How was your 2017? Looking around on social media it seems like it was a worse year than usual for folks. I get it…If you were to listen to your chosen news source you would think the sky is falling. Mass shootings, morally corrupt men from movie producers to presidents, environmental catastrophe and  perhaps worst of all, the stress of not knowing what is reality and what is “fake news”.

How is a warrior to combat the negativity of our modern situation? Ellie and I came across a video about Tony Robbins, who many of you may know as sort of a self-help guru. (The title of the video was “I am not your guru”) Anyway, the biggest take-away for me was how messed up people are from their past experiences, particularly their childhood experiences. In the video Mr. Robbins took clients through a series of questions until the person could see that they can’t get rid of the experience, but that they could choose to look at it in a different way, particularly they could see it as a struggle to build strength and purpose from, instead of being resentful about it. Resentment holds us down and it keeps us in that immature state of mind of when the “bad” stuff happened. Facing that stuff head-on and with bravery, we see how we can use it to build our personal strength into who we want to be NOW. Here’s a quote:

Best-Tony-Robbins-Quotes-Past-Failure

Practicing the martial arts helps us develop bravery and the ability to face our opponents. I think it is one of the most valuable parts of Budo practice.

On a related note, the training “theme” of the Bujinkan Dojo was Muto Dori, literally translated as “catching a sword with the empty hands”.

Furi kazasu tachi no shita koso jigoku nare
Ichi to ashi susume saki wa gokuraku

Hell under the upraised sword
one step forward is paradise.

It has been said that the Budo Arts are as thin as a sheet of paper. On one side is life, and on the other is death. There are sayings like ; “Escaped by the hair on my teeth.”

Facing our fears, facing our “opponent” without turning away and ignoring, being completely open and without ego, we can escape the sword. It is interesting that most of our sword wielding opponents in life are us!

Anyway, enough philosophy about it. If you came to class and practiced, you are getting it, little by little.

 

What else happened in our class? Nile helped me teach a small group of Northland College students some self-defense for women, we continued to train with the Junior Ninjas, (6-10 year olds) Shinobi Warriors, (11-15 year olds) and adults, welcoming a few new folks into the mix. Also, congratulations to our new Shodan!

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I got to Japan again last spring. Every time I go it seems a bit more like home. If you haven’t been yet, I highly recommend it. After all Hatsumi Sensei is 86 this year and it is the 50th anniversary of his training in this art.

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This is one of favorite photos from that trip. Seno Sensei was teaching some fun stuff in class, and was in a good mood in general.

I stayed with Paul Masse. He painted this for me:

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I think it was a motivation to practice what you love before it’s too late!

So what’s up 2018? First, I recommend that you read my teacher Jack Hobans 2018 new years message.  He continues to inspire me with his take on this art, and how he applies it in his daily life.

For our group we’ll “Gambatte!” (Keep Going) with muto dori feeling during practice, and more sparring to better learn distance and develop “Juppo Sessho” (understanding all the possible relationships that can happen in a given exchange.)

I’m looking forward to this year, with all the “good” and “bad”.

 

 

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New Year Message 2017

Posted: January 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

Happy New Year all!

Normally at this time of year people are looking forward to things that they want to accomplish in the new year, but if you think about it, it’s really by looking back that we actually see where we are going. If I could pick out one saying for the Bujinkan Dojo, “Keep Going” or Gambatte would be it. So let’s look back and see where we’re going this year:)

2016 was a year of kids classes. We started with a few folks the previous year, but in 2016 it came full on. Why is this important? For one, it is good to see those who have taken to and committed to the training. Also, maybe others found something that fits them better. We have settled in to a nice group that has grown not only in martial skill, but with each other as a community.

By building community in training we start to trust one another. After all these are dangerous techniques we are learning and we need to know that we can trust our training partners.We need to keep working on being the best “Uke” we can be by being good at falling, realistic in our attacks, and not letting someone throw us when they really don’t get it right. It’s a fine balance.

By building a community of skilled warriors we then go out into our towns, schools and homes with a greater ability to protect ourselves and one another from harm. These others may be our family, friends, the environment, and even those who may try to do us harm.

You need to be strong to be a protector so we will continue our Junan Taiso exercises into the new year too!

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NIN is the Japanese symbol for endurance and stealth. NINjutsu is the art of enduring, and keep going-ness.

My teacher as many of you know is Jack Hoban. You can link to some of his stuff here. Jack is a great martial artist, but even more important in my mind is that he THINKS before he acts.

A warrior is a person of action, but we have a lot of Facebook “warriors” out there, calling one another names, feeding in to the divisive culture we seem to be having in this country. Jack doesn’t say “this is right and this is wrong”. Instead, he says “think about this…” I encourage everyone moving into the 2017 political scene to take this idea to heart and to be a thoughtful warrior working towards building community, and when you can’t build community, be a Ninja and don’t let others “throw” you.

In 2016 our dojo had a training theme tool, the Kusari Fundo.

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Weighted chain or Kusari Fundo

We didn’t practice with it a whole lot because we had a lot of new folks, but in 2017 we will give it a go again, with a little “twist”. In Japan the 2017 theme is supposed to be Control and Muto Dori, which you may remember is being unarmed but protecting yourself against someone weilding a weapon. We’ve already started practicing this with sword attacks from behind.

How would you disarm an opponent twirling a 3′ weighted chain at your head? We’ll explore this and other Muto Dori topics this year along with our community of martial art friends (BUYU) in Japan and around the world.

Keep Going!

Greg

What is a Ninja?

Posted: January 18, 2016 in Articles, Uncategorized
Tags: ,

The term Ninja or Shinobi (or for women, Kunoichi) comes from ancient Japan. There are various stories about the exploits of famous Ninja, which you can find in books and articles everywhere. It should also be understood that the role of the Ninja has changed over time. In this article I hope to simplify the term for the use of our students in these modern times.

In the old days the Ninja may have been a retired Samurai protecting his family clan, or a body guard for royalty, or a guerrilla warfare soldier. They may have been a spy living in another province keeping tabs on the current government or the head of an extended family of operatives. If we take all of these descriptions and mash them together we come to picture someone who was outside of the regular military caste system of feudal Japan, but also one who was in a protector position, even though they may have also been a farmer, or merchant, or…

Anyone outside of the warrior caste was not allowed to use the weapons of the warriors. Think about the USA if all of a sudden everyone had to give up their guns. What would people do? They would create alternative weapons and tactics for dealing with everything from marauding gangs of thieves to corrupt local warlords. Ninja were essentially the underdogs of Japanese warring history.

Think back to the not-so-long-ago in Vietnam, and the underdogs of that war. The Vietcong had inferior weapons, no armor or planes to speak of, and yet who won that war? They developed “devious” traps out of rope and sticks, bombs made out of whatever they could, dug tunnels to hide in, and if you were on the other side of the struggle you may have thought of them as below you. (After all  they were trying to kill you, but hey, you were trying to kill them, so fair is fair.)

But if you flip the perception to seeing the world from their eyes, you might see your own lives and the lives of your family as being just as important as the US soldiers saw their own. You would fight with whatever you have.

The Ninja from then until now can be seen as a similar people, with a similar philosophy. What would you do if someone stronger came to hurt you or a loved one? What if your government was corrupt to the point where you had to fear for your own safety? What if you lived in an area where the local gang had more say than the police?

It’s this mindset that the new-age Ninja continues as his or her legacy. Good people want peace. But to have peace you have to be strong. Welcome to the world of the modern-day Ninja.

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The Japanese kanji (character)  “nin”, which can be translated as “endure” or “persevere”.  The character is a combination of the characters for sword (top half) and heart (bottom half).

 

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Metal Kusari Fundo (photo from web)

Hi all,

Since one of the themes of our Dojo this year is flexible weapons I’d like you all to make a training tool. I’m looking at purchasing

http://www.homedepot.com/p/Rope-King-5-8-in-x-140-ft-Solid-Braided-Poly-Rope-Red-SBP-58140R/203563442

to cut up into smaller chunks. It will probably cost you $3 each to make one using this material, or you can use any old rope, but the thought is this thicker rope will be easier on your skin and limbs for doing strikes and throws during training.

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Rope/soft Kusari Fundo for training. (photo from web)

Feel free to comment on whether you would like to get in on this purchase. I will update this post as we go and figure out the best ways to configure the tools.

Greetings BUYU,

Another year has gone by and hopefully it was a fruitful one for you. Remember that as martial artists, the struggle and pain is what will temper your growth. So here’s to last year, both for it’s ups and it’s downs.

You may remember that part of our theme for 2015 was to push ourselves to go “outwards” and expand. Perhaps this expansion pertained to your knowledge of this or other martial arts. Maybe you had some personal issues to take care of. For our class this meant that it was the year to commit to and start classes for young folks.

And it happened! Since this summer Jonas and I have been developing and teaching the Shinobi Warriors (ages 11-15) class. Now since we have more interest from the younger crowd you will see the “Junior Ninjas” class start this new year, for ages 6-10.

For me personally it was a very fun and encouraging year. Summer season at Lost Creek was great, with good staff and LOTS of guests coming through. I also got to paddle the Grand Canyon again for almost a month, worked a little, played a little more, and ended up healthy at the end of it all. I hope next year will be as rewarding.

So what’s coming up for 2016 in Budo? As you know many folks in our area have trouble with their health. Martial arts are here to help us live better lives. What is more important than being healthy in body and mind? Why don’t more people get involved with martial arts practice? I want to continue working on the “expanding ourselves” concept by showing the local adult community the merits of martial arts practice. From discipline, to physical fitness, to better awareness of your surroundings, what the martial arts have to give. I know some of us have been telling others about class, inviting them to come and try (If I had a nickel for everyone who said they were interested…) Instead, I think we need to show them. This showing could take on various forms. For each of you I hope you will take it to heart to demonstrate what being a protector is to others even more this year. As a group I would like to do a few public demonstrations. This should be fun too!

Also along the lines of this training theme I am inspired AND a bit intimidated at the prospect of diving into flexible weapons practice. This means use of ropes and weighted chains as well weapons that have these attached. Why? besides the Ninja-ness of these types of unusual tools, (unexpected and hidden) they are the most unpredictable to use.

Kusari Fundo

Kyoketsu Shoge

Nightstick

Having a weapon that is “flexible” can seem chaotic for this user. Learning to control these tools and use them to our advantage will be a goal.

I would also like to introduce Fudō Myō-ō http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/fudo.html who uses a rope to bind “demons”. You will also notice his sword. Word is the theme of training in Japan this year will be Katana.

So with both sword in one hand and rope in the other, perhaps we can cut through our ignorance and control our demons. Sounds good!

Also interesting to note and applicable to what we will be doing, this is the year of the fire monkey. My teacher Jack explains it a bit in his new years message. http://www.livingvalues.com/theme2016.html

I highly recommend you read it and his other articles on that website.

That should do it for now. Happy 2016 and Keep Going!

Greg

If I could pick one training theme that has developed for me over the past several years it would be “the how of training”. I think this is because as I have gotten older (just past middle age now) and as I build a business, I have had to prioritize things more. Simply, I don’t have a lot of time to waste. This is a common thread with many workout programs these days as well. “How do I get fit, fast?”

You may have heard that there is no magic pill, but I would argue. Perhaps it’s not a pill, but it is a method, and though a good training method will get you the results you want, perhaps a LOT faster than via haphazard training, I would caution anyone to think that it is easier. In fact, having a focused, thoughtful training regimen is hard work. The reason to do it is the results, not the ease with which it can be accomplished.

If you don’t have a good teacher, it may take you a lifetime to figure out what this regimen is, and by then it’s too late. So here I want to offer some ideas on how we might train more efficiently, and get the results we want.

Train Every Day

This may sound impossible to some due to time constraints, but really, this daily training will depend upon your training goals. Yes if you want to get stronger you need to lift heavy things regularly. If you want to have better footwork, well, we walk a lot don’t we? Why wait to practice your footwork until you are in the Dojo wearing a GI? Practice while you are walking the dog, or when in a busy airport. Whatever your goals are, you need to put some thought into it and make it so that you can’t avoid training in those goals every day.

Have A Goal

Goals need to be specific and attainable. “I want to be better” doesn’t cut it. “I want to be able to front kick as high as my head” is a better example. Some goals are more complicated, such as wanting to improve your sparring. In the case where the overall goal is more multi-faceted you still need to find a way to break it down and find where your weaknesses are and either focus on strengthening those, or finding a strength that can counterbalance that weakness and make that your secret weapon. How do you find what your strengths and weakness are?

Have an Obstacle

This seems to be the topic most often overlooked. In order to know if what you are training in is helping or hurting you, you need to pressure test it. Many people study a martial art for years, decades even, without putting what they know to the test. You get better at the dance perhaps, with fellow dancers, but try that technique with someone from another school or style and see what happens. Why do we avoid testing what we know? The two reasons that I can come with are:

  1. Ego: You don’t want to know your weaknesses
  2. Peer pressure: For lack of better term you either don’t want to rock the dojo boat, or you don’t want find out that what your teacher has been training you in all along is just plain BS.

This doesn’t mean you have to enter yourself in a cage match (unless your goal is to fight in a cage) but it does mean that you need to:

  1. Drop your ego, at least enough to be willing to see your weaknesses
  2. Be responsible for your own training. Design your training to where you can create the obstacle or situation for that which you are training for.

