How to approach training nowadays is plagued with doubt by many throughout the world. Everyone has there own thoughts on budo and personal reasons for becoming involved in the training. However, there are things that cannot be denied.

I think the truth is often misunderstood by those who truly hang of every word of Soke. Soke is a Ninja. He constantly uses the art of Kyojutsu Tenkan Ho to maintain harmony within the Dojo. Not everything he says is clear and true. In respect to this, it might be good to remember that the buddha said that the use of “white lies” with the right heart can be used for the betterment of society.

It is once people leave the dojo and begin to “think” about things without truly understanding his words and the context in which they were said, that problems occur. Everyone returns to their respective countries and believe they “know” what is required for the betterment of the Bujinkan. Honestly, what is required is for people to “shut up and train”. Is this not preaching the first code of the Dojo? If we cannot firstly accept these guidelines and learn that the martial arts are actually movements recieved from the gods to protect us, we will move with our own desires and produce what we want.

People feel they are doing the right thing. A puppy wants to please it’s master and jumps to attention and paws his legs, giving affection. However, the puppy doesn’t realise that he is in fact making his masters pants dirty! This is the same for us as students allowed into the dojo of Soke Hatsumi. We must constantly realise that we are but lowly students attempting to understand an art that cannot be understood.

Soke himself has recently stated that he is but a puppet moved by Takamatsu Sensei from the heavens. I am recently more aware of how selfless and in love Soke is with the budo he was taught by Takamatsu. As foreigners engaging in training, we must do our best to imitate Sokes movements the best we can. As for other Shihan, when we are in their dojo, we should honor  and respect their teaching by performing the movements as close to their manner as possible. Freely doing the waza as you wish, or performing the waza like another Shihan is disrespectful in my eyes. If you attend various classes, I feel this etiquette is essential for truly gaining an appreciation of each Shihans movements while intern visually respecting them by emptying your cup at the door and mimicking them as closely as possible.

Nagato Sensei once mentioned that he was nicknamed ” Kage” by the longer standing Shihan at that time. For many years, Nagato Shihan closely followed Soke everywhere, and in as many forms possible, mimicked Soke in both movement, clothing, habits, hobbies, routine, etc. Nagato sensei also said that it has been all he has ever thought of doing. The reason being that the closer he could imitate Soke, the closer he could get to understanding him and his budo. To do this requires a ” letting go of the self “.

If anyone has viewed the 1990 Daikomyosai in the Kashiwa Dojo, there is a moment where Soke performs a henka on Nagato Sensei. Soke then ask Nagato to show and explain what had happened. Nagato Sensei moved to the place where Soke had been, and with his uke, performed the henka exactly as Soke had! Now, I haven’t seen anyone in my life in training be able to imitate Soke exactly, let alone after being his uke. To me, this is true talent. This “Visual recording and replay” ability is often told by both Soke and Nagato as something that must be developed within ourselves. This ability is so important. If we cannot perform what we see, then what are we doing?!

People, including myself, must constantly be honest with themselves and be more earnest in their training. Soke often says to people, “play”. This is said for many reasons. It is important not to take this to literally. If we do, we are thinking like children. Soke isn’t teaching children. He is teaching adults. We have to think deeply about things and train with conviction.

Many years ago I was told he was very serious and earnest about training. Nagato Sensei said that when he began, that he would copy down all of the techniques Soke performed at every class and then study them. He said after a period of time this was something that became not necessary and he followed Sokes instructions about no taking notes and also asking questions. He himself explains that once he stopped asking questions, he recieved the answers.


Nagato Shihan

Training is about being honest with yourself. It’s about coming to terms with your shortcomings and having the courage to persevere and train to filter out your weak points. If you cannot endure, then budo is not for you. Soke recently stated that everyone must take responsibility for themselves and the training. We must realise that we could be injured or even killed. If we cannot accept this, well, the door of the dojo is left open for many reasons. People are free. Soke hit me quite hard on the asagasumi kyusho. I fell and people gasped at the impact. He asked me to reiterate what I have just written for those present when I stood back up.

Budo is about life. However, I feel that budo by many is misunderstood as something beyond what it is.Budo is about killing and using weapons to survive. If you cannot develop the mentality to kill, then you are not able to truly understand budo. People move through movements and kneel lightly on peoples heads to control them. They put a knife to their training partners throat. They hit him on the head with a hanbo. They stab with a knife into the floating ribs. I feel that many are not in the mindset to truly be able to perform these movements or the thousands of variants in a real situation with real weapons. If we don’t train with the mentality for war, then when it comes to a time when we are required to use the skills we have been studying, we will fail.

Budo is about developing the spirit,technique and body together ( shin-gi-tai-ichi). If these three hearts are fully understood and mastered, then the man of budo can come to realise Kanjin Kaname, and do what is necessary maintain life. We have to foster the spirit of a budoka. It is important to understand “yu i ga doku son“. This implies that we must develop the self before we can truly assist others. Therefore, the budoka must have a righteous heart and train single mindedly toward gaining true mastery of the self in order to fully care for his family, his land and country.


 Budo is something we must “give our life too” or ” die for“. Reading between the lines is important here. It’s the feeling of Sutemi. Self discovery is true discovery, only after we have understood sutemi.

Therefore, keep going, trust the questions and feeling from your subconscious and move knowing that living is but a series of changes or experiences giving us the chance to fully appreciate nature,the art of living and the way of budo.


2 Responses to “Koppo”

  1. Profound, I believe these words just helped my ability to train/live tremendously, as well as provided me with a sense of relief… Thank you Duncan. I can’t wait to get back on the dojo.

    Your friend at Tanuki Dojo


  2. Silvio Herasme Says:

    Thank you for this essay, it is enlightening in all aspects.

    Silvio Herasme

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