Who Is The Boss?

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

Be Like A Butterfly!

FB_IMG_1511541272692During Friday’s class, I asked Sensei to write: “It is not about fighting, it is about controlling.” What I got was “Chochō Hanami Maai” or “Butterfly, flowers, distance.” (1)
Since then I tried to see the link between my request and his answer. During the Sunday class, he spoke about the butterfly. It helps to shed some light on the hidden meaning of this cryptic calligraphy. Sensei said that we should move like a butterfly and don’t give any feedback to the opponent. When you don’t use strength, the adversary cannot react and wonders what is happening to him. This activation of his mental process slows him down and allows us to take the advantage. Uke of Hatsumi sensei and Senō sensei, I felt no physical contact at all on my arm and body. The way they touch you is similar to the touch of a butterfly. There is nothing to feel, and as Tezuka San put it “it is like fighting alone.”
Sensei often defines his art as “the martial art of distance.” I finally understood it yesterday. Distance is not limited to our leg movements. It also implies the quality of the contact between Uke and Tori. A butterfly landing on a flower will not bend the flower. In this allegory of Chochō Hanami Maai, we have to become the butterfly. Uke is the flower, and the distance is the quality of the strength or the lack of it that we apply to the movement.
Demonstrating this with Adonis Mitrou from Greece, he asked him to explain what he felt. Thinking for a moment, Adonis came up with a Gyokko Ryū concept. “Kokū no Naka ni no Kūkan,” or to find the emptiness in the centre of space. (2)
Sensei welcomed this interpretation. It was showing the connection between his body flow and the Gyokko Ryū. This concept is central to the understanding of this essential Bujinkan fighting system. The quality of your control is what matters. It is your ability to find the perfect distance between you and the opponent. Like the butterfly landing on the flower.
I miss the old days where training was only about the mechanical aspects of technique. But I have to admit that this more profound approach to Taijutsu is much more fulfilling. The butterfly attitude is far more complicated. But the results are beyond your wildest dreams.
It is very high-level Budō. It explains why Sensei said that the 50 years of the Bujinkan arts, led us to get the real essence of Budō.
Kantan desu. (3)
Everything is easy when you become a butterfly, so I wish you a happy flight. Ganbatte!
1 – 胡蝶, 花実, 間合い, butterfly, flowers, distance
2 – 虚空の中にの空間, the emptiness in the centre of space
3 – Kantan desu: 簡単, simple; easy; uncomplicated
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Tatakai Wa Janai

Chochō, Hanami, Maai: 胡蝶, 花実, 間合い

The more I train here, and the more I am lost.

Today, during Senō sensei’s class, I partnered with my friend Michael Glenn (Santa Monica dōjō). We were lost. How those who come here once or twice in their life can understand the Bujinkan arts. Yesterday night, Hatsumi Sensei’s class was another moment of solitude. Sensei is hardly moving and stops you without applying any force.
As his Uke, I felt like I am suspended in mid-air alone, unable to continue the attack. Sensei is like a ghost, holding with a tiny point of contact. In fact, it is as if he is not there. One thing for sure, he is not fighting you. Uke is the only one fighting. He is fighting gravity, balance, tensions because it feels like there is nothing in front of him.
To “help us” understand, Sensei repeated many times “Waza Janai,” there is no technique. (1) And he was right. Writing these lines, I have a hard time explaining the unexplainable. You have to feel it for yourself to begin to get it; there is nothing to understand. It is beyond the technical realm. Sensei moves in such a perfect way that the only thing you get is a feeling of powerlessness.
In the past, it was easy to explain what he was doing because we had the support of the Waza. Now it is mission impossible.
Sōke’s central teaching yesterday is to get to control the opponent by controlling the situation. It is about full awareness.
Last year, this year, and next year, we are studying the art of Mutō Dori. That is a very high-level approach to the concept of Mutō Dori.
He summarized it when he said:: “Tatakai Wa Janai”, there is no fighting. (2) He added it was only about control. To control without intention, and without technique, is the Mutō Dori level we have to study this year. I never suspected something so tricky. Once again, the only chance you have to understand it is to be Sensei’s Uke. I am lucky to have felt it, even though I am far from being able to do it myself.
During the calligraphy session, I asked for “It is not about fighting, it is about controlling.” And he wrote “Chochō Hanami, Maai,” or “butterfly, flowers. The distance”. That is the picture illustrating this post. (3)
I still have to get the hidden meaning behind this cryptic kōan. That will be the subject of another post if I can fathom what he meant.
  1. Waza Janai: 技じゃない
  2. Tatakai Wa Janai: 戦いわじゃない. Tatakai: battle; fight; struggle; conflict
  3. Chochō Hanami, Maai: 胡蝶, 花実, 間合い


