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Ninpo and Mu: Waxing and Waning Like the Moon

In a Ninja's view of the universe, Soke Hatsumi comments on how beautiful it is to see a crescent moon peering between the clouds...  And he suggests that the "secret is to let your own existence resonate with the universal consciousness" ... whether in the form of moonlight or other natural phenomena.  He has also told us that taijutsu henka are like the phases of the moon.  These phases occur naturally, in a natural connection to the movements of Earth and Sun.  Your taijutsu should reflect the world as natural as the moonlight. I write more about this type of reflection here: "Utsuru 映る: Is Your Mind Reflected in Your Taijutsu?"

What is to be learned from cold moonlight?  In Japan, the moonlight has an empty longing to it that resonates deeply with the Japanese spirit.  Hatsumi Sensei has made reference to the author Yasunari Kawabata who, on winning the Nobel prize for literature in 1968, spoke movingly about the moon and it's deep companionship with th…

Ninja Morality of Kogarashi Monjiro

This time of year is often spent helping, giving or thinking of others.  There are many people who misinterpret the life of a ninja as one of a solitary, dark and shadowy existence.  A lone wolf sneaking in and out of other's lives to accomplish some mission.

Sensei suggests to us that this is not a healthy view.  He says that it is an ideal to have others depend on you.  People think they are too busy to help others, but if you decide to ignore everyone else, trusting only yourself, you will soon become one of the busiest of all men.  He continues,
To give a helping hand to poor people and to want to save them is the humanity of Japanese, and of a warrior's heart. Hatsumi mentions the character Kogarashi Monjiro from the novel and 1970's TV series set in the Edo period, originally written by Saho Sasazawa. Acted by famous samurai actor Atsuo Nokamura.  Monjiro lived the wandering life of a gambler.  He had a nihilistic attitude and sought to eliminate and avoid involve…

Munenmusō  無念無想: Free From Worldly or Worthless Thoughts

There is a common saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  We see this all the time in training.  People begin to grow in their skill with taijutsu and two things often occur:

They injure themselves or others.Or... they stop learning because they think they got it already.This blind spot is very dangerous, because by their nature the person that is full of "knowledge" is unaware that they are ignorant.  And sometimes they convince others that they know something or have "secrets".

Hatsumi Sensei talks about this knowledge as if it is a burden.  A weight that should be shed.  Soke said that people want to possess the densho or secret scrolls.  But that when people learn the secrets they were searching for, they become too tense to move freely.  They are burdened with the knowledge and trying to use it correctly.
I am sure it is a great mistake always to know enough to go in when it rains. One may keep snug and dry by such knowledge, but one misses a wor…

中途半端 Chuuto Hanpa: Betwixt the Half Assed

Something many of us have heard Hatsumi Sensei say during his classes is the term "chuuto hanpa."  He has been using this phrase for many years to try to communicate an idea that is difficult to teach.

中途半端 chuuto hanpa / "unclear, betwixt and between, vague, half-hearted"
chuu / to / han / pa
The meaning of the first Kanji is "middle." The second Kanji means "way." The third and fourth Kanji mean, "half" and "end," respectively.

Chuuto means "halfway" or "along the way." Hanpa means "to be on neither side and be vague." Chuuto hanpa indicates the state of things which are left unfinished or the state of someone or something that is vague and unclear.
So what are some of the things this can teach us?

One is to let go of technique.  We all learn technique.  Some of us become good at techniques.  But technique is a trap.  The minute you try to apply a technique, people's survival instinct natur…

Crash, Bang, Daikomyosai!

Daikomyosai has started with a crunch.  Hatsumi Sensei started the morning
wearing armor that he said was like that worn by Tokugawa.  This armor was meant to have no weak points or openings.  It was impenetrable and an impressive gold color for when the shogun would lead the way into battle.

Duncan and Holger were also in armor.  Sensei used Duncan as his uke and
proceeded to demolish him and his armor stitch by stitch.  As Duncan put it, "my armor is now rubbish."  And he later told me, Sensei used his armor against him as a weapon.  It appeared very disconcerting for Duncan.  Duncan is good with ukemi and there was really no useful ukemi for what he was enduring.

