Is Magic, Really Magic?

From Shiro Kuma by kumablog

Last Friday, we continued the study of the Tenchijin. We trained some basic Gyaku waza movements. After two years of pandemics, our dōjō is still trying to survive. Our training group is so small that it feels like beginning a new dōjō. We might rename the Kuma dōjō the dōjō of the phoenix! 

I teach beginners, intermediates, and advanced all at once. Teaching various levels is difficult as each student must learn a form matching their level. If you don’t do that, you lose your high ranks or beginners. Never forget that. In a multilevel class, beginners are also exposed to advanced forms. And they enjoy it.

I recently taught the “step by step” beginners’ form of Musō Dori. Then I moved the level up for the two Jūgodan and the Dai Shihan attending the class that night. After teaching the basic moves, I went up the technical ladder. I offered a more profound vision of Musō Dori to the group. This time I controlled Uke without force. And threw him onto the ground using his body reactions instead of my muscles. 

Then I heard “wow, it’s magic!” coming from the beginners’ side of the group.

Disclaimer: This post is about “magic” but there is no magic in Budō. There are only refined basics. Micro-movements are invisible to young practitioners. Locks and throws without grabbing always seem strange or magic to neophytes. This is “Kuki nage”, the Budō concept for “air throw.” (1)

It looks magic to the untrained eyes because the correct ability to see is not developed yet. Practitioners see it, but their interpretations and feelings come in the way. Emotions make them blind to reality. They can’t see the movement. It is invisible from their limited experience. A student of Budō needs years of practice to develop this capacity. Until he gets enough experience, Budō is a “mienai waza”, a technique that you cannot possibly see. (2) 

Reality is invisible to young students, who don’t have the level to see what is happening in front of them. That is why they call it “magic!” In fact, you should see a waza as being like an unpolished diamond. The gem’s value resides in the long polishing hours demanded to get the shiny stone. If you find a raw diamond on the ground today, you won’t recognize it, and only a trained geologist would know. Budō is the same.

“Magic” is the name you give to a movement before the long polishing work. When I went to Japan for the first time, each class was a “magical” show to me. Today this “magic” is gone because I learned to do what the Japanese do. It takes time. Magic is Genyō in Japanese. (3) 

Genyō is “an enchanting illusion” for beginners. But it is an “original life” (genyo) for the advanced student. (4)(5) Magic (Genyō) changes our perception of life. It turns this “alternative reality” (genyo) (6) into a “dream” (gensō). (7)

Magic doesn’t exist, and we call it “magic” to adjust the perception of reality to our limited understanding. 

Stop dreaming and go back to your basics if you want to become a magician one day!

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1 見えない技, mienai waza: a technique that cannot be possible seen
2 空気, Kūki: air; atmosphere​; mood; situation​; someone with no presence; someone who doesn’t stand out at all​
3 幻妖, Genyō: magic
4 幻, Gen: phantom; vision; illusion; an apparition​; mythical thing; a scarce thing
5 妖, Yō (aya): mysterious; bewitching; alluring; enticing; enchanting
6 原原, Gen+yo: original; primitive; primary; fundamental. Raw​ + world; society; public​; life; lifetime; period; generation​; the times​
7 幻想, gensō: fantasy; illusion; vision; dream

Check http://www.koimartialart.com the Bujinkan streaming platform
160 Gb of videos covering all waza and weapons of the Bujinkan 

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

Is 2022 A Dive Into The Abyss?

From Shiro Kuma by kumablog

Happy Shinnen to all!

This 新年 (shinnen) is the Japanese for “New Year”. (1) This became a particular date only when humans began counting time. But this cosmic event has been going on for more than 4.5 billion years.

So if humans put so much weight on this date, I guess it is to get a new start every 365 days. In the Bujinkan, this fresh start always coincided with a new study theme. Sōke Hatsumi would give it at Daikōmyōsai. Since the first official theme in 1993, it represented a new start for us. And each year, we would discover a new way to fight or think. The “non-Bujinkan” new year is the same, and it is about beginning anew. There is a Japanese Shintō tradition to do a misogi to cleanse the body and the mind around the lunar new year. (2) Whatever the culture, the turn of the year is an excellent excuse to change our behaviours for the better. 

