Archive for June, 2012

Thoughts on Rank

Posted in Uncategorized on June 13, 2012 by Duncan Stewart

The ranks in the Bujinkan are for heart.

Those with the right heart will accept rank from their teacher without question.
The student, with their feeling of discomfort or inadequcey for their new rank, should then go away and train hard until they become worthy of the grade.
This is understanding Sakizuke.

This is the correct feeling to have when dealing with the Bujinkan grades.

Everyone in the Bujinkan receives rank based on Sakizuke ( attaining a rank before the actual skill/understanding is achieved ).
It is important to understand this and therefore not become concerned with ranking requirements to achieve a higher rank.

The Bujinkan is like an Organism, rather than an Organisation. It is alive and very natural.
Those that wish to control their dojo by creating set requirements, rules and obligations etc, often are going against natures way.

All we have to do is trust in Sokes manner of transmitting his budo and train hard to obtain Shin Gi Tai Ichi.

There are over 300 jugodan ranks in the Bujinkan world today. Soke has said that none of them are masters. His ranks are in “hope” that one day, some masters will sprout from this group. this is an important teaching. It is important for everyone to keep training and never become complacent or satisfied with their supposed rank. Rank is transparent in the real world. The teachings are to remove oneself from the constraints of material gain and reward and to understand that the “shugyo” is the most important thing. The training never ends and the master never thinks of being a master. The master thinks of himself as forever a student. This is what truly inspires. Very few people in any martial art can truly become masters. Thus, the ranks of the Bujinkan are alive and people succeed or fail just as in life. The ranks of the Bujinkan are teaching that life and budo are one in the same. Therefore, we are encouraged to walk everyday with an everyday mind and just think of “keeping on Going”. That is all that matters – Bufu ikkan!!

Words based on recent thoughts sprouting from classes in Japan.

Think by Yourself.

Posted in Uncategorized on June 13, 2012 by Duncan Stewart

– By Soke Masaaki Hatsumi

In ancient times, a person who strve to learn budo would do individual keiko. After learning skills from his teacher, he trained himself to master those lessons. He had to have the determination to study through the techniques alone. Going into the mountains, he would repeat his solo training in nature, fighting with animals and trees.
These days, so many people forget to ” go into the mountains.” These people tend to desire the easy way out. If they are having problems that are complicated, they immediately ask someone older to solve it for them. Moreover, the elder gives them easy advice. Most people answer nicely because they think it would be good to help the situation along, but in fact, this often ends up hurting the individual`s growth.

It might be a little different from keiko in budo, but some problems can only be understood by the person who has the problem. An advisor gives suggestions trying to solve the problem through applying his own experiences, while the listner ( who does not have those same experiences ) listens to the guidance as if it were being recieved from some divine being. There is sometimes a serious danger in issing a lesson`s important point. Therefore, you should sometimes offer the advice, ” Ponder the dilemma yourself,”You may consider this ” coldhearted.” However, being cold illustrates the need to solve a problem ( finding warmth ).Perhaps some days later, the individual will return saying: ” I can`t figure out a solution…” and he will recount his problem in a totally different manner than his first telling. You will now be able to discern how to offer advice that is more appropriate by judging from his revised account.

In budo, we inform students of the proper answer after the “torment”, of making them think for themselves. Some things must be learned through suffering or they will be forgotten for the rest of your life. We must all learn to solve our own difficult problems.Furthermore, in budo, we suffer great pains to master the best techniques. It was throught the pains and labors of our ancestors, who became the founders of our traditions, that these techniques were invented.

Move. Stop. Think.

Posted in Uncategorized on June 13, 2012 by Duncan Stewart

The more I train, I find I know very little.

When I do train though, I am searching out for the kotsu or “knack” of what is being transmitted.

To do this requires a particular focus and understanding of the feeling behind the training in the Dojo.

In order to practise, the uke and tori must assist in each others learning.

The beginning stages of the physical training can be related to SHU level. This is the stage of taking the time to learn set movements with set attacks. In this stage, there is no Henka or “variations”. The Tori is learning a new skill set and pursuing the training as an “in depth study of the self and uke”.
Nagato Shihan has said once, ” Move,Stop,Think.” The training is about moving with logic to learn the mechanics of the body, basic physics and the workings of the principals of timing,distance and angles.
You learn about leverage and how to achieve it with correct body movement.
We Move to an attack from uke and then Stop. At this point you can Think/observe your balance and that of your uke. You can see if you are in distance for another attack, does he/she have a hidden weapon, what is around you, does your angle of position put you in advantage or disadvantage, etc etc.
Training is about discovering your weak points and learning how to make them into strengths or how to make them work for you ( kyojutsu ). To do this, we must take the time and practise slowly so the mind,body and the technique can unify. This is Shin Gi Tai Ichi – the ultimate goal of the martial artist.

We are studying to live with balance. The process of learning Budou is helping us to ahcieve this. Just as there is a process to life, there is a process to learning.

Basically, people are trying to run before they can walk. People want to make the training “more realistic” by increasing attacks with speed, power and resistance. They do ths too quickly. They have not taken heed of the first code of the Dojo – Know that patience comes first.
The fact is, most of the training we recieve ( in a Shihans class ) is at a level where we are to “mimic” and learn their taijutsu. We do this to rid ourselves of our bad habits and learn to move correctly like our masters. We are all beginners in their class. If you are not, then you cannot learn. It is very important to generate the right mind set. This level of training is the first level. If you cannot get what is shown to you in the basic form, then how can you move forward and train in henka? You first have to have something ( SHU ) before you can break ( HA ) it.

The teacher asks his Uke to peform a set attack. The attack for this example shall be a right punch.
The Uke lunges at him with deep but centered attack with body. The teacher moves, captures the energy and redirects the energy to control the uke. He then asks everyone to “do just that”.
What is important during this stage, is that the students watching observe both the uke and tori during the demonstration. If the students want to try and gain a “feeling” of what was shown, they must “mimic” both roles the best they can.
Nagato Shihan has recently had to resort to lining people up in the dojo and counting out the sequence of movements while getting everyone to mimic him. It comes down to ” having a childs mind”. If the mind is cluttered and full of things ” we want to see” rather than empty and absoring directly the things ” that really are ” then we will always have difficulty learning.

In Dojo around the world, I see people who are Dan ranks that cannot even perform the basic te-sabaki ( hand movements ) for the Koshi Kihon Sanpo. As to help these people and also to help their students, I break the fundamental kata down into three physical skill sets.
When I do this, people can see their shortcomings in each waza. Then, after they can “see” ,they have the opportunity to practise and learn correctly. After these skill sets are mastered, then they are unified to complete the kata as we normally see them.

There are people that are offering ” Soke revision classes “. This is laughable. They are saying they can do it, or “they get it”. People that say that about themselves are strange. where can they go from there? Once you have got it, what do you do then? These people will fade away.
No Japanese Shihan says this at all, and they especially do not offer classes to teach you what Soke did the night before. These men have been training with him for over 40 years. Something to think about.

Training is about learning to open the “eyes of your soul” that little more. It is difficult for all of us to travel this road less travelled. However, as buyu, we can all support and nourish each others growth in many ways.

Bufu Ikkan.