Ninja: Unmasking the Myth By Stephen Turnbull

From Blog – Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo 武神館國際連光明道場 by bkronline

Yes, I have read Turnbull and know his version but I have spent 15 years by Soke’s side hearing the wisdom that our art has brought us.

It reverberates deeply. It is not academic.

We are not looking to prove a direct lineage. At least I am not.

I am trying to explore the origin story of the Toda family’s art. I don’t care how old it really is. If the art was created in the Edo period by a bunch of Onmitsu and Oniwaban agents, then so be it.

To me, it is like the Masons picking up where the Templars left off. The Toda family were no doubt Takasho which have a strong connection to the Onmitsu and Oniwaban. I have continuously found records that prove the Toda family have worked as Torimi/Onmitsu agents and can prove that they came from the Iga-Shu sharpshooters.

The evidence is mounting high very quickly. It is just a matter of putting a label on it. Toda Sensei felt it should be called Togakure Ryu. Maybe it is just a remnant of the Iga Ryu giving credit to the story of Togakushi. Whatever, I am just interested in the ride through history that this origin story has provided us because without it I never would have had this personal adventure of discovery and excitement.

Seriously, every day I find more and more than just line up with Takamatsu’s story. I think we are just still stuck on what we do and do not call ninja and ninjutsu.

And I for one still prefer my Japanese resources. As great as a researcher as he is, I do not think he is the one to draw the line as to what is and what is not the truth about a very secretive Japanese art.

Sean Askew
Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo
9/7/2018

The BKR Interview  –   Part 1

From Blog – Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo 武神館國際連光明道場 by bkronline

Originally, this was going to be a short essay that was going to discuss different aspects of a long discussion I had with some Bujinkan practitioners some time ago. However, after spending several hours just talking about Budo and my experiences in Japan and China with these students, it became evident that a simple essay would not be enough. To this end, a magazine series detailing different aspects of the discussion, along with additional material concerning the Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo (BKR), of which I created, seemed more appropriate. Hence, this series was born.

 
My experience in the Bujinkan
 
I am often asked, “How long have you been studying Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu?”. My answer is complex because in the early days of the art in the USA there were not many schools or teachers. I first met our 34th Grandmaster Hatsumi Sensei in 1986 at the World Ninja Summit in Ohio. But for about two years before that, I was training with a man I will call JK. He was a Kyu a ranked student under Stephen K. Hayes when I first met him in 1984. By the time I had met Hatsumi Sensei, JK had earned his Shodan or “black belt” but he soon stopped his training shortly afterward for personal reasons.
 So another friend of mine, Chris Nardi, and I continued the local group in the Albany NY area until I left for Japan to go to University and continue my training with Hatsumi
SokeAs JK had stopped training and teaching, from 1986 onward I also trained with Jack Hoban, BudMalmstrom and Stephen K. Hayes. It was always seminar training events only; I was not a member of their dojos.
The only person I trained with regularly from 1986 to 1989 was Jack Hoban, and
that was on a monthly basis in neighboring New Jersey. I pretty much got my driver’s license as soon as I turned 16 just so I could drive the trip myself from NY to NJ and back, and not rely on others. Then, at the 1989 Tai Kai, I met Hatsumi Sensei for the second time, and I really began to take my training much more seriously.
This is also when I met the well-known American instructor, RalphSevere. I started flying down to Dallas Texas to train with Ralph, and my group and I brought him up to NY a couple of times for seminars as well. So that’s how it started for me, and how I moved to Japan in 1991 after my first trip in 1990.

What is the Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo?
It is not really different at all. The BKR is simply an association of teachers who all train under the same syllabus up to the 4th Dan, after that the student becomes a student of the headmaster inJapan under the guidance of their BKR instructor. The only real difference between us and your average Bujinkan Dojo is that we strongly encourage cross training with other systems and allow students to compete in various types of tournaments should they decide to do so. This is about the only thing different about my organization. We are a subset to the mainstream Bujinkan.
The training is not really different than training in with a Shihan in Japan, it’s basically the same, other than that I heavily incorporate the attitude, training techniques and fighting spirit that I received from my competition coach, Enson Inoue. I do make the training more “hard”– I like to make the training a physical workout. In my opinion, the BKR is like training the old way, before the way it is now. Hatsumi Sensei has often said that to get to his level, you have to train the way he did when he was younger. I also include a lot of Kosen Judo and MMA training as I feel they are great companions to our “Bujinkan skill set.”
If you look at the old purple Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu Book by Hatsumi Sensei, (handing it to one of the students to look at) at the beginning of the book he writes about proper diet, which Sensei takes very seriously. He discusses stretching, which you rarely see anybody does properly anymore. There are many dojos that don’t even stretch at the beginning of class. Sadly, they feel it is a “waste of dojo time”. So with the BKR, I try to cover all of this old material. I try to instill the basics.
This old book of sensei is said to be the required material up through the rank of Godan or the 5th-degree black belt (flipping through the pages of the book). I incorporate all of this, such as the Junan Taiso, which in some ways is very much like yoga. None of the stretchings is quick or fast, it is all slow and relaxed. As I mentioned above, another difference between my dojo and some Bujinkan dojo is the inclusion of contact sparring and competition in the 1960’s & 1970’s.
Hatsumi, Sensei incorporated sparring in the Bujinkan dojo training, it was called
yakusoku randori-geiko.
Anthony Netzler, my first roommate in Japan, and I had the chance to do this kind of training with Hatsumi Sensei in the park on many occasions. We were allowed to freely attack at Sensei it bonded us to him in a way. I strongly feel that this should be part of the training that I pass on to my students.”
  