Sensei really has been focusing on the 15th dans while I've been here.  He
wanted them all to show something that they have been exploring in their
training this year.  It was a great chance for us to see how the Bujinkan is being taught around the world.  Sensei called on teachers from Spain, England, R…

Echo (yamabiko  山彦) of Hatsumi Sensei

It's strange how training in Japan feels like coming home. Even though I don't travel here as often as I'd like there is always a moment after all the stress of travel drops away and I can relax into this experience that just feels right.

Maybe it's the family feeling that exists in Hatsumi Sensei's Bujinkan. Maybe it's all the friends and good memories here. Or maybe it's just reconnecting with the source of this art that is such an important part of my life.

Class with Sensei Tuesday night was truly wonderful. There were so many important discoveries I found in Soke's taijutsu that I told my teacher Peter Crocoll that even if all I had was that one class my trip was worth it. He said he thought the same thing last night.

It's hard to convey what happened in writing, but I will be working on this material for many months to come in my classes at home.

Sensei had us working on kage no tsuki for a bit. Then he made reference to existing in the kuka…

Groping the Void with 探り回る Sagurimawaru

There are various types of awareness we use to gather information.  Maintaining good situational awareness is key to succeeding in any complex environment or encounter.  Once, when we were studying taihenjutsu and ukemi with Soke Hatsumi, he made reference to the term 探り回る (Sagurimawaru) which translates roughly as "to grope for, or fumble."

But Hatsumi Sensei didn't talk about this in a way us English speakers might normally consider the term fumble, as some kind of clumsy, unskilled, movement.  He spoke of it more as a exploration and a searching about the environment to see what you may discover.  It was a process of discovery.

So if we fumble about the Japanese language and look at other related terms in our art or just in the Japanese idiom, we may discover something:

You may have heard about the Ashinami Jukka Jo- The ten ways of walking according to the Ninpo book Shoninki, but we also have 探り足 Saguri Ashi and Saguri Aruki which are used for stealth and to feel you…

Nakaima 中 今: a Privileged Moment in Eternity

People in the Bujinkan often mention distancing, angling, and timing as part of fundamental taijutsu.  While we train to get these right, there are many subtle nuances to what is "right."  For example, there is early, middle and late timing, but also an entire spectrum in between these measurements.  And there is a way to step outside of this measured time entirely.

The ability to do this can be related to awareness in the moment.  Soldiers in combat are encouraged to keep their head on a swivel so as to maintain situational awareness.  Another simple look at states of awareness in combat can be found from Jeff Cooper, founder of the American Pistol Institute ("A.P.I.") in 1976 in order to teach the Modern Technique of the Pistol as a method of the handgun for self-defense.  He describes this color code:

"In White you are unprepared and unready to take lethal action. If you are attacked in White you will probably die unless your adversary is totally inept.

In Y…

Ninjutsu - The Spider's Thread (蜘蛛の糸, Kumo no Ito)

This last year, some of us have heard Hatsumi Sensei make reference to a spider's web dangling down from heaven.  As usual with Soke, there are many layers to this idea.  If you subscribe to my training notes (if you aren't a subscriber yet, you miss a LOT of free Bujinkan notes), you can get even more details from my classes with Hatsumi Sensei.

One idea that Sensei put out there for us was in his painting of Daruma with a spider descending a web and alighting on Daruma's eyebrow.  As Paul Masse explains:
The Inscription reads, “ Ninjustu is on your eyebrow.... the spider`s thread, so close, the village of Togakure”.  Sometimes things are so close to us that we can not perceive them. Hatsumi Sensei has continued to reference this web from the heavens.  If Ninjutsu is on one's eyebrow, or there is a thread to heaven dangling down but we do not see it, how can we use that in Budo?
Maybe it will help if we look at another story that Hatsumi Sensei described to us.

&quo…

Neko no Myojutsu - The Cat's Eerie Skill

People fear their own instincts.  They seek answers outside of themselves when there is a powerful spirit inside that has many abilities that can be tapped.  Animals in nature don't look outside themselves.  And yet many are terrifying fighters.  How do they accomplish this? 

They seem to do this through instinct and play.

