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Showing posts from 2017

虚実皮膜 Kyojitsu Himaku: A Barrier Between Truth and Falsehood

During one Friday night class at the Bujinkan Honbu Dojo, Hatsumi Sensei asked a senior student to demonstrate a technique. The student avoided a punch and redirected the energy of it to knock his opponent down. This was a normal start for Soke's class, but what happened next surprised me.

Soke called me out and punched at me! Now I was supposed to do the technique that had been demonstrated. But how was I supposed to knock Hatsumi Sensei down? Of course, that wasn’t going to happen.

But, I gave it my best shot. Hatsumi Sensei punched at me and I foolishly attempted to capture his punch. As soon as I did this, it was like the kukan shifted. This left me hanging or floating in space. I still don’t remember how he threw me, but I ended up in a pile on the mat.

Hatsumi Sensei then told us we must exist within 虚実皮膜 kyojitsu himaku. I had never heard that term, nor had the translator. But lucky for me, Hatsumi Sensei had left clues for us by referencing art.

Coincidentally, I had gone to …

A Pointed Attack

At a Friday night class in the Bujinkan Honbu Dojo, Hatsumi Sensei's opponents cut in at him with a sword, and he literally pointed their cuts away! It looked bizarre. But there is a foundation for why and how this works.

Earlier that afternoon in Japan I visited a mountain shrine to the Shugendō deity 蔵王権現 Zaō gongen. The Meiji government had abolished such shrines, but this one was still hidden in the shade of the forest. Probably too small to bother with.

Through the broken sunlight, I spotted the stone monument. A bleached white object caught my eye at the base of the mossy grey stone. Someone still active in the shamanistic practice of Shugendō had laid a lone antler and a skull on the rock.

Zaō gongen is often portrayed forming the 刀剣印 tōken-in sword mudra by his hip. This mudra is a wrathful hand gesture for conquering evil. I did not expect that later that evening I would see an active variant of this mudra used in combat.

When the attacker came in, Hatsumi Sensei would point…

Bujinkan Strategies of Control Part 7: 中心 chuushin

I got off the plane and went straight to the dojo. This is extreme. And maybe a little foolish.

I got up at 5am in California, went to the airport to fly across the Pacific Ocean for around 12 hours. When I land in Japan, I get on one train for an hour, then another for half an hour, and the last one to the dojo for another half hour.

When I arrived for Hatsumi Sensei’s class, he decided to throw me around the dojo. Then I got back on a train to go check in at my hotel. When I finally lay in bed, it is 22 or 23 hours since I left home. But I lay awake trying to understand what just happened in training.

Even if I only had this one class, the whole trip was worth it. Hatsumi Sensei was teaching us about control. But it is not accomplished by purely physical means. In fact he said, “Don’t grab, it’s neither grabbing nor not grabbing.”

What is in between grabbing and not grabbing when you are trying to control someone? This in between space is what he was trying to show us. And here is a …

Bujinkan Strategies of Control Part 6: 神経 Shinkei

I got up really early on Sunday to meet a new Japanese friend in the train station. He had been training in a Bujinkan dojo in Tokyo until his teacher died. I was sad to hear about the death of his teacher who had been Soke’s uke for many years. And I was very surprised to learn that my new friend had never been to the Bujinkan Honbu dojo to train with Hatsumi Sensei.

I decided to risk breaking some kind of Japanese formality or etiquette that I was unaware of and invite my friend to train with us today. I hoped that Soke would be happy to meet him. We never know what these connections might bring.

In Hatsumi Sensei’s class everything he taught was about using small points of connection for control. He demonstrated this with with his fingertips. In one moment he slapped the opponent in the eye with his index finger. Then he showed us how to line up the body and the shoulder behind one finger as if it was a sword.

Then you pivot around that point. When you pivot around this small point…

Ninja True: Bujinkan Iceland

I visit Iceland to share some Bujinkan lessons from training in Japan with Hatsumi Sensei. As you will see, I have made my own Icelandic saga and many new friends:
https://youtu.be/Dmynj-nntCM

Also, if you want to always be the first to hear about my current Bujinkan training, please subscribe here

A Pattern 荒む Growing Wild: Bujinkan Strategies of control Part 5

Have you ever leaned against a tree and felt the wind blowing the whole trunk? It is an interesting feeling because the trunk feels so solid, yet it sways in the wind. Even a small breeze can shift the whole thing.

One Tuesday night in the Bujinkan Honbu Dojo I felt this from Hatsumi Sensei. It was so soft and subtle that it would be easy to miss. And at this point, Soke said,
“Don't do too much. Whether it's in contact or not, you're moving away. But you're not trying to do it. 力を感じさせない chikara o kanji sasenai.” Chikara o kanji sasenai. This means you don’t let the opponent feel your power.  You don’t let him feel any technique from you. Or any force, or power. You may use force and power, but you want to use it in a way that he cannot feel it! Then when it affects him, he has no idea where it comes from or how to counter it.

That afternoon I had spent some time in a bamboo grove near 関さんの森 Seki-san no mori. The breeze was quite strong. I stared in wonder at the move…

Muto Dori With Marishiten

Michael Glenn  at 摩利支天 徳大寺 Marishiten tokudaiji
The other night in Hatsumi Sensei's class I ran to grab a bokken from the weapon rack. When I returned, my training partner was waiting for my attack so he could try the muto Dori technique that Soke had just demonstrated.
When I cut down I had a great surprise. Hatsumi Sensei appeared from behind my training partner. He pushed my training partner aside so that I was cutting at Soke instead!
I thought that I hit something but Soke was beside me laughing. Somehow I missed. He said that I should learn this feeling.
This year one of the main themes of the training in Japan is Muto Dori. Anyone who has cut at Soke will tell you that he disappears or even splits in two. 
That was what I experienced this time. It was like there were two of him. I hit one but that was an illusion. 
I've often struggled to understand the reality behind this. Even though I can sometimes do this with my own students, the act remains elusive from any explanation.
B…

Ninja True: The Takagi House

Based on a lucky tip from one of my favorite blogs, Japan This!, I explore deep into Tokyo’s history from when the Samurai held the high ground of the yamanote in old Edo. What I found was surprise for me and for any Bujinkan student.




https://youtu.be/Dy0Y2MGVbCs

I got off the at the right train stop and started walking through the neighborhood. But my map and these shadowed early morning streets didn’t make me very confident I was on the right path. I was about to enter a konbini to ask for directions, when a police officer on a bicycle rode up.

He parked outside the 7-11 and went inside. I followed. My Japanese is not awesome, but I have had good luck with getting directions from Japanese police in the past. So while he was browsing the potato chips, I approached him like the dumb tourist I was.

He seemed a bit bothered, but gave me the “chotto matte,” so he could finish his shopping. He seemed to be buying drinks and snacks for a few people. I went outside next to his bike.

He put ever…

Evade Without Evading: Bujinkan Strategies of Control Part 4

Last time I attacked Hatsumi Sensei, he disappeared. It left me very confused. But Hatsumi Sensei described it this way,
“This is a way to control. You’ve got to be a shadow. He won’t believe that I’m avoiding.“ The next day I ran some errands in Tokyo. The local shrines were already beginning their new year’s preparations. I stopped and stared at a pile of wood that was made ready for the お焚き上げ otakiage bonfire. Fire can purify and burn away problems from the previous year.

 I kept thinking about what happened in yesterday’s class with Soke. How did he disappear? That was what I was stuck on.

I thought, next time I get that chance, I am going to really try to hit him and see what happens. If anything goes wrong, the year is almost over and I can throw myself into the fire.

In Hatsumi Sensei’s next class, he asked me to punch at him. I decided this time I would go for it! I really tried and he disappeared. Then I was kind of hanging there in space. I felt a finger (I think it was hi…

Bujinkan Year of the Rooster

Today marks the year of the rooster by the lunar calendar. This is significant for me because I was born under this sign. During one of my visits to Japan, Hatsumi Sensei painted the fighting rooster for me as you see above.

I was attacked by mosquitoes earlier that day. It was my own fault because I had gone into a deep meditation in the woods next to a statue of 不動明王 Fudō Myō-ō. I didn’t notice the mosquitoes. But it was very hot and I was sweaty after my long climb, so they definitely noticed me! The next day, I discovered at least 30 very itchy bites.

This year I am 年男 toshiotoko, or “man of the year” since it is my sign. This can be unlucky, but I am protected. 不動明王 Fudō Myō-ō is the protector of people born in the year of the rooster.

The hour of the rooster is at sunset in the zodiac. And the direction of both the rooster and Fudō Myō-ō is west. In fact, there are still Shinto shrines where the monkey and the rooster guard the entrance gates.

I will lead the training in my doj…

The 虚実 Kyojitsu of Control: Bujinkan Strategies of Control Part 3

Hatsumi Sensei puffed out his chest. His attacker went to grab with both hands, but then Soke collapsed the target. It was like he shrugged the attack away, tossing his opponent aside.

If you have been following my training notes, then you know that this kyojitsu of offering a target is one of the Bujinkan strategies of control that I have been writing about since my recent training with Hatsumi Sensei. He explained that he was teaching control to the Jugodans. He said he wasn’t teaching technique.

I managed to get a few pictures of the snow around the Bujinkan Hombu dojo that morning before class. A few days later it had all melted away. If you are not careful as a Bujinkan teacher, your own days as a student will melt away too.

Soke said that people in sports do technique, but we are trying to have a flow that can’t be copied. Flow is the most important thing in a fight.. This is why he teaches this way. He told us,
“You have to become the kind of person who cannot be copied.” Whe…