What is Bujinkan?
Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu
Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu is the name decided to express the nine schools that comprise the arts we practice. This name was decided By Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi (pictured above) in the early 90s to dispell some of the misconceptions that are drawn upon from the term ninjutsu. The arts we practice are not all ninjutsu, some are comprised of samurai arts and other old esoteric forms of martial arts. The philosophies and perspectives are what make these arts ninjutsu not necessarily the hows. Anyone can practice the forms of these arts. Without the proper understanding the schools would be left flat and Leave any person with out the proper instruction an insufficient warrior at best.
The Bujinkan Organization is headed by Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi. Born in Noda City, Chiba Prefecture, on Dec 2nd 1931. Dr. Hatsumi graduated from Mieji University of medicine in Tokyo Japan as an Ortopedic Doctor. He is respected as an accomplished artist, author, actor, musician, as well as a martial arts pioneer. He became Soke ( Grandmaster ) of the nine schools of the Bujinkan at the age of 27. Passed down to him from Toshitsugu Takamatsu, 33rd Grandmaster Togakure Ryu Ninpo. Dr. Hatsumi has recieved countless awards and commendations for his works and accomplishments. He cuurently does not teach outside of Japan anymore but practitioners can still travel to Japan to train with Hatsumi Sensei. The Bujinkan is now truly a international organization stretching the reaches of the globe. So we must all be diligent to work together and respect others customs as they may be different from our own.
The nine schools of the Bujinkan are…
• Togakure Ryu Ninpo, 34th Soke, Hidden Door School
• Gyokko Ryu Kosshijutsu, 28th Soke, Jeweled Tiger School
• Koto Ryu Koppojutsu, 18th Soke, Tiger Knocking Down School
• Shinden Fudo Ryu Jutaijutsu Dakentaijutsu, 26th Soke, Immovable Heart School
• Kukishinden Ryu Taijutsu, 28th Soke, Nine Demons School
• Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jutaijutsu, 17th Soke, High Tree, Raised Heart School
• Kumogakure Ryu Ninpo, 14th Soke, Hiding In The Clouds School
• Gyokushin Ryu Ninpo, 21st Soke, Jeweled Heart School
• Gikan Ryu Ninjutsu, 15th Soke, Truth Loyalty and Justice School
These schools incorporate spiritual, intelectual and physical elements for personal growth and development. Due to the combative nature of these schools competition are not a general practice, randori is an opportunity to evaluate your skills under pressure but no rewards are given. Just a few bruises and a chance to see your strengths and weaknesses with an opportunity to see what skills you may have learned. Not relying on any one way of thinking or moving are some of the reasons these schools have survived for 100s of years and are still relevant in todays turbulent world. These skill can be used for confidence, business, self restraint and patience. There are many benefits that come along with training. Learning to fight is a waste of time, One should learn to live and protect Justice and the innocent. Just learning to wrestle and punch creates ego and may make someone feel good in the short term and feed the ego. Feeding the heart and spirit has much longer lasting results.
Brief History of the Schools of the Bujinkan
Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu: Hidden Door School
What is now the Godan test in the Bujinkan also appears in the Togakure Ryu Makimono of the Tenmon Jimon in the section Happo Hiken. Some of the philosophy of this Ryu states ” Violence is to be avoided, and Ninpo is Bujutsu.” Use the sword to be peaceful, and protect Country, Family, and Nature. The techniques and skills of the Togakure Ryu were a major influence to the ninja schools in both the Iga and Koga regions of Japan. It is said that the techniques of the Kumogakure Ryu are almost identical to those of the Togakure Ryu. The three teachings of Togakure Ryu are: Senba shuriken, Shuko, and Shindake ( bamboo breathing tool ). These are known as Sanpo Hiden, the three secret ways. Founded in the 1100’s.
Gyokko Ryu Kosshijutsu: Jeweled Tiger School
This school specializes in techniques that involve Kosshijutsu ( attacks against muscles ) and Shitojutsu ( use of the thumbs and fingers ). Typical of Gyokko Ryu are the powerful blocks and balance breaking. The preference is to block by hitting with the knuckles to the attachment points of muscles. The Kihon Happo comes from the first two levels of this school and are considered perhaps the foundation for all martial arts. Kosshijutsu means to knock down the enemy with one finger. Kosshi could also mean backbone, as if kosshijutsu is the backbone of martial arts. Gyokko Ryu has a rule that states, ” Destroy the enemies power but leave his life.” Founded in the 1100’s.
