Bujinkan Dojo Shoten Jutsu

Shotenjutsu- the ability to run to heaven is part of our taijutsu skills where one runs up vertical surfaces without stopping. It is part of our ukemi taihenjutsu skill set, ways of changing and adapting the body to the situation.

Before we even start running up things (people also!) the ability to forward, side, and back roll needs to be explored and be made comfortable with.

Sometimes one runs to the top of something, and other times you run up and then fall back down- the ability to take ukemi and roll is KEY.

Once one is comfortable with the rolling part and has some proficiency, heading off to the woods to find rocks and trees to run up is the starting point.

Nothing 100% vertical yet.

Lower angles, not as high off the ground, so there is no difference in changing the movement from running to climbing.

Over time, one increases the elevation and speed, soon being able to run up vertical surfaces.

The first time you see it in action there is a good amount of doubt, but practicing over a season (usually the summer), at the end of the season most can do it.

The key is to not lose momentum in transitioning from running to climbing, and not letting your mind get in the way- your eyes telling you to slow down or else you will crash into that wall, tree, etc.

Now at the mid summer part of training we are going to again start exploring shotenjutsu.

Learning Ninjutsu

Putting aside the definition of Ninjutsu for a moment, the main question is how does one learn ninjutsu?

As Westerners studying this topic I feel that we are at a great disadvantage, one the needs to be realized and accounted for before we can even attempt to learn ninjutsu/ninpo.

Our entire learning model is at the exact opposite with how one “learns” ninjutsu- isshi soden. In my own personal training it took me a long time to undo this damage, so the soon a person, you, may realize and act on it the sooner off you will be better in your training and taijutsu skills.

In the Wet we learn according to a very academic model which is not only mass produced, but also rewards learned thinking. Read books, listen to professors, take tests, complete courses.

Complete enough of these, or put in twelve years and you get a high school diploma, B.A/S., M.A/S., or even more letters in a PH.D.

Learning also only takes place in sanctioned setting by the state- public school, private schools, or higher education institutes accredited by the middle states association.

Our minds are conditioned through academic culture, and what one needs to do to “pass” and “learn”.

We know nothing else, and are told by those guiding us that this is the way to learn.

So when one want’s to learn ninjutsu, how else would we look to learn it?

Ninjutsu is learned through the physical of taijutsu. This is a moving meditation, an understanding of the forces of nature to be found in distance, timing, rhythm- the interaction of human beings in that movement.

Shin Gi Tai.

Banpen Fugyo.

Kanjin Kaname.

A few of the dozen or so training “concepts” that we hear- ideas of movement frozen for a moment so we can experience them.

These philosophies that allow Ninjutsu to work can not be studied academically, they need to be encounter in the training, in the dojo, the teacher creates them in the moment like  flash for the student to experience. An experience that can not be understood or academically reproduced, but only felt in the moment.

You have to be there to be a part of it.

We also hear about nature and how it is important in understanding ninjutsu. Nature is dealing with the day to day interaction between yourself, others, and what fate throws at you. Holding these philosophies learned through movement and expression in the dojo and using them to navigate the day to day with a sincere heart and without even thinking about it.

The entire world is the class-room and your learning is the navigation through it.

Ninjutsu is “easy” to learn in that no academic proficiency or talent is needed- show up and train with a good heart, let those moments of enlightenment in the dojo happen, feel them, taste them, and when you are confronted by the impossible outside of the dojo use those feeling to navigate them and win.

The Power Of Boshiken

One of the fists used in our Bujinkan budo taijutsu martial arts training that I feel is very unique to our art is boshiken- also knows as shitoken depending on where it appears in the training.

Our first exposure to this way of holding the hand is found in the ten ryaku no maki section of training- first in the kihon happo jumonji no kata training form, followed by the hokken juroppo section where we explore some of the other striking fists of fudoken, shuto, etc.

Boshiken has our fingers supporting the thumb so it sticks forward and is used to strike some very painful kyusho on the body- butsumetsu (floating ribs) being one of them.

What I find unique is how the fist effects movement when hit with it- stopping, slowing, setting one in place vs. the movement produced by the other fists.


Kyoketsu Shoge Training

As a historical training tool in the Japanese martial arts and as a starting place we are first going to ask “What is the kyoketsu shoge?” and “What places does such an item have in modern martial arts training?”

Kyoketsu shoge movement is “to run in the fields and mountains” and it is from this simple statement that the movement of the tool is hidden.

The kyoketsu shoge is about movement, the movement of the rope, the movement of your body, feet, and posture, layered over the movement of your training partner.

This is the hidden use of the kyoketsu shoge as a training tool for our taijutsu movement- never stop moving with it, integrating the tool with your body (kentaiichijo). The moment you stop, that is the moment you get tangled up in your own rope, can’t hit the target, etc.

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.

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.