Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Explanation Of Rank In The Bujinkan

In the Japanese martial arts, the use of colored belts is often used to distinguish rank in the dojo. 

But what does rank mean in the martial arts? 

Is it a level of knowledge, or a level of responsibility?

In this post I'd like to offer a perspective and how rank works in the Bujinkan dojo martial arts.

In each class, there is the moment for potential enlightenment, a chance with each movement to have the parts lock together, and understanding, a chance at amazing growth as a human being. These flashes of enlightenment happen all the time, and can happen all the time. It is part of the amazing essence of the budo of Hatsumi sensei.

The goal of the dojo is to come together as martial friends, and make the best use of the time we have training. In the dojo, we are stepping out of time. We are putting aside our daily responsibilities for family, work, school, and friends. We are putting aside the "to-do" lists and errands we have to run. In that moment in the dojo, for the next two hours, or however long class is going to be, we are entering into a time of self-discovery through the taijutsu movement of the Bujinkan. 

To get the most out of this harmony- called wa is vital for the dojo, and training to run smoothly. 

Rank is an expression of this harmony.

The first rank in the Bujinkan dojo, is no rank, with the student wearing a white belt. This represents that they are exploring the training options of the dojo, and seeing if the Bujinkan dojo martial arts are the path they would like to commit. Basic such as punching, kicking, blocking, and various postures and ukemi are introduced to get an idea of the movements. 

Hopefully they start the journey in the Bujinkan, and if not, they have learned a bit about martial arts movement and philosophy that they can use in life. 

Green belt is the first rank in the dojo, and represents that the student has committed to studying the Bujinkan methods. In this series of ranks they are discovering how to move the body through taijutsu, along with the philosophy of the training. They are kohai in the dojo- "juniors" who are guided by the black belts in the group, known as "sempai". While green belts of course study the entire curriculum of the dojo, the focus is on the ten ryaku no maki level of training- learning ukemi and taihenjutsu.  

Black belt is the next level after green belt and it represents a mature knowledge of ukemi and taihenjutsu. It is a student that has committed to the training and has a fluid understanding of ukemi an taihenjutsu. They are now a full student of the dojo and the tradition.

White, green, and black provide structure in the dojo to create the most optimal learning environment. Black belts provide an example of movement for the green belts and green belts provide an example of movement for the white belts. 

Sempai assist kohai as example and role models.     

Which now leads to the second understanding of rank in the dojo.

We go to the dojo to learn the martial arts, and here in the West, our example of learning is through academic institutions. This is a rather poor and incorrect model for learning, and in the martial arts, if you view them in this way, it will be fatal. In the West, your "rank" in terms of a diploma, degree, of certification means that you know the subject matter at a prescribed level. At higher levels you might even be considered a master of the subject matter if you have a Master's degree or Doctorate degree. 

This model is not used in budo.

Certainly when you receive a rank there is a base level of proficiency needed for the level in terms of movement, philosophy, and understanding. But in the East, your rank represents what you are no responsible for in terms of the tradition, group, dojo, and yourself.

If you are a black belt, how should a black belt be moving, and how does a black belt represent the tradition in terms of maturity and posture? 

Are you up to that level?

If not work hard to be at that level, and represent your rank, and it's place in the organization. 

In the West we view a black belt as a "teacher" or maybe even a "master", in the East a black belt is just a student with increasing obligations to the group and organization. Skill is the first half of the rank, obligation is the second half. 

In the Bujinkan, at the black belt level, there are a few separate levels of black belt, and in this post we will explore two of them, that of Shidoshi and Judan.  

A Shidoshi is a 5th degree black belt holder who has passed the sakki test and is now able to run a dojo and transmit the Bujinkan methods. In the Western model a shidoshi would be thought of as a teacher, but this does not accurately capture the feeling. Shidoshi are very much students still learning on the path of the Bujinkan, but they have received a transmission from Hatsumi sensei from the kami.

They have received a glimpse into the hidden aspects of training, transmissions of life and death, that can't be put into words or studied by the academic mind, but only explored and understood in movement. Shidoshi have the responsibility to transmit both the visible and invisible methods of the Bujinkan to the black belts, green belts, and white belts who train at the dojo.

