Karada, Yari, Ninjatō

control is attitude
control is attitude

Sunday class was really interesting and Sensei was in a very good mood. We were only 40 students and we had a few breaks due to the heat outside.

This class was one of the best since a long time. Very technical, very high level and very deep in terms of philosophy. In this post I will only address the waza part, the philosophical aspects will be in a future post.

We did Taijutsu, Yari jutsu, and Ninja biken.

Sensei began with some taijutsu with a kind of Sanken delivered to the back of the ear the neck and the throat, after a fake grab by Tori to the chest. Soft, powerful and very painful.
We also trained a progressive control of the attacking hand. We had to absorb the Tsuki with the hand like; he said, “as if receiving a baseball.” It was about wrapping and redirecting the fist, the whole body was not moving much, but it was the body that was absorbing the hit through the wrapping hand.
While training it and having it done to me by Sensei, it felt like the Taihen Jutsu of 1998. Even though the Shinden Fudō ryū is a Daken Taijutsu fighting system, we used it to discover Taihen jutsu.

Then as it is now common, we moved to train with long weapons.

Personal message to the community: “please continue not to come to training as I need to better my long weapon techniques”.

Sunday was Yari day.

Against Tsuki, you deflect the Yari by stepping first, to the left, and second, by using a full rotative body movement to expel the weapon. Uke is totally off balanced by the power of the control (don’t hit the Yari, match the weapons). As I explained in my previous post on Senō sensei’s class, he insisted on tsunagari (connection) and awaseru (match). The speed of the attack is not relevant as long as you first move your legs. This shields you from the attack and position uke in a perfect angle to be countered by a sweeping with the hirumaki (1) or stabbing with the blade.

Sensei also spoke about the kama yari 鎌槍 (2) application. He explained that the sickle part of the Yari was able to hook the wrist or the neck. You could even “miss” the Tsuki to the head, and then catch the neck with the kama by pulling the pole back to you. Every movement was done with the legs, the Yari following the motions of the body. Everything was connected.

Then we did the same technique with the ninja biken. As it was the case last May, Sensei started with a low Seigan no kamae pointing to the knees of the opponent. (3) Then he was stepping forward and to the right and lifting his arms to intercept the cutting blow of uke at the forearm level.

This was not a cut but a simple hit. The reason to do that, he said is that the ninja biken is mijikai 短い, short. Therefore, the natural flow of the blade is modified, and it has to be used more like a metal rod. He insisted many times on the fact that ninja biken is mijikai.
When shielding himself with the blade supported by the body, the blade would be at a 45-degree angle forward, tip down. This first half of the technique is soft as it is uke’s momentum that does it for you. Then Sensei would pivot slightly towards the blade (his hips and the blade are parallel) and hit with excruciating power on uke’s kote (4).

What I got from this profound lesson is that:

1. legs always move first.
2. legs are cutting or hitting.
3. we have to move in a nonlogical manner.
4. we have to match (awaseru) the attack softly
5. we have to create a connection (tsunagari)

He also spoke about “divine power”, Kami sama, and Monju bosatsu. I will detail this in another post.

1. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ishizuki_or_hirumaki.jpg
2. 鎌槍 / sickle + yari / spear with curved cross-blade(s)
3. read this post from May 2015: https://kumafr.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/roppo-kuji-no-biken-again/
4. kote / 小手. The forearm and not the wrist.

Yari downloads HERE

Sanada Yukimura

Last Friday I arrived quite early at the honbu. Yabunaka San and Kamioka San were there already. They gave me a nice wooden keychain representing Sanada Yukimura, a legendary Samurai of the Sengoku period. Yukimura was revered by the Samurai and considered to be the best amongst them.

(the pictures hereunder detail the 4 sides of the wooden block)

Picture 1

Supposedly, he was the master ninja of the famous ninja Sarutobi.

Picture 2

As I didn’t know him before (and I guess I’m not alone), here is the Wikipedia page detailing his life.

Picture 3



Nobel Prize writer Toni Morrison said: “Not knowing it was hard; knowing it was harder.” (1)
I felt this “hardship” during Senō Sensei’s class last Saturday.

The class regrouped only seven people, so it was nearly like a private lesson. Senō Sensei decided to do some basic Bō movement with the feeling of the Gyokko Ryū. At least this was my interpretation as he was always keeping his hand at the mid-section. (2)

Kamae: Senō Sensei was standing in Shizen with the Bō hold at the center and held by the arm under the armpit. The Bō was pointing in front the end nearly touching the ground at a 45-degree angle.

Waza: When uke attacked, Senō sensei simply walked towards him and slightly to the side with baby steps, turning his body to the left. The movement was natural, no speed, no strength, only footwork. Because of the angle of the weapon, the top end of the Bō placed itself naturally to the inside of uke’s right leg. Once there, he turned his body to the right, trapping uke’s body in a sort of Tsuke iri (3). The Bō then moved into a horizontal position between uke’s legs. Then by simple footwork, Senō sensei bending the legs, grabbed the rear end with his left hand and threw uke to the ground. Uke is trapped in a sort of Jūjiron.
We did many movements based on this first technique: continuing to the left and hitting dō uchi, then reversing; using the back to unbalance uke and finishing with taijutsu, etc.).The movement was so natural that uke was trapped before he knew it.
Impressive, simple, and hard to do. But then things got even more complex.

We did the same feeling but this time by extending the distance using leg movements, then lifting the Bō to meet the attacker’s weapon. This one technique was even more impressive. There was no strength at all but required a perfect understanding of distance and timing to do it.

Because the way he met the weapon of the attacker was so soft that it looked like his weapon was landing softly on the attacker’s Bō. Once the two weapons in contact, they were forming a straight line. Then Senō sensei would deflect the attacker’s weapon by doing a micro rotating action and like by magic, uke’s weapon was going away, leaving uke without defense.

The movement follows four consecutive steps:
1) step back to the right distance;
2) lift the Bō to “land” on the attacker’s weapon (hands after legs);
3) deflect with a very small rotation of the weapon;
4) Then, the upper part of the Bō being nearly vertical he then passed behind and choked uke with it.

Then we applied the same with swords. From Tōsui no kamae with the sword, you let uke cut himself by simply lifting your arms. You don’t try yo cut him; you let uke do it for you. Then he entered with his right leg between uke’s, and turning his back to Uke, used the shoulder to throw him like with a Hanbō (Ganseki Garami). Beautiful, and only based upon precise and soft footwork.
With the sword too, we did many variations from this simple technique.

The reason I quoted Morrison is because I had never seen something so subtle and powerful, Whether we were using the Bō or the sword, this “landing” was the Kaname.

This Kaname is Awaseru, 併せる matching the weapons. (4) When done properly, it looks like the weapons are tied together as if by some magnetic field. Everything is “one”: rhythm, speed, distance, power. I didn’t know this concept before and this it was hard to find it after thirty years of permanent training. In fact since then, I see it in any technique done by Hatsumi Sensei.

I felt like I had a veil blinding me until now. Often people asked me why I continue to go to Japan. I go to Japan because there is always a gem hidden somewhere if you want to find it. It is when you stop training that your level is decreasing. Apparently many high ranks are not interested in this unending quest. Only seven students were training Saturday with him, but we were over forty at Sensei’s class. Where were they all on Saturday?

We train for our development, and the path has no end. Maybe it is about time to reckon it and to go to work!

1. Toni Morrison biography
2. We studied the Gyokko no Bō in 2005. The theme was Kasumi no hō. To do that we did all the techniques of the Kukishin Bō by changing the position of the hand in the middle of the weapon.
3. Tsuke iri is one of the basic movement of Hanbō jutsu.
4. Awaseru / 併せる
1: to match (rhythm, speed, etc.);
2: to join together; to unite; to combine; to add up;
3: to face; to be opposite (someone);
4: to compare; to check with;
5: to cause to meet (e.g. an unpleasant fate);
6: to place together; to connect; to overlap;
7: to mix; to combine;
8: to put blade to blade; to fight

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