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: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madhyamaka

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! 🙂

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… 🙂

Yoroi is Balance

Black belts should wear the yoroi to understand the value of balance. When you are dressed with the yoroi, the weight is spread all around the body and not only on the back as we experienced it with a backpack.

Naturally the extra weight transforms the body repartition and we move with about 50% of our weight on each leg. This is why the kukishin ryû and the takagi yôshin ryû kamae do not have the same appearance compared to the togakure or other low kamae systems.

Peter on the picture is showing here the kosei no kamae as if he was receiving some kind of attack from his opponent. As though “kosei” means “attack” he is absorbing the blow with his protected forearm (aite to kumu kokoro gamae) and uses his legs to cushion it. Next he will spring forward and take uke‘s balance to counter-attack. Once the blow has been received, there is no power left in the weapon, the momentum is gone.

As sensei said back in 2003, concerning the yoroi kumiuchi: “when there are two attacks (body or weapon) they are not of the same quality”. The first attack is fuelled by the footwork and his strong and fast, the second starts where the first one was stopped and uses a different distance.

Note that the back hand stays at the hip level as if Peter was holding a tachi.

Every waza in Japan originated from yoroi kumiuchi.

%d bloggers like this: