Real Bujinkan Training (Where I Risk Everything to Inspire You)

Eastern Slope of Mount Fuji, photo by by ninja gecko
I'm going to take a risk here. I'm going to risk trying to inspire you. The reason I want to take this risk is because I am inspired every day in my training and I want anyone who trains to find that for themselves.

How do I get inspired? Remember what it felt like the FIRST time you trained? You were new and hopeful and open to try anything. As a new student your mind was just ready to open up. Almost every class with Hatsumi Sensei feels like that. At least for me it does.

Is Bujinkan just a martial art? As a student I can tell you that it has given me a lot more than the study of combat. And as a teacher I work for moments of clarity in training that open the training up so that it is more than just a martial art and expands to reflect the lives of me and my students.

If you don't believe this is possible in Bujinkan training, then why are you studying? You should answer that question. And the mystery to this is that the answer you come up with is based only on what you have learned about training so far. It is based on what you already know. If you leave it at that, then you don't even need to go to class anymore. If you want to learn, then you must risk going beyond what you already know.

In fact, the great fun of training is in discovering ideas and movement that lead you to that "aha moment." What makes you say, "Aha!" Or "yes" is that you felt there was something more and then a teacher shows you where it is. When that happens for me it is satisfying. And it keeps me coming back to see that teacher. It is also satisfying to help students have those aha moments. Because it reflects back to me and expands my own learning.

A good teacher can help you see past the edges of your own knowledge. A good Bujinkan class can open up your awareness to something bigger than yourself.

I hope you find teachers to provide insights that you cannot easily comprehend at this moment. Give them your trust and your training will accelerate to provide clarity in your life and expand what the meaning of training is for you.

Kôichi Ôguri Sensei: 永遠の眠 A Long Sleep

Oguri Sensei's daughter writes: 

Sayaka Oguri (via Facebook)
"My father Koichi Oguri had a long long sleep..."

 Thank you Oguri Sensei for your wonderful spirit and training. I will miss your infectious laugh, and the way you held your hand on your hip right after you put me in a body crunch.

I also appreciate all the easy conversations we had. Even though the language barrier was awkward, you were never impatient with me.

We will train hard for you tonight!

If anyone has pictures or would like to share memories of Oguri Sensei, please comment below or email me:

You can read about one class I had with Oguri Sensei here:

The Power of Juuji in Taijutsu, Discovered via Oguri Sensei

Ninjas Are Worse Than Your Nightmares

Monomania-Light and Its Grand Narrator, photo by DerrickT
How do you train to be a ninja nightmare? I was attending a class with Hatsumi Sensei when he did something terrible to his uke. I mean it was so hideous and gross I don't want to repeat it here. Maybe later in this article I'll work up the nerve.

Then he looked at the expressions of everyone watching and told us,  as if we just didn't get it... When you are dealing with bad people, you have to do worse than they'd expect.

This idea gets to the heart of a big problem with training. We get too comfortable in our dojos and our knowledge. Training becomes habit. We lean on technique. We become reliable and complacent in our ability.

Bad people, or desperate and crazy people willing to do bad things, are the opposite. They will go to any lengths. They will have no technique. They will do things that just don't make sense. That is hard to defend against.

So we can take a lesson from them and drop the "common sense" or the group think or dojo inbreeding that gets everyone training sensibly. Anytime anyone says that "this" or "that" is the way something should be done, I try recognize that for what it is… a trap.  I think, "Maybe that's the way YOU do it!" Memorized kata or techniques are a disease.

Sensei urges us to separate ourselves from the waza so that we see the whole picture. If you think in your own mind, "this is the common sense way to do the technique," that is very dangerous. He has told us to use 非常識 hijoushiki which is a lack of common sense.

I'm definitely not using common sense in giving away my current training notes. I explain why I'm doing this here: 稽古記録 Keiko Kiroku

Hijoushiki. This idea is not new to Budo. It goes back to some of the earliest documents in Japan. An example is the Shinden Kohyō no Hikan where the "Starving tiger" or even "Nursing tiger" kamae might reflect this spirit.

But beyond this is a secret or hidden sense. Another kanji for hijoushiki is 秘常識. This feeling is described in the Koteki Ryoda scrolls. Here you develop the uncommon sense or the secret sense yet still very natural ability to predict, sense, and see through things.

Sensei tells us that if you try to memorize these forms you will end up trapped. He says that any conventional "common sense" about the martial arts prevents you from adapting or changing. He writes,
"In real life, people who live beyond the bounds of common sense attack you suddenly, with scant regard for rules of combat."
Soke punched the guy in the throat. Not from the outside like common sense would lead you to believe. His fist was in his uke's mouth and he said to punch it down the esophagus and then maybe rip the tongue out as you withdraw. It was shocking to witness. His poor uke definitely had to learn some sutemi that night.

So when dealing with bad or crazy people, this might be the only way to communicate some sense in a language they can relate to. Do worse than they'd expect. Be worse than their nightmares. They can't prepare or defend against that.

Rinkiōhen 臨機応変: a Moment for Resourceful Kyojitsu

Asakusa photo by kalcul
I try to keep it real. But there is real and there is REALITY. It is important to remember that training is not reality. Sometimes reality gets in the way of training.

When I was in my twenties, I used to spar with some very large guys. I often lost because of their size and strength advantage. When they locked in on me with their strongholds I would feel desperate and trapped. Then I would instinctively claw and struggle to no avail.

Now I don't have that problem even though I am older and not as strong. In my training I developed another type of strength that Hatsumi Sensei described in one class as 臨機応変 rinkiōhen. This is adapting oneself to the requirements of the moment. Musicians know this feeling as improvisation or playing it by ear.

In this class Hatsumi Sensei was working on Suwari gata. He did one henka on Nagato Sensei where he kicked him in the neck three times before taking his arm.

The same kata demonstrated on Senno Sensei was very different. Soke was able to trap both arms instantly to the point of breaking. He even remarked at how fragile the human body is.

Soke said that if he tried to do to Nagato the same technique he just did on Senno, it would not work because Nagato's arms are as big as Senno's legs.

臨機応変 rinkiōhen is a manner that shows flexibility in response to what the situation demands. In this case, to be able to take one of Nagato's arms required three kicks to the throat to soften him up.

In western culture we have the concept of Ad hoc. It is Latin that reads "for this." As in "for this" moment or situation. It may be a response for a problem or endeavor that only applies to this specific situation and probably will not work in another moment.

Sensei described 臨機応変 rinkiōhen as an aspect of kyojitsu tenkan. If you are resourceful in this moment of truth and falsehood you will find the answer you seek.

Hatsumi Sensei says you must adjust your technique so that you are using the strong points against the weaknesses of your opponent. This could be your own strong points, or the strong points of the technique, or, as I learned recently, the extremely powerful and strong points that are kyusho present in the moment of the kukan. The results I've gotten from this have felt almost supernatural.

So 臨機応変 rinkiōhen may be an old expression but one that we can understand through kyojitsu when we constantly change and adapt to whatever comes up in our moments of reality.

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