We all have instinct.  It is there, waiting for us to make use of it.  You only need to listen.  And to develop the ability and skill to use it, play is a powerful ally.  Hatsumi Sensei uses that word to describe our training.  So is it part of your regimen?

From Neko no Myojutsu by Issai Chozan (1727):
... the cat replied, “Because of the self there is the foe; when there is no self there is no foe."  When I was a boy, me and my buddies had many mock battles.  Sometimes the whole neighborhood seemed mired in war.  We took it seriously.  But we knew it wasn't.  There was a reality to our play that put us and our personalities on the line.




I see this in th…

Bujinkan on Television

Since I live and train in Los Angeles area, I receive many invitations to appear on TV shows.  Some of these are big popular shows on major network television.  The producers usually call or e-mail me and say that they are doing a show on the topic of Ninjas, and they want to find a gang of black clad people to do some crazy ninja flips while spewing throwing stars around the studio.  I always decline their exploitation.

There is something very important to understand about Bujinkan in the media.  The media almost always present something fake.  They do this because their goal is to sell advertising, not to inform anyone about anything real.  What sells more ads, the cartoon, movie flash of Ninja that people want and expect to see, or real training?  We have to admit, VERY few people are interested in real training.  But a lot of people love NINJA!

I have worked in film, television and the entertainment business for much of my life and I know this fact first hand.  Every show I have …

Weapon Malfunctions Can Turn Into Tactical Failure

What if your gun jams, or you sword breaks, or even worse, you have a complete tactical failure?  The first two are are easy problems, the third is more difficult, but can be dealt with naturally.  Let's consider all three in turn.

If you have any firearms training at all, you already know that you should train for malfunctions.  A malfunction in this case is confined to the weapon or the ammunition itself.  It is a malfunction of the tool you are using.  A stove-pipe, a misfeed, or the worst, a broken firing pin - are all situations that must be trained for.  One common malfunction that we don't even consider as a malfunction is running out of ammo.  Why is this not a malfunction?  The weapon is essentially useless.  We don't see it as a malfunction because this is something that we very naturally expect to happen.  We train to reload.  You should train for those other malfunctions just as you train to reload smoothly and with as little interruption to your defense as po…

Happo Tenchi: Ten Directions of Truth

In all ten directions of the universe,
there is only one truth.
When we see clearly, the great teachings are the same.
What can ever be lost?  What can be attained?
If we attain something, it was there from the beginning of time.
If we lose something, it is hiding somewhere near us.
Look: this ball in my pocket:
can you see how priceless it is?Ryōkan Taigu(良寛大愚)

There is nothing wise I can add to the beautiful poetry above.  Just that, I find my inspiration from many sources.  I am constantly amazed at how these inspirations in martial arts and life mirror each other.
Who has heard Hatsumi Sensei utter similar ideas?


Ryōkan Taigu(良寛大愚)  1758-1831, Japanese Zen Master, hermit, calligrapher, and poet; his name means "Goodly Tolerance."  Another Buddhist name that he took for himself means "Great Fool."  Ryokan is one of the most beloved figures in Japanese Literature, and is especially known for his kindness and his love of children and animals; he even used to take t…

How Can You Learn Shinobi Secrets?

Do you think you have a grasp on this art?  Have you done all the kata in the Tenchijin Ryaku no Maki?  Maybe you have memorized all the (known) kata from our 9 Bujinkan ryuha.  Maybe you have even mastered the Togakure-ryu Juhakkei - the 18 forms of the shinobi (is that even possible in the modern era?).  How long have you been training?  3 years? 10?  how about 20? Do I hear 30?  I know someone with over 40 years in this art and he is still learning new material.

Don't miss the train by not showing up.

Recently, I was at a seminar with my teacher, Peter Crocoll.  I was considering leaving early because I had a 9 hour drive back home.  I brought this up to him, and he said, "you can leave if you want, but what I'm about to show has never been shown in North America."  I stayed.  And it was worth it.

