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[ olvasnivaló » Ura & Omote - 1998 May ]

Ura & Omote - 1998 May


Quotations from Soke VIII

by Benjamin Cole
For a while there, the world wondered what happened to Ura & Omote. Well, it's back, and that's the only thing that matters. And seeing how any set wouldn't be complete with a piece missing, Liz and I are pleased to provide you all with the previously unreleased final installation of the "Year of the Jo." Even though our training has moved into Shinden Fudo Ryu this year, the comments and wisdom of Soke, no matter when they are made, are always applicable to training and to life. I hope they can be of help to you all. For those who have never seen Soke in person, please do your best to get to a nearby Taikai. For those who haven't been here in a while, it's time to make the investment again. Remember: train hard, nurture a caring heart, and have fun.

May all your choices be good ones.

- ben

This is a collection of quotations made by Masaaki Hatsumi-sensei during practice sessions at Ayase, as recorded in my training diary. As for the content, I try to remember the general flow of the training sessions when I record my thoughts, because, as Hatsumi-sensei once said, "I teach from what I see around me." I have tried keep these quotes in essentially the same order as they were made during the training session, but naturally memory does play its tricks. These are my interpretations as to what Hatsumi-sensei was saying, based upon my feelings at the time. They should not be viewed as verbatim nor as "official." Words in parentheses are my comments, most of which are for clarification.

September 2 (Tuesday)
"There will be practice at the Hombu Dojo this Sunday from 1:00. I will be teaching. As well, we now have air conditioning (Laughs) to make things a little more bearable."

"You are not trying to 'take' anything; you are trying to engulf everything."

"Your job is to hide all your actions and intentions so your opponents cannot 'read' you... Make it your job to confuse them."

"Because there are no 'points', they cannot react against anything you are doing."

"It's like when you trap a lion or other such beast. You have to enclose the entire thing in a trap, then lift the entire trap up in the air (with a helicopter) (Turns to his trapped uke, Tim Bathurst, and says) You're the lion... in two meanings." (From that point on, Soke began calling Tim the "Australian Lion." It would be fair to say that many such nicknames or martial names began in a similar fashion.)

"I will be releasing several videos in the future on each grade from first to third dans. Please understand, however, that they are merely 'suggestions.' Taijutsu is just something too all-encompassing to be written down or recorded."

"This is not just your body moving when you strike here. You are using or creating air streams (like those used by airplanes) to propel you faster than you normally could go."

"Your Taijutsu is very good. At this point, continuing your training and watching the videos as guides should be enough to keep up your skills."

"Outstanding actors, successful politicians, masterful artists, learned scho lars – it does not matter who they are, they all want to attain the same things: Mastery of their art. That's one of the things I enjoy about going to America and meeting such outstanding individuals. They all share this common thread. I myself have received three Doctorates. I want you all to achieve similar levels. In a sense, I want you all to have Doctorates in Taijutsu."

"It would be interesting to create the Bujinden (wherein the 'den' means 'palace') rather than the Bujinkan (wherein the 'kan' means 'hall'). And it wi ll be from that 'palace' that I will help guide you. It sounds funny, but many, many years ago, if you weren't of high status in society, then you could not learn normally. Only the higher classes had the opportunity to learn. (We are truly privileged, aren't we?)"

"We've spent all this time on jo, and these were the last bricks in your foundation. From next year, we will delve into the Happo Biken of Shinden Fudo Ryu. This is what we've been working towards."

"This is not something that can be taught."

"You must have more confidence. You have much better Taijutsu than you think."

"You must punch in a way that they cannot see. (Whack!) I am teaching you so that you may live."

"It doesn't matter if it is jo, yari, naginata, or sword-you cannot use weapons unless you understand the principle of Taijutsu that underlies them."

"If you did this for real, you would shatter their shin. Be very careful."

September 5 (Friday)
"There will be practice at Hombu dojo this Sunday from 1:00."

(To the tori of Anthony Netzler) "Please don't kill him. I need Anthony. He is coming with me to (South) Africa for the Taikai, and because he has more meat on his bones, he'll be the most likely prey of the lions, giving me the chance to escape." (Laughs)

"Oguri-sensei. Go up and teach anything from Takagi-ryu...using the jo. (Oguri-sensei starts examining his mental encyclopedia of techniques as he makes his way to the center of the circle with his uke.) As a menkyo (license) holder in Takagi-ryu, you should be able to come up with something interesting ..." (He did ;-)

"The ability to kill is inherent in all human beings. We are, after all, mere animals. Yet we have learned to set those animalistic tendencies aside. In a life-or-death situation, however, you must be prepared to go the distance ... Sometimes, it is kill or be killed."

(To a particular practitioner) "Very good. You also could have incorporated a head butt there, if you had wanted. What you did was good, nonetheless." (Please remember that it is the principles, rather than the particular manifestations that Soke is looking for)

"Don't try to remember the techniques of today, just try to remember the feeling."

"As a teacher, it is your responsibility to assess when to teach certain techniques, especially fatal ones. I would never teach this to a beginner, because their ukemi would not be developed enough to assure their safety."

September 7 (Sunday)
This day was a significant one for the Bujinkan. It marked the first official practice at the Hombu Dojo, which Soke has dubbed the Bujinden. These excerpts are from that first practice.

