Tama, The Sphere Of Zero

img_20161201_120325Gyokko Ryû is an excellent school, profoundly related to the new theme for 2017 of “controlling the space”.

Let me explain. In Sensei’s last class, he spoke about Tama, the Sphere. Tama is also read Gyoku, and Gyoku is the “pearl” find in the name Gyokko. (1)

We read on the Internet that Gyokko is the “jewel tiger”. This is incorrect, Gyokko is the “tiger Pearl” or the “Tiger sphere”.

When we say “zero” we see a circle. But what if “Zero” is not a flat circle, Maru (2), but in fact symbolises the sphere of the controlled space that Sensei is speaking about?

We leave the world of the second dimension of Nijigen no Sekai for the Sanjigen no Sekai, and the sphere of controlled space is created. (3)

My feeling is that this is what Sensei wants is to understand. We are at the centre of this sphere, this is why “zero” he keeps saying that “zero” is not empty.

But as it is often the case in Japanese, there’s more.

Zero is also Mu (4), and Mu is nothingness. Nothingness is the secret to playing in the controlled space. In this space, everything is possible because we are not emitting anything. We are Mushin, free from obstructive thoughts. (5). We do not try to win, we play with the attacker’s intentions. This is Asobi, being playful. (6)

While walking in Kashiwa yesterday, the sign “OIOI” caught my eyes. “OIOI” is a Japanese department store on the platform next to the station. It is pronounced “Marui, marui”, spherical. (7)

Was it a sign from the gods?

1. 玉/tama/ball; sphere; globe; orb|bead (of sweat, dew, etc.); drop; droplet|ball (in sports)|pile (of noodles, etc.)|bullet|bulb (i.e. a light bulb)|lens (of glasses, etc.)|bead (of an abacus)|ball (i.e. a testicle)|gem; jewel (esp. spherical; sometimes used figuratively); pearl
2. 〇/maru/circle (sometimes used for zero)|’correct’ (when marking)
3. 二次元/nijigen/two dimensions vs 三次元/sanjigen/three dimensions; three-dimensional; 3D; 3-D|(joc) real world; IRL (in real life) +
世界/Sekai/the world; society; the universe|sphere; circle; world|renowned; world-famous; well-known outside of Japan|realm governed by one Buddha; space
4. 無/mu/nothing; naught; nought; nil; zero|un-; non-
5. 無心/mushin/innocence|free from obstructive thoughts
6. 遊び/asobi/playing|play (margin between on and off, gap before pressing button or lever has an effect)
7. 円い/marui/round; circular; spherical|harmonious; calm


Zero Style Budō

A bear carving of 1947

The last class with Hatsumi Sensei was so intense that I dreamt of it all night long. In my dreams, what he showed and taught made more sense, I will do my best to explain now what I got out of it.

To control the space with mutō dori, you have to be zero.
To be zero, you have to be one.
To be one, you have to be complete.
To be complete, you have to be sanshin (3).
To be sanshin, you have to know your basics.
To know your basics, you have to enter the dōjō.

When we begin our training, we are formless. We have expectations and no knowledge. The teacher shows the basics, and with practice, we are starting to move in the appropriate form. Then we have to acquire the basics of the Tenchijin.
When we begin to understand the simple complexity of the Tenchijin we are three. This is the sanshin of the Ten, the Chi, and the Jin. There is no unity yet in our movements, and our taijutsu looks like robotic movements. With time, the differentiation of the three parts of the Tenchijin vanishes, and we start having a more unified way of moving.
When this process is complete, we can enter the world if the Ryûha and to study the weapons. After some time, we mix the Waza, the Buki, the basics, and a nice body flow emerges. We are complete.
But the hard work doesn’t stop here, as it is only the beginning. Give it a little more time, and you become “one”. Only when this state of “being one” is achieved, that you can start the long path of becoming “zero”.

It is a long process because you have to get rid of everything you have learned to be “zero”. Sensei said that “there are no techniques”. What I understood is that at this level, techniques are useless, you have to forget them. And you can do that only because you spent at least twenty years learning them (1). Again, you can only forget something you have learned.

