Mar 17 2015

Beginning training in the Bujinkan

Published by 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.


One response so far

Aug 19 2014

Moving through Kamae and controlling space

Last night we went over koku and renyo from gyokko ryu.  I thought I would share some of my training ideas from Koku.

When defending it is exceedingly difficult to attack arms.  Strikes come quickly and are most often withdrawn.  (Bujinkan tsuki being an exception since we use our bodies to match our armed techniques.)  When doing Koku, I find this a helpful sequence of events for the tori:

  1. Step back at 45 degrees to left ichimonji no kamae
  2. Step back to the left until you are square to the opponent in Jumonji no kamae (you will be on the line formed by the opponents legs)
  3. Pull the right leg back and around (all the way to 45 degrees back and to the left) and take hitcho
  4. Drop the left leg from hitcho forward into a forward ichimonji

With this sequence of tiahenjutsu you will be able to concentrate on guarding the space between you and your opponent.  Any of the blocks and strikes are a consequence of these movements and will allow you to focus on moving to a safe location without chasing after the densho targets.

To the students who will be at class on Monday, please consider these points and if you have question ask.  I will be happy to demonstrate what I can to help you understand these movements.

Your life is on the line, practise well.

2 responses so far

Aug 04 2014

Tetsuzan back in Print

Published by under Media Review

You can once again purchase Tetsuzan Bujinkan Densho.  This book is a print of newsletters which have articles from Hatsumi Sensei and the senior Shihan.  The articles which tell you about training methods and the dangers of incorporating incorrect movement into your kihon.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is curious about the senior instructors thoughts on training.

Your life is on the line, practise well.

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Jul 29 2014

Drill from Class last night

Published by under Bujinkan Training Drills

There is a drill that I have developed that I have yet to name.  Those of you in class last night might be able to help me with that.  The purpose of the drill is creating a more honest way to practice the kihon happo.  One of the problems that we have while training the kihon happo is that the technique for the purpose of learning is static.  This is good for learning the mechanics of the technique.  We must however move on, so creating a randori atmosphere with the purpose of practising specific techniques is the end result.

Many people are still having quite a bit of difficulty making the randori natural.  This is not a problem it will get better with practice.  Please make sure that you train this drill often, it will help you get a feel for where and when kihon happo fit into the space.

Your life is on the line, practise well.

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Jul 20 2014

Learning through hardship

Published by under Training at Home

Teaching has always been a challenge for me.  I want to help students avoid the pitfalls in which I have fallen.  There are certain mistakes that I have made and discovered either through being directly corrected or finding out through training.  As a result I have always tried to warn students of mistakes that I have made in the past so that they do not such a painful time getting past these road blocks.

I am sorry for doing that.  There are times to help through explanation I know, but getting through these hard times will make you a better martial artist I am convinced.  If I provide the answers in words and the reasons in words instead of letting students move through the process of fighting to find their own mistakes then how can they in turn help me see what is going on?

There is a level of basics that I need to demonstrate and teach, but there is a part of the process where you must discover why things are done so that you can train your eyes to see what is actually happening and your body to self correct.  There will not always be someone there to hold your hand when you are learning.  Your Budo is something that you must take responsibility for.  You decide how far you want your Budo to go.

Your life is on the line, practise well.

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May 05 2013

What was the feeling?

Published by under Training in Japan

I have a theory about asking people what a technique felt like.  I don’t think that is a class teaching tool, I think it’s a self realization tool.

Hatsumi Sensei often says that it is important to have the control it takes to move your ears.  As it stands moving your ears is a skill that you have to learn.  You can’t be taught, you can’t be helped you just have to try it until you can do it.  Budo seems to be the same way.

Hatsumi Sensei experienced Budo through his teacher Takamatsu.  At the time he was learning there is no way he could hope to replicate the feeling that his teacher had.  At least not until he had some more experience.

So now the problem.  You have experienced the techniques and know what they feel like so how do you know if you do them correctly?  My suspicion is when your students have the same reaction that you did.

I believe that at first perhaps, the question of how did that feel was just to make sure that Hatsumi Sensei was on the right track with his techniques.  So over the next few months/years when I am training with you one on one and ask what did that feel like I’m not trying to be pretentious I am trying to study.

Your life is on the line, practise well.

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May 04 2013


Published by under Training at Home

Please if you are coming to Japan practice your ukemi before you get here.  I was having a conversation with a Japanese Shihan who said that we could not practice of the techniques that I wanted to practice because no one in the room (present company excluded) had ukemi on a level that was able to handle the techniques.

What is the point of coming to Japan to learn if you can’t learn the techniques because there is no safe way to practise it?  For the majority of us ukemi is what we will need the most in our daily life, how can you ignore this essential part of training?

I know I am just a little miffed because I didn’t get the training that I was looking for, but this is  a problem.  If you don’t have ukemi understand you will be holding training back.

Your life is on the line, practise well.

No responses yet

Apr 22 2013

Kuzushi 崩し

Published by under Training in Japan

The work Kuzushi is often translated as take the balance. If you look at the kanji (which I have so helpfully included) it is a verb which means to collapse or to destroy.

If you take someones balance they will take a step and escape. ?If you however focus on destroying their kamae then you have effectively taken away power and ability to counter your intentions. ?I am sure I will have to visit more on the specifics of this as I figure them out further. ?So until then.

Your life is on the line, practise well.

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Apr 12 2013

Japanton Round 10

Published by under Sight Seeing,Training in Japan

Until this point I have never been in Japan to see the cherry blossoms.  I have now.  They are something to behold.  As I wonder around Japan feeling a sense of familiarity that I do not feel anywhere in the world outside of Edmonton, it occurs to me how much time I spend here.  The theme this year is difficult and the days are long.  I hope to attend 100 training sessions while I am here this time.  I am thankful for the friends with whom I am going to be able to train while I am here.  Also to the Bujinkan Czech Dojo, and their leader Czech Norris making nightly drinking acceptable I thank you.

I will begin posting information on training with Tsurugi, and Muto Dori Gata (note the Oxford comma please) as well as what I have been shown of Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jutaijutsu soon (I hope).

Your life is on the line, practise well.

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Nov 14 2012


Published by under Training in Japan

It seems that over the past week and a half I have come up with a bit different view on the concept of Kaname based on what I have been hearing sensei say. The deep philosophy of this concept I will leave to those whom are far more familiar with Hatsumi Sensei’s language and background. I can only provide my ideas based on what I have heard, seen and felt.

Hatsumi Sensei has been talking and demonstrating kaname not as just a philosophy or an abstract idea of what the essence of the technique is but rather specific point in space in a specific moment in a technique. This point can change from moment to moment but it had a physical position in space.

Hatsumi Sensei had spoken about kaname being like the ougi (pin) in a Japanese fan, something that everything can rotate around. I am still trying to, wait for it… wrap my head around the idea. I will let you all now if I come up with anything more on the subject.

Your life is on the line, practise well.

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