Shidoshi are there as a coach and a guide to get those in the dojo to the level of Shidoshi. They are also there and have the responsibility to represent the Bujinkan and be mindful of how actions represent the dojo and the organization, perhaps part diplomat should also be added to the responsibility list. 

At the 10th degree black belt level are Judan. These are the shihan and masters of the Bujinkan, who not only have the responsibilities as Shidoshi, but also even higher to the Bujinkan organization and students.     

So what is rank?

It is what you know, what you are expected to represent in the dojo and organization, and what you are expected to transmit to those after you, who are kohai.

Rank is the outline and method for harmony in the dojo.

Proper harmony allows for more training time.

More training time allows for greater personal development. 

Westchester New York Martial Arts Training & Classes

Located in Westchester, New York our martial arts training group offers classes in the Japanese martial arts of budo taijutsu.

Classes are held on Saturday mornings with additional times for seminars and workshops.

Training topics include:

Taijutsu: Unarmed movement.
Kenjutsu: Japanese sword.
Bojutsu: 6ft stick
Hanbo: 3ft stick.

Please use the links on the right for more information about our classes, training, and martial arts group.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Shuko Ninjutsu Training

Shuko are one of the traditional training tools used by the ninja and employed in ninjutsu- the sword, shuriken, and Metsubushi being the other tools.

Made out of iron, with bands for the hands and wrists they were used to as part of muto-dori techniques- against sword and other weapons, while also being used in ninja taijutsu unarmed techniques- as a force multiplier.

One of the points to keep in mind in training, especially with historical ninjutsu techniques, is that many of them were done in the dark or low light conditions. These low light conditions would furhter magnify the opportunity creating actions of the shuko as the other person would often not even be aware of them.   

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Bujinkan Taihenjutsu

Taihenjutsu refers to body changing skills and our Ukemi and Taisabaki movements are studies under this section. With Taihenjutsu you want to be able to move your body as relaxed and smoothly as possible with as minimal effort as needed. Taihenjutsu is important to understand, as it will put you in a position to use all of your other skills when interacting with your training partner.

Ukemi is the ability to land on the ground without getting hurt. In our training it involves rolling and break fall training. It is important to be able to fall on the ground without getting hurt for a number of reasons ranging from you tripping to being thrown by your training partner. The most important thing to remember when using Ukemi is to keep your body as relaxed as possible and NOT tense up when you hit the ground. As you roll or break fall try to mold your body to the ground while you avoid smashing any of the bony points of your body such as your knee or shoulder on the ground.

Taisabaki refers to moving your body when attacked or avoiding an object. Forward, backwards, side to side, up, and down are all ranges of motion with Taisabaki. When attacked you use Taisabaki to get your body out of the line of the attack while positioning yourself in a correct position to respond to the attack. Correct Taisabaki movement protects your body with movement while making the training partner’s position dangerous for them.

When moving your body it is critical that you remain in control of your own balance so you can move smoothly and effectively as fast as possible. Bend your knees and center your weight so your balance can not be easily disrupted. Pay attention to where your limbs are so they can be moved correctly and remember to keep your back straight when moving. All these points will help you maintain good posture and balance that is critical to Taisabaki.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

New York Bujinkan Training & Classes

Located in Westchester, New York we are a martial arts training group dedicated to practicing the Japanese martial arts of Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi and the Bujinkan Dojo.
As friends we come together to learn, grow, and perfect our movement drawing from the wisdom, philosophy, and techniques of Japan’s warrior past.

Training is held on Saturday mornings from 10 AM -12 PM at the Malcolm Wilson Park in Yonkers, New York.

Our training group had its first class on August 2006, and since then the aim of our group has been consistent: meet every Saturday morning rain or shine to practice the Bujinkan dojo martial arts of Masaaki Hatsumi as friends on the same martial journey together.
As friends (buyu) we come together to grow, learn, and share our experiences as the ways of the martial arts were intended to be transmitted.

There is no beginner or advanced classes, as we all have the capacity to learn and grow in the martial arts, no previous martial arts experience in needed, all are welcome, and out of town or traveling Bujinkan buyu are always invited to visit.

