Ukeire: The Tao Of Bujinkan

The last class was about “zero style”. To be zero, you have to be one, body and mind. Sensei’s movements are so simple that it is impossible to repeat them. Sensei was magic and full of energy, and we saw how far we are all of his level of understanding.

After class, I went for dinner with Philippe, the Mitrou brothers, and a few students. We all felt drained as if emptied of our energy (maybe he sucked it out from all of us). The dinner didn’t last long; we went to bed rapidly.

Once again, this magic of Sensei reminded of the Taoteking: “Accept, and you become whole, once whole, the world is as your home.” (§22 Taoteking)

Sensei wants us to be “zero”, but zero is not nothing. Last July he said that “at the centre of zero, there’s one”. To achieve this zero state, we first, must become “one”. And for me, this “one” is the same as this “whole” depicted in the Tao. The “wholeness” is the result of acceptance and receiving. In Japanese, it can be translated by “Ukeire”. (1) Ukeire also has the meaning of receiving as in Uke Nagashi. (2)

It means that when you accept (receive) the attack of your opponent, you trap him in the space you control, and you can play with him. There were a few references to “Asobi”, playfulness, during the last classes. (3) This control of space is similar to a spider web. Tori is the spider, and Uke, the fly. He has no chance to win once wholeness is achieved.

Each time I attack Sensei with the intention of getting him, I don’t succeed. In fact, the harder I try, and the faster he traps me. Sensei is like a spider waiting for a bug to glue into his spider web. It is quiet and efficient. Uke is unable to think properly, and to surpass his defences.

At some point, Sensei referred (again) to the bug held in the space of your hands and being unable to bite: Amo isshun no tamamushi. (4) As a bug, you cannot decide what to do. It is scary. You see your defeat the moment you launch the attack. There’s nothing you can do to avoid it. Sensei repeated a few times “Tatakai Janai”, don’t fight. (5) In fact, there is no fight per se. As you are the only one trying to fight, you end up fighting yourself.

Being the receiver, he doesn’t need to hurry, as the Uke, I am delivering myself to him. Whatever the type of attack, he waits for it, receives it, and weaves his actions on the many elements I’m giving. He has no intention of winning; he simply doesn’t lose. He controls the space; there is no fight. Being united as a whole, he receives and accepts my attack, and “the world is as his home”, I’m just a bug for him to play.

The ancients said, “Accept, and you become whole”, Once whole, the world is as your home. (§22 Taoteking)

This is Ukeire, the Tao of the Bujinkan.


1. 受け入れ/ukeire/receiving; acceptance
2. 受け流す/ukenagasu/to ward off; to elude; to turn aside (a joke)
3. 遊び/asobi/playing|play (margin between on and off, gap before pressing button or lever has an effect)
4. Amo isshun no tamamushi
中一瞬 の 吉丁虫
中 amo: centre, inside, during
一瞬 isshun: one moment
吉丁虫 tamamushi: jewel beetle
5. 戦い/tatakai/battle; fight; struggle; conflict

Kaitatsu Gairyoku: Indirect Transmission

img_20161127_130403Hatsumi sensei said in class that “you cannot be good doing Bujinkan, if you’re good, you are not doing Bujinkan”. It reminded me of Salvador Dali’s quote: “Don’t be afraid of perfection, you’ll never reach it”. This quote could summarise what we are training these days. Don’t try to be perfect.

The essence of controlling the space is not to do a perfect movement. We move in a way that is a simple answer to Uke’s intentions; that is all. It doesn’t have to be pretty; it has to be “good enough”. Too many practitioners try perfection, by doing so, they meet defeat as they cannot adjust their moves to the ever-changing situation.

The idea is to derive power from indirect and forceless movements. What you do, the way you react makes it impossible for Uke to guess what is coming next, and therefore it keeps you alive. Sensei called this concept “Kaitatsu Gairyoku”, indirect strength or indirect transmission. (1) (2) (3)

Indirect strength is using no force at all. And when you use no power, Chikara or Ryoku (4), Uke cannot use it against you as leverage.

