Montreal Bushinden Kai

Arriving in Montreal with the rain and wind, I met Manolo at the airport and dropped my bags off at the hotel. From there we went to his home where I met Estelle and their new dog, Yume.

We sat and talked and then had dinner. The storm thundered and the sky lit up with flashes of lightning.For a moment, the lights in the neighbourhood went out. We sat around the table by torch light. An interesting and electrifying evening. Lol.

The next day Manolo picked me up and we drove to Magog, Quebec. We visited Philippe and his wonderful family. Eating a healthy lunch and then relaxing at a local spa was just what the Doctor ordered. For a few hours, we talked and rested in various pools,spas, and saunas. A great afternoon of indulgence.

We then visited Saint Benedict Abbey. A picturesque monastery.

The day finished with a few nice glasses of wine and then back to Montreal. What a great day.

Thanks to Philippe and his family for your hospitality!

The next day I was asked by Manolo to teach their ” Ninja Kids ” Class and also the following adults class.

The Children of the Montreal Dojo are extremely skilled, not only in budo, but in the Japanese terminology!  I think I was speaking in Japanese for most of the class. We concentrated on tenchi shiho tobi, ukemi/kaiten, kamae, and the Gogyo no kata. It was a great class with great kids.

In the adults class, we  firstly performed some basic Junan Taiso movements. We commenced by concentrating on jodan uke, daken uke, and Uke nagaeshi training drills. We also practised various Te-sabaki and ashi-sabaki drills to help our body understand Ken Tai Ichi Jo. We worked on Taihenjutsu Kihon as well. As a follow on, we studied Ken Kudaki and Keri Gaeshi / Kudaki.

Let me first say that I am no master when it comes to the kihon of the Bujinkan. This is why I practise the basics within the basics to really allow the art to enter my spine and become one with my bones. After all, we are studying koppo. We are learning about the structure of things to take away structure.

Unfortunately, people attempt to move forward too quickly in their training before their spine understands. When I say spine, I`m referring to the whole being ( shin gi tai ichi ). These people quickly return to bad habits and in-effective movements without even realising it.

The most important thing is to develop a balance in ones mind and body. A martial balance. This balance to me is one that understands naturally what is required for real growth in the martial arts. Again, this all depends on someones Sainou Kon Ki. We are all different and on our own Shugyo. We have to respect this and, concentrate on our own training first and foremost. Once we understand Koppo, then we are able to assist others more effectively.

Again, these thoughts are but my aspirations typed and naked for all to see. I hope to one day live these aspirations and ,forever have more to keep me on a true path.

How hard is this? How do we know if we are on the right path or not? We should ask ourselves this constantly. Yet, allow yourself to live. Within that space of living, move and  naturally recieve the teachings and answers. From there, it is up to us to acknowledge the signs from nature and trust our subconscious. We have to learn to trust in our real self.

Majime Asobu – ” Serious Play.”

From the beginning of the year, We have heard about the concept of ” Serious play.” This is majime asobu. I think the important thing to realise here is that the spirit of the bugeisha must be made constant during the training. If we literally take ” play” to mean ” do whatever you like and have fun”, well, that is rather naive.

When playing in training, it is a ” play ” where numerous things must be taken into account. One important point is to ” play ” with no openings. This requires a person to slow down and focus on training yet, allowing for the “play” in the movement to be sensitive to change or henka. This is Yoyuu.

Imagination from both the tori and uke is very important for gaining a realistic ” play ” in training. We are learning to respond as humans, but also as martial artists. Training is all about removing your openings, not that of defeating your opponent.

We must play with each other to maintain a safe environment yet, we must do so with serious intent and purpose, knowing that our understanding of  majime asobu is the link between life and death in a real conflict.

Please enjoy the training with focus, purposeful intent and, a manner appropriate for a Bugeisha.

The following day, We went to downtown Montreal.

We casually walked around and Manolo allowed me to wonder while wandering through the streets and shops.


With Manolo Serrano in sunny downtown Montreal.

The Montreal Bushinden Kai commenced on a sunny Saturday and finished on a rainy Sunday. The seminar was a great experience for me. With new friends and old, we all had a true feeling to train and discover ( shirabe-gata ).

The important consideration at the beginning was to develop an understanding of the feeling we were going to try and train with for the weekend.

As with most classes at the Hombu, Soke begins by asking someone to perform taijutsu. He often states that the person should consider the years theme and the amount of people in the dojo. This is very important. Soke is giving that person a ” heads up “. However, how many people actually understand?

It was good to see that people were considering Yoroi / Tachi Kumiuchi within their taijutsu. Moving in a balanced way, attacking the openings in the ( imagined ) yoroi, and maintaining a surrounding awareness ( as if on a battlefield ).

I asked people to always move and consider using the armour of their opponent to control them. There is not much movement needed. Yet, I saw people still ( through habit ) moving as they always have.

As a result, I mentioned that Rokkon Shoujou is about purifying your senses so you can eventually see the truth. We need to develop our eyes and ears to see and hear what really is happening. Until then, we will be plagued with our own misguided thoughts. The transmission of the martial arts from our teacher will not be absorbed and we will walk a path where the radio waves ( denpa ) will forever be distorted and out of tune.

Our goal is to tune in and develop a direct connection with our teacher where there is no interference. We need to develop a clear radio wave to hear ( with all six senses ) the true teachings – Rokkon Shoujou.

I think we should think about this well.

In other aspects of the training, we considered the use of hidden weapons and the responses of the opponent after they become aware of them. We then trained to discover how our movement is dictated by the opponent and our kamae maintain the kukan to control the changes.

We tried to develop a working knowledge of training within the three stages of shu ha ri. Many people rush forward in their training before they understand and have basic movements imbedded into their spine. You could say that everyone is trying to ” run before they can walk “.

Before you can move forward, you need to understand your body. You need to train slowly in order for your spirit/mind, technique and body to develop and move together ( shin gi tai ichi ).

If we train too quickly and just consider flow ( nagare ) before we have developed sound kihon,our movements will be weak and have no structure.

Structure is learned from kata, or the forms. This is the starting point. Next, we come to integrate the principals of training. These principals bring the kata to life. The principals are like a sanshin and awaken us to the kukan.

The kukan is where we move to give us opportunities. Distance, angling, and timing are one in the same.They are the crucial elements that must be made transparent and masterfully expressed through consistent training. If we master the principals, we will develop a consistency in everything we do. Look at the Shitenno. they move very similar all the time, yet their taijutsu works on everyone. They do not have to adapt their body and move unnaturally. They have mastered the principals. As a result, they move neutrally and in a relaxed manner, almost like a dance. With mastery comes confidence.  These principals are our guards or shields to help us stay alive so we can walk through our lives as gentlemen and live freely.

It is imperative that we train well to discover this.

The hearts of Manolo and Estelle are large and warm. We could freely speak our truths and quickly develop friendships. Many times I saw a sparkle in our eyes as we talked of matters from the heart.

I am reminded during these times of the amazing power of the Bujinkan. Without the Bujinkan arts, I would never have been able to experience meeting people from around the world and be accepted into their homes and countries as a friend. We should all be thank full of been given this life from Soke.

Thank you so much to everyone for making my first trip to Montreal such a pleasant time.

3 Responses to “Montreal Bushinden Kai”

  1. If I thought Ninjutsu was a great martial art before, now I’m absolutely positive it is so. The reason for this yet another proof of “greatness” (LOL) is the seminar I attended this past weekend, where I met Duncan Stewart, a 15th Dan who’s been living in Japan for six years.
    Since I’ve started taking Ninjutsu classes, I’ve been to a lot of seminars and met a lot of wonderful people, each with his or her own way of teaching and moving, and I tried to learn as much as I could from them. Not an easy job, though. Usually held over two days, from morning till late afternoon, these seminars can be quite demanding physically and mentally and by the time they end you’re completely exhausted. Not to mention overwhelmed. There is so much information to take in, so much to understand, to figure out, it’s incredible!
    It wasn’t any different this weekend either, but as Duncan pointed out, you don’t have to remember all the techniques; if the body absorbed any kind of knowledge during your training, it will surface when you least expect it. What I really liked about the seminar, was the way we trained: very, very slowly, trying to understand what our movement does to Uke’s body, how it makes it react and what can happen from there. It is an amazing way of training and such revelation “won” me a spot in the middle to show a technique in front of everyone. Needless to say I was absolutely terrified at the idea, but the funny thing is the shaking and fainting feeling I usually get in situations like this one happened more after it was all over. Thinking about it now, I realize that while I was there showing the technique, I wasn’t so nervous, I was just concentrating on what I had to do and the “Oh-my-God-I-have-a-total-blank-I-don’t-know-what-to-do” feeling had gone away during those few seconds. Does this mean I’ve grown up a little? (LOL)
    Something Duncan repeated a lot was “move, stop, think”. You have to use your brain when you make a move, whether it’s a block, a counter or just a Tai Sabaki. Don’t rush in without thinking, without realizing that you’re leaving yourself open for attacks. Another point he made was that, although you have to move naturally, react fast enough to defend yourself and adapt your Kamae and techniques to the real world, you cannot do that before you practise your basics over and over again. The body needs to learn the Kata before it can transform it into a “natural movement” that will come out when you need it to. The transition to this “natural movement” is not something you can do consciously, you can’t just “decide” it. It will simply occur one day, naturally. But for that to happen, you have to keep on practising.
    A lot more was said, of course, and my brain is still trying to take it all in. Ninjutsu is a lot of fun, but it has to be serious too, and getting that balance is very important and also very difficult. The bottom line is I really enjoyed the seminar and felt like I got one step closer to knowing myself. Most importantly, it renewed the joy I’ve always felt about the Ninjutsu classes.
    Thank you Duncan for your teachings (and for the jokes, lol) and thank you Estelle and Manolo for organizing this.

    • This was nice. Another seminar where I understood quite little. Not because the material wasn’t there. Not because the teacher wasn’t good, quite the contrary. This was the type of seminar where the material, while not absorbed immediately, sticks with you in the days that follow.

      Duncan took the time for us, and I am grateful for it. He took the time to breakdown what the movements were, and did a very nice reality check for us. Showing us how easy it is to wrap ourself into illusions of greateness. OK, maybe not greateness, but adequateness. At times, we felt like kids. Wide eyed, trying to graps what was happening in front of us, which however simple it looked, gave us enough informations to work on for the months to come.

      Honestly, I know I needed that. So, thanks for a great seminar and for being so generous. I know it did help and and will. And I’m fairly sure, I’m not the only one.


      (And I’m happy to report that my leg doesn’t hurt anymore…;o) )

  2. Robert Grecia Says:

    Let me first start off by saying it was an absolute pleasure to met Duncan and experience his transmission of the Bujinkan. I had never previously attended any of his classes and I based my decision of attending this seminar by simply watching him be Soke’s uke in my recent trip to Japan. Duncan exposed the holes and bad habits that were expressed in my taijutsu with a few simply words and just as easily expressed ways to correct those issues.

    He shared many important insights about how to train when in Japan and many funny moments as well.

    Thank you once again

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