Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Lose One's "Dialect" in Training

In Tetsuzan, Hatsumi Soke says that a martial artist must learn to lose the "dialect" of training in a particular martial art, much like a TV announcer must lose any dialect in order to be successful at reaching a wider audience. In this case, a "dialect" in martial arts training is a particular way a martial art does something, the stylized movement of that art. Hatsumi Soke studied Judo, Karate, Aikido, old style budo, and even Chinese martial arts, and he had various "dialects" from these arts that showed up in his movement. Then he began training with his teacher whom he inherited the 9 ancient schools of the Bujinkan from. He learned to let go of his previous "dialects" and have no dialect, because those dialects give away your ability and tell your opponent how to counter you. This is something we must always keep in mind in Ninjutsu.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Flexibility... vital. So many focus on strength and ignore the vital importance of flexibility. Out 33rd Soke of the Togakure Ryu, Toshitsugu Takamatsu, had extremely powerful legs, and was the last living combat ninja. He viewed flexibility of the legs being most important. How are you splits coming along? ;)

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Be a Good Student

No matter what style of martial art you decide to go after, be a good student. Part of being a good student is finding a good teacher. If you can't find a good teacher in the style you want to learn, you need to ask yourself if it is really worth training in that style. There was a great blog post written about this by Michael Glen, of Bujinkan Santa Monica. I suggest reading his blog post:  Click Here

Monday, July 10, 2017

Art Showing

I wanted to let everyone know about a free Japanese art showing I am holding this week at our dojo. I have a collection of art from Japan painted by Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi Soke, the head of our martial art and the last living grandmaster of the Togakure Ryu Ninja. He is also the head of samurai schools including branches of Kukishin Ryu and Takagiyoshin Ryu.

We are hosting the free exhibit at my dojo to display 12 art prints that were originally on display at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo and several original works of art (Shodo and Sumi-e) on Kakajiku and other mediums. The dojo is located in Meridian, Idaho.

I will be showcasing the art prints and some original works of art I own by the same artist, on Saturday July 15, from 6 to 8 pm. Please feel free to emai

Dr. Hatsumi is the head of the Bujinkan organization, through which 9 koyru budo schools are taught. He is the inheritor of these nine koryu traditions from his teacher, Toshitsugu Takamatsu. All are welcome to visit and view the art.

The location of the art show will be at the Living-Warrior Dojo
200 North Baltic Place #104
Meridian, ID 83642

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Koryu Arts

In Koryu arts, any ancient martial art from Japan that pre-dates the Meiji restoration in Japan in 1868, the training is done a bit differently than in the Gendai systems, or modern schools of marital art and sport fighting. Don Roley wrote a great blog post about this and goes into detail about the purpose of this type of training. I'll post the link at the end for further reading.

Essentially, the training is broken down into a methodical, systematic way of training combative techniques without actually hurting or killing our training partner in the dojo. Essentially, as Don says in his blog post, if you are doing combative training and someone doesn't die, then it is simulated combat. We start out training very slow, giving students a chance to feel out a technique and to ensure it is being done properly. Then, later in a student's training and development, we speed things up and give the feeling and intention more indicative of real conflict. Various training tools are used at different stages of training for both unarmed and weapons training. If you come to a class, you will likely be training slow and controlled. As is often said by my own Sensei: "If you can't do it slow, you can't do it at all." There is also a mantra in martial arts that goes something like this: "Slow is controlled, controlled is smooth, smooth is fast."

Read Don's Blog here for his view point on this and further insights from his experiences living and training in Japan for over a decade:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Whoever fights monsters...

There is a famous quote, "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become amonster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you." -Friedrich Nietzsche

One of Hatsumi Soke's well known quotes is: "I'm not teaching you to fight, I'm teaching you to control evil. - Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi

This is one of the many things that sets the Bujinkan apart from many other styles of martial arts. The way we learn this art from Soke is a transmission of lessons and a heritage through history. Instead of merely learning to punch and kick and to cause harm to people, part of our training incorporates understanding the warrior ways of living a peaceful life and only using our warrior art when it is unavoidable. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Article Link: New Millennium Ninja

A Bujinkan Shidoshi named Sean Askew once interviewed Hatsumi Soke for the Tokyo Journal. The interview is really cool, and covers a lot of things. Read it by clicking on the link:
Click Here

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How is your Kihon?

In the book Tetsuzan, Nagato Sensei is talking with Hatsumi Soke and he comments that after his last trip to the US (this conversation took place nearly three decades ago at the time of this posting) he felt those studying the art in the US did not know our Kihon well enough. This means our foundation.

