Do you Know Uchi Gake?

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

In the official Tenchijin, in the Chi Ryaku no Maki, in the Nage Kata you find a throw that very few people understand. It is Uchi Gake. (1)

It is listed as follow: “Uchi Mata / uchi gake (kuden) (内股内掛 口伝).”

The explanation of the Tenchijin is cryptic. It says “Additionally, after hane age, you can knock uke down by obstructing them with uchi gake (内掛け) or “inner hook.””

Ten years ago, I asked Noguchi sensei. I understood that it was similar, in a way, to the same movements in Jūdō. Except that “Gakeru” (2) means to hook or catch. (2)

In Jūdō “Gari,” means to harvest. (3)

Also, in Jūdō, they have split the Nage Kata into three sets of techniques for the arms, the hips, and the legs. This is not the case in the Bujinkan because the nage waza includes the three sets of techniques. This is a Tenchijin and will need another article.

So, why do we have “Uchi Mata / Uchi Gake” in the program? As you might have understood, Uchi Gake is the continuation of a failed Uchi Mata. After failing to throw Uke with Uchi Mata, your right leg goes down and “hook” Uke’s right leg, he falls on his back.

But this is not all. If instead of hooking the right leg, you reposition your body and hook the left leg you get another Uchi Gake. As it is the case in Jūdō, we can name the first one, Ko Uchi Gake; and call the second one, Ō Uchi Gake.

The pictures will help you to understand better.

Ko Uchi Gake
O Uchi Gake

But if we have these two extra throws, we can apply the same logic to Ō Soto gake (outside), we get:

O Soto Gake
Ko soto gake
Ko soto gake (other leg)

I hope that now you know Uchi Gake, and that you will experiment it during your next class.

1 内掛, uchi gake: inside leg trip
2 掛ける, gakeru: to catch (in a trap, etc.) / Note: there are 25 different definitions for Gake in my dictionary.
3 刈る, to cut (grass, hair, etc.); to mow; to clip; to trim; to prune; to shear; to reap; to harvest

Note to the reader: No Brasilian Spartan was injured during the session. Thank you Leandro Barros for your help.

Mitei: Undecided

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

Since last January, Hatsumi Sensei repeats that our actions are “undecided.” In Japanese, the term is “Mitei.” It can be translated by “untruly” or “uncertainly. (1)

In a fight, you will either lose or win, but you will know the outcome only at the end. You cannot decide it. As westerners, we are programmed by our educative system not to be undecided. And Rene Descartes, the French philosopher is the one to blame for that!

He wrote “I did not imitate the skeptics who doubt only for doubting’s sake and pretend to be always undecided. On the contrary, my whole intention was to arrive at a certainty, and to dig away the drift and the sand until I reached the rock or the clay beneath.” From there comes our problem.

“To decide” comes from the Latin “decidere.” It is made of “de” (privative) + “caedere” (to cut). It implies the act of choosing by “cutting” the wrong choices.

Once again this is what we learn in school. We train ourselves not to doubt, and to always “know with certainty.” This type of reasoning applies perfectly to non-animated objects, but not for humans. (2)

In a fight, we do not choose the actions of the attacker. We only adapt our reactions to the situation, like a surfer on a wave.

When Sensei reacts to an attack, he doesn’t know what he is going to do next. He lets the body do it. This is why he often says “I don’t do the same movement twice,” nature cannot be tamed.

He doesn’t make any choice before the movement, as he is always reacting with a natural flow. The brain (thinking process) is not part of it.

Understanding that, is understanding how to control Uke. The control of Mutō Dori is not something we “decide,” it naturally manifests itself. The control is not mechanical, it is total, and includes everything. The control is coming from outside.

Sensei uses only the word “control” in English, instead of the Japanese word “Seishi.” This is because Seishi is more physical and does not imply the non-physical world. (3)

The control of Mutō Dori can exist only when our actions remain undecided. The moment we “decide” to do any movement, we lose the ability to control the attacker.

Mitei, indecision, is a necessity to achieve full control. By full control, I mean the attacker and the space between and around us. This concept of “control” is not coming from the west, is it Japanese.

To improve our Budō, we have to behave and think like a Japanese, it is Seishi, a matter of life and death!

So, decide to be undecided!

1 未定 / mitei not yet fixed; undecided; pending
2 We have the same problem in the “discourse on the method.” It works perfectly for objects but has to be adjusted when dealing with humans.
3 制止, seishi: control; check; restraint; inhibition
4 生死, seishi: life and death, Samsara

Organized Chaos

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr


The first class with Sensei in Japan is always particular. Whatever my expectations are, this is still something different that I find.

In that respect, this first class with him was no different.

Similar in appearance, they are not. Sensei’s classes are like fireworks, it is beautiful, powerful and always different.

Because Sensei’s Budō is unpredictable, yet always the same.
This is “order in a clear disorder,” it is like fireworks.
It is 新設の乱, Shinsetsu no ran, organized chaos. (1) (2)

Mastering the organized chaos is the type of control we are learning this year. Control applies to the whole situation. It encompasses the opponent, but also the space between the players; and the space around them. As Sensei keeps repeating, “the Bujinkan is no sports.” This is about survival at war.

And do not limit the meaning of “war” to the sole military. War is something we face every day. Surviving is not becoming “Rambo,” it is able to survive our everyday problems. Ran are war and chaos, and it is everywhere. But the most important is how we respond to it.

We confront daily situations that are difficult to control. This is Muchitsujo, disorder. (3) Our goal is to change that. In a real fight, at the office, at home, or at school; our interactions with the others are a permanent battle. We are humans, and this is how we deal with adversity. The control we seek in 2018 when achieved, frees us from all trouble. Controlling our life, and our actions is a way to be one with nature.

But Muchitsujo (3) is not a curse, it is a fantastic chance to find control. Because without the disorder, there would no order. Without adversity or risk for our integrity (physical or mental), we would die. This is Howard Bloom exposes in “Lucifer Principle” (1995). (4)

Bloom “argues that social groups, not individuals, are the primary “unit of selection” on genes and human psychological development. He states that both competitions between groups and competition between individuals shape the evolution of the genome. Bloom “explores the intricate relationships among genetics, human behavior, and culture” and argues that “evil is a by-product of nature’s strategies for creation and that it is woven into our most basic biological fabric.” It sees the selection (i.e., through strong competition) as central to the creation of the superorganism society. The Lucifer Principle shows how ideas are vital in creating cohesion and cooperation in these pecking order battles.

The Dōjō is this “magic space” where, as a group of individuals, we can learn and experiment the reality of chaos. There we learn how to control chaos and to be in communion with nature. Sensei’s teachings are way beyond the simple mechanical movements of martial arts. What he teaches is a Budō of life. And the way to get immersed in this Budō of life is by studying the cause of chaos, and to put order into it. Control is teaching that.

When you train in Japan, you learn control, and how to evolve from Michitsujo to Chitsu, from chaos to order. (5)

Then Shinsetsu no Ran becomes only Shinsetsu. (1)


1 新設, shinsetsu: organized
2 乱, ran: revolt; rebellion; war
3 無秩序/muchitsujo/disorder; chaos; confusion
5 chitsu 秩序/order; discipline; regularity; system; a method

Happiness Leads To Success!

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

behappy - Edited
I landed in Japan, and while getting out of the airport, I felt happy.
It reminded me of sensei’s constant advice: “be happy!”

Over the years, I often wondered how to reach happiness. In fact, until a discussion I had with Sensei in 2008, I never considered being happy as part of my life. Digging into it, I discovered many things, about happiness. The main lesson is that happiness is not permanent, it is a state of mind. It is the ability to be happy with the small things in life. If you try to be happy 24/7, you will only cultivate unhappiness.
A few weeks ago, I read “the happiness advantage” by Shawn Achor, (1) in which the author details a 7-point method to be happy. As a Harvard teacher, he studied the relationship between happiness and success. And discovered that 80% of the students were not pleased. He also established that the happy ones were more likely to get more successful in life.

