Hatsumi Sensei's 道祖神 Dōsojin NSFW Except in Japan

The 道祖神 Dōsojin at Hatsumi Sensei's House, photos by Michael Glenn
Last month in Japan, I gained a deeper understanding of genitalia. It started with the male form. But luckily Hatsumi Sensei paired it with the female for me.

Before I describe what Soke shared, let me explain my first phallic encounter.  A local guy from a certain neighborhood told me about 鬚神社 hige jinja (beard shrine). I was intrigued because I thought I had seen all the shrines in this neighborhood.

He took me to 聖天島 shōtenjima where (土俗の神様 dozoku no kamisama) a local folk kami is enshrined on the island. The island was surrounded by brown, dried out lotus plants in their ugly fall phase.

I followed him to the edge of a moat. There, across the water, was what appeared to be old ruins. We walked across a small footbridge. He pointed at one statue that looked like a giant penis.

But why was it called hige? He told me I had to look at the back of it. I shimmied on the tips of my toes along the edge of the moat to get a look. The ura side of the statue was a depiction of 役行者 En no Gyōja who usually has a beard.
Phallic 役行者 En no Gyōja statue, photo by Michael Glenn


En no Gyōja is the founder of 修験道 Shugendō. In this statue, his pilgrim's cloak is wrapped around his head and shoulders in such a way that from the omote side he looks like a large cock!
Phallic 役行者 En no Gyōja drawing from here
This made me and my guide laugh out loud among the wilting lotus leaves.

He told me that back in the Edo jidai, the neighborhood was known as a place for lovers. There were lots of 出会い茶屋 deai chaya or teahouses that offered sexual services, or where people could have a secret rendezvous with a lover. People may have prayed at the shrine for virility, fertility, or even to protect themselves from disease.

A few days later I went to Soke's house. He showed me the far corner of his yard where there were stones representing male and female genitalia (see top picture). These were examples of 道祖神 Dōsojin, a traveller's guardian deity. You can find these monuments throughout Japan. They often portray a couple in embrace or even lovemaking. But often the stones are in the shape of phallus and vagina.

There is an interesting connection with En no Gyōja. First of all, he was a legendary traveller. Second, he had two servants named  前鬼 Zenki  and 後鬼 Goki. They started out as demons but En helped them become human and now they are a married couple representing yin and yang.

When I look at portrayals of Dōsojin that are of the embracing couple, I am reminded of Zenki and Goki. 前鬼 Zenki means front demon, the yang, like the phallus image I was greeted with on the island. 後鬼 Goki is the behind demon, ura, yin and maybe represented by the parted and open robe or cloak.

So next time you are training with Soke and he paints a big phallus, or a kunoichi with a red vagina on your scroll, maybe he is wishing you safe travels! If you are lucky, no one will ask whose bed you sleep in during those lonely nights in Noda.

潜在意識 Senzaiishiki: Enter Into Subconscious Bujinkan Training

My friends walk into the Shibamata Sun, photo by Michael Glenn
Tuesday night I was in a class with Hatsumi Sensei at Ayase. I watched him throw somebody without touching them. Then he taught us an aspect of toate no jutsu, or striking from a distance.

These things are extraordinary to witness. But it is important to look past the miracles. Because it is the way he taught us these things that holds the key to understanding them.

Soke asked one student to explain what it felt like. The student said that he didn't understand what was happening to his own body. Soke replied that if you could figure it out he would be troubled by that. And then Hatsumi Sensei addressed us all,
"We're studying these things which can't be understood. Although you don't understand it, you might understand in your subconscious. 潜在意識 senzaiishiki, the subconscious, is the most natural part  of your consciousness. Since it's the most natural part it connects to juppo sessho."
Our unconscious training is like an iceberg. The conscious part is the small bit you see above the surface. The 氷山の一角 hyouzannoikkaku, the tip of the iceberg. But what is hidden beneath?

Conscious learning cannot possibly hold all of the Bujinkan, all of the 9 schools, all of the kata, even more henka, all of the knowledge from previous Soke, hundreds or even thousands of years of human experience.

This is why Hatsumi Sensei told us, "I'm not doing technique, I'm changing it into the subconscious. I'm teaching in a way that will be absorbed by the subconscious."

So how do you unlock the subconscious learning of the Bujinkan? One key was repeated again and again over my last two weeks here in Japan. Seno Sensei called it 分散 bunsan during one morning class when he showed my training partner Mats Hjelm and I how to receive a sword cut.

分散 Bunsan means to scatter or disperse.

In another class, during an attack, Hatsumi Sensei said to dissipate each other's strength and power. And another time during a throw he said, get rid of your body. in the middle of it just throw yourself out. It is important to dissipate your body and create this space. This is a type of 体変術 taihenjutsu.

This kind of scattering or breaking up in all directions is like safety glass. Safety tempered glass has outer surface in compression and the inner surface under tension. When this balance is broken, it crumbles and shatters in a web of small pieces. This is much safer than the splintering shards of plate glass.

Doing this in combat makes your opponent crumble and his attacks become harmless. But more importantly, you do this to your own intention or consciousness. You scatter it and dissipate it. Then you will have access to the huge unconscious ability that you have inherited from Soke and the Bujinkan.

