Bujinkan Shinmyoken Dojo 2007
In 2003 I was fortunate to be recommended for the Bujinkan 5th dan test, followed by taking and passing this test.
Naturally this was an important shift in my own training, and while but a moment in time in life, a moment that has rippled out over the years further and further.
Now a Shidoshi in the Bujinkan, what did that mean?
What was now expected of me? Before that test my actions only really reflected on my own teacher, now those action would reflect on both my teacher, Soke, and all those who are part of the Bujinkan.
Was I supposed to be happy with passing?
Now I wanted to go and hide.
Before that moment training was simple, training was selfish- I just had to show up to class for myself.
Now I was quickly realizing that I had to now show up to class for others.
To say that Shidoshi complicated things would be an understatement.
With every rank in the martial arts there is a time-period of growing into the rank, and as soon as one figures it out, and feels comfortable, the next rank and responsibility hits you. I expected something similar, and while it had similar feelings, the shift was again quite different.
The idea was not to teach, as I had already realized that one cannot *teach* the martial arts, all one can do is inspire, create something in that moment of two people interacting, a feeling, and pass that feeling on- as expressed through the movement of what Soke has been teaching us.
I started to hold some informal classes for friends- both inside and outside of the Bujinkan.
My plan was to just share stuff, work on movement that I had been lacking, and now could no longer lack. Use these informal classes as a way to correct my faults and figure out what this Shidoshi thing means.
There was no plan beyond getting my movement up-to-speed so I would not be an embarrassment to the Bujinkan.
Three years later, which I thought was a long time, there was still much to correct, and what was corrected I owe a tremendous debt to my seniors, teacher, and Soke.
But I still felt lacking.
Honesty is important in imparting the history of a dojo, and three years later if I was a 5th dan, I felt that on a good day my movement represented a solid 3rd dan.
I felt very self-conscious of this, only realizing much later that the process was intended to be this way, and worked this way if one was willing and accepting to follow it.
With 2006 there was an auspicious change, two Bujinkan students from another dojo had relocated back to Westchester and wanted to continue training.
Training was no longer about me, they both had a sincere heart, so how could I tell them no? With all the kindness that was extended to me in the Bujinkan, all those that tolerated and encouraged me, what if they said no to me?
I told them to show up next Saturday and we’ll start training.
Now it was a *real* thing with real responsibility.
We laugh in the dojo, have fun training, and honor Japanese customs even if we are a bit informal being Americans, but this *is* a Japanese warrior art, and the integrity of the Bujinkan has to always be kept in mind.
This is still an art of literal life and death, and even if we don’t take ourselves serious, the art is always taken serious.
The genesis of our dojo forced that transition of figuring it out, having certain responsibilities thrusted on you.
We needed a name, if not for anything, at least to have something to put on out training t-shirts.
That name was left up to my teacher and Soke to figure out, and in 2006 it was Shinmyoken.
Bujinkan Shinmyoken Dojo, which in itself took a good five years to again figure out the meaning and method behind the name.
Initially in not having a plan, now as a dojo- a place of the way, we needed a plan.
So just what was the plan for our dojo?
We begin with a commitment when joining the dojo:
A commitment to practice the martial arts of the Bujinkan and Masaaki Hatsumi every day, no matter where we find ourselves in life right now.
A commitment to use his art to better ourselves in some way, a bit more, each and every day. To just *be* happy.
A commitment to come together as martial arts friends and practice together every Saturday morning the lessons of the Bujinkan dojo- to set aside that time as best we can, and other times when we hold workshops and other training events as best we can.
We take that commitment and the lessons/movement of the Bujinkan dojo and use it as a tool for self-discovery. A discovery of how the body moves, and how people interact.
We take that commitment to create a space of self-discovery where there is no judgement of self-consciousness of being a beginner or being more advanced, we all commit to a feeling of being on a journey together as dojo brothers and sisters using Soke’s art as the vehicle.
Those that feel a calling to this commitment to the dojo and the Bujinkan are welcome with open arms, those who have different martial arts aim and ambitions are wished the best in their journey.
The martial arts world is a big place, and there are multiple valid paths to explore as long as one is honest.
Now a real dojo, where would we train?
Informal classes are one thing, but working to build a schedule and cycle of progression requires a place right?
In exploring some of the themes of the Bujinkan and drawing inspiration from them, along with consulting seniors in the art, the decision was made to train outside in nature, again a synchronicity of not really being a *decision* to make.
Show up every Saturday with a commitment to the dojo and the Bujinkan and train rain-or-shine, spring, summer, fall, and winter.
Admittedly it has been hard at times, and sometimes on a cold January morning even I wonder what we are doing out here, but there is a level of shugyo and fudoshin cultivated by doing such a thing.
An intangible that can never be created inside a room with artificial boundaries.
There have also been mysterious times in training, with nature giving unique insights that can never be recreated again, insights of training in the mists, training in thunder and lightning, moving around in the shift of twilight.
The last layer of the master plan for the dojo was to create a place of feeling to *feel* the feeling.
I have been fortunate to learn many wonderful martial arts waza (techniques), and they are an important part of learning how to move the body using taijutsu, but they are only one point in the aim of the dojo.
In training the Bujinkan, there have been these moment of mystery, where a waza has been done, and there has been a feeling where one has stepped outside of space and time, something *mysterious* has happened, something that can’t be captured or expressed in words. Something that one want’s to experience again in the martial arts.
All one can do is try to again capture that feeling in training, and *that* is the goal of our dojo, fueled by commitment, powered by nature, as marital arts friends, to try and recreate those moments of mystery so we can feel them again, and if we are lucky, be able to express them in our movement.
We are not a commercial dojo and have structured our training and classes in the best interests of learning the martial arts for all of our members in the group.
This is the foundation, history, and inspiration for our dojo.
Since 2006 we have continued to live and meet these ideals each week, with plans to continue and keep it going as long as we can.