Omnia Causa Flunt

Omnia causa flunt, “Everything happens for a reason.”

I like this Latin expression. This is precisely the same in Budō. We don’t do movements to look good, but to stay alive. If being elegant was the goal, we would be dead. At war, the only goal is to stay alive, to carry out the mission. In life, awareness will do the same. If you want to live a successful life, you have to accept the law of causality. Because whether you want it or not, “Everything happens for a reason.”

During the warring period of feudal Japan, the Samurai might have followed the same rule. Marshal Bugeaud, a French officer from the 19th century, said, “at war there are principles, but they are few.” It is the same in Budō and in life.

Hereunder are six basic principles that each practitioner should train and apply. Let’s review them together. They are suitable for Budō and for life.

Don’t fight!

That is the best principle of all. Often, speaking and communicating will get you out of a bad situation. But it will not work every time, and you will not be able to avoid the attacks. Then accept it, stay relaxed and let your training do it for you. The same applies to Budō and in life.

Don’t get hit

Don’t dream! In a fight, you will get hit, and it will be painful. Abandon any romantic vision displayed by the movies. You are not an actor in Hollywood, this is the real world. Wake up! Focus on the situation you are facing, and limit as much as you can, the efficiency of your opponent. The same applies to Budō and in life.

Keep a proper and correct distance.

This is the first thing to do. If you are out of reach, Uke will not touch you. Now don’t overestimate your chances. When you have a gun in a holster and him a knife in his hand, you cannot draw fast enough if he is at less than 8 meters. So instead of trying, move away from his line of attack. It is always better to avoid direct confrontation. The same applies to Budō and in life.

Move out of the line of attack.

To do so, you have to react by the lines of cutting, punching or kicking. Against a sword, visualise the plane of cutting and stay out of it. Training your distance and understanding the angles will keep you safe. Move where your attacker will not be expecting you. Every attack generates dead corners preventing the opponent from getting you. Learn these. Usually it is by putting the attacking fist or weapon between you and Uke’s body. His body will serve as a shield. Look at how Sensei is always well positioned. Don’t be a target. The same applies to Budō and in life.

Expect the moves

Expect Uke’s moves, understand the loss of balance consecutive to his actions. When you move at the right moment, the attacker is unable to change his direction and to adjust his actions in time. If he does, it will be detrimental to his balance. He will crash faster. The momentum of his movements will make him fail. Your ability to expect what is coming next is the key to your success. The same applies to Budō and in life.

Send false signals

Begin one thing and do something else. A deception is a vital tool in your arsenal. The body reacts before the brain has time to analyse what is happening. Thus any move out of the logic forces Uke to change his attack, but this is useless. The momentum of the initial steps will forbid him to change his movements. The same applies to Budō and in life.

When you look at this list, you have, more or less, the exact definition of the Mutō Dori we learn these days in Japan. What Hatsumi Sensei teaches is not mechanical anymore. It is a holistic understanding of life and Budō. This allows us to get the intelligence of the moment. His Mutō Dori is not limited to Budō, it is something that you can use in your everyday actions. Every move we learn was not created by chance. The waza are there because they are useful. When it comes to applying these techniques, everything is always “undecided.” This is how Sensei’s movements look so natural.

The reason why he moves the way he does is that his body has ingrained all movements. He expresses them now without thinking. He is Mutōsei, uncontrolled (1), and because of that, he can control the attackers.

Omnia Causa Flunt, “Everything happens for a reason.”


1 無統制, Mutōsei. Uncontrolled

Join and watch150 Gb of online Bujinkan streaming waza


Put The Bar High, But Not Too High

When you want to improve your skills, you have to define your objectives. How you choose them will make you successful or not.

Success is not only about reaching your goal, but it is also how you passed the obstacles on your way to getting to it. Saint Exupery wrote, “what matters is not to reach your destination, but to walk towards it.” (1) That is why you have to find goals that will force you to overcome some difficulties. But as in the Indiana Jones movie, I would say “Choose wisely!”

If your goals are too easy to get, you will not improve. When you have low standards, you get low abilities. I see many people on the mats with small objectives, they reach them, but do not get anything in exchange. Then it is better not to define any goal at all! Everything you gain without hard work in this life is not suitable for your development. It is a loss of what you could get by having higher standards. When your standards are poor, you don’t evolve, you regress.

