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.

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.

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.

YUDANSHA BOOK by MATS HJELM

From YŪDANSHA NO AN'NAISHO by YŪDANSHA NO AN'NAISHO

武神館有段者の案内所
YUDANSHA – BUJINKAN BLACK BELT GUIDE

Prints in 3-5 business days
Click button below to order

English, Perfect-bound Paperback, 184 pages richly illustrated with pictures and illustrations. (32 483 Words, 145 533 Characters)

This book is a comprehensive guide to understand the Taijutsu of the Bujinkan system as taught by Masaaki Hatsumi Soke. We have this concept of Shu-Ha-Ri which is three major processes to learn Budo. First, we learn the fundamentals, then how to break them up. Then you transcend to a state where you are totally free without even thinking of what you are doing. Needless to say, you can’t get to the last stage without knowing the first stage well. It is said that you should study each level for at least 10 years. This book is all about the first stage we call Shu. It is further divided into three levels.

  • 天略の巻 TEN RYAKU NO MAKI (The scroll of Heaven)
  • 地略の巻 CHI RYAKU NO MAKI (The scroll of Earth)
  • 人略の巻 JIN RYAKU NO MAKI (The scroll of Man)

About the Author: Mats have been training Bujinkan Budo-taijutsu since the early 1980’s. He travelled all around the world to train and teach Bujinkan Budo-taijutsu. http://YudanshaBook.com

Print details: 8.26″ x 11.69″ (EU Standard A4), perfect binding, white interior paper (60# weight), black and white interior ink, white exterior paper (90# weight), full-color exterior ink.

BACKGROUNDThank you for your interest in Bujinkan Budō-taijutsu!

This is not a self-study course, it is really necessary for you to have a qualified instructor to help you. The purpose for this book is to be a tool to help your progress. You will learn names and principles here, and the correct movements from an instructor that can point out bad angles, distance, timing etcetera.

This is a collection of techniques I think black belts in the Bujinkan system should at least be familiar with, and teachers should know by heart.

The layout of the techniques here is from Ten-Chi-Jin Ryaku no Maki, Shidōshi scrolls. Togakure-ryū Ninpō-taijutsu, an out of print book, and numerous publications and videos by Hatsumi Sōke.

This is not an official Bujinkan guide line, book, study material or what you want to call it. It is something I worked on for 35 years and ongoing, it is my legacy to my students. If other teachers want to endorse it or follow it, thank you! If someone doesn’t agree, that’s fine to, by all means release your own better version. This was made to students and friends from many nationalities that bought my videos, attended my seminars and showed interest in my way of teaching over the years.

Mats Hjelm

This book has been an ongoing project by Mats Hjelm at Kaigozan Dojo for 35 years, now it is time to release it publicly in English as version 3.0.