2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 74,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Shi Tennô

20121209_101308Recently Hatsumi Sensei honored me by awarding me with a diploma of Shi Tennô.

Historically, the Shi Tennô 四天王 were the four “celestial emperors” protecting the four directions of North, South, East, West.

Shi-tenno (literally, “Guardian Kings,” but most often translated as “Directional Guardians”) are deities, protectors of Buddhism, who guard each of the four directions of the compass (north, south, east, and west) from harmful and dangerous influences. Originally from India, the Directional Guardians were transmitted to China during the Tang dynasty (about 600 AD), and from thence to Tibet, Korea, and Japan. The Guardians appear in paintings, such as mandalas, and especially in temple sculptures, where they usually surround and protect a central Buddha image. (…) They are known as: Zocho Ten (South), Komoku Ten (West), Bishamon Ten (North), and Jikoku Ten (East). (source Wikipedia).

In 1993 Pedro, Peter, Sven and me, were the first non Japanese students to be promoted to 10th dan. And we began to give seminars altogether all over the World. Twice a year after these seminars, we would send sensei a postcard to tell him what we were doing.

One night, at Ayase, he referred to us as being the “Shi Tennô” of Europe.

Since then we are known as the “Yûro Shi Tennô”. The Japanese Shihan: Oguri Sensei (+), Nagato Sensei, Noguchi Sensei, Senô Sensei are named the “Shi Tennô”.

This title is not a rank,  Hatsumi Sensei is referring to the nickname given by Kano Sensei to his four best students who travelled Japan to spread the Kodôkan Jûdô in the 19th century. Like Kano’s students, we would travel Europe and the World giving seminars and spreading his teachings to the North, West, East and South.

Today the only remaining so called “Shi Tennô Seminar” is the one I organize in Paris every year in July.

Since the 90s’, the Bujinkan has grown a lot. Last dkms Sensei said that the Bujinkan was now 330000 practitioners, 3300 Shidôshi, 330 Jûgodan. Even if I think that these figures are more symbolic than anything, it must be close enough to reality to understand that our organization has now reached a mature state.

My best student and friend Hugues received it for me while I was in Lebanon for the UN, but it was only yesterday that he gave it to me. Over the years, I have received all the diplomas possible from Sensei: Shidôshi (1989), Jûdan (1993), Gold medal of the Bujinkan (1994),  15th dan (2004), Menkyô Kaiden in Tachi Waza (2004), Shingitai (2011), but this one diploma has more value for me for many reasons. First there will always be only 4 “Shi Tennô” and I am really proud of it. Second, this title is coming from the heart more than from any technical ability. And Third like for the Shin Gi Tai Diploma it has the Golden patch on it.

Domo Arigato Sensei for this very special honor.

Dkms3: Amaterasu Ômikami And The Kôjiki

Before detailing what Sensei spoke of during the last day of dkms, I have to tell you that it was very dense. Writing about it I discovered that the complexity of what Sensei said during that day allows us to follow his very particular way of reasoning. This is why I have decided to deliver it chronologically in this article the way it was displayed to us last Sunday. Good luck!
2012-12-02 10.03.41-2

On the last day of dkms Sensei spoke of many concepts and he introduced the day by displaying an old painting on a scroll depicting the moment when the gods tried to force Amaterasu no Kami, the Sun goddess, outside the cave where she was secluding herself.

That was a little too much even for my twisted brain, but I will try to make it understandable. Please excuse me for the apparent lack of logic in sensei’s explanations. But if you are familiar with his “Quantum way of thinking” you will get something out of it. Also do not forget that I might have not get it correctly but that is fine too as knowledge (as you will discover later in the text) is not the only way to understand nature.

For those of you not familiar with the legends and myths of old Japan, here is a short reminder. The Kojiki explains in three volumes (tenchijin) how mankind was established on earth. Check Wikipedia at “kojiki” and “Amaterasu Ômikami” to know more.

What I remember is that the Sun goddess Amaterasu was living amongst the other gods. Each morning Amaterasu would bring light on earth by stepping out of her cave.

Her brother made a hole into the roof and while she was weaving with other goddesses (?), her brother threw a dead goat or dead horse (?) into the hole that created panic. Amaterasu got angry and decided not to get out anymore.  Earth was in permanent night. The other gods tried to negociate with her but didn’t succeed. They decided to organize a big feast right in front of the door so that the laughters, the songs and the dancing would  attract her outside and restore light on earth. After some time they succeeded.

The scroll presented by sensei on the last day depicts this exact moment where Amaterasu Ômikami is nearly going back to light the world. The door in the mountain (ten) is forced open by one of the gods (jin), we can see the first rays of light going through the door panels (ten). Facing the door, a female goddess (jin) is dancing with a yari pointing to the earth (chi), four gods on the middle to the left (jin) and two other ones are at the bottom center are watching the dance (chi). Two roosters are on the middle right (?).

The sun disappearing on earth is also to be found in other traditions: the Sumerian, the Inca, the Bible. So my guess is that the earth stopped turning at some point and this fact gave birth to many legends all over the world.

Symbolically the scroll shows that Mankind tries to bring down the “light of knowledge” from heaven to earth (another common myth). But what was interesting is that sensei began to speak about jôshiki, knowledge 常識 (I think he said shishiki instead of jôshiki) and he made another shishiki  肢 識 with the idea of kyojitsu (false/truth) as “shi” is “4” which is death, and “shiki” consciousness.

I think he meant that knowledge is only one side of the practice and that we should also develop our ability to trap uke in his own knowledge (security) in order to use his predicted reactions as tools to serve our movements. Trapping uke in a world of knowledge allows us to use it against him. I remember him telling me one day that we must read and study all the ancient texts on strategy to be sure to come up with a new strategy that had never been done before. By doing something new you are sure that no counter strategy has been prepared. I think this is the same idea he was trying to convey on the last day of the dkms.

He repeated again that we had to be “zero” (no force, no power, footwork, no grab, no intention) and said that we have to find the “lucky 7” (shichiki)  七 機. Remember the seven deities of good luck in China are 七福神 shichifuku jin.

Then he added the “0” to the “7” and we naturally began to speak about James Bond “007”! Shawn was called by sensei to tell us about the historical John Dee who was a spy of Queen Elisabeth 1st of England and who signed his letters with “007”. The “7” was only a long line above the 00 meaning FYEO.  But another reason behind the “7” is astrological. In the 15th century many decisions were made after checking the sky, the stars and the planets. You can see here a link with the scroll at the beginning of this article.

In the 15th century we knew only 7 planets, therefore “7” became the symbol of full knowledge, and therefore was chosen by her majesty’s spy as a good luck charm. This planetary explanation allowed sensei to speak about the astrological approach in the martial arts.

Sensei said that the North star Hokushin 北辰 is vastly used in the  ancient budô systems. Hokushin is the inmovable center of the sky as everything rotates around it. But the main “satellite” is the big dipper 七星, shichi sei… which is also constituted of 7 stars! In the Kukishin Ryû, the Sun and the Big Dipper are the two major systems in use for day and night combat. The Kukishin men were wako (pirates) and at sea they would use the sun and the big dipper to navigate safely. But when they became the warriors we know they kept their “knowledge” of nature and applied it to a different field of practice: strategy.

For example if you want to get into the defense of the attacker you have to use his knowledge against him. This is mainly what kyojutsu is about. Symbolically the opponent is Hokushin and you are shichi sei 七星, the Japanese name for the Big Dipper. Moving around Uke like the big dipper, your movements surround him. Your target is always at the center, whatever he does. Everything is already defined. And at the right moment you control him definitively.

Sensei said that inflicting pain was not what mattered in a fight, the main objective, what really mattered was to control the opponent, body and mind. This is why we have to get rid of unnecessary force. Remember what he said a week before: “Chikara o nuku”, free yourself from power” to survive. This is done by using only 75% of our abilities in order to always have a margin to react correctly. This new Pareto law is 75/25.

He ended the day speaking of “Bujin wao motte tôtônasu” or “the heart of the warrior revers peace”. A true warrior kills no bad intention and always keeps a compassionate heart.

Sensei said during the dkms that we have to behave like real gentlemen, only then can we get a new kôjiki 侯識, the consciousness of a Lord.

