Soke uses the word ” Play ” to send us of to experience for ourselves the taijutsu of his nine schools. Recently he mentioned a very interesting and necessary point in regards to studying budo with him. Soke doesn’t teach. His method of teaching, or should I say ” transmitting” his art is from man to man interaction. This transmission is not something that he plans, but is an occurence in natural rhythm with his surroundings. He also stated that the themes chosen from year to year, are not predetermined or planned either. The themes just naturally arise and fit to finally complete what is necessary to pass on the “feeling” of the nine schools. If Soke was to plan the way things were to occur, than the training would become predictable. If he was predictable, than the training would not be “alive” and teach students how to deal with henka or “change”. It would also not be Ninjutsu.

To “play” with the teachings of budo, Soke mentioned that you must first learn it !  He also related it to understanding music. First you need to know the scales/rudiments etc, before you can “play” and actually make music free of thought. This is the same as budo. It also can be related to Shu Ha Ri. 


To “play” with taijutsu too early in ones training can be detrimental to future positive changes. One has to firstly understand or maintain and on going appreciation of the kihon of  budo. It is important to remain in touch with the kihon and the principles that ultimately teach us the way to live. I have once heard that Soke thought he learned more about life from the study of the kihon than that of techniques. Therefore, this can be a lesson to those that neglect kihon practise just because they view it to be “physical practise only”. Nothing is quite as it seems. After all, we are studying the art of Ninpo! 

Bujinkan 003

 The ultimate aspect of budo is to internalise everything to the point of  “no thought”. This is also the path of englightenment, or satori. It is said that we must strip away the unecessary to reach satori. It is only once we can do this, that we can understand the simplicity of life.

Having asked to describe my experience as uke for Soke during class recently, I could but mutter to Soke that I didn’t understand/feel any feeling from him. From memory, I believe he replied by saying that this is the ultimate “feeling” to have. You could say “no feeling”? By this it was explained that by not permeating any feeling, the opponent is unable to determine the next move. Therefore, what ever movement occurs, is a suprise and unsettling for the opponent.

From this point, I believe momentarily one is unbalanced psychologically and therefore it naturally affects the body. From confusion breeds weakness. As the mind and body are one, the confusion felt in the mind creates hesitancy and there after indescive body movement and lack of control. Soke maintains this “mind/body control” consistently and is easily able to manipulate is uke’s. 

Soke also asked that everyone take responsibility for their own training and not to think that they are being taught while in the dojo. Now.This does not mean that one has no respect or does not follow the teachings as well as they can. What this does mean ( in my eyes at this present moment ) is giving students a chance to “show their true face ” and allow themsleves to freely experiment and express themselves as indivivuals. This is a wonderful manner of teaching in order to empower people and help them obtain their true potential. Soke is is helping us all understand the Sainou Kon Ki to live life to the maximum. 


Unfortunately, there are always people that follow their own ways and disrupt the balance ( wa ) that is required to maintain healthy relationships. When this inbalance occurs in the dojo, the concept of natural selection and justice can be viewed. It is also an excellent way for students to observe themselves, and see how easy it is to fall prey to desire and deviate off the path of true budo.

In saying this though, I have no idea if I am on the true path or not. I may never know. What is important is to remain connected to Soke and the Shihan the best you can. From there, if you are open, then your relaitonships, actions and overall life will act as a mirror in the dojo, giving you the opportunity to weed out your shortcomings and weaknesses. What is also very important to understand is that this may go on for your whole life!


It is my personal opinion, that we are being shown the path on how to be our own teachers. After all, we are ultimately alone in this world. To do this, we have to have a sence of self worth and confidence. Soke often tells people that they are good and very skilled. I believe these affirmations passed on are just like the ones he recieved in the many letters from Takamtsu Osensei. Soke has said before that he is just transmitting the arts as he had them transmitted to him. This is important to remember, as is the concept of Sakizuke.

The path of true learning is right in front of us. We have to decide whether or not we take the step to experience or not!

Also, Don’t become too serious about budo. You have to have the heart of an Artist and play !!

Gambatte Kudasai




8 Responses to “Play”

  1. BEAUTIFUL ARTICLE : It is amazing that so much you wrote about
    Students of the Bujinkan intuitively after a long exposure to Soke’s Philosophy and Art Feel this to be true . Many other students of Martial Arts who have been practicing for a long time also Know this to be true

  2. Terrific post Duncan! It covers a lot of ground and touches on some really vital concepts. I think that sometimes some people may feel like, “Oh we’re doing mushadori again?” and not get that there is so much embedded in the kihon, and that the kihon, like all of our art, is fun to play with! Thanks again for a wonderful resource for those of us who can’t travel to Nihon as often as we would like.

  3. Damm good post Duncan, i am happy to read it !

    Soke says “Play” but i am one of those how still remember when he was using the spanish version of it ” A jugar ” ………………

  4. Dunc,

    Outstanding essay on Soke’s meaning of play. You write very well and as I read it I find myself listening as if hearing these words from Soke. Do you mind if I incorporate this essay into my instructor manual for Yondan and give you the credit for it? I think this is very important for students to understand, the ShuHaRi and play concepts together. Esp at Yondan and before they take the leap to Godan. Thanks much and take care. phil

  5. Duncan

    Thanks very much for this post I used to love now go play because it takes the seriousness out of training and lets the artist side of the brain feel the taijutsu rather tha just doing it according to the scientist side of the brain. I guess I am a bit of an anomoly as I have been playing music for a while and have only just started learning my scales. going backwards to go fowards.

    once again beautiful piece thank you

  6. Chris Davy Says:

    Great article! Thanks for sharing this.

  7. Great article. Thank you so much for sharing your insights.

  8. Well said Duncan,
    I forever see myself as a child at play. I see me children with their natural taijutsu. My children wish to be more like me, but what they do not know is I wish to be more like them… Thank you for your words and insight…
    C Cowan
    Bujinkan Butoku Dojo
    Fremont CA.

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