|Demon greeting in the new Bujinkan Hombu Dojo, photo by Michael Glenn|
The other night, I gave each of my students a Glasgow kiss. They didn’t like it. This is a slang term for a headbutt.
If you subscribe to my training notes (if you aren’t a subscriber yet, you miss a LOT of free Bujinkan notes), you know that we are currently studying 宝拳十六法 Hōken Juroppō in my basics class. These are the 16 striking treasures of the Bujinkan curriculum.
The Bujinkan name (or slang) for headbutt is 鬼角拳 Kikaku Ken. To help everyone visualize why this strike has the name that translates as demon horn fist, I brought a small oni mask for everyone to see where his horns are located. It may even be technically correct to grimace like an oni while delivering this strike.
The 鬼 Oni, or demon is not the same type of demon that westerners fear. Oni are associated with wild energy and bodily strength. They can be positive or negative.
You will see many people in the Bujinkan who embody both qualities. Like the Japanese expression, 鬼面仏心 kimenbusshin, the face of a devil but the heart of Buddha. This is the stern expression you see on a warrior while his heart is tender and compassionate.
Hatsumi Sensei said that
“In the Bujinkan now we have really reached the time of demons (oni). When you say demon many people think of an image of something that is very wild. But it is not like that. Oni are very important creatures in Japan given to us by the gods to protect justice. I am sure that there will be more demons in the future of the Bujinkan to look after the world.”
This why I laugh out loud every time I headbutt someone. One year, when Hatsumi Sensei set the yearly theme as Kukishin ryu, he wrote a scroll to hang in the (old) hombu. It read 九鬼大笑 kuki taishou… 9 demons, hearty laughter.
Most depictions of Oni in masks, sculpture, or painting show them with a very large and scary smile. This is because they know a secret. Laughter is the only thing that will defeat our biggest enemy… ourselves. The inner demons float away on a smile.