Archive for the 'Bujinkan Training Drills' Category

Feb 07 2009


OK, first make all of Hatsumi Sensei’s jokes about thrusts.  Let’s move on.

Recently it has been driving me nuts how people were surrendering their power doing punches.  When your fist makes contact with the opponent/punching bag, your arm should be in the final punching position with only your legs and hip left to do the work.

My club has a method to hold the arm i.e. what angle the elbow should be and what angle the fist should be at.  This varies often from person to person.  But regardless your arm should be in that final position.  If it is not you are using your triceps to punch.  This is OK but it is not the Bujinkan tsuki.

I just had to get it out of my system.  If there are any questions/rebuttles let me know.

One response so far

Feb 04 2009

We will fight, while standing, while sitting, while jumping. We will not surrender!

Yes I know that’s not how Sir Winston Churchill said it.  But that’s the goal for the next three months.  A true understanding of material leading up to 5th kyu.

The first month will be spent against different styles of punches and kicks.  We don’t want to get caught in our own little world.  In the techniques of the Bujinkan, it does not say what type of punch.  So we need to work against retracting punches, hooks, uppercuts etc.  We need to work against kicks, snap kicks, roundhouse kicks, knees etc.

Second month throws, how do you deal with people trying to throw you?  What if they are using wrist locks?  If you are at the point where you need to take ukemi, you are in a bad place.  How can you position yourself so it doesn’t happen?

Third month ground, dealing with ukemi, taihen jutsu, kihon happo etc.  Can you do everything you can standing up on the ground?  Do you know how your movement works on the ground or are you going to just do what you see on PPV events?

So that’s basically what is going on February through April.  In May we look forward to doing considerable work on the top few kyus leading to Shodan.

2 responses so far

Feb 02 2009

Hanbo training without the Hanbo?

Published by under Bujinkan Training Drills

It’s madness I know but I did it.  You see the problem that I found with other martial arts where a weapon is added as an afterthought is you have to learn more than one method of moving.  No so in the Bujinkan.

Anyhow here is how the exercise works, do one of the hanbo movements against a punch.  Do it again changing the distance so that you can hit without the hanbo.  Simple right?  Well the movement should be if you learnt how to use that habo properly.  But check your distance, can you be hit?  When your strike is landing can you go into hitcho without changing your weight?  If not then you are not correctly anchored.  When you are working the tsuki are you practising striking up, down and strait through?

It is a lot harder than it seems but give it a try and if you have some success or discover anything let me know in the comments please.

No responses yet

Oct 09 2008

Training exercises for the Bujinkan

Published by under Bujinkan Training Drills

So, I was asked to write a book.  Yes me, someone who’s writing can be best described as abysmal.  The reason this was suggested is there are no such books.  Well there are plenty of books on the Bujinkan out, but none with specific drills for helping you fight.  Maybe that’s too much, helping you become ready to use your Bujinkan skills in a real situation.

As I have previously explained, fighting without boundaries is chaos.  Sparring with protective equipment is dishonest. There needs to be a fine line to work on your skills in a realistic way.  Keep in mind also, you can be in a fight tomorrow, you must be able to learn to defend yourself quickly.  This is what I believe so this is what I would right about.

That said, depending on the reaction to this post I may not write the book.  After all if there is no need for it, why write it.  I can get just as much done here by responding to questions that I get in class or emailed to me.  (That’s a subtle hint to my lack of creativity.  If you have questions send them to

3 responses so far

Oct 03 2008

Teachers and Students, don’t Skimp out on Ukemi

Published by under Bujinkan Training Drills

After training in the Bujinkan for a month or two it’s time to get serious.  Now calm down everyone before you loose it on me and tell me your serious.  You’re at a 10 you need to be at a 2.

After 2 months of training, you should have your basic ukemi  (front roll, back roll side roll) to a point where you can safely perform them on the mats.  You should be able to punch, front kick and uke nagashi.

Once you can do all of this, it’s time to learn to receive.  Pain is part of the martial arts, if you can’t take a bit of pain you will never be able to effectively fight with your life on the line.

1.  Take ukemi when you are forced to go.

Let me stress that this has to be done at slow speeds to start.  This applies to taking hits as well as locks.  You must not anticipate what is going to happen you just must have your body react in such a way to protect itself when the technique does happen.  In a fight if you are taking ukemi you are in a bad spot.  You don’t want to take ukemi so this becomes doubly so if the technique that is being applied on you is not working.  This also helps your partner know that the technique is actually working and gives them an idea of what it will feel to perform this technique against the majority of the population which does not have Bujinkan ukemi.