Dkms2: yubi, kansetsu, aruki

IMG_20120420_142351The second day of the dkms was intense with Sensei insisting on very small technical points. This year the theme was kaname (essential points), and the kaname is to be found in many details.

The first thing he said was that there was no duality in the encounter. There is no opposition

Uke and tori when they meet are not 2 but 1. We have to get rid of duality.
Duality creates thinking, analysis, errors as our interpretations cannot get the understanding of the full picture (situation). When we oppose uke we create the conditions of his success. This is wrong.
We have to create a new mathematical truth where 1+1 = 1.
This new “1”created leads to “0”. This is what he meant when he said: “Zenten Tenchi”  全天 天地.
Zenten 全天 represents “all heaven” and 天地 is the “universe”, or “nature”, or “sphere”.
This could mean that at the “0” level, one can manifest the universal truth of nature.
But to be perfectly honest, maybe did he spoke of “Zenten Tenshin” 全天 天神.
After the training I asked a few translators about it and they weren’t sure which was the one he used.
In this other “Zenten Tenshin”,  Tenshin 天神 means ” heavenly gods”.
This could mean that all our actions when reaching this “0” state are dictated by heaven (the gods).

Funnily both are correct as they are typical of sensei’s way of  speaking. By not resisting uke’s actions we melt into his movement and use his own strength to serve our reactions.

We experienced that with some haibu yori 背部 従 ( back, follow) techniques. Sensei showed many variations around a basic Tai Hodoki  by applying different timings (reacting after the grab, during the grab, or before the grab); and also by changing the angles (back, sides, 45 degrees). Each time it was surprising to see him moving with no strength and no speed and to be able to “peel off” uke naturally from his back.
To achieve such an amazing result, sensei explained that the only thing to do was to be relaxed and to use micro movements from and with the shoulders: inward, outward, one up one down, or a mix of all these moves. He also advised us to use the shoulders alternatively in a tense manner immediately followed by a full relaxation. Alternating tension and softness creates a kûkan where uke falls into.
So after this new understanding of haibu yori, maybe he meant Tenchi, 転置, the matrix (blue pill, red pill?).


All day long sensei insisted on the importance of a new sanshin made of: yubi, kansetsu, aruki  指 関節 歩き. As there is no grabbing, the tip of the finger is the point of contact between uke and tori. The angle of the arm joint (elbow) added to the direction of the walking motion, creates a lot of power and takes uke’s balance.

Power comes from footwork, angle and direction. Strength is not used at all. Even if the explanation is simple, i found it very difficult to add it in my taijutsu.
At some point I was sensei’s uke and I felt like stupid. There was nothing, not even pain but I was unable to get my balance back. And I fell.
Once uke’s balance is taken Tori is using the fingers to hook the mouth or to dig in with either shito ken or shishin ken.

The power is in the finger action when done with the whole body. To do so, the trick is to lock the shoulder in place. The shoulder being locked the footwork will power the finger. remenber Yubi ippon jûbun (one finger is enough).

Then we moved to bô jutsu and ken jutsu. Sensei had two weapons in his hands and was using the concept of Togakure ryû of ittô nage. To do so he would throw one of the weapon to the attacker in a metsubushi way in order to force the opponent to parry the weapon. The parrying would open uke’s defense and he would not be able to block the real attack. Ittô nage is a technique to be done only when you have at least two weapons. It would be stupid to use it with only one weapon at hand!  (When holding the weapons, the forefingers are inserted between them to faster release). Kogure san from Quest told me afte rtraining that it was the first time that sensei was taching that.

To summarize the day he finished by speaking once again of Yûgen no sekai,  幽玄の 世界, elegant simplicity. It reminded me of the kurage 水母 (jellyfish, medusa) of last year. When no force is used, when no intention is given then uke has the feeling that tori is not there. Tori alternating force and relaxation, presence and absence, seems to have no consistency, no bone structure. Tori is virtually not there.

Uke faces something invisible but present, some kind of “kurage no hone”, 水母の骨, something that one would not expect to exist.

