Grow Up, Size Does Matter!

toomas animation
Did you ever walk with shoes too small for your feet? It is painful, even if they look good.
Well, I see a similarity with the weapons we use in the Dōjō. Many of the weapons we use are undersized. Tradition is beautiful, but sometimes it can be counterproductive. I will explain why in this post.
  • First, what we call the “Japanese martial arts” developed out of necessity. Between the Heian period (1185), and the forced peace at Sekigahara battle (1600), Japan was at war. (1)
  • Second, Japanese people were small. The founders of Gendai Budō (Jūdō, Aikidō, Karatedō) were all three, around 150cm in height! (2) We can surmise that was the case for the majority of the Japanese people.
  • Third, in the Kanejaku system of measures, the central size is the Ken (6 Shaku, app. 182 cm), and every building in Japan follows this system of length. (3) Shakkanhō is the name of this global system of measures. (4)
A Ken being six shaku that gives a size of 6 x 30.3 cm = 181.81 cm (or 5.9652 feet)
For the sake of our demonstration, we will keep the value of 1 ken = 180 cm.
size jp
If the average Japanese man of the past was 150 cm tall (5), the Europeans of today are around 172 to 181 cm. (6) We have to adjust the sizes of the weapons we use.
Keep in mind that a soldier will always have a weapon he can use to defend himself. And about the long arms, the longer, the better to keep the opponent out of reach. Musashi did the same when fighting Kojiro. He used an oar as a bokken to match the length of his opponent’s Nodachi. (7)
The Japanese Bō is 180 cm. That means the size of the weapon is 20% longer than the body size. (8)
So the size of our Bō should be between 200 cm and 220 cm!
That is pure math, but you should consider training with weapons for your size. Keeping the “traditional” format for the weapons just doesn’t make any sense.
I am 176 cm tall; my Bō should be 210 cm. I use a Bō of 2 meters, and I find it correct to train. My Hanbō is 105 cm, and my Jō is 140 cm.
To sum up, many of you train with a Bō too small for them. Your Hanbō looks like a cane for old people, and your Jō is about 20 cm too short.
  • A Bō is six shaku + 20%
  • A Jō is four shaku + 20%
  • A Hanbō is three shaku + 20%
 When in Japan, I spoke with Toomas, the founder of Soft Hanbō Ltd. He creates and sells the best Europeans padded weapons we can use in the Bujinkan. The last trip, he gave a set of padded weapons to Sensei, who was so pleased that he gave him one of his iaitō in return!
After speaking together, he might create longer training weapons suiting our body size. Check with him on his new website. (10)
Here is a chart you can use to find your perfect weapon size:
weapon chart
 Test different sizes to see which one works for you. The dimensions here have to be adapted to your height, length of limbs, torso, etc. Find the perfect match for you.
I added the size of the Tsuka in the chart above. The blade is essential but what is even more important is the size of your Tsuka. Because of the Yoroi, the size of your Tsuka should be the width of your torso. With a long Tsuka, you do not injure the inner side of your arms. You can also extend your arms better. The small Tsuka we have on the bokken or swords is coming from the Edo period where the Yoroi was no more in use.
So, grow the size of your weapon, because you know now that size does matter!
2. Gendai budō (現代武道):
5. They began to grow in height during the 20th century. My first trip to Japan was in 1990. I am 176 cm, and I remember that on the train I was taller than most of the locals. Not anymore, regular proteins input changed that.
6. Average European Height for males:
8. 150 cm x 1.2 = 180 cm
9. Modern European size for a Bō: 172 cm x 1.2 = 206.4 cm to 181 cm x 1.2 = 217 cm!

Buyūkai 2: More Details By Phil

IMG_20180309_213249Some changes are happening these days in the Bujinkan. Here is some more useful information by Phil Legare from Japan.

It takes some time to change to take place. The following text explains a few points I didn’t cover in my last post.