I almost missed training with Peter again this month.  It literally was a coin flip whether I made the trip.  Somehow I pulled it together.  And guess what?  He showed ma…

Plan For Chaos, Fight Your Plan

A commonly heard phrase in military circles is,
No plan ever survives contact with the enemy.This quote was originally uttered by Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, a German Field Marshal during the 1800's.  But Colonel Tom Kolditz, head of the behavioral sciences division at West Point, sums it up this way:
You may start off trying to fight your plan, but the enemy gets a vote.  Unpredictable things happen- the weather changes, a key asset is destroyed, the enemy responds in a way you don't expect.  Many armies fail because they put all their emphasis into creating a plan that becomes useless ten minutes into the battle.So what do we do as martial artists?  For the most part, martial arts is learning to deal with smaller battles with individual or few enemies.  But the same conundrum confronts us.  All of our training for battle, the years of classes and techniques we have learned, and all the hard work to stay fit- all of this will be upset by this simple truth of battle.

One answe…

Bojutsu Gokui: How to Get Hit Over the Head by the Void.

We were in the middle of a bojutsu class and I had an epiphany.  I was trying to explain how to hold the staff.  "You must hold it lightly.  Yet firmly connected to your kamae and spirit."  My words failed me.

Yet, I was feeling something with the rokushakubo I wanted to communicate.  I tried demonstrating various aspects of the movement and grip on the bo.  And none of these things held the idea I felt. Luckily, I remembered a quote from Hatsumi Sensei and I dropped it on the students:

In a verse of the gokui: "striking the void, if there is a response in your hands, that is the gokui."  You must have the enlightenment of the Buddha of the void (koku-bosatsu), whose heart was as infinite as the void itself.  Thrusting the bo into the mist is in truth thrusting one's heart and mind, and this is one method of koku - void training.
Yes!  I was feeling it.  You have to hold the bo very lightly to feel the response from the void.  The response I felt was l…

Hiding Behind Totoku Hiyoshi No Kamae

Seeing Totoku Hiyoshi No Kamae for the first time can be misleading.  Usually a student's first exposure to this kamae is seeing someone hold a sword out in front of themselves while someone else throws shuriken at them.  Then the instructor hands the sword to you and says, "Next." This aspect of Totoku is often perceived as one of those quirky things in our training that we may try out, but never take seriously.  After all, who has had to dodge shuriken for real?  I'm not counting the dishes your girlfriend threw at you during a recent argument.  Maybe you try this out, maybe block a few rubber shuriken and then forget it.Totoku forms part of some very rich strategy in our art.  And the more you look for it, the more you will encounter.  I personally have heard Hatsumi Sensei reference it many times, and it wasn't anything to do with shuriken blocking.  It is a running theme in our taijutsu that has to be experienced from a qualified teacher.
Maybe a starting plac…

Kankaku 感覚: Can You Smell It?

One night in my hotel room in Kashiwa, I had a personal breakthrough. It was after one of Soke's Friday night classes at the Hombu dojo in Noda. I was in the habit of taking detailed notes after training. Tonight these notes were different.





Normally, when I put pen to paper, the details of the class line up across the pages of my notebook faster than my hand can scribble. All sorts of details: names of techniques and henka, where Soke had his left hand, what weapons he used, things he said, etc. Tonight I stared at the blank page in a daze and wrote:

"Where to begin?

Holding without holding.
Striking without striking.
Technique without technique.

Accident turns to fortune.

Slipping - blending.
Letting opponent defeat themselves."

That was it? Vague ideas to be sure. These notes would probably be useless to anyone but me. But when I read them, they do trigger feelings from that night.

Sometimes in training I am left scratching my head. No matter how hard I try, or how inte…

Prepared to Die: 決死の覚悟 Kesshi No Kakugo

How much do you sacrifice for training? Does it seem like a lot? We might consider this in light of what Hatsumi Soke and his teacher Takamatsu O-Sensei have offered us.


Hatsumi Sensei said,

... when I had an opportunity to meet with Takamatsu Sensei a year before he passed away, I was told by him, "You are now all right as a budoka. I have taught you everything. I have been able to repay the kindness of Toda Sensei, Ishitani Sensei, Mizuta Sensei."

