鬼角拳 Kikaku Ken Makes Me Laugh

Demon greeting in the new Bujinkan Hombu Dojo, photo by Michael Glenn
The other night, I gave each of my students a Glasgow kiss. They didn’t like it. This is a slang term for a headbutt.

If you subscribe to my training notes (if you aren't a subscriber yet, you miss a LOT of free Bujinkan notes), you know that we are currently studying 宝拳十六法 Hōken Juroppō in my basics class. These are the 16 striking treasures of the Bujinkan curriculum.

The Bujinkan name (or slang) for headbutt is 鬼角拳 Kikaku Ken. To help everyone visualize why this strike has the name that translates as demon horn fist, I brought a small oni mask for everyone to see where his horns are located. It may even be technically correct to grimace like an oni while delivering this strike.

The 鬼 Oni, or demon is not the same type of demon that westerners fear. Oni are associated with wild energy and bodily strength. They can be positive or negative.

You will see many people in the Bujinkan who embody both qualities. Like the Japanese expression, 鬼面仏心 kimenbusshin, the face of a devil but the heart of Buddha. This is the stern expression you see on a warrior while his heart is tender and compassionate.

Hatsumi Sensei said that
“In the Bujinkan now we have really reached the time of demons (oni). When you say demon many people think of an image of something that is very wild. But it is not like that. Oni are very important creatures in Japan given to us by the gods to protect justice. I am sure that there will be more demons in the future of the Bujinkan to look after the world.” 
This why I laugh out loud every time I headbutt someone. One year, when Hatsumi Sensei set the yearly theme as Kukishin ryu, he wrote a scroll to hang in the (old) hombu. It read 九鬼大笑 kuki taishou... 9 demons, hearty laughter.

Most depictions of Oni in masks, sculpture, or painting show them with a very large and scary smile. This is because they know a secret. Laughter is the only thing that will defeat our biggest enemy... ourselves. The inner demons float away on a smile.

Bujinkan 妙音術 Myō-on jutsu, a Mysterious Sound in the Kukan

The old bike path to the Bujinkan hombu dojo is gone, photo by Michael Glenn
Last week we were making a video of 折倒 Settō for my Bujinkan class. This is a simple Kotō Ryū kata that many have experienced. But this time the expression of it was different. My opponents were collapsing and flying away as if by an unseen force!

I was fortunate to study this kata in Japan last month with more than one teacher. They were generous with the pain. Below I describe how when I did it with Hatsumi Sensei, he gave me a gift that has opened up a new understanding of taijutsu.

Everyone knows that proper taijutsu is not supposed to be muscled or forced. You should drop the power out to do it well. I wrote about that here Releasing the Power of 力を抜くChikara o Nuku

The key in that idea is expressing power or force, then releasing it. But the surprise for me was what Hatsumi Sensei said last month. He told us to put your intention in the kukan, then remove it (空間と退かす).

Maybe you’ve heard the expression that nature abhors a vacuum. In Physics this means that empty space will quickly be filled. When you remove your own muscle or intention from the technique something will replace it.

Hatsumi Sensei has suggested this year (and last) that we power our taijutsu with shizenryoku or the power of nature. Natural forces will rush in to fill the gaps we leave in the kukan. He even gave a name to one force that can appear when you remove your intention: 妙音術 Myō-on jutsu.

I won’t try to explain 妙音 Myō-on too much. Except that it is a vibration of mysterious sound that comes from what Soke calls 自然観 shizenkan. This view of nature or natural philosophy is connected to mythology and 五行 five element theory 

In religion it is associated with 妙音樂天 heavenly music from サラスヴァティー Sarasvatī who in Japan is expressed as 妙音弁才天 Myō-on Benzaiten holding a biwa (traditional Japanese lute).

This kind of metaphysics gets really esoteric. But one practical result for our training arises from this. In the very next sentence after using the word 妙音術 Myō-on jutsu, Soke said,
万物すべて武器 banbutsu subete buki
This means everything is a weapon. Don't be stuck on the idea that only weapons are weapons. In this way the mysterious sound of the Kukan can be your weapon.

The Stunning Effect of 気分 Kibun in Hatsumi Sensei's Class Last Week

The lotus bearer from 金龍の舞 kinryu no mai. photo by Michael Glenn
Hatsumi Sensei did not move. The attacker with the sword missed him completely. I watched the next demo more carefully. His feet literally did not move at all. Yet he was not cut.

Maybe some of you have witnessed this strange event in person. If you have, you know how weird it can be when you try the same thing with your training partner. Most of us cannot repeat this.

After Soke demonstrates, you try it, and you get cut every time. Or, you must leap out of the way. But never can you repeat what he did.

I have seen him demonstrate this in class many times over the years. And I have to be honest, I always thought it was fake. I just chalked it up to a bad cut from the attacker.

But after last week’s training, I’m not so sure anymore. Soke shared something with me personally that I did not consider when I judged the previous demonstrations. I’ll try to describe what he showed me.

Here is what Soke told us that night. He said that normally when we evade, we do so with our minds gauging the distance or the angle of the attack. We’ve all been learning this since we were born. Our eyes process the physical properties of the incoming attack, and we duck or dodge.

But Hatsumi Sensei said That if you think about trying to evade, it’s already too late. Instead, he was using a kyojitsu of the kukan. The whole space and everything in it is controlled with kyojitsu. He controls the attack before it occurs, and there is no need to evade.

How do you do this? Well, what I felt when he asked me to attack him was a blankness or an absence. It was bizarre. Like having your memory erased. He just was not there. Yet I was thrown quite hard.

Hatsumi Sensei then said, you are being controlled by 気分 kibun rather than anything physical. Kibun is the mood or atmosphere. You may even translate it as the spirit of the moment.

This is the kyojitsu he applied on me, or rather, the entire kukan. And if his attacker with the sword experienced the same thing, I can understand why he missed. How do you cut absence or emptiness?

Instead of judging the bizarre appearance of what I witnessed in Soke’s classes, maybe I should realize I didn’t have all the information. I was lucky that Hatsumi Sensei chose to demonstrate on me personally to show me this part of the puzzle. Now I have a lot to work on at home to harness this power of moody kukan.

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