The aim of the group is to make progress each week in learning the martial arts, developing skill, self-defense ability, and an understanding of how and why people move. Classes are also held to discuss martial arts philosophy, strategy, and the mental/spiritual impact of the arts.

Classes are supervised by Fred Feddeck who has been studying the Bujinkan dojo martial arts since 1993 at the Bujinkan New York Dojo under Joe Maurantonio. In 2003 he was honored to take the godan shinsha with the Shinmyoken dojo later forming in 2006 as a vehicle to study what he has been taught and experienced in the Bujinkan dojo martial arts.

Training principals:

Control the distance, timing, & rhythm.

Movement will open up opportunities for techniques. Always keep moving!

Self-defense is NOT about fighting, it is about escaping and extracting yourself from a dangerous situation.

Forget the notion of beginner or advanced, every moment in training has the opportunity for a personal breakthrough.

The most important martial arts skill is not about fighting, it is awareness of the situation before, during, and after.

First you become aware of how your own body moves in the martial arts, then how your training partner’s body moves, and then you prevent them from moving with the awareness of how you move.

Membership in our group is open to those 18 years of age or older who have a desire to learn the Japanese martial arts, and dedicate themselves to the pursuit of being the best they can in the art.

No previous martial arts experience is needed.

We would be happy to answer any questions you may have about our group, the training, and how we practice.

Out of town or visiting Bujinkan students (buyu) are always welcome to visit and train with us in the spirit of ninpo ikkan.

Please use the form below for any questions, comments, or inquiries about the training or our group.

Bujinkan Ukemi Taihenjutsu

Ukemi taihenjutsu is the first section of our training in the ten chi jin ryaku no maki- THE collection and outline of skills needed to navigate the movement and philosophy of the Bujinkan dojo.

The ability to "receive" an attack, blend with it, change with it, direct the momentum so you are not hurt is key- not only as a way not to get hurt, but later in training to be able to really feel and experience a technique without having to worry about getting hurt. 

This type of heart-to-heart training (shinden) is needed to really understand what the Bujinkan methods are, otherwise without this component they are just martial arts "techniques".   

For now we start with rolling and breakfalls. 

Forward, side, back, dropping, lifting, and flowing.

Start simple and slow as for many of us these rolling techniques are new. It's not so much that they are hard to learn, but rather they are out of the cope of our daily lives so it takes some getting used to.

Outside of the martial arts, or if you don't practice the martial arts, when was the last time you tumbled around on the ground, or from a standing position dropped flat to the ground?

As we become more confident at landing on the ground, the drills shift from being able to do it with two hands, one hand, and no hands. Different directions, and leaping lead to "happo"- all directions.

We are aiming to be able to take ukemi from any direction and situation as fluid and relaxed as possible.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Ukemi, Ichimonji no Kamae, Hoko, & Shizen

Ukemi, Ichimonji no Kamae, Hoko, & Shizen.
The martial arts posture of ichimonji is one of the first ways of moving your body in taihenjutsu. 
In this posture we have our lead hand up and pointing forward, while our rear hand is held up to guard. In this way we create a space that our training partner has to navigate through in order to get to us. We are creating a defensive wall between us and our training partner- which we explored by moving into this defensive posture as they grabbed, kicked, and tried to punch at us.
How does the movement of ichimonji no kamae, the footwork, protect our vital points, while controlling the distance, and taking the balance of our training partner- putting us in a position to counter with a technique, or move and escape (preferred).  
We also explored it from the perspective of the kihon happo- ways of striking from this posture, ways of taking the arm in omote gyaku and ura gyaku. 
A posture that both protects and opens up movement opportunities.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Westchester New York Jujutsu Classes & Training

Jujutsu, the unarmed martial arts of the Japanese samurai.

Lessons from the past, brought into the here and now of today.

Classes are held on Saturday mornings in Yonkers, New York.

Training topics include:

Atemi waza: striking methods.
Gyaku waza: joint locks.
Shime waza: restraints.
Nage waza: throws & projections.

Please use the site links to find out more about the training and our group.

We welcome any questions, inquiries, and comments regarding training.

Visiting A Bujinkan Training Class

This past Saturday we had a visitor in our group.

New training friends are always welcome, and provide a unique perspective for the class when visiting.

As an instructor I always keep the following two points in mind when people visit our training:

The first is that no matter who I may be in the Bujinkan, and whatever our group may be in the structure of the organization, in that moment of interaction with a visitor, and I say this with no ego, I am the entire Bujinkan.

All they will know about the Bujinkan will reflect in how I and the members of our dojo conduct themselves.

How I act, how they are treated under my care, and how our group presents itself reflects 100%+ entirely on the Bujinkan. Knowing nothing of the Bujinkan and our martial arts, their entire opinion will be formed on how I conduct myself. 

What they think of Hatsumi sensei, our soke will 100% be formed on how I conduct myself.

If I'm a jerk, what must the members of the Bujinkan dojo be like?

Not to mention the martial arts in general.

Every inquiry about our group and training, every visit, every interaction should and is handled with respect and courtesy. Not only from the point of being a decent human being respecting the journey of another person in the martial arts, but also out of the respect for those who were courteous and tolerated my questions in the dojo, showing friendship and compassion when I started my own journey.

Do most martial artists feel and act this way?

Should they?

The second perspective is in understanding where the visitor is in their own journey in the martial arts.

Perhaps they are ready to join a group and are looking for a martial home?

Maybe they are on the path to deciding what direction to take their training?

Could even be that very first step in the martial arts, taking courage even to visit?

Regardless I want to share with them who we are, what we do, and how we move and give them "something" for the visit that they can take and use in the future regardless of joining our group, or another Bujinkan dojo, or even another martial arts school.

That something is a connection of some of our martial arts movements and philosophies so they can see some of the life-usable and philosophies of the Bujinkan dojo in addition to the martial arts movement (taijutsu) that we practice.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Martial Arts Ukemi

Ukemi- the ability to land on the ground without getting hurt, the ability to "receive" an attack from a training partner, the ability to blend and flow a movement. As a foundation in the ten ryaku no maki section of training it is a dual skill- one we practice in every class, and one that is on the roster for daily training at home. 

The focus this past class on ukemi was building an awareness between ourselves and our training partner, and when is the moment to take ukemi- from the perspective of preventing injury. As an example, we used omote gyaku to explore the idea since it appears in many places in our training- the kihon happo, gyaku gi, and a number of kata in the jin ryaku section of training. 

In this movement, your training partner takes your wrist, and using correct taijutsu movement, locks up your body and ability to move. Through the twisting of the wrist and the arm, there is a slowing of ones ability to move as it locks the elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle of the lead foot. There is a moment, where the body entirely locks up and a moment later you are thrown over with the omote gyaku movement, done is such a way that one can't take ukemi.

When we are practicing ukemi, in that precise moment before the entire body is locked up, we use on of the break falls or rolls to land- depending on the technique and the position of the training partner. The idea is to be sensitive enough to the movement to know when to take ukemi or not. 

Done early your training partner will just change waza and take you in a different direction, done late, and you can't escape or take ukemi, done at the right moment you blend and can protect yourself from the technique.

From there you can also perform kaeshi waza or sutemi waza to capture your training partner with their own technique. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Bojutsu Training

Would you find it odd, in joining our group, to be handed a bo (6-foot stick) on day one of training? 

For many schools the use of "weapons" is reserved for black belts.

What thought process or flow behind this?

In taijtusu, there is just the martial movement of the body. The idea of different weapons, unarmed movement broken down into striking, grappling,etc. as all being different or separate is an alien concept. 

In taijutsu we only have movement of mechanics, regardless of armed vs. unarmed. 

There is also the idea of controlled chaos in training- from day one you start learning all the skills needed to navigate a situation. Of course there are basics and fundamentals to practice, a starting point, and at different levels of training as one progresses the focus will shift, but being exposed and learning everything along the way is by design- even if it is overwhelming.

Survival is survival, and awareness is KEY. Being aware of training tools, movements, situations, and what could happen with various movements- even if one can't do them right now, makes you aware of what could happen. In terms of natural capacity, we also have the ability as human beings to learn everything- how would it play out in the moment of survival if you needed a certain skill, but it was withheld from you because you are not a black belt or a certain rank in training. 

You are shown everything, it is your responsibility to to "get it".

Learning the bo, in comparison to our other historical training tools such as the sword, spear, weighted chain, etc. has very practical returns. A long stick can be found or substituted in many places- its movements can be used in a variety of situations.

From that end our training in bojutsu can be explored in the following points:

Kamae: postures and ways of holding the stick to manipulate distance and timing.

Ukemi: ways of receiving an attack with the stick.

Uchi waza: ways of striking with the stick.

Kata: traditional training forms.

Bojutsu heiho: strategy and interacting with the stick and training partners.

Building on that the bo is also useful for understanding distance and timing. At six feet in length, it can be used to understand angles of attack, ways of keeping or expanding distance, and other movement ideas which can be directly used outside of the stick. In many ways its a physical training tool to understand the unarmed movements and isolate certain training principals so they are easier to see.

From the new member of the group the stick is also used to teach coordination and timing, and is one of the KEY reasons we start them off with the stick.

There is a training exercise called bofurigata which is spinning the stick to create distance. In order to do this correctly one has to move the upper and lower part of the body at the same time and in unison. 

If the timing is "off" your knees or legs get whacked with the stick.

Very quickly one learns about the timing and unison of both the upper and lower parts of the body working together to generate power- which compliments and build on the lessons of the san shin no kata.

Grab your stick and see you in the park. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

This Is Ninjutsu

Catching the feeling of ninpo.

(Trying) to understand ninjutsu, but realizing it can only be experienced.

Struggling to put all of the pieces of training together.

A natural process of training.

Fortunately for us, and for me, the solution to training is "easy".

Just show up, train in class, work on the lessons at home each day, and trust in the bujin to guide us.

Rinse and repeat over a few years, and soon the movements themselves are powering you.

That said, when we struggle to understand outside of just experiencing the movements of budo taijutsu itself, I often find that art and pictures can convey much more vs. words.

I was asked by a friend to help explain ninjutsu to them, naturally I struggled, and due to the distance our our locations I wasn't able to share with them the physical movements of training.

But I knew a great picture that I had that captures an amazing essence of ninjutsu.

That picture is above.

Different people will see different things, all based on where they are in the moment and what they believe to be true.


Learning The Martial Arts: Taiden, Shinden, Kuden

In learning the martial arts there are two sides to the training- that which is in plain view, and that which is hidden- not because it is “secret”, but rather that is just how the transmission is set up. The teacher to student / master to disciple model is in full effect.

The first layer of understanding is called taiden- body methods and is the easiest to understand. You watch your teacher perform a movement and you copy it. They add another piece and you add another piece- most of our learning as a society is done this way- watch and mimic.

The second layer is kuden- verbal transmission which follows the taiden. Moving here opens up that, you do this to anticipate that- verbal instruction regarding the training and various movement scenarios that can only be understood once you have the base movements down as a reference.

Shinden in the final layer, and the most mysterious since one already has to have the taiden and kuden bolted down and under their belt so to speak. This is the years of experience endured by your teacher- which is a result of the years of experience of their teacher- all the way back through the history of your school/style. The finer points that can only be experienced are transmitted that way- knowledge passing from one to another in an unspoken and unexplained manner.

To put it in cruder yet easier terms to understand?

My teacher wants to transmit to me the shinden of throwing somebody so they throw me around for a bit, experiencing the lessons first hand in the moment as they actually exist, not as they would be taught in a learning environment. When the smoke settles and I get back up the shinden has been transferred to me to understand- capturing that feeling and experience in the moment of being thrown and allowing it to mature and grow in my own training. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Martial Arts Walking

Walking and the martial arts.

How do we generate power in the martial arts- which was the focus of movement for class this week. 

The idea, that when encountering another person in a martial arts situation, they are going to be bigger, faster, and stronger vs. us. How those attributes of strength, speed, and size we have limited control over for ourselves. 

Some martial arts focus on strength, speed, and size, but what about focusing on distance, timing, and rhythm which are used to counter those physical attributes, and can be used by anybody regardless of them.

