Use a Telescope to see through Space and Time

On Sunday I did a technique at the opening of the class that sensei used to teach us the shizen karada – the natural body movement.

Karada – body ( 自然 体) is a often used by sensei during his classes as everything we do is based on a body or “non body” movement.
On a ryôte dori ( 両手取 り) slide your arms inside Uke’s arms and take his balance. When sensei did it to me I felt nothing he just vanished (melted?) in my grab in such a natural way that I had the feeling that my grip was returned against me.
There was so much softness in his counter action that there was no way for me to counter it or to think on how to react to it.
This feeling is quite strange and happens every time you have the chance to be his Uke. There is power within softness.

To achieve that Hatsumi sensei was simply joining his shoulders between my arms as if he had no bone structure, no rib cage in the middle! By moving the shoulders in a wave action back and forth he slide himself in between my grip and took my balance. The naturalness of his body movement was amazing as nothing could be done to avoid it. Using the karada (体) without chikara – force, strength (力), he then used the gan shi nankotsu (眼指軟骨) to inflict excruciating pain to my eyes and mouth, forcing me to bend backward and therefore to lose my balance.
I can understand it what he did to me but I wasn’t able to reproduce it. As always it is one thing to understand and another one to be able to do it.

When sensei was in between my arms I felt I was facing a wall advancing towards me and I couldn’t avoid it as I was stupidly still grabbing his lapels. Funnily I know I could have let it go but I didn’t. He was controlling my body and my brain together. The only thing I could do was watching my demise. Using the whole body is not moving the body it is being one with your body and Uke’s body at the same time so no free space is available for you to escape.

If I try to describe the feeling a little more it is like there is no strength at all opposing yours and then nothing to fight against. The simple shoulder wave movement together with a body that has been polished for tens of years is what is doing it. Once again, your rank doesn’t prevent you from training and you have to train for a very long time in order to get this ease in action that comes from pure consciousness.

Later during the class sensei used the image of the circle and of pi. Actually when continuing the movement your footwork should be in accordance together with uke’s movement of attack so that you pivot in a circle inside Uke’s attack at a 180° angle to go with him where his body is leading him. By doing so, Uke is not aware of where you are and loses his balance because nothing is opposing him. This pi application has been developed in many other martial arts like Aikidô for example but here in our case there is no grabbing of Uke. Sensei merely used the space created by this dynamic and natural body positioning to stick to Uke so close that he is invisible to Uke’s awareness. Sensei’s body moves like in cloud. It is at the same time a mienai waza, a kûkan and a nagare with nothing to stop Uke’s body but diabling him to perceive you. As they say in the Takagi Yôshin Ryû and the Kukishin Ryû: “ahead lies paradise”. As nothing prevents Uke’s movements Uke falls by only fighting his own strength.

To summarize the whole training that day sensei used a nice image. He said: “don’t be strong, don’t be weak, be zero and through this zero you can see the solution”. Saying that he put his hands in a circle and looked through them as if using a telescope.

Once again everything is linked. telescopes are used to see through sideral space and the stronger they are, the further back in time they can see. You should become a powerful telescope and see through time and space in order to be aware of what is coming next even before Uke knows about it.

Then gan shi nankotsu of this year (眼指軟骨) turns into gan shi nankotsu (眼 其 軟 骨) where shi (其) is oneself; nan (軟) is soft; kotsu (骨) is knack, skill, secret. The “eye, finger, cartilage” is now through our telescope a means to see through yourself, the secret of softness that will defeat the opponent.

A Needle will not Blow a Balloon

In any Japan trip the first classes with sensei give some insight on what is going to be taught next. My first classes last days were fantastic, full of insights … and full of pain!

About 80 students are attending the classes (and more are arriving every day) and I have the feeling that the dkms 2011 will be a hispanic one as many friends from Spain and South America are there: Alex, Christian, Nestor, Rafael, Marcello, Jose and many others.

I must say that sensei is in a very good mood and shape and that his minimalist taijutsu is getting more and more impressive.

I had the honor to open the classes and once again he went into the “gan shi nankotsu” concept that he has been unveiling since last summer. I already wrote about this “add-on” t to the kihon happô theme and concept on my Facebook notes, check it if you didn’t read it it is called “ken tai ichi jo”.

As I said the class was full of insights, I will try to explain three things that Hatsumi sensei explained during the class:

A needle will not blow a balloon  i.e. Kosshi and Koppô are complementary:
This was really mind blowing! Westerners have a tendency to split everything in closed boxes were in fact reality is based on a more higher understanding of these concepts. Even though Kosshi and Koppô are different they mix nicely together to create a flow that is like a third reality. From now we should see these two concepts as the “plus” and “minus” of some magnetic field.

Hatsumi sensei explained that our fingers controlling Uke softly were actually the Kosshi jutsu and that our bone structure, our squeleton moving freely around this point of control would allow us to deal “softly” with the opponent’s intentions. He said,that,when this Kosshi/Koppô mix is mastered, you are able to deal with any opponent whatever his body shape. This is when he used this image: “when you master this you can push a needle so softly into a balloon that eventually itwill not blow up”. This controlling action of the whole body is so soft that no force at all is used in the process.
Intellectually easy to get, but I still don’t know howto do it.

Time is now  i.e. create time when you are in a hurry:

In each class sensei insists a lot on being able to create time within time. If you have been training long enough you already have experienced this feeling. Uke attacks full speed and you have the impression that he is moving in slow motion.
What sensei explained was about the same except that the use of the little pains generated by the “gan shi nankotsu” movements prevent Uke of carrying out his attacks at the normal speed. This hindering of his intentions delays his actions and therefore creates time that you can use to control, hit, or destroy him.
Since Einstein we know that time is relative and when our actions are forcing uke to think and to adjust his intentions in order to survive then we force him to “slow down” his efficiency. In a way this is E=MC² where E = extermination; M = mind, C = control. Then we can write that the Extermination of Uke equals Mind Control to the square!

Tenmon (天 門), Chimon (地 門 ),Gakumon (学 門):

But the main point made by sensei was when he spoke about the trilogy of Tenmon, Chimon and Gakumon. As far as I understood, We can see the martial art as a mix of biomechanical techniques – Chimon (waza) and of higher understanding – Tenmon (kûden – nearly spiritual). These two aspects are completed by another one Gakumon or knowledge. Hatsumi sensei said that many martial arts are stuck at the Chimon level and that others are focusing more on the spiritual level. The Bujinkan is including the Gakumon from the real beginning and the three become one.
How is it possible? It is simple if you think that two levels of Gakumon are there. The first Gakumon is basic knowledge allowing you to link the first two aspects of Chimon and Tenmon.
The second one, taught in the bujinkan by sensei is beyond forms and words and can nly be reached when your taijutsu has been polished for more many many years.
When the three are mastered a new dimension you reach is that of pure consciousness – shiki ( 識).
Thereforeand if my interpretation is correct we understand sensei’s last comment at the end of the class: “I teach you the three together because they are one, and this is the bujinkan and the higher form of martial art”.

Be Happy!

Freedom & Happiness

This is Daikomyo sai time again and I cherish this moment of the year more than any moment.

I arrived yesterday afternoon for another Daikomyo sai in Japan. After a fex hours I alrready met with Hugues, Cédric, Philippe, Indrek, Peter and Sheila. It is always a very nice moment and brings me a lot of happiness.

Being happy is what Hatsumi Sensei has been teaching us since the beginning but many bujinkan followers don’t get it and it is sad. Freedom and happiness is the core teaching of the bujinkan. As Epictetus said “those who are looking for power and money will fail, the only objective of human beings is to find freedom and to be happy”.

Everything in Life is changing, as it is said in the I ching, change is the only permanent thing on earth. But why is it that we are always looking for permanence when change is everywhere? Bujinkan followers often get lost on their search for power and money. Instead of focusing on the things we can influence, we often force things that are not in our power to serve our own selfish interests. By doing so we lose our freedom and become unhappy.

Epitectus said: “What bothers humans is not reality but the judgments we make on reality”. Then stop judging others try simply to be happy with them. We have to train only for ourself with no expectations and then freedom will be achieved and we will find happiness. Each time we replace personal actions by selfish desires we get lost. Our desires, our attachment (power, money) are enslaving us. Be what you are and stop trying to be someone you are not. Everything is created in our brain. This is not reality this is an illusion.

An Indian sage called Ashtavakra wrote:

It is true what they say:“You are what you think.” If you think you are bound you are bound. If you think you are free you are free.

Choose to be free and Happy. Being happy is a personal choice and nothing can give it to you if you don’t make this choice.

I really think that Hatsumi Sensei is a philosopher more than a martial art teacher. His martial art classes are only an excuse and a tool to help us get the proper attitude in Life that will make us happy.

This year of kihon happô was dedicated to the start of a new cycle. Decide now to be what you are, choose to be happy, walk the path of freedom.

So enjoy these magic days of Daikomyo sai and start anew in this new cycle by taking the good decisions and being open minded.

