Waza Or Kankaku?


Next weekend I have a sword seminar on Kukishin Biken Jutsu, and Togakure Happō Biken in Lugo (Spain). For the first time ever, I will teach them together, to see the differences and the similarities. If you join us, you will discover the value of our Bujinkan heritage.
Since the sword seminar in Finland, I have put a lot of thoughts into the value of “form” versus “free flow.”
This an important question, the form or the feel? Waza or Kankaku? (1) (2)
Searching the internet, I found out that musicians have the same issue. Here what I found.
“So here is the core of the matter: Playing with feel is not the opposite of playing with good technique, but is rather the outgrowth of having developed your technique to the point that it is no longer a barrier between you and self-expression.” (3)
This is the same idea in Budō. About ten years ago, a Japanese Dai Shihan gave a good explanation during class. He said “to walk you need two legs. In Budō, those legs are ‘waza and kankaku’. One leg is not enough to walk, you have to use both.” Our Budō teaches us how to walk like a human being. This is why Sensei insists on the importance of footwork.
Hatsumi Sensei spoke last year about Aidamaari. He said, “Aidamaari is the space between things.” (4) This space appears through the interaction of Waza and Kankaku. They are not opposed, they are complementary. When you can use Waza and Kankaku together, you develop natural movement.
Some Bujinkan teachers often privilege one leg or the other, and it is not right. Both legs are important as the secret of Mutō Dori lies in the mix of the two.
Next weekend in Lugo, we will cover the two aspects of the two Ryū. (5)
We will first study the forms of the Togakure Ryū on Saturday, and of the Kukishin Ryū on Sunday. (6) Then, develop the kankaku of each system. But without a good understanding of the technique, the feeling is only a loss of time. Train hard on your basics, it is the root of feeling.
I want to finish, with another quote from the text on music. “So … if you have been thinking that “feel is more important than technique”, try doing some spirited sport driving with the tires removed from your wheels. After you get out of the hospital then get back to metronome practice, and lot’s of it.” (3)
So, what do you think: Waza or Kankaku?
  1. Waza; 技/waza/technique; art; skill
  2. Kankaku; 感覚/kankaku/sense; sensation; feeling; intuition
  3. Aidamaari; 間/aida/space (between); gap; interval; distance, time (between); pause; break, span (temporal or spatial); stretch; period (while), relationship (between, among), members (within, among), due to; because of.
    間合/maai/interval; distance; break; pause|suitable time; appropriate opportunity|distance between opponents (kendo).
    在り/ari/existing (at the present moment)|alright; acceptable; passable|to be (usu. of inanimate objects); to have
  4. Seminario Kukishin Biken Jutsu, and Togakure Happō Biken in Lugo: https://www.facebook.com/events/1490695807725786/
  5. Update: We will begin the seminar with Togakure instead of Kukishin as initially posted. The Togakure is much deeper and will require more time to understand. For those that attended the seminar last year where we rapidly covered the Kukishin it will be the follow-up.   Also, that will give us more time on Sunday to merge the two systems together. Finally, many participants cannot attend two full days of training (family constraints), so those coming only for the first day will definitely have a chance to see the Shinobi sword.

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IMHO: Bujinkan Biken Jutsu

sword; helsinki; togakure
In my humble opinion, the Bujinkan Biken Jutsu is not taught enough in our classes. Japanese kanji are cool. Do you know that “biken” meaning “a hidden secret” (1), but another “biken,” means “in my humble opinion.” (2) It is a sign.

As you know, I’m a sword freak. I recently gave a seminar outdoor in Finland on Togakure Happō Biken with my friend Lauri. It was a great seminar. When I came back to my dōjō, I had to teach the Kukishin Biken Jutsu. And I thought it would nice to show both sword systems at the same time.

Next week, I will conduct a seminar in Lugo (Spain) on Biken Jutsu. With the seminar’s organizer, we thought that teaching the two systems would be great. It would give anyone a much better grasp of the rich aspects of sword fighting. Studying the logic of the two sets in the same weekend will provide each participant a good experience. Whether you are a beginner or not, you will get a fantastic understanding of what Biken Jutsu is about.

Teaching the Togakure AND the Kukishin sword techniques in a single seminar will be a “first” for me.

In the Bujinkan, we have nine fighting systems. Only two of them have a densho (3) detailing the waza of the Ryū: the Togakure Ryū Happō Biken, and the Kukishin Ryū Biken Jutsu.

Let me clarifies one thing, here. Each fighting system teaches war. All Ryūha had sword waza because in battle you carry weapons. For some reason, we do not have specific densho except for these two Ryū (or they are not transmitted to us yet).

At first glance, they look entirely different. But this is only an illusion.

On one side, the structure of the Kukishin consists of nine basic forms. They are then multiplied and duplicated into “9 Sayu Gyaku” (4) and “9 henka” (5). This turns the nine basics into twenty-seven forms creating an infinite series of combinations.

On the other side, the structure of the Togakure consists of “only ” seven waza. But, with the correct eye, you discover the same infinite possibility for combinations. To make a long story short, the seven waza are “nine + one.”

When you train one or the other system you cannot see the similarities, only the differences. When you put them side to side, their unity becomes visible. This is what we will do next week in Spain, I hope you can join us. (6)

As my former sword instructor used to say “ancient sword systems were all limited to nine waza. Peacetime created the sword schools of today”. (6) These techniques were then combined together to make surviving possible.

I hope that Jose Camino records the seminar on video. If he does, I will put it on www.koimartialart.com (it will be in Spanish). I have also decided to make a video recording in English next January when I’m in India with Shiva and his Bujinkan India team.

To complete that, I will make a kindle e-book summarizing the mix of these Ryū. (mid-2019). I have to write the ebook because the Japanese language is so creative that “ebook” is also called “densho.” (8)


1. Hiken (biken); 秘鍵: hidden mysteries; secret principle.
2. Hiken (biken): 卑見: my humble opinion.

3. Densho; 伝書: book or scroll that has been handed down through generations; a book of secrets.

4. Sayū Gyaku; Sayū; 左右: left and right, but also “control, domination,” or “relative direction.” And Gyaku; 逆: reverse, opposite

5. Henka; 変化; change; variation; alteration; mutation; transition; transformation; transfiguration; metamorphosis .

6. Seminar in Lugo (Spain), September 22nd-23rd: https://www.facebook.com/events/1490695807725786/

7. Nine waza: This French instructor lived in Japan for twenty years. Vice-world champion of Kendō. 7th dan Kendō. 7th dan Iaidō. 6th dan Battōdō. He taught Seitei Iai; Musō Shinden (over 70 kata); and new about 30 ancient styles of sword fighting. On top that, he was a Frenchman, member of the National Japanese Kendō team! He was outstanding and knew a lot.

8. Densho; 電書: electronic book; e-book; ebook.

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