October 1996:
Quotations from Soke III

by Benjamin Cole

This is a collection of quotations made by Masaaki Hatsumi-sensei during practice sessions at Ayase, as recorded in my training diary. Despite the current debate over the role of the Internet in the Bujinkan, I, Ben, will continue to make this part of my diary available. If you truly look at what Hatsumi-sensei is saying, you will understand that these words (as with any printed, spoken, or otherwise) are to be used as a reference, nothing more. It is up to YOU to make the proper choices in your life and in your training. My hope is that more and more Bujinkan practitioners will increase the intensity and frequency of their training as a result of this series. I also hope that these words will push people to do what they can to make it to Japan to train with the only one who truly understands this art. As for the quotes themselves, I try to remember the general flow of the training sessions when I record my thoughts, because, as Hatsumi-sensei once said, “I teach from what I see around me.” I have tried keep these quotes in essentially the same order as they were made during the training session, but naturally memory does play its tricks. These are my interpretations as to what Hatsumi-sensei was saying, based upon my feelings at the time. They should not be viewed as verbatim nor as “official.” Words in parentheses are my comments, most of which are for clarification.

June 28 (Friday)
“I went to this federation of martial artists gathering the other day with Anthony (Netzler). It was good to meet these people. There were many good instructors, but also some pitiful ones. It was a good experience.”

“As I have mentioned before, these five or six years are going to be very important. They, combined with the three preceding years, are the times of blooming in the Bujinkan. I decided a few years back to start teaching you all in this way. Those who fall back on what they learned before, and think it sufficient, are kidding themselves. If they make their own curriculum and teach that, their students are the ones who ultimately suffer. And that distresses me.”

“This period for the Bujinkan is like a watermelon. We are all trying to mature into large delicious watermelon. Watermelon may all look the same on the outside, but only some of them will be succulent and delicious. Others won’t taste very good at all. I hope that you all grow into large, delicious watermelon.”

“Don’t be concerned about the neck right now. It will take you too long if you try to go straight from the block. His sword will come in right here (to your ’do’) and you’ll get killed. Rather, take the closest target—that’s the hands. Then go for the kill.”

“Even if you miss (with your sword), just keep flowing into the next technique. Doing so will save your life.”

(Concerning a thrust technique) “Once you’ve got the frontal one down, try to do this technique by moving off to the side.”

“Naturally, an attacker is not going to attack if you don’t give him an opening.”

(About a rolling technique) “Learning this technique should take you about three months. Use the rest of today to just practice this technique. If you can just grasp the essentials of it, that will be sufficient.”

“If you suddenly think you’ve got it, you don’t. That means you are probably creating your own style and falling back on that. Nothing is more frightening than someone who thinks they’ve got it, when they actually don’t. They’ll most probably be killed by that mistake.”

(Concerning the rolling technique) “When Takamatsu-sensei was 88 teaching me this technique, I was in my thirties. He would get so angry with me and would constantly yell at me, calling me ‘foolish’ and ‘terrible.’ I would go home and practice and practice, then go back... But I still couldn’t get it.”

“He used to hit me with ‘bokken,’ too.”

“I can’t teach these techniques. You’ve got to discover how to do them yourselves. It’s not a matter of understanding it in your head, it’s a matter of getting your body to do them.”

“When you get to my level, it’s hard to get down what you want to teach in books and videos. Those media can’t do it justice. We are dealing with the three-dimensional here. And from there, beyond.”

“I write books when I see a hole that needs filling. But most of these techniques can’t be explained in that medium properly.”

“Writing books in the past was kinda like P.R. There were plenty of swordsmen better than Miyamoto Musashi in his time, but they didn’t write any books. But everyone remembers Musashi because of his ‘The Book of Five Rings.’ There are people all over the world writing books and putting out materials in much the same way. It gives them more credence than what they deserve... You have to have the ability to discern who is genuine and who is fraudulent.”

“I only teach things once. Your job is to absorb all of what I am teaching. Plus, there’s the fact that age will take its toll on my memory the older I grow. (He laughs)”

“Your life is on the line. Practice well.”

“You are all making sacrifices to train here. You are gaining this knowledge first-hand. You should all be proud that you are representing the Bujinkan.”

“When rolling, you must examine the area onto which you will roll and then adjust accordingly. You could end up further away from your opponent and unable to reach them with your sword. Or you could get too close. Spacing is very important.”

July 2 (Tuesday)
“This art begins with Ninpo, or Ninjutsu. From there it moves to Budo, or martial arts. Ninpo and Budo are one and the same.”

“Here there are no fifth dans; there are no tenth dans. Everyone is the same here.”

“There are three different ways you can have your hands in ‘Chudan no kamae.’ They can be either fully extended, partially bent, or against your chest. Practice them all many, many times until you become comfortable with them.”

“Always take the tip of your sword to their left shoulder.”

“From now on, you must strive to cut out unnecessary movement. Waste in movement is wrong and will get you killed.”

“You’re not coming in with a berzerker attack. You must keep control of your weapon at all time. No giant cuts. Short controlled cuts. No waste.”

“Once you get the sword in them, leave it there. Then if they try to turn against you, you just run them through (like this).”

“It doesn’t matter if you block the second arm or not. Just get your hand in position and they will be unable to strike you.”

“It doesn’t matter if you have short legs or long ones for this kick. Everyone’s problem is that they are not bringing their knee to their chests. Do it this way.”

“Don’t forget this hand, people. Your left hands are all dying on this technique. Your opponent is in position to kick you so be aware.”

(After calling out people to show their interpretations) “You need to take all of these good points to heart. Take other people’s good points to heart... There is no need for me to say this is a good technique or that is a good technique.”

“It’s not a question of this technique working or that technique being ‘cool.’ The most important thing is to survive.”

“You don’t have to do it exactly the same way I did it. Just feel the flow of the situation and take control, using whatever technique comes to light.”

“In a real war, if you go in a set formation, they’ll just mow you down with their guns... Similarly, don’t follow a set pattern in your movements in a fight.”

“Let them go. You must let them go a little to let them put themselves in a worse position (by moving for a technique.)”

“A martial artist (‘budoka’) does not try to steal a technique. That is for thieves and pickpockets.”

“Drop them into a trap. Let them go a little, then drop them into a trap.”

“Even if you are the one being attacked, you must be aware of all the holes in your opponent’s position. (READ: As you could see, it looked like I was going to get screwed, but suddenly I was on top and out of danger.)”

“For these techniques, you must have the fifth dan sense. That is why everyone who has attained that level should be training here with me.” (Hint, hint.)

“I am not teaching techniques. I am teaching flow. I am teaching nothingness.”

“Don’t hesitate and don’t hold back. In a real confrontation, if you do, you die.”

“You must lift up. Use your body, not your hands.”

“Use the sword as though you were not using it.”

“If you think of using the sword for the block, you’ve locked yourself into the technique and will not be able to do the next movement (a cut).“

“Move as though you do not have a sword in your hands.“

“You don’t have to cut the torso, people. You can cut whatever’s there. Cut the hands, if you want.”

“The movement is exactly like Mutto Doori.”

“I am pulling him here (where his hands touch his hilt). I can pull him toward me here and impale him. Or can lower his center of balance here and then kill him.“

July 9 (Tuesday)
(Before practice, upon seeing two people practicing knife techniques) “Don’t try to fight for the knife like that. If they’re stronger, they’ll win. Rather, ignore it and strike here (to the face). Or grab their other arm and cut it with their own knife like this... You would have never thought of that, would you? They wouldn’t have either.”

“Try not to stop walking when you draw your sword. That’s Iaido. And in a real situation, that is no good. You don’t want to stop and draw; you want to draw as you’re walking. This is an example of how to attack without any hint of the attack.”

“Use your body to cut here and just walk through.”

“If they try to turn to face you (when you move behind them), you can put your tip here at their shoulder and keep them from turning on you.”

“If I were doing this technique (in ‘jissen’) I would not stop walking here. But then you couldn’t see what I was doing. Rather I keep moving and cut the tendons here, before moving back here. At normal speed you couldn’t see this cutting. Look for the little things in your training.”

“You must make the ability to strike the ‘kyusho’ as you move from one technique to the next innate.”

“Don’t learn this technique. Use this technique to learn your spacing. Distance is very important. If you’re too far or too close you can’t do it properly.”

“Practice this well so that you always cut to the ‘jakkin.’”

“This technique should take you about five or six years to learn.”

“People everywhere are complaining about each other. This guy sucks. Or that guy’s teaching things the wrong way. The reason they do that is that they don’t understand my art. And this saddens me. I wouldn’t feel any remorse if those people were to leave the Bujinkan. Their leaving would actually bring more people—good people—into this art. And that would provide fertile ground for more goodness. More people would come to the Tai Kais to train with each other as well.”

“It’s like you’re dealing with a wild animal. If you go to grab a wild animal, it will run away. That’s a natural reaction. So you can’t go into a fight with the intention of cutting this way or doing that technique. You have to be able to create the opportunities.”

“During the times of the warring states in Japan, everyone was like a wild animal. They would react to whatever you intended to do. So the only way to win was to have no intention.”

“It’s not important if you cut them here. The most important thing is that you don’t get cut.”

“This is why I don’t like to write books any more. Having the technique done to you and experiencing it yourself is the only way to learn it. This stuff can’t be taught. This stuff can’t be understood through merely words. It must be experienced personally. Books are for use AFTER you know the techniques. It’s the same for the scrolls. (Or Ben’s diary.) If you know the technique, then read the words and it makes sense.“

“Takamatsu-sensei once told me a story. One day, his teacher Ishitani Matsutaro came to him and said, ‘I can teach you no more, boy.’ And with that, he passed the Densho for Takagi Yoshin Ryu to him. Takamatsu-sensei was only seventeen at the time. Ishitani-sensei was ninety.“

“Just because you train with me, don’t assume that you have actually learned anything. Too many people around the world have made that mistake or continue to do so.”

“So few arts break down these techniques for different weapons, such as the ’ken.’ That is why training in this way is so important.”

After practice one foreign visitor wanted to see if Hatsumi-sensei would be willing to spare some time to explain a little about healing methods in Ninjutsu. I was asked to translate. Soke’s answer was a very Japanese way of saying “No,” but was nevertheless extremely interesting.

Q: “I was wondering if you might have some time to explain a little about healing methods in Ninjutsu one weekend before I leave?”

A: “That’s a serious subject. A very serious subject... Humans expect too much of everything. They want to know how to live longer, or stay healthy. They’re never willing to admit that they are living animals that age and will eventually die... Such a talk as you ask would take many, many hours. And it would be very complicated.”

Q: “How would I say this? What about focusing your ‘ki’ and using that to heal?”

A: “It’s all the same. Focusing your ’ki’ (called ’Chi Kung’ in Chinese or ’Kikou’ in Japanese). Healing. Medicine. It’s all the same.”

Q: “What I’m really interested in is the so called ’Tradition Ninjutsu Healing.’ Is there such a thing?”

A: “Oh, yes. It exists. I’ve written about it in one of my books. And I recently gave a talk on it at Manchester University in Britain.”

Q: “Was your mention of such things in your book very long?”

A: “No, I just touched on the subject.”

Q: “Have there been any articles about your talk in Manchester? Or is there anyone I can contact about it?”

A: “Rose-san... Chris Rose. He might have something on that.”

Q: “The reason why I ask is that I have studied such things as Chinese healing and Indian healing. We use these symbols—these various symbols—for the healing process, but very few people really understand what the symbols are.”

A: “People are always looking for the miracle pill. There are such providers of knowledge in all lands. But they always grow old and die as well. People try to look far and wide for all the answers. But they forget to recognize that which is good within their own land. It’s kinda like Japanese houses. This is the land of wood. Over the years, the traditional Japanese house of wood and ‘tatami’ has been replaced with Western style architecture. Only now have people realized in hindsight that sticking with Japanese houses might have been better.”

Q: “Yeah. There’s nothing like sitting in a ‘tatami’ room with good ventilation during the summer, is there?”

A: “No, there’s not. The things you ask cannot be taught or learned on a mental level. They have to be discovered and learned through personal experience.”

Q: “Like what you talked about today with Taijutsu techniques?”

A: “Exactly. Even if I were to explain things to you, it wouldn’t matter. Because it is different for every person. Ten different people will have ten different interpretations. But after all, isn’t that what medicine is? A doctor’s purpose is to heal his patients, but he must adjust the medicine, treatment, time, and so on to meet the personal needs of each patient. He has to understand the patient from the patient’s point of view. In a way, he has to be the patient.”

Q: “I see.”

A: “I have tenth dans whom I am still correcting daily on their mistakes. This is because ‘they haven’t got it.’ But when they do, everything will come together.”

Q: “I see you have to go. You’ve been very kind. Thank you.”

A: “You’re welcome.”

July 16 (Tuesday)
“Kihon Happo... learning Kihon happo requires learning things other than Kihon Happo, like Biken Happo, Bugei Juhappan, and Ninja Juhakkei. By learning these other things, you will eventually come to understand Kihon Happo.”

“Naginata, bo, yari... By learning the character of these different weapons, you will come to understand Kihon Happo. Those around the world who have not been training with me over the last four or five years truly don’t understand this point.”

“When one begins learning an art—gets involved in the fine arts—there’s a belief in Japan that the best age to do so is the sixth day of the sixth month after your sixth birthday. And they say that you can finally get your art down on the sixth day of the sixth month after your sixty-sixth birthday.(He laughs) I feel that only now — now that I’ve reached that age — am I finally able to teach you all what Takamatsu-sensei was teaching me... I feel kinda bad that it’s taken me this long to be able to teach this way to you all.”

“Everyone’s not using their legs.”

“If you let them go here, they will get away from you. Follow them and control their movement like this.”

“If you had killed them, then they would be useless here.” (They’d be on the ground and all limp so you couldn’t use them as a shield.)

“As you can see, there’s just too much stuff. It’s so minute as well. That’s why I cannot put this stuff into books... Books are for kindergartners. You know, you learn from books when you don’t know anything, like when you’re in kindergarten. After that, their not needed... Modern education is misguided. That’s because it doesn’t teach you how to live.”

“You have to turn your ‘saya’ to the side, so you can cut straight to their ‘do.’”

“Don’t forget to push your ‘saya’ back. It will help you to draw.”

“You’re not trying to cut them. You’re trying to hold them. If you had cut them, you could not move freely if there was another attacker.”

“Too many people think swords are just for cutting. That’s silly. They can be used for striking...use the ‘tsuba,’ the ‘tsuka,’ the ‘saya,’ as well. They can be used for holding, tying up, or cutting.”

“If you use swords only for cutting, you would be like the ‘tsurigiri.’ And that’s silly. (In ancient times, ‘tsurigiri’ was the practice of wandering around at night choosing random victims on which to practice your sword techniques. Obviously, this was illegal and looked down upon. Its modern equivalent is buying a new gun, then going out to a nearby playground to practice your target shooting. Obviously, it’s bad for morale.)”

“This stuff cannot be taught. It has to be discovered for yourself.”

“By turning your body this way, you will completely amputate their foot at the ankle here.”

“I am showing you this so you do not think that Mutto Doori is the end.”

“Don’t hit their arm with your ‘tsuka’ from the side like this. Practice hitting straight on... No, you people are not using your bodies. Lift your knee like this as you step back then rock forward and whack ’em. It hurts.”

“You can hit them with the ‘tsuba’ as well. That hurts worse.”

“Don’t look at your weapons! Don’t look at your opponent! Look at everything around you. You don’t know how many opponents could be around you.”

“It’s okay if you didn’t get it. That’s what practice is for. Just keep doing it until you get it. It will come... (After several embarrassing minutes in front of everyone.) Good. See you did it.”

“Look with your feet.” (Initially, this statement was mistranslated during practice as “Look at the feet,” because the concept was so...different.)

“You can tell who has been practicing and who hasn’t by looking at their movement.”

“You could have two swords like this (on both hips like a gun slinger). And you could draw them like this. (Draws them simultaneously with the hand of the same side) Don’t think, ‘Oh, my sword has to be here on this side.’ Too many writers and movie makers don’t understand this point and always portray swords worn in one way.”

“You could strap another sword on your back like this and have three swords. You could have a ‘daito’ and a ‘shoto’ on this side, and a ‘tachi’ here, and another one on your back... Try to be better armed than Robocop.)”

“For this one, when they come to punch, you merely draw your sword halfway. They’ll freeze in fear, and their other limbs won’t come in to attack... You’re trying to control them — encompass them—here. They will be unable to attack you. Then you can talk to them and try to calm them down. Ask them, ’Why does life have to be so short?’ (He laughs) If they don’t get your point (that it’s stupid to punch someone wearing a sword), then just slide forward as you finish drawing, and kill them.”

At one point, someone piped up with a comment worth writing: “I was just talking with Sensei and he asked me to share our conversation with you. I just mentioned that it looked like many people were not practicing with the intensity they would need in ‘jissen.’ I mentioned that many people were just going through the movements and drawing their swords. Sensei has mentioned before that these techniques should be practiced for real combat. Later, when he mentions another point, everyone focuses on that point, forgetting about the other things he said, such as the importance of combat utility. Looking around, it seems like people forget his previous comments as soon as a new one is made. That is because they want to be spoon-fed everything, like babies.... Some people actually say that Hatsumi-sensei is not a good teacher because he doesn’t constantly say those things. But that is just because those people expect to be spoon-fed. They don’t take responsibility for their own training. And that is a true shame.”

July 19 (Friday)
(Before practice) “I got a letter from the President of Argentina. He said that the Bujinkan has developed nicely, not only in Argentina, but throughout the world.”

“Your martial arts training is your own experience.”

“I am teaching to fifth dan or above—those with the feeling. Strive for the feeling, not the technique.”

“I’ve told everyone this over and over. Always lower your hips when someone goes to throw you like this.”

(Talking about moving into ichi-monji) “It is important to have the Kihon down here.”

(Talking about moving back into ichimonji against a judo throw) “When you can do the first step correctly, you can do ‘henka.’”

“You need to make sure you don’t cut yourself when you draw your sword. If you tried to do that technique and were a woman with breasts, you would have cut your breast off. Or you could cut your nose off. (Don’t laugh.) These things do happen and you need to be aware of them.”

“Everything’s undecided, yet still decided. The opponent never knows what will happen to him and is constantly being put in positions from which he can do nothing.”

“There used to be some swordsmen who would take ‘sake’ into their mouth and then spit on their hilts (I don’t know why, folks.). Others would just swallow the ‘sake,’ rather than waste it. You know, alcohol abuse. (He laughs) ... You can only use Japanese ‘sake’ for this—good ‘sake.’ You could also set fire to your hilt, too, if you wanted. (But why would I want to?)”

“Sword is a stiff weapon. You may move very softly without a sword, but when you use one, there is a tendency to stiffen up. It should be the other way around. You should be able to make the sword soft like your taijutsu. (Point well taken)”

July 23 (Tuesday)
“I mentioned before about the importance of Kihon Happo. Without them, you cannot understand the Happo Biken, and you cannot understand the sword.”

“This is why I tell you not to withdraw your sword once you’ve gotten it in their bodies. Turn the blade down like this (sound effect) and then with all your weight, drop your knees and grind it down into them.”

“Stick your sword straight down here (the soft spot near the clavicle) and then they can’t move.”

“Use dead bodies.”

“If you stick your tip all the way through them and into the ground, they become an object you can use to your advantage. Line the dead bodies up one beside the other and build a wall. This could act as cover against arrow attacks, for example.”

“Using dead bodies like this would also be effective against horses. The horses have armor and so do the riders. They would be too heavy to jump and would trip.”

“You could also hide behind the bodies like this. And when your enemy gets close, you can stab them through the openings (between their arms, etc.) like this.”

“You must be willing to use everything at your disposal, including dead bodies. Like that Argentinean rugby team that went down in the mountains. They actually had to eat bodies to stay alive.” (Depicted in the movie “Alive,” I believe.)

(To a practitioner) “You have to be aware of your body. You are taller than him, so you have to drop down a little and then rise up to make it more effective.”

“Know your body and your weapon. If you arms are long and your blade short and you go to do this technique, you may accidentally draw your sword when you don’t want to, and be killed because of that mistake.”

(To a practitioner) “Doing the central technique is very important. Don’t do ’henka’ until you get the central technique down first.” “Everyone has his or her own style... I won’t tell you which one is correct.”

“It not a block. Use your spirit to immobilize them.”

“Everyone has this spookiness within them. You must learn to release it to control the situation.”

“There are times when even the best swordsman can’t draw. For example, when you are in room with a low ceiling. You go to draw like this and it hits the ceiling. So you need to be able to respond to every situation, perhaps by re-sheathing your sword and going to your knees to draw.”

“There is no difference between the dans after the fifth. There is no difference between a fifth dan and a tenth dan. All fifth dans or above should be training with me. For that is the only way to learn this art. I am not saying this to be mean; I’m saying this because of my age. I feel that this is the best time for me to be sharing this art with you all. In a few years, I’ll be hunched over like this using a walking stick. You won’t be able to see anything then. (He laughs at this reality I wish never happens.)”

“Move your left leg as if drawing a picture with it.”

“Moving this left foot back is like dancing...like the salsa... That’s why the Argentinean president sent me a letter the other day. (He laughs)”

“Move your left leg, not your middle one.) ... I’m not being facetious here. In times of battle, many times men’s balls would shrivel up. (Don’t ask me why, folks.) If you were able to be hanging freely during such trying times, that was quite an accomplishment.”

“The books and videos I make are merely guides. If you don’t train with me, you will never understand these movements. They can’t be gained merely from these materials. That’s why I no longer like to release such things. Too many people just watch the videos and teach directly from them. This is a mistake. The videos are guides, that’s all. I do, however, recommend you get a hold of the videos available for the various Tai Kais. Use them as a reference for understanding these movements.”

(At the end of practice) “If you have a sword when you are in seiza (sitting on your knees) keep it on your left like this. If there is someone of high status sitting in front of you, turn your sword over so the blade (curve) is inside. This is so you cannot draw it against them. This is proper manners. As well, rather than having your hilt pointing straight forward, point it out (to 11:00) like this.”

(At the end of practice) “You cannot understand Taijutsu by merely meditating... We are not all priests.”

“Taijutsu’s very free with its movement. Nothing’s set. There is no strong and weak. The most important thing is to survive.”

July 26 (Tuesday)
“Most arts nowadays teach you only to cut on the outside. You have to learn how to cut on the inside (once you’ve penetrated).”

(To four ‘attackers’ and the sole ‘victim’) “Your job is to kill him together. And your job is to be killed.)”

(As the attackers circled, they would slowly cut him with a ‘kiri age’ technique, then move back into Hasso no kamae. The victim said, “They’re creating an illusion by circling me like that. I can’t tell when they’re going to attack.” To which, Hatsumi replied,) “Exactly! Taijutsu is the ability to create illusions and mask your true purpose. It’s like good manners. There are people in Japan who have terrible manners, but they mask that fact by pretending to have good manners in certain situations.”

“As Noguchi-sensei just said to me, ‘It’s not the form you should be focusing on.’ That is so true. Taijutsu is about living. If you cannot feel, you are already dead. Taijutsu is feeling.”

“The simplest is always the most difficult.”

“I’m making you do this to purge you of your worst habits. Some of you tilt your head this way; others use too much strength. This requires absolutely no strength.”

“This is moving meditation. The thing that makes it meditation is that the movement must be done without the will to make it happen. Make your movement smooth.”

“Don’t let your sword drop too low on this one. You’ll just waste time and motion. Extend your thumb like this to stop your sword from dropping.”

“People who hold their sword like this are very dangerous. It’s very fast. For example, if you are exhausted from battle you might use your sword like a walking stick. If someone comes to attack you, you have an instant ‘kiri age’ like this.”

“Use this technique to practice your distancing.”

“This is like a karate upblock. For those of you who’ve done karate, it should be familiar.”

“I’ve told you all over and over that Taijutsu is not one on one. It’s one on five...one on ten...one on infinity.”

August 13 (Tuesday)
“The other day I mentioned to you that it is the little things that are most important. Do you know (some dude’s name)? That criminal who was apprehended in Argentina? They finally were able to track him down and capture him because of a few minute details. This illustrates my point.”

“Your movement is too big. Make it tighter. Remember the little things.”

“Don’t think of cutting them with the tip. If you do so, you will give the man opening.”

“This is a technique for showing how to cut someone by merely moving your pivot point. Moving from here to here cuts, and so does this.” (I commented that it was like dicing a carrot on a cutting board where you just kinda rock the blade over the pivot point to cut. To which Hatsumi-sensei said) “That’s right. You have to hold them there or they’ll get away. Like when you cut an eel. If you don’t hold it down when you cut, it will slither away from you.”

(To his uke-of-the-day) “Your arms should be fully extended and you must keep constant pressure on them. It’s scary, isn’t it? There’s nothing you can do, is there?”

“When most people are doing this technique, they are setting themselves up to move either left or right. They should be trying to be centered. Then, from there, they can go to either side. Things will just be born from there.”

“Walking is very important.”

“Human beings become adults once they’ve learned how to walk. Infants can’t walk. Small children who enter kindergarten are still learning their faculties. Only when you can walk, do you become an adult.”

“Some people do their Kihon Happo as they trudge around like sumo wrestlers. They don’t realize how important walking is. That is a true shame. The finer details of learning to walk will improve their Kihon Happo. That is, after all, what Kihon Happo is.”

(To everyone before being called out in pairs to practice) “If you see an opening, take it. Don’t give them anything.” (As a result, things got *really* physical.)

(To someone doing a takedown) “Even after you took him down, he got a kick in as he rolled. Be careful.”

“Work together with your ‘uke’ to help each other to improve.”

(After a black belt male goes easy with his green belt female ‘uke’) “Don’t underestimate a woman. Don’t hold back against them in a fight. They are your equals.” (The man is told to do the technique again and ends up getting taken down himself instead.) “See! What did I tell you?” (The room erupts in laughter and applause. The black belt is embarrassed, but a good sport. The green belt quietly returns to her place with her partner.)

(To a practitioner) “Your sword is not cutting straight down (from Dai Jodan.) Noguchi, come here and teach him. If your sword wavers like that, you will be killed.”

“Everyone practice this cutting down. Tell your partner if his sword is straight.”

“I am teaching ‘Shin-Gi-Tai-Ichi.’ (The bringing together of the spirit (‘shin’), technique (‘gi’), and body(‘tai’) into one (‘ichi’)).”

“I have corrected several people today. Being corrected is not a reason to be embarrassed. You are all very good. I teach from fifth dan on up. They are all the same in my eyes. Fifth dan, tenth dan, eleventh dan. All of them should be corrected if they are doing something wrong.”

“You must throw away your bad habits to get good.”

August 16 (Friday)
“You’ve got to get this lock without them knowing that you’ve got the lock.”

“Don’t throw their blade to far with this, you will lose control, and you may be cut.”

August 23 (Friday)
“When you’re cutting someone you want to stop your sword at that point. Many people practice cutting through ‘makiwara’ or bamboo, but that is no good. Just because you’ve cut someone, doesn’t mean that they’ve died as soon as your blade touched them. (It’s not a light saber from Star Wars, folks) Someone with a great fighting spirit would still fight on, despite their wounds, and could very easily kill you. You have to stop your blade and be prepared to respond (by moving into ‘kamae’ or whatever) to any subsequent attacks.”

“You need to know your own weaknesses. You need to know the weaknesses of your opponent as well. That way you can exploit them.”

“You can only understand if you’ve had the technique done to you. It’s like food. You can’t describe the taste, but if you’ve tasted it, you know what it is. You have to personally experience it to understand.”

(To a practitioner) “Now that I did the technique to you, you must go and help others to learn it.”

(To a practitioner) “You’re thinking too much. That’s because you are so good that you analyze your movement to make the most effective choice. But you have to learn not to think.”

“I want to confuse my students like this. That way they learn through self-discovery... I am very kind for doing so. (Yeah. Thanks, Soke.)”

“You’ve got to learn to utilize the space (between you and your opponent). Distancing is very important.”

“As you can see, people can completely ruin their technique by having the wrong angling. This technique shows you how important angling is.”

“You’re not moving just one leg back; you’re moving both at the same time.”

“It’s not just wearing armor, but learning to use it to your advantage. If someone attacks you and their sword gets stuck in it, you have to be able to utilize that to your advantage. Or if their weapon gets stuck in your shoulder protection, you have to know how you could whip your body to attack them or break their weapon. That’s why I say that everyone should get armor. That way they’ll understand... Granted, it is expensive. (Yeah. Thanks, Soke.)”

“This is so you can knock over your opponent even if they manage to hit you.”

“A lot of people are twisting too much. Move straight back. It’s not strength, it’s angles.”

“Watch my feet!”

“You are not just pulling your right leg back, you’re pulling both back (it’s just that the other leg looks like it’s not moving.)”

“This point is very important. From here you can do anything.”

“It’s up to you to make it work for you. From fifth dan on up, I am not responsible for you. It’s up to you to figure things out.”

August 27 (Tuesday)
“Those who think only of themselves are no good, be it in life or martial arts. They are the same thing.”

“In martial arts you must have the ability to see with two eyes. One is for examining oneself. The other is for evaluating others... Actually, those two eyes come together to create one vision, so to progress you need still another set of eyes. That is what the fifth dan sense is.”

“People who say teach me this or teach me that are being childish. It’s their responsibility to pull what they can out of these things. That’s training. This isn’t school.”

“You can’t go into battle asking people teach me this or teach me that. No one will do that. It’s your job to ‘teach’ yourself through experience. So when fifth dans train in this (childish) way, they need to grow up.”

“You don’t just want to kill them. You want to kill their spirit, too. You’re saying, ’I can kill you here, or here, or here.’ Then kill them.”

“Swords aren’t just for cutting.”

“The worldwide level of Bujinkan is rising. Those who can’t recognize that are no good.”

“You can also take both arms, but this requires and extra long hilt. That is why the swords I have been getting made have an extra couple of centimeters. Confrontations will be decided in the width of a piece of paper, so the extra length can mean the difference between living and dying.”

“Tie your tassel to the inside of your ‘tsuba’ (through one of the holes) so they can’t see that it’s tied. Then you can throw it and draw it back to you. You could also spin it around like this (Looks of horror as Hatsumi-sensei whips a ‘mogito’ around his head. He laughs.)”

“Do this over and over to learn the flow.”

“Never lose contact with their sword or you risk being killed.”

“Don’t be afraid of getting cut.”

“It’s okay if they hit you with their sword. Occasionally, they won’t cut you, like if they were using a heavy ‘tachi.’ And if you’re in armor, it may save you as well.”

“You’ve got to be able to split their (finger or toe) nail...have that much power.”

Note: Hatsumi-sensei was gone to Atlanta for the Tai Kai on both August 30 (Friday) and September 3 (Tuesday)

September 10 (Tuesday)
“If you swing your sword down normally like this, it will give off a sound. But if you extend your arms and push your sword out and stop it at this point, it won’t.”

“You can also turn your sword over (so the blade is up then swing down, twisting the blade down at the end to cut them). This also makes no noise... The opposite is also true. Have the blade normal, then turn it over to hit your opponent with the spine of the sword. This too makes no noise.”

“It’s important to know how to swing your sword without making any noise. If you can’t do this, then you cannot assassinate someone. Someone, maybe even your victim, may hear the whistle of your sword.”

“Remember: once you hit them there, your sword is stuck in their arm. You can’t just whip it around. You have to twist it as you lift it to move effectively. Use your body!”

“Don’t use your arms for the cut, because they can read your movement. If you pull your hilt butt to your forearm like this, it is faster and they can’t see it coming.”

“Keep your elbows in tight. If they are not, you cannot generate any power.“

“The Tai Kai had way too many people—almost 600. People were bumping into each other; it was very dangerous.” (For future reference, he mentioned that about 500 is optimal.)

“When your opponent is punching at you, all his focus is on that punching arm. So by punching his other arm (the one ’covering’ him), you take control by changing his focus (and his balance). Then by punching his punching arm from there, don’t retract your arm, you once again change his focus and have control of him. If he tries to punch from there with his cover arm, then just use your elbow to press down on his arm. He can’t move. Then just do this (and knock him on his butt).”

“Make sure you are set when you go to punch them. Otherwise you will have no power.”

“Your second punch here actually holds his other arm against his body. He couldn’t attack you even if he wanted to.”

“Practice this very slowly, to make sure you have no openings.”

“Do that technique using only Taijutsu.”

September 13 (Friday)
“The U.S. Tai Kai had over 600 people. This shows how the Bujinkan has grown.... There were many people who were very good in their own ways.”

“Those who cannot put their faith in others are no good. We must all trust others to improve. Those who cannot trust will never get good.”

“Everyone thinks they have a sword in their hands, so they try to use it as a sword. For this technique, use your sword as a chain.”

“To defeat a superior swordsman, for example, you have to use your sword, not as a sword, but rather as something else, like a chain or a rope.”

“Use inertia (of you flipping them) to throw your weapons.”

“Don’t throw your swords.” (He laughs after he shows a throwing technique, says “Play!” then realizes there are over sixty people brandishing swords in a very small area.)

“Don’t use arm strength.”

“It doesn’t matter if they’re big or small. They’ll go down with this.”

“If your opponent is big, you need to let them go at that point. Let their own body take them down for you. If you don’t let go, you may get taken down with them.”

“You guys are grasping things that are impossible to grasp... There’s an old saying that if you think it’s there, it’s not. As well, if you think it’s not there, it’s there. That’s the art of Taijutsu.”

“You are all improving nicely... I’m not saying that just to be nice, either. You really are. Keep going with your training.”

Ben lives, trains, and sleeps in Japan. He very much enjoys hearing from people via e-mail during his work as a underappreciated cog in the Toyota machine. He may be reached at 6550827@tmail. toyota.co.jp


Two Views of One Ultimate Reality
by Stephen K. Hayes

In recent teaching sessions, I have emphasized the importance of observing the right and left hand, or in and yo (yin and yang), or Taizokai and Kongokai, of the polarities of experience and awareness in martial arts training.

Experience stands for the years of actually doing the physical things that make up our training. This over and over again repetition of becoming familiar with the capabilities of the mind and body in harmony is the only way to be able to perform should the pressure be turned against us someday.

Awareness stands for the extensive study and examination of that which makes up what we experience in martial arts training. This probing and questioning and scenario construction is the only way to be able to realize the value of that which we experience.

Too much emphasis on one aspect throws our progress dangerously out of balance. Experience without the enriching clarity of awareness is wheel-spinning at its most pointless; any lessons gained from the experience can only occur by mere random accident. Awareness without the pragmatic grounding of experience is dream-spinning at its most futile; there is no proving ground for the theories and philosophies.

During my training visit with Masaaki Hatsumi in Japan last year, I had the opportunity to consider in more depth this experience/awareness dual focus required for gaining the most from Hatsumi Sensei’s 900 year old Bujinkan tradition. The perfection of the ninja’s taijutsu combat art must be seen as a two-part development in which the kihon fundamental basic techniques are reflected against the henka nagare spontaneous adaptability and flow. A firm foundation in the basic building blocks of the movements and principles of our combat method is essential for the eventual development of the ability to flow and adapt spontaneously, creatively, and appropriately with an assailant’s attacking motions. On the other hand, extensive exposure to, and repetition of, free-moving scenarios of multiple action attacks requiring presence of mind are essential for the eventual development of the ability to actually utilize the basics in a successful fashion. You can not call your training realistic self-defense unless you incorporate fully both aspects of the process. With this reality so stated, it is now important to warn our students and potential students of the art that it is easy to be fooled into misunderstanding our art as one of weakness if sufficient time is not devoted to exploring both sides of the training. This controversial statement means that the “tourist” who takes in a few seminars, a demonstration or two, or jets to Japan for a couple of quick sessions with Masaaki Hatsumi is likely to see only one side of the process and come up with an incomplete picture. It really can seem to the outsider that we are involved in two separate arts at the same time. Indeed, to some degree this could actually reflect a tiny hint of truth.

