9 tips for creating Henka

Henka is vital to our study of the Bujinkan arts.  It reflects the world around us and the ever changing present.  I would go so far as to say that if you don't understand henka, you are not doing Bujinkan.  Hatsumi Sensei has stressed this in his near constant remonstrations not to get stuck in technique.


If you are new to your Bujinkan study, how do you create henka?  Does it just spring from the imagination like a child's finger painting, or a jazz musician's solo?  Yes, and more.  In the first case a child is often learning the basics of the world around them.  They try to better control the paint to produce images, but their expertise is not there yet.  Yet they are uninhibited by failure.  And quite happy with their results.  A jazz musician has studied enough to have immense control over their technique.  Then they break away and let loose with an energetic freedom.  Most Bujinkan students are somewhere in between these.

When I was first learning about henka, I learned about changing the variables of the exchange.  So here is a quick checklist to follow:
  • Change sides:  Right, and left.  This also can mean doing it on the same side but change hands, or feet.
  • Change from inside to outside:  Going to the inside of the attack creates a certain reality, outside will be different entirely.  Advanced could be the Ura and Omote versions of the technique.
  • Change levels:  Upper and lower.  Or middle.
  • Change distance:  Long, middle, short or close.  And everything in between.
  • Change timing:  Early, now, and late timings all have their own peculiarities.
  • Change angles: straight on, off to 45 degrees, to the side at right angles, or any other.
  • Change the attack:  The attacker can also change any of the above to create henka.
  • Add a weapon:  For the attacker or defender.  Or both.
  • Work on the counter technique:  Hatsumi Sensei does this often.  Sometimes he does counters to the counter!  It gets confusing.
These are just some of the variables you can explore.  There are infinite variety.  Something as small as where you point your toes when moving can make a large difference.  Also remember that EACH point of the attack or defense can be changed with the above variables! (one idea of  Juppo Sessho)  And there are changes in the spirit and kyojitsu to be considered.  This goes on and on.
From Paul Masse:
The beginning of the Jyoraku of Gyokko Ryu states this most eloquently. “I, standing in the posture of Heaven and Universe with hands folded (as if in prayer) maintain the heart of ”10,000 changes, no surprises”(Banpen Fugyou).  The whole of the universe, and all living things are in a constant state of Natural Change.  Any occurrence may happen at anytime...  This is the True Principle of Natural Change.  Therefore resist not this natural truth, keeping a quiet and unsurprised heart.  Holding firmly to the belief that all will be well, with a roar! (kiai), I enter the posture of Heaven and Earth, Darkness and Light”.


When you let go, is when you become full.  Bufu Ikkan!

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