Gradually, you can become zero and ride on uke’s intentions. Because you have no expectations, because you do not try to win, you are in control of the space. Uke’s attacks originate from the same point in space that you can now clearly see. Controlling this point defeats uke. Sensei said that whether attacks using taijutsu or weapons, there is a common point, and it is always the same. As you fill the space of battle, you can see this point. Control it, and things are easy. Sensei insisted twice on the importance of Kokyû, respiration. (2) He said that if you are out of breath at the end of the exchange, it is because you are still trying to do something. But you don’t have it.

When you are finally capable to ride uke’s attacks, to dodge them, and still be relaxed, it is the proof that you are zero.

Once again here is the path to follow:
Learn and study the basics,
Learn and study the Tenchijin,
Become three.
Learn and study the Ryûha and the weapons,
Become One.
Unlearn and forget everything,
Be Zero and control the space.

“Zero is not empty. There’s a point in the middle”, Hatsumi sensei, July 2016.

1. I write “twenty years” here, but it might be thirty. In just beginning to grab it after more than thirty years in the Bujinkan. But I guess some are more gifted than me. On the other hand, if you have been training less than twenty years, and have achieved a high rank in the Bujinkan, I am confident that this will require some more years of training. Rank doesn’t mean competence.
2. 呼吸/Kokyû /breath; respiration|knack; trick; secret (of doing something)

Visit our new portal KUMA HUB



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 www.budomart.com


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 http://www.koimartialart.com. 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 http://www.budomart.com 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 http://www.budomart.com 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,

New Dvds Are Coming Soon

Tentô Uchi

We finished the Yari Jutsu of the Kukishin Ryû and the taijutsu of the Gyokko ryû. The videos are being edited right now and will soon be availalbe on koimartialart and budomart.

In the last year we have been quite productive:

  • Ten Ryaku no Maki: short and extended version (4 dvds),
  • Chi Ryaku no Maki: short and extended version (3 dvds),
  • Jin Ryaku no Maki: short version (an extended version is being prepared),
  • Buki Waza basics for small weapons: tantô, Kunai, Shotô, (2 dvds)
  • Buki Waza basics for medium weapons: hanbô, jo, biken, (3 dvds)
  • Buki Waza basics for long weapons: bô, yari, naginata, (3 dvds)
  • Nawa Jutsu basics: nawame (knots) and rin (loops)
  • Gyokko Ryû Kosshi Jutsu: the first level is being duplicated now and should be available in a few days on budomart, (2 dvds)
  • Bô jutsu of the Kukishin Ryû: the complete set (ready for Christmas), (btw 6 and 10 dvds!)
  • Yari Jutsu of the Kukishin Ryû: the complete set (ready beginning og 2011), (btw 4 and 6 dvds)
  • Gyokko Ryu Kosshi Jutsu: the second and third levels are recording and will be available as soon as possible,  (4 dvds)
  • Manriki Gusari Basics: A general overview on the chain and the basics of the Masaki Ryû that Sensei learnt with Nawa sensei.

And I am not speaking of the “Foundation” series covering all the techniques Kyû per Kyû from 9th Kyû to 1st Kyû. (18 dvds)

We are planning to record soon a ne version of the Sanshin no Kata and of the Kihon Happô (Gyokko Ryû style) and a set of dvds on hanbô Jutsu. After that we will move to the other schools. The next schools are either Koto Ryû and then Shinden Fudô Ryû. Which one do you prefer to have next?

Be happy!

Arnaud Cousergue

New KOI Offer

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your enthusiasm concerning koimartialart.

Since December we improved a lot our website thanks to your feedbacks. Please continue to send them to us! Our success is your success and proves without any doubt that we were right to do launch this new adventure. Thank you for your unlimited support.

In August we have completely redesigned the user’s interface making it more user firendly.

We also changed our provider and the general outlook of KOI. The search mode is faster as well as the streaming. Check it by watching the new trailers now.

Many new titles are now online including all the basics on buki waza: tantô, kunai, shotô, hanbô, jo, biken, bô, yari, naginata. Did you ever dream of winning against the , the yari or the jo? Many of them are also demonstrated with the kaeshi waza (counter techniques).

We have also modified our different offers and you can now adapt your video hunger to the “basic”, the “silver koi” or the “gold koi“.

Please visit the new www.koimartialart.com website and tell us what you think.

Visit it today and get ONE WEEK FREE of unlimited videos!

Mistakes: The Path To Success

Senô sensei during the break

What everyone love about Jackie Chan’s movies are those last minutes at the end during the end credits of the film where we can watch the mistakes happening during the stunts sequences as if we were witnessing the shooting action.

Good stunts require many takes and sometimes end up in accidents. Once edited in the final version, the many “wrong” sequences are put into the action and everything looks smooth and perfect.

But we know this is a lie. Perfection is hard to get and will never be available on a one try movement a lot of time time, effort, and repetitive tries are necessary. Quality is an acquired result not a given one.

During Senô sensei’s class on Saturday he spoke of making mistakes during training. In the West through what Society teaches us we have been trained since kinder garden to do our best to avoid mistakes.

In fact, making mistakes is so bad that we often prefer to do nothing than to take the risk of an error. It is often related to our self esteem and ego and to the fact that we always want to look good in front of others. This is not the best way to learn budô. Thanks to Hatsumi sensei I learnt this error acceptance as it is part of sensei’s teaching. Many times in the past I would come to sensei telling him that I didn’t understand the movement he just did and many times he would stop the class and send me in the middle of the dôjô asking me to demonstrate it!

pre class discussion

How can you explain something you do not understand? You cannot! So you adapt your misunderstanding to the situation and do your best. The results at first were not good at all but through the many years with him they eventually improved and I grew up in confidence and expertise. It is good to accept to make mistakes because it makes you stronger. The judgement of others does not matter. You live and act for your own life.

Senô sensei’s approach to this “error” understanding is nice and can be easily applied in our daily lives (as long as we are ready to accept the consequences of our actions).

Basically Senô sensei explained that when we are discovering a new set of movements we are often wrong and make many “big” mistakes.

But through repetition though, the “size” of the mistake melts down until the point where the error level can be tolerated not for winning but for us not to lose. (Side note: this is why the Japanese shihan often ask us to train more slowly).

To make myself clear let’s say we do a movement for the first time with a 60% error level (EL). After a hundred repetition the EL percentage drops down to 30%. Add another 100 repetitions later we reach an EL of 10%, and a hundred repetitions later we get an acceptable rate of 5% EL.

After a thousand tries the movement will still have to be improved but the error level will be so low that only you will be able to see it and that it will make no difference on the outcome of the confrontation.

with Senô sensei

Our movements will never be perfect but through a consistent” trial and error” procedure we reach an error tolerance level (ETL) allowing us to make the movement correctly enough to survive in a real encounter. The beauty of this ETL training in the dôjô is that there is no risk at all (for us) even if the process takes many hours of training.

The dôjô is the place to study the movements so that they become permanent engrams available when necessary. Now consider the dôjô to be a laboratory for experiences and real life the field where to apply these acquired engrams (if not physically at least psychologically).

In the office, at the university or school, with your family and friends, your behavior will be naturally modified by the knowledge you acquired through hard work in the dôjô.

The ETL concept developed by Senô sensei is applicable to any activity in life. The acceptance of mistakes in our behavior frees us from stagnation and drives us faster towards the path of success.

The more we accept to make mistakes, the less we make mistakes. This is the best way to “create” and find the chance that sensei often speak about.

Be happy to be wrong as you are going to be right!

Rokkon shôjô!

Training, Flowing, Being

Teas break during Nagato's class

The heat and humidity are tiring us Continental Europeans not used to such a tough weather. Eugenio Penna from Sicilia and the Indian group lead by Shiva are fine with it. They are only missing hot spicy food! (not Eugenio though).

The August climate is not my favorite, everybody knows that polar bears (Shiro Kuma) prefer the cool weather, but I always enjoy travelling to Japan for my second trip in summer. The dôjô is nearly empty and the rhythm of things is moving to a slow pace unlike the frenzy of DKMS where the dôjô is packed with over a hundred practitioners or the spring trip in April where I try to understand better the new theme developed by sensei.