“You are pure Consciousness— the substance of the universe.
The universe exists within you. Don’t be small-minded” Ashtavakra

Be Happy!

Tenchijin University 2011

Reminder: Tenchijin University in PAris from October 15th to 19th (late). We will cover all the techniques and fundamentals of the Tenchijin Ryaku no Maki established by Hatsumi Sensei as the prerequisite for the study of the bujinkan martial arts back in 1983.

We will work on the revised structure by sensei from 1987.

Classes will bein French and English and 9 manuals will be given to follow the classes and to take notes.

Trainings will be partly indoor and partly outdoor

Lunches (sandwich) are provided as well as free lodging at night in the dôjô.

If you are interested please visit the website:

YSTT Update Jun 2011

In exactly 30 days the Yûro Shi Tenno Taikai of Paris begins!

This year has passed so fast that I am amazed that this is already the time for this major seminar. The Paris Taikai has evolved a lot since its creation back in 2007.

This is a very special seminar that was designed to give a chance to get the « Taikai feeling » of the old days to the newcomers to the bujinkan and a sense of « the good ol’days » to the old bujinkan members.

This seminar is special for many reasons:

First, this is the only remaining seminar where the « Shi tenno » are teaching together. Since 1993 Sven, Peter, Pedro & Arnaud have been teaching together in Spain, France, England, Ireland etc…

Second, the four friends are used to teach together which gives a kind of « family feeling » to this event;

Third, this is a 3 days seminar like the taikai of the past when Hatsumi sensei was travelling the world to spread his teaching;

Fourth, the group of participants is divided into four groups by technical level. This means that a beginner will receive a class that he or she can understand; but also that a high rank student (judan and above) will also get something to improve his or her understanding;

Fifth, each day is divided into small training sessions of about 1 hour where each group has the chance to train with each one of the shihan in a private class;

Sixth, the 3 training halls (mats or wooden floor) allow each one to spend a full day of training in different environment;

Seventh, the free t-shirt, the hot meals, the free lodging (during, before or after the event), makes it a big opportunity to exchange with the many practitioners from all Europe but also to take the chance to visit Paris;

Eighth, the final party at the end of the third day is always a good moment before going back home and parting from 150 new friends coming from 15 to 18 countries.

The YSTT is a very good opportunity to meet your buyu from Europe, to exchange, train, and learn a lot of things in a very friendly environment.

This year, this is the 27th year of my bujinkan training. SO I decided that each participant that is booked online will receive a FREE 2 months unlimited access to our online streaming website displaying more than 600 bujinkan techniques.

Thank you for your support!

A. Cousergue
Bujinkan Shihan


Japan Update: Denki & Tenki

Today was a nice day, the weather was nice, not too hot and not too cold, and I learnt many new things. The reason why we come to train in Japan is to better our knowledge about proper movements and today was full of insights at all levels.

Erick "Mr Denki"

I spoke with two Swedish friends, Petter Swedin who is living and studying in Sapporo (Hokkaido) and his friend Erick who is studying electricity engineering here in Japan, and they explained the reasons why the Japanese have had some issues with their power grid after the tsunami. When in the 19th century electricity was first introduced to Japan it was through the Europeans. The Europeans are using a 220v/50 herz technology. When the Tokyo power grid has been rebuilt after the war by the Americans, they used a 110v/60 herz technology. So until this day Japan has been using two different power grids that are not easily compatible together.

Petter getting everyday more Japanese

After the Tsunami transferring power from one part of Japan to another proved to be difficult and with so many electricity production unit down it took them some time to be able to supply electricity to the whole country. This is a lesson from History.

Petter and Erick please feel free to add your comments if you need to add or precise anything.

I found it really interesting and my guess that in a near future when the Japanese will have recovered from this major disaster, they will find ways to unify their power grids so that it never happens again. Our actions are dictated by our evolution and past actions create the conditions of the present, and of our future survival. This is a true budô lesson.

Playing with the Japanese sounds, denki (電気), “electricity” can also be written as denki (伝記 ), “life story” but could also be denki (伝気), “transmission of energy” or tenki (天気), “energy of heaven” (weather). Therefore through the story of our training life we evolve from electrical power into the transmission of the energy of heaven. In other words we grow from chi no sekai (地 の世界), in the material world, to the ten no sekai (天の世界) in the spiritual world, through the connection of the jin no sekai (神 の世界) in the divine world! The link between heaven, earth and man is the step stone of the bujinkan tenchijin and forgetting it can prove to be painful and a big mistake.

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During our fist class of the day with Noguchi sensei we covered a big part of the jin ryaku no maki from the tenchijin. We studied many things but this class was for me like a real sanshin. First and in relation with what I just wrote, I finally understood gokuraku otoshi (極楽落し, falling from heaven). In this particular technique, the movement is applied onto the arm (ten) and finished by sliding uke’s leg to make him fall to the ground with jigoku otoshi. Actually you trap the jin by playing the ten (arm) and the chi (leg). That was an eye opener for me. I have been training bujinkan for over 27 years and I trained this technique many times but only now I became aware of its signification. As Hatsumi sensei wrote in “Unarmed fighting techniques of the samurai” on the introduction of the first level of the Gyokko ryû: “it is important to know the meaning of the names of the techniques”.

My second discovery was something Noguchi said during another technique. He said: “here you can do three things: oshi, otoshi, nage”. We are all aware of the differences between otoshi (落す otosu to make someone swoon) and nage ( 投げる nageru) but it was the first time I heard of oshi (押す osu to push). As this is often the case with what we learn here in Japan, it sounds so logical that “pushing” uke could be part of the technique that you always feel stupid not to have known about it in the first place. And again, this is why you have to come and train in Japan with Sôke and the shihan because each class will bring new insights on what you are supposed to know.

The last part of my sanshin for today happened when doing yume makura (夢枕) and for the first time in my many years of training I understood the difference between yume makura and te makura (even though I thought I knew it). Makura is the modern Japanese name for pillow (also to lead in), but as it is often the case with the evolution of languages the original meaning meant “support” so the “hand pillow” used to be a “supporting hand” pushing up onto the elbow joint. In yume (dream) makura, you are now supporting your dreams like the buddha lying down onto the ground and supporting his head.

In fact the whole secret is to use yori modoshi (寄り, to give up, and 戻し, returning or giving back) to transform the seoi nage into a te makura to bring uke down to the ground. The body action looks like a “8” loop moving forward with the seoi nage, pushing uke backwards in the direction of his tension, extending his arm and going down with him to the ground. The idea is to push/pull uke and togo up/down to bring him with you to the ground.

Noguchi sensei was brilliant as usual and I learned many details that will improve my whole taijutsu. Unfortunately, the class ended well before we covered the whole jin ryaku no maki. But those being in Atago next Friday afternoon will have the chance to study the remaining movements with Noguchi sensei.

The class with Sôke was also an eye opener (physically and mentally). Many students were there and many newcomers too. My friend Gillian freshly arriving from Australia was there too and I am always happy to see her. Whenever she is in Europe to visit her relatives, she hops by to my dôjô in Paris and train with us, and it is always a pleasure.

Thomas Franzen

Thomas Franzen from Sweden was asked to demonstrate a few techniques in his dynamic and efficient taijutsu and Sôke used them as a start for his painful techniques. He insisted again on the permanent use of the fingers to inflict pain on uke’s fingers or his face and that it was in the theme of this year. At one point he showed how to use the fingers on the face and how to inflict excruciating pain on a few kyûsho at hiryuran and jinchû at the same time. My partner for the class asked sensei to demonstrate the technique to him and he came back bleeding I am sure he will remember it for sure. The best way to learn is to ask Sôke to do it on you then pain becomes your teacher. Speaking of pain, Nakadai sensei, Shiraishi sensei and Yabunaka sensei were used many times and you could “hear” the pain. I now know that not only gaijin can scream, pain is universal! He also said something about kyûsho (急所) that Steve did a nice job translating sôke’s words for the whole but here he had a hard time getting it. Steve even said to his partner: “sensei knows I cannot translate that, so I guess this is part of my training”. The idea was that you don’t go for the kyûsho straight but only for the area around it, uke’s reactions will create the conditions of pain. Sensei often teaches at multiple levels and getting you off balance by forcing you to do things you are unable to do is part of his way of teaching.

Another thing that sensei said during the class is that you can outmaneuver your opponent by making him think that you do not know what you are doing. If uke thinks that you are a bad fighter, he will get a false sense of superiority speed up his downfall. After all deception is ninjutsu and inyo is everywhere!

Erick and Michael after training

Sensei was in a very good state of mind and we also did many sannin dori techniques, he said that movements do not need to look good, on the contrary and that sannin dori is the best way to develop actual fighting skills. And that you cannot find that kind of training in gendai budô, only in bujinkan.

