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Releasing the Power of 力を抜くChikara o Nuku

I was at a recent class at the Bujinkan Hombu dojo where Hatsumi sensei threw his opponents around all night. But mostly they were thrown. He emphasized, that he was not doing the techniques. How might this be possible?

He used a phrase "刀を抜くkatana o nuku, 力を抜くchikara o nuku." This has many layers but by dropping the power or the intention out of your technique it becomes effective. Even dropping the technique from technique. But there is a trick to this that many students of Sensei apparently neglect to understand.

Many people think they know what Soke means when he speaks. That night in class, one of Sensei's frequent translators came up to me and told me, "That's not what he said!" Meaning that the current translator had gotten it wrong. So then he explained to me what he thought Sensei meant.

I just listened to his explanation and didn't agree or disagree. I brushed this off as a personality conflict between translators. Or maybe it was due to the ext…

過去現在未来之術 Kako Genzai Mirai no Jutsu

In one Friday night class at Hombu, Hatsumi Sensei suggested a mode of perception that is at the heart of our training. Sensei used the words 過去 kako, 現在 genzai, and 未来 mirai. This loosely refers to the past, present, and future.

That night on the tatami of the Honbu, Soke was giving us a deep lesson. He said that we should keep the past, present, and future connected. Allowing one to drive the next. This happens with or without our participation.

If you can get with the flow of this connection, then you may ride it to victory. But in order to flow and connect with it, you must be able to see it. What does it look like?

Maybe you've had the experience of looking at a newborn child. You see your parents and grandparents in his or her fresh face. You see yourself and your partner reflected there too. And you also see a newness that is in the process of becoming. A new person with a future life stretched out ahead. Of course you see how these are all connected. Maybe you think about…

VIDEO: Michael Glenn from Japan

http://youtu.be/uz30uZhPXnc
I'm having a great time in Japan. Hatsumi Sensei is fantastic and the training is great. I thought I would put out a quick video for my Bujinkan blog. 
It's already been a few days since I shot the video and much more has happened. I have a ton of notes and experiences to share. But I have found I don't have time to sit in front of a computer and put out videos!
So this one is very simple. Hope you enjoy.

Jintsu 神通: Mystical Power From Sudden Change

Some people talk about 要 kaname, one aspect of this year's theme,  like simply translating the Japanese to English explains its meaning. This is a bit shallow. Hatsumi Sensei would probably encourage us to look deeper than that.

My take on kaname is a bit different than other's I have spoken with. For me, one important aspect of kaname is being connected with 神通 jintsu and 神通力 jintsuuriki. These are mystical powers of heaven and earth that are connected to and pivoting through you.
In Buddhism, Jintsu is known as "direct knowledge" or even "supernatural knowledge." This leads to some interesting super powers like: 天眼通 tengentsuu divine eye or clairvoyance; 神足通 jinsokutsuu unimpeded bodily function like walking on water or walking through walls; 天耳通 tennitsuu clairaudience or divine ear; 他心通 tashintsuu or telepathy; 宿命通 shukumyoutsuu remembering past lives; and 漏尽通 rojintsuu which is the extinction of contamination, or a divine clarity of mind. While these i…

鬼ごっこ Onigokko: Let's Pretend We Are Demons

One summer day we were having our normal class in the park when something interesting happened. As we were stretching, we watched a team building exercise that some company was doing in the same park as us. There were a lot of pretty women working for this company, so most of my students were riveted.

They began a game of tag. They used the entire park. Most of them were athletic, so it was a very aggressive and and fast paced game. At one point one guy came to stand next to us. We were all lined up on the periphery of the field watching this game. I realized immediately what he was doing.

Hatsumi Sensei tells us that "a person who understands play has life's greatest treasure." He says that in Kukishin-ryu this idea is taught as 鬼ごっこ onigokko (demon play) which is a children's game of tag. In this game the "oni" chases down the other children. As they are caught, they are "infected" and turn into oni. Until they all become little demons!

In 2011, t…

The Gift of 神輿 Mikoshi

How can I ever support this heavy beam on my shoulder? That's what I remember thinking when I looked at the 神輿 Mikoshi. I was intimidated by the size of it. Of course I was only 10 years old.

