Bujinkan Strategies of Control Part 7: 中心 chuushin

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Hatsumi Sensei and Michael Glenn

I got off the plane and went straight to the dojo. This is extreme. And maybe a little foolish.

I got up at 5am in California, went to the airport to fly across the Pacific Ocean for around 12 hours. When I land in Japan, I get on one train for an hour, then another for half an hour, and the last one to the dojo for another half hour.

When I arrived for Hatsumi Sensei’s class, he decided to throw me around the dojo. Then I got back on a train to go check in at my hotel. When I finally lay in bed, it is 22 or 23 hours since I left home. But I lay awake trying to understand what just happened in training.

Even if I only had this one class, the whole trip was worth it. Hatsumi Sensei was teaching us about control. But it is not accomplished by purely physical means. In fact he said, “Don’t grab, it’s neither grabbing nor not grabbing.”

What is in between grabbing and not grabbing when you are trying to control someone? This in between space is what he was trying to show us. And here is a huge revelation for your training if you are ready for it. Soke said,

“Don’t do more than necessary by grabbing. But trying NOT to grab is also doing too much. you have to be in the middle. that middle space is where you can disappear.”

What does this type of control look like? Well, I just felt it and witnessed it in the Bujinkan Honbu dojo. The opponent ends up fighting himself. Soke was doing this against knife attacks. And every time the attack came in, Soke pivoted around it and was able to redirect the knife so the attacker stabbed or cut himself.

This can happen when you are neither taking nor not taking. But what you do “take” are things you can’t see. Those in between things, those invisible things are really controlling the opponent. とってでとってない totte de tottenai.

Soke threw his opponents very painfully. But they couldn’t take ukemi because he controlled them. He laughed and said 親切 shinsetsu. which is the word for kindness, but the kanji means killing the parents. Like you’re killing them with kindness. He said that throwing them is a type of kindness.

He also used the word たすけて tasukete which suggests that he is helping them find the destruction they seek. You are helping them and using kindness to throw them, but then you have to be able to immediately kill them. Kill them with kindness.

I watched as he demonstrated a type of 手の内 tenouchi which is the way of using the palm or the fingers. He would catch the opponent’s finger right in the center or palm of his hand and move it around like a joystick.

He told us 力を感じさせない chikara o kanji sasenai… don’t let the opponent feel your power. You control through connection, but when you connect these ideas, they become zero.

Remember, it’s not your hand that is connecting to the opponent… and it’s not the place on the opponent where you put your hand…. it’s the connection. It’s the zero in the middle. In between your hand and the opponent is where the connection exists.

When you block or place a hand on the opponent, it’s neither the hand or the opponent that matters. It’s the connection or the place in between. That moment of zero.

Soke says we are studying mutō dori. And when we do mutō dori we are not really taking their weapon. He said we are taking 中心 chuushin, or their central point. This is their essence or core spirit.  Another way to write the kanji for 衷心 chuushin can mean their innermost feelings or inner spirit. Hatsumi sensei called this type of control “zero-style.”

Soke reminded us that he cannot teach this. We have to discover it for ourselves. We have to try to get this feeling from him in person.

I had travelled 5497 miles or 8,846 km for tonight’s class. I closed my eyes and dropped my head into the 蕎麦殻枕 sobagara pillow. I was exhausted, but for a lifelong budo addict like me, every mile was worth it!

Michael GLENN

J’ai l’impression que je ne suis pas bon / I feel like I’m not good.

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Il est intéressant de discuter avec les étudiants de leur perception personnel en ce qui concerne leur évolution martiale. Certains auront l’impression qu’ils progressent à pas de géant alors que d’autres auront tendance à se dévaloriser en disant qu’ils n’avancent pas qu’ils sont loin derrière les autres étudiants de même niveau. Mais est-ce que cette perception reflète vraiment la réalité?

La progression martiale d’un individu n’est pas mathématique. Dans les arts martiaux, on ne peut quantifier le talent et les habiletés d’un pratiquant. Bien sûr, on peut compter le nombre de katas qu’il possède ou le nombre de techniques qu’il a accumulé, mais cela n’a rien à voir avec la véritable compétence martiale. Attention, ici je parle de budo et non de photocopier à l’infini une technique que le professeur nous a enseignée. J’élimine donc d’emblée tout ce qui est robotisation et reproduction exacte des mouvements du professeur. Je parle de l’habileté que l’on peut développer chez un pratiquant afin qu’il puisse se défendre efficacement en situation réelle.

La première erreur est de se comparer aux autres étudiants du groupe. Ils semblent meilleurs que nous, ils semblent exécuter la technique avec tellement de facilité que cela nous donne la sensation que nous ne sommes réellement pas faits pour ça. Pour une personne qui n’a pas la compétence de voir les exécutants plus en profondeur, cela peut sembler vrai. Mais si l’on creuse davantage, la conclusion peut être fort différente. Beaucoup d’étudiants semblent avoir tellement de facilité à exécuter la technique. Mais comme on dit, le diable se cache dans les détails.

Avec les années, j’ai appris que souvent les étudiants qui en arrachaient le plus s’arrêtaient sur ces petits détails. Ce petit angle qui fait toute la différence, cette distance primordiale qui nous permet d’éviter la lame ou cette sensation qui nous amène à pensé que l’on ne l’a pas, que l’on est à côté de la vérité. Ces doutes qui nous empêchent de progresser avant d’avoir compris comment cela fonctionne. Dans bien des cas, celui qui semble exécuter la technique avec facilité ne s’est pas préoccupé de ces paramètres. Il prend plaisir à exécuter la technique, sans se laisser embarrasser par les erreurs accumulées. En bougeant de la sorte sans se préoccuper de l’exactitude de ses mouvements, il dégage une aura de confiance. Et, ce qui est important, il prend plaisir à exécuter la technique.

La seconde erreur qu’ont certains étudiants est qu’ils se découragent en voyant les autres agir avec ce semblant de facilité. Généralement, dans le budo, celui qui à long terme progresse le plus, est celui qui a dû faire des efforts, qui a dû surmonter ces complexes d’infériorité. Il a tellement travaillé pour comprendre les petits détails diaboliques qu’il en est arrivé à une meilleure maîtrise de ces techniques.

Dans les deux cas, les étudiants apprendront à progresser. Ceux pour qui cela semble facile, avec le temps ils finiront par polir leur matériel, à combler les faiblesses des bases du budo qu’ils ont accumulées. Pour ceux qui ont l’impression de ne pas être à la hauteur, ils réaliseront qu’une fois qu’ils auront maîtrisé les solides fondations auxquelles ils se sont attaqués, ils seront devenus efficaces. Tout n’est qu’une question de patience.


Bernard Grégoire

Yushuu Shihan Bujinkan Québec


I feel like I’m not good.


It is interesting to discuss with the students their personal perception of their martial evolution. Some will feel that they are progressing easily while others tend to devalue. They are persuaded that they do not move forward that they are far behind the other students at the same level. But is this perception really reflect reality?

Martial progression of an individual is not mathematical. In the martial arts, one cannot quantify the skill and abilities of a practitioner. Of course, you can count the number of katas he has or the number of techniques he has accumulated, but this has nothing to do with true martial skill. Attention, here I speak of budo and not to photocopy to infinity a technique that the teacher taught us. So I eliminate from the start everything that is robots and exact reproduction of the movements of the teacher. I speak of the skill that can be developed in a practitioner so that he can defend himself effectively in a real situation.

The first mistake is to compare to the other students in the group. They seem to be better than us, they seem to perform the technique with so much ease that it gives us the feeling that we are not actually made for that. For a person who does not have the skill to see the performers more in depth, this may seem true. But if we dig deeper, the conclusion may be very different. Many students seem to have so much ease in performing the technique. But as they say, the devil hides in the details.

Over the years, I learned that often the students who seemed to have the most difficulty stopped on these little details. This small angle that makes all the difference, this essential distance that allows us to avoid the blade or this sensation which leads us to think that we do not have it, that we are beside the truth. These doubts prevent us from progressing until we understand how it works. In many cases, the one who seems to perform the technique with ease did not care about these parameters. He takes pleasure in performing the technique, without being embarrassed by the accumulated errors. By moving in this way without worrying about the accuracy of his movements, he exudes an aura of confidence. And, what is important, he takes pleasure in performing the technique.

The second mistake some students have is that they become discouraged by seeing others act with this semblance of ease. Generally, in the budo, the one who, with time, gets worse, is the one who has had to make efforts, which has had to overcome these inferiority complexes. He worked so hard to understand the diabolical little details that he came to better mastery of these techniques.

In both cases, students will learn to progress. Those for whom this seems easy, with time they will polish their material, to fill the weaknesses of the bases of the budo that they have accumulated. For those who felt they were not up to it, they would realize that once they have mastered the solid foundations they have tackled, they will have become effective. It’s all a matter of patience.

Bernard Gregoire

Yushuu shihan Bujinkan Quebec

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Cette année, 2017, Hatsumi sensei a démontré qu’un mutodori n’est pas simplement le fait de se défendre à mains nues contre une attaque au sabre. Le mutodori est avant tout un état d’esprit. À mon dernier voyage au Japon, Hatsumi sensei a dit que la compréhension des mutodori était la base du vrai budo.

Le mot clé pour la maîtrise des mutodori est sans contredit le contrôle. Contrôler la situation, contrôler l’adversaire, mais avant toute chose, apprendre à se contrôler soi-même. Première erreur dans l’apprentissage des mutodori, cela n’engage que mon point de vue, c’est probablement le fait que la plupart des gens n’ont pas le contrôle de leurs émotions au moment d’exécuter ces techniques. Hatsumi sensei a répété à de nombreuses reprises que l’on ne doit pas faire de techniques, qu’il faut que les choses se fassent de façon naturelle. Je n’avais qu’à jeter un regard autour de moi pour réaliser que ce n’était pas le cas.

Beaucoup de gens désirent bien paraître aux yeux de Soke et des autres personnes présentent sur les cours. Plutôt que de faire ce que Soke enseigne et de se retrouver en terrain inconnu, ils préfèrent se fier à leurs mémoires et reproduire des pattern où ils se sentent en sécurité. Il faut apprendre à quitter sa zone de confort. Hatsumi a déjà dit de se fier à la partie divine qui est à l’intérieur de nous. Si l’on exécute la technique avec la peur de mal paraître, on manque une partie essentielle de l’apprentissage, l’échec.

Deuxième erreur dans l’étude des mutodori, le contrôle total de l’adversaire. Bien sûr, il faut maîtriser l’arme. Mais l’adversaire a deux bras, il est facile pour lui de sortir un autre couteau si l’on ne focalise notre attention que sur l’arme principale. Il faut prendre conscience du jeu de levier qu’offre le corps humain. Vous contrôlez un doigt qui a une incidence sur le poignet, qui lui-même en passant par le coude positionne l’épaule de l’adversaire de façon à orienter ses hanches changeant ainsi l’orientation et les possibilités de mouvements de l’autre bras. Tout cela aura bien sûr un effet sur l’équilibre et la solidité de la structure de l’adversaire.

Troisième erreur, l’état d’esprit. Lorsque l’on fait une technique, on désire gagner au point d’en faire une affaire personnelle. Le mutodori exige que l’on soit détaché de l’action. Lorsque l’on désire trop fort un résultat et qu’il n’est pas au rendez-vous, le cerveau se retrouve perturbé momentanément. Il faut être détaché du combat et laisser les choses s’enchaîner naturellement. Lorsque l’on regarde Hatsumi sensei faire une technique, il agit comme si l’adversaire n’était qu’une distraction sans importance sur son déplacement d’un point A au point B. Il ne focalise pas sur l’obligation de gagner son combat. Son visage ne montre des signes d’agressivité uniquement lorsque son corps a besoin d’énergie supplémentaire pour effecteur une frappe ou une clé. Aussitôt ce moment passé. Il reprend son aspect paisible et détaché. C’est shizen, c’est naturel.

