Birthday Cake in Budapest: The Bujinkan Legacy


When Balázs and Laszlo asked me to give a seminar covering the Bujinkan themes of the last twenty years (1993-2012) I accepted but I didn’t immediately understand the “why?”, and I must admit that I didn’t see who would be interested.
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The day before traveling to Budapest I began to be concerned about the “how?”, and in a short mail, I told Balázs that I didn’t know if I could do it as suddenly Iunderstood the vast task it was. But eventually everything went fine and this is a seminar that I would like to repeat anytime. At first covering twenty different themes in two days made the seminar looking like some kind of food buffet where you are tasting many different dishes.
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But those themes have been chosen wisely by sensei, and the benefits from previous themes are reused after. Each year adding its particularity, was nurturing the next one.
 
If we follow the themes chronologically we rapidly see a logic in the system. Bô calls for Yari and Yari for Naginata. This “Sanshin of long weapons” as Hatsumi sensei called them once, is the best introduction possible to enter Biken jutsu, and Biken to understand Jô jutsu. In fact before the Tsurugi and the Tachi I thought that Jô was the ultimate weapon!
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This five year cycle (1993-1997) was followed by another five year cycle (1998-2002) focusing on the five different types of Taijutsu: Taihen jutsu, Daken Taijutsu, Koppô jutsu, Kosshi jutsu, Jû Taijutsu. During this period in order to illustrate these different Taijutsu, sensei used respectively the following schools: Shinden Fudô Ryû, Kukishin Ryû, Koto Ryû, Gyokko Ryû, Takagi Yôshin Ryû. Unfortunately very few people understood that the ryû that was taught was the omote and that the type of taijutsu taught through the school was the main thing.
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These first ten themes (1993-2002) taught us the various sides if what sensei called “Budô Taijutsu”.
Once the foundation of Budô clearly established, sensei put “Ninpô Taijutsu” on top of it. This was the beginning of Juppô Sesshô. As he said to me once: “the five different styles of Taijutsu are the expression of Budô Taijutsu; but Juppô Sesshô is the expression of Ninpô Taijutsu”.
The next ten years (2003-2012) have been dedicated to Juppô Sesshô.  We began with five years of “Omote” Juppô Sesshô (2003-2007), they were then followed by five years of “Ura” Juppô Sesshô (2008-2012). The Omote Juppô Sesshô was based on the body, the themes were: Sanjigen no Sekai, Yûgen no sekai, Kasumi no hô, Shizen, Kuki Taishô. We studied various weapons and schools during this cycle but only to put into evidence the concepts brought by sensei (kunai, shotô, biken, bô, yoroi etc).
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The Ura Juppô Sesshô is more about the soul, the mental side of the movements: Menkyo Kaiden, Saino konki, Rokkon shojo, Kihon Happô, Kaname. Once again we had to “listen” to sensei and understand the movement from the level of perception and not with our analytical mind and mechanical movements.
In fact it looks like a birthday cake with several levels. And in 2013, the Tachi hôken illustrated by the Tsurugi is like the candle on top of the cake. At the birthday party the cake is always good but what really matters in a birthday party, what is the most important thing is not the cake but the reason why people are gathered to eat it!
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Thank you Balázs for giving me this opportunity, I learnt a lot and I hope that the participants felt richer after these two exhausting days*
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*we had training from 10am to 6pm on both  days which left more or less 40 minutes per year of training… that was intensive.

 

Paris taikai registration opened


IMG_20120420_142351Registration for the Paris taikai 2013 is open.

Since 2002 the Bujinkan France invites you to share 3 days of training in Paris with the Shi Tennô: Pedro Fleitas, Sveneric Bogsater, Peter King, and Arnaud Cousergue in our three Dôjô located in the city of Vincennes.
Each year around 150 Bujinkan participants gather there to share training and insights with the Shi Tenno under the Parisian summer sun.
As always lunches are included, tshirts are included, and free sleeping at the Dôjô.

Come to Paris and enjoy some memorable moments on the mats and outside and discover the French Capital.
This taikai happens around the French National Day (July14th), which means:

  • many fireworks,
  • a lot of dancing,
  • good time.

Places are limited so don’t wait too long!

