Don’t Rattle Your 忍者刀 Ninjatō

From Bujinkan Santa Monica by Michael

Mt Fuji all the way from Kashiwa, photo by Michael Glenn
Hatsumi Sensei surprises me with his teaching. The night before I left for Japan, we studied 忍者刀 Ninjatō in my own dojo. Then, on Friday night in Soke’s class at the Bujinkan Honbu Dojo, he taught one of the secrets of this weapon.

I try to prepare for these lessons, yet I am still surprised. I suppose the only way is to always be ready. This is the ukemi of being Hatsumi Sensei’s student.

I landed at Narita Airport around 5pm local time. My normal plan is to run through immigration and customs as fast as Japanese bureaucracy will allow. Then catch a two hour train ride straight to Hatsumi Sensei’s class.

One hour into the train ride I began to lose my motivation. Warm trains make me sleepy. That, and the 20 hours of travel that wasn’t over yet.

I stood up to shake off the tired. It was already dark out, and the train cabin was reflected back to us in the window. I leaned my head against the door to watch the lights pass outside.

It looked wet and miserable out. I already felt the cold when I transferred at the last station. But when my eyes adjusted to the dark I couldn’t believe what I saw between the railroad ties. Patches of snow flashed by like a flickering reel of film!

It was only November. Snow in Tokyo is extremely rare this time of year. I already had two shirts on, and now I pulled a hoodie over those.

The old Atago station was dark and quiet. My breath fogged. A patch of snow crunched under my boot. During my walk to the dojo I wondered if class was cancelled.

I came around the corner and I could see the lights were on. I marveled at the snow on the rooftop. I slid open the door… Konbanwa!

A warm crowd inside and many old friends greeted me. I changed quickly into my gi. Was I ready? I don’t know, at least I was there.

Hatsumi Sensei taught at an intense pace. He started off class at the highest levels of training. It was all about letting go and 空間利用 kukan riyō, using the kukan.

The train passed by and shook the building.

"Hai, OK!" Soke called out. Then he started with the 忍者刀 Ninjatō and I paid close attention. Someya Sensei cut in at him...

Hatsumi Sensei was in 棟水之構 Tōsui no Kamae. He lifted his blade softly as if to shield against the katana. Someya tried to cut again. Soke let his sword slip and then smacked it into Someya’s neck without cutting.

He told us one of the themes this year was 一刀万方 Ittō Banpō, which is one sword, many possibilities. It may also be written 一刀万宝 Ittō Banpō which means one sword, many treasures.

There are many treasures in the study of the Ninja-tō.  Hatsumi Sensei wrote
忍者の剣は、闇夜の剣を避けがたし
This can be read many ways. One interpretation is that “the sword of the ninja doesn’t rattle in the dark of the night”. In other words, avoid rattling your sword.

What does that mean beyond being stealthy? Lucky for us Hatsumi Sensei has also shared this gokui in relation to the Ninja-to:
抜かず勝て、抜けば切るなよ、ただ忍べ、命をとるは大事とぞ知れ
Win without drawing the sword
if you draw it, don’t cut
Simply persevere
Know the significance
Of taking a life.
When Hatsumi Sensei smacked the blade against Someya’s neck he was demonstrating this principle. He even told us that night that we were all too quick to use the sword. He said that when we tried to use the sword, we missed the kyojitsu.

I hold onto these memories and lessons from Soke like treasures. During the first hour of my train ride (which you can watch part of here: Ninja True: How to get to the Bujinkan Honbu Dojo) I caught a glimpse of Mt Fuji in the distance. The slope of Fuji Sama seemed to hold the burnt sunset for every last bit of warmth.

Bujinkan 秋修業 Aki Shūgyō 2019

From Bujinkan Santa Monica by Michael

邃渓園 Suikeien at 帝釈天題経寺 photo by Michael Glenn
This fall we will have our 秋修業 Aki Shūgyō on Oct 20. This training event sets the Bujinkan theme for our fall training. The training theme is set to take over the season. We will move from  哀れみ Awaremi to 楽しみ Tanoshimi.

Not for Everyone! Only the most dedicated teachers are willing to go on a 修業 Shugyo. Only the most dedicated students commit to the adventure. Are you in?

text or call: (424) 272-6307 to RSVP

Our theme comes from the clue Hatsumi Sensei gave us when he matched the seasons with 喜怒哀楽 kidoairaku, or human emotions. In fighting, we normally strive to remove emotion, or at least, not let it control us.

