Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Hatsumi Soke Art Prints

Hatsumi Soke's art work is beautiful and now there is a kickstarter to raise funds to make prints of Soke's art work. If you are interested, there are 8 days left from this posting to support this project and choose how many prints you want.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Ninja Day Today

Today is apparently international Ninja Day (I don't know who decided it) so have some ninja fun. We'll be training tonight as we always do on Mondays, so it's a perfect time to get some training in.

Monday, November 28, 2016

武 "Bu," To Stop War

Recently my Sensei came to our dojo for a weekend-long seminar. Two full days of amazing training. During the seminar he spoke about the Japanese character (kanji) 武 "Bu." 武 Bu is usually translated as war, or martial. He said this is a more modern definition for the word. The original use of the kanji 武 Bu means, "to stop war."

武 Bu is the first kanji in the name of our martial art, 武神館 Bujinkan. The kanji 神 Jin (or Kami) means divine or enlightened, it can even mean God. The kanji 館 Kan means a castle or hall. Typically, the Bujinkan is translated to mean the Hall of the Enlightened Warrior, or Hall of the Divine Warrior. With the understanding of this older meaning of the word 武 Bu, we can translate Bujinkan as: the dojo of stopping war with God.

Now, we can do a bit of word play simply using a comma. If we write the name of the Bujinkan using a comma so it reads: the dojo of stopping war, with God, then it means that with the aid of God we work to stop war. If we write it without the comma, we can interpret it to mean that we are learning to stop warring against God.

There is a high level of martial thinking called Shin Gi Tai. These can be referred to as the divine techniques, techniques learned from heaven. If one is to ever reach this level in their training, they must stop fighting against the will of heaven, trust that heaven has better plans than we do, and follow the path of enlightenment. Then the Shin Gi Tai can be made usable in us.

So, no matter how you translate Bujinkan, our studies take us beyond the physical training of martial arts, or war arts. Our Soke of the Bujinkan has said, "I'm not teaching you how to fight. I am teaching you how to control evil." This is the essence of our training in the dojo.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Seeing but not perceiving

This is a story from Michael Glen of Santa Monica Bujinkan. It was in an email he shared. Here is his blog page to read more from him if you would like:

The reason I'm sharing his story is because often times we watch Soke and cannot perceive everything he does. Just because we cannot see something, does not mean it isn't real. This happens often with Soke, his movements are so subtle it is almost impossible to always see and understand what he is doing. 

"In one class I was training with my friend Yabunaka San. Hatsumi Sensei put a sword in his belt and asked Yabu to try to grab it. Then Hatsumi Sensei drew and turned the blade just enough so that Yabunaka's arm slid across the edge.

If that wasn't bad enough, suddenly Yabunaka yelped and few through the air. It was confusing as an observer. Hatsumi Sensei said "If you don't remember this kind of movement here then these weapons won't come alive."

When Yabunaka returned to train with me, he was rubbing his arm to make the pain stop. He wanted to show me what Soke had done to him. Lucky me... It turns out that after Soke forced Yabu to cut himself on the blade, Soke quickly resheathed his weapon. This had the lovely effect of pinching Yabu's forearm skin between the saya and the blade.

No wonder he yelped! This is why understanding Soke's budo is difficult because you may not see it. You must experience it directly or train with someone who has."
--Michael Glenn
From his Rojodojo email newsletter sent 9/22/2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Kukan is a Japanese term for the empty space, but there is so much more to this concept than just empty space alone. This is the space you move within, the space where you create techniques in response to the way the fight shapes, the puzzle you fit within as Nagato Sensei describes. This is also the space through which you project your intentions. We are always playing with the Kukan in class, even if one is not always aware of this. How the Kukan is shaped during a conflict is vital to understanding how to move and what to do. It is also what allows you to perform the techniques we train in the dojo.

Michael Glenn writes about this in his blog, for further reading I'll post the link to his blog because it is really a good post. Here is a quote from Soke he shares: "You've got to play in the space here. Be able to move freely, make your own kukan. Move with the opponent in the moment in a friendly fashion."

How does one make their own Kukan? You have your own space, it is not simply the Uke that creates the space. Think on the SanShin. Think of each of the waza in this kata. The Uke attacks, we move in the space, that is first and foremost, and there is some form of defense. But this shouldn't be though of as a block or deflection, it creates Kukan as well. So does your attack, but your attack will change based on the Kukan from your defense and from the Uke's response also (because an attacker won't stop after their first strike). So, you strike through the Kukan, strike the Kukan itself. Understanding this will make you far more efficient and effective.

Monday, August 22, 2016

For Budo Like Soup

Ah Soup, it is a wonderful concoction that every culture in the world has at least one version of. Soup is what made it possible for humans to eat certain vegetables in their diet that were normally too tough to eat alone, improving the health of the cultures that learned to cook vegetables in pots with water.

Have you ever tried to share your favorite soup with someone. Especially one that is very good, and they just don't like it, they prefer their own? This is a bit of a metaphor, but I think you know what I'm talking about. Once, I entered a small community chili contest. I didn't have any aspirations to win, I mostly just wanted to share my chili with my friends and acquaintances in this group (ok, I thought I had a good chance of winning too). I bought prime rib (yes, I was going for overkill) and seared it before braising it for four hours. No ground beef for my chili. I made the chili flavoring from actual chilis, seven different varieties. I flame roasted them, then pureed them. Instead of sugar, I used chocolate to sweeten the chili. When it was done, I was super proud. And throughout the night, people kept telling me how amazing my chili was. There were other chilis I tasted that I thought were going to give mine a run for first prize (I asked them how they made their chili and got some good ideas, and they asked me how I made mine and I shared also).

I didn't even place though. Neither did the ones that I thought were also really good. The judges were just some random people asked to do the judging and they all liked the watery chilis with corn and ground beef in them (that was the first prize winner) or with lots of different beans but standard chili seasoning (second prize). Those ones were the ones that won. Those judges liked what they liked, and it didn't matter beyond that. I even had a friend years later tell me about a chili contest he entered for his church. He bought two different brands of canned chili from the store, dumped them together in a pot, added some extra seasoning to it like garlic powder, cumin, and chili powder, and he won the blue ribbon and the home made quilt that went with first prize!

So, what does this have to do with Budo? Quite a lot. It also has a lot to do with religion. Budo and religion are very similar in many ways. Have you ever tried to discuss religion with someone when you are both on very different sides? It's nearly impossible. Everyone likes their own soup and they are fine with that. Hey, even a boring soup is still better than the ingredients alone (hopefully anyway, lol!). So, when a person who is dead set on their way of thinking, it is so hard to change it. Even if you do some actual sparring and beat the person silly, they will still think their martial art is superior in many cases. I've seen this so many times, I just had this happen this past weekend when talking about the difference between Budo and sport fighting with someone that also is a teacher.

It was a friendly discussion with some very light sparring. I had the upper hand each time and stopped at the moment of the very serious strike or break. It didn't matter, this person still thought the sport art was better. In only a very few instances have I had someone say, "wow, I've never seen it like that before, that's really cool." Usually, they are still dead set on thinking what ever art they study is still superior. So, just enjoy your own soup, and remain open to what other people have to offer. You can still pick up something. Don't be like the person who refuses to give up their way of thinking, even when it is literally beat into their skull. Or when they say their way of striking is superior and you let them have a free shot and it does nothing, so they switch and say "well, then I'd do this," and it doesn't work, or this, and it doesn't work, and then the time for free shots is over and you move in and stop short of really hurting them, and they still don't see the problem with their training, there is no longer a point in trying to help them see a better way. So, here is a mantra to live by when discussing Budo with someone who does sport fighting. Just ask them, "Do you enjoy what you do?" And they say, yes. "Well, good then." And leave it there. As with religion, only people who are open to accepting new ideas will understand Budo and want to learn more because they will be seeking it out.

Are there other factors? Of course. Such as the particular skill of the person being a larger factor than their art. Am I as biased, quite likely. But I found this art after doing sport fighting and spent a couple years just exploring martial arts and that was when I found the Bujinkan and haven't had a reason to look back.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Bufu Ikkan

This scroll was painted for me by our Grandmaster, Masaaki Hatsumi Soke this year during my trip to Japan (the center one, I'll talk about the others another time). It says Bufu Ikkan, which roughly translated means "The Martial Winds Blow Every Day." It can also mean, "The Way of War is Survival," as translated in Unarmed Righting Techniques of the Samurai by Masaaki Hatsumi.

This is the "yo secret" of In and Yo (Japanese forms of Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang is Chinese). When an opponent attacks with a lot of force, a lot of In, or Yin, you use Yo, or Yang, to defeat them. Defeat his hardness by using softness. In this way, he will not be defeated by your power, rather he is defeated by his own power. We have been training with this concept in mind a lot in the dojo lately. It is one of the vital concepts of the Gyokko Ryu, and is found in all Ryu-ha of the Bujinkan.

Also bear in mind that this martial wind can also be the divine wind of heaven that is constantly blowing, and one must be receptive to that wind to receive enlightenment from it.

Look for other posts in the future about some of the other scrolls and artwork Soke has painted for me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Temerity in Training

I have talked over the last couple of nights about Temerity in training, My Sensei, Mark, wrote in his book on training that a budoka (martial artist) needs to have Temerity. This means excessive confidence or boldness; audacity. Anyone who knows Mark knows he is not a braggadocios type of person, and that isn't what he means about being excessively confident or bold or audacious. It means that when everything conspires against you to keep training, you have the audacity to keep training anyway. You don't let things get in your way and you train in spite of the circumstances.

When I moved to Idaho, I'd already been training in the Bujinkan for many years. But the one Bujinkan dojo that was here closed up shop. So, my options were to stop training altogether (not really an option for me), train in another martial art (I'd already trained in several martial arts and knew Bujinkan was the best for me and what I wanted out of training, so not much of an option, especially since none of the dojos in the valley appealed to me), or keep training in Bujinkan somehow. I had the Temerity to keep training in the Bujinkan even though there wasn't a teacher near by. I was bold and had the audacity to think I could do this, even though some said I shouldn't try, it would be too difficult. I went to seminars, I networked with former teachers to try and find closer teachers, and settled on a teacher that kept me going for some time. I then had the Temerity to help others learn this art and started teaching. This was during the recession and I wasn't sure anyone would train since I saw dojos all over the valley closing, but I had the Temerity to do it anyway. One of my earliest students was almost killed by someone with a gun, but we had been doing gun disarms for a couple weeks straight before it happened and it saved his life and the gunman's life also. So, yes, I had the audacity to teach others this art, and it was a good thing I did. Then I found Mark, one of the best non-Japanese teachers in the Bujinkan and I had the audacity, the Temerity, to train with him even though he wasn't my teacher because I wanted to be as good as him some day. I eventually left my teacher that helped me get through the slump period of not having one close by, and clung to Mark when he accepted me as a student. I've had the Temerity to drive to Portland and/or Albany 5 times per year to train with him. I've gone with him to Japan to train under Hatsumi Soke and Nagato DaiShihan and I am going again with him. I have also seen more growth in myself and in my students because of having the Temerity to train with Mark and do what is needed to train with him.

To me, this martial art is more than just something to do with my time. Every class (whether the ones I'm teaching at our dojo or the ones Mark is teaching) is an event to me, think about that for a second. How would your training change if you thought of every class as an event? Something not to be missed out of convenience. Not to be late to? I understand that things happen and life gets in the way sometimes, but ask yourself what is the level of Temerity you are expressing in your desire to train? Do you have the Temerity to say, "This is what's important, this has meaning. This is what I will be identified as, I am a Budoka!" Miyomato Musashi said "The approach to combat and everyday life should be the same."

So, have the audacity, the boldness, the Temerity to live your life as a Budoka, but remember, a Budoka is someone that trains no matter what, that excitedly attends class, and not just a weekend warrior. We've seen several of those in the dojo over the years. The person who attends a few classes only to realize this martial art is too difficult to learn just attending two or three classes per month. They don't grow and develop as fast as they want to, and drop out early on.

Please don't misunderstand my intentions for this, I am not reprimanding any one person or persons nor do I have anyone in mind as I'm writing this. I am merely expressing what it means to have Temerity in your training and to keep training no matter what. When you hit a slump, when you feel like you aren't as good as you want to be, when others don't understand why you train because it isn't the popular thing to do, if you don't get rank advancements as fast or often as you think you should: You have the Temerity to keep training anyway. If you are looking into training with our dojo, know that Temerity is something you will need in your training.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Legit or Fake Link

I often share posts from Don Roley's "Rantings and Ravings" blog. He is much like Dr. House from the TV show House. He just says the truth no matter who likes it or not. Don can read, write, and speak Japanese and has spent a lot of time in Japan. In this blog post I am sharing from him, he spells it out about all the fakes teaching under the name Ninjutsu. It is sad how all the fake schools out there ruin it for us that train in the real thing. They are so bad at what they do, and are so easily proven to be fakes, that it hurts the reputation of legitimate dojo teaching this art. Also, the same goes for any art that claims to teach a Japanese martial art, but has no real claim to Japan. The language is "colorful" in two or three spots, so if you are offended by such language or at work, skip it or wait until a different time to read it. Here is the link:

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Let's not skip ahead

I saw this picture posted today and thought it applied all too well to martial arts training. There are students who just want to skip ahead to the part where they are awesome immediately. They don't want to do any foundation work that is designed to get your body to instinctively do things correctly. They don't want to spend years studying the complexity of a martial system to find the true art within. They want to just be awesome. This is normal, natural even. We see people who are awesome and we want to be like them. We think that after a few months of grueling training we should be awesome already, but this isn't how it works, unless you are some kind of savant. And savants tend to be so skilled at one thing they are unbalanced in others. It is important to live a balanced life. Just keep training, you will be more awesome each day than you were the last day. Don't cheat yourself of the time it takes to build a solid foundation.

See you in on the mat at Living-Warrior Dojo, your school for traditional Bujinkan Ninjutsu martial arts. Martial arts school and training for Meridian, Boise, Kuna, Star, Nampa and surrounding communities. (See also: karate, samurai, ninja, aikido, judo, self-defense)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Shin Shin Shin Gan

Fantastic article from Paul Masse, posted on his blog at:
Shin Shin Shin Gan is an expression you may hear during your training in Japan.  It can be translated as the heart and the eyes of the divine.  Shin 神 (kami, sacred, divine) Shin 心 (heart) Shin 神 Gan 眼 (eyes). Shin Shin Shin Gan.  shinshinshingan
Your eyes can be easily deceived.  In fact, all of our limited senses can be easily deceived.  Just think of the magician that makes a tiger appear in an empty box.  The tiger is not appearing out of the air, it is skillfully hidden in the unseen compartments of the box or stage.  But we are very surprised.  We pay a lot of money to see magicians fool our eyes and senses.  Sometimes it is pleasant to be fooled and sometimes not so pleasant.  The ladyboys in Thailand love fooling the love hungry soldiers coming in off the ships! Maybe it is best they never know the truth!
It reminds me of a story.  In the honbu dojo in Noda, Hatsumi Sensei has a picture in the dojo of a woman putting on makeup.  He once told me it represents Yamato Takeru No Mikoto, a Japanese legendary prince of the Yamato Dynasty. To kill a very powerful enemy, he once dressed as a woman maid attendant at a drinking party and successfully assassinated his opponent.  Yamato_Takeru_at_16-crop
Even a picture in the dojo fooled me. You may even be looking at something directly for many many years and not know what it truly is!
A true ninja cultivates the heart and eyes of the divine.  Not seeing with just the eyes, not listening with just the ears, not tasting with just the tongue, not smelling with just the nose, not feeling with just the hands.  If you don`t cultivate yourself, you will be fooled over and over.  You will continue to chose poorly and find yourself at the point of your opponent`s blade.  This is true for choosing teachers as well, if you choose wisely, you will have a wonderful experience. Choose poorly, and you will find yourself on a dark and perilous road.  But don`t worry, in the end, both will die!
Those that have cultivated the heart and eyes of the divine are like sunflowers.  They don`t choose any more.  They just move.  When the sun rises in the easy, they turn their faces to the light, when the light moves to the west, they turn their faces westward.  Moving with the light, they don`t choose, they just move in the direction of light naturally, without thought.  A true ninja is like a sunflower, it is hard to judge him because we are always fooled choosing this or that, but he is always moving naturally with the light.Sunflower-Sunset-HD-Images-Wallpaper1

Know the difference

Here is a post from Mark Lighgow, shared on Phil Legare's website. I want to comment early on this. San Shin is one of the foundation kata of the Bujinkan, and I have noticed myself how few people understand it or how to do it correctly. Also, the last paragraphs, about Soke messing with people is very important. He does this quite often I've noticed. He will say something almost absurd and people take it as gospel truth. I've talked about this in class before, it is important to use common sense when training, especially with Soke. Just like any martial art, there are bad teachers in the Bujinkan, and Hatsumi kind of uses these absurdities to help weed out the crap. He once said, "Students deserve the teachers they get." Meaning, if you can't tell a good teacher from a bad teacher as a student, you deserve what you end up with. In our dojo, I as the Sensei, strive to constantly learn from Soke and the master teachers under him to always only teach quality martial arts in the dojo and leave the garbage for others to play in. My past martial arts experiences and my nearly two decades in the Bujinkan serve me well to know the good from the bad.
From Mark Lithgow:
“Really good training with Hatsumi sensei today!
I really liked how Phillip started the class before Sensei came. He spoke of how several people mentioned at the recent memorial event about the importance of kihon, and started the class with the Sanshin no Kata. He counted us through it, 10 times each technique, much like many of the classes in Japan in the past used to be started. The speed he counted was pretty much a standard speed that we always used to warm up to. I was a little shocked to look around the dojo and see how much trouble many people had keeping up. Several people were just standing, looking around with confused expressions.
Much of what Sensei taught today involved being ‘solid’ and strong. He likes to say “Don’t use power”, but people can take him a little too literally sometimes. What he is really saying is “Don’t use unnecessary power… Don’t use power all the time, but you always have to have (structural) strength”.
Near the end of class, after we’d been doing some sword stuff, he did a kind of chiburi technique, then, with a mischievous look on his face, licked the blade. He talked about knowing the difference in taste between male and female blood. He then went on to say that on a battlefield, you had to be able to recognise the smell of male and female blood. I translated that to the class, and after a short pause, he turned to me, with a big smile, and said “Of course I’m messing with you!”
“Don’t believe everything I say!” he said. “Believe half of what I say, but use your own judgement too!” As an example, he said that he might say “Don’t worry! This sword isn’t sharp… It’s just a training sword!” But really, it IS sharp, and you are in danger. Even though he tells you something, you have to make the final call yourself!”

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Sorry, you can't live at the dojo, and what is Shodan?

So, I had an interesting call today from someone looking for a "Ninjutsu Academy where [he] can train year round to reach full mastery of Ninjutsu." I asked him to explain a bit more what he was looking for, since our dojo is open year round but that wasn't what he was asking about. He is looking for a dojo where he can live at and train for a year to become a master of Ninjutsu.

Now, I'm aware of certain academies of martial arts in Asia that offer these kinds of things. This is not common in America, and certainly not for the Bujinkan. In Japan there is one small dojo where you can rent rooms at during your stay in the country and many other apartments for rent nearby the Hombu (head) dojo. But in the U.S. I don't know of any legitimate Ninjutsu schools that do this. So, I thanked him for the call, but had to tell him no, he can not live at the dojo. I didn't even bother telling him there is no way to "master" this martial art in one year. Sometimes I wonder if people even realize what that means, to master a martial art.

I think to many, a black belt is a form of mastery. However, the first rank level of a black belt in Japanese is Shodan, and that translates not to first degree black belt as many assume, but rather it means "beginning level." I know many teachers of this art that have been training for decades and are very good, but still travel to Japan to train and learn because there is always more to learn. This marital art is a lifetime journey, not something you master in one year.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Zen Tai and the Tidal Wave

I read this article the other day and wanted to share it openly, it is just great. It was originally written by Paul Masse, a resident of Japan. I'll share the link to the original article on his website's blog at the end.

Zen Tai 全体
When you come to Japan, you may often hear the expression `zen tai`. Simply translated, it means 全 whole/complete and 体 body/essence. In the dojo, Hatsumi Sensei uses this to describe the movement to which we should aspire in our taijutsu, moving with our whole body, integrated and one. In the beginning it is natural that we move our hands and feet in a disconnected and often awkward manner. Think of it as puberty! We are always a bit embarrassed when your family pulls out a picture of us from our awkward years. So it is natural to go thru an awkward puberty again in taijutsu! Maybe this is what keeps us young on the path. It seems I am constantly going thru puberty in my taijutsu trying to keep up with my teacher! But once we pass thru puberty, we begin integration. Learning to move as an adult, as a human, from the essence of humanity.

In my dojo in Japan, Kasumian Study Center, I often use a trick my teacher taught me. I strap the arms of my students to their sides to force them at first to move physically from their center and whole. Look at the word holy, when you are moving from the whole as one, from your very essence, you become holy. Your movement can take on a sacredness. But don`t get caught in religion here. Think of it more naturally, when standing near a waterfall, small droplets of water hitting your cheeks can feel refreshing. They are individual drops separate from the stream, they have broken away and become separate. Now stand under the waterfall and feel the crushing force of all the drops that are moving as one. Even a small waterfall can effect enormous power because it is moving wholly.
onamiThis reminds me of a zen parable about a great wrestler named OoNami (Big Wave) He was of great build unstoppable in practice, throwing all opponents with ease. Even his teachers could not keep up with him during training, such was his ability and stunning techniques. But before every match, without fail, he would get so nervous and cowardly that he could barely stand and he would lose every competition. He would even lose to his students. He was fractured, not moving as one, he was disconnected. Just a bunch of moving parts, not crystallized as one. He was so frustrated that he went to a Zen master for help. The Zen master told him, “if your name is big wave, don’t think of yourself as a cowardly wrestler. But imagine yourself to be a great huge wave! A tsunami that engulfs and washes away all in your path! If you can see that, you will become instantly the number one wrestler in the country. You will [be un-]beatable!”. In the temple that evening, he tried hard to envision himself a wave but his thoughts were disturbing him. Then slowly he started to feel the wave growing in him. As it grew later in the evening, the wave grew too, washing away the flower vases around him. The wave grew stronger still and washed away the statues of the deities in temple. And yet it grew bigger, washing away the temple and finally it engulfed the whole grounds of the temple washing everything away. At that moment, the master spoke, “You have done it! You will be unstoppable like this wave now.”. From that day on he moved as the ocean, with the force and power of great waves, like a tsunami. He became the number one wrestler in the land, sweeping away his opponents with ease. He became the tsunami. He became integrated and whole, each cell and fiber moving as one. Hatsumi Sensei would often tell us to become like a tsunami. A series of unconnected attacks or techniques will not defeat an opponent. But a connect whole, a flow, a wave like a tsunami will fell the toughest opponent. Zen Tai, whole essence, whole body, imagine you are the tsunami, and flow with natural power and rhythm!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Koryu Dojos

So, the other day I received a phone call by a guy, I'll simply refer to him as "Abe." Abe actually represents similar calls I get every so often, and this most recent one prompted me to write about it. (Don't be afraid to call or email about your interest in training, but do be aware how you may be representing yourself, or accidentally misrepresenting yourself trying to impress the sensei) Abe called and wanted to check out the dojo, but he was a bit confused how it works with schools that are considered Koryu. Ours is a Koryu School also sometimes referred to as a Kobudo school. If you are unfamiliar with the term, here are some great websites and articles to read on the concept of Koryu and how it differs from more modern martial art systems from Japan, known as Gendai. Understanding more about a Koryu dojo will help you avoid making mistakes when approaching a sensei about training or mis-representing yourself.

Here are some of the big differences between Koryu schools and Gendai schools. Koryu schools have an ancient lineage. Gendai schools are more modern, many being created in the last hundred years or so. In a Koryu system, there is no end to the journey, there is never a time when one has perfected the system. It is an eternal path because a student of a Koryu system (and teachers consider themselves students as well, just further along on the path, thus a Sensei) is constantly striving to improve and be better in some way at all times.

So, when Abe called and wanted to come check out the dojo, he insisted I teach him what he wanted to learn. Now, like I said earlier, Abe represents many such calls. Somtimes "Abe" calls and only wants to learn one thing or another. Or wants only private lessons. Or wants to be trained to be the next big martial arts sensation. Or admits he only wants to train for a few months to a year and then move on to another dojo.

I explain to Abe each time, politely, that I am not looking for students only interested in dabbling in different martial arts training or someone unwilling to learn with the rest of the class (a dojo is a family) and suggest he'll be happier training at a dojo other than ours and wish him luck with his journey. He usually seems a bit surprised I am willing to let him walk away so easily, but this isn't a business, I don't need to fill the dojo with warm, paying bodies. I want students who are committed to this art and the training. This is a Koryu school and to do anything else would lessen what it is we do in training. All aspects work together in this art, if you want to learn sword, you must learn empty handed because they are related. If you want to learn staff, it's the same thing. Also, the dojo is a family, and we train together and grow together, egos need to be set aside. So, whether you approach a Koryu/Kobudo sensei about training, whether our dojo or another, be aware of these points. Then you may be invited to train and experience the pure awesomeness of Kobudo training.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Train Kata, until there is no Kata

I won't comment more about this post from Mark Lithgow and his converstation with Soke. It says it all right here.