Registration is mandatory to participate:

http://www.budomart.com/acatalog/Online_Catalogue_PARIS_TAIKAI_36.html

Tsurugi: The Divine Sword


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Sensei taught a lot of things related to the Chinese sword during the last day of the Taikai.
This sword that we call Jian or Ken is in fact Tsurugi.
This is the weapon of the high level warriors.
Even though the Chinese jian / ken does not carry any “social meaning” the Japanese when referring to Tsurugi include their myth of creation in it. As you all know this is Kusanagi no Tsurugi * given by Susanô to his sister, the sun goddess Amateratsu. She later gave it to Ninigi no Mikoto** the grandfather of the famous emperor Jimmu as a proof of his divine origin.
Kusanagi no Tsurugi is one of the three regalia of the Japanese Emperors.***
So where “ken” is a simple sword, Tsurugi is linked to the divine.
Sensei introduced the day by insisting on the fact that it is impossible to understand Japanese warfare if one doesn’t study the three types of sword that created Japanese warfare expertise: Tsurugi, Tachi, Katana. Each refers to a specific period of development of Japan.
The use of the Tsurugi is so old that no written techniques have survived. They were recorded on animal skin or bamboo slivers (thin blades) and didn’t resist the passage of time. These times were chaotic times and Japan was not one country but a group of multiple little clans run by warlords.
The Tachi was the weapon of choice of the Bushi cast he said when permanent fighting was happening. The Katana became popular with the forced peace time set by Tokugawa Ieyasu (1603) and therefore was the weapon of the Samurai.
To make it clear only the Tsurugi and the Tachi were used in fight and Japanese martial arts are the result of using these weapons.
Sensei opened the morning session by asking a few Jûgodan to demonstrate their vision of Chi no Kata; and from there we moved to the Tsurugi. I must say that the Tsurugi is really a fantastic weapon that renders alive our taijutsu. Nagato sensei said in his class that if you don’t have a good taijutsu the Tsurugi cannot be used properly.
To begin sensei explained that the Tsurugi is stuck at the hip level ad that the footwork puts it naturally into the opponent attack. There is no thinking process. The sword pivots from this contact point right into uke’s attack. Deflecting the attack the tip of the blade is immediately pointing to uke’s body. The Sanshin motion of Chi no Kata becomes a natural reaction and no intention can be deciphered by the opponent.
Once again sensei said that this was mutô dori. We all know that mutô dori is a technique where you are unarmed facing an armed attacker. So it took me some point to figure out exactly what sensei was trying to say. I understood that the weapon was simply an added extension of the body. As you don’t think the word and as the sword moves with the body movements, you are moving naturally as if you had no weapon. And that is exactly what I meant earlier when saying that the Tsurugi was making your taijutsu alive. I honestly don’t know what people who didn’t attend the class can understand from what I’m writing here. But if you simply stick the Tsurugi to your hip and use your taijutsu, I’m sure that the majority will get what I’m trying to say here.
During the morning break, my friend Elias who like me had been used by sôke as uke came to me to share what he experienced. The situation we had to face were the same. Sensei asked us to attack and we stopped immediately because the tsurugi was aiming (on its own) towards our face. What Elias said to me was that the way sensei moved the tsurugi from the pivoting point at the hip made it impossible foe him to see it coming. And the reason was that sensei was keeping his elbow low so that no shoulder movement was being perceived. And when you did, it was too late. When hee asked me to attack him sensei modified his movement slightly. Instead og being completely invisible, he did some kind of seigan no kamae and got my attention on the tip of the blade a few centimeters away from y face. Then in both cases, sensei moved his forward foot a little more and stabbed us in the throat.
These two examples are quite interesting because they summarize the essence of fighting with the tsurugi. Elias didn’t see the second step forward because he couldn’t see the blade. I couldn’t perceive it either because my focus being on the blade the foot was hidden by it. Both examples demonstrate a high level of 見えない 技 mienai waza, techniques you cannot possibly see. But in both cases the end was the same, death.
To summarize this sensei said that tsurugi waza followed a specific sanshin: foot, spine, fingers. We already explained in various posts here the importance of the fingers. The fingers are the extension of your leg movement relayed by the spine. You must be able to change your fingers positioning while moving the body so that the blade is arriving straight to the 隙 suki (gap, space, weakness) in uke’s defense.
Another point that was important is distance. Sensei said that the difference between life and death in a fight often resumes itself to the thickness of a sheet of paper. When you master taijutsu the body moves at the exact distance of uke, not too far, not too close. And when you add the tsurugi your body must find the new perfect distance to be far and close enough of uke. A wrong distance will create new opportunities for uke. A correct distancee will stop uke in between two movements.
After thinking a lot about the tsurugi and thanks to this fantastic day I want to share here now two things that make it easier for me to use this sword:
1. You only have to do taijutsu, the blade moves by itself. Forget the blade. For example if you do a basic uke nagashi, do it with the tsurugi in your hand and see what is happening. Do not try to do anything with the sword, let it react on its own (mutô dori principle).
2. I spoke with sensei last Tuesday during training and he confirmed that I was right to think “hanbô jutsu” when training with the tsurugi. So next time you train use a hanbô. When you have the movement correct, replacce the hanbô by the tsurugi and see how similar they move. The tsurugi is not sharp on the major part of the blade so there is no risk for you.
Next week, I will record the basics of tsurugi for Budomart and koimartialart, and I will use all the knowledge I got this time to make it easy for all of us to learn this fantastic weapon.
*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kusanagi
**http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninigi-no-Mikoto
***http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_Regalia_of_Japan

Inryoku: Attraction


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Attending a class by Noguchi sensei is always a good moment. To me it is similar in many ways in having a very nice dinner at a grand restaurant in Paris.
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His taijutsu is full of flavors, very refined, elegant and classy; and I always feel sad when it is over. I am a student like any other and sometimes, even in Japan, I don’t feel like going to training. I do it but sometimes reluctantly. But when his class begins, suddenly you feel happy as his joy is visible. After the class you feel more rested than before.
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His Bujinkan interpretation expresses itself through feeling, and the class tonight was deep, innovative and will change (again) my understanding of Budô. But if you have already attended one of his classes, you know exactly what I mean.
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Tonight a TV crew was there and that added some rhythm to a class that usually is not missing it. In 90 minutes, Noguchi sensei creates a world of possibility and an infinite number of variations. He doesn’t do a technique, He is the technique.
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We covered some of the Takagi Yôshin ryû techniques during the class. None of these techniques of the Shoden no kata were new to us: kasumi dori, dô gaeshi, karame dori, kyoto, katamune dori, oikage dori, iki chigae, ransho, kobushi nagashi. But what was new was the way Noguchi did them using more than ever the 引力 inryoku (principle of attraction). Each technique was done in such a way that uke was “sucked into” the worst possible situation. Every action he was taking was leading him into a trap.
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This concept of inryoku together with the concepts of 重力 jûryoku (gravity) and 磁力 jiryoku (magnetism) are three keys to understand the Gyokko ryû Kosshijutsu and were taught extensively back in 2001 during the Gyokko Ryû year.
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But is is one thing to discover some concepts one day and to see their evolution 12 years later. And this is exactly what we witnessed tonight. The way Noguchi sensei is trapping his opponent is simply amazing. As usual there is no hits, no inflicted pain. Uke is down not by using strong movements but by creating the illusion of these strong movements. Uke reacts to the pain he “feels” is coming and the consecutive tensions create a kûkan in which he falls every time. From the outside it looks that uke is swallowed into a black hole.
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This inryoku turns any movement into a death trap for uke. Noguchi sensei by alternating the fake tensions with a total relaxed body attitude, creates a situation where uke does not understand what is happening and rushes into the trap.
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To be able to attract uke is not easy at first, but after many years of repeating these movements with him, one becomes capable of expressing it. This is real 虚実 kyojitsu, alternating falsehood and truth and the essence of Hatsumi sensei’s ninpô.
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Attraction is created by moving the body lightly at a slow speed that cannot be perceived in time by uke’s brain and by emitting fake intentions so strong that uke cannot avoid to react to them. This is the practical application of proprioception* as defined by scientists.
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But Noguchi sensei is not only using attraction in Budô. He is a shining and attractive human being full of joy and light. Attending his classes is the best remedy I know to feel better when life is tough.
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Thank you sensei for your magnetism and for sharing with us your budô vision.
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* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proprioception

Kantan Desu!


 

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Today during his class at the honbu, Nagato sensei kept repeating that everything he was doing was 簡単 kantan (easy, simple). He repeated it many times during training.

But watching the many practitioners in the honbu I got the impression that these “easy and simple” techniques were quite difficult to reproduce for those of us who were not used to Nagato sensei’s taijutsu.
It reminded me of Kary Mullis (Nobel prize of Chemistry 1993)*, who said in his book “Dancing naked in the mind field” that to make things look simple, it is very difficult. This simplicity we are striving to get is the result of a long and difficult process.
During the break I was exchanging on that subject with my friend Joe Maurantonio and we finally agreed that this “simplicity” in sensei’s budô was indeed the real secret to be found in the Bujinkan. And we also agreed that only those who could develop the proper vision could see it. It reminded me of a discussion I had in the 90s with Mark Lithgow after a dinner we had with Sôke in Noda.
Mark said something that I will always remember: “Sensei is not teaching 体術 taijutsu (body techniques) but 目術, mejutsu, (the art of seeing reality).
The magic about Hatsumi sensei’s philosophy of budô and that it is so simple and obvious that very few students are able to understand it. Speaking about that we agreed, Joe and I that sensei’s vision had had a strong impact on the way we developed our lives as adults.
The real secret about Sôke’s ninjutsu is that there is no secret when you finally understand. Everything is hidden in plain sight!
But it takes many years to discover that and not everyone will find it. Joe told me that it reminded him of some sentences of  “Ninpô: Wisdom of life”** one of the first book written by Sôke translated into English.
With Joe’s permission (he is the publisher of the book) I reproduce here a few sentences taken from this great book on Life and budô that each Bujinkan practitioner should have in his library.
About the secret, Hatsumi sensei wrote: “I believe secret teachings should only be given to those students who can find and create new lessons for themselves. This is because the secret teachings are not about how many techniques one knows, but rather about a person’s insight and preparedness.”
When you develop the “eyes of the heart” nothing is complex anymore, as you are in symbiosis with nature.
Sensei adds that: “if you are a martial artist and master budô and practice ninjutsu, you wil gain the most essential secret of all methods. This secret is called 心心 心 眼, shinshin shingan, (the mind and eyes of god). This knowledge is to know Tendô, the “path of heaven”. The truth of heaven is the correct way, without evil intent.”
 
Today was another great day for learning. Thank you Nagato sensei’s, thank you Sensei.
** Ninpô: Wisdom of Life: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ninpo-Wisdom-for-Life/132927646718631

 

Mutô Dori or Mu To Dori


hsac21Yesterday’s class in Ayase was amazing, Sensei was in a very good mood and was smiling the whole time from ear to ear.
Sensei did so many variations that I have to admit that I had a hard time remembering anything. But I will try here to explain some of the few technical points I remember.  But as I was largely unable to do the technique demonstrated yesterday please do not see this post as a 伝承, denshô (transmission). See it merely as a message brought to you by a 伝書鳩, denshobato (carrier pigeon).
Sensei was alternating taijutsu and Ken jutsu and was demonstrating one signle principle: how to use kûkan. as we know since 2003 and the beginning of the Juppô Sesshô cycle of study, Kûkan (space) lies between uke and tori and also around them both and the body movements carried by the legs create the opportunities of action.
Luckily he said a few times that it was correct not to remember anything. Watching around me I was happy to see that I was not the only one totally lost and obeying to his advice.
By not using any strength (力じゃない, Chikara janai, no physical strength) we do not create the body counter reactions generated usually in uke’s body. Therefore we are virtaully invisible and free to move towards the opponent because he cannot figure out where the next attack will be coming from. Uke doesn’t perceive your movements as being a danger for him. When you move softly like that, uke creates the tensions and destroys himself into the kûkan. Kûkan is not empty there is a density to it. Sensei asked us to use it in order to defeat the opponent. By extending and shrinking the space like a 水母, kurage (jellyfish), uke is lost and his reactions are always out of tempo.
Sensei’s movementswe always coming from 体, Tai (body). He said that we should not use the legs nor the arms but the body only. When uke thinks the danger is coming from the legs, the arms are taking his balance and conversely. In other words, you are “jin” at all times and when uke reacts to “ten” he is defeated by “chi”; and when uke reacts to “chi” he is defeated by “ten”. You don’t anything. As the Tao te king puts it: “don’t do anything and nothing will be left undone”. By not showing intention but creating the illusion of movement, uke is fighting against himself. Last night it seemed that uke was being suicidal.
The 肘 hiji (elbows) were playing a big part in this mind trapping of uke. The arms, at the elbow level, were either stuck to the body or fully overextended. Sometimes at the same time, sometimes one extended one stuck. Sensei was using his spine and shoulder to redirect uke’s body during the attack. When moving sensei looked like he was boneless and his moves were all soft and non aggressive, nearly feminine. Sometimes he looked like someone who had lost his mind.
The 攫むじゃない, Tsukamu janai (don’t grab) also played a large part. Sensei’s hands were often open and grabbing not possible. The action was carried out by the body, the arms, the legs, the hips, the spine. When you don’t grab uke, you don’t inform him on your intention, not being able to guess your next move, he is lost in the kûkan and whatever he does is wrong and out of rhythm.
Action on the 指, Yubi (finger) with the fingers or the hand was paramount during the whole class. Sensei was not holding uke but inevitably uke’s fingers were trapped in sensei’s palm, softly but firmly.
Sensei showed also how to pin uke down with only one finger, by softly rolling uke’s eyeball with the tip of one finger. I had the chance (sic) to experience it and surprisingly it stops
immediately all your reactions. Sensei rolled my eyeball softly through the eyelid protecting the eyeball, there was no pain at all and no danger for the eye but somehow your brain orders the body not to move. The only option is to wait, hoping you still have two eyes at the end.
We did a lot of kaeshi waza where sensei was attacking and using uke’s blocks or grabs, as a starting points for countering. One important point he explained was to immediately open and stretch the fingers after being intercepted by uke. Extending the fingers changes the 梃,  teko (lever) and creates a natural off balancing.
Also when receiving the attack, or countering the blocking, sensei used a few times some strange kind of hira ichimonji no kamae, expanding and/or decreasing the space. Once again the image of the kurage comes to mind.
He also demonstrated 陰陽, Inyô (playing hard and soft): Often when in contact with uke, what was hard became soft and conversely. These alternative tensions in sensei’s body sent wrong imformation to the body of uke who, by overreacting was losing his balance and the control he thought he had over sensei. I was sensei’s uke and had the chance to feel and experience it, it was really strange as if your body is drunk. Suddenly you find yourself only supported by nothingness. He added that it was like juggling with uke. By alternating hardness and softness your body and mind are trapped.
But the worse is coming now!
All these points we covered above were done altogether at all time! No wonder why we felt lost during this class. And he used the exact  same techniques with the Ken. Only distance changed but these points were applied seamlessly with the Ken.
He referred many times to his movement as being “Mutô Dori”, even when both uke and tori had the sword in hand! That was 無刀執り, mutô dori in the sense that he was “juggling” the sword around without hitting uke at all. The sword held in many different ways (kata yubi, ryô yubi, ôya yubi, etc) was simply landing softly on uke’s body creating from uke’s behalf a useless counter reaction. Then with simple walking motions sensei would end up putting one edge of the blade on the open spots of uke’s body. Let me insist again: all the points detailed above were applied also with the Ken.
At one point he slammed down uke’s weapon with the flat side of the Ken held in Ôya yubi and added the second hand to increase the force of the control. Shiraishi who was uke lost his weapon repeatedly. The slapping movement was swift, not violent but powerful.
Sensei also spoke of 実戦の空間, Jissen no kûkan to summarize the movements of the class. This way of real fighting is based on the density of empty space. By using what he called  気の流れ, Ki no nagare, the flow of energy (i.e. kurage) you trap uke in a dimension beyond his level of perception. Time doesn’t exist anymore and your space is definitely not uke’s space. Having no time nor space to refer to, uke explodes by himself and offers his body to be slaughtered.
Maybe I got it wrong and when Spoke spoke of 無刀執り, mutô dori I should have understood 無人執り, mu to dori, no one is grabbed. I hope that some of these explanations will help you to understand that yesterday night was really like being caught into the twilight zone. But the most surprising was to see Sensei’s permanent large smile.
I loved this class.
As a side note there were a few rewards distributed by Sôke during the class:
My friends Betsy Lomax (USA) received the gold medal of the Bujinkan,
and Gustavo Sanchez (Mexico) received the Shingitai diploma.
Congratulations to them both!

 

Rank Is Not Competence


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I have been traveling to train in Japan over 50 times over the last 23 years. I’m what you can call a “Jurassic ninja”. 

But yesterday for the first time I forgot my belt on the mats. I left it right after Nagato sensei’s class and it made me think on the value one attaches to this piece of fabric and what does rank really means.

Luckily for my ego, my friend Joe Maurantonio message me that he found it and put it on the big koi at the entrance of the dôjô. And luckily I didn’t forget my key of the dôjô so I got it back.

