Master One To Master All

At the end of the class, Nagato sensei said, “if you master one thing, you can master anything”.

It reminded me of how Musashi became a fantastic painter after mastering the art of the sword. (1) In his famous book “Gorin no Sho”, he writes, “When I apply the principle of strategy to the ways of different arts and crafts, I no longer require a teacher in any domain.” (2)

This universal mastery is visible when you train here in Japan. The Japanese Dai Shihan are so good that whatever new field they begin to study, it turns out to be great. I often hear students being amazed by how the Dai Shihan play with the many weapons we use in the Bujinkan, and I keep reminding them that the Japanese discovered the weapons at the same time we did. As a result, many students dislike me for being critical. Many don’t get that the Bujinkan does taijutsu with weapons, but many teachers do taijutsu on one side and study weapons on the other. We are not studying Karate and Kobudō; we are studying Budō Taijutsu!

The Japanese Dai Shihan are so good and master taijutsu so well that it looks like they are very proficient with weapons without having spent hours learning the forms. In 1993 Quest released the Bō jutsu video. Everyone was amazed at the movements and the waza on the video. After a few years of training bō jutsu, I began to see some weaknesses in the forms performed by the Japanese. I spoke to Noguchi sensei about it and was startled by his answer. He said, “you know how playful Hatsumi sensei is; we discovered bō jutsu the day of the shooting in that temple. That was our first time using it.”

Mastering one to mastering all is not some lovely philosophical saying; it is a reality. And you can see that at every training. Yesterday, Stephane (Dai Shihan of the Kuma dōjō) began with a basic Musō dori.  Every beginner knows Musō dori as it is part of the basics of the Tenchijin. When Nagato sensei did his first variation, he linked it (again) to the Shinden Fudō ryū and the wing of a bird. (3)

For my friend Stephane, it was a long class. Stephane is very good at attacking. He loves rugby and can be as devastating as a rugby pack pushing forward to get to the trial line. In Paris, when he is my uke, I must move correctly not to be hit, and I have to do it right because there will be no second chance. We have a WhatsApp group for the dōjō. His avatar is a gorilla which says a lot.

Yesterday, facing Nagato sensei, the gorilla was like a little bug. Whatever speed and power he used, Nagato sensei was ahead of him, controlling the situation and moving naturally. His mastery of footwork gives him an innate understanding of the whole encounter, and he reacts naturally to anything that comes to him. There is no force, only an endless flow of moves that trap uke in a world of wonder. That is what mastering the Bujinkan basics is.

So when after the final bowing, he said, “if you master one thing, you can master everything”, it made perfect sense to me. 

Master taijutsu today so you can master your life tomorrow.  


2. Gorin no sho: Hundreds of versions of the book exist. I prefer the one by Kenji Tokitsu (, but if you didn’t read it, here is a pdf version (that I didn’t study):
3. Note for beginners: in the Shinden Fudō ryū, many waza refer to birds. As you cannot grab with a wing, the idea is to use your elbows as a wing to redirect the attacks and trap the opponent’s fist or weapon. The use of elbows is Nagato sensei’s favourite gimmick.  

Encounter With A Polisher

The Japanese Dai Shihan show how to polish our movements; I call them “polishers” for that reason.

My younger son Amaury is 27 years old, and this is his first Japan trip. Entering Nagato sensei’s class, he had the time of his life as he was his uke for the course. Being the son of the polar bear, it was obvious that Nagato sensei would use him as uke. I should have told him in advance, but somehow I forgot (am I a bad father?). This trip was supposed to be in 2019, but I had to go to Lebanon for a few months, and then the confinement hit us all.

Amaury opened the training with Stephane and Sui no kata. Stephane is a Dai Shihan from the Kuma dōjō, so he felt confident. When Nagato sensei began to unfold his “Nagato ryū” style of Budō, stress replaced his initial confidence.

One point that many students ask me concerning the new group of Sōke. Please make no mistake; they received Sōkeship, but they all still teach Bujinkan Budō like before, and they do not limit their teaching to the only ryū they received.

Watching how Amaury understood the specificity of Nagato sensei’s taijutsu was interesting. I’m not speaking about the pain, which is part of Nagato’s taijutsu.

From his perspective as a newcomer to the Nagato world, three things caught his attention the most: mastery of distance, use of elbows, and natural movement.

In my classes, I keep insisting that footwork is the key, that power resides in the legs, and that walking is like dancing with a partner. But this is different when you discover the subtlety of a Japanese Dai Shihan’s taijutsu. I’ve been uke of Hatsumi Sensei and the Japanese Shi Tennō for many years, but I don’t recall how I felt the first time I was uke. Amaury said that if the pain surprised him, Nagato’s mastery of distance was impressive.