How to Throw Air With 体変術 Taihenjutsu

Hatsumi Sensei Throws a Look at Michael Glenn
I was training with 手塚 Tezuka-san in Hatsumi Sensei's class at the Bujinkan Hombu dojo, when Soke did something funny to him. He threw Tezuka without touching him. Tezuka came back to me and asked, how did he do it? I said I saw it, but I can't explain what I saw. Tezuka said it felt like magic.

The throw happened in the air. In the space of a breath. Soke refers to 空気浮き kuuki uki when you float your opponent in the air. But then he said to throw him like 空気の投  kuukinotou, throwing air.

The day before I was on a quest for an effigy of 役行者 En no Gyōja that I had heard about. He is considered the  father of Shugendō. Shugendō followers are on a "path of training to achieve spiritual powers." This involves transforming their bodies through harsh physical endurance.

The 役行者 En no Gyōja I was seeking is one that is not well known and hidden from public view. I literally had to use 体変術 taihenjutsu to get there. As soon as I did, I was mysteriously greeted by a guide that appeared from nowhere. I wrote more about that here: Hatsumi Sensei's 道祖神 Dōsojin NSFW Except in Japan.

Hatsumi Sensei has been training us to understand taihenjutsu. This goes beyond taijutsu and technique. The 変 hen that occurs is mysterious. It comes from a different place than technique. It can be the same source as Shingin and this year's theme.

体変 taihen is an interesting word. It can mean changing the body or changing reality, or, even a strange body or reality. This is what it felt like to witness my training partner Tezuka being thrown by Soke. Reality changed in front of my eyes, and Tezuka experienced something that confused his mind and body. He was disconcerted for the rest of that class and I couldn't help him get grounded again.

Shugendo followers seek to transform their bodies through physical endurance to gain spiritual power and enlightenment. But Soke said you can go directly there without sitting under freezing waterfalls. This is the kind of 体変術 taihenjutsu that Soke is sharing with us here in Japan.

Sunday Afternoon at the Bujinkan Takamatsu Memorial

Michael Glenn at the Bujinkan Takamatsu Memorial
The fall weather has been beautiful and the training very rich. More about that soon, but this afternoon Hatsumi Sensei invited as many as we could caravan over to his country house.

driving to Hatsumi Sensei's country house
After an pleasant drive, we arrived to be greeted by Soke.
Hatsumi Sensei opens the gate
It says Hatsumi

Hatsumi Sensei is very welcoming
We also were welcomed by his horses.

Hatsumi Sensei's horse
Hatsumi Sensei's horses were always searching for food
Soke really enjoys describing all the statues and monuments to us.

Hatsumi Sensei tells us about the monuments
a gorinoto
Hatsumi Sensei examines the Takamatsu memorial
Then Hatsumi Sensei made sure that everyone found a place for their stones.

Hatsumi Sensei looks for a stone
I brought a stone from Santa Monica during my trip in September and Soke had placed it just to the left of Takamatsu's bust.

A rock from Santa Monica Mountains now in Japan at the Bujinkan Takamatsu Memorial
The horses meanwhile found where I left my backpack and were about to tear it open... Hatsumi Sensei thought this was very funny.

My backpack (in the back) is discovered by Hatsumi Sensei's horses
Hatsumi Sensei couldn't get his horses to stay still. It was funny watching him chase them.

Hatsumi Sensei tries to hold his fleeing horse
Hanging out with Sensei is always relaxed and full of humor.

Hatsumi Soke sharing the Takamatsu memorial
Hatsumi Sensei and Marilyn Monroe welcome us
I feel very lucky to be part of the Bujinkan with such a generous Soke.

Guarding the gate at Hatsumi Sensei's house
Hatsumi Sensei's giving nature informs our Bujinkan training like a connecting thread through the generations. I will write more about my training here in Japan soon.


The Call of Bujinkan Training Takes Many Forms

I return to Japan again in two weeks. (if you can't see the video above, it is here: http://youtu.be/BGPhYFcs_cU )

A little more than one month ago I had an interesting experience there. I was walking around minami-shin ozakimachi neighborhood.

Just wandering...

Then I heard a sound. It was a clear soft chime in the warm breeze. I followed the sound down an alley.

There it was. The chime came from two 江戸風鈴 Edo fuurin. Edo fuurin are are glass wind chimes from edo, or old Tokyo.

I stood in the alley admiring their sound. They chimed from a back window of a restaurant kitchen.

A woman came out to see what I wanted. I told her I was listening to the furin. She went back inside.

I didn't want to bother her so I walked back down the alley.

I heard a yell. A man had come out. He took the bell down from the window and chased after me.

Then he gave me the furin! I said thank you and tried to give him some money but he refused.

The sound of the bell had struck on my heart and I followed it. Now it is with me across the pacific ocean.

That is why I return to Japan in two weeks for training. The sound of the dojo has struck on my heart so I must follow it.

自然力 Shizenryoku in San Francisco

San Francisco from Alamo Square, photo by Michael Glenn
I was preparing for my seminar in San Francisco this weekend, and I wondered, what is the best way to share the feeling I have gotten from Hatsumi Sensei this year?

I have told my own students that I don't know how to teach this year's theme. But that is no longer true. After my trips to Japan this year and a lot of study in my home dojo and elsewhere, I have had some breakthroughs and insights.



Damion tabi shopping in Noda, photo by Michael Glenn
My friend Damion was very gracious to help organize a day of training in San Francisco.  To help people who were there to connect in a deeper way to their experiences, here are notes about what I shared on Saturday. But these notes can also be useful to any of you studying the 2014 Bujinkan theme.

We can start with the basic concept, "don't use your own power or technique." But if not, what do you use?

It is best to approach this question from various paths. For each person and moment there is an effective path. When I help students explore more than one path we may find it together. And if we are lucky we can stumble to a path Soke has pointed out to us, 神の道 kami no michi.

I wrote previously about 神韻武導 Shin Gin Bu Dou and creating space for it in your training. But there is a natural progression for this that students of different levels may take. The first is moving from technique to 自然力 shizenryoku or the path of natural power.

1. Power in combat is not what you deliver, but rather what is felt.


The forces of nature are far greater than any of your muscle. What natural forces do you have at your disposal? Which powers of nature can you summon to your aid? The first that we all learn about is gravity.

It seems that nothing needs to be said about gravity. But far too many martial artists use muscle where gravity can do the job and do it better. Good technique, leverage, and bio-mechanics all address this. If you only study these, you can go far.

2. Power in combat is greatest when the source is not perceived.


Hatsumi Sensei told us that training after godan is mienai keiko. Unseen training, invisible training. Some other natural paths in combat are psychology, strategy, and kyojitsu.

The fastest strike is the one that is not seen. The scariest enemy is invisible. And the toughest combat of our lives is with ourselves. Bring all of that to bear on your opponent.

Strike in ways that cannot be perceived. Disappear or make yourself zero so he doesn't even know to fight you. And reflect back or magnify his internal struggles. Give him no easy choices.

3. Real power cannot be understood.


Soke continued by telling us that after mienai keiko we pass into wakaranai keiko. This is training that cannot be understood. He has been saying this all year.

In class, he says if we don't understand something, that is good. It is purposely not understandable. He said things that are understood will get you killed.

Think of a natural disaster or even random violence like a bombing. Why some survive and others do not is incomprehensible. No sense can be made of it.

This is the path Soke wants us to find in our training.

So it is with Shingin, you connect to this incomprehensible force. You get on the same path with it and invite it into the kukan. Live in that place where you've found it or created it.


A big thanks to Damion and my friends in San Francisco. It was fun training with you. I look forward to the next one!


虚実 Kyojitsu: A Path to Natural Power

Soke is a Trickster, photo by Michael Glenn
Hatsumi Sensei swung the bo across the line of the swordsman's cut. In the dojo we hear a sawing or zipping sound. The bo is hollow!

A weight from the 忍び杖 shinobi-zue swings through the air, barely missing the overhead lights. It continues wrapping around Soke's attacker until he and the sword are wrapped up. But Soke doesn't appear to move at all!

He finally drops the bo, and his attacker collapses in a tangled heap. What just happened? How can any of us in the dojo use that same feeling?

Soke called this 自然力 shizenryoku, natural power or the power of nature.

One of the secrets to this type of natural power is understanding power itself. Power that is not from your own effort or what you put out. It is how you are felt, or the effect you have. The perceptions of the opponent are what matter.

This is the heart of 虚実 kyojitsu.

I go to Japan to study the yearly themes and more. But I never know what I will learn when I arrive. During my trip last month, I learned about some of the paths that the power of 神韻武導 Shin Gin Bu Dou may take. 

You may be lost about this year's theme. Then lighting strikes in the night. In that brief flash, you see a path. Then darkness again. Hatsumi Sensei encouraged us to follow a path of natural power.

Soke describes this 自然力から神の力 shizenryokukara kami no chikara. This power of kami that arrives from the force of nature. That's the path or channel by which we experience this power. There's a natural power or strength from kami, a non-physical power. That power channels down from above and you should follow it.

But tonight in the dojo, Hatsumi Sensei was talking about skipping stones across water. And the moments between skips, The 間 Aida of Skipping a Stone Across Water . He said we should alternate between small kyojitsu and big kyojitsu in this very small moment or aida in the kukan. And each moment is connected in this continuation.

He added that this year is about 自然力 shizenryoku or the power of nature like a stone skipping across water. We should apply kyojitsu in this way. After Soke wrapped his opponent up with the chain and bo, he said,
"This year's theme is to not use our weapons. Or not to beat up the opponent. Just let the opponent become bound up (or bounded)  by his own technique."
He told us that to be able to apply kyojitsu tenkan you have to separate yourself from your own desire. And then follow the path of natural power. Maybe it's the path you see in a flash of lightning.

Hatsumi Sensei said that the very survival of the Bujinkan is because it has been passed from one Soke to the next in this way. Down through the path of the Kami. Along this natural line of power.

This is the lineage and how it is inherited.

The 間 Aida of Skipping a Stone Across Water

Michael Glenn Shares a Stone from the Santa Monica Mountains with Hatsumi Sensei
My punch at Soke left me hanging over the depths. Beneath me was the profound moment of life or death falling into darkness below. I felt I could sink with it.

Above was Hatsumi Sensei, who had just bounced me off the surface of this pond like skipping a stone across the water. I looked at him, he laughed. He wasn't going to let me sink. Not today.

Not today because he is sharing the idea of skipping a stone across the water with the whole class. Last week he used this image again and again in his classes. And right now I was the stone.

When I heard him talk about this in previous classes, I nodded my head. The concept made sense to me. It reminded me of another image he had used last year of 乗換 norikae. Changing trains, going from one track (or technique, kyusho, etc…) to another.

But now when I experienced what it felt like to be the skipped stone, I realized there was so much more. There is the stone, the person throwing, and the surface across which you fly. But there is also the entire body of water. What lies beneath?

If you've ever skipped stones across a pond, you may recall the rhythm. If you have a nice flat stone and a good throw (angle and speed), the stone will skip or bounce off the surface a few times. The first bounce is long, the second shorter, and each one after has less space between bounces. You may even get 6 or 7 before the stone sinks.

But the stone does sink. Just as the opponent is defeated. The final result is the sinking of the attacker into the depths.

Hatsumi Sensei wants us to focus on 間 aida. This is the space between, or the interval from one time the stone contacts the water to the next. During this moment, the stone flies through the air, but falls again toward the water.

Today, in this class as Hatsumi Sensei's uke, I am powerless to stop myself from hitting the surface again.

In this moment, this aida... I skim across the surface and I glimpse something that really surprises me, and that I don't know how to explain. I realize my fate is in the depths below. I am going to sink. But when I look down at the water I also see Soke's reflection, smiling at me.

When he describes to the class a stone skipping across the water, it is easy to think of a stone, of throwing, and watching it bounce across the water. But that is the training that exists above the surface. That is beginner stuff. When you pass Godan you may glimpse below the surface.

He was not just skipping a stone. He was drawing on the power of the depths below without sinking into them himself. And even more, he had decided that he was not going to let me sink either. I felt that at the end. He let me see deeply into the depths of our training by protecting me from what was beneath.

I'm sure this all sounds crazy, but describing what I felt is difficult. So I offer you the metaphor of the skipping stone that Hatsumi Sensei gave us. It is up to you if you want to pick up the stone for your own training.

Hatsumi Sensei Shares Some Ninjutsu 文化 Bunka with Class

Hatsumi Sensei Shares with us, photo by Michael Glenn
Last week Hatsumi Sensei set a tone for class that was subtle but very important. It started in a way that I have experienced before with Soke, with a show and tell before class. He brought out a sack full of books to show us.

Soke said these books were tales of ninjutsu 名人 meijin. They were mostly children's books and many were illustrated budo legends. But something was different about these from ordinary comics or manga.

Before I explain the difference, let me describe an experience from my own life that has the same echoes. It is an experience that is natural as you age, but the pace of change in our current era make it extreme. In my lifetime, a major change is the internet and smart phones.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about this in relation to the experience of learning, training and daily life itself. Many people younger than me did not experience life before cellphones and the internet. They may not know that it had a different quality.

You had to learn differently. Train differently. Find and connect with teachers differently. This made your entire way of thinking.. different.

I have observed the effects of this change in younger students in the Bujinkan. Some aspects of it are really wonderful and Hatsumi Sensei embraces change like no one else. But our art was born of a different time and manner of training.

When I was a kid, I couldn't just look stuff up. I couldn't easily call or text my friends. We had to agree to meet (physically) somewhere ahead of time. Or just find each other.

That happened. Even with my own Bujinkan teacher, I followed my instincts and just found him. There was no website, or even a flyer with a phone number.

This may seem like silly "old man" nostalgia. But really, life was different. You HAD to learn stuff differently. Very few bother to learn this way anymore. Or experience the world through the interface of instinct and their senses.

When I teach Bujinkan, people struggle to remember the littlest things. And their first instinct is to reach for their phone to look it up.

But let's get back to class last week and Soke's books.

Many of these books came from when Hatsumi Sensei and Noguchi Sensei were children. Soke said to Noguchi, "you probably read these as a child…" and Noguchi said, "yes, then we would go outside for ちゃんばら chanbara with sticks" (play sword fights).

Hatsumi Sensei was a bit nostalgic when he spoke of reading these kind of books by candlelight. He said it was before television and children were riveted to these stories. Hearing him speak about this in person rekindled my own sense memories and childhood feelings of a time before things changed.

In Hatsumi Sensei's lifetime there have been enormous changes. Both for Japan and the world. The way people live in the world and interface with it for learning is not the same as that kind of candlelight inspiration from his childhood.

That night in the Hombu dojo he told us that Japan used to have this kind of warrior culture and it is important to preserve it. He said that the Bujinkan has it's own 文化 bunka or cultural heritage. He said we have to preserve these things because they represent and express the abundance of humanity.

One of the special things about martial arts training is that it HAS to be learned in the old way. With your mind, body, and heart working together. And it can only be passed down from a connection from teachers to students through their lives, experiences, and personal histories.

I come to Japan and train with teachers who lived in a time when the Japanese warrior culture was still alive as part of the fabric of their childhoods. And some of my teachers trained with Takamatsu Sensei which takes the thread of connection back even further into ages before internet, TV, radio, cars, telephones…

Back to a time when all they had for training was found in nature, the denshou, or in a teacher's heart.