"... Look at the people on the sharp end; people in military and law enforcement. People who rely on firearms in real-world situations. Obviously, in the real world, they have to be able to use their firearms ‘freely’, adapting to an ever-changing, dynamic situation. But try telling them that drills, such as dry-fire drills etc. are not important! I’m sure they will disagree! How do they train? They practice drills… over and over and over! They practice them so much that they don’t need to think about them. THAT is kata!
Look at the soldier who has to field-strip a weapon to fix it, or to be sure that it will operate efficiently. He can do that in any situation. He might me in a foxhole, waist-high in water, or hanging with his legs from a banana tree. I doubt he’s ever PRACTICED it hanging with his legs from a banana tree, but he can DO it! Why? Because he’s practiced that ‘kata’ hundreds of times until he doesn’t need to think about it and so can adapt it to his environment. If a skill is ingrained deep enough, you don’t need to PRACTICE free movement… you can just do it! THAT IS KATA! (or at least, it SHOULD be!)
I’ve had conversations about just this with Hatsumi sensei several times… the last time being at his house the day before yesterday. He began talking about the importance of being able to transcend ‘technique/kata’, and I think the conversation went something like this…
Me- “That's all well and good Sensei, but you teach poetry… Many people don’t even know their alphabet though.”
Soke: “Well that is why we have kata and kihon. People should be practicing those kata over and over… They should practice technique so many times that it ceases to exist!”
Me: “I understand that Sensei, but a lot of people hear you say that technique is not important, so they feel that they shouldn’t practice technique and kata.”
Soke (in a very concerned voice): “But that’s not what I mean!”
Me: “I understand that Sensei, that practicing technique until it stops being technique is different to not doing technique in the first place… but many people misunderstand that.”
Soke (more concerned): “Then please make sure they DO understand that! That’s not what I mean! I often say that I am speaking to 15th here… THAT is what I mean! By the time they get to 15th dan, they SHOULD have practiced technique and kata until it is part of them!” Until then though, people need to work on TECHNIQUE!
I’m sorry but it should be up to Sensei to say that… and I will happily translate it. He does say it sometimes… and I DO translate it. But I think there is a lot of ‘selective listening’ going on, and it goes right over many people’s heads

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

It's your path...

It's been a while since I posted last, and I wanted to share something I've been thinking about. Today I read a post from someone in the Bujinkan I respect, Carl Lagerberg, and he wrote something I've heard and read in different words before, but resonated with what I've been thinking on: "it's your path, no one can walk it for you."

I really enjoy training with and teaching every person in our dojo, the ones that reguarly train. Every so often someone shows up to train and states how much they want to do this art, or they call or email and are excited to find an actual Bujinkan Dojo in the treasure valley and commit to wanting to train (it is amazing how few actually come to the dojo after professing their strong desire to train in this art over the phone, but not surprising). Most who do show up to training show up to train regularly and work at home on the things they need to improve on so they are better the next time they come to the dojo. There tends to be one person every so often who pays for tuition, gets a Gi for training, sometimes they even buy some training weapons, but they only show up to train about two times per month. A person cannot learn Budo being only a weekend warrior, or a twice per month warrior. It takes real dedication, real effort, and regularly showing up to learn and train. We have students who regularly show up to training nearly every class who live in Caldwell, Homedale, and Wezer. It is possible, it can be done.

This is your path in life and no one else can walk if for you. If you want to walk the path of a Budoka (a person who studies Budo), you need to walk it, it isn't something you will get very far on if you only take a few steps every so often. Even if it isn't our dojo you choose to study at, whatever that path is you chose, commit to it and study it whole-heartedly. If at some point you decide it isn't for you, get off and go to another path, that is fine. But don't just take a step here, a step there, and never committing fully to the path you truly desire to be on.

No one will walk it for you, it is your path, your journey. I'm already on the path, I'm willing to share my knowledge with those who want to join me on the Budo path, but you have to be on the path to receive it.