Hatsumi sensei redirige souvent l’attaque de l’adversaire d’un seul doigt. Il exagère volontairement la situation pour nous démontrer que si nous mettons la pression au bon endroit et au bon moment, nous n’avons pas à utiliser de force physique pour contrôler l’adversaire. Au Japon durant les cours, il n’était pas rare de voir des personnes agripper fortement leur partenaire et tenter de les amener au sol par la seule puissance de leurs muscles. Le plus souvent, ces gens prennent tellement de place qu’ils finissent toujours par bousculer tout le monde autour d’eux. Ils désirent un résultat prouvant leur compétence à maîtriser l’adversaire plutôt que d’essayer de s’améliorer, quitte à mal paraître sur le moment.

Nous avons à apprendre énormément des mutodoris. Pour y arriver, il faut accepter que cela prenne du temps et qu’il faille laisser notre égo de côté.

Bernard Grégoire

Yushu Shihan

Bujinkan Québec



This year, 2017, Hatsumi Sensei demonstrated that mutodori is not simply the fact of defending unarmed against a sword attack. The mutodori is primarily a state of mind. On my last trip to Japan, Hatsumi sensei said that the understanding of mutodori was the basis of the true budo.

The key word for the control of mutodori is undoubtedly control. Control the situation, control the opponent but above all, learn to control oneself. First error in the learning of mutodori, this is only my point of view, it is probably the fact that most people do not have control of their emotions when performing these techniques. Hatsumi sensei has repeatedly said that we must not do techniques, that things must be done in a natural way. I just had to look around to realize that it was not.

A lot of people want to look good in the eyes of Soke and the other people in class. Rather than do what Soke teaches and find themselves in unknown territory, they prefer to rely on their memory and reproduce pattern where they feel safe. We must learn to leave his comfort zone. Hatsumi has already said to trust the divine part that is inside of us. If one executes the technique with the fear of appearing bad, one misses an essential part of learning, failure.

Second error in the study of mutodori, the total control of the opponent. Of course we must manage the weapon. But the opponent has two arms, it is easy for him to take out another knife if we focus our attention only on the main weapon. One must be aware of the leveraging of the human body. You control a finger that has an effect on the wrist, which by itself passes through the elbow positions the opponent’s shoulder so as to orient his hips thus changing the orientation and possibilities of movement of the other arm . All this will, of course, have an effect on the balance and solidity of the opponent’s structure.

Third error, the state of mind. When making a technical, we want to win at the point of making a personal matter. The mutodori requires that one be detached from the action. When one desire too much a result and it is not at the rendezvous, the brain finds itself disturbed momentarily. It must be detached from the fight and let things happen naturally chained. When one looks at Hatsumi sensei to make a technique he acts as if the opponent was an unimportant distraction on his movement from point A to point B. He does not focus on the obligation to win his fight. His face shows signs of aggression only when the body needs extra energy to knock an effector or a key. As soon as this moment passes, it resumes its peaceful and detached aspect. It’s shizen, it’s natural.

Hatsumi sensei often redirects the opponent’s attack with one finger. He voluntarily exaggerates the situation to show us that if we put pressure in the right place and at the right time, we do not have to use physical force to control the opponent. In Japan during classes, it was not uncommon to see people clinging strongly to their partner and trying to get them to the ground by the power of their muscles alone. Most often these people take up so much space that they always end up jostling everyone around them. They want a result proving their ability to master the opponent rather than try to improve, even if it looks bad at the moment.

We have to learn a lot from mutodoris. To get there, we must accept that it takes time and that we must leave our ego aside.

Bernard Grégoire

Yushu Shihan

Bujinkan Québec


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Bujinkan Strategies of Control Part 6: 神経 Shinkei

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Ricky, Kiwa, and Michael on our way to the Bujinkan Honbu

I got up really early on Sunday to meet a new Japanese friend in the train station. He had been training in a Bujinkan dojo in Tokyo until his teacher died. I was sad to hear about the death of his teacher who had been Soke’s uke for many years. And I was very surprised to learn that my new friend had never been to the Bujinkan Honbu dojo to train with Hatsumi Sensei.