That is why we make resolutions for the new year. I’m sure that many of you did it even if we know that most of these decisions will fail. But that’s the game we play every year on new year’s eve. In these times of world pandemic, the temptation to do nothing would be wrong. We have to act and avoid depression. The world situation will end one day, so we should be prepared and ready never to give up. 

Budō is about patience, but patience is not stillness. You have to set new goals, come to the dōjō, and train to be ready when all this is behind us. Since March 2020, my Paris dōjō has been empty. I think students used Covid as an excuse to procrastinate. It is easy to give up on adversity, but this is far from the Budō attitude taught by Sensei all these years. If you give up now, I see that as a betrayal of his teachings. Did you forget the meaning of “banpen fugyō”, “10000 attacks, no surprise”? (3)

No one planned a world pandemic. Covid is here, and there is nothing you can do about it. So use your Bujinkan knowledge and adapt your life to it. There is no need to fight it. It is like crossing a big river, don’t fight the heavy stream, float in the water and go with it until you reach the other bank. It would be best to return to the training hall to make you feel better. 

What makes us humans is social contact, not social media. If you let yourself submerged by negativity, you turn “Shinnen” into “Shinen” (深淵 “the abyss”). (4) When you dive into the abyss, there is no hope, only an endless fall into oblivion. The abyss is tempting and easy. The Budō path is more challenging but will force you to react! The resolutions for 2022 should be: stop complaining. Refuse Shinen and welcome change. Go to the dōjō and train more. 

Life is not easy, and reacting will not make it easier. You are in charge of your own life. Whatever the obstacles on your way, you have to adapt. I learned one thing in Japan over the last thirty years, and it is never to give up. If your dōjō is not open because of covid, train your Sanshin no Kata, train your weapons and keep your skills to their best. If you have the chance to have an open dōjō, go there and study. Budō is life; choose to live, not to die. Only those with a surviving spirit will make it. 

There is always hope ahead of us; get ready for it. In Japanese, the spring season also means “new year.” Another translation of “Haru” is “new hope” (5). There is always hope in the future; things should improve very soon.

On February 4th, we enter the year of the yang water tiger. The water tiger is full of energy; use it to your best. The “Water Tiger of 2022 implies caution, growth, development, challenge, creation, and planning.” (6)

My conviction of a better future lies in the fact that I believe in life, so should you. This faith in the future is also 信念 Shinnen in Japanese. (7)

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1 新年 Shinnen, New Year
2 Misogi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXaJbh9e-Po
3 One of the mottos of Gyokko Ryū
4 深淵 Shinen: abyss
5 春 Haru: spring, new year 
6 Water tiger: https://www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/2022/default.htm 
7 信念 shinnen: belief, faith, conviction

Bujinkan Tees and goodies

Everything Is Possible

From Shiro Kuma by kumablog

After many years you understand that whatever the odds, everything is possible as long as you don’t give up. If you can think outside the box, everything is possible. If you only follow the rules, you become the source of your limits. Thinking outside the box in Budō demands that you already have a deep understanding of the basics. The Kukishin Biken Jutsu details everything in three sets of Waza.

Let me tell you an anecdote that happened with Hatsumi Sensei. The date is April 1996, the place is Noda, Japan. Right in front of Sensei’s house. The theme for the year 1996 chosen by Sōke was Kukishin Biken Jutsu. The Taikai in Holland was scheduled a few weeks later. The training was dedicated to the sword. Sensei wanted me to be his Uke, so he shared a lot before our meeting in Amsterdam. At the end of a class at honbu, Sensei called me and asked me to come to his place the next day. “Come with your belt and your Kukishin sword”. Before I left, he then added, “please bring a few friends to train with you. Be there at 1 pm.” So, the next day at 1 pm, our small training group of six was waiting outside his home. Sensei exited the house with a few dogs and crossed the street. In those days, an empty patch of land was facing the house. The building shadowing his home today was not built yet.

For two hours, we practised in the dirt, and he taught us Kukishin Nuki Gatana. (1) He would show the movement and then sit on the ground with his dogs while we trained. Our group of Gaijin was wearing jeans, sneakers, t-shirts and a budō belt. It must have been strange to see. To the Japanese people of Noda passing into the street, it must have been weird. Anyway, that was a great class! Sensei demonstrated the many proper ways to get the katana out and use it. When I went to pay for the lesson, he said: “puresento” (present). I thanked him.

I asked if there was more to learn about it? He said, “Always. But Aruno san, this is only training, not jissen (real fight). When things get real, do whatever you have to stay alive. Ninpō is only about surviving. Form doesn’t matter. Everything is possible.” His answer is still vivid in my memory even after all this time.

As you know, at www.koimartialart.com, each Koi member can ask questions after watching a video. (2) Recently, a Koi member asked me. “Would it be possible to twist the sword while doing Tsuki Komi? The edge of the blade is up and able to cut the opponent’s fingers or wrists that are not protected by the armour?” Immediately the Nuki Gatana training session jumped back to my memory. But instead of answering to the Koi community, I’ve decided to write this post to benefit everyone.

Is it possible to turn the blade up in the technique? Yes, you can turn the edge up because “everything is possible.” The same freedom applies to anything in the Bujinkan. The Bujinkan Budō is about adapting our knowledge to reality. Respecting the Waza as a beginner is mandatory. But a Waza is the only set of rules to follow. Rules are made to be broken. Depending on your skills, you can adjust it or tweak it to survive.

When you study the Kukishin Biken, each level of nine techniques appears to repeat itself. The first level gives the name of the Waza. The second level adds “no Sayū Gyaku” to the title, and the third level adds “no Henka” to it. After thirty years of training in Japan and asking many questions, I begin to understand it.

Disclaimer: nothing official, only my interpretation. That is what I teach my students. It is working for them, and for me, I will detail it here for you as I do on Koi.

Once you know the three levels of nine Waza. Then you notice that each technique of the first level repeats itself with an added suffix. Let me explain. The first Waza is “Tsuki Komi” and becomes “Tsuki Komi no Sayū Gyaku” at the second level, and “Tsuki Komi no Henka” at the third.

To make it easier, I named the levels of the Kukishin Biken Jutsu syllabus as follow. The first one is Nijigen no Sekai. The technique is simple and moves only in a 2-dimension plane. (3) The second set of Waza is Sanjigen no Sekai. (4) You repeat the same Waza but moving to the left or to the right. This is now a 3-dimension plane. The last level is Yūgen no Sekai. (5) This is the mental or psychological dimension. Here you move forward or backwards, above or under. Hatsumi Sensei called this; the invisible dimension where things are not yet manifested. (6)

The three sets prepare you to move in any direction in space and time. It is defining a sphere of infinite possibilities. For this reason, I see Kukishin Biken Jutsu as a dynamic in-yō. 

Tama, the sphere, is central to Japanese Budō, and you find it in many Ryū. (7) But Tama is also the pearl. As always, the same sounds can have different writings. (8)

I also see some similarities with Pythagoras’ book “The golden verses.” (9). He explains there what he defines as the “Tetractys” or “Quaternary.” (10) To summarize, he writes that space is four shapes included in one another. One is the dot, two is the line, three is the surface, four is the volume. Likewise, our Biken Jutsu system includes the previous one at each level. The only thing remaining to discover is proper timing.

Once you know the mechanical aspects, it is easy to adjust and adapt the forms to the situation you’re facing. In our case, turning the blade edge up is ok. Learning to use a sword is a long process until you reach the “Shuhari” point. Use the sword to the best of your ability when your life is in balance. And do not refrain from destroying the form if you need to.

Always keep in mind that everything is always possible!

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1 抜く, Nuki (nuku or nukiru): 1) to pull out; to draw out; to extract; to unplug; to weed

2 www.koimartialart.com is a streaming platform. Koi offers 160 Gb of Bujinkan videos covering all Waza of the Bujinkan. Check it today!