I share these principles here because they apply to Budō training:

Principle 1: The Happiness Advantage (Why Happier Workers Make Better Workplaces): Happy practitioners make better Dōjō.
Principle 2: The Fulcrum and the Lever (Change the Way You Think and Maximize Your Potential): There are no limits to what you can achieve.
Principle 3: The Tetris Effect (Rewiring a Stuck Brain): Change your perspective.
Principle 4: Falling Up (Learning Resilience): Survival is about resilience.
Principle 5: The Zorro Circle (Get Control of The Small Stuff): Improve your skills step by step, never give up.
Principle 6: The 20-Second Rule (Minimize Barriers to Change): Change is bliss.
Principle 7: Social Investment (It’s All About Friends): The Dōjō is like a second family, but you have chosen it.
He writes that “Success revolves around happiness, not the other way around.” This is what Hatsumi sensei is asking from us. When we try to be happy, we succeed. This is positive psychology applied to life and Budō.

When we train, we are often confronted by failure. But the moment, we do something we couldn’t do before, the feeling we experience is happiness. It is something that is coming from us, not something that we add. And the more we experience these small moments of joy, and the more chances we meet success. Everything seems more natural, and we have no limit to create our taijutsu.

Sensei is speaking a lot about control this year. Happiness is control. Shawn Achor explains that when you “gain control and focus on little changes,” “you can make the greatest improvements.” This is my 50th year of training in the martial arts. And this is speaking to me. The man I am today is the result of these “little changes.”

Budō taught me that willpower alone cannot affect change. Developing a positive attitude towards happiness is the most important thing.
Think about it. Your success, Sōkō (2), depends on your happiness, Kō (3). If you don’t work towards that goal, you will find death, Kō (4).
Be Happy!
2 奏功/sōkō/success; achievement; fruition
3 幸/kō/good luck; fortune; happiness
4 薨/kō/death (of a nobleman, etc.)




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English, Perfect-bound Paperback, 184 pages richly illustrated with pictures and illustrations. (32 483 Words, 145 533 Characters)

This book is a comprehensive guide to understand the Taijutsu of the Bujinkan system as taught by Masaaki Hatsumi Soke. We have this concept of Shu-Ha-Ri which is three major processes to learn Budo. First, we learn the fundamentals, then how to break them up. Then you transcend to a state where you are totally free without even thinking of what you are doing. Needless to say, you can’t get to the last stage without knowing the first stage well. It is said that you should study each level for at least 10 years. This book is all about the first stage we call Shu. It is further divided into three levels.

  • 天略の巻 TEN RYAKU NO MAKI (The scroll of Heaven)
  • 地略の巻 CHI RYAKU NO MAKI (The scroll of Earth)
  • 人略の巻 JIN RYAKU NO MAKI (The scroll of Man)

About the Author: Mats have been training Bujinkan Budo-taijutsu since the early 1980’s. He travelled all around the world to train and teach Bujinkan Budo-taijutsu.

Print details: 8.26″ x 11.69″ (EU Standard A4), perfect binding, white interior paper (60# weight), black and white interior ink, white exterior paper (90# weight), full-color exterior ink.

BACKGROUNDThank you for your interest in Bujinkan Budō-taijutsu!

This is not a self-study course, it is really necessary for you to have a qualified instructor to help you. The purpose for this book is to be a tool to help your progress. You will learn names and principles here, and the correct movements from an instructor that can point out bad angles, distance, timing etcetera.

This is a collection of techniques I think black belts in the Bujinkan system should at least be familiar with, and teachers should know by heart.

The layout of the techniques here is from Ten-Chi-Jin Ryaku no Maki, Shidōshi scrolls. Togakure-ryū Ninpō-taijutsu, an out of print book, and numerous publications and videos by Hatsumi Sōke.

This is not an official Bujinkan guide line, book, study material or what you want to call it. It is something I worked on for 35 years and ongoing, it is my legacy to my students. If other teachers want to endorse it or follow it, thank you! If someone doesn’t agree, that’s fine to, by all means release your own better version. This was made to students and friends from many nationalities that bought my videos, attended my seminars and showed interest in my way of teaching over the years.

Mats Hjelm

This book has been an ongoing project by Mats Hjelm at Kaigozan Dojo for 35 years, now it is time to release it publicly in English as version 3.0.