I decided to risk breaking some kind of Japanese formality or etiquette that I was unaware of and invite my friend to train with us today. I hoped that Soke would be happy to meet him. We never know what these connections might bring.

In Hatsumi Sensei’s class everything he taught was about using small points of connection for control. He demonstrated this with with his fingertips. In one moment he slapped the opponent in the eye with his index finger. Then he showed us how to line up the body and the shoulder behind one finger as if it was a sword.

Then you pivot around that point. When you pivot around this small point, you control the opponent’s kamae, his balance, or the point of pain.

Soke said,

“With the fingertips being able to 変えるkaeru. You’ve got to be able to do this just with your fingers. it’s not a technique. you don’t really feel like moving much, right?”

Soke said he was controlling through connection. Connect to the opponent’s movement, but also what he is thinking and feeling. Once you make that connection you can control him. Control his body, thoughts, and his feelings through this connection.

But he emphasized,

“You’re not controlling one specific point, you’re controlling everything. I said by the fingers, but it’s not really the fingers. It’s about control. It looks like it’s happening at the fingers but it’s actually happening with the whole body.”

Soke used the word 神経 shinkei. This is a sensitivity through the nerves.

“Study this way of controlling through connection. Connect with what he’s thinking or he’s feeling. It’s not technique. you have to be connected with him like this. You can’t teach this. If you try to avoid, you’re going to break that connection.”

This is not something you do with your own human intention. Shinkei is instinctual like an autonomic response that your body has if you are sensitive enough.

You use the small parts of your body. To demonstrate Soke began to wiggle his ears and we all laughed. Then he said to take the small things and connect to the big things in the kukan and then use that connection.

This is the correct 空間利用 kukan riyō or use of space. When you connect with a finger, it is a small thing or point. But it connects to a big thing which is the conflict or your opponent’s aggression. You use that small connection (NOT the finger… the connection itself) to control.

Hatsumi Sensei said we create a vacuum and have this “mood.” Soke used a play on words between English ムード muudo and Japanese 無道 mudou or even 武道 budou. You are being led by the martial arts into zero. Going between mood and the way of emptiness or formlessness. We are led by the martial arts into zero and become zero through the martial arts.

During the break, Hatsumi Sensei painted a dragon for my new Japanese friend. Many of our other Japanese Shihan and buyu were very friendly and welcoming to him. Maybe in time he will find his new teacher in the Bujinkan.

Michael GLENN

A Pattern 荒む Growing Wild: Bujinkan Strategies of control Part 5

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Nezu Bamboo. photo by Michael Glenn

Have you ever leaned against a tree and felt the wind blowing the whole trunk? It is an interesting feeling because the trunk feels so solid, yet it sways in the wind. Even a small breeze can shift the whole thing.

One Tuesday night in the Bujinkan Honbu Dojo I felt this from Hatsumi Sensei. It was so soft and subtle that it would be easy to miss. And at this point, Soke said,

“Don’t do too much. Whether it’s in contact or not, you’re moving away. But you’re not trying to do it. 力を感じさせない chikara o kanji sasenai.”

Chikara o kanji sasenai. This means you don’t let the opponent feel your power.  You don’t let him feel any technique from you. Or any force, or power. You may use force and power, but you want to use it in a way that he cannot feel it! Then when it affects him, he has no idea where it comes from or how to counter it.

That afternoon I had spent some time in a bamboo grove near 関さんの森 Seki-san no mori. The breeze was quite strong. I stared in wonder at the movement of the very tall bamboo as they swayed and squeaked against each other in the sky above me. I placed my hand on one of the culms. I felt it move my palm softly.

In this way you do not telegraph or give away your intent. This is a fascinating way of using taijutsu. You are responsive to your opponent, but not fighting.

Hatsumi Sensei showed this again when his opponent grabbed his wrist. He told us,

 “He will have the tendency (勝ち gachi) to relax his grab so you wait for that. Then you move with 雅致 gachi (artistry or grace) to control with your feet. Study this connection.”

He then told us we should float the opponent in the kukan. What does that mean? Well, imagine a heavy object like a bundle of bamboo. It would be hard to push around with one finger. But if it were floating as a raft in the water, you could push and turn it through the water with very little force. Even if someone were sitting on it, you could still move it easily.

This is what happens to your opponent when you float him in the kukan. Hatsumi Sensei said that one of the themes for the Jugodans in this type of training was to be able to apply a technique without really doing it. He told us to not use any technique, yet have it happen anyway.

He described it as 荒むのパターン susamu no pataan. This is a pattern of wildness. There’s no pattern but it’s all connected.

This is challenging to get your mind around. If you think of a technique like omote gyaku, or ganseki nage, these are techniques that you normally have to do yourself. And we train hard to learn to apply them correctly. But for us Jugodans, we have to have these techniques happen without actually doing them ourselves.

One clue for how to do this was when Soke told us to break the balance in the space. You do this by becoming the kukan yourself. If you become the kukan, there is no pattern and you can be free. This is the kind of control he wants us to embody.

Michael GLENN
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Des produits sans nom/Products without name

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3 avril 2017 par bujinkanquebec

Beaucoup de gens qui ont pratiqué d’autres arts martiaux et qui viennent s’entraîner à notre dojo sont surpris de constater qu’un grand nombre de techniques que j’enseigne n’a pas de nom. Au début, plusieurs de ces personnes ont l’impression que nous sommes une école désorganisée, qui semble manquer de rigueur. Bien sûr, nous avons un grand nombre de techniques codifiés. Toutes celles qui nous viennent des 9 ryus portent un nom. Mais lorsque l’on regarde Hatsumi sensei enseigner, on réalise qu’il va bien au-delà de ces techniques qui sont codifiés. À mon point de vue, le fait que nous ne nous sentions pas obligés de donner un nom à chaque technique n’est pas une faiblesse, mais au contraire, c’est une force qui nous permet une grande liberté de création. Demander à la plupart des shihans occidentaux du Bujinkan de vous enseigner une technique de défense contre une attaque qu’ils n’ont jamais vue, la majeure partie d’entre eux pourront vous surprendre de l’efficacité de la technique qu’ils vont créer pour vous. Codifier chaque technique, donner un nom pour chaque mouvement devient une entrave à la création et à notre faculté d’adaptation. Ce n’est pas pour rien qu’à de nombreuses reprises, Hatsumi sensei nous a dit de ne pas demeurer prisonniers de la technique. Lorsque je donne des séminaires de défense contre couteau, la plupart des techniques n’ont pas de nom. Mais elles fonctionnent et ont fait leurs preuves en situation réelle. En donnant un nom à chaque mouvement, on se sent obligé de demeurer dans les limites du système. Plutôt que d’improviser de nouveaux concepts, les pratiquants d’arts martiaux retravailleront continuellement les mêmes enchaînements en essayant d’améliorer la vitesse, la précision et tous les paramètres que l’on pourrait programmer chez un robot. En travaillant comme nous le faisons, il peut arriver que nous fassions des erreurs lors de l’exécution d’une technique de défense. Mais si cette erreur arrive, la créativité que nous avons appris à développer nous permet de nous adapter et transforme cette erreur en quelque chose de positif. Les nouveaux étudiants qui passent outre ce premier préjugé constatent rapidement la force et la richesse de notre art martial. Malheureusement, ce n’est pas tout le monde qui peut se sentir bien dans un tel système. Beaucoup de gens ont besoin d’un encadrement sévère, de balises qui dictent les limites de leurs fonctionnements. En nous enseignant comme il le fait, Hatsumi sensei nous amène à nous dépasser, à participer à l’enrichissement de notre art. Notre art martial est vivant et il évolue. Par le fait même, il nous permet une amélioration de notre conscience martiale comme peu d’arts martiaux peuvent le permettre.


Many people who have practiced other martial arts and come to train at our dojo are surprised to find that many of the techniques I teach have no name. At first, many of these people have the feeling that we are disorganized school, which seems to lack the rigor. Of course, we have a large number of codified techniques. All those who come to us from 9 Ryus have a name. But when looking at Hatsumi sensei teach, we realize that it goes far beyond those techniques that are codified.