Koto Ryu Koppojutsu: Tiger Knocking Down School
The name of this school means to knock down the tiger with the tips of the fingers. Kot Ryu has a unique form of swordsmanship where in the kamae and how the sword is held were deliberately altered versus traditional sword schools to give the opponent the impression they are facing an unskilled adversary. Koto Ryu is based upon Koppojutsu ( bone attacking blocks ). Directionall Koto Ryu techniques are straighter in, quicker, shorter and more direct to the point. Typical movement within the Koto Ryu is Yoko Aruki ( sideways cross stepping ) and stomping of feet and toes. It is said to always make the eyes appear blank. ” The eyes are everything. ” Founded in the 1500’s.
Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jutaijutsu: High Tree, Raised Heart School
Takagi Yoshin Ryu takes its techniques farther than those of Judo and Aikido. When the techniques are applied it is made as difficult as possible for the opponent to take ukemi. The opponent is thrown, locked, and controlled close to the body as if fighting in a closed space. You are training to use your opponents weight and momentum against him. In takagi Yoshin Ryu look at the eyes and use speed. Founded in the 1500’s.
Shinden Fudo Ryu Dakentaijutsu & Jutaijutsu: Immovable Heart School
Shinden Fudo Ryu is broken into two halves, Dakentaijutsu and Jutaijutsu. A characteristic of this school can be found in its recognition as nayural style ( Shizen no Kamae ) as the only postureof defense. However, in reality a person imagines a posture of defense in his/her mind and places ones self on gaurd. The secret principle of Shinden Fudo Ryu is the principle of nature. Use the trees, rocks, and waters to make yourself strong, And observe nature. This school uses several weapons including, Yari ( spear ), Ono ( war axe ), O-Tsuchi ( war hammer), and Naginata ( pole arm with sword attached ). Hojojutsu is also taught in this school. It is used along side with taijutsu to help restrain the opponent. Founded in the 1100’s.
Kukishinden Ryu Happo Hikenjutsu: Nine Demons School
Considered the main school that gives the Bujinkan its weapons training. The Hanbo, Sword, and bo techniques are taught to all students in the Bujinkan. This school uses many heavy bladed weapons that are rarely, if ever used by other forms of martial arts. Such as the Bisento, Kaginawa, Daisharin. During the life of the school it was employed by Japanese seamen to help protect them against pirates. This greatly influenced the schools techniques and weapons. Warriors of Kukishinden Ryu are said to have used the masts and riggings of ships during combat. It is also said that the Founder of Aikido studied with the Kuki family. Founded in the 1100’s.
Kumogakure Ryu Ninpo: Hiding In The Clouds School
The taijutsu in Kumogakure Ryuis very similar to that of Togakere Ryu. One of the weapons of the school is the Kamayari ( hooked spear ). This was originally designed for climbing up the sides of ships, it was also used against swordsman to maintain distance and disarm.Another specialty of this school is the Demon Mask sometimes worn by the members of the school. The idea of the mask may have given rise to the use of Kikakuken ( Demon Horn Strike ) head butt which is not commonly used in Japanese fighting systems. The ninja of this School wore armored sleeves to help protect them in combat as well as for attacking. A taijutsu specialty of this school is that the Kumogakure Ryu Ninja jump while fighting. Founded in the 1500’s.
Gikan Ryu Koppojutsu: Truth Loyalty and Justice School
This Ryu contains many special kicks, punches, and throws. One of the special teachings of this school is ” From this side comes not the first strike. ” The footwork in Gikan Ryu is used widely within the Bujinkan. There are no Densho for the Gikan Ryu. The whole range of Kata for this school are taught arally. Founded in the 1500’s.
Gyokushin Ryu Ninpo: Jeweled Heart School
It is not totally clear in the west as to what the fighting techniques of the Gyokushin Ryu are. All that is really known for the most part is that this school concentrated more on the espionage side of ninjutsu, rather than on the fighting side. Gyokushin Ryu is known for its superior use of the Naganawa, ( a lasso ) It is understandable in this day of modern international conflict why Hatsumi Sensei may not teach the principles of this school openly. Founded in the 1100″s.
Some Perspectives on the Art from Duff Culp
At Bujinkan Sanami Dojo we strive to impart values based on ethical and empirical self motivation to our students. Martial arts is about learning. Learning is done at the dojo, in our case the outdoors is our expansive dojo. “Training,” this is what the practitioner develops an aptitude for doing in their own time. A pragmatic approach to the training is vital for the longevity of the school and the students. The training in the Bujinkan consists of Budo Taijutsu, simply translated as the way of war with the body. There are better translations, I am shooting from the hip so to say. We must understand the schools are based on koryu, ” a modern term for classical samurai and clandestine schools of war, or bushido.” Thus, the art covers many aspects of seriously injuring and incapacitating your adversary, if not killing them. Therefore, only people showing good judgement and moral character will be allowed to train. A look must also be taken at the modern laws and legislation surrounding self defense of oneself and others. An understanding of force continuum, citizens arrest, totality of circumstance, as well as legal ramifications regarding the acts of defending the private citizen must be asserted into the curriculum.
The Bujinkan is the umbrella organization headed by, “Masaaki Hatsumi Sensei,” Noda-shi Japan. The Bujinkan consists of nine different school, six of which are samurai based and three of which are based on ninpo. Ninpo is sometimes referred to as “ninjutsu.” We strive to leave the pre-concieved notions of the assasin in black stalking in the dark to the movies. Hollywood is where these ideas originated from in the first place. A deeper understanding of what a ninja is can be found in the “NIN,” simply translated as, ” a person of perserverance and endurance.” This means that we must learn to conquer ourselves, our motives, our biased notions of the world, our cognition and perceptions of everything around us to achieve our goals. Training is not just about fighting, it is about learning to learn from the world around us. Many people spend their life in the play mode, constantly asserting their perspective with no concern to the situation at hand. Learning to be in record mode allows one to take in the enviornment and gain an awareness of the gravity of life before making a decision. This can happen in a moments notice and does not mean one always stands by idle. It gives rise to a self awareness and confidence, it also exhibits moral action to be taken in the gravest of situations. The sword of justice is not for war, it is for maintaining peace.
Unlike many arts, the practitioner learns to apply these skills acquired to everyday life. We learn through the process of shu-ha-ri.
Shu=To learn the basic, the bio mechanical aspects of understanding movement and motive. Form.
Ha=To understand the form, the application and purpose, the outcome of movement and motive. the beginning of creativity and self assertion. Function.
Ri=the final stage, this is where the student destroys the form and realizes there was never a form to begin with? Not literally. We become students all over again, back to the beginning and re-evaluate our understanding. This is not in reality a final stage. It’s the understanding that there are no stages, only process and progress. It can be understood as FLOW.
To read so far one might think we dont even do techniques, the techniques are the fuel in the process of enlightenment. The outcome of self awareness is the bi-product of hard physical training, ” the emmisions.” if you will. This is the real goal. Many students come to train to learn to fight. This is a mistake, one already knows how to fight. Fighting is like a baby breathing, No one teaches a baby to breathe, it simply is instinctual. We spend our whole lives fighting with ourselves, in some cases more than others. A martial artist is very different from a fighter. A martial artist should learn to be void of ego. It is not the destination that is important, its the journey. This is my understanding of enlightenment. Many seek to attain a connection to the universe and come to expect some sort of epiphany. Good Luck! Enlightenment is realizing you are already connected to the universe, for good or bad. Its reciprical in essence. The process is the enlightenment in itself. Introspection is key to understanding motivation and desire, Thus, it is key to self-actualize ones place in the universe. It is the goal of the martial artist to live a fulfilling life with family and friends without impeding on others in the process for selfish material or monetary gains. The martial artist must accept pain and sorrow as a part of the joy and experience of life, it is the rain to the sunshine, the shadow to the light. Both aspects are good and necessary for balance. It is important to gain a greater understanding of this concept. Many in the western world see ying and yang, or in and yo as positive and negative. This is a misunderstanding of the definition of the terms, both are equal contributors to life as we know it.
One way we use the concepts of the Bujinkan in our daily lives is through the concept of KU, “void, ethereal, emptyspace.” On a basic physical level we strive to understand the space between ourselves and our partners in the actions of a series of movements. It can be the distance between people, moments, and have implications for timing and rhythm as well. In a deeper more impactful way regarding the everyday common occurences in life we apply the KU to control many applications. Such applications include managing the space of our tasks during the day, knowing our capabilities and not spreading ourselves to thin. For instance balancing out family time, work, obligations, and still managing to make it to class and train. This idea of KU can be applied to a conversation as well. These are just a few examples of how KU can be applied with our daily interactions. It gives an example of the way the techniques teach us far beyond our expectations if we are willing to open up to the possibilities. It is amazing to see people in class who are late have the same problem with their timing in class. For another example we can look at balance, generally when people have trouble organizing and balancing daily functions the same can be said for the physical balance required in class. Our bodies reflect the state of mind we have, this is prevelant in people who are depressed often, their health generally suffers. This concept can be researched more through the study of epigenetics. Fret not though, all these things can be strengthened and improved upon with sincere training. Note: Budo Taijutsu is not the only way to address these concerns but only one avenue, It takes desire and will as well.
