Sakura No Kaze II

From The Magick & The Mundane » Bujinkan by Shawn Gray

The second annual Sakura No Kaze (“cherry-blossom wind”) seminar was held in Surrey, BC, just outside Vancouver, on May 14/15. Bill Brown and I team-taught for the two days, alternating back and forth, sharing lessons that we’ve learned from our time in Japan training under Hatsumi Sensei. This included both unarmed taijutsu techniques as well as variations with the sword and the 6-foot bo staff. We also taught techniques from both the perspective of a defender using the technique against an aggressor, and also from the perspective of having the technique applied to you by someone else, turning the technique back upon them (this is known as kaeshi-waza, 返し技).

The turn-out was very good despite the threat of rain, and although it did rain at times over the two days, there were hot, sunny breaks as well – a nice smattering of variable Vancouver weather. As many Vancouver-area Bujinkan groups do, we were training outside. At times, training jackets came off because it was getting hot, and at other times those training jackets were dripping with mud. The Vancouver groups are used to training outdoors in all sorts of weather. I had the same experience in my 5 years of training in Vancouver before moving to Japan – sun, rain, snow, mud, concrete, gravel, ice – we trained on and in it all.

It was so encouraging to see many old friends and new ones as well, the new generation who have come up the ranks in the 19 years since I began my training in the area. At the time I think there were only 2 or 3 Bujinkan black belts in BC. The Bujinkan community was very isolated from Japan. Few made the trip to Japan for training, and there were swindlers around who would take advantage of people’s ignorance, keeping them in the dark and taking their membership and grading fees and issuing their own certificates and membership cards instead of the official ones that are supposed to come from the Bujinkan office in Japan. Over time, people began to see other instructors and make their own trips to Japan, aided by the spread of information via the Internet since the mid-90′s. Now there are many instructors who have taken groups of students to Japan to train with Sensei, and the exposure of more instructors to the training in Japan has, over time, resulted in a much greater skill level than existed in the province when I first started out. It’s good to see – relationships between local training groups have developed and people are cooperating on hosting and organizing events and showing up to support each others’ seminars. Such inter-group cooperation was rare back in the ’90s. I felt a great sense of happiness when I thought of this as I looked around at the faces of the participants as the seminar came to a close. The Bujinkan in Western Canada has come such a long way, due to people’s efforts and sacrifice, and is developing it’s own history, one that I’m proud to be a small part of.

It was great to have the honour to be invited to teach here again.

Namaste, Arigatou, Keep Going!


The Rope Joint

From The Magick & The Mundane » Bujinkan by Shawn Gray

The reason I can do the technique this way is that I’m using my spine as if it were a rope.
– Hatsumi Sensei

Last week Sensei spoke again of the importance of connection, using the examples of the joints in the body. The body has many joints which both connect all the parts together and allow it to move smoothly. The fewer joints, or connections, we have, the less smooth our movement will be. Demonstrating a technique, he said that he could do it this way because he was using all of the joints in his spine together, as if it were a rope.

The rope is an important tool in this years’ training theme as it demonstrates the connectedness of things. Sensei also mentioned that the rope is like one big joint working as a whole – it has no links or joints in it, such as a chain does for example, so it can be used in a supple and fluid manner. Perhaps another way of looking at it is viewing the rope as being composed of a billion tiny joints which have been amalgamated into one thing which works as a single unit. All of the separate parts have been united to create a new thing – and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, as they say.

The word for joint in Japanese is ‘kansetsu’ (関節), and it is also interesting that the word for ‘indirectness’ is also pronounced ‘kansetsu’ (官設). I certainly felt both aspects of this when he allowed me to feel the technique. He was controlling me so lightly that it felt like I was being held in place by a single sheet of paper. It was the indirect manner in which he responded to my punch that allowed him to do it.

Ayase Report (080422)

From The Magick & The Mundane » Bujinkan by Shawn Gray

Class started out tonight with a demonstration of one of the first techniques of Togakure-ryu Ninjutsu by Noguchi Sensei. Soke then did his spin-off thing and soon had the full class in a state of confusion. Nothing unusual about tonight in that regard. :-)

We did a lot of work with “fist changing” tonight – using multiple strikes against the opponent, changing the strike from one form into another along the way. From a shishinken to a boshiken to a shutoken for example, 3 consecutive strikes with the same hand. It wasn’t as if we were just standing there hitting the other guy repeatedly with one hand though. Sensei stressed the necessity of *walking* through the technique. With every step, a strike would be applied. A step was used to power every strike. Sensei often uses the term “juppo sessho” (’10 ways of interacting’ is one rendering of that phrase) in relation to this “fist changing.” The number 10 represents infinity and circularity, continuous, never-ending change. The martial *artist* must be able to continually adapt his attacks and strategies to best fit continually-changing circumstances, “changing as change is necessary” to accomplish that which [s]he wills to do.

From the number 10, Sensei went on to talk about the “bugei juhappan”, 18 martial skills to be learnt by the common Japanese warrior (bushi). (“Ninjutsu practitioners also study Bugei Juhappan alongside with Ninja Juhakkei (the 18 Ninjutsu fighting art skills).”) Sensei said that by adding this extra dimension, we arrive at the number 36, which is a significant number in ‘fuusui’ (風水, pronounced ‘feng-shui’ in Chinese). He didn’t elaborate, leaving it up to the listener to figure out for themselves. (I could turn it into a ‘93′ by turning it around, but…) He did leave a hint though by stressing the *simplicity* of the concept, stating that its simply a continual circulation in two (or more) directions at the same time, much like the simultaneous circulation of blood through both the arteries and veins through the body. Once again we were left with the teaching that budo is simple, but its simple on a grand scale.