A real goal has to be challenging to reach, but it has to be reachable. If your goals are too high, you will never get to them. And as a consequence, you might lose faith in yourself and quit. Quitting is never the right solution. The “keep going” principle given by Sensei at the start of the Bujinkan adventure is our strength. More than a quote, it is a credo.

Never give up. Fail and try again. As the Japanese saying says “Fall 7 times, get up 8 times.” (2) Failure is always your best teacher.

In defining those goals, you have to get a chance to be successful. Success is a state of mind. If you become successful in the dōjō by improving your skills, you will find the same success in any endeavour you do.

Success is also a habit that you build every day through failure. The late Arthur Ashe said, “Success is a journey, not a destination.” (3) The doing is often more important than the outcome. That is where Budō becomes a school of life. Your evolution on the mats will reflect in your daily life, and lead to happier living. Everything is connected.

I hope it is now clear how important it is to set achievable goals for your practice. This will have a positive effect on your life and bring you happiness. Isn’t being happy what Hatsumi Sensei teaches at every class?

We will never be perfect, as perfection is divine, but our commitment to Budō brings us every day closer to it. The more we train, the better we get. Our techniques get more straightforward and efficient.

Here is another quote by Saint Exupery. “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” (4)

Get rid of your self-imposed limits, aim high (but not too high) and be the happiest Budōka you can be.


1 “Ce qui importe, ce n’est pas d’arriver, mais d’aller vers.” Antoine de Saint Exupéry in “Citadelle”
2 七転び八起き, Nana korobi ya oki. Fall 7 times, get up 8 times
3 Arthur Ashe was a great American tennis player in the seventies.
4 “La perfection est atteinte, non pas lorsqu’il n’y a plus rien à ajouter, mais lorsqu’il n’y a plus rien à retirer.” Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Do you want to get access to 10 years of videos covering ALL the Bujinkan techniques: basics, ryuha, weapons, juppo sessho? Then join and stream www. today!

Make Mistakes By Doing New things

IMG_20171125_104614This week should have been Senō sensei’s birthday. And thinking about his classes at the honbu, it reminded me of the soft precision he used in his teachings. He was also the only Dai Shihan asking to be hit, to show the perfect timing. His Taijutsu was impressive, and he was never afraid of making mistakes. We should be doing the same.

Somehow it resonates with my recent article on failure. You must make mistakes to improve our Taijutsu. (1) I spoke about Shippai, failure. But Shippai also means a mistake. (2) As often in Japanese, an action (mistake) can be a result (failure).

The moment you decide to change, you make errors. And as a consequence, you improve your skills. Albert Einstein said, “anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” We have to stop being afraid of change, and always try new things. This is the path Sensei is showing us to develop our Taijutsu. Accept it today, even if I know how hard it is to turn a decision into action.

Humans are reluctant to leave their comfort zone, they avoid trying new things. Humans love routine and hate changes. Even though we know that in life (or in a fight) everything is about accepting change. Did you know that “Henka” that we translate by “variation” also means “the beginning and the end of change?” (3)

Because we make mistakes, we can correct them and get better at our Taijutsu. Any new learning, or any further action we take, will see us fail. Accepting our errors is the best way to excel one day. With each try, we change the form until we reach the correct way to do it. What is wrong becomes good. But this way to train demands to be relaxed. This is why stiffness in the body or in the mind while training cannot be. Hatsumi Sensei often tells us to relax. Only when you release all tensions, that change is possible. 

In an ancient interview, Sensei explained that “what is not natural is not in harmony with life. Life changes constantly, everything is naturally evolutive, because nothing is static. In this perspective, everything that tends to remain static is not natural. And thereby, because it goes against nature, is doomed to disappear for it is fruitless.” The nine schools survived all these centuries because they didn’t remain static.

Humans learn new things because they make mistakes. The late Senō sensei used to tell us that when learning a new form, we make big mistakes at first. And then, through repetition, we make smaller ones, until they nearly disappear. Step by step, we get the correct movement and get it right.