Takamatsu had such gratitude to his own teachers, that he devoted himself to Hatsumi Sensei and to the tradition that they shared with him. Those who have been dedicated teachers understand the responsibility and sacrifice this was. Add to this the burden of the very survival of nine ryuha and all the history and wisdom they contain, and it cannot be considered lightly.

Our Soke obviously does not take it lightly. He states,

"... I have decided to bare and show budo to the world, as well as demonstrate my personal techni…

Shizen No Kamae: The Moment Before Change

Hidden within Shizen no kamae is the key to understanding all kamae. This simple looking stance, two feet on the ground, hands and arms relaxed, spine upright... It is how we've readied ourselves all our lives for all variety of activity.


But outward forms can be misleading. Hatsumi Sensei has reminded us many times that the form of the kamae is not the kamae. Rather it is the spirit and feeling held there. The lifetime of experience with our bodies held naturally. But there is something within Shizen no kamae that goes beyond our experience. It starts with another idea Soke has given us about kamae. He simply calls it, "the moment before change."

In the moment of change we can connect to more than ourselves through 先達 sendatsu (guidance) or 閃達 sendatsu (flash of inspiration). This guidance or inspiration comes from a connection to nature; our own nature and the opponent's, as well as the nature that surrounds us. Soke tells us that Shizen no kamae is the emb…

Don't Be Defeated by Victory

Victory and defeat are the same. They arise from the same source. To experience one is to understand more deeply the other. Hatsumi Sensei tells us that this aspect of fighting is expressed in old documents as "Koteki Ryoda Juppo Sessho no Jutsu," and in nature as the tiger fighting the dragon.





People seasoned by competition know this. They move beyond focusing on victory or worrying over loss to just doing their best. The process becomes important. Being present in the moment for optimal performance.

Veteran soldiers know this also. Ask them about winning or losing and they will have no words for you. Victory or defeat in war is terrible. Soke says, "Those who yearn too much for victory suffer forever from their victory."

Hatsumi Sensei often suggests to us that in training there should be no distinction between attacker or defender. When we realize this and move beyond ideas of winning or losing, then real victory can occur. Or, in the dojo, real trainin…

Through the Kagami 鏡

Mirrors can represent truth back to us. Do you see yourself reflected in your training? What is reflected?


The mirror or kagami 鏡 plays a crucial role in Japanese culture. It is one of three Imperial relics handed down from the gods along with the sword and jewel. It was hung from a tree to lure the sun godess Amaterasu out from hiding in a cave. Her brother Susano-o had filled the world with darkness and storms, but when she peeked out and saw her own reflection of light, she felt safe.

Soke has mentioned the idea that training is a process that polishes our hearts till they reflect one another purely. As you would polish a bronze mirror.

The Kamidana we pay our respects to in the dojo has a mirror in the shrine to attract the Kami residing in its reflection. Mirrors are significant in Shinto as the reflective surfaces are thought capable of revealing without prejudice the true aspect of any person or object placed before them.

The word kagami also has a different kanji which means…

Explosive Ku Power! An Essence of Budo.

Budo isn't talking. Budo isn't thinking. Nor is it writing or reading. Budo isn't sport. It isn't self defense. Definitiely isn't fighting.


I could go on like this endlessly saying what budo isn't. But let's try to get at what it is. One impression I have from Hatsumi Sensei is that the essence of budo lies in the creativity that arises from ku.

Soke shows us this in his art and his budo. He says,

"There are so many blessings that come out of that emptiness... It reminds me of the painter Okamoto Taro, who says that his creations appear like explosions out of nowhere."

In budo, the second you make a technique, or talk about it, or drill it, you cut yourself off from the source. Things become fixed and frozen. And thereby defeatable or dead.

So how can budo be taught? What are classes for? Soke's method is unique. He says,

"What I want you to do is just take it as it is. Don't think too much. If you get involved in thinking ab…

Kuden is Much More Than Just Talk

You know you are doing something right when the activity engages you fully in mind, body, and spirit. And when you forget to look at a clock. The time passes swiftly and you lose track of the world.


