Bear vs Lion: 1-0


Yelling & retreating

This week-end in Budapest after a nice seminar organized by Lazslo, we went to a zoo where I had the honour of meeting the “king of the animals”, a baby lion (5 months old). I have been living with cats all my life (I have 3 cats) and this chance offered by Lazslo to meet an actual lion was something I was eager to experience.

Before I entered the cage, another man was playing with him and it was nice to watch. I was hoping to have the same kind of playing time with the young lion. But as you can see on the picture, when I entered the cage, the little guy got so frightened of me that he stepped back and didn’t want to getting close to me. At what point he eventually  yelled and “roared” at me while getting protected behind the leg of his trainer. It took him 30 minutes to come to me but he never stayed. When he was away, his eyes and ears were always turned towards me.

The trainer said that this was the first time she was seeing this reaction with a human as this is the typical attitude of the young lion when facing his lion father. This little guy was afraid of me even though my attitude was very open. Some will say that this is also why young students are afraid of me. 🙂

Nevertheless I found that interesting and sad. Interesting because it proves that the sakki might be really something that is changing our attitude, and sad because I would have loved to play with this oversized kitty as I do with my own cats.

When we undergo the sakki test, something is revealed and grows and unfolds more over the years, this is why training is so important. Truth does not lie in the technique but in the attitude.

Keep going!

Only Nagare Matters


the flow is permanent adaptation

When we begin the study of the bujinkan arts we are surprised to hear the teacher speaking of nagare (流れ, flow). Our intention when entering a dôjô was to learn a set of fighting techniques but we finally ended up learning how to flow with things!

The first encounter with this “flowing reality” is when we learn the uke nagashi. Uke nagashi is wrongly translated as blocking and is very far from reality and many should try to understand it in order to better their taijutsu.

Uke (受け) is the receiver of the technique in martial arts but ukemi (受身, the fall) also has the meaning of “passive  attitude”, from that we understand that uke nagashi, receiving in a flow, can also mean “flowing passively in a natural manner”. As you see the idea of “blocking” is not the only thing here!

In fact uke nagashi has multiple forms such as: Absorbing, Blocking, Countering, Deflecting, and Evading (remember the first letters of each word read:  ABCDE). The flow with which we act is not impeding the movement on the contrary. Flowing in the technique is to follow a natural succession of actions created by the encounter. As sensei said last week, there is no possibility to change what is happening, the only thing to do is to adapt to it. This is the true definition of nagare.

Whatever event  happening on the planet we are nothing and cannot modify the outcome of it, but as an individual we have the power to adapt our actions to it and to flow mindlessly with it. This flow is similar to the crossing of a river, thinking and fighting against the stream is useless. Trying to understand it will not change its power,  we just have to follow its flow and to drift through it until we reach safely the other bank.

In the dôjô, all our movements should be done according to this natural flow. We should wait “passively” and react when the opportunity emerges. Taijutsu is nagare and nagare is achieved when thinking, analysing and pre-conceiving are abandoned.

Adaptation is the essence of nagare!

The King is Back


Controlling or healing?

In a few weeks now, Peter King will join the Shi Tennô Taikai in Paris like every year.

Peter is one of the oldest students of Hatsumi sensei and I am proud to count him amongst my best friends not only in the Bujinkan but also in Life.

The shi tennô: Peter, Sven, Pedro and Arnaud were friends in kokoro long before being friends in budô. As far as I remember, our friendship revealed itself when the four of us became the first Europeans promoted to 10th dan in the 90s’. Today everyone can easily consider becoming a jûdan or more but back then it was quite a huge responsibility to take.

Peter has always been there to support me even though he had a lot more experience in the bujinkan than me. To help me, Peter would often come to Paris to teach my students when I was in Japan, and my students use to train with him and to learn his “efficient” real fight oriented taijutsu. Of all the teachers I know, Peter is one of the few with real street fight experience as he spent a few decades in the wild parts of London as a police officer. Remember that until recently the bobbies were not allowed to carry any weapon… but the bad guys had weapons. So each encounter with a thug was like a true sakki test where failure meant death or injury.

Today after a long career in the police, Peter is a therapist and is the best Amatsu Tatara (he is menkyo kaiden) teacher you can find in the West. Knowing how to destroy he is now a healer. A nice example of inyo!

Peter who has been in Japan recently and will teach us at the YSTT, and I know for sure that we will, once again, learn a lot from him. It is still possible to attend this 3 day July seminar with the shi tennô in Paris, Fri 9th, Sat 10th, Sun 11th.

The only thing to do is to register here.

Simplicity is the Key to Elegance


One night during the 1997 Taikai in New Jersey Pedro and I were having some green tea with sensei in his room after a hard day training.  At one point sensei told us that he had taught us everything we needed and that from that day we had to get rid of all the small movements parasiting our taijutsu. That was 13 years ago and yet I consider that it has been one of the best lessons I received from him.

Each one of us does the movements with useless extra moves damaging or hindering the flow of our actions. My understanding today is that the objective of  taijutsu is to go towards simplicity and that by reaching simplicity we enter the world of yûgen, elegance. Actually the translation of yûgen 幽玄 is “elegant simplicity”. This is what sensei has been explaining recently concerning the wabi (佗) and sabi (寂) of the samurai. Instead of warriors we have to become true artists.

Wabi is defined as the “beauty to be found in poverty and simplicity” whereas sabi also translates as “elegant simplicity”! Therefore our movements should always be simple in beautiful to be efficient. Strength and violence are not necessary as they add useless intentions to our actions when fighting. Often when training I am amazed to see how the simplest action can lead to actual winning. Moving elegantly with simplicity opens up a new dimension of action out of regular time. When yûgen is achieved the timespace paradigm illusion disappears and uke‘s movements are perceived as if before he or she intended to do anything. Nature doesn’t believe in time, only humans. By transforming our perceptions beyond the human realm and becoming a tatsujin 達人 (a master, an expert) our “elegant simplicity” shines out and solve the problem at hand.

Our budô is much more than learning how to fight it is path teaching us to be simple and elegant. As we already stated here, yûgen also means what is not visible. Beauty is this subtle grace, invisible to the common people that transcends the form to touch the soul, tamashii (魂). Simplicity is the key to elegance.

“art is making the invisible visible” (Hatsumi sensei, honbu dôjô, April 2010).

Sven at the YSTT2010


My very good friend Sveneric Bogsater

Sveneric is one of my best friends. He is a very close student of sensei and has started the bujinkan even before I began training!

I consider Sven like my elder brother as his teachings are always full of wisdom and help me to improve my understanding of the art. I am privileged to teach with him quite often and this is always a great moment of learning, sharing and friendship.

Sven will share his knowledge with Peter, Pedro and myself at the YSTT once again this year in July. If you want to attend to the YSTT (see details on this blog’s pages) or register now there are a few places available.

Attend three days of training in Paris and learn from Sven and the “yûro shi tennô” as sensei called us.

29 days left to attend to the YSTT

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Ten Chi Jin Ten


tenchijintenchijinten..

Your taijutsu is created by the steady study of the ten chi jin ryaku no maki program which contains all the basics of the nine schools of the bujinkan. All fundamentals have been regrouped  into one single syllabus in order to give the beginners a chance to understand quickly what it is they have to learn and master.

But what is happening after you learnt the ten chi jin? You learn the schools,  you learn the weapons, you learn the juppô sesshô. In fact if you look at it carefully you should see the first stage  of your progression through the ten chi jin as the first circle of a metallic spring (see picture). Through the taihen kûden shinden succession we finish the first circle of learning and begin another one. This second cycle of learning begins with another ten but of a higher level.

Each circle is following the previous one and is linked to it. Life is similar, each action we take determines and/or influences our futures choices and actions.

To answer the original question as to know what is coming after the ten chi jin? the answer is always another ten and then another chi and jin, and so endlessly.

Walking Good


My feet with the tenchijin and the chijin

One of my friends who has been living in Japan for many years told me once that sensei was not teaching taijutsu but mejutsu (eye technique). By training we learn to watch things differently, to think outside of the box.

For the last ten years I have traveled the world quite a lot from snow countries such as Canada, Finland or Sweden to hot countries such as Brasil, Mexico or India; and because what we are taught is to see through the appearances of things, I noticed that people do not walk the same. In fact we can say that depending on the ten, the way the jin use the chi is different.

Aruki waza is part of our basic training but not so many students try to understand the importance of it. The way you walk can save your life and the waza should adapt to the reality on the tenchi in which you are. To make myself clear I took a picture of my feet to illustrate this article. Footwork is the basis of the bujinkan taijutsu. We should see the foot as being divided into three parts related to the tenchijin: The heel is chi, the ball of the foot is jin, and the toes are ten.

When you move your feet on the ground this knowledge allow you to pivot from any combination of this 3X2 matrix. You can move tenten (toes/toes), tenchi (toes/heel), tenjin (toes/ball) etc. In fact you have 3² possibilities of walking. Now the interesting thing on top of that is the type of ground you are walking on. One day in Canada I noticed that the Canadians were attacking the ground “flat” with no unrolling of the sole (tenchijin as one). I confirmed this observation recently in Finland. A few weeks ago in the the Indian jungle we went to some kind of procession in a deep valley of the Nilgiri (the blue mountains of Blavatsky) and the tribal people we met were barefoot and were attacking the ground only in a chijin sequence, letting the toes coming long after ground contact. What I got from these two observations can be related to the Japanese and the funny ways they designed the waraji where the toes are out of the sole protection.

To synthesize, in snow countries we attack the ground as one, perpendicularly to avoid falling; and in hot countries we attack the ground from heel to ball to balance the footwork and ground our body.

The picture shows the diagonal heel/ball to learn how to walk correctly. But understand also that your way of walking is giving informations to your opponent. Last month I welcomed a new student in the dôjô and watching his footwork, even though I knew nothing about him, I told him that he had spent his youth in the mountains. You should have seen his face fullof astonishment when he said: “how do you know that?”

After this discovery I decided to change/modify my footwork and I trained walking in the streets, it changed totally the way I am balancing my body.

The bujinkan is not about techniques it is about learning to see.

Kan (勘 – perception) will lead you to become kanpeki (完璧 – perfect).

Oh, by the way, the 3² matrix is 9…