五條天神社で、お焚き上げ otakiage preparations at Gojoten jinja. photo Michael Glenn Happy new year! This year makes more than 35 years in the Bujinkan for me. I am humbled by the many gifts training has given me during all these years. But I still feel excited for what the future holds. Our 初稽古 Hatsugeiko, or the first training of the new year, was a bit different this year. For one, we actually trained on January 1, 2022. This is a holiday for most people, but many of us choose the dojo for holidays anyway! I know many of you have used your vacation time to train in Japan. And second, I have reached that point in life where many important teachers and students that I trained with are no longer training at all. Some have died, some have quit training. Either way, I made my hatsugeiko in their honor. For our first training of the year, I put a strong focus on kihon. It was cold, so I didn’t have to convince anyone to warm up. We all trained hard and got sweaty. We warmed up with ukemi and taih
Michael Glenn Strikes Emptiness Last night in my class one student said, “This is pretty basic.” I did a double take and said, “Really? You think so?” I told him that the kata was more advanced than it appeared. We were studying 一文字 Ichimonji. This is a 無刀捕 mutōdori kata from 高木揚心流 Takagi Yoshin Ryū. And it does look simple. But mutōdori has so many levels. One morning when Hatsumi Sensei taught this kata he said, You make him cut the air. This is mutōdori, like he’s practicing by himself and striking emptiness. The question I posed to my students last night was, “How?” How do you get your opponent, ostensibly a competent swordsman, to just cut the air and miss you completely? As an answer, I gave them three insights into advanced mutōdori that I received from Soke. If you are interested, I share these kind of tips for anyone who joins my mailing list, which you can do here: eepurl.com/d0w_r First, give the enemy what he wants. He is seeking violence and destruction. Let him have it.