Standing Upright


Calligraphy for the Japanese consul in Bangalore

Friday night class with sensei was good as usual. Not so many people were there (less than 50) and we had enough space to apply the tachi kumiuchi feeling with the . Once again if you want to study bô jutsu or any of the long weapons, it is better to come to Japan when not so many people are there and summer seems to be the best option.

Sensei asked me to do a technique as he usually did. Opening the class is always a privilege but it is every time more difficult. In the past when he would ask me for a technique I was nearly in panic and the result was not very good even though he would always find something to do with it. Then over the years my confidence built in and I went through various stages: showing something worth it; doing it good; looking good; etc. At one point I was not scared any more of making mistakes. That was the first major evolution. Then as I am coming every four months my goal as to show him that I benefited from his lessons and evolved in my taijutsu.

Recently as I said  it became more difficult as my objective now is to be in adequacy with the theme of the year and to give him a movement where his kaitatsu imagination would unleash to help us go deeper in the theme of the year. As I attend around five classes each time I come to Japan the first class is easy but the following ones are so close from one another that I have to focus more on what he has been doing and what has been said in order to learn more from him.

A class with sensei is a mix of many things and often the things is saying bear more importance than the movements he is doing. Too many people come to Japan to do what they already know. This should be avoided at all costs! We do not come to do what we know but to discover new ways of doing the things we do badly. But for that we need to accept to make mistakes and to look bad. Too many egos won’t accept that.

By accepting to make mistakes during training we free ourselves from the result and discover a more natural way of behovioring in the dôjô and in life.

Sensei painting

From this Friday class I learnt two things. First sensei was playing with the word tachi told us us that we had to stand upright in the technique and in life, once again the double meaning of jissen was obvious. Sensei used the image of the bowman pulling the string of his bow. In the technique use your shoulders to modify lightly the space between you and the opponent. Also, if you apply this you will keep your balance better and be in control of the tamashii.

The second thing that I clicked on was something I had the chance to speak with him when we had lunch in Tsukuba. I asked him if the tachi kumiuchi could be considered as the juppô sesshô of weapons and he spent the class reminding us that by saying it and by using many weapons: tantô, jutte, tachi, bô, yari and shikomi zue. The tachi has opened the last gate to natural movement as it put into motion the nagare in all our movements.

This class was also quite particular as sensei used Shiva as his uke many times. From my experience I see that as a symbol of recognition. We became direct students of sensei when we got our sakki test but when sensei is inviting you to attack this is something different. Not only are you recognized by him but also you become recognized by the whole bujinkan community. Congratulation Shiva for this new achievement in the ways of budô!

To reinforce it sensei drew a very nice makimono with a daruma to thank the Japanese consul in Bangalore.

The bujinkan through Hatsumi sensei’s guidance has really become international and we should never forget it and behave accordingly.

Happy B-Day!


happy bday sensei!

The bujinkan is much more than  a fighting system, it is about behaving like a true human being. Since we came here both Hatsumi sensei and Nagato sensei have been speaking about asobi, playfulness.

I remember sensei saying once that « missing a class was ok but that missing a joyful moment was wrong ». Happiness has to be found and lived when the occasion shows up.

And that was the case on Thursday night.

serious business!

Noguchi sensei was born on the 6th of August so for his last class I organized a small birthday party for him after training.

We celebrated his 68th birthday with all the students who attended the class.

That was a true bujinkan evening.

Asobi and happiness altogether: good training in the takagi yôshin ryû and a nice b-day party.

Birthdays are occasions to gather and to know people from a different perspective.

kisses?

We had brought cakes and sake and offered them to Noguchi sensei who seemed very touched by it. We all shared a little shoshu with him with a strong sense of friendship within this small buyu community.

Noguchi sensei has been the shihan who has helped me the most in my bujinkan training and I like to think that my taijutsu is the result of his many tips that he gave to me since 1990. To organize this was the least I could do as for once I was here in Japan on the good date.

shoshu time

When I got promoted by Hatsumi sensei to Jûdan back in 1993, the hombu dôjô didn’t exist and sensei was giving classes when people would showed up. Many times with Pedro, sensei would ask us if we would like to have some training the following day!

This is in 1993 that Hatsumi sensei asked me to train exclusively with him and Noguchi sensei.

I must admit that I was more attracted to Nagato sensei’s style in that time and that Noguchi sensei style was so far from what I considered to be my “natural movement” that I was surprised.

Happy B-day!

As always, it proved to me that sensei knew what to do with me and forcing me to train only with Noguchi sensei has been the best thing that could happen to me.

In 1997 at the DKMS, with the opening of the brand new hombu dôjô, sensei told me that from now on I could train with the shi tennô teaching there. But the four years I spent following only one teacher created the taijutsu I have today.

Noguchi sensei is an excellent budôka and a true human being and I am proud to call myself one of his students.

お目出度うご座います Omedetô Gozaimasu!

Summer camp France


with Shiva (8th Dan) and Eugenio (10th Dan)

Based on the new discoveries here in Japan I have decided to modify lightly the initial progam of the JSC2010 and to include a few things seen here in Japan.

Even though the seminar will mainly deal with tenchijin basics and tachi in the understanding of the nagare, we will also review the many interesting things (techniques and concepts) that I am learning here.

There are still a few places left for the summer camp (JSC2010) I will give after I am coming back from Japan.

To participate please visit the JSC2010 website and register online at budomart

See you there!

39° 55%


no comment

I just came back from the hombu where I gave a class on tachi and nagare. Even with AC and fans the heat inside was 39° centigrade and humidity at 55%!

I am drained. I will post later today after Noguchi sensei’s class.

Tomorrow is Noguchi sensei’s birthday, he turns 68 and still moves like a young warrior.

Omedeto!

Jissen, Sakki, Asobi


Zam, Sensei, Shiva, and Arjun

Our last class with sensei was full of the 遊び «asobi » feeling / playfulness that Nagato sensei talked about on Monday. But sensei precised that playfulness should not lower our level of awareness, though. Being « seriously playful » is what is expected from us during training.

I opened the class with a kind of uke nagashi reaching out with the right arm to the left shoulder and back of uke in the moment of his attack. Sensei used this concept and added many weapons to it (tachi, bô). The best discovery was when sensei used a soft touch on the neck to take uke’s balance and then moved with the same hand to hook lightly the acromion hole of the left shoulder. The various information received by uke made him fall on his own each time. I was uke and it was brilliant! Powerful but soft.

In a real fight, 実戦 jissen, sensei said that you can never be prepared. Therefore you must float on top of uke’s actions to control the space and counter-attack when the opening is revealed. This idea of « you can never be prepared » is something we should always have in mind, inside and outside the dôjô (ura-omote).

Playfulness brings a state of relaxation that makes time go slower. When you are stressed you are tensed and when you are tensed you force things in a way unsuitable to the situation you are caught in. It also means that training is not the real thing and waza only a means to achieve body & mind coordination allowing you to see through things (kanroku 勘六). In this mindset your imagination (kaitatsu) is at its best and your movements, even if complex, flow naturally. Awareness is generated through self confidence that comes when you master your basics. Your body moves on its own adapting naturally to the changes in your environment.

Gekokujô

Then, during the calligraphy session sensei wrote gekokujô 下克上 for me. Gekokujô is a period of Japanese history, during the warring state period and the Ônin war. It is the end of the Muromachi period. At that time small daimyô tried to take over the power of the main daimyô. Translated it means: « the lower rules the higher » or « the low overcomes the high ». To use a comparison, a small tiny hole can drown a huge boat and bring her to the bottom of the sea.

Many interpretations of this concept can be found in our training and our life. In training it means that rank does not protect you from defeat. To find success you have to develop luck. When you are lucky you can reach asobi. You can also experience gekokujô when the newly promoted high ranks try to impose their newly acquired power to those around them. From one week to another they become arrogant and disrespectful. And in life we see it when youngsters try to impose their lack of understanding and experience to their elders. In the « Republica » Plato speaks about a similar thing (book 7?). I don’t recall the exact words but it is something like: « when the children do not respect their parents, when the students do not respect their teachers, when the people do not respect the authority, this is the beginning of tyranny ». The best illustration is the so called cultural revolution in China under Mao Zedong.

At the end of the class I am happy to inform you that India got its first « homemade » shidôshi. Arjun passed brilliantly the test with Doug. Both, emitter and receiver did a very nice sakki. After class it was touching to see how Shiva was proud of Arjun being “his” first Indian shidôshi. I guess that Arjun will honor Hatsumi sensei and Shiva in his new dôjô of Mumbai (Bombay). This is also the proof that hard training and good transmission of sensei’s philosophy are the key to our own evolution as human beings.

The beauty of sensei’s teaching is to be found everyday more in the words and concepts he uses to develop our human abilities. His taijutsu speaks to our bodies when his words speak to our souls. Thank you sensei!

Be happy!

Training, Flowing, Being


Teas break during Nagato's class

The heat and humidity are tiring us Continental Europeans not used to such a tough weather. Eugenio Penna from Sicilia and the Indian group lead by Shiva are fine with it. They are only missing hot spicy food! (not Eugenio though).

The August climate is not my favorite, everybody knows that polar bears (Shiro Kuma) prefer the cool weather, but I always enjoy travelling to Japan for my second trip in summer. The dôjô is nearly empty and the rhythm of things is moving to a slow pace unlike the frenzy of DKMS where the dôjô is packed with over a hundred practitioners or the spring trip in April where I try to understand better the new theme developed by sensei.

This trip also I appreciate the size of the “kuma group”: 6, roku. It goes well with the theme of the year rokkon shôjô as we are 6 souls (i.e. roku + kon = rokkon) living happily (shôjô). I must say that Shiva, Arjun, and Zam have become real buyu and have succeeded in blending within the bujinkan community. The other day sensei was telling us over lunch that he was not the “king” of the bujinkan and that NO ONE was in charge of a country. The bujinkan is a gathering of individuals and does not need any national organization to run it supposedly under his name. He added that we have to consider him more like some kind of spiritual guide giving the direction and the interpretation of things, a little like the pope. Through him we are all connected. That was last year concept of en no kirinai, or do not sever the connection. Yesterday I gave a class right before the one by Nagato sensei and this connection was obvious to all of us attending the two classes. The technical points Nagato sensei and I developed were so linked that some students asked me after his class if we had planned it beforehand as it looked like part 1 and part 2 of the same corpus!

Spain, Italy, France, India, Hungary

During my class on nagare and tachi I insisted on “rounding up” our moves to free ourselves from any preconceived techniques and one hour later he taught us to flow in a hanpa way (half finished movements) and play with the distance by adapting our moves to what uke was coming up with. Shiva opened the class using Darren as uke and therefore was used by Nagato sensei as uke during the whole class. He was quite tired after the session.

At one point Nagato sensei said that we “should not copy” his movements but rather try to get the feeling in order to adapt our actions to the changes of uke. His footwork was the key to put that into practice. Uke was attacking 2, 3 or 4 times like in a kukishin technique, and we adapted the distance to get into uke’s centre and pin him down. To see the simplicity of his body flow is always amazing to me. He is connected to his uke and seems to be able to read his intentions even before uke begins to move in the attack. This ability to connect to the opponent and to the environment can only be achieved through efficient distancing and footwork and is the expression of our humanity. This is a one to one encounter and no organization can recreate this feeling. We are individuals in charge only one life, ours.

I have been in the bujinkan for more than 25 years and I have been witnessing the raise and fall of many organizations where the head teacher would behave like a king. I always tried to keep away of this natural human tendency in my country but unsuccessfully as other teachers are always critical about what is created to develop the bujinkan in the good direction. The bujinkan is not rich of the strength of those superficial organizations but of each shidôshi and of the strength of their commitment and implication. A country is strong because his bujinkan members are good humans with good technical skills.

Shiva promoted by Noguchi to 8th dan

During the Sunday class, Noguchi sensei called me in and promoted Shiva directly to 8th dan for the man he is and the hard training he is going through, not because of some Indian National organization. In the bujinkan this is the human value of the individual that is graded and not his or her technical skills. And because of that we often see high ranks teachers not able to show very high technical skills, but they are good human beings in the eyes of sensei. During lunch the other day he said: “I am not giving ranks for the technical abilities of the people but for the human value of the individual”.

The bujinkan is not a sport martial art and observers (even insiders) should make an effort to accept that. The bujinkan is a way of life originating in the dawn of humanity and t hat has been revived by Takamatsu sensei in the 20th century and is continuously developed by Hatsumi sensei in the 21st century. The bujinkan is a school for the development of the self using old fighting systems to unlock our human abilities. The best illustration being the sakki test (殺気). During the sakki test, the receiver puts to light a natural human ability -sensing danger- that he had since he was born. The polishing of the training is revealing it gradually and the test is the proof that this change has occurred.

The develoment of the sakki (殺気), of the intention, of the attitude (構えkamae), of the feeling (感覚 kankaku); the ability to see through the illusions (勘 六 kanroku), to float freely on the flow of life (流れnagare), and finding happiness (清福 seifûku) are some of the main benefits one can get from his many years of years of training. By interacting with other beings, and other cultures you develop your self in a way unattainable by ordinary people. In my last class people attending where coming from India, Spain, Hungary, Germany, Belgium. This is the true sense of community the bujinkan is creating and this is why no organization should dictate our behavior.

Nagato sensei yesterday insisted that we developed asobi (遊び)  in our training. We have to be playful and happy like kids playing “seriously” the role of some kind of hero. This ability to “play” is at the core of bujinkan training and we should never forget it.

Playfulness and happiness are found in regular training and this is what sôke wants us to study.

Rokkon shôjô!

Basics, Strength, & Tenchijin


Noguchi sensei & arnaud

Noguchi sensei gave a koto class this morning and insisted again on the importance of training the basics. We reviewed his magic gogyô and the kihon happô. Over the past twenty years in Japan I have seen these “basic movements” many times with various shihan but it is always a pleasure to study them from a different perspective.

There is so much to learn in these two series that they should suffice to fight efficiently. Everything we do is using parts of these fundamental technique.

The gogyô no kata and the kihon happô are never studied enough and Noguchi sensei insisted once again on the importance of the tenchijin ryaku no maki (天地人), the set of fundamental techniques of the bujinkan.

Personally I learn a lot each time I have the chance to study them. They are always the same but always different. I will start the study of these “new” series with those attending to the summer camp.

After this nice beginning we did many techniques of the koto ryû getting the knack, and adding jumps and a lot of jûji aruki (yoko aruki). I love Noguchi sensei’s classes for their richness and because each time I do these techniques (hida, kompi, kappi etc) I understand new things within them.

A colorful pair!
A colorful pair!

Hatsumi sensei being late this morning and Noguchi sensei having other obligations, he asked me to begin the class.

It is always strange to switch from the role of the student to the role of the teacher at the hombu dôjô.

It is also even stranger to see the shihan having the same difficulties repeating my techniques that I have when I attend their classes!

Sensei arrived and the class began after the rei with another technique both in taijutsu, tachi, and .

I was asked by sensei to demonstrate two other techniques putting the nagare (流れ) into action in multiple directions at the same time and we did many henka (変化) with and without weapons around these. As always sensei’s understanding was amazing.

From  today’s class I can point out  two important details from sôke’s teaching.

The first point is that when you control your opponent softly i.e. with no muscular force, he is not be able to react properly.  Strength generates natural body reactions or reflexes from uke that are often unpredictable or hard to block or absorb.

Therefore we must train in such a soft way that uke is not able to react or understand what we are doing; and he gets tense and chaotic in his reactions and loses his balance by his own uncontrolled reactions.

An image we can use so that you get it is when you were a kid holding an apparently very heavy box (empty in reality) and passing to a friend with a lot of apparent efforts. Your friend takes the box with unnecessary force and the box flies into the air. This is the kind of fake reaction you must get uke to do in the fight. Strength calls for stength in return but softness will off balance uke. Show always a kokoro gamae (心構え) different from your tai gamae (体構え).

The other interesting point was the manner how sensei is taking your balance (still softly) in three axis at the same time making ukemi nearly impossible for you. you litterally explode where you are and fall heavily. Like the ikebana (生花) structure based upon the ten chi jin (天地人) those three axis are one and no action precedes the other.

Calligraphy in the heat

A flower arrangement always symbolizes the ten – the mountain, the chi – the paddy field, and the jin the stream running down the slope.

The up vertical – ten is linked to the down vertical – chi through the horizontal – jin.

In today’s technique sensei was accompanying uke’s fist attack on the same line, pulling it lightly steping backward (chi), pushing the elbow horizontally with the other hand in a sort of musô dori (jin), and stepping lightly forward with the other leg to control the front leg of uke (ten). In this posture uke is pulled forward, backward andto the side. No ukemi is possible.

No strength, no strong grab, only footwork.

We applied also the same kind of movements with tachi kumiuchi and bô jutsu.

The good thing about visiting sensei in August is that we are not so many people in the dôjô and this is always a good opportunity for sensei to teach and for us to train the long weapons.

Training at the hombu

The beauty of long weapons resides in the understanding of the angles and the management of longer distances. But today distance was not the point was not the work on distance as we mainly used the gyokko ryû no bô (held at the mid section and not at the tip).

It was a good relaxed class.

Be happy!