Nikko(日光) Trip :Things not to miss in Japan

BY Tomoe Gozen

I really liked visiting Nikko Toshogu(日光東照宮). It has so many decorations of animals like monkeys, elephant, cats, horses, Kirin, Dragons…and so on!

Sleeping Cat

Three wise Mokeys

Dragon on the ceiling

Now I see how these places have perhaps influenced the way Hatsumi Sensei decorates the Bujinkan Honbu dojo and even how my husband, Paul, decorates the Kasumian Study Center.

They both really like using animals in the Dojo and offices. I honestly thought that Paul was putting too many animal statues and things at our study center. But I found out that each animal has a symbolic meaning or important mythological role.

I truly enjoyed listening to the stories about each animal. I grew up in Shiga/Kyoto or Koga region, famous for Ninja. You can find many Ninja related spots in my hometown. The temples in this area and Kyoto seem more simple and less decorated than Nikko Toshogun.

“Wabi Sabi” is the word for a more simple and austere Japanese aesthetic. And it is this Wabi Sabi that I am more accustomed to in the Kyoto, or Koga area.

This was my first trip to Nikko and it was very interesting to see the differences between Kyoto’s temples and Nikko which is 17th century’s architecture.

Thank you to Stephan from Germany and Ricky from the USA for joining me on this lovely day trip. If you have not visited Nikko, I highly recommend it. It is an easy day trip from Noda city and it’s beautiful temples and inspiring forest paths with towering sacred trees will certainly refresh you and nourish your spirit! I will definitely visit again.

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Acting or Coaching?

Leon Tolstoi said, “Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.”
Benjamin Franklin said: “Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I remember. Involve me, and I learn.”

What we train is Art but requires some strong basics to be expressed correctly. Because of that I’m too often stuck between two attitudes: teaching the form or showing the feeling?

Put differently; the question is: as a Martial Arts teacher, should I be an actor or a coach?

The actor is showing his level of expertise to the student; he doesn’t actually teach.
Acting is what you can do when you are teaching high ranks so that they get the feeling, the forms being different for everyone. More or less this is what you get when training in Japan with Hatsumi Sensei and the Dai Shihan.

The coach does it differently. He does his best to transmit his knowledge simply so that each student can get to reproduce the technique.
Coaching is what you are supposed to do when you are teaching beginners.

The more I teach, and the more I turn into a coach. And I like it.
This year has been very active for me. I gave multiple seminars: 4 in France, 3 in India, 2 in Germany, 2 in Dubai, and 1 in Argentina, Brasil, and Colombia. And I went twice to train in Japan. Over the course of the year, I saw my teaching evolve to turn more into coaching. At first, I had the feeling to be lazy, but then I understood that this was the way to go.

Too often, teachers use their seminars as an excuse to show off. The dōjō becomes a theater stage where they demonstrate their excellence to be worshiped by the attendees. And this is wrong when the majority of participants in a seminar are not Shidōshi. Let me explain that.

When you are a beginner or a young black belt, what you need is not to attend a show, you need to learn how to be able to move correctly. When I was much younger, I loved to watch the Formula 1 races. But honestly, it didn’t better my driving abilities! We have many gifted high ranks in the Bujinkan, but not all of them are destined to teach. A high-rank diploma does not come with teaching ability. You have to like to teach. In my dōjō, I teach the beginners and let the Shidōshi show the black belts. I find it more interesting and also more challenging intellectually. Showing your excellence is only challenging your ego. I did it long enough to be aware of it.