After a very short break (there was no calligraphy session) sensei asked me to demonstrate a technique. It was some kind of tenchi inyo movement with seoi nage/harai goshi type of throw at the end. Sensei asked to demonstrate it a few times slower and slower and we played with this until the end of the class. Sensei added many painful finger grabs and multiple soft hits to disorient uke. When you receive multiple speedy slaps on the face and the body, your brain becomes unable to deal with all these information. There is no real pain only a flow of little pains as if you were fighting a bee hive or a poisonous jellyfish.

We also did some daisho sabaki movements with nearly each technique, learning how to use our sword or uke’s sword still in the belt and crushing uke’s fingers at the same time. Sensei said that this was real fighting skills and that it was quite far from the modern ways of sword fighting taught in the “traditional schools” in Japan. Finally we ended with a simple mutô dori technique where you go forward on the jodan kiri. Moving forward he said is the best way to avoid the cut as uke will avoid you. In real fight you create opportunities by not playing the game according to uke’s perceptions. If you try to dodge the cut you get cut but if you walk calmly towards uke then you can control his space and get a hold on his forward hand (and crush his fingers on the tsuka). A nice class full of pain and discoveries.

The sakki test session was strange as none of the four applicants could get it. They had only one chance. After the last one failed sensei decided to stop the sakki test, they will all have two more chances on Sunday. This was also a lesson as Sensei could feel that the conditions were not good last night so he adapted to the flow and canceled the second chance. The “givers” and the “takers” are not to be criticized, the moment was not correct and Sensei took the right decision. Knowing when it is time and when it is not time to do something is also part of our training. Ninjutsu is about awareness and developing the ability to seize a situation should be an important part of our training.

Sesnei leaving the dôjô with Someya sensei

At the beginning of the class, Anthony Netztler from New Zealand received the gold medal of the Bujinkan for his long training and achievement. We had a nice talk in the train going back to Kashiwa. Anthony has been living many years here in Japan and is one of the pillars of the bujinkan and he deserved this reward. In the past Sensei would give the gold medal mainly to the visitors and not to the residents I guess this is why Anthony didn’t get it a long time ago. Thank you Anthony for your presence.

How to get there?

While writing this article I met a Japanese woman Kazue san who spoke very good English and whose kids are training bujinkan with Duncan Stewart.

We had a very nice discussion about Japan, the tsunami, Fukushima and the way things are understood from the other end of the world.

Tsukasa Yakitori restaurant address

Her father has a yakitori restaurant called tsukasa (つかさ) in the same street as the Kashiwa Plaza Annex Hotel with a “ninja menu” in English (see map). I invite you all to eat there during your next stay in Kashiwa.

(modified end – a few hours later) After this post was sent, I got two messages from Duncan and Kazue san telling me that I got it wrong.

So somebody else from America wrote the English menu not Duncan. My mistake. But you can still complain to him if you are unsatisfied … if you dare to do it. :)

Be happy!

ps: thank you Ilona for your note ;)

Japan Update: Karada & Asobi

The protector of the dôjô

Since the big earthquake in March there is a new mask under the Shinden at the hombu dôjô. Sensei painted it in a bright orange color as this is the color for protection in Shintoism. The Torii (鳥居) at the entrance of the Shintô temples is often painted with this bright orange to indicate that the area is protected. Sensei explained Sunday during his class that he put it there to protect the dôjô. I like this mix of tradition and modernity always present in Japan.

On the budô side, today was a tough day for all of us as we had three classes. I gave a class at 11am, Nagato sensei at 2:30pm and Noguchi sensei at 7pm.

For those coming soon to train in Japan, please note that Hatsumi sensei and Noguchi sensei are teaching now their night classes at 7pm instead of 8pm. Please also note that the Budôkan being reserved for the refugees of the tsunami, all classes by sensei are held at the hombu dôjô until further notice.

I had the feeling today that a little less people than the other days were training so we had more space to train correctly.

Tsuki komi no henkaThe jûgodan are allowed to teach at the hombu and I have been doing it for many years now but somehow I always feel honored to be allowed to teach at the hombu dôjô and it is always a very nice experience. I taught today’s class in Spanish as only three participants were not coming from south or central America. All the other students were from Christian Petrocello’s group and coming from Argentina, Mexico, Ecuador and Chili. If you had a chance to visit their dôjô in their country don’t miss this opportunity they are really good people to train with, with a good heart, and committed to the bujinkan. I guess that the charisma and technical level of Christian created this feeling amongst his students. Thank you Christian.

