Go Ahead, Ask Me About Sanshin Again...

Michael Glenn, Bujinkan Honbu Dojo, Last Month
Sometimes I go on a rant in my personal Bujinkan training notes. I usually don't share it publicly on my blog. But this one happens SO often, I will just hit you with it.

Not a week goes by that someone doesn't ask me "how" to do sanshin. This week, I'm really annoyed with this question. For two reasons: one, this question always comes from people who don't even know what they are asking... and two, because they never listen to my answers!

Anytime I do sanshin, I am reminded of my last class with Oguri Sensei and him teaching us these movements. He studied these even to the end. More than 45 years of Bujinkan training, and in his last class on earth, this is what we studied.

If you need a quick summary of sanshin in the Bujinkan, I wrote it: Sanshin no kata, are you doing it wrong? But nobody listens. People do whatever their ego tells them.

I know this because of the wide "variety" of basic versions I have seen from different teachers and at different dojos over the years. The one that I focus on is directly from the Japanese text as shared by Hatsumi Sensei.

But I have watched him teach it this way, and people ignore him. Even in Japan!

It always surprises me when people bring their baggage with them even to the Bujinkan Honbu Dojo. You would think after all the expense and effort it took them to get there, they would be ready to learn something. But something else happens...

Hatsumi Sensei will show them how he would like the form practiced and studied. But they never let go of their baggage of how they learned it from some teacher outside of Japan. People make excuses and call it henka, but many times it is just wrong.

They can't even bother to try it his way even right in front of him at the Honbu dojo. Then they go back home, and continue to show their badly formed kata. I feel sorry for their students.

The saddest part is, they or their students never actually "see" the lesson Soke is sharing. So they think they are studying the correct form. And will even argue with someone who tries to help.

I admit, "seeing" what Soke is teaching us is often a challenge. And I screw it up too. But people who never trained in the Bujinkan at all will argue with me. And even "experienced" Bujinkan students who are trapped in their so-called "kihon" that they never understood in the first place will debate with me about it. It gets really old.

The kicker is, you don't have to take my word for it, why not just copy Soke? That seems straightforward, but with sanshin, people don't. But I guess you can't be bothered because YOUR teacher taught it differently.

I say YOU because no one ever thinks it is them. It is always that other dojo over there that is messed up.  When I have this same discussion face to face with someone, they nod like they agree. But what they agree with is that OTHER people do this, never themselves.

So please, don't ask me "how" to do sanshin unless you are "really" asking and prepared to forget all that you already think you know about it. I hope my rant doesn't prevent you from blindly continuing to do what you think you know!


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