Happiness In Japan


the group posing with sensei in front of takamatsu memorial

Today a group of buyu from all over the world where lucky to visit once again Sensei’s second house.

Today around 11:30, we met with Akira, Noguchi, Darren, Collado, Miller, Eguia and a few others at the hombu where Senô sensei was teaching a group of students sweating in the terrible heat of the day.

you can see here how bad I felt in the AC 🙂

The heat and humidity were at their peak today and I felt bad to be in the car with Noguchi sensei (and the AC). When the group was complete with Darren and his car we drove to the Tsukuba mountain where sensei has located his second house.

This is there that he spends a lot of time painting, writing, and taking care of his many animals.

A real gentleman farmer!

When we arrived we were welcomed by sensei dressed like a real gentleman farmer in his country outfit.

Many practitioners see him as “non human” and not only because he always repeats that he is a UFO.

The bujinkan is a system to live a happy life and he was shining happiness and expressing it like he does with his budô.

I love to see him so happy in his daily life.

the group preparing for the incense

In the garden each one of us lit some incense sticks to the 9 statues of the nine schools and we all prayed to the memory of Takamatsu sensei in front of the memorial of 6 tons built in the garden.

Do you know that in his office in Noda sensei prays everyday for the memory of his parents, of Takamatsu sensei but also for the sake of the shidôshi of the bujinkan?

Sensei is very religious person and only a few of the bujinkan students know that. Over the years when I was helping him for some work, I saw him a few times praying while we were working.

sensei and one of the poneys

In the garden there is a green house that we use in winter, a small arena where sensei “walks” the poneys, a small stable for the poneys and many staues and carved stones carved with the name of the nine schools.

The garden is filled with statues of divinities, symbolic rocks and carved texts.

After padding Kuki and Tobi, the two poneys of sensei and taking care of the dogs (asuka, mae and a third one), the water turtles in their basin, it was time to  “pay our respect” to the statue of Marylin Monroe (sensei likes her very much).

Noguchi sensei and Marylin (a classic) 🙂

I have been visiting this house many times since sensei has decided to split his time between Noda and Tsukuba.

And the “Marylin game” has become some sort of ritual over the years.

I think I have pictures of all the high ranks of the bujinkan (including me) having fun with the american star. as he puts it, life is too short to take it too seriously.

Put laughter in your life – rokkon shôjô

Then it was time to eat and the whole group climbed into the cars and we all went to have lunch with sensei in a restaurant nearby.

ten chi jin?

The house is surrounded by rice fields on the plains down the Tsukuba mountain.

It is strange to be there after the being in the citadin life of kashiwa city or Atago.

With the heat hammering everything, it felt like being in another country. No noise, no wind only the sound of the cicadas in the trees.

A special thank you to Darren for keeping cool bottles of water in the car after the heat of the garden.

It was a real enjoyment.

In the restaurant

The poor restaurant keeper had a hard time coping with a sudden arrival of so many gaijin.

I have seen that many times over the years and I believe that sensei loves to do that.

As always this is a very special moment and I am sure that many bujinkan practitioners would have liked to be there with us. We felt privileged and honored to spend these special moments with him.

the group with the translator
During this two hour lunch, sensei spoke a lot about the importance of the flow in our lives, of past events and above all of the priority to be happy.
Happiness is more important than the techniques he said.
The goal of the bujinkan is to make people happy and to live a happy life. We were also lucky to have a charming Italian resident translating for us and through her could speak with sensei easily. Thank you Cinzia on behalf of the whole group!

Memories of those who left usSince my last visit many new stones and stones have been added. The one on the left is to remember all our bujinkan buyu who dies since the beginning.

Death is what makes Life worth it explained sensei to the group in the restaurant. Because we train techniques to bring death to our opponent we develop by contrast a strong feeling of life.

Many times during lunch sensei spoke of our future Hombu dôjô that will be built soon to become some kind of cultural centre for the world.