From my point of view, the fact that we do not feel obliged to give a name to each technique is not a weakness, but on the contrary, it is a force that allows us a great freedom of creation. Ask most Western Shihans of the Bujinkan to teach you a technique of defense against an attack they have never seen, most of them will surprise you with the effectiveness of the technique they will create for you. Coding each technique, giving a name for each movement becomes a hindrance to creation and our ability to adapt. It is not for nothing that on many occasions, Hatsumi sensei told us not to remain prisoners of the technique.

When I give seminars of defense against knife, most techniques have no name. But they work and have proved their worth in real life situations. By giving a name to each movement, one feels obliged to remain within the limits of the system. Rather than improvise new concepts, martial arts practitioners will continuously re-engineer the same patterns, trying to improve the speed, accuracy and all the parameters that can be programed in a robot.By working as we do, it may happen that we make mistakes when performing a defense technique. But if this error happens, the creativity that we have learned to develop allows us to adapt and turn this error into something positive.

New students who ignore this first prejudice quickly discover the strength and richness of our martial art. Unfortunately, it’s not everyone who can feel good in such a system. Many people need a strict framework, tags that dictate the limits of their functioning. By teaching us as he does, Hatsumi sensei leads us to surpass ourselves, to participate in the enrichment of our art. Our martial art is alive and evolves. By the same token, it allows us an improvement in our martial awareness as few martial arts can allow.


Bernard Grégoire

Yushuu shihan Bujinkan Quebec

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Muto Dori With Marishiten

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Michael Glenn

at 摩利支天 徳大寺 Marishiten tokudaiji

The other night in Hatsumi Sensei’s class I ran to grab a bokken from the weapon rack. When I returned, my training partner was waiting for my attack so he could try the muto Dori technique that Soke had just demonstrated.
When I cut down I had a great surprise. Hatsumi Sensei appeared from behind my training partner. He pushed my training partner aside so that I was cutting at Soke instead!
I thought that I hit something but Soke was beside me laughing. Somehow I missed. He said that I should learn this feeling.
This year one of the main themes of the training in Japan is Muto Dori. Anyone who has cut at Soke will tell you that he disappears or even splits in two.
That was what I experienced this time. It was like there were two of him. I hit one but that was an illusion.
I’ve often struggled to understand the reality behind this. Even though I can sometimes do this with my own students, the act remains elusive from any explanation.
But today I was lucky. Hatsumi Sensei gave us a big clue later on in the class. He showed a knife evasion and he said to move like the heat wave from  摩利支天 Marishiten. He said this as an aside to his uke and then he moved on.
Marishiten is a goddess I have some familiarity with. One of the very first shrines I visited in Japan was  摩利支天徳大寺 Marishiten tokudaiji in Tokyo. This place is a bit hidden in the middle of a very urban market.
Marishiten is very important for warriors and for ninja. She protects because she uses illusion to help us disappear from our enemies. In Mikkyō (esoteric Buddhism), there are mantra and mudra which are said to make a warrior invisible.
Marishiten appears like a ray of light or mirage. Her image is like a shimmering heat that bends light. Under her protection, anyone who attacks us would be blinded by illusion.
The illusion comes in rays of shimmering light. When you look, it is like staring into the sun, and Marishiten charges from within this brilliance.
When Soke said this a subtle light went off in my brain. This ineffable feeling he wanted me to understand was now more than just an odd experience I feel when I attack him.  You have to see more than the illusion.
Maybe my training is to grasp the nature of the mirage and illusion that arises from Marishiten. This is one aspect of Hatsumi Sensei’s lesson to me. But an odd side effect of this knowledge it is that I can now learn to counter this.
The mirage of Marishiten is a type of blindness. Once you can see and pierce through this veil, what lies beyond it grows clearer. I do not know what surprises Soke has waiting for me when I see past this layer, but I suspect it will open like the lotus blossom.
Marishiten is often depicted standing on a lotus. But her more angry form is shown standing on the back of a wild boar. Hopefully I will see flowers instead of beasts!
Michael GLENN