Archive for the 'Training at Home' Category

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

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.

No responses yet

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

May 21 2011

Dedication to Abi Allen

Published by under Training at Home

At the Canadian Tai Kai I went over something which to me is very important.  So important that I have decided to share it with everyone whom can read this blog.  So Please bear with me and thank you for reading.

In 2001 I had the privilege of meeting Abi Allen, a fine martial artist whom had a lasting effect on me and my taijutsu.  Abi is the first person to ever make me say, “she is a good martial artist” as opposed to “she is a good martial artist for a woman”.  The skill and reality which Abi brought to training is something that I will appreciate and try to emulate for the rest of my life.  If you find this praise a bit over the top for me, I apologize but I do feel that strongly about her and her skill that my words are not enough to let you know the respect that I had and still have for what she taught me.

To give a brief description of what she taught me 10 years ago which I felt obliged to pass on it was three basic methods of generating power from the koshi sanppo.  For those whom are not so familiar with the names of techniques, that is ichimonji no kata, jumonji no kata and hitcho no kata.  Abi explained them as rotational power in ichimonji, transitional power in jumonji no kata and vertical power in hitcho no kata.  I don’t know that I can explain the concepts better in writing that I can in video so I will leave it up to you for now to ask me for the information when you see me next.  I am sorry but sometimes that’s just the way things go.

I miss you Abi, I will practise well.

No responses yet

May 19 2011

Canadian Tai Kai #4 – The Arrival

Published by under Training at Home

Finally I am back in Toronto.  No posts for a while an I apologize for that but now I am inspired and will do my best to keep you with a healthy dose of Anton Budo know-how.  Sat and had a talk with Craig Olson, got a sneak peak at Sensei’s new book and spent some more time thinking about what I can show everyone here.  Also what they have to show me.  I know it will be a good time so if you happen to be in the greater Toronto area this weekend please stop by and say hello.  Or better yet train because we all have a great deal to learn through these opportunities to share.

Your life is on the line, practise well!

No responses yet

Sep 23 2010

Time for more self study

In light of work causing the next Japan trip to be put off to the new year (Hatsumi Sensei don’t retire please), it’s time for some serious self study.

One thing that I have been glossing over in the past few months of training has been an emphasis on kamae.  When moving through a technique you should be in kamae/moving through kamae, appropriate kamae.

Aside from ukemi, the first thing you should learn in my opinion is kamae.  You start with your basic Hira, Seigan, Shizen and Seiza.  Because Gyokko ryu contains many of the basics of our art, I would teach Ichimonji, Hitcho, and Jumonji from Gyokko Ryu.  When you learn those and move through these kamae then you would follow up with Hoko, Doko, Fudoza, Kosei and Ihen.  It is very important to have correct powerful rooted kamae without surrendering your ability to move.  This alone can take some months to understand the basics.

The real trick to Kamae is being in an appropriate kamae.  It does you no good to be in a good strong kamae if your distance is such that you are in a position where you can not defend yourself.  Appropriate kamae in at an appropriate distance should above all be the focus of your training.  So I guess we need a good way to practise this now.

The exercise is simple take two kamae, take two of the 9 directions (I am counting the 8 compass directions and down by means of seiza, fudoza or another kamae on one knee).  Lets say forward and to the left is my first direction, and my second direction is directly back.  I will take my first kamae forward and to the left then my second kamae directly backward from there.  Then I will change the order of the kamae, then change out for new kamae.  After I have moved through all the kamae I will do that for all 80 other combinations of movement.

I kind of droned on for a while there so I am sorry about that, but kamae is something I have been thinking through a great deal recently.

Your life is on the line, practise well.

No responses yet

May 16 2010

The shameful me of yesterday

Published by under Training at Home

I have been relaying old stories about my training and the mistakes I made.  Like when I did a bad roll and couldn’t roll over that shoulder for three weeks.  Or the time I had to use my T-shirt to stop the bleeding from a cut that I got on my head.  Doing little demos of what I thought techniques were supposed to look like.

The reason I have been sharing these stories is  so that you know there is always room to improve.  I do not look back kindly on my past training.  I always am critical of what I have shown and what I have done.  The second I get comfortable with what I did yesterday I will stop improving.  I need to always look critically at my technique and find ways to improve.

Look back and see your mistakes, use them to learn and push forward.  Our art is one where you can improve as you get older.  Your understanding of distance and your use of timing are not skills that diminish with age but improve.  Remember that you can always find a way to improve.

Your life is on the line, practise well.

No responses yet

May 13 2010

Don’t get isolated

Published by under Training at Home

As I have progressed in Budo, it has become an increasing concern of mine that I will stop progressing as a martial artist.  What I mean to say is that I will reach a certain level of skill where I feel satisfied and get complacent in my pursuit of knowledge and skill.

It is easy to sit in your dojo and go over the same techniques that you always do again and again without trying anything new.  I can show Ura and Omote gyaku every class and insist that there is no need to work on other techniques until you aster those two.  This is not however how I want to do things.

I want to train with my students and get better.  I need to attend seminars and classes by other instructors with an open mind looking to learn something.  I need to go to Japan and get knowledge from the source.  I need to train with people who go to Japan so that we can try to absorb Hatsumi Sensei’s feeling from them and bring it to our own training.  Most of all I must never become a teacher, always a student looking to learn at every opportunity.

This is a hard thing to do.  Being so far away from Japan, and in most of Canada’s case so far away from other clubs.  The distance, the time, the money they are all worth the sacrifice to me.  My training will make this world a lot smaller because I will travel to train as much as I can.

Isolation is a progress killer, don’t let it happen to you.

Your life is on the line, practise well.

No responses yet

May 11 2010

The importance of Fitness in our Dojo

Now this is a delicate subject around the Bujinkan because there are two camps in this who can not seem to reconcile what I think are small differences.

The first camp follows the philosophy that since the techniques of the Bujinkan do not require strength or speed, just distance and timing there is no need for any real physical training.  Further if you focus on your physical strength you will rely on it too much as well as take away from valuable training time on technique.

The second camp has been of the idea that the point of not needing speed and power comes after years of training and thus before you reach that level of mastery you need to have strength and speed and slowly you will rely on them less.

So as you can see both of these ideas have their merit.  In the Edmonton Bujinkan Dojo however we follow this philosophy:

The techniques of the Bujinkan can not be mastered unless you have mastered your own Body.

What I mean by this is not that I am looking to have students whom are super athletes, but those whom are aware of their physical limitations.  The goal that I have in mind for myself and those with whom I train is a freedom to move in their bodies.  With out that ability to understand your body, I doubt one would be able to master the techniques of the Bujinkan.

For most of us whom do not suffer from physical limitations which they have to overcome, we should strive to keep our bodies in good shape so that we are able to enjoy our lives and training for years.  I don’t expect that as I age I will be able to break any weight lifting world records, but I do expect that I will be able to keep flexible and mobile.  Light exercise and stretching will keep you feeling good and moving well so that you can master the techniques of the Bujinkan.  Our goal is to move like Hatsumi Sensei (b. December 1931) when we reach his age.  Don’t forget that protecting your life also means taking care of your body.

Your life is on the line, Practise well.

No responses yet

Next »