The Denshō are for Transmission. (1)
If knowledge were supposed to be just a show, then teachers would be Kenshō, “natural show offs”! (2)

Show your level to the high ranks, and be a coach for the beginners, this is Sekinin, your moral responsibility. (3)

1. 伝承 Denshō: handing down (information); legend; tradition; folklore; transmission.
Denshō is the name given to the scrolls of a Ryū.
2. 衒性, Kenshō: show off + nature (of a person or thing)
3. 責任, Sekinin: duty; responsibility (incl. supervision of staff) , liability; Moral responsibility

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Kukishin-ryu Jo-jutsu


All 29 Kukishin-ryu Bo-jutsu techniques in HD quality, total playing time is 40 minutes. 2.14 Gb (H.264, AAC, 1280x720p)

This was filmed at the Bujinkan Kaigozan Dojo during the summer of 2016 and 2017. The theme was Kukishin-ryu Bo-jutsu.

There is no verbal instructions on this film. Each technique is demonstrated several times from all angles. For more information about this ryu-ha click here! Please notice there is several sub-pages to this page with more information.


The bōjutsu of Kukishin Ryū is best described as a method used to defeat/trick wielders of other weapons. It has special striking techniques that allow the Bō to feign quickly and re-direct its aim; a special method of “twirling” (Bofurigata) designed to confuse opponents and keep them at bay; and thrusting techniques that correlate with throwing the staff as a projectile (nagebō). Aspects of the Bōjutsu are gleaned from two other weapons within the school: naginata and the spear (from Wikipedia).

There is five levels in Kukishin-ryu Rokushaku Bōjutsu.
1. Bōjutsu Kihon Kata
2. Bōjutsu Keiko Sabaki Kata
3. Bōjutsu Shoden Kata
4. Bōjutsu Chūden Kata
5. Bōjutsu Ōkuden Kata

We already made a video of the first two levels a long time ago (see here).

Covered in this video is


3. 詒変杆打 IHEN KANGI
4. 上段護技 JŌDAN GŌGI


1. 上段挨技 JŌDAN AIGI
2. 下段挨技 GEDAN AIGI
4. 中段じゅ技 CHŪDAN JŪGI
6. 詥変ちゅう技 IHEN JŪGI


1. 上段搶技 JŌDAN SŌGI
2. 下段搶技 GEDAN SŌGI

Title: Kukishin-ryu Bo-jutsu Shoden, Chuden, Okuden kata with Mats Hjelm
Instructors: Mats Hjelm
Theme: Kukishin-ryu Rokushaku Bo-jutsu
Recorded: Recorded in Kaigozan Dojo, Stockholm Summer 2016 & 2017

Kind: Apple MPEG-4 movie
Size: 1 075 472 723 bytes (1,08 GB on disk)
Dimensions: 1280×720
Codecs: H.264, AAC, Photo – JPEG, QuickTime Text
Duration: 40 min

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Control, Don’t Fight!


During the flight from Japan to India, I was sorting my training notes, and I remembered this sentence by Sunzi: “the Supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
It is quite similar to “Mutō Dori is not about fighting, it’s about controlling” that Hatsumi sensei kept repeating in each class.

The focus these days at the Honbu is not only about controlling the attacker (Jin), but also the environment in every possible way. Without proper control of the situation, you are limiting your options solely to the Jin Ryaku! If you can manage the space of the Ten Ryaku (weather) and the Chi Ryaku (terrain) together with the Jin, then the control is total.

I call that “Sanshin no Seigyo” (1): controlling the three aspects of the Tenchijin.

The Sanshin no Seigyo is not a technique, it is an attitude that goes beyond the Waza learned in the dōjō. As Sensei said, “everyone can do a Waza correctly, but controlling is more high level.”

It is linked to this year’s theme “Kannin Dokuson”. (2)
By controlling the Sanshin no Seigyo, you apply the three aspects of Kannin Dokuson based upon respect.
They are the respect for your attacker, for yourself, and mutual respect. Respect in Japanese is Tattobu (3), this is also the “Kan” in Kannin Dokuson.

But don’t get it wrong. Respect is not only to esteem, but it also means that you have to pay attention to your attacker’s intent; to show nothing about your intentions, and to develop a full awareness of your space and environment. The management of space includes the attacker, the defender, and the surroundings. Forget this simple complexity, and you lower your technical level to a mere Waza. And control is not about doing Waza!

On a sword attack by a Japanese Shihan, Sensei added that “you have to control the Kûkan in which the sword is moving in”. This space is not static; it is moving and unfolding in the moment. If you try to react to the cut, you end up dead. On the contrary, if you grab the space and control it, nothing will surprise you, and you will be able to react correctly before the blow hits you. Obviously, this requires a high level of expertise. I must admit that I find it hard to achieve. I’m working on it.

Sanshin no Seigyo seems to me to be the next step of my Budō evolution, maybe it should be yours, too, because controlling is stronger than fighting.
1. 制禦/seigyo/control; governing; checking; suppression; repression; restraint; mastery; management
2, Kannin Dokuson: 貫忍 独尊: Kan 貫/ 貴ぶ/tattobu/to value; to prize; to esteem; to respect
Nin 忍/nin/endurance; forbearance; patience; self-restraint
Dokuson 独り/Hitori/one person|alone; unmarried; solitary and
Son 尊ぶ/tattobu/to value; to prize; to esteem; to respect
3, Tattobu 貴ぶ, to value; to prize; to esteem; to respect.


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Flow Around Like Sensei Does

“Mutō Dori is about controlling, not fighting!” said sensei, once again, at the beginning of the class.

But what does he mean? Here some beginning of an explanation.
Watching and listening carefully, I understood the following: Sensei uses his finger(s) as a contact point(s) with the attacker. The contact(s) act as a Shiten, fulcrum. (1)
Once the connection established, Hatsumi sensei only rotates around the fulcrum, and reposition his whole body in a dynamic flow, and in slow motion. Slow is the key.

Since we studied the proprioceptive abilities of the human brain, we know that “speed” is perceived more or less accurately if the shape (your body) is still in view.

Big shape vs. small speed = shape is what matters; small shape vs. big speed = speed is what is important to the brain. (2)

When Sensei touches Uke with one finger, this point of contact becomes the axis of rotation. But what I noticed in class, is that Sensei is not pivoting from this point, he’s turning the whole body around it. That is the difference between Mawashi and Mawari. In Mawashi you pivot from the axis; in Mawari you walk around the axis. Using the image of a merry-go-round, it rotates on the axis, but you on the horse are turning around. We studied that in 2003 with the Kunai.

When you attack sensei, you have the feeling that you’re going to hit him because it seems to you that he’s not moving at all. But the moment you think you hit him, he is not there, and you’re defeated. His movements are slow, but his timing, his distance, and the rhythm of his movements are perfect. He’s like a plane flying under the radar.

This perfection is achieved with what he called “Zentai”, full body movement. (4)

He’s not only walking away at the ideal moment, but he’s also moving his shoulders up and down in a wave-like motion. Noguchi sensei made me aware of this “kata Nami” movement, “look at the shoulders” he told me. And I saw it. Without his help in not sure I would have seen it. (5)

During the whole class, Sensei insisted that we have to use the subconscious mind instead of the
conscious mind to be able to flow naturally the way he does.

I understand, but I’m unable to do it. That is the next level.

1. Shiten: 支点, Fulcrum
2. Proprioception: Here’s a short reminder. The human brain processes the information following the importance of the “5S”: Shape, Speed, Sound, Spectrum (colour), Smell.
As long as your visibility is more important to the attacker’s brain and sight, that your slow movements, he will not “see” you moving. Technically you’re “invisible”. Conversely, if you speed up your movements, they will get more important for his brain, and he will counter your actions.
3. Mawari: 回り, rotation, around,
Mawashi: 回す, to turn; to rotate; to gyrate, to surround.
Please note that the kanji are identical. It is the conceptual scheme that differs here.
4. Zentai: 全体, whole; entirety; whatever (is the matter) / here: the whole body
5. Kata Nami:
波, wave + 肩, shoulder; To roll the shoulder up and down to open Uke
6.潜在意識, Senzaiishiki, subconscious (awareness)


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