Archive for January, 2009

Jan 31 2009

My vision beyond 5th Kyu

Published by under Training at Home

Confronting cruelty,
Strengthens the mind and spirit,
Vanquishing discord.

I will start out by saying this is a philosophy that I have come to myself.  It is not representative of the opinions of the TenChiJin dojo as a whole.

After one has passed 5th kyu, I assume that they are serious enough about their training that they can endure.  The training we do is not the best for physical fitness or even discipline.  These are not things that you can be given through a martial art, especially not this one.  The only thing we are good for is survival in a dangerous situation.  This said we have to train in such a way that gets us ready for a real situation.

What will it be like when you are in a fight?  No go ahead take some time, I’ll wait.  It is my responsibility to give that answer, or as close as I can to it.  Your practise must escalate to a point where you know what it will feel like when someone is trying to hurt or kill you.  That’s what you are training for right?  The world can be a dangerous place and that’s why we take the martial arts.  Regardless if it is falling off a bike, or protecting yourself or loved ones (or complete strangers Shidoshi O.) from danger there is not time to hesitate.  Your mind must be clear, your spirit determined and your body free to act as it should.

At 5th kyu, you should have the skills to defend yourself against an untrained opponent at the very least (see more about this at the end of the post).  But if you have all the skills in the world but hesitate it is meaningless.  If you don’t have the courage to act when you need to then your martial arts will in the end mean nothing.

The only way to gain this skill is through training in a way that pushes you outside of your comfort zone so that you are accustomed to how it feels when you are in a confrontation.  You must train in a way that will develop fudo shin (the immovable heart).  But more on the Immovable heart later, your life is on the line so practise well.

Yes untrained fighters, I promised I would talk about them..  I have heard countless times, “well if you meet a bar fighter then he will be way better than a martial artist anyhow” or “fighting experience is all that matters anyway so when you get on the street your martial arts means nothing”.  If people could just naturally win then there would be no reason for the martial arts.  If practise did not improve your skills then why would every other physical endeavour do it.  I admit the reason why I have posted information on training is because we as martial arts teachers are not taking advantage of the advances in sports learning.

For you to assert that an untrained fighter who gets into a scrap a week at the bar is going to be better than a properly trained martial artist is like putting a basketball player who practices on a team against someone who just was handed a ball told the rules and playing pickup basketball (one on one) one day a week.  That assumption is madness at best.  It does not apply in any other activity, why in regards to fighting?

2 responses so far

Jan 28 2009

We’re going Green?

Published by under Training at Home

Well there are two more, that means that training will get serious.  But I will have to add to this post later.

It’s later.

I would like to congratulate Mark and Eric for passing 5th kyu.  In fact I should probably apologize for this point not occurring sooner.

When students are unable to pass the test for their ranks, it’s often failure on my part.  Obviously I have not supplied them with the requisite knowledge which they need for their level.  This is not always the case but it was in the case of a few students whom have been training for some time at the dojo.  If there are skills which students need to have, I must give them a way to gain those skills, that is the bottom line.

I don’t have a time requisite for grading, only skill.  If you have been at the club for a week and have the skills it is time for you to move to the next stage of your training.  Time requirements drive me nuts.  I had that opinion in school, so I will do things different in a martial arts school.

For all the newly graded green belts, training only gets harder from here.  I will expect much more out of you as you aproach your shodan so be prepared.

2 responses so far

Jan 26 2009

A weakness

Published by under Training at Home

I have this weakness that I am unable to shake.  Every time I preform a technique that doesn’t work I blame myself not the technique, not the art.

I figure that the techniques which have endured through so many generations have done so because they work.  So if I can’t get the techniques to work, I am the problem not them.

Understanding this is necessary to improve.  I know many talented individuals whom have attained a certain level in several martial arts but that’s as far as they ever go.  I have trained briefly in may different martial arts out of interest but I have chosen my path.  I have chosen to delve into the deeper levels of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu.

I don’t feel the need for cross training.  I will not take away from the value of training in other martial arts that I have experienced over the years.  My love of the martial arts started with Karate 19 years ago.  I still think back fondly on the thousands of push ups from my youth.  The point is that once I saw what was possible in the Bujinkan, I lost my desire for the other arts.

Which brings me back to my weakness, I know the ideal.  I have seen an image of what I want my martial arts to become so when I fall short it’s just me.  I have no one to blame but myself and I can only look to myself to make it right.

I will see if I can’t create an appropriate Haiku to end this post.  Haiku’s are tough, I don’t know how Shawn does it.

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Jan 23 2009

Becoming your own master

The topic of fitness and Budo has come up in the past few months so often that I wanted to write about it.  Everytime I wanted to I was caught in an infuriating (in my opinion) conversation, I do not like to write blog posts with my grey matter thus troubled.

With able body,
And unhindered reasoning,
True budo aspired.

