Jûdan Is Beginning


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Today one if my close student has been promoted to Jûdan by Hatsumi sensei. Cédric (left on the picture) has been training for many years with me and has a very nice Dôjô near Paris.

It is always a very special moment for a teacher when one of his or her student is reaching this high rank.

The Jûdan rank is the first one of the high ranks, as you know the ranks above are all “jûdan plus an element”.

We call them 11th, 12th ,13th,etc because it is easier to call them with numbers. But do you know that the real names for these ranks are linked to the five elements?

The so-called “jûichi dan” is in fact a “jûdan chigyô Happô biken” where “chigyô” is the border at the limit of Chi and sui. And this goes like that until the last rank: suigyô, kagyô, fûgyô, kûgyô.

To make it simple the ranking system can be divided as follow:

Beginner to ikkyû is like kindergarten.
Shodan to Yondan is like elementary school
Rokudan to Kyûdan is like secondary school
Jûdan to “Jûgodan” is like University.

Do you remember the first day you entered university and the way you felt? The world was yours wasn’t it?

Then when you began to study for real, you increased your knowledge dramatically. The Bujinkan system is exactly the same.

Your growing understanding of the art transforms you and prepares you gradually to be living on your own.

In fact the last Bujinkan rank is like a diploma of Engineer or Doctor.

But like in real life, when you “graduate” from the Bujinkan University, you have only acquired the theoretical knowledge and you have no real life experience. The real work can then begin.

The Jûdan is the first step to become a true practitioner.
Good luck Cédric on this new path. And remember that I’m here if you need help or advice.

Sonkeishin: Respect


hs3The Bujinkan is growing in quantity but it seems to me that some of its original qualities tend to disappear. And 尊敬心 sonkeishin (respect) seems to be the first one on the list of endangered qualities.

I train Bujinkan because I deeply respect our Sôke Hatsumi Masaaki. The respect I feel for him has nothing to do with the arts he is teaching or showing us but with the man he his. I have been in contact with a few “great men” in my life but none, so far, has been able to mould me and influence me the way he did. I am who I am because  I had the privilege to meet Sensei in July 1987 at the first European Taikai organized by Peter.

That was nearly 25 years ago (more than half my age) and through Hatsumi sensei’s permanent teachings (martial and non martial) I was trained to become a true human being.

The Bujinkan Arts  mainly develop one feeling and this is intuition. The Sakki test is the pragmatic proof that one has reached this level of intuition.

In Latin, “intuition” is “intuitus” and means the “act of looking at things”. Our Bujinkan training develops our “vision” and we gradually become able to see or “sense” any situation better than many others. The sixth sense is common to all living creature but is rarely accessible to humans. Luckily, the long hours of strenuous training unearth it from within our brain and makes it available to us. Through Hatsumi sensei’s teachings we learn to become more intuitive, i.e. aware of things without apparently thinking. “Don’t think!” as he often say it in class.

Intuition is also 感覚 kankaku in Japanese and means “feeling”. The more we “feel” (through our 5 senses) and the more we develop our sixth sense.

Now funnily, the word 尊敬心 sonkeishin (respect) is somehow linked to the way at which we look at things. But as “kankaku” exists only in the present, “sonkeishin” is linked to the past.

To respect someone is to look at someone’s actions in the past. The Online Etymology Dictionary says it comes “from Latin respectus “regard,” literally “act of looking back at one,” pp. of respicere “look back at, regard, consider”.

What someone has achieved in his life is what creates respect. But the Bujinkan growing in quantity I have the intuition that less respect is shown to the elders. Remember that you are who you are because these elders made it possible for you. Look at how Sensei speaks about Takamatsu sensei. This is how you should feel about those who shared with you what you are so proud to have today. Getting a Jûgodan doesn’t free yourself from sonkeishin, on the contrary.

With time some arguments, disagreements, and fights might appear with your elders, but you should never show a lack of sonkeishin to them.

If you do so then 尊敬心 sonkeishin (respect) will turn into 損敬神 sonkeishi (loss of reverence) and the Bujinkan magic will be lost.

Thank you Sensei for your guidance all through these years, and for your help to become an adult.

Respectfully, your student Arnaud

CONGRATULATIONS!


ImageCONGRATULATIONS! You did it!

ImageAfter 5 years (plus one week) you have visited this blog over 250,000 times!

It is a quarter of a million! and represents 50,000 visits per year. This is something we can proud of. Thank you!

During all these years I tried to deliver, through my articles, my feelings about the Bujinkan and all the “secrets” I could get from Hatsumi sensei’s teachings.

I have the chance to go to Japan three times a year I created this blog primarily to help those of you who cannot travel to Noda as often as you would like, so that through these articles you could get a glimpse of what sensei is teaching in his classes.

Even if this is my interpretation, I will continue as I have the feeling that it is helping many Bujinkan members.

This blog is now available in 4 languages and I want to thank here the translators. First of all is my friend Elias who has been doing that for a long time and who is the first one to translate the articles. And also Christophe and Raphael who began to translate them too. Thank you guys I deeply appreciate your help.

Now I have a message for you the reader. Many of your buyû are not able to read English so why don’t you volunteer and translate them into your own language? Send them to me and put them also on your own website. There is nothing to gain here except maybe the pleasure to do something useful for our warrior community.

Contact me if you want to be part of it and help us build a stronger Bujinkan. Remember that information is power.

Thank you again “merci beaucoup” for your endless support.

 

Arnaud Cousergue

Bujinkan Shihan

Ken Tai Ichi Jô


 

In the Bujinkan there is the concept of  劒体一条 ken tai ichijô (body and weapon are one).

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This concept makes a lot of sense when wielding a heavy sword in 片手 katate (one hand) because the free arm is often in the way. And this is even more difficult to manage as the blade is double edged.

We discovered this same problem when we studied the Tachi. But with the Ken this is even more accurate.

In the Kukishin ryû one of the kotsu is to “keep the elbows/arms close to the body”, this is for the same reason. If you train with the 万力鎖 manriki gusari this is also mandatory.

When I was stationed in Lebanon for the UN, I attended a very interesting Kukri* demonstration by the Nepalese Army. It was impressive and I noticed that the 200 soldiers moving in unisson always kept their free arm off the weapon for themselves and also for their neighbours. I took a video that I might post here one day.

So, as we are discovering the Ken, please keep your free arm as close as possible to the body at all time. Whatever you do with a new weapon has to begin slow. The first achievement is to avoid getting injured by it.

  • A weapon has no conscience and no intention. It moves naturally following the laws of 重力 jû ryoku (gravity).
  • A weapon is not impressed by your rank, it will do what your body movements make it do.
  • Therefore a weapon has to become truly a “natural extension” of your body/mind in order to avoid accidents.**

Confidence and ease are the natural results of heavy and long rehearsal. So please train slowly your katate movements, they are very powerful and devastating with such a heavy sword. Your security (and the one of your neighbours) should always be your first concern in training. Don’t be too presomptuous about your own abilities, learn step by step, and keep your free arm to your body.

If you don’t pay attention and don’t learn these movements correctly in slow motion then, instead of   劒体一条 ken tai ichijô, we will do  献体一冗 kentai ichijô, and “give your useless body to a hospital for medical research”. Interested?

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*The khukuri (Nepali: खुकुरी) (alternatively spelled khukri or kukri) is a Nepalese knife with an inwardly curved edge, used as both a tool and as a weapon.For more information check THIS Wikipedia page.

**This is also valid for any object or weapon.

NB: In a previous post I wrote about the weakness of the wooden Taichi sword that can break easily when stopping an attack in the dôjô. Those of you using one, add a layer or two of duct tape and it will increase the security and lower the risks of injury during training. Also it will add a little more weight which is even better.

 

Ken no Sui no Kata


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The Ken is heavy and needs a lot of circular momentum to cut into the opponent.

To apply an “omote shutô-like” cut to the side of the neck and to be sure to slide the blade in between the helmet and the yoroi (shoulder level) you must use your taijutsu and the kosshi of the Gyokko ryû.

3 Key points:

  • the sword is in line with the body above the head.
  • the wrist is reverse and broken
  • the blade is as flat as possible

 

Start from an Ichimonji like kamae with the blade lying flat on the arm. From the kamae lift the sword above the head and support it with your extended fingers. Then “lasso” the blade still as flat as as possible above the head with a full body movement using the tenchi (body axis) as a pivoting point. The pivoting action to throw the body is done at the left toe (forward leg). The body weight is transferred gradually from the back leg to the front one (hips still leveled), this slides the body axis forward inducing an acceleration of the blade.

The speed of rotation of the blade added to the body movements creates a devastating power to cut/crush the opponent.

Shiken no Ken


ImageThe 四賢の劒 shiken no ken (four virtues of Ken) are the 4 basic rules that I found so far in my research and training with the Chinese Ken.

After giving two seminars on the Chinese Ken I have made a 私見 shiken (personal opinion), about the way to train and to enrich our budô practice with the help of this fantastic new weapon. 

Through thorough 試験 shiken (study and experiment), and exchange with my fellow jûgodan, I came up with the “shiken no ken”, or 4 rules/virtues of the Chinese Ken:

This is G.A.M.A.N:*

1. GRAVITY: Like for the Tachi, I think that a metallic sword is necessary to really understand the major differences in the balance of the blade. The momentum is what creates the 重力 jû ryoku (gravity) feeling. Throw the body by the blade. If you only have a wooden Ken, put some weight at the tip to get this drowning feeling of the head of the blade when moving.

2. AWARENESS: Be careful, train slowly as the momentum of the blade is different from the Japanese sword. This is very true when doing the large (and necessary) horizontal cuts are taking a lot of space. Please check the space around you and avoid hitting the walls or your dôjô friends before doing them. Also, for those training with a wooden sword, be aware that these wooden “taichi” ken on the market are very fragile, they don’t block an attack like a real bokken would; they can break easily and become dangerous for yourself, your partner and your neighbours. 

3. MOVEMENT & ARUKI: a straight blade can only create a cutting motion when the movement is circular. Therefore move in a circular manner with your legs and body when doing a technique. Body movement has to recreate the missing curve (反り, sori) of the Chinese blade. Chinese Ken jutsu seems to be at the origin of our particular Aruki of the Bujinkan Taijutsu. Use your legs and get lower even more. Footwork, footwork, footwork!

4. NATURE: Train your regular Taijutsu techniques with the Ken: Ken is in scabbard (held in left hand), Ken is of the scabbard in the right hand: a) scabbard is in left hand and is used as a shield; b) without scabbard, the left hand is free and you can change hand easily.

Be patient, train properly, persevere and if you apply them, I am confident that you will reach the high level of 知見 Chiken: expertise and experience.*

Enjoy!

 

*我慢 GAMAN means: patience, perseverance, self-control, endurance

**please note this is “Chiken” and NOT “Chicken”… 🙂

 

 

How To Get It?


Since sensei had been giving a training theme per year, I did my best since that time to do my “homework” before going to Japan for my first trip of the year. This year of the snake is not different. This is why I write a lot about the Chinese Ken. I write mainly to force myself to understand. I write to jeep track of what I find. It what find can help anyone then it is even better. Today, I was supposed to teach bô jutsu in Dortmund but Nona and her students “forced” me to give a Ken seminar instead. So I tried to share my discoveries with them and it was nice.

I might be wrong with my findings but the movements we a were doing with the Ken made sense and they worked quite well.

Some asked me how I researched and found these movement of the Ken?

So here after is my modus operandi: First: the Ken being Chinese I read and watched a lot about China’s warring states and the consecutive dynasties. Why? Because History is the origin of the development of specific weapons.

Second: I trained and studied the basic movements possible with a Ken. Why? To understand the balance of the weapon, the limits, and the possibilities.

Third: I established a set of possible kamae (there are no kamae) to start from. Why? Because a movement is the result of an encounter. It is created for a reason and to keep us alive.

Fourth: I satisfied the various possible grips and their possible use. Why? Because each weapon respects its own rules. No wonder that sensei is teaching the Ken only now because I don’t think we would have been able to understand its power if we hadn’t study the major Japanese of the Bujinkan.

Fifth: I studied how to apply the Kukishin and Togakure sets of biken jutsu with the Ken. Why? Because those techniques evolved from the Ken. The Ken created the Tachi, that created the katana. There is a timeline and we have to respect it.

Sixth: I applied basic Taijutsu movements with the Ken mainly Sanshin no Kata and Kihon Happô. Why? Because it is always easier to learn a new logic when everything else is already known.*

Seven: I “invented” sets of movements, looking very Chinese, to free the body from the weapon. Why? Repeating sets of movements is the best way for the body to discover its new balance and correct its mistakes. This type of study is always done slowly to give a chance to the body to adjust itself with the brain.

Do your homework; follow these steps if you wish, and you will be ready and get the best out of your next trip to Japan.

* sensei said recently that the Sanshin no Kata was designed at the origin for the Chinese Ken.

Ken: Sayû Changing hands


左右 sayû means left/right (this is the Chinese for hidari/migi in Japanese)

When it comes to changing hand with the ken (from right hand to left hand) one is facing a difficulty as the Chinese blade is heavier than the Japanese regular Katana. It also has a different balance, the weight being more in the head of the blade.

Changing hands is not very common in traditional swordmanship in Japan but it is in the bujinkan and in China too.

The positioning of the fingers on the Tsuba of the Ken allows to orient the blade properly in the movements and this is what we need in order to change our grip from one hand to another. Below is a pictured example on how to proceed.

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1. Start from a sort of Shizen/Hira no Kamae.

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The sword is held reverse (kashira to the ground).

The blade is hidden behind the back.

Knees and arms are relaxed.

Gravity is holding the sword in place.

 

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2. Do Jûji Aruki

Gyokko ryû type (i.e. toes are perpendicular)

The left leg passes in front of the right leg. The body is going backwards. Keep your balance.

The hands are on both sides of the Tsuka. Watch the positioning of the fingers on the Tsuka. Legs and arms move simultaneously.