But the ura waza, or hidden technique, is to harness the power contained in emotion. We draw it out of our enemy to use against them. Maybe on a deep level, we can even tap the power of emotion from within ourselves.

Hatsumi Sensei told us we must learn 遊びの中真実 Asobi no naka shinjitsu, or the truth hidden within play.

This is training Fresh From Japan. 修業 Shugyo is the pursuit of knowledge. Learn about Bujinkan themes straight from my recent Japan trip. And Get connected to the most current training.

text or call: (424) 272-6307 to RSVP

Can you do the work? A 修業 Shugyo is not supposed to be easy. You get hours of hard training. And inspiration for months of discovery.

A Secret 九字 Kuji for Defeating 100 Enemies

From Bujinkan Santa Monica by Michael

Hidden Alcove at 戸定邸 Tojō-tei. photo by Michael Glenn
Within the 九法の力 Kyū-hō no chikara, or the power of the 9 methods, there is a kuji that holds the 秘技 higi or secret technique to overcoming a hundred enemies:

「護攻虚変争精神不動」GoKoKyoHenSeiShinFudo

This kuji, or gokui, repels any method of capture or defeat. You protect yourself by changing the attack itself with an immovable spirit. This is the time to do or die. You are prepared for death, but you’d rather do the enemy in.

How do you do instead of die? In that single moment of life and death you remain unmoved in the middle. That middle place is the key to ninjutsu.

On a very hot day in June, I learned about this. The air was loud with the harmonic drone of 蝉 semi (cicadas). But we were training anyway. Hatsumi Sensei told us to train in accordance with the temperature.

Two opponents attacked and Soke slipped behind the first attacker. He did this while trapping the second guy in his own attack. Then Hatsumi asked the uke to give his impression of what just happened. The confused student described his inability to get a fix on Hatsumi Sensei as a target.

Soke replied that this is not the movement of sports or the “so called” martial arts. This is something far above that.  This is true ninjutsu. Make your techniques transparent. Make them see through.

Hatsumi Sensei told us not to just punch on the surface, but to strike through the body. He said when your arm goes through their spine it makes the sign of the cross.

Soke gave us a warning
「九字を許すも十字を許すな」kuji are permitted but not juji.
If you go beyond kuji and allow juji then you have “crossed the line.” Maybe you cross the line of life and death. You could end up facing 十王 Jū-ō  the ten judges of the dead.

In Buddhism, there are nine states from Hell to Bodhisattva. The highest level, the tenth level, is becoming Buddha. But the 仏 hotoke (Boddhisatvas) are the souls of the dead, to be commemorated by their descendants.

I toweled the sweat away and scribbled my notes after training. What did I learn that day?
  • Make yourself and your technique transparent;
  • Go to the line but don’t cross it;
  • Remain unmoved by life or death in that spot. 
This is the secret to 心中を突く也 Shinjū o tsuku nari,  piercing the heart of the enemy.

What Happened During Michael Glenn’s Bujinkan Seminar in Québec?

From Bujinkan Santa Monica by Michael

This summer, I was honored to be invited to Québec to teach and share the Bujinkan training I've been doing in Japan. My hosts Bernard and Francine were gracious and wonderful. The students were very skilled, attentive, and curious. And Québec City was an amazing place to visit!

I covered many Bujinkan topics during the seminar. Here is an extended preview video:


The contents of the full Bujinkan training series is available below.