I made this haiku for to explain what I have been told by Japanese shihan.  I wrote about it often in my posts.  The way that we are ridiculed by Japanese instructors because of our poor physical condition.  Besides not knowing the techniques needed to progress in our art, our bodies are in no shape to even preform the techniques of the Bujinkan.  We have quite the audacity trying to pass on our sloppy techniques to others.

I of course don’t want to get carried away and turn our classes into exercise classes but come on, we should know a bit about what we eat and effective ways to keep our bodies flexible and strong for the sake of taijutsu.  The techniques don’t require speed or strength but if we don’t take care of our bodies how can we hope to attain the most important technique from Hatsumi Sensei, being able to move like a 30 year old when we are 77?

Being able to do it your own way is not good enough either.  From conversations that I have had with the senior Japanese shihan, if you can’t do the kihon then why do you bother coming to see Hatsumi sensei?  As I have said before, one of them was astounded that he had a class who wanted to do the kihon so he gave us the gift of an hour worth of training on our tsuki (punch or thrust).  After that he told us that if we practised that every day for a year we could relearn the basics without habits.

In the haiku I mentioned that able body and unhindered reasoning.  There are very few people in the Bujinkan that I give a pass on technique.  Those few whom find themselves in a wheelchair or otherwise infirm I know can not do techniques as taught by the shihan.  Otherwise, it’s time to get to work lets get our bodies and movement right.

I look forward to the madness this post will cause.

2 responses so far

Jan 22 2009


Published by under Other Stuff,Seminars

To all of my seniors in the Bujinkan from whom I have received so much, Shinnen omedetou gozaimasu.  Please take care of me again this coming year as it is quite obvious that I need some Budo help.

Now that I feel I have given enough time for those who read this blog to remember Brad and reflect on his words I will continue on a regular Japanton schedule.  I do not know when Japanton round 8 will be yet.  First I have to get ready for the Canadian Tai Kai which I recommend everyone who is able attend.

That’s all for now.

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Jan 12 2009

Remembering Brad VanAlstyne

Published by under Other Stuff

I can not say enough good about the short time that I knew Brad.  I was looking for a way to properly remember him on my blog.  That’s the least that I can do.  I found this post he wrote so I thought I would share it.  It speaks volumes to the quality of man that he is.  It’s a post on testing what you know taken for, sorry Shawn.

A small bit of my background will explain what I have experienced in my training. I started in the Bujinkan in 1987 when I was 16 years old. I had trained in other MA since the age of 9 years and had done quite well. When I say my 1st Booj instructor move I was hooked. This person had speed, power, flexibility and raw ferocity that seemed to defy reality. I began training the next class. We would condition ourselves by smashing shinai into our bodies to build up resistance to strikes we would hit anything hard. We would bare knuckle spar all the time. We would have people come to the dojo to challenge us even. We would boast all over the city that we were the best. By the time I was 20 I had had countless challenges from high ranking students from every type of Martial Arts that were in the city. I never lost. Why? I had no fear. I would never quit no matter how hurt I was. My body was a finely tuned machine for fighting and I tested it all the time.
If you are still with me here is what all of that got me.
In 1991 I went to the Texas Taikai (my 1st ever) and was blown away by sensei and others. I had also been extremely disappointed by what I saw too. I remember Mr. Severe doing a demo with his students and can attest to his skill and ferocity. I like it he trained like I did and as I thought everyone should. I saw others that I felt were not worthy of the rank that they held.
Then I met a person who shed some light on what I had seen.
Her name is Abi Allen and I will be grateful to her forever. She told me that I could learn a lot from everyone there and that I should not be closed to others. I was young and stupid (I can say it I was) and did not really get it.
Sorry that this is long winded by I do have a point.
She came to Canada for my wedding and a seminar and I had the opportunity to train with her. She tried to teach me to open up but could see that I was a closed door. She then told me to show her what I had. She then proceeded to beat me like a dog for the next hour. No matter what I did she was better than me. After an hour I was exhausted and could barley move. She asked me how I felt and I told her I was beaten. She said well now we can get started. She proceeded to teach me sanshin for the next few hours and as I learned to move properly she talked to me about me, her, life, Hatsumi, ect…

I have trained the way she has instructed me from then on and have been growing ever since. What I have learned is that I am an exponentially better “fighter” than I was before but more importantly I am a better person. I do not regret my earlier training although it caused numerous bone and joint problems and I ended up with a Kidney transplant due to the severe training. But when I teach my students I train as Hatsumi and the Shihan do. The skills and methods have been tested under conditions we can just barley imagine. I have learned to trust those that have gone before me and have suffered so that I do not have to. Instead of trying to chase reality scenarios do the techniques exactly as shown by your teachers. If you do this then the fighting part will take care of itself.

Just my personal experience

Brad V

In your passing you teach me I have to live a life without regrets.  Brad, I will miss you.

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