Body alignment is the first focus for distance, timing, and rhythm.

We move with out feet, and they are the power behind the techniques (waza).

Working on a wrist lock (omote gyaku), both the upper and lower parts of the body are in alignment. As we take the wrist, we walk in the direction we want to take our training partner. Our feet should face and move in the same direction as the wrist lock.

Looking down at your feet as you move,are they facing in the same direction that you are walking in?

Or is one, or both feet facing in a different direction, or out of alignment as you walk?

What this means, if your feet are not moving in the same direction as your hips, is that part of the momentum that you are generating is not in alignment and is being wasted. 

Depending on how far out of alignment your feet are you could also be out of balance, or opening up weak points (kyusho) in your legs and hips. 

Taking a step back from all the stuff that looks like martial arts- punching, kicking, throws, etc. it is these little points of alignment and ways of moving the body (taijutsu), that really power the effectiveness of the techniques.  

Kusari Fundo Training

The kusari fundo, sometimes also known as the manriki gusari, is a traditional Japanese training tool that consist of a length of chain with a weight on each end.

Developed as a way to deal with armed samurai, it was also often employed with the jutte (iron truncheon).

Naturally in our own training a safe substitute is used made out of padded cord. 

Training begins with learning how to manipulate the chain and weights as a way to control distance- extending the "reach" of the person, while using the chain to entangle limps, and immobilize parts of the body.

Additionally the weights are applied to various kyusho (weak points) on the body in order to break structure.

New York Ninjutsu Training & Classes

Located in Westchester, New York the Bujinkan Shinmyoken Dojo offers ninjutsu training as expressed through the lessons of the Bujinkan Dojo.

As martial friends we come together to study the movement, philosophy, and idea of ninpo taijutsu.

Classes are held in Yonkers on Saturday mornings, for more information about our group and the training please use the links to the right and explore some of our training ideas and articles.

Questions and comments may be directed to the group through the email contact form below.

Ninpo Ikkan! 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Kyoketsu Shoge Training

The first part of the tool was a double edged hooked blade about the size of small shovel or spade with a handle. Attached to this was eighteen feet or more of rope, or a rope substitute like horse hair, finally ending in a large metal ring, which was sometimes sharpened around the edges. Think of the kyoketsu shoge as a martial arts tool that can adapt to a variety of situations.

As a “tool” each part was used as a whole and separately- the blade could be used to cut, the rope bind, climb, or help carry things, while the ring could be used as a weighted grappling hook.

So with this understanding, why practice with such a tool as a modern martial artist? 

The kyoketsu shoge is a tool of the times, so practicing with it gives a unique historical perspective of martial arts from that time period. The “how and why” of it offers strategic insight into other lessons providing a unique overview of the skills needed to survive during that time. 

On the other hand the kyoketsu shoge also teaches a lot about oneself- distance, timing, and rhythm that are needed to make the tool work and not get tangled up in the rope or hit with the weight are all skills that can transfer over to modern application. In this way one could thing of the kyoketsu shoge as a pair of weights or running shoes that are used to help forge and train the body.  

Before we get started with the basic training exercises of the kyoketsu shoge you are going to have to make a safe training version to practice with. Under NO circumstances ever should you practice with a real metal version. Take the time to craft a safe training version and you will have it for years of practice.

The first part of the tool is the blade section which is essentially the size of a large knife with a hook on the bottom. Cut a blank from wood and then sand down the edges so you have a general shape but there are no sharp edges to pull or cut with. Pay special attention to blunt the points of the knife and hook.

At the opposite end punch a small hole to connect the rope and tie the rope to it with a good knot. With the rope you want around eighteen to twenty feet of cord, preferably made out of cotton or mostly cotton so it is nice and flexible and won’t burn your hand with friction as it moves past.

Finally, on the opposite end of the rope you are going to need to attach a rubber ring. Large washers are one way to do it, while dog chew toys from a pet supply store offer another quick alternative. 

Once you have assembled your kyoketsu shoge check and recheck the cord and knots, especially before and after training to make sure they are secure. Keep some extra rope on hand to replace the old rope as it becomes worn and frayed.