  • Part One: Kamae And Kyojitsu. In this first video I cover some basics of kamae and kyojitsu.
    FULL VIDEO: https://www.rojodojo.com/quebec-bujinkan-kamae-and-kyojitsu/
  • Part Two: Kukan and Tension. In this video I demonstrate how to shape the kukan. Then in this space we create tension that allows us to throw our opponent without strength. I also share some of the training I did with Hatsumi Sensei in Japan last month. FULL VIDEO https://www.rojodojo.com/quebec-bujinkan-kukan-and-tension/
  • Part Three: Draw and Disarm. First I show how to shift the kukan to draw your knife or take the attacker’s knife. Next I demonstrated how to precisely target kyusho with any weapon. Then I shared details about 平一文字の構 Hira Ichimonji no Kamae. I showed how to use 六法の構 roppou no kamae which naturally includes 鷹の舞 taka no mai. I finished the training with knife disarms that I studied with Hatsumi Sensei in Japan. FULL VIDEO: https://www.rojodojo.com/quebec-bujinkan-draw-and-disarm/ 
  • Part Four: Shinbo and Kyusho. We began in 音無し之構 otonashi no kamae with the hanbo. This led into an examination of the principle of 辛抱一貫 Shinbo Ikkan that I learned from Hatsumi Sensei in Japan. Then I continued with 半棒術 hanbōjutsu using 挟み捕り hasami dori. I also shared the Bujinkan Kuden of kirigami as it applies to kyusho. FULL VIDEO: https://www.rojodojo.com/quebec-bujinkan-shinbo-and-kyusho/
  • Part Five: Weapon Retention With 支点 Shiten. We began with hanbo weapon retention from 無念無想の構 munen muso no kamae. The basic forms of this apply the principles of 手解 tehodoki. Then it becomes more advanced using a quality of 支点 shiten that I have learned with Soke. The initial grab provides a place of connection that can become a fulcrum. This captures all of the opponent’s power and focuses it down to one point. This creates some powerful throws while using no strength or force. We did variations from 型破の構 kata yaburi no kamae that drop one side or the other, or even twist about the center. FULL VIDEO: https://www.rojodojo.com/quebec-bujinkan-weapon-retention-with-shiten/
  • Part Six: Kodachi Kihon And 天眼 Tengan. We began by creating structure with our kamae, then dropping away in the kukan. Next I explained Hatsumi Sensei’s idea of あも一寸の玉 虫 amo issun no tama mushi, this is a gokui from 高木揚心流 Takagi Yoshin Ryū. We moved into some secret draws and 小太刀 kodachi kihon that I studied with Soke. These come from the 十方折衝 juppo sessho. Then we wrapped up with a high level strategy called 天眼 Tengan. This came directly from Hatsumi Sensei during my recent Japan trip. FULL VIDEO: https://www.rojodojo.com/quebec-bujinkan-kodachi-kihon-and-tengan/
  • Part Seven: Tachi Dori And Kusari Fundo. We began with the 無刀捕 Mutōdori of 太刀捕 Tachi Dori. I taught two methods that I learned from Hatsumi Sensei in Japan. These are done by feel rather than looking for the sword. I explained some small details about 不動明王の目 Fudōmyōō no me like 天地眼 tenchigan. I added the 鎖分銅 kusarifundō to trap the Tachi. The true skill of Bujinkan students is often revealed with their handling of flexible weapons. I finished by sharing some critical details on how to do 中振 nakafuri with the kusarifundō. It becomes infinite like happō. FULL VIDEO: https://www.rojodojo.com/quebec-bujinkan-tachi-dori-and-kusari-fundo/

The Hidden Kūkan for Bujinkan 無刀捕 Mutōdori

From Bujinkan Santa Monica by Michael

山田 記央 photo by Michael Glenn
It was the normal chaos at the Bujinkan Honbu dojo. The training had just ended, and everyone rushed to get their photos with Hatsumi Sensei. I rushed to my notebook.

I did this because Soke finished the class with a huge surprise for his teaching of 無刀捕 mutōdori. He showed us 空間を作る kūkan o tsukuru, or how to create space. So I scribbled a note about the hidden location for this opening before that secret disappeared into the night.

Earlier that day, I had gone into Tokyo to visit Norio Yamada-san. He makes 江戸手描提灯 Edo Tegaki Chōchin, Edo style hand painted paper lanterns. He called to say my order was ready to pick up.

It never occurred to me that there could be a connection to Soke’s teaching later that night. Hatsumi Sensei said,
“You’re not evading, 空間  浮かす Kūkan ukasu, you’re floating the opponent in the space.”
If you’ve ever held one of these paper lanterns, they feel like you’ve caught light and air itself as it glows softly in the night.

Hatsumi Sensei catches swords like that. My training partner, Tezuka-san, swung a metal blade at Soke. And this is when my surprise arrived. Soke told us,
“Don’t do this with 刀意識 Tō ishiki.”
This means don’t put your mind or consciousness with the sword. Remember this is 無刀 mutō and the sword is nothingness. Instead create or open up the kūkan and float your opponent in it.

But where is this kūkan? It's the space in the opponent’s mind or consciousness. The physical space is only so big, but the kūkan in the mind is infinite. Control that space and you have already won. Tezuka-san said it feels like Hatsumi Sensei catches him in between thoughts.

Soke nodded and said,
“You have to know those spaces, those openings, those little cracks…”
When Hatsumi Sensei creates kūkan between your own thoughts and floats you in that empty space, you are very exposed. Anyone who has attacked Hatsumi Sensei might relate to that blanked out feeling. Whenever he asks me to describe it to the other students in the Honbu dojo, I fold up like a paper lantern.