The Yari Kuri of Bujinkan 槍術 Sōjutsu

Michael Glenn thrusts into emptiness with the Yari, from a recent video on rojodojo.com
In a recent class we were training 四方技 shihō waza. This form has an important secret for all of Bujinkan 槍術 sōjutsu. Soke calls it 槍繰り yarikuri. This can be translated in various ways, like repetitive thrusting.

But we must consider why Hatsumi Sensei explains it this way. What he tells us about yari kuri is that,
“the thrust is kyo, the kuri is the jitsu.”
This means we should employ 虚実 kyojitsu in our thrusting with the yari. Where the thrust is the illusion or falsehood, and the repetition is the truth.

This means that each thrust with the yari can be either true or false. So how do you decide which is true and which is false? Hatsumi Sensei described this moment in terms of our bojutsu gokui, when he says
“realize the moment of truth, thrust in, and only after you feel a connection with something does the force naturally flow into it (the thrust).”

I recently made a video about this Bujinkan gokui


In this shihō waza, our first thrusts are probing. Then as we step out to the right we probe further. This second thrust drives in deeper. And there we make a grip change that is unique as the left hand draws the spear back to the right hand.

This creates the distance for striking with the ishizuki. But the deception continues because you quickly flip into another thrust. If he manages to block that one, you finish with a rising strike to the groin.

This is how the yari can play in the field of time (遊ぶ光陰). And time is nothing but the play of light and shadow. Learning to thrust with the yari this way is a revelation for your study of Bujinkan sojutsu.
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人心看破術 Jin Shin Kan Pa Jutsu

dragonfly

Visitor at the Kasumian.  Even though the dragonfly has two big eyes, They won`t help him with Jin Shin Kan Pa Jutsu.  Which eyes do you see with?

The other day I was in the dojo training when a friend who has not been in Japan came in and greeted me. His boyish good looks still evident but under a layer of new chubbiness. (Hopefully due to a good life overseas) My initial thought was “Wow, he`s gained some weight!”. Of course, as learned etiquette demands, I did not mention it and we began training. About five minutes later Hatsumi Sensei comes walking over and greets him with a hearty “Hello! Good to see you” and “Oh I see you have gotten fat!”. Well I almost fell over and the three of us burst out laughing. As I was catching my breath I hear my friend say to Sensei, “Yes it`s true, I have gained weight and my hair is changing to gray. I wasn`t sure that you would recognize me.”. Sensei replied, “of course I know you!”. What he said next was very interesting. He pulled us together and speaks, ” I may forget a face, and I may forget a name but I never forget the mood or feeling of person. This is important, to understand someone`s mood or the feel of that person.”.

Instantly, I am thrown back in time to last October (2015), Halloween, I had dressed as Harry Potter and came to the dojo early to joke around with my friends. After having a nice laugh with everyone in the dojo and before Sensei arrived, I changed into my dogi but kept the wig and wire rim glasses on; thinking I might fool Sensei. Some Japanese say all foreigners look alike anyways! A few minutes pass and Sensei enters the dojo and barely glances at me as he walks by. Immediately I know he knows. For he would have certainly greeted a new comer more warmly. I ask “Sensei, how did you you know it was me?”. He looks back over his shoulder at me and says “Of course, I know it`s you. I don’t look at the outside, I look at the inside of everyone.”.

A few days later, I am thinking about these two events when again I am thrown back in time to about ten years ago when Sensei used to tell us the importance of the art of Jin Shin Kan Pa Jutsu. The art of reading, seeing, sensing the heart, intent, feel of a person. To know a person instantly, know his intent, his heart, clear or dark. The importance of not being fooled by outwardly appearances. If you are always taken with the outwardly shapes, forms, colors of the people and things around you will often miss their truth, their intent, their nature – good or bad. This can lead a multitude of troubles, from being swindled in love and money, to more perilous, dangerous or even life threatening situations. The ninja often used the opposite of this, henso jutsu (disquise) to hide in plain sight. Often in our training, we enjoy the practice of the more outwardly and sometimes fun henso jutsu practice but forget about the this equally important inner ability. With consistent practice to nurture a calm clear heart, the art will naturally and surely take root. The ninja must endeavor to master both the inner and outer arts to ensure a safe and a happy return.

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Bujinkan Kyūsho: 呼吸 Kokyuu, 指 Yubi, and 目 Me

柴又八幡神社 Shibamata Hachiman Jinja, photo Michael Glenn
In the past few years, Hatsumi Sensei has been exploring more than one theme every year. And some of the Bujinkan yearly themes have actually stretched across more than one year. For example, one Bujinkan theme this year of “skipping stones” I first heard from Hatsumi Sensei during one class back in September of 2014: The 間 Aida of Skipping a Stone Across Water

Another Bujinkan theme that Hatsumi Sensei has been expressing the last few years is the use of 呼吸 kokyuu (the breath), 指 yubi (the fingers), and 目 me (the eyes). These three are not to be taken individually. They must be connected in the same way that the ripples on a pond are connected by the stone that skipped across it.