“Machigai” also means a mistake. (4) So please accept “Machigai” and don’t “Machigae,” “wait to change.” Do it now! (5)

To accept change is the key to adaptation, and to natural movement

2 失敗, Shippai: Failure; mistake; blunder
3 変化, Henka. change; variation; alteration; mutation; transition; transformation; transfiguration; metamorphosis
4 間違い, Machigai: mistake; error; blunder​. Accident; mishap; trouble​. Improper conduct; indiscretion
5 待ち替え, Machigae: Machi, waiting; waiting time. Gae, change; alteration; substitute.

Join the KOI Community today at And stream 150 Gb of Bujinkan techniques!

Value What You Have


FB_IMG_1575890665755The Bujinkan created by Sōke is like a treasure, but few practitioners understand what it is, or how much it is worth. There is a Japanese saying for people not valuing what they have. It is “Neko ni koban,” as our “casting pearls before swine.” (1)

The Bujinkan is a treasure because of its techniques, like any other martial art. But also because it transforms us into human beings. My Budō brother Daniel Hernandez left Japan today with a beautiful message to sensei and to us. Here are some sentences that are taken from it. (2)

I don’t come to Japan only to train, but mainly to see you (Sōke), to see your eyes, feel your immense love, and to know that you are well. You are the only lighthouse in my life. (…) And I come here for the most important thing, you, my dear master. (…) Thank you in advance to all my brothers, and Bujinkan friends, to take good care of Sōke.

If your vision of the Bujinkan limits itself only to the technical aspect, it is good, but it is not enough. The Bujinkan is a holistic experience. And Waza is as valuable as the calligraphy session. The Bujinkan experience is bathing you in a mix of Waza, Japanese and Asian culture, language, and meaning of life. This complex mix allows you to find the best in yourself, and to get rid of the negative aspects in you. But, here, too, not everyone succeeds.


Over the years, I saw many practitioners entering the path fully committed, and then leaving after a few years. They judged that the commitment was too high a price to pay for their ego. And I can accept that.

There is nothing wrong with loving the mechanical moves of Budō. If it is your case, I have to tell you that you are not Bujinkan. Sōke teaches at all levels and people like Daniel or myself, have been “educated” by Sensei’s vision of Budō. The men we are today have nothing to compare with what we were at the beginning.

All those years of travels and training. All those private moments with Hatsumi Sensei, have carved us into a better version of human. We are not perfect, but we are still walking the path under his guidance and his care for humanity. Sensei is a beautiful human being, and his love has been spreading all over the planet through his Budō. He gave the world a new vision of Budō that will last and blossom.

Stop arguing on social media about changes happening these days. They are not necessary. Stay focus on your training, trying to get what Sōke is teaching us. It is more essential than fighting techniques. Sensei is showing happiness, love, and tolerance. And between two Shutō and locks, we have to do the same.

Begin to value the extraordinary we have to be around a man like him. And don’t be the one not appreciating this beauty.

Stop wasting your time, (3) and accept this marvelous gift that Sensei is giving us.

Value what you have!


1 猫に小判, Neko ni koban: Literally: Gold coins to a cat. Meaning: Casting pearls before swine / Giving something of value to a recipient that does not value it.
2 From my Budō brother Daniel Hernandez
おせばになりました いろいろと どうも ありがと ございました でわ また どぞ よろしく おねがいします.
De Corazón a Corazón ♥, I Shin Den Shin. Así recibí de usted querido Sōke sus enseñanzas, sólo agradecer todo el cariño brindado a través de los años. Espero sepan entender, ya no vengo a 日本 a practicar, sólo vengo a verlo a ud 先生, ver sus ojos, sentir su inmenso amor, y saber que está bien. Sólo ud 先生 es mi faro. Y no es por que no pueda seguir aprendiendo, de todos puedo y debo aprender. Pero estoy aquí por lo más importante, usted querido Maestro. Agradezco a mis Hermanos y amigos, y les dejo un pedido, cuiden a 先生 por favor. Makoto de Gozaimasu.
3 “Neko ni koban” also means “great waste.” Daniel Hernandez left Japan with a nice post on Facebook. Join the Bujinkan streaming platform now

Are You A Mindless Cyborg?


