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Are Ninjas on Santa's Naughty or Nice List?

Dear Santa,

I've been a good Ninja. I don’t bite my nails. I won't ask you for much, but I just want to see if these letters work. Some other Ninjas are getting smarter people to write their letters, but I write my own.

This year I trained really hard, so I want a grappling hook and a ninja-to and an axe but my mother said that I have to stop throwing rocks and fighting.

Please bring us a new Hombu Dojo, or keep the old one standing.

I would like a throwing star and some nice things to eat. I am very fond of pie.

Please bring a smoke bomb. Uncle Wade said that he would make one but he has not done it yet and I don't believe he will

I want a bank that you can't open so mama won't spend my money.
AND
I was very good and went to train in Japan three times this year, so Please don't put my axe in my stocking for you might stretch it.

Bring my little brother Andrew something or else he'll punch my cat's eyes out.

Give some Christmas spirit to all of the Bu…

反応 映像 Hannou Eizou: Fear on Repeat

Last week in class with Hatsumi Sensei, he remarked that this year's theme is really hard. What he meant was not that it was particularly hard for him, but that it seemed hard for all of us to understand it. During all my classes with him this year, he has provided glimpses, feelings, and filled me with images of what he is leading us to in training. I think this type of imagery is the point in itself and a strategy for fighting.

For many years, Soke has been advising us to move beyond common sense and technique. To do things that can't be understood. Because this type of fighting cannot be countered. It is a very Ninja strategy.

So I was watching him get his ukes to jump this way and that around the hombu tatami. They were filled with pain, but also great mental confusion. In most cases they appeared to be fighting themselves. How do you get opponents to fight themselves? To do the work for you so you can just play?

Soke gave us a tip that night that he described as 反応 映像 ha…

Japan Training: I got 無 nothing for you

My classes with Hatsumi Sensei for the last week have had an intense energy. Not because he is more intense than usual. His training is of a high level and never fails to surprise. But the intensity comes in the form of my own resistance to what he is sharing.

He has been really emphasizing the 無 mu in muto dori. As some of you may know, muto dori has been a strong theme throughout training this year. After my other visits to Japan this year, I studied this from the feelings he gave us.

But the difficulty for me now is that when he embodies mu, I get nothing. He is not presenting any feeling that I can key in on. This is instructive yet difficult to parse. It cannot be broken down for study.

Soke is removing himself from the equation. He doesn't exist so he cannot be hit. But he seems to be doing this on a personal level too. Sensei made a very intricate and intense painting of a lion. He was asked, how long did it take? He said, "only a couple of minutes. But if I stopped to t…

The Ninja Tourists

I am preparing for my third trip to Japan this year. In my preparations I came across some old notes from another trip I made many years ago. Before one class I had with Oguri Sensei, I encountered a common attitude among visitors to the Bujinkan Hombu Dojo.

The Ninja Tourists.

On my way to Oguri Sensei's class, I bumped into one of these tourists from Los Angeles. Since I know him from back home, I stopped to chat a bit. This was his first trip.

He was very happy. Beaming in fact. He showed me some photos he had gotten of himself with various teachers. But then he said something that sounded off to my ears,

"We are part of history!"

I asked, "How do you mean?"

He said, "Being here."

That seemed wrong to me at the time.  To me it was just class, just training.  You would be part of history sitting at home watching TV too.  But for him it was like visiting a holy place.  That's one extreme of the tourist attitude.

The Japanese people and Bujinkan teachers…

詒転三転 Iten Santen: Never Ending Change Filled With Deception

Bujinkan fighting is an illusion. You will never find two witnesses of a fight who see the same thing. Even if you haven't seen this in a fight, you have in the dojo. Most of the time, no two students in the dojo witness what Hatsumi Sensei has shown in the same way.

One day Soke said this was like  詒転三転 iten santen. I had no idea what he meant until I realized it was a play on words as he is fond of doing. The standard phrase is 二転三転 niten santen. This means being in a state of flux, a sequence of never ending changes.

The way Sensei said it was to imply that these never ending changes are full of deception. A result of 虚実 kyojitsu. This is why Bujinkan is an art. You might say that art is neither truth or fiction.