 

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3. Uncross the legs while pivoting towards the attacker.

The left hand releases the grip,

While the right hand is rotating the blade.

Sword is flat, palm is up.

 

 

4. Thrust the blade forward with a full body movement. The left arm is helping the thrust and pulls backward extending the body.  This is some kind of  Hira Ichimonji no kamae.

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Be strong and balanced on your legs. Push on your back leg. You can pivot on the rear toes to add more distance to your thrust. The blade is horizontal and facing the opponent at all time from the beginning of the change of hand.

左右 sayû means left/right but written 矢優, sayû becomes a “skilled arrow” piercing the defense of the attacker.

Kenwonigiru: Holding The Ken


The Ken has no Tsuba perpendicular to the blade. On the contrary the guard is in line with it. Therefore your forefinger often slips on top of the guard and getting close to the blade.

In a recent class Sensei explained that the use of the fingers were of utmost importance in order to direct the edges properly. After hours of training I came up with my own types of grips of this strange guard. I share it here for those who are trying to understand this rather strange weapon. These are my discoveries so they can be totally wrong (don’t trust me).

Problems encountered:

  1. the finger(s) keep covering the guard
  2. the sword is heavy and hard to keep in hand without a proper grip
  3. the grip on the sword can be reverse
  4. the design of the guard allows more grips that in a reguler japanese sword
  5. the momentum of the sword is important
  6. the body is moving a lot and the straight sword is often used like a whip

All the above has made me think on a set of grips. I called these 劍を握る, Kenwonigiru or holding the Ken.

The following are a few pictures showing the most common grips I ended up with, there might be others yet to be discovered.

1. Reverse Grip:

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The blade is upside down and your fingers wrap the tsuba. Ideal for  a kind of Kage no Kamae, hiding the blade behind the back. Can be done with left hand also.

Important: depending on the size of the blade, it is possible to bend the arm a little so that the tip of the sword is not injuring your back or your armpit while changing the position of the sword.

This grip allows the body to move freely and/or to change hand easily as the main part of the tsuka is free. Changing hands is important.

You can also use this grip when hitting the opponent with the pommel of the sword. In that case the blade is supported by the arm covering it. It is like giving a Tsuki with the kashira.

2. Thrusting at short distance:

When thrusting with your body behind the blade is flat, palm up. The following pictures show the same grip from above and under. As I have small hands it is easier for me to only use the forefinger but it can be done with a grip 2 fingers and 2 fingers.

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Please note that on the pictures above the blade is the extension of the hand. It is like a sixth finger.

You can use either the right hand or the left hand. The Ken is used like a hanbô and change side/hand in the movements.

This grip can also be used to slam uke’s body, head, leg or weapon in turning movement of the body.

3. Yubi Ippon Jûbun:

This is the most common grip that comes naturally because of our habits in Japanese swordmanship. The forefinger usually supported by the Tsuba keep sliding up towards the blade. I thought is was a mistake and tried to correct it until sensei said that finger positioning was important.

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The extended forefinger gives more precision and power to your movements when thrusting , deflecting, or blocking.

4. Yubi Nippon Jûbun:

This grip is similar to the previous one but is more stable in case of hard encounter. I discovered that I was using both. Don’t think too much, let your body flow do it for you.

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I hope that these notes willficial  help you. I do not think these are the only Kenwonigiru that can be done with the Ken but they cover many possibilities. I remind you that these are not “official bujinkan waza”, but the result of my recent personal training and ideas.

As this is “ji an nen” feel free to develop your own ideas and thoughts during the jyanen dedicated to Jian Nen.*

*for the newcomers please my previous post “Jyanen or Jian Nen”

https://kumafr.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/jyanen-or-jian-nen/

Ken is Mû Kamae


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Hatsumi sensei is developing the Ken techniques saying there are no fixed kamae for the Ken.

It was the same when we began the study of Tachi waza.

But we always start from a situational body posture.

When you attend classes these days you can observe some kind of kamae or better said, body attitudes looking like some of the kamae we have ben studied.

I have trained on my own with these “no kamae” and I found them interesting to begin our study of this new weapon.

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The Ken moves often like a heavy Hanbô but because of the double edge blade, the Hanbô no Kamae are often not applicable.

For example if we can use the tate no kamae or the munen nusô no kamae, or the kage no kamae; it is obvious that the hira ichimonji no kamae and the otonashi no kamae are to be avoided!

Here are a few “no kamae” that you can study in relation with the Ken.

They “look like” Kamae but they are Mû Kamae 無有構え, inexistant attitudes giving freedom to your taijutsu.

ken_ichimonjiken_totoku_seigan ken_uke_nagashiKen_SanshinKen_hira ichimonji

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