Sensei asked us also to share these moments of true kumite with the buyu from all over the world this is why this long article is written for.

the last drink before closing this fantastic day

It was time to go back to our lives in the city and after a last teas in one of the room of the house with the walls covered by the many presents, sensei has received during all these years, we departed.

We left sensei benefiting from the rest of this day and from the happiness it has given us all.

Funnily during lunch he thanked us twice to have been able to come!

Hatsumi & Noguchi sensei enjoying the instant

Be happy and do not take your life too seriously – simply enjoy beautiful moments like this one.

Shikin Haramitsu Daikomyô

Henso Jutsu Is Not What You Think It Is


Invisibility is hensô jutsu

Yesterday Hatsumi sensei referred to hensô jutsu indirectly when he spoke about the seven ways (of disguise) or shichi hô de.

Those seven disguises allowed the spies to blend in the daily lives of ordinary people and to gather information or pass undetected.

Here is one of the list of these 7 disguises:

  1. 出家 shukke – buddhist monk
  2. 虚無僧 komuso – itinerant priest
  3. 浪士  ronin (or tsunegata) – wandering samurai
  4. 商人 akindo – merchant, tradesman
  5. 楽士 gakushi – musician
  6. 山伏 yamabushi – mountain warrior
  7. 旅芸人 sarugaku (or tabigeinin) – performer, entertainer

Those disguises might have been very helpful in feudal Japan, but I honestly doubt they would be of any use today in modern Japan. What is interesting is that sensei referred to that in a “gyaku way” during the class. We are used to see those lists of “ninja fields of expertise”. But to me this is the omote of our art.

The ura side is more interesting. What sensei wanted us to understand yesterday was not to disguise ourselves for some james bond kind of mission but to be aware of the type of clothes the attacker is wearing and to adapt our techniques accordingly.

Today this list would be more like: businessman, delivery guy, mailman, police officer, young gothic or rasta, electricity company employee, thug, etc. And this list is not limited to seven. Each one of these persons is wearing different clothes and accessories making the fighting more difficult (or easier) depending on those “uniforms”. One of my student who is now jûgodan once fought a rasta guy with dreadlocks, the rasta guy was nearly bald at he end of the fight.

The same would happen if you had to fight someone wearing a heavy leather jacket, a backpack, or a bathing suit. How do you find a kyûsho 急所 on a leather jacket? how would you deal with close distance against someone with a backpack or even a bike? how would you grab naked skin? Obviously the written technique of yore would not be sufficient.

Sensei’s budô is about adaptation and a tie, a pen, a phone, a backpack or a coffee mug can become tools to deflect or launch an attack. When we train in the dôjô the possibilities are limited as we are all dressed in the same way. This is why the introduction of the yoroi kumiuchi in 2003 was such an important evolution in the bujinkan system because once you understand the multiple possibilities of fighting the yoroi (with or against it) you develop new skills not relying on a specific technique but based upon your level of consciousness.

Techniques are useless if you are not able to adapt your movements to the opponent’s actions. And this is why sensei keeps reminding us to use  hanpa (半端) or unfinished techniques to be in tune with the flow of things.

You begin a movement and let uke’s reactions and intention dictate the emergence of your next move.

Ayase Tonight


Ayase Budokan

I am just coming back from the Ayase class (exceptionally on Friday). The first class with sensei after four months of  diet is always a good experience. Before the class I gave him his “official” Yûro Shi Tennô t-shirt made specially for him and he wore it right away. This is our little “post Paris Taikai ritual” that has been going on for a few years now.

As usual he asked me to open the class and we did a nice “flowing” movement receiving an attack in a very soft uke nagashi, moving uke off balance with the footwork, changing hand an ending in a sort of omote gyaku. No grab, no violence, only a nice nagare keeping uke in motion preventing him from attacking twice and taking his balance. On top of that sensei did it better with less movements and a better efficiency. I guess this is why he is the teacher and me the student. Every time I have the chance to demonstrate a technique I am always amazed at his ability to simplify my movements and to make it so good that I cannot reproduce it, even though it was my movement in the first place.  I did three other techniques during the class and  each time sensei was developing more flow by moving less. when you watch him moving you easily forget that he is over 80 years old. He looks like a young man!

His natural movement is really like “magic” as he is able to grab a form and to add life into it. When you are his uke you feel no danger at all and when he controls you on the ground he is hardly touching you, but you still cannot move. In fact this is not that you cannot move, you could but you do not want to move as if his presence manifested by a very slight physical contact was draining any intention of retaliation from your brain. All those who have had the chance to be his uke can tell you that. Power is expressed in such a subtle way that your decision process is blocked. In a way you feel so safe that you are not willing to move anymore.

Today during the class sensei covered many aspects of budô. He  insisted on the importance of understanding the juppô sesshô to be able to fight without fighting and to be in control of the utsuwa (– ki) with our tamashii ( – kon). He didn’t use these terms from last year but this is the easiest way to express it. In one technique that  I did that was ending with yoko nagare, he insisted that we move in a direction opposed to the other possible opponents. That is what I prefer in the bujinkan training. It is not only two fighters but always more than two fighting and our actions should unfold in a natural manner in order to stay protected in any directions potentially dangerous. The movement is limited and by using uke as a shield we are able to protect ourselves using our first opponent against his partner(s). This is to me the real difference between sport martial arts and true budô. In the bujinkan strength is not the point and violence is useless, the whole thing is to develop the correct attitude to help us flowing without thinking in  the action.

The true movement is not a technique it is a response to a situation where no preconceived answer can be applied. Sensei insisted once again in not grabbing the opponent. When you grab uke you are actually showing your intention, grabbing yourself, and freezing your flow. This is why he insisted again in the juppô sesshô concept in the sense of “negotiating” (折衝 – sesshô) in all directions (juppô = 10 directions). On controlling uke he said that we have to control uke not with our strength but with our legs activating the kûkan (空間). The known concept of yubi ippon jubun (one finger is enough) to control uke was used extensively to create the sanken (a series of three hits) followed rapidly in different part of the body and to prevent uke from thinking properly or understanding what is happening. We did also techniques against kicks and used the kake taoshi hitting uke to sai with sokki ken. Once again sensei insisted that we hit with the body not the knee. He used the same explanation when controlling uke on the ground “choke him with kûkan” by using your legs.

Finally he referred to henso jutsu explaining that historically there were 7 ways to disguise yourself (cf. sarugaku, kumuso, yamabushi, hokashi, sukke, tsunegata, akindo). But this was for us to understand that we must adapt the techniques to the type of clothes worn by the opponent. Part of our study of budô should be dedicated to learn how to adapt a given technique to the type of cloth the opponent is wearing.

In conclusion quite a nice class full of tips and tricks to work on in the future weeks.

Tomorrow at lunch I am invited with a few other jûgodan in his second house. I will take a few pictures of Takamatsu sensei’s memorial and of the lunch and share them with you on this blog (hopefully tomorrow). Stay tuned!

Be happy!

Japan 42: The Arrival


crossing the "flow" of a river in India

I arrived this morning in Narita and now after a well deserved shower and a little nap I feel ready for this new trip.

It was strange to arrive in Narita before the shops and restaurants were opened. In 20 years it was the first time I saw those shops closed. Naively I thought that in Japan people were working 24h a day. 🙂

I spoke today with Volker Paternoga who is going back home tomorrow. He got promoted to 15th dan and told me how strange it was to give the Sakki test. The sakki test is nothing “magic” it is a natural human survival reaction put to light by years of training. Actually I see the sakki test as double: the day you take it; and the day you give it. This is to me the exact same experience and feeling. When you lower the sword it is not from your own decision, you lower the blade because it is time to do it.

Everytime the thinking process is involved in our actions we lose the nagare of life and we “force” our nature in an unnatural manner. To the same extent on the mats, the best natural movements appear when there is no preconceived idea on what we are going to do.

Hatsumi sensei’s budô is the school to be moving into the flow of things and take the best out of it whatever is happening. I am really happy to have the opportunity to meet him again and to learn more.

Eugenio from Italy is there and I have to meet him in the lobby. I will keep you informed as much as I can on this blog during my trip.

Be happy!

Japan: A Must Go! (trip 42)


Shiva, Arnaud & the dôjô Koi

Hi all,

I am on my way to Japan again this year. It will be hot and humid (today 33° Celsius and 70% humidity) but apart from the “ten” conditions it will be good to walk on the Japanese “chi” again and to meet my “jin” buyu.

As I did last time when I created this blog I will do my best as to explain the various concepts exposed by Sôke in his classes. Even though I do not speak Japanese, my 20 years of travelling there help me to understand, if not the words, at least the concepts of sensei’s budô.

I will be back right before the Jupi Summer Camp where I will give the “latest news” and feelings from Japan to those of you attending.

If you are still wondering if you should go or not to Japan I would say that if you really want to grasp the gokui (essence) of budô*you have to go there once a year (minimum). I am lucky to have organized my life to be able to go there three times a year because I decided long ago that it was my priority to learn directly from Sôke and the other shihan. Japan is a different culture, the level of budô displayed in the classes is amazing, and sensei’s philosophy of life is worth listening to and sticking to.

My new entry in this blog will be from Tokyo.

Sayonara,

*this is the title of the next book by Hatsumi sensei (published by Kodansha  for dkms hopefully).

Ten Chi Jin: Teachers Are Responsible


Hatsumi Sensei told me last April that the bujinkan was now 200000 practitioners worldwide. Many dôjô claim to be “bujinkan” even though they ignore the true foundations of the bujinkan.

During my last seminar I had the opportunity to speak with a group of beginners students about the importance of the ten chi jin ryaku no maki and they really had no clue about it. One even told me that ” this is the first time he heard about it”. And he was already 6th kyû!

As teachers, this is our responsability to give the beginners the necessary basics so that their bujinkan path is successful. Many teachers never received the basics either but they were given high ranks. And when they began teaching their own students they duplicated the teachings they had received from their original instructor. Everyone is sincere but the results for the beginners are not good.

During the DKMS 2008 Hatsumi sensei insisted to the people attending the seminar that they focus on teaching the basics of the ten chi jin for the year 2009 as “many bujinkan students have never been exposed to the basics”. We are now in July 2010 and the students I meet in my seminars still do not know the fundamental techniques of the bujinkan.

Teachers: please teach the basics to your students, not the ones you think are the basics but the ones that were exposed by Hatsumi sensei back in 1983 in his first technical book: “togakure ryû ninpô taijutsu“. This book in Japanese was then translated into English (and greatly modified) in 1987. This should be the core of your teaching to the kyû belts.

The bujinkan is a fantastic system not because of its name but because it is the answer to actual fighting. It is not about strength or violence it is about footwork and simple body mechanics. Learn them and improve your skills dramatically!

In my next summer camp I will have written exams again every day so that the participants will know the names and content of the various sets of techniques included into the ten chin jin ryaku no maki. If there is no study there is no knowledge.

If you are a students remember that your teacher is the one guiding you on the bujinkan path but at the end of the day YOU are the one walking the path. Remember that you train for yourself for your own good and that no one is higher than you as we are all human beings. Get the knowledge you need where you an find it. respect your teacher for what he is giving you but please be pro-active and do not wait to receive the knowledge, as sensei used to say: “steal the knowledge where it is!”

Summer is a good moment to think back about our yearly achievements and to make new plans for the new season of training beginning in September. Please add “basics” in your plans.

Have a happy summer in the spirit of rokkon shôjô.

Jupi Summer Camp 2010 is Online!


Dear friends,

You can now register to the Jupi Summer Camp 2010 and be one of the 25 participants accepted.

The theme this year is nagare, the flow. And we will use the fundamentals of the tenchijin ryaku no maki and the feeling of rokkon shôjô to express it.

The Jupi Seminar has now become a legend in the bujinkan. Until last year this seminar was open to black belts only and mainly shidôshi.

This year in order to celebrate the 20th edition of this seminar, I have decided to open it to anyone with at least 1 year of training in the bujinkan. Now, if you are more experienced the better.

The seminar begins in 1 month so if you are interested check the website now and register to be one of the “happy fews”.

🙂

Koi Martial Art New Look


Dear friends,

Koimartialart has been evolving and offers now a totally new interface with a few trailers introducing buki waza, ten ryaku no maki and chi ryaku no maki. Also the search module has been fully redeveloped and the various sections are more complete.

Koimartialart is dedicated to every bujinkan pratitioner and is intended to help the young student or the advanced one to review one expression of the techniques of the bujinkan. These videos can be streamed online on your pc, your mac, your iTouch, your iPhone or your iPad. We are currently developing other interfaces for other phones: android, blackberry, nokia…

These videos DO NOT replace a qualified instructor and training should be done in a real dôjô but the techniques can help you understand better what the bujinkan really is. The bujinkan is the most complete system of fighting and it is based on the understanding of a limited set of fundamental techniques known as the ten chi jin ryaku no maki. The ten chi jin ryaku no maki mixing the 9 schools of the bujinkan together with the buki waza basics are the prerequisite to become a black belt.

Please check these trailers if you are not a member yet or check the new titles if you are and tell us what you think.

Many new movies are being uploaded regularly.

YSTT2010


THANK YOU ALL!

This new edition of the YSTT has been fantastic in terms of quality at all levels: quality of teachers, quality of students, quality of organization, quality of food, quality of kumite.

Calligraphies by Hatsumi Sensei for the "Yûro shi tennô"

Quality of teachers: Each year I am amazed to discover how my friends have been evolving in good. Sven is deeper as ever and the depth of his teachings reminds me often of Hatsumi Sensei. Peter is more and more precise in his forms and understanding of the human anatomy with his Amatsu Tatara Holistic approach. Pedro is always coming with new multiple complex controls that look so simple that he is manifesting wabi itself.

Quality of students: This year we had more than 30% newcomers to the taikai and rapidly I got the feeling it was the same group as the years before. It is so nice to see the same students coming year after year and to see them improve more and more. Even the beginners were so nice to teach to. This taikai is a real pleasure to teach because we can adapt the level of our teaching to the level of the groups we have. This year I really enjoyed a lot going back to the basics with the kyû and the feeling of real fight with the high ranks. There is always something to learn for us.

Quality of organization: This year for the first time Bruno took the responsability of the YSTT as I was teaching abroad a lot. He did a damn good job and I don’t think that any taikai was better organized and managed than this last edition. Thank you Bruno! Being a 15th dan didn’t weaken you it made you more powerful. I also want to thank the taikai Team who made our stay in the dôjô so likeable. They were so committed and efficient that I had a hard time recognizing them. Thank you all for your hard work. All the attendants will remember you.

Quality of food: When Bruno said that one of our students was 1 star michelin “chef” and that he could cook for us at the taikai, I honestly didn’t believe it would be possible for such a big number of people. I was wrong and this has been the best taikai food I ever had the chance to eat. Goodbye sandwich, welcome meatballs, meatpie, butter chicken and starters and cheese and desserts. Jean-marie I love you! Thank you for your hard work and sacrificing your training time in the morning to cook for us.

The group on Saturday

Quality of kumite: Above all a taikai is a kumite, a reunion of many bujinkan practitioners dedicated to learn more about our art and to share friendship. In this respect this YSTT has been a real success. Fri 91 participants, Sat. 123 participants, Sun. 131 participants. No injuries, no violence, a lot of work. This taikai was created to replace the missing taikai by hatsumi sensei. Training is first but in the old days these taikai were the occasion to reunite the bujinkan family. This YSTT was a real kumite regrouping participants coming from 19 countries (the last being bielorussia and poland).

Thank you all and we hope to see you next year again in Paris!

Please note:

1. The YSTT2012 will be held in London for the 25th anniversary of the first taikai directed by hatsumi sensei in Europe and organized by Peter King in 1987.
2. the video of the taikai will be available for download for the members at http://www.koimartialart.com in a few weeks.