What did the warriors learn then? And how did they learn it? This is the core of our Bujinkan heritage. Thank you Hatsumi Sensei for sharing that with us.


Senou Sensei Taught a Wonderful Class Today

I arrived early to the dojo because I'm like that, and I helped Senou Sensei cut some fresh 榊 sakaki for the shelf behind us.

When he unlocked the dojo, he walked in and was a bit emotional. He took some time examining everything because things were different. He told me it had been nearly two years since he had taught here.

Then he taught a great class. He told everyone there that all of the good thoughts from people in the Bujinkan had helped him to regain his health.

師恩 Shion: a Teacher's Grace and Kindness Inspires Our Bujinkan Training

師恩 Shion on the wall in Soke's house. photo by Michael Glenn
I want to give you a clue for how to study in the Bujinkan. This clue I will share below comes directly from Hatsumi Sensei. But first, let me tell you why your teacher may not even know this.

Some teachers follow the teachings of Hatsumi Sensei, but many do not. Many have their own ideas about how the Bujinkan should be taught or transmitted. This is a mistake that many who claim to follow Soke will make without even knowing it.

They develop their own curriculum and make their students learn and study in ways that have never been part of the Bujinkan. This includes many lost people who think they can recreate the early training of the old days. If you weren't there, then you don't know. But I guess you can make stuff up.

Bujinkan arts are taught very differently from other martial arts and that is quite intentional. It is a natural strategy that Hatsumi Sensei has chosen. And if you don't understand it, there is a reason for that as well.

Hatsumi Sensei is an artist. How do artists learn from one another? Primarily by inspiration. If you have ever been inspired, think about the energy that put into your mind, your heart, or your body. This energy moves you to act.

Hatsumi Sensei says that beyond even heart to heart transmission is 絵心伝心 eshin (egokoro) denshin. This is artistic inspiration passed from one artist to another. This happens instinctively for artists, but it cannot be put in any training manual.

Like many things Soke tells us, this is a play on words relating artistic inspiration to 以心伝心 ishindenshin which is a mutual and natural understanding between people that borders on telepathy. This is when you can give somebody a glance and they know exactly what you mean.

This artistic inspiration and mutual understanding guided me to Hatsumi Sensei's dojo in the first place. We didn't know each other and had never spoke. But our hearts communicated across time, culture, and distance to bring us together.

Soke says that this is the path of Budo. Nothing needs to be explained or said. By training with and being in the presence of such a teacher, you just get it.

This is how I study Bujinkan. I use 画心 gashin or an artistic instinct that I have developed and received from many years of being inspired by my teachers. And I repay their 師恩 shion (a teacher's grace and kindness) with gratitude by sharing this inspiration with my students.

A New Bujinkan 初段 Shodan in my Dojo

Richard chats with Peter Crocoll
I went to Arizona last weekend for training. This was more than just a normal training trip. One of my long-time students, Richard, was going for his initiation to shodan.

In many dojos, a Bujinkan 初段 shodan  is not really treated as such a big deal. In most of the Bujinkan it requires at least a few years of study and a proficiency with the basics. But in my dojo and my teacher's dojo, we see it as an important event in a student's journey. So we approach this threshold with certain key ideas.
Peter Uses a Ninja-to on Richard
To begin with, skill and technical ability are important. Richard had to demonstrate this, but by the time I put any student up for shodan, I already know very well what he is capable of. So we only look at technique to make sure the student knows for himself what he is AND is not capable of.

The next part has to do with the personal journey. How or why did you start? Why do you keep going? For most of us, these reasons change as we grow in the art. Richard's path to his shodan was not straight or direct, but it was natural like life.
Peter Disarms Richard
Then there is the connection to our history. The student should be able to trace a direct line from his own training back through his teachers to Hatsumi Sensei and the history of the art in Japan. The more direct this connection the better. Lucky for Richard, he was surrounded by many people who have trained with Hatsumi Sensei in Japan directly and some who have been doing so for decades.

The importance of 忍 nin in our study cannot be overestimated. We often think of nin as perseverance. And it is.
Peter Cuts Richard Down
But some deeper meanings arise as you advance in training. The character for nin has the sword over the heart. This has been suggested to mean that even under the threat of the sword, the heart will persevere.

You may also find your heart reflected in the polish of the sword. It might be a way to hold your own blade or you may find it reflected in your enemy's weapon. But your heart can be made clear by the polishing done in the dojo.
Richard relaxed and happy before the storm
When you have completely polished the mirror (your heart) it is absolutely clear of dirt or imperfections. So then perseverance is easy, because there is nothing there. You reflect your enemies back to themselves. You embody nothingness and you are not a target. There is nothing to attack or defend and endurance is a matter of sutemi.

This idea takes us well beyond shodan. But this weekend all of us who were there to help Richard were there to be nothing but a mirror for him. Our job was to remove our agendas or egos from the process so that he would only find himself reflected back.
Michael Glenn and Richard with his new shodan
Congratulations Richard! Thank you for training with me all these years.

Quick! Change Your Bujinkan Training with 早替わりHayagawari

Kabuki Performer, photo by Michael Glenn
One of our Bujinkan gokui comes from the secret writings of Shinden Fudo ryu and it says, 
豹変して必ず勝つ hyohen-shite kanarazu katsu. 
"Sudden change will always prevail." This kind of change suggests sutemi or discarding the self.

Hatsumi Sensei tells us that this kind of change can come from the unconscious. He uses the expression 早替わり hayagawari to describe this quick change.  And it can lead to a complete transformation in combat, your Bujinkan training, or even your own life.

What is 早替わりhayagawari? Like many of the references Soke gives to us, it originates from Kabuki theater. It is a quick change technique for actors on stage. The tricks they used allowed them to quickly change from one occupation to another, male to female, young to old, good to evil, etc.

Sometimes actors would even play more than one character in a play. Then they would need tricks called 外連 keren to make a quick change on stage, or hayagawari. They might have one costume hidden under the layers of another. Or, the actor could add makeup to quickly transform his face. Actors used different masks over the face, or even 後面 ushiromen which were masks on the back of the head.

All of this calls to mind the ninja techniques of 変装術 hensojutsu. There were a number of stock characters the ninja might employ like a craftsman, priest or monk, traveling entertainer, or even a samurai! A quick change of mannerism, accent, language, or attitude could complete and really sell the effect.

Add to this other kabuki/ninja effects like 宙乗り chûnori, and you could fly. Or the tricks used for rapid appearance or disappearance of the actor. I saw a demo of some of these last April in 墨田区 Sumida and I was reminded of Ninja disappearing tricks I have learned over the years.

One secret to all of this is that by adopting the outward, physical change, there is an inward change that occurs. This is a secret for life. We learn it as children with our play and the art of pretending to be something you are not. Fake it till you make it.

If you want change in your training, or in your life, use sutemi and discard the self. Act the part. Take on the role. Learn your lines. Before you know it you will achieve 早替わりhayagawari. You might be more surprised than anyone else at how quickly you transform.

Today's Gift from me: Hojojutsu Quick Snare Bujinkan Video


(if you can't see the image click here)

Hidden Weapons of the Unconscious

Black Market at 江戸東京博物館, Edo Tōkyō Hakubutsukan. photo by Michael Glenn
One of the secrets to understanding this year's theme of 神韻武導 Shingin Budo  is the ability to find the hints and openings hidden everywhere. These are like the lingering sound of a bell that hangs in the air after it has been rung. If you did not hear the original strike of the bell, would you know what you were hearing or where it originated from?

This sound is like the hidden training that takes place in the Bujinkan. Training that takes place in the unconscious. If you are only learning with your body and mind, you are missing out on the important unconscious training that is very real in correct Bujinkan training.

You may know that your unconscious affects ordinary life. It also is at work in combat or in the dojo. But do you know what it is doing?

Hatsumi Sensei has written 無意識 muishiki (the unconscious), as 武意識 buishiki which is warrior consciousness or military awareness. With this kind of unconscious ability, you will always be able to tap into hidden fighting strategy. Or find a surprise victory in an impossible situation. This is also a secret for hidden ninja weapons.

The best hidden weapons are not weapons you are hiding. That takes too much conscious effort and can be seen, read, and even countered. The best hidden weapons are hiding in plain sight.

Soke tells us we can find 鉄扇 tetsubane, 鉄刀 tetsuto, 馬手差 metezashi, and 隠し武器 kakushibuki hidden everywhere in normal everyday life. These things leave hints or suggestions (暗示 anji) to the warrior who is attuned to their resonance. Your unconscious can read these clues and allow you to find these hidden weapons.

If everyday objects can be transformed into weapons by the unconscious following these hidden signs, then what about yourself?  Soke says that this type of knowledge will make your life pulsate (生悸に一変) and undergo a complete change. It can make it possible for 早替わり hayagawari, or for you to quickly change into anything. This is the real shugyo.

Martial arts create this kind of transformation in life. Seek out a dojo that has these hidden hints and signs for your unconscious intelligence. Remember, if you're the smartest guy in the dojo, then you're in the wrong dojo. Look for hints that lead you to hidden knowledge and the right teacher for your whole self, not just the conscious part.


What Happened at the Michael Glenn Bujinkan Seminar in Florida?

Michael Glenn with Paul Fisher and Friends. West Palm Beach, Florida 2014
I just returned from teaching a seminar in West Palm Beach, Florida. My friend Paul Fisher and his students were friendly and gracious hosts. And maybe I learned more from them than they did from me!

It all started when one of Paul's students reached out to me after subscribing to my training notes. He emailed me privately to ask a technical question about training and during our correspondence, he asked if I ever came to Florida. I said no, but I would if there was interest.

Well his teacher Paul Fisher is an open and adventurous sort of guy. And he quickly embraced the idea. Now it was up to me.

Since my recent trip to Japan, I have been actively studying the strategies I learned from Hatsumi Sensei regarding this year's theme of 神韻武導 Shin Gin Budo. Out of all the notes, and all of my recent training, three points stood out to me that I could share with my new friends in Florida.

I wrote about these 3 strategies back in May: Kyusho of Zero in Three Easy Steps  But writing about them and sharing them live are quite different. Luckily, Paul's friends and students at the seminar were up to this kind of exploration.

Using two kata from Shinden Fudo ryu as a place to start, we quickly took these kata to their inevitable 自然至極 Shizen Shigoku outcome. We did this by expanding our own personal kukan, understanding and using 気配 kehai, and through mirroring the attitude and kamae of our opponents.

The people training with me were smart. They asked hard questions and kept it real. They also trained with a focus and diligence that was surprising given how hot it was. I was inspired by their commitment.

Florida in the summer is not my natural habitat. So I ended up drenched from my own sweat most of the trip. Luckily, I anticipated this and packed many changes of clothes.

Michael Glenn and Paul Fisher Lounging with Coconut
Like me, Paul's life revolves around art, Bujinkan training, and nature. I felt so lucky to make a new friend that I can connect to on these levels. He took me to an art opening that was a fundraiser to address bee colony collapse.

Morikami Gardens
He also took me to the Morikami Japanese gardens where we saw the most incredible landscape, along with amazing wildlife including gators! The museum gallery there had a sublime exhibition of paper sculptures by Kyoko Hazama, as well as a fantastic display of Japanese arms and armor.
Kamakura period sword at Morikami Museum

But Paul was never far from his own personal menagerie of birds, cats, frogs, and lizards. It isn't easy to share the feeling of 神韻 Shingin all of this brings to Paul's life, but I felt right at home.

Paul Fisher with Midori
Thank you Paul!


構え Kamae of the Hunter

Michael hunts toys and candy. 駄菓子屋 Dagashiya, 柴又 Shibamata
Recently I was studying the kata 水鳥 Mizu Tori. The name of this kata means waterbird. The 構え kamae even mimics the pose of one of these birds.

I am a birdwatcher and have observed many waterfowl over the years. When I see them freeze very still in the water and strike this pose, they soon dart out and catch a fish. It is a hunting kamae.

We don't usually consider kamae as hunting. Normally we think of their defensive properties. Or maybe we train some offense. But hunting? That really creates a different feeling. Because it suggests strategies of stalking, stealth, and deception.

If you're a skillful hunter (rather than just an accidental or lucky one) you know that you become one with your prey. You think as they do, mirror their movement. A natural form of 自然の構 shizen no kamae grows in you.

This is how we evade the sword of our attacker in Mizu Tori. Move in accordance with his cut. Make small movement like the focus of a bird's eye as he stalks the fish.

In Mizu tori, you take a risky position with your 潜型 moguri gata. There are only a few reasons to ever take this kind of risk. One is when you are caught unprepared and you dive down as a desperate escape. But another is for deception while hunting.

And maybe most important is what happens to your body and mind when you assume this type of kamae. During tense situations, people sometimes hold their breath. Tension caused by apprehension or fear can move through your body, locking it up along with your breath. Fear can even shut down the mind.

Instead, let awareness take over the same space occupied by fear. Simple attentive watchfulness of your opponent or prey as you stalk can push fear out of your mind. 虎視眈眈 koshitantan, watch your prey vigilantly. Then you have pure awareness, which is the right kamae for this moment.

You take a kamae of life or death. The moment where you decide to kill your prey. You may also decide not to. Hatsumi Sensei tells us often to protect life and not to go for the kill.
"万一獲物が死に絶えれば、狩人いなくなるだろう。If the hunted should perish, the hunter would, too."
Your kamae gives you this choice. Remember, kamae can also be translated as your position or attitude. The wrong kamae leads to death.

You can watch this preview of my 水鳥 Mizu Tori video if you'd like to see more.

The Art of Disarming With 十方軌喝 Juppo Kikatsu

Discarded Tabi Along Route 3, 県道3号線. photo by Michael Glenn
Hatsumi Sensei gave directions of how to do a kata. I needed these instructions desperately. Because the opponent has his sword ready to cut me down, and I do not have a sword. How do I not get killed?

Soke's instructions are,
「門空一閃、十方軌喝で取りをとる」 "a flash of nothingness, the art of disarming with juppo kikatsu." 
Yes. Right. That's what I was going to do anyway.

But, before my opponent kills me, can I ask a question? What does that mean? I'm not dead yet, so I will try to understand.

I was working on this in my class the other night. I surprised one of my students with the way I captured him. He said, "It didn't feel like you had anything until you had everything."

A flash of nothingness. You yourself become this emptiness. Zero.

This is what allows the room in the kukan and in yourself for this year's theme of Shin Gin to be real. This has a funny effect on your opponent. It may cause him to falter or freeze. Like a flash across his mind he is trapped in a moment.

Then you take the entire space, his body and weapons, and the entire spirit of the opponent.

If you've ever seen one of Hatsumi Sensei's opponents afraid to move, this is because he feels attacked from all directions. There are threats from ten different angles. Every escape appears cut off or filled with pain.

When I've done this to someone, it is amusing from my perspective. Because it feels like nothing. But the opponent is wrapped up in it and can't move. This is Juppo Kikatsu.

Kyusho of Zero in Three Easy Steps

Three Lamps, 日本民家園 Nihon Minka-en. photo by Michael Glenn
I have found three easy steps to make 神韻武導 Shin Gin Budo happen. Sounds great even if it might be a lie. But could it be easy? Let's see…

One thing I know for sure about this year's theme is that it's difficult to teach. I went to Japan last month to study with Hatsumi Sensei. And he gave me a lot to work on. So I have been working.

Like many things Soke shares with us, this theme is connected to many previous themes. It did not suddenly appear this year in our training. And I personally am grateful to have this as a focus because I have been working on this very idea for several years in my own training.

But I always tell my students, this is what I am doing and studying myself, but I don't know how to teach it. Sorry.

Yet, thanks to Hatsumi Sensei's focus this year, I have new insights that I can share. Maybe they will help anyone trying to get a grasp on Shin Gin.

As I mentioned in another post about the 2014 Bujinkan theme,  this idea is like entering a divine space. But first you have to find it. And Hatsumi Sensei says we should make it ourselves. Make our own kukan where we can be safe, where we can survive and live. So, how do you start?

Step 1: 阿吽の呼吸 aunnokokyuu

 

One way to begin is with 阿吽の呼吸 aunnokokyuu. Hatsumi Sensei used this term which means harmonizing.  Like yin/yang or in/yo. Connect the Mind, body and spirit, with that of your opponent.

If you do that, the fight will never happen in the first place. But if it does, anger and aggression tend to dissipate when there is this kind of harmony. And even still, if the attacks come, you are so connected that it would be like you punching yourself. How hard is it to avoid that?

Go ahead, try it. Punch yourself. I'll wait right here while you do. 

If you are not masochistic, then you either won't do it at all, or it is very easy to avoid. This is what it feels like when you are harmonized with your opponent. But the theme this year is larger than this.

Step 2: 空間を陽空 kuukanwoyokuu

 

After using 阿吽の呼吸 aunnokokyuu, you enter your own space. Either by finding it or creating it. Soke said it is like an air pocket.

Hatsumi Sensei said 空間を陽空 kuukanwoyokuu. This is Yang empty space. A positive,  safe space. Like seeing daylight when emerging from a prison. Or the clouds parting after a storm.

This is where things get mysterious. Shin Gin.  Budo guided by divine resonance.

Step 3: 神韻武導 Shin Gin Budo

 

Once in that space, you can harmonize and connect with the heavens. Through this connection you are a lot more powerful than your own strength, ability, technique, or wit could ever be when fighting by yourself. You gain a natural 抑止力 yokushiryoku, the ability to deter attacks.

And as for offense,  Hatsumi says you can strike opponents with your spirit. You strike the space itself. 空間の九勝 Kukan no Kyūshō. Soke said,
"Lift the opponent up into the kukan and then blast them away with your spirit. It's the kyusho of air. It's the kyusho of zero."
3 easy steps, right?

What a crazy, wonderful, and powerful art we study! I would never believe any of this if I hadn't witnessed it in person, felt it directly, or done it myself. I hope you can find this in your training this year.

空間移動 Kuukanidou: Moving Empty Space

Parking Lot Ku, near 観音寺 Kannon-ji, Ayase. photo by Michael Glenn
What do you make with empty space? What is the point of 空間 kukan? Many years ago I was training with Hatsumi Sensei and he told us, "Your own intention becomes "ku". Your body becomes "ku." And together in that space you can live."

Wow. That is a powerful answer to conflict.

Then last month I was training with Hatsumi Sensei and he told us, "You've got to play in the space here. Be able to move freely, make your own kukan. Move with the opponent in the moment in a friendly fashion."

I've been giving a lot of thought and study to understand this year's theme. This theme resonates very deeply for me personally. One of the reasons I think it does is because I have been on a path leading to this for many years.

I said in my last post about this year's theme of 神韻武導 Shin Gin Bu Dou , that Soke feels that we in the Bujinkan have finally matured enough for him to share the gokui that Takamatsu Sensei gave him so many years ago,
なす技を己がカと人は言う。神の導く身と知らずして (高松寿嗣)
People say that it is with their own strength that they perform techniques, without knowing that their body is led by the gods. ~Takamatsu Toshitsugu
I got my first rank in the Bujinkan in 1988. But I started studying some years before that. The mystery is, what got me started? An even bigger mystery is what keeps me going after all these years?

This year feels like an answer to that mystery to me. To try to understand the answer, I have been digging through my old training notes. Following the threads where they lead.
And they appear to come together this year in empty space. Kukan.

So the other night in my own class, I was attacking my opponents with kukan. No one can counter or defeat empty space. But why is this even possible?

I explained to my students that we were doing what Soke describes as 空間移動 kuukanidou, which is shifting the space itself, or repositioning the kuukan. Then you strike the kukan. Ring it like a bell.

More than twenty years ago Hatsumi Sensei said in one class, "You should strike the kukan. You should not be aiming at a specific target, you should be aiming at the space itself."

Then it resonates. Your strike echoes around the space and is magnified the way sound waves can amplify one another. Then you are not using your own power.

Sound waves can cancel each other out as well. This is how you evade or defend with empty space. I've witnessed this personally. I've done it.

You render an enemy harmless. He falls, gentle like a cherry blossom. This is how you can create a safe place in the midst of violence. A space where you can live.

What might happen if you did this outside of the dojo? What if you make your own kukan for your life?

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