Aspects of training first start with learning how to cast the rope out, hitting targets with the ring, followed by drawing the rope back in. 

Unique footwork is used to keep distance between you and your training partner so they are unable to close the distance as you are pulling the ring end back in.

Additionally the rope and ring are used to wrap and catch limbs, while also using the hook and edge part of the training tool.

Other aspects of movement with this unique tool are explored and can only really be demonstrated vs. explanation.  

Shinobi Zue Training

The shinobi zue (hidden staff) is one of the historical training tools that we explore in our training and martial arts movement.

Using the movements of jojutsu (5ft stick) it also employs a number of strategies depending on the stick itself. 

Traditionally the shinobi zue was one type of stick, but rather a stick with a number of potential modifications. 

It could be drilled out and filled with iron to strike harder.

The end of the stick could have a hidden blade, or compartment for blinding agents. 

Or in the example above, consisting of a metal part with rings designed to deal with swords, while also concealing a weighted chain- extending the "reach" of the stick from five feet - nine feet, allowing the user to unexpectedly manipulate distance and timing through the chain.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Everything Wrong With The Martial Arts

This past Tuesday was an interesting class studying aspects from Gyokko ryu, aspects which I was fortunate to learn in 1995- the year being important in the context of this lesson.

At the time when these movements were introduced to me they were very important- I spent a good amount of time (shu) drilling them over and over again making sure I didn't deviate on step from the form. 

Over the years in practicing, I can close my eyes and see those first times they were introduced to me.

Last Tuesday we again explores some of these forms, and for me personally everything was off. I did them well, they looked good, but my distance and timing didn't quite match my teacher's movement. 

Something was a bit out of sync.

The entire class was like this for me.

Now, sometimes in training you just have a bad class. It could be the events of the day before training have you down a bit, it could be physically related in terms of being tired or hurt. You do the best you can, but sometimes success in class is just making it to the end no matter how poorly you are moving.

Certainly lessons and expression in Fudoshin from this.

But for this class, it wasn't that, I wasn't moving poorly. 

It was only towards the end of class that I figured out why. 

I was operating under incorrect assumptions, assumptions that I should have seen, but we all make mistakes. Mistakes in the dojo are the best kind, because of the protection in the dojo, mistakes made there are not lethal.

When you are newer to training, everything is naturally new- every movement, drill, kata, philosophy. Train for a while, and you develop ways of moving and viewing things, that might not be correct for the movement in that moment.

The kata being shows, I have done before, so many times, in that when I saw it being demonstrated, I fell back on the form I knew- vs. not just assuming, but working to catch the feeling of what was being taught. 

How a slight variation in footwork, changed the distance and timing. 

How it was there the entire time, quite visible, IF I had approached the lessons from a new perceptive as if I had never seen the kata before, vs. just assuming it was the one we always do.

I've made this mistake before, we all make this mistake from time to time, so it is a good reminder when it happens. 

When shown something in training practice and drill it not stop without variation to build up the lessons of the movement. Once one has a good baseline with that, moving ahead, every time one sees it again- look at as if it is the first time you are seeing it, so none of the subtle changes (either henka or ura waza) are missed.

Or at the very least realize we are studying ninjutsu, and subtle change is always working in everything we do. 

See you on the mat. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

New York Kenjutsu Training

Westchester New York kenjutsu (Japanese Sword) training.

The use of the katana to understand distance, timing, and movement in the martial arts, as presented by the Bujinkan Dojo method of martial arts.

Kukishinden Ryu.

Training includes:

Kamae: postures.
Kiri: cutting.
Batto: drawing the sword.
Kata: formal lessons.
Heiho: strategy.

Training is conducted with shinai or bokken, no shinken.

For more information please contact us through the email form at the bottom of the blog.

Using Totoku Hyoushi no Kamae

There is always the concept of the visible and invisible in class, the perception of what one would see if they were just watching class off to the side, vs. training or being part of a training group.

In this way, we can openly talk about the training, and sharing ideas to help those searching for the martial arts, yet at the same time preserve many of the "secrets" of the martial arts.

Not that there are any secrets in the martial arts, secrets imply learning something and having complete enlightenment. In this way martial arts is the easiest skill and disciple to learn in the world- just show up and train, and over time everything will be understood.

In watching a class one would see various martial arts skills in practice- ukemi, striking methods, grappling methods, footwork drills, training tools, etc.

BUT there is much that happens both before and after these budo taijuts movements. As an example of this let's explore the totoku hyoushi no kamae.

This is a traditional sword posture where the blade is turned flat facing the target, as a shield, and with your body as flat as possible.

From a historical perspective it was used against shuriken- hand held darts and throwing plates- bo and hira shuriken. The sword is used to deflect the incoming object with the flat of the sword, sending it off and away from you.

One is both hiding and protecting with the sword, using it to defeat another training tool of distance, where the sword does not have a similar distance.

Outside of kenjutsu (Japanese sword), this also has movement, strategy (heiho), and philosophical applications to be found in all of our other budo taijutsu movement. It is about using the sword, but it is also knowledge above and beyond the sword.

An encounter with another person does not begin the moment they move to punch or grab you. It begins way before that, and by being aware of distance and timing, one sets themselves up with superior distance and timing before an attack.

Through training, this setting of a superior position at all times just becomes conditioned and natural to the point where it is not consciously though of, it just happens.

So, if something does happen, one is automatically in a superior position and advantage before the "martial arts" has even happened.

We are crossing the street in the above picture, and in waiting for the light to turn, where are we standing? Many of us stand as close to the edge of the crosswalk as possible, waiting for the light to turn, or for a break in traffic so we can cross.

As the cars pass, what happens if one jumps the curb, or has to swerve to avoid another card? If that happens all you have is ukemi to protect you- rolling, leaping, or side evading depending on what is happening.

Can we see totoku hyoushi no kamae?

Can we use totoku hyoushi no kamae?

While waiting to cross, what about moving away from the curb and standing with the pole and barriers in-front of you?

A car jumps the curve and it has to pass through that before hitting you. Natural objects for totoku hyoushi no kamae are everywhere. Imagine again in the picture above that we are walking on the right sidewalk and a group of people are walking behind us, perhaps closing and approaching us.

We have a gut feeling about danger- one that we should ALWAYS listen to immediately.

Can we see totoku hyoushi no kamae?

Can we use totoku hyoushi no kamae?

Right away, cross the street, using the street itself as  totoku hyoushi no kamae.

Crossing puts distance between you and the group so you can see their actions better, and it also forces them to reveal the intent they may have against you- do they also cross the street?

Do they openly shift to follow you?

...in our weekly training classes we practice strikes, throws, and all that "martial arts" stuff, but it is also these hidden actions that are in play at all times, hidden movement, that helps prevent a situation, and in the worst case scenario, give you many advantages of distance and timing before something starts.

See you on the mat!  

Monday, October 1, 2018

Bujinkan Nagare

Training in class is an organic process.

While we cover the kihon and foundations of taijutsu movement in every class- ukemi, kamae, kihon happo, san shin no kata, etc. it is the questions, perspectives, and unique talents of the people training in our group which often open up unique directions in each class based on questions that naturally arrive...

In  our movement there is this idea of flow- being able to not only move smoothly, but also to be relaxed enough to not only switch techniques, but also be able to feel how our training partner is influencing our movement so we can go with the flow of movement so to speak.

How do we develop flow was the question.

The easy answer is to just keep training.

Keep showing up for class, train as best you can, continue to practice and polish the kihon at home.

Time is a great equalizer as it advances.

That said, there are a few points we can focus on to help out.

Relaxation is the first.

The ability to move and remain relaxed.

Setting up and following a daily stretching routine that focus not only on all the joints of the body, but also specifically on the hips and legs- the center and focus of what  moves us. Add supporting exercises to increase flexibility in the hips such as walking or hiking.

Alignment is also important, making sure of the direction of your feet and where they are pointing as you move. Making sure that your feet and knees are facing in the direction of where you are moving as you move using techniques. It's hard to develop flow if you are moving in one direction with your hips, but your feet are taking you in a different direction as you move.

Keeping these two points in mind, as you drill the kihon at home, and work through the lessons in class will help you develop good flow.