Soke told us that the real essence of the technique or of kyojitsu exists in
"The place where one cannot see. It's here where changes to the extraordinary happen." This is akin to the short story 藪の中 Yabu no Naka by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. If you haven't…

2 Mad 剣 Tsurugi Secrets, Plus 1 Mantra

I wrote earlier this year about my experiences in Japan with the iconography of Aka-Fudō holding the 倶利伽羅不動剣 Kurikarafudō ken. Back then I was seeking to understand what felt like a bomb Hatsumi Sensei dropped in the middle of our taijutsu with one part of the Bujinkan theme for 2013, The 剣 Tsurugi/Ken.

This Chinese style sword holds lessons and qualities of movement that challenge what you think you know about Japanese martial arts.

So it was really a sweet surprise that just the other night, after 10 months of study with this weapon, I found a personal breakthrough in my movement with the tsurugi.

If you want to attempt what I discovered, try two things, one difficult, the other absurd. Or even better blend these two for the full madness that is the tsurugi.

剣 Tsurugi Madness Number One: You see the pointy end of your ken? It is tiny and sharp. Let that one point become immovable. Just like the immovable spirit of 不動明王 Fudō Myō-ō, it will occupy the kukan and expand out from its p…

The 改善 Kaizen of Charlie Chaplin

Hatsumi Sensei did a quick drawing of Charlie Chaplin for me. This was after he had just quoted Chaplin in one class at the Hombu Dojo. I even witnessed Sensei emulate the shuffling Chaplin "Little Tramp" walk with a pantomime cane when he was explaining how to walk in 義鑑流 Gikan Ryu.

This drawing that Sensei made looks cartoonish. But it contains a very deep insight for our Bujinkan training. This comes from a Chaplin quote that Soke is fond of. The quote that Hatsumi Sensei frequently refers to goes like this,
そんなチャップリンに新聞記者が質問をします。「あなたの最高傑作の作品は何か?」と。そのとき彼はこう答えます。すなわち、「次の作品だ」と言ったのです。 To paraphrase, a reporter asked Chaplin, which of your films do you consider the best? Chaplin replied, "the next one." This means the one that hasn't been created yet. Or as Sensei implies, the henka that hasn't happened yet.

This concept in Japan is tied in with the idea of 改善 kaizen. or continuous improvement. You continually work, evolve, and change. Never stopping because …

Hidden Door of 三身 Sanshin

Sanshin is one of the most basic, fundamental, and important concepts in the Bujinkan. Yet even after years of training it remains mysterious and elusive, even one the most misunderstood aspects of our training.

Ask your teacher what it is. Many will give you their pat, standard answer given to all beginners. Others will wander off in a glassy-eyed, meandering philosophical and esoteric treatise. And there are even some who will try to tell you how to stand or step while delivering a punch.

They may not be wrong. But they probably will be missing key ideas. I will not try to correct anyone except to say, please discard what you think you know.

Hatsumi Sensei recently gave us a clue to the secrets of sanshin when he was teaching us about kaname:
全体を捕るということは、要をとる。三身一如のことは言う。 Soke suggests here that you take everything together by only taking what is essential in the moment (kaname). This is sanshin unified as one reality. Three as one.

To me this is like the hidden door of Togakure, an…

Secrets of 三つ鱗 Mitsu Uroko

Since I am a ninja, I am part of a secret society. Secret societies are fun to learn about. One of the most obvious ways into a secret society is through its symbols. I recently stumbled across one mysterious symbol called 三つ鱗 Mitsu Uroko in a place I didn't expect to find it.

You have probably seen this symbol. For Legend of Zelda fans it is known as the Triforce. But you may not know that the creator of this game, Miyamoto Shigeru, took much of his inspiration from the mountains and temples of Kyoto. And if you travel around Japan, you will encounter this symbol yourself.

What does it mean? And why should anyone in the Bujinkan care? Let me explain.

The origin story of this symbol is tied with one of the most powerful Shogun and clans in Japanese history.

As told in the Taiheiki 太平記, Hojo Tokimasa went on a pilgrimage of fasting and prayer to the island of Enoshima. While he was in one of the Iwaya Caves, the Goddess Benzaiten appeared to him. She said that since he had been a…

Remember These 3 Steps Next Time You Get Confused In Your Bujinkan Class

The Bujinkan is not for everybody. It is only for people who get it. My way of teaching the Bujinkan is not for everybody. But it works for me. And it works for those of you who get it and who want it.

If you study with me, I add a secret teaching technique that I will call "Michael Glenn's Patented 秘密 Himitsu Bujinkan Strategy™." I use this silly name because I want you to try to figure out what it is. If you can guess it, I will send you a free DVD.

So if you want to be successful in your Bujinkan class, there are 3 simple steps:

(add Michael Glenn's 秘密 Himitsu Bujinkan Strategy™ first) then,

AttemptObserveRepeat So let's consider these steps in order.

Attempt. It is better to start by trying. Until you try, you don't even know if you can do it. Until you try, you don't know where your mistakes will be. This is the only way to know what to look for in the next step.

Next, Observe someone who is successful. In your Bujinkan class, this can be your teache…

The Birth of Bujinkan Henka

Henka is like a ritual of birth and death. One essential fact of existence that everyone seeks to forget, is that we are born to this world and guaranteed to die.

Everything dies. Thus the way of Bushido is death. But Hatsumi Sensei would like us to flip this idea to rebirth and to give life, protect life. How do we do this if we are half dead already?

The traditional rites of passage used to teach people to die to the past and be reborn to the future. I feel this process every time I travel back to Japan. It is always a new birth.

Sensei seems to demonstrate this in every henka and even by the way he moves through his day. This is what we should strive for in every class and in our lives.

Why die to the past and be reborn? What does that even mean? What is the point?

Everyone comes to class for different reasons. But most hope to improve themselves in some way. What kind of improvement are you seeking? To be a killing machine? or to find life inside of death and protect it?

If you…

My Search for the Akō Vendetta of the 47 Ronin

A man lost his head. Not his mind, but his HEAD. Some say he brought it on himself, some just accept that it was the code of the warrior, a result of Bushido. But he wasn't the only one to die in the Akō Vendetta incident. More than 60 warriors died just to take this one man's head.

Here I stood lost on a Tokyo street corner. My source had left me with a murky glint in his eye and a hand-drawn map to the scene of the crime. Of course I had to go there.

Going there meant feeling the silence of a 310 year old crime scene. You see the Akō incident happened in 1703 during the 元禄 Genroku era in Japan. It is also known as the story of the 47 Ronin.

This story speaks to the very soul of Japan and pairs the code of Bushido with the drama of a great tragedy. It has been told and retold to the point that it has become legend. But facts are facts, and I wanted to see for myself.

First I had to figure out where this sketchy map was taking me. It said to cross a river, but I saw no river.…

A Ninja Tease With the 鎖分銅 Kusari Fundou

I just learned how to do a secret ninja move with the 鎖分銅 kusari fundou. Hatsumi Sensei explained how to do this move from a shadow kamae to crush your enemy. I immediately retrieved a kusari fundo that I have owned for 27 years from my weapons cache. Now for the ninja testing.

When I was sixteen, while my friends were buying cool new tires for their cars, I bought a kusari fundou. Like all the other Ninja weapons I was attempting to acquire at this age, I had to watch the mailbox every day to intercept the mail before my parents did. When it arrived, it was better than I expected.

This was 1986 and Ninja Movies were playing in the movie theaters. Hatsumi Sensei or Stephen Hayes were on the covers of Black Belt magazine every other month. The Ninja fad in the U.S. was in full effect. And I was fully hypnotized.

When I unwrapped this simple but strange new weapon, the first thing I did is what everyone should do. I swung it about wildly until I hit myself in the head. If you truly put w…

Fresh From Japan: New Details About the Bujinkan 2013 Themes

In case you are not aware, 婦人の護身術 fujin no goshinjutsu, along with 無刀捕 muto dori and 剣 tsurugi are the themes for this year.

I have been lucky to travel to Japan twice so far this year to experience these themes directly for myself. I just got back home this week, and I have been reflecting on the meaning of my experiences.

Hatsumi Soke painted a scroll for me and my dojo to guide our training in 2013. The layers of meaning and feeling behind this kakejiku will inform much of our training during the second half of the year. This scroll had a surprising message. All I can say, is that these themes and Hatsumi Sensei's approach to them are not what you think.

If you want to keep up with me and my latest training notes as I study this material, you may sign up here for free:  Free Training Reports or...

For Rojodojo members you can learn about the message in the scroll, and the latest information about this year's themes from my direct experience here: Fresh From Japan: New Deta…

How Long is Your Staff?

We have three basic staff lengths in the Bujinkan: 六尺棒 Rokushakubo (six shaku staff), sometimes just called 棒 bo (stick or pole); 四尺棒 Yonshakubo (four shaku staff) or 杖 jo (staff or cane); and 三尺棒 sanshakubo (three shaku stick) or 半棒 hanbo (half bo).

Did you know that the Hombu dojo is built around these measures?

I was in one class recently where Someya Sensei held the bo and hanbo up against the walls and windows of the Hombu to show us this. The wall sections between supports was the length of six shaku, or the length of a bo. The sliding windows along the sides of the room are six shaku each, and the sliding portion is 3 shaku.

A doorway is six shaku high and 6 wide. But the sliding portion is just 3 shaku.

These lengths of shaku are not a measurement we have in the west. It is said to be derived from nature and is the length between nodes on a shaft of bamboo. But this measurement varies widely. I have also seen it described as the distance between the outstretched thumb and forefi…

Don't Know What to Expect in Bujinkan Training? Me Neither.

Somedays I don't feel like going to class. But I go anyway. Why?

Well, one spectacular reason just happened to me (again) yesterday. I showed up and saw this:

This is an 斧 ono, and it's not often one sees it in action at the Hombu. Yes that is rust, and that is solid metal, and one heavy muther&^%.

So I can't believe my luck when another surprise appears:

Another hefty piece of equipment by the name of 鎖鎌 kusarigama. Or you may just call it, the reaper.




So anyway, go to class. Like I've said before you might find a surprise there, and not going just feels empty.


弁財天 Benzaiten, the Prayers of Prostitutes, and Snakes in a Shrine

Today  I went on a search for the underworld that is (not so) hidden in Japan. This search involves prostitutes and their secret shrines. And the furtive 遊女の祈願 prayers harlots say on the day of the snake to stay free of disease and wash their money.

All I had were some clues from a mysterious local who we can call deepthroat. My man on the inside said that there was a place hidden nearby where two snakes would turn piles of shit into gold. What sort of miracle is this, I wondered. Then he went on to explain the miracle of the Hindu deity Saraswati and her Japanese Shinto/Buddhist mutant cousin known as Benzaiten.



I didn't know it when i started my search, but Hatsumi Sensei had just added the same symbol to the Hombu dojo a few days ago. And I couldn't turn down a search for evidence of the 平潟 遊郭 Hiragata red light district. Even if people say it no longer existed. Something was leading me to explore.

The train ride was easy, one stop on the 常磐 Jōban rapid. Then I exited the sta…

A Hard Truth About Your Bujinkan Training Schedule

How long does it take to be a Shihan? What about a Shidoshi? Blackbelt? How about just being good?

These seem like silly questions to ask, but I want to examine some real numbers here. I think we will be surprised at what the numbers reveal.

Let's start at the bottom.

No experience, no classes, pure beginner. How long is it to go from beginner to "not" beginner? Everyone's ideas on what it means to be a beginner are different. So I am asking you.

Is it going to classes for a few months? A year? 3, or 5?

How many ACTUAL classes does it take?

In my own training I teach 3 classes a week. So my own students have the opportunity to show up to roughly 12-14 per month. And if we take off for holidays and such, maybe 150 per year.

Except, almost no one comes to them all.

How long does it take to reach beginner's level? (That's what our black belt level is called: Shodan) How many classes? How many classes did you go to before you got there? I don't force an exac…

Umu 有無: Something From Nothing

I train outdoors all year. Traditionally ninja, and many of the founders of the Bujinkan ryuha, all found their inspiration for training in nature. Lately, in every class I am annoyed with mosquitoes. But I also observe the nest of some Cassin's Kingbirds and how they teach their fledgelings to catch those same insects out of the air.

This kind of direct insight is very valuable. Hatsumi Sensei says,
"Training in nature, where there is not only a lack of footing but one is attacked by the wind and rain, is greatly different from training in a dojo with wooden floors or mats, and with air conditioning installed." He says that to develop higher powers of perception we must train in nature. This is how we develop the ability to produce something from nothing in combat.
必要な無から有を生み出す勘生という知恵を授かったのであろう。 So every class, I start with only the open air, the sky and the earth. Then we bow in.  

This lonely path of the warrior is self reliant. Sensei says it is like the Buddha, wh…