Tōtoku: Protect Yourself

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

img_20171130_165316.jpgNagato sensei’s main idea was to remain protected at all time. This is Tōtoku. (1)
Even though Tōtoku uses a sword, in theory, the concept is also valid for regular Taijutsu. That was what we did during the whole class. uke attacks with a double Tsuki. You block and absorb the first fist with your left. Then you position your left forearm vertical like a shield. When the second fist arrives, you can deflect the attack and hit at the same time. Being protected is something that Hatsumi Sensei repeats a lot these days. The control of the situation in the spirit of Kannin Dokuson (2) is the essence of Mutō Dori.
Nagato sensei did many variations on the concept of Tōtoku. He was turning around the attacker, staying always out of reach, and always able to finish him. I love his footwork because he moves a lot around (Mawari) and does not pivot (Mawashi). To make you understand the difference between the two, imagine a merry go round. The horses on the periphery are moving in Mawari. The centre axis of the merry go round is doing Mawashi. (3) That way of moving is typical of Koppō Jutsu, and the specificity of his taijutsu. Turning around the attack and the attacker, Nagato sensei can use his elbows to control. His elbows then are the Shiten (fulcrum) (4) and his hands can deliver powerful shutō to the neck.
When you train in Japan it is always nice to train with Noguchi Sensei and with Nagato sensei. I find their taijutsu very different and at the same time very complementary. Noguchi sensei is moving in a Kosshi Jutsu manner where Nagato sensei is more of the Koppō Jutsu type. Remember that Koppō and Kosshi are very close when it comes to reacting under duress. Koppō when you are further, Kosshi when you are closer.
img_20171130_163556.jpgAt the end of the class, Nagato sensei answered many questions about training. He shared with us many insights on how training was at the start of the Bujinkan. He said that those discussions were common practice after Sensei’s class.
In fact, I remember spending whole afternoons at Sōke’s house in the 90s with Pedro. Sensei would show us old footage of Takamatsu, scrolls, and many other documents. I loved these moments.
Nagato also explained that times have changed. The type of training of the past cannot be anymore. That is because the new generation couldn’t accept the pain that was part of training fifty years ago. When I first came to Japan in the 90s, I remember that pain was an important part of training. It was common to keep bruises two or three weeks after returning to France.
He said many things that I didn’t know and that was nice.
In the old days, there was no Honbu Dōjō. They would train in Sensei’s house. Its nickname was “jungle house”. They trained in a ten-tatami room (approximately 20 square meters).
Things have changed and today’s training is easy when you compare it to the beginning. The first Honbu opened only in October 1997!
Training in Japan is not limited to its physical aspect. Those discussions are an important part of your training as a student.
If you limit the Bujinkan to the body movements, then you are practising a sport, not an art. The Bujinkan is not a sport. There is nothing wrong with doing martial sports. Nagato sensei said we should also train them if possible. But remember that Bujinkan arts are not sports. What we learn here is about surviving a real fight where there are no rules.
Some practitioners are critical about the lack of Randori. (5) Nagato sensei said that, in the old days, they had Randori training. But the type of Randori was very different from what we have in Jūdō. It was only slow-motion, trying to use no strength at all. That is why he keeps repeating that “only bad practitioners train fast and use strength”.
So, when are you coming to Japan?
1. Tōtoku: 刀匿, to shield yourself with the sword. Like in 刀匿表紙の構え Tōtoku Hyōshi no Kamae, where you cover yourself by using the sword as a shield to protect you from shuriken.
2. Kannin Dokuson is the theme for 2017. You have to respect yourself, the opponent and the situation. 貫忍 独尊 Kannin Dokuson. Check HERE
3. We studied Mawari when with the Kunai of 2003, with a technique called “Mawari Dori”. Koi members. Check it at
4. Shiten: see the previous post HERE  
5. Randori: 乱取り, is a term used in Japanese martial arts to describe free-style practice. The term means “chaos taking” or “grasping freedom.” It implies a freedom from the structured practice of kata. Randori may be contrasted with kata, as two potentially complementary types of training. The exact meaning of randori depends on the martial art it is used in.
33% discount until I return from Japan on the 6th of December. Visit budomart now!

Koto Ryū Noguchism

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

img_20171129_204009.jpgNoguchi has developed his taijutsu like every Japanese Dai Shihan. He has been my “teacher” since 1993. He is impressive and can turn any known Waza into something so different from the original technique.

Attending a class with one of the Japanese Dai Shihan is like training another martial art. I spoke about it with Hatsumi Sensei. I said “Sensei, is it normal that I’m training Bujinkan only with you. And train the Noguchi Ryū, Oguri Ryū, Nagato Ryū, Senō Ryū with the Japanese Shihan?” He looked at me for a moment and said: “yes, each one has to develop his taijutsu”. Some Japanese Shihan, like Someya sensei and others, respects the original forms. But it is well accepted that each one of them has developed a personal body movement. That is why it is crucial to train with each Japanese Shihan to get a deeper understanding of Sensei’s Budō. Diversity is the key to unlock your taijutsu.

Yesterday we were studying the first level of Koto Ryū. From the start, Noguchi sensei modified the form, to put into play his particular body movement. We did Yokuto with a Gyokko Ryū approach. He replaced the linear footwork typical of the first level of the Koto Ryū. Instead, he used the circular motion of the Gyokko Ryū Kosshi Jutsu. You can find videos on YouTube of Sensei using the same Kosshi jutsu approach. (1)

Sensei taught the difference between Yoko Aruki (Koto Ryū) and Jūji Aruki (Gyokko Ryū) in 2015. In Yoko Aruki your toes are heading towards the same direction. In Jūji Aruki your toes are perpendicular. Check this video on my YouTube channel.

Noguchi sensei has his interpretation of the Waza. He makes so many variations that what remains is his fantastic body flow. This multi-approach allows each one to find what move suits him the best. The Waza is not a dead form anymore. That is the magic of Kankaku! (2)

Senō sensei explained that Budō has two legs: Waza and Kankaku. To walk you need both. But to get the feeling, you first have to learn the basics and the Waza. Too many practitioners make the trip to Japan without proper training in the basics. It is a loss of time and money.

When I came here for the first time, the Japanese were still teaching the basic Waza. That is not the case anymore. When you come to Japan, do not expect to learn the basics as they don’t show them anymore. You come here to get the correct feeling that will allow you to develop your own taijutsu. This implies that you have learned the original forms in your dōjō before coming.

We had a great class yesterday full of “Noguchism”. I trained with Harry Mitrou (Dai Shihan Greece), who used to be training with me in the Paris dōjō many years ago. It added to my pleasure.

It was a good night.
1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43aY6fxCrLA&t=40s
2. 感覚, feeling

Mutō Dori Is Happiness

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

Thank you Sensei for the gift of happiness!

What I like about this period of the year here at the Honbu, is the happiness emitting from Sensei. His classes resemble more a family gathering than a Budō training. In fact, we don’t train that much, and we have long breaks.

Everyone has now reached the highest Bujinkan ranks. So those travelling to Japan come only to pay their respects to Sensei. The group has been the same since I attended my first DKMS in 1990. And I know that many other friends are on their way to be here for the second of December. (1)

Sensei teaches a Way of Life. Our presence for his birthday is our way to thank him for a gift he has been giving for 50 years. (2)

What we receive in Japan is not only about technique, it is about learning to live a happy life. “Be Happy!” he keeps repeating. Happiness reveals itself when duality disappears. It is a simple process, even if many don’t see it (or don’t understand it). The Bujinkan is teaching us “inner freedom”.

Ashtavakra said:
By inner freedom one attains happiness.
By inner freedom, one reaches the Supreme.
By inner freedom one comes to the absence of thought.
By inner freedom to the Ultimate State.॥50॥ (3)

Sensei said that “beyond philosophies and religions lies the Mutō Dori no Sekai, the world of Mutō Dori.” (4) That is a level that transcends Waza and Kankaku (feeling), thinking and analysis. That leads to inner freedom, a no man’s land where everything happens naturally. Natural movement generates happiness and happiness generates natural movement.

That is why during the week before his birthday, Hatsumi Sensei looks so happy. There is no more agenda or expectations, it is about living in the “Nakaima”, the middle of now. (5)

When you look at him seated on the mats with us, you feel his pure joy of being in the middle of many of his “kids”. We are what he helped us to become.

For me, to see him so happy is the best present we can give him. He gave us so much. This particular time of the year is our way to pay him back for what he has given. Our presence around him expresses this inner freedom of Mutō Dori that he is teaching.

Thank you Sensei for these 50 years,
Thank you for giving us the Mutō Dori no Sekai to find happiness.
1- Dai Komyō Sai aka DKMS is Hatsumi sensei’s birthday party. He was born on December 2nd, 1931 in Noda.
2- The Bujinkan celebrates 50 years this year. I have been in the Bujinkan since 1984. That is more than 33 years ago.
3- https://sites.google.com/site/vedicscripturesinc/home/ashtavakragita
4- Mutō Dori no Sekai: 無刀取りの世界, the world of Mutō Dori
5- Nakaima: 中今, Shinto concept of the present (esp. as a privileged moment in eternity)

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Listen With Your Body

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

IMG_20171126_101547A class with Senō sensei is always a pleasure. First he is a gentleman; second, you get out of it more confused than when you entered. His last two classes were no exception!

