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[ olvasnivaló » Ura & Omote - 1998 September ]

Ura & Omote - 1998 September


The Jinenkan in America: An Interview with Shawn Havens

By E. Baluja
Shawn Havens has spent over 16 of his 32 years in the pursuit of martial arts knowledge. Now, you have to understand exactly what I mean by "pursuit", especially in Mr. Havens' case. These days, the pursuit of martial arts knowledge for many means an hour of "Cardio-Karate" at the gym. Others take the extra step of trekking to the nearest Gimi Sum Do Training Hall/Gym/Juice Bar two or three hours out of the week in search of a workout, self-esteem (by way of a black belt guaranteed in 18 months: "Mark your calendars!") and/or, regrettably, self-defense. Even for people involved in the martial arts we (purport to) study, sometimes the pursuit causes them no greater effort than to put on their gi and black belt a few times a week, trot out the Shidoshi license they were granted years ago (which they haven't felt the need to earn by training any time since), and instruct their students in their vision of the centuries-old martial arts they allege to have mastered in less than ten years. For Mr. Havens, the pursuit of martial arts knowledge has meant sweat, self-sacrifice, and intense, consistent, constant study. As a teen, his pursuit took him across the country. As an adult, he has faced having to relearn many skills, unlearn many habits, and constantly reevaluate where he is and where he wants to go. Despite the turmoil that one would imagine having to start over might produce, he has demonstrated what "nin" actually means, and has gone on to become a very strong teacher and skilled practitioner. He is wholly committed to the Ryu-ha he is studying, and to the man who is willing to share with him everything he learned about those Ryu-ha in almost four decades of intense, consistent, daily study as Hatsumi-sensei's most senior student: Lt. Col. Fumio Manaka, founder and Kancho (director) of the Jissen Kobudo Jinenkan. Unsui Sensei (as Mr. Manaka is also referred to) has awarded Mr. Havens the rank of sandan, as well as the honor and responsibility of being the first Jinenkan Dojo Cho in the world. Mr. Havens is employed as a Paramedic by the Dayton Fire Department and heads the Jinenkan Dayton Dojo. He can be reached at; and\. The Jissen Kobudo Jinenkan Dojo Website can be found at:


Ura & Omote: Did you have any previous martial arts training experience when you began studying ninpo?
Shawn Havens: Yes, when I was about 11 or 12 I began taking Tae Kwon Do lessons in Florida. This lasted about one year.
U&O: What drew you to the martial arts?
SH: It's hard to say specifically. I've always been interested in the martial arts and knew that it would be an important part of my life from a very young age. Maybe it was because I had two older brothers who smacked me around a lot.
U&O: How did you first hear about ninpo?
SH: I read an article in a martial arts magazine that was comparing styles, how each might handle the same situation. Then I purchased a book on Ninjutsu that was a combination of interviews with people who were claiming to be ninja in the US. It also had fictional stories about historic ninja and their deeds. After my interest was peaked, I began writing to Stephen K. Hayes about the possibility of training in Ohio.
U&O: How old were you when you began?
SH: I moved to Dayton as an emancipated minor to train in the late spring of 1982, when I was sixteen. It was just before Hatsumi Sensei's first visit to the US.
U&O: What drew you to ninpo?
SH: Well to be honest, it just looked so cool. Climbing trees, stealth, fighting skills, swords?a teenager's dream.
U&O: When you began training, what was your biggest obstacle?
SH: As for the actual study, just the fact that I didn't know anything. I wanted to learn everything right away. I took time to find the right pace.



U&O: What is the most significant change you've noticed in yourself since beginning your study?
SH: I work everyday at applying seigi and yuki. "Seigi" means correct spirit and is often translated as "justice". I think of it as having a just and righteous heart. "Yuki" means "bold spirit" and is often translated as "guts". First I have to be thoughtful and wise to recognize what is right and fair. Then, I have to have the courage to do it. These are considered two of the primary traits of a Japanese martial artist.
U&O: Why did you choose to stick it out and continue training for as long as you have? What is it about your current training that keeps you going?
SH: I've never considered quitting. I enjoy it too much, especially now that I have such a wonderful teacher. My time training with him is always of benefit to me. I am well aware of how much I have yet to learn, and I trust him completely to teach me those things.
U&O: What do you find your biggest training obstacle is now?
SH: Having enough time to honor all the material Sensei is giving me to work on.
U&O: I understand that at some point you were accepted as a personal student by Manaka-sensei. When and how did this occur?
SH: I had, in my heart, been Unsui Sensei's student for quite a long time, since around 1986. When I first saw him move I just knew that was it. His taijutsu was so clear, so clean. There is a beauty in the simplicity of his approach. To be good enough to accomplish safely in one movement what would take someone else three movements to do is a very high level of skill and takes a lot of practice. To make a technique look simple and easy when there are so many small things to be aware of and to do correctly is a true sign of mastery. Anyway, when I first began patterning my training after him, he made it clear that he didn't have a dojo or students. I accepted that I would have to be patient. He told me that someday he would retire and move to the U.S.. At that time, he said, he would probably have a dojo and students. I said to him that when that time came, I would be his first student. In 1994 he came to my dojo to teach a seminar. I knew I would formally ask him to be my teacher at that time. I had all sorts of things in mind to say if he were to reply that it wasn't time yet. When I asked, he simply said, "Of course." I am very grateful for all the assistance and instruction he offers me.
U&O: Why did you choose to take that step?
SH: As I said, I had been doing everything I could to follow his lead for eight years by that time, so it was the natural next step for me. I had known for a long time that, if at all possible, it would eventually happen. U&O: Are you able to go to Japan to train with Manaka-sensei often?
SH: Actually no. Sensei has been spending his vacation or holidays in the US every year since about 1986. There was only one time that I couldn't train with him when he was in the States. In 1992, I was hired as a Paramedic by the Dayton Fire Department. I had no vacation accumulated and I was still on probation. I would have put my job at risk if I had attended his seminar. I almost went anyway.
U&O: Do you think it is important, for those who are able, to seek to train with Manaka-sensei?
SH: Of course, anyone that can live in Japan and study with him for an extended period of time should (in my opinion) do that. For myself, my time will come when he retires from the military and moves here. I will move to wherever he is and study under his guidance.
U&O: Will you maintain the Jinenkan Dayton Dojo?
SH: I have a strong group of students, several of whom will be able to maintain the Dojo, although it is possible that the location may change.
U&O: Do you have a daily training routine, i.e., techniques and/or skills you practice every day?
SH: If I am not at work, I try to get into the dojo for one or two hours. I practice some basic skills and currently I am concentrating on boujutsu. I can't always make time to get into the dojo, so then I study Sensei's articles and videotapes. If I am at work, I try to practice my awareness of potential dangers and modify my behavior to be both safe and to fulfill my obligation to my patients. This can be much more difficult than it sounds. I think people involved in EMS work or police work understand.


U&O: What's the focus of your personal training right now? What are you working towards?
SH: Sensei has advised me to concentrate on developing the mental state of "Mu" (emptiness). I have only scratched the surface of this state. I can tell you, though, that when you stand beneath the opponent's raised sword, there is no room for distracting thoughts or fear.
U&O: Of all your training experiences, which do you think has had the greatest impact on your personal development?
SH: Soon after Unsui Sensei began the Jinenkan, he came to Dayton and gave a private training session on the very basic skills just prior to his seminar. That's when I realized that I knew nothing. I took off the black belt I had been wearing. I felt wonderful and terrible at the same time.

The Martial Arts Today

U&O: It seems that some of those that set themselves up as teachers and dojo business owners sometimes neglect their own training. What is your feeling about this situation?
SH: Of course that can be very true. It can be very difficult to be a teacher, often defeating for some. A Dojo Cho has to first honor his or her own direction and training. If you fail to lead your dojo by virtue of your own skills and knowledge, it will eventually defeat you, even if it is a financial success.
U&O: Do you believe "hard" training, i.e., training that involves a certain degree of discomfort or pain, is important? What do you think one can learn from training in this way?
SH: Actually, I don't think of "hard training" as having that much to do with pain. The most difficult pain for many is that caused by the ego. For example, the pain and fear of looking bad in front of other students or of admitting to yourself and others that there are things you don't know, skills you haven't mastered and need to practice. This goes back to your earlier question on the difficulties of being a teacher. Everyone struggles with it though. If your heart is right, you can see that it is a wonderful and freeing thing to admit your weaknesses so that you can overcome them. As to the physical pain, of course there is going to be some of that! As time passes, it tends to register more as discomfort. Mainly it is important to avoid injury. We all have to work at knowing our skills and those of our training partners so that injury is avoided. A good way to do this is to begin by training slowly, communicating to your partner as you progress from discomfort to pain and have a sense of when injury is likely to occur. By practicing this way, both of you can understand how the technique actually works, where and how it becomes dangerous, and what the ukemi needs to be while keeping training safe. Most of the time, however, training is a lot of fun and pain or discomfort are really not overriding issues.
U&O: One of the recent trends in martial arts in general is the proliferation of instructional books and videos. What do you think about the use of such materials?
SH: The primary element to your training is to have an excellent teacher and to honor what you are taught by that person. Practice it as carefully as you can. Practice it until you can't stand up anymore. Videotapes, books, and articles can be a very beneficial adjunct, but they are never primary. If they are all you have, however, it's better than nothing. Every situation is different.
U&O: What do you think about attempts to "modernize" or "Westernize" this art?
SH: The essential teachings are not about Eastern or Western styles or about traditional or modern approaches. They are well above such concerns. The Ryu-ha were written by Budo masters to give sincere students a guide for the shortest possible route from novice to expert. It is expected that once you are an expert, you will think of what you have learned in new ways and begin to apply it to modern times or your particular situation. Of course, you have to master these skills first, then expand and rethink what you have mastered, based on the lessons the Ryu-ha contain. After those two steps are accomplished, you are free to invent. This process takes an entire lifetime; it is not something you can accomplish in only a few years. It's a matter of honestly recognizing where you are in that process. If teachers change the meaning or lessons of the Ryu-ha before they are experts, then what they teach comes only from them and their ideas. In this case, they are no longer studying this art. Their teachings should be given a different name.


The first stage of training is called "Shu", which means "to preserve and follow" the teachings of the Ryu-ha. You could think of preserving these teachings for yourself and your students, as well as preserving them from yourself and your students. When you interpret prematurely, you turn your back on the lineage and so for you, it dies. Therefore, we all must preserve them from our natural tendency to question the applicability of the lineages before we truly understand them. I've given deep thought to the idea of "Shu" because it is the stage of training I am currently in.

Jissen Kobudo Jinenkan

U&O: What do you see as being the purpose of the Jissen Kobudo Jinenkan?
SH: In my mind, the sole purpose of the organization is to facilitate training with Unsui Sensei.
U&O: One general impression of the Jinenkan and its purpose is that it was, at least in part, created to disseminate the teachings of the individual ryu-ha in a more "conventional" manner, i.e., in a manner more in keeping with the way koryu bujutsu ["classical martial arts traditions", one general name for the Japanese martial arts originating prior to 1868 - Ed. Note] are taught in Japan. Do you see this as part of the Jinenkan's purpose?
SH: Actually, I would prefer to hear Sensei answer that question. Sensei teaches according to the tenets of each Ryu-ha. He passes the knowledge on in a very clear and thorough manner. Each Ryu-ha has its own characteristics; ideas that guide the kamae, the level of the kata (shoden, chuden, okuden, etc.), and each kata in particular. Without these ideas, my practice would be about hollow techniques. By honoring these aspects of the Ryu-ha Sensei teaches, we each have a fair and equal chance of truly understanding what we are studying. These guiding ideas are natural, that is, they are forever. When you practice kihon, you learn what you need in order to perform henka. When you practice Happobiken, you can understand firearms. I guess what I'm saying is that the advancement of time and weaponry make careful study of the ideas behind each Ryu-ha all the more important to understand correctly. These ideas will guide you through any changes. If you study without really trying to understand the Ryu-ha, then it is like making it up as you go along.
U&O: What is expected of Jinenkan members? What do you see as being their responsibility to the dojo and organization?
SH: My suggestion to Jinenkan members is to honor and preserve that which they have been taught by Unsui Sensei and to make every effort to train under his direct guidance whenever possible. Dojo members should also have confidence in their instructors, train regularly, and seek to make improvements. Also, maintain good relations with people who have chosen different paths. Remember: there is a difference between exchanging ideas in an open and thoughtful way and becoming argumentative. Choosing your own path doesn't mean becoming blind to the world around you or being reckless in your behavior.


U&O: What is the focus of your teaching activities right now?
SH: To simultaneously maintain and improve my students' basics and to teach what I am given by Sensei as accurately as I possibly can.
U&O: In the Jinenkan Dayton Dojo, do you actively practice or encourage the practice of some type of meditation method?
SH: Sensei gave me a couple of meditation methods that he feels are important. I passed these along to the students to practice at home. It is not necessary to do them in the dojo. You could call the understanding of the ideas and feelings behind the kamae and kata a kind of meditation. We practice these regularly in class. U&O: I've noticed that you seem to have stepped up your seminar activity this year. Is there a particular reason for that?
SH: Mainly just because people are very interested in the Jinenkan and are requesting my instruction more now.
U&O: What is the basis of the Jinenkan Dayton Dojo curriculum?
SH: The basics are the lineages of Jinen Ryu, Gyokko Ryu, Koto Ryu, Togakure Ryu, Kukishin Ryu, Takagi Yoshin Ryu, and Shindenfudo Ryu. Every class begins with the Gogyo no kata, followed by the kihon happo, and then kata in taijutsu and/or weapons, as well as ukemi practice, henka or kaeshi waza. In the intermediate class we practice randori as well.
U&O: You emphasize the "basics" in your training. Can you explain what this kind of training entails?
SH: It all begins with being able to understand and perform an essential skill repeatedly in the correct way. Basics are the building blocks of this art. Without knowing how to do them correctly, we cannot be confident with any of our movements in training. They are not simply warm-ups at the beginning of class or the techniques that you learn when you first begin training; they are the entire structure upon which training is built. You are teaching your body how to be correct, strong, and stable in its most fundamental movements. Therefore, we should practice them consistently and in a concentrated manner if we want to progress in our training. So, first we begin with learning the physical movement of the basic form, its purpose and meaning. If you perform each piece of the basic thoughtfully and carefully, you will learn that they have distinct purposes and lessons that can be applied within every other technique in training. Each time you perform the basics, think about the utility of your movement, why the scrolls tell you to move a certain way, how to make sure that you are strong at any given moment. From there, you can move on to understanding the flow and timing of the technique: How to vary it according to the changes or resistance your opponent gives you, how to perform the basic idea of the skills spontaneously, how to counter the techniques if they were applied to you. Really training in the basics covers a rather large number of types of practice, not simply the kihon waza and ukemi. Sometimes it is misunderstood that learning to vary the techniques means you have entered the second stage of training called "Ha" (To vary the form). But this is not the case. Learning to vary the basics is still well within the first stage ("Shu") of training. It's a part of knowing the basics forward and backward.
U&O: What is the core lesson, if you could name one, that you want your students to learn?
SH: To honor the path they have chosen, while keeping their eyes and mind wide open.
U&O: What are your personal hopes for the future of the Jinenkan in America?
SH: That the organization grows slowly and steadily, as it already is. That everyone within it appreciates what they are being offered with the same sincerity with which it is being offered.

Jinenkan Dayton Dojo Information and Schedule
Class Schedule:
Mondays: Intermediate Class 7-9 PM (By invitation only, please contact Dojo Cho Shawn Havens)
Wednesdays: Open to all levels 7-9 PM
Thursdays: Open to all levels 7-9 PM
October 3-5 - Kukishin Ryu Kodachi and Togakure Ryu Biken
Holiday Inn Conference Center-Fairborn, Dayton, OH
Contact Dojo Cho Shawn Havens for more information and to register

Pedro Fleitas in Finland by Mats Hjelm

By M. Hjelm
After seeing Pedro the first time at the UK Taikai 1995 I was really impressed. His taijutsu was flowing really clear and beautiful, it reminded me of Nuguchi Sensei. Sveneric has always been my main teacher, and the one I always looked up to. I only consider a handful of instructors at the same level as Sveneric (I think we all can agree that Hatsumi Soke is on another level, maybe even another dimension), and Pedro is defenitely one of them. At the UK Taikai I decided that I wanted to him to come to Sweden for a seminar. Then he contacted me, because he wanted to advertise his videos on Internet and he needed my help. I was really glad I could help him, and I did. In spring '86 I asked him if he could come to Sweden, and he said that he was booked the whole year, and he gave me two dates to choose in 97. He and Arnaud came for a wonderful two day seminar last year. At this seminar I also found out that he would come to Helsinki next year (1998), and I was so glad.

I remember two things Pedro said at the seminar that is so true... "self trainning, sooo important!". I agree totally, what we study is a very difficult art. When you see the movements and techniques, they look so easy. But they aren't! You only fool yourself if you think you can walk, can you really honestly say that you can do something as simple as walk correctly. Who taught you to walk and how? As a child, you observed the elders and tryed to copy their movements. Before you really could walk, you where probably running. And when you did not loose your balance and fell, you thought that you could walk and run. This applies to all Taijutsu training, take the time to learn "how to walk" before you run.

Cut up the basic movemet into small pieces and examine them thoroughly, why is that knee pointing at that direction when I do a gedan-uke, does it feel good. Can I adjust the angle of the foot at the same time I'm moving my arm and twisting my spine, how much should I twist the spine, etc. I think that this is what Pedro meant. That you should find out that for yourself, and then repeat it until it becomes a habit. Then you can forget it because it becomes natural. Hatsumi said to Moti Nativ at the Swedish Taikai when he commented him that he moved better than ever. And Hatsumi Soke replyed that the more he does the techniques, the easyer they are to do.

The other thing Pedro Sensei said was "we should never put ourselves in front of Hatsumi Soke or Bujinkan". This is important. When a teacher thinks that he knows a better way to teach than Soke he starts to go in his own direction. And when he realise (if he ever does) that he has lost the way and looks back, Hatsumi Soke has gone in another direction. Running back may be very difficult. There are also teachers that never looks back, and think that Hatsumi Soke is right behind them. There are also those who constantly run around in circles around Soke. I think that if you follow right behind Hatsumi Soke you will learn a lot more. This is not easy if you don't live in Japan and can train with Hatsumi Soke constantly. That is why we all should train with those who recently trained with Hatsumi Soke, not with someone that trained with him years ago.

All the other years have been like a preparation for this years theme, Shindenfudo-ryu. Hatsumi Soke has jumped on the rocket destination unknown, and he will not wait for late passengers. I want to be on that rocket, and I'm doing my best.

I hope I got my point through, I wrote this on a short notice. I know in my heart that I should SHUT UP AND TRAIN instead. Now I must run away, I don't want to be late for dinner with my girlfriend. Ohh, almost forgot another important thing Pedro said. "family sooo important!".

Keep up the good work in Finland. And don't forget to inform us when you have seminars. I think a lot more people from Sweden will come the next time.

Contributed by Shidoshi Mats Hjelm, Sweden. Mats has been practicing ninpo taijutsu for the past ten years, has founded several Martial Arts BBSes, and has his own ninpo newsletter. He is accepting articles for his NinZine and may be contacted via E-mail:

Interview at Swedish Tai Kai

1. Give me your name, age, grade and dojo plus what year you sarted training.
I am Oliver Münstedt, 26 years old, and my grade is Bujinkan Shodan. Now on single training with another shodan, due to the fact that I had to part from my present teachers. The Bujinkan is an art where it is essential to follow your heart to accomplish freedom and justice for every human beeing. So these people chose an other path and I had to quit - but I am associated with Shihan Richard van Donk 10. DAN in the American Bujinkan Dojo and I am getting much help from other Shihans worldwide. Summing up all my training in the different arts I will make the 20 years complete next year. Among these I trained the following arts the longest: Judo, Pentjak Silat, Wado Ryu Karate, Wing Tsun (under Kernspecht, yes) and Escrima.

2. Why Ninjutsu among the other martial arts?
For technical reasons I chose this art simply because it is pure and true Budo not found anywhere else on the planet. It is complete since it covers all imaginable weapons, aspects of strategical warfare, combines all tactics how to use the body. We have kicks, punches, throws and locks etc. Most other arts or I better should say sports have mainly one ore two sections trained in, for instance Karate mostly kicks and punches and Judo throws and locks. But the main reason for me was the spiritual approach this art offers. Other arts are on constant war. With other martial arts styles, with other human beeings - their collegues, their kids or relationships or the most worst they try to destroy themselves. The most are simply unhappy with their lives, so they chose to fight anybody and anything. The Bujinkan on the other has the essence to make this world a better place to live in for everyone and everything. This is achieved through the betterment of oneself. To protect freedom, happyness, justice and love under any circumstances for all creatures. So we train in an athmosphere of friendship (at least it should be so) with the feeling of one big family with Soke as the leader or the father so to say. We train the katas not to learn how to kill or destroy someone, but to be aware how nature functions, how to protect ourselves and our loved ones. This fact should be constantly carried in our minds since in training we see how fast bones can crush and how fast a human beeing can be killed - a human beeing that took so many years to grow up.

3. What is your impression of Hatsumi Sensei and the Tai kai in Stockholm?
The Taikai was great in any sense, as was sensei in his teachings. The Taikai are a special events because there is the possibility to get in contact with new friends, get new ideas for your training and a whole new understanding of the art itself with every meeting. Furthermore the people can see Soke and receive his teaching without spending so much money to go to Japan. Most simply can not afford it.

Sensei is one of the best teachers I ever come to now, although I don't know him personally... He is a genius in Budo. What makes him special is that he not teaches mere katas or wazas but he fills them with life. The most fascinating aspect is when he teaches a kata e.g. called fog he uses everything to show how to fight in fog as well as to make your enemy believe that he is fighing against fog. So the names of the katas are no labels but they have a true meaning. Sensei has the ability to show and teach these things. He makes the unseen things seen. There is is a lot philospophy in his teaching. I think the only thing he wants to understand us is how to make our hearts strong and to fill it with love. So it is my opinion that everyone joining the Bujinkan has to attend the Taikais to receive that essence he teaches. You can see the difference in the eyes of the attendees after the training with Soke. It is like most of the people are growing up in martial arts now.

4. Describe the Bujinkan organisation in germany, list over the masters, dojos etc.
The toughest question! There are many good teachers as well as there are bad ones. We have many good black belts and teachers godan-level and above. Many tiny organizations as well as big ones. I join now an association called Bujinkan Ninpo Association. This is not an organization in common sense. In there we try to build a strong network between the members to exchange information and to follow the path of training as sensei wants us to get it done. There is no bureaucracy neither membership fees. All attendees simply need to follow the guiding lines of the Bujinkan and say that they want to join. Many people realize now this is the right thing and Dojos from every country are now joining in. I donŐt want to say more about the situation in Germany because it is all about politics. Sensei has its one plans with this country and I feel an earthquake coming to this country to clean up the art from the black sheep. All lists about teachers a little bit incomplete. I think you will find something good in the internet.

Oliver Münstedt, is 26 yrs. old, and a bujinkan-shodan, who has been training for over 20 yrs. He has been training in the Bujinkan for three years, is a member of the ABD under Shihan Richard van Donk. He is now training with the assistance of some Shihan teachers and visits as many seminars and Taikai's as possible. He may be reached via e-mail at: nonasimakis@T-ONLINE.DE.

On Translating Bujinkan Works

by S. Robbins
This began as a short essay that grew in the writing. After it was completed, several people kindly gave their input.If I begin to name them, I'm sure I'll leave someone out, so hopefully all of you who helped with this will recognize their contributions and be satisfied with a general thank you. All mistakes, of course, are my own.

As there are various ways to write Japanese words in English, it might be worth explaining a few points. Most of the readers will be English speakers, and for their ease of reading I tend to copy the way a word would be written in hiragana. Therefore, if a long o is written in hiragana as ou I will do the same. "Ou" in a Japanese word should be pronounced, therefore, as a long o.

Conversely, the city of Oosaka for example, would be written in hiragana with two o's and again, I will simply imitate that."Oo" should also be pronounced as a long o.However, words like ryuu and gyaku will simply be written as "ry", "gy" etc.In hiragana, the word gyaku would actually be written as a "Gi" and small "ya".

Proper names such as Bujinkan and names of various ryuuha are capitalized. Names of techniques and stances are not.Japanese words are put into italics, with the exception of Hatsumi Sensei, Takamatsu Sensei, and the word "kanji". Single syllables that are not words in themselves are put in quotes. Hopefully I will be consistent throughout this essay-please let me know any that I miss. Ah well, I believe it was Emerson who said something like foolish inconsistencies are the hobgoblins of little minds-in other words, don't worry too much about it. Enough of this introduction and on to the main essay.

Every discipline has its own specialized vocabulary and the Bujinkan is no different. However, there are several difficulties confronting one who tries to translate Hatsumi Sensei's writings. Expertise in the Japanese language, even to the point of being a native speaker is no guarantee of perfection in translating.

As an example, consider a native English speaker who knows nothing about baseball. He doesn't even know that the term to "strike out" means missing the ball three times and making an out. Now, someone who doesn't speak the language that well, but knows baseball will realize what a strikeout is. However, our native speaker, when asked, might think, well, a strike means a hit and out means out so it's probably when the batter hits the ball out of the park.

There are terms that are unique to the Bujinkan, and by extension, the other x-kans and those that are every day words used in a different sense. For example amado.

The character on the right means rain and in this case is read ama. The character on the right means door and in this word is read, do This is an everyday Japanese word meaning window shutter. However, in the Bujinkan it refers to a pressure point toward the base of the neck. Whether these terms reflect a Chinese origin, as that language often seems to use flowery terms for body parts, or was a method to keep the teachings secret, I leave to those who know history better than I do.

In contrast, there is also the problem of taking a word as meaning more than it should. The characters to the right are read Takagiyoushin. This is the name of one of the ryuuhas of the Bujinkan. The first kanji means high, the second, tree, and read asTakagi. You means raised and shin means heart or spirit and was a juujutsu school in the time of the Tokugawas (and is listed as such in a large general usage Japanese dictionary.) Therefore, does one translate this as High Tree Raised Heart School, or Takagi's Raised Heart School, or simply Takagi's Youshin school? Takagi, although in these days, probably more of a place name, was the name of the person who, according to oral legend at least, systemized the ryuuha. I have sometimes seen it translated as raise your heart to the trees or some such, which is putting extra meaning into what was simply a person's name. It would be analogous to taking Smith's karate school and calling it the school of metal working empty hand.

Of course, to further complicate matters, the youshin that is shown in a general use dictionary is written with different kanji shown at right. That you means willow. It's another fairly subtle difference-the left side of the youis written with kihen instead of tehen. Again, I don't know if this was an accident, a pun, either by the founder, Takamatsu Sensei, or Hatsumi Sensei or the founder's effort to show it was a different school than the more well known one. Of course, it might have been total coincidence as well, people choosing an indentical name and writing it differently. Considering how easy it is for we in modern days, with computers and spell checkers to make errors, it's surprising that such differences don't happen more often. Perhaps, it was only transmitted orally, and the one who eventually had to write it down had to simply guess at the kanji.

Whereas Japanese uses phonetic script interspersed with ideo and pictographs Chinese only uses these ideo and pictographs. Therefore, Chinese usually have a greater knowledge of kanji. Sometimes something that seems mysterious to one who knows the Japanese language is simple to one versed in Chinese. Again, I have no idea if this is because of the antiquity of the art, an effort to keep the techniques secret or simply a result of Takamatsu Sensei's having spent time in China. Even if there were no Chinese influence, in olden times it was fairly trendy to write in Chinese, so if the art is as old as we believe, whether or not it was imported from China or indigenous to Japan, the use of Chinese terms unfamiliar to most modern day Japanese is not surprising.Another point is that many kanji were simplified or dropped by the Japanese government after World War II.Takamatsu Sensei, of course, would have grown up with the older forms of the kanji; Hatsumi Sensei would have been exposed to them as well, at least through grammar school. Additionally, he would have learned most of the specialty words from Takamatsu Sensei.

These characters are read musoudori, referring to a fairly basic arm bar technique. The first character is mu, meaning negation or nothingness. The second character sou means a pair or a set. The third character to is the root of the verb toru to catch or capture and the final one is a phonetic ending "ri". Now looking at this, my guess was that perhaps it means unsurpassable or unable to be duplicated. A Japanese friend well educated, and in addition very knowledgeable in Yagyu Shinkage Ryuu was also unable to give a better definition. However, a Chinese friend looked and said, oh, undefeatable. To him, it wasn't at all mysterious.

Another difficulty is Hatsumi Sensei's love of puns. Ben Jones in his little jewel of a pamphlet Bufuu Ikkan (which I would strongly recommend, especially to those with an interest in translating Bujinkan works) mentions how when he looked at his rank certificate, he noticed that in the listing of the nine ryuuha the ryuu of Koto Ryuu was written as ryuu meaning dragon. All the other ryuuha names were written with the standard kanji meaning school. The two kanji are shown below-the one on the left is dragon the one on the right is the one meaning school.


When Ben mentioned it to Hatsumi Sensei, he was told that Sensei had been waiting for someone to notice that. It isn't surprising, actually, that no native speakers had noticed it. The eye sees what it expects to see, and a non-native speaker would probably be more sensitive to the change.

"The sea was in his blood; his grandfather and father had both graduated from the Navel Academy with honors." Did you catch that Navel was spelled as in bellybutton? There's a good chance that you didn't. Your eye sees what it expects to see.

The image on the right is the way the houko of houko no kamae is written in Hiden Ninja Submission. The left character, Hou, means grasp and the one on the right, ko, means tiger. In Ben's pamphlet, written about 9 years ago, I believe, he writes it with a different ko, that is usually read as kou, meaning arrest or detain. That kanji is shown below:

I asked Ben about this. He said that rather than a linear progression, he suspected that sometimes Sensei uses one rendering, sometimes another. He also commented that Sensei sometimes playfully changes the readings of a kanji-for example, the way Ben wrote the ko of houko with a kanji that is always read as kou rather than ko. Nowadays houko seems to usually be written and shown in the videos with a very unusual kanji for ko. It is a kanji usually read as i, meaning to surround or enclose. Someone unfamiliar with the Bujinkan would probably read it as houi. It is shown below-note that in all three renderings, the hou kanji remains the same.

Lastly, sometimes one wonders if Sensei deliberately made a pun or if a publisher sometimes made an error, Sensei sees it and thinks, oh that's fine too. For example, look at the two below.

Note the first part of the first kanji. There is a very slight difference. To those versed in the language, they will realize that the kanji on left begins with kemono hen, and the one on the right with tehen. On page 48 of Sensei's hanbou book, every native speaker I have shown the book to read the heading as omotegyaku hasamidori. This includes a yondan in the Bujinkan. (The first two characters of the heading in the book read omotegyaku-I have not reproduced them here.) Hasamu means to pinch, trap, insert, etc. Again, it is a matter of the eye seeing what it expects to see. The second character is a phonetic one, reading "mi". As a rule, though one that is often broken, when phonetic characters are used, the kanji is read with its kunyomi, [Japanese reading as opposed to onyomi or Chinese reading]. Therefore, the one on the right would be read as hasami dori.

However-the character on the right is NOT what appears in the book. It is the one on the left. That first character has the kunyomi of sema with an "i" added in phonetic hiragana. Semai means narrow or cramped. As the wrist is trapped between hanbou and tori's arm, both could make sense. A shidoshi friend has told me that the technique is known as kyoumi dori. Both characters have the onyomi of kyou. However, it is a bit unusual to use the onyomi with the phonetic "mi". It may be a clever pun that simply stemmed from a publisher's error.

There is also the case of the kanji that is unrecognizable. The kanji at right is shown in Sensei's books as ihen, as in ihen no kamae. The first two characters together are read as i. However, I've yet to meet someone outside of the Bujinkan who recognizes this kanji or can read it. I created it by making he kanji foriu, speak and the kanji for au, meet and lessening the distance between them. The second kanji, hen, change is a common one. Once again, I have no idea if this is a word that came from China or if Hatsumi Sensei, perhaps, simply got playful and created it from two common kanji. It doesn't appear in Nelson's, though I never did check an unabridged kanji dictionary.However, I asked several native speakers, again, well-read ones, and none of them had ever seen it. When it appears in his books, he uses furigana, the phonetic reading above the word, which indicates that he doesn't expect the reader to know the kanji's reading either.

In conclusion, if someone does mess up a translation, don't be too hard on them.It's more difficult than you might imagine.

I've tried to make this interesting to both those who speak the language and those who don't-hopefully this compromise didn't manage to bore both.

Scott Robbins may be reached for comment at article If you're nice to him, he won't force you to listen to his puns...

2017 aug. 24.
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