3 二次元, Nijigen: 2-dimension. 次元, Jigen: dimension, level. And 世界, Sekai: 1) the world; society; the universe​; 2) sphere; circle; world

4 三次元, Sanjigen: 3-dimension

5 幽玄, Yūgen: mysterious profundity; quiet beauty; the subtle and profound

6 Definition of dimension in physics and mathematics. “The dimension of a space or object is informally defined as the minimum number of coordinates needed to specify any point within it.”

7 玉, Tama (or Gyoku): ball; sphere; globe; orb. Tama is the same kanji that makes the names of the Gyokko Ryū or Gyokushin Ryū. Many websites translate the term “tama/gyoku” by jewel. It would be more correct to translate it as pearl.

8 摩尼, Tama (there is no order in Japanese between kanji): jewel; pearl; gemstone​

9 The Golden verses by Pythagoras.

Download the pdf at: https://www.academia.edu/33840619/The_Golden_Verses_of_Pythagoras

Or get the kindle version for 1 USD at Amazon or the paperback.

10 Quaternary by Pythagoras https://theosophy.wiki/en/Tetraktys

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Can We Excel, Or Not?

From Shiro Kuma by kumablog



Studying martial arts is training to become the best budōka possible. But can you reach excellence? The quest for excellence fuels the Budō passion, but excellence is a utopia, is it possible? But is it possible to get it even if you are not a divine being? I don’t think so. 

I recently wrote a text on learning and the need to never stop learning. These days many ask what we can do when a majority of dōjō is in lockdown? 

While studying at CSUC, I learned that any training can be both physical and mental. Mental training is quite powerful. That is why professional sports coaches developed visualisation techniques. Visualisations work nearly as good as physical movement. Even though mental training can bring a lot of benefits, that is not our subject for today. But if you want, I can write a post on that; please let me know in the comments. (1) 

Excellence is often your goal when on the path of Budō. But you need an excellent teacher to mentor you. In class, he shares his knowledge and guides you through the 5-steps of the education process. 

The 5-steps process :

  • Step 1: Watching and Listening
    By attending the class, you get the steps and the mechanics of the Waza you are learning. 
  • Step 2: Training and Experimenting
    You train the movement and discover the steps that are working or not. By experimenting, you develop the “form” of the waza.
  • Step 3: Repeating and Correcting
    This is when you repeat what is correct and do your best to change what is not.
  • Step 4: Learning and Acquiring
    The number of times you repeat the correct moves will speed up your ability to get it. After a while, your brain and body ingrain it. It is now part of you. 
  • Step 5: Getting and Adapting
    Now that you can do the technique, you can adapt it to real-life situations.

Acquiring new habits and adapting a waza is positive. Why? Because it gives freedom of movement. This freedom leads to Sensei’s “natural movement.”

That is why students should never give up. Learning is a commitment for the whole life. Because of constant learning and repeating, we get closer to excellence and perfection. So, we can agree with Aristotle when he says that “we are what we keep repeating. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

In Japanese, excellence is “Shun” and also genius. It carries out the idea of diverging or deviating from the “usual path.” This is what you do when you think outside of the box. If you apply the same rules as others, you have no chance to reach excellence. (2)

Geniuses are the ones not following the tracks of others. They are the ones creating their own ways. It is a two-fold process where you follow the guidance of others in phase #1 to go on your own path in phase #2. 

Learn from everyone. Train and copy your teacher until you can think and act by yourself. That is when you will be able to get closer to “shun” excellence. And Spring is the best time of the year to do it. At the time I’m writing this, Spring has begun. And nature is now blooming with a renewed life energy. “Shun”, written with another kanji, is Spring, Shunki being the spring season. So train and learn now that your energy level is at the highest. (3) 

A new set of movements always looks complex. Then it gives space to something more efficient and straightforward. Simplicity is complicated to achieve; it requires hours of hard training. To excel, you need to be simple, and maybe some people will consider you as a genius. Keep in mind this quote by Albert Einstein. 

“Genius is making complex ideas simple, not making simple ideas complex.”

Be simple, be good, be happy!

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1 https://www.compedgept.com/blog/visualization-and-athletic-performance
2 俊, shun: excellence, genius
3 春季, shunki: spring season; not to be mistaken for 春機 shunki: sexual desire

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