New Zealand Bushinden Kai

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?”

I smiled.

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.

Keep going!

6 Responses to “New Zealand Bushinden Kai”

  1. Andre Paladin Says:

    Hi Duncan,

    Just wanted to take the opportunity to say a BIG thanks for a fantastic period of training. Your transmission was loud, clear and very concise (both on and off the mat) and I sincerely admire and appreciate your intention/ability to deliver what is being studied and discussed in Japan and in line with Soke’s wishes.

    As you well know I will continue to stay close to and support Simon and work hard at cultivating spirit

    I look forward to seeing you again soon and wish you and your family all the very best, always.

    Many thanks,

  2. Nick Wilson Says:

    Hi Duncan,

    Thank you for taking the time to share your Japan experiences with us in New Zealand. I really apprecitated the no nonsense approach you showed and the reality of the training whilst maintaining safety. I am one of the fortunate ones who trains with Simon every week and gained a new appreciation for what he is showing us after experiencing the training on the weekend. It was also good to reflect on my personal training outside of the dojo and realise the work I need to do in that respect.

    Kind Regards,


  3. That looked fantastic, hopefully we can have you over to our Scottish Dojo sometime soon. I really appreciated what you said about falling short of your training goals. I often feel that way times 100! But I guess if you always feel satisfied with yourself, you’re never going to grow, learn, change, adapt. I feel this martial art favours the “restless” heart.
    Hope to see you in Japan again one day.
    Bufu ikkan,

  4. Ian McLaughlin Says:

    Hi Duncan,
    Just wanted to thank you for the great weekend of training last weekend.
    I felt you really brought the energy of what you were teaching….
    I am one of Simon s students and am grateful of that…. also very grateful that Simon has good friends, like yourself…..thanks again.

    All the best


  5. Hi Duncan,
    I didn’t join New Zealand Bushinden Kai, but thanks for the very good description of how to train and get the biggest benefit without or reducing injuries. Hope that everybody read your words, understand, and internalize it.

    All the best

  6. Randall Engle Says:

    I’m moved by something you mentioned in this article, if I may quote you here:

    “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.”

    Years ago I had to sever my ties to an instructor and his dojo because of various things, one of which was his own agenda and how he felt things should be. I wanted to maintain my connection as fully as possible. I am now under the guidance and fellowship of many great practitioners and through them I have been able to do that. Thank you for those words as it reminds me of my choices and why I did what I did. The teacher in question no longer trains and my students and I are the ones who are now the only group in the area. Alabama has continued to grow as we result of our efforts combined, and we appreciate the training coming from Japan now more than ever.

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