That's how Bujinkan training is for me. And evidently was for Hatsumi Sensei when he was with Takamatsu. Soke said:

"A talk with Takamatsu Sensei could go on for a thousand years without being exhausted of interest. I used to be like an eager child, sitting in his home fascinated as I listened to him talk. He spoke with everything- body, mind, heart, and spirit- and his words touched each of these in me, like sparks of light and understanding. The talking role falls to me now, as I pass on what I can to my students- my martial arts friends."

I feel lucky to have found this art and to have met and trained with Hatsumi Sensei. I hope everyone can find a passion that creates these sparks of life.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Roppo: six ways to infinity.

You may remember "Roppo kuji no biken" as the theme from 2004. But this idea of "roppo" cannot be left in 2004 and does not only apply to the sword. In fact, Hatsumi Sensei made reference to this recently.


In a Friday night class at Hombu, Soke said that roppo was a way of evading and taking space. He said it was six ways of backing up. He said it was like roppo training in Kabuki theater.

In Kabuki "roppo was used originally as a form of entrance but became more used for exits along the hanamichi. It is derived possibly from the swaggering walk (tanzen roppo) of the Edo period dandies as they strutted between the teahouses of the pleasure quarters. Its literal meaning is "six directions" and the term may have been derived from the purification ceremony of low ranking priests where they referred to heaven, earth, east, west, north and south. There are several forms of this exaggerated style of exit. The tobi roppo (flying roppo) involves the acto…

Beyond Striking and Kiai Into the Mysteries of Toate No Jutsu

There are mysterious things in life. Or maybe not so mysterious if you understand the secret behind such things. Then they become normal, or just part of being alive.


One mysterious thing in our art is the idea of Toate No Jutsu (techniques for striking from a distance). How can this be real? If you haven't experienced it or delivered such a strike youself, then perhaps it is not real for you... Yet.

If you subscribe to my training notes (if you aren't a subscriber yet, you miss a LOT of free Bujinkan notes), you know that we studied this the other night in my basics class.

One secret of this technique lies in connecting to your opponent and the void. And in trying to understand this mystery it can be useful to make connections. So here we go,

I was at a Friday night class with Hatsumi Sensei in the Hombu Dojo when Soke described toate no jutsu as a kiai or projection of spirit (maybe 気迫 kihaku?). Sensei said it was like the color of your heart projecting into space. …

To Bujinkan Teachers: Stop Teaching!

Running classes is an interesting lesson for me. From the beginning my goal for having classes was to further my own training. It was never a selfless act of giving or sharing. And because of that goal, I work on things in class that I want to learn.


Seems selfish. But what I have discovered is that is really all that can be done. I believe you can't really teach Bujinkan. It can be felt, experienced, and lived. But each student must discover it for themselves. Ultimately we are all responsible for our own training.

One Friday night at Hombu, Hatsumi Sensei suggested that teachers should be discovering as they teach, learning and teaching at the same time. I am pretty sure that's what he has done all these years. It certainly shows in the freshness and vitality he brings to every class.

In that same class, Soke also said that if we train with him, we are walking beside and in parallel with him. If not we fall into a hole. That is a path of discovery. The hole is the …

Can You Tap-Out A Bee?

Have you ever tried to capture a wild animal? Or just hold an animal that doesn't want to be held? The results are predictable, in that they involve emergency rooms and injury. If you haven't tried it, then come at it innocently, without aid of guns, tranquilizers, or nets. You will be humbled. That is why people use the phrase "a force of nature" to describe something gone wild or that is unstoppable.


People like to train in submission fighting. Or they view a tap-out as something to strive for. I have never seen Hatsumi Sensei use a submission hold or go for a tap-out. Sure his Uke's tap plenty, but he often ignores it. That is not his goal.

At the risk of creating controversy, I suggest that you not water down your Bujinkan training with MMA, submission fighting, BJJ, or any other sport martial art. Unless your only battles will be on the mats. Where you can tap-out, or the ref can stop the fight.

In real life, people or animals do not tap. You may br…

Winning by Mistake

I was training with my teacher Peter Crocoll this weekend and I made a critical error that led to an injury to my eye. Peter was teaching sojutsu, and the worst possible thing happened. I blocked a seven foot spear with my eye.

This injury could be devastating. Yet I am fine. It could have been embarrassing, yet was not. Instead, my taijutsu protected me and I came out with some wonderful knowledge. I won.

Soke says to always be winning. He references Daruma who fell down seven times but got up eight. In other words, don't fall down- fall up.

I was supposed to use my hips to redirect the spear with my weapon. Instead I used my hands alone and the thrusting Yari was directed right at my eye. What saved me was my experience with taijutsu. I FELT what was happening and was able to ride the strike so that it glanced off my eyelid. The injury I received was a swollen bruise. Oddly the yari didn't even make contact with bone or my eyeball. How does a seven foot spear thr…

Kamae Gokui: My Tiger Kamae is Strong.

1985. I'm having lunch with my friends from high school. We chose this spot on campus because no one bothered us there. We could be the goofy teens that we were without trouble. Except today.




I was about to experience maybe the most important lesson about kamae that Soke has offered us. I had been obsessed with ninjutsu and devoured every book, magazine, or VHS tape I could find. I was still a few years away from any real training. It just wasn't available then. There was no such thing as the internet in '85, and very few legit teachers of Hatsumi Sensei's art anywhere.

We were sitting on a bench, eating our lunch, and around the corner comes some guy I had never seen around campus. He asks for a cigarette. None of us smoke. He demands money from me. I tell him to leave us alone. He states that he will take it from me.

I stand up. "You can try," I tell him. Then I take a deep pose in what I now know as doko no kamae (sometimes called the angry tige…

A Fistful of Nothing, or the Void of Koku.

Some of the best lessons of the Bujinkan lie in between techniques. Before the attack or after the battle. Or simply in the air between combatants.

In this space, this void, there exists everything and nothing. Both peace and conflict can arise. And anything in between.









虚空 Koku
If you don't find this idea in your training then you miss out on a great power in our art and in life.

Hatsumi Sensei gives us a roadmap to understand this in the following quote:

It is taught that the foundation of Budo is to first understand taijutsu, through which you can fight even if you have no weapons. This means to persevere in the martial ways (bufu ikkan), and to train consistently and with utmost effort. Then you will grasp the secrets of muto dori (no-sword technique). Succeeding in this, the mysteries of the secret sword (hiken) will be revealed, and no matter what weapon you hold, your heart and your taijutsu will dance skillfully in the void (koku).

While these ideas may seem esoteric or a…

Bujinkan Rules of Engagement

Sometimes people want to adopt military or law enforcement tactics in the Bujinkan. Maybe they percieve these tactics as being the most real since these people are on the front lines testing their tactics everyday. While it's true their tactics are proven and tested, the reality their tactics address is not the same reality the Bujinkan is training us for. This can be seen clearly in the "rules of engagement" in the military or "use of force continuum" used by law enforcement.



standard police Use of Force Continuum:

1. Physical Presence
2. Soft Hands
3. Mace or Pepper Spray
(A K-9 unit would fall here)
4. Hard Hands
5. Police Baton, etc.
6. Threat of Deadly Force
7. Deadly Force


The 1999 Marine Corps Close Combat Manual (MCRP 3-02B) presents a “Continuum of Force” broken down as follows:

Level 1: Compliant (Cooperative). The subject responds and complies to verbal commands. Close combat techniques do not apply.

Level 2: Resistant (Passive). The subject resists verbal co…

Be an Insect of Victory or kachimushi

Takamatsu Sensei used to say that even a small fly could go go to the ends of the earth if it held onto a horses tail.



That's what we are doing if we follow Hatsumi Sensei's teaching. We are trying to hang on to a galloping horse. But the horse is not Soke. It is the many generations of tradition and the spirit of Ninpo that is greater than any of us.

Even Hatsumi Sensei himself has stated that his fifty plus years of training doesn't mean much. He feels he is still walking along behind Takamatsu.

Soke also reminds us that a horse's tail is actually used to flick away pests. So if you don't respect the nature of what you have grabbed onto by training in the Bujinkan, you may be in for an unpleasant journey or swatted away.

Once you have a feel for the nature of the ride you are on, the trick is learning how to hang on. It can't be done with strength or willpower.

Maybe this is one meaning of Bufu Ikkan.

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