Grow Up, Size Does Matter!

toomas animation
Did you ever walk with shoes too small for your feet? It is painful, even if they look good.
Well, I see a similarity with the weapons we use in the Dōjō. Many of the weapons we use are undersized. Tradition is beautiful, but sometimes it can be counterproductive. I will explain why in this post.
  • First, what we call the “Japanese martial arts” developed out of necessity. Between the Heian period (1185), and the forced peace at Sekigahara battle (1600), Japan was at war. (1)
  • Second, Japanese people were small. The founders of Gendai Budō (Jūdō, Aikidō, Karatedō) were all three, around 150cm in height! (2) We can surmise that was the case for the majority of the Japanese people.
  • Third, in the Kanejaku system of measures, the central size is the Ken (6 Shaku, app. 182 cm), and every building in Japan follows this system of length. (3) Shakkanhō is the name of this global system of measures. (4)
A Ken being six shaku that gives a size of 6 x 30.3 cm = 181.81 cm (or 5.9652 feet)
For the sake of our demonstration, we will keep the value of 1 ken = 180 cm.
size jp
If the average Japanese man of the past was 150 cm tall (5), the Europeans of today are around 172 to 181 cm. (6) We have to adjust the sizes of the weapons we use.
Keep in mind that a soldier will always have a weapon he can use to defend himself. And about the long arms, the longer, the better to keep the opponent out of reach. Musashi did the same when fighting Kojiro. He used an oar as a bokken to match the length of his opponent’s Nodachi. (7)
The Japanese Bō is 180 cm. That means the size of the weapon is 20% longer than the body size. (8)
So the size of our Bō should be between 200 cm and 220 cm!
That is pure math, but you should consider training with weapons for your size. Keeping the “traditional” format for the weapons just doesn’t make any sense.
I am 176 cm tall; my Bō should be 210 cm. I use a Bō of 2 meters, and I find it correct to train. My Hanbō is 105 cm, and my Jō is 140 cm.
To sum up, many of you train with a Bō too small for them. Your Hanbō looks like a cane for old people, and your Jō is about 20 cm too short.
  • A Bō is six shaku + 20%
  • A Jō is four shaku + 20%
  • A Hanbō is three shaku + 20%
 When in Japan, I spoke with Toomas, the founder of Soft Hanbō Ltd. He creates and sells the best Europeans padded weapons we can use in the Bujinkan. The last trip, he gave a set of padded weapons to Sensei, who was so pleased that he gave him one of his iaitō in return!
After speaking together, he might create longer training weapons suiting our body size. Check with him on his new website. (10)
Here is a chart you can use to find your perfect weapon size:
weapon chart
 Test different sizes to see which one works for you. The dimensions here have to be adapted to your height, length of limbs, torso, etc. Find the perfect match for you.
I added the size of the Tsuka in the chart above. The blade is essential but what is even more important is the size of your Tsuka. Because of the Yoroi, the size of your Tsuka should be the width of your torso. With a long Tsuka, you do not injure the inner side of your arms. You can also extend your arms better. The small Tsuka we have on the bokken or swords is coming from the Edo period where the Yoroi was no more in use.
So, grow the size of your weapon, because you know now that size does matter!
2. Gendai budō (現代武道):
5. They began to grow in height during the 20th century. My first trip to Japan was in 1990. I am 176 cm, and I remember that on the train I was taller than most of the locals. Not anymore, regular proteins input changed that.
6. Average European Height for males:
8. 150 cm x 1.2 = 180 cm
9. Modern European size for a Bō: 172 cm x 1.2 = 206.4 cm to 181 cm x 1.2 = 217 cm!

Buyūkai 2: More Details By Phil

IMG_20180309_213249Some changes are happening these days in the Bujinkan. Here is some more useful information by Phil Legare from Japan.

It takes some time to change to take place. The following text explains a few points I didn’t cover in my last post.

My friend Phil published that today on Facebook. But the “life-span” of news on Facebook being very short, I decided to share it on the blog. This text completes my last entry and interests the whole Bujinkan community,

A few things that Phil writes:

  1. It’s not mandatory for all or any of the Dai-Shihan to collect a membership fee.
  2. It’s up to the individual Dai-Shihan if they choose to or not.
  3. It’s also not mandatory to send promotions through a Dai-Shihan. But it helps the Admin to handle the orders if the Dai-Shihan are compiling many requests for others.
  4. Sōke is not taking recommendations anymore for Dai-Shihan for people who are not here.
  5. You should visit Honbu if you wish to receive Dai-Shihan.
  6. If you cannot visit Japan in the next few years, and you feel you must have this, then write Sōke a letter in Japanese.
  7. Add in a Dai-Shihan’s name who is willing to endorse you. Sōke may agree to give you a Dai-Shihan.
  8. Someday all orders may have to go through the Dai-Shihan. Since we have a Shidōshi title and Menkyo (Y20,000) that comes with Godan, Shidōshi can still process the orders and promotions from Sōke.
  9. As I said, if the Dai-Shihan regroup the orders, it helps the Admin.