"There will be an article in 'Hiden' (a Kobudo magazine here in Japan). The author of the article is (some dude).... His being the one to write the article is interesting in and of itself. Oguri, do you remember Takushima? (Oguri-sensei nods) He has a chonmage-like haircut (a samurai-style haircut). He came to me years ago and wanted to become my student, but I sent him away because I was not taking any new students at that time. But he just kept coming back. He had traveled around the country visiting dojo after dojo, so he was very knowledgeable and had much respect for budo. Even today, I receive an end-of-the-year greeting letter from him every year. He writes things like 'Goroshi etc. etc.' (Something comparable to writing in Shakespearean English). This may seem like a strange or rude thing to write because it is an old phrase usually reserved for very elderly teachers, but in Chinese, it was originally used to impart great respect to one's teacher. So he uses these words, and has a great respect for the arts of the Bujinkan. He has imparted this sense of respect down to the author of the 'Hiden' article in a sort of father-son exchange, so that the author has a great respect for what this art is. The article should be very interesting."

"Please be aware of the bottom windows and make sure not to break them and hurt yourself. Eventually, we will be taking them out and replacing the glass with something else, but not today."

"Does anyone remember the last technique we did on Saturday? ("Do you mean the one with three people?" a practitioner replies.) Yes, good. Go up and show it."

"Let's do some henka of Kihon Happo today. Everyone stay seated. Nagato, come here."

"Your distance is all wrong, people. You are too close. You would never want to be in a fight at that distance, you must be out here. You cannot be this close or you can be punched, or kicked with great force. The confrontation could be over instantly at this distance. You must be about this far so that they're punch will actually weaken and they must overcompensate to reach you. This will allow you to suck them in."

"Although we are practicing it with three people, this should have the feeling as if you are only doing it with two people."

"I will show you until this point only. From there, make it up yourself. You must learn to trust what's inside yourself. You all have very good things inside you. You do not need to imitate what I do to create good Taijutsu. Experiment with what you already have."

"Too many people involved in the martial arts here in Japan have forgotten what Budo is truly supposed to be. It does not matter if the people training beside us (at Ayase, when we share the room with other martial arts groups) do not know what they are doing and just go through motions; they could never do anything with any techniques that they may see us do. You must not forget this when you train. You must bring yourself to this higher point. I want you all to reach an almost artisan level in your Taijutsu. If it doesn't reach that level, it can never survive out in the real world."

"There are many truly amazing warriors around the world. Some of them do not even train in the martial arts. There are people who are very good at killing others – killing others to protect their country. Do not treat this fact lightly when you train. You must prepare in such a way that our art will be embraced throughout the entire world."

"At the Paris Taikai, there was a huge SAS soldier who passed his fifth dan test. He was towering over everyone at the Taikai. But when it came time to take the picture of all the people who had passed, he didn't stand out at all. He was no taller than anyone else in the photo. It was like he was hiding within a crowd. This ability to protect yourself instinctively is very important. You could learn a lot from this."

"I can only teach reality."

"Bud (Malmstrom) spoke about this when he was here – that time back years ago when I told (Stephen) Hayes to punch at me from behind. I was standing much like this speaking to a large group of people when he came to punch..."

"When I first went abroad by myself, I must admit that I wasn't sure whether things would go well... Later, I went abroad with several of you, Kan, Nagato. Who else was there? Oguri... It was a very interesting experience. Kan, please talk about that time... Everyone please sit down. You shall learn a lot from this."

(Kan-sensei) "When I was preparing for my trip, I told my wife-which was a mistake. She thought that I was going over to have fun without her. Perhaps, I should have done like Nagato-sensei and not told my wife till I got home. (Smiles) Anyway, it was not the type of vacation that she had expected. For three days, I didn't eat, sleep or go to the bathroom; it was such an intense experience. Soke was always speaking till late in the evening so even he didn't rest either. At every point, Soke was grilling us and training us to be aware of everything. We were, in a sense, training all the time. That time abroad was the first time I really understood 'training outside of training... ' In fact, the only time I could relax was when we were physically training... Soke was very strict with us on everything we did. I seriously didn't eat, sleep or use the bathroom for three days."

(Nagato-sensei) "I agree with what Kan has said. As you know, I had had some experience in America beforehand, so I actually felt that there might be danger. We were in San Francisco and we wanted to go visit such sights as Fisherman's Wharf. We were, after all, 'on vacation.' Once we arrived, the organizers were quite willing to take us on such sightseeing, but I actually thought that it might be dangerous, and so I stayed in my room and read instead. When Hatsumi-sensei returned from that day out, his entire mood had changed, and the real training began."

(Kan-sensei) "Much as Soke mentioned earlier, you need to be aware when you go in a building such as the dojo. You need to recognize what areas are dangerous, and be aware of them when you train. Japan tends to be a very safe place. We train in a comfortable environment in the dojo, so when we are out in our normal lives we tend to let our guards down. Especially here in Japan where there is little perceived threat in our daily lives. But actually we should always be on our guards, especially when in a new area or a foreign country. Perhaps my mentioning this will affect your awareness outside the dojo, like when you are walking to the station after practice, or when you are shopping at the supermarket. I felt a deep sense of the importance of being aware in any environment. And perhaps you will feel this necessity as well."

(Kan-sensei) "Soke was constantly warning us to be on our guards at all times. Whether we were walking around looking through the viewfinder of a camera when sightseeing, or sitting on the plane, we could never let our guards down. Soke would come up behind us when we were sitting on the plane and 'attack us'. When we couldn't feel him or his 'attack' coming, he would berate us, emphasizing the importance of being aware at all times. I was a nervous wreck, especially when he would come up behind me when on the plane. I just wa nted to slink under the seat and disappear. Soke was constantly testing us – to be on our guard at all time."

(Nagato-sensei) "I also agree with what Kan said about that the only time I could relax was when we were actually physically training. At one point in the training, I let my guard down for just a second and Hatsumi-sensei threw a hanbo at me. (Kan-sensei piped in, "Oh! I remember that!"... Nagato-sensei nods, then continues,) Yeah. He threw a hambo at me, and it struck me in the face. I had wished that I had been able to move out of the way, but I was frozen and could do nothing. Only after I was hit, did my 'eyes open.' I looked behind me and there had been a person in a wheelchair directly behind me... If I had move out of the way, that person might have been hit instead. So in a strange sense, it was a good thing that I hadn't moved."

(Kan-sensei) "One evening, I was sleeping in a very large bed and then I suddenly found myself in mid-air and then falling to the ground. I woke up dazed. Another person in the room had seen me literally fly up 30 centimeters from the bed and then hit the floor. I remembered then, that I had been having a dream of training with Hatsumi-sensei. I was such a nervous wreck, that I couldn't even sleep well. The training was so intense that I was being affected in my sleep. I believe I was being thrown by Soke at that point in the dream, but that was a big bed... Flew thirty centimeters straight up."

(Oguri-sensei) "Over the years, I had experienced severely painful physical training with Soke, but never such intense mental training as during that trip." (To which Kan added,) "Yes, He was polishing us as he punished us. Soke used that time to try out new things on us. We were the guinea pigs." (Soke laughed and retorted) "That's not true at all. I'm not THAT mean. I wouldn't just try things out on you. It was all training." (Smiles)

"Normally, when the mass media contact me and want me to go on this program or be in this article, I tell them that they should not be involved with such articles if they are not involved in the martial arts. This is because they cannot possibly understand what we are doing. That's why I turn them down now.... Those in the mass media act on their own agendas. The unfortunate death of Princess Diana has brought that gruesome reality directly to us all. Perhaps we can learn something from it all."

"It is very important to listen to your elders in this way, and to respect them for their experiences. (Turning to the Shihan) We all have much to teach and have the obligation to share these experiences with the people who have followed after us... (Turns back to us) This is a very good stopping point for today."

Sept. 9 (Tuesday)
"This isn't a strike. This is a guard, protecting you from all other punches and kicks."

(Concerning a two-on-one technique) "When you are working together with someone (as a team), you need to work interdependently, not independently. Read each others' intentions and act as one unit."

"Yoshida! Put a sword in your belt and go and do that same move, incorporating the sword, jo and Taijutsu."

"Andrew! Do that technique, but this time without a jo."

"When they come to punch here, I am not grabbing. Actually, my wrist has adhered glue-like to his wrist. So it just follows him wherever he goes. So when he retracts his arm, the technique just goes right in."

(To a practitioner) "Don't go catching it with both hands like that. What did I just get done telling you? THAT is the ART of what we do."

October 7 (Tuesday)
"The Hombu dojo is complete, and when I am available I teach there from 1:00 in the afternoon."

"Because there are so many people here, there will be extra practices. Thursday at 1 p.m. at the Hombu dojo, and then that evening at Noguchi dojo. Friday there will be no practice here, so I will teach at Hombu from 1:00. The same with Saturday. Sunday there will be no practice due to Nakadai's wedding."

"For those of you visiting, please take advantage of the opportunities to train with all of the teachers who just raised their hands. You normally only have 1 or 2 weeks, so please train as much as you can."

"The Bujinkan has moved beyond the era of techniques (waza). We have now entered the era of flow (nagare)."

"As you can see, I am doing this very half-assed. Regardless, it is effective because it is not a technique. If half-assed is all I can do, then half-assed is all I can teach... Find the flow." (Sorry about the seeming obscenity, but that's the most befitting word I could find to get across the feeling of his words.)

"You can move from ura gyaku to hongyaku here very easily."

"I was not using a technique. Could you feel it? (To his uke)"

"Extend and lock his elbow like this, then you can break it whenever you want (pretends to kick it)."

November 25 (Tuesday)
"Okay, Jack (Hoban). Teach something."

"You need to move in like this-with your body."

"Jumonji is truly done like this. (Gestures the forms used in Kihon Happo) This is how it was meant to be done. (Begins thrashing his uke)"

"A fight is very fast. It doesn't matter if you hit here or not, so long as you move into the next move."

"That's why I repeat over and over the need to throw away the forms. But for too many people, they do not understand no matter how many times they hear this."

"This is Kanashibari." (I'm afraid I didn't know what Kanashibari was, even though Soke had asked me to interpret this practice. Mark O'Brien did know, however, and bailed me out. Kanashibari is a technique wherein you wrap up your opponent so that they cannot move.)

(Turning to his uke after moving in an unexpected way) "Did you see that coming?" (The uke shook his head) "There is no way you could have. I didn't want you to."

"Please practice learning how to demobilize the limbs that are attacking you... You can practice these techniques using a jo and boxing gloves, for examp le."

"Most of you are not using both hands to assure your balance. You're using only one hand.... After Jumonji here, open yourself up here with both hands for proper balance."

"You actually thought you had hit me, didn't you? (The uke nods) It's like you've punched through a glass wall... No, more like gelatine-a wall that engulfs your arm."

"You must learn to utilize the space around you."

"If you want to force your opponent to 'swim' through the space, you yourself must 'swim' as well."

"You have to be willing to let go of your weapon at any point."

"You need to completely tie your opponent up so there is no escape. An example of this is a snake, which entrances its prey with its eyes, while it entangles them."

(Soke calls on Jack to join him in a two-on-one technique with jos. )"When there are two of us together like this..." (Jack gets in the exact same kamae as Soke) No. For this one, turn your jo around to the other side. (Jack switches feet and changes his grip) This becomes Hachimonji (This was a play on words because the two jo tips were tilted toward each other, resembling the Japanese kanji for eight, or which is the direct translation of "Hachimonji". After Soke and Jack tied up their uke, the poor chap ended up sitting on the ground, his legs splayed open like a giant 'V'. This resembled an upside-down version of the Japanese kanji for eight, and Soke naturally noticed the connection with what he had said earlier) "This is Hachimonji again."

"The reason why you are moving here is to set yourself up for the next move. "

"If you do your Taijutsu kinda lackadaisically, beautiful techniques will just come out.... The most important thing is to just have fun. Have fun playi ng with these techniques."

"Just lay your hand on their arm here. You are not grabbing, but merely holding their arm where it is. And from there, by stepping out, their arm just comes with you."

"This movement is like when Takamatsu-sensei spoke of being like a butterfly – flitting about, yet in total balance and control."

"Until now, there were many Japanese Budoka who were open to seeing the good in other martial arts. The only thing they feared was the temptation of switching arts.... I myself like the Temptations, you know, the musical group." (Then he starts singing as he walks away.)

"Everyone has so many good things to share. Everyone around us. But it is those who cannot, or refuse to, recognize the good in others who ultimately lose."

"Ninja also used to walk like this. (Sidesteps holding his staff in jumonji to protect himself) And if they had shuriken hidden inside their jackets, they could easily throw them from here. (Noting how close the hands are to the chest in jumonji)."

"It's like taking hold of the rudder of a boat. Use your body to move your jo."

November 28 (Friday)
"There is no need to rush here. Practice very slowly to make sure you have everything correct."

"You are all being too stylish with this jo throw. So long as you bring the jo perfectly square to the punch at the beginning, you don't need to worry about anything. Just throw it into their arm. It'll hit."

"Please remember this hit is not intended to finish the fight. Against a physically stronger opponent, you would lose if you relied only on this. It is a distraction. This is what I am trying to show you today-distractions."

"It's not the strike that's important here. When you step on the jo and break their toes, they'll know."

"You must turn perpendicular to the punching arm here. If you are not completely lined up, you are doing it wrong."

"Through this, you will come to understand the importance of distance."

"If you cannot go any further with your jo (such as when your opponent grabs it and starts wrestling for control), let go."

"It is important not to have what is called a 'monkey's mind.' (I'm afraid I didn't understand what Soke meant by this, but Tim Bathurst came to the rescue on this one.) If you put something that a monkey wants in a jar, the monkey will reach in and grab it. But if the monkey cannot then remove its hand, it will not think to release the object the free its hand."

"It's very important to take the center. That way you are free to go in any direction."

"It's because you normally train with only one partner that you forget there could be any number against you."

"You must all learn how to do this. It is a technique that is not really a technique."

"What you do has to vary according to the moment and the opponent. The last time, when I brought the jo to this point, it was sufficient to throw my uke. This time, however, such is not the case. Instead, I must move here to find the point where his balance is off, so it doesn't become a battle of strength. Use this time when you are moving into position to feel them out."

"When someone grabs your jo, the first thing you must do (in this case) is flip your jo over... Use your feet (by moving in) to flip your jo over."

"The trick is to flip your jo over without them knowing it. If they can feel you doing it, they will start fighting with you for control of the jo. You must turn the jo over so that they cannot feel it."

December 2 (Tuesday)
Soke's birthday. "I'm sorry about yesterday (he had promised to teach but failed to show up), but something very important came up that I had to attend to."

"Is there anyone here who wants to train tomorrow? Very well, then. One o'clock at Hombu tomorrow."

(About an anti-knife technique) "You can move here and place the knife against your body (against your side under your armpit). Don't worry. It can't cut you (if its part of you)."

"Don't wait to move. Don't wait. Don't think. Just move freely so as to be able to alter your movement at any point. Don't wait."

(To a practicioner trying to move laterally to avoid a Dai Jodan strike to the head) "Don't move only your head; move your body. If your head moves first, your body is trailing behind and may get hit. Move your body and your head will go with it."

"If you can't throw 'em, then just kick 'em." (Smiles)

December 12 (Friday)
"Okay, Stephen (Hayes). Show us something continuing on from last practice."

"If you miss getting the jo between their legs, don't worry. Simply press the end hard into the ground and use that as the focum from which you will press them to the ground."

"Make sure to insert it between their legs. Focus on a certain point in the ground. You must make a fulcrum point from which to apply the pressure."

"Those who desire only techniques will never understand this art. It's everything beyond that."

"This tossing away of techniques is the third element of the Sanshin. The first is learning a technique. The second is to understand the techniques through practice. And the third is to discard those very techniques. If you understand this, you understand the Sanshin, which is the beginning of every thing I teach.... The beginning is not the fire, water, wind, earth and emptyness – the Godai no kata. Everything begins with the Sanshin."

"Do not see with your eyes. Do not see with your eyes. See with your nose. See with your ears. See with all six senses. Did you notice that when I just complimented Shiraishi-sensei for his movement. I hadn't actually been looking at him. You must use all your senses to understand what I am trying to teach."

"There is something else. It is not merely getting out of the way. It is not merely blocking. There is something else. There is something else. Here, let me show you again."

(To his uke) "See how I am not doing anything, then I move in here. Notice my elbow holding you here. (Soke continues to move) I am holding down every thing. 'All!' (He says in affected English)"

(At one point during practice Doron Navon walks in the door) "Doron, teach something, anything, and I'll expand upon it. (Doron obliges. Soke turns to us, smiling,) See how good a teacher Doron is? I am such a bad teacher of my own techniques."

"Everyone, please learn from your elders."