Body and mind are one. If you only develop the body and let the soul out, your taijutsu will be artificial. It will look good but miss the flavour. And it will never be alive and natural.

All martial arts in Japan, follow a three-step pattern called Shingitai. (1) Created by Sumo, the Shingitai is now used by all martial arts. Shin is the spirit/mind; Gi is the technique; (2) and Tai the body. But “Shin” is what makes it vital to your progression. Without “Shin”, your taijutsu is only Gitai, robotic. (3) If you don’t improve your general understanding of the art, you will move like Robocop and become a Cyborg!


To understand this, we have to reverse the order of the terms. Shingitai is, in fact, “Tai Gi Shin,” as it is the natural order of our evolution.

And this is how to understand it:

  • Tai: Since the 19th century and the Meiji restoration it refers to the physical body. This is the first level of development for any budōka. It is purely mechanical. During this phase of your learning experience, you do the basics in a “1-2-3” sequence. It develops a basic flow in your movements.
  • Gi: This also reads as “Waza”. (2) This is not only the technique but carries the meaning of skill. This is the second level of the development of a Budōka. At this stage, you learn the correct form. You can reach this level only if you master the basics, not before. This is a rather formal phase where you must be as close as possible to the form taught in the dōjō. Precision in the techniques is required from the practitioner. It is not the time to create your own flavour.

  • Shin: This is the heart or the spirit. The Japanese do not differentiate the two meanings. It is the last level of development that you get after many years of training. If Shin is the last part of the path, it is also the longest. Many Bujinkan practitioners will never get to this level. To go there, you need to commit more to the art. Actually, I don’t know many who succeeded. Many are good at mastering the forms, very few can learn the essence.

When you have a free “Tai” thanks to good basics, you can enter the world of techniques. As we said earlier, the Gi is the second level of your training. See the “Taigishin” as three steps that you have to walk up in the proper order. The low level of many teachers comes from this lack of understanding. I get it, Waza can be more attractive, but if your body is not ready to play, the results will not meet your expectations. As always, going too fast is not the best way to train. Some things need time, and you cannot compress time.

But one thing you must never forget is that each technique is there for a reason. Because what you see is not the technique, it is only the “Omote”, the outside of it.  In a Densho there is always a line after the description of the Waza saying “there is a Kuden”. (4) (5)

The Kuden is the essence of the technique, and it is often transmitted in a class by the teacher. Without the Kuden, the form is a set of mechanical movements. There is nothing “magic” in a Kuden. It is the key to help you unfold the power of the technique. Within a given Waza, there might be more than one Kuden. And that is why it is so important to train slowly. Slow speed will help you extract the essence from each sequence of movements. When your professor performs a technique that you try to replicate, you often fail to succeed. Because you only do what you saw, but did not grasp every aspect of it, the essence is missing. It is like copying the Mona Lisa, one square centimeter after the other. In the end, your painting will “resemble” the original, but the essence will be missing. Copying a masterpiece will not make you capable of making a painting of your own. When you copy, you are not a painter. It is the same in Budō.

Teachers have a responsibility to teach their students to learn how to paint; hold the brushes, mix the colours, and structure a painting. But a teacher will never paint for you! This is why the Kuden is essential to teach things that are not visible to your naked eye. If you want to improve your Waza, stop seeing them as a checklist. Do them many times, until the outcome is like the essence and the form the teacher demonstrated. I insist: A Waza is not a checklist, it is a result. Create conditions to achieve the same result.

During one of my stays in Japan, a Japanese Shihan used a beautiful metaphor to help us understand. He said that each Waza is a canal with different angles. When you learn the sequence, you only have to stay in the middle of the channel, equidistant from the banks. This is the 1-2-3 pattern. Once you know it, you can go downstream, and “cut” the angles to gain speed and efficiency. You repeat it until you can do it right.

channelThe three phases are:

  • Phase #1: You learn the steps (TAI) in a “1-2-3” form. At this level, it is not essential to understand the Waza.
  • Phase #2: You understand the waza (GI), and you begin to cut the angles. The movement starts to flow, you gain speed.
  • Phase #3: You are efficient (SHIN), you have developed your movement, that is the one suiting your body. And you can do it your own way.

Shingitai is one of the secrets of Budō. If you don’t train the “Shin,” in each training, you will move like a Gitai, a robot. So, are you willing to stay at the Gitai level, or do you prefer to become a Shingitai practitioner?

Hint: Sensei said that “Budō is made in human,” it means that we are not Cyborgs!


1 Shingitai
2 技, Gi or Waza: No difference! “技” is pronounced either “Gi” or “Waza.” As always you have the Japanese pronunciation, and the Chinese one.
3 義体, Gitai; Cyborg, artificial body
4 伝書, Densho: book or scroll that has been handed down through generations; book of secrets
5 口伝, Kuden: oral instruction​, passing information by word-of-mouth. It is also sometimes used as “experience”. The one you develop by making mistakes and correcting them.

Did you know the offers 150 Gb of Bujinkan videos in streaming 24/7? Join now!

Are You A Failure?

Are you used to fail? I hope for you. This is good and the best way to improve your skills. When you learned to ride a bike, it was not easy, but you got it. It was the same when you learned how to swim. I am sure that today when you ride a bike or swim you don’t think about the “how to do it?”, you do it without thinking. Failure is the best teacher you can find. It teaches you more than success.

Edison said it took him 1,000 tries to make the light bulb working without exploding. A journalist told him that he failed one thousand times. He answered, “I have not failed 1,000 times—I’ve successfully found 1,000 ways that will not work.” When you learn Budō, this is the kind of attitude you should have.

In the west, our society forbids us to fail. This comes from our catholic education, our philosophy of life and our culture. But in the East, they regard failure differently. They consider it a chance to do better.

Failure in Japanese is Shippai. (1) It is made of two Kanji, the first one is “error” and the second one is “failure.” We fail because we make an error, and we make an error because we are not good enough yet. This is the learning process. Whatever you learn, it will take you a lot of time before you can master it. You need a mentor to guide you in this learning process. That is where the sensei enters.

In Japan, a series of three concepts: Taihen, Kuden, and Shinden explains transmission. In each word, the last kanji is “Hen” (or Den) which means “transmission” or “change”. (2)

  • Taihen (大伝) is the body. This is the physical transmission learnt through repetition. (3)
  • Kuden (口伝) is the knowledge acquired with experience (doing, learning, studying). (4)
  • Shinden (神伝) is the ingrained knowledge (as if transmitted by the gods). (5)


taihen kuden shinden drawing (2)

The Human learning process always follows the same three-step process.

First, you learn the physical movement step by step. Speed and strength are not critical at this level of learning. Second, you fail until you learn how to do it well. This is also at this level that you are speeding up your moves. And third, you integrate the experience and stop thinking on how to do the movement. But the learning process doesn’t stop here, it continues. After you reached the first Shinden, begins another Taihen. Another Kuden follows, then another Shinden. This is a continuous process because perfection is never possible. You can always learn and improve your skills a bit more. Do not stop at what you know. Push the boundaries of your knowledge so that every day you can better your skills.

I see the Taihen, Kuden, Shinden process as a spring. Each full circle leads to the next coil, and it is going upward. You make progress by repeating the same things over and over. And you do that until you reach a new level, where you learn new things again. This is a continuous process.

TKStime (2)

That is why it is vital not to give up. Excellence takes time and is based upon multiple failures. You have to learn to fail better. Senō sensei said that when you learn a Kata, you make many errors. After many repetitions errors become smaller. And one day, you have it, but there is still room for improvement.

Hatsumi sensei has a beautiful sentence to explain it: “Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter! Try again. Fail again. Fail better! (6)

So, are you ready to be a better failure?


1 失敗, Shippai; Failure
2 伝, hen; To transmit. Connections; influence. Change
3 大伝, Taihen; Teaching through the body
4 口伝, Kuden; oral instruction​. Passing information by word-of-mouth​. Oral tradition
5 神伝, Shinden; Teachings conveyed by the gods
6 From the book “Understand? Good. Play.” by Benjamin Cole

Visit us at and watch hundreds of Bujinkan videos

Is Sensei A Black Hole?


I was reading an article about the discovery of a new black hole that wasn’t respecting conventional physics. And I found some similarities with Sensei’s Budō. Like a star, Hatsumi Sensei has accumulated a lot of mass/knowledge over the years. That is why his Taijutsu is far beyond our understanding.

What is a black hole? “Black holes are volumes of space where gravity is extreme enough to prevent the escape of even the fastest moving particles. Not even light can break free, hence the name ‘black’ hole. (…) With so much mass in a confined volume, the collective force of gravity overcomes the rule that usually keeps the building blocks of atoms from occupying the same space. All this density creates a black hole.” (1)

Like a black hole, Sōke has accumulated so much, that the “building blocks” of Taijutsu become formless. And they merge into something different that we cannot comprehend.

About this newly discovered black hole, the article says that such an object should not exist. “One possibility, however, could be a fallback supernova, in which material ejected from the dying star falls immediately back into it, resulting in the direct formation of a black hole. (2) Isn’t it what we witness when training with Sensei at honbu? His no-power Taijutsu should not exist either. It goes against everything believed to be “martial arts.” We see what he does, but we don’t get how to reproduce it. I have been training with him for over thirty years now. If I can see what he is doing, there is no way I can naturally do it myself.

When you watch him, his movements don’t seem very hard or complicated. But no one, and I include the Japanese Dai Shihan, can do what he does. His Taijutsu, like a black hole, has surpassed the level of normal biomechanics. His movements are so polished that even if you can see them, you are unable to do them the way he does. There is no strength, no power, yet it is only strength and power!

These days Sensei only speaks about control. Full control of the opponent is only possible once you have surpassed the form. You don’t have to think about what to do, you are the movement. No intent, only natural response to the stimuli created by Uke.

After we collected every forms possible, I hope we can destroy them and reach his level to become a black hole too.

Hatsumi Sensei turned up 88 years old this December. “8” when horizontal means “infinite, so I guess that now he is like a “double infinite, no wonder we can’t copy what he does.”


Join the community and watch 150 Gb of Bujinkan videos!

Think With Your Feet!

IMG_20181203_144937-ANIMATIONIn the Bujinkan, everything comes down to the quality of your footwork. As Hatsumi Sensei puts it, “move with your feet, the hands will follow.”

Since we are babies, our hands are the first tool we use to discover the world, not the legs. As a consequence, our feet are under-trained, but Bujinkan training modifies that. The Bujinkan way of moving and walking in particular.

Throws and immobilizations define Jūdō. Armlocks and circles represent Aikidō.  And Karate is about Kicks and punches. In the same way, our footwork defines the Bujinkan way of fighting.

But the term “footwork” is more diverse than you think. A translation is often accepted for what we believe it means, and not for the rich diversity of the language. In Japanese, there are many meanings for footwork. And they show different aspects of the same reality.

In Japanese, “footwork” is either Ashi Waza, (1) or Ashi Sabaki, (2) or even Ashi Hakobi. (3) And each one shows a different understanding in action. In his book “word and object,” Quine defines what he calls “conceptual schemes.” Words convey different interpretations that are often lost between languages. When translated into another language, some unsaid cultural aspects are lost in the process.

Each one of the three expressions for footwork bears a different meaning:

  • Ashi Waza refers to a leg technique. It is purely mechanical.
  • Ashi Sabaki insists more on how to “deal with” a situation, by using your legs. In a way, you “sort the problem” by using a leg technique. We can say that Ashi Sabaki uses Ashi Waza. (5)
  • Ashi Hakobi is more about how you move your legs to take advantage of the attacker. Whether you are applying a leg technique or not. It also implies controlling your balance by keeping a low center of gravity. (6)

As you can see, the three concepts of “footwork,” contain more than what the translated term implied. Furthermore, the “move your feet” does not cover the reality of the movements you have to perform. In fact, we should say, “move your body.” Because when the body moves, the legs are moving too. But we don’t say it only because students would not get it. They would then move only the upper limbs instead of the legs. Humans are like that. Try to explain footwork by saying, “move your body” to a group of fresh beginners, and you will see what I mean.