I see many martial arts (including my own) where practitioners attack (create the training obstacle) in a way that no one would do it in real life. If you don’t create the attack in such a way that it mimics the attributes of reality, you are in fact training for fantasy. If you know that and are OK with it, fine, but if you think you are training to defend against any punch, but you don’t study with fast punches, or different types of punches, then you are fooling yourself, or if you are an instructor, you are fooling your students. This leads me to the last bit of advice,

Find a good partner

Your training partner will make or break you. You need to train with someone where both of you care if the other succeeds, is willing to push you, and who has the same training goals that you do. This is not easy. I was lucky enough early on to find a training partner who complimented me well. It’s up to you to find the best training buddies, and if for some reason you can’t, learn to better communicate your training needs to whomever you might be training with, otherwise they will assume that you are there for the same reasons they are.

Be here now

If you have done all of the above the task now is to pay attention and learn. You need to be honest with yourself. It’s better to train five minutes at full attention than it is to train for an hour absentmindedly.

Resources

My friend Jon Haas has developed a series of training books and videos that focus specifically on training smart in the martial arts. I highly recommend you check out his training information at: http://warriorfitness.org

Uke is a Japanese word referring to the receiver of a technique. The person doing the technique would be considered either the nage (投げ “thrower”?), tori (取り “grabber”?) or shite (仕手 “doer”?). For the rest of this article I’ll just refer to this person as Shite.

Being a good Uke is not easy. As a novice one might think all they had to do was grab or punch and not get hurt by Shite in the process. Being a good Uke means that you are attacking for real. If you don’t attack for real how will someone learn to counter a real attack?

When practicing for proficiency, “for real” may mean full speed, or full force, but usually it means with the correct intention and body mechanics, regardless of speed and power. Proper intention will result in a more realistic attack, while teaching both uke and shite important lessons beyond the physical.

Intention

By the term “Shite Uke” I refer to a person who is supposed to be acting as Uke, but are really in Shite mindset; trying to learn the technique, correcting the doer of the technique, or maybe not being present and just going through the motions of Uke.

When I am Uke for a senior teacher I often find that I have no idea what technique was just done on me. Part of this stems from Shite having developed a subtle technique, but another part of it is me focusing on the job at hand. I’m not trying to figure out what Shite is doing, at least not mechanically. I am giving them my best attack so that they get the best practice, and at the same time I try to stay aware of and try to catch the feeling of the technique as Uke. Then when I become Shite and practice the movement I can try to emulate what I felt (or didn’t feel) essentially translating the “feeling” back to the physical mechanics of the technique. Once I have the mechanics down, I again try to apply the technique with proper feeling. Without this feeling it is just a dead technique.

Often, junior students avoid being Uke for senior students due to fear. Fear of being injured or just doing something wrong. But being Uke for a more experienced practitioner is very important and is really a gift. Senior practitioners have way more control over their movements than a novice, so you are much less likely to get hurt by them. If all you do is practice with people who are as good or worse than you, you will not improve. In a real fight it doesn’t matter how many techniques you know or can apply in the dojo. A large part of your response will be based on your emotional training. Simply put, how you have trained your fear. So many people come to the dojo to train, and then avoid their fears! Would you rather wait until you are attacked on the street to train your emotional response to fear?

Mechanics

For safety reasons many martial art systems will practice striking techniques against an opponent from outside of real striking distance. In this way they may develop attributes such as speed and intention, but this method of training does not train you for real fight distancing. In the Bujinkan system, distance is one of the key elements to successfully applying technique, so instead we strive to maintain a realistic distance, and slow down the movements as needed to learn effectively and/or to stay safe.

The problem with slowing down is that we are more likely to lose flow. “Flow” is what happens when you are applying yourself to a movement with intention, such as in a real fight. You don’t stop to think. You are totally in the moment. Slowing down a technique allows you enough time to think, which may be necessary to learn a new movement, but once the mechanics are learned thinking must cease so that we can practice flow. This begins a higher level of ability for both Uke and Shite. As Uke we don’t have time to think how to roll or fall or it’s too late and injuries are more likely to happen. You have to get to the point where you just do, and to get here you must practice being Uke.

Moving Forward

When I was a younger practitioner I couldn’t wait to be Shite. Being Uke was just something you had to do to help your partner until it was “your turn”. But as I now understand the role of Shite and Uke they are both equal in importance to practice. In fact being a good Uke may be MORE important than being able to apply a technique as Shite. As Uke you get to practice getting hit, thrown, and pinned. You get to learn where the weaknesses are in techniques and with different sized opponents. Don’t be a Shite-Uke! Embrace Uke skills (Ukemi) and you will improve your overall practice.