2.  Do not anticipate hits.

Often when I am doing a technique and a student cringes in anticipation of the hit I call them a coward.  This of course is a joke, also passing on the pain of being called a ‘Girl Scout’ by a friend of mine for doing the same thing (Pratt I have your cookies right here, anytime you want to come friend).  Unless you can keep relaxed and attack without trying to anticipate you will not be able to learn to take hits on the fly.  You never know how your opponent will attack so you must be ready allowing your body to naturally and effectively receive the hit.

3.  Do not latch on during throws.

I know I shouldn’t be, but I am proud of my harai nage.  Even against those who have done arts with throws I have been able to do this throw in combination with ryu otoshi concepts to devastating effectiveness.  Now that I am done bragging, the reason I mention this is it’s difficult to hang on.  If you are taking a good nage which took proper kazushi the throw will happen before you have time to think.  Holding on to soften your fall is not an option.  Because of this you have to man up (or women up for Tracey, Natasha and Trish) and take ukemi.

4.  Don’t be a teacher.

I try my best to adhere to this principal but it’s difficult.  Not being a teacher is first doing a demonstration then having someone you feel is able to do the technique perform it on you.  I am a firm believer that if you don’t throw yourself in the mix you will destroy your learning.  Your skills will get stagnant, your ukemi will get rusty and if you find yourself at the wrong side of a technique you will get hurt.  Never loose that student feeling.

One response so far

Sep 29 2008

Kamae, a moment in Time

Published by under Bujinkan Training Drills

    One of the most important drills that I have ever seen is a taihen jutsu drill taught to me by Bill Atkins.  What he does in this drill is he has one person attacking (unarmed or with a weapon) with simple attacks (no tricks to start) and the other person is moving from kamae to kamae avoiding the attacks.  It is simple to memorize all the kamae, but can you use them.  Do you know which kamae belongs where and when?  Do you understand the attitude that you need in each kamae to get an effect in your opponents kamae?  If not you need to start at the beginning.

    Take the gyoko ryu kamae (ichimonji, jumonji, hitcho and shizen).  Move from one kamae to the next.  Once your body understands the kamaes on a mechanical level it is time to move on to application.  Understand moving against attacks trying to get to a place where you are flanking your opponent.  What I mean by flanking your opponent is if you draw a circle around someone looking down from above, you can divide the circle into thirds.  The front third where they are strong.  The third starting to their right and the third going to the left (ending right behind them) where they are weaker.  Your goal is moving in kamae from the region where your opponent is strong to the one where they are weak.  Simple yes?  But wait there is more.  You want to move to a kamae at a range where you can bring all of your weapons to bear on your opponent.  What range do you need to throw kicks?  Punches?  Knees and Elbows?  What weapons can your opponent use to attack you?  What will it take to defend yourself from these attacks?  Can you move differently to prevent the possibility of being attacked like this.

    Until you understand this movement, you will not be free with your taijutsu.  Until you understand your distance, you are not doing the arts of the Bujinkan.  Please make sure you understand taihen jutsu the skills of changing your body (kamae).

    Your life is on the line, practice well.

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Jul 08 2008

Getting hit

In a fight you may get hit.  I view that as a failure on my part if I do get hit.  I don’t give myself excuses like oh in a fight you are going to get hit.  If you get hit you have done something wrong.  That said it’s always best to go with the philosophy ‘hope for the best, prepare for the worst’.

This drill is one that I shamelessly stole from Rob Renner (Zero Point Bujinkan Dojo).  It is called the progressive impact training drill.  This is a drill to get your body accustomed to taking a hit while keeping kamae and remaining relaxed.

Start with the attacker using their palms.  You slowly and lightly strike your opponent (to start) and the receiver takes the force and moves back in kamae.  As the receiver becomes more accustomed to it pick up the speed (but do not add weight yet).  This will make it more difficult to remain relaxed while receiving the hit.  When the reciever is hit he must remember to breath out when the attacks are aimed at his torso.  As the receiver becomes more accustomed to the fast pace, slow it down this time adding weight to the strikes.  Afterwards speed up the exercise with weight behind the attacks.  When you are able to do this the exercise must be repeated with fudo ken and all the other weapons.  Remember the Hiken ju roppo are what give the techniques of the bujinkan unique strength.

