Mar 17 2015

Beginning training in the Bujinkan

Published by at 12:13 am under Training at Home

When beginning martial arts training in any it is important to thoroughly understand the fundamentals. In the Bujinkan where there is a less structured training method, it becomes difficult to identify what steps are needed to begin training. In martial arts like Judo, and Karate there is a set progression of techniques, drills and kata which are taught in a specific order. The ideas of freedom of motion, and the use of henka has replaced the importance of martial rigour. Without spending the requisite years of training many practitioners try and mimic the movements of Hatsumi Sensei. To maintain the spirit of the martial arts members of the Bujinkan will focus on condition drills, taihenjutsu and sabaki gata, gogyo and kiso, and the martial applications of the kihon happo to develop the necessary skills for further Bujinkan training. This is a brief overview of concepts I have been told by various Japanese instructors.
At the base level our training consists of training our bodies so that we can preform the techniques of the Bujinkan. This portion of training will consist of junan taiso or stretching exercises, and basic strengthening exercises. Gaining skills in these areas is a time consuming endeavour. If you rush stretching you stand a greater chance of causing an injury which can cost you time in the end for recovery. The changes that happen to your body doing this type of training is gradual. This is especially important when conditioning your hikken juroppo. Wheter it be on a heavy bag, on a makiwara, or through pushups; to be able to strike without injuruing yourself this training can not be avoided. There are no shortcuts to achieve the results from this training, it takes patient effort.
The first skill for protecting your body that is learned at the dojo is ukemi. With the exception of those individuals in law enforcement and military occupations, ukemi is the skill most often used outside the dojo. Training to avoid injury when falling is especially useful for those of us who live in colder climates. The same goes for proper taihenjutsu. Being able to move your body in kamae can not only help with martial arts training but reduce your chances of injury in daily activities. The nine basic kamae of the tenchijin ryaku no maki and the transitions between them, will help protect your body by avoiding physical over exertion due to poor structure. There are also direct training benefits to the practice of ukemi. With proper ukemi tori will be able to practice their techniques without fear of injuring uke. There are also some fundamental movements in ukemi that are used with other techniques. Some of these overlaps can be seen in gogyo.
At the Bujinkan Phipps Dojo, basic body mechanics and coordination are taught through the movements of the gogyo. The gogyo is done with large movements for the purpose of learning maximum range and full body motion. The practice of gogyo should be done with deep kamae and slow motions to properly integrate the movements into the body. It is at this phase of training where basic tsuki, jodan uke, gedan uke, and keri will be practiced. These fundamentals are drilled until they are part of you. It is often said that you forget 90% of what you learn in a real fight. Besides being an unsubstantiated claim, if you make proper fundamentals all that you know, there is no choice but to respond with what you train. The secret is repetitions until the techniques are your only response. Once you have these basic movements drilled into your body, it is time to cut down the movements into application form.
The kihon happo are the basis for the martial arts taught by Hatsumi Sensei. These methods teach you the basic fighting applications of the Bujinkan. At the Bujinkan Phipps Dojo, these are practiced in 3 steps as suggested by Sakasai sempai (they can not be easily put into print only demonstrated). After understanding the traditional form, it becomes important to use all of the different kamae to practice the form making your movement more versatile. It is at this stage where training with an opponent becomes important. Practitioners get a handle on proper distance and timing. Once again at this stage it is essential to train the techniques until they can be preformed without hesitation. These movements must be drilled until they are a part of you and require no thought.
Though there is much more that can be explored in the basics, this is a possible starting point for self study. Teachers in Japan have suggested practicing some exercises a thousand times daily. That would mean drilling the sequence jodan uke, tsuki, keri a thousand times using a second for each movement should take just over an hour (with breaks included). While this can not be expected of all of us in our busy schedules, if one considers themselves a serious martial arts practitioner half an hour a day should not be an unreasonable daily practice goal. Without this type of foundation there is no point in chasing the specific kata of the Bujinkan. If you do not train your foundations, they will not be there for you in a self defence situation. Hatsumi sensei has emphasized filling the gaps in training that have been missed in this 42 year cycle. Hatsumi Sensei has reached the level he is at after 55 years of training the martial arts of his sensei, Takamatsu. As a Japanese shihan pointed out it is foolish for us to try and copy his techniques as they are done today. With this overview of the basics it is my hope that students at the dojo will understand the progression of training and work diligently to train the basics into their bodies.


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One Response to “Beginning training in the Bujinkan”

  1. Brianon 23 Jun 2015 at 12:41 pm

    This is an awesome article, thanks for sharing!

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