Training From Inside a Bujinkan Dojo Membership Program

From Bujinkan Santa Monica by Michael

What can you learn from the Rojodojo membership program?

or, Why start an online membership?

I have been training all of my life. Started in 1985. Around that same time, I also got into film and video production. So when I began teaching Bujinkan and started my own dojo, It seemed like a natural thing to make training videos.

I assumed I would put them out as DVDs. I even made some with chapters, extras (remember those?) and gave them out. But, this was the era of Netflix and streaming video. Many people were abandoning DVDs and VHS was already a dinosaur.

Then my next thought was how can I stream these training videos? I put a few on youtube, a few on amazon, and I quickly realized it was a full time job. Between the teaching of classes, the video production, post production, streaming setup… And the equipment wasn’t free either.

I knew I had a few friends from my mailing list and from social media who might be interested. So I set up the streaming on my new website Rojodojo.com and I began to tell everyone about it:

Here was the #1 post Introducing Rojodojo

What were the Initial Results?

I was very nervous about the launch. I am not a natural salesperson. I just love to train, and to share that. But I felt weird charging for it. Even though my students pay me for my classes, and I pay my own teachers for their classes. I was not good about asking for money.

So Rojodojo started out kind of weak. I only got a few signups. Not even enough to cover the web hosting bill.

I even received a bunch of blow back from my current followers. People unsubscribed or unfollowed me. Some even wrote me to complain that who did I think I was to charge for videos?

Should I quit? Or Double Down?

I decided to focus on the trailblazers who did sign up. Instead of 1,000 true fans, maybe I had 10… But I was so thankful.

I immediately wrote some amateur Japanese calligraphy to mail to them. And then I got to work. Training, writing, and making videos.

Then, every month, more people came on board. And they kept their memberships going month after month. That means if I get 2 people in one month paying $30 each, and 3 people sign up the next month, now I have $150 every month.

It's not a lot, but it arrives every month... like rocket fuel to share and teach everything I have learned about the Bujinkan during my 35+ years of training.

I was surprised at how we grew. New members continued to join even though I am terrible about offering memberships to people. Did I mention I was a bad salesperson? 

You can see the growth has been up and down, but steady. I removed the Y-axis numbers because of my tendency towards privacy. That way no one will criticize the amount of support.

A few years into this I wonder why I ever doubted myself. Because a few things became real:

Memberships give me permission to do things I wouldn’t otherwise do on my own

Membership allows me to run experiments and explore. I can focus on very small details like the meaning one of our Kuji, Bujinkan Kuden: 妙剣 Myōken and 突き構え Tsukigamae Which is a fringe topic that only hard-core Bujinkan students would care about.

Or, I can run multi-part series like the 12 episodes of 義鑑流 Gikan-Ryū as taught by Noguchi Sensei. This project was very membership driven. It would never have happened without members supporting it.

Now people from everywhere in the world can study with me. Video classes reach many more students than I ever could in my home dojo. My own students even get recognized whenever they go to Japan or attend seminars (they are the real stars of my videos).

When the pandemic happened and our dojo had to close for a year and a half (California wasn’t playing), I was lucky that my members stayed on. They supported me even when I only made improvised videos and explored odd topics for solo training.

My current pledge for members of Rojodojo

I create for the whole Bujinkan community. My goal for Rojodojo is a continuous and rigorous production of training projects. Because I want to share the martial art I love so much.

Some may not want my approach, or some may be too busy building their own empires to learn from me. But there are many strong students and teachers who have the curiosity and drive to learn.

I will share for them. In every way possible. For the true Ninjas.

If you want in, then join us: Rojodojo Invitation



How to Practice the Fake Kick of 指拍 Shihaku

From Bujinkan Santa Monica by Michael

How to Practice the Fake Kick of 指拍 Shihaku
Real or fake kick?
The other night in my dojo we were practicing fake kicks during the kata 指拍 Shihaku. It is a challenge to practice a fake kick. Here I will give you a method to make your fakes seem real.

How do you trick someone into believing something that isn’t real? You act as if it is real. Or even better, make it real.

This is how I often explain kyojitsu to my students. 虚 kyo means fake, and 実 jitsu means reality. For kyojitsu to work it has to be both real and fake at the same time.

Shihaku has a kick that is kyojitsu. But remember kyojitsu only works if it can be either 虚 kyo or 実 jitsu. Too many people only practice the kyo part of kyojitsu. 

Their fake fails because no one would fall for it. So it must be real. Just not necessarily delivered.

This means that if the opponent doesn’t react to your fake, then make it real. And you kick him hard! If he’s not buying what you’re selling, then kick his ass with it.

So when does does the fake become real? Where does that change occur? Hatsumi Sensei demonstrated this on me when he called it 虚実皮膜 kyojitsu himaku.

The way I learned this kick from Hatsumi Sensei was quite interesting. He took it to that in between place of kyojitsu by making the kick 探り saguri geri. Here The kick becomes more of a searching, feeling out, or testing the waters.

But Soke is really probing the opponent’s state of mind. Will he fall for it? Think of a calm mind like the surface of a quiet lake. Then look for the ripples caused by your (fake) kick.

It is like dipping your toe into a pool to see if the water is cold. Is that a kick? The water surface may be broken and disturbed. Our opponent's kamae is also broken and disturbed this way by saguri geri.

I love this in practice because I can often make my opponents fall over without even hitting them. It is because I am striking their mind and spirit. If that fails for some reason, I have the backup of a real kick to the balls and a punch to the gut. I am happy with either outcome!

If you want more of these training tips from me, then please join my newsletter here: Rojodojo

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. 

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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