Skip to main content


Showing posts from March, 2012

Bujinkan Sword: 6 Strategies for 峰打ち Mineuchi

Yoyogi kōen Sword Fighting, Tokyo. photo by Colin McMillen We had been training with tachi all day. Then I shifted the focus of the class to katana. One of the newer students had not really done much Bujinkan sword prior to that day. So he continued to draw the katana with the same method as I had shown him earlier with tachi. When I noticed him doing this I gave him another quick sword drawing lesson. I didn't want to slow the whole class down to teach him all of the necessary basics. But as I looked over at him, he would have his sword upside down in his belt. It was amusing because he would try to emulate the kata I had shown the class, and every time he cut with his sword he was hitting with the back of the blade. He would then glare at his sword as if it was broken. I told him he was unlucky to have a "backwards" sword. But he isn't the first student to have his sword wrong way around. Many of us have done this at some point in our training careers. So i

How You Avoid Being 餓鬼 Gaki in the Bujinkan

Ouch! photo by Harry Sherman There is a certain type of student in the martial arts and the Bujinkan who is like 餓鬼 gaki. A gaki in Japanese is the spirit of a jealous or greedy person who, as punishment for mortal vices, has been cursed with an insatiable hunger or thirst. No matter how much it consumes, it cannot be sated. Gaki is also a slang word for bratty kids. Could you be a gaki? Would you even know if you were this type of student? And if you are, how can you leave behind this cycle? Sometimes we focus on the wrong things in training. It's easy to get lost in the details. Where did Sensei put his feet? Which hand did he strike with? What are the steps of this kata? After asking these questions we are still no closer to understanding what was taught. Then we try to mimic the teacher and cannot. Or we do mimic but don't get the results. This becomes frustrating for many. Some give up and quit. Some even adopt a strange strategy of trying to mimic the teacher when he

魅剣 Miken: Bewitching Blade of Bisentō Jutsu

Ghostly photo by didbygraham When I was studying the Bisento kata 魅剣 Miken, or bewitching blade, I wanted to understand what would make the blade bewitching. I know the movement is meant to confuse the opponent with kyojitsu, but what I found in my study takes this "bewitching" to another level. Often in our Bujinkan training we encounter supernatural ideas. They are woven in the fabric of our art and in Japanese legend. This is an aspect to training that makes the art so mysterious and fascinating. Mystery brings another level of power to the art and to stories of the Ninja. The challenging thing for pragmatic martial artists is to connect the myth to something that can be used in battle. I personally am not a pragmatist in these things. I am an artist by profession and it is natural for me to accept mysterious ideas and inspiration in my training. What really stops my mind cold is when I glimpse the supernatural at work in the pragmatic. With Miken, Hatsumi Soke says th

Kuuki wo Yomu 空気を読む: Situational Awareness For Dangerous Foreigners

Tokyo Love Hotel Menu Board, photo by fletchy182 One day I was in Japan being my normal  yabanna gaijin (dangerous, socially unaware, foreigner) self, when I stumbled into a funny but embarrassing situation. I had travelled to Japan with an old friend who was not into training and was here on his first trip. We were wandering all over exploring the city like bad tourists. While walking we encountered one of the themed "love hotels" that are common in some areas. He had never seen one, so I thought I would show him the menu board. Inside the lobby of this style of hotel there is often a menu board of themed rooms. It shows pictures of the rooms with options like the Cleopatra Love Suite, UFO with a bed shaped like a saucer and stars painted on the ceiling, or just straight up Hello Kitty S&M Room with lots of hearts and pinkness. Next to the picture is a price and button that you press to book the room. Suddenly we heard a yelp from the woman sitting behind a small