This will allow attackers to get accustomed to attacking with their full strength.  The receivers will gain confidence in their abilities to take a punch so that fear does not set in if they do come under attack by a real opponent.

If you need me to clarify this drill let me know.

No responses yet

Jun 06 2008

Everyone has their ‘True Way’

I will tell you right now, I am not saying that everything that everyone does is right, that’s nonsense.  I won’t say that you have to go to Japan every year, not everyone can manage that it is understandable.  You don’t have to copy everything that your teacher does, some of it won’t work for you.

This is however the Bujinkan, there are right ways and wrong ways to do things.  There are nine schools so there are many different variations but we look at what is the same not different.  If you can’t go to Japan find someone who does and train with them to keep the feeling.  Things will change based on your body, but you must have the essence.  To find that train with the many good Shihan around the world.

If you disagree with what I have said, take it up with Hatsumi sensei because I am just saying what he has said.  If you don’t believe me then go to Japan and hear it in his own voice.  I am growing tired of people who hold themselves up as ‘representatives’ of the Bujinkan but what they are saying and doing completely contradict what Hatsumi Sensei is teaching.  These are the same people who knock those who actually have some understanding of what Hatsumi sensei is trying to teach.  They will go and talk about the importance of cross training when if they actually put the time in to learning proper taijutsu would discover that it is completely unnecessary.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not giving poor skill level a free pass but this goes beyond that.  Just because you do well in a fight doesn’t mean that you are doing Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu right.  Just because you don’t win in a cage match doesn’t mean that you are learning the wrong way.  It’s our stupid North American philosophies and egos which destroyed this art and it’s reputation.  If we can’t be bothered to swallow our pride, forget what we think fighting is and trust what Hatsumi sensei wants us to learn, why are we still in the art?  If you don’t think that this art works then switch to one that you feel does.  I wish you all the best in your new endevours.  But rather than try and change an art that has protected me, in real life, on more than one occasion, in the past year do what Hatsumi says.

Go ahead read his books, watch the DVD’s and sit there happy assuming you have learned everything.  Your ‘tactical reality based Bujinkan training’ will just take up valuable space in the Honbu Dojo anyhow.  Hatsumi Sensei is the kuden, he is the living densho, he can teach you what you can not learn from books or videos and I have felt its effectiveness firsthand.  I’m done, for now.

One response so far

May 19 2008

What is Kihon?

In training with Oguri Sensei and Seno Sensei, I had a chance to experience their kihon.  This should not be confused with the kihon happo, simply the karada no kihon.

This is the basic way to move your body.  This involves things like the required flexibility to perform proper techniques.  After working on a tuski method for half an hour, Seno sensei had me translate that ‘Once you can do this basic movement, you can start to relearn the techniques while eliminating your bad habits’.

It’s hard to translate that and not sound like a jerk.  Seno sensei let us know that our bodies were in no condition to be chasing after advanced techniques.  To move freely we need to have control over our bodies, a control that we as budo-ka should have.  In the bujinkan we always talk about the importance of self training, but we always seem at a loss as to how to do this.

If your ichimonji can not be held with your rear knee at 90 degrees (pi over 2 radians Jason) moving forward to extend a tsuki over the width of a tatami then you don’t have a body flexible enough for Seno Sensei’s kihon.  Oh and this is with your back erect up and down.

If you can’t start from shizen and squat all the way down without going onto your toes or bending your back from the erect position, you don’t have the calf flexibility to perform Oguri Sensei’s kihon.

This is fair, I don’t expect that everyone should be able to do this.  That said, if you can’t, perhaps it’s time that you do some personal body training to get ready for the waza of the Bujinkan.

2 responses so far

May 07 2008

Striking during techniques

Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu is supposed to be a free art, allowing for a certain amount of creativity.  When preforming techniques you will often see soke and the Japanese shihan adding extra strikes in the midst of preforming the technique.

The reason I bring this up is there is a benefit to us following that example, and also a danger.

If we add in strikes, it can allow us to cover a lack of understanding of the technique.  Basically we can hit the person and make the technique work although it is not correct.

On the other hand, if you do not practice throwing strikes during the technique, you end up forgetting that you have these weapons that you can use.  Your taijutsu becomes compartmentalized, and you get stuck in a grappling situation, or a striking situation, or a weapons situation.

So what’s a good balance?  I don’t know, I will need to work it out myself but I leave it to the post comments to help me out.

3 responses so far

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