My friend Phil published that today on Facebook. But the “life-span” of news on Facebook being very short, I decided to share it on the blog. This text completes my last entry and interests the whole Bujinkan community,

A few things that Phil writes:

  1. It’s not mandatory for all or any of the Dai-Shihan to collect a membership fee.
  2. It’s up to the individual Dai-Shihan if they choose to or not.
  3. It’s also not mandatory to send promotions through a Dai-Shihan. But it helps the Admin to handle the orders if the Dai-Shihan are compiling many requests for others.
  4. Sōke is not taking recommendations anymore for Dai-Shihan for people who are not here.
  5. You should visit Honbu if you wish to receive Dai-Shihan.
  6. If you cannot visit Japan in the next few years, and you feel you must have this, then write Sōke a letter in Japanese.
  7. Add in a Dai-Shihan’s name who is willing to endorse you. Sōke may agree to give you a Dai-Shihan.
  8. Someday all orders may have to go through the Dai-Shihan. Since we have a Shidōshi title and Menkyo (Y20,000) that comes with Godan, Shidōshi can still process the orders and promotions from Sōke.
  9. As I said, if the Dai-Shihan regroup the orders, it helps the Admin.

On my side I would remind you that:

  • There is no obligation to get a Dai Shihan diploma. It is not a rank, only a distinction.
  • In case you desire to get one, you are expected to donate (no amount is given) to the Honbu Dōjō.


Buyūkai, Buyukai, And Other Clarifications

IMG_20180311_162925This Sunday in Japan, was the first meeting of the Buyūkai. (1) That is a new change in the Bujinkan.Until this day, the Shidōshikai was regrouping the teachers of the Bujinkan. The Shidōshikai doesn’t exist anymore in Japan. The Buyūkai replaces it.

This Buyūkai meeting was a very happy moment. Sensei exposed the goal of this new organization. The Buyūkai is “to develop friendship and peace amongst the Bujinkan members. With the help of the hundreds of Dai Shihan present in 55 countries.” (2)(3). The significant change of 2018 is the generalization of the Dai Shihan title. Since the end of 2017 and to this day, Sensei is awarding lots of Dai Shihan diplomas. You are eligible for this new award if you have been in the Bujinkan for about twenty years and had a Jūgodan, Sensei wants the Dai Shihan group to work together and to take care of the Bujinkan.

To this effect, and since January 2018 the rules have changed. Sensei wants the Dai Shihan to deal with the Shidōshikai and regular memberships (the yellow card). Each Dai Shihan can establish his cards with the pricing he deems correct.

That means two things for the Bujinkan community.

  1. First, you now get your cards from your Dai Shihan. (Bujinkan membership card, Shidōshikai membership card).
    You have to choose a Dai Shihan. It doesn’t have to be the one living next door. He or she can be from another country. Your only obligation, like it was the case until now, is to get a valid membership each year.
  2. Second, concerning the ranks, nothing change. All grades are ordered in Japan at the Honbu Office like we have been doing it until now. The only modification is the cards.
    Some prices (Shidōshi Menkyō, Jūdan, and Jūgodan) have changed. (4)
    In the last weeks on social media, I have read many things that are not true. Remember that Facebook is not the Honbu.

I read that “any Dōjō can issue the ranks before Godan”: NO. That is not true!
All ranks from 9th Kyū to Jūgodan are issued in Japan by Sōke only. No change.

I read that “any Dōjō can issue their membership cards.” NO. That is not true!
Only the Dai Shihan can issue the cards. Shidōshi or Yūshū Shihan cannot establish the cards.

During the Buyūkai, Sensei awarded the “Buyūshō” to Phil Legare, for his long-term commitment, and friendship. Let me repeat what Sensei said: “the Buyūkai is to develop friendship amongst the Bujinkan members.”
As always with our Sōke, each word he uses (crafts?) has many meanings.
Buyū is the qualificative for bravery. (5)
Yūjō means friendship. (6)
Hatsumi Sensei has combined these two words “武勇” and “友情” to create “武友”; martial friends. He is brilliant!
The Buyūkai is the association of the “martial friends.” (7) That is why the objective is to promote friendship, love, peace, and justice about the Gojō (check my recent post on the subject). (8)

The Buyūshō given to Phil is an “award of martial friendship” for his many years in the Bujinkan. (9)(10)
There will be one Buyūkai meeting every 3 to 4 months.

This first Buyūkai was very informal, and we had a lot of fun. I understand that the Buyūkai is also Buyukai, a “club for happiness.” (11)(12)(13)

Be happy!
1. 武友会, Buyūkai: The association of the martial friends
2. For Koi members: You can listen to sensei’s speech on Koi at
3. Dai Shihan diploma: Furuta sensei told me last week that from now on, a “donation to the Honbu” from the new Dai Shihan would be greatly appreciated. The amount is the one you want.
4. You can contact me via email if you want the new forms, I will not put them online.
5. 武勇, Buyū: bravery; military prowess; valour; valour
6. 友情, Yūjō, friendship
7. 会, kai: meeting; assembly; party; association; club
8. In “Advanced stick fighting” (48), Hatsumi Sensei lists the Gojō as:
滅の不施, Fumetsu no Fuse, endless giving
真道の持戒, Mamichi no Jikai, awareness, right path of self-justice
自然の忍にく, Shizen no Ninniku, perseverance, forbearance
光明の悟り, Komyō no Satori, the light of enlightenment
自然の超越, Shizen no Choetsu, natural transcendence
9. 賞, Shō, Award: An award is something given to a person or a group of people to recognize their excellence in a particular field; a certificate of excellence.
10. 武友賞, Buyūshō: award of Martial friendship
11. 部, Bu: club
12. 愉快, Yukai: pleasant; delightful; enjoyable; joyful; cheerful; amusing; happy
13. 部愉快, Buyukai: the club of happiness.


The Tesseract Of Nature


Teaching the Mutō Dori of 2018, Hatsumi Sensei keeps repeating it is about control. But the control he speaks about is different from the general understanding we have of this word.

During the calligraphy session, I asked for “control,” and he did “Kū.” (1) Because it is one of the few Kanji I can recognize, I looked at him interrogatively, and he smiled.

In the train back to Kashiwa, I thought about it.

Kanji are pictographic. A word or a sentence always have several possible interpretations. And often, they are complementary even if they don’t define the same object.
We established the relationship between humans and Kūkan (see the previous post). That is why we can control the opponent in Nature, as we are of the same nature. Every action happens without thinking, spontaneously. (2)

Yesterday, he spoke about Shizen Ryoku, which I choose to understand as “power of Nature.” (3) This power of Nature is something that “is” without any human conception. It is Shinyo, the ultimate nature of all things. (4) Shinyo is “thusness” or “suchness” in English, a rare term, meaning “The state of things being as they are.” (5)

Isso Chozanshi wrote: “envelop the universe by means of my mind; and by means of the universe, there is nothing that obstructs my mind. Riches and honour, good luck and calamity are elsewhere. When you seek after such things, you may obtain them or you may not—this is not something that is guaranteed. The Greatest Happiness is within yourself. If you seek your mind wholeheartedly, you will obtain it for sure. Simply, do not seek after illusion.” (6)

And this “natural state of things as they are” is what we see when Hatsumi sensei does a movement. As one of his Uke said: “he doesn’t seem concerned by the attacker.” Sensei moves without intention. This kind of disregard, allows him to control Uke at the physical and mental level.

The control is total and permanent. Even before the launch of the attack. Sensei moves in another dimension, the dimension of Nature. He is manifesting something beyond our understanding: the tesseract of Nature. I was not sure I could speak about the tesseract. But my partner said that everyone today is familiar with the term as it used in one of the Thor movies. But I put a link below. (7)

This level of Budō is far beyond our reach, but at least we can see it. There is no more Waza, and Sensei ion his last classes stressed that many times. A technique is only mechanical. You have to train the Waza, but this is not where your learning path ends. Once your movements are natural, the tesseract level of Budō can be achieved. You will not learn how to do that in a Densho. Because a Densho deals only with the physical world (8) Sensei’s gives us something more important: a Denshō, a real transmission! (9)

He illustrated it by attacking Uke with a sword. He struck Uke in slow motion, and the opponent couldn’t counter the cut. Sensei explained that attacking as fast as possible was the best way to get countered. The quicker you go, the more locked you are. When he moves, you cannot alter your course of action. You watch him defeat you. He added that is why doing Tameshi Giri (10) was useless as anyone can cut straw mats. But, when the straw mat has a weapon and tries to cut back at you, it is entirely different”. To sum up this, I would say, don’t fight scarecrows!

Later, he asked his partner to cut him. And even though Uke thought he had him, Sensei was not there when the blade came. Uke said “attacking Sōke is like trying to cut through a Noren. It is impossible because the blade pushes and cannot cut the fabric”. (11)

In the 4th dimension where Sensei moves, we are trying to fight Kūkan, the universe, uselessly. That is why he repeats “Tatakai Janai,” There is no fight!

The warrior martial arts of the Bujinkan are not for killing, but for peace. That is the tesseract: the 4th dimension of Nature.