On my side I would remind you that:

  • There is no obligation to get a Dai Shihan diploma. It is not a rank, only a distinction.
  • In case you desire to get one, you are expected to donate (no amount is given) to the Honbu Dōjō.


Buyūkai, Buyukai, And Other Clarifications

IMG_20180311_162925This Sunday in Japan, was the first meeting of the Buyūkai. (1) That is a new change in the Bujinkan.Until this day, the Shidōshikai was regrouping the teachers of the Bujinkan. The Shidōshikai doesn’t exist anymore in Japan. The Buyūkai replaces it.

This Buyūkai meeting was a very happy moment. Sensei exposed the goal of this new organization. The Buyūkai is “to develop friendship and peace amongst the Bujinkan members. With the help of the hundreds of Dai Shihan present in 55 countries.” (2)(3). The significant change of 2018 is the generalization of the Dai Shihan title. Since the end of 2017 and to this day, Sensei is awarding lots of Dai Shihan diplomas. You are eligible for this new award if you have been in the Bujinkan for about twenty years and had a Jūgodan, Sensei wants the Dai Shihan group to work together and to take care of the Bujinkan.

To this effect, and since January 2018 the rules have changed. Sensei wants the Dai Shihan to deal with the Shidōshikai and regular memberships (the yellow card). Each Dai Shihan can establish his cards with the pricing he deems correct.

That means two things for the Bujinkan community.

  1. First, you now get your cards from your Dai Shihan. (Bujinkan membership card, Shidōshikai membership card).
    You have to choose a Dai Shihan. It doesn’t have to be the one living next door. He or she can be from another country. Your only obligation, like it was the case until now, is to get a valid membership each year.
  2. Second, concerning the ranks, nothing change. All grades are ordered in Japan at the Honbu Office like we have been doing it until now. The only modification is the cards.
    Some prices (Shidōshi Menkyō, Jūdan, and Jūgodan) have changed. (4)
    In the last weeks on social media, I have read many things that are not true. Remember that Facebook is not the Honbu.

I read that “any Dōjō can issue the ranks before Godan”: NO. That is not true!
All ranks from 9th Kyū to Jūgodan are issued in Japan by Sōke only. No change.

I read that “any Dōjō can issue their membership cards.” NO. That is not true!
Only the Dai Shihan can issue the cards. Shidōshi or Yūshū Shihan cannot establish the cards.

During the Buyūkai, Sensei awarded the “Buyūshō” to Phil Legare, for his long-term commitment, and friendship. Let me repeat what Sensei said: “the Buyūkai is to develop friendship amongst the Bujinkan members.”
As always with our Sōke, each word he uses (crafts?) has many meanings.
Buyū is the qualificative for bravery. (5)
Yūjō means friendship. (6)
Hatsumi Sensei has combined these two words “武勇” and “友情” to create “武友”; martial friends. He is brilliant!
The Buyūkai is the association of the “martial friends.” (7) That is why the objective is to promote friendship, love, peace, and justice about the Gojō (check my recent post on the subject). (8)

The Buyūshō given to Phil is an “award of martial friendship” for his many years in the Bujinkan. (9)(10)
There will be one Buyūkai meeting every 3 to 4 months.

This first Buyūkai was very informal, and we had a lot of fun. I understand that the Buyūkai is also Buyukai, a “club for happiness.” (11)(12)(13)

Be happy!
1. 武友会, Buyūkai: The association of the martial friends
2. For Koi members: You can listen to sensei’s speech on Koi at
3. Dai Shihan diploma: Furuta sensei told me last week that from now on, a “donation to the Honbu” from the new Dai Shihan would be greatly appreciated. The amount is the one you want.
4. You can contact me via email if you want the new forms, I will not put them online.
5. 武勇, Buyū: bravery; military prowess; valour; valour
6. 友情, Yūjō, friendship
7. 会, kai: meeting; assembly; party; association; club
8. In “Advanced stick fighting” (48), Hatsumi Sensei lists the Gojō as:
滅の不施, Fumetsu no Fuse, endless giving
真道の持戒, Mamichi no Jikai, awareness, right path of self-justice
自然の忍にく, Shizen no Ninniku, perseverance, forbearance
光明の悟り, Komyō no Satori, the light of enlightenment
自然の超越, Shizen no Choetsu, natural transcendence
9. 賞, Shō, Award: An award is something given to a person or a group of people to recognize their excellence in a particular field; a certificate of excellence.
10. 武友賞, Buyūshō: award of Martial friendship
11. 部, Bu: club
12. 愉快, Yukai: pleasant; delightful; enjoyable; joyful; cheerful; amusing; happy
13. 部愉快, Buyukai: the club of happiness.