When Sensei speaks about moving the feet, you have to understand what he means. The way I see it is, “move your body and your legs altogether so that your hips always stay above your moving leg.” (7)

After many years of teaching, I understand that to learn a Waza, you should first get the correct “footwork.” The rest comes naturally, and “your hands will follow.” Change the way you move your body with the legs and see how better you are performing the techniques. The improvement will amaze you. You can test it in your dōjō with a simple exercise. From Shizen no Kamae, “fall” into Ichimonji no Kamae. (8) You do it by pulling your hips backward (9) and keeping them above your leg. Don’t step back, but fall backward with the whole body. It is harder than you think, but it is the Bujinkan way.

Next class, try this, and begin to think with your feet!

1 足技 Ashi Waza: (judo) foot technique; footwork
2 足さばき, Ashi Sabaki: footwork (in martial arts, sports, etc.)
3 足運び, Ashi Hakobi: gait; manner of walking; footwork (e.g., in sports)​. Characteristic way of moving, keeping the center of gravity low (center)
4 “Word and Object” by Willard Quine:
5 捌く, Sabaku: to handle well; to handle deftly​; to deal with; to manage; to settle; to sort; to process
6 運, Un: fortune; luck; progress, advance
7 The “moving leg” is the one doing the step. It is the front leg if you move forward. And the back leg, if you move backward.
8 In Japan, they tell you to “fall” into the Kamae. Not to “step back.” Here too, words are essential. They give you a hint on how to do it the correct way.
9 As if someone was pulling you from behind at hip level.

When are you joining the Koi community? More than 150 Gb of videos, documents and charts to download. Visit us today

Waza Are For Kids!

comica1566669916317Today many practitioners are more interested in collecting Waza than understanding their purpose. Not so many try to find out the aim of a Waza.

Maybe they get Sensei wrong. “Play!” doesn’t mean to remain all your life at kid level. You have to grow up! And the first step is to understand what a Waza really is.

A Waza is a “series of simple movement” designed to give good basics to practitioners. During feudal Japan, wars were permanent. Each technique was created on the battlefield, with a Yoroi on. When they worked, they could be transmitted. When they didn’t, well, the Samurai would die, and so wouldn’t share it. That is how our Ryūha came into existence. Only what was working was kept. No second chance. Call it natural selection if you will.

But to teach these techniques to the young Samurai (aged 6 to 14), you have to make them simple. They have to be simple because kids can’t memorize anything too complicated. And also, they had to teach the necessary habits that will make sense, when fighting with a Yoroi. So they changed the way to do them and kept only the essence. That is why, sometimes, they don’t make sense until you put the armor.

But knowing the Waza is not an end. It is only the beginning. Don’t take my words for it, listen to Hatsumi Sensei. He said, “learning a technique is not an end in itself; it merely indicates where you need to start.” And this is why collecting techniques is going nowhere. Don’t get me wrong. You need to learn the Waza to be able to adapt them unknowingly in the “fog of war.” (1)

In battle, your senses are more powerful, and your body reacts without thinking. It is once you have acquired your basics that you can adjust a Waza to the situation. There is no planning. You respond to your best, that’s all.

In a fight, your heart is beating fast, adrenaline rushes through your system, and your throat is dry. You focus more and create a “tunnel effect,” and you get the feeling that everything happens in slow motion. If you want to know more about this, read “the gift of fear,” by Gavin de Becker, it will teach you many things. (2)

A technique, as Sensei explains, is not an end, it is a start. When you reproduce a Waza from a book, you are copying a “dead” result. And that is not the way to achieve the expected result. I have explained this a few times already here. A Waza is what would happen if every basic movement was correct. But many teachers only copy the text, and consider it as some sort of checklist! The form is not the spirit. This is wrong in many aspects. If you dissect the technique to make it look like the result, you get nowhere. It is like dissecting a frog, hoping that it would resuscitate when putting it back together!

We train Waza to teach our body and our mind the possibilities of action, not to replicate them in a fight. It is only after that you destroy the form. And bring the essence out. Then use these essences extracted from the Waza to make your own survival tools.

“Waza is not an end; it is merely a start.”




Visit us at and get access to 150 Gb of Bujinkan videos!