Now that he is older, he does not do this so much anymore. Us few Tokyo and
 Noda-City residents at that time were very lucky, for by the time I arrived in Japan,
Sensei was already slowing down with this type of training. It usually happened spontaneously when we would help with walks with the dogs he had at the time. We would pass a park or an empty field and he would tie the dogs up and just start throwing us around. If it wasn’t for Anthony, I never would have had these opportunities. He always had a special relationship with Sensei and he got my foot in the door with him very early. I am ever grateful.
As for competition in the BKR, we consider it tradition…, Takamatsu Sensei
(our 33rd Grandmaster or Soke) was well known in the Japanese Martial Arts community in pre-WW2 Shanghai China as the “Moko no Tora” or the Mongolian Tiger. It is said he had over 100 competitive matches and never lost. Hatsumi Sensei was a competitive Judo player as well and has stated that his training in competitive Judo is what made him so strong and get him to the level of even being introduced to Takamatsu Soke.
Therefore, in the BKR the opportunity for competition is there for those who wish to pursue it with Bujinkan heart. There is resistance training and controlled sparring in all BKR session to develop each student’s ability to apply the techniques in actual situations. But there is no requirement to compete.
In my own opinion and experience, a lot of people who train in the Bujinkan may train for a year or two and earn their black belt. The problem is that they do not even know the Kihon Happoproperly. They don’t know what a proper omote gyaku is. They don’t really know what they should know. This is mainly because of Hatsumi Sensei judges a person’s rank based on “heart” and“feeling”, which is fine, that’s great.  But… if you get your Sandan in Bujinkan, then you should know that, “
Sensei sees in me that I am worth aSandan……someday.” They have to admit to themselves that they don’t know the techniques properly yet.  
In this case, Hatsumi Sensei says to go back and find a Shihan that will teach you because he is no longer teaching the basics and that’s what the BKR is really for. There are many 15th Danin the Bujinkan, but some have only been training for five or so years. It because Sensei sees in their heart that they are good people and he gives them these ranks prematurely because of their good heart. But their skill in Taijutsu
is still lacking. 
I am not Hatsumi Sensei and do not grade based on heart or feeling. If I give a student a BKR Shodan, that person will know everything that is required in the
Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki2, which Sensei wrote for Shodan.
They will know the material, they can do the material, and they can apply the material. That’s all it really is. It’s no different than what Sensei has taught me in my
over 15 years in Japan.” When I first went to Japan after high school in 1990, there were only a few hundred Godan in the world. Within 20 years, there were several thousand. Who knows how many there are now. Let’s just say Sensei has definitely sped up the process. 
Sensei always says that he is not really teaching, that he doesn’t like to teach, and doesn’t want to teach. He says these things about himself and then he says that Takamatsu Sensei was the same way. He says that for a person to learn this art, they have to steal it from him. You have to watch him, pick it up, go home, and practice it. He
won’t teach it to you, you have to figure it out yourself. That’s why I wrote the article jibun denarai (to learn on your own). I interviewed [Hatsumi] Sensei for that article.”
I do believe that it was different back in the early days. The original students are like family to Hatsumi Sensei, he loves them as his own.
So, I believe he taught them all with lots of love and care. Then it was time for him to continue with his job and grow the organization into the international group it has become. From that point on everyone needed to see the Shihan to learn the basics…
 but we had to go to Soke to learn the art. This may be a difficult thing to understand for some beginners.  In the BKR we also train with weapons quite frequently and I am often asked what I think is the correct phase to incorporate weapons into training. Once a student has learned how to do ukemishoshin or gogyo, and the Kihon Happo – 
 or once they get to a basic level, they should start right away with
bokken, and hanbo, and things like that.