“A perfect technique gets you killed”, added Sensei, “because when you try to do a technique you are trapped mentally”. You can be lucky once, maybe twice, but in a real fight, it is about staying alive. The Tao Te King means that when it says “don’t do anything, and nothing will be left undone”. (6) The water flowing downstream doesn’t think the many rocks it encounters, nor does the water try to avoid them. The water is not trying to do anything; it flows naturally and reaches the sea. It is as simple as that.

And as Kary Mullis Nobel Prize 1993, said about DNA duplication, “it is very complicated to make (things) simple.” (7)

When you watch Hatsumi sensei doing Kaitatsu Gairyoku, it seems very simple, but it is extremely complicated to do.

If you don’t come to Japan regularly, you will never get the actual depth of the Bujinkan martial arts.

You can fly to Tokyo with a “direct” or an “indirect” flight to receive your transmission…


1. 回り/kai/mawari/circumference; perimeter; edge|surroundings; locality; neighborhood|rotation; circulation +

経つ/tatsu/to pass; to lapse

2. 回経/kaitatsu/indirect

3. 外力/gairyoku/external force/transmission

4. 力/chikara/force; strength; might; vigour (vigor);

energy|capability; ability; proficiency; capacity; faculty|efficacy; effect|effort; endeavours (endeavors); exertions|power; authority; influence; good offices; agency|support; help; aid; assistance|stress; emphasis|means; resources.

5. 力じゃない /chikara janai/there is no strength

6. Taoteking or Tao Te Ching: modern translation by François Jullien §37, 48 in “le traité de l’efficacité”, (French edition).


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Bujinkan Chemical Reaction

saitama 2After a recent class with Hatsumi sensei, we were on the train to Kashiwa with Adonis and Harry Mitrou, the twin brothers from Greece. We were speaking of the training we just had, trying to understand the profound insights that Sensei shared with us.
Sensei said that “controlling the space” was the same with or without weapons, and that whatever the beginning, the end was remaining the same. At some point, Adonis said, “well it is like the Hess’s Law in chemistry”. There was a long silence.
Here is the law: “The law states that the total enthalpy change during the complete course of a chemical reaction is the same whether the reaction is made in one step or several steps. (…) In other words, if a chemical change takes place by several different routes, the overall enthalpy change is the same, regardless of the path by which the chemical change occurs (provided the initial and final condition are the same). (1)(2).
I asked him to be more precise, and he added that if we apply this law to the Bujinkan, we can find that in any technique, like in Hess’s Law, the beginning of the movement is related to the end of it, independently of how many steps we take to do it. Because we control the space, whatever happens in this space leads to the same outcome”.
Sensei said that when we control the space, all of the Uke’s actions are immediately felt once they are expressed. Then it is easy to defeat the attacker as long as we are “zero”, and keep the feeling of Mutō Dori. I know it sounds strange, but it makes sense when you watch Sensei’s movements. I have been Sensei’s Uke a few times in the last classes, and the feeling is that there are no feelings. When you attack him, you face nothingness. There is nothing to hold on. Like a chemical reaction in a glass container, your attacks can unfold there, but they stay in the middle of the controlled space. The theme of Saino Konki comes to mind (3), Utsuwa (Ki) being the controlled space.
Each time I grabbed or attacked Sensei, I felt like being lost, limited in my options, and powerless. The only force that I could feel was the one I used in my attacks. It was like Sensei was not there. It was a weird sensation.
The same goes for Taijutsu or weapons, and Sensei repeated that at this level, there are no techniques, there is only a flow of possibilities entrapped in the controlled space. This is why it didn’t matter if the attack is Taijutsu or weapons.
It is hard to do it, even though when Hatsumi Sensei does it, it seems obvious. Controlling the space appears to be a superior technical layer of ability allowing you to survive any encounter.
It is impressive.
3. 才能 魂 器 “saino konki” or “saino tamashii utsuwa”

Kawasu: Chatting With Uke 

I feel gifted to have access to so many fantastic teachers when I train in Japan. But I feel even luckier when I have two classes in a row with the same master.

That was the case yesterday as Senō sensei opened the Sunday training after teaching us on Saturday. When we teach, we often keep unfolding the same idea over a few classes. The Japanese Dai Shihan do the same.

Yesterday, Senō sensei continued with the Binkan concept (1) he taught on Saturday.

Budō is about developing this sensibility in the middle of the encounter. When your six senses are in tune with the opponent, then your body reacts without thinking. This sensitivity begins with your ability to detect the enemy with your skin, binkanhada (2).

This is why when we move we have to keep the body relaxed. The less tension we put in the body, the better we feel the other’s intentions. When this feeling extends to the whole body, this is Taikan (3).

Taikan doesn’t only concern the bodily sensation; it is also the result of your experience. We know it because all of us have already experienced it before. The more you train, the better you can “sense” uke’s movements. Sometimes it feels that time is slowing down.

This ability to sense the opponent doesn’t come overnight. It is something, like the Sakki test, which builds up gradually. One day you have it. It is something you acquire with consistent training and study. Some practitioners will develop it in twenty years, others in thirty years. But at some point, I believe that everyone training seriously within the “Bujinkan borders” will get it (4).

At the end of the class, Senō sensei explained that in the time and space where the exchange is happening, Uke and Tori are exchanging: this is Kawasu (5).

I see Kawasu be similar to modern chatting. When you chat with a friend, each one writes in turn, and exchange ideas. But as you have all experienced, due to the speed of writing, there are moments where ideas get mixed up. Your answers come too late; your correspondent is already speaking of something else. And it gets hard to follow.

When this is happening you get this type of exchange:

– uke: how are you?
– Tori: excellent. What about you?
– uke: I’m going shopping.
– tori: maybe we meet there?
– uke: I had a bad night.
– tori: I must get some fruits.
– uke: I think I ate too much yesterday.
– tori: I have to eat healthier.
– uke: when?
– tori: every day.
– uke: no, I meant when do we meet?

At some point, each one is following his train of thought and doesn’t listen to what the other is writing.

The same thing happens during the exchange/fight with the opponent. If Uke attacks, we should not try to put our intention in the exchange, but sense him with Taikan, and go with the flow until we can defeat him.

Kawasu is an important part of the fight and will benefit us, as long as we don’t try to impose anything on the opponent. As Hatsumi sensei says “be zero, don’t do a technique. Anyone can do a technique and therefore, becomes visible. Be unexpected”.

The best way to be unexpected is to develop sensibility.


1. 敏感/binkan/sensibility; susceptibility; sensitive (to); well attuned to

2. 敏感肌/binkanhada/sensitive skin

3. 体感/taikan/bodily sensation; sense; experience

4. Bujinkan borders: to me, the Bujinkan is a complete system that doesn’t need extra “add-ons” from other fighting systems. Teachers that are adding MMA, or sports-like techniques to the Bujinkan syllabus, are missing the point. The Bujinkan is perfect in itself, anything you add, proved your lack of competence. Would you put a Mp3 player inside a guitar? No. Don’t cross the “border” before you understand all that you have to understand.

5. 交わす/kawasu/to exchange (messages, greetings, arguments, etc.)|to intersect; to cross; to interlace|… with one another; … to each other

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Using Tōate To Control Space

img_20161125_210544_1Sensei speaks a lot about controlling these days (see previous entry in this blog). But during his last class, he detailed it a little more.
Controlling the space in Mutō Dori should be the theme of the study for next year, he said, this is why I will try here to share with you what I understood.

The control he is speaking about is the control of space with Mutō Dori. Technically, it is the theme of this year with a deeper understanding. Managing the space is mainly done with the legs. As always, footwork is important.

Proper footwork will give you the perfect distance needed to control the space. Not too far, and not too close.
This control is done at the physical level as well as the mental level. Sensei spoke about Tōate a lot during the class, in both taijutsu and weapons. Tōate is the ability to influence uke’s perception by throwing your determined mental attitude onto him (1). Tōate impacts uke’s perception of distance and gives Tori more space to move during the exchange.
This way of controlling affects the space at the physical level but also the attacker’s brain. Uke’s senses are unable to deal with the movements he perceives.

Sensei insisted that to control uke, you have first to control yourself. To control yourself you must be “zero and one” at the same time. You emit nothing, and you have no preconceived idea of what to do. You are “one”, body and mind, and you move freely, surfing on the movements of the opponent in this controlled space you have generated. The outcome of the encounter doesn’t matter. It is irrelevant. Sensei said that at this level “there are no techniques” (2). It is the flow of your movements that make things turn out positively for you. Controlling the space in battle, you also control the time within this space. You react swiftly but without any precipitation.

You occupy the space with your body, walking around uke to create the perfect distance. You shouldn’t be focused on ending the technique, simply the first step matters.

When space is controlled, then your Taijutsu and your techniques with weapons are the same. This is the superior level of Mutō Dori.
In a sword against sword attack, Sensei said you block by avoiding only, with body movement (footwork). “Don’t do sword techniques” the waza will pop up and apart into the controlled space by itself.
Later, against a Dō kiri knife attack, the Kaeshi was simply to hit happa Ken on the driving hand. Timing and distance were paramount.

This ability to control the space of Mutō Dori was hard to get. I hope that in the next classes, I will be able to get a better feeling about it.

Stay tuned.
1. 投/tō/throw/ (Kun-Yomi = nage) +
宛/ate/aim; object; purpose; end|expectations; prospects; hopes|something that can be relied upon
2. When sensei says there are no techniques, it didn’t mean you don’t have to learn them. This is a common mistake amongst young teachers. Forgetting the techniques means that you spent time learning them. The only way to forget something is to have learned it in the first place.

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When I arrived in Kashiwa yesterday, I met my friend Philippe from France, and his students for dinner.

They have been here for a few days now, and speaking of sensei’s latest classes; Philippe said that Sensei was emphasising a lot about control.
During the last years, we’ve been mainly focusing on zero and Mutō Dori. How can we link these concepts to self-control?
As always in Japanese, there are many words to express “control”, but Philippe explained that Sensei was referring to self-control.
When we parted, I tried to put some thinking to it. As I have not attended any class yet, the following is only possible interpretation.
Amongst many other meanings, self-control can be either Kokki (1), Gaman (2), or Jisei (3).
Kokki only means “to overcome the self”. Gaman goes a little deeper adding to it the Bujinkan concepts of patience, endurance, and perseverance.
But the one that makes more sense to me is “Jisei”.
Jisei with the idea of self-restraint seems to be the summary of Kokki and Gaman. By adding the idea of self-restraint, you are zero. Like in the Mutō Dori, you are in control of yourself. You do not emit intention; you monitor the situation until it is time to react, and you do so by not overdoing it. In Jisei, you are “zero and one”. Remember what sensei told us last July “zero is not nothing”, well, my guess is that this Jisei state is exactly that. Your attitude is matching uke’s intentions, and like with Ishitobashi (4), the skipping stone, you surf on uke’s movements until you finish him. It requires a lot of self-control to do that.
You act like a magnet, invisibly pulling uke into your reality, to destroy him.
Jisei (the control you have) is the result of Jisei, your magnetism (5). Remember that magnetism is one of the three aspects of the Gyokko Ryû.
Anyway, I’ll know more tonight when I go to train at the Honbu.
1. 克己/kokki/self-denial; self-control
2. 我慢/gaman/patience; endurance; perseverance; tolerance; self-control; self-denial
3. 自制/jisei/self-control; self-restraint
4. 石飛ばし/ishitobashi/skipping stones (on a body of water); skimming stones
5. 磁性/jisei/magnetism
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doshinAs often, before I return for training in Japan, I like to read the notes taken during previous trips. I don’t understand everything that I wrote, but I’m not the only one.

So, I was reading notes taken in July 2014 during my 55th trip.

In one class Sensei spoke about Dōshin Ikkan Suru or “keeping/ make everything with a child mind”. (1)

Dōshin Ikkan Suru is another way to express the Sanshin of a 3-year old kid (2). If there is one secret in the Bujinkan, well, this is that. When you move with a child mind, you do not think; you only react to the outside. In fact, you do not know what you will be doing next. When you reach this state, you are “zero”.

Zero, as Sensei explained last August, zero is not nothing, it is full. To be entirely yourself you have to be empty and have no intentions. Zero is the secret. It is not hidden. It is right in front of you, but you don’t see it because you “want” to do a technique; because you “want” to win. There is no such thing as winning or losing repeats Hatsumi sensei quite often. Many practitioners hear it, but they don’t get it. (I’m not saying it is easy though)

This Dōshin Ikkan Suru is the key to the Mutō Dori of this year. “Sanshin”, “zero”, “no intention”, is the result of your evolution as a martial artist, and as a human being. Values like honesty, resilience, commitment, honour, morality are the aspects of your Budō personality. Maybe this is why Sensei used this secret formula of “Dōshin Ikkan Suru”. Because when you change the Dōshin 童心 for Dōshin 道心, the sentence then become “keeping/ make everything with a moral sense”. (3)


1. Dōshin 童心, child’s mind; childlike innocence; naivete / Ikkan 一貫, consistency; coherence / Suru 為る, to do, to make,
2. 三心 mind, heart, spirit; by extension, the mind of a 3-year old
3. Dōshin 道心, moral sense

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achs2016.jpgDear friends, I just created a new website where to find my next seminars for 2016 and 2017.

This year again, I will be travelling a lot.

Tokyo (3 times), Dubai (2 times – UAE), Paris (5 times), Annecy (FR), Bangalore (3 times-  IN), Berlin (GER), Gottingen (GER), Budapest (HON), Buenos Aires (ARG), Fortaleza (BR), Bogota (COL), Lugo (SP)…

This list is not complete and more dates will be added soon.


25% OFF at


Hello Bujinkan  friends,


This year has been very demanding for me, and I couldn’t be as present as usual. Those who know me well, know about my “other  activities”.

This is why next year will be interesting, as I will be focusing more on the seminars and ebooks, than on my other activities. I plan to release a few new ebooks (some for Xmas) to begin the interaction with I’ll tell you more when things are going to happen.

The new titles in English that are being reviewed will be available like the other ones at Amazon, it will be “Bujinkan Chronicles vol.1”, a collection of the first posts published here, but extended and corrected, and with many pictures taken during seminars and in Japan during the same period; “Juppo Sessho”, the reviewed ebook version of the book of 2002, with many new insights; and hopefully “Shoshi”, a book to help you become familiar with the parts of Japanese history that created our art.

The Holiday season is opening early at because we want you to receive your presents before Christmas. So I decided that from today until the end of December 2016, you benefit from a 25% discount on nearly 100 DVDs from my budomart catalogue.

If you are interested in getting some DVDs for yourself, or for your friends, then it is time to jump on and get the Xmas 25% discount.

At the end of the checkout, simply click on the voucher code “xmas2016”, then “OK,”  and the discount will be automatically applied on the eligible products.

Happy Holiday Season Bujinkan Buyu!

I wish you the best for the end of the year and the beginning of 2017, and I hope to see you at the dojo or during seminars.*

Arnaud Cousergue
Bujinkan Dai Shihan


*Annecy, Bangalore, Berlin, Bogota, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Fortaleza, Gottingen, Paris, Tokyo,

What is the correct path?


When you push the door of a dojo for the first time, you are often unaware that this simple action will unfold a life of commitment. The path you have chosen to take will only stop when your life is over.
Do not give up too early, persevere, and improve. Progress will be slow, but we are not in a hurry. The correct path is what you decide to make out of it.


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