"You can do this technique in many different ways. If you do it this way, it is Gikan-ryu. If you do it this way, it is Kumogakure-ryu. If you do it this way, it is Togakure-ryu."

December 16 (Tuesday)
"Everyone has come along nicely in their training, so you are all ready to b egin next year. Please keep practicing."

"Don't grab (your jo)!"

"Please aim at their kyusho with this strike. If you hit here or their ankle, you will shatter their bones."

"The same goes with striking the other side as well. Break their leg on both sides with this."

"Keep spinning. This will create a seeming helicopter."

"If you stop spinning the jo and moving your feet, you will crash just like a helicopter whose propellers has stopped."

"The reason why you are not grabbing your jo here is so you can do this. (Sends his uke flying)."

"You must understand your own body's balance to do this technique. This will show you whether or not you have good Taijutsu."

Ben's email address has changed. He can be reached at

Identity in the Bujinkan

by Richard Ray
I just wanted to write about something that I feel is a bit of a problem in the Bujinkan today. That is, lack of identity. I wonder how many people really know what the Bujinkan is... I do know that many people have had their opinions shaped by the influence of the Genbukan, and that many of those same people look to the Genbukan to get what they think is Bujinkan Information, that is not being taught in the Bujinkan.

While it is true that both the Bujinkan and the Genbukan teach information that came from Takamatsu O Sensei, the way that each Head Master goes about teaching it is VERY different. The Genbukan teaches the different ryu as ryu... You may even receive Menkyo Kaiden in a ryu! The integrity of the ryu is maintained, and attention is given to passing down a tradition.

The Bujinkan is VERY different. For one thing, one can look at Tanemura Shoto as the Kancho of the Genbukan. This is correct. But Hatsumi Masaaki is NOT just Kancho of the Bujinkan, he is Soke of the Bujinkan. The Bujinkan is an organization, but also the Bujinkan is a ryu!

In the Bujinkan the 9 Ryu are not taught as 9 separate ryu, they are seen as examples only.. Tools for us the living practicioner. NOT as masterpieces to be maintained in a museum fasion. Each ryu is looked at in the sense of trying to understand it's purpose and concept. The kata and such, are seen as physical models of greater concepts that took specific form in a certain ryu, due to the external conditioning factors, of time and place, environment etc. These "examples" then are seen as pointers of truth.. The bones of the dead, that can be studied to teach us about the underlying "grander" concepts that for that time and place took that specific shape.

By studying the kata, and the ryu in this way, we can learn much about the people and society that spawned these ryu. It truly is an anthropological study. Just as we study the ancient civilizations, and learn more about who we are and where we are going, it is the same with the ryu of the Bujinkan. They are important, but there is something more important. The 20th century ryu of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu.

In this country, (U.S.A.) you can see that in the 80's when Soke Hatsumi was teaching us all, he would always tell us not to worry about which ryu a certain technique came from, JUST DO IT! He would say.. And people would. Everything was called Togakure ryu Ninpo Taijutsu. All 9 plus schools. The Idea was that if new knowledge came into your ryu, you would adopt it as your own. For example the story of Doron Navon showing Soke a technique, and asking if that was in Togakure ryu. To which Soke was to reply It is now! That sums up the whole Philosophy of the Bujinkan.

In the Bujinkan concepts are taught through a study of distance and environment, "correctness of ryu is not as important. Let me explain..

Lets take Ichimonji kihon no Kata. Now from a ryu standpoint, this is a gyokko ryu technique period! It has a specific stance way of moving etc. But from a Bujinkan standpoint Ichimonji kihon no Kata is a concept! In the early to late 80's this kata was done from seigan no kamae. Now, seigan isn't even in Gyokko ryu, so what was going on here? I know personally, people who still do this kata from seigan. And I also know other People who talk about these people as if they don't know what they're doing.

It was during the late 80's that the Genbukan influence on the Bujinkan started to become a "player". Bujinkan people started to become more interested in kata, and how does this ryu do it? And how does that ryu do it? This was the beginning of the "kata generation" This "kata generation" is actually more in line with the teachings, and "path" of the Genbukan, NOT the Bujinkan. It is these people that see the "old timers" and say "see this guy doesn't know what he's doin" Meanwhile The "old timers" know EXACTLY what they're doing!

I would like to give an example, again of Ichimonji no kata, to show how these two schools of thought arrive at these different conclusions... In the Bujinkan as I have said these are taught in relation to distance. If you are to preform Ichimonji no Kata, start by looking at distance. This will get you your Kamae. If you are at a distance the forces you to lunge at your opponant, then your kamae will be Seigan. The reason is that you need to keep that arm out there to keep your opponant at bay, like a spear. Now if you try to do seigan at a closer range, it actually creates openings in your defense, in close you need to bring that front arm across like a shield.

Now look at the feet. If you are close, you will have to have a more square stance. Why? Because you can now be grabbed! Stand close, but with your feet like seigan. Have your aite grab you, and pull on you. You will take a step or fall. Now assume a greater distance, and keep the same stance. At this distance you are more likely to encounter long weapons like a spear. At this distance, you need to present a smaller profile.

Now in the 80's Soke was teaching a greater distance than he is today. If you look at Ichimonji no kata from those days, you will see that it is done from seigan, and a longer distance than is seen today. Now when some one punches you at this distance, to take his balance with jodan uke, you need to step back at a 45 degree angle, and keep his weight coming forward. As you complete the uke with your spine he will lose his balance, and his center line will be laying open right there for your shuto. You deliver the shuto by stepping straight in and hit more down than to the side. The reason has to do with the first step (45 angle) and the way your spine generates power at this distance.