There is no real “rank” point where it starts. 
With the BKR, there are no formal requirements for weapons until after Shodan. Sword katabo-kata,
etc. are in the ranks above Shodan. We train with weapons at every level, but it is not a required item on the syllabus until after Shodan.
In 2001 Hatsumi Sensei knew I had made the decision to move back home to the USA for a few years before returning to Japan, and we had discussed my training because of this. He said that I should go and teach the Ju-Godan the basics! That’s how the BKR got started. He endorsed my syllabus because he wanted me to teach. 
Sensei wants the world to know that he gives rank out based on heart, and nobility. The BKR is more about the ability. I don’t have the eyes to see everyone’s heart that’s what Hatsumi Sensei does. Once I got the feeling that I was going to be leaving Japan, I started to put together all of my notes – I have tons and tons of notes from the day I started training in Japan until the day I left – so I started to organize things together, making sure that I knew the Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki, and to make sure everything else that all of the teachers had taught me was together. My goal was not to create an organization where you pay money or anything like that, I don’t charge a fee to become
a member, there is no such thing.
When this magazine comes out, there will be a fee for that, but there is no fee to be a member. If you are a Sandan in the Bujinkan, and you want to have the BKR certification, there is no charge for the certification.
You just have to pass the tests.

1. The kihon happo, or “infinite basics”, along with the movements of the San Shin no Kata, are considered the basic techniques and movements of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu.

2. The Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki, or “The Outline Scrolls of Heaven, Earth, & Man”, is considered the first training curriculum Hatsumi Sensei prepared for his students.


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MUDANSHA BOOK by MATS HJELM

From Budoshop.se by BUDOSHOP.SE

武神館無段者の案内所
MUDANSHA – BEGINNERS GUIDE TO BUJINKAN

List Price: $14.99
Introduction Price: $11.99
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English, Perfect-bound Paperback, 96 pages richly illustrated with pictures and illustrations.

This book is a guide for beginners in the Bujinkan Dojo. Everything about the rules and expectations of you as a pratctitioner, etiquette and traditions as well as the most fundamental techniques in our beautiful art.

  • 天略の巻 TEN RYAKU NO MAKI (The scroll of Heaven)
    Here we learn to move the body naturally and effectively. Essentially how to become a good Uke (receiver of techniques). When Hatsumi Soke’s own teacher Takamatsu Sensei started training over 120 years ago as a young boy he was thrown around the Dojo by the seniors for a year before he was taught any techniques. This gave him a good foundation for the next level.

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: 6″ x 9″, perfect binding, white interior paper (60# weight), black and white interior ink, white exterior paper (90# weight), full-color exterior ink.

YUDANSHA BOOK by MATS HJELM

From Budoshop.se by BUDOSHOP.SE

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

List Price: $27.77
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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.

***UPDATE on: THE HIDDEN LINEAGE – IN SEARCH OF THE HISTORY OF THE TOGAKURE RYU***

From Blog – Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo 武神館國際連光明道場 by bkronline

Many have been asking me when the Togakure Ryu history book that includes the information about Toda will be ready. Honestly, I am slightly behind schedule due to several long business trips with my day job but I still plan to be finished with the rewriting and editing by the end of May. So, if things go really well I may have copies at the end of May. But at the latest, I should have everything ready in June.

I am also opening a new website in conjunction with the book to promote the BKR Dojo’s new member’s only content. I will still always be writing and posting for free here on Facebook but this will be for my personal students and for those who want more in-depth videos and articles along with the chance to earn rank in the BKR syllabus created by myself and approved by Hatsumi Soke and Noguchi Dai-Shihan in 2001. There will be monthly live training webinars included for members. All for the low cost of $9 per month.

But for now, here is another part of Soke’s new Taijutsu book that I thought deserved translation…

Koppojutsu and Taihenjutsu
From Kamae to tactical application

The Root Principles of the Bujinkan Martial Arts

It is Taihenjutsu (大変術), not to mention, that is the root of all of the Bujinkan’s techniques. Here is where you pull off all the strikes, joint locks and throws. It is the same if performing unarmed Taijutsu (体術) fighting techniques or with Bukijutsu (武器術) weapons techniques. I think many of you have already come to understand this now. In this essay I will return to the origins, and explain in detail this basic point that should be called the Bujinkan’s root principle technique.

The Koppojutsu mentioned in the above title is referring to one of the core styles of the Bujinkan system, the Koto Ryu Koppojutsu. When generally referring to Koppo (骨法), many people may have the image of striking techniques in their mind but in the old schools of Jujutsu, a fist (拳) did not always mean a hand held in a closed fist. Just the same, Koppo does not always equal striking techniques. It is certain that striking skills are an important part of the Koto Ryu and there are striking based techniques in the style such as Yokuto and Setto. But not limited to only that, there are throws, as in the form Hoteki, and there are also joint lock techniques and muscle grabbing techniques in the style. But what all forms have in common is that you move with the legs in an X pattern to approach and attach yourself to the opponent while applying the techniques. Each technique has an established theme and then with these forms as a base, various elements are added. Therefore, even with throwing techniques, various types of techniques will be used in combination. For example, Hoteki is reverse-over the shoulder throw versus a grab to the chest. But at the moment when the opponent’s body floats up from the reverse lock on the elbow, a pressure point grabbing technique is applied in combination to the points in the opponent’s arm. Depending on the flow of situation you can also strike the pressure point called Jakkin on the inside of the bicep rendering it unable to resist the technique.

Also, the form Setto is a technique versus a grab to the chest using a type of fist called Shikanken. This fist is formed by half closing your normal fist and striking the opponent’s Jakkin with the second joints of the four fingers, followed by a thumb strike from the other hand to the floating ribs. At first glance it seems like a very simple technique but from this point many variations including various throws, joint locks and grabbing techniques are included. The theme of this technique and the secret to its application are important elements. Therefore, as I have expounded “Koppo” means the knack or the gist of how to apply the techniques.

Along with the Koto Ryu, the Gyokko Ryu Koshijutsu is another of the core arts of the Bujinkan. Koshijutsu is said to mean the “essentials” of all martial arts (the mother of all martial arts). Here the use of the Kanji character for bone in the “Ko” part of “koshi” is used to imply as always, the root principles or the theme of the art. The use of this character is not simply just a pun, it is meant to impart a deep feeling.

The birth of a technique…【Kamae 構え】

In this essay, to analyze the fundamental parts of the Koto Ryu, I will explain the basic Kamae and their usage. I have said many times that Kamae is the birth or the beginning of a technique and not a fighting pose. But I think that it will be even more clear if we look at the photographic explanations. From these Kamae, I’d like you to understand how to use Taihenjutsu to deal with your opponent’s attacks.

In the Koto Ryu, Kamae is called Kurai Dori (位取) and this term shows that it contains various feints, variations and counters. Essentially all the elements of the martial arts are contained in the Kamae.

Here I will explain Seigan no Kamae (正眼の構え), Hira Ichimonji no Kamae (平一文字の構え), Houko no Kamae (抱圍の構) and Boubi no Kamae (防備の構え). But of these four the most basic is Seigan no Kamae. As you can see in the picture, in this posture you turn to the side and lower the hips while both arms are directed towards the centerline of your opponent. From this Kamae the basic body movement is while the lead arm becomes the axis and the body evades the attack to the left or to the right. By doing this you can evade the enemy’s line of offense and be in a position that is advantageous for the battle, and if you have a weapon in your hand you can still move in this same way. Hira Ichimonji no Kamae will probably give the strangest impression…

Specifically, move from Seigan no Kamae to evade the line of attack by moving the body to the side where you can counterattack immediately. Or you can turn your body sideways to avoid the line of attack to the inside or the outside, immediately spreading both hands forcefully to hit the opponent’s face with the back of the hand or palm (this position is Hira Ichimonji no Kamae). At the time of avoiding the attack by turning to the side and flattening out, do it just like trying to squeeze through a crowd. By opening both arms out. During this movement it is possible to be completely flattened out. There is also the meaning of complementing the movement of the front hand with the with symmetrical arm movement of the backhand. The raised leg is meant for kicking and hooking, and everything is prepared to be useful for battle with no waste. In addition, spreading both hands to the left and right and keeping both feet flat on the floor while dropping their waist is called Hira no Kamae.

Widely applicable…【Kamae 構え】

To do Houko no Kamae face your body to the front and raise both hands up and in front of you. The knack of this is to keep your hands and arms up like you are wrapping up or absorb your opponent into your arms and body. Both hands can be used for offense or defense. It is a very easy Kamae to use in actual battle and is used for facing a swordsman while unarmed. While Seigan no Kamae leads to the sword, staff, spear, etc. this Houko no Kamae is the basic stance of using secret weapons like the Tekagi (手鉤) or “hand claws”. As for this, I would like to explain more, in addition to the Tekagi, there are also many techniques including dangerous weapons such as the “ring spike” or Kakushi (角指) and “iron fists” or Tekken (鉄拳). There are even knife fighting techniques as well. But regarding these, I wish to avoid from putting on paper the techniques that are regarded as dangerous.

If you are seeking real training head to the door of your nearest Bujinkan Dojo.

Hatsumi Masaaki
Ninjutsu Kyoden (忍術教伝) 2018
Text: Pages 94 ~ 96
Photos: Pages 98 ~ 103

Translated by
Sean Askew
Bujinkan Kokusai Renkoumyo
5/1/2018


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