Hey everyone! It’s been a while since blogged. I have been developing programs that would eventually balance out my life’s purpose with training, studying and teaching. Anyway, here is an article below that is as relevant as it was written back in 1998 by Richard Ray.
I just wanted to write about something that I feel is a bit of a problem in the Bujinkan today. That is, lack of identity. I wonder how many people really know what the Bujinkan is… I do know that many people have had their opinions shaped by the influence of the Genbukan, and that many of those same people look to the Genbukan to get what they think is Bujinkan Information, that is not being taught in the Bujinkan.
While it is true that both the Bujinkan and the Genbukan teach information that came from Takamatsu O Sensei, the way that each Head Master goes about teaching it is VERY different. The Genbukan teaches the different ryu as ryu… You may even receive Menkyo Kaiden in a ryu! The integrity of the ryu is maintained, and attention is given to passing down a tradition.
The Bujinkan is VERY different. For one thing, one can look at Tanemura Shoto as the Kancho of the Genbukan. This is correct. But Hatsumi Masaaki is NOT just Kancho of the Bujinkan, he is Soke of the Bujinkan. The Bujinkan is an organization, but also the Bujinkan is a ryu!
In the Bujinkan the 9 Ryu are not taught as 9 separate ryu, they are seen as examples only.. Tools for us the living practicioner. NOT as masterpieces to be maintained in a museum fasion. Each ryu is looked at in the sense of trying to understand it’s purpose and concept. The kata and such, are seen as physical models of greater concepts that took specific form in a certain ryu, due to the external conditioning factors, of time and place, environment etc. These “examples” then are seen as pointers of truth.. The bones of the dead, that can be studied to teach us about the underlying “grander” concepts that for that time and place took that specific shape.
By studying the kata, and the ryu in this way, we can learn much about the people and society that spawned these ryu. It truly is an anthropological study. Just as we study the ancient civilizations, and learn more about who we are and where we are going, it is the same with the ryu of the Bujinkan. They are important, but there is something more important. The 20th century ryu of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu.
In this country, (U.S.A.) you can see that in the 80’s when Soke Hatsumi was teaching us all, he would always tell us not to worry about which ryu a certain technique came from, JUST DO IT! He would say.. And people would. Everything was called Togakure ryu Ninpo Taijutsu. All 9 plus schools. The Idea was that if new knowledge came into your ryu, you would adopt it as your own. For example the story of Doron Navon showing Soke a technique, and asking if that was in Togakure ryu. To which Soke was to reply It is now! That sums up the whole Philosophy of the Bujinkan.
In the Bujinkan concepts are taught through a study of distance and environment, “correctness of ryu is not as important. Let me explain..
Lets take Ichimonji kihon no Kata. Now from a ryu standpoint, this is a gyokko ryu technique period! It has a specific stance way of moving etc. But from a Bujinkan standpoint Ichimonji kihon no Kata is a concept! In the early to late 80’s this kata was done from seigan no kamae. Now, seigan isn’t even in Gyokko ryu, so what was going on here? I know personally, people who still do this kata from seigan. And I also know other People who talk about these people as if they don’t know what they’re doing.
It was during the late 80’s that the Genbukan influence on the Bujinkan started to become a “player”. Bujinkan people started to become more interested in kata, and how does this ryu do it? And how does that ryu do it? This was the beginning of the “kata generation” This “kata generation” is actually more in line with the teachings, and “path” of the Genbukan, NOT the Bujinkan. It is these people that see the “old timers” and say “see this guy doesn’t know what he’s doin” Meanwhile The “old timers” know EXACTLY what they’re doing!
I would like to give an example, again of Ichimonji no kata, to show how these two schools of thought arrive at these different conclusions.. In the Bujinkan as I have said these are taught in relation to distance. If you are to preform Ichimonji no Kata, start by looking at distance. This will get you your Kamae. If you are at a distance the forces you to lunge at your opponant, then your kamae will be Seigan. The reason is that you need to keep that arm out there to keep your opponant at bay, like a spear. Now if you try to do seigan at a closer range, it actually creates openings in your defense, in close you need to bring that front arm across like a shield.
Now look at the feet. If you are close, you will have to have a more square stance. Why? Because you can now be grabbed! Stand close, but with your feet like seigan. Have your aite grab you, and pull on you. You will take a step or fall. Now assume a greater distance, and keep the same stance. At this distance you are more likely to encounter long weapons like a spear. At this distance, you need to present a smaller profile.
Now in the 80’s Soke was teaching a greater distance than he is today. If you look at Ichimonji no kata from those days, you will see that it is done from seigan, and a longer distance than is seen today. Now when some one punches you at this distance, to take his balance with jodan uke, you need to step back at a 45 degree angle, and keep his weight coming forward. As you complete the uke with your spine he will lose his balance, and his center line will be laying open right there for your shuto. You deliver the shuto by stepping straight in and hit more down than to the side. The reason has to do with the first step (45 angle) and the way your spine generates power at this distance.
Now if we move closer and assume ichimonji, from this distance your opponent does NOT throw a lot of weight behind his punch and is on better balance. If you step back at a 45 from this range, you will still be in firing range, and you can’t drift the energy of his punch back because there is not enough weight on it. So at this distance the taisabaki is circular, the uke is up and out, the front foot comes to the back foot because of distance, and all of this sets the spine up to deliver a circular strike.
Now most of you may recognize the second version, and say that this is the basic. This IS THE KIHON! For Gyokko ryu yes it is, but the Bujinkan is interested in the concept, and depending on when you joined the stream.. Depending on what distance Soke was teaching when you learned the concept called Ichimonji no kata. This may or may not be YOUR basic.
This is at the base of the problem of wanting a standard teaching format. The mistake lies at both ends of the spectrum. Some people say every time I train with a different teacher, they teach me a different way..Which way is right? The answer is of course, as long as the concept is intact then all of them are right!
On the other side of the coin, you have the Shidoshi that have been taught a certain way by Soke or some of the Shihan, and they think that the way that they were showed is the “correct way” because Soke showed them this way… Again wrong. The problem with both of these examples, is that these people only see the physical technique. They see contradicting physical techniques. And..They see the ryu as specific physical techniques, and not as concepts…
So as a member of the Bujinkan, please realize that the ryu are only so important, but their greatest purpose is in YOUR growth. The Genbukan and the Bujinkan are very different in this regard. So please watch the Genbukan influence, or the Jinenkan influence.. Both Schools Fine examples of what they are trying to do, but the Bujinkan is not in the same “business” so to speak. Maybe what you really want is in these other two organizations only you know…