故人を偲ぶ Avoid beeing seen

From Kabutoshimen by admin

One part of self-defence is not to make yourself a target for attacks. This can be as simple as not stand out in a crowd by looking or behaving in a such way that you get more attention than the others around you. By blending into the crowd you will less likely be a chosen target. In this way you will hide yourself and become invisible to persons that is looking for victims.

By concealing your feelings you do not give away the opportunity for someone to manipulate you and use your weaknesses. You hide your feelings.

If you don’t show what you know or don’t know you will always have the upper hand and the possibility to use the element of surprise. In a fight for example you do not take a kamae that reveal what style you are trained in. You hide what you know.

In Bujinkan we have this saying…

身を忍び Mi wo shinobi
心を忍び Kokoro wo shinobi
死を忍ぶ Shiki wo shinobu

Hide yourself, hide your heart, hide your knowledge.

闇夜の烏 A crow in pitch black night

From Kabutoshimen by admin

In budo and also in ordinary life, what is seen is not necessarily the truth or what it really is. In Japanese they have the expression 闇夜の烏 YAMIYO NO KARASU when they say something is indistinct, it literally means a crow in a pitch-black night. Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.

Sometimes things can be right in front of your eyes but you don’t see it. They also say that you can see ghosts or spirits by not looking directly at it, you can see it in the corner of your eyes. Next time you look at the godan test done in Japan, look where Soke is often looking.

Have you also wondered why some people have high ranks in Bujinkan, why we have generally much higher ranks than other martial arts. There is no need to be judgemental or distrust or disagree with Hatsumi Soke. Have faith in what he do, he have a lot more experience and can see more clearly than us. When I write see, you should read it as feel. He once said that we should look with our hands and smell with our toes.  So listen to what I say with your tongue ;-) .

In Bujinkan there is a poem that reads…

A (black) crow is stitched on black cloth.
A (white) crane is painted on white paper.

Unfortunately I don’t know which kanji is used with this poem, if anyone know, please post a comment or contact me.

The long path to budo enlightenment

From Kabutoshimen by admin

Fudoza, note the kodachi!
Jodan-uke, this very simple basic technique is really easy, right?

Most beginners in Bujinkan learn how to step to the side from a punch to the nose and do the circular movement with the arm and knock the opponents arm to the side and take his balance. Then you just step in and finish him off with a kiten-ken to the neck. This is one of the first techniques you learn in Bujinkan, the technique is called Ichimonji and it is from the Kihon-happo.

But the basic way of blocking can be found in many, many techniques in Bujinkan. Last year or was it the year before I saw one of the Shihan in Japan doing blocking in honbu dojo as a warm up before the training. I noticed he did it kind of different than I’ve seen it before so I put it away for the future.

And then maybe 4-5 months ago I started experimenting on this idea, but only a little and then I forgot it again. I didn’t think it was that important. Then I picked it up again last week and practiced some more, I also started to introduce it to my students a little (without to much explaining).

Then at the training yesterday I was testing the students Sanshin no kata and Kihon happo, I didn’t say anything, I was not happy. And sorry to say I got a little pissed off to (some of the students must have noticed). So I had to do something about it, we had to go back to the basics, the very very basic way of blocking without opening yourself up, without loosing the kamae. This might sound easy, and maybe it is.

This might sound strange, but after almost 25 years since I did this “simple” movement the first time and all the following years hard work it struck me… that the way I have done this simple movement for years and years until yesterday was really quite crappy! I had just discovered a “new way” of doing the very basic Jodan-uke, it felt so right and I was so happy coming to this insight.

I’m sure I haven’t discovered anything new, someone have probably done this “new way of blocking” for a long time, well actually I said before I saw it in honbu so it can’t be new, but it is new for me. I realize it must be quite discouraging for a beginner in the Bujinkan to hear someone that have been training so long just discover something so simple after 25 years of training. It really takes special persons to stick with a Martial Art like Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu. This might be why so many people quit training after 5 or 10 years, they are not that kind of person that have the patience that is required.

I think you can learn BBT in 5-10 years and have a very basic and good understanding of the art, but if you keep searching you will find more. Soke once was asked what the highest level was, and he said he didn’t know, because there is always something after the highest level. It’s not necessarily a higher level, but it is another level you have to pass to get to the next level. For example if you think there is something that is perfect it isn’t really, it can always be refined and even more perfect, but there is nothing that is perfect, there is always the next level. My point is never give up and think you know the perfect way of doing even the most simple basic technique, you can always polish your techniques (Masai) to become better.

Sorry for the spin off!

the mirror on the kamizaAnother thing that may contribute to my recent discovery is after a discussion last month after training in honbu. I went out with some local friends that have trained Bujinkan for a very long time, but they have also trained other koryu sword arts. One of them said something really interesting things about limbs of the arm going in separate directions when drawing the sword. That in combination with the jodan uke became a very different feeling, and it is that which makes this (jodan-uke) so special I think.

Yesterday we spent some time on the fifth* technique, the omote ken sabaki technique, some call it omotegyaku tsuki, the name is not important. But it was when I demonstrated this technique that I realized I found something important.

When I just wrote fifth technique above I remember I asked one of the students to pick a number between 3 and 8, he picked 4, so this was the kihon happo we would spend time on. But I meant a number between 4 and 8, I did not intend to spend time on Juumonji because we had already done enough jumonji for this training. But the number 4 is just the omotegyaku without the punch. So if I would have picked number 4 I would not have made this discovery and this article would not have been written. When things like this happens I strongly feel there is someone/something guiding me.

I’ve been struggling with how to end this article, but I think I can say that I have just explained why I still keep practicing BBT. I do get “intellectual rewards” like this quite often, maybe this was one of the biggest in a long time, but it is things like this that makes me keep going.

So in conclusion I’d like to thank everyone who helped me, from Hatsumi Soke to the little guy that said “number 4″ yesterday. Bujinkan is a wonderful art and I wish you all had the patience to keep on going, that is the most important thing of all, if you do you will understand more and more, even after 25 years of training. My last words seems just perfect, and it really says it all…

Ganbatte kudasai!