3 Tips for 大外掛 Ōsoto Gake You Should Start Using Now

From Bujinkan Santa Monica by Michael

3 Tips for 大外掛 Ōsoto Gake You Should Start Using Now
Bujinkan Honbu Masks, photo from same day by Michael Glenn

Tonight in my class we studied 夢落 yume otoshi. The last time I did this in Japan, Hatsumi Sensei gave us some insights that I want to share with you. He began by telling us 空間で嚮導 Kūkan de kyōdō, or lead the opponent in the kukan.

That was when I should have changed into a new gi. Because it was like a new life for an old ninja. I had a breakthrough for my understanding of taijutsu. But my day leading up to that experience gave no warning it would be special.

I trained for about 6 weeks in Japan every year. So not every day could be amazing. This particular Friday was cold, wet, and boring. I had only errands to keep me entertained before Hatsumi Sensei’s class.

Even my lunch was uninspired. I hunkered down at the low budget family restaurant, Saizeriya in Nagareyama. I only wanted to get out of the cold rain for a bit and work on my training notes in a quiet booth.

Christmas music was already playing, but the holiday decor was only half done. There was a lone Christmas tree surrounded by traffic cones for some arcane reason known only to the カラーコーン fairies. I watched a broken, discarded umbrella blow across the plaza and crash into the soggy tree.

Lucky for me Soke had changed the start time of his classes to 6pm. His 米寿 beiju (88th birthday) was in a couple of weeks. And preparations were underway for his party.

It took almost his entire class to clear my head. I was training with an XXL guy from Finland and he didn’t allow any technique to be done easy. I was beginning to feel like that broken umbrella at the train station.

Then, Hatsumi Sensei showed how to do the 大外掛 Ōsoto gake from yume otoshi. It was only a couple of minutes until the end of training. But he made some wonderful points:

  • First, he said our foot placement was too wide. We should only allow enough space for the knee to come through. 
  • Second, Get the 姿勢 shisei, or posture right by expanding the chest and keeping the head up. 
  • And Third,「頭の向きは投げる方向」Where you look is where you will throw. But the ura side of this is getting the opponent to look in a direction so he throws himself!

Then Soke told us,

空間で嚮導 Kūkan de kyōdō, lead the opponent in the kukan.  You must study something beyond waza, beyond technique. Transcend waza. Without avoiding you move like this. Step slowly, then hold it like this. Let’s try that… that will be the end.
Now here I am two years later sharing these same tips with my students. I do my best to remember the feeling from Soke that night. I would like to take them in a time machine so we could all eat lunch at the Saizeriya and go to Hatsumi Sensei’s class together. But time travel is only in my head training with my memories.

Our 初稽古 Hatsugeiko: First Bujinkan Training for 2022

From Bujinkan Santa Monica by Michael

五條天神社で、お焚き上げ otakiage preparations at Gojoten jinja. photo Michael Glenn

Happy new year! This year makes more than 35 years in the Bujinkan for me. I am humbled by the many gifts training has given me during all these years. But I still feel excited for what the future holds. 

Our 初稽古 Hatsugeiko, or the first training of the new year, was a bit different this year. For one, we actually trained on January 1, 2022. This is a holiday for most people, but many of us choose the dojo for holidays anyway! I know many of you have used your vacation time to train in Japan. 

And second, I have reached that point in life where many important teachers and students that I trained with are no longer training at all. Some have died, some have quit training. Either way, I made my hatsugeiko in their honor. 

For our first training of the year, I put a strong focus on kihon. It was cold, so I didn’t have to convince anyone to warm up. We all trained hard and got sweaty. 

We warmed up with ukemi and taihenjutsu including: 前方廻転 zenpō kaiten; 後方廻転 kōhō kaiten; 側方廻転 sokuhō kaiten; 前方蛙廻転 zenpō kaeru kaiten; 後方蛙廻転 kōhō kaeru kaiten; 横転 ōten; and 無手横転 mute ōten. Then we did 初心五型 shoshin gokei, 基本八法 Kihon Happō and even found time for bōjutsu basics. 

The first training of the new year sets the tone for the rest of the year. It is important to approach it with sincerity and a focus that will bring you the results that you want from your training. As I told my students, I am not teaching you. I can show you things and act as an example of where you can go. But in the dojo and in life you are all teaching yourselves. 

Next, we continued our study of 投型 nage kata from last year with 逆投 Gyaku Nage. I worked off of my notes from my studies with Oguri Sensei in Japan. We must keep his taijutsu and training spirit alive even in 2022! I spent some time demonstrating important details for using a makikomi in this waza. Hatsumi Sensei gave us this advice,

Everyone moves with their head, but you have to move with your center here. 伸ばす nobasu, stretch him out then enter from the side.

It is interesting to move with your own center this way. Not ducking under. Not lifting the opponent’s arm. But changing your center to shape the kukan.

For me, Bujinkan training is a central part of my entire life. Maybe it is for you too. Maybe we can move with our center into the new year. This is a way to shape the future from a strong foundation.

Jūjiro Or The Indirect Fight

From Shiro Kuma by kumablog

jujiro application

In the Kukishin ryū, there is one central concept that many don’t know, and it is called “Jūjiro”. (1) With the pandemic, everyone experiences difficult times, and it seems that many of us should be reminded of some basic concepts. Jūjiro is one of them.

Bujinkan practitioners often do not understand or never heard of what is Jūjiro. 

Let me refresh your memories about the Kukishin Ryū. When you receive an attack, you must pivot at a 90-degree angle with the body, weapon or both. Staying in line with the opponent is the fastest way to lose a fight. Sport is different as you don’t die in it. If you are defeated in a championship, only your ego is killed, momentarily. 

Olympic fencers fight in line, Kendōka always remains in line. My Mandalorian friends would say, “That is not the way.” Lines are direct; therefore, they are never the best. Fencing and Kendō would get more exciting and realistic the day fencers and Kendōka are allowed to turn around each other. Because that is what you would do in a real encounter. But if sport can be a “way of life” for some, it is definitely not a real-life and death situation. Budō is not a sport, rather an ancient military system.

In Japan, Sensei teaches that Jūjiro is used in the Kukishin when possible. Jūjiro consists of moving perpendicular to the attack or using the weapons perpendicular to the target. You apply Jūjiro against a human or a weapon. If you test it in your next training, you will see how powerful it is. Jūjiro creates more freedom in your actions and opens up more possibilities for your taijutsu.

But there is more to this concept. When you think about the movements, you limit yourself to the physical world, and the material world is only the Omote. 

There is also an Ura aspect we can use in the mental world. And to explain this, I will need the support of my old friends Laozi and Sunzi.

In the art of war, Sunzi says that “In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack – the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of manoeuvres. The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in turn, and it is like moving in a circle – you never come to an end. He adds that “the meeting takes place head-on, and the victory is obtained from an angle”. This direct vs indirect can be related to the cultural differences between the East and the West. In the East, indirect actions are always preferred to direct ones. That is why the Japanese never say “no” but always find a positive way to be negative. For example, when I asked a question to sensei, he would do one of two things: he would answer my question or say something like “step by step.” That was his way to say “no” without being negative (even though he is being negative). 

This Asian vision of life is beautifully explained in a book by Francois Jullien, a French sinologist. In one of his books titled “Detour and Access: Strategies of Meaning in China and Greece,” he gives a few examples of direct vs indirect action. (2) By not confronting Uke’s actions head-on, you can redirect his intent in other directions. We are tempted to confront the other in a verbal argument instead of accompanying his vision and tilting it. This is the art of negotiation. Nothing good comes from confrontation. This is the “no fight” attitude or “tatakainai.” (3)  

In the famous Taoteching, Laozi says, “don’t do anything and nothing will be left undone”, which you can understand as “when you oppose someone or something, your actions influence the outcome of the encounter. By not going head-on, you don’t create any unforeseen consequences. Direct confrontation is the opposite of the teaching of Tao. One day I had the chance to speak with the Dzogchen master of the Dalai Lama told me that “Opposing In and Yō is creating duality instead of unity, this is not the Madhyamaka.” (4) (5)

In battle, this is the direct approach that has to be avoided. Sunzi adds, “by rectitude, we make order reign, we use the troops at an angle. ”Both the direct and the indirect approaches are in use; the timing is different and should not be mixed. This no-confrontation defines Hatsumi Sensei’s Budō, and it is a very profound lesson for our lives. 

Avoiding direct opposition with others is the best way for negotiating. The Covid has dramatically changed the way we live. On the planet, many groups are fighting each other violently. This is the time of direct confrontation and thus of duality. Please consider going indirectly with the flow instead of rebelling uselessly. The way of Budō is a way of wisdom. Fight what you can change by yourself and what is beyond your possibilities. 

Ninpō Taijutsu teaches us the way of adaptation. 

So, constantly adapt to the situation, and use Jūjiro a little more at your dōjō and outside in real life. 

_____________________________________________

1 Jūjiro 十字路, crossroads or intersection

https://www.amazon.com/Detour-Access-Strategies-Meaning-Greece/dp/1890951102/ref=sr_1_4?crid=1HD1R3XXBOZI1&dchild=1&keywords=francois+jullien&qid=1635441571&s=books&sprefix=francois++jullien%2Cstripbooks%2C287&sr=1-4

3 戦い無い, tatakainai: non existent fight, no fight

4 In-Yō is the Chinese for Yin-Yang

5 中觀見, Madhyamaka: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madhyamaka

空打ち Karauchi: Striking Emptiness

From Bujinkan Santa Monica by Michael

Michael Glenn Strikes Emptiness

Last night in my class one student said, “This is pretty basic.” I did a double take and said, “Really? You think so?” I told him that the kata was more advanced than it appeared.

We were studying 一文字 Ichimonji. This is a 無刀捕 mutōdori kata from 高木揚心流 Takagi Yoshin Ryū. And it does look simple. But mutōdori has so many levels.

One morning when Hatsumi Sensei taught this kata he said, 

You make him cut the air. This is mutōdori, like he’s practicing by himself and striking emptiness.

The question I posed to my students last night was, “How?” How do you get your opponent, ostensibly a competent swordsman, to just cut the air and miss you completely?

As an answer, I gave them three insights into advanced mutōdori that I received from Soke. If you are interested, I share these kind of tips for anyone who joins my mailing list, which you can do here: eepurl.com/d0w_r

First, give the enemy what he wants. He is seeking violence and destruction. Let him have it.

Offer him a target. If you try to evade, then you always take away the target. He will then try to reacquire a target. But it may not be one that you are prepared to defend. Give him what he wants, then let him strike emptiness.

In another class I had with Hatsumi Sensei, he did a mutōdori against Oguri Sensei. Soke asked Oguri to describe the feeling. He said he couldn’t get any clear focus on the target for his cut. He said he felt his own kamae collapse.

In response, Hatsumi Sensei said that this is not the movement of sport martial arts. It is a level above that. For Ninjutsu, Soke told us that techniques become “透明 tōmei,” or transparent.

Transparent technique means you have something that cannot be seen or countered. I suggested that my students not plan or decide on a technique before executing it. If you don’t know what technique you will do, your opponent cannot know either. It is difficult for your opponent to counter a technique that doesn’t yet exist.

He will strike blindly at emptiness...  At transparency...  At a Ninja who cannot be seen.

I finished our class with a third suggestion for mutōdori. It is related to 扞技扼 kangiyaku, a kiai which can be verbalized or expressed silently. This kiai calls the opponent to cut.

Hatsumi Sensei did it while holding a kodachi. His opponent tried to cut, but then he collapsed. Soke didn’t even need to hit him. He said,

Give the opponent the feeling to cut. Draw him in. Then your movement will disappear. Disappear from the opponent's perception.

We make him cut emptiness. 

When we finished class, the student who thought the kata looked simple now had a big smile. I could see that he was inspired by these ideas that I shared from my own experience with Hatsumi Sensei. I hope he can carry this forward in his own training and share it with future generations.

SPEAR FIGHTING The essentials with MATS HJELM

From Budoshop.se by BUDOSHOP.SE

SPEAR FIGHTING The essentials with MATS HJELM. These spear techniques of Kukishin-ryu is a follow up on the old Sojutsu Kaisetsu Kata with Mats Hjelm released 16 years ago. This video covers Gokui Kata, the second level of traditional spear fighting techniques of Kukishin-ryu.

When one speaks of Gokui (essence), people get this sense of something mysterious, something really deep being there. And novelists also describe it this way. Gokui means something which that person can do well, his forte – that becomes the Gokui-gata. Warriors don’t ponder so deeply. “I’m good at this” – that what they go on. Just like in cooking: if it’s good, that’s fine. Like the expression “to cook the opponent” – Gokui is similar to that.

Masaaki Hatsumi on the Quest video SPD7006

Download SPEAR FIGHTING The essentials with MATS HJELM

On this video Mats show all 9 Yari techniques from the Gokui Kata of the nearly 700 year old school Kukishin-ryū in the Bujinkan system. These are the nine techniques.

極意型 GOKUI KATA

  1. 一文字 ICHIMONJI
  2. 菊水 KIKUSUI
  3. 巻蔦 KANCHŌ
  4. 鬼刺 KISASU
  5. 飛龍 HIRYŪ
  6. 突伏 TSUKI-BUSE
  7. 蔭蝶 KAGE-CHŌ
  8. 三ツ玉 SATSUGYAKU
  9. 七枚葉 KYOBA

Each technique is demonstrated and explained from different camera angles. The instructions are in English.

SPEAR FIGHTING The essentials with MATS HJELM

Click on the button above to buy the 27 minute video download

HD1280x720, MP4, QuickTime Text, AAC, H.264. Download size 368Mb

This video is from Kaigousuru 2020; this was the first Taikai after the last and the best Taikai in 2007. Recorded in Sundbyberg, Stockholm in September 26-27’th 2020. The seminar was organised by Bujinkan Kaigozan Dojo.

About the instructor

Mats Hjelm started training in Bujinkan for the first time around 1983. It wasn’t until 1986 when he had the opportunity to start training more seriously under a Shidōshi. He has taught at numerous seminars all around the world, gone to Japan 3-5 times every year. After he started training he never had a training break. He takes his budo training very seriously! If you want to sponsor a seminar or course, please don’t hesitate to contact him. For more information see his web site kesshi.com or come and train with him at Kaigozan Dojo.