This trip also I appreciate the size of the “kuma group”: 6, roku. It goes well with the theme of the year rokkon shôjô as we are 6 souls (i.e. roku + kon = rokkon) living happily (shôjô). I must say that Shiva, Arjun, and Zam have become real buyu and have succeeded in blending within the bujinkan community. The other day sensei was telling us over lunch that he was not the “king” of the bujinkan and that NO ONE was in charge of a country. The bujinkan is a gathering of individuals and does not need any national organization to run it supposedly under his name. He added that we have to consider him more like some kind of spiritual guide giving the direction and the interpretation of things, a little like the pope. Through him we are all connected. That was last year concept of en no kirinai, or do not sever the connection. Yesterday I gave a class right before the one by Nagato sensei and this connection was obvious to all of us attending the two classes. The technical points Nagato sensei and I developed were so linked that some students asked me after his class if we had planned it beforehand as it looked like part 1 and part 2 of the same corpus!

Spain, Italy, France, India, Hungary

During my class on nagare and tachi I insisted on “rounding up” our moves to free ourselves from any preconceived techniques and one hour later he taught us to flow in a hanpa way (half finished movements) and play with the distance by adapting our moves to what uke was coming up with. Shiva opened the class using Darren as uke and therefore was used by Nagato sensei as uke during the whole class. He was quite tired after the session.

At one point Nagato sensei said that we “should not copy” his movements but rather try to get the feeling in order to adapt our actions to the changes of uke. His footwork was the key to put that into practice. Uke was attacking 2, 3 or 4 times like in a kukishin technique, and we adapted the distance to get into uke’s centre and pin him down. To see the simplicity of his body flow is always amazing to me. He is connected to his uke and seems to be able to read his intentions even before uke begins to move in the attack. This ability to connect to the opponent and to the environment can only be achieved through efficient distancing and footwork and is the expression of our humanity. This is a one to one encounter and no organization can recreate this feeling. We are individuals in charge only one life, ours.

I have been in the bujinkan for more than 25 years and I have been witnessing the raise and fall of many organizations where the head teacher would behave like a king. I always tried to keep away of this natural human tendency in my country but unsuccessfully as other teachers are always critical about what is created to develop the bujinkan in the good direction. The bujinkan is not rich of the strength of those superficial organizations but of each shidôshi and of the strength of their commitment and implication. A country is strong because his bujinkan members are good humans with good technical skills.

Shiva promoted by Noguchi to 8th dan

During the Sunday class, Noguchi sensei called me in and promoted Shiva directly to 8th dan for the man he is and the hard training he is going through, not because of some Indian National organization. In the bujinkan this is the human value of the individual that is graded and not his or her technical skills. And because of that we often see high ranks teachers not able to show very high technical skills, but they are good human beings in the eyes of sensei. During lunch the other day he said: “I am not giving ranks for the technical abilities of the people but for the human value of the individual”.

The bujinkan is not a sport martial art and observers (even insiders) should make an effort to accept that. The bujinkan is a way of life originating in the dawn of humanity and t hat has been revived by Takamatsu sensei in the 20th century and is continuously developed by Hatsumi sensei in the 21st century. The bujinkan is a school for the development of the self using old fighting systems to unlock our human abilities. The best illustration being the sakki test (殺気). During the sakki test, the receiver puts to light a natural human ability -sensing danger- that he had since he was born. The polishing of the training is revealing it gradually and the test is the proof that this change has occurred.

The develoment of the sakki (殺気), of the intention, of the attitude (構えkamae), of the feeling (感覚 kankaku); the ability to see through the illusions (勘 六 kanroku), to float freely on the flow of life (流れnagare), and finding happiness (清福 seifûku) are some of the main benefits one can get from his many years of years of training. By interacting with other beings, and other cultures you develop your self in a way unattainable by ordinary people. In my last class people attending where coming from India, Spain, Hungary, Germany, Belgium. This is the true sense of community the bujinkan is creating and this is why no organization should dictate our behavior.