“The wise and sagacious men of ancient times had the very spirit of the martial and did not kill.”
Issai Chozanshi, in “The demon’s sermon on the Martial Arts.”

1. 空, Kū: sky; the air; the heavens; weather; the state of mind; feeling; falsehood; lie
2. 自然, Shizen: nature, spontaneous, Nature
3. 自然力, Shizen Ryoku: The power/strength/ability of Nature. Or natural power/strength/ability!
4. 真如, Shinyo: tathata (Sanskrit), the ultimate nature of all things. Cited in “Advanced stick fighting” by Hatsumi Sensei, p38
5. Thusness:
7. Tesseract: In geometry, the tesseract is the four-dimensional analogue of the cube; the tesseract is to the cube as the cube is to the square. Just as the surface of the cube consists of six square faces, the hypersurface of the tesseract consists of eight cubical cells.
8. 伝書, Densho: book or scroll that has been handed down through generations; a book of secrets
9. 伝承, Denshō: handing down (information); legend; tradition; transmission
10. 試し切り, Tameshi Giri: cutting test
11. 暖簾, Noren: (short) curtain hung at shop entrance; split curtain used to divide spaces in a house.



I Am The Universe!


and so are you!

During training, Hatsumi Sensei spoke of “Ningen Kûkan Tsunagaru.” There is a connection between Humanity and Kūkan. (1)

He told us to “let the divine express itself through us.” Some of you might react to the word “divine,” but understand it as the Shintō or Taoist meaning of “Nature.” This “divine nature” is the Dōkyō, the Japanese for Taoism.

We express nature through our body because humans and emptiness are of the same quality. Science explains it in more acceptable terms. “About 99 percent of your body is made up of atoms of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. You also contain much smaller amounts of the other elements that are essential for life. Most of the cells in your body regenerate every seven to 15 years. Many of the particles that make up those cells have existed for millions of millennia. The hydrogen atoms in you were produced in the big bang. And the carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms were made in burning stars. The weighty elements in you were made in exploding stars.” (3)

That means that we are empty by nature. If we concentrate all the matter that makes us, we would be very tiny. “If the nucleus were the size of a peanut, the atom would be about the size of a baseball stadium. If we lost all the dead space inside our atoms, we would each be able to fit into a particle of dust. And the entire human species would fit into the volume of a sugar cube.” (4)

Our body is not different from the stars in the universe. We are of the same nature. For that reason, the Kûkan inside of us is like the Kûkan of space. When we accept this, we understand that humanity and Kûkan are connected. We can control the attacker because he and we are part of the same universe, composed of the same elements.

“Kagenmi,” past, present, and future (5) do not exist. Everything happens at the same time. “Time itself doesn’t exist,” Sensei said during class.

When Uke attacks, we can control him as there is no difference between him, us, the universe. To express it, Sensei used the words “Kako, Genzai, Mirai.” (6) It gives a deeper meaning to the Kagenmi. It reads “the past is gone, the present exists, and the future is next.” In a fight, everything happens at the same moment. What is gone, what exists and what comes next are intertwined. They are one because Time as we see it doesn’t exist in reality.

Shintō expresses as “Nakaima.” (7) I prefer Nakaima to the Zen concept of “here and now” as it shows the impermanence of the moment. When you attack Hatsumi Sensei, this is how you feel. He uses only one finger to control you. And he uses it as a Shiten (8), a fulcrum, suspending you in time and space. With this one finger as a fulcrum, Uke is like supported weightlessly in mid-air.

Many of his Uke say that Sensei moves before the actual attack. That is a superior Yûgen (9) because when Uke sees what happens, he cannot alter his course of action. Sensei’s timing and distance are always perfect; his opponents are lost in indecision. What they see is so beautiful that they can only watch it, unfolding in front of their eyes, and die. It is like sliding on the ice. There is nothing you can do to prevent the crash. You can only watch it happen.

We lose the fight before the attack because we think, instead of adapting to the situation. That is how Sensei controls us so quickly. Because we trust our senses, we do not comprehend that we too are part of the universe. To copy Descartes, we could say “I think. Therefore I am defeated!”.

Each Human is part of the universe. The space within us vibrates with the space around us. We are all and nothing at the same time. The true essence of Mutō Dori is about control, and thinking is not the way to go.

We are the universe!
1. 人間空間繋, Ningen Kûkan Tsunagaru: a human being; person; man; mankind; humankind + space; room; airspace + to be tied together; to be connected to; to be linked to.
2. 道教, Dōkyō: Taoism is a philosophical and religious tradition that emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao. The term Tao (or Dao, depending on the romanization system used) originally means “way,” “path” or “principle,” and can be found in Chinese philosophies and religions other than Taoism. In Taoism, however, Tao denotes a metaphysical force which is ultimately ineffable: “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.”
5. 過現未, Kagenmi: past, present, and future; three temporal states of existence
6. 過去現在未来, Kako, Genzai, Mirai: past, present and future
7. 中今, Nakaima: the present, the middle of now (esp. as a privileged moment in eternity)
8. 支点, Shiten: fulcrum
9. 幽玄, Yûgen: subtle grace; hidden beauty; mysterious profundity; elegant simplicity; the subtle and profound. That was the theme we studied in 2004. We learned to move slightly ahead of Uke. At the exact moment, Uke takes his decision but has not moved yet.


Protect Your Holes!

IMG_20180308_145258What I like when training with Nagato sensei, is that he often has his way to convey his ideas. Today was no different when he said “protect your holes!” and laughed.

What he meant was about the fight. When you are fighting the opponent, make sure not to let any Suki, holes, in your movements. (1)

When you move closer to him, Uke tries to resist and to hit you. So, when you get close to him, check all the openings in your body and close them before doing any movement. And this is the same with or without the Yoroi. That is an essential point in Taijutsu. Protection and balance are the first things to do.

Too often I see practitioners not protecting their openings enough. Luckily for them, their attacker is friendly (they will be Tori soon), so the outcome is always positive. But this would be different in a real encounter.
In sword, we have a Kamae called “Tōtoku Hyōshi no Kamae.” (2)
In Taijutsu, “Toku” (shield) is like awareness (3), it is a permanent aspect of the fight. If you leave your body unprotected, Uke will take advantage of it.
In Nagato sensei’s movements, the action of his hands is always a consequence of his footwork. Only when your body is in a good position that you can apply the technique. By “having the body in a good position,” I mean that all your Suki are out of reach or closed.
When we watch a movement, we memorize the hand’s actions more or less. We don’t pay enough attention to the other aspects of the technique. That is a whole including footwork, body angle, relative angle, distance, and rhythm. These aspects are all linked together and play a significant role in the exchange between Uke and Tori. In a real fight, Uke and Tori will react to one another in attack or defence; this is why the footwork is vital.

Knowing how to apply the lock is a good start. But understanding how to place yourself well is better. So that Uke is never in a position to counter-attack. That is more important.

Today, Nagato sensei stressed this many times during the class. We did many variations around Musha Dori and Ō Soto Gake. We did them with grabs, reverse kicks, Tsuki, Taiken, Nage and Ashi Rau. Each time he insisted that we closed our weakness points.
As Hatsumi Sensei says, Mutō Dori is about controlling. But it is not enough to control the attacker or the Kūkan between and around us. No, the most important is to control ourselves.
If you control yourself, you control the universe. So, protect your holes!

1. 隙, Suki: chink (in one’s armour, armour); chance; opportunity; a weak spot
2. 刀匿表紙, Tōtoku Hyōshi: sword + shield + cover or to “shield yourself under-covered by the sword.”
3. Ishiki, Awareness: see one of the last entries in this blog


Noguchi Ryū

A class with Noguchi sensei is always a surprise. Last class, we covered the Shizen Chigoku Gata (the first level). As often with him, I am lost after ten minutes!
Noguchi sensei has this fantastic ability to make something new with old techniques. And for many of the techniques, his renewed interpretation is impressive.
Over the last thirty years, we have covered these techniques many times. But each time, he gives a new interpretation. I am amazed by his ability to do that, as it shows the technical distance he has with me. For example, his “new” Fū Batsu was nothing like I saw before, his Ryōte Gake Noguchi Ryū was even stranger.
Seeing that, I often paused during training, trying to decipher the pattern of the real Waza. That brought a few thoughts that I want to share with you.
Before going ANY Waza, he reads them from the Denshō. He doesn’t work from memory but interprets the technique as if it was the first time.
He follows a teaching pattern in five steps, like the five elements. The first variation is always a “Chi” like movement, the last one a “Kū” like movement. I mean that for the last change he is hardly touching the opponent.
Whatever the original movement, he continues it against fist attack. Then he changes whatever can be, still keeping the Kaname (key point) alive.
I also discovered yesterday that my understanding of Japanese names is limited. In the West a word is a thing, here it is an image. For example, Noguchi sensei was blocking Uke’s arm from the outside on the upper arm. He used the word “Jakkin” to define the point he was hitting. Until then, I thought that Jakkin was only on the inside of the arm.
Later he hooked Uke’s foot from the inside with his leg, like in Uchi Gake. He called it “Ashi Dome.” Until then, I thought of Ashi Dome as a set technique from the Chi Ryaku no Maki. It is not what I thought it was.
In the new edition of the Tenchijin (1), Hatsumi Sensei writes about Ganseki Nage. He lists the “official variations”: Ganseki Otoshi, and Ganseki Oshi. But there is a third one: Ganseki Ori (2), and we did it. It was a kind of Ganseki turning into a robust Ō Gyaku (you end up facing Uke).
After the Shizen Chigoku Gata, we did some Hanbō Jutsu. Noguchi Sensei reminded us that neither the Hanbō nor the Jō, belong to any one of the Ryūha. We do the techniques with the “feeling of the Kukishin Ryū,” but they are not Waza from the Kukishin. As a joke, he added, “tonight we do Noguchi Ryū Hanbō Jutsu.”
The class lasted only ninety minutes, and still, I learned more than I could ever imagine. The points above might look like details. But once incorporated into your Taijutsu, they will change it profoundly. That is why we have to come and train here often. If you already have been practising in Japan, it is good. But if you can afford to travel every year, I can assure you that you will get a much better Taijutsu.
See you here on the mats soon!
  2. 折る, Ori(oru): o break; to fracture; to break off; to snap off; to fold; to bend

Skydiving Anyone?

img_20180302_202715.jpgThese days, this is precisely the feeling I have when training at the Honbu. When skydiving in free fall, you have this incredible feeling of falling within your fall. It is like being into a vortex. The fall seems infinite like falling into an endless fractal. If you had the chance to experience it, you know what I mean. Speed keeps increasing. And you feel you are falling inside your fall until you reach terminal velocity.

Kūkan is like this; it is part of Ūchū, the Universe. (1)(2) Flow with this natural aspect and be one with Kūkan. If you think you can influence the universe, you’re mistaking! You can feel Jūryoku, gravity, on Earth (Chi level), but it exists everywhere in the whole universe (Ten). Being one with the Kūkan, Tori is in control (Jin level). That is the Tenchijin of 2018! (3)

There is a broad relationship between Humanity and Kūkan. Sensei said “Ningen to Kūkan Tsunagaru,” “humanity and space are connected.” (4)(5) When you connect yourself to your own inner Kūkan, you are part of the whole. The Waza are only a means to reach perfect control. As everything is linked in the universe, we just have to use this feeling and move freely. Nothing that we do is relevant, the only thing that matters is the natural flow. Sensei doesn’t do any Waza, he only controls. Control applies to the attacker, but also to the situation, space, and to yourself. If you can control your space, then the rest is natural, because you are moving in harmony with the forces of the universe.

Kūkan is the space between, inside, around Tori and Uke. It is only the place to be. Connected to Kūkan, we are moving into the natural and powerful flow surrounding us. Our intentions, our willingness to do something hinder the natural expression of Life. Hatsumi Sensei does his movements without thinking. He has no intent and is always in phase with the universe. He lets things happen. But Uke trapped in the “I want to attack,” blinded by his intents, cannot see his defeat coming. By not fighting, “Tatakai Wa Janai,” you are one with all things and Uke is your toy. (6) That is why the Bujinkan system is about peace, not war.

I love Sci-fi, and my last sentence reminded me of the end of the book “2001, a Space Odyssey” by Arthur C. Clarke. “and the star child understood the universe was his toy.”
That is what the Dai Shihan must do: play with the universe.

This year is Mutō Dori with an emphasis on justice and peace. Phil Legare on his blog wrote: “I asked Sōke if he had any instructions or advice for the Dai Shihan for the new year 2018. He said, Justice and Peace. Sensei wishes all Dai Shihan to bring about Justice and Peace in their own countries. He noted that we now have Dai Shihan in 55 countries around the world and more all the time. Sōke said that each Dai Shihan must figure out their way forward with Justice and Peace. He hopes they will foster the same goodwill within their own countries and in their groups. Honbu training is still Mutō dori, Control, and No power for each, as before. But there is also an emphasis on the five virtues of the Buddha: the Gojō.” (7)

“Then he [The Star Child] waited, marshalling his thoughts and brooding over his still untested powers. For though he was master of the world, he was not quite sure what to do next. But he would think of something.” ― Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey
1. 空間, Kūkan: Space. Space is the boundless, three-dimensional extent in which objects and events occur and have relative position and direction. Physical space is often conceived in three linear dimensions, although modern physicists usually consider it, with time, to be part of a boundless four-dimensional continuum known as spacetime.
2. 宇宙, Ūchū: the universe. The universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary, and similar terms include the cosmos, the world, and nature.
3. 人間, Ningen: a human being; person; man; mankind; humankind
4. 繋がる, Tsunagaru: to be tied together; to be connected to; to be linked to; to be related to
5. 戦いわじゃない, Tatakai Wa Janai: There is no fight.
6. 重力, Jūryoku: Gravity, is a natural phenomenon by which physical bodies attract with a force proportional to their masses. Gravitation is most familiar as the agent that gives weight to objects with mass and causes them to fall to the ground when dropped. Gravitation causes dispersed matter to coalesce, and coalesced matter to remain intact, thus accounting for the existence of the Earth, the Sun, and most of the macroscopic objects in the universe.
7. The Gojō are:
滅の不施, Fumetsu no Fuse, endless giving
真道の持戒, Mamichi no Jikai, awareness, right path of self-justice
自然の忍にく, Shizen no Ninniku, perseverance, forbearance
光明の悟り, Komyō no Satori, the light of enlightenment
自然の超越, Shizen no Choetsu, natural transcendence


Satori, Gojō, Gogyō

Master and students


I have not been in the dōjō for three months, and I have the feeling that Sensei’s movements gained in subtlety. How can it be possible? I am amazed. After class last Friday, I spoke with Liz, a Canadian resident about it and she agreed with me.

I will not detail here what he does because every one of his moves is the expression of high-level Mutō Dori. It is beyond explanations.
Sensei controls his Uke from the very start, and all along the movement. When asked to share what he felt, Duncan said: “Sensei controls me at the very moment he calls me to attack him.” There are no more Waza, only natural adaptive movements.

But his teachings are also getting much more profound. And I want to share some of his lessons from Sunday here. I will give you a few keys to understand, but I will not try to explain them. You can share what you got from it, later in the comments.

Sensei introduced the class by speaking about 悟, Satori. (1) He said the Kanji contains three parts: Kokoro (2), five (3), mouth (4). This new sanshin links the Gojō (5) to the Gogyō. Understanding that, he said, is the goal of the Dai Shihan.

Before I expose the Gojō, I want to explain what a Dai Shihan is in today’s Bujinkan. I heard many people being critical about this evolution of Sensei’s vision. First, once again, Sensei does what he wants and if you are unhappy, then shut up or go away. Second, during the last class Sensei said that with the Mutō Dori of 2018, the real Budō was beginning. He noted that the Dai Shihan are entering the Shōden level of Mutō Dori. That means that we are only beginning to scratch the surface of a new dimension of Budō. Dai Shihan sounds much better than Ōkudo (old beginner), don’t you think?

The Gojō are the five virtues of Confucianism. (6)

In “Advanced stick fighting” (48), Hatsumi Sensei lists the Gojō as:

  1. 滅の不施, Fumetsu no Fuse, endless giving
  2. 真道の持戒, Mamichi no Jikai, awareness, right path of self-justice
  3. 自然の忍にく, Shizen no Ninniku, perseverance, forbearance
  4. 光明の悟り, Komyō no Satori, the light of enlightenment
  5. 自然の超越, Shizen no Choetsu, natural transcendence (7)

Confucianism defines them also as (same order):

  1. JIN: Benevolence, charity
  2. GI, JINGI, O: Justice, rectitude, righteousness, morality
  3. REI: Courtesy, politeness, tact
  4. TOMO, CHI, SATOSHI: Wisdom, knowledge
  5. NOBU, SHIN, SATORI: Sincerity, trust, fidelity (8)

Sensei has been using the verb Tsunagaru (to be connected to), a lot these days. (9)
So, the mission of the Dai Shihan this year is to “connect” the Gojō and the Gogyō, through Satori (Kokoro, Go, Kuchi).

I hope the next classes will shed some light on how to achieve that. Because right now, I am lost. I wish I were a Satori (10), a monster that can read minds.

Anyway, next Sunday is the first Buyukai meeting at Hana. I guess Sensei will give us the direction to follow during this year. (11)
Ganbatte! (12)

1. 悟, satori: comprehension; understanding; enlightenment; spiritual awakening
2. 心, Kokoro: heart, mind, spirit
3. 五, go: 5
4. 口, Kuchi, mouth, gate, opening
5. 五常, gojō: the five cardinal Confucian virtues (justice, politeness, wisdom, fidelity, and benevolence)
6. More on Confucianism:
7. The Five Constants are:
Rén (仁, benevolence, humaneness);
Yì (義/义, righteousness or justice);
Lǐ (禮/礼, proper rite);
Zhì (智, knowledge);
Xìn (信, integrity).
8. In a recent post, Duncan lists the Gojō as being:
滅の不施, Fumetsu no Fuse, Everlasting giving
真道の持戒, Mamichi no Jikai, Vow of the true way
自然の忍にく, Shizen no Ninniku, Natural resolve
自然の超越, Shizen no Choetsu, Transcendence of nature
光明の悟り, Komyō no Satori, Illumination of the awakening
9. 繋がる, Tsunagaru, to be tied together; to be connected to; to be linked; to be related to
10. 覚, satori: folklore monster that can read minds
11. Since January 2018, the Buyukai replaces the Shidōshikai. The new organization is now accessible to any practitioner. The first Buyukai meeting will take place at Hana. That is the usual restaurant in front of the old Honbu. Lunch begins at 2 pm after Sensei’s class.
12. A Personal message to Phil. So? What do you think?


Ishiki: Awareness


I wrote many times about Japan being the country where one makes mistakes.
I arrived Thursday in Japan and made the first one on arrival. That made me think about Ishiki, awareness. (1)
Before I go further on the philosophical lesson learned, let me tell you the story.

Landing in Narita in the afternoon, I was happy to be there. After buying the yen, getting a wifi router, and a bus ticket to Kashiwa, I went for a smoke (yes, I know it’s terrible, but that is not the point here).

With my suitcase in tow and my small backpack, I went to the designated smoking area located outside the building. I let my luggage outside and went into the booth. A few emails needed my attention, and I answered them. Having finished, I went for a coffee.

Fifteen minutes later I felt that something was missing. My suitcase was still outside the smoking booth.

When this happens in any other country, you panic. But not here. Japan is so safe that nothing can go wrong. As I didn’t want to spill my coffee, I walked calmly to my luggage, and it was waiting for me. I was not even relieved as I was sure it would be there. And that is what I call my mistake.

In the “Lucifer Principle” (2), Howard Bloom explains that when not in danger, any species will die. In short, we only survive because there is a risk of dying. When potentially nothing is threatening you, you lower your defences, and you die.

In my story, the opposite happened. My “Ishiki” level was close to zero. Knowing that Japan is safe, I did something that I wouldn’t do in any other country.

The first lesson I learned is that, even when in a safe environment, you have to be ready for action. For a martial art practitioner, Ishiki must be a permanent state of mind. And not something you activate once in a while. It doesn’t mean you have to become paranoid; it means that you have to be having a permanent awareness.

See that as the “black swan” of Bujinkan.

“The black swan theory is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a significant effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.
It comes from an ancient saying which presumed black swans did not exist until we discovered them in Australia.”

In short, it is not because something never happens, that it will not happen.

In martial arts, we train to be ready for anything. Friday night I met my friend Christophe Ayen (French Dai Shihan), and I told him my little adventure. He said, “I know what you mean.” I looked at him, and he continued. “Last week I was training at the Honbu with Noguchi Sensei when he got an urgent phone call. He had to go. He came to me and said Christophe can you please finish the class? He went, and I finished the class in English, even though I don’t speak English!”.

You can use Ishiki at any moment inside or outside of the dōjō. Don’t let your awareness down only because you feel safe. Always be ready so that, as Takamatsu sensei said, “there will be no surprise.” Banpen Fugyō.

The second lesson is that smoking is terrible. But that I already knew.


  1. 意識/ishiki/consciousness|awareness; sense|mano-vijnana (mental consciousness, cognizer of sensory information)
  2. by Howard Bloom

PARIS TAIKAI 2018 JULY 13th to 15th

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