When I was growing up, my best friend was Japanese. His mother invited me to go with his family to a festival. Suddenly I was being conscripted to be one of the 担ぎ katsugi or Mikoshi bearers! I didn't understand at the time what an honor that was.

In Japan, not only is it an honor, it is somewhat of a civic duty to carry the Mikoshi. Hatsumi Sensei inherited the 34th Soke of 戸隠流 Togakure Ryū in 1958. He says that in that same month he carried the Mikoshi along the street.

Someone found a Happi coat for me and helped me put it on. My friend's mother also found a karate kid looking head wrap that she tied around my head. Then they lead me over to the Mikoshi where it sat on the saw horses...


I looked around awkwardly at all the strong men who were doing calisthenics, preparing to lift …

How to Read the 徴  Shirushi Taught in 口伝 Kuden

One morning during training, Hatsumi Sensei gave us an interesting 口伝 kuden, explaining to us the nature of the footwork we were using. He told us,
"There's a reason for this movement of the feet. You're leaving footprints. And it's actually an indication (徴  shirushi sign;  indication;  omen) You're leaving a warning or an indication." Sensei wasn't just telling us about footwork. He was talking about a larger idea. And this idea is that there are subtle signs and hints everywhere for those who are awake, aware, or sensitive to them.

You could take this at the surface meaning. For example, a hunter can see signs of his prey as he tracks it. So he follows the tracks to catch dinner. Yet someone who is not a hunter would never notice these hints. Or if you were thirsty, the signs would mean something different. You might follow the animal trails that lead to a stream.

But the meaning Sensei was leading us to, was that there are signs left for us by those wh…

The Kaname of Ninja Biken with Peter Crocoll

Friday

I went to Coconino National forest for Peter Crocoll's annual campout. We were up at 7500-8500 feet in elevation in the mountains and the forest was beautiful. After our long drive from Los Angeles, I set up my tent quickly so that I could enjoy the wonderful mountain air and scenery.

After a chilly night under the stars, I took a hike early in the morning. I lived in Arizona for most of my life and spent a lot of time hiking and camping all over the state. Returning to this air, this sunlight, this open sky… always feels like coming home and speaks to my body and spirit on a deep level.

Saturday

Peter's training topic for this event was "The Kaname of Ninja Biken." Training in this mountain terrain connected us to the origins of Togakure ryu in the mountains of Japan. I cannot convey all the details here in these notes. But I will present some impressions.

In the morning, we filled the air and kukan with a swarm of shuriken. The use of shuriken and…

Secrets of 歩き Aruki

A big "secret" in our training is so basic that it is hidden in plain sight. I can tell you what it is and you will very likely ignore it. People always nod their heads when it is explained to them, as if it were old news, and then begin training on something else. This secret is 歩き aruki or walking.

After typing this I already sense people clicking some other link. Looking for the next flashy blog post or training video. Or worse, being convinced they already understand this "secret." Sensei often reminds us that enlightenment is under our feet. This is like 脚下照顧 kyakkashouko, where the best way to begin to know yourself is to look where your own footsteps fall. So let's start walking.

We have many types of walking in the Bujinkan to consider. Some of these skills are called ashi. I've written about many of these types of walking before: Like a Walk Through Yūgen 幽玄

But today I want to explore some ways to make your footwork more dynamic. If you are read…

VIDEO: Paul Masse 書道 Shodo and 水墨 Suiboku

Besides training in the Bujinkan with Paul, I have had the privilege of many great discussions with him as an artist. I am an artist myself, so we connect easily on that level. We got together one afternoon during his visit to Santa Monica to discuss his artwork. If you can't view the video above, here is the link: Paul Masse 書道 Shodo and 水墨 Suiboku

If you didn't already know, Paul has studied Japanese Calligraphy or 書道 Shodo, Japanese Ink Painting or 水墨 Suiboku, and Japanese Pottery. He has even been reviewed by Hatsumi Sensei! Wait till you hear what Sensei said about his work…

He was kind enough to share some of the feeling behind his work as well as some tips for beginners at this style of art. If you train in the Bujinkan, or are an artist yourself, I know you will find a lot to be enthusiastic about in our video.

Paul Masse, kickin' it in Santa Monica

I was lucky to organize some last minute training when Paul Masse called me a few days ago to say he was going to be in Santa Monica.

