Tachi Tips & Tricks (8)

When you get attuned to the tachi, you discover that it is using the specificities of all the other weapons.

The tachi is a hanbô, a jo, a , a yari, a naginata … and sometimes a sword…

You lock the opponent like you would do with the hanbô,

You control the distances like you would do with the jo or the ,

You stab like you would do with the yari, the naginata or the sword.

Like an hourglass, the tachi is the beginning and the end (in-yo) of our weapon training. All weapons lead to the tachi and the tachi leads to the understanding of a new training dimension for the weapons. The whole training of the past 18 years begin to make sense. We learned the ways of the weapons (1993-1997), then the ways of the taijutsu: taihen, dakentai, koppô, kosshi, jûtai (1998-2002), then the ways of the shin/kokoro with the juppô sesshô (2003-2007). Then it was menkyô kaiden, saino konki, and this year rokkon shôjô with the discovery of tachi waza mixed with happiness!

But the tachi (大刀) is also the tachi (質 – quality, nature of a person) and tachi (館 – a castle or a nobleman) so the choice of this weapon might actually be more profound than it seems and it might imply that the bujinkan has now reached the point where we can all become kishi (騎士 – knights) the archetype of the nobleman; or the kishi(旗幟 -flag, banner, emblem) of a new era in the development of mankind. Like the sand passing through the middle of the hourglass the triangle of man can link the opposite triangle of the divine: kanjin kaname.

Thank you sensei for bringing us so far. 🙂

Errors are Correct

The more important things we learn through training in the bujinkan is that it is ok to make mistakes. By accepting that we are not perfect we can improve our skills.

The errors we make in the dôjô are our best teachers as long as we do our best to learn from them and correct our attitude (kamae). And then hopefully we will not make them outside when fighting time is coming.

Shu Ha Ri” can therefore be understood as: do, make mistakes, get rid of the mistakes. Whatever we do in life is about learning and our errors create our success.

Isn’t it why we keep repeating: “shikin haramitsu dai komyô“?


Enter the Dragon (2)

Technique without "goat" feeling is nothing

On Facebook one friend wrote: “without understanding what juppô sesshô is and its relation to the dragon and the tiger, you will stay forever in the mechanic world and never understand what is biomechanics” and another friend commented: “any movement you do is always biomechanical. Impossible to do a non-biomechanical movement by definition of the word.” I thank you both for your comments as they allow me to be more precise.

First of all, both are right and wrong. To the first one I would say that the dragon movement is by definition using the body and therefore belongs to the mechanical world. But to the second one I would object that a movement might not always be mechanical. When I am “moved” by the beauty of the landscape, a piece of music, or any artisitic masterpiece; I am moved but I do not physically move (except if I faint). 🙂

As always our language is limited and carries different conceptual schemes (cf. Quine: “word and object”) allowing various realities to cohabit. From the omote perspective, comment #2 is true; but from the ura perspective comment #1 is also true.

We should focus more on what we do than trying to give the exact definition of what we can do. Entering the dragon is more a feeling, a kankaku than a real movement but without the knowledge developed in the waza it is useless.

A Japanese shihan said to us once: “in the bujinkan you need to train both kankaku and waza as they are the two legs allowing to go forard on the path. If you focus on one leg only and exclude the other one you will not move forward very long”.

The bujinkan path you have chosen to follow is long and I can assure you that you will definitely need your two legs to go further.

Becoming a dragon does not mean that you will stop walking and fly instead!… but  who knows?…

Enter the Dragon

tiger and dragon...

Asian martial arts often refer to the opposition/unity of the tiger and the dragon. In 2003, the first year of the  juppô sesshô cycle, we learnt that the dragon is in the sky or ten and the tiger on the ground or chi.

We also learnt that the dragon was capturing while the tiger was hitting.

These two symbolic animals are showing the duality of possibilities offered to us at any given moment.

This is what sensei explained and you can find his explanation  in one of my books: koteki ryûda juppô sesshô hibun no kami. At the beginning of the year, sensei gave a copy of the densho to some of us and I was lucky to spend a lot of time with him and that he answered my questions. This link between tiger and dragon is paradoxically not an opposition but has to be understood as an union.

And once you are aware of these dual aspects in your Self  (brain & body can also be seen as the tiger and the dragon), you have to fuse them together in order to create Oneness. It is like the in-yo taichi.

The highest level of budô can only be achieved when you become able to “enter the dragon”. Like the “shu ha ri” supposing to mean: “learn, master, discard”; it can be seen as “shu hari” : to see the “truth by piercing through the appearances” (sensei April 2010).

When the duality of the ten-chi disappears you have one reality left, you became a dragon. Maybe this is why sensei gave to some of us dragon names in 1993. When you train in this year of the tiger please do not to forget the “crouching” dragon inside of you.

And remember that if dragons can fly they can land too, but that tigers will never fly.

Ryûha: Homework Required

bô vs sword

The last section of the Kukishin Bô is called “keiko sabaki gata” and consists in a series of 25 techniques. As always if you do not look at the kanji but only at the sounds,  many meanings can be found in a good English dictionary.

keiko: training, practice, study

sabaki: deal with, handle; but also judgment, decision, verdict

gata (kata): mold, model;  but also a person.

Therefore, we can understand the “keiko sabaki gata” as the study of how to deal with the other.  But to be able to deal with the other we must learn first to deal with ourselves and this is where the personal training takes place. When we were kids or young students we were used to study “at home” the lessons received during the day. It must be the same in the dôjô. The dôjô like the university or the school is the place where the knowledge is transmitted. Our home is where we learn this knowledge to be able to use it afterwards.

This personal training is very important when it comes with the study of weapons as without a long time of repetition, it is nearly impossible to know how to handle the weapons. Over the last twenty years I have often spend time alone in the woods training with my jo, my, my yari or my naginata. There is no secret if you want to break the wall of the form you have to repeat them endlessly.

To help you in your personal training understand that the waza is only half of the technique, in a sense I consider the waza to be the omote. It gives you only half of the circle. It is your job to reverse the whole waza and to do it from the other side in order to get the ura. This is the way I have been learning on my own all these forms that I received in Japan over the years.

How to proceed?: you take one waza like gohô from the kukishin bô. You do it 50 times facing a tree. Then you reverse it completely by using the other side (here left) and you do it another 50 times. You do the same for each waza in a school. If you do that, I can assure you that your proficiency will increase a lot. At least it worked very well for me.

One last thing. The next day you will have forgotten those 5 to 10 waza that you worked. It is ok as what you are learning here is not to memorize with your brain but with your body.

If you do your homework properly you will learn much faster. But not only are you going to learn the movements faster, you are also going to learn a lot about yourself, your limits, your flaws. So by learning a given set of techniques you will develop the strength of your spirit and get better. Personally I see it as the real benefit of the keiko sabaki gata.

Now that you know yourself you can go back to the study of the ryû and “train the mold to make the decision”, i.e. keiko sabaki gata.

Gambatte! 🙂


no comment!

Too many bujinkan practitioners are not flexible enough and they should spend some time outside the dôjô to improve their body. The dôjô is where you learn the waza, everything else is your responsability and should be done on your free time. Bujinkan instructors are not body fitness teachers.

At 50, I still smoke*, I eat meat and drink alcohol reasonably* and if I am a little overweight* I still keep my body flexible because in life everything is about balance and flexibility. So, if you are young, if you don’t smoke, if you are a vegetarian and do not drink, and if you have the perfect BFR**, you have no excuse.

You train because you have chosen to do so and no one has been forcing you. So please train your flexibility as it will definitely change your taijutsu.

Be Happy!

* Don’t smoke and eat light meals 🙂
**BFR: Body Fat Rate

Kaeshi Waza: the Ura of the Omote?

Bô against biken

When we train the techniques of the different weapons or ryûha we often skip this important part of the training which is the kaeshi waza.

Kaeshi waza is for me the essence of our budô as it is vital to know how to overcome any technique. Countering is always implied in a technique. In a real fight you will have to apply those “aite to kumu kokoro gamae” in order to keep the advantage over the attacker.

In the buki waza dvds (jo, biken, bô, yari, and naginata) I have included those kaeshi waza into the basic forms to give the students a better understanding of them. We did the same for each technique of  the shoden, chûden, okuden, and keiko sabaki gata of the kukishin bô.

Once the forms have been acquired, you have learn the omote, with the ura you enter the hidden side of reality. Those two aspects of waza are intimately intertwined and missing the kaeshi waza is like walking with one leg!

In each technique there is a kankaku (feeling) that you must find. Once this feeling understood, you can use it against the waza and understand the real depth of budô. The developing of the ura side of the waza is the gokui (essence) of the bujinkan as it triggers our creativity and foster our imagination in a new powerful way.

Kaeshi waza is the ura of the omote, the kaitatsu of the waza, the jissen of the jissen.

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