The Tesseract Of Nature


Teaching the Mutō Dori of 2018, Hatsumi Sensei keeps repeating it is about control. But the control he speaks about is different from the general understanding we have of this word.

During the calligraphy session, I asked for “control,” and he did “Kū.” (1) Because it is one of the few Kanji I can recognize, I looked at him interrogatively, and he smiled.

In the train back to Kashiwa, I thought about it.

Kanji are pictographic. A word or a sentence always have several possible interpretations. And often, they are complementary even if they don’t define the same object.
We established the relationship between humans and Kūkan (see the previous post). That is why we can control the opponent in Nature, as we are of the same nature. Every action happens without thinking, spontaneously. (2)

Yesterday, he spoke about Shizen Ryoku, which I choose to understand as “power of Nature.” (3) This power of Nature is something that “is” without any human conception. It is Shinyo, the ultimate nature of all things. (4) Shinyo is “thusness” or “suchness” in English, a rare term, meaning “The state of things being as they are.” (5)

Isso Chozanshi wrote: “envelop the universe by means of my mind; and by means of the universe, there is nothing that obstructs my mind. Riches and honour, good luck and calamity are elsewhere. When you seek after such things, you may obtain them or you may not—this is not something that is guaranteed. The Greatest Happiness is within yourself. If you seek your mind wholeheartedly, you will obtain it for sure. Simply, do not seek after illusion.” (6)

And this “natural state of things as they are” is what we see when Hatsumi sensei does a movement. As one of his Uke said: “he doesn’t seem concerned by the attacker.” Sensei moves without intention. This kind of disregard, allows him to control Uke at the physical and mental level.

The control is total and permanent. Even before the launch of the attack. Sensei moves in another dimension, the dimension of Nature. He is manifesting something beyond our understanding: the tesseract of Nature. I was not sure I could speak about the tesseract. But my partner said that everyone today is familiar with the term as it used in one of the Thor movies. But I put a link below. (7)

This level of Budō is far beyond our reach, but at least we can see it. There is no more Waza, and Sensei ion his last classes stressed that many times. A technique is only mechanical. You have to train the Waza, but this is not where your learning path ends. Once your movements are natural, the tesseract level of Budō can be achieved. You will not learn how to do that in a Densho. Because a Densho deals only with the physical world (8) Sensei’s gives us something more important: a Denshō, a real transmission! (9)

He illustrated it by attacking Uke with a sword. He struck Uke in slow motion, and the opponent couldn’t counter the cut. Sensei explained that attacking as fast as possible was the best way to get countered. The quicker you go, the more locked you are. When he moves, you cannot alter your course of action. You watch him defeat you. He added that is why doing Tameshi Giri (10) was useless as anyone can cut straw mats. But, when the straw mat has a weapon and tries to cut back at you, it is entirely different”. To sum up this, I would say, don’t fight scarecrows!

Later, he asked his partner to cut him. And even though Uke thought he had him, Sensei was not there when the blade came. Uke said “attacking Sōke is like trying to cut through a Noren. It is impossible because the blade pushes and cannot cut the fabric”. (11)

In the 4th dimension where Sensei moves, we are trying to fight Kūkan, the universe, uselessly. That is why he repeats “Tatakai Janai,” There is no fight!

The warrior martial arts of the Bujinkan are not for killing, but for peace. That is the tesseract: the 4th dimension of Nature.

“The wise and sagacious men of ancient times had the very spirit of the martial and did not kill.”
Issai Chozanshi, in “The demon’s sermon on the Martial Arts.”

1. 空, Kū: sky; the air; the heavens; weather; the state of mind; feeling; falsehood; lie
2. 自然, Shizen: nature, spontaneous, Nature
3. 自然力, Shizen Ryoku: The power/strength/ability of Nature. Or natural power/strength/ability!
4. 真如, Shinyo: tathata (Sanskrit), the ultimate nature of all things. Cited in “Advanced stick fighting” by Hatsumi Sensei, p38
5. Thusness:
7. Tesseract: In geometry, the tesseract is the four-dimensional analogue of the cube; the tesseract is to the cube as the cube is to the square. Just as the surface of the cube consists of six square faces, the hypersurface of the tesseract consists of eight cubical cells.
8. 伝書, Densho: book or scroll that has been handed down through generations; a book of secrets
9. 伝承, Denshō: handing down (information); legend; tradition; transmission
10. 試し切り, Tameshi Giri: cutting test
11. 暖簾, Noren: (short) curtain hung at shop entrance; split curtain used to divide spaces in a house.



I Am The Universe!


and so are you!

During training, Hatsumi Sensei spoke of “Ningen Kûkan Tsunagaru.” There is a connection between Humanity and Kūkan. (1)

He told us to “let the divine express itself through us.” Some of you might react to the word “divine,” but understand it as the Shintō or Taoist meaning of “Nature.” This “divine nature” is the Dōkyō, the Japanese for Taoism.

We express nature through our body because humans and emptiness are of the same quality. Science explains it in more acceptable terms. “About 99 percent of your body is made up of atoms of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. You also contain much smaller amounts of the other elements that are essential for life. Most of the cells in your body regenerate every seven to 15 years. Many of the particles that make up those cells have existed for millions of millennia. The hydrogen atoms in you were produced in the big bang. And the carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms were made in burning stars. The weighty elements in you were made in exploding stars.” (3)

That means that we are empty by nature. If we concentrate all the matter that makes us, we would be very tiny. “If the nucleus were the size of a peanut, the atom would be about the size of a baseball stadium. If we lost all the dead space inside our atoms, we would each be able to fit into a particle of dust. And the entire human species would fit into the volume of a sugar cube.” (4)

Our body is not different from the stars in the universe. We are of the same nature. For that reason, the Kûkan inside of us is like the Kûkan of space. When we accept this, we understand that humanity and Kûkan are connected. We can control the attacker because he and we are part of the same universe, composed of the same elements.

“Kagenmi,” past, present, and future (5) do not exist. Everything happens at the same time. “Time itself doesn’t exist,” Sensei said during class.

When Uke attacks, we can control him as there is no difference between him, us, the universe. To express it, Sensei used the words “Kako, Genzai, Mirai.” (6) It gives a deeper meaning to the Kagenmi. It reads “the past is gone, the present exists, and the future is next.” In a fight, everything happens at the same moment. What is gone, what exists and what comes next are intertwined. They are one because Time as we see it doesn’t exist in reality.

Shintō expresses as “Nakaima.” (7) I prefer Nakaima to the Zen concept of “here and now” as it shows the impermanence of the moment. When you attack Hatsumi Sensei, this is how you feel. He uses only one finger to control you. And he uses it as a Shiten (8), a fulcrum, suspending you in time and space. With this one finger as a fulcrum, Uke is like supported weightlessly in mid-air.

Many of his Uke say that Sensei moves before the actual attack. That is a superior Yûgen (9) because when Uke sees what happens, he cannot alter his course of action. Sensei’s timing and distance are always perfect; his opponents are lost in indecision. What they see is so beautiful that they can only watch it, unfolding in front of their eyes, and die. It is like sliding on the ice. There is nothing you can do to prevent the crash. You can only watch it happen.

We lose the fight before the attack because we think, instead of adapting to the situation. That is how Sensei controls us so quickly. Because we trust our senses, we do not comprehend that we too are part of the universe. To copy Descartes, we could say “I think. Therefore I am defeated!”.

Each Human is part of the universe. The space within us vibrates with the space around us. We are all and nothing at the same time. The true essence of Mutō Dori is about control, and thinking is not the way to go.

We are the universe!
1. 人間空間繋, Ningen Kûkan Tsunagaru: a human being; person; man; mankind; humankind + space; room; airspace + to be tied together; to be connected to; to be linked to.
2. 道教, Dōkyō: Taoism is a philosophical and religious tradition that emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao. The term Tao (or Dao, depending on the romanization system used) originally means “way,” “path” or “principle,” and can be found in Chinese philosophies and religions other than Taoism. In Taoism, however, Tao denotes a metaphysical force which is ultimately ineffable: “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.”
5. 過現未, Kagenmi: past, present, and future; three temporal states of existence
6. 過去現在未来, Kako, Genzai, Mirai: past, present and future
7. 中今, Nakaima: the present, the middle of now (esp. as a privileged moment in eternity)
8. 支点, Shiten: fulcrum
9. 幽玄, Yûgen: subtle grace; hidden beauty; mysterious profundity; elegant simplicity; the subtle and profound. That was the theme we studied in 2004. We learned to move slightly ahead of Uke. At the exact moment, Uke takes his decision but has not moved yet.