few people in the Bujinkan that has shown any real skill in attacking. This is appalling really isn’t it. Many people believe that self defence is learning to defend against punches and kicks, and not that of learning how to do them! Real budo is about balance. And this means that one must understand and have skill in all elements of fighting. Hence, we have the 18 skills of the Togakure ryu Ninja.

There are many, many things to consider in regards to being uke. You should love being uke, and love having the chance to feel the teachings of the ninja traditions from your teacher. The ninja were masters of ukemi, and therefore we need to put ourselves in as many situations as possible to learn and develop our skills. You learn about distance, angles, timing, kyojutsu, and more. By enjoying the role of uke, you will learn and also appreciate a greater training experience and feeling for life and relationships. I could write for longer on my thoughts about being uke. I will endevour to write some more at a later date when the feeling arises naturally. My words regarding training are from personal experience. For me, I have been lucky ( along side many, many others ) to endure being uke for the many great teachers of the Bujinkan. I’d like to think my approach to training has helped me recieve these expriences. Of course, everyone is different. So, please follow your own path and keep going.

Gambattee Kudasai Keiko

” There are no short cuts when learning budo!” Soke Masaaki Hatsumi Training is personal. The concept of teaching budo is something that cannot be thought of lightly. We cannot just decide to think of new concepts and change the training just to suit our own desires, or limited way of thinking. Budo is not a sport. Yet, people approach teaching budo in the way of a physical excercise or a sports science. Some people believe passing on the martial arts is as simple as learning new teaching methodologies and instructing like a school classroom.

Soke constantly tells us to find a good teacher. What does he actually mean by this? Does it mean someone that can take you through each waza of the densho step by step with undiluted detail? Or, is it someone who possess the ability to follow the path as directed by Soke with sincerity and conviction? The list can go on and on and on. I remember hearing or reading Soke mention that there are many types of people who are out there studying the Bujinkan. These particular people manipulate or bastardise the training to fit their own personal desires or needs. They add to the training what they think they already know. They do so in order to try and make it better, more appealing to the masses, or easier to understand. Soke called these people the ” under-developed types.” What is important, as stated by Soke, is that only once you can become transparent and rid yourself of these desires, that you can start to actually understand what is necessary to truly study the martial arts.

Being natural and coming to accept your true self is of utmost importance. Takamatsu Osensei said that Magakoro ( sincerity ) was the most important aspect in order to commence studying budo correctly from the beginning. If we do not enter the training with ” a true love for the art “ and ” a working knowledge of the self “ then we will eventually move off in a strange direction. As we know, Soke and the Shihan allow students to show their true face. This is a wonderful way to see who people truly are. If we were lined up like a karate-do class and everyone threw 100 punches and then 100 kicks and went home, it would take longer to come to an understanding of the character traits of each person training in your dojo. So, in this “free manner” , Soke is able to see those who truly practise well, don’t practise at all, have a good heart, hold misconseptions about training, values, morals, etiquette, and on and on. This is the Shugyo of the teacher in many regards.

What is important as a student, is to understand that every moment is a learning experience and a possible test from your teacher. If you don’t think this way, then your teacher cannot help you. Their teaching will fall on deaf ears. Ignorance is of course bliss on occassions but, you will never gain the true teachings of your teacher, even if you think you are. People that already have concepts and beliefs of how things are being done or why they work, are already in their own mind and have stopped learning from their teacher. They may be able to copy them to a certain degree but, they will only be able to develop as far as the conditions they have set upon themselves. These conditions are often believed to be guides to true advancement, but if they hold a corrupted heart, their true self will emerge and eventually sabotage all that they believed in. Therefore, it’s important to rid yourself of ways to better this art, or make it more understandable. By doing so, you are developing your own way ( even if you don’t think so ). There are so many minds out there that think they know ” the correct way “. The correct way is the way of the ” soul “. It is my feeling that it is our duty as martial artists to remain straight on the path by following the way of the soul. The soul does not waver in emotion, it does not waver from increased knowledge from intellectual study. It’s base is who we are. It’s from this base that we speak our truth. This truth will be seen in our everyday life, and also in our budo training. Soke is teaching us a budo that holds life sacred. We are therefore learning about life through our dojo training. Maybe the dojo could be called the ” life Dojo”? In saying that, it already is. The Bujinkan is the name Soke gave to his practise of budo as given to him by Takamatsu Osensei. He respects his teacher as a ” divine warrior “. This is a perosn who has seen the truth of life and death and had gone to heaven. Isn’t this the ultimate teaching? Soke once was told by Takamatsu Osensei that he would never become a meijin ( master ) but instead a tatsujin ( complete person ). What a compliment. In my eyes, to become a complete person is in fact to become a master of life. If one is a master of life, than he has obviously gained a masterful understanding of the ways of war. This maybe is the reason why soke moves us away from the urges to become kata collectors, historians, philosophers, relgious fanatics, etc. The underlying essence of budo is to understand life. We are lucky that he is teaching us this aren’t we!

Eventually, ones true self will emerge and people will then be able to see ones true heart. Through training, we meet and experience training with many people. Many of these people, especially in Japan, are from differing countries and bring with them the “feeling” of their unique cultures, way of life, and values, etc. Over time, we come to see that the “feeling” that enters our body from relating with them has nothing to do with race, color, religion, etc. What we feel is the heart and soul of that person. We feel what it is that makes them human. This is the great thing about everyone coming together and training as human beings. This is what budo is about. Reaching the core of ourselves and that of our nature as humans. Soke stressess the importance of developing in a balanced way. I think by following and listening closely to our teachers in Japan, we can do this. If the Japanese shihan have been able to pursue training and maintain positive progress in life and budo with Soke over 30 -40 years, then all we have to do is trust them. Blind faith is not what I’m talking about. It’s simply being able to naturally and with balance, discern the right way for true development. I think it all goes wrong when people bring too much of themselves into the dojo. By this I mean, their cups are already overflowing. Soke says that these people may continue with budo, but never really understand it because they are unable to “let go” of themselves. People give Soke their money for training and think they are learning, and even personal students. However, they are not. They are learning what they want to learn. Soke has also said that there are people that pay and train but are different. These people actualy get the pearls.

It’s important to be able to see the people that are actually getting the training from Soke, and those that are believing they are. I personally do not believe that Bujinkan Budo can be taught effectively ( in all realms ) from a sports science point of view. If one does, they loose the life and human aspect that is necessary for true development. Concentrating on physiological parameters and scientific frameworks defining human movement is a manner that disrupts ones search for the “essence” of all things through ” feeling”. There are many ways to approach training. I feel that one has to search for the truth by living with conviction and endure through ones doubts and trials. Soke admonishes us to “keep going” in the training no matter what our life situation is. This is a life art, so we must not distinguish it as a seperate study, hobby, or job. Budo is life and life is budo. They are the same. Soke was told by Takamtsu Sensei that there is ultimately nothing different between people who study martial arts and ones that do not. The only difference is the heart. To discover ones way in the martial arts / life, we must just continue with a positive mind, heart, and spirit. This purity will teach us many things. Patience and natural living seems to be a key points here too.

Getting back to training in physical techniques, I strongly believe that practising kata and forms are an integral aspect of learning an art and tradition. Therefore, we should not neglect the kihon and waza that form the densho. Soke and the shihan have all studied the basis of the Bujinkan for many years, and continue to do so. They can all do the waza and that is why they are the masters we see today. People have missing links in their training, as do I. If we a serious about learning, we will honestly look at ourselves and see our shortcomings. That is why the basics were performed at the last Daikomyosai. Nobody can do them! I will complete this page with words spoken from Soke. I have trained myself and instructed others in Kihon Happo (basic eight rules) and felt that those who have had previous training in Karate, Judo, Aikido, Kung Fu, and other fighting techniques tend to stay with those forms and have trouble learning Budo Taijutsu from a “blank slate.” The fighting forms stay with the student even though he starts the training of Budo Taijutsu. When do the previous learned techniques disappear? I think it is up to a person’s individual talent. The phenomenon is just like a dialect disappearing after one lives in a different part of the country. No matter how hard one tries, he will never be a professional announcer if he speaks in dialect. The same can be said for Budo. I also studied various martial arts such as Judo, Karate, Aikido, old-style Budo, and Chinese Budo. In other words until I encountered Takamatsu Sensei, I was a Budoka (martial artist) with many dialects. One day I began to wonder why and when did I lose those “dialects?” I realized that it was after I lost all my muscle tone after five years of illness. Discovery of your own dialect is one way of improving Budo. When one reaches a certain degree of skill, he comes up against the “wall,” something he has trouble overcoming. This is the so-called dialect of Taijutsu (body technique). I want to write about how to train yourself when you reach a higher rank during Budo training. I would like to use a Cat Competition as an example. I have had lots of experience in the competition because my wife served as judge of the World Cat Club and I was also vice chairman of the club. Suppose five top cats are chosen out of hundreds of cats. All of them are wonderful and beautiful, but that alone cannot be judged. With no other way to judge which cat is more beautiful then another, the judges start to look for faults. The one with the most faults drops to fifth, the next, fourth, then third, and so on. The one with the least faults becomes Grand Champion. Bugei is the same way. If one reaches to a higher rank, he need only eliminate his faults. It may sound easy, but eliminating faults is very difficult to accomplish, because we tend to think we are faultless. Faults can be translated into something different in Budo. They can be suki (unguarded points), or carelessness, presumption, arrogance, etc. – they all become our fault. No fault, zero condition is the best. I am ZERO. I joke that the Soke (Grandmaster) has no Dan. Zero, no fault – that is the target of Bufu Ikkan (living through the martial winds).

Hatsumi Soke Masaaki HatsumiHaH Mujin

Soke recently made the comment that the world is changing and that as martial artists we have to evolve and understand these changes in order to survive. He mentioned Mujin. The kanji for Mu is the same used for Mushin. Jin is the same kanji for “person”. Soke combined it with “warfare” to describe the realm of unmanned warfare machines ( such as drones ) and also the use of chemical weapons. The world is changing. The basis of survival is “henka” ( adaption/change ). If we cannot change with the world, we will be killed. This is a constant truth for all living entities.

In light of the recent outbreak of the “swine flu” and other health concerns and diseases, we must reconsider the manner in which to approach the martial arts. Those who are concerned with just becoming strong and powerful will be easily killed. We are in an era where ” invisible weapons ” are being used against us. It is not just man to man combat, it is germ vs man, chemical vs man, lazer vs man, etc. It is important to develop the “sense” required to become aware of and deal with the ” hidden attacks ” from sources other than man. Eg: a virus. This is why Soke talks about ” attacking from unseen places ” and also learning to ” defend against unseen attacks “. These teachings are not just for physical man to man combat scenarios. In order to develop this ” sense “, Soke admonishes us to seek and develop the “feeling “ required for survival. This is most important. A balanced manner of study is important to be able to discern and ” see “ the truth in many things. This is stated in the rules of the dojo – study budo and the literary arts with balanced determination. Through training in physical techniques, we aim to become more sensitive to our surroundings and come to naturally understand what is good and bad for us. This comes from the subconscious. The fifth dan test is a medium that teaches us to trust in this hidden realm. This feeling is innate in all man. The fifth level test is but a manner to awaken the recipient to the power of the subconscious and the connection we all have with fellow man. In regards to this connection, I’d like to express something that I heard once in the dojo.

When administering the godan test, many people just try to think of ” killing “ the opponent. This is only one aspect. I heard that the person administering the test should do so with a sense of ” compassion “. The Sensei should be in fact ” willing “ the student out of the way of the blow. So, in a sense, the person cutting from behind is actually protecting the person recieving the test. If we look at this manner of testing in a greater approach within society, we can see that it has a more beneficial nature. If martial artists only develop strong killing intention ( sakki ) than they will end up being no more than ” killers “. If we develop the skill to ” move people with compassion “, we actually gain the power to protect people. This is a type of Sanninjutsu ( mind control ). For example: If we know that someone close to us is in danger, we may be able to make them move from the danger by our ” will “ alone.

Therefore, developing as a person in a balanced way is extremely important. According to Soke, the Amatsu Tatara Hicho Buki Goshinjutsu is about having the ability to heal and kill. More importantly, it is being able to discern when each is necessary ( kanjin Kaname ). The development of ” killing intention ” and also a deep sense of ” compassion “ toward man, is essential for developing as a true bugeisha. Bufu Ikkan. Bo-Shurikenjutsu Shurikenjutsu 手裏剣術? is the generic term describing the traditional art of throwing shuriken. Shuriken-jutsu was usually taught among the sogo-bugei, Koryu, or comprehensive martial arts systems of Japan, as a supplemental art to those more commonly practiced such as kenjutsu, sojutsu, bōjutsu and kumi-uchi (battlefield grappling).

The art possesses many originators and innovators who discovered and developed their own various methods of adapting everyday objects into throwing weapons, hence the wide variety of both schools and blades. Furthermore, the art itself is typically quite secretive, as shuriken-jutsu gains its tactical advantage by using stealth and surprise. Shuriken are small and easily concealed ( kakushibuki ), yet they have the versatility of being used as a stabbing weapon at close range ( Shoken ), as well as a longer range thrown weapon. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnuzcC3amkY Bo-Shurikenjutsu 棒手裏剣 renshu using Bujinkan Budo Taihenjutsu 武神館武道体変術 Hichojutsu 飛蔦術 and Ninja-to 忍者刀. By Duncan Stewart at the Bujinkan Hombu Dojo, Japan. 武神館道場国際士道師会 With the abolition of swords during the Meiji period, shuriken-jutsu saw a major decline, along with many classical martial arts, and almost died out after the turn of the 20th century as Japan sought to become modernized. In fact, many styles of shuriken-jutsu became extinct. A handful of surviving classical martial arts schools such as Yagyu Shingan Ryu, Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, Katori Shinto Ryu, Kashima Shinto-Ryu, Kukishin Ryu, and Takeda Ryu Nakamura Ha and the Togakure Ryu, the art of shuriken-jutsu would indeed have been lost to history. Two schools specifically devoted to shuriken-jutsu exist. The Negishi Ryu, and more recently the Meifu Shinkage Ryu.

It is much less prevalent today than it was in the feudal era.It seems many arts have disregarded it as a necessary ability in their current era of training. I believe this is a mistake. Shuriken-jutsu teaches you many things. Recently, The Meifu Shinkage Ryu has been established and has increasingly gained popularity with martial artist around the world. I know that Danny Fletcher when he lived here in Japan, trained regulary and earned a dan rank in this system. I think it is thanks to Danny, that many Bujinkan people gained exposure to the style with special classes conducted for enthusiasts. I believe that Bujinkan sutdents now also cross-train in this school and many have earned dan ranks and become repreresentitives in their own countries. It may have also reintroduced a new enthusiasm for this very important art form with Budoka in general. After speaking with Danny, and viewing himself and his teachers from the Meifu Shinkage Ryu practise shuriken-nage, I was impressed greatly at the expertise with which they threw the shuriken. It is definately a specialist art and school.

Veiwing many Koryu styles performing traiditonal waza, we can see that they are performing the art for tradition alone. Soke said just recently in class that people who perform martial arts for the sake of collecting kata and techniques, can never be called martial artists. Only those that can apply the art for survival in any circumstance can be called a martial artist. This is the same for when practising Taijutsu. We must be able to “see” how the taijutsu can be used to aid in the use, concealment, and application of weapons. If we cannot perform taijutsu and see these connections, than we cannot bring to life weapons and understand the Happo Bikenjutsu of Ninjutsu. This is why Soke admonishes us to seek the “feeling” in order to bring the techniques from the densho to life! It’s Taijutsu that brings weapons to life. Whe must then have excellent taijutsu to develop excellent methods with weapons. In regards to throwing the shuriken, we must not just stand still. We must move! In this day and age, we see the authorities armed and often firing upon crazed individuals charging at them with knives,etc. The authorities still have to use their legs to avoid these people, even after the crazed people have been shot numerous times. For the collectors, the techniques will just be forms written on a piece of paper and only be mimicked physically to the level of a set form or kata. The kata is therefore dead. The narrow minded will view the densho waza as techniques not applicable for modern day society, and therefore train with a mentality of performing the waza as forms to preserve tradition only. This is sad isn’t it. The techniques of many arts never grow larger than the minds or rules of that particular style. We are so lucky to have Soke explain the true way of budo aren’t we.

It can be often heard by people who study “modern arts” that traditional skills such as muto dori and sojutsu etc, are not applicable in this day and age. Well, as I have just said, these people can see no further than their own world. I’d like to reiterate to those people that professional minds such as the FBI, CIA, NSA, SAS, Mossad, etc all see and understand the value of the Bujinkan martial arts from the result of their direct experience in life and death situations. In order to have consistent success with the throwing of the Bo-Shuriken, I believe we firstly must enter Mushin – the state of ”no mind”. If I commence individual practise in shuriken-jutsu while being distracted by wondering thoughts, my ability to “feel” is greatly impaired. I therefore fail at controlling my throws. It is only once I enter a state free from success or failure, sadness or happiness, power or weakness, I am able to produce consistency.

First. Shuriken-jutsu has helped me with the search for the “right mind” for budo. I feel the essential essence required when playing music or performing other artistic pursuits has a similar mind set. This can be likened to Mu or ” no mind “. Secondly. Shuriken-jutsu teaches you the necessity to gain good form and train correctly in Taijutsu. I believe the Gogyo no Kata correct Te-sabaki is the basis for Shuriken-jutsu. Soke has said that a persons ability in taijutsu can be seen in their ability in shurikenjutsu. Learning to be natural is essential. Soke always tells us that this is the case with all weapons. But, until you actually realise his teachings first hand ( by actually practising hard at them yourself ), you will never really understand to the core of your being. This is very important to understand.

Thirdly.The principals of taijutsu teaches you the Kukan. It is in the kukan that the shuriken is thrown. Constantly studying with you heart set deeply on understanding the principals also frees your mind from adversity. This is crucial for maintaining a clear mind to throw shuriken effectively. There is a moment ( one breath ) from the time the shuriken leaves your hand and hits the target. This can be likened to the space between the lines of a book. This moment ( shunkan ) holds many teachings. The teachings are in the breath. Throwing shuriken is actually a type of kiai. With the throw, you release concentrated energy toward your target. The concept of Shin Gi Tai Ichi is very important here. Fourth. Rigidity is the death of shuriken-jutsu. Taijutsu and the freedom to “play” in the kukan is the only way to truly understand the art of shuriken-nage jutsu in a fighting scenario and to keep the art “alive !”.

Let me just finish by saying, I am no master at throwing the Shuriken. However, I love throwing the Shuriken! I am no historian, or scholar of shurikenjutsu. I just pick up the spikes I’m given or have, and “feel” for the throw. This is important. Pick up the Shuriken, let them fit into your hand naturally, and learn to throw from that natural state. Most of the points I have noted are a result of my personal experiences. I miss the mark many times, but I pick the shuriken up and learn about my attitude when walking back from each throw. Have fun, and allow yourself to get frustrated with your own inabilities and perservere. This is Ninpo Ikkan. Keep going and learn to enjoy the experiences that throwing spikes can give you. Happy throwing! ” Do not neglect the art of shuriken-jutsu. “ Soke Rokkon Shou Jou

Soke has recently been hinting a new theme. We have yet to have reached the full capacity of this years ( 2009 ) theme ( and may never do ) yet, I thought I would pass on this fresh information. Soke from my understanding, has not gone into any depth as yet. So, I have done some research and will add a superficial explanation of what I have heard to date.

Soke has recently mentioned that the weapon based theme for 2010 is Tachi. He has asked that everyone at least have one sword for practise.

Rokkon Shou Jou The original meaning of Rokkon Shou Jou as used in Shugendo has a completely different meaning to the way Soke expresses it. Firstly, please understand this. Secondly, I have offered a brief overview of the original meaning. I have done this for pure interest sake for those inclined to understand the most common understanding of Rokkon Shou Jou by the massess. Thirdly, I have included the kanji as written by Soke. Soke has expressed Rokkon Shou Jou in a completely different manner by using different kanji. The meaning has therefore completely changed. Shugendo: Rokkon Shou Jou

www.shugendo.fr The Shinto doctrine called “Rokkon Shojo haraikotoba (mantra of six roots of cleansing mind/heart purification): Kokoro no kessai”. The doctrine is translated as follows: The eyes see many kinds of dirt, but the mind/heart does not see any. The ears hear many kinds of dirt, but the mind/heart does not hear any. The nose smells many kinds of dirt, but the mind/heart does not smell any. The mouth talks many kinds of dirt, but the mind/heart does not talk any. The body touches many kinds of dirt, but the mind/heart does not touch any. The mind thinks many kinds of dirt, but the mind/heart does not think any. Although this doctrine seems to suggest that our mind should not be captured by what we see or hear through our five senses and consciousness, It is not the only interpretation. It does not mean that the mind is not influenced by what the senses experience, but rather it means that the mind sees dirt—that is, pain, bad circumstances–in a different way than the eyes do. This notion can be the medicine to build the immunity of the mind

Rokkon Sho Jou 六根清浄 refers to the Shugendja practise of purifying one’s self through the detachment of the six sences. Rokkon 六根 refers to the six sences. Sho jo 清浄 refers to purity and immaculate. The concept of juhachi-kai, or 18 sensory domains consists of three parts. These are the 6 sensory organs, each of which has its respective consciousness, each of which has an object of sensation. The Six Sensory Organs are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. The Eyes The Ears The Nose The Mouth The Body The Mind

Each of these gives rise to a sensory consciousness. The Six Sensory Consciousnesses are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. visual sense; sight or vision auditory sense; hearing or audition olfactory sense; smell or olfaction gustatory sense; taste, or gustation cutaneous sense; touch or tactition.

6.

perception. Perhaps; Balance, Posture?

Each of these 6 faculties has a sensory object or phenomena 1. Shape & Color 2. Sound 3. Aroma 4. Flavor 5. Texture 6. Phenomena

By combining the 6 organs, their consciousnesses, and their objects; we have the eighteen {18} sensory realms or domains 十八界 {juhachi-kai}. Bujinkan: Rokkon Shou Jou

The kanji used by Soke for Roku 六 is 禄. When it is combined with Kan such as Kanroku 貫禄, it can mean ” Regal Dignity”, or a person of high status,and influence. Kon 根 is written as Tamashii, or the ” Soul “. The kanji used by Soke for Shou 清 is written as Warau, or “ Laugh”. The kanji used for Jou 浄 is written as 淨. This permeates the meaning of “ Pure, Clear,Cleansing or Purity “.

I will include some words from Soke that were captured by a resident friend ( Sleiman ) about Rokkon Shou Jou. ” Soke said that his rokkon shou jou has nothing to do with shugendo/ja practice and that it was more to do with living and being able to smile which, incidentally, is a natural consequence of forgetting about budo.” I ( Duncan ) will also add here that Soke stated more recently that the theme of Rokkon Shou Jou is in fact ” the purification of the senses through laughter!”

As I have said, this is but a superficial taste of the potential theme for the Bujinkan Dojo in 2010. Bufu Ikkan Duncan Don’t think! Recently, Yabunaka San entered a short conversation with Soke at the Dojo about his lifestyle. He thought Soke must be a very busy man and that he must take his free time seriously and think deeply about things.

Soke replied by saying that ” he didn’t.” He maintained his casual state of mind and pursued his interests from a natural state. It is within this natural state that his mind is free to wander and tune into the moment. If he stopped to think about things, he would lose what is truly important. Through this manner of living, he is capable of coming to understand the important things, free from intellectual pressure. Soke has once said that we do not need to meditate on things. We are not all priests! Taijutsu is a moving meditation. If we maintain this sence of freedom and henka in our daily life, then we are in fact using the lessons from the dojo. The better our taijutsu becomes, the better our life should become. If however, you believe that training stays in the dojo, you will never grow. Soke actually practises what he preaches. He lives the art. As a result, he has obtained a life free from restrictions by ( I assume ) naturally integrating the lessons of Takamatsu Osensei into his life with complete trust and conviction. While moving without restrictions, he is able to listen and tap into the truth from the subconcious and the universe. I suppose we could call this a ” moving meditation “. As a result, he is able to produce books and works of art that come from the Soul. The true heart. The ninja heart. For those that teach and help others and yourself continue on the path, we often find ourselves moving and then speaking our thoughts out loud. In many circumstances, I have literally had to snap myself back to the moment after losing myself to my self. Within this moment I feel that I have actually spoken my truth, but am often unaware of what I had actually said. This is the same when practising Taijutsu isn’t it. Often we move without knowing why or how. Why? Because the body knows. Maybe it’s a moment of feeling Shin Gi Tai Ichi? But, if you believe this, then maybe you haven’t truly understood.Lol.

What comes to you freely and naturally, is the truth. To sit and contemplate too much, or strictly study something to the point of fanatasism, will only create stress and will not result in a balanced or true grasp of what one wishes to understand. We must be able to breath and move inbetween the breath to allow it to fully circulate around us. From there, our body can absorb through the sences the space that holds the true knowledge. The kukan is the space that enables one to “see” with the whole body ones true position in the environment. Therefore, we have to develop ourselves so we can come to a working understanding of this ” life space ” that envelopes us in every single moment. The crucial element is ( through training ) learning how to manipulate the space to maintain life. This is the most important point to understand in ones martial studies. Training in ALL the waza and blindly just performing the set movements with just the feeling of training being a physical excercise, is useless. The practitioner will just become a technique catalogue or technician. In order to truly grasp the full concept of a martial art, one must have spirit. This spirit is the nin, of ninpo. You must also have ” Guts “. The spirit that is devoted sincerely with a mind clear and thoughtful, is the only way to maintain the right path as a budoka. Soke has also comment that it is no good just to train. Those that just train are fools! We must broaden our horizons and understand that training is infact trying to open ourselves to more. In this way, we come to develop a larger capacity and working knowledge of the self. This is hard to do. We are all bound by schedules based on family and work committments. Finding enough time in the day to increase our experiences is difficult. But, where there’s a will, there’s a way! This is why Soke asks us to develop an overpowering will to live and develop ourselves further in this lifetime. By having an overpowering will, we are able to move freely and without fear. We can start to actually live our life. The problems occur when we try to intellectualise things and teach budo based on knowledge gained from low level study. Eg: books and videos. If we allow ourselves to trust our taijutsu and let our minds go, we may be lucky to enter a state of mushin. Through this state we move without lies. If we enter this realm, we cannot lie. We cannot fabricate anything. We are naked on a stage for all to see. This is the honesty, the sincerity that the study of taijutsu brings. We have therefore gained a unification of the self that enables us to live in the now. If you are in the “now” or ” zero point “, you have transcended your ego.

If we cannot let go of our minds, ego, concern for being good or bad, wrong or right etc, we can never experience these truthful moments as a budoka. This helps us also understand why Soke admonishes us to ” play ” with a heart of a child and be happy. With happiness we can can enjoy blissfull moments. These moments are felt and are allowed to change freely. We do not try to stop, grasp or take control, we just adapt and maintain the flow. Just like a good conversation at a party. Everyone drinking feels happy and the jokes just roll and roll until someone goes that little bit too far. The heart of a warrior is that of Wa, or ” harmony” . We must learn the art of ” reading the air ” to maintain harmony around us. This is important to avoid conflict and ensure the development of trust relationships. Of course, there is always a reverse side to things, and the disruption of the ” wa ” may be a strategy or ” kyojutsu ” for a greater cause. This focus on maintaining harmony or keeping the connection, can be felt through music. When playing jazz, we allow each other to freely show our true selves using the instruments as tools to do so. We aim to communicate with each other, harmonize with each other and compliment musically what each other is doing. We are trying to develop and experience the human connection. Soke also recently stated that the concept of this years theme can be found in music. The connection we are trying to gain an appreciation for is by using the medium of rope. A rope can be likened to that of the musical lines on a sheet of music. These lines connect the notes to create music.

So, firstly ( like in every art form ) we must perservere with the rudiments and scales etc. We must understand the structure of things. When we come together after a working knowledge of these forms, we can show our true face and develop further into the depth of humanity by working together to play music. If people have truly mastered their trade, they exude a strong sence of emotion or spirit in everything they do. These people turn heads when they walk into the room, and when they perform, move people to tears. They have made a connection with their fellow beings through the medium of art. This is Nawa no Kankaku. We have to have a sence of artistry when practising budo. But we must never forget what budo is. This is extremely important. I feel that some people have taken this ” feeling of artistry ” a little to literally. They have lost the seriousness of what they do. They have lost the reality behind the martial arts. They top it off with clapping at the end of a class that has instructed everyone how to ” kill to survive.”

Budo training is not a show. It’s an art form based on the need to protect ones life. It is important for all of us to review this in our minds every now and then so we can call ourselves bugeisha with a sence of integrity. I’d like to finish by saying these words: Many words I write are thoughts produced by allowing my mind to be free. I voice out loud my thoughts in the way of words in a hope that one day I will live these ideals and truly come to understand the ways of Budo. I do not profess to live by or even understand the depth of the words written. I can but voice my truth and perservere in the training like everyone else, while mainting a true desire for real universal knowledge. Bufu Ikkan Ukemi The importance of ukemi cannot be overlooked. Without the study and practise of ukemi over a long period of time, you will be unable to endure long periods of training. Ukemi has many guises. Ukemi is not just about rolling, but absorbing attacks from all physical situations and also psychological and spiritual realms. To classify ukemi is very difficult. Ukemi is kyojutsu. It’s the martial arts.

Ashi Sabaki is Ukemi Why is it that the physical training of most ryuha and also the Bujinkan TenChiJin commence with ukemi and gaeshi waza? Those who neglect, or do not think that ukemi training is important, I urge you to reconsider your thinking.

The concept of true ukemi is to remain balanced and aware in every moment. When taking ukemi, people believe it is because one has lost their balance. This is incorrect. If you do not loose your equilibrium, then you are still on balance. It is the physical realm that looks unbalanced. There are many aspects and levels of ukemi. It is an area of study unrestricted by time or form. Ukemi is present in all aspects of life, both physically, and spiritually. This page but hints this on a few levels. The rest is up to you to discover. Ukemi is seen in ancient man in the manner of lighting fires to protect themselves from predators. Women crossing their legs and folding their arms in the presence of men they don’t know. And the many households around the world that lock their doors and windows to avoid unwanted visitors. Is this not ukemi?

Takamatsu Osensei apparently was watching Soke perform ukemi and said it was getting better. He later stated that because of his ukemi improving, he was starting to understand the martial arts.

So, without understanding ukemi, you may not be able to truly grasp budo. Takamatsu Osensei recieved hard training initially in Toda’s dojo. For one year he was thrown in all directions and struck by the senior students of the dojo until he could take ukemi from any circumstance. It was only when we gained this ability, that he was instructed in waza. It goes without saying that the Ninja were renownded for their advanced level of ukemi. It can be read that they sommersaulted through the air and trees like monkeys and were as limber and agile as cats. However, one thing must be understood. Ukemi is not just the performance of gymnastics. True ukemi is understanding the kukan. If one performs ukemi for the sake of just flipping or looking good, than this will open suki or weakpoints. Ukemi is body changing movements ( taihenjutsu ) performed naturally for the sake of protecting life. It is important to know these distinguishing points. We must therefore learn to grasp the essence of ” life preserving ukemi “ vs ukemi for pure showmanship. If we observe Yabunaka San being used by Soke every class as uke, will can see real ukemi. Yabunaka San does not try to perform ukemi. He is forced too. There is a difference. Ukemi ultimately is to maintain life. The forms taught within the TenchiJin are guides to teach us the variant positions our body may encounter during training. It is up to our own practise to perservere with those movements until they become second nature to us. When we are able to reach this level of training, we have naturally discarded the form. Our consciousness is now on a different plain. The transition of form into formlessness is a natural progression. Only after training in the forms can you experience the process of ” letting go “. If you don’t have any form or basic kihon training in the beginning, there is no way you can truly understand. Your formlessness will be based on formlessness. Therefore, it will have no substance. Formlessness acquired through form will express true ability with bone and structure now transparent and invisible.

From this point we are able to be present more clearly during the moment we rotate our body into a different form to maintian our balance. During this time, we are able to feel for counters. Be it picking up something to throw, using a weapon, or directing our body to an escape point. We are no longer required to ” think ” about how our body should land, because our body knows. We no longer are concerned with hurting ourselves while rolling or taking a breakfall. We are just concerned with surviving. We have to understand that perofmring ukemi naturally can also injure us. This is life. There are no guarantees. I will quote something Soke once said. ” Many people have a misconception about ukemi. Don’t feel that ukemi is a safe thing. Many times, it is a veyr dangerous thing. You may land on glass or on a twig and really hurt yourself. There have been times when people have taken ukemi to safe themselves, only to kll themselves in the process. You must be aware of your surroundings at all times.” The last forms of ukemi and kaiten to learn naturally end with the exponent using ” no hands “. In Japanese, this is referred to Mu kaiten. Now, the kanji for Mu is also used in Mushin for ” no mind “. Rolling in the kukan free from thinking is infact maintaining once balance. The concept of removing ones hands also relates to being free and not being restricted in ones life. At the level of no hands

ukemi, the exponent of budo can then come to understand and feel the space to apply weapons. Again, this is a process of learning. As I have stated before, there are no short cuts to learning these secrets. The secrets to ukemi are gained from sincere training and being able to allow your ego to be thrown from you without trying to catch it. In order to understand ukemi, one must relinquish the self. If you cannot do this, you are in your ego and will never understand ukemi and therefore budo. Also, by holding onto your ego, your body follows and becomes stiff. The inability to change or mould oneself to the environment is a hindrance and very dangerous.

I believe the avatars of ukemi are babies. In an extreme example, we occassionally hear ( thank God ) of a baby who has fallen from a great height, only to land unharmed. Babies do not know fear. Fear is something that is largerly introduced from parenting. As a result, babies are relaxed, and nimble. Especially as their bones are still soft and growing. They often fall, but to our suprise, bounce back ( literally ) with a smile on their face. I think there are some secrets to the art of ukemi hidden in the realm of childhood. Therefore, we have a lot to learn from children. You must fall in love with ukemi. From there, you will not be afraid of falling ( in love ) because you know that you will always end up on your feet again. With using this analogy, we can see that ukemi is indeed a way to understand life and it’s hardships. But, with all things there is no absolute. While writing here about ukemi, I realise even with my frail knowledge based on actual experience that it cannot be easily expressed in words. In fact, I am but skimming the surface about ukemi. Ukemi is an art in itself. I believe the words from Nagato Sensei espresses this. ” If all you are are uke in your martial arts training, and survive. You have succeeded as a martial artist!” I believe a page on ” being uke ” is also relevent here, so keep an eye out for that in the future. In closing, I like to consider ukemi as an aspect of fudoushin. Think about this in conjunction with Nagato Sensei’s previous words.

Maybe you could consider yourself a ” rolling stone ? The Roots of Budo Do you know your Kihon ?

I’m still trying to understand it ! The Kihon Happo is the thread that links us to the truth of budo. Takamatsu Osensei stated that it was “the root of all budo”. He then asked Hatsumi Sensei to treasure it and teach it to his students. Nagato Sensei has said that the Kihon Happo is the link between the consciousness and the subconscious. The principles that are found within these eight kata are the mysteries that help us to understand budo. The Kihon Happo is therefore an essential medium that when practised well, will open us to the endless possibilities of the kukan realm. Distance, timing and angling are the principles that enlighten us to the world of the kukan (life space). These three principles (sanshin) can be viewed as three treasures to teach us the essential components of life and death.

We study the Kihon Happo as set movements or forms to better aquaint ourselves with our body, culture, spirit of the warrior, true fighting methods, and tradition. The kata are very simple when viewed, but in reality, very difficult to master. The ultimate aim through practising these eight kata is the unification of our spirit, body and technique (Shin Gi Tai Ichi). The mastership of the eight kata is not to develop a beautiful form only, but to know that Henka (change) is the root to truly understanding the vast and unlimited potential of the kata in all situations.

The Kihon Happo is not just a means of learning physical fighting techniques. I believe Hatsumi Sensei once said that he learnt more about life from the Kihon Happo than he had about fighting. I think we should listen to him well here (as always!) . These movements are the movements of the thousands of warriors that have fought for their lives before us. These movements hold within them the base of budo, the roots of budo, the reality of fighting, and the soul of the martial artist. Budo training happens mostly in the dojo with other like minded persons. If we are following Soke and the Bujinkan way, we should be not neglecting the practise of the Kihon Happo. Many people study the movements with a very technical mind. This is ok to do sometimes, but I believe Soke himself has said that he felt looking at budo through the spectacles of a medical mind was not so healthy. I believe that once we have been given instruction on the fundamental teachings of each movement, we should keep our mind deeply embedded on these teachings while we continue our own training. From there we learn to become our own teachers and with the teachings becoming deeply rooted in our spine, we come across secrets, and develop a movement that is natural for our own body.

I was once instructing at my dojo in Tasmania and we were performing the Ichimonji no kata in a basic form. I was watching a student of a dank rank below fifth dan perform it on a taller person. He was having difficulty and couldn’t understand why. He approached me and said that he couldn’t do the technique. I said, “you have to change”. He didn’t understand. In his eyes, once he had learned the form, he had thought that he had mastered the ichimonji no kata! It was a shame, but I believe he then fell away from training. We also see Karateka perform wonderful kata with crisp and strong movements with a cracking dogi. It’s very interesting really. These people spend their lives perfecting these movements of self defence, but never actually come to train in them and understand the true potential. It is purely internal training. The art has become as two dimensional as an oil painting. It is now only an art form that upholds traditions only. These arts have forgotten to train in a manner to keep it’s methods truly alive, functional and inspirational. In the Bujinkan, we have fundamentals. We have the Kihon Happo and kihon of kicking, rolling, etc. In the beginning of our training, we should work very hard at making these movements and our body strong, flexible and resiliant. In fact, we need to drill techniques and movements (much like other arts) so we can understand each individual action that eventually makes up a whole waza or kata. By this I mean that we can drill Jodan Uke, Uke Nagashi, Daken Uke, Ken Kudaki, Keri Kudaki, Taihenjutsu, Ashi Sabaki gata, etc.

The kata of the Bujinkan are the “starting points”, or the “warm up” to the real training. This is the wonderful thing. This is what differs our training from the modern arts. Where the modern arts stop training, we keep going, going,going and going. There is no end. The Bujinkan is a complete art. We can spend many years to become accustomed to the movements and important points that make each waza effective as a form. We then are given the freedom in our training from our teachers to truly experience and bring to life each waza and it’s infinite potential. We soon learn that ” henka ” is the most important point. Change is constant. For the martial artist, we must believe and understand this. If we do not, then we will be easily defeated if we just limit our training to set forms. This why our art is a true fighting art. From the taijutsu we then move to the Happo Biken.It’s the taijutsu that brings our weapons to life. Holding a weapon will tell us our training level. So, training with weapons is also good to keep us on the right path. We can see that the Bujinkan is a comprehensive that requires alot of training to appreciate it. There are definately many things to learn. I have a long way to go!

The body will be conditioned and our spirit will grow stronger from hard training. The pain from the Dakentaijutsu and koshijutsu training will be hard for our bodies, but it will strengthen our spirit and forge a character and physicality suitable for a martial artist..

“Our Bruises are our medals in the Bujinkan.” I feel that this type of Kihon training is neglected nowadays. This is all we ever did in the Bujinkan Hobart Dojo. And, I’m thank full for it. Those that haven’t gone through hard training and train only in a soft manner nowadays truly will not understand what they are doing or the true potential of their movements. Recently Soke also stated that we should practise things over and over. Drilling to be exact. He commented on a particular type of cutting action with a katana, and that we should do it 1000 times! He also said to not neglect shurikenjutsu. He has mentioned this a few times recently. In Tasmania when I was studying under my first teacher Richard Jones, we used to go home with many bruises on our legs and arms from the Dakentaijutsu training. We had cuts or finger marks from the koshijutsu and jutaijutsu too. Some people may say this is foolish,

but I don’t. Look closely at this art. What is this art? It’s about survival. We are animals living in the concrete jungle. We have to become strong to survive. Our body needs training, our mind needs training, and our spirit needs training. If we train hard in the dojo and listen to the teachings well, we will naturally follow these three important elements of training. In the future, we may be lucky enough to develop a level of Shin Gi Tai and come to be happy in our life.

I have been training for over 21 years in the Bujinkan and still, everytime I practise the Kihon Happo, I feel the need for more training. It is never ending. What I do feel, is a greater sence of spirit and conviction. For this , I’m happy. I can now pursue the training with a fresh understanding of Sokes words “Keep Going.” I had one person say to me that they though I was only concerned about techniques. They didn’t think that I was concerned about developing the “feeling.” Well, I perservered with this comment of ignorance and maintained my training as I’d always done. I will say no more. Endure these comments and follow your own path. This is important. It’s about knowing yourself and what’s right for you. It’s about living with conviction and purpose. The Kihon Happo is more than eight techniques. We know this. But, do we really,really know this? Keep going and, one day your body and life will tell you how much Kihon you truly understand. Tsunagaru Soke has often mentioned tsunagaru. This translates as to be related , to be connected , or to be tied/bound together.

This connectedness is in uniform with the theme of nawa no kankaku. Remaining connected to everything does not necessarily require one to be physically touching the object. The concept of maintaining a connection is one that comes from the power of the spirt, soul, and ones will.

We can see that in the animal kingdom, the mother often after fundamental life lessons, abandons ones children. This abandonment is generally temporary initially. It gives the young the chance to develop their life skills so they can eventually live and survive alone. The mother is never too far away, and if danger is lurking, she returns to their side.

We often see this in human relationships of various kinds. In the beginning, The physical connection ( umbilical cord ) is something that everyone enters this world with. Therefore, right from conception, we have a sence of connection and nawa no kankaku. This physical connection is cut away upon birth, but we then maintain our bond in other ways. We are nurtured and also fed from the breast. Our connection evolves continually.

This connection is sometimes severed. But, things are still connected in the grand scheme of things. We can never be completely seperated from others for as long as the spirit and soul continues. We can listen to Soke talking about that he still recieves teachings from Takamatsu Osensei. If you believe, than that is all you need. The feeling of Soke in training is difficult as always to comprehend, especially after experiencing it. I laugh at those that never experience Sokes taijutsu and spirit directly and talk as if they know. As Soke has said, it is only those who “feel” it directly that can understand. Use your eyes. sometimes they do tell the truth! We must have the sences to discern who are the teachers that can give us the best understanding of Sokes budo. Good luck!

Soke has mentioned the feeling of tsunagaru or nawa no kankaku is similar to that of fishing. We will use Big Game fishing as an example. There is a battle between man and fish. ( of which reminds me of Sokes affinity with the movie ” the old man and the sea.” ) Man leaves a line for the fish. The fish takes the bait, and becomes hooked. A test of skill begins.

The man knows that if he struggles with the fish, his line may break. Therefore, he allows the fish to run with the line. And, in a sence gives the fish a feeling of freedom. A sence that one has or can escape.The man allows this to occur. It is Kyojutsu Tenkan Ho. In saying this, the man must have strength to withstand and endure the hours of playing chess with the fish. However, it is knowing when and how to use the strength that is the most important. ( this is the same as budo ). Giving his foe the feeling of freedom, the fish swims without concern for over-using his power or in what direction he swims. The man slowly but skillfully holds the fish to him with his superior spirit and reels in the line. He controls the pressure of the line as to reduce resistance and possible loss of direct connection. ( even if this direct connection is lost, they are still forever connected by the sea. )

The fish battles himself. He finds himself trapped against the side of the boat, but still able to swim,move,live. However, he feels restricted somehow and cannot escape. The fish is then gaffed, and the fight ends. My way of describing this is bad. However, this is often the feeling I get when experiencing Soke’s taijutsu. You are bound by something greater than his physicality. It’s a feeling of being bound by his overpowering will/spirit/soul. In turn, you are mesmerised by your own confusion and thus unable to move. You then attempt to move, but it is movement based on confusion and thus is not effective.

Soke then takes control of the space further and pins you to the earth with pain that envelops you. This pain makes everything dissapear around you. I’m the fish, and he is the fisherman. Guess who ends up on the plate! After viewing an uke of Soke’s uncontrollably moving in pain under his control, I had a vision of a fish flapping for dear life on a jetty after it had been pulled from the sea. When Soke connects with us on the most painful level, we must truly look like a ” hooked fish out of water”. We jump around in pain, gasping for life. Soke just plays with us until he decides to end it.

Connecting is also about letting go. Soke often says it is fine to let your partner go. The fear from ” being allowed to escape ” is sometimes greater than not being allowed to. You become confused and more concerned. Why? Because you don’t understand why you have been let go. Thus, you become captured by your self and cannot see or sence the truth. ( it has a feeling that you are let go so you can be hunted for sport ). As you take ukemi or try to escape, you sence Soke close to you, but you don’t know where, or from what direction he is coming from. This is daunting and confusing. He has controlled the space. This space encompasses your body,spirit, and technique as one. He captures everything about you.

It can sometimes feel like running through a maze in a horror movie. You think the killer is behind you, but you turn a corner and there he is! Or, that of being stuck in a spiders web. You sence something coming closer, but you cannot see everwhere and are helpless. Soke feels like he is enveloping you with a web of the soul. He holds you with one line of web, allowing you to try and escape. However, you realise that this is a trap, and find the more you move, the more you get entangled. He has trapped you with your own web of desire!

Maintaining the connection is to hold them with your spirit. The physical realm is but one part of it. This can be related ( connected ) to the godan test. It is not about the sword, but rather the connection of the two people involved. If the reciever can be moved by the connection, than the sword is just a formality to let the person know if they have failed or not. As Soke has said, the godan test can be performed with anything. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be performed with a tool/weapon at all!

The feeling of connectedness is something that we must try to understand in our daily lives. We must try to alsways maintain the connection with our good family and friends. Having a connection with our enemies is also important. Everytime they make a move against us, they create a life harder for themsevles and get tangled in our web of life! The phrase ” keep your friends close, but enemies closer ” comes to mind. Everything is connected. Isoganai de! Don’t rush to understand the teachings in the dojo. The most important thing is Bufu Ikkan! As we sat togehter at a restaurant in Noda after training at Hombu, Soke sneaked in with Shiraishi san and sat opposite us. We were all suprised, not from seeing Soke, but by the fact that he had entered the room without anyone being aware! Soke changed tables and sat with us all on the tatami. We all ordered and drank. It was a great afternoon and after two glasses of Sho chu, I was pleasently rested.

To train in budo is to learn to understand that you gradually learn to realise how much you don’t understand! Many people would like to pass on their teachings as masters. However, for the majority of the martial artists within the Bujinkan, regardless of rank, we all need to keep training and worry about the roots and not the flowers.

Soke mentioned that for those commencing training with the tachi this year, it will take five years to reach a level where you can actually teach it. I think it is probably ok to “transmit” what you have seen and practised at hombu, but to actually “teach ” it, would be a mistake. Even those who have had previous experience with the Japanese sword, will need to change their mind set when studying the tachi. It would almost be fair to say that studying the way of the japanese sword would get in the way of understand the tachi. First came ken, or chokuto ( straight blade tachi ), secondly came the spear, thirdly came the gun ( teppo ), and last of all in the era of the Tokugawa shogunate, came the katana. The evolution of weapons was a result of natural changes in society. This is important to understand. Soke also mentioned that the era of the tachi was the era of the sanshin no kata. The sanshin tsuki is infact the basis for learning to thrust the tachi. It teaches the correct movement of the legs,body and arms in unison to thrust and make use of the curve of the tachi. During this conversation, I asked Soke if the Shoshin no kamae of the sanshin no kata was related to this. Soke said “yes”. In this era, we practise mainly from unarmed attacks and from right handed attacks in fundamental practise. We thus being in hidari shoshin no kamae to recieve the right handed attack with our right hand in boshi ken at our obi. In this era, we carry guns and other weapons or tools that are generally carried at the right hip for the right handed person. In the era of the tachi, the samurai would have the tachi slung at the left hip and would control the saya by holding it in the hand with the thumb protruding in preperation to draw the sword. Hence, we have boshi ken at the left hip when performing the shoshin no kamae. Budo is about weapons and therefore weapon retention. The initial attacks we recieve when practising the gogyo no kata can be seen as possible attempts to claim the opponents weapon. The parries are to disrupt this attempt and, give the tachi weilding person the time to draw. Soke mentioned that the Bujinkan is the only art that changes with the times/era. The essence is maintained, while the techniques evolve with changes in weaponry and unarmed combat methods. Other arts don’t do this. They are stuck in specific era’s in history, and don’t change. Therefore, their art is dead and is not functional in todays society. Please closely think about this. ”Will the way you train in the dojo be effective in real life?” and ” Are your movements still based from basic structure, or evolving to protect against the modern day attacks of fast and skilled fighters?” Many people move to avoid a strike with a large angled step. This is not only slow, but leaves your lead leg out as a target for a skilled kicker. This is where we have to look seriously at our dojo training. We face an era of sports fighting and highly trained athletes. We are not facting people in hakama or yoroi, of which slows ones movement. The type of weapons used are usually small hidden and concealed wepaons and not that of large battlefield clubs and spears.

If you look at Nagato Sensei and Soke, they move very natural, up right and with a neutral feeling. Of course, there are many aspects and variables in training. I am but choosing an aspect that I feel is important to think about in regards to the evolution and continuation of the Bujinkan. Soke and Nagato Sensei move their entire body from the attack and not just one part. Moving correctly is to control everything and have no openings. Distance, angles and timing are one and the same. They are in fact, when used correctly, our shield or guard. In conjunction with te sabaki ( kamae ) we can control the upper and lower parts of the opponents body while maintaining correct distance so we can use our weapon freely.

People often say that the kihon happo kata are shinken gata. They try to show that they are. But, all they do is try and do it faster and stronger using the same form. This is not the point. The point is that each waza has specific lessons to be learned and that it should not be believed that the technique will be used as it is practised ( in a form ) in real life. In a real situation, you may at various moments, according to the dictative movements of the opponent, use many lessons from many waza. You may attempt an omote shuto, and then be forced back and held. From there you try to kick ( hicho ) but, you re blocked. You then move using jodan uke to avoid a counter strike. From there you hook the second punch and execute ganseki nage. As you can see, you are using many aspects of the katas, but not in any specific order or form. This is a very basic example of course. From this, we can see that “henka” is what is crucial to understanding budo. It’s not about understanding the form, and nothing but the form! What I have described to you is in fact the training we do with the Shitenno and Soke. We are performing “randori” and, making use of the fundamentals of our art in more realistic situations. Does this make sense? Training ( as Soke said ) is about Shugyo. We are all on our own shugyo. Soke said Rokkon Shoujou is also about obtaining a high level / position in life/budo where people can’t laugh at you. Be patient and keep going. There is no rush! ( isoganai de ) Duncan Rei ” It is said that the martial ways are shown through one’s daily life and behaviour.Namely, through manners and humanity.” Soke Masaaki Hatsumi.

Studying in the Budo Dojo is as much about understanding culture and tradition, as it is about learning fighting techniques. It is important for people to understand this. People view the Bujinkan and the manner in which it is taught, as a free art. I think people take this to literally and decide that they can enter the dojo without a concern for understanding the etiquette of Japanese budo and the Japanese culture in general. This concern has been an on going topic of discussion and has even been reiterated on Joji Ohashi’s website over the years. The problems range from the misuse of the dojo “genkan” and even basic common sence issues regarding rubbish and hygiene. If we cannot respect ” basic societal expectations”, then we have a long way to go in regards to understanding the path of the bugeisha! To learn budo is to first gain an understanding and therefore an appreciation of the etiquette ( rei ) that is required. This changes depending on the culture of course. We are studying a Japanese martial art from Japanese teachers. We must do our best to familiarise ourselves with what is expected. This is not only from a dojo perspective, but from a general interactive perspective within that cultures society. Posture for example is one aspect. The way you stand or sit, and the way in which you hold your arms and hands can all signify ( depending on the culture ) various emotions,attitudes or demenours. After speaking with one Japanese Shihan about this, he pointed out a few things worth considering in regards to hand gesturing and posture in Japanese society, and within a dojo setting. Firstly, standing with your hands clasped to the front at belt level often represents a ” sales mans” taijutsu. Secondly, standing with your arms folded to your front is observed as being ” suspicious, disbelieving, or questioning”. The end suggestion was to stand naturally with your hands by your side, or with them behind your back. Of course, these are only suggestions and from only one teacher. It goes without saying, that the way we stand is not necessarily resembling our thoughts. For example: in the case of folding our arms, we may just be plainly cold!

The reason for this topic is, to develop an understanding of how body posture and actions can be interpreted very differently depending on the society, culture, and in times of peace and war,etc. Non verbal communication acts as 70% of the way we interact with people. We must therefore treat it with great importance. As for one day,it may save our lives. Soke has said ” Feeling alone is not enough .” This is true. We may be in a foreign country and feel danger or be in a possibly life threatening situation. As we do not understand cultural taboos,norms, customs etc, our actions to diffuse the situation may actually be viewed as hostile! This is where soke asks us to study from an Anthropological point of view and recognise the uniqueness of the many cultures of the world. This also relates to studying budo in the dojo. Often we believe what we are doing is appropriate and not offending people. This is often not the case. Japanese society often avoids conflict or shaming individuals by indirectly dealing with the situation. On many occasions, the person in question won’t know he has done something wrong for a very long period of time. This is the same in the Bujinkan. We must also recognise, in the era of the samurai, ignorance was no excuse and one could be killed in an instant! This often happened to foreign tradesman who reached the shores of Japan, unaware of the strict customs of etiquette. The budo dojo is no different. However, the manner in which people are dealt with for misdemenours etc, are largely up to the Soke, or head teacher. In the case of the Bujinkan, it seems that “natural justice” and the natural manner of the ” bad being weeded out over time ” is the preferred manner.The bad end up ” killing themselves “, while others use their presence to help them along their Shugyo. It’s been said that it is important to have both good and bad within the dojo. From the bad, the good can see how to avoid straying from the right path, and the bad can see how to possibly redeem themselves from the actions of the good. The dojo is often said to be a place where we do pennance. This is important to remember, I feel. When seated, it is observed in a dojo that unless you are stretching, you maintain a kneeling or cross legged posture. This is basically to avoid showing the “dirty” parts of your body, such as the soles of your feet. This is especially important when seated infront of a superior. We must also recognise the important consideration that the Japanese have in regards to hygiene as well.

Recently, Nagato Sensei instructed everyone on the manner of bowing at the beginning and end of each class. It was obvious that many did not understand the correct process. By raising this observation, people must be now aware that the Japanese teachers are in fact concerned about these aspects of budo. If you ignore this aspect of training, you ignore the very base of the martial arts. ” In the daily practise of Budo, etiquette begins with a bow. The etiquette of Budo is contained within the five confucion virtues of benevolence,justice,etiquette,wisdom, and sincerity.Etiquette is the cornerstone of these values, and it is important to realize this balance. Fully understanding this means you will never stray from the natural path of Bushido.” Soke Masaaki Hatsumi

There are of course many other important aspects in regards to learning correct etiquette Bowing is like saluting someone of higher rank than you in the military or Police forces. In the case of meeting with a higher rank, the lower ranks hold there salute until the higher rank has dropped his. We can see this within business etiquette in Japan aswell. The older, or more superior positioned person bows, but the juniors to him bow lower. In regards to seated bowing in the dojo, Nagato Sensei told everyone that the students must wait for the teacher to rise first from the bowing posture. Until then, the students maintain both hands on the ground.

When entering seiza, you drop with you left knee first. When raising from seiza, you step up with your right leg first. This is important as a samurai’s sword is drawn from the left. This should be basic kihon for all martial artists, but Nagato Sensei obviously saw that this basic understanding was not understood by some people in the dojo. The elbows once seated in seiza are kept in. This is to protect against someone entering through the space between your arms and body to take/control you or your weapon.

The hand placement when bowing is left than right. It is then reversed when raising from the bow. These basic principles must be understood. As martial artists, we must try to learn from these teachings. Reigi is the line between life and death. Within etiquette lies the truth for knowing how to survive. We can see this in occidental culture with firearms. The ” hand shake ” performed with the right hand is the sign of ” peace” and the ” putting down of arms “. As most men are right handed, the offering of a hand, free from brandishing a weapon is deemed as a gesture of ” friendship “. ” It has been said that an armed society is a polite society “. The following is for pure interests sake, but there are important points that have a relationship with dojos in Japan, even in our modern era. As much as status and position matter to the Japanese, etiquette is the grease that allows the wheels of society to turn. The lowerranked one is, the more fawning his manners will appear as higher and higher ranks are being addressed and interacted with.

Virtually all forms of social interactions will take one of three clear divisions: to one’s superiors, to one’s equals, and to one’s inferiors. If a low-ranking samurai deals with an equal, he will function on an equal level unless he is hoping for a favor, in which case he would behave in the inferior-to-superior manner. Were he to behave in the superior-to inferior manner, it would be either insulting or humorous, depending on situation and intent. If the same low-ranking samurai were to use equal-to-equal manners and speech to his lord, it would be a shocking example of lèse majesté — the servant would be declaring his equality with the master — and it could get him severely reprimanded or even killed. Bowing is the standard greeting and farewell, and depending on the depth of the bow and its duration, one can immediately tell who is the superior and who is the inferior. Equals and friends may bow with little more than an inclination of the head informally, but as with all things, a formal situation requires formal behavior. The most reverential form of bowing is a prostration, with one’s forehead touching the ground. Usually this would only be used at court, or when summoned by one’s lord, although a peasant being addressed by someone of very high rank may do this, and then carry on his conversation with the lord from a kneeling position. If one has committed some error, he will apologize by bowing in this manner to the one he has offended; it is a sort of “get out of jail free” card if done sincerely, as a proper bow and apology always gets a higher reaction from the one being apologized to than if the person just stands there and says, ” Sorry.” The language itself is a barometer of social standing. Japanese has several different “politeness levels” with which one can speak. There are even certain verbs that are only used for different people. For example, when common people (or equals) eat, they will taberu; when someone more important than you eats, he will meshiagaru. When an equal does something, we say suru (= do); when a superior does something, the verb is nasaru, and when it is an inferior, it is itasu. To these specialized vocabulary elements can be attached myriad forms of verbal endings, and to these can be married the various forms of simple pronouns. The result is a wonderful patchwork that can in a few words tell you everything you need to know about who is who. In the English vernacular such subtle nuances are nigh unto impossible to get across. There are a few ways to convey the idea, however. When addressing a superior, use as polite a speech pattern as possible. Watch Amadeus or Henry V to get an idea of how this

works. Refer to superiors in the third person, not the second (e.g., “Would your lordship allow his servant to undertake this assignment?” versus, “Let me go!”). When having an audience with a lord or other important personage, there should be guards present (although they may be hiding behind wall partitions). One should always bow formally to the lord at such a meeting, and sit on the floor several feet away. There may or may not be a cushion to sit on. When indoors, the lord holding the audience will invariably sit on a dais at one end of the room, and anyone else will be on the floor. Outdoors, if a formal audience is being conducted, there will be a tatami platform or a camp chair on which the lord will sit, in front of a semi-circle of camp-curtains bearing the lord’s crest. Watch the Kagemusha, Kumonosu-jô (Throne of Blood), Shôgun, and similar films; they all present several different examples of audiences. Sometimes, the person holding court will sit on his verandah, and the people in attendance will sit below on the ground. This is more typical for a larger group, when a single room might not hold everyone who needs to be there.

It is frequently said that the sign of a samurai is his two swords, but this was a tradition that was only really starting to solidify during the latter half of the sixteenth century. Most bushi would wear or carry a long sword, and the short sword was often little more than a dirk. During the sengoku period, people carry what they can get away with. Katana (and the usually matching wakizashi) are worn thrust through the sash, edge up, at the left side (no one is left-handed in Japan, so no one would carry their swords on the right side). One way to get an idea of someone’s rank is to observe how he wears his sword. One with rank and authority wears his katana thrust through his obi almost horizontally, sticking far out in front and behind (thus establishing his “personal space”). A more humble or lower ranking man wears his closer to his body, so that the scabbard is almost parallel to his leg. Part of the reason for this is that to touch the scabbard of another was often deemed an insult, and at times could have been seen as a virtual challenge to an immediate duel. Threatening gestures with swords include: grasping the scabbard just behind the guard and pushing the guard forward with the thumb (breaking the “seal” on the scabbard); deliberately reaching across the body and grasping the hilt with one’s right hand but not actually drawing the blade; removing the cloth “sleeve” that travelers sometimes put over the hilt and guard to keep dust away; and pulling the scabbard forward but not quite out of the sash, so that the hilt is more accessible for a draw. One need not actually draw or strike if performing one of these actions (for such is the intent being telegraphed) but one must realize that if he is bluffing and has no intent to fight and if he backs down in the face of someone calling his bluff, he suffers a loss of face. When indoors in a private home or noble’s estate, one must surrender the katana. In an estate, castle, or even the home of anyone with rank, there is a servant whose job it is to receive these swords, and keep track of them. There is a closet or sword rack near the door where “checked” swords are kept until the owner of the weapon is preparing to leave.

When handing over a sword, the superior person will use one hand, the inferior both. The blade is always properly oriented (i.e.; for a tachi, edge down; for a katana, edge up). A superior person grasps the sword palm down on the scabbard, near the middle, and hands it over horizontally; the recipient receives it in both open palms, one at the hilt and one near the foot. If an inferior hands one over, it is palms up, under the hilt and foot; the recipient grasps it, palm down, at the center-point. This is similar for all weapons, as well, be they firearms, spears, or blades. Handing over an unsheathed sword (e.g., for inspection), one should grasp the sword in one hand at the very base of the hilt, holding the sword upright with the edge toward the one offering the sword. The recipient grasps the hilt directly below the guard; this puts him in a position to cut right down and take your arm off. That is the idea. It should be returned the same way. One thing implied in this is respect for the person receiving the sword; one is putting him in the dominant position, saying, “I trust you.” Of course, if you genuinely don’t trust the other person, you wouldn’t hand him a drawn weapon to begin with if you don’t have to, right? When sitting or kneeling indoors — especially as a guest — one should remove the sword from his sash and place it along his right side, edge in. This makes the sword inconvenient to get to and draw, and shows the proper respect. A great way to deliver a not-so-subtle insult (”I don’t trust you; I could kill you, you know.”) is to remove the sword from your obi but lie it on the floor on your left side, edge out. This is positioned for an easy draw. The key to a respectful attitude with swords is to indicate that it would be difficult to draw, cut, or otherwise defend oneself, while the other person would find it easy to attack.

When carrying yari, naginata, or any polearm on the road, they are held point down, pointing at a spot on the ground about three feet in front; they can also be carried along the body in an attitude similar to “shoulder arms.” On the march, the blades are usually protected by lacquered covers. In addition to bringing the weapon into a guard position, the most threatening thing one can do is to jerk the haft and send the “sheath” flying; it implies you’re ready to use your weapon. We are studying a Cultural Treasure! Let’s treat it as such and pay our respects to those who came before us by maintaining the etiquette of the warrior both inside and out side of the Dojo. Bufu Ikkan

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