It's not so much about knowing the Kihon Happo, the eight basic techniques. Those are important, of course, but it is far more important to be able to use the foundation aspects of what makes up the Kihon Happo and apply them in all of our training. They are a foundation for a reason.

This is really going to be the same no matter what art one studies, whether it be Karate, Aikido, Jujutsu, painting, music, or writing. The foundation for each form is just that, a foundation. It doesn't need to be repeated in it's exact form without deviation for thousands of times. One practices the foundation enough to make it natural (and yes, you have to do it correctly, not some sloppy foundation getting practiced so bad habbits form), then you practice how that foundation can be applied and adapted to any situation. This is what make the Kihon Happo so important. First, learn them in their correct form and practice them that way. Then learn to make those take new form so they can be adaptable in any number of ways. Happo means eight. Both the Japanese number eight and our number eight can represent infinity. Eight (8), turned sideways (∞), is the mathematical symbol for infinity. Eight in Japanese (八) is made up of two asymptote lines, lines that forever get closer, but never meet. They go on for infinity, never actually meeting, just getting closer.

So, when you think of Kihon Happo, don't just think of it as those eight techniques, think of those eight techniques teaching you how to be adaptable and to use them in all your training. Not just the form of them, but the feeling and their methods for use.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Kamae are not like Bonsai

Japanese Bonsai Tree
I often get asked by new students or potential students, "How does this art compare with (Karate, Aikido, Taekwondo, Judo, Jujutsu)." This can be a difficult question to answer because they obviously have an idea of what martial arts should look like or be like and any answer I give will be a compare and contrast or could contradict what they already think martial arts is. The best thing I can do is get a person on the mat and actually experience and feel true Budo in action. Two of the fundamental components of this art that have to be learned early on are Sabaki (movement) and Kamae (postures).

I want to focus on Kamae. These postures aren't static, they are adaptive and fluid and are what make this art so effective. And they are natural for the human body to do. I read a blog by Paul Masse about a class he translated for Hatsumi Soke where Soke spoke about humans being like Bonsai. Read his blog post here. Essentially Bonsai are beautiful trees, but not natural. They can't be found in nature. A person wraps wire around the branches of a young tree to force it to take shape and the roots are constantly trimmed to stunt growth. Humans are the same way, we allow ourselves to be molded and stunted by factors and influences outside of ourselves. It's really a great lesson, and it got me thinking about Kamae and Bonsai.

Kamae can be static and forced. Some martial arts develop their Kamae, their postures, in what are unnatural, either unnatural for creating great power, or unnatural in the way the body moves, thus leading to injury. The Kamae of the schools in the Bujinkan are very natural. Yes, they still have to be learned, but they develop natural power through movement that is natural for the human body. They adjust and change in a constant flow of movement, ever adapting to the course of a fight. Very unlike a Bonsai tree.

Bonsai have their own beauty, but it is not the same beauty as found in nature. As soon as a person stops caring for a bonsai, they either die or start to grow wild. This is what also happens if the Kamae of a martial artist is not natural. If it doesn't develop natural power through natural movement, it can lead to injury and the inability to be adaptive. And in a fight, being adaptive is vital. So, it you are thinking of getting into Karate, Kendo, Taekwondo, Jujutsu, Aikido or other marital arts, or already study, feel free to check out our dojo to learn what I'm writing about here.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Knowing the Difference

Many people, probably most, don't know the difference between the different martial arts. They use Karate or Taekwondo as generic terms for martial arts, but they aren't. Well, about one hundred years ago in Japan they used the term karate for empty hand fighting, ie. no weapons. Today are specific to those styles and often those aren't what people are looking for when they think of martial arts training. They think of this old heritage their school is connected to that connects back to samurai warriors of old. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

I was in this same boat when I was a child and I wanted to learn Karate. I didn't know the differences, I just wanted to learn martial arts, so I went to the nearest Karate school to me. I didn't understand that the school was several generations removed from it's Asian roots. This is too often the case. Students sign up at a school without doing much research into the school's history, they take it for face value that surely it must be connected to some old heritage. This is not always, in fact it's very rarely, the case. Sometimes the very ancient art they think they are practicing was actually created by someone in someplace like Idaho Falls and has not real connection to China or Japan.

Now, if this doesn't bother you, then it really doesn't matter. If there are other factors more important to making your decision in finding a school, stick with those. This is your journey. For me, I wanted something old, like really super old, because I knew the older schools were used in actual combat and had to be proven on the battlefield. That was what I was after. That is why as a teenager I started training in the Bujinkan, because it has that connection to history. It has a martial heritage of an unbroken chain of being passed down from generation to generation, teaching what works and ignoring what doesn't. I can't begin to even just summarize the vitally important things I learned training in this art instead of the other arts I trained in and explored such as Karate, Judo, Jujutsu, Taekwondo, Aikido, and GR Wrestling. Many of my students come to our dojo with black belts in other arts and are dumbfounded by the depth of training they were missing out in before. Some even get a bit angry and felt they were misled by their other style or school. They need not be angry, it was just a part of their path they needed to take to get here.

Come experience the difference first hand. We are located in Meridian, Idaho. Our school is very close to Boise, Idaho. If you are looking for a martial art in Boise or the surrounding areas, if you are thinking about Karate or Taekwondo, consider adding our dojo to your list to explore.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day

I learned that today was International Women's Day and just last night I was reading in the book, Understand? Good, Play! a collection of Soke's quotes, several quotes from Soke on women in training. I felt it was appropriate to share them since the timing of reading them was so fortuitous. (If you don't have to book, I highly recommend buying a copy)

"There are numerous examples of women killing men in battle. Never forget this. Men and women are in-yo (The Japanese terms for yin-yang in Chinese). They are part of the same whole. They are the same." And to make a joke out of it, as Soke is famous for doing, "That is why I am occasionally ungentlemanly."

Another was about the importance of training seriously in the dojo. Soke wants us to train lightheartedly in the dojo, there are many quotes about this, such as this one from the same book: "Everyday life is stressful and worrisome enough. Your time in the dojo should be anything but. Training should be fun and carefree."

So, when he said this quote, I pondered it for a while. "It is extremely important that women train seriously. If a woman's Taijutsu is not effective, the people she trains with are partially to blame. There is a fine line between being a gentleman and doing someone a disfavor by making her think that she has a technique when she actually does not.... If you do no train seriously, you could end up being killed."

So, why the dichotomy? I am not Soke, and I can't speak for him, but for me he is saying it's important not to let bad training occur. I've seen this happen, a man is training with a woman and lets her take him down with a technique that may not actually have worked. Subconsciously he may just be acting the part of a gentleman, but in Budo that can't happen. If your partner can't do the technique, help them learn to do it correctly, don't simply go with it if it won't actually work. That is how to train seriously, and yet still train in a fun and carefree manner. Help each other to learn, learn from mistakes, and have fun while training.

So, see you on the mat, have a great day everyone!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Yamato Damashii

In Hatsumi Soke's book, Ninpo: Wisdom for Life, there is a section towards the back called Do Not Forget Yamato Damashi. Yamato Damashii, he explains, means Japanese Spirit. There is more to it than just that, though. It is the essence of what give Japanese people their quality of life. There is a heavy emphasis on harmony in Yamato Damashii. Soke says, "This is the martial artist's true Tamato Damashii." -pg. 177 

This often confuses people, how can one be a martial artist and yet keep a spirit of Harmony? Isn't martial arts all about fighting? The word Budo contains the kanji for War (bu) after all. Except, that the the kanji for Do is path, referencing the path one takes toward enlightenment. While there are certainly times where a warrior takes up arms in defense of one's life, family, or country, the path of the warrior is one of harmony and enlightenment. "Budo is never meant to be a weapon for aggression." -pg. 177

In the west, martial arts are often seen as something violent. Locking two people together in a ring or cage and let them fight until one person in knocked out, taps out, or loses enough points that judges determine them the loser. But this is sport fighting, not martial art. And I'm not saying anything against sport fighting, it is just important to understand that sport fighting and marital arts, especially Budo, are separate things entirely. 

A person who trains in Budo, a Budoka, doesn't need to be in constant conflict. They actually avoid conflict and seek a path of harmony. They strive for enlightenment. It is very difficult to become enlightened if you are always in conflict, if you are always being aggressive, if you constantly feel the need to prove you are better than someone else. "The true master of budo avoids fighting until all other possibilities have been tried. By avoiding a confrontation, one finds the smartest way to become friends with an opponent." -pg. 177

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Shared Blog Post, Jutsu vs. Waza

I wanted to share this great blog post from Don Roley on the difference between Jutsu (art) and Waza (technique or form). Often Waza and Kata are used interchangeably, so if that is a word you are more familiar with, you can somewhat substitute Kata for Waza, though there are some differences.

What I took from this post was the importance of learning the subtleties of the art from a teach who can share them with you. Books and videos have their place in learning, but they are a supplement to the real training. In Budo, the feeling is so important. Those who have trained in the dojo for any length of time over a couple months have expressed at some point their surprise at how certain subtle changes can make a technique work so much better. Some things are so subtle they don't show up on video, but the person receiving the technique can feel those important changes, because they hurt so much more! :)

Please read and enjoy:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Top Martial Arts School

So, exciting news. Our dojo was named one of the best martial arts schools in the area by