In the Bujinkan we focus our efforts on six of the schools in general; Kukushinden ryu, Takagi Yoshin ryu, Koto ryu, Gyokko ryu, Shinden Fudo ryu, Togakure ryu. There are three additional schools that are not fucused on as much as they are generally overlapping or cover more clandestine aspects as well as concepts of strategy to castle building. Some training is available in these schools. Only what is known about them though. At Sanami dojo we try to only teach what we know and not embelish upon our understanding. No one can ever truly know everything about all these schools. It can take a life time to master one art if that is even possible. The focus is more concerned on mastering ourselves. The schools are taught seperately and then function together as a whole for the student to have a diversity of skill that compliments itself. We learn ways of walking, running, leaping, rolling, and falling, as well as conditioning the body to strength and flexibility. Many of the weapons are derived from the Kukishinden ryu. The weapons are diverse in size and application, from rope to spear and sword, just to name a few. We also include modern weapons and armor as well as handcuffs, firearms, batons, mace and so on.
Due to the size of the curriculum there is no set path for rank, this perspective of grading the student is left to the discretion of the instructor. In light of this, every shidoshi, “licensed teacher,” is allowed a freedom to teach as they wish. This freedom can be a double edged sword for many. Some instructors take this very literally and just do whatever they feel like, others lack the confidence to move beyond a format they are comfortable with. A balanced approach is always good, basics are vital yet the envelope does have to be pushed for the sake of the teacher and the students. Without a good foundation in any skill we are destined to fail, but we also have to push to see where the foundation is lacking in a safe enviornment. Like checking the tire pressure on a car before a long trip. It is better to be safe than sorry! A connection to the continual advancement of the art as it develops through Hatsumi Sensei is crucial. Not everyone can affor or find the time to go to Japan of course. This is where having an open heart and mind is important. Its great to just have one teacher you hold as your own, although you should make an effort to go to seminars and train with as many people as you can. Good or bad! This will train your eyes to discriminate what is good or bad. You should always keep an open mind in a class though, you may fool yourself. Many students are so stuck on what their instructor says is good and bad they cant see past this. By watching and learning openly and then later pondering the lesson objectively one can have a better sense of good and bad. What looks sloppy to you may be better than the prettiest technique. Just one example is when I was younger in the art I went to a Tai Kai, International seminar,” to train under Hatsumi sensei. Oguri sensei performed some techniques on the stage that to my know it all self at the time seemed fool hearty, clumsy, and just plain sloppy. Soke said it was very good, I did not understand at all what he meant. As time passed I began to understand that this technique that Oguri sensei performed was unrehearsed and natural, real fighting is not pretty. Oooooh! And after a few trips to Japan this concept made more sense. Oguri sensei is scary when he gets his hands on you, trust me. So in conclusion, find a teacher you like, value, and trust. For myself, I dont want a teacher that does not lead by example. Someone that places his worth above others or is undisciplined with his own actions. Especially if the teacher is not honest about his human nature. We all have flaws and can learn from each other.In my class I am the teacher, yet many students have more experience building computers and understanding math and biology. We all have knowledge that can be utilized. So to be arrogant as a teacher or dishonest and unreasonable with your expectations is not acceptable. Especially when that person does not live up to those standards themself. Not to say these people might not have something to offer, I just would not choose them as my personal teacher. We can also learn by others actions in terms of how we dont want to act. Be discriminate and open in a balanced way. Everything won’t work for you. But take the time to see that some things wont work because you don’t understand them, you are doing them wrong, or you are not ready for the lesson. You will only be robbing yourself if you can’t learn to look past the surface of your own vision. The eyes are simply a way to take stimuli into the brain and turn it to a psychological format. The eyes will play tricks on you so to say, as well as your pre-concieved notions. This is not to say you should get caught up in teachers that perform the art as some sort of mystical magical feat. There is more to life than we can understand, and some things in life are magical, a sunset for example. Once again though a balance has to come into play. Critical thinking is good, be sceptic at times, but do so in a scientific approach. Weigh all the terms and definitions, ask questions, be dilligent. But do it in a way that is appropriate and polite. Sometimes it is also good to just shut up and learn and trust, as said before think about it deeply before you begin to argue your point. Ask at the next class. Chances are you misunderstood or missed something. Maybe your understanding or capacity is not ready for the concept. Balance balance balance.