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Showing posts from May, 2012

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…

Bujinkan Nidan 弐段: Discovering the Footprints

In the first post of this series, Bujinkan Shodan 初段: Searching for the Bull, I mentioned that 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.

So what does it mean to be 弐段 Nidan?

Discovering Footprints 见迹:
Along the riverbank under the trees,
I discover footprints.
Even under the fragrant grass,
I see his prints.
Deep in remote mountains they are found.
These traces can no more be hidden
than one's nose, looking heavenward. This stage of training is very interesting because your eyes become open to signs everywhere. You spend as much effort in observing as you do training. You are developing the eyes to see the traces, or footprints of our art.

You begin to recognize these traces in all sorts of people and situations. You will see many previously hidden connections between kata. One technique naturally suggests another l…

Bujinkan Shodan 初段: Searching for the Bull

When I first studied the 十牛圖頌 ten ox herding pictures and poems, I recognized some of my own journey reflected in Bujinkan training. Maybe you will see yourself there as well.

The Ten Ox Herding pictures illustrate the stages of a Zen life in the quest toward enlightenment. In Zen the ox represents the mind which is at first wild and untamed, running from one thing to another. It is said that these stories are trying to express the inexpressible.

Hatsumi Sensei has a favorite teacup with these ten illustrations on it. As he sips his tea, he says he likes to reminisce about the "old days," and he tells us how we have the same ten stages in our journey through Budo: First dan through Tenth Dan.

This will be the first in a series of 10 posts.
Just as a man would tie to a post
A calf that should be tamed,
Even so here should one tie one's own mind
Tight to the object of mindfulness. What does it mean to be a Shodan 初段 in the Bujinkan? Let's look at this first stage fro…

Budo 武道: Bloodlust, or a Path to Peace?

What is the point of Budo? Training in a martial art is a strange endeavor. You learn how to bruise, break, maim, and kill all in the name of peace and love for humanity. At least that's what most teachers would tell you. None ever admit to having a love for violence.

But most martial arts have their roots in violence that was either forced on them by lovers of war, or developed by those who loved war. True peace lovers would never train to do what we do, right? I don't know. I don't think it's that black and white.

武道 Budo means martial way. The character of Bu 武 is composed of three different kanji radicals two 二, shoot or spear 弋, and stop 止. So the essence of Bu is the way of stopping two people from shooting at each other or from fighting! Budo prevents or stops fighting among people. Martial arts are to promote harmony and act to stabilize society.

During the 1860's in Japan, a time marked by bloody infighting among various samurai factions, this meaning seemed…