To see my belt lying on top of this huge koi fish* was quite symbolic. As you know we have created with my friend Shiva from India a Bujinkan website** for online streaming and in the past three years we have recorded all the training themes (weapons, ryûha) from the end of the 80’s until the beginning of the Juppô Sesshô cycle (2003).
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For that I see myself as being quite competent. But is it true?
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Theoretical 応答能, ôtônô, (competence) is shown by the belt. On the mats it is easy to look good as everyone expect you to be good: “he is Jûgodan, so he must be good”. This is an illusion, a twisted appreciation of reality, and a true cognitive dissonance*** because they judge you on the omote (what people think you are) and do not see the ura (what you really are).
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Outside of the dôjô the attacker has no clue about who you are in your “dôjô cocoon” and when he comes at you he has no doubt about the outcome of his attack. Unlike what we often see on the mats, he is 200% Tori and sees you as a full Uke. No belt, no rank. There is only reality.
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Forget the Matrix; there is no blue or red pill, or any plug to download competence in your brain; there are only many years of hard training. Rank is not competence and a belt doesn’t do the training for you. If we witness that everyday in our lives and in the dôjô, the majority tends to forget it. Whoever we are, whenever you are in Japan you are only a student and not a teacher. My brother Pedro explained it nicely in a recent FB post, please read it****. Pedro explains that there is only one sensei, Hatsumi sensei. If you believe yourself to be a 先生 sensei maybe what you call sensei is only 浅才 sensai (a lack of ability).
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In each class you can see those “sensai teachers” teaching their lack of understanding to their partner instaed of training. They often train with a kyû belt or a young black belt. These “buyû” have no 武勇 buyuu martial prowess, they are simply 不優 buyuu badly skilled!
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Their 自信 jishin (self-confidence) is 児真 jishin (childish reality).
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These sensai teachers are the perfect illustration of the Dunning-Kruger effect*****:
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“The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes. The miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self.”
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The more unskilled they are and the more they believe in their own value. They train fast in order to hide their incompetence. They inflict pain to their partner thinking that the more pain they give, the more skilled they are. Don’t get me wrong, to inflict pain is ok but why doing it when it is unnecessary? They hide in the back of the dôjô (far from sensei) to teach their own 無能, munô (inefficiency) to their victim of the day.
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Over the years I have tried to tell them not to do it, but it proved to be useless as they are only listening to themselves and do think they are good. Maybe this is why I have so many high ranks teachers disliking me. A few years ago two guys came to Nagato sensei and said: “sensei we don’t understand” and Nagato sensei answered: “you don’t understand? then go back home!”. They still come to Japan and train with him regularly. But if he can say that, as I am not Japanese people consider me wrong, arrogant or incompetent.
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But how can it be different?
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Each time they come to Japan they are promoted. This persuades them of their own value. They have no doubt. When they return home to their worshipers (no one forces the students to pay the training fee) believe their teacher is good because the “Japanese Shihan” give him a higher rank. This is a vicious circle.
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Another reason for their wrong behavior is that the “ranking race” stops at the Jûgodan level. So these “unskilled individuals” will eventually get to this rank. And having the same rank will consider themselves equal to you. I recently experienced it as a freshly promoted Jûgodan corrected me on a waza I have been training when he was still wearing pampers!
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There is no shortcut to experience! 応答能 ôtônô, (competence) is acquired through time and the belt you wear is only a piece of fabric. Rank is not competence it is a trap for your ego.
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So please enjoy your next training as a true 学生 gakusei (student) and don’t forget that being a gakusei means to 学 (learn) 生 (life) and that it is the chance that Hatsumi sensei is offering us.
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* koi fish: the Japanese bass. For some reason there is a huge stuffed koi in a glass box at the entrance of the dôjô. Maybe a ninja bass, who knows.
** www.koimartialart.com gets about 1500 visits per week. All the dvds from www.budomart.com are available in online streaming. We did that to serve as a “Bujinkan library” of all the waza in order to help the teachers and the community to remember the general forms. A video is always better than a written text as simultaneity is visible. This is not the case in a book where everything is linear. Disclaimer: these are my interpretations and they are not “official bujinkan” material.
*** cognitive dissonance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance
**** Pedro’s post: “Gisei” you can find it  here: https://www.facebook.com/pedro.fleitas.5?fref=ts
***** Dunning-Kruger effect: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect