Get Natural!

In the Bujinkan every practitioner knows about Shizen no Kamae,  but very few really understand what it means. Common dôjô knowledge tells you that this is a “natural posture”.
But it is more than that, because being “natural” is the hardest thing to achieve on earth.
The Chinese language is more explicit. In Chinese,  Shizen is Tsujan. Shizen is 自然 which is made of 自, originaly nose, indicating “oneself”; and of 然, now meaning “thus”, but anciently meaning “to burn”.
Chozanshi* explains that “By extension it has come to mean “nature”, something existing on its own, having nothing to do with the mind or hand of man. “(It) is done without command, and always spontaneously.”
Spontaneity is the goal of the martial arts, and this is what Hatsumi sensei wants us to achieve. Chozanshi adds “Again, to move with spontaneity, the martial artist must let his chi flow by clearing all choices and premeditation from his mind. Doing so, he will act naturally and appropriately to the circumstances at hand.”
Being “natural” therefore isn’t an easy task to achieve. And still to “act naturally and appropriately” becomes possible only once the basics have been ingrained.
Being natural is close to the buddhist state of Shinnyō (真如), the ultimate nature of all things (तथता tathatā in Sanskrit). Sensei refers to it when speaking of “chō-kankaku”, or infinite consciousness**.
When you become one with nature, you are nature.
Your awareness, your consciousness, moves you, not your mind.
Merry Christmas to all!
* In “The demon’s sermon on the martial arts”, ISBN9784770030184, Kodansha
** In “Advanced stick fighting”, p38, Kodansha
More on Shizen 

Change Your Attitude


“Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”. This is not from me but from George Bernard Shaw.

In Japanese “change” can be written in many ways. One of them, known to all of us is 変化 (henka).

But the compound word “henka” is much more than the word “change”. Both kanji (hen and ka) have the meaning of “change”, but 変 (hen) is the “beginning of the change” where 化 (ka), is the “end of change”. This gives a much deeper understanding of it,  some kind of Inyo cycle (yin-yang).

In fact we often use it wrongly. A henka is not something you make up,  this is not a variation, this is something that is either:

1) natural, when your adjusts the mechanical waza to the situation at hand,
2) listed, when it is part of an official set of possible adaptations in a given ryûha (this is the case for example in the kukishin sword techniques).

A few years ago,  Sensei asked us to understand that, and to avoid calling “henka” any variation we would do. A henka is a henka; a variation is a variation. But to make it a little more confusing, some variations might be called henka.

Shaw states that change is the key to progress. This is why we travel and train in Japan. When you come to Japan you have to be ready to change everything you think you know in order to progress. In a way the Japan trip is defining,  building your future; so it would be a loss of time and effort to go there and to only reproduce the things of your past.

Build the future from 中今 (nakaima) the present*, not from the past. 

Your progression lies on your ability to change your Kokoro Gamae in order to modify, and to the better, your Tai Gamae.**

Change your attitude and remember that “… those who cannot change their minds, cannot change anything.” **

* nakaima literally means “the middle, the center of now”.
** Kamae (Gamae) has the meaning of posture, or attitude (as in 身構え – migamae).

I Missed The Class Last Night


It is Friday 1pm and I’m back to Europe.
Hatsumi sensei’s Friday class at the honbu just finished.

Each time I’m back to Europe, I have this strange feeling. I wish I could still be there and train with him at the honbu.
Each time I’m back I try to figure out what is it that I’m missing from his trainings when I’m not there.

Sensei’s Budô is not something you can learn in a book,  it can only be learnt by being there physically. Over the last 25 years I have been quite many times to Japan to train with Sôke, and I am happy for that. But still, I missed all the classes he taught when I was not there.

If I do the math,  I attended only 7% of the classes he has given in this period. And I sometimes wonder what would I have been able to acquire, if I had been attending those missing 93%? A lot I guess.

The path of Budô is an endless one, and one life cannot suffice to learn all that it is to learn. So 7% is really far from enough. This is why personal training is so important. Over the years I noticed that the “magic” of Japan doesn’t last more than two weeks, but if I train the things and feelings that I got while at the honbu, then this “magic” can stay alive a little longer.

But since we entered the essence of things, things get more complex. In the latest themes of the year, there is nothing mechanical to reproduce. Things were much simpler when the themes été covering schools or weapons.

Since we moved to highest expression of Juppô Sesshô,  there are no techniques to train,  only feelings. And being away from the source,  the  betterment of our taijutsu is more and more difficult every year.

When I look back at this last Japan trip,  I have a hard time figuring out in which direction I have to go. Sensei’s movements are non existent. There is nothing because he is doing nothing,  but this nothing is everything. His taijutsu has reached such a high level that mimicking what he does – or in this case, what he doesn’t do –  becomes nearly impossible.

Yes it is sad to know that I missed the class tonight.

Consciously Unconscious


Last night after being awarded the Dai Shihan with my friends Jack, and Par,  we were asked to teach. When sensei gives you a new diploma, you are often asked to demonstrate, and you always feel more lost than ever (if possible). Tuesday night was no exception.

Whatever movement the three of us would do, Sensei would turn them into something impossible to reproduce.

At first, I thought about 中途半端 (chûto hanpa) some “half cooked technique”, but then I understood that it was more than that as sensei didn’t even try to do a technique. His uke would be stuck in mid-air as if unable to move or to continue his attacks, and sensei was hardly touching them. As this has been the case for the last week of training, Sensei used no force, no speed, and nearly no contact. Uke was fighting gravity and only sensei’s presence, and the little contact us the only thing preventing from falling.

He spoke again of 中心 (chûshin), the axis. When you look at the kanji you see “center” and “heart”. Sensei is standing at the center of everything. But as 心 Kokoro is also the mind for the Japanese, we can say that sensei is inside uke’s mind. Whatever the attack sensei was placed in a position where he was enslaving uke on himself. Uke’s body was the axis around which sensei’s actions were turning.

Sensei added that we have to move at the unconscious level. Meaning that our body moves slowly by itself and adjust to uke’s balance by creating an ever shifting axis. Uke being out in a situation where his first priority is to stay up has no more willingness to pursue his attacks. Being able to activate this unconscious toute of movement – or to deactivate it – is what his Budô is.

Juan Manuel Serrano was my partner during training and because of his high level we could really try our best to do what sensei was demonstrating. Juanma is not only a high level Jûgodan but also a sixth dan in jûdô. This means that taking his balance is not an easy task. The class went by very fast as the both of us were training intensely.

As this is one of my last post for this 55th trip (there is another article coming about the last class I had with Nagato sensei today), I beg you to understand the importance of coming and training here in Japan. Many Bujinkan teachers came here once, and behave as if they knew everything after that. This is wrong.

Let me be clear here: this is not the movie “the matrix” where chosing between the blue pill and the red pill will do the job for you. We don’t have a plug behind the neck to download the Budô feeling. It is by training here often, that, little by little, you can absorb these 神技 (kami waza), these “divine techniques”.

It is not important if you feel lost and don’t get it. As sensei put it last night: “it is not important that you get it or not, the important is that you train it”.

This is the “keep going” that matters.

The art of Hatsumi sensei transcends our human nature and makes us better human beings. This is what his Bujinkan is about. So next time you are here please forget your certitudes, and be ready to ride on the path of the martial winds of of the Warriors of Budô.

Bufu Ikkan! or Bufû Ikkan *

* this is one is sensei’s on playing with the signs: “Bufu Ikkan” = 武夫一貫, “warrior consistency”,  i.e. Keep going. And “Bufû Ikkan” = 武風一環, i.e. “the greater plan of the martial winds”

Don’t Do Anything And Nothing Will Be Left Undone

dance hs rosa 2
This sentence taken from the Tao Te King by Laozu, is one of the most suiting aphorism to define the type of movement that Hatsumi Sensei is developing these days during training.
Everything he does seems to be in total harmony with what his attacker is doing. Each class we train Mutô Dori techniques. When Uke is attacking, sensei moves out of the way in such a subtle and relax manner, that it looks like he is dancing with his partner.
Like in a Tango performance there is 合気 (aiki) in Sensei’s body flow. The aiki  or “joining the mind” illustrates the perfect connexion that makes the two bodies move in harmony.
There is no 陰 “in”, there is no 陽 “yô”, there is only “inyô”. Unity.
But Sensei’s presence is also 囲繞 (inyô) “surrounding” or “enclosing” his opponent  with 心身一如, (shinshininyo), a full unity of his body and mind. This is the perfect illustration of his Budô, i.e. “unity in multiplicity”. When the “two become one”, when “duality becomes unity”, true Budô is achieved.
If it is obvious when I watch it, I find it hard to do it myself. But I guess it is normal. At least it gives us a hint on which direction we need to continue digging. Budô is an endless and personal path, and it is nice to be aware of your own limitations. These limitations are the reason why it is worth coming to train in Japan with Sensei.
When Hatsumi Sensei moves he is in tune with his opponent. He looks like an ink brush running on the paper and creating, out of nowhere, something meaningful. There is no hurry, no tensions, because Sensei owns the 空間 (Kûkan) and uke is unknowingly trapped into it.
Sensei does nothing, therefore uke cannot react and is captured by his own intentions. As he doesn’t do anything, everything is always in harmony, and nothing is left to be undone.




Ce stage couvrira :
1. le “Japan feeling” du moment, les derniers potins, les nouvelles du honbu, et
2. le module “Hanbo et Tanto” du programme de base.


DATES : Samedi 13 et dimanche 14 decembre 2014
LIEU : Regiment de Vincennes / N’oubliez pas votre carte d’identite pour le controle d’entree sur la base
HORAIRES : 1000 – 1700 samedi et dimanche (+cours vendredi 2030-2230 au Cefrcle Tissier)
HEBERGEMENT : gratuit au dojo du Cercle Tissier
PRIX : 80 euros stage complet ; 45 euros pour un jour


Payback Time: 30 = 30


This year, I celebrated my 30 years in the Bujinkan. This is a lot of time: 55 trips to japan, 45 taikai, hundreds of seminars, thousands of miles in the air.
Being in Japan to train with Sensei has proven to be a real life experience, I grew up as an adult and made hundreds of friends over the years.

Christmas is coming and I wanted to show my gratitude to all of you for your undying support during these past decades. I have decided to give you a 30% discount on all Solkan DVDs during the whole month of December 2014!

On your next order please add DL1LZ2SX in the window concerning the voucher and you will get an immediate 30% discount on the products concerned.

Merry Xmas to all!

Thank you.

%d bloggers like this: