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How Do I Prepare for a Bujinkan Class?

Michael in Leandro Erlich's "The Classroom" at 森美術館, photo Michael Glenn I probably prepare more than most Bujinkan teachers. In fact, I spend 1-2 hours before every training session setting my lesson plan. But when Hatsumi Sensei made me a Daishihan, my prep changed. I had 5 steps before there were two big changes. Step one was easy for me, but step seven I didn’t even know about until recently. Let’s talk about the easy change first.  One: It starts with a Bujinkan theme As you know, Soke used to set yearly themes for the whole Bujinkan to follow. This made it easy to decide what to study every class. For example, If the theme was Gyokko Ryū, we could study the techniques and strategies from that school. But one Fall night in 2017 I showed up to the Bujinkan Honbu Dojo in Japan and change was in the air. Hatsumi Sensei’s wife was ill and Soke had made the difficult choice to move her into a care facility. He sat in front of the Kamidana and said a private prayer at his
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Training From Inside a Bujinkan Dojo Membership Program

What can you learn from the Rojodojo membership program? or, Why start an online membership? I have been training all of my life. Started in 1985. Around that same time, I also got into film and video production. So when I began teaching Bujinkan and started my own dojo, It seemed like a natural thing to make training videos. I assumed I would put them out as DVDs. I even made some with chapters, extras (remember those?) and gave them out. But, this was the era of Netflix and streaming video. Many people were abandoning DVDs and VHS was already a dinosaur. Then my next thought was how can I stream these training videos? I put a few on youtube, a few on amazon, and I quickly realized it was a full time job. Between the teaching of classes, the video production, post production, streaming setup… And the equipment wasn’t free either. I knew I had a few friends from my mailing list and from social media who might be interested. So I set up the streaming on my new website and I

How to Practice the Fake Kick of 指拍 Shihaku

Real or fake kick? The other night in my dojo we were practicing fake kicks during the kata 指拍 Shihaku. It is a challenge to practice a fake kick. Here I will give you a method to make your fakes seem real. How do you trick someone into believing something that isn’t real? You act as if it is real. Or even better, make it real. This is how I often explain kyojitsu to my students. 虚 kyo means fake, and 実 jitsu means reality. For kyojitsu to work it has to be both real and fake at the same time. Shihaku has a kick that is kyojitsu. But remember kyojitsu only works if it can be either 虚 kyo or 実 jitsu. Too many people only practice the kyo part of kyojitsu.  Their fake fails because no one would fall for it. So it must be real. Just not necessarily delivered. This means that if the opponent doesn’t react to your fake, then make it real. And you kick him hard! If he’s not buying what you’re selling, then kick his ass with it. So when does does the fake become real? Where does that change o

3 Tips for 大外掛 Ōsoto Gake You Should Start Using Now

Bujinkan Honbu Masks, photo from same day by Michael Glenn Tonight in my class we studied 夢落 yume otoshi. The last time I did this in Japan, Hatsumi Sensei gave us some insights that I want to share with you. He began by telling us 空間で嚮導 Kūkan de kyōdō, or lead the opponent in the kukan. That was when I should have changed into a new gi. Because it was like a new life for an old ninja. I had a breakthrough for my understanding of taijutsu. But my day leading up to that experience gave no warning it would be special. I trained for about 6 weeks in Japan every year. So not every day could be amazing. This particular Friday was cold, wet, and boring. I had only errands to keep me entertained before Hatsumi Sensei’s class . Even my lunch was uninspired. I hunkered down at the low budget family restaurant, Saizeriya in Nagareyama. I only wanted to get out of the cold rain for a bit and work on my training notes in a quiet booth. Christmas music was already playing, but the holiday decor was

Our 初稽古 Hatsugeiko: First Bujinkan Training for 2022

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

空打ち Karauchi: Striking Emptiness

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: First, give the enemy what he wants. He is seeking violence and destruction. Let him have it.

What Did Hatsumi Sensei Say Four Times in the First Four Minutes of Training?

聖観世音菩薩立像 on top of 万人塚 Banninzuka. photo Michael Glenn In December, during a Friday night class at the Bujinkan Honbu Dojo, Hatsumi Sensei repeated a word four times in the first four minutes of class. In fact, he said it both as a statement and a question as if we just didn’t get it. ゆっくりかな。 Yukkuri, kana? First, he had Nagase Sensei stab at him and he said, We’re not studying the form, we’re studying muto dori. ゆっくり。 (Yukkuri) ゆっくり Yukkuri got translated as, “Go slowly or take your time.” But those words in English don’t capture the full idea. A moment later Soke repeated, The feeling is very important. ゆっくり。(Yukkuri). You can create this lock here on the elbow. Take the knife. It has to be connected like this. This kind of feeling is important. ゆっくりと。(Yukkuri to) My training partner stabbed at me and I tried to use the feeling that Soke had just shared. But I saw Soke glance at me and he interrupted the entire class again to demonstrate, This feeling. ゆっくりかな。 This was