I Got A Bee +

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

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.

Epilogue:
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

PARIS TAIKAI 2019 – JULY 12th TO 14th
WITH PETER KING – SVENERIC BOGSATER – ARNAUD COUSERGUE

Ninku vs. Ninkū

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr


During the break, I asked Sensei for calligraphy to use it as a logo for the Paris Taikai next July.

He made up “Ninkū,” a pun with the word “Ninku,” but written with “Kū.” instead of “Ku.” If “Ninku” exists, and means “endurance.” (1) “Ninkū with a long “ū” doesn’t. It was made by Sensei, associating “Shinobi” and “Kū.” (2) (3) He replaced “endurance” by “stealthy emptiness.” And it is like what Sensei is showing in class. His movements are so empty that Uke falls into the void.

The Mutō Dori of 2019 is now dealing with a lack of presence. There is nothing to see and nothing to feel. The control of the attacker results of a lack of control. In a recent post, I introduced you to Mutōsei, “uncontrolled.” (4) To me, Ninkū is precisely this feeling. Sensei controls you without control. As if he was able to express the emptiness itself.

Like many high-level feelings, it is difficult to express it with words even if you had the chance to feel it from Sōke. Buddhism, says that you can share Satori, only with those who experienced it. I guess this is the same. (5)

If you watch Sensei from the outside, it looks like magic. This is why he asks his Uke to explain their feeling after the technique.

Ninku, (1) also means Stoicism, it also seems correct. To succeed in Budō, you have to endure a lot of pain and disillusions. The training is about endurance. It has no end. We begin to practice one day for the wrong reasons, and we stay without knowing exactly why. This is pure Stoicism.

Noguchi sensei told me once that in the old days Sensei was quite brutal. He was so violent in training that the wooden floor under the mats would sometimes break! When it happened, they would stop the practice, get the tools, repair it, and go back to train. Sensei repeats that he doesn’t teach us. But it seems that this “non-teaching” of him, started a long time ago. Noguchi sensei said that Sōke used them as Guinea pigs. Sensei wanted to learn the techniques he was receiving from Takamatsu sensei by mail. (6)
Noguchi sensei admitted that twice he nearly quit unable to see the need for so much pain.

When you see how good he is today, I guess that staying in the Bujinkan was the right decision. He “endured” the pain to become one of the best teachers of the Bujinkan. And the same applies to the first generation of Sensei’s students.

We can now see more with clarity that Ninku is the Omote, and Ninkū is the Ura. I will share this new feeling in my next seminars, and at the Paris Taikai in July.

Sōke said recently that it takes 10 years of hard training, passing through a lot of hardship to study basics. So how many years do we need to get to Ninku and Ninkū?

We have to be resilient and cultivate our patience!


1 忍苦, Ninku: endurance; Stoicism
2 忍び, Shinobi: stealth, traveling incognito, ninjutsu, ninja, sneak theft; sneak thief, tolerance
3 空, Kū: empty air; sky, Shunya (emptiness, the lack of an immutable intrinsic nature within any phenomenon). Meaninglessness, void (one of the five elements)
4 無統制, Mutōsei: uncontrolled
5 悟り, Satori: enlightenment; spiritual awakening; understanding, comprehension
6 Sensei was visiting Takamatsu Sensei every two months (and not every two weeks as the legend says). He had the scrolls with him. Between visits, Takamatsu was sending two letters per week with many technical details.

PARIS TAIKAI REGISTRATION

Are You An Eccentric?

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

Disclaimer: The class was so dense that this article might be a little too long. Sorry about that.

A class with Sōke these days is a succession of many moments. Relying on the Dai Shihan to show the techniques, he gives his advice from his chair. He only shows when a move requires his expertise.

Also, he often begins the class by showing the new swords he bought for his museum. He recently did a sword exhibition in Noda to explain to the public, the 200 blades he already has.

Friday night he displayed à few interesting Tantō that he got. Some of them had a Kozuka inserted in the scabbard. It was a first for me. (1)

Each time Sōke tells of being aware of the danger of live weapons. And shows the correct way to pass or receive a naked sword from hand to hand. Not aware of the distance, there is a danger to be cut or killed. The translators sometimes get too close to him, and some nearly got cut. When you receive a naked sword from someone, you have to be close enough to take it, but far enough not to be cut.

Sōke teaches us these things because he doesn’t want the Bujinkan Dai Shihan, to look stupid. He said that people training Kendō or other martial arts don’t know the dangers of live weapons. Because they lack awareness. The Japanese wars created our systems on the battlefield, not during peacetime in a Dōjō. (2)

We did some Waza with the Daishō, and Sensei stopped the class to teach us how to wear them. That was interesting as many practitioners do not have a clue there is a proper way of doing things. One thing to keep in mind is that our fighting systems originate from the military. In the military, they keep everything that works fine. They reject what doesn’t. Each time your teacher asks for a precise movement, try to understand the reason to do it that way. When you know the hidden reasons to do things, your Taijutsu improves. Nothing we do is by chance, there is always a reason behind.

How to wear the Daishō? (3) First, insert your thumb into the Obi and put the Kodachi, then put the Katana in this order. (4) Sōke asked us to train this to master it. He said the Dai Shihan, should have real blades to get better the essence of Mutō Dori. (5) We have to understand what is fake and what is real. He added that Takamatsu Sensei always showed him the practical aspects of Budō. The Bujinkan is not Gendai Budō, we don’t do sport. (6)

Sensei moved back to Taijutsu. After the technique, his Uke explained that he was so focused on the pain on his finger, that he didn’t see the rest. This is “Mienai.” Sensei was using his other hand to take Uke’s balance. (7) Mutō dori uses Kakushi waza whenever possible. (8) Uke can see is not what matters.

Against a knife attack, Sensei stopped the attacker and began to speak to us. Uke lost his concentration, and Sōoke peeled the knife from his grip. This is Metsubushi. (9) We use Metsubushi to confuse the opponent and are not limited to Ninja blinding powder. It can be physical or by talking. If you speak, Uke cannot avoid listening to you.

In unarmed combat, we rely too much on the hands. Sōke said that “Sebone,” the backbone, is what does the action. He asked us to try it and insisted on keeping a relaxed body and on keeping the legs unlocked. (10)

In the end, Sensei said that now the Daishihan are in charge. And if they don’t understand it is ok. Because when you get the movement by yourself, you are your own teacher. Let the action be, and do not overthink everything.

Ethics is the backbone of our soul, this is “Kikotsu.” (11) But when you only rely on physicality, you are not a Bujin but another “Kikotsu,” an eccentric. (12)


_________________________________________
1 Kozuka: This small knife was usually hidden in the Saya of a Katana, close to the Tsuba.
2 War Time vs. Peacetime: The Bujinkan systems are born during wartime (12th to 17th century). One exception is the Takagi Yōshin Ryū, formalized in the 18th century.
3 大小, Daishō: matched pair of long and short swords
4 The original Obi were larger and longer. Because of the length, there were at least three layers of belt. First, you put he Kodachi between the first layer close to the body and the second layer. Then you slide the Katana between the second and the third layer. This is a way to protect the lacquer on the Saya. This keeps the blade sealed in the scabbard and avoid humidity to damage the sword.
5 I have been using a real Katana for more than 30 years. I cut myself as expected. But when you have à real blade, you stop moving like they do in B movies. Never underestimate the danger of using a real weapon. The same goes for firearms and swords.
6 現代, nowadays; modern era; modern times; present-day.
現代武道, Gendai Budō: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gendai_bud%C5%8D
7 見えない技, Mienai Waza: Invisible technique (that Uke cannot see)
8 隠し技, Kakushi Waza: Technique for hiding; concealing; being hidden; being concealed​
9 目潰し, Metsubushi: sand, ash, etc., thrown in the eyes to blind someone. Throwing something at someone’s eyes to blind them​. Poking someone’s eyes during a fight to blind them. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metsubushi
10 背骨, Sebone: spine; backbone; spinal column
11 気骨, Kikotsu: (moral) backbone; spirit; soul; grit​
12 奇骨, Kikotsu: eccentric

PARIS TAIKAI 2019 CLICK HERE

Mochikaeru, Nagato’s Spiderweb

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

I am not very fond of spiders, but I like Nagato sensei’s Taijutsu.

Nagato sensei is the master of Mochikaeru, (1) Whatever you do, traps you as if in a giant spiderweb.

Mochikaeru is his particular way to let you in his sphere of movement and to give back pain in exchange. Using his mastery of distance, he puts you off balance. When you think you have him, you end up “glued” into his spiderweb. All his body is playing against you: hands, elbows, legs, eyes. In fact, his entire body is scrutinizing you. Spiders have six eyes, and sometimes I guess him too. When you are Nagato sensei’s Uke, don’t forget his body is his eyes.

Apart from Taijutsu, he also speaks a lot during the long breaks. This Mondō is a special moment of questions and answers. When you ask anything, he will give his take on the problem you are having. It is also a sweet moment where he tells us many details about Sōke and their life before the Bujinkan went worldwide. Being 72-year-old, he is one of the key witnesses of the rise of the Bujinkan. Of how a small dōjō of eight mats, with about a dozen “meat-bags” became this sizeable international organization. (3) (4) (5)

In a recent Mondō, Nagato sensei that the Bujinkan is “blood, sweat and tears” until fifteenth Dan. After that, it is more about being happy. What is difficult is to train alternating hard and soft movements. This balance between hard and soft is challenging to do when you are Uke.

He also said that with age, we have to train softer. The goal of the Bujinkan is to be happy, not to destroy yourself. I can remember the training in the 90s’, and I assure you that Sōke is much softer than before. Life is about permanent change and adaptation.

Nagato sensei said that Sensei evolved a lot because he has been changing all the time. As a result, he is not changing but evolving. Sensei is like the reflection of the moon on the river; always different but always the same. As Thich Nhat Hanh puts it, “The river must be calm to reflect the full moon. (6)

Permanent changes in Sōke’s Budō makes it challenging to follow his steps. We have to catch his tail and go where he is going, letting him lead the way. Nagato sensei added that “Catching and keeping the horse’s tail is easy. But Sōke is a dragon, so it is more difficult to stay attached to the tail.”

In Taijutsu and in life, you achieve happiness and success through changes. And Mochikaeru is part of it.

My best student told me once, “The Bujinkan is like a country led by a recognized leader. The goal is to learn to be happy, and permanent change is giving us this freedom.”

Be Mochikaeru, a “dōjō frog” willing to become a prince of Budō. (7)

Change and be happy!


1 持ち帰る, Mochikaeru: to bring back; to carry home; to take out (e.g., food)​
2 問答, Mondō: questions and answers; dialogue​
3 Noguchi sensei said that at the beginning training was in Sensei’s clinic, a room with only 8 mats. They emptied it before class, and they had to avoid tripping on a 1-step platform on the side.
4 The first group was: Ishizuka, Tanemura, Manaka, Muramatsu, Kobayashi, Nagato, Oguri, Senō, Noguchi.
5 Meatbags: Each time you speak with the Japanese Dai Shihan, they say that Sensei was using them as “meat-bags.” He was not even trying to teach. He was working to understand the techniques. And it was excruciating. Noguchi sensei said that young Hatsumi weighted over 100 kg, was very bulky, and powerful.
6 Thich Nhat Hanh
7 モチ蛙, Mochikaeru: motivation of the frog (to become a prince of Budō).

PARIS TAIKAI REGISTRATION JULY 12th to 14TH
MEET PETER, SVEN, ARNAUD AND TURN BECOME A PRINCE OF BUDŌ

Word And Object

From Shiro Kuma by kumafr

With Noguchi sensei tonight we covered the second level of Kukishin Daken Taijutsu. Each Waza was enriched (twisted) to meet his own interpretation and the depth of his taijutsu.

At some point during class, he positioned his right leg between Uke’s legs to do a basic Koshinage. While placing his leg, he said “kick,” but he didn’t do a kick, he put his thigh there. (1)
Later, he trapped his Uke was kneeling to the ground, and he captured Uke’s head between his knees, saying “happa.” (2) At another moment, he did a half Oni Kudaki and called it “Musha Dori.” (3)

In these three occurrences, the words he used didn’t seem correct. But they are. It is just that we limit their definition. The Japanese language, like Chinese or Korean processes the information by images. A word in Asia is not “definite,” it is a concept, a general idea evolving with the situation. In the West, our words have a precise definition, limiting their power. Not in the East. These languages do not see the world in the same we do.

Let’s review now what Noguchi sensei said during class.

Kick: This is our definition of Keri. But in fact, it means an “action of the leg.” The kick is one possibility amongst many. In the Chi Ryaku no Maki, there is a set of techniques called “Happō Keri Henka.” There are no kicks in these techniques, but the legs are used a lot to manage the distance to the opponent.

Happa Ken: This is one of the Hōken Jūroppō. Happa is slapping Uke with a flat hand. Here he was using the knees, hitting the head of Uke. Note that in the Takagi Yōshin Ryū, the Kyūsho for the ears is also called Happa. Happa for him is the action of hitting with the sides of the head, with the hands, the knees, or anything else. It is the function that is important.

Musha Dori / Oni Kudaki: It was not a mistake either. At the beginning of the Bujinkan, Musha Dori was the Omote form we know, and the Oni Kudaki was Musha Dori Ura. Both terminologies exist in different Ryū. Also, if you think about it, grabbing the elbow from inside or outside, are two ways to “grab a warrior.”

The Japanese language is not based on Latin, Saxon, or other Alphabet based languages. It is an image. And this image is a concept with blurred borders. If you take the word “Omote” for example and ask anyone to tell you what it is, they will all tell you that it means “outside.” And they will be right, but Omote is more than that. (5)

That is why it is vital to learn your Bujinkan vocabulary. The Japanese use their words not to define an object but because of their function.

In the train to Kashiwa, I remembered reading a book many years ago called “Word and object” by Quine. (6) You should read it. It changed my understanding of languages. In the book, Quine exposes the idea of what he calls “conceptual scheme.” From one language to another, à word doesn’t carry the same concepts. À word is cultural. It explains why a translation is often betraying the author’s initial idea.

Noguchi sensei’s class was as great as always. But if you understand what is above, it will be an essential step on your path to excellence.


1 蹴り, Keri: Kick (dictionary)
2 葉っぱ, Happa: leaf; blade (of grass); (pine) needle​ (dictionary)
3 武者取り, Musha dori: Grab the warrior
4 宝剣十六法, Hōken Jūroppō: The 16 treasures
5 表, Omote: Outside; above; in front of; exterior; on top; obvious; easy.

  • But also:
  • surface
  • face (i.e., the visible side of an object)​
  • front (of a building, etc.); obverse side (i.e., “head”) of a coin​
  • outside; exterior​
  • appearance​
  • public​
  • first half (of an inning); top (of an inning)​ Baseball term,
  • cover (for tatami mats, etc.)​
  • foreground​ Computer terminology

6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_and_Object

PARIS TAIKAI 2019