Now if we move closer and assume ichimonji, from this distance your opponent does NOT throw a lot of weight behind his punch and is on better balance. If you step back at a 45 from this range, you will still be in firing range, and you can't drift the energy of his punch back because there is not enough weight on it. So at this distance the taisabaki is circular, the uke is up and out, the front foot comes to the back foot because of distance, and all of this sets the spine up to deliver a circular strike.

Now most of you may recognize the second version, and say that this is the basic. This IS THE KIHON! For Gyokko ryu yes it is, but the Bujinkan is interested in the concept, and depending on when you joined the stream... Depending on what distance Soke was teaching when you learned the concept called Ichimonji no kata. This may or may not be YOUR basic.

This is at the base of the problem of wanting a standard teaching format. The mistake lies at both ends of the spectrum. Some people say every time I train with a different teacher, they teach me a different way..Which way is right? The answer is of course, as long as the concept is intact then all of them are right!

On the other side of the coin, you have the Shidoshi that have been taught a certain way by Soke or some of the Shihan, and they think that the way that they were showed is the "correct way" because Soke showed them this way... Again wrong. The problem with both of these examples, is that these people only see the physical technique. They see contradicting physical techniques. And..They see the ryu as specific physical techniques, and not as concepts...

So as a member of the Bujinkan, please realize that the ryu are only so important, but their greatest purpose is in YOUR growth. The Genbukan and the Bujinkan are very different in this regard. So please watch the Genbukan influence, or the Jinenkan influence.. Both Schools Fine examples of what they are trying to do, but the Bujinkan is not in the same "business" so to speak. Maybe what you really want is in these other two organizations only you know...

Richard Ray is a Yon Dan Shidoshi Ho who lives and trains in Cleveland Ohio. For information or comments E-mail

On Being A Baby

by Kat
Perspective is a funny thing. Most of us remember something from our childhood – our locker in the 3rd grade, the playground where we played – as vast spaces full of possibilities and not a little magic. How many of us have revisited these places in our adult years to find these places somehow shrunken by time, relieved of their magic by the practicalities of being, as my grandmother used to say, "grown"? Such a common occurrence is this littling of things that I've always been faintly surprised that some sort of postulate or theory has not been derived by a space-time physicist (or whatever they're called these days). Maybe there has been, and my not knowing is what I get for letting my subscriptions to all those scientific journals lapseÉat any rate, being a child is something that is supposed to be over when the clock strikes 18 and the voter registration card comes in the mail. Which brings me to this art.

I am a "late bloomer" by some standards, not having discovered Bujinkan Ninjutsu until well into my adult years. I have only been walking this path for a split second, but already I am experiencing the first budding of a balance of self I had never imagined possible in an adult world of bills and deadlines and expectations (oh my!). This newly paved road of mine has been full of lovely surprises, big and small, in the most unlikely places, but one of the most joyous has been the reincarnation (or rediscovery, as it may be) of a place I previously thought relegated to passing scents from fading Polaroids...childhood.

The width of innocence, the joy of learning the simplest things. The discovery of color, light, sound, movement. Who would have thought that, at this age, I would have so much in common with Melissa, who is 13 months old, lives next door to me with her mom, and is gleefully fascinated by the riot of colors at the vegetable stand and the spinning of clothes in a dryer. But one of the most amazing things of all is the smashing of the littling theory. The more I see and learn, the wider the horizons are, the more vast and magical the places in which we play. Watching a high-level practitioner at work always leaves me wide-eyed, but a perfectly angled ichimonji no kamae is an equal source of joy for me.

I have heard it said that without some pain there is no realization. For me, this is not an easy road, but it is the road I choose without hesitation, happily and with a determined gait. I believe our Soke has said (and please please don't quote me, I'm just a kid) that practitioners of this art eventually travel full circle back into the innocence of childhood... as a black belt, with much wear, eventually becomes white again. These words are a source of strength for me, and I will carry them with me into the pain as I grow up, a reminder of the rainbows of vegetable stands and spin cycles. One day, I may be able to solve a complex calculus problem, but right now I have just learned to tie my shoes. In my heart, both are miracles in their own right.

Kat is a just a newbie. She hopes to continue the warrior legacy of her African, Celtic, and Native American ancestors. She can be reached via e-mail

Ninjutsu History is to be Reconsidered

by Alexei Gorbylyov
Today in many countries hundreds of books about ninjutsu are published. But all informathion containing in these books can be traced only to several sources - either to the texts of Buzinkan founder Hatsumi Matsaaki, whose words are repeated by dozens of students on different languages in different countries, or to several popular books, a good half of which was written by authors, who wanted to make money by propagandizing self-created school of "nin-jutsu".

Different authors and different titles don't mean different ways in researching such a complicated phenomenon like ninjutsu. All the "historians" (most of them don't know Japanese language and have never seen neither historic chronicles nor ninjutsu treatises) tell the same version: the ninjas are representatives of "secret" clans (word "clan" by unknown reason is understood as "secret society", not as "family") based on esoteric spiritual teaching Shugendo ("way of obtaining the supernatural powers"), which is intended to bring harmony with the Universe. Shugendo followers were not supported by government's benevolence and constantly were under attack. So, ninja clans had to develop a secret art of diversions, espionage and hand-to-hand combat, which later was named "ninjutsu". Therefore, ninja clan is not a spy organization. It is society of researchers of highest enlightenment and finding a harmony with outer world.