Paul has traveled to India recently and studied yoga in Rishikesh. He was overflowing with an abundant need to share (or torment) us with some of his unique yoga experiences. So we began with Paul's 柔軟体操 Juunantaisou by way of India.

In between our normal taijutsu study, Paul would insert yoga experiences throughout the day. At one point when I looked around at everyone who was groaning as they tried to get into a pretzel, I raised my fist and said, "damn you Paul! Why did you have to go to India?" Even though these yoga poses were difficult for me, I gained a lot from Paul's enthusiasm.

As far as the taijutsu went, it was fantastic. Paul moved very quickly through concepts and henka to present the feeling he wanted to convey. If I had to pinpoint a theme for the day, it would be that kyusho are everywhere in the kukan and we attack t…

The Kaname of 神眼 Shingan

Hatsumi Sensei has suggested that another reading of 神眼 shingan is kaname. As we study this years feeling it might become important to see with the divine eyes of shingan. To truly comprehend this principle requires we understand how to connect to the divine.

In my recent video about 不動座 fudouza, I suggested some symbolism that connected the heavens, down through the conduit of our physical bodies, and into the earth. The way Hatsumi Sensei describes this connection, it's not him doing the techniques, but they are being created through this connection. No matter your beliefs or religion, it is crucial to understand the foundations of Japanese symbolism to get the feelings behind our art.

Hatsumi Sensei says that one way to learn this is through Sanshin no kata that is connected to the heavens. It is connected through heaven, earth, and man (tenchijin). He further describes this as  天動説 tendousetsu, 地動説 chidousetsu, and 人動説 jindousetsu.

天動説 tendousetsu is a word that describes Ptolem…

VIDEO: 不動座 Fudouza

Here is a quick video for all my readers about 不動座 fudouza.

If you can't see it above here is a link to the video:  不動座 fudouza

This is not a description about technical details of sitting in this kamae, but rather more about the feeling and symbolism associated with the "immovable seat."

 I describe fudouza's connection to the symbolism of axis mundi, which is the central point around which the world revolves. I then tell a story about the Buddha and his battle with mara while seated under the bodhi tree. What happened when he got up after reaching enlightenment?

I detail a bit about 坐り型 suwari gata in the Bujinkan, and how Hatsumi Sensei sometimes approaches this with the feeling of Daruma.

Oh, I forgot, I also caught my first clumsy writing of the kanji for 不動座 fudouza on camera!

And lastly I suggest a tricky way to leave Fudouza. Be careful if you try it!

The Rise of 生物奇怪 Seibutsu Kikai

In our modern world, combat has evolved to an industrial and mechanical affair. Machines (機械  kikai) do the killing at a distance. For martial artists this can feel overwhelming or outside the scope of our training at a very human scale. But the Bujinkan also evolves with the times. Even though we study ancient weapons and arts, we must also keep our training alive to address modern concerns.

I was reading this humorous article about not being afraid of the robot apocalypse or of being destroyed by terminator robots: What if there was a robot apocalypse?

In this article the author explains how difficult it is for robots or computers to adapt. How easily they can be defeated by simple, and often natural methods or elements. For example, a fire hose turned on most robots will quickly end their rampage. Or a simple fishing net thrown over a robot would easily entangle its mechanics. Anything messy, really. Tar, mud, water, rubble, contaminated fuel… robots and computers are easily overw…

Shot to the Heart of Kaname 要

We are more than halfway through 2012 and training has been great! Back in December, I wrote about a class where Hatsumi Sensei suggested some possibilities of a theme for 2012. As often happens the theme has evolved to express other ideas than those Hatsumi Sensei shared in December. One idea that has emerged has been an exploration of the idea of kaname 要.

Kaname 要 can be described as the essential or vital point of a technique, of a moment, or of strategy. It is essential because victory or defeat can pivot at this point. Everything hinges on grasping this moment. But this is not a new idea from Hatsumi Sensei.

At last year's Daikomyosai, Soke gave us a lot of focus on the concept of Kukan no kyusho. At the time, besides having my eyes opened, this concept felt pivotal to everything we are currently studying in the Bujinkan. And, it turns out that kaname and kukan no kyusho are getting at the same feeling. In years past, Soke has also used the terms koshi or koppo to get at this…

Bujinkan Jūdan 拾段: In The World

Hatsumi Sensei describes the journey of a Bujinkan student through the Dan ranks as being akin to the Ten Oxherding pictures in Zen Buddhism. These pictures describe the seeker's journey to enlightenment.

