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