Ryûha: Homework Required

bô vs sword

The last section of the Kukishin Bô is called “keiko sabaki gata” and consists in a series of 25 techniques. As always if you do not look at the kanji but only at the sounds,  many meanings can be found in a good English dictionary.

keiko: training, practice, study

sabaki: deal with, handle; but also judgment, decision, verdict

gata (kata): mold, model;  but also a person.

Therefore, we can understand the “keiko sabaki gata” as the study of how to deal with the other.  But to be able to deal with the other we must learn first to deal with ourselves and this is where the personal training takes place. When we were kids or young students we were used to study “at home” the lessons received during the day. It must be the same in the dôjô. The dôjô like the university or the school is the place where the knowledge is transmitted. Our home is where we learn this knowledge to be able to use it afterwards.

This personal training is very important when it comes with the study of weapons as without a long time of repetition, it is nearly impossible to know how to handle the weapons. Over the last twenty years I have often spend time alone in the woods training with my jo, my, my yari or my naginata. There is no secret if you want to break the wall of the form you have to repeat them endlessly.

To help you in your personal training understand that the waza is only half of the technique, in a sense I consider the waza to be the omote. It gives you only half of the circle. It is your job to reverse the whole waza and to do it from the other side in order to get the ura. This is the way I have been learning on my own all these forms that I received in Japan over the years.

How to proceed?: you take one waza like gohô from the kukishin bô. You do it 50 times facing a tree. Then you reverse it completely by using the other side (here left) and you do it another 50 times. You do the same for each waza in a school. If you do that, I can assure you that your proficiency will increase a lot. At least it worked very well for me.

One last thing. The next day you will have forgotten those 5 to 10 waza that you worked. It is ok as what you are learning here is not to memorize with your brain but with your body.

If you do your homework properly you will learn much faster. But not only are you going to learn the movements faster, you are also going to learn a lot about yourself, your limits, your flaws. So by learning a given set of techniques you will develop the strength of your spirit and get better. Personally I see it as the real benefit of the keiko sabaki gata.

Now that you know yourself you can go back to the study of the ryû and “train the mold to make the decision”, i.e. keiko sabaki gata.

Gambatte! 🙂

Bô: Kûkan & Distance

Distance is power

Bô jutsu is one of the key to enter the kûkan as it gives access to distance. Too often in training we  are trapped by the form (waza) and do not dwell enough into the feeling (kankaku). When sensei introduced us to the “cycle of weapons” in 1993, many bujinkan members were surprised as jutsu did not seem to be “ninja” enough to them.

But bô jutsu was only an excuse to excel. Bujinkan is footwork. When we train the , the technique traps our brain and our movements follow a “1, 2, 3” sequence. After repeating those forms long enough, something fresh comes out of them. Through mechanical repetition the brain frees itself and a natural movement is created only because footwork adds itself to a new understanding of distance.

In one of the bujinkan schools, it says: “ahead lies paradise” meaning that in a fight you get protected by entering the distance to the opponent. By accepting the encounter, you actually enable yourself to be safe and free in your actions. This knowledge of how to distance yourself correctly is the first thing you learn with the use of  long weapons. This freedom has created a kûkan of which you were not aware of before. Through the study of bô jutsu you are now able to enter this kûkan and bring your taijutsu up to a new dimension.

Weapons are our best teachers. We move our bodies and we now learn to do it with an artifical extension offering new possibilities.

Bô jutsu is not “ninja“? maybe not, but our skills improve a lot through this type of study. We understand now distance and angles in a wider sense and can play freely with a new created space.

Maybe this is why divinities are often represented with a long staff. 🙂

Kukishin Bô Jutsu Shoden

old bô jutsu drawing by hokusai

Did you ever notice that the three levels of bô jutsu from the kukishin represented the three levels of the ten chi jin?

Did you ever notice that in the shoden no kata you had 3 groups of 3 techniques? Each name of technique begins with the name of a kamae followed by the principle hidden within each one of the groups. 

Those principles can be written in different ways, I offer here three possible meanings.

The first group deals with kangi which can have the same meaning of ” intuition, sixth sense” (gi means waza = technique). kan (勘)

The second group is gogi and can have the meaning of go(shin), “defense”. Go (護).

The third group is kôki and can have the meaning of “achievement, success”. (功).

If we add those three meanings we get the idea the the first level of the kukishin bô is to develop our intuition to defend ourselves in order to find success”.

Funnily, the last technique (the ninth) of the level look like a mix of all the waza studied in the level. If not in the form at least in the feeling.

The last technique is called tenchijin… 🙂

Basics & Fundamentals (part 3)

Why is the Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki so important?
Until 1990, we had very little knowledge about the schools and the weapons. Remember that we really began the weapons in 1993 with the and the study of the schools only in 1998! From the beginning of the Bujinkan (and more precisely when the Togakure Ryû Ninpô Taijutsu was published in 1983) the basics were transmittedthrough the Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki. Each student at that time was studying the Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki to improve his fundamentals. The Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki was the basic program to reach the black belt. The spreading of the Bujinkan over the last twenty years has abandoned the Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki and it has been often discarded by the new generation of teachers.
What is a Bujinkan black belt?
A Bujinkan black belt is someone who knows the Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki so well that every technique demonstrated looks like a patchwork of elemental bricks taken from the Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki. Too often students receive a black belt without the knowledge of the Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki and this lack in their practice leads to big flaws in their movements. In 2009 I gave a 5-day seminar on the full Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki in India. When the Indian group went to Daikomyô Sai last December they told their teachers that they could see every component of the techniques taught by sensei and the shihan and recognize the strength of the Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki.
Are you a Bujinkan black belt?
Then you must know “by heart” the ten and the chi and be familiar enough with the jin. Without this basic knowledge you will not be able to go far within the Bujinkan system. The heart of “kokoro no budô” is the Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki. Learn it, study it and you will see your technical level excel and reach a new understanding. Without studying the Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki attending seminars is a loss of time. It is like watching a movie of which you are not part of. Learn the Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki and become the actor your own life instead of being a passive observer!
Ryaku in Japanese means “principle” but also “truth”. Learn the truth of things and you will become a true human being able to link the sky and the earth; able to be one with nature. 🙂