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Ken, Tachi, Katana


I recently asked you about your expectations about the videos and texts that I do. To my surprise, you are 90% willing to have more insights on History in Budō. In this first article, I will address a point that might change your vision of sword fighting.
Only the Kukishinden and the Togakure Ryū have sword Denshō. And we use the concepts and the body flow of each other school to get their specific biken jutsu.
Here are the few points for you to keep in mind when using a sword:
#1 Taijutsu is a tool for the training of the young Samurai aged 6 to 15 before they could wear the Yoroi. Or have the muscles to use the massive weapons.
#2 Taijutsu became a significant fighting art during the second half of the Tokugawa period.
#3 During the Edo no Jidai (1), there was peace and no more battlefield encounters.
#4 Peace time is the reason for the creation of “martial arts” as we know them today. Historical reasons explain that:
a) Hideyoshi killed his major rivals (2),
b) Shimabara rebellion (3),
c) the need for the former soldiers to survive during peacetime. (4)
#5 The Tsurugi (Chinese sword) has been in use in China and Japan for more than 4000 years.
In the myth of the creation of Japan, Jimmu sent by Amateratsu comes to the archipelago with a Tsurugi, the famous 草薙劍 Kusanagi no Tsurugi.
#6 The Tachi replaced the Tsurugi around the end of the Heian no Jidai (794-1185). (5)
#7 The way of the Tachi benefits from the Tsurugi experience developed for more than 40 centuries.
#8 The Tsurugi and the Tachi were used on horseback with Katate, only one hand. There were used for stabbing. (6)
#9 The Katana began to be used in the 16th century. It replaced the Tachi with the Tokugawa peace.
#10 The last sword technique of the Kukishin biken jutsu, “Tsuki no Wa” is a Tachi technique.
#11 The Sanshin no kata is a Tsurugi and a Tachi set of movements, it was then adapted to the Katana, and then to Taijutsu.
#12 The Katana was used standing up, not on a horse. So it didn’t need to be as long as a Tachi. The Katana was used to stab and to cut.
#13 My sword teacher told me that the two-hand grip on a smaller blade, increased speed and precision. The triangle uses the power and flexibility of the wrists. (7)
#14 With peace, the Yoroi stayed home. The Samurai could now use their sword to cut the opponent. Before the Edo period, it was not possible. (8)
#15, As a result, the quality of steel improved even faster.
#16 My sword teacher said that “cutting with a Katana is easy, after all, it is made for that. But that genuine expertise is to know how to stop the blade after the cut.
For over 45 centuries warriors used the Tsurugi and Tachi for fighting. Without this knowledge, the Katana would not be the same. You must train all three swords if you want to understand about sword fighting.
This is a Sanshin.
  1. Edo no Jidai (1603-1868)
  2. Hideyoshi killed three Daimyō opposed to him. As a result, a lot of Ronin began to wander all over Japan.
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shimabara_Rebellion
  4. Unemployed soldiers began to teach Martial arts to the civilians. This situation led to the creation of many Dōjō. The technical level was not always “high level.” “By the end of the Tokugawa era, there were 718 swordsmanship schools, 52 archery schools, 148 spearmanship schools, 179 unarmed combat schools.” p26 In “The truth of the ancient ways” by Anatoliy Anshin, Kodenkan Institute NY. We can imagine that the majority of these schools were not the best.
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heian_period
  6. Katate: 片手, one hand
  7. He lived in Japan for 17 years. As a Frenchman, he was a member of the Japanese Kendō team, vice world champion of Kendō (for Japan). Teacher of the Musō Shinden Ryū, and 35 other older Kenjutsu schools, teacher of 5 styles of Battōdō. Only to let you know that when he spoke, I was listening.
  8. The Yoroi is designed to parry the Yari, the most dangerous weapon on the battlefield. I read a paper explaining that the Yari accounted for about 60% of the casualties in comparison to the 21% of kills with the swords. (data from 10th to 17th century).


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33% Discount at Budomart In November!


I began training in June 1984. This year it is my 33rd year in the Bujinkan. With Christmas coming soon, I thought it would be nice to celebrate this anniversary together.

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