Hidden Alcove at 戸定邸 Tojō-tei. photo by Michael Glenn
Within the 九法の力 Kyū-hō no chikara, or the power of the 9 methods, there is a kuji that holds the 秘技 higi or secret technique to overcoming a hundred enemies:
This kuji, or gokui, repels any method of capture or defeat. You protect yourself by changing the attack itself with an immovable spirit. This is the time to do or die. You are prepared for death, but you’d rather do the enemy in.
How do you do instead of die? In that single moment of life and death you remain unmoved in the middle. That middle place is the key to ninjutsu.
On a very hot day in June, I learned about this. The air was loud with the harmonic drone of 蝉 semi (cicadas). But we were training anyway. Hatsumi Sensei told us to train in accordance with the temperature.
Two opponents attacked and Soke slipped behind the first attacker. He did this while trapping the second guy in his own attack. Then Hatsumi asked the uke to give his impression of what just happened. The confused student described his inability to get a fix on Hatsumi Sensei as a target.
Soke replied that this is not the movement of sports or the “so called” martial arts. This is something far above that. This is true ninjutsu. Make your techniques transparent. Make them see through.
Hatsumi Sensei told us not to just punch on the surface, but to strike through the body. He said when your arm goes through their spine it makes the sign of the cross.
Soke gave us a warning
「九字を許すも十字を許すな」kuji are permitted but not juji.
If you go beyond kuji and allow juji then you have “crossed the line.” Maybe you cross the line of life and death. You could end up facing 十王 Jū-ō the ten judges of the dead.
In Buddhism, there are nine states from Hell to Bodhisattva. The highest level, the tenth level, is becoming Buddha. But the 仏 hotoke (Boddhisatvas) are the souls of the dead, to be commemorated by their descendants.
I toweled the sweat away and scribbled my notes after training. What did I learn that day?
Make yourself and your technique transparent;
Go to the line but don’t cross it;
Remain unmoved by life or death in that spot.
This is the secret to 心中を突く也 Shinjū o tsuku nari, piercing the heart of the enemy.
This summer, I was honored to be invited to Québec to teach and share the Bujinkan training I've been doing in Japan. My hosts Bernard and Francine were gracious and wonderful. The students were very skilled, attentive, and curious. And Québec City was an amazing place to visit!
I covered many Bujinkan topics during the seminar. Here is an extended preview video:
The contents of the full Bujinkan training series is available below.
Part Two: Kukan and Tension. In this video I demonstrate how to shape the kukan. Then in this space we create tension that allows us to throw our opponent without strength. I also share some of the training I did with Hatsumi Sensei in Japan last month. FULL VIDEO https://www.rojodojo.com/quebec-bujinkan-kukan-and-tension/
Part Three: Draw and Disarm. First I show how to shift the kukan to draw your knife or take the attacker’s knife. Next I demonstrated how to precisely target kyusho with any weapon. Then I shared details about 平一文字の構 Hira Ichimonji no Kamae. I showed how to use 六法の構 roppou no kamae which naturally includes 鷹の舞 taka no mai. I finished the training with knife disarms that I studied with Hatsumi Sensei in Japan. FULL VIDEO: https://www.rojodojo.com/quebec-bujinkan-draw-and-disarm/
Part Four: Shinbo and Kyusho. We began in 音無し之構 otonashi no kamae with the hanbo. This led into an examination of the principle of 辛抱一貫 Shinbo Ikkan that I learned from Hatsumi Sensei in Japan. Then I continued with 半棒術 hanbōjutsu using 挟み捕り hasami dori. I also shared the Bujinkan Kuden of kirigami as it applies to kyusho. FULL VIDEO: https://www.rojodojo.com/quebec-bujinkan-shinbo-and-kyusho/
Part Five: Weapon Retention With 支点 Shiten. We began with hanbo weapon retention from 無念無想の構 munen muso no kamae. The basic forms of this apply the principles of 手解 tehodoki. Then it becomes more advanced using a quality of 支点 shiten that I have learned with Soke. The initial grab provides a place of connection that can become a fulcrum. This captures all of the opponent’s power and focuses it down to one point. This creates some powerful throws while using no strength or force. We did variations from 型破の構 kata yaburi no kamae that drop one side or the other, or even twist about the center. FULL VIDEO: https://www.rojodojo.com/quebec-bujinkan-weapon-retention-with-shiten/
Part Six: Kodachi Kihon And 天眼 Tengan. We began by creating structure with our kamae, then dropping away in the kukan. Next I explained Hatsumi Sensei’s idea of あも一寸の玉 虫 amo issun no tama mushi, this is a gokui from 高木揚心流 Takagi Yoshin Ryū. We moved into some secret draws and 小太刀 kodachi kihon that I studied with Soke. These come from the 十方折衝 juppo sessho. Then we wrapped up with a high level strategy called 天眼 Tengan. This came directly from Hatsumi Sensei during my recent Japan trip. FULL VIDEO: https://www.rojodojo.com/quebec-bujinkan-kodachi-kihon-and-tengan/
Part Seven: Tachi Dori And Kusari Fundo. We began with the 無刀捕 Mutōdori of 太刀捕 Tachi Dori. I taught two methods that I learned from Hatsumi Sensei in Japan. These are done by feel rather than looking for the sword. I explained some small details about 不動明王の目 Fudōmyōō no me like 天地眼 tenchigan. I added the 鎖分銅 kusarifundō to trap the Tachi. The true skill of Bujinkan students is often revealed with their handling of flexible weapons. I finished by sharing some critical details on how to do 中振 nakafuri with the kusarifundō. It becomes infinite like happō. FULL VIDEO: https://www.rojodojo.com/quebec-bujinkan-tachi-dori-and-kusari-fundo/
I recently covered the concept of “Mochikaeru” after a class by Nagato Sensei. (1)
But Mochikaeru has another meaning which is close to juggling. (2)
When you “transfer something from one hand to the other,” you are juggling. What is interesting is that it is not valid only in the physical world. You can also juggle with ideas and concepts. In fact, Kyojutsu is the art of juggling between truth and falsehood. Remember the difference between Kyojitsu and Kyojutsu. Kyojutsu is a technique using Kyojitsu techniques, i.e., using deception. (3) (4)
Sensei’s Budō is only about manipulating the space to deceive the attacker. I want to add that I see the Mutō Dori of 2019 as pure Kyojutsu. Sensei’s Budō keeps juggling with Uke’s perceptions and change his perception of reality. We offer Uke a “fake reality” to make him fall into the Kūkan. (5) You have to juggle between his reality and yours. To reach the “juggler state,” you have to train using Kyojitsu Konkō and mix up reality. (6) You have to force your reality into Uke’s appreciation of the situation. Some practitioners will develop the ability after many years. Some never reach this level. They will remain on the ground and never take off.
When I’m training at the Bujinkan Honbu, I often see two main types of students. The “Waza collectors” that have no Kankaku. And “Kankaku exclusives” with no knowledge of the Waza. Try not to belong to one of these two groups. Stay in the middle as if on a path with Waza on your left, and Kankaku on your right. The Monk Shinran and the Jōdo Shinshū speak about the Niga Byakudō, the “white path between two rivers.” (7)
In Nature, many caterpillars never get to become beautiful butterflies. It reminds me of one of my favorite book called “Illusions” by Richard Bach. Richard Bach is a famous American writer who wrote. He wrote, “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly. (8) (9)
Unfortunately, you cannot learn this “Kyojutsu / Mutō Dori” in a book. It has to go through a long process, and it is hard work. This is precisely why our Bujinkan system is an art and not a sport. A Japanese expression for that, it is: “虚実皮膜, Kyojitsu Himaku.” “The difference between truth and fiction in Art is very subtle; Art abides in a realm that is neither truth nor fiction.” (10)
Sensei often says that “anyone can replicate a Waza, but that his Art is difficult.” Let me take an example here. If you copy a painting by some famous painter, your copy will never “taste” the same as the original. Beyond technique, something extra exists, this is Kankaku, feeling. Only an artist can include that into his work. Sensei is a great artist, and an artist is not a regular person. He is someone who sees the world with a different set of senses. An artist always starts as an apprentice of the form and the technique. It is only when he can exceed his knowledge that he turns into an artist. The goal of Hatsumi Sensei is to turn us into artists to develop our vision of Budō. In the past, Sven, Peter, Pedro, and I had a similar understanding of the Bujinkan. Today, our perception of Taijutsu is different. Each time we meet is an excellent opportunity to learn from one another. Our unity is the glue of our differences.
If you want to move from the apprentice level to the artist level, you have to train with your heart and your spirit. This is why the Bujinkan arts are a “Kokoro no Budō” as stated by the late Takamatsu Sensei.
So study and learn the Mutō Dori based on Kyojitsu to get to your next level and turn yourself into an artist. This is a tough path, and many get lost. Deception and manipulation are applied to the opponent, not to you! Kyojutsu is only a technique to win over adversity, it is not an end in itself.
Use the tools of Gomakasu (11), but be a Komakasu, a barbarian artist to trust. (12)
1 持ち帰る, Mochikaeru: to bring back; to carry home; to take out (e.g., food) / See one of my May posts written in Japan.
2 持ち替える, Mochikaeru: to change the way one holds something; to transfer something from one hand to the other
3 虚実, Kyojitsu: truth or falsehood
4 虚術, Kyojutsu: the technique of deception
5 空間, Kūkan: space; room; airspace; Space
6 虚実混交, Kyojitsu Konkō: a mishmash of truth and untruth; a mixture of fiction and fact
When I studied for an MBA at CSUC back in 1981, my 11 pm routine was to watch SNL. (1) And I remember a sketch with John Belushi disguised as a bee, and grading a student with a “Bee +.” (2) Well, today at Honbu, I had my Bee+ moment.
Today was my last class for this trip. It is always sad, but back home, I will the time to digest the new feelings acquired here during these two weeks.
I had my “B+” moment for two reasons. First, Sensei used me as Uke, and I could “feel” what he was doing to me. Actually, I should say, “what he was not doing to me.” It was weird. There was nothing, and I kept losing my balance. I had to give one Tsuki, and he responded with several light touches that made my body react. There was no pain and no strength. I had the feeling that the points of contact he was offering vanished when I tried to support my body weight. His touches were light as feathers, and I could hardly feel them.
Second, these touches were like a bee pollinating from flower to flower. Hardly touching them. I remembered the Japanese saying that Sensei uses: “Amo Isshun no Tamamushi.” (3) “If you trap a bee in your hands, it cannot sting.”
I felt trapped like the bee. Hatsumi Sensei’s touches were like flowers. Each time I tried to recover my balance, my support (his hand or finger) was gone. The many information Sensei was giving by touching me, prevented me from moving. I was controlled by nothingness. Between contact, there were “air pockets” like in Ishitobashi, the skipping stones. (4)
The quality of his footwork, his nonchalance, and the softness are extraordinary. It is only when you have the chance to be Uke and to experience it, that you understand the exceptional level of Sensei’s Budō.
Hatsumi Sensei’s Budō is fantastic, and I am happy our paths crossed back in 1987, and to have followed him since then. (5) The person I am today is his doing, and the result of his singular vision of Budō.
The Bujinkan is nothing without him. And for over a half century, he is transmitting his understanding on the mats. He is making us not “Bujin,” but “Bujin,” better human beings. (6)(7)
In fact, today was not a “Bee +,” but a triple AAA!
Thank you, Sensei, for your patience.
I told Sensei that for professional reasons, I might not be able to come to Japan before April next year. Holding my hand and looking me in the eyes, he said: “Get back!”
Side note: My friend Leandro from Seinin Dōjō in São Paulo asked me this week about the origin of the Sakki test. As I had no clue, I asked Sensei. The Sakki test is not from any system in the Bujinkan. Takamatsu sensei invented it. I thought you would be happy to know it.
1 SNL is the acronym of the “Saturday Night Live” show (Europeans don’t know it). In 1981, the main actors were: John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase.
2 You can find a few sketches of the late John Belushi on Youtube.
3 中一瞬 の 吉丁虫, Amo Isshun no Tamamushi: 中 amo: center, inside, during. 一瞬 isshun: one moment. 吉丁虫 tamamushi: jewel beetle or bee
4 石飛ばし, Ishitobashi: skipping stones (on a body of water); skimming stones
5 I began training Bujinkan in June 1984 with Sylvain Guintard. And we attended the first European Taikai organized in 1987 in London by my friend Peter King. And again in 1988 in Stockholm in a Taikai organized by Sveneric Bogsater. Then Pedro brought me with him to Japan at the beginning of the nineties. Since then, I visited Sensei about 70 times in Japan. A successful Life is the result of the people you meet on your path. Thank you, Sylvain, Peter, Sven, Pedro, and Sensei for helping me to be the man I am today.
6 武人, Bujin: a military man
7 武神, Bujin: divine warrior