Don’t Xerox The Master!


img_20170502_211510.jpgEach class, Hatsumi sensei speaks about moving “Yukkuri”, slow. This is different from training slowly. (1)

Training slowly: Study level/acquisition/Dōjō
Moving slowly: high-level/reaction/fight

Training slowly is part of the learning process, reacting slowly deals with actual fighting. When you train slow, you create new mental/body patterns that will be useful in a real fight. When you move slowly in the encounter, you stop emitting intention. Therefore it is easier for you to read the opponent and to adjust your reactions naturally to Uke’s attacks. Many practitioners, high ranks included, misunderstand this difference. We end up mimicking Sensei’s slow movements. And as we don’t have his many years of practice, if we only copy his slow moves, it will get us killed.

For years now he has been saying that he is teaching for the Jūgodan not for beginners. What he shows is Ura, if you copy his movements, you stay at the Omote level. Buying a black belt in a Budo shop doesn’t make you a black belt. What Hatsumi sensei shows in class is a result, not a process. Do not mistake the end result for the path. Stop copying, you don’t have the level for that! Moving slowly comes after many years of moving fast. The “no-waza” state he has reached is beyond our grasp. We are heading towards it, but we are not there yet. It comes after years of repeating the forms of the waza. There’s no shortcut. As I said many times here, in order to forget the techniques, you have to learn them in the first place.

Yesterday, Hatsumi sensei insisted on moving slowly. This is the secret of high-level taijutsu, he was insisting on the “yukkuri”, but he added that to be successful, one has to keep moving. We did several sword attacks from behind similar to train the Sakki feeling. Each time, the sword could not touch him because he never stopped. Turning his back to Uke, Sensei didn’t wait, he kept walking, and the blade was avoiding him like by magic. Hatsumi sensei insisted that if you stop, then you give a fixed point in space that the attacker can use against you. What we do is effective taijutsu, even if we are moving slowly. Senō sensei often asks us to move out too late and to be hit. Then to move a little earlier, then again and again until we can move slowly enough, and at the right distance, and with the perfect timing to avoid the attack. If you never get hit during training how can you possibly know how to fight for real? The truth is that you cannot.

Instead of repeating Sensei’s movements, you should listen to what he says, and build a training progression that will teach you how to do it. If you are a Bujinkan high rank, hopefully, you have studied all the Waza. You come to Japan, not to learn Waza but to bring back home new insights and new feelings, that you will train in your Dōjō until your next trip to Tōkyō. You come to Japan to bring back homework.

If you want to improve your knowledge of Taijutsu, stop copying and begin to listen.
Don’t copy the Omote, the visible, it’s a dead-end.
Listen to him, it will teach you the Ura of things, and help you improve your movements.

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  1. ゆっくり, Yukkuri: slow, at ease, restful

Fun’Iki, Control The Environment


IMG_20170428_211146This year Mutō dori is about controlling Funiki, your environment.
During the class, Hatsumi sensei demonstrated it with Taijutsu, Tantō, Katana, and Naginata. Each time the Uke seemed lost and unable to get him. His main point today was that the weapon, or the lack of it, is not what truly matter. In fact, with or without a weapon, Sensei was moving very slowly, keeping a perfect distance with the opponent, who always ended up cutting, stabbing himself, or getting controlled. There was no fight, no opposition, Sensei’s movements were natural. From the outside, it looked like Uke was fighting alone.

Sensei demonstrated it with the Tantō, using a unique grip that let his Taijutsu play by itself.
You hold the knife reverse, hiding it under your forearm and use either the blade or the Kashira to get Uke naturally. (2)
The key, he said, is not to use the Tantō, and to let Uke cut himself in the process. Correcting a student he told her that thinking about cutting with the blade, created a Teko (3), a point of leverage and focus that the opponent can use against you. Sensei added that in the case of a small weapon, it had to be always hidden.
But when Uke finally sees it, the trick is to let Uke “think” the knife while Tori still ignores it and his mind is not trapped by it. Sensei added that when you want to cut or stab with your knife, you are creating a fixed point in your mind limiting your freedom of action.

With the Naginata; it was even more devastating. Sensei said that when using this weapon, your grip of the weapon should be loose and all the movements executed using Naname. (4)
My understanding is that the physical encounter is enough to cut the enemy, your body supporting the Naginata loosely on top of the forearm. Also, keeping the edge oriented at 45 degrees guarantees a cut when in close-combat. The cuts are done by walking the body around Uke. When he was demonstrating this, I had the feeling the Naginata was alive and moving by itself.

In a sword against sword encounter, he explained to move towards the attack, using the body to support the blade as a shield. With the weapons in contact use the joints to apply leverage. Grab the opponent’s sword and then slide your katana under his helmet.

Finally, in Taijutsu, Sensei reminded us to use our fingers as if playing the piano on Uke. Then one finger extended was often enough to overcome the adversary even when he was armed with a sword.

All these techniques that we did were practical applications of high-level Mutō Dori. Mutō Dori is entirely misunderstood. It is not what we learned at beginner’s level. Mutō Dori is done in every situation, with or without weapons. Because it is about controlling Fun’iki (1), the environment, the atmosphere.

When your mental presence is aware of everything and controls the space between and around you and the opponent, then defeat is never yours. (5) (6)

The essence of Mutō Dori is Fun’Iki, to control the environment naturally.

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1. 雰囲気, Fun’iki or Fuinki, air, atmosphere, environment
2. Kashira 頭, the head/top of the weapon/hilt
3. 梃子, lever(age). Teko – lever, and Shiten – fulcrum are one the secrets of the Kukishin Ryū
4. Naname 斜め, diagonal, oblique
5. Sensei used the word Fudōshin (不動心) to express it. And many of his attackers today explained that they cannot get him because of his commanding presence.
6. 不動心, Fudōshin: a) imperturbability; steadfastness
b) cool head in an emergency; keeping one’s calm (e.g. during a fight)

Basics & Fundamentals (part 1)


The Ten Chi Jin from 1987

During my last seminar in Chemnitz, I was asked to explain to the group the Bujinkan system. It was a discovery for many students so I decided to share here in this blog the importance of the Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki.

The first thing you have to get clearly is that the Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki is the best system ever created to give a martial artist a chance to develop his creativity. This is the kaitatsu explained by sensei recently.
Too often the Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki is underestimated by the teacher more inclined to dwell on the rich legacy of the nine schools. This is a major mistake as without the Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki no student can really grasp the essence of sensei’s teachings.
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What is the Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki?

It is a program put out by sensei in the eighties as a common basic program for the beginners. The first “official” edition was published in Japanese back in 1983 under the title “Togakure Ryû Ninpô Taijutsu”. Divided into three parts which are Ten, Chi, and Jin, it presented in a certain order the elemental bricks necessary to study the nine schools and their specificities. After a few years of practice, it had been reviewed and modified to be even more practical. In 1987, we received from Japan, the first English version of this new system. The majority of the techniques were the same, but the repartition had been changed to facilitate the learning. The first published versions of this new Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki (TCJ2) were done in 1991 by Pedro Fleitas in Spanish and by Mariette Van der Vliet in English. The French Protek was published by me in 1998. An adapted version in German by Steffen Frohlich was also released during the same period.  Many other incomplete and transformed versions were published subsequently.
To be continued…