If we began with the Kunai, the beauty of his taijutsu was not about the weapon. The Kunai was an excuse to show his perfect sense of distance and control. Hatsumi Sensei speaks about controlling at every class, Senō sensei showed it. From his classes, I got a few interesting points that I want to share with you. They are four and should be done together.

1- Absorb with the legs, don’t put any strength in your arms and hands.

When you are in contact with Uke, don’t let your upper body do the technique. Instead, use your knees and legs to get the balance. Too often, when we are close to the opponent, we tend to use the upper body. Taijutsu is about using the body, and this is why we call it TAI-jutsu or “techniques with the body.”

2- The Kunai makes contact and defines a Shiten. (1)

With a Kunai, a Tantō, or your fingers, the point of contact with the opponent becomes your new vertical axis. From this fulcrum, you turn around it and get Uke’s balance. I asked Senō sensei to show it to me several times and each time I was feeling nothing. That was a weird sensation. It was like fighting the wind. When he is in contact with you, his legs turn around the Shiten, and you lose your balance by the lack of power applied to it. You do this Mawari movement (2) only with the legs. Uke sees the contact on the upper body. But as he cannot feel anything, his balance disappears when he walks around.

3- Get rid of any support.

The moment Uke leans onto you, and you feel his weigh is when you drop your support. That is “Jokyo”, or “to get rid of the support”. It was a fantastic sensation. There is no Chikara at all. (4)
Because of the lack of presence of Tori, Uke is alone, suspended in the air. He falls as a result. This concept of Jokyo is the evolution of Fuyū (5) used by Senō sensei until now. Jokyo comes after Fuyū. It is its evolution. After you become able to put Uke in suspension, you let him fall by removing any support he is using. Let gravity play its role.

4- Listen to Uke’s tension with your body.

Do not analyse. Feel the tensions in Uke’s body. And react by adjusting your body position with your legs.

When you can do these four things together:

  • absorb with your legs,
  • create a Shiten,
  • apply Jokyo,
  • listen with your whole body,
    you are always protected.

During the last class, I was training with my friend Juan Manuel Guttierez from Argentina. We were unable to unify those four aspects of Senō sensei’s taijutsu. We did our best to get the four concepts together, but there was always one or two missing. It felt like trying to keep water in your hands. It feels impossible to do it.

Because of training like this one, you see the importance of studying in Japan several times a year. How are the others teachers able to teach without coming here? I don’t know.

When you know the Waza from the schools, and the weapons, then the real study can begin. And this is only about feeling. And this is the level of Mutō Dori that they teach these days here in Japan.
1- Shiten: 支点, fulcrum; support
2- Mawari: 周り, circumference, turning around a point (different from pivoting which is mawashi)
3- Jokyo: 除去, removal; getting rid of​
4- Chikara: 力, force; strength; might; vigour (vigor); energy​
5- Fuyū: 浮遊, floating; wandering; suspension

Who Is The Boss?

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

IMG_20170723_121157It’s been a long time since I got angry. Today I am.

Hatsumi Sensei has announced a few modifications to the way we deal with the Honbu Dōjō. These changes concern the Dai Shihan in the first place, and their followers. They will the ones putting into place this new organisation. I have read a few comments criticising the number of newly promoted Dai Shihan.

Strangely, the critics come from those who don’t have the promotion yet. That is wrong! Whatever Sensei does, he has a reason for it. If you don’t know it, it is because you don’t see the big picture.

He also insisted that we DO NOT use the internet to communicate about it but to do it face to face. I wrote about it and still, I get personal messages on the internet from people asking to know more. What is wrong with them? Sensei said NO internet!

Next Sunday, there will be a Bujinkan gathering in Atago. We will celebrate the 50 years of the creation of the Bujinkan. Sensei might (or might not) explain his new vision at this occasion. Until then, be patient.

I see all that I described above as a lack of respect for Sensei’s decisions. The Bujinkan is not a democracy, it belongs to Hatsumi Sōke and follows the Japanese ways. Hatsumi Sensei is our leader. He is your boss, and his decisions you have to respect them, even if you do not understand them.

Hatsumi Sensei is the Bujinkan. If you don’t agree with how he deals with his Bujinkan, then shut up and leave. There is nothing to argue. His words define what the Bujinkan is, and how it evolves. No one should discuss his choices.

You can exchange in private, but questioning his authority is not the way to go. We have a boss, we have chosen him, and your rank is not an excuse to rant about his actions.

Please remember that, accept it, or leave the Bujinkan.
No one is forcing you to stay if you don’t like it.

Who is the Boss? Hatsumi Sōke.

Kashiwa November 28th, 2017
From an angry Polar Bear