|[ olvasnivaló » Ura & Omote - 1996 March ]|
There were no classes for beginners. New students just joined in with the seniors and attempted to pick up the techniques from one class to the next. The closest thing to a starter collection of basics in the 1970s was a set of techniques that we called the Hatsumi-ha no Kata (the word ha in this case indicates "branch"; a good translation might be "the Hatsumi-branch" or "Hatsumi-style training examples"). These were a few kata that Hatsumi-sensei had selected from the nine historical martial arts lineages he had been given by Takamatsu-sensei.
After several years of training in Japan, I returned to the USA and began teaching as a way of training in what I had been studying with Masaaki Hatsumi. Though my residence was once again in the USA, my wife Rumiko and I continued to return to Japan once or twice a year for continued training with the grandmaster. In 1982, Masaaki Hatsumi even came from Japan to live with us in our house in Ohio for a few weeks.
In those early 1980s, I had to come up with some sort of systematic way to introduce the basics of nin-po taijutsu to new students in America and Europe. We needed a way to present the kihon, the basic techniques. The Hatsumi-ha no Kata really were too advanced, and there actually was no clearly prescribed set. The specific contents of the Hatsumi-ha no Kata seemed to shift and alter from season to season. My teacher Masaaki Hatsumi encouraged me to devise my own teaching plan for my students.
While training in the dojo in Japan, I had become familiar with a classification device called the go-dai, a set of "five great" elemental dynamics that was an important part of Japanese metaphysics. In old Japan, these five elements of earth, water, fire, wind, and formless void were such a mainstay of the culture that they were often used as a counting device, so familiar were they to the people. However, at that time I was convinced that because I was a foreigner, I was the only one who did not understand the significance of the go-dai. My curiosity turned into a form of obsession for finding the real meaning behind the cultural idiom.
I worked to grasp the deeper meaning of the go-dai by means of late evening talks with Dr. Hatsumi, and much exploration with two of the seniors at that time (these two men have since gone their own way and no longer train with the Bujinkan Dojo, so it would be disrespectful to list their names here). Everyone else at the dojo assured me that the five elements were just a device for counting as far as they were concerned. Convinced that there had to be more, I continued my cultural detective work. I sought out descendants of the monks and mountain priests allied with the roots of ninjutsu who referred to the five elements in the form of mandala graphics that described like blueprints the human psyche. As the years of study went by, the meaning of the go-dai five elements became more and more clear to me.
Hatsumi-sensei often referred to a set of five techniques we practiced in the dojo as the go-gyo no kata. Go-gyo refers to a Chinese Taoist set of five elements: earth, water, fire, metal, and wood. However, the elements of Dr. Hatsumi's go-gyo no kata were listed as earth, water, fire, wind, and formless void -- the set that makes up the go-dai Indian tantric five elements familiar to students of Japanese and Tibetan vajrayana Buddhism. Awkwardly, the name of the collection did not match the contents. For the sake of consistency then, I came to refer to the five elements as the go-dai.
When I began to teach in America and then Europe in the early 1980s, I used the go-dai no kata, a collection of fighting examples based on the original Hatsumi-ha no kata and classified by the five distinct dynamics of the go-dai five elements. My own experience in the martial arts in the 1960s convinced me that the one most important and most consistently missing piece of self-defense training was an honest approach to developing the mental state needed to make the techniques work against an attacker who was larger and more hostile than the victim. All the schools I had ever visited simply assumed or hoped that the physical training alone would suffice to turn a worrier into a warrior. More often than not, such assumptions were insufficient. For authentic self-protection training then, we needed to acknowledge the mental state of the fighter. We needed a way to approach understanding the role of spirit in the fight. The go-dai was and is the perfect vehicle. Therefore, as a means of teaching a Japanese cultural collection and as a way to prepare for self-protection in the violent Western world, I chose to base my students' early training on the motions and emotions of the Go-dai no kata five tantric elements. (Details of the five element system can be found in the 15 books authored by Stephen K. Hayes) As a direct result of the books I published in the early 1980s, foreign students began to travel to Japan in search of training with Masaaki Hatsumi. I had started the great gaijin rush to Noda City. By 1983, so many foreigners were coming to Japan that the seniors there had to come up with some sort of systematic approach to teaching the basics. Since the old Hatsumi-ha no Kata really was just a temporary classification, some of the seniors agreed on some of the striking methods from Gyokko ryu koshi-jutsu and some of the locks and throws from the Takagi Yoshin ryu and Kukishin ryu jutaijutsu. The collection of basics was referred to as the kihon happo, kihon meaning "fundamentals" and happo meaning "collection" (literally "8 directions"). It is important to note that these kihon fundamental techniques were not yet firmly set by the early 1980s. Different techniques made up the kihon happo at different times. The number 8 was eventually established by Hatsumi-sensei as a kind of play on words involving the happo literal translation as "8 directions." Eventually, by the mid 1980s, there developed a more consistent pattern.
However, at the time of the establishment of the Bujinkan Dojo Kihon Happo, I had already been teaching the Go-dai no Kata for several years. Rather than change all the material that by then had appeared in several books and that made up my students' curriculum, I simply adopted the "new" kihon happo into my training plan and incorporated the 8 techniques as part of my curriculum, which I still do to this day. Our instructors teach the kihon happo along with the go-dai.
What of worries that "Stephen K. Hayes isn't teaching the way they do in Japan"? There is nothing to worry about. Our students learn every bit of the Japanese curriculum, from the kihon happo to the san-shin gata to the scrolls of kata that make up the nine historical lineages of the Bujinkan Dojo. No other dojo teaches "more" Bujinkan material than the Bujinkan Kasumi-An. We have it all. Andx we also have the powerful go-dai concept for teaching how to mobilize the fighting techniques of the Bujinkan Dojo under the pressures of real life street self-defense that is likely to be encountered in the Western world.
What of whispered accusations that the Kasumi-An and the Bujinkan are "different" entities, that Stephen K. Hayes' students are not part of Masaaki Hatsumi's Bujinkan? Again, false assumptions on the part of some silly troublemakers who are trying to scare our students into leaving the high quality of our program. The rumor mongers of course want our students to transfer over to their programs, even though these teachers are far junior to the teachers that make up our Kasumi-An branch of the Bujinkan Dojo. Of course all of my students and my students' students are fully licensed by Masaaki Hatsumi and receive hand-sealed Bujinkan Dojo certificates for every grade from kyu-kyu ninth class license on into black belt degrees. As students of the man responsible for bringing Masaaki Hatsumi and his Bujinkan Dojo to the Western Hemisphere, they expect no less.
It all began in the 1560s when Oda Nobunaga and his army achieved great success. In 1568, he dethroned the last Ashikaga Shogun in Kyoto. He ordered his troops to invade Ise because he was still surrounded by his enemies Mori, Takeda and Uesugi. He needed to have control over the main central Japan Tokaido road that passed the north Ise region. Kitabatake Tomonori lost the Kanbe and Kuwana castles. Kuwana castle was particularly important since it was strategically placed to defend the Tokaido road. Oda's success on the battle field continued and he occupied Okawachi in fifty days to force Kitabatake Tomonori to agree on peace. The condition was that Kitabatake adopted Oda's second son Nobuo, who was 12 years old at the time.
Kitabatake lost many areas in Ise as rewards to the Oda generals, but he remained like a "marionette Daimyo". He was later assassinated, probably by one of his earlier vassals -- Tsuge Saburozaemon. This meant that Oda Nobuo inherited the control of the Ise province.
The Kitabatake family with Kitabataki Tomoyari in the lead gathered all their loyal Samurais and supporters from Iga to revenge Oda Nobuo. Tomoyari had been a priest in Nara, but returned to Ise when Tomonori was murdered. It is believed that Tsukahara Bokuden's (one of Japans most famous sword fighter) son was one of Tomoyari's supporters, but the uprising was beaten by Oda Nobuo's general Takigawa Saburohei Kazumasu. The surviving Samurais fled to Iga, where they pleaded for help by Mori Motonari. Motonari's region had not been involved in the battle against Oda, but Motonari's troops began advancing east which threatened Oda Nobunaga's advance. This was an excuse for Oda to do something against Motonari's threat.
What was to be called Iga No Ran, was a revolt in Iga that started 1579 when Shimoyama Kai No Kami came to Nobuo complaining about the rest of the Iga population. Nobuo felt that he had a reason to prepare his campaign by rebuilding the castle his stepfather Kitabatake Tomonori never finished. He ordered Takigawa Saburohei as the Fushin Bugyu (construction chief) over the castle on Mt. Maruyama.
Mt. Maruyama was seated 180 meters (500 ft.) above the Hijiki flood, although Takigawa Saburohei used his own Ninjas to prepare and plan the invasion, many Iga Ninjas succeeded to get a job with the building of the castle, for which in return they learned all the castles weak points.
The leaders in Iga decided to attack before the castle was complete. Samurais and Ninjas from Iga attacked together, which forced the Takigawa soldiers to retreat down the villages to retain their troops since the castle did not give them enough protection. There they were attacked by small groups of Iga Samurais. The Takigawa soldiers that remained in the castle soon discovered that the Iga soldiers also knew how to penetrate the castle.
They fled to unite with the rest of the Takigawa troops. Takigawa's forces were driven out in the flooded rice fields and the forests. The battle kept going long into the night until they was defeated. Takigawa himself fled to Matsuga-Shima and therefore survived the battle. The next day the Iga Ninjas and Samurais burned down the castle.
After the defeat in Maruyama, Takigawa of course decided to revenge for his lost honor and therefore supported Oda Nobuo when he decided to invade Iga. Oda decided to go to battle against the rest of his vassals advice. His plan was to attack with 12.000 men through the best three passes from Matsugashima. Nobuo himself led the first attack through the north Nagano pass. The Iga people had used their Ninjas to gather information successfully, and could easily attack the Nobuo's army and defeat them.
Takigawa attacked further south through the pass called Oniboku-Goe (the devil's pass). They were defeated in almost the same way as Nobuo himself. At the same time the Iga troops had an extra triumph when they had their revenge on Tsuge Saburozaemon who accompanied Takigawa.
The third and last front attacked somewhere between where the first and second front previously attacked. The troop was led by Nagano Sakyo Tayu and Akiyama Ukyo Tayu, when they reached Iseji they were lured into a fight against the village. They had already passed the hidden Iga troops and were attacked from the back, which cut off all the possibility for retreat and they were all defeated completely. Nobuo who had barely survived fled back to Matsushiga.
A big problem when one do research about the history of ninja and Bujinkan is when one compare information in books about those subject with general acknowledged history in history books. This means that all information in circulation are to be considered as gossip until it can be compared and proven against general history. This includes the text above.
This translation is allowed to be posted electronically or printed as long as it is left unedited or changed in any way. It is not allowed to be reprinted in any way for commercial purposes without permission. (c) MATS HJELM 1996
Most of us know the kihon happo as a collection of eight techniques. Dr. Hatsumi has stated however, that these eight techniques are really just the beginning. From each of these eight spring eight more, and then eight more from each of these and so on into infinity. Herein lies the limitlessness of Bujinkan taijutsu. Hatsumi sensei has often said that by turning the number "8" on its side, we get the symbol for infinity - this is a good way to think of the kihon. As we master each technique, we should be able to move from the fundamentals to henka (variations) at will. Of course, this ability comes only with years of training in the basic forms.
The kihon happo are taught a little differently by each teacher. Many of Dr. Hatsumi's shihan will show different versions of the same techniques. Sometimes the techniques included in one teacher's kihon happo are not the same as in another teacher's kihon happo. For example, sometimes hongyaku is added to the eight techniques to make a total of nine. Sometimes these changes cause a bit of confusion. The techniques that I describe below are the way Manaka shihan and my teacher teach the kihon happo.
Kihon Happo literally translates to "basic eight ways". The first three techniques, known as the Koshi Sanpo Waza (finger striking three ways) are thought to be from the Gyokko ryu and are: ichimonji no kata, jumonji no kata and hicho no kata. These three also happen to be three of the basic kamae (stances) which we use. These kata are basically made up of defensive movements in response to an opponent's attack and then an offensive counter.
The next five techniques are known as the Torite Goho (arm attacking five ways) and originated from the Kukishinden ryu or Takagi Yoshin ryu. As the name for this group of techniques implies, these movements usually attack an opponent's arms and involve taking the attacker to the ground in ways that do not allow him to land safely. The five techniques are: Omotegyaku dori, Uragyaku dori, Gansekinage (Muso dori), Onikudaki and Musha dori. Gansekinage is often replaced with Muso dori as the two techniques are rather similar. An interesting point here is that Manaka sensei has stated that onikudaki does not appear anywhere in the Gyokko ryu, so that technique must have come from another school.
How can we use the kihon happo to create good taijutsu? Well, the most obvious answer is practice...a lot of practice. Manaka shihan says that he starts every training with go gyo no kata and kihon happo. Anyone who has ever done the kihon happo as warm-up drills with Manaka knows that he has obviously practiced them a lot (especially that hicho no kata...how does he do that?). Major Manaka often relates the stories of times when he was away from Hatsumi sensei due to his military commitments. He says that the kihon happo were all he would practice for months at a time. No variations, just the basic forms. That should be a lesson to us all.
Many martial artists who have seen the kihon happo practiced have been known to say that the techniques would be useless in a real fight. When I hear this, I like to smile and say "Yes, they are useless in a real fight!" Eventually, I get around to explaining that these eight techniques were never meant to be used exactly as shown in shinken gata (real combat) form.
Bud Malmstrom stresses that the movements don't work unless something is added to or taken away from them. We need to set them up in order for the techniques to work for us. The basic forms are used to learn the movements and ideas behind the techniques. In a real fight, the techniques are never going to work just like they do in practice. That is why Hatsumi sensei stresses that each basic technique should lead to a minimum of eight more techniques, preventing the student from relying on the basic forms in a self defense situation.
For years, I have often thought the instruction we were receiving was nothing more than minor examples of a more dynamic procedure that would be revealed later in our training or a well-guarded secret only to be instructed at a certain level or rank. In some respect I thought we could learn the ways to "zap" an aggressor into a compliant zombie, or cloud their minds.
As a dutiful student, I incorporated energy-channeling, visualization and empowerment techniques into my regular ninjutsu training. It wasn't until after several years of incorrectly accepting the notion that what was being taught were only guidelines, I stumbled on just how truly powerful only several years of kuji-in training can be.
A few years ago, I worked undercover in a corporate office setting where there was indication of white-collar fraud being committed. During the assignment I had to convince a group of managers and co-workers who suspected I was a spy, that I was not an undercover agent. While they had no actual proof, they resorted to verbally intimidate me in a conference room. Although I was well briefed for the assignment, I was caught unprepared for such a scenario and found myself resorting to kuji-in as a last resort: When being barraged by accusations, I would apply a "wind mode" frame-of-mind to respond in avoidance; during direct inquiry, I would resort to a "water mode" to make their efforts pointless. During this process I attempted to achieve the appropriate mind-set, breath and voice accentuation, and to my surprise it seemed to be working!
However, the most profound result was when I needed to effectively express my words and assert my position. "Grounding" myself, I stated in "earth-mode" my words, accenting them with a discreet one-handed ketsu-in finger symbol as I tapped the desk. The result was truly amazing: Although I spoke in a calm demeanor and a normal-volume voice, my audience seemed to respond as though I shouted my points and even postured away from me. They also seemed to literally jump when I tapped my positioned fingers on the table.
It achieved my desired result and I was eventually able to successfully complete the assignment without anyone realizing I was an operative.
I am lucky being able to augment my training with my line of work, consequently, I also reinforce my profession with my martial art instruction. I have also experienced many amazing accomplishments in both my life and profession since I began practicing ninjutsu. However, I continue to realize what we're learning is a timeless, effective and vibrant skill in which a seemingly insignificant technique can have quite the contrary results; whether it be kuji-in, taijutsu or saiminjutsu. I believe that this is my most profound example of the subtle power of ninpo and it continues to inspire my training and prompts me to utilize all I learn from my teachers.
Situated in the South Pacific ocean some 1200 miles south east of Australia, New Zealand is a relatively small country, with a population of some 3.4 million people. It is called "Aotearoa" by the Maori people, which means "Land of the long white cloud". It consists of two main islands, appropriately named North and South islands respectively, and a smaller island called Stewart island. It's main claim to fame, apart from it's sporting achievements, is it's dramatic scenery, with tourism being it's main industry. Some famous people from this small country include:
* Sir Edmund Hillary -- First man to climb Mt. Everest. * Bruce McLaren -- Formula on racing driver and pioneer of the McLaren F1 racing car. * Dame Kiri Te-Kanawa --World famous opera singer. * The All Blacks -- One of the worlds best Rugby union teams. * And, of course, the crew from Black Magic -- The winners of the Americas cup, to name a few.
So where does Ninpo fit into this culture? Soke says that you should train according to the requirements of your environment. If you live in a potentially dangerous environment, then you need to prepare yourself for any dangerous situation. Lots of guns -- lots of techniques for disarming a gunman, lots of knives -- lots of Muto Dori practice. So what are the requirements for training and living in NZ?
Of course like any country, there are areas where you don't walk the streets alone at night and always lock your doors. But in the whole we are a relatively peace loving country and having such a beautiful landscape, we genuinely care for the environment. The latter being reflected in our "No-nukes" stance and our protests against French nuclear testing at Muraroa Atol.
Ninjutsu is relatively new to this part of the world, less than 10 years old. In fact I did the first known seminar here in 1986, although the first school was not founded until 1987 by Michael Gent. Both of us initially training under Wayne Roy from Australia. The art has seen many different phases and changes during this period, as I would suspect with any other country, and I would still consider that the art is coming of age.
The most dramatic change to the art, apart from various individuals traveling to Japan, would have to be the event our first Tai-Kai held here last March; this was also only the third to be held in Australasia. With these Tai-Kai, we have seen 13 New Zealanders graded to Shidoshi, with the usual side effects. In fact Tsunami (tidal wave) would be a more appropriate term for the last Tai-Kai, due to effect it has had, not only on individuals, but on the country as a whole. Call it coincidence, call it inevitable and predictable, call it whatever you like, but it has certainly made an impact.
We have a very successful multi-cultural society, some say model, with 12% of the population being Maori (the indigenous or aboriginal people). Interesting that their roots have now been traced right back to Japan, via the Pacific Islands. Also interesting that Soke said he felt a very close affinity with these people, after watching a demonstration of their Martial Arts and culture. (The Maori is also a warrior race who fought the British settlers between 1860 and 1872 for their land and rights). And if you were fortunate enough to see a NZ movie called "Once were Warriors" (although slightly exaggerated), you would find that this movie is about the Bujin within the Maori people and their frustration to express it in a modern society.
The introduction of Bujin (The Warrior Spirit) by Soke into this small country has seen some interesting things happen since March. As always there is the inevitable confusion and introspection that accompanies Soke wherever he goes. Being Soke (Zero as he explains) seems to pick people up, twirl them around and leave them with the thought "What happened"? Never being fortunate, or accessed skillful enough to have this experience myself, you can see it in the eyes of anyone on the receiving end of Soke's waza. As in Ninpo and expressed in great works of strategy, the strategy applied to an individual is a no different to applying this to a thousand individuals (or an army) and this effect thereby flows on. As Sensei explained at the beginning of the last Australian Tai-Kai, he was doing this (teaching) not for the sake of the people attending the training, but for the countries of Australia and New Zealand.
So what did New Zealand as a country get out of the Tai-Kai last March? How can you tell what was the effect of this event? Here I personally look at the principles of Ninpo and the effect of Bujin in peoples lives, namely mine. I have found that the feeling for this art has changed (as it always is), but more dramatically so. There is more of a feeling of responsibility, not only to this art, but also to life and the environment in general. The Maori race, having basically lived in harmony with nature to survive, up until the white man came along, still have a great affinity with the Bujin. Here we have seen more and more protests taking place, to get back the land that was taken by the white man, some say unlawfully. This action has seen the emergence of a far more radical (warrior like) approach, than we have ever seen before. At the forefront of these protests we see the pictures of warriors from another time, right down to the Moko (facial tattoos) and the intimidating Haka (war dance), brandishing traditional weaponry. We have experienced things such as earthquakes, not too uncommon in these so called "shaky isles", but coincidentally, at the peak of a particular confrontations between Maori and Pakeha (a Maori term to describe the white man). Why is this significant? Because the natural phenomenon of an earthquake is caused by the friction between two plates (bodies), the friction apparent between our two races is exactly the same.
This observation compels me to move and listen more to the subtle things in life and to look more at what nature is trying to tell us. This is the same as the Godan test, you are given the experience to see things in another dimension, and to appreciate the more subtle things in life. On a broader sense, we are seeing more and more of this natural phenomenon daily. Dramatic changes in the weather, earthquakes, floods and the like. To nature, an earthquake is no big thing. The earth moves a little, and things are realigned. To us meek and relatively insignificant human beings, who reside on the very crust of the earth's surface, a major upheaval such as an earthquake destroys cities and kills thousands. These are also subtleties to nature that we should maybe take more notice of. We will spend thousands of dollars and a great many sacrifices to travel to Japan to train with Sensei, to see the same thing. A subtle natural movement here, and you are sent flying across the room (a major upheaval). If you learn to harmonize with the forces of nature, you will be invincible, he reminds you.
So we live and train in a relatively unspoiled environment, by world standards and have a "Clean Green" reputation. We are an easy going people (sometimes too easy going) and enjoy the simple things in life. Nearly one year down the track, we are still seeing and feeling the polarizing effects of Bujin here, and look forward to the next Tsunami when Soke next visits.
Indoor: * If you train in a traditional dojo, meaning you have a hard wood training area, practice while wearing socks. Not only does it feel like training on a slick surface, such as ice, but also helps one to find the most appropriate footwork for a particular body type, not to mention a better sense of balance.
* Train on different types of terrain. i.e.- ice, rocks gravel, low levels of water, sand, etc.
* Training outdoors in general is a great way, at least I find, to "mix up" one's training. This helps to motivate one to train, refreshes perspectives on training, and just for a change of scenery.
* Training in the cold is a good way to test one's prowess. The cold amplifies pain significantly, as well as slows one down. Another factor to consider is ice, which can be a hindrance as well. Also, when it is cold, you and your opponent will more than likely be dressed for the occasion (bundled up in many layers). As a result, many techniques used in this environment will have to be altered in some fashion to accommodate for these factors. Any strikes that are utilized will probably be less effective, due to the extra clothing articles worn, especially if one's taijutsu is not that good.
* It is also beneficial to train in low or no light conditions. In this medium one must use other senses more readily than just sight, as well as finding ways to use one's vision in this condition. One way to do this is to drop your body posture in order to see your opponent silhouetted against the night sky. Another is called "off center" vision which is looking 6-10 degrees away from the image you want to see. This action causes the image to form on the rod cells, which are sensitive in darkness. Also, many assaults occur at night, so training in this environment can prepare you should that happen.
* Train or shadowbox as soon as you awake from sleeping. This will help test the limits of your techniques when your body is "cold" meaning you internal body temperature is not raised.
* The opposite of the above is to train when you have taxed yourself to your limits. An example of this could be if you just a finished a vigorous workout, such as weight training or jogging, to immediately train afterwards. This will show you how well your body will respond to extreme physical demands. A scenario that illustrates this point is when an acquaintance of mine who holds a black obi in tae kwon do was being chased by a group of thugs who were intent on finding out who was the toughest person around. After he sprinted a few blocks trying to escape his attackers he was backed into a corner and had to fight, but was so winded that he had little energy to combat his assailants.
* If you wear corrective lenses when you train, try practicing without them and see how it affects your awareness.
* Since most practitioners of this art are used to training in dogi's, try training in clothes that you would normally wear. In other arts this is not stressed, and therefore some students find out the hard way that a jumping, spinning, crescent kick in tight wrangler jeans does not work all that well. Believe me I have seen this happen before, and it was not pretty.
* When practicing body drops throw some kicking techniques in once and awhile. This can be extremely effective in close quarter combat.
* Ukemi also changes the shape of the human body, we are the only creatures that walk upright, so this makes the body less perceptible to the human eye, especially in low-light conditions.
These are just some observations on training that are applicable in any art, not just ours, and by no means a complete list, for there are many others to be sure. These are just simply some perspectives that I have had over the years in the martial arts that make training, especially in our art, much more invigorating, worthwhile and fun.
Seminars can provide you with a "reality-check", especially if you train with people who are not from your home group or dojo. Getting punched in the face by a total stranger points out a bad ichimonji much better than anything else. Or, you may find out that your Ganseki Nage was much better than you thought! Seminars also give you the opportunity to train with different body types that you may not have in your school or group. Attempting to do Uchi Mata to an uke who is 6" taller than you can be very frustrating if all your ukes have always been about your height.
Have you always wanted to know a little bit about Aikido or Tae Kwon Do? A seminar in another martial art can give you new insights into how people from these martial arts disciplines behave. These type of seminars give you a taste of what else is out there and the techniques you may have to defend against one day. Learning how to throw a round-house kick may not necessarily improve your taijutsu but it will definitely improve your ability to recognize that particular kick -- especially when someone is throwing it at you. It will also give you a more subtle appreciation of the body dynamics involved for the attacker and may even give you clues that will help your timing, distancing, etc.
Seminars can "jump-start" your training again, getting rid of feelings of complacency or boredom. Since the material taught is usually out of the ordinary, training doesn't seem as "blah". Everything may seem new and challenging, giving you impetus to continue training and working on your material. New material or applications on how to do a technique may challenge and excite you even further. Above all, seminars are fun! You get to meet new people and work on material in a friendly and, usually, non-competitive atmosphere.
The following suggestions may help you get more out of the next seminar you go to:
* Keep an open mind during the seminar and look for new ideas, or ways of doing things. The way the seminar leader teaches may not be the same as your instructor. How does it differ? Is it easier for you to get the message or are you just not understanding the technique? If a technique is frustrating you, dissect it. Figure out what you are mechanically doing and how it differs from your partner. Ask for help. If you're a taijutsu god at your dojo, but you turn into a klutz at seminars, explore that. Find out what makes you uncomfortable. Talk to people afterwards about your training experiences and compare notes. Above all, keep trying and working on the techniques that frustrate you.
* Look for additional information on the subjects taught at the seminar. Are they selling a video of the seminar? Did the instructor write a book? Are there other books on this topic? Videos and books will help you to remember more, long after the seminar is over.
* Seek out the seminar instructor with your questions during the breaks or during select Q& A periods. Also, look around you. If you see other students or instructors comparing notes or practicing a technique, determine if it is appropriate for you to approach them, then politely go over, introduce yourself and ask questions. It is often through this type of sharing that people get their best notes.
* Take notes. If you're not a good note taker, then copy them from someone else. If you go with a group, assign someone to be the note-taker for an hour, half-day, etc. Rotate amongst yourselves so that no one person takes all the notes. At the end of the session, sit down and go through the notes, fleshing them out further, each person adding their insights, observations, etc. Having extra eyes will make it easier for you to correct mistakes or omissions in kata.
* Buy the practice weapon. Did you borrow a bokken all through a kenjutsu seminar? How will you practice at home? Having the appropriate training material at home will encourage you to practice and get better with it. This practice will then help you with the retention of the new material which you have just learned.
* Finally, rest well before and after a seminar. Seminars tend to be emotionally as well as physically draining. Resting before you get back to the real world may not always be possible, but do try. I tend to get sick after seminars because of all the energy -- emotional and physical -- that I expend at them, so I now request an extra day off from work to get back to normal. After my last seminar, I went straight to work and was subsequently out sick for a week two days later. Take care and nurture your body. Give your mind a chance to come down from the elation as well.
The spirit has often been misrepresented as an invisible energy, projected out from the body, or something ethereal composed of subatomic particles. Some consider it the same as ki, or possibly chi kung. There are a few teachers, in our art as well as others, who would have you forever chasing something that you can never derive any tangible benefit from. (Of course anyone who does not agree with their beliefs is "not high level enough to understand or feel it.") They create through their rhetoric a need that only they can fulfill, cultivating their students until they are ripe to buy tickets to high priced energy-channeling or psychic-type seminars.
On the other hand I have heard teachers and students insist that there is no real difference between the mind and the spirit, and that this ancient philosophy is based on a lack of knowledge of human physiognomy.
Neither of these extremes comes close to the classical Japanese warrior's understanding of the spirit. First let's take a look at what they mean by mind. This is fairly obvious and easy to grasp. The mind is the seat of your intelligence, alertness, concentration and creativity; all necessary components for those pursuing the warrior's way. It is also where is stored, both consciously and subconsciously, the techniques and fighting methods you have learned. It is the struggle of the mind to access these techniques from an empty yet alert state. I have written about this extensively elsewhere, and I only include it here only to differentiate it from the spirit.
If the mind is where strategies are formed and where techniques are chosen, the spirit is that part of us which allows us to execute our techniques in actual combat. A simple western way of equating it would be to call it courage, yet that is far too simple and shallow an explanation for our purposes. Your spirit also encompasses your opponent's spirit, and there are many ways of manipulating, absorbing and destroying another's spirit. I will not address those here, because it is pointless to discuss them until many other things are achieved. A martial artist who has no strong spirit is someone who can perform well only when the training environment is safe and controlled. It is the strength of the spirit which will determine the real warrior.
Unfortunately, like most facets of our art, there is no easy, quick way to develop a strong spirit. There is a small percentage of our population who are born with it, but that is not the case for most people. Only through years of hard, painful training can this be achieved. Body, mind and spirit. Spirit is always spoken of last. That is because the other two must precede the development of the spirit. Strong spirit will develop naturally on its own in someone who has spent many years training the body to move in a natural way, and who's mind has also reached the state of uncluttered, free movement. Spirit cannot be found in a book, on a video or in a seminar. It is like a seed within you, and only with the right nourishment and conditions will it have a chance to grow. This is the true nature of spirit.
Wabi literally means 'poverty', although this translation does not begin to convey the richness of its true meaning. Poverty, in this sense, means not being dependent on material possessions, rather than simply not having them. A person who is poor in these terms can still be inwardly rich because of the presence of something of higher value than mere possessions. Wabi therefore is poverty that surpasses immense riches. In practical terms, wabi is exemplified by the contentment of a family living in very spartan conditions with simple food and few possessions, but surrounded by and in tune with the events in every day life. In artistic terms, wabi is found in the person who does not indulge in complexity of concept, over-ornate expression, or the pomposity of high self-esteem.
In contrast, sabi connotes loneliness or solitude -- in aesthetic terms it has a much broader meaning. An antique element is also implied, especially if it combined with a primitive lack of sophistication. The utensils used in cha-do are a good example of sabi. The essence of sabi therefore is gracefulness combined with antiquity. Watching two practitioners moving through Gyokko Ryu kata never fails to impress me when I realize that the centuries have done little to change the perfection of these 'antique' movements.
There are several other elements which make up the foundation of Zen expression in a work of art -- and I ardently believe Ninpo is art -- but for this article I would like to elucidate on the concepts of Austere Sublimity, Subtle Profundity, and their relationship to taijutsu. The other elements are: asymmetry, simplicity, naturalness, freedom from attachment, and tranquillity.
It is easier to detect this quality in a physical work of art like a painting rather than taijutsu, because depth and perspective are plainly laid out. Nevertheless, as you become more 'discriminating' in your techniques and observations of the masters of our art, you will begin to sense this feeling in certain movements they make. My own instructor, for example, is wonderful at demonstrating this concept. He'll often show the gross mechanics of a technique, and then subtly suggest ways to strip away the physical to get to the spiritual aspects of what is happening. Shutting an attacker down through Body, Mind, and finally Spirit is the highest expression of good taijutsu. How many hundreds of times had I executed osotogake before it dawned on me that underneath where my hand rested on the uke was a kyusho?
In one of my other great passions, bonsai, I often find myself drawn to a particular tree which imparts in me a deep sense of respect. It could be its great age, its sheer beauty, or its regal bearing. Whatever it is, some bonsai are able to communicate subtle profundity in their own special way.
All fine Japanese art contains the above elements. Looking for them, embracing them, and exemplifying them will make us all better artists.
And so began Masaaki Hatsumi-sensei's February 13 speech on his mentor Takamatsu-sensei. The talk, which was videotaped for later release (an English overdubbed version will also be available some time in the future), was one man's account of an unfortunately relatively unknown master. The evening was to begin with Hatsumi-sensei's talk, continue with film footage, and conclude with about 30 minutes for Questions and Answers. As all photography and recording were prohibited, this account will be from memory and includes my interpretation of Hatsumi-sensei's Japanese (a feat in and of itself for those who know Japanese and have heard him speak). If, when the professional English translation is released, some of what I thought was said turns out to be not so or out of order, please go easy on me. I am but human and don't have a taped account to rewind and check. I have done my best to make a coherent translation, but all is at the mercy of memory. Comments in quotation marks are Hatsumi-sensei's, those in parentheses are my personal thoughts and comments, and narration is anything else. And without further ado. . .
Hatsumi-sensei began talking of Takamatsu-sensei's love of painting and stated that he believed that painting was a means to longevity. "That's why I myself took up painting." When one first entered the room of the presentation, one couldn't help but notice the photographs and paintings on display. Hatsumi-sensei had brought with him a collage of old black and white photos of his mentor, including a couple featuring himself doing kuji (hand positions) with Takamatsu-sensei. Several of them have been featured in some of Hatsumi-sensei's books. Also on the table were two framed paintings about 2 ft. x 3 ft. One was a portrait Hatsumi-sensei had completed of his mentor about a year before he died.
Hatsumi-sensei took about ten minutes to show us the works he had brought with him, including comments when necessary. To Hatsumi-sensei's left hung several hanging Japanese paintings, one on top of the other. When he had finished talking about one, he would have it removed, revealing another. (Peeling away an onion, so to speak.) The one that struck me as the most beautiful was of a lone crane, standing nobly with a touch of red accenting its feathers. (I was surprised when he told us that he had painted it in only 200 minutes!) All of the paintings focused on nature. His comment later that "Taijutsu is. . . nature" shifted more than a few eyes toward the beautiful works that Hatsumi-sensei had been so kind to share with us.
At one point, he called up an elderly gentleman to inspect one of the works closely. It was of a person clad in kimono, I believe. The old man suddenly expressed surprise at what he saw. Hatsumi-sensei explained that he had incorporated hundreds of couples in various sexual positions into the design of the kimono! (How's that for a pleasant surprise, folks!)
"Although I didn't bring them today, I have all the letters Takamatsu-sensei gave me in a trunk at home. I still pull them out every once in a while and read them over. I discover new things he was trying to say even today!" (Hatsumi-sensei has made similar comments about reading and re-reading Sanmyaku. He urges all of us to get copies of each of them, and to review them as our training progresses.)
(At one point during the evening, the microphone decided to start belching and whining. It completely threw off the rhythm of his speech. Three harried organizers ran around apologizing, leaving, and running back and forth in front of him, but Hatsumi-sensei never showed any impatience.) "I've gotten used to such things, dealing with the media and appearing on television. These things always happen." He called for questions, but the audience was silent and more annoyed by the screaming microphone than he. Rather than waste time waiting, however, Hatsumi-sensei decided that because the microphone was off anyway, he would mention some personal experiences not related to Takamatsu-sensei.
He talked of Dublin. . . of good Guinness. "The stuff we had in those tall glasses over there was so good. So unlike the Guinness we find in Japan. Here the drink is always too warm, the establishment too hot, and the taste terrible. But in Dublin, with the dank, cold weather and the perfect serving temperature, it is delicious. If you say that you have come from certain areas of Ireland, in fact, people will comment that their local Guinness is terrible, and that the area you come from offers the most delicious in the land. Gosh, we got so drunk. . . There are actually people in the U.K. who use Guinness for medicinal purposes." (Obviously, more than a few of us were not expecting to hear of the health benefits of beer from a Ninjutsu grandmaster, but as everyone knows, Hatsumi-sensei is just full of surprises.)
(He also talked about a Dublin incident which many of you may have already heard about.) "I was going to be showing some sword techniques. I picked up a nearby metal sword, drew out part of the blade, and checked it with my finger. It was not sharp, so I decided to use it for the demonstration. My gravest error was not checking the entire length of the blade. I had the sword laid across the back of Noguchi-sensei's neck and then -- rip! --I had cut a two inch gash into his neck," Hatsumi-sensei laughed lightly. (Noguchi-sensei, who laughed as well, still bears the scar today. As Hatsumi-sensei reminded us a few weeks ago during practice: "Remember there is a difference between swords for practice and swords for battle. Always check the blade for dullness.")
As soon as the men had finished fixing the microphone, they pinned a new one on him. He said the words, "Test. Test. Is it working?" then without waiting for an answer, he turned back to the audience, and continued his stories about Takamatsu-sensei -- exactly where he had left off over ten minutes prior! It was extremely entertaining to see someone so unconcerned about insignificant things. And he obviously wasn't concerned whether the camera was on or not. He never even pondered, "Now, where was I?" as most of us would.
"One day, I went over to Takamatsu-sensei's and he told me to sit down, and that he had something for me. I was wondering what it could be and was kinda nervous about getting something from him. I felt something was strange, so I rolled to the side, then fell down flat on the floor. I rolled away from there and looked around. Takamatsu-sensei was holding a sword and had just tried to strike me down. He smiled and said, 'Good.' He passed on his scrolls to me then. A year later, he passed on."
Here are a few things Hatsumi-sensei touched on during his talk, which remain superficially in my memory:
FOOTAGE: Unfortunately, this part of the evening will not be available on the retail video. Sorry. The cameras were turned off for this part and people got up from their seats to stand along the walls in hopes of getting a better view.
"It was originally taken on 8-mm film. I had it transferred to video tape." Because the video lacked sound, Hatsumi-sensei provided personal narration. He talked of how Takamatsu-sensei was explaining how the techniques were done as he was doing them. (Obviously, it was not intended as a training video for the general public. We were being invited to watch an intimate exchange between a master and three of his students.) The video was maybe fifteen minutes long, black and white. Seeing as one of the students was always filming (initially it was Hatsumi-sensei) Soke's first appearance came after five or so minutes. (One thing that I found interesting was that they all wore white gi. I sat there wondering just when the penchant for black and patches came in, but that mundane question remained unasked.)
Hatsumi-sensei brought attention to Takamatsu-sensei's fingers again once when the camera zoomed in on him holding a bo. Earlier, after the microphone had been fixed, Hatsumi-sensei mentioned his mentor's fingers. "His fingers were really thick, probably 3 mm or so. But his hands were so strong and extremely flexible." (This statement sounded very strange, so I looked into this point further. I found that Hatsumi-sensei had mistakenly used the word "finger," when he had meant to say "fingernail." Evidently, Takamatsu-sensei frequently trained by pulling the bark off trees, and his fingernails showed it.) The figure on the screen spun and whipped the bo so quickly and fluidly it was amazing. Practice was being held outside on the grass. There were three students, including Hatsumi-sensei, who. . . how should one say this. . . was not yet 30 years old and has obviously improved. (Seeing a young Hatsumi-sensei working through things as we all do when we train lifted my spirits and strengthened my will. I realized something inanely obvious, yet usually ignored: that the only way to improve is to practice, and if Hatsumi-sensei can move from the level he was on the video to his present grace, even I can improve. Sometimes it takes such things to motivate.)
Many weapons were covered: bo, naginata, sword, jutte, and rope with a weighted end (a practice kusarifundo). When the footage of Takamatsu-sensei spinning the rope came on, Hatsumi-sensei laughed and commented. "This one was the most dangerous. That rope was rotting away, so as Takamatsu-sensei spun it, pieces of it were dropping off. I thought it would break, but Sensei handled it remarkably. It's very important to know your weapons when you use them."
About halfway into the video the Taijutsu footage began. I found this to be the most interesting aspect of the film. Some of the techniques were Kihon Happo, but they looked different from the way most people do them now. For example, ganseki nage began with the hand on the outside rather than on the inside.
Afterward, several of us gathered outside in the hall. Several people commented on the differences, but were equally impressed with Takamatsu-sensei's speed and power, despite his age. "I wish I had hours just to pore over those few techniques on that video, but that footage won't be available commercially, will it?" an eager, yet defeated, acquaintance asked rhetorically. I truly hope all of you have an opportunity to view the footage some day.
COMMENTS: Takamatsu-sensei's movements were markedly different than any I have seen till now. You could see the fighter in Takamatsu-sensei, despite the seemingly 5 foot, 100 pound, slight build. He must have been 70 or 80 years old, balding and thin. I sit here trying to find a good comparison in terms of height, weight, and stature, but the only man that really comes to mind is Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido. Imagine Ueshiba sans the beard and you get an idea of Takamatsu-sensei's build. If one were to see him without a weapon or without a gi, he would look like one of those frail little men who sweeps up at the train station every night; but he was in no way frail. His appearance in no way revealed the greatness of his martial arts. His techniques were smooth, but the physicalness of him surprised me. Bodies were flying and weapons whizzing. Reverting to my American colloquialisms, Takamatsu-sensei was the type of guy you would not want to mess with, even if he was 80. Hatsumi-sensei commented, "As you can see, back then teaching and training were man-to-man. My teaching is no longer man-to-man because of the sheer numbers, not just in Japan, but throughout the world (nearly 10,000 practitioners). I shouldn't be saddened by this, though. But to go back to the idea of man-to-man teaching, we must come together as one, not split apart into factions. This is why I do not wish to create an "organization," but rather an overlying tenet." (I just wish we could do so. Hint. Hint.)
A: Yes. There is acupressure, and acupuncture. (This met with nods of acknowledgment from many.) And other things, such as kikou (controlling the body's energy). We all know there are instances of people healing without any explanation. (Pointing to an audience member, he continued.) I went with that man to America. What was it? The Atlanta Tai Kai? It was his first time abroad. He worked very hard. Well, anyway, during that visit, he met Stephen (Hayes) and Rumiko. That was the time wasn't it? Yeah. Well, at one point Rumiko (I believe) cut her finger. But (someone did something and) the bleeding stopped. (I am sorry that I can't recall who did what to whom, but the result was the same -- the bleeding stopped without conventional medical care.) There is another story of a woman who had not walked in something like 10 years. Someone visited her and by the end of the day she was able to stand and walk. Things such as this happen all around us, and that is a fact. Does that answer your question?
Q: In films, we see ninja using shuriken. Where did they get them?
A: They made them themselves.
Q: You mean like blacksmiths?
A: Yes. Every ninja was adept at many "trade" skills. People normally think of metal throwing stars, but just about anything can be used as shuriken. Like these. (Draws out his business card.) It seems flimsy, but it flies. Go on try it. (Throws a few at the audience.) And the corners can take out an eye. I was once arguing with my wife and got upset. I picked up a card and threw it at her. She ran around the corner to escape, but it had followed her. It hit her in the eye. And my wife has bad eyes. I felt bad and decided that I would never take out my anger on her physically again. . . Anything with four corners will fly. Attach some needles to the corners of your business card and dip the tips in poison. It becomes a very effective weapon.
Q: What was the cause of the Ninja Boom in the U.S. and Europe a few years a go?
A: Someone must have lit a fire. When I went to America, there were a lot of people making comments about Ninja this and Ninja that. I told them that I came to apologize to them. I said that "Ninjutsu" of the Ninja Boom had become a nuisance, and that I wanted to show them what true Ninjutsu was. After that, within about a year, the depiction of "bad" Ninja disappeared and the "good" Ninja prevailed, even to today. They've even got turtle ninja. (He smiles) You know them, right? Turtle ninja. . . I have also changed the name of what I teach from Bujinkan Ninpo Taijutsu to Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, to emphasize that Ninjutsu is just part of the whole.
Q: I have a question about Ryu-ha. When you teach, do you focus on particular Ryu-ha?
A: Many people are overly preoccupied with the differences in the Ryu-ha. But if you look at things, you will notice that they are all the same. Ryu-ha are there merely to accentuate different ways of applying the same techniques. The way in which Ryu-ha approach techniques are different, but not their fundamentals. People can use the different Ryu-ha to express their personalities in their Taijutsu, but we don't focus on just one Ryu-ha or the other; we just let the options be known. That allows for more freedom (moving between Ryu-ha without getting pinned down.) The way we teach is like a compass, once the point is in place, the possibilities (within and among the Ryu-ha) draw a circle around it.
Q: In movies, there have been depictions of people able to leap up a story of a building. There are also documented cases of people in China who traverse walls of great height. Is there anything similar in Ninjutsu?
A: Yes. I can still scale walls myself. And that man sitting over there is very adept at scaling. It is usually done when no one is looking.
Q: Also in films were such things as Kunoichi, or female ninja. Do such women exist now?
A: Oh, yes. There is a very strong practitioner in Russia who is a woman. She would always walk by this group training in another martial art. I won't mention the art, because that would be bad. But anyway, they kept taunting her every day she walked by, making fun of her because she was a woman practicing martial arts. Well, one day she just lashed out and set a few of them straight, physically speaking, that is. From that day on, they stayed on the other side of the street and didn't say a word. (He laughs)
Q: So you're saying it's physical strength?
A: No, not necessarily physical strength. In many ways, it's mental strength. And besides woman have something extremely beautiful (He smiles again). And men are extremely weak to such beautiful things.
Q: I am sure there are many things you learned from Takamatsu-sensei, but what was the one thing you remember the most? The one thing you think is most important? A: That men live to die. Ever since I was young, I had always feared death. But I never actually thought Takamatsu-sensei would die. Maybe it was because of the way he lived.
[(Hatsumi-sensei also chose to address the significance of virility several times throughout his talk. At the embarrassment of the older women in the audience, Hatsumi-sensei detailed the significance of potency in Takamatsu-sensei's teachings. (In fact, I think he actually enjoyed making the women blush.) He mentioned that Takamatsu-sensei's motto was to "Stand tall" (in more ways than one) and that in his elderly years, sometimes people would greet him in such a way that he could play with his language and state that he could still "Stand tall." Personally, I will do my best to master this aspect of the Bujinkan's teachings.]
(Interestingly, Hatsumi-sensei never once said, "He was a great man," in respect to his mentor. Throughout the entire presentation, I kept expecting him to say it -- to run into doldrums of speech and say something similarly generic, especially in his conclusion. People always do that. There is a tendency in giving speeches to use sound bytes or quickly formed, banal sentences. Such sentences, however, unfortunately distract from one's message. Hatsumi-sensei never strayed, and never made any part of Takamatsu-sensei's life generic. For this, I am thankful.)
Summary: For his conclusion, Hatsumi-sensei chose to read from a Sports Japan news article which featured Takamatsu-sensei. His final comment, directed at the man who had asked earlier about the most significant thing Takamatsu-sensei had taught him, was the most poignant. "That was a very good question you asked earlier. Takamatsu-sensei taught me that men cry. And that men die."
To borrow a phrase: "What a long, strange trip it's been!" From trying to get this thing started in the first place. . . to pestering authors about deadlines. . . to threats of lawsuits. . . to heated debates over articles. . . to hate mail. . . to fan mail. . . to this moment in time. This newsletter shows me the "persistence of nin" in my life and especially in this endeavor. Only through perserverance could this task -- one year's worth of articles, insights and knowledge from training members worldwide -- have been accomplished. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to enrich all your lives and, in so doing, to have enriched mine, as well, by serving you. I also feel fortunate to have made so many new friends in this wonderful tradition.
At this time, I wish to take the opportunity to thank a few friends -- people without whom this newsletter would never have been started. Most of these people haven't written or contributed to this newsletter (yet) but they have done as much as the authors to keep this project alive.
Thank you to:
Very special thanks go to:
Two final "Thank yous" are in order: One to you, dear readers, for staying interested and for gving me a job to do. The final one, and one of the most important, is to you, the authors and contributors, for giving me something to publish. Here's to another wonderful year in this training! Kampai!
See you next month!