Tabi Tabi

IMG_20181203_165003Training is not limited to dōjō hours, homework is necessary. Once you have repeated many times the same moves, your Taijutsu gets better. To train your Kihon or your Waza has a name in Japanese: it is Tabi Tabi. (1)

Did you notice that drawings of Japanese fighters show them with the body bent forward? That is because when you fight outside, you have to get your body weight pushing down on the first half of your feet. This gives you a good Kinkō, a correct balance. (2) Today we mainly train in a dōjō, but when they created the techniques, every fight was on the battlefield.

Outside, the terrain is not flat, nor horizontal, and can be slippery. Thus balance should be your primary focus. You fall, you die! When you keep your body weight forward, you have a better chance to stay up on your feet. This is the Kuden (3) of Shizen no Kamae. (4) When you assume Shizen no Kamae, put your body pushing down on the toes and not on the heels. Sensei said, “You must always be on your toes (and) yet be relaxed.” It means that your weight is always forward, in Kamae, and during the whole fight.

Now, the difficulty is to relax every part of the legs. If you try to put your weight forward, you will feel muscular tensions at various levels. At your calves, your thighs, and your hips. You will have to train a lot to get rid of them. To get the good Kamae, you must practice over and over again. This is “Tabi Tabi”.

The reason why Hatsumi Sensei says that you have “…yet to be relaxed” is then logical. Shizen, to me, is the hardest Kamae of all. Anatomy is also a good teacher. Look, for example, at the back leg of a horse. The joint at mid-level is nothing more than the calcaneus, the heel. And it never touches the ground when the horse walks! (5) And if you are training with Shika Tabi, be aware there is no support for the arch of your feet. So, I urge you to use your body weight forward, because if you don’t, you will get tendonitis. It happened to me back in the 80s. All Bujinkan techniques are coming from the Yoroi and the battlefield. The Japanese developed this way to stand and walk to keep the body safe in battle.

The Waraji, (6) and then the Zōri, (7) are also designed to help this. The soles of both sandals are only protecting the foot, not the toes. When I bought my first pair of Waraji, I told the shopkeeper they were too short. After he explained it to me, the young Gaijin understood that it was not the case. I was wrong (again). As your toes often touch the ground, it means your Tabi would not survive very long if you use them outside of the house. (8)

The Waraji supports only your sole. Your toes being on the ground, the body leans forward. This is a natural process. You can experience it by adding some heel support inside them, and you will see how it benefits your Taijutsu. You have to find ways to improve your skills, having à better footwork is one of them. Actually, what makes Bujinkan so unique compared to other martial arts is footwork. Never forget that everything we do comes from actual battlefield experience. Our Waza survived many wars. They survived and transmitted them to the next generation until today. Nothing we do happen by chance. It is the result of a long period of trial and error. Between the 12th and the 17th century, in Japan, errors often meant death. If we train these techniques today, it is because they were efficient in a real fight.

Back to Sensei and his “You must always be on your toes, (and) yet be relaxed.” Understand that being Kutsurogu, relaxed (9), is a demand of the Yoroi. The armor is excellent protection if you stay relaxed inside. If you are tensed, the many blows you receive go through your flesh and bones. I want to repeat myself here, “everything we do comes from real battle experience.” So, please don’t try to “reinvent the wheel” in your dōjō. Please do not add things exotic to the Sensei’s Bujinkan. (10) Follow the guidelines transmitted for centuries by generations of instructors. After all, this is what transmission means.

As I often tell students in seminars, and in my dōjō, “there is a reason.” If you don’t know it, search for it. Ask your teachers or, when in Japan, ask Sensei.

1 度々, tabi tabi; often; again and again; over and over again; repeatedly; frequently​
2 均衡, Kinkō; equilibrium; balance
3 口伝, Kuden; oral instruction​, passing information by word-of-mouth​, oral tradition
4 自然, Shizen; natural; spontaneous
5 Horse anatomy
6 草鞋, Waraji; straw sandals.
7 草履, Zōri; traditional Japanese thronged sandals
8 足袋, Tabi; Japanese socks (with split toe)
9 寛ぐ, Kutsurogu; to relax; to feel at home
10 If you want to mix different bits and pieces of other martial arts, it is fine with me. If it makes you and your students happy, fine. But then, don’t call yourself a Bujinkan dōjō.

Join the Koi community. Visit now and get immediate access to over 150 Gb of Bujinkan videos.

%d bloggers like this: