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 commands but complies immediately to any contact controls. Close combat techniques do not apply.

Level 3: Resistant (Active). The subject initially demonstrates physical resistance. Use compliance techniques to control the situation. Level three incorporates close combat techniques to physically force a subject to comply. Techniques include: Come-along holds, Soft-handed stunning blows, Pain compliance through the use of joint manipulation and the use of pressure points.

Level 4: Assaultive (Bodily Harm). The subject may physically attack, but does not use a weapon. Use defensive tactics to neutralize the threat. Defensive tactics include Blocks, Strikes, Kicks, Enhanced pain compliance procedures, Impact weapon blocks and blows.

Level 5: Assaultive (Lethal Force). The subject usually has a weapon and will either kill or injure someone if he/she is not stopped immediately and brought under control. The subject must be controlled by the use of deadly force with or without a firearm.

In Bujinkan training Hatsumi Sensei says:

Start each moment from zero. In a fight or in life.


Don't try to capture, let them get trapped. Remove yourself from technique. No form there. In real combat technique becomes a target.

Neither of these lists address the "zero" state Hatsumi Sensei often speaks about. Of course you could be in that state and still take the actions suggested by those rules of engagement. But, from a zero state the range of possible responses becomes infinite. And those that are contained in the "rules" above either arise naturally or become unnecessary.

My friend Paul Masse connects this idea to Banpen Fugyo:

Transcend the idea of the need to define things (life), of trying to control that which can not be controlled and move spontaneously and naturally in your natural state. 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”.

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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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The Power of Juuji in Taijutsu, Discovered via Oguri Sensei

I was training in Hombu dojo one day in Noda and both my training partner and I were scratching our heads over something Oguri Sensei had just demonstrated.

As usual with Oguri's taijutsu, it looks unassuming and simple, but has a dramatic effect on the Uke.  I make a point of going to Oguri's classes when I am in Japan.  There are many wonderful treasures he can share from his 40 plus years of training experience.  Anyhow, my partner and I kept having to pause in the middle to try to observe Oguri Sensei across the room as he helped another group of students.

We would see him move and the result he had on the uke.  Then we would try.  And the results were not as wonderful.  I looked down at Oguri's feet and noticed their position.  Something clicked in my head.  I asked my training partner to attack again.  It worked!

What I had noticed was Juuji.  Or, rather, the perpendicular angle of Oguri to his uke's kamae.  Often this angle is called Juuji because of the kanji and how it suggests this right angle.  This angle can be extremely powerful.


In this instance it was deceptive and hard to notice at first.  Usually this Juuji idea is obvious when you have the Uke in kamae going one way, and the Tori is going crossways with his kamae.  In this case Oguri had a subtle kamae, and the perpendicular angle was crossing out at the end of the attack where it achieved maximum leverage.

At that moment in class, I couldn't understand.  I was just miming Oguri Sensei's positioning.  My partner and I shared this exchange:

Me:  "It seems to work better from this position."
He:  "Yes...  But, Why?!"
Me:  "I don't know."

All I could do was absorb more of Oguri's teaching to save it for later.  That is often how it goes.  I may not understand it on the spot, but some months or years later I have that "Aha!" moment.

Update 1/17/2012 :

Kôichi Ôguri Sensei: 永遠の眠 A Long Sleep

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