If you haven't read my other posts in this series, please check them out. You may find them useful no matter what your rank is:

Bujinkan Shodan 初段: Searching for the Bull
Bujinkan Nidan 弐段: Discovering the Footprints
Bujinkan Sandan 参段: Perceiving the Bull
Bujinkan Yondan 四段: Catching the Bull
Bujinkan Godan 五段: Taming the Bull
Bujinkan Rokudan 六段: Riding the Bull Home
Bujinkan Nanadan 七段: The Bull Transcended
Bujinkan Hachidan 八段: Both Bull and Self Transcended
Bujinkan Kyūdan 九段: Reaching the Source
Now as a Jūdan, you may stroll casually through the dojo, yet your steps are not misplaced.
 入鄽垂手 In the World
Barefooted and naked of breast,

I mingle with the people

of the world.

My clothes are ragged and dust-laden,

and I am ever blissful.

I use no magic to extend my life;

…

Bujinkan Kyūdan 九段: Reaching the Source

Hatsumi Sensei describes the journey of a Bujinkan student through the Dan ranks as being akin to the Ten Oxherding pictures in Zen Buddhism. These pictures describe the seeker's journey to enlightenment.

If you haven't read my other posts in this series, please check them out. You may find them useful no matter what your rank is:

Bujinkan Shodan 初段: Searching for the Bull
Bujinkan Nidan 弐段: Discovering the Footprints
Bujinkan Sandan 参段: Perceiving the Bull
Bujinkan Yondan 四段: Catching the Bull
Bujinkan Godan 五段: Taming the Bull
Bujinkan Rokudan 六段: Riding the Bull Home
Bujinkan Nanadan 七段: The Bull Transcended
Bujinkan Hachidan 八段: Both Bull and Self Transcended
Now that we are at kyūdan, we have not only reached the source, we have returned to it:
返本还源 Reaching the Source

Too many steps have been taken
returning to the root and the source.

Better to have been blind and deaf
from the beginning!
Dwelling in one's true abode,

unconcerned with and without -

The river flows tra…

Bujinkan Hachidan 八段: Both Bull and Self Transcended

Hatsumi Sensei describes the journey of a Bujinkan student through the Dan ranks as being akin to the Ten Oxherding pictures in Zen Buddhism. These pictures describe the seeker's journey to enlightenment.

If you haven't read my other posts in this series, please check them out. You may find them useful no matter what your rank is:

Bujinkan Shodan 初段: Searching for the Bull
Bujinkan Nidan 弐段: Discovering the Footprints
Bujinkan Sandan 参段: Perceiving the Bull
Bujinkan Yondan 四段: Catching the Bull
Bujinkan Godan 五段: Taming the Bull
Bujinkan Rokudan 六段: Riding the Bull Home
Bujinkan Nanadan 七段: The Bull Transcended So what kind of training do we do for Hachidan?

人牛俱忘 Both Bull and Self Transcended

Whip, rope, person, and bull -
all merge in No Thing.

This heaven is so vast,

no message can stain it.

How may a snowflake exist
in a raging fire?
Here are the footprints of
the Ancestors.

I have abandoned the whip and ropes

At this stage of our training we have reached the state of zero…

Bujinkan Nanadan 七段: The Bull Transcended

Hatsumi Sensei describes the journey of a Bujinkan student through the Dan ranks as being akin to the Ten Oxherding pictures in Zen Buddhism. These pictures describe the seekers journey to enlightenment.

If you haven't read my other posts in this series, please check them out. You may find them useful no matter what your rank is:

Bujinkan Shodan 初段: Searching for the Bull
Bujinkan Nidan 弐段: Discovering the Footprints
Bujinkan Sandan 参段: Perceiving the Bull
Bujinkan Yondan 四段: Catching the Bull
Bujinkan Godan 五段: Taming the Bull
Bujinkan Rokudan 六段: Riding the Bull Home
On reaching seventh dan we may find that we have forgotten the ox. What does it mean to forget the Ox?


忘牛存人 The Bull Transcended
Astride the bull, I reach home.

I am serene. The bull too can rest.