Dkms1: Ikken Hassô, Tôtoku Hyôshi, Shitakara

20121130_162214Friday was the beginning of the dkms. The day began well as Sayaka Oguri joined us in Kashiwa on the train going to Shimizu Koen.

On arrival the “dkms feeling” was palpable. Sensei was in great shape today as if his birthday was giving him  some extra energy. This is something strange that I have always noticed since 1990 when I first visited Japan for dkms.

During this period of the year Sensei looks like he is “inhabited”. I am always amazed by his ability to move so fast at his age, he is an example for all of us.

The morning session was like training in the fog as Juan-Manuel and I were quite lost during the class. Sensei spoke again about the “kasumi no hô” (霞の方 – theme of 2004) feeling and having the deeling we were fighting in the fog and I must say that Juanma and myself were totally in tune with this idea…

If I had to define in three words what we did I would say:

Ikken Hassô (Shinden Fudô Ryû):

This is taken from the first level of Shinden Fudô Ryû and means “one fist, all directions”   but I prefer the idea of “unity within multiplicity” which gives a deeper meaning to it. In fact it would be difficult to explain what Sensei is demonstrating. The only thing that can be repeated again and again is: no force, no tension, no intention, no idea.

Back to the Kasumi no Hô concept, it was as if he was creating fog that would trap the uke and render them blind to whatever was happeing to them. I have been uke a few times and it is like is “not there, but there” as Pedro said once. You are totally lost.

The techniques were demonstrated by various Shihan and sensei would “change” (see previous posts) the form into a formless thing. After the day of training with my partners Juan-manuel Serrano and Stéphane Ladegaillerie, I had no memory of what we actually did. Day 1 was “totally fogged”.

Tôtoku Hyôshi:

In the afternoon Sensei played with the concept of Tôtoku Hyôshi that we know from biken jutsu (for the newcomers this is the one were from suwari you dodge the shuriken with your blade facing flat and vertically the opponent). As you can see below; the “tôtoku” has the meaning of shielding yourself with the blade.

Sensei used this concept explaining that the warriors in the past (possibly at the beginning of 17th century after peace was established and yoroi abandoned), had metal rods along the forearm and that you could dodge a cut by putting the forearm in front of you.

Everything is a question of timing (Hyôshi) and your shielding with the vertical forearm comes at the right moment. This Tôtoku Hyôshi not only protects you but gives away uke’s balance.


This last concept was detailed after we trained the Tôtoku Hyôshi for some time. Many of us were more reacting with the arm instead of the body even though Sensei insisted a lot on using the karada (body) in every move done.

Shitakara (from below) is the way you would unfold the twisted body resulting from the Tôtoku Hyôshi reception. As you know in tôtoku hyôshi you give your profile to the opponent. Here due to the distance, once you have blocked/dodged the attack, your body is twisted. Untwisting the body to finish uke has to come from the ground. The grabbing is not allowed as well as the simple upper torso movement.

What Sensei explained during this first day of dkms is that in order to show no strength and no intention you should only react with aruki waza (walking). To get the upper body in action the movement must come from the legs.

The theme this year was to use the fingers and/or to trap the fingers of the opponent. This action must be supported by the body movement and not be decided by your brain.

Natural movement is achieved when you only react softly to uke’s movement without deciding what to do. “Chikara o nuku”: by letting go of all the force you have you create the conditions of becoming aware of the next step always in accordance with your environment, with the attacks (from one or more opponents), with the distance.

Anyway the Gogyô are created from the ground (Chi) and go up to the sky (Kû). The Tenchi is replaced by the Chiten, a point.

Ikken hassô then takes a lot of sense as one can deal with an infinity of situations. Every point of the universe converge to one. And unity is zero.

ichi one;
ken sword (originally esp. a doubled-edged sword); sabre; saber; blade;
sword; katana;
toku shelter; shield; hide
解く toku to solve; to answer; to untie;
拍子 hyôshi (musical) time; tempo; beat; rhythm; the moment; the instance; chance
表紙 hyôshi front cover; binding
shita below; down; under; bottom; beneath; underneath;
から         kara from (e.g. time, place, numerical quantity); since; from (originator);
kara emptiness; vacuum; blank
地点 chiten site; point on a map; spot
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