The first part of my class was dedicated to taijutsu and we reviewed the differences between kosshi (骨子), koppô (骨法) and ninpô (忍法) as well as the kamae of each level of the gyokko ryû: ten ryaku uchu gassho no kamae, fûten goshin gassho no kamae, hanno bonitsu no kamae, ending all in tenchi inyo no kamae. As these kamae are linked individually to each one of the three levels of the school, they give a better understanding of the school syllabus and progression. After a short break we reviewed the sword techniques demonstrated by Hatsumi sensei in his previous classes last week. They were mainly based on the variations of tsuki komi from the kukishin ryû and use the whole body (karada – 身体).

Nagato sensei after the class

Then at Nagato sensei’s class we did many variations on oni kudaki with a hanpa approach in which uke is trapped by his own reactions. The control on uke’s body is given by the distance created by the footwork and the use of the body (karada – 身体). Once again Nagato sensei insisted in not putting any strength and letting uke do the job for us. Piling up uke on his lower back and using his body natural reactions to trap him is always difficult but the many angles and distances demonstrated by him were so clear that many could actually do them at the of the class. Lesson: keep your body balanced and uke in a weak posture. Use no strength so that uke is not able to build up his reactions on it. Let him fall by his own body tensions. It reminded me of a sentence of Hatsumi sensei in a recent trip: “don’t use strength, uke is already using it!”. Nice class as alaways.

After a two hour break and some food, we began training with Noguchi sensei. When you come and train in Japan, you feel very tired after a few days but when you attend Noguchi sensei’s class his energy is so communicative that you feel more relaxed after it. Having said that, you still don’t get the “hows” and the “whys” but you feel richer after the class.

A serious attitude

Today Noguchi sensei did some koto ryû koppô jutsu variations around the first techniques of the school in his inimitable manner. His body flow is always amazing and even you think that you have it, it is nearly impossible to reproduce correctly. His energy fills the dôjô so totally his 90 minute class is over before you know it. We used the koto ryû particular footwork known as jûji aruki with every henka (変化), this was the main lesson of tonight’s class. Hatsumi sensei said in December that yoko aruki (gyokko ryû) is crossing the feet, toes heading in the same directions; where jûji aruki (koto ryû) is with your feet at a perpendicular direction. Again Noguchi sensei showed us that the use of strength was not necessary as the balance of uke is taken by our sole footwork and by the precise use of the body. As usual he did many henka using the spine and the neck and a few ones where he didn’t even use the hands. A rejuvenating class indeed.

After this long training day, and while I was writing this blog entry a new earthquake (richter level 4) hit the Chiba and Tokyo regions, and the hotel danced for a minute before calming down. If you are coming soon to Japan, please read carefully the note by Mark on his facebook page. Mark has been living here for more than twenty years and he knows what he is speaking about.

Maria from Mexico, Noguchi sensei and me

Tomorrow Friday we have two more classes: one with Noguchi sensei at 2pm where we will be reviewing the jin ryaku no maki (from the tenchijin) and another one with Hatsumi sensei at 7pm. During Nagato sensei’s class he reminded us of the importance of asobi (遊び), the have the playfulness of a kid while training. In August Hatsumi sensei precised that playfulness should not lower our level of awareness, though. Being « seriously playful » is what is expected from us during training.

This also applies to what is happening here in Japan outside of the dôjô.

Be happy!

Japan Update: History & Training

Sensei at home Apr19th

Tuesday has been another fantastic day in Tokyo as sensei asked me on Sunday to meet him with Pedro and Kogure san (Quest videos) at his place at 5pm before training. The light rain and the cold weather that accompanied me from Kashiwa to Noda didn’t lower my pleasure of meeting sensei and my buyu brother Pedro.

When Pedro and I met in a Spanish Taikai more than 20 years ago we never suspected the particular tie that would bind us together during all these years. Even though I met Sôke at the London Taikai in 1987 (the first European Taikai in Europe organized by my other brother Peter King) and again in 1988 (Sweden Taikai organized by my other brother Sven), I want to thank Pedro again here to have introduced me to Sôke on my first trip to Japan. I think that without this special connection he has with our Sôke I wouldn’t have gone so far in the Bujinkan. Muchissimas gracias hermano!

And thank you also to the true friendship of my older Yûro Shi Tennô brothers Sven and Peter.

Sensei, Pedro and Arnaud

Anyway, at 5 pm Pedro, Miguel, Kogure san and myself met in Sôke’s house where he showed us some very rare documents including the original letter of surrender written and signed by Hiro Hito tennô and the 12 members of his government, the day before they officially surrendered. This document is so important that no financial value can be given to it. We also were honored to flip the pages of an history of the rulers of Japan realized for the tennô only with original ukiyoe print on a very special type of paper that resists all natural disasters so common to Japan: tsunami and earthquakes. A paper so special that a single blank page is worth 800 Euros… and they were more than 50 pages all printed with original ukiyoe… As a joke sensei said that this paper might be able to resist an atomic disaster… but was it a joke? He then showed us a 600 year old tachi (with a tsuka of 3 fists and a half).