Nagato sensei yesterday insisted that we developed asobi (遊び)  in our training. We have to be playful and happy like kids playing “seriously” the role of some kind of hero. This ability to “play” is at the core of bujinkan training and we should never forget it.

Playfulness and happiness are found in regular training and this is what sôke wants us to study.

Rokkon shôjô!

Basics, Strength, & Tenchijin

Noguchi sensei & arnaud

Noguchi sensei gave a koto class this morning and insisted again on the importance of training the basics. We reviewed his magic gogyô and the kihon happô. Over the past twenty years in Japan I have seen these “basic movements” many times with various shihan but it is always a pleasure to study them from a different perspective.

There is so much to learn in these two series that they should suffice to fight efficiently. Everything we do is using parts of these fundamental technique.

The gogyô no kata and the kihon happô are never studied enough and Noguchi sensei insisted once again on the importance of the tenchijin ryaku no maki (天地人), the set of fundamental techniques of the bujinkan.

Personally I learn a lot each time I have the chance to study them. They are always the same but always different. I will start the study of these “new” series with those attending to the summer camp.

After this nice beginning we did many techniques of the koto ryû getting the knack, and adding jumps and a lot of jûji aruki (yoko aruki). I love Noguchi sensei’s classes for their richness and because each time I do these techniques (hida, kompi, kappi etc) I understand new things within them.

A colorful pair!
A colorful pair!

Hatsumi sensei being late this morning and Noguchi sensei having other obligations, he asked me to begin the class.

It is always strange to switch from the role of the student to the role of the teacher at the hombu dôjô.

It is also even stranger to see the shihan having the same difficulties repeating my techniques that I have when I attend their classes!

Sensei arrived and the class began after the rei with another technique both in taijutsu, tachi, and .

I was asked by sensei to demonstrate two other techniques putting the nagare (流れ) into action in multiple directions at the same time and we did many henka (変化) with and without weapons around these. As always sensei’s understanding was amazing.

From  today’s class I can point out  two important details from sôke’s teaching.

The first point is that when you control your opponent softly i.e. with no muscular force, he is not be able to react properly.  Strength generates natural body reactions or reflexes from uke that are often unpredictable or hard to block or absorb.

Therefore we must train in such a soft way that uke is not able to react or understand what we are doing; and he gets tense and chaotic in his reactions and loses his balance by his own uncontrolled reactions.

An image we can use so that you get it is when you were a kid holding an apparently very heavy box (empty in reality) and passing to a friend with a lot of apparent efforts. Your friend takes the box with unnecessary force and the box flies into the air. This is the kind of fake reaction you must get uke to do in the fight. Strength calls for stength in return but softness will off balance uke. Show always a kokoro gamae (心構え) different from your tai gamae (体構え).

The other interesting point was the manner how sensei is taking your balance (still softly) in three axis at the same time making ukemi nearly impossible for you. you litterally explode where you are and fall heavily. Like the ikebana (生花) structure based upon the ten chi jin (天地人) those three axis are one and no action precedes the other.

Calligraphy in the heat

A flower arrangement always symbolizes the ten – the mountain, the chi – the paddy field, and the jin the stream running down the slope.

The up vertical – ten is linked to the down vertical – chi through the horizontal – jin.

In today’s technique sensei was accompanying uke’s fist attack on the same line, pulling it lightly steping backward (chi), pushing the elbow horizontally with the other hand in a sort of musô dori (jin), and stepping lightly forward with the other leg to control the front leg of uke (ten). In this posture uke is pulled forward, backward andto the side. No ukemi is possible.

No strength, no strong grab, only footwork.

We applied also the same kind of movements with tachi kumiuchi and bô jutsu.

The good thing about visiting sensei in August is that we are not so many people in the dôjô and this is always a good opportunity for sensei to teach and for us to train the long weapons.

Training at the hombu

The beauty of long weapons resides in the understanding of the angles and the management of longer distances. But today distance was not the point was not the work on distance as we mainly used the gyokko ryû no bô (held at the mid section and not at the tip).

It was a good relaxed class.

Be happy!

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