Hatsumi Sensei’s 道祖神 Dōsojin NSFW Except in Japan

From Bujinkan Santa Monica by Michael Glenn

The 道祖神 Dōsojin at Hatsumi Sensei's House, photos by Michael Glenn
Last month in Japan, I gained a deeper understanding of genitalia. It started with the male form. But luckily Hatsumi Sensei paired it with the female for me.

Before I describe what Soke shared, let me explain my first phallic encounter.  A local guy from a certain neighborhood told me about 鬚神社 hige jinja (beard shrine). I was intrigued because I thought I had seen all the shrines in this neighborhood.

He took me to 聖天島 shōtenjima where (土俗の神様 dozoku no kamisama) a local folk kami is enshrined on the island. The island was surrounded by brown, dried out lotus plants in their ugly fall phase.

I followed him to the edge of a moat. There, across the water, was what appeared to be old ruins. We walked across a small footbridge. He pointed at one statue that looked like a giant penis.

But why was it called hige? He told me I had to look at the back of it. I shimmied on the tips of my toes along the edge of the moat to get a look. The ura side of the statue was a depiction of 役行者 En no Gyōja who usually has a beard.
Phallic 役行者 En no Gyōja statue, photo by Michael Glenn

En no Gyōja is the founder of 修験道 Shugendō. In this statue, his pilgrim's cloak is wrapped around his head and shoulders in such a way that from the omote side he looks like a large cock!
Phallic 役行者 En no Gyōja drawing from here
This made me and my guide laugh out loud among the wilting lotus leaves.

He told me that back in the Edo jidai, the neighborhood was known as a place for lovers. There were lots of 出会い茶屋 deai chaya or teahouses that offered sexual services, or where people could have a secret rendezvous with a lover. People may have prayed at the shrine for virility, fertility, or even to protect themselves from disease.

A few days later I went to Soke's house. He showed me the far corner of his yard where there were stones representing male and female genitalia (see top picture). These were examples of 道祖神 Dōsojin, a traveller's guardian deity. You can find these monuments throughout Japan. They often portray a couple in embrace or even lovemaking. But often the stones are in the shape of phallus and vagina.

There is an interesting connection with En no Gyōja. First of all, he was a legendary traveller. Second, he had two servants named  前鬼 Zenki  and 後鬼 Goki. They started out as demons but En helped them become human and now they are a married couple representing yin and yang.

When I look at portrayals of Dōsojin that are of the embracing couple, I am reminded of Zenki and Goki. 前鬼 Zenki means front demon, the yang, like the phallus image I was greeted with on the island. 後鬼 Goki is the behind demon, ura, yin and maybe represented by the parted and open robe or cloak.

So next time you are training with Soke and he paints a big phallus, or a kunoichi with a red vagina on your scroll, maybe he is wishing you safe travels! If you are lucky, no one will ask whose bed you sleep in during those lonely nights in Noda.

Change Your Attitude

From Shiro Kuma's Blog by kumafr


“Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”. This is not from me but from George Bernard Shaw.

In Japanese “change” can be written in many ways. One of them, known to all of us is 変化 (henka).

But the compound word “henka” is much more than the word “change”. Both kanji (hen and ka) have the meaning of “change”, but 変 (hen) is the “beginning of the change” where 化 (ka), is the “end of change”. This gives a much deeper understanding of it,  some kind of Inyo cycle (yin-yang).

In fact we often use it wrongly. A henka is not something you make up,  this is not a variation, this is something that is either:

1) natural, when your adjusts the mechanical waza to the situation at hand,
2) listed, when it is part of an official set of possible adaptations in a given ryûha (this is the case for example in the kukishin sword techniques).

A few years ago,  Sensei asked us to understand that, and to avoid calling “henka” any variation we would do. A henka is a henka; a variation is a variation. But to make it a little more confusing, some variations might be called henka.

Shaw states that change is the key to progress. This is why we travel and train in Japan. When you come to Japan you have to be ready to change everything you think you know in order to progress. In a way the Japan trip is defining,  building your future; so it would be a loss of time and effort to go there and to only reproduce the things of your past.

Build the future from 中今 (nakaima) the present*, not from the past. 

Your progression lies on your ability to change your Kokoro Gamae in order to modify, and to the better, your Tai Gamae.**

Change your attitude and remember that “… those who cannot change their minds, cannot change anything.” **

* nakaima literally means “the middle, the center of now”.
** Kamae (Gamae) has the meaning of posture, or attitude (as in 身構え – migamae).

I Missed The Class Last Night

From Shiro Kuma's Blog by kumafr


It is Friday 1pm and I’m back to Europe.
Hatsumi sensei’s Friday class at the honbu just finished.

Each time I’m back to Europe, I have this strange feeling. I wish I could still be there and train with him at the honbu.
Each time I’m back I try to figure out what is it that I’m missing from his trainings when I’m not there.

Sensei’s Budô is not something you can learn in a book,  it can only be learnt by being there physically. Over the last 25 years I have been quite many times to Japan to train with Sôke, and I am happy for that. But still, I missed all the classes he taught when I was not there.

If I do the math,  I attended only 7% of the classes he has given in this period. And I sometimes wonder what would I have been able to acquire, if I had been attending those missing 93%? A lot I guess.

The path of Budô is an endless one, and one life cannot suffice to learn all that it is to learn. So 7% is really far from enough. This is why personal training is so important. Over the years I noticed that the “magic” of Japan doesn’t last more than two weeks, but if I train the things and feelings that I got while at the honbu, then this “magic” can stay alive a little longer.

But since we entered the essence of things, things get more complex. In the latest themes of the year, there is nothing mechanical to reproduce. Things were much simpler when the themes été covering schools or weapons.

Since we moved to highest expression of Juppô Sesshô,  there are no techniques to train,  only feelings. And being away from the source,  the  betterment of our taijutsu is more and more difficult every year.

When I look back at this last Japan trip,  I have a hard time figuring out in which direction I have to go. Sensei’s movements are non existent. There is nothing because he is doing nothing,  but this nothing is everything. His taijutsu has reached such a high level that mimicking what he does – or in this case, what he doesn’t do –  becomes nearly impossible.

Yes it is sad to know that I missed the class tonight.

潜在意識 Senzaiishiki: Enter Into Subconscious Bujinkan Training

From Bujinkan Santa Monica by Michael Glenn

My friends walk into the Shibamata Sun, photo by Michael Glenn
Tuesday night I was in a class with Hatsumi Sensei at Ayase. I watched him throw somebody without touching them. Then he taught us an aspect of toate no jutsu, or striking from a distance.

These things are extraordinary to witness. But it is important to look past the miracles. Because it is the way he taught us these things that holds the key to understanding them.

Soke asked one student to explain what it felt like. The student said that he didn't understand what was happening to his own body. Soke replied that if you could figure it out he would be troubled by that. And then Hatsumi Sensei addressed us all,
"We're studying these things which can't be understood. Although you don't understand it, you might understand in your subconscious. 潜在意識 senzaiishiki, the subconscious, is the most natural part  of your consciousness. Since it's the most natural part it connects to juppo sessho."
Our unconscious training is like an iceberg. The conscious part is the small bit you see above the surface. The 氷山の一角 hyouzannoikkaku, the tip of the iceberg. But what is hidden beneath?

Conscious learning cannot possibly hold all of the Bujinkan, all of the 9 schools, all of the kata, even more henka, all of the knowledge from previous Soke, hundreds or even thousands of years of human experience.

This is why Hatsumi Sensei told us, "I'm not doing technique, I'm changing it into the subconscious. I'm teaching in a way that will be absorbed by the subconscious."

So how do you unlock the subconscious learning of the Bujinkan? One key was repeated again and again over my last two weeks here in Japan. Seno Sensei called it 分散 bunsan during one morning class when he showed my training partner Mats Hjelm and I how to receive a sword cut.

分散 Bunsan means to scatter or disperse.

In another class, during an attack, Hatsumi Sensei said to dissipate each other's strength and power. And another time during a throw he said, get rid of your body. in the middle of it just throw yourself out. It is important to dissipate your body and create this space. This is a type of 体変術 taihenjutsu.

This kind of scattering or breaking up in all directions is like safety glass. Safety tempered glass has outer surface in compression and the inner surface under tension. When this balance is broken, it crumbles and shatters in a web of small pieces. This is much safer than the splintering shards of plate glass.

Doing this in combat makes your opponent crumble and his attacks become harmless. But more importantly, you do this to your own intention or consciousness. You scatter it and dissipate it. Then you will have access to the huge unconscious ability that you have inherited from Soke and the Bujinkan.

Consciously Unconscious

From Shiro Kuma's Blog by kumafr


Last night after being awarded the Dai Shihan with my friends Jack, and Par,  we were asked to teach. When sensei gives you a new diploma, you are often asked to demonstrate, and you always feel more lost than ever (if possible). Tuesday night was no exception.

Whatever movement the three of us would do, Sensei would turn them into something impossible to reproduce.

At first, I thought about 中途半端 (chûto hanpa) some “half cooked technique”, but then I understood that it was more than that as sensei didn’t even try to do a technique. His uke would be stuck in mid-air as if unable to move or to continue his attacks, and sensei was hardly touching them. As this has been the case for the last week of training, Sensei used no force, no speed, and nearly no contact. Uke was fighting gravity and only sensei’s presence, and the little contact us the only thing preventing from falling.

He spoke again of 中心 (chûshin), the axis. When you look at the kanji you see “center” and “heart”. Sensei is standing at the center of everything. But as 心 Kokoro is also the mind for the Japanese, we can say that sensei is inside uke’s mind. Whatever the attack sensei was placed in a position where he was enslaving uke on himself. Uke’s body was the axis around which sensei’s actions were turning.

Sensei added that we have to move at the unconscious level. Meaning that our body moves slowly by itself and adjust to uke’s balance by creating an ever shifting axis. Uke being out in a situation where his first priority is to stay up has no more willingness to pursue his attacks. Being able to activate this unconscious toute of movement – or to deactivate it – is what his Budô is.

Juan Manuel Serrano was my partner during training and because of his high level we could really try our best to do what sensei was demonstrating. Juanma is not only a high level Jûgodan but also a sixth dan in jûdô. This means that taking his balance is not an easy task. The class went by very fast as the both of us were training intensely.

As this is one of my last post for this 55th trip (there is another article coming about the last class I had with Nagato sensei today), I beg you to understand the importance of coming and training here in Japan. Many Bujinkan teachers came here once, and behave as if they knew everything after that. This is wrong.

Let me be clear here: this is not the movie “the matrix” where chosing between the blue pill and the red pill will do the job for you. We don’t have a plug behind the neck to download the Budô feeling. It is by training here often, that, little by little, you can absorb these 神技 (kami waza), these “divine techniques”.

It is not important if you feel lost and don’t get it. As sensei put it last night: “it is not important that you get it or not, the important is that you train it”.

This is the “keep going” that matters.

The art of Hatsumi sensei transcends our human nature and makes us better human beings. This is what his Bujinkan is about. So next time you are here please forget your certitudes, and be ready to ride on the path of the martial winds of of the Warriors of Budô.

Bufu Ikkan! or Bufû Ikkan *

* this is one is sensei’s on playing with the signs: “Bufu Ikkan” = 武夫一貫, “warrior consistency”,  i.e. Keep going. And “Bufû Ikkan” = 武風一環, i.e. “the greater plan of the martial winds”