To truly understand the Bujinkan from Soke and the Shihan you need:
( oral transmission )
On the flight to Auckland, I sat across from a flight attendant. I saw that her name badge said ” Shinobu”. I said to her that her name was very interesting. She replied by saying. ” Yes. Do you know about Ninja?”
Simon Gaunt picked me up from the airport. Together we drove into the countryside toward Hamilton. Upon arriving at Simon`s home, I was relishing in the view. The countryside was very green and boasted wonderful morning views. The fresh air was great. It reminded me of Tasmania. I took a deep breath in.
I settled in and Simon showed me to the Hiryu Dojo. The dojo is joined to the house and has a fantastic feeling to it. Simon and Jo have worked hard at developing the new Hiryu dojo. With the support of their buyu, they have managed to establish a mecca for people who wish to sincerely and correctly study the Bujinkan arts of Soke in New Zealand.
Simon had asked me to lead an opening ceremony for the dojo with a select group of students and friends. I`d never done anything like that before. But, I was honored and accepted. I then prepared the best I could for the event.
On friday night, a select group of us gathered to officially open the dojo. I had prepared celebratory sake cups and also a nice bottle of sake from Karuizawa. With a Kakejiku from Soke, and a ” congratulations ” DVD full of messages from Soke, Nagato, Noguichi Shihan and more, I believed we were ready to commence.
|‘Kagami Biraki’ has different meanings. The literal translation for ‘Kagami’ is ‘Mirror’ and ‘Biraki’ means ‘Open’ or ‘Opening’ as well as “to break.”
The expression translates as ‘Open Mirror, Mirror Opening’. The tradition stems from an old military custom. Japanese legend tells a story of a certain deity who fell out of favour with the other gods because of his cruel nature. This deity was banished and found his way to a secluded cave where he came upon a mirror-like object. This mirror-like object forced him to look at himself, reflect upon his actions by looking deeper inside and try and reason why he was such a cruel individual. After a great many years of personal reflection, the deity returned to the other gods who immediately noticed a great change in his mannerisms and character.
Eventually the mirror image was used to illustrate to the common people that they should try to look at themselves as if they were looking in a mirror and thereby, judge themselves for what they truly are. This type of personal reflection is an excellent exercise in self-improvement.
At the beginning of training, we stare into the mirror of the Kamidana. This is the start of our training. We then pursue training with a desire to correct ourselves. At the end of class, we kneel before the mirror one more time. A time for reflection.
During the days prior to the Bushinden Kai, I watched Simon teach a class in his dojo. Simon has beautiful and effortlessly effective taijutsu. His manner of instruction is straight forward and easily understood.
His students are very friendly and approachable people. They all enjoy training together and there were no shortages of smiles or laughs. What a great envionment. People listened intently, and delved into the training with purpose and a desire to truly get better.
Jo continues to stand by his side with unconditional support. A great couple. Keep going please!
It was nice to meet up with friends from the last time I visited. You are never treated as a stranger by the Hiryu Dojo members.
The New Zealand Bushinden Kai was apparently the largest gathering of Bujinkan exponents since the New Zealand Taikai. People travelled from as far as the south Island of New Zealand, Canberra and Sydney ( Australia ) to attend, and did so with a great feeling for learning. For some people, distance is no obstacle. these people understand sutemi, and what it takes to develop their sainou kon ki.
There were over 55 people that took part in the two days of training.
It`s obviously very important for the Shidoshi of the Bujinkan to pass on the teachings of Soke and the Shihan. This is our job, to transmit the teachings as we experience them directly from Japan. Travelling and conducting classes for others is not about being a “showman” or displaying what you think people want to see. This is not budo training. Doing so would mean you are but a travelling performer, in my eyes.
Eventually these performers will lose face. The students who attend Japan will see the difference in the training and begin to question what they see. It`s therefore very important for everyone in the Bujinkan to follow the teachings as closely as possible to keep themselves and the traditions true.
Rokkon Shoujou is about looking into the mirror and eventually being “happy to the soul” with what you see, wrinkles and all. Every moment in training can help us come to a closer understanding of ourselves. The dojo is a place to repent. And, Soke said recently that the dojo should be the safest place for people to be. Within the dojo we train hard and challenge out spirits. Often what we do is very trialing and hard to accept. We get frustrated, annoyed at our own inabilities, and dissatisfied with our lack of real understanding. But this is ok. This is what Shugyo is all about.
Soke painted a kakejiku for the opening of the new Hiryu Dojo. The kakejiku was Na Mu Un Sui. I`d like to comment on the last two kanji. Un ( cloud ) and Sui ( water ) represent particular buddhist monks on shugyo within nature. These buddhist monks are referred to as Unsui. Just as the clouds and the water can not be contained or held in one place, so too the monks freely move within nature, void of constraints or attachments. these monks pursue a never ending search for the truth, by living within nature and purifying themselves in a hope to obtain satori.
As martial artists, we too must strive to be free from the many constraints and obstacles in life. We must not fear too much, and move within this world with a feeling of forever developing our sainou kon ki ( which is integral to obtaining rokko shoujou ).
I can but make a connection with my travels to and from New Zealand here. From my seat window on the plane I saw the clouds ( un ), and moved with them. I crossed the water ( sui ) and felt the same. Above the clouds and water I felt a sense of freedom ( mu ) as I made my way too and from the southern lands ( na / minami ).
Simon will visit Japan next month. He too will travel from the south to experience his shugyo ( namu unsui ). Together as buyu, we help one another fight with the impurities we are trying to make void in our lives.
Soke continues to say that students must develop the eyes to see what is real and what is not. I think this not only directed to the students but, the Shidoshi ( as we are all students ).
As instructors, we can fall away and slip into our own ways. It is fine to develop ones taijutsu naturally according to ones personality,body construct,and constraints etc, this is to be expected. However, it`s when people perform taijutsu that has no relationship to Japanese training, that makes me really wonder what people are thinking they are learning or doing?
I really believe that the Bujinkan needs people to sincerely take more responsibility for their training. As representatives of the art, we have a large and important role in passing on to people the way of training in Japan. The Bujinkan is an art that transcends borders and is ultimately transparent to aid in it`s evolution. Yet, we have to respect it`s origins. It`s a Japanese martial art.
As always, I ask that people slow their training down to really develop a feeling of self evaluation and sensitivity to their environment. People often train quickly, but become narrow minded and lose their awareness. This is often when accidents occur in the training. Training slowly allows the mind and body to develop together.
Also, If we rush into the training, we often do so from eagerness or the belief that techniques need to be fast and hard. We have to change our pre-concieved views of what we think budo is.
Training slowly enables us to learn many lessons while developing Shin Gi Tai Ichi. We aim to firstly control our body. We do this while developing a centered and calm spirit ( fudoushin ). By training at a tempo that is beneficial for both the uke and tori, each person is able to hone in on importance points necessary for their positive growth.
By training slowly and correctly, we come to gain a greater awareness of our body, balance,spirit, technique,timing,distance,angling, etc. Your partner gets to experience these things too. We are aiming to develop a training environment where we can learn to fight without the feeling of fighting. Through consistent and good training, we come to move in ways that become more effortless, yet effective.
Over time, we develop Shin Gi Ta Ichi. Within this, there are the lessons from the principles of taijutsu that enlighten us to the kukan. It is from this point, we become more consistent in our movements, and can adapt regardless of the increased pace of the training.
How do we know if we are increasing our capabilities? I believe it`s in our consistency.
This is BUFU IKKAN. This is all we need.
Often people seem to get bored at training slowly. But, in the beginning, when you are learning something new, it`s normal to take your time to try and really understand what you are doing? Surely this is but common sense?
Also, it is a lesson of self discipline. A lesson for the ego.
Most of the time, I feel I fall short of my training goals. It`s more like one step forward and ten steps back for me. Yet, I try to keep going regardless. This is the training.
Over the two days, the training evolved naturally as dictated by those who were asked to demonstrate techniques. We are often asked by Soke when asked to show a technique, to think about the dojo numbers, the theme for the year etc, and show something relative for the environment.
We often see people nod their head ( as if they have understood ) and enter the space in the middle of the dojo, only to perform a set of large movements, often ending in a large throw. Soke then often has to tell people to then watch what was shown and adapt it to the present dojo environment. The demonstrator clearly did not understand.
As I see it, my job is to pass on the training in Japan to the best of my ability but, to also help people who intend to visit, to develop a greater awareness or, a ” heads up” on what to expect. In this way, I hope that people can enter the dojo and mould their way into the training environment more smoothly without causing problems for themselves, their dojo members and their teacher.
Over all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in New Zealand with many great people of the Bujinkan. I thank Simon and Jo for their friendship, open hearts, and great hospitality.
I would also like to thanks the students from the Hiryu Dojo for their on going support of Simon and the development of the Bujinkan Kokoro in New Zealand.
Finally, I`d like to pass on my encouragement to those who made the transition into the truth. Many people have been seeking the real Bujinkan for many years, but have unfortunately been led astray by those only concerned with themselves. Well done. I hope that you develop and maintain a productive connection with Simon and enjoy your training with a real instructor and follower of the Bujinkan Dojo.
From Newark, I flew to Milwauke by the guiding light of a full moon. I`d never been on a plane to see the moon shining on the water. It was a magical sight.
After nearly 20 hours of travel, I met with Michael Russell. We ate and then adjourned to his home in a lovely area of Madison, Wisconsin.
The first dojo class was aimed at some fundamental drills toward gaining a better understanding of the Koshi Kihon Sanpo. I addressed and practised with the students, certain aspects of each waza that help us to gain a better working knowledge of ourselves.
Michael`s students are all very approachable and friendly people who really study and practise to the best of their ability. It`s evident that Michael has helped install a good feeling of the budo heart in the dojo.
Michael has himself made great changes to his training and has made evident positive progress. He has begun to host seminars with residents from Japan and also local Shihan. This shows his true desire to improve and make the Bujinkan an ongoing part of his life, while assisting and giving those within Wisconsin and surrounding states the chance to do the same.
On a fine day we travelled to Devils lake. This was a reserve where you could canoe, hike, and enjoy nature with the family. We climbed to a peak and then traversed down ( losing our way ) to fulfill a very relaxing day in the sun.
Madison is a very peaceful feeling city. As we walked downtown, the city streets were clean and lined with shops, and cafes.Upon reaching the university grounds, I could see that the community of students ensure a young and vibrant feeling within Madison.
The Madison Bushinden Kai was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. I have never given a class in a hotel convention room. To see my name on the convention door was a little bit strange. However, once I entered the room, it transformed into our dojo
” Everywhere can be a dojo if the spirit is right.” – Masaaki Hatsumi Souke
For me, the first day of a seminar is like a long day of warming up.
I`m a little bit slow you see
On the first day, we are slowly taking the cream off the top and getting to know each other as people and martial artists. We are warming into our environment, learning to read the atmosphere and the mannerisms and cultures of each other.
Training began with Hanbojutsu. The Tachi is a sword, but it is not used like a Katana. The manner of it`s use is often more like a Hanbo with striking and thrusting.
I am not a researcher or collector. I train.
However, in saying this. I do research and collect information. But, I don`t do it like a student would in school.
It`s easy to collate information and reel it out to your students and sound knowledgable about a specific topic. But, do you really understand it? Really? Just because you intellectually can talk about it, do you really understand what you are saying?
I know of people that know alot about budo and ask me questions about specific things. Often, I have heard these things but, I know no more than they do. I think some people must be dissapointed with this. Yet, it is my truth. I will not make something up for the sake of it.
Maintaining your integrity is very important I feel. This is sincerity.
But, just being sincere and telling the truth at all times is not budo. We need to understand kyojutsu.
Kyojutsu is the playing of two connected varients to ensure peace and harmony. We must come to realise that to achieve this harmony we must at times create chaos to help others see the forest for the trees.
There is a saying. ” To be cruel to be kind.”
To be just nice and taught purely in a friendly manner is of no benefit to the martial artist.
Budo is about enduring hardship. Through this, we gain a greater appreciation of our life and that of others. The little things are not so trivial any more. We come to a better awareness of our body and character.
I often say that the role of the uke is a great one. From the role of the uke, you are learning about life. You are learning about Bushido. You are learning about self sacrifice and what it means to give yourself and trust.
Being uke is often painful. But we know this. So, why do we accept the role of uke when asked? We are a strange lot aren`t we. lol.
I remember when I was in my late teenage years and driving to the dojo in Tasmania. I always noticed that I had ” butterflies in my stomach”. For those unfamiliar with the term, I felt nervous like I was going to enter a fight.
I realised that the dojo was a place where you cannot lie to yourself. You are naked for all to see. There is no fooling someone in the dojo. You are either skilled,or you are not. You either have a strong sence of self, or you do not. We can try to hide this, but eventually your weakness will be seen.
The dojo is a place for self purification. This is where we become enlightened to Rokkon Shoujo.
Nagato Sensei was recently reiterating the importance of developing good eyes and ears in training. If you cannot, then you will never be able to understand ” what is”. You will always be following your own way.
After Sensei spoke, I mentioned that what he had said sounded more like the original meaning of Rokkon Shoujo as used by the Shugendo practitioners. He smiled and then stopped the class and spoke about just that.
The dojo is about breaking habits. It`s about learning to see these habits, and then having the courage to change and work at developing yourself. We must always be prepared for personal change. We learn the lessons of life changes through “henka” in our budo training.
In turn, we are opened to the concept of Banpen Fugyo ( 10000 changes no surprise ).
Souke is giving us life lessons through budo. It is indeed Shugyo – Budo for life.
I was once given the opportunity to be Nagato Shihans uke for nearly two years.
I have never asked him why.
Whenever we would start training, I would stand with my training partner. I would wait with everyone else for Nagato Sensei to choose his uke. When he chose me, I would step forward and be the best uke I could be for him.
I saw this time as a great test for me. Not once in the two years did I assume he would choose me as uke and enter the centre of the dojo without him calling me. If I had done so, I believed it would have been the end of my lesson. I was aware in myself that this was a test of character and self control.
It was about knowing my weakpoints and filtering them out. This is everyones training. To learn about our potential weaknesses and work them out of ourselves. We can then enjoy life.
During this period of being uke, I was walking to Hombu with a friend. He suprisingly asked me,
” what will you do when he stops using you as uke?”
I said, ” I`m looking forward to it!”
I knew in myself that this situation was but temporary. I`d be a fool to think otherwise. I was thanking my lucky stars for the opportunity to be Sensei`s uke. Yet, I was also enjoying the anticipation of the day he stops using me. I saw it as a great test for my ego and overall character. Had I learned anything from being uke? Only by being “let go”, do you really start to see if you have learned anything.
Eventually that day arrived, and I smiled. I was very happy. why? I could eventually get to see what he was doing!! lOl.
I was very happy to be free from the feeling of jeaolusy, and many more emotions. I actually felt more connected. I can honestly say that it had matured me in areas that were greatly needed in my life. And for that, I thank Nagato Sensei for that wonderful experience and gift.
So, please do not shy from being uke. Learn life from the role of uke. You will learn how to fail with dignity and learn how to live with courage. The lessons you will learn will be your lessons and noone elses. You can share your experiences, but ultimately, everyone has to accept their own lives and learn from their own.
Safety is something that Souke reiterates is essential when training. As is taking of responsibility for yourself and your training partners. If you cannot do this, then it is better that you do not train in budo.
The Madison Bushinden Kai was two days with wonderful people. Shidoshi such as Michael Russell, Ethan Capers, Gabe Logan, Chris Carbonaro, Kevin Clarke, Leo Rodgriguez, David Osorno, and Joe Bunales all showed great skill and budo hearts. Thank you.
The presence of these people helped me in many ways. Conversations were of the heart. We were all recognising our individual shugyo, yet supporting each other as buyu.
It`s something of an unspoken principle of mine to not use my hosts at Bushinden Kai as uke. I do this out of respect. If the time is right, then this principle is broken during the course of the seminar. Principals are meant to be broken.
When I walk around and attempt to assist people, we often practise for a brief moment. In that moment, connections are made. Regardless of this persons experience or rank, if a healthy learning connection has been made, I quickly seize the moment with that person and I demonstrate with them for the benefit of everyone.
As I said, it doesn`t matter who they are. If a connection is made, we should not sever that connection and live to share that moment as buyu.
The student I demonstrate on is for their benefit, but also for the benefit of their teacher. If I can assist in their learning and the development of the correct feeling for training and being uke, their instructor can have better training partners and excel in his/her training when they return to the dojo.
People came from as far as New Jersey and Florida for this seminar. A great effort and a big thank you goes out to Chris Carbonaro, his brother, Leo Rodgriguez, and David Osorno for this. for some people, distance is no concern. A lesson for some.
The two days naturally covered the following concepts: Nawa no kankaku, Sainou Kon Ki, Rokkon Shoujou, Tsunagaru, Kihon, Tachi, Isshi Soden, Rokushaku bo, Hanbo, Kieru no Kankaku, Shinken Gata, Yoyuu, Dokyo, Sanshin, hidden weapons and more.
These concepts were not chosen as themes. I didn`t make notes and teach as a part of a pre-determined set curriculum. We commenced training and found recent themes and concepts arose naturally during the training.
We just trained. From the training we experienced the concepts I mentioned above and then let them go for others to emerge freely. Categories are made initially, but eventually we should realise that there are no categories and that everything is connected. True understanding is to live with no categories.
We allowed for the space to teach us at the Bushinden Kai. Understanding that the principals of taijutsu enlighten us to the kukan, we start to tread the road to peace.
“The secret principle of Taijutsu is to know the foundations of peace.”