Archive for the 'Bujinkan Training Drills' Category

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  Strikes come quickly and are most often withdrawn.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.

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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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Mar 18 2012

Conditioning, Waza and other thoughts

Published by under Bujinkan Training Drills

The topic of what is practical fighting technique vs what is movement exercises has come up on more than one occasion.  I often get a bit miffed if during training people attack me putting themselves in a position that makes the technique far too easy to preform.  At a Shawn Gray seminar in South Dakota we discussed certain training habits in length.  I will do my best to summarize the learnings from this conversation.

I am very much of the opinion that when we (North Americans) started training in the arts of the Bujinkan, we did what we expected to see.  What I mean is many visitors had a few weeks maybe twice or three times a year to train with Hatsumi Sensei and the shihan.  They brought back what they could (and I thank them for that), and trained what they remembered diligently until the next visitor could make the trip.  The problem is that to fill in the gaps many relied on previous experience in other martial arts.

I do not by any means begrudge them for this, we are learning a martial art to defend ourselves, as a result it is good to have a more complete set of skills until you can fill in the gaps with Japan knowledge.  There is however a pitfall that I have fallen into for far to many years.  It’s only over the last few years that I have been climbing my way out of this trap.  The real danger is creating our own system based on what we want to see.

As someone who has trained in several martial arts, for years my previous martial arts experience prevented me from looking past certain habits to see what was being done in Japan.  Also there are many things that I did based on training done in the past (Bujinkan and otherwise) that I saw completely contradicted on my Japan trips and instead of accepting that this is the way that things are supposed to be done, I passed it off as that’s what I will do when I reach a higher level of proficiency.  What was the point of going to Japan if I didn’t go to learn?

I have to apologize to all of the teachers that I trained with in Japan who tried to teach me what I was doing wrong only for me to ignore the lessons because of my foolish notions of what I wanted to do.  There is no end to the amount of material available to us now, take a look at what Hatsumi Sensei and the shihan have been doing for years and see if it has really changed all that much.

There are certain things done for the sake of body conditioning.  Moving in what I would call “odd” kamae that doesn’t seem like it would have much of a combat application.  I was given an exercise by Seno Sensei in October of 2008, just a simple punching drill which made my body ache when I did it.  He told me afterwards that if I practiced it for a year that I would develop a body able to properly do the techniques of the Bujinkan.  Do not confuse junan taiso with waza, there are some exercises we do just to free up our bodies for future movement and technique.  If I could pass on a bit of advice for beginners it would be this.

  • When you first start training work on taihen jutsu (ukemi and happo sabaki)
  • Continue on the San shin no kata to co-ordinate your body
  • Begin the Kihon Happo to learn to defend yourself (use omote tsuki no oni kudaki)

If you work through this method your Budo will be on the right path.  I also encourage you that if a teacher in Japan takes interest in showing you their version of a basic technique, work on it find out how to do it their way not yours. You have chose to take the time and money to go learn in Japan, take that final step and take the effort to learn their art while you are there.

Your Life is on the line, practise well.

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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.

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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.

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May 15 2009

Weapons Month

Published by under Bujinkan Training Drills

It has been quite some time since I actively went over weapons so I am g0ing to give you an overview of what I will be doing.

The weapons that I will focus on are hanbo (3 ft staff) and tanto (knife).  The reason, because I feel like it and I think they are good weapons with which to start.  The hanbo is a weapons which can be used in may different ways and can be found in some variation very easily.  Though I said it’s 3 feet long, the techniques can be used without much need for adaptation over a great variety of staff lengths.  The tanto is a weapon which is very common, especially in Edmonton.

So what can you do to practice at home?  Do san shin with a hanbo and tanto.  With the tanto first in your rear hand then in your lead hand.  With the hanbo, trying to use as many methods of gripping the staff as possible.  We have trained a long time to get the mechanics of the movements correct, now it’s time to add some flow.  Don’t go fast to start but eliminate the breaks in your movements.  Your strikes should flow.  Don’t leave the strikes sitting out there afterwards either, treat your training as if you are facing an actual opponent whom you are trying to beat.

Sorry for the lack of posts, I am trying to get used to a new job and the resultant hours.  I will try to post more regularly once again.

Your life is on the line, train well.

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Apr 08 2009

Seated Sei Chu Sen

Published by under Bujinkan Training Drills

So I talked about the true centre line before.  The less space you have the more important this will become.

The art of Budo Tai Justsu works because we can control the space (well this is one of the reasons) and when we are doing seated waza it is no different.  This is why when you are doing the seated kata (or kata from a seated position) you must use your body to maintain the space.  This includes putting your legs and arms in a way that obstructs your opponents entry into your space (like in sei chu sen).  Having space increases your mobility, your movement allows you to control the distance.

Until we can effectively control the space in all situations (even seated), we can’t hope to understand the basics of Budo TaiJutsu.  Those who don’t understand basics in my opinion are wasting time trying to learn the higher level techniques.

Now I know that I have said this on numerous occasions in class, and I think that I may have mentioned it on this blog before as well but I am too lazy to use the search.  When you are practising something new, don’t go full out.  Learn the technique properly by slowly increasing intensity.  It is easy when dealing with “Ground Fighting” to go 100% with very little risk of injury.  Although it’s safe it will hurt your technique and taijutsu concepts.  You may win at first using speed and power.  It’s easier to build muscle than technique, but technique will win in the long run.  Build up intensity gradually and learn the correct way.

Your life is on the line, train well.

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Apr 06 2009

Suwari Waza

As those who have been at class know, we have started our ground fighting month.  I have decided to start with Suwari Waza because you can (or should be able to) relate the earlier months principals to this new situation.

This of course is easier said than done.  There are some differences between standing waza and seated waza and they are as important as the similarities in some cases.  I will help you out with one difference that could make all the difference in the world.

Generally when seated you have three points of contact with the ground not two.  This changes the points where your opponent is off balance.  Understand that it is a bit more difficult to move your opponent to an off balance situation however there are now three close points to take their balance.  Your opponent is a tripod, generally with one point of the triangle pointing at you.  This makes it difficult to drag them forward.  If you move them backwards though, you will find it easy to take their balance.  Going directly left and right might be a bit difficult however forward and to the right as well as forward and the the left are two more directions where you can more easily take your opponents balance.

This is very difficult to explain without either drawing a diagram of showing it through pictures.  Those of you whom were at class however should be able to see from whence I come.

Essentially I will break it down intellectually like this, if you have one point of contact with the ground, I can push you over in any direction easily.

If you have two points of contact, there are two points where you can be taken easily.

If you have three points of contact, there are three points where you can be taken most easily but each one will be harder than the two points from the previous example.

It’s easy to show but hard to explain, this is the nature of budo in general.  Everyone let me know if you need further clarification, or maybe I might even put a diagram with enough requests.   Your life is on the line, train well.

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Mar 27 2009

The Physics of Striking?

I am not going to make this a post where you have to follow along with complex mathematics.  I just need to explain a few things which I believe will help you understand a bit about generating power for strikes.

Lets first look at the quoted equation.

K = 1/2 mv²


Energy = 1/2 x mass x velocity squared

I will not get into momentum (which we all know is an integration of the previous formula right? :P ).  I will take time to explain why speed is not important.  Well maybe that’s going to far, I will explain why speed is no more important than technique.

In the simple equation that I have above, if you have a certain mass behind your punch, (let’s say half your body weight) and a certain speed (the velocity does not matter) you will create a strike with a certain amount of energy.  Now if you double the mass behind your strike and the speed stays the same you double the energy.  If you double the speed behind your strike you get four times the energy.  Thus speed is the answer right?  WRONG!

Do you understand how hard it is to increase your speed?  You will hit a wall and it will diminish with age.  Have you ever tried to move a car?  By changing your technique you can add a considerable amount of force behind you.  I would go as far as to say that increasing the mass behind your strike is 8 times easier than increasing your speed, and 13.42 times easier to maintain in old age (by my arbitrary but seemingly accurate predictions).

But wait there’s more!  You don’t always want to strike quickly.  You might want to change up the speed to throw your opponent off their game.  In this case having the correct weight behind your strikes using proper technique to anchor some of the mass from the ground is even more important.

In conclution, don’t believe the you need speed nonsense.  It is a misunderstanding of the classical mechanics when applied to the Human Body.  I am willing to debate anyone on this, it can be quickly articulated and demonstrated in person.  So if you have people who doubt send them my way I welcome the peer review.

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Mar 10 2009

San Shin from Kumi Uchi

Published by under Bujinkan Training Drills

When someone gets you in their mighty Judo Grip, which I hear is the most powerful grip (kung-fu grip comes a close second), what should you do?  Well if you are in the Bujinkan, I can tell you what your most likely response is.  Matching the grip right?

This should not be necessarily the case.  If someone wants to grapple with you so why should you follow their lead?  You fight how you want, not how they want right?

So here is my first Bujinkan Training drill in a long time, san shin from Kumi uchi.  On person grabs in kumi uchi, the tori goes through the sanshin  (left and right) from Kumi Uchi.  This is done with both people with a right lead, left lead, one with right one with left, hand positions for the uke reversed, both hands collar grab, double wrist grabs…

I could go on for ever, but I won’t, just give it a try if you run a class and let me know how it goes.

Your life is on the line, train well.

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