Our budô is definitely not a sport and these few items he displayed especially for us is the proof that without this kind of knowledge your martial arts abilities are only a “puff of smoke” as they say in the Shinden fudô ryû. Sensei added that no Japanese were able to grasp that anymore, that this knowledge has disappeared today here in Japan and this is the reason why he is always referring to him as a “ufo” (since his first visit to the USA in the 80s). Japan has lost his history the forgotten the lessons it carried. To illustrate his point he told us that the technique to make the special paper that I spoke earlier of has been lost and that no one today in Japan knows how to do it anymore.

This introduction of our meeting was an excuse for him to tell us that if someone with the proper knowledge, connections, and structured organization was existing, he would give away everything he had to save this knowledge from disappearing. As you know sensei’s house is like a real museum and those documents he showed are far from being the most important things he has. Sensei said he also had in writings the fours parts of the Amatsu Tatara being like the four parts of the hearts or the stomach and that even that was not the best piece of his collection of historical data. But the most amazing to me was that he insisted that he would never sell it but was ready to give it for free if someone worth it was presented to him. Even Kogure san was surprised by all this. This was indeed a very special moment and thanks to Kogure san translations into English and Miguel’s ability to speak and understand Japanese, the connection between all of us was very good.


Then it was time for the class and we went to the Hombu where nearly 70 people were waiting for the class to begin. Senseis introduced the class by showing a special yari that he bought earlier on Tuesday on which a tube with hooks facing the tip is sliding on the pole allowing it to move faster when stabbing the opponent. It was another piece of historical teaching as sensei explained that when facing a weapon you have to understand the various (and sometimes illogical) ways of using it. In this particular case, he said that fisherman hooks known as hari (針) in Japanese could be attached to the sliding device in order to trap the skin or the yoroi of the attacker.

The main point in his class was the following: “be aware of what you cannot see, what you can see is easy to deal with, what you don’t see is what is really dangerous”. He uses the term “mienai” (見えない)which something that one cannot possibly see (in opposition to the “kakushi” term – 隠し). His point was to make us aware of the risk of invisible radiations these days.

We did many taijutsu and weapon techniques started by Pedro and Thomas and sensei insisted a lot on the importance for this year’s theme of the use of the fingers (Takagi Yôshin Ryû) to inflict pain in many different places. At one point we did a kind of ryô happa ken to the head changing rapidly the pain location by switching the intention from one finger to the other (below the jaw, above the ear, under the nose, inside the eyes etc). Another point is not to use strength so that uke is not able to use this strength of the hold to free himself from it.

On a choke attempt he showed how to move our shoulders in different ways (up/up, up/down) in order to change the size of the neck a technique we did 20 years ago during a daikomyô sai in Japan and where we all looked like little neck less dwarfs rocking sideways. This neck hiding technique is very useful when applying a kikaku ken (headbutt strike) as the shoulders protect the vertebra.

We also did a technique against a fist and kick (same side) attack in a kokû manner. The interesting point here was to apply the shutô to the attacking arm from inside at a 45° angle, then to receive the kick softly in the inside of the right elbow and sliding the body to the right to operate a kind of natural reversal of uke’s body by his trapped leg. Uke’s leg is captured inside your arm with your back to you and your hand can naturally grab uke’s belt. Sôke insisted on the importance of locking uke by the belt grab. Then sensei explained that we had to grab uke in the manner of an ice pick. The ice pick is hooking the ice but doesn’t go through it. From there uke is put down straight to the ground and locked there in pain by crushing his fingers with your fingers. This was the feeling we had to understand yesterday night.

On the sword henka of the techniques initiated by Pedro and Thomas, he showed us again how to draw the blade (nuku, 剣を抜く) from the scabbard without pulling it the hand but by using the tsuba to hook the attacking hand (grabbing or not) of uke. Sensei said that this was a very old way of drawing that has been lost like many other things in Japan warfare knowledge. At one point speaking of the yoroi, he said that a samurai would have at least 3 sets of yoroi depending on the seasons and that the winter yoroi would be covered with bear fur in the inside of it. And that also is not known by many gendai budô experts. Actually he was so critical on the sword abilities of modern practitioners in Japan that the camera had to be turned off!