The dawn has come. In blissful repose,

Within my thatched dwelling

I have abandoned the whip and ropes

We made it home. Comfortable in our own taijutsu and in our dojo, whatever ambitions we had attached to training or ra…

Bujinkan Rokudan 六段: Riding the Bull Home

Hatsumi Sensei describes the journey of a Bujinkan student through the Dan ranks as being akin to the Ten Oxherding pictures in Zen Buddhism. These pictures describe the seekers journey to enlightenment.

If you haven't read my other posts in this series, please check them out. You may find them useful no matter what your rank is:

Bujinkan Shodan 初段: Searching for the Bull
Bujinkan Nidan 弐段: Discovering the Footprints
Bujinkan Sandan 参段: Perceiving the Bull
Bujinkan Yondan 四段: Catching the Bull
Bujinkan Godan 五段: Taming the Bull
Passing beyond Godan brings us to a place of creative play. The Bull (mind) obeys without searching about and we don't need to work to constrain it anymore.

骑牛归家 Riding the Bull Home
Mounting the bull, slowly
I return homeward.

The voice of my flute intones
through the evening.
Measuring with hand-beats
the pulsating harmony,
I direct the endless rhythm.

Whoever hears this melody
will join me.

Sensei says that "When you pass the Godan test, then yo…

Bujinkan Godan 五段: Taming the Bull

Hatsumi Sensei describes the journey of a Bujinkan student through the Dan ranks as being akin to the Ten Oxherding pictures in Zen Buddhism. These pictures describe the seekers journey to enlightenment.

If you haven't read my other posts in this series, please check them out. You may find them useful no matter what your rank is:
Bujinkan Shodan 初段: Searching for the Bull
Bujinkan Nidan 弐段: Discovering the Footprints
Bujinkan Sandan 参段: Perceiving the Bull
Bujinkan Yondan 四段: Catching the Bull
In the Bujinkan, Godan is marked by the Godan test. You must be free of doubt to pass through this gate. How do we become free of doubt?

牧牛 Taming the Bull
The whip and rope are necessary,
Else he might stray off down
some dusty road.
Being well-trained, he becomes

naturally gentle.

Then, unfettered, he obeys his master.

Once you have caught hold of the bull, rather than simply hanging on desperately as he bucks and runs around, it is necessary to tame the bull. The Ox or bull in these pa…

Bujinkan Yondan 四段: Catching the Bull

Hatsumi Sensei describes the journey of a Bujinkan student through the Dan ranks as being akin to the Ten Oxherding pictures in Zen Buddhism. These pictures describe the seekers journey to enlightenment.

If you haven't read my other posts in this series, please check them out. You may find them useful no matter what your rank is:
Bujinkan Shodan 初段: Searching for the Bull
Bujinkan Nidan 弐段: Discovering the Footprints
Bujinkan Sandan 参段: Perceiving the Bull So now you've made it to Yondan. For many people in the Bujinkan this is a pivotal moment. This is a moment of getting a hold of yourself… and finding the form of the self is empty.
得牛 Catching the Bull
I seize him with a terrific struggle.

His great will and power

are inexhaustible.
He charges to the high plateau

far above the cloud-mists,

Or in an impenetrable ravine he stands.
I have abandoned the whip and ropes After some years of training, you go from thinking you know something, to realizing you know very little. The…

Bujinkan Sandan 参段: Perceiving the Bull

Hatsumi Sensei describes the journey of a Bujinkan student through the Dan ranks as being akin to the Ten Oxherding pictures in Zen Buddhism. These pictures describe the seekers journey to enlightenment.

In the first post of this series, Bujinkan Shodan 初段: Searching for the Bull, we felt the first inspiration to begin training even though we had no idea where this may lead. In the second post, Bujinkan Nidan 弐段: Discovering the Footprints, we enjoyed getting lost in form and in henka.

Now that we've made our way to Sandan, what are we to make of it?

见牛 Perceiving the Bull

I hear the song of the nightingale.
 The sun is warm, the wind is mild,

willows are green along the shore -

Here no bull can hide!

What artist can draw that massive head,

those majestic horns?
Sandan brings us through a phase of hard work and study when suddenly, through no effort of our own, the bull appears! It is there then gone again. It has an ephemeral quality that makes us wonder if it even really ex…