On one hand, the art is one of methodical and reliable ways to break bones, damage tissues, and render joints useless. This is the kihon, or fundamental, level of training emphasized in our pre-black belt portions of the training. Our emphasis on pragmatism can, however, be unappreciated by those who are looking for flashy moves, exciting action, and “martial artiness.” The tourist observing only the kihon tends to complain that the training is too brutal and has none of the electricity and theatrics of the more conventional sport contest and entertainment martial arts.

On the other hand, the art is one of fluid and captivating action that effortlessly pulls the assailant in to cause him to create his own demise. This is the nagare, or flow, level of training emphasized in our black belt portions of the training. Our emphasis on effortless effectiveness can, however, be unappreciated by those who are looking for toughness, tension, speed and snap. and conventional martial “macho-ness.” The tourist observing only the nagare tends to complain that the training is too soft and has none of the explosiveness and precision of the more conventional athletic and image-conscious martial arts.

Both tourists are of course missing the same boat, only from different piers. Is this the bone smashing drag ’em to the ground fighting method of Japan’s original no nonsense espionage agents, or is this the effortless flowing body movement art of the spiritual warrior who has attained his enlightenment through letting go of the need to prove his strength to lesser persons? The answer of course is yes to both, but only for those persons willing to devote the awareness necessary to view both sides of the picture at the same time.

Stephen K. Hayes first traveled to Japan to find the school of his teacher Masaaki Hatsumi over twenty years ago. As the “elder brother” of everyone in the Bujinkan Dojo of the Western Hemisphere, he introduced the taijutsu martial art to the western world in the early 1980s. He was made a member of the Black Belt Hall of Fame in 1985 for his pioneering work. For the past 6 years, he has served as personal security escort for the Dalai Lama of Tibet, Nobel Peace prize winner. He is the author of 17 books, and has been publishing his Musubi monthly newsletter for over 18 years. Stephen K. Hayes and his wife Rumiko can be reached at Stephen K. Hayes Academy of Martial Arts, 6263 Far Hills Avenue, Dayton, Ohio 45459. For information on seminars, books, tapes, and on-going training in their dojo, you can phone (937) 436-9990.


Communication Through the Heart
by Pedro Fleitas

That day we had participated in the training that Hatsumi Sensei led at Someya Dojo. When it finished, my friends Arnaud Cousergue (France), Paco Roldan (Spain) and myself got ready to take the train.

The main aspects of our conversation during this trip, and even in our previous meetings, was how we could communicate in a deeper way with Master Hatsumi and avoid the language boundary.

At that moment Arnaud was proposing something interesting and I was trying to look for parallel ways, and vice versa. In this way we were looking for the ideal way to communicate and have deeper and more meaningful conversation with Soke.

We were inside the train, which was empty, and were alone in the wagon, discussing solutions to this problem. Suddenly the train stopped in a medium station and a Japanese who was drunk came into the wagon. He almost couldn’t stand up, and, as fate would have it, he seated himself in front of us. At first we ignored him, but suddenly, this Japanese man, with a wish to establish a conversation with us, asked us in Japanese, “Where do you come from?” “From France,” answered Arnaud; from Spain I answered, also pointing to Paco who was seated on my right. “I am Sato,” he told us afterwards. At the same time we repeated our names using what little knowledge we had of the language of the country of the rising sun. We asked him if he spoke English. “A little,” he replied in harmony with the train, his drunken movements barely controllable. Suddenly there was silence, and I remember that I looked into his eyes and I felt something strong; there was something in him ...

Suddenly he made signs that he wanted to write something for us. Arnaud offered him a note-book he had in his hands at the moment and a pen. The Japanese man, making an ability puddle, took the notebook with one hand and the pen with the other hand. Barely able to keep from falling over, he wrote something on the note-book, and gave the note-book back to us. Imagine our surprise when we read in perfect English:

“It does not matter the language. Spirit, mind and heart are the most important things.”

At that moment Arnaud and I looked at each other without knowing what to say, and we both looked at the Japanese man, who, having arrived at his destination, parted with the traditional Japanese reverence.

I can still “see” how he drunkenly got off the train, nearly unable to stand up, and how, after the wagon door closed and the train started moving, the Japanese man, stopped completely in front of the door, and gave us one last reverence.

Of course this is something we will never forget, my companions and I. Especially if we think that it was the answer to our question. “How do we carry a deep conversation with our teacher?” We had just received the answer:

“It does not matter the language. Spirit, mind and heart are the most important things.”

This piece is excerpted from the book “Artes Marciales Bujinkan Dojo” (Martial Arts of the Bujinkan Dojo) by Pedro Fleitas. Pedro encourages fellow budoka to visit his web site at:http://www.algonet.se/ ~helmet/BUJINKAN/VIDEO/ PEDRO/videos.htm or to contact him via e-mail at unryu@lix.intercom.es


Injuries in the Martial Arts
by Bo Munthe

Through my e-mail I got information from the States about how to cure injuries sustained in Martial Arts training. In this article I want to tell the people in Martial Arts my view of the training, a training that sometimes leads to injuries and sometimes, which I hope is more often than not, leads to mental development.

In my last two articles in Ura & Omote I have been talking about the importance of the inner side of Martial Arts training. There will always be a need for curing injuries, of course, since most of the trainees in this art put their emphasis on the physical side of the training. It is important to learn how to cure the injuries that might result in the training curing. Chinese Herbal Medicine is one way of curing injuries that works efficiently for martial artists.

From the information that I’ve read I think that for most minor injuries (i.e. scrapes, small cuts, etc.), Chinese Herbal Medicine could be used effectively, with little side effects. However I wouldn’t go about curing a serious dim mak strike with herbal medicine — this could be fatal. Knowing when to seek proper medical is as important as knowing how to treat yourself.

If a Martial Artist has been injured during training there are some aspects I want to mention:

  1. the training has been to hard, or wrong
  2. the training partner has been too hard in his training or worse, lacking in knowledge of the technique
  3. no control from the instructor
  4. no respect between the two trainees

Whatever the reason for the injury, there must be a proper physical examination of the problem. To treat serious injuries by yourself could be fatal. Only persons with great knowledge of how the body functions should do it, and even they will say that a physical examination of the injured place must be done.

During my 38 years of training in the Martial Arts I have seen many injuries. Most of them has been during beginners training or during competition.

My own opinion of competition in Martial Arts, as most of the readers probably know by now — but for those who do not know it — I feel that competition and Martial Arts are two counterparts. The true Martial Art, as I see it, should be done with a goal of finding inner strength, and through that injuries should be out of the question.

For those who enjoy competition it is allright, but as far as I see it, its a kind of modern tournament, mostly without stressing the inner side. Money, reputations, winning symbols are not things that belongs to the way a true warrior, or Martial Artist is walking.

I know that many people do not agree with me about this. But if every person was thinking as I did, the world wouldn’t be as funny a place to live, not even for me.

To train in the Bujinkan is a way to train your inner side. Not all people realize that. I hope the time will come when they do.

Bo Munthe was born in Stockholm Sweden 1943. He is a teacher in Martial Arts, mental development and conflict-handling. He also works as a security-consultant for working-groups that are jeopardized by threat and violence at work. He has written several books on Martial Arts and conflict-handling, as well as several articles on the same subject. He has also, since 1983, traveled around the world holding seminars in Self-protection and Martial Arts. He can be reached via at e-mail: bo.munthe@mailbox.swipnet.se


Reflections on Tai Kai 96
by Maximiliano Formento

It was 5:00 a.m. on Friday, August 30th. The day that I had been waiting for had finally arrived. I was on my way to a Tai Kai for the first time. Every year I would make plans to go, but in the end I would never be able to swing it financially. However, this year’s event was special. The Tai Kai started it’s annual festivities one day after my birthday and with a few generous monetary birthday gifts from my family, I was able to attend.

When Eric (my flight partner and roommate at the hotel) and I got to Atlanta, we felt like kids on a field trip. We were going to see the big “boss” for the first time and we were both very excited about it. Naturally, this event brought many questions to mind. Questions such as, “What is he like in person?” “What kind of training does he offer at a Tai Kai?”

By the end of the Tai Kai, all of these questions and more had been answered. Yet, many more have come to mind that still need to be answered. One in particular that kept popping up in my mind was “How does he do it?!?” His grace amazed me. He was as fluid as the flight of an eagle — literally poetry in motion. His humor and brightness gave the lessons he taught a final touch — like a cherry on an ice cream sundae.

These are a few of the many things he taught that stand out strongly in my mind:

  • Forget about the technical think about using your body
  • Go back to zero
  • Learn Budo Taijutsu so that he can start teaching Ninjutsu again
  • Control the flow and true points of your body. Every time I watched Hatsumi Sensei do a technique on Andrew Young, he had total control of his body. He would step on Andrew’s feet, his knees would control Andrews legs while he would grab Andrew’s arms at the same time.
  • Technical points on drawing the daito and shoto including drawing the daito with your left hand.
  • Finer points and details on cutting up and down from tenchi and kongo and sideways up and down from chudan.

The Godan test was given to 22 people at the same time and Hatsumi Sensei didn’t stop for a moment. He taught as he tested and all 22 people passed. This says something very good about the training in America. We had the largest group of practitioners gathered with 502 and counting. This high number doesn’t include the spectators and guests who gathered to watch. I believe the total was well over six hundred people.

Something very significant happened to me during the Tai Kai. I never had any doubts about my Shidoshi’s teachings and I realized the things Hatsumi Sensei spoke of and taught during the weekend where exactly the same as what Jean-Pierre teaches at New York Budo. Shidoshi Hayes himself teaches the same way in his curriculum as well. They both may have different approaches and have stylized things according to their personalities, but the end result according to Hatsumi Sensei’s teachings remains identical. I was glad to have had the opportunity to see and feel this “truth” for myself. It made concrete the fact that I am, literally, in good hands.

I was also fortunate to win one of the categories in the “Ugly Tie” contest. I am proud to say that my tie won “The Tie Most Likely to Cause an Accident” award. I even got a certificate signed by Soke. My thanks go to the lovely Bonnie Malstrom for inventing the contest to begin with.

The banquet on the last night of training was very nice and filled with happiness and positive messages from Bud and Bonnie Malstrom, Shidoshi Hayes and the Tai Kai community. Everyone shook hands to the song “Power of a Dream” (the theme song for this year’s Olympics), and as gift to Hatsumi, Bud and Bonnie presented him with a collector’s coin from the Olympics which was issued by the U.S. Government. Bonnie also gave him two bricks — which were duplicates of bricks used to build Centennial Park where the Olympics were held. One of the bricks was inscribed, “Hatsumi Sensei, Ninjutsu Soke” and the other’s inscription read “Bonnie and Mariko, Dear Friends.” (Mariko, Sensei’s wife was not present at the Tai Kai because she was ill. It would be great if we would all send her some positive energy so that she may get better more quickly.) At the end of the evening, the DJ played some music so we could all practice our ninpo dancing skills.

One of the most beautiful aspect to events like this is the bonding that forms between groups. People who you only see at the dojo become close friends, and you’re able to relax, laugh and joke with them. I would like to acknowledge and thank Jason for being such a great group leader,. Eric for being a great study partner and roommate, Vinnie for making me laugh all the time, Tracy, Alexandra, Lee, Scott, Chris, Dave, Tony, Leonard (and his friend) and Ryan for being part of the New York Budo group. You guys made my first Tai Kai unforgettable.

Max Formento is currently a 3rd kyu student at New York Budo. He is a practitioner of ninpo taijutsu, budo taijutsu or ninjutsu — whichever you prefer. Contrary to popular belief, Max is an extremely good dresser — ugly ties notwithstanding — and his ninpo dancing skills are pretty good, too. Max can be reached via the editor at Ashidome@aol.com.


Observations on the Atlanta Tai Kai
by Jay King

“Return to zero.” It was all the way back in 1982 when I first heard this saying. Hatsumi Sensei was discussing blocking techniques. If you execute a down block and remain in that position it will take twice as long to block a strike to the head than if you return your hands to a belt or chest level position. This position, being ‘the zero,’ allows you to respond to the right, left, up or down with minimal effort. It made sense to me then and it still makes sense to me now, but ‘return to zero’ means so much more and yet so much less. Contradictory? Let me explain.

At the 1996 Atlanta Tai Kai, Hatsumi Sensei once again spoke these same three words. Initially, I recalled the blocking, but then three incidences occurred that helped me gain a deeper understanding. First, during a question and answer session, a participant asked Sensei to discuss breathing while performing the Sanshin No Kata. Sensei stood there for only a brief second and stated: “I never thought about it. I just breathe. It’s natural. When I sleep I don’t have to tell my body to breathe. It just does it.”

Now initially I thought this, and many other of the answers given by him that night were circular and superficial. He just blew them off. Of course breathing is important and there are times when breathing is most efficient. Think about ukemi. We have all hit the floor and ‘forgotten’ to breathe. That can really hurt. But if you breathe at the ‘natural’ time, when your body wants to breathe, it doesn’t hurt at all (well, not as much).

Wait a minute! When your body wants to breathe? Isn’t that what Sensei said? You don’t have to think about breathing. Your body knows how to breathe. Your body knows when to breathe. Whether sleeping, falling or practicing Sanshin No Kata, your body knows what to do. Just don’t think about it. Yes, at a quick glance all the answers that night were circular and superficial. But if you look just a little deeper you see the circle turning into a spiral. Like a whirlpool going deeper and deeper. With each turn you’re taken to a new level. A new understanding.

The second incident came in an unlikely form: a television commercial. It went something like, “Grasp the failed illumination between thumb and fingers. While applying gentle downward pressure rotate wrist in a counter clockwise direction. Check device for damage to structural integrity. If damage has occurred, replace with new illumination device in a reverse manner.” What were they talking about? Changing a light bulb. The point they were trying to make is that we often try to make the most simple things difficult. Just look at your hand: five digits, opposable thumb, the ability to grasp. Just reach up there, grab it, and change it. Our hand may not have been designed to change light bulbs, but it was designed to perform similar functions such as picking fruit off a tree.

Hatsumi Sensei said, while describing a technique, “Simple is difficult.” Yes, a technique can be difficult. A natural body movement can also be difficult if we make it so. Don’t think. Just let your body do what it wants to do. It’s simple, yet it’s so difficult.

The third and final incident that helped me gain a new meaning of ‘return to zero’ was the actions of Hatsumi Sensei throughout the Tai Kai. Like an eagle soaring on a thermal current, Sensei would flow from technique to technique. Like a gibbon swinging from limb to limb, Sensei showed no effort in his movement. Like a chameleon catching an insect with its tongue, Sensei’s punches would appear from nowhere with speed and power and then, just as quickly, disappear again.

After watching Sensei, I wondered how he could say he is not a good teacher. But at some point I realized that while most of us see Sensei as having everything to teach us, maybe Sensei sees himself as having nothing to teach us. Maybe he knows that everything we need to know is already inside each and every one of us. Maybe he cannot teach us something that we already know. Maybe he can only guide us.

To me zero is a body acting in a natural way. Zero is a mind devoid of the fear that takes us below zero of the harmful pride that takes us above. Zero is a strong free spirit. Zero is nature.

Was Hatsumi Sensei teaching something new 14 years later? Had his meaning changed? I think not. In 1982, I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t able to get below the surface of his words. But now, in 1996, I had been caught in that whirlpool and taken down a little deeper, to a new level of understanding. Is this the final level? I think not. I hope not! Check back with me in the year 2010 and I’ll tell you then. But remember a whirlpool goes faster the deeper it gets. The ride may just have begun.

Jay King has been training in the Bujinkan since 1982 and now is a student of Ken Harding at the Missouri Bujinkan Dojo in St. Louis, Missouri. He is a doctor of veterinary medicine. He can be reached through Ken Harding at shadowsword@primary.net.


Martial Arts and the Dance of Life
by Philip M. Greeley

I was sitting, mind wandering from the book I was reading to thoughts on its topic, art. Art. Art and life. One and the same. I thought of one particular manifestation of art that I currently study: ninpo taijutsu. Often have I likened it to dance, on several levels; the ‘Antagonistic Dance,’ I once called a fight. The physical requirements of strength, balance and coordination come immediately to mind. So, too, do the aspects of timing, judgment and sensitivity. Critical as these are in relation to an adversary, they nonetheless must be cultivated by the individual, to his or her own ends, own personal growth. I believe this is why it is so often said that the most accomplished practitioners of this art are so good at ukemi. For it is through ukemi, the rolling, tumbling and breakfalling that is just us and the world (or us and life, if you will), that we must really come to terms with who and what we are, and how we relate to this life. How flexible are we? Can we ‘roll with the punches’ — physically as well as spiritually? What is the limit of our endurance? How far can we go? Is this beyond me now, or can I take it a step further?

Dancing, whether with a partner or otherwise, is movement to a beat in music (a simplified version of the classical definition). Thus, there is always something in the background, in the air, to which the dancers move. An energy. A flow. As we study our art we learn to recognize that flow, how and where it is moving, and at what rate — is it adagio (‘slow’), or con brio (‘with fire’)? We also learn how to adapt to it, move with it. Part of that energy, that flow, is what our opponent/adversary is doing? What is their energy? How is it flowing now? What direction is it going in? Just as a couple dancing must not only dance the same dance, they must also be sensitive to where their partner is, where they are going — as well as what’s around them. Such awareness has always had high emphasis in my experience of ninjutsu, whether from the books I’ve read or the instruction I’ve received.

As I study this art, I see it as a reflection of my life. Or, possibly more accurate, I see my life reflected in it. Difficulties, questions arise, like: Where am I with this? Am I as good as I think I am? Am I better or worse? What can I accomplish? What can I do? Why don’t I try to find out? Yes, why not! Learning to trust yourself, your ability, your knowledge, your awareness. Recently, two separate but related incidents served as an example of this.

I was in Europe for the first time, and by myself. I had planned to hitchhike through France and Switzerland to Austria, where I had friends. That, too, would be a first for me. As I got off the ferry in Calais, I was approached by a fellow who was also hitchhiking. We joined up, and shortly ran into another guy, whom the first had met in Dover. A truck driver, he agreed to give us a ride at my new companion’s request. In the way over to the truck, the bells started going off: How do I know these guys are who they say they are? How do I know he’s a truck driver? Is this a setup? Actually, I wasn’t sure that he was the truck driver; I thought they might have been talking about someone else. I figured if it was a car we’d get in, I’d just bail out and find my own way. Well, it did turn out to be a truck — a new, clean, shiny Volvo semi that I figured would not belong to a couple of con artists! And neither of them proved to be any sort of criminal or unfriendly in any way.

I have to say I never had a bad feeling about that situation. You know, the kind you often get before something goes wrong, or you do something you ought not to have done? My concerns were based on my fears — what I learned growing up, from those around me — not my own experiences. I trusted my ability to defend myself — thank you, all senseis and ukes out there! — and my feelings and awareness. And lived through a happy growing experience.

The other example came a few days ago, as I re-read parts of the daily journal I’ve been keeping the last few months. I noted one day that I had a lot of fears going to Europe, by myself, hitchhiking and being alone in countries where I didn’t speak the language. I had a big concern that I wouldn’t meet people, wouldn’t be spontaneous, wouldn’t get help along the way. I could not have been further from the truth. I met so many friendly, helpful people, at such unexpected moments, that its not even funny — but those stories are for another time! My fears were almost completely unrealized. I am reminded of some words of Hatsumi Soke: “All that it’s necessary to do when one faces a barrier is just keep walking, paying it no attention. Just keep going, keep walking and the obstacles disappear!” I would just suggest dancing past them — it may be more fun!

Philip Greeley is a kyu rank student at New York Budo. He welcome commentary and feedback to this article and may be reached via the editor at Ashidome@aol.com.


Did you know...?

(from the Ninjutsu FAQ by Kevin R. Gowen II; kgowen@emory.edu

What is the significance of the elements earth, water, fire and wind?
Taijutsu, the ninja self-protection method, is sometimes taught using an elemental approach based on the Go-dai “five-elements.” This way of teaching introduces taijutsu concepts and movements in a way that is easy for most westerners to understand.

Chi — represented by the Earth element; stands for stability, the attitude of confidence and strength. The confrontation is won before it has started. You stop them in their tracks. You are immovable as a majestic mountain or a mighty oak tree.

Sui — represented by the Water element; stands for responsiveness, the attitude of fade and strike. You withdraw from your aggressor’s attack, and respond with a blast of power. You are as a wave in the surf rising back and then crashing on the shore.

Ka> — represented by the Fire element; stands for expansiveness, the attitude of foresight. You perceive the potential for attack and are committed to stopping the aggression the moment you perceive it. You are as a fireball hurling forward.

Fu — Represented by the Wind element; stands for the attitude of intellect. You are free moving and skillful enough to know exactly where you need to be in order to take control of the aggression, positioning yourself to take advantage of your momentum. You are like a cloud of smoke that one tries to grasp as you slip and curl from between his fingers and out of his grip.

Ku — Represented by the void, the source of all elements. You use your skill to face unknown attacks and acquire the appropriate attitude in response.

Martial Arts Terms: J - N
(from the Scholar Warrior's Dictionary—Japanese)

Jo: Short staff.
Jodan Uke: Block of a strike to the head level (see Jodan) by sweeping forearm upwards across body to just above face.
Jodan: The upper section of the body, the head.
Ju: Ten; Korean—Yull
Juji Uke: Block with both forearms crossed; Korean—Eot Gee Ree Mak Gee

Kakato Geri: Kick where heel is used to strike opponent, generally to the rear. (see Ushiro geri).
Kara Te: (Ancient—China Hand) A style of empty hand fighting whose basics come from China and was further developed in Okinawa and Japan.
Kata: A complete set of choreographed martial movements; Korean—Hyong Poomse
Katana: Japanese curved long sword.
Ken:Closed hand used for various strikes; Chinese—Chuan; Korean—Kwon
Ki Ai: Shout used to harmonize the body and energy during a martial technique; Korean—Key Ap
Ki: Vitality; A Yang counterpart to Blood(Yin), it forms and circulates blood; See San Bao(Chinese); Chinese—Chi
Kiba Dachi: Stance with feet parallel and twice shoulder width apart; Korean—Juchoom Sogi
Ku: Nine; Korean—Ah Hop
Kumite: English-Sparring; Korean—Gay Doo Ghee

Mae Geri: Front Kick. Kick with the ball of the foot impacting target parallel to the kicking leg; Korean—Ap Cha Gee
Mawashi Geri: This kick pivots at the knee, lands perpendicular to the kicking leg, hitting with the ball of the foot; Korean—Dol Ryo Cha Gee
Migi: Right
Mitsuba Dachi: Stance with feet together; Korean—Cha Dhee Ut Sogi

Naginata: A pole arm with a blade affixed to the end designed for slashing.
Naginatajutsu is a well practiced art of the women of Japan.
Naha Te: The martial art which comes from the Naha village in Okinawa.
Naha: One of the three major villages in Okinawa from which Martial traditions spring See also Shuri and Tomari.
Ni Ju: Twenty; Korean—Soo Mul
Ni: Two; Korean—Dool
Nikute: A strike made with the open hand, thrusting forward with the tips of the fingers (Hand generally held vertically) ; Korean -Sohn Ghoot


Selecting a Sword
by Kendall Kelsoe

Many people have been enthusiastic enough to contact me with questions about what kind of sword I would recommend to them for their personal use. Please allow me to share my own opinions along with a few cold, hard facts. To start off, the majority of questions I’m asked involve advice on what kind of sword would be good for combat. I’m asked what Japanese sword maker I prefer, what ancient blade do I personally recommend and so on. Mostly, my fellow sword devotees are most interested in the old Japanese blades used by the ancient Samurai. Needless to say, these legendary swords possess a well-deserved reputation for deadliness and quality. Centuries ago, when swords were still used on the battlefield, an old blade was desired because it had seen combat before, and was less likely to fail in a confrontation. Not all swords produced were of the highest quality, however. The wealthy could afford the best ones, made by artisans whose families for generations worked on perfecting the craft of a well forged blade. The best swords had been thoroughly tested by a variety of methods. Some included cutting condemned prisoners into several pieces, and others used wrought iron plates and very old, primitive swords as test media. A sword created for war had to have the same mettle as the warrior that carried it into battle. The Samurai regarded his sword as his soul, and could have no excuse for losing it. One reason that so many Japanese swords have survived through century after century is that their owners took great pains to care for and preserve them. Not everyone knows how to properly accomplish this, and this is one reason why good ones are getting harder to find. I think of most old swords as artifacts or one-of-a-kind works of art, and that they belong in a museum or private collection. In Japan, they are national treasures, and rightly so.

The Japanese sword is also one of the biggest sacred cows I have ever encountered, with many people worshipping it as the most awesome weapon ever devised by human beings. I’ve met martial artists who firmly believe that a Katana would just simply slice through any non Japanese sword or armor like cheese. To even suggest that there could be any other possibility often makes them lose their temper. There is a book in my personal library that claims that a Katana could easily shear through an M-1 Garand rifle, then a World War II U.S. issue steel helmet, and lastly, their hapless owner. I’ve heard a legend of some Japanese Officer cutting the barrel of a M-2 .50 caliber machine gun off with his ancestral blade during a “banzai” charge from more than a few acquaintances. I seriously doubt these stories are wholly true, if at all. I have never heard of any of this information supported by the Japanese, but rather by westerners who have romanticized and exaggerated the abilities of this excellent weapon. I am most interested in obtaining any sort of historical documentation on this subject, but I have had no luck so far. I have been fortunate enough to have examined a large number of Japanese swords and blades, and only a relative few were not warped, nicked or chipped. I do not believe that a Katana behaves like a “light saber” from “Star Wars.” Still, for those who want to purchase one of these well designed and well made weapons, here’s a guide for the novice.

The main problem in shopping for an antique Katana is dealing with clever fakes. There were schools in Japan that devoted themselves to reproducing copies of famous and priceless swords. These were used by warlords for display, while the genuine swords were stored safely out of sight. Sometimes an old nakago (tang) of a famous sword that had been broken in combat was welded onto a new blade to make it appear to be of great value. The color of the rust on the blade and the rust on the nakago being different is the tell-tale sign of this being the case. I’ve been asked how I would know whether or not an old sword was genuine or not, and my answer is to subject it to a metallurgical x-ray. The other problem is less than honest dealers. When I go to sword shows, I always “play dumb.” When I feign ignorance, I get to enjoy outlandish stories employed to make a piece of junk worth a small fortune. Trust me, I’ve heard some whoppers. The best insurance against this happening is to be as well informed as possible before hunting down a sword. There are many very good books on the subject, so I don’t feel the need to write my own one. Most dealers are honest, remember, because a bad reputation makes their career choice short-lived. It is important to know who you are dealing with. Suffice to say, my attorney once told me that “with words, you’ve got nothing but air. With paper, you’ve got a prayer.” Bad grammar aside, this is a guide to wisdom. A good Japanese sword should have a certificate of authenticity that comes with it.

Now I’ll let you in on my own criteria for selecting a sword. First, I use swords to learn more about swordsmanship, not as an investment to be sold later for a profit. I place a very different value on them. I cut with them, I test them, and I see what they will and won’t do. They must be tough enough to hold up to what I realistically would expect it to be able to do. My sword has to take and hold an edge and not bend or break when cutting. The point must stay sharp after repeated tsuki (thrusts).

Hardness is one of the most important elements in a good sword or knife. Swords need to be able to withstand tremendous amounts of shock without breaking. If a sword is too hard, it will shatter on impact. If too soft, the blade will bend. As many people know, the Japanese approached this problem by making a sword with a very hard edge and a soft body by welding a hard skin over softer core. This was not the exclusive method of making swords in old Japan, by the way. At this point, I will remind the reader that they must take sole responsibility for their own actions and/or inaction’s. We are examining a very dangerous and lethal weapon, so we have to treat it with the utmost respect and caution when using them. The Japanese treated their swords as living beings, worthy of the same courtesy as you and me. For this reason, that’s why we call a razor sharp, tempered blade “live steel.” If you dare, try taking two different blades and strike the edges together real hard. Most likely, one edge will be nicked, and the other will show little or no damage. Be very careful, because sometimes very sharp shards or slivers of metal will fly out and could easily cause an injury. This test will demonstrate which blade is harder than the other. Most of the swords in my own collection readily bite into stainless steel replicas without showing any damage whatsoever.

Next, try a flex test. Carefully bend your blade an inch or two out of line and see if returns to true. If it doesn’t, your blade is improperly tempered. If your sword passes these tests, take it to a wooden post and lightly strike the post up and down with the edge until you feel a positive vibration in one spot. This is what Sir Richard Burton refers to as “the center of percussion.” Here in the states we call this the “sweet spot.” It’s the same spot on a Louisville Slugger baseball bat used to strike the ball. For us that use the sword, this is the optimum spot for chopping cuts. Now make sure the fittings are good and tight so the blade doesn’t fly out of them.

Having braved all these tests, get ready to cut with your sword. To test how sharp your edge is, you can try shaving hair off a part of your body, but this is a rather risky activity if you’ve never attempted it before. Instead, fill a plastic soft drink bottle with water, suspend it with a cord from a tree branch and deliver a Kesa Giri (shoulder to hip, or diagonal cut). This is as much as a test of your ability as it is of your sword. From there, try Take Giri (bamboo cutting) on some fresh, green bamboo. Now, I’d like relate something really SCARY! My student and close friend Brad Hodges one day decided to try something very interesting. He went to a slaughterhouse and bought a fresh cow femur and executed several cuts, including a draw cut and light chop. Brad’s final cut was a chop with slightly more force. His Italian made Del Tin Bastard sword cleanly split the bone all the way through without effort. The largest bone in the human body is the femur (thigh bone), and a cow’s is much, much thicker. I’m certain anyone can draw the obvious analogy. Brad even video taped this gory, but illuminating experiment. I’d now like to comment on modern replicas. I prefer them to antique weapons for a variety of reasons. First, when you buy a good replica, you pay a lot less than an antique, and you know what you’re getting. I have done things with my modern swords that I would never risk with an ancient blade. These things include cutting steel plate used in armor construction and flinging my sword point first into a plywood target repeatedly. If I were to destroy or severely damage my sword while training, I would prefer to be using something I could easily replace. The only blades I have in my collection are the ones that survived very rigorous thrusting and cutting. I train with my live steel as if my life depended on it.

Still, it’s a matter of “buyer beware.” I have seen tangs that are too short to safely stand up to the rigors of powerful cutting (giri) and thrusting (tsuki). If the nakago is too short, it may break free of the tsuka (handle) during cutting. A real Katana had a long nakago that normally took up at least 1/2 of the length of the tsuka (handle). I have seen Katana replicas that had poorly tempered blades, which promptly bent when used to cut bamboo (take). Beware a stainless steel blade that has been “case hardened.” To explain this term, “case hardened” means that only the outer skin of the blade is heat treated to a large degree of hardness, while the core or interior steel is of a lesser hardness. If you sharpen your blade enough, you will expose the softer steel, and your edge will not hold up to constant use. All too often, the hardened outer skin is much too thin (2/1000" in some cases) to be useful for the stress of combat swordsmanship.

The methods of constructing and tempering swords were zealously guarded secrets in olden times. Today, metallurgy is more of a science than art form. Whether or not the Japanese sword was the finest example of the art of sword making is subjective. The Celts were making laminated carbonized swords as early as 800 B.C. The legendary Norse Vikings produced swords as good or better than the Japanese blades nearly a century earlier. There were Mecca’s’ of sword making throughout the world, such as Damascus, Solingen, India, China, Italy, and Spain that all produced premier examples of the art of sword making. The selection of steels used today in modern swords is much better than the steel produced in earlier centuries. Modern quality control and technology produces steel containing exact amounts of desired elements and a minimum of impurities. I have met people at Renaissance Fairs wearing a sword they claimed to have made themselves “folded 300 times, like the Japanese.” I’d ask them why they did this, and they told me “for strength.” Actually, the Japanese folded their steel and placed it back in the forge to burn off the slag and impurities. Repeating this process purified the steel greatly. I know of no Japanese sword maker that ever folded his blades more than fifteen times. My favorite maker, Masamune, crafted swords containing 4,194,304 layers of steel. He used an elaborate method, but never folded his blades 300 times to obtain this effect to my knowledge.

The steel available today already comes out of the smelter ready to be hammered or ground into an excellent edged weapon. I know people that think stainless steel is the best choice for swords. I do not share that opinion. If carbon steel is so bad, why is stainless steel almost never used for tools such as saws, chisels, drill bits and punches? I think stainless steel is great for diving knives, firearms and anything used in an environment where an enhanced resistance to corrosion is desired. There is, of course, a great deal of misinformation and myth about swords and swordsmanship. A little research can go a long way towards learning the correct perspective.

Kendall Kelsoe heads the Austin Kunren Sukisha Dojo, a branch of the American Bujinkan Dojo in Austin, Texas. You can reach Ken at (512) 832-8401 or e-mail him at 104247.2152@compuserve.com


by Matthew Seguin

As an introduction into the concepts of warriorship and awareness Marty Smith and I sat in the meadow of a local state park, just before dusk, waiting for the cool autumn mist to invite us to participate in the evening’s activities. This was Marty’s meadow. As the park’s head naturalist, it is Marty’s job to observe, look after and care for the inhabitants of this serene place; those with whom we now sought to commune.

Marty sat quietly, drifting into himself and joining with his second home. I, on the other hand, sat ever so uncomfortably; trying to remember and focus on hunting skills taught to me as a child: being quite and moving very slowly. As my vision adjusted to the night I focused on shadows, sounds and smells and in time I found enough inner peace to relax and bear witness the world around me. It was not easy, however. The key, as I discovered, was in watching my friend’s face. In a systematic fashion owls and other nocturnal birds setup perches in the nearby trees; and deer moved into the meadow to find a safe haven for the night in the tall grass; while small critters scampered amidst the underbrush all around us. As this happened around us, I observed occasional smiles or a slight turn of the head by Marty, as if in silent greetings or acknowledgment of a sound — a friend.

Rather than trying to achieve a level of understanding I had not yet been exposed to, I decided to share his experience and borrow some of his inner peace to guide me though the evening’s introductions and in redirecting my focus, to my surprise, it worked. I was truly saddened when our time with the meadow came to an end.

I bring this story into the light of day because it signifies a beginning of a path towards a new awareness. As a research microbiologist, I am trained to be a professional observer of life and its processes. Learning something new, everyday, is a personal gift I truly enjoy. And yet, despite my formal abilities, until the night in the meadow, I was never fully cognizant of just how aware our environment is. The meadow animals’ sense of awareness was one of main points in our discussion later that evening in the park. All of the animals seemed acutely aware that we were in their meadow. Our presence was tolerated under a silent but very strict survival guideline. Their lives depend on their ability to distinguish between friend and foe. They couldn’t afford to daydream, get lost in thought, or be so preoccupied by life’s little complications that they lose this sense of awareness.

Another principal thought for me was the recognition that we, as civilized animals, need to focus on and re-cultivate this natural sense of awareness within ourselves if we ever hope to achieve true inner peace. Over the year and a half since my experience in the meadow, I have pondered the question of ‘How to accomplish this conceivably simple task,’ but with only limited success. It was while in attendance at the recent Tai Kai in Atlanta that a minor breakthrough in my paradigm occurred. During a late evening conversation, with some Bujinkan friends, I identified an error in my analytical tactics. I realized that a heightened sense of awareness is achieved and can be easily maintained by truly joining with your environment as it does not take great effort to do the things you love to do. Awareness need not be perceived and exist in a world of paranoia or fear of extinction, which is of course, the premise behind the concept of survival of the fittest; requiring a constant flow of adrenaline and taking the strongest position of defense or aggression. Rather, one can feel renewed and refreshed by doing things that you love to do. Everything around us deserves notice and appreciation. Awareness seems to grow as you perceive your part in the dynamic equilibrium of energy, mass, and emotions. These universal forces join us together creating one marvelous creature. When I open myself to little things around me, with a true sense wonder, awareness naturally evolves. Just acknowledging the existence of parts of my world is refreshing.

It doesn’t take great energies, forces, or adrenaline to be aware and to love; a concept that became very evident to me as I sat with these friends and sensed the wrongness in the energy levels they were generated. The wrongness I sensed could best be described as the adrenaline high of anticipated conflict. Awareness is really loving the little things in our environment. Being “aware” day to day is acknowledging the ants, the leaves, and the breezes for the loving miracles they are, and each day partake of these miracles anew. The edge of training is not dulled by the beauty around us.

When something in our life is not right it will stick out like a sore-thumb, for even the most head-blind of us will take notice of a wrong feeling. One of the rules that have helped me to remain centered and focused on which level I am training is: “The simplest things are the hardest to learn.” Love of and for all things brings with it the greatest awareness.

Matthew Sequin is a research microbiologist working on development of malarial vaccines at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington DC. His training group is the Washington Bunjinkan Dojo with Marty Smith, Ray Hayes, Paul Smith, Carol Ceramicoli, Scott Rutherford, Dave Juth, Warren Gregory, Sellers Smith, Dion Sparger and Ellen Duncan and a few others. Matthew considers himself a full time student of life and considers learning the spice of life. He may be reached via e-mail at meseguin@erols.com.


Gikan Ryu Koppojutsu Happo Hiken
by Mats Hjelm

“The information presented here is based upon the research of me personally, with great help from others (mentioned where appropriate) and has not been verified by, nor received the approval of Hatsumi Soke. It is presented only as the researchers’ interpretation of history and should not be taken as fact.“

Gikan Ryu Soke—Grandmasters

    Akimoto, Kanai Moriyoshi
  1. Uryu, Hangan Gikanbo; Yeiroku era (1558-1570)
  2. Uryu, Yoshimitsu; Tensho era (1573-1592)
  3. Uryu, Yoshimori; Kan-ei era (1624-1644)
  4. Uryu, Yoshichika; Kambun era (1661-1673)
  5. Uryu, Yoshitaka; Genroku era (1688-1704)
  6. Uryu, Yoshihide; Horeki era (1751-1764)
  7. Uryu, Yoshimori; Kansei era (1789-1801)
  8. Uryu, Yoshiaki; Tenpo era (1830-1844)
  9. Uryu, Yoshiyasu; Bunkyo era (1861-1864)
  10. Uryu, Gikan; Keio era (1865-1868)
  11. Ishitani, Takeoi Masatsugu; approx. death 1905
  12. Ishitani, Matsutaro Takekage; approx. death 1911
  13. Takamatsu, Toshitsugu Uoh; Taisho era (1911-1972)/(born 1888.03.01—died 1972.04.02)
  14. Akimoto, Fumio; approx. death 1962
  15. Hatsumi, Masaaki (Yoshiaki) Showa era; (1971-)/(born 1931.12.02- )

Notes about the Sokes
Akimoto, Kanai Moriyoshi: He was a student of Sougyoko, Kan Ritsushi who was the 12th Soke in Gyokko Ryu Kosshijutsu and the 3rd Soke in Koto Ryu Koppojutsu. He is the one who founded the teachings that would become Gikan Ryu, he is not considered to be the founder for reasons unknown.

1. Uryu, Hangan Gikanbo: Gikan Ryu was founded by Uryu, Giganbo who was the Daimyo of Kawachi no Kuni (Kawachi castle). This was a family castle known as Uryujo. It is said that his punch was so powerful that he once broke a sword blade in half. He was also a master of Hichojutsu (leaping techniques) and Senban nage (blade throwing). The “bo” in Gikanbo was probably added to his name after his death. It was a custom to add “bo” (dead) to the end of the deceased person’s name on people with higher social status. Still today deceased persons with a high social status, often have “Ingo” or “Koji” added to the end of their names on their tombstones.

2. Uryu, Yoshimitsu: In his later years he became a monk.

10. Uryu, Gikan: On 27th August 1863 he was fighting for the emperor’s army in a battle called “Tenchigumi no ran.” He was shot in his arm by a musket, but he kept fighting with only one arm. When he could, he retired to the safety of a nearby temple. It was here that Ishitani, Takeoi Masatsugu who already was the Soke of Kukishinden Ryu and Hontai Takagi Yoshin Ryu found him. Ishitani told him that the battle was already over. Ishitani helped him to recover, and together they escaped to Iga. — Paul Richardson’s Book (4th edition)

11. Ishitani, Takeoi Masatsugu: As he had helped Uryu, Gikan to safety in Iga, a friendship began. Ishitani was then taught the Gikan Ryu, and later received the Menkyo Kaiden, a diploma that verifies that he had learned the Gikan Ryu techniques fully. He was also to be the next Soke of Gikan Ryu, and he added to his own two schools — Kukishinden Ryu and Hontai Takagi Yoshin Ryu. He died sometime around 1905.

12. Ishitani, Matsutaro Takekage: He came to Takamatsu family match factory in the early 1900 looking for a job, he got the job as the security chief on the factory. He was an old man using his bokken as a cane. He died in the lap of Takamatsu in 1911.

13. Takamatsu, Toshitsugu Uoh (1888.03.01-1972.04.02): He learned Gikan Ryu from Ishitani as well as Kukishinden Ryu and Hontai Takagi Yoshin Ryu (not to be confused with Takagi Yoshin Ryu, which he learned from Mizuta Tadefuza), for approximately two years between 1903-1905 until the death of Ishitani. He was already an expert in Togakure Ryu, Gyokko Ryu, Koto Ryu, Shinden Fudo Ryu, and Kumogakure Ryu which he had learned from his uncle. He was also an expert of Takagi Yoshin Ryu from Mizuta Sensei. He learned the three schools from Ishitani fast and received Menkyo Kaiden. When Ishitani was about to die he called for Takamatsu, he told Takamatsu that he would be the next Soke for the three schools. He also told him that he should also give a copy of the three Denshos from Takagi Yoshin Ryu to his student, and Takamatsu’s friend, Kakuno Hachiheita.

14. Akimoto, Fumio (born?-Approx. Death 1962): Takamatsu gave the Menkyo Kaiden to several people, including his best friend and senior student Akimoto, Fumio. He died an untimely death in 1962 without a successor. So the Gikan Ryu returned to Takamatsu, and then later passed on to Hatsumi with the other eight Bujinkan ryus sometome between 1968-1971. This is the reason he is listed as the 14th Soke. It is believed that his scrolls were destroyed in the fire bombing of Tokyo in World War II, but this has not been confirmed. Akimoto was also Soke of Shoken Ryu Dakentaijutsu which ran through his own family. This Ryu probably died with Akimoto’s death in 1962. Since Shoken Ryu is not one of the Bujinkan schools, not much is known.

15. Hatsumi, Masaaki (Yoshiaki) (1931.12.02-): He trained with Takamatsu for fifteen years between 1957 and until the death of Takamatsu in 1972. A year before Takamatsu’s death he said that Hatsumi had learned all that he could teach and awarded Hatsumi to be the sole inheritor of the nine Bujinkan schools. Hatsumi still lives and teaches his Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu and the nine traditions.

Connection to other Schools:

Gyokko Ryu and Koto Ryu.
Akimoto, Kanai Moriyoshi was a student of Sougyoko, Kan Ritsushi the 12th Soke of Gyokko Ryu and the 3rd Soke of Koto Ryu. These two schools were passed down to Toda, Sakyo Ishinsai and the Momochi family in the Tembun era (1532-1555), and later to the Toda family and down to Hatsumi, Masaaki who now is the 28th Soke of Gyokko Ryu Kosshijutsu and the 18th Soke of Koto Ryu Koppojutsu.

Izumo Ryu Koppojutsu.
Another Koppojutsu school called Hontai Gyokushin Ryu can be traced to Sougyoko, Kan Ritsushi the 12th Soke of Gyokko Ryu and the 3rd Soke of Koto Ryu. The founder was named Suzuki, Taizen Taro Kanomaza (or Suzuki, Daizentaro Chikamaza) it was later passed down to Fukao, Tsunouma Shigeyoshi (or Fukao, Kadoma Shigeyoshi) who renamed the school to Izumo Ryu Koppojutsu. Whether or not this school still exists is unknown.

Gyokushin Ryu Ninpo:
This school can also be traced to Sougyoko, Kan Ritsushi the 12th Soke of Gyokko Ryu and the 3rd Soke of Koto Ryu. The founder was named Sasaki, Gendayu Sadayasu, the school is handed down for 8-10 generations until it come back to the Gyokko and Koto Ryu and the Toda family schools. It is now one of the nine Bujinkan schools under the supervision of Hatsumi Sensei who is the 21st Soke of Gyokushin Ryu Ninpo.

Hontai Yoshin Ryu
Takamatsu was given all Ishitani’s Denshos (scrolls), and was also told that he should give a copy of Hontai Takagi Yoshin Ryu to his friend Kakuno, Hachiheita. Ishitani then died in the lap of Takamatsu. Kakuno’s school was simply called the Hontai Ryu. Kakuno had three students that received Menkyo Kaiden; they were Wakita Sei Ichi, Tsutsui Yoshihisa (Takagi Ryu from Ummanosuke) and Minaki Saburoji Masanori (Hontai Yoshin Ryu). Minaki also had three students that received Menkyo Kaiden. They were Tanaka Fumon (Minaki den Kukishin Ryu Bojutsu), Matsudo, and Inoue Munetoshi Tsuyoshi (Hontai Yoshin Ryu). Inoue is still active and teaches at his dojo in Kobe. His son travels abroad to teach a couple of times per year.

Hontai Takagi Yoshin Ryu
Takamatsu had a student named Sato Kinbei Kiyoaki which is supposed to have received Menkyo Kaiden of Gikan Ryu, Hontai Takagi Yoshin Ryu, and Kukishinden Ryu in January 1963 shortly after the death of Akimoto. According to him, he was the 13th Soke. He did not include Akimoto and Ishitani Matsutaro for reasons unknown, see below for a more detailed list.

Menkyo Kaiden is only evidence that the people have learnt the techniques and teachings of a particular school. The title as Soke is given to the person that is most suited to be the next successor of a particular school. Sokeship is not necessarily given to the best pupil, but to the person with the best opportunity or who is best suited to carry on the teachings in the best way.. This ceremony is called Densho Shiki.

One of Hatsumi’s oldest student’s named Tanemura Tsunehisa (now Shoto) left the Bujinkan in 1986 after a quarrel with Hatsumi after the funeral of Hatsumi’s mother. Hatsumi was ill for a long period, and Tanemura probably thought that he should take leadership. It is said that Tanemura visited Takamatsu’s wife and asked her if he had her permission to be the next Soke and that she said yes. She is dead now so this cannot be verified. Tanemura also looked up Takamatsu’s former students that were still alive. He is supposed to have met Sato Kinbei and received several Menkyo Kaidens or Sokeship from him. Sato is no longer alive to verify this either. Whatever the reason for the split, neither of them likes to talk about it. The split was only between Tanemura and probably some of his students, and Hatsumi and Bujinkan,. All of Hatsumi’s other students remained loyal. Neither Hatsumi or Tanemura speaks of this incident, nor should we. What happened is their business. Tanemura has his own organization called Genbukan. He claims to be Soke of several schools.

Kodokan Judo:
Akimoto Fumio the 14th Soke, taught Gikan Ryu (and probably also Shoken Ryu) to Mifune of the Kodokan Judo. He taught him ways of striking and kicking. This was later incorporated into the Judo training.

Characteristics and History notes.
The training levels of Gikan Ryu Koppojutsu are ...

  • Shoden no Kurai—consisted of 24 techniques.
  • Chuden Gata
  • Okuden Gata
  • Kaiden Gata
  • Menkyo Kaiden

<Genealogy according to Sato Kinbei and Tanemura vs. Hatsumi:>
1. Uryu, Hangan Gikanbo 1. Uryu, Hangan Gikanbo
2. Uryu, Hangan Yoshichika 2. Uryu, Yoshimitsu
3. Uryu, Kanzui 3. Uryu, Yoshimori
4. Uryu, Nobuyoshi 4. Uryu, Yoshichika
5. Uryu, Tenkaibo 5. Uryu, Yoshitaka
6. Uryu, Yoshitaro Hidechika 6. Uryu, Yoshihide
7. Uryu, Sokaibo 7. Uryu, Yoshimori
8. Uryu, Shinkaibo 8. Uryu, Yoshiaki
9. Uryu, Gikaibo 9. Uryu, Yoshiyasu
10. Uryu, Gikanbo 10. Uryu, Gikan
11. Ishitani, Matsutaro Takekage 11. Ishitani, Takeoi Masatsugu
12. Takamatsu, Toshitsugu Uoh 12. Ishitani, Matsutaro Takekage
13. Sato, Kinbei Kiyoaki 13. Takamatsu, Toshitsugu Uoh
14. Tanemura, Shoto 14. Akimoto, Fumio

15. Hatsumi, Masaaki (Yoshiaki)

The original Text and research was made by Peter Carlsson who may be reached at datortek@sbbs.se. Translation was made from Swedish to English by Mats Hjelm who may be contacted at

This is absolutely not to be taken as “true fact” since it is quite impossible to prove the Kuden. We would be happy for any kind of creative and serious research that you have found out, so if you have noticed some errors in this text or would like to point out something else worth a note please let us know so we could update and make this even more accurate. And if possible, please try to back up your claims with some sort of verification or serious references.

A big problem when one do research about the history of ninja and Bujinkan is when one compare information in books about those subject with general acknowledged history in history books. This means that all information in circulation are to be considered as gossip until it can be compared and proven against general history. This includes the text above.

Some of the people we wish to thank for the sources are here listed in no particular order...
Sveneric Bogsaeter Perti Ruha Stan Skrabut Mariette V. D. Vliet Charles Daniels Bernadette V. D. Vliet Stephen Turnbull Ben Jones Paul Richardson HATSUMI Masaaki Gothenburg ninposaellskap (and possibly many others)

For more information like this get hooked to Internet and browse over to http://www.algonet.se/~helmet/BUJINKAN/ or phone ++46-8-985948 to MokoNoTora FidoNet BBS.

This translation is allowed to be posted electronically or printed as long as it is left unedited or changed in any way. It is not allowed to be reprinted in any way for commercial purposes without permission. (c) MATS HJELM 1996


A Warrior’s Creed
by an anonymous Samurai, 14th Century
submitted by Howard Husum

I have no parents—I make the heavens and earth my parents.
I have no home—I make awareness my home.
I have no life or death—I make the tides of breathing my life and death.
I have no divine power—I make honesty my divine power.
I have no means—I make understanding my means.
I have no magic secrets—I make character my magic secret.
I have no body—I make endurance my body.
I have no eyes—I make the flash of lightning my eyes.
I have no ears—I make sensibility my ears.
I have no limbs—I make promptness my limbs.
I have no strategy—I make "unshadowed by thought" my strategy.
I have no designs—I make "seizing opportunity by the forelock" my design.
I have no miracles—I make right-action my miracles.
I have no principles—I make adaptability to all circumstances my principles.
I have no tactics—I make emptiness and fullness my tactics.
I have no talents—I make ready wit my talent.
I have no friends—I make my mind my friend.
I have no enemy—I make carelessness my enemy.
I have no armor—I make benevolence and righteousness my armor.
I have no castle—I make immovable-mind my castle.
I have no sword —I make absence of self my sword.


Thought of the Day

“We are the hero of our own story.”
—Mary McCarthy


End Notes
by Liz maryland

As I was about to start meditation class on Saturday morning, the phone rang. “Another kid wanting information,” I thought to myself, as I sighed and answered the phone. Information calls tend to take a long time—since I usually get the wackos who want to know if Ashida Kim teaches at our school or the kids who are calling up while their parents are still asleep. Or, if I’m really lucky, I get the guy who trains with the one and only REAL grandmaster... of Koga ryu, and he wants to know if our school accepts challenges.

“Good morning, New York Budo,” I whispered into the phone, waving a late student onto the mat. I found myself holding my breath as I usually do when I feel uneasy; odd, I thought. The man on the phone introduced himself as a screenwriter who wanted to interview a female martial artist because he was interested in finding out about fighting from a woman’s perspective— preferably from a woman who had been training a while. He began asking me some questions—a few of which struck me as weird at the moment, but I dismissed my gut reaction in my haste to start class. I answered some of his questions, and, glancing at the clock, quickly told him that I needed to lead a meditation, but that he was free to call back after 11 A.M. when I or someone else would be able to answer his questions. He was pleasant enough, and agreed to phone later.

I put the call out of my mind as I went on to lead meditation. A breath counting session first—to develop focus, followed by a thought counting session—a difficult meditation. As class ended, the phone rang and I cut the bow-out short and literally ran the length of the dojo to answer it. It was Mr. Screenwriter again. He began by asking the usual: “Does your art have punches, kicks, etc.?” “Do you do throws?” “How long have you been studying?” “What’s your belt color?” Some of his questions were “interesting” to say the least, but I figured he was just another typical New York/Hollywood type—looking for the flashy techniques—so I dismissed the slight queasiness in my stomach again. I told him that he was welcome to watch class later on that day, if he felt like it, and speak to someone in person.

I was on the mat when he entered the dojo. He was a small, roundish, unassuming man with balding red hair and a goatee. I almost didn’t notice him at all. However, when I excused myself to get a drink of water, he approached me and introduced himself as the man that I had been speaking to earlier. He asked if he could interview me and I acquiesced. I’m used to being asked questions about the school and training—I’m always very friendly to visitors and prospective students, so I put on my best interview smile and listened to his questions.

Mr. Screenwriter turned out to be a “class A” creep (in my not so humble opinion). He had the “vibe” — a sleazy, unctuous feeling to him that made me want to put as much distance between me and him as possible. He LOOKED normal enough, but the vibe was there... and so were his ulterior motives. (Don’t get me wrong. He didn’t come in and urinate on the kamiza or molest any of the kids. He just had... ulterior motives.)

He started to “creep me out” almost instantly. He kept asking me about how strong I was, whether or not I worked out or arm-wrestled. I’m not a delicate woman by any means—I’m short and built pretty solidly (but I’m no Olga-the-Siberian-dog-tracker, either!) He asked me to arm-wrestle him, which I declined. He then asked to feel my grip. My body/mind screamed no, but, out of politeness, I held my hand out and shook his hand. I didn’t try to crush his hand, I just held it firmly—my usual handshake. (I consequently had to wash the palpable scuz from my hand later on.)

Screenwriter-boy then proceeded to ask me how I would assert my dominance over a man to prove to him that I wasn’t to be messed with. He asked if I would grab him by the throat, or throw him. I kept saying that women don’t approach confrontations like that... that I would do things differently. However, Taki Otoshi did quickly come to mind, but since he hadn’t signed a training waiver, I didn’t think it prudent to drop Mr. Scuz on the concrete. I kept trying to send him to Jean-Pierre, telling him that my teacher would be better able to answer his questions. But he didn’t seem to want to speak to any of the men in the room... just the women.

I kept on getting more and more uncomfortable since throughout the course of our conversation, Screenwriter-boy continually asked if I trained in groundfighting or if I did any pins. I answered him honestly, hoping to turn him away from that line of thinking. I personally don’t like to engage in groundfighting at all (I had a very negative rape-type situation in my past), and as for pins, well... the last time I try to restrain someone, I popped my uke’s elbow and hurt him (AND I still feel guilty for that !) His eyes lit up for a minute when I disclosed that I hurt someone and he continued to ask me about ground-fighting and wrestling. I started to look for a way out of this conversation, as I sat and smiled through the uncomfortableness that made itself known throughout my body.

This mock-interview went on for about ten minutes. He put his hand on my shoulder and asked me what I would to if someone, a stranger did that to me. Would I throw them? Strangle them? I looked him dead in the eye and told him, in a low calm voice, that I would inform the person to get their fucking hand off my shoulder. I also calmly told him “You don’t need to get into a physical confrontation every time—that’s not what this art is about.” Since he was too touchy-feely for my taste, and I got the feeling that the next question was going to be about co-ed naked taijutsu, I finally got the courage to bail out by saying that I had to get back on the mat.

He watched me train for a little bit longer, then left. After he left, I excused myself from the mat and spoke with Kris, who was covering reception that afternoon and had also felt the vibe from him. He had started asking her similar questions, and when she began to give him “non-answers” he gave up on her. He had also appraised her body with his eyes and asked her similar questions on strength, etc. He had also told Kris that he had a different occupation—he was a composer, not a screenwriter.

After class, we all joked about the incident. One of the instructors, Nick, asked me how much I would charge the guy to dominate him. He said I could make a lot of money from it and we all laughed... but the incident stayed in my mind for the rest of the weekend.

Why did this incident bother me so much? Perhaps its because I want to be taken seriously—both as a martial artist and as a woman. I’m not someone’s love mistress—let me beat you, chain you, etc. And this man was trivializing, and degrading something that I felt very proud of—my strength and my ability to defend myself. My strength is sexy when *I* want it to be—not when some creep decides that muscles are hot. That’s part of it, but not all.

The other, more deep-rooted reason is that I was never able to bring myself to tell him, “Your game is up. I know what you want and you’re not going to get it here. Leave the school now. This isn’t Mistress Diana’s House of Pain.“ In other words, I never stood up for myself. I allowed this man to make me feel uncomfortable in what is to me one of my “safe places.” The dojo is as safe as my home for me. I sat there and allowed this man, this STRANGER to touch me when I didn’t want to be touched; to “hold me captive” because of some arcane politeness gene. By standing up for myself, I wouldn’t be a nice and good girl anymore.

Funny thing, is a similar situation happened to me earlier this year in May, involving a man I had just met at a bookstore. I commented on some book that he was reading and he thanked me. He asked if I wanted to have coffee, so I decided I would take a chance and do so. I regretted that. As I sat across the table from this individual, I knew that every single word coming out of his mouth was a lie. I just *knew* and I could feel myself shrinking inside, as I tried to mentally get away from him. But again, I was too nice. I could not bring myself to be rude and leave—to tell him what I really thought of him. It was near closing time, so I figured I would escape that way. However, he offered me a lift home. Although every fiber of my being screamed “psycho-killer” I allowed this man (whom I knew was lying with every word he said) to drive me home. I gave him a cross street near my home so that he wouldn’t know where I lived. I sat in the car the entire time with my hand on my folding knife. I figured that I could jump out of the car if I needed to and steeled myself mentally to do so. It was when he passed the street that I had given him by about quarter mile that I started to panic. I told him sternly to pull over and let me out, or I would have to hurt him because I did not trust him anymore. He drove another block, apologizing the whole way, and then let me out of the car. I disappeared quickly, fearing that he would follow me home. Fortunately, I made it home safe and did not become another sad statistic.

This is what I have to work on. Asserting myself and my right—to be safe, to be comfortable, to be happy. Somewhere along the way, my mom must have told me to be a nice and good girl. I guess I understood that to mean non-assertive. As an adult, I’m still paying for this mis-understanding. However, I still have hope and time... I can still change. And I’ll use the confidence that I gain through my training to change... and assert myself more.

That’s it for this month, guys and gals! As always, please e-mail the authors with your support and recognition. Also, please e-mail me with any errors or adjustments to this newsletter.

See you next month!

Liz maryland is the editor of this newsletter. She is a graphic designer by trade and an information gatherer by choice. Contrary to popular belief, Liz is a real, flesh and blood person (honest!) who actually exists and trains under the guidance of Jean-Pierre Seibel (another real person) at New York Budo. Busy preparing for her brother’s wedding, Liz is overtraining her behind off. (What’s a six-mile walk every day?!?) Liz can be reached via e-mail at: Ashidome@aol.com