But if we would study Japanese historical texts, classical literary texts, real ninjutsu treatises, and works of leading modern researchers of ninjutsu history - Yamaguchi Masayuki, Okuse Heishichiro, Nava Yumio and others - we will find a different image of ninja and ninjutsu. Here I want to quote from a XVIII century book "Titles of samurai's families" ("Buke myomokusho"): "Shinobi-no mono execute different espionage work. Therefore they also are named kanja or choja. So, their service is to secretly penetrate to another provinces and find out the real situation in enemy camp, or by mixing with enemy to find out his weak points. Additionally in enemy camp they set fires, and as assassins kill people. These shinobi are used in many cases. They are also named mono-kiki, shinobi-metsuke. If from the first time their duties are not fixed, there are no tasks which they are not given.

As shinobi usually common people, "light-legs" (ashigaru), police guards (doshin), rappa, seppa and others are used. Near Kyoto in Iga province and in Koga [district of province] Omi there were many jizamurai, after Onin years (1467-1477) they organized their own bands (to) and fought during the day and during the night, they also stealed and robbed. Many of them became masters in theirs art of espionage (kancho-no jutsu), after this feudal lords (daimyo) of all clans began to hire such jijamurai. The usual practice was to hire them as spies (shinobi). And they were named Iga-mono - Men from Iga - and Koga-mono - Men from Koga" (translation from old japanese from: Koji ruien. Tokyo, 1969, v. 43, p.346).

This quote can be seen very often in different japanese researches on ninjutsu, and it is not surprising because here all main things are underlined - who is ninja (or shinobi-no mono, how they are named in the text) and what is the role of notorious secret clans in developing of art of ninjutsu. Well, what is most important in this text? First, shinobi-no mono were military spies, and they served to feudal lords. "Spying" function, not belonging to some religious-mystical teaching was a base for distinguishing of this category. Because of this the source easily changes the word "ninjutsu" for the word "kancho-no jutsu", which means just espionage without any spiritual aspects, and uses simple words "kancho" and "choja", which mean "spy" and have chinese origin, as synonyms to "shinobi-no mono".

In this case it is interesting to see a list of social groups from which shinobi are recruited: common people, low-level samurais (ashigaru), so-called "guards" (doshin) who executed police functions and guarded feudal lord's castles, various criminal riff-raff seppa and rappa (due to japanese sources they were bands of "bandits from mountains and fields"). If we add here the fact that some sources, for example "Diary of Momii family" ("Momii-ke nikki"), use the term shinobi-no samurai (see "Koji ruien" v.43 p.355) - "samurai, serving as shinobi-no mono", then it is clear that any man possessing special skills could serve as shinobi-no mono.

Then, in this passage from "Buke myomokusho" the role of famous groups from Iga and Koga is formulated very exactly. There were many masters of "proper art of espionage", i.e. they really had a tradition of studying ninjutsu and transferring the knowledge of ninjutsu from generation to generation in these regions. But "men from Iga and Koga" are not called the creators of art of espionage, and they came on the field of espionage very late, at the end of XV century.

Of course, one cannot decide about such a complicated phenomenon as ninjutsu only on the base of one passage. But it is supported by many other sources: "Chronicle of five generations of Hojo" ("Hojo godaiki"), "Records of eight provinces of Kanto" ("Kanhasshu-roku"), "Military chronicle of Matsuo" ("Matsuo-gunki") and many others.

Therefore it is possible to make a conclusion that modern "historians of ninjutsu" distorted the real image of japanese "invisible men" very much, hence the concept of ninjutsu history, which dominates in modern literature, should be reconsidered on the base of existed historical documents.

We are often told about the lack of credible information about ninja. But in fact the situation is not so desperate. Nowadays we have by hand several dozens of ninja treatises the most famous of which are "Bansenshukai", "Ninpiden" and "Shoninki", which all were published in Japan several time each. We have a detailed account of Oda invasion to Iga province in "Iranki" with parallel fragments in "Shinchokoki". We have dozens of reports of shoguns's o-niwaban and other documents. We have lot of genealogies of many ninja clans - the Hattori, the Fujibayashi, the Momochi and others. And finally hundreds of passages from many gunki-monogatari - "Taiheiki", "Hojo godaiki", "Kanhasshu-roku", "Matsuo-gunki", "Intoku Taiheiki", "Taikoki" and many others. Why should we neglect sources? Why did the western historians neglect them?

A little about my own background. My name is Alexei Gorbylyov. In the present time I am a post-graduate student working on PhD. dissertation (The tradition of shugendo of Kumano-Yoshino Mountains in the end of Heian period) in the Moscow States University, the Institute of Asian and African Studies, Russia.

I conducted a vast research in ninjutsu history on the basis of both investigating old sources (now I am translating "Iranki" with parallel fragments of "Shinchokoki", and "Shoninki" into Russian language) and field research (I visited Iga Ueno, Konan, Koka and Negoro). In 1997 I published a book titled "The Way of Invisible Warriors. The True History of Ninjutsu" (Minsk, Belorus, Harvest Publications, 496 p., in Russian language of course) with the circulation of the first edition 15000 copies (the content of the book is given bellow). It is a popular book aimed at an ordinary reader almost without references. It is devoted exclusively with history and legends of ninjutsu. I am also working as the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the most popular in the countries of the former Soviet Union Martial Arts Magazine "Kempo".

These days I am working on an article headlined "The Hattori clan. Investigating the roots and nature of ninjutsu tradition of Iga" in English language.

Alexei may be reached via e-mail


by Goeran Groenvold
Closely related to the concept of Nagare (flow) is Ritsudo (rhythm), or being able to adjust to the action of the fight. This rhythm is an integrated part of any activity that involves the corresponding of body dynamics between two or more individuals in movement. Rhythm is an essential part of Taijutsu, because one has to be able to adapt to the opponent's rhythm as he attacks. However, being able to break or change the rhythm is just as important, because a constant rhythm is very predictable. A change of rhythm gains primarily three favorable effects:
  1. If you fight with a certain rhythm and then suddenly change it, you gain the benefit of surprise since the opponent has adapted to your first set rhythm and is not expecting the attack to be delivered at that time.

  2. Constantly changing the rhythm makes you unpredictable, and the opponent cannot pull any tricks on you as described in 1 (above).

  3. Also by changing your rhythm, you are breaking the opponent rhythm because he is forced to change his in order to parry any attacks. This is both confusing and disruptive, and may lead to beneficial outcomes as breaking the opponent's balance, disrupting any coming attack, and in addition to messing with his head.
The awareness of rhythm is essential and beneficial in any fight, therefore one should take it into consideration, especially in dojo-training, since one often adapt to a certain applicable training rhythm that makes it easier to work on a technique with one's partner.
Goeran began training in '86 and trained until late '90, when he took time off until '97. He is now happily back where and trains at Bujinkan Dojo Midt-Troms and Bujinkan Dojo Tromsoe. He is currently a 3rd Kyu and looks to gain more insight by networking with others. Goeran may be reached via e-mail

The "Hunting Story"

by Robert L. Humphrey
Contributed by Jack Hoban
All men (and women) are they really created equal? Perhaps the best way to answer a question about the equality concept is to relate this true story taught by the late Professor Robert L. Humphrey in a Graduate School Class in San Diego. Professor Humphrey, a former member of the US State Department and Marine Officer on Iwo Jima, was charged with stopping "Anti-Americanism" overseas in a poor allied country during the Cold War. The implications of this story are of clear importance to this day; it is called:

The "Hunting Story"

After the war America was the undisputed leader of the world. For a while everyone loved us, even our former enemies. But soon people began to resent us due to our superior attitudes. We Americans thought that was unjustified and ungrateful. In one particular country, the unrest was beginning to have strategic implications during that delicate time of détente. Dr. Humphrey's job was to find a solution.

The basic problem was that the Americans working in that poor ally country thought that the local people were smelly, ignorant, violent, dishonest and lazy and let them know it. No matter what he did, Dr. Humphrey couldn't stop the negative talk; partially because some of it was true! As a result the local people wanted the Americans to go home.

One day, as a diversion, Humphrey de'cided to go hunting for wild boar with some people from the American embassy. They took a truck from the motor pool and headed out to the boondocks, stopping at a village to hire some local men to beat the brush and act as guides.

This village was very poor. The huts were made of mud and there was no electricity or running water. The streets were unpaved dirt and the whole village smelled. Flies abounded. The men looked surly and wore dirty clothes. The women covered their faces, and the children had runny noses and were dressed in rags.

It wasn't long before one American in the truck said, "This place stinks." Another said, "These people live just like animals." Finally, a young air force man said, "Yeah, they got nothin' to live for; they may as well be dead."

What could you say? It seemed true enough.

But just then, an old sergeant in the truck spoke up. He was the quiet type who never said much. In fact, except for his uniform, he kind of reminded you of one of the tough men in the village. He looked at the young airman and said, "You think they got nothin' to live for, do you? Well, if you are so sure, why don't you just take my knife, jump down off the back of this truck, and go try to kill one of them?"

There was dead silence in the truck. Humphrey was amazed. It was the first time that anyone had said anything that had actually silenced the negative talk about these local people. The sergeant went on to say, "I don't know either why they value their lives so much. Maybe it's those snotty nosed kids, or the women in the pantaloons. But whatever it is, they care about their lives and the lives of their loved ones, same as we Americans do. And if we don't stop talking bad about them, they will kick us out of this country!"

Humphrey asked the Sergeant what we Americans, with all our wealth, could do to prove our belief in the peasants' equality despite their destitution? The Tennessee sergeant answered easily, "You got to be brave enough to jump off the back of this truck, knee deep in the mud and sheep dung. You got to be brave enough to walk through this village with a smile on your face. And when you see the smelliest, scariest looking peasant, you got to be able to look him in the face and let him know, just with your eyes, that you know he is a man who hurts like you do, and hopes like you do, and wants for his kids just like we all do. It is that way or we lose."

This story affects most of us Americans. We sympathize with those poor villagers. Maybe it is because we are natural "under-dog" lovers. Remember, our own revolutionary war against the British started because they looked down on us. Recall this popular motto from that time: "Don't tread on me." It was on our flag.

But the point of the story, according to Humphrey, is this: Beneath our culture, beneath the fine clothes or the dirty rags, beneath the color of our skin, we all love life, and we all hurt sometimes, and we all want for our children. "My life, and the life of my loved ones, is as important to me as yours are to you." This is the Life Value, and this universal value defines our Human Equality. Human equality is deeper than economics, behaviors, and cultures.

Understanding human equality gives us the insight that cultural values – what we do to live, or how we live – can be relative, but that the Life Value itself is not. And, since we are all equal, we would pretty much act the same way as those "different" people if we had to live in their environment.

Notice, also, e"xactly what that old Sergeant said. He said: "I don't know either why they value their lives so much. Maybe it's those snotty nosed kids, or the women in the pantaloons." The Life Value is a dual one: self and others.

One last thing having to do with physical/moral courage: Could you do as that Sergeant said? Could you jump down off the "back of the truck?" Today, when you walk through the mall, or sit in the subway, or even pass through the scary part of town, are you confident and secure enough in your values and skills, to project your acknowledgment of human equality into the eyes of everyone you meet? Is everyone in your presence safer, does everyone in need have a friend, because you are there?

More information about Dr. Humphrey can be obtained at
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