We also did a very nice footwork technique where under a jodan kiri attack you do some kind of jûji aruki (not yoko aruki) turning your body nearly back to uke right side and rotating the blade (wrists are crossed) hitting uke directly in his attack. A very nice flow body flow quite hard to get in a crowded environment but saving a lot of space.

After going back to Kashiwa I had a meeting with Kogure san and while we were having dinner a very long (more than a minute) and soft earthquake shook the whole building. It was like having the metro passing under the floor… but we were on the 6th floor. Strange feeling.

As I said, another fantastic day in Japan indeed!

Budô is Mudô (2)

Oguri sensei with Tomiyama san

On Monday I had the chance to train with Nagato sensei and Oguri sensei and once again the complex simplicity (or the simple complexity) of their movements was amazing. I come to Japan three times a year and I still see the distance in levels between the Japanese Shi Tennô understanding and mine. The margin for progression seems huge (and I do not speak about Hatsumi sensei’s level)…

Last Friday Hatsumi sensei made one of his usual puns speaking of “budô” and “mudô” and even if it was the title for my last post on this blog I forgot to explain its meaning.

The kanji for “bu” (武) used for “budô” can also be pronounced “mu”. But “mu” (無) means “without, nothing, empty, emptiness”; like in Zen “mushin”, the no spirit no thinking attitude.

So when sensei said “budô is mudô” he said that “the path of budô was the path of no path”. This new pun playing with the sound emphasized once again the importance of listening to what he is actually saying in his teaching and understanding our budô from a much deeper perspective.

Budô being the path of no-path the bujinkan budô is the path itself and it cannot be expressed in words. The bujinkan arts beyond the mechanical aspect of the waza is simply a kankaku (感覚), a feeling. Training here at the hombu with Sôke is the only way to become able to “read between the lines” as he is pushing us to do regularly. The shidôshi not travelling to Japan to get their knowledge directly at the source, miss an extraordinary opportunity to develop themselves completely. Budô is more than a series of techniques, it is really a way of realization, a true art.

At lunch time on Sunday, sensei repeated his intention to build a jinja (神社), a shrine for the bujinkan and he was not speaking of religion here but of creating a place where the practitioners would find a training place building their taijutsu as well as their “shinjutsu” written 心術 (and not 針術 – acupuncture). If we see budô as the science of growing flowers, we can see the difference existing between learning to plant a seed, caring it, feeding the germ and making the flower blooming; and the art of Ikebana (生花) where the art is to express life through a special flower arrangement based on the tenchijin.

Moving from the physical world to the spiritual world is not the only possible through religions but also through budô.

“Budô is mudô” then makes sense. Our budô is nature and nature is without intention. Being is the solution and attending the classes with sensei transforms us into true human beings.

Nature is simplicity but a complex simplicity. This is exactly the same when you train here with sensei and the Japanese shihan. You watch their movements, you find them easy to reproduce and then you find yourself unable to reproduce them. This is the state of mind in which I was yesterday when training with Nagato sensei and Oguri sensei. One word to summarize that: “WYSINWG” (What You See Is Never What You Get.

Their movements yesterday were based on very simple basic techniques such as: omote gyaku, ura gyaku, katamune dori, ô gyaku but the way the expressed them were beyond the mechanical realm. They were “holistic”!

As I previously wrote it in my other entries on this blog, my words cannot express them correctly so this time I will not try to do so. Only if you were attending the classes can you have a slight chance of getting it. The classes in Japan are like the wind, you don’t see it but you see the movements of the leaves on the trees. Maybe this is why we say: “bufû ikkan”.

Nagato sensei during the tea break

This trip I am becoming aware, more than usual, of the unicity of their movement. A way to express that could be: “bujinkan budô is unity in multiplicity”. Natural movement deals with everything at the same time: uke, tori, the terrain, the feelings, the angles, the bones, the intentions. In fact you must get the general image in order to move simply and efficiently.

Let me state a few rules to make you understand what natural movement is (or should be):

  • the technique is always adapted to the body type of uke,
  • the body moves in one as the tenchijin is united,
  • the angles of the bones of both uke and tori are in harmony,
  • tori is never “doing it” uke is creating the conditions of his fall,
  • strength is useless as softness triggers uke to react more,
  • there is no technique only opportunities,
  • a book will never fight.

So let’s study ikebana and plant the seeds of our taijutsu to get into the world of shinjutsu. An remember that the meaning of this year’s kihon happô speaks about a new germination, sprouting (happô – 八方).

Be happy!