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!