Be Strong, Then Soft


During a recent class,  while we were still in seiza after the opening rei, Hatsumi sensei began to speak. He said that: “when you are under the age of thirty it is important to develop your strength and your muscular power. Only when you get older can you train the more subtle movements”.

I don’t know what triggered his opening speech, but it is a fact that too many young practitioners lack power in their techniques.
The next day, I was in the train to Atago with my friend Marco from the Nederland, and we spoke about what sensei has said the day before.

Marco has been training for a long time in jûdô, jûjutsu and the bujinkan. And he is still training jûjutsu. I did jûdô for seventeen years and a lot of other things and I was defeated quite often.

But many newcomers in the new Bujinkan generation that we see training on the mats started their martial arts training with the bujinkan. They never had to fight in a tournament or in real life and they don’t know what it is to fight.

The worst part is that we see now some new teachers with the same  “zero” experience! When sensei aura that we have to become zero, I don’t think he means that. And these new teachers teach their beginners how it is to “fight for real”. But where did they get their knowledge from?

This is a dangerous turn in the Bujinkan and we have to be aware of it. Maybe it is the reason why sensei some about it before the class.
I’m not saying that we should have competition or that we should try to test our techniques for real, I’m just saying that we have to understand that our young students need to be more physical on the mats. If we don’t do it there might be some dangerous outcomes for them.

As teachers we have a big responsibility.

Sensei keeps saying he is teaching to the jûgodan. But for many, it flatters their ego as they understand that they are so good that sensei is teaching them the secret stuff. This is a wrong understanding.

What he means is that he is teaching students who have been training for a long time and are way beyond 30 years of age. And these senior students, because they have had their “muscular” years already, can now move to a more subtle way of training. It is because you have the ability to destroy life that you can preserve it, not the opposite.

In we compare Budō training to the gearbox of a car, we can say that today’s practitioners are always driving in 6th gear but are unable to go down to 3rd or 2nd gear. Now what will they do when in need of more engine power?

Copying the Japanese Shihan subtle movements is nice but totally useless and counter-productive when it comes to actual fight.
In Ninjutsu there is a field of practice called 幻術, Genjutsu, the art of illusion, magic. And many teachers are caught by this self illusion.

So it is important to train your students in muscle power until a certain age so that they will understand how to get rid of it when the time comes. The peaceful warrior is a real warrior with the power to use his skills to kill but who chose not to in order to preserve life.

The highest level of expertise in the martial arts is to defeat the opponent without fighting, but if you only trained the “cosmic” moves, I can assure you that the wake up call will be painful.

Author: kumablog

I share here on a regular basis my thoughts about the Bujinkan martial arts, training in Japan and all over the world, and

17 thoughts on “Be Strong, Then Soft”

  1. Thank you for these Sensei’s words report and toughts. In the fact the physical training and physical atttitude in techniques are just something you can’t avoid in growing up. I totally agree about the misunderstanding of the 15th dan Hatsumi Sensei’s teaching , reporting it also to a 10 kyu person is coming for the first time in a bujinkan dojo. Is it possible to become a warrior without an appropriate physical training? No it is not. 1- you cannot train properly the readiness of he “mind” without a flexible connection with body (and the mind for the further steps) 2- resistance, speed effectiveness , ability of striking and many many other things belong to the ability of movement (so the ability of hte body itself)….so…we should not compete but we should not lose connection with the reality. Perseverance is training, harder as you can in the first years, deep as you can in the further years. Is it correct?


  2. Yes, its even sad to see people that supposedly practice a martial art, yet they are afraid of being hit or to hit someone one of the main reasons i had to go to practice boxing some time because i wanted to know if what i was learning in the dojo was true, and turns out i got my ass kicked many times until i learned a lot of stuff from a simple martial art such as boxing, some people dont even have the physical condition to train a martial art, they dont train their body aside from going to the dojo 2 days per week, i remember some of this stuff came out in a visit you made to Mexico sensei Arnaud.

    The reality is some people live in their fantasies, never gonna take anything seriously because they dont have to, we live in peace times where you can brag about you practicing martial arts and you dont have to prove anything, if times were different people would really train hard because their lives would be in danger every single day, they would have to train to survive not to fulfill some kind of fantasy and people wouldnt enlist themselves voluntarily to defend their people (defend not provoking meaningless wars) because they could loose theyr lives.

    As what Hatsumi sensei said i think it also means that when you are young you are supposed to be strong and make a lot of mistakes, i dont remember where i read or hear this but is like being a tiger when you are young, you have to calm that beast down while in that stage of your life, then on another time of your life you become like a dragon full of knowledge and experience from the past, probably i got that kind of messed up but it was something like that i may even heard that from you sensei Arnaud.

    Very good article.


      1. Well its been some years now, dont remember exactly the date but it was a seminar where you kind of tried to teach us the Ten-chi-jin in 3 days =P, i liked a lot the seminar and your ocasional jokes, on that seminar you asked someone that wanted to feel the Soku Gyaku ken but you warned us that it was going to hurt so whoever was going to take the risk needed to be prepared, there was some silence and no one stood to get the kick so i ran towards the mid and asked for a chance, at first you didnt wanted since i was green belt and l was young (not so much but yes), in the end you agreed and gave me the kick, it was a good experience, its not really that surprising you dont remember since im not important at all but for me is something that i still remember.


  3. Problem with Bujinkan it is that it has becomed a “public” art and have the level of 15 dan in its system to have peapole somthing to strive for and holding it in a heiararki. I ve have always have difficulity to understand when sensei in their 60s with 15dan says “I am in the begining of my training” probobly becasuse it has becomed a part of thier Life or because the dont have any real knowlage of fighiting or just they have low self asteam LoL. In MMA you can be world champion at the age of 25-30. But its not difficult to fight if you have the right mind set for it. Its much harder just to live and be happy! 🙂


  4. I have been in a fight one time in my Life and I managed to break this guy who were attacking me nose in to Peaces this after years of training. The Point i was trying to say ” it was not diffucult” it happend with me not thinking. But it has taking me years and I have still not accepted that I did it!


  5. Yess.. Thats what i see too! i practised different martial arts since i was 13. when i began the bujinkan with 25 i really liked the universalty and freedom of moves. But many people i saw and i still see dont got nothing to throw away. they got bad kamaes they got no power in the legs so they stand unconfortable in their kamae. and then after 5 years or what they got their black belt and get the mindset like “i dont need kamae anyway. sensei has inner kamae too” this is so cocky and hubris! thank you for sharing this thoughts!


  6. “It is because you have the ability to destroy life that you can preserve it, not the opposite.” — that sums it all up for me 😉 Thanks Arnaud !!!


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