Releasing the Power of 力を抜くChikara o Nuku

From Bujinkan Santa Monica by Michael Glenn

川蝉 Common Kingfisher photo by yamatsu
I was at a recent class at the Bujinkan Hombu dojo where Hatsumi sensei threw his opponents around all night. But mostly they were thrown. He emphasized, that he was not doing the techniques. How might this be possible?

He used a phrase "刀を抜くkatana o nuku, 力を抜くchikara o nuku." This has many layers but by dropping the power or the intention out of your technique it becomes effective. Even dropping the technique from technique. But there is a trick to this that many students of Sensei apparently neglect to understand.

Many people think they know what Soke means when he speaks. That night in class, one of Sensei's frequent translators came up to me and told me, "That's not what he said!" Meaning that the current translator had gotten it wrong. So then he explained to me what he thought Sensei meant.

I just listened to his explanation and didn't agree or disagree. I brushed this off as a personality conflict between translators. Or maybe it was due to the extreme difficulty of concise translation of Japanese in the dynamic environment of the Hombu. But when more people complained to me about the translation, I figured there might be more to this.

So in order to participate in the confusion, I will offer my own thoughts about what we were witnessing in that class. I haven't yet seen anyone offer the explanation I will make below. But maybe you all know this stuff already.

You cannot have 力を抜くchikara o nuku if you don't first have chikara. Otherwise there is no power to take out of the technique. One common way that I have witnessed Hatsumi Sensei and the other Japanese instructors do this is by going from  力を入れる chikara o ireru (using force, strength or exerting effort) to 力を抜くchikara o nuku.

I myself have had great results using this in my taijutsu. For a simple example, it is like the children's game of tug o' war. Two teams pull on a rope in the opposite direction. Whichever team is stronger pulls the other towards their side and wins. But when I was a kid, we thought it was great fun to 力を入れる chikara o ireru and pull with all our might, then quickly release the rope for 力を抜くchikara o nuku. Relaxing suddenly and letting go of the rope made the other team fall on their asses.

You will see this concept everyday in the Hombu as the uke seem to throw themselves.

So 刀を抜くkatana o nuku is something I have been practicing for quite a few years. I have a visualization that I use to explain the principle. To get the tip of the sword to the target in an effortless and quick motion, it is like releasing a bird from your hand and the bird flies directly to the target as if it is spearing a fish. But first you must be able to capture or hold the bird.

Hatsumi Sensei described this method of drawing to us that night. He said that with katana o nuku, you are not drawing the sword, you are letting it free from the saya (like my idea of releasing a bird). It is very dangerous, with this motion the sword will kill with no effort at all. The blade finds its target.

This is what I understood from Sensei's class that night. Other people who were there may have different ideas that are valid. I hope that sharing my thoughts helps you to discover your own understanding about our art.


From TENRYU by jorgevaccaro


“In what’s immutable, there’s existence;

In what’s immutable, there’s No existence”

Lao Tzu

Budo must be an example of life, but not of great heroic acts nor magnificent spiritual gestures, but of simple and daily acts of ofering, gratefulness, protect, caring and being, which to my understanding mark us on a human basis.

Rei 例 means practice, habit, custom, example, ilustration. Being able to give the example of constant practice is part of the escense of Budô, thus one must keep    individual training and learning   without an aparent goal, so this way may leave a print of existence to those who come behind.

Continuing self training and follow the teachings of a master, are fundamental to not get lost in the illusion of the path. In time, the master is aparent, as is the path and the teaching, but they are mostly needed, because they keep connected with one another like a misterious red thread that bonds the pinkie fingers of every people.

To be always thankful also connects us with REI 礼, that in this case means to be thankful. This Rei, must be a real expression of gratitude in a humble degree, by lowing the head on a reverence. In Japan, the sence of. Reverence towards the elderly, the teachers, those who help or by example the clients, are acts of showing respect by lowing the head lower than theirs. This is also a part of the Reigi 礼儀 (behavior manners, courtesy acts).

The Path is apparent, but being able to give the example of moving forward without a real path is the escense of Budo. Believe of an ccomplished path and believe that one can be the path, is just an illusion.

To my understanding, the path relies on Mu 無, so then we can say that one of the Kaname of Budo, is the Mudo  無道 ( However, is the Mudo no Kaname is an illusion,   Kaname 要    is an non existential point, that only manifests itself by the fact of expressing it over the space. Even though we believe that the Kukan no Kaname is the escential point on the space, we all know that within the Kikan there’s only emptyness, so it’s impossible to find a point of support, a rotation point of even an escential point from within. The mind creates it only by the fact of needing a point of support , a way where it can sustain itself, to not get lost in MU.

Sôke talks to us about Rei 例

“It is said that the martial forms are shown through the daily life and behaviour. That is, through costumes and humanity”.

In the daily life, the present life, is the only real thing we have, but from within, it’s an existential echo from the actions from the past, our own and our ancestors. They only manifest in the apparent path, but is only an illusion for the ego to have the security from where to stand.

In the Zen Budhism we can find the text about the cuestions to the mastern Nansen, which they come from the Nara period.

Nansen was interrogated by Joshu ¿What is the Path? to what Nansen responded: “Your ordinary mind is the path”, Joshu then said: “¿Can you find it?”. To what Nansed said, “Just the you try to find it, It’ll fade away”, Later on Joshu asked “If you can’t find it, How can you know that it is the path ?” Nanses said “The path does not depend on knowing or not knowing. Knowing is confussion, not knowing is to be cheated. If you really were to find the path of no doubt, is like a great void. How can you force this to adapt the categories of confirmation of negotiation?


We can say, that REI 例 are the costumes, practices and habits that we acquire throughout the keiko, achieving the humbleness of being thankful  (Rei 礼) to the existence of the ancestors and teachers.

Following the no path, in the individual transformation in REI 零, in which case means “cero, nothing”, and this is the escential part that cannot be understood. Being “Cero”, is submerging the conscience in the No conscience of the “no existence”, to what we can call Mu 無.

Sôke says;

“If you can’t understand, this is normal because is Ninjutsu. If you could undersand, if wouldn’t be Ninjutsu”

Si then our called existential ans spiritual essence REI 霊 (espíritu)”, comes fro the no understanding and the no path. The more we want to use our intellect, the further we are from the true experience. The experience comes from the constant practice inside, and out of the tatami. Inside of the tatami with our Gi moving us and improving the physical techniques, achieving knowledge through distance, the space and time with hundreds of skills, outside of the tatami moving us without the Gi and improving our habilites of generosity, kindness, patience, tolerance, giving and protecting, observing and learning, hearing and caring. All this applied to family, work and society are the instruments that mark our “humanity”.

Inside, as outside of the Dojo, we must also cultivate the ming in the no existence to turne it in the No Mind  (mushin 無心). That is, the existence exists, and the no existence also exists, both are connected.

According to a famous martial arts teacher from the Edo period; Yagyu Manuneori:

“In a moment of existence, a Tsuki is thrown to the existense. In a moment of no existence, a Tsuki is thrown to the no existence. Equally, without expecting the existence, there’s an attack thrown to the existence. In that sense, it is said that the existence is existence, and the no existence is also existence”.


Keiko32 – Back from Japan Seminar #23 with Mats Hjelm

From New Products from Budo Shop Store by New Products from Budo Shop Store

Title: Keiko32 - Mats Hjelm - Back from Japan Seminar #23
Instructors: Mats Hjelm
Theme: Taijutsu and Hanbojutsu (Japan kanjou)
Recorded: Recorded in Stockholm November 17-18'th 2012
The instruction is in Swedish!
Format: NTSC (US/Japanese system), Region free. DVD/R- (it might not work on old DVD players! check your manual first!) 75 Minutes playing time.

On this seminar Mats showed techniques and ideas from the trainings he had been to with Hatsumi Soke and the Shihan earlier this month.He taught Taijutsu techniques, kenjutsu, rokushakubo, yari, naginata, hanbo techniques mixed.

To fill out this dvd more we also included techniques from two previous seminars this summer, Naginata and Yari basics.

Note: The instructions was in Swedish, but there is really no need to understand exactly what was said. There is not so much philosophical talk, but more more action that you will understand in the movement.

This video is also available as download (without the extra bonus material)

About the instructor

Mats Hjelm started training in Bujinkan for the first time around 1983, but it wasn’t until 1986 he had the opportunity to start training more seriously under a Shidôshi. He attends around 20 seminars, go to Japan 2-3 times every year. Since he started training he never had a training break. He takes his budo training very seriously!

If you want to sponsor a seminar or course, please don’t hesitate to contact him. For more information see Mats web site