In one cold December class Hatsumi Sensei described this for us,
"(the eyes and the breath are) connected like skipping a stone. It’s connected together but really you disappear. Take the eyes and the fingers for jissen. In a real situation you don’t want to just go for them, you just kind of let them happen along the way. Take the eyes, the fingers, and stop the breathing."
These three things can be thought of as kyūsho. They are weak points on even the strongest opponent. If you attack the eyes, you destroy his ability to fight. The fingers are very sensitive to pain and break easily. And if you stop or interrupt the breath, the entire body and mind stops with it.

As always, Hatsumi Sensei embeds layers of meaning and wordplay into the things he shares with us. The word 呼吸 kokyuu means breath, but it also can be translated as a knack, a  trick,  or a secret for doing something. Hatsumi Sensei described one of these secrets in another class I went to,
"Don’t grab and hold, just move like this with the body.  The finger hooks on here. With this timing, with this rhythm."
Even though it wasn’t translated directly, Soke actually said 呼吸から愛人 kokyuu kara ai jin, this is the harmony of the breath between lovers. This means you match your movements or your breath to the same rhythm as the breath of your opponent. You harmonize and become one with him. Then when you break that rhythm, it shatters him like a wine glass.

In case you haven’t seen that happen, a wine glass can be shattered by sound (the breath or voice of a singer). This happens because the glass has a natural frequency at which it vibrates. The singer first resonates with this frequency, then breaks that by going beyond it.

Hatsumi Sensei said we can use the finger to attack the rib cage in a way that interrupts the breath. I witnessed this, but since it is a kuden, I would have to show you in person. Don’t be afraid to ask me to hurt you next time you see me!

Hatsumi Sensei added that this is why we don’t have to avoid a strike. Instead we interrupt the opponent's breathing. This becomes like sutemi. Here we find the feeling of being able to control with just one finger.

The word for eyes or eyesight in Japanese can use different kanji as well. One of them is 目 me which can be translated as insight. Another is 明 mei which is a brightness or clarity of vision.

And the finger indicates the connection or link between these things. We must open up to these connections when we train on the Bujinkan themes. Remember the real training happens in your own breath and your own insight.
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中今(Naka Ima) Here and now are the only realities.

 

shinryu-matthew

When my good friend Willy Iglesia went to Japan at the tender age of 18 to train with Ninja Master Hatsumi Masaaki, his first lesson was an unexpected one.  Hatsumi Sensei took him to a restaurant and ordered two plates heaping with vegetables for the two of them.  Willy, being a young man from Argentina, (people form Argentina eat a lot of meat! How much? Well, think of a whole hell of a lot of meat and then think even more!) So Willy, looking at the plate of greens, says “Sensei, I don`t eat vegetables.”. The reply from Ninja Master Hatsumi, “First lesson, now eat vegetables!”.

We often forget the foundation upon which our Ninpo is based.  A healthy body/mind organism.  In his very first books on Ninpo, Hatsumi Sensei stresses the importance of proper nutrition and exercise.  Yet often we are controlled by our senses, eating and partaking in activities solely to please the greedy senses. My yogi teachers would say, “you are eating donuts to please the tongue while the liver dies in silence.”. These words I can never forget.  If you look deeply at this one sentence, you may grab the essence  of the Rokon Shojou 六根清浄  (禄魂笑浮)teachings of several years ago as well.

I  train a small Bujinkan group in Yokohama and have had the good fortune to meet Matthew Dons who became an ardent supporter, student and good friend. Matthew was recently diagnosed with stage four cancer having spread to many systems in his body. He is 36 years old with two small children. The prognosis is that he most likely has only a few months to live.  We live our life as if we have an unlimited amount of time.  Once I was speaking with Hatsumi Sensei about the later years of life. He said, “Don`t think about the later years, right now, these are the later years of your life.  live now. this is naka ima! (中今).”. Be in the middle of right now. The Buddha once said, “life is but a single breath.” How deeply can we live and love in this moment.  Often we feel, when I get there, I will be happy then.  Remember, there and then are only fictions. Here and now are the only realities.

If you are able and would like to help, here is a link  to help Matthew fund his treatment and other expenses in this difficult time. We are hoping to extend his life for a few more moments to be with his family.  Wishing you all health and happiness, Now!

https://www.gofundme.com/2hk6vqk

 

 

 

 

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Make the Opponent Empty

a rare empty hall in Ameya-Yokochō, photo by Michael Glenn
I've been writing lots of articles for my personal Bujinkan mailing list which you can sign up for here: Bujinkan Training Notes

The other day I wrote about something very important in our Bujinkan training. It starts with a question that everyone forgets to ask:

Who is it that fights? When you are in a fight or an argument, who does the fighting? Is it you? Your opponent? Does it just happen by itself?

Obviously any fight requires at least two participants. Unless you are fighting with yourself. But in that case there are still two because you are divided against yourself.

What if you didn't participate? Remove yourself from the fight. What happens?

The fight dissolves. Almost as if it was never real. Leave the opponent to fight with himself.

In a recent class with Hatsumi Sensei, he told us how NOT to avoid a sword,
"If you evade, you will die. Move without any intention to fight. Make the opponent empty. Make him forget his own intent to fight. Make him forget that he’s fighting or trying to strike you."
Make the opponent empty. Make yourself empty. The fight is an illusion that you have created. You can stop believing in it.
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