Keiko & keiko


Sensei displaying the densho at dkms 3

Even though a few days have passed since the last day of the daikomyô sai the memory of this last day is still vivid in my mind.

Densho: The morning session was replaced by the exposition of many densho from the old time, sensei displaying in front of us invaluable makimono, techniques, and heihô concepts of many ancient fighting systems from the feudal times of Japanese warfare. Some of these scrolls had been rebuilt and consolidated and were 3 to 4 centuries old.

While displaying these treasures sensei insisted a lot on the value of these old documents and he explained that our budô was not a simple martial art (like a sport martial art) but that we should see it as a transmission (densho) of old warfare. As he said, even if you don’t understand or cannot read them, the simple fact of breathing the same air is already impacting our abilities to the better.

The techniques described in these scrolls have survived actual combat and have been transmitted by the ones who used them in fight. Unlike writers such as Nitobe who emphasized the values of the warrior, these densho are the living proof of their inner truth. They are not the romantic vision of an hypothetical fight but the result of their true efficiency. If these techniques had not proved their value in actual combat nobody would have survived war and therefore would not have been able to write them down on paper.

Sensei also added even though they had been the result of true fighting experience, they have been written down during peace times so they were written from memory by old men that didn’t fight for a long time. This is why we have to respect these forms but adapt them to the modern world and to today’s conditions of fight in order to ensure our survival.

As I often point remind the students: “remember that the best fighting manual will never fight for you except if you hold firmly with your hands and hit the opponent with it!”.

Personal training (keiko – 稽古 ) is more efficient when backed up by the knowledge of history (keiko – 経緯 懲 i.e. learn chronology by experience ). The solutions of today are to be found through our knowledge of the past. We should not do those techniques of yore exactly as they are described in the densho but use them as optional parameters or insight to take into account when in a real combat.

Therefore keiko (稽古) is deriving from keiko (経緯 懲)

After the brain training of the morning, we moved to body training in the afternoon. Through the various techniques and movements demonstrated by the jûgodan, sensei explained that genjutsu, the magic of art (幻術) was god given where ningenjutsu (人間術), human technology (human technique) is only man made. Art comes from the heart but technique comes from the brain and therefore is limited and not of such a high value.

This is something sensei has been repeating during the last week in his classes. Knowledge is easy to get in this media age but art is coming from within our Self. From this I understood that we should develop the kanjin kaname (eyes and mind of god) more than any type of intelectual knowledge. Back to the densho he repeated that even though we had to respect these historical truths, it was today and with our own abilities that would have to survive. Jû taijutsu deals with being flexible physically but also to give us the ability to survive any dangerous situation through our adaptability (jun nô ryoku).

A few days ago sensei was speaking of tenmon, chimon and gakumon, where gakumon was knowledge. And we explained that we had access to two types of knowledge. This is here the second knowledge (read the post) that we have to nurture and not the first one that is only biomechanical. Too many practitioners collect techniques instead of living them and develop only their biomechanical skills. Truth has many aspects and you will have to find yours in order to approriate these techniques for yourself as you are the one fighting.

“your ignorance alone creates the universe.
In reality One alone exists.
There is no person or god other than you” Ashtavakra Gita (15.16)

You train for yourself and your interpretations are as good as any other, but this can become a trap if you are sure to be right. Remember that “for who is holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail”.

On the technical side we continued to develop the gan shi nankotsu trilogy and sensei developed a new aspect to it. He used his thumb (shito ken) as he would a katana. He said that cutting through the opponent flesh was important. This shito gatana (指頭 刀) or yubi gatana (指刀) (he used both terms) is adding to the feeling of danger felt by uke.

At the dkms party sensei announced the theme for 2012 being “katana” and I think that this yubi gatana was already a hint on how we will use the sword next year. The sword techniques (densho) of kukishin ryû, togakure ryû, shinden fudô ryû being known (keiko), it is now time for us to free ourselves from these forms and to put our adaptive taijutsu into motion through the use of the sword and the mutô dori. Mutô dori is the highest level of weapon fighting and the proof of true mastership.

So please study (keiko – 稽古) and review your sword kata from the past and train them thoroughly (keiko –  経緯 懲) in order to be fully prepared when  Hatsumi sensei will be unveiling the shinken gata in a few weeks.

ps: On Sunday morning he confirmed the theme for 2012 as being “Ken” (all of them). He also precised that in 2013 we will be studying Yari and naginata. 😉

Be happy and enjoy the christmas and new year time!

Be Aware!


For the second day of dkms, it was raining so we had to retreat to a nearby building. Space was limited and sensei began his teaching by telling us to be aware of our environment. In a crowded area accidents might occur and like in a battlefield he asked us to add this element to the techniques we were doing today.

Warrior awareness was the theme and the introduction of today’s classes by sensei and he displayed many small weapons (kusari, nekote, and other shuriken) and asked us to be aware of these kinds of weapons, and to learn how to use them in order to know how to defend ourselves against them. Hidden weapons are very common in today’s street fights so we should develop our awareness in that respect.

To summarize this day of hard training (the floor was concrete), I would quote one sentence he repeated a few times during the training: “this is not about power, this is about control”.

Too often in martial arts, emphasis is put on physical power instead of the control (space, mind and body). Controlling the opponent means controlling his body and his brain (jin) and his environment: chi (floor), ten (weather or light conditions). Without controlling the outside, the above, or the behind of the attacker a winning action can bring defeat. This is why the bujinkan arts are more interested in controlling Uke than showing strength or force that are often mistaken for power.

On a ryôte dori type of technique sensei once again used the wave like movements of his shoulders and his body to control his attacker. This type of movement is done nearly without moving. By solely moving the shoulders up and down and turning around Uke at a very close distance uke is defeated. This shoulder movement would be effective in a very confined environment like a hole or on the battlefield.

Like he did yesterday he played again with the concept of kûkan no kyûsho. But Kû which is not only emptiness is encompassing all things within, and kû is the leading path to “zero”.

Sensei often speaks about becoming “zero”. This state can only be achieved once kû is understood and integrated in our body. He asked us to find the kûkan no naka no nagare (空間の中の流れ) because within this kûkan exists a flow that is kû and which is allowing us to transcend the form and to move naturally.

This is achieved by finding the kûkan no teko (空間の梃), the leverage or the various leverages (teko) to use to open Uke and to defeat him. By using these teko (familiar concept studied in the kukishin ryû), or their opposite known as “teko gyaku” (梃逆) we unveil all possibilities naturally and submit the opponent without using any strength. Our body if relaxed allows the natural movement to appear and to be used without any thinking process or any preconceived motion. I admit that I find it hard to put that into practice in my taijutsu but this is the goal to achieve.

He illustrated that by biting into the flesh of his opponent (hand, forearm, tit) and Tim’s reactions were quite self expressing.

From there we moved to some shime waza (締め技). A short reminder here, shimeru (shime) applies not only to the chokes but to any kind of constrictive action on the body. The basic hon jime and gyaku jime were demonstrated with the whole body (karada) and were sometimes completed by hits to the face or crushing actions to the throat and the body.

Sensei insisted also that we should use the whole body when applying those chokes, “karada no shime” he explained, while choking his opponent by moving around him. Footwork is the key element in the success of these movements. By moving the elgs you off balance Uke and cerate opeinings for the chokes or the hits.

What I understood today was that chokes are:
a) dynamic;
b) done with the whole body (and not only the arms);
c) can be completed by fists attacks.

Pain by sôke is a good teacher!

He was also changing his grip from one choking waza to another using pushing (oshi -押し) movements of the choking hand. Depending on the opening he was pushing or pressuring Uke’s upper body (not only the throat) with his pinky used as a blade to cut the flesh; with the heel of the palm to crush Uke’s Jûjiro or with the tip of the fingers to dig into the face or the neck. This ability to change the way to hold the opponent became obvious when he added a hidden knife and pulled it of his sleeve so that it was appearing like by magic in his hand. This metsubushi action (目潰し) was done while already applying the choke.

He warned us to learn these “bad guys” techniques in order to survive a real fight. The bujinkan, he said, is not teaching “bad guys” techniques but is teaching these things to be able to react correctly in a life threatening situation.

To avoid defeat, learn the ways of your enemy.

The way he was revealing the tantô hidden in his sleeve was very interesting. He was not pulling it out of the sleeve instead he was levelling his shoulder so that the weapon would pop out by itself. The karada was pulling the weapon not the hand. This is also how we should learn to draw the sword as in the nuki gata (drawing the sword) the blade is expelled from the scabbard by the body action not with the hand. This is quite different from regular and traditional sword practice.

Leaving the weapons we went back to unarmed combat and from the original ryôte dori technique we learnt how to use the pressure of the thumb and the pinky to dig into Uke’s skull, face, eyes, ears, etc. We did also a few nasty pinching techniques combined with striking hits to the chest.

In a limited space the “gan shi nankotsu” system finds here a logical application. Space being limited, the movements do not have the same momentum and pain is not coming from a distance but at very short range. Once again he insisted on finding the “kûkan no kyûsho” of the situation.

We did many techniques today around these principles and sensei said that this was a very important training for the jûgodan. No strength is used in these techniques, there is no power at all as Sôke is controlling Uke only with micro movements and mega pains. Pain without injury is the best way to calm down a dangerous situation.

On a side note, Sôke insisted that we should pay attention to avoid injuries and of the importance of being aware of our environment (reminder).

This apparently effortless full control he has at all time of his opponent(s) is always amazing to watch and to think that tomorrow he will be turning eighty is even more surprising. Sensei is not using any strength but he keeps full control of anyone attacking him.

This is why the bujinkan martial art is “not about power, (but) about control”.

Be aware and live happy!