Nagato sensei spoke about Shinden Fudō ryū referring to the wings of a bird, but those of you who have trained with him know perfectly that this is a common gimmick of his taijutsu movements. He used his elbows, as usual, to redirect or trap uke’s attacks. He is dealing with the attacker like a spider deals with a fly. The more intent by uke, the faster he is trapped, locked, and destroyed.

The last thing he noticed was how natural Nagato sensei’s movements were. For a 75-year-old man (in perfect shape), his movements are so natural that Amaury was not feeling any danger before it was too late. When tori shows intent, there is a way uke can see what is coming, but if there is no intent, it is impossible to see it. As Hatsumi Sensei said, “if I don’t know what I’m going to do next, how do you want uke to read my next move?.”

This ability to hide your moves is typical of the Japanese Dai Shihan, and I only know a few foreigners able to do that. The only way to learn that is not by collecting waza but by coming here and training with the high ranks. A total of 12 people attended the class, and half of them have repeatedly been coming to Japan for over thirty years. During the break, Nagato sensei asked Amaury his age, to which my friend Ed Lomax said, “you’re 27? That was my age when I moved to Japan back in 82′.”

The Bujinkan can survive this pandemic crisis only if people come and train here. The teachers at Honbu are amongst the best in the world. Before COVID, nearly half a million people claimed to be Bujinkan members. Where are they today? In all my classes here, there were at most 14 students. And I have met Ed, Andrew, Jasper, Alex, Mark, Stephane and a few others here for the last three decades. Where are you?

Please wake up, my friends and come here to give yourself a chance to excel one day. Japan is where you should come to better your taijutsu. The secret of body movement doesn’t rely solely on biomechanics. Biomechanics is very important, but you must know that waza is only an excuse to apply proper distancing. This is why it is called “Budō Taijutsu, ” emphasising taijutsu. To develop a natural movement like Nagato sensei and the other Dai Shihan, you have to meet the “polishers”. And the only place on earth where you can polish is here in Atago with the Japanese Dai Shihan.

I hope to see you soon on the mats at honbu. One thing I know for sure is that Amaury will be back shortly.

Kannin: Keep Going!

With my brother-in-arms Pedro, and a few others, we had the chance to share lunch with Sensei. During this time, he said, “this year, the important is Kannin, keep going.” (1)

There are several meanings to Kannin. Kannin refers to a period in Japanese history at the beginning of the 11th century (1017-1021). (2) 

Then during the Heian Jidai, it became a generic term referring to the officials of the imperial government. (3) 

When Kannin is read Kanjin, it refers to some missionary work done by the monks. (4)

When Sensei says “keep going”, he might use these various meanings simultaneously. 

Like governments in times of crisis (pandemic, war), we must adapt and keep going. Our ancestors did this in the 11th century and continue to carry on their actions until this day. As Dai Shihan, we are the ”officials” of the Bujinkan. Our role is to convey the knowledge we receive from Sensei to the next generations. This is also similar to the Buddhist missionaries.

Therefore, “Keep going” is accepting that these times are challenging for everyone and that we shouldn’t give up because of the hardship in our lives. As educators, we must continue spreading the taijutsu we have received. As students, we have to be even more committed to improving ourselves. This is because times are difficult that we have to recenter our priorities.

Because of COVID, we could not come to Japan for nearly four years. I usually come here every four months. I wrote recently about the changes I noticed here due to the pandemic. Since my last trip in May 2019, Sensei’s body has become frail. And this is normal and to be expected. Sensei is a 91 years old man, his body is letting him down gradually, but his mind is as sharp as it was. 

And that’s the way I understand Kannin, “keep going”. Pedro and I spent a few hours together yesterday and agreed that Sensei was happy to see us both together. It was like going back some 33 years ago when the younger us would spend the days in Sensei’s home listening and discussing with him. This lunch had this kind of flavour, and we felt it was the same for him, and it was visible on his face.

Our training halls have suffered a lot from the pandemic. We lost many students who, maybe, were not strong enough to “keep going”. Seminars are challenging to organise and attend. 

Let’s regroup and build everything better. I have no worries about the old guards; they are here and as committed as before. This past week on the mats, there has been a majority of grey hair: Mark, Elias, Alex, Jasper, Ed, Andrew, Stephane, and others I don’t remember. They are all Dai Shihan, and it is logical to see them here. But we must speak to those lost in the pandemic and return them to training. This is Kannin.

You have received your orders for 2023 from the General-in-chief, and it is Kannin: keep going! Spread the news worldwide during seminars and in your dōjō. It won’t be easy, but your mission is to make 2023 a year of progress to rebuild a better Bujinkan.



1. 堪忍, Kannin: patience; forbearance; endurance; tolerance​; forgiveness; pardon.
2. Kannin. In Wikipedia
Kannin (寛仁) was a Japanese era name (年号,, nengō,, lit. “year name”) after Chōwa and before Jian. This period spanned the years from April 1017 through February 1021. [1] The reigning emperor was Go-Ichijō-tennō (後一条天皇).
3. 官人, Kannin means an official and a civil servant. In the ritsuryo system, Kannin represented officials at the rank of Sakan of Tsukasa (also known as Shi) or above and the court rank of Sixth Rank or below. In the Heian period, it meant officials at the position of Jo or below, specifically lieutenant of Konoefu (the Headquarters of the Inner Palace Guards) or under. In a narrow sense, Kannin means the officials of Shitokan and the officials at the government posts of Honkan, both of which had corresponding court ranks. In a broad sense, Kannin collectively means the officials, including Gunji and officials without corresponding court ranks.
4. 官人, Kanjin: Kanjin was work done by Buddhist monks in connection with missionary activities intended to bring relief to people.

Change Is A Chance

Before the pandemic, I used to go and train in Japan every four months. It has been four years since my last trip in May 2019! Needless to say that I was dying to come back.

COVID has changed a lot of things in many aspects all over the world, in Europe and the Americas. So I was expecting to see the same here in Japan. And it is the case; change is everywhere in Japan. It might be a detail, but the price of drinks in the vending machines has gone from 120 yen to 150 yen. Many places I knew, like the Ulala cafe in the Kashiwa Plaza Annex, are now closed. Many new ones that are more “COVID-friendly” have replaced them. Kashiwa is now full of coffee places turned into co-working spaces.
I’m writing this post in one of these new places. That is the Excelsior Cafe on Kashiwa’s main street by the station.
Other changes are that shops open later than before; masks are mandatory in shops and shopping malls and also in the streets, the trains and the stations. The good news is that I heard yesterday on TV that masks will not be necessary after mid-March.

If change is everywhere, it is not the case in training. Everything has stayed the same on the mats except for the number of attendees. We were only 12 at the first Noguchi sensei class I attended! You must return to the 90s or the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster to have a course with so few students. That was amazing.

As I wrote above, the 77-year-old Noguchi sensei constantly moves, creating hundreds of variations based on the same old waza. His creativity in class opens your eyes to what the Bujinkan can become when you get to his level. The beauty lies in his ability to turn any waza from any ryū (here, Shinden Fudō ryū) into something new. After training with him for 33 years, I know many of his gimmicks. Yet I’m often surprised by his interpretation of the same denshō.

One of the words for change in Japanese is “henka” (1). Noguchi sensei transforms the technique from the densho into something new. He always starts from the original form of the densho (2), and iteration after iteration creates a different movement while respecting the essence of the actual waza. Too often, young teachers do not understand the depth of the word henka. They think that anything goes, and that is so wrong. A true henka is an evolution, a metamorphosis of a waza you have mastered. And when you confront them, they keep repeating that ninpō is about forgetting the form. But you have to learn something first before you can forget it. There is no interpretation based on a poor understanding of the primary forms.

Sōke said that “henka” is made of two kanji “, hen” and “ka”, both meaning change. The difference between the two words is that “hen” is the “beginning of change”, whereas “ka” is the end of change. Therefore henka can be seen as another word for inyō (yinyang). (3)

The world has changed as everything changes. Change is a chance to mutate into something better. Japan has changed, and it is for the better. The honbu has not changed, the waza either, but the interpretation in class has constantly been changing.

Change is good and a chance for the world and your taijutsu. Remember that only change is permanent; we must adapt and embrace it.

1 変化, henka: change; variation; alteration; mutation; transition; transformation; transfiguration; metamorphosis
2 伝書, henka: book or scroll that has been handed down through generations; a book of secrets​
3 陰陽, inyō: cosmic dual force; yin-yang

Is Magic, Really Magic?

Last Friday, we continued the study of the Tenchijin. We trained some basic Gyaku waza movements. After two years of pandemics, our dōjō is still trying to survive. Our training group is so small that it feels like beginning a new dōjō. We might rename the Kuma dōjō the dōjō of the phoenix! 

I teach beginners, intermediates, and advanced all at once. Teaching various levels is difficult as each student must learn a form matching their level. If you don’t do that, you lose your high ranks or beginners. Never forget that. In a multilevel class, beginners are also exposed to advanced forms. And they enjoy it.

I recently taught the “step by step” beginners’ form of Musō Dori. Then I moved the level up for the two Jūgodan and the Dai Shihan attending the class that night. After teaching the basic moves, I went up the technical ladder. I offered a more profound vision of Musō Dori to the group. This time I controlled Uke without force. And threw him onto the ground using his body reactions instead of my muscles. 

Then I heard “wow, it’s magic!” coming from the beginners’ side of the group.

Disclaimer: This post is about “magic” but there is no magic in Budō. There are only refined basics. Micro-movements are invisible to young practitioners. Locks and throws without grabbing always seem strange or magic to neophytes. This is “Kuki nage”, the Budō concept for “air throw.” (1)

It looks magic to the untrained eyes because the correct ability to see is not developed yet. Practitioners see it, but their interpretations and feelings come in the way. Emotions make them blind to reality. They can’t see the movement. It is invisible from their limited experience. A student of Budō needs years of practice to develop this capacity. Until he gets enough experience, Budō is a “mienai waza”, a technique that you cannot possibly see. (2) 

Reality is invisible to young students, who don’t have the level to see what is happening in front of them. That is why they call it “magic!” In fact, you should see a waza as being like an unpolished diamond. The gem’s value resides in the long polishing hours demanded to get the shiny stone. If you find a raw diamond on the ground today, you won’t recognize it, and only a trained geologist would know. Budō is the same.

“Magic” is the name you give to a movement before the long polishing work. When I went to Japan for the first time, each class was a “magical” show to me. Today this “magic” is gone because I learned to do what the Japanese do. It takes time. Magic is Genyō in Japanese. (3) 

Genyō is “an enchanting illusion” for beginners. But it is an “original life” (genyo) for the advanced student. (4)(5) Magic (Genyō) changes our perception of life. It turns this “alternative reality” (genyo) (6) into a “dream” (gensō). (7)

Magic doesn’t exist, and we call it “magic” to adjust the perception of reality to our limited understanding. 

Stop dreaming and go back to your basics if you want to become a magician one day!


1 見えない技, mienai waza: a technique that cannot be possible seen
2 空気, Kūki: air; atmosphere​; mood; situation​; someone with no presence; someone who doesn’t stand out at all​
3 幻妖, Genyō: magic
4 幻, Gen: phantom; vision; illusion; an apparition​; mythical thing; a scarce thing
5 妖, Yō (aya): mysterious; bewitching; alluring; enticing; enchanting
6 原原, Gen+yo: original; primitive; primary; fundamental. Raw​ + world; society; public​; life; lifetime; period; generation​; the times​
7 幻想, gensō: fantasy; illusion; vision; dream

Check the Bujinkan streaming platform
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Jūjiro Or The Indirect Fight

jujiro application

In the Kukishin ryū, there is one central concept that many don’t know, and it is called “Jūjiro”. (1) With the pandemic, everyone experiences difficult times, and it seems that many of us should be reminded of some basic concepts. Jūjiro is one of them.

Bujinkan practitioners often do not understand or never heard of what is Jūjiro. 

Let me refresh your memories about the Kukishin Ryū. When you receive an attack, you must pivot at a 90-degree angle with the body, weapon or both. Staying in line with the opponent is the fastest way to lose a fight. Sport is different as you don’t die in it. If you are defeated in a championship, only your ego is killed, momentarily. 

Olympic fencers fight in line, Kendōka always remains in line. My Mandalorian friends would say, “That is not the way.” Lines are direct; therefore, they are never the best. Fencing and Kendō would get more exciting and realistic the day fencers and Kendōka are allowed to turn around each other. Because that is what you would do in a real encounter. But if sport can be a “way of life” for some, it is definitely not a real-life and death situation. Budō is not a sport, rather an ancient military system.

In Japan, Sensei teaches that Jūjiro is used in the Kukishin when possible. Jūjiro consists of moving perpendicular to the attack or using the weapons perpendicular to the target. You apply Jūjiro against a human or a weapon. If you test it in your next training, you will see how powerful it is. Jūjiro creates more freedom in your actions and opens up more possibilities for your taijutsu.

But there is more to this concept. When you think about the movements, you limit yourself to the physical world, and the material world is only the Omote. 

There is also an Ura aspect we can use in the mental world. And to explain this, I will need the support of my old friends Laozi and Sunzi.

In the art of war, Sunzi says that “In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack – the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to an endless series of manoeuvres. The direct and the indirect lead on to each other in turn, and it is like moving in a circle – you never come to an end. He adds that “the meeting takes place head-on, and the victory is obtained from an angle”. This direct vs indirect can be related to the cultural differences between the East and the West. In the East, indirect actions are always preferred to direct ones. That is why the Japanese never say “no” but always find a positive way to be negative. For example, when I asked a question to sensei, he would do one of two things: he would answer my question or say something like “step by step.” That was his way to say “no” without being negative (even though he is being negative). 

This Asian vision of life is beautifully explained in a book by Francois Jullien, a French sinologist. In one of his books titled “Detour and Access: Strategies of Meaning in China and Greece,” he gives a few examples of direct vs indirect action. (2) By not confronting Uke’s actions head-on, you can redirect his intent in other directions. We are tempted to confront the other in a verbal argument instead of accompanying his vision and tilting it. This is the art of negotiation. Nothing good comes from confrontation. This is the “no fight” attitude or “tatakainai.” (3)  

In the famous Taoteching, Laozi says, “don’t do anything and nothing will be left undone”, which you can understand as “when you oppose someone or something, your actions influence the outcome of the encounter. By not going head-on, you don’t create any unforeseen consequences. Direct confrontation is the opposite of the teaching of Tao. One day I had the chance to speak with the Dzogchen master of the Dalai Lama told me that “Opposing In and Yō is creating duality instead of unity, this is not the Madhyamaka.” (4) (5)

In battle, this is the direct approach that has to be avoided. Sunzi adds, “by rectitude, we make order reign, we use the troops at an angle. ”Both the direct and the indirect approaches are in use; the timing is different and should not be mixed. This no-confrontation defines Hatsumi Sensei’s Budō, and it is a very profound lesson for our lives. 

Avoiding direct opposition with others is the best way for negotiating. The Covid has dramatically changed the way we live. On the planet, many groups are fighting each other violently. This is the time of direct confrontation and thus of duality. Please consider going indirectly with the flow instead of rebelling uselessly. The way of Budō is a way of wisdom. Fight what you can change by yourself and what is beyond your possibilities. 

Ninpō Taijutsu teaches us the way of adaptation. 

So, constantly adapt to the situation, and use Jūjiro a little more at your dōjō and outside in real life. 


1 Jūjiro 十字路, crossroads or intersection

3 戦い無い, tatakainai: non existent fight, no fight

4 In-Yō is the Chinese for Yin-Yang

5 中觀見, Madhyamaka:

Is 2022 A Dive Into The Abyss?

Happy Shinnen to all!

This 新年 (shinnen) is the Japanese for “New Year”. (1) This became a particular date only when humans began counting time. But this cosmic event has been going on for more than 4.5 billion years.

So if humans put so much weight on this date, I guess it is to get a new start every 365 days. In the Bujinkan, this fresh start always coincided with a new study theme. Sōke Hatsumi would give it at Daikōmyōsai. Since the first official theme in 1993, it represented a new start for us. And each year, we would discover a new way to fight or think. The “non-Bujinkan” new year is the same, and it is about beginning anew. There is a Japanese Shintō tradition to do a misogi to cleanse the body and the mind around the lunar new year. (2) Whatever the culture, the turn of the year is an excellent excuse to change our behaviours for the better. 

That is why we make resolutions for the new year. I’m sure that many of you did it even if we know that most of these decisions will fail. But that’s the game we play every year on new year’s eve. In these times of world pandemic, the temptation to do nothing would be wrong. We have to act and avoid depression. The world situation will end one day, so we should be prepared and ready never to give up. 

Budō is about patience, but patience is not stillness. You have to set new goals, come to the dōjō, and train to be ready when all this is behind us. Since March 2020, my Paris dōjō has been empty. I think students used Covid as an excuse to procrastinate. It is easy to give up on adversity, but this is far from the Budō attitude taught by Sensei all these years. If you give up now, I see that as a betrayal of his teachings. Did you forget the meaning of “banpen fugyō”, “10000 attacks, no surprise”? (3)

No one planned a world pandemic. Covid is here, and there is nothing you can do about it. So use your Bujinkan knowledge and adapt your life to it. There is no need to fight it. It is like crossing a big river, don’t fight the heavy stream, float in the water and go with it until you reach the other bank. It would be best to return to the training hall to make you feel better. 

What makes us humans is social contact, not social media. If you let yourself submerged by negativity, you turn “Shinnen” into “Shinen” (深淵 “the abyss”). (4) When you dive into the abyss, there is no hope, only an endless fall into oblivion. The abyss is tempting and easy. The Budō path is more challenging but will force you to react! The resolutions for 2022 should be: stop complaining. Refuse Shinen and welcome change. Go to the dōjō and train more. 

Life is not easy, and reacting will not make it easier. You are in charge of your own life. Whatever the obstacles on your way, you have to adapt. I learned one thing in Japan over the last thirty years, and it is never to give up. If your dōjō is not open because of covid, train your Sanshin no Kata, train your weapons and keep your skills to their best. If you have the chance to have an open dōjō, go there and study. Budō is life; choose to live, not to die. Only those with a surviving spirit will make it. 

There is always hope ahead of us; get ready for it. In Japanese, the spring season also means “new year.” Another translation of “Haru” is “new hope” (5). There is always hope in the future; things should improve very soon.

On February 4th, we enter the year of the yang water tiger. The water tiger is full of energy; use it to your best. The “Water Tiger of 2022 implies caution, growth, development, challenge, creation, and planning.” (6)

My conviction of a better future lies in the fact that I believe in life, so should you. This faith in the future is also 信念 Shinnen in Japanese. (7)


1 新年 Shinnen, New Year
2 Misogi:
3 One of the mottos of Gyokko Ryū
4 深淵 Shinen: abyss
5 春 Haru: spring, new year 
6 Water tiger: 
7 信念 shinnen: belief, faith, conviction

Bujinkan Tees and goodies

Everything Is Possible

After many years you understand that whatever the odds, everything is possible as long as you don’t give up. If you can think outside the box, everything is possible. If you only follow the rules, you become the source of your limits. Thinking outside the box in Budō demands that you already have a deep understanding of the basics. The Kukishin Biken Jutsu details everything in three sets of Waza.

Let me tell you an anecdote that happened with Hatsumi Sensei. The date is April 1996, the place is Noda, Japan. Right in front of Sensei’s house. The theme for the year 1996 chosen by Sōke was Kukishin Biken Jutsu. The Taikai in Holland was scheduled a few weeks later. The training was dedicated to the sword. Sensei wanted me to be his Uke, so he shared a lot before our meeting in Amsterdam. At the end of a class at honbu, Sensei called me and asked me to come to his place the next day. “Come with your belt and your Kukishin sword”. Before I left, he then added, “please bring a few friends to train with you. Be there at 1 pm.” So, the next day at 1 pm, our small training group of six was waiting outside his home. Sensei exited the house with a few dogs and crossed the street. In those days, an empty patch of land was facing the house. The building shadowing his home today was not built yet.

For two hours, we practised in the dirt, and he taught us Kukishin Nuki Gatana. (1) He would show the movement and then sit on the ground with his dogs while we trained. Our group of Gaijin was wearing jeans, sneakers, t-shirts and a budō belt. It must have been strange to see. To the Japanese people of Noda passing into the street, it must have been weird. Anyway, that was a great class! Sensei demonstrated the many proper ways to get the katana out and use it. When I went to pay for the lesson, he said: “puresento” (present). I thanked him.

I asked if there was more to learn about it? He said, “Always. But Aruno san, this is only training, not jissen (real fight). When things get real, do whatever you have to stay alive. Ninpō is only about surviving. Form doesn’t matter. Everything is possible.” His answer is still vivid in my memory even after all this time.

As you know, at, each Koi member can ask questions after watching a video. (2) Recently, a Koi member asked me. “Would it be possible to twist the sword while doing Tsuki Komi? The edge of the blade is up and able to cut the opponent’s fingers or wrists that are not protected by the armour?” Immediately the Nuki Gatana training session jumped back to my memory. But instead of answering to the Koi community, I’ve decided to write this post to benefit everyone.

Is it possible to turn the blade up in the technique? Yes, you can turn the edge up because “everything is possible.” The same freedom applies to anything in the Bujinkan. The Bujinkan Budō is about adapting our knowledge to reality. Respecting the Waza as a beginner is mandatory. But a Waza is the only set of rules to follow. Rules are made to be broken. Depending on your skills, you can adjust it or tweak it to survive.

When you study the Kukishin Biken, each level of nine techniques appears to repeat itself. The first level gives the name of the Waza. The second level adds “no Sayū Gyaku” to the title, and the third level adds “no Henka” to it. After thirty years of training in Japan and asking many questions, I begin to understand it.

Disclaimer: nothing official, only my interpretation. That is what I teach my students. It is working for them, and for me, I will detail it here for you as I do on Koi.

Once you know the three levels of nine Waza. Then you notice that each technique of the first level repeats itself with an added suffix. Let me explain. The first Waza is “Tsuki Komi” and becomes “Tsuki Komi no Sayū Gyaku” at the second level, and “Tsuki Komi no Henka” at the third.

To make it easier, I named the levels of the Kukishin Biken Jutsu syllabus as follow. The first one is Nijigen no Sekai. The technique is simple and moves only in a 2-dimension plane. (3) The second set of Waza is Sanjigen no Sekai. (4) You repeat the same Waza but moving to the left or to the right. This is now a 3-dimension plane. The last level is Yūgen no Sekai. (5) This is the mental or psychological dimension. Here you move forward or backwards, above or under. Hatsumi Sensei called this; the invisible dimension where things are not yet manifested. (6)

The three sets prepare you to move in any direction in space and time. It is defining a sphere of infinite possibilities. For this reason, I see Kukishin Biken Jutsu as a dynamic in-yō. 

Tama, the sphere, is central to Japanese Budō, and you find it in many Ryū. (7) But Tama is also the pearl. As always, the same sounds can have different writings. (8)

I also see some similarities with Pythagoras’ book “The golden verses.” (9). He explains there what he defines as the “Tetractys” or “Quaternary.” (10) To summarize, he writes that space is four shapes included in one another. One is the dot, two is the line, three is the surface, four is the volume. Likewise, our Biken Jutsu system includes the previous one at each level. The only thing remaining to discover is proper timing.

Once you know the mechanical aspects, it is easy to adjust and adapt the forms to the situation you’re facing. In our case, turning the blade edge up is ok. Learning to use a sword is a long process until you reach the “Shuhari” point. Use the sword to the best of your ability when your life is in balance. And do not refrain from destroying the form if you need to.

Always keep in mind that everything is always possible!


1 抜く, Nuki (nuku or nukiru): 1) to pull out; to draw out; to extract; to unplug; to weed

2 is a streaming platform. Koi offers 160 Gb of Bujinkan videos covering all Waza of the Bujinkan. Check it today!

3 二次元, Nijigen: 2-dimension. 次元, Jigen: dimension, level. And 世界, Sekai: 1) the world; society; the universe​; 2) sphere; circle; world

4 三次元, Sanjigen: 3-dimension

5 幽玄, Yūgen: mysterious profundity; quiet beauty; the subtle and profound

6 Definition of dimension in physics and mathematics. “The dimension of a space or object is informally defined as the minimum number of coordinates needed to specify any point within it.”

7 玉, Tama (or Gyoku): ball; sphere; globe; orb. Tama is the same kanji that makes the names of the Gyokko Ryū or Gyokushin Ryū. Many websites translate the term “tama/gyoku” by jewel. It would be more correct to translate it as pearl.

8 摩尼, Tama (there is no order in Japanese between kanji): jewel; pearl; gemstone​

9 The Golden verses by Pythagoras.

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10 Quaternary by Pythagoras

Can We Excel, Or Not?

Studying martial arts is training to become the best budōka possible. But can you reach excellence? The quest for excellence fuels the Budō passion, but excellence is a utopia, is it possible? But is it possible to get it even if you are not a divine being? I don’t think so. 

I recently wrote a text on learning and the need to never stop learning. These days many ask what we can do when a majority of dōjō is in lockdown? 

While studying at CSUC, I learned that any training can be both physical and mental. Mental training is quite powerful. That is why professional sports coaches developed visualisation techniques. Visualisations work nearly as good as physical movement. Even though mental training can bring a lot of benefits, that is not our subject for today. But if you want, I can write a post on that; please let me know in the comments. (1) 

Excellence is often your goal when on the path of Budō. But you need an excellent teacher to mentor you. In class, he shares his knowledge and guides you through the 5-steps of the education process. 

The 5-steps process :

  • Step 1: Watching and Listening
    By attending the class, you get the steps and the mechanics of the Waza you are learning. 
  • Step 2: Training and Experimenting
    You train the movement and discover the steps that are working or not. By experimenting, you develop the “form” of the waza.
  • Step 3: Repeating and Correcting
    This is when you repeat what is correct and do your best to change what is not.
  • Step 4: Learning and Acquiring
    The number of times you repeat the correct moves will speed up your ability to get it. After a while, your brain and body ingrain it. It is now part of you. 
  • Step 5: Getting and Adapting
    Now that you can do the technique, you can adapt it to real-life situations.

Acquiring new habits and adapting a waza is positive. Why? Because it gives freedom of movement. This freedom leads to Sensei’s “natural movement.”

That is why students should never give up. Learning is a commitment for the whole life. Because of constant learning and repeating, we get closer to excellence and perfection. So, we can agree with Aristotle when he says that “we are what we keep repeating. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

In Japanese, excellence is “Shun” and also genius. It carries out the idea of diverging or deviating from the “usual path.” This is what you do when you think outside of the box. If you apply the same rules as others, you have no chance to reach excellence. (2)

Geniuses are the ones not following the tracks of others. They are the ones creating their own ways. It is a two-fold process where you follow the guidance of others in phase #1 to go on your own path in phase #2. 

Learn from everyone. Train and copy your teacher until you can think and act by yourself. That is when you will be able to get closer to “shun” excellence. And Spring is the best time of the year to do it. At the time I’m writing this, Spring has begun. And nature is now blooming with a renewed life energy. “Shun”, written with another kanji, is Spring, Shunki being the spring season. So train and learn now that your energy level is at the highest. (3) 

A new set of movements always looks complex. Then it gives space to something more efficient and straightforward. Simplicity is complicated to achieve; it requires hours of hard training. To excel, you need to be simple, and maybe some people will consider you as a genius. Keep in mind this quote by Albert Einstein. 

“Genius is making complex ideas simple, not making simple ideas complex.”

Be simple, be good, be happy!


2 俊, shun: excellence, genius
3 春季, shunki: spring season; not to be mistaken for 春機 shunki: sexual desire

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Never Stop Learning!

What makes humans different from monkeys?
The brain.
At least if you use it.

I do not think that people are using their neurons anymore, letting social media feel for them. This is sad, but it does not surprise me. We use our brains less than before. Is this “evolution” or “involution”? (1)

So why is the evolution of our society forcing us to use it less and less? When I listen to people aged 20 to 40, I often find myself lost. What happened to reasoning, knowing, analysising, or having culture? In less than ten years, the rise of social media has changed our behaviours and our vision of the world. People do not think any more; they take everything at face value. People have become superficial, their life ruled by news anchors, deep fakes, and conspiracy theories.

People do not use their brains anymore. They take every piece of information as “truth” and do not dig further to check the validity of what they see or read. We can blame the internet for that. Do not get me wrong. If I love the many possibilities offered by the internet. It is faster than an encyclopedia but still requires a large dose of critical sense and judgement. And often the problem does not stems from the answer but from the quality of the question. Today asking the “good question” does not seem to have more value. It was not like that in the past. In Plato’s books, I love how Socrates develops his argumentation with his listeners. It is always pure logic. (2)

Today the beauty of reasoning does not attract anymore. By focusing too much on practicality, our education system failed us.

Education does not train us to think, so we cannot learn. Everything today has to be black or white. Enforced Manicheism kills our capacity for judgment. In the past, our elders were the ones knowing, and the youngsters would listen to them. Today, companies fire employees when they get old. They get older, so we send them to nursing homes. That is how we interrupt inter-generational transmission. When the young do not respect parents, elders, or teachers, this is the beginning of anarchy (Plato again). (3)

To replace wisdom, experience, and knowledge, we now have a new type of elders. These “Elders 2.0” are social media, and they are not as wise as version 1.0.

Besides, as everything is fast, it is easier to let your phone give the answer than for you to think by yourself. The fast-food society has generated the fast-thought society. People are getting dumber. Today, a sad consequence is that as we cannot ask the “good question.” It is therefore quasi impossible to solve a given problem. One night I was on the road to see my parents for the weekend. I left my Business School in the middle of the night. When you drive alone at night, your brain often switches on automatic mode. It was à three-hour drive. Then, without any reason, I began to wonder why the last four months of the year had a wrong number? We know that September is the ninth month of the year.  But “sept” means the seventh month. “Octo”, means is eight, “Nove” is nine and “Dec” is ten. Why was that? 

When I got home at 3 am, I couldn’t sleep and I jumped on the Encyclopaedia to find the answer (the internet did not exist at that time). And I did. (4)

I was aware the explanation would not change my life, but I had to know out of sheer curiosity. Today, curiosity seems to have disappear. Without curiosity, answers are useless and lead humanity to its downfall. When you are not curious anymore, you accept things the way they are presented to you. You no longer think for yourself. You live like sheep.

When you do not study history, you cannot learn from the past or from your elders. Many criticize the loss of freedom being the consequence of the pandemic. But few try to understand why it is happening. Losing our free will momentarily is no big deal if it is for the greater good. I follow the news in many countries. No one has any clue on how to solve it. Governments probably make mistakes, but they are doing their best, whether you like it or not. The problem is that pandemics last for a long time, and that we have à very short memory. 

The Spanish flu that killed around 50 million stayed a few years. And their society reacted in the same way as we are today. There is an interesting article in the footnotes. It shows the similarities in people’s reaction to the flu in 1918. One century later, we forgot the lessons learnt by our ancestors. (5)(6)

Our evolution in budō comes training a lot, learning a lot and above all, remembering. Like in budō, life has an Omote and an Ura side. Information is a two-sided reality, with visible aspects and hidden ones. When you only concentrate on the visible parts, you miss the real size of the iceberg.

That is why fake news spread over social media like a wick on fire on a keg of gunpowder. The “sharers” don’t read what they see. They share the Omote. They focus more on spreading the info the fastest possible. They don’t think or analyze what they send to their “friends.” 

Authentic or Fake, they want to be the first to share the information. That gives them a feeling of superiority. This is so ridiculous. Some people on the internet rush to share any information that has a catchy title. And they do not read the article, only the title. Sometimes what they send to their thread is in contradiction with their beliefs. Titles are click baits supposedly to force readers to dive into the article. The writers of these texts are not even interested in the truth; their goal is to collect as many clicks as possible. Today society values your importance by the number of clicks you make. Or to how many virtual friends you have on social media. This is not how you learn and improve.

It doesn’t work like that on the mats. It doesn’t work like that in life.

You cannot remember something you never learned. Learning is the key to critical thinking. Without the capacity to learn, we are dumb clickbait hunters. With a good quality of learning, we digest the techniques and make them ours. Learning teaches how to adapt our actions and our thoughts to a chaotic situation.

This is how it works on the mats, as well as out of the hall. Sensei says that the Dōjō is 10 hours per week when life is 24 hours a day. Every day is a day to learn something. What you discover doesn’t matter as long as you keep the process alive. The word student in Japanese is “gakusei,” which means “life of learning.”(7)

Every night before going to bed, ask yourself, “What did I learn today?”


1 Involution:,%22turned%20in%22%20upon%20itself.
2 Plato on education:
3 In “The Republic,” book 7
4 Names of the months:
7 学生, gakusei: Student; 学: earning; scholarship; study; erudition; knowledge; education +  生: life; living

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