Last Stand: Wave, Breathing, Connection


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I’m packed and ready to share my “misunderstandings” in Paris next weekend for the traditional “dkms seminar” of December.

Traveling to Japan is like going back to school. The more you study, the more subtle details you learn. 
This trip was no different and I now have four months to make sense of everything I saw, felt, heared. 
Our five senses might be limited but they are the only ones we have, to understand how to develop our sixth sense.

Yesterday night was the last class with Sōke and we  a lot. After Peter and I opened the class, Sensei moved directly to Bō jutsu, biken jutsu, and Mutô Dori. While teaching, he reminded us that Mutō Dori this year is the essence of what he has been teaching for the last 42 years.

He insisted on the importance of not cutting with the sword, Kiru janai (1) It reminded me of the En no Kirinai, “don’t sever the connection” that we studied a few years back. (2)

This is when we began to do Ura Nami with the Bō and then with the sword. (3) Ura Nami is moving like an inlet wave, hiding is power until too late. To do so, our taijutsu is direct. We do not try to avoid contact,  we dodge the blow by a slight body movement of the body, and reach out to the target. The are many targets: neck,  chest, hands and fingers from above the attacker’s weapon or from under. It called that “Ura  Nami  no Juppō Sesshō”. 
In fact, he added that, we have to move in such an illogical way, that the opponent is unable to read our movements. Or unorthodox way of moving, might also give him extra confidence when he thinks that we are not good. This is this strange behavior that creates the opportunity. Sensei precise that he was mainly using the dynamic Yoko Aruki footwork from the Koto Ryû.

Sensei insisted that to apply this, you had to be connected to the attacker through the breathing, Kokyû. (4) When you can successfully match uke’s rhythm,  you can avoid any attack he is throwing at you because you know his timing. He used the analogy of the baseball catcher who “knows naturally” where the ball is going to land. That made me think of the book “gut feelings”, in which the author explains what he calls the “gaze heuristic”. As with the sword attacking you, and because you are connected to uke through the same breathing, you “know/feel” where, and how to counter his movements. (5)

With those three new tools: Kiru Janai,  Ura Nami, and Kokyû,  I have enough study and changes to apply in my taijutsu, before my next trip in March.

Lao Tzu said: ” If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”

Thank you Sensei, for forcing us to change permanently,  and to make us head towards natural perfection. 
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1. 切る/kiru/to cut; to cut through; to perform (surgery)|to sever (connections, ties)|to turn off (i.e. the light)|to terminate (i.e. a conversation); to disconnect; じゃない janai/is not; am not; are not. 
2. En no Kirinai 縁の切りない:
縁/en/fate; destiny (esp. as a mysterious force that binds two people together)|relationship (e.g. between two people); bond; link; connection. 
切りない /kirinai/to sever, not
3. 浦波/uranami/(seaside) breakers
4. 呼吸/kokyû/breath; respiration|knack; trick; secret (of doing something)
5. Gut feelings or the intelligence of the unconscious, by Gerd Gigerenzer. 
Read this book, it will help down your understanding of Budō. Here is a quote about the baseball catcher analogy: “Experimental studies have shown that experienced players in fact use several rules of thumb. (…) One of these is the gaze heuristic, which works in situations where a ball is already high up in the air: Fix your gaze on the ball, start running, and adjust your running speed so that the angle of gaze remains constant. The angle of gaze is the angle between the eye and the ball, relative to the ground. A player who uses this rule does not need to measure wind, air resistance, spin, or the other causal variables. All the relevant facts are contained in one variable: the angle of gaze. The gaze heuristic (…) work for a class of problems that involve the interception of moving objects. In both ball games and pursuit , it helps to generate collisions, while in flying and sailing, it helps to avoid them. Intercepting moving objects is an important adaptive task in human history, and we easily generalize the gaze heuristic from its evolutionary origins— such as hunting—to ball games.”

Secret Lessons From Yoroi Sensei


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On Sunday,  after class,  we went with Sōke to Yoshikawa to see some antiques. In the entrance there was a nice Yoroi (1)  and it gave me the idea to write about the lessons we can receive from Yoroi training.

Since December 2002, when we were introduced to Yoroi fighting,  I have had a few armors in my dōjō. And we are using them at each class. They don’t last long, but they teach us well. The Yoroi is the best sensei.

All our techniques come from the times of Yoroi fighting. They were later adapted to fit into the peace time periods. 

For the last twelve years, in my dōjō, one or two students are wearing the Yoroi during the class. This is the best tool to understand the simple complexity of the techniques of the Bujinkan. Strangely,  when I served in the UNIFIL, I discovered that my knowledge of Yoroi fighting applied perfectly to the training in modern gear. What was good in the last is still valid in the modern world.

I want to share here a few truths I learned when training with our against the traditional Japanese Yoroi:

Lesson 1:  Developing the Mutō Dori attitude,  and perseverance.

Facing an opponent with Yoroi, when wearing a simple Keikogi is helping you to get a real sense of Mutō Dori. You have to be brave to go for the clash. As General Bradley said, “Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death.” I cannot imagine how brave the fighters of the old days were. 
Each time I’m fighting against a Yoroi, I find myself being scratched, bruised, and receiving a lot of pain. 
When your movement is not done correctly, you are off-balanced because of the momentum of the attack. But quoting Sensei last week, “perseverance is what Ninpô is about”.  And it takes a lot of perseverance to train that.

Lesson 2: Mune Dori,  chest grab.

The origin of the right hand grab in the chest comes from the Yoroi. If you look at the Yoroi used during the Kamakura period (鎌倉時代, Kamakura jidai, 1185–1333), you will notice that the chest is covered by two big breast plates,  much bigger than the ones we have on the armors we use for training. They protect the suspenders securing the Yoroi to the torso. 
These plates are called sendan-no-ita and kyubi-no-ita. The one covering the left chest is wider and lower,  leaving enough freedom to shoot an arrow, or to wield the Tachi. (2)
The plate covering the heart is thinner, and longer. Its length protect the chest better. (3)
Then it is logical that, in a close encounter, the heart plate is the one being grabbed. (4) (5)

Lesson 3: Butsumetsu is not a point,  it is an area.

I often hear teachers saying that Butsumetsu is located between the 5th and the 6th rib. This is wrong. (6) 
In fact, Butsumetsu is the part of the chest that is not protected by the Dō. (7) Depending on the shape of your torso, this hole is small or big.

One friend of mine, was a stuntman on the shooting of the movie “the last Samurai”. He told me that Sanada Hiroyuki (the actor teaching kenjutsu to Tom Cruise) had such a small torso that to ride his horse properly, they had to enlarge the gap of his Yoroi at the Butsumetsu level. (8)

Lesson 4: Seiza was the sitting posture designed for the Edo period.

Seiza became the “correct way” to sit put into place at the beginning of the Tokugawa Shogunate. I read somewhere that Ieyasu imposed it because it was difficult to jump and attack him from this position. 
During the previous periods,  Fudōza was the only possible way to sit with a Yoroi. In Fudōza, when you stand up,  the plates on your shins and legs, don’t get locked. You are free to move and stand up. (9)
Sitting being problematic,  this is also why you often see the Samurai seated on a little stool.

Note: in the Takagi Yōshin Ryû, there is a way to sit in a sort of Seiza with the Yoroi, but it requires a lot of flexibility and a lot of training. (10)

Lesson 5: Tameshi Giri was developed during peace time. 

The Bujinkan techniques were developed before the Edo period. Tameshi Giri didn’t exist at that time. (11)
The Yoroi was designed initially to stop the Yari, which was the deadliest weapon in the battlefield. Sensei explains in his Yari DVD that yari accounted for about 60% of the casualties in the battlefield. 
So a blade even big, would not be able to cut through it. Power is resulting from the momentum of the weapon. A sword doesn’t generate enough of it. This is the reason why the Tachi is used to hit first, and then stab in the holes of the Yoroi. As I often tell my students “in those times, the light saber didn’t exist.”
The strange habit of cutting bits and pieces of your opponent,   began to develop during the peace period that came with the Tokugawa shogunate. As there were no more wars, Samurai didn’t wear the Yoroi anymore. So, cutting became possible. (12)

I hope you will enjoy these lessons from Yoroi sensei. It is my understanding, that it is important to keep in mind the origin of the techniques we do, in order to be able to adapt them freely to modern fighting.

As I said at the beginning of this article we are using Yoroi in each class. I plan to finish studying all the Bujinkan schools with the Yoroi by the end of 2016. Then, starting in 2017, I will  adapt the Yoroi techniques to the Edo period. This will be easy because of the many lessons learnt with the Yoroi.

Ninpō has been adapting permanently to the evolution of warfare. Which is why Hatsumi Sensei’s teachings are so efficient. But it would be wrong to apply the Kamakura techniques with Yoroi to modern warfare without developing the experience and understanding of the reasons that created these techniques in the first place.

If you don’t have a Yoroi yet in your dōjō, then get one for Christmas. That will change totally your understanding of Sensei’s Budō. (13)

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1. 甲/yoroi/armor; Japanese armour. 
2. The Tachi is used mainly Katate. 
3. The left side is often in the front when using the weapons. 
4. These plates are made of steel so it is virtually impossible to twist them as if they were a piece of fabric. This is not Jûdō! 
5. Kûden: When throwing your opponent, always make sure that the palm of your hand stays flat on his chest, as if you were holding a metallic plate, and not a Gi. you are not superman!
6. 仏滅/butsumetsu/Buddha’s death|very unlucky day (according to old almanacs). If you are stabbed here, you will die. 
7. 胴/dō/trunk; torso; body; abdomen; waist|plastron (in kendo); touching the plastron (kimari-te in kendo)|frame (of a drum, etc.); sound box (of a shamisen, etc.); hull (of a ship)
8. When you ride a horse,  the  Dō of the Yoroi is pushed upwards by the legs. The Dō is like a cylinder. So, if the Butsumetsu is too small,  the metal protection will prevent the blood to flow correctly in your arms. 
9. The first times I was wearing the Yoroi,  I made this Seiza mistake quite a lot, and often fell miserably with my plates hooked together. 
10. In fact, there is a kind of Seiza that can be done with the Yoroi,  but it requires a lot of training, and it is really painful. You sit on your left leg,  toes are hooked. Then you position the right leg,  toes hooked, in front of your left knee,  not inside. 
With this Kamae,  you can spring up easily and you will not fall. This is a “ready-to-fight” Kamae. the regular Fudōza being the relax Kamae. 
11. 試し斬り/tameshigiri/trying out a new sword or blade (originally on someone, but now on soaked straw targets). 12. In my young “Padawan years”, I studied a lot of modern sword systems (some Katori Shintō, some Musō Shinden, some Seitei iai). I also learned five Ryû of Battōdō and Tameshi Giri. This is what I call “my scarecrow cutting period “,  and I loved it. But then in 1996, Sensei taught me the Bujinkan sword fighting system in a kind of private class in the dust facing his house. He said “I’m teaching you the real sword because of your past experience”. That’s when I understood it was useless, because of the Yoroi. Scarecrows don’t wear Yoroi, and they don’t fight back.
13. Check the new website of our friend Carlos (Spanish Shihan). He is living in Hong Kong,  and has opened recently a Budō website with many nice products including some Yoroi. He assured me last week that, soon, he will be selling cheap Yoroi fitting our training needs. His website is www.japonalia.com

Kisei: The Devil’s Power Of Details


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Men who wish to know about the world must learn about it in its particular details. Heraclitus

Senō sensei showed a very interesting way to hit the attacker and get his balance. As he explained in Saturday, there are many steps hidden within the spaces of a 1, 2, 3 technique. This hit is one of them. Mastering it, will change your taijutsu entirely.

Uke attacks with a right fist and you pivot softly (1),  keep your hips parallel with his. At the same time, you use Naka Dakken, and hit Nagare in a special way.

Naka Dakken is a type of Fudô ken from the Koto ryû. You can see it in sensei’s book “unarmed fighting techniques of the samurai”. In this book, there is a double page with many forms of fists. Study them, they are not there by chance. (2)

To form this fist you put Sui in your palm and top it with Kû (3). You fold the other fingers so that “Ka” and “Fû” are supported by Sui/Kû. This special manner of clenching the first, gives solidity and coherence to the fist during the hit.

The way you use this fist will take uke’s balance. While positioning your hips in the correct distance and position, you hit and “sukui” or scoop the attacking forearm at Nagare. (4) The scooping action has to be done precisely. As Senō sensei said “if you are too light, you don’t take the balance; and if you are too deep, you lose the momentum of the action. The timing of the scooping action has to be fine with the whole body.

When it is done correctly, uke’s balance is broken. Uke’s stops in his attack. The next movement is hitting with the same fist, to Gankotsu, Jûjiro or Murasame.

From there, you end the fight the way you want. Either with a Ganseki type of movement in the left arm; or a Ô Soto Gake on his right side. In fact you apply Ishitobashi, the skipping stone concept taught by Sensei since last summer. (5)

I hope this very detailed explanation will help you improve your general taijutsu. As we say, the “devil is hiding in the details.”

In our case,  棄世, Kisei (death), leads to 気精, the power of the devil (spirit) is what gives strength and vigor to our actions. (6) (7)

Details are important. 
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1. Depending on the distance, Senō sensei explained that you either step forward or backward. The body movement is like a dance movement, you are one with your partner. It’s nearly magnetic. 
2. Everything that is in Sensei’s books is there for a reason. It is not only to fill the pages. 
3. The five fingers follow the order of the Gogyō from the pinky (Chi) to the thumb (Kû). 
4. 掬う/sukû/to scoop; to ladle out. This is sukui. 
5. 石飛ばし/ishitobashi/skipping stones (on a body of water); skimming stones. 
6. 棄世/kisei/death
7.  気/ki/spirit; mind; heart|nature; disposition|motivation; intention|mood; feelings|atmosphere; essence. 
精/sei/spirit; sprite; nymph|energy; vigor (vigour); strength|fine details|seven.

What Answer For 2016?


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In this article I want to share some of my thoughts on my understanding of Sōke’s vision. It will seem quite esoteric to most of you. Please forgive me.

On Sunday, at the end of the class, Sensei gave a little speech.  Amongst many subjects, he announced the theme for 2016.

Without surprise the theme is “42”. Sensei explained that the Taikai commemorating Takamatsu sensei’s passing anniversary that will take place on the 2nd of April 2016 will be the beginning of a new cycle of 42 years.

Takamatsu sensei died on the 2nd of April 1972. The 2nd of April 1973 was the first year of the 42-year cycle that ended this year, in 2015.

The year 2016, he said, will be the beginning of a new cycle of 42 years. I already wrote about the symbol of “42” that we find in many ancient esoteric traditions. (1)

Sensei said that it took him 42 years to master what he had received from his beloved teacher. He added, half joking, that, for a long time, he understood nothing (that gives hope to many of us).

Now, is the time for a new beginning. The new Honbu inaugurated on the 22nd of February of 2015 was the end of the previous cycle. When the new dōjō opened, Sensei told us that it symbolized the beginning of a new era for the Bujinkan.
The following is how I understand the logic of the 42-year cycles.

Last year, I wrote that the date of the inauguration of the new Honbu, might not be accidental but chosen on purpose.

As you know, Hatsumi Sensei and the Japanese love numerology. And Sensei is definitely very Japanese in this respect,  and love to play with numbers, symbols and spirituality.

So we have two dates: the opening of the new Honbu on February 22nd, 2015; and the Taikai on April 2nd, 2016.
Both can be translated with “69”.

In numerology, the 22nd of February (02) is 6; and 2015, the 27th year of Heisei is 2+7 or 9. This is “69”, or Roppō Kuji (2), which is another representation of Inyō (yin-yang). (3)  You might have noticed that the concept of Inyō is deeply rooted into the Bujinkan system.

The date of the Taikai is 04/02/2016 which is another “69”. (4)

The old cycle of 42 years that ended in 2015 (based on the Heisei calendar), is reborn in the modern times, next April 2016 (based on the Gregorian calendar).

The previous 42-year cycle was the one of Takamatsu Sensei; the new cycle will be the one of Hatsumi Sensei. And it will be our duty to carry on his teachings, the way he did with the ones he received from Takamatsu Sensei.

This way of understanding reality, might look weird to us westerners, but knowing Sensei, I would not be surprised that this is the kind of thought process, he went through to come up with this new theme.

The new 42-year cycle that will begin in 2016, is another Roppō Kuji (69 or yin-yang). Symbolically, the old world gives way to the new world.

For me, it is his way to tell us that, starting next year, he is going to leave the future of the Bujinkan to us. He is doing what Takamatsu did for him in 1971 when he inherited the nine schools.

The circle is completed: this is “maru no ichi”. (5)

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1. The answer “42” that became famous with the book “the Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy” is one amongst many. You don’t need mice. Check this article to know more: https://kumafr.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/42-the-end-of-the-cycle/
2. Roppō Kuji was the theme of 2004. It was also the year of Yûgen no Sekai,  the  “world of ghosts”. 幽玄/yuugen/subtle grace; hidden beauty; yugen; mysterious profundity; elegant simplicity; the subtle and profound; the occult
3. 陰陽/inyō/cosmic dual forces; yin yang; sun  moon, etc.
4. This is also “69” because 2nd of April (04) is 2+4 = 6; and 2016 is 2+1+6 = 9. 
5. Maru no ichi was the name of Takamatsu sensei’s restaurant in Kobe. This is also another name for Inyō.

Half A Million Views!


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Thank you for your endless support!

Today we passed the symbolic milestone of 500 000 views on your blog. Since the beginning of the blog, you were 114 000 visitors in total reading the 333 articles I published.

When I created it, this blog was intended to be my personal notebook, where I would write the many concepts taught by sensei in class. After a year it became a source of inspiration for those advancing on the way of Budō. Today, it is a live record of our training life.

Without your constant presence,  this would not have been possible.

I sincerely thank you all, for helping me with your comments and likes.
I will do my best, to continue writing.

Arnaud Cousergue
Bujinkan Dai Shihan

10th Dan To 13th Dan In A Minute!


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It takes more than just a good body. You’ve got to have the heart and soul to go with it. Epictetus

Today Sensei was late for the class, so I was tasked to begin without him. It’s not the first time it is happening to me, but I must admit that I’m always proud of his trust. 
When he arrived, he continued with the Mutō Dori feeling and we played unarmed techniques, and sword and Bō variations. Some movements included Sannin Dori . The dôjô was packed, so long weapon moved were quite difficult to put into practice, but we managed. 
Sensei was moving his body in a way that always let his uke mentally unable to counter. As he explained since I arrived,  Ninpō Taijutsu is not only physical, it is also mental. One of his uke’s of today said it quite well: “when I attacked, my mind was focused on his right hand applying Omote Gyaku. When his left elbow hit me, I didn’t see it coming.” 
Sensei’s movements are so subtle that we put our intention on one point, and always get destroyed from another angle.

But the Kaname of the day was not the class but what happened during it. At some point he invited a student to attack him. Apparently, it was the first time for him to Sensei’s uke. At first, he didn’t move. Then after Sensei asked him again to join him in the center, he turned twice to see who was being invited. Finally, still hesitating, he stood up. You could see the surprise and disbelief in his eyes. 
Still wondering,  he attacked and was easily defeated. When he was required to share his feeling with us, he said that “I was so surprised, that I couldn’t attack properly.” 
I spoke with him after the class and he told me that never, in his many years of training, he thought that he would be Sensei’s uke one day. That was cute.

But the story doesn’t stop here. Maybe ten minutes later, Sensei seated at the other end of the dōjō, stopped the class, and asked him for his rank,  country, and number of years of training. “Uke” still moved by his experience, looked lost again, and with a small voice. said “19 years, Germany, Jūdan “.

The training resumed, then sensei sat next to him, and called Furuta San in. Furuta San came with pen and paper. Sensei turned to “Uke” and said: “13th dan! Furuta San, get his name and details”. You should have seen his eyes when finally he understood that he got promoted from tenth to thirteenth Dan in a few seconds. He was more lost than when he was invited to be Sensei’s uke. I’m always wondering what Sensei and the Japanese Shihan see that we don’t.

This is the beauty of Hatsumi Sensei’s grading system. Ranks have little value if you don’t live up to them. But to be promoted in such a way by Sōke is a big honor. I’m sure his teacher will be proud, as I would be. When in Japan, when my students are promoted by Sōke, I always see it as some kind of acknowledgement of my teaching work.

At the end of the class,  Sensei rewarded three Jūgodan with the title of Yūshū Shihan and one with the Shingitai . (2) Then he spoke about ranks and rewards. “In the Bujinkan”, he said, “the title and ranks you received, are not given after but before you deserved it.” Too many practitioners seem to forget it. Ranks and rewards are given “a priori” not “a posteriori”. This is up to you to level your proficiency to be worth it.

Last August,  Sensei told Daniel Hernández, that there will be only twelve Dai Shihan. (3) All the others, will receive the Yūshū Shihan,  “important Shihan”. (4) 
As you know,  like the majority of the “jurassic ninja”, I have received all of these titles, I use to say that I have the whole collection. (5)
But the Shingitai diploma is the one I prefer. The Shingitai rewards the three levels of development of the student: Soul, technique, and body. (6) If it is quite easy to get Gi and Tai,  Shin is the hardest.

This is why I fully agree with Epictetus: “It takes more than just a good body (and technical skills). You’ve got to have the heart and soul to go with it.”

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1. In Latin “a priori” means before; and “a posteriori” means after. 
2. Yūshū Shihan: Marcelo Ferraro (ARG ), Juan-manuel Gutiérrez (ARG ), Paul Fisher (USA). Shingitai: David Palau (COL). 
3. Dai Shihan: Noguchi (JAP), Nagato (JAP), Senō (JAP), Pedro (SP), Paco (SP), Sven (SWE), Peter (UK), Arnaud (FR), Phil (USA), Par (USA), Jack (USA), Daniel (ARG).
4. Yūshū: 優秀/yuushuu/superiority; excellence. My understanding is that those two titles only differ in the level of potential responsibility.
5. Check www.arnaudcousergue.ismyreal.name.com
6. 心技体/shingitai/(sumo) three qualities of a wrestler: heart, technique, physique. 技, Gi, is also read as Waza.

Fuyû, Asobi: Suspension and Baseball


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What I love about the classes with Senô sensei, is that I always learn new ways of doing what we do.

Like all the students who’ve been here for 25 years, I’m quite aware of the forms. What I still need to learn is hiding in the details. Life is about learning, and his classes are full of insights. The point of visiting Japan three times a year is to improve my abilities.

Today I learned two things:
1. There is more than the “1, 2, 3” sequence in a waza;
2. That we have to create a Fuyû (1), a point of suspension where uke is trapped by his own force.

Senō sensei explained today that in a given technique “1, 2, 3” there is more than those steps. Between “1 and 2” , and “2 and 3” , there are numerous hidden technical points.  Details that change everything,  and make your Taijutsu effortless and powerful at the same time.

The body reacts as a whole because distance, angles, and rhythm are trained slowly to become perfect. Like what has already been said this trip by Hatsumi sensei and Nagato sensei, it is necessary to move slowly in order to unfold the possibilities.

His Uke attacked with a Gyokko ryû like attack. Right fist attack followed by a right kick. Senō sensei went back in line with the opponent’s fist, simply making a light contact on the hand.  It was a simple double shuffling step in slow motion, that put him out of reach (Juppō Sesshō). The target being still reachable,  this triggered uke to continue with the kick in the same side. Effortlessly,  Senō sensei pivoted sideways, he spoke about Kosshi (2), and took the leg with his right leg. At the same time he was controlling the attacking hand by driving it, softly, to the left. This ended with uke falling on his back. From the outside it looked like uke stepped on a banana peel. It was simple and efficient. 
After a few tries,  uke began not to give away his body weight and therefore was able to keep his balance. This is when details are everything.

When this happened, Senō sensei would put the hand on his belt, turn close towards uke, barring the elbow with his right forearm. There was no grabbing, simply body pressure. We then spent a long time on this control. He explained that by rotating the bones of his forearm slightly, it was possible to get uke’s balance without force. It worked. 
I know that it might be difficult to visualize it, but I invite you to try it on the mats during your next training. Try many angles and hopefully you will understand it.

The other interesting point today was Fuyû, suspension. (1)
Senō sensei explained that our body reactions should create a state of suspended gravity. When uke begins to think he is sorted by your body (technically, he thinks he is getting you), this is when you let go. This is the true meaning of Kokû (3). 
Each time it is possible, break contact with your opponent in order to create this vacuum. Hatsumi sensei said that this is the real meaning of Nin, persevere. (4)
To persevere is not to resist but to be brave enough to go at the last possible second. This is the essence of Mutō Dori, the theme of this year. Positioning your body slowly at the exact distance, and at the last second, you create an in-between state. Uke is unaware that he is losing his balance and uses more strength to recover it when he sees it to late.

This is Fuyû.

Senō added that we have to play (Asobi) with this Fuyû feeling. But when you look at the kanji you discover that Fuyû is composed of “Fu + Asobi”, float + play (5).

In baseball, Asobi is “to intentionally throw a ball to lower the batter’s concentration”. This is exactly what Senō sensei wants us to do,  lower the attacker’s concentration by creating a state is suspension. 
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1.  浮遊/fuyuu/floating; wandering; suspension
2. Kosshi is the backbone and symbolizes the pivoting vertical axis of the body. (Gyokko ryû) 
3. 虚空/kokuu/empty space; empty sky
4. 忍/nin/endurance; perseverance; forbearance; patience
5. 遊ぶ/asobu/to play; to enjoy oneself; to have a good time|to mess about (with alcohol, gambling, philandery, etc.)|to be idle; to do nothing; to be unused|to go to (for pleasure or for study)|(baseb) to intentionally throw a ball to lower the batter’s concentration

Ninpô Taijutsu Gen


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Jack began sensei’s class with a mix of Katame Dori, ending in a sort of Omote Gyaku / Ganseki Oshi. Sensei used it to develop the concept of Kyomu, nothingness, which is at the core of Ninpô Taijutsu. (1)

This Ninpô Taijutsu Gen (2) is a holistic fighting. The physical is reinforced by the spiritual. Uke is not defeated by the body movements, but rather by his wrong perception of reality. His mind is played by Tori’s attitude. Again the class yesterday class was about illusion.
It is interesting to see that “Kyomu” bears the same kanji as Kyojitsu (3), the alternating stages of truth and falsehood.

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Ninpô Taijutsu Gen

Sensei did many henka on Omote Gyaku, showing tens of variations. The Omote Gyaku Waza imposed itself at some point in a natural manner.

I find interesting to study it again, after the class we had with Nagato sensei on the same subject. It looked like “the next step” that sensei keep speaking about.

When you move with this natural reaction,  everything is soft and looks quite slow. But the key point is to awaseru, to meet the opponent’s attack, fearless. It felt like going back to the year of Kuki taishô (4) I guess it is hard for the new generation to comprehend what sensei is doing these days,  because everything is based upon the teachings on Juppô sesshō that we began in 2003. In fact,  he said that because of Juppô sesshō,   there was no left,  right,  fast,  slow,  win,  lose. Everything that he did is logical with the understanding of the situation he is facing. And it looked logical, soft and natural.

He illustrated this Juppō Sesshō with some sword techniques. As the theme this year is Mutô Dori,  he began unarmed and then moved to two swords, which is also mutō dori (5). In Koteki Ryûda Juppō Sesshō Hibun no Kami (6), theme of 2003, the eight directions of the happō are completed with the vertical axis of heaven and earth. Heaven is ryûda, the flying dragon; and koteki is the crouching tiger. In the encounter you are dragon and Tiger alternatively, soft and hard, slow and fast. In the sword techniques  sensei explained that you do not try to cut but apply multiple hits like if uke was attacked by a swarm of bees. This reminded me of the Amo Isshun no Tamamushi. (8) Uke is defeated by the many micro attacks he receives. In unarmed defense the sword his are replaced by Yubi Kudaki.
This holistic movement is what sensei calls zenten (7). The body adjusts naturally to the suki (openings) of the attack / of the attacker.
In both situations (with and without sword), you are soft and react naturally to the attack. Because of zenten,  you move either in one direction or another like a skipping stone. Uke is the wave and naturally surf on his intentions.

Last class was really magic and helped me to grasp the essence of Ninpô Taijutsu Gen.
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1.  虚無/kyomu/nihility; nothingness
2.  忍法/ninpou/ninja arts
体術/taijutsu/classical form of martial art
幻術/genjutsu/magic; witchcraft
3. Kyojitsu vs kyojutsu: there is often a misconception about this two terms. Kyojitsu 虚実/kyojitsu/truth or falsehood, and kyojutsu is 虚/kyo/unpreparedness|falsehood + 術/jutsu/art; means; technique. Therefore,  kyojitsu is the concept used in kyojitsu techniques.
4. Kuki taishō (theme of 2007): 九/kyuu/nine,  気/ki/spirit; mind; heart|nature; disposition|motivation; intention|mood; feelings|atmosphere; essence,  大勝/taishou/great victory; crushing victory
5. Reminder Mutō Dori is not only defending oneself unarmed facing a weapon. It is above all, having the courage to face a potential death. I wrote a few posts on that last year in this blog. Check them.
6. My book on ” Koteki Ryûda Juppō Sesshō Hibun no Kami” can be found at http://www.budomart.eu and will soon be available in ebook at Amazon.com (January 2016).
7. Zenten is 全天/zenten/all heaven,  but can also be understood as 全店/zenten/the whole (store).
8. Amo isshun no tamamushi 中一瞬 の 吉丁虫
中 amo:center, inside, during
一瞬 isshun: one moment
吉丁虫  tamamushi: jewel beetle, bee

Gyokko Ryû vs Noguchi Ryû


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Noguchi sensei is good with many ryû, but his understanding of the Gyokko ryû is the best. If I’m not mistaking, I think that his whole taijutsu is largely influenced by the depth of the Gyokko ryû.

During his last class, we covered (again) the first level of the Gyokko ryû: Kokû, Renyō, Gyaku Nagare, Dan Shu, Dan Shi,  etc. Once again, it required a lot of attention from my part to read his movements. His taijutsu is so far from the forms of the densho that, often, I am incapable of recognizing the original waza.

Every basic waza is “exploded” into something different. Only the Kaname (1) remains. The form is gone.

Nothing is “finished” and uke cannot rely on his sensations. Uke is defeated by his illusions. In a way, it was the follow-up of the last class we had with Hatsumi sensei for his birthday. The way Noguchi sensei is moving is a double-bind. When he announces the name of the technique, we expect a given form. When he does it, something different pops out, that is so far from the basic form, that we are captured by what we are expecting. This is a pure manipulation,  similar to what magicians do when they are doing their tricks.

Funnily, things would be easier for us, if we didn’t know what he was doing next. I guess that beginners,  thanks to their lack of knowledge, have less problems than us.

And this is why I really love his classes, because they question my understanding of the art. I’m lost and happy at the same time. What Noguchi sensei is showing is the famous “next step” that Hatsumi sensei was telling us again during the last class. Being able to see novelty in techniques we have been repeating for years is the reason why I’m training three times a year in Japan.

During the second part of the class,  we moved to Bō jutsu. We covered the chûden level of the Kukishin ryû. At least this is what he wanted us to believe. But his interpretation was definitely Gyokko ryû oriented. The young Bujinkan members might not be aware of it, but in 2005, we studied the Bō jutsu of the Gyokko ryû, using the Kukishin techniques to illustrate it. (2) (3)

As I said in the introduction, Noguchi sensei is the man of Gyokko ryû and this lightens his whole taijutsu in a very particular way.

It makes sense. As sensei wrote in “unarmed fighting techniques of the samurai”,  the Gyokko ryû is the origin of all Japanese Budō. Therefore, mastering this specific ryûha, gives access to the understanding of all Budō.

I really enjoy the Noguchi ryû. (4)

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1.  要/kaname/pivot|vital point; cornerstone; keystone
2. In 2005, we studied Kasumi no hō and Gyokko no bō. This was the third year of the Juppō Sesshō series. The main difference in the use of the long staff is that the hands are often positive at the mid section instead of the last inch of the weapon. There is no densho of bō jutsu in the Gyokko ryû. 
3. Please note that, my friend Marcelo Ferraro on his way back to Argentina, will be giving a seminar on stick fighting in Dubai, next weekend. Marcelo has been used by Noguchi sensei a lot during this class and I’m sure that everyone attending this seminar will learn of lot from him. The seminar is organized by Juan Pablo Napoli, from the Bujinkan UAE. More information at jpnapoli@gmail.com
4. One day,  I asked Hatsumi sensei the following question: “when I come to Japan,  I have feeling that I learn the bujinkan with you,  but also the Noguchi ryû,  the Nagato ryû, the Senō ryû, and the Oguri ryû. Am I correct?” His answer was: “yes!”

Kansoku To Kankaku


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The human observer constitute the final link in the chain of observational processes, and the properties of any atomic object can be understood only in terms of the object’s interaction with the observer.” ― Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics

Even though I’m not a scientist, I see more and more connections between our Budō and the world of Quantum physics. During Nagato sensei’s class this was obvious, once again, as every movement is a natural reaction to uke’s intention. The way you “observe” the situation, influences the outcome of the fight.

We can rewrite the previous sentence as follow: “Tori is the observer, that constitutes the final link in the chain of observational processes, and the properties of any  movement, can be understood only in terms of the movement’s interaction with the observer.

Rachel, a new Shidōshi from the USA, opened the class with Sōke kind of Omote Gyaku and Nagato sensei broke it down in numerous henka. When he used her as uke, each attack she gave was slightly different from the previous one. But each time,  Nagato sensei, sensing the subtle changes, was able to turn it into some kind of Omote Gyaku.

Clearly, he was observing without any intent, and therefore was able to react according to the new situation. Hatsumi sensei often says that he “never repeat twice the same technique.” we witnessed it yesterday.

In the fight, Tori is “kansokusha”, the observer, meaning that he is passive and has no intention. (1) Tori moves slowly and unfolds the possibilities offered by uke. Nagato sensei spoke again about the importance of not using strength (2), and to move slowly. 
This is why, if Tori’s movements are Kansoku (観測) a simple observation; they are also Kansoku (緩速), slow speed (3)

The technique we use doesn’t matter. It is determined by uke’s attacks. There cannot be any preconceived choice. Slow motions paired with proper distancing will unfold our possibilities.

To illustrate further this,  Nagato sensei applied the same body flow with a Hanbō. The original Omote turned at time into Oni Kudaki,  and at other times into Musha Dori. But he kept calling it Omote Gyaku.

“There are no waza” did Hatsumi sensei recently, “only a natural movement adapted to the situation. ”

These days, I see “Waza” as the worst weakness of the Bujinkan practitioners. Because we want to do, we stop observing and cannot interpret the subtle changes happening before our eyes. Willing to do a waza, we cannot observe anymore. Not observing, there is no awareness. And without awareness, we cannot adapt freely to the situation.

Hatsumi sensei’s Budō is not about techniques, it is about life. Only when we become 観測者 (kansokusha), an observer; we can turn into 感覚者 (kankakusha), a man of feeling. 
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1.  観測者/kansokusha/observer
2. 力/chikara/force; strength; might; vigour (vigor); energy
3. 緩速/kansoku/slow speed
4. 感覚/kankaku/sense; sensation; feeling; intuition