My bike is better than your bike

Posted in Uncategorized on September 9th, 2014 by Paul

How can one martial art be better than another? Better at what? Does it not depend on what units we measure? For the most part, people will measure it by its success, to serve its purpose of surviving a confrontation. But how much is down to the art, and how much is down to the man that applies the art? Is this not the same as which is more dangerous, the man or the gun?

When considering the art, most martial arts aim to overcome the opponent. Of course, some are more suited to specific situations and that is where they excel, however often in their strength also lies their weakness through exclusivity.

If we consider the topic of street defence for example, we would need to develop skills which accommodate the most likely scenarios. With investigation, it becomes clear what we need to train. Variations of armed and unarmed training, multiple attackers, groundwork, strategy, conditioning, awareness, agility, sparring, adrenal training, body language and self defence law. We could also include firearms training, anti car jacking plus many other aspects if appropriate for the environment.

When considering the man, that some arts are different to others may not be so important. More vital is the when, where and how we apply whatever we have to the situation at hand. A great man relies on his ability to apply himself with whatever he has in his toolbox to take advantage of his particular situation. A skillful man can achieve more with less, and a man may know hundreds of techniques, but it is in knowing when, where and how to act that wins the fight.

There is so much talk of one art being superior to another. My bike is better than your bike. This is missing the mark. It is the human spirit, intelligence, awareness, ingenuity and creativity that makes the most decisive contribution to the outcome of combat. This is where the skill lies.

To study budo is to study the self. This is the place to start looking if we wish to develop ourselves. Arguing that this art is better than that art and placing the importance of the art over the man demonstrates peoples ignorance of the martial arts.

To Hold Down A Pillow

Posted in Uncategorized on September 9th, 2014 by Paul

“In contests of strategy it is bad to be led about by the enemy. You must always be able to lead the enemy about. Obviously the enemy will also be thinking of doing this, but he cannot forestall you if you do not allow him to come out. In strategy, you must stop the enemy as he attempts to cut; you must push down his thrust, and throw off his hold when he tries to grapple. This is the meaning of to hold down a pillow”. When you have grasped this principle, whatever the enemy tries to bring about in the fight you will see in advance and suppress it.” – Musashi, Go Rin No Sho

We need to lead uke and not get lead by him. If uke leads then he exerts some control and therefore some advantage over us. If we respond to his attack with only defence, then we are always a step behind. We need to take control and lead uke. We can do this by attacking, drawing or feinting.

There are three times we can act;

1. We can act before uke starts to attack
2. We can act at the same time uke starts to attack
3. We can act after uke starts to attack

Once we are leading uke we need to ‘hold down a pillow’ and not allow ukes head to rise. We must continue to lead and not give him a chance to regroup, recapture his position, regain his kamae or reassert his spirit. We can do this through continual attack, breaking ukes structure, controlling the space and dominating ukes spirit.

We should strive to lead uke from the outset, and maintain this lead throughout.

To lead uke means to take the initiative, to stay in front, to cause uke to respond to our actions.

The Sanmitsu Class Notes

Posted in Uncategorized on September 9th, 2014 by Paul

The Sanmitsu.
Tonight’s lesson was based on the sanmitsu, the three most important key points we must work on when training.

1. Developing better form (body) (mechanics) (shu)
2. Understanding and applying the principles (mind) (dynamics) (ha)
3. Maintaining a correct mind/attitude (spirit) (intention) (ri)

We also tried to keep our focus on the essence (gokui) of what each technique taught us. The pivotal points (kaname) tonight were discovering where the technique might fall down (due to poor technique), and where the technique could be improved if it failed when tested under resistance.

We started with uke and tori in seiza, tori comes up on right knee and delivers right ura shuto to ukes temple while controlling ukes other arm. Then we applied a kneeling ura gyaku. We found that this technique could be resisted mechanically or by using space or time if the technique was not applied correctly. We looked at the weaknesses and lengthened the time of ukes broken structure by utilising the most effective angle and strength of the ura shuto, then we moved in to the space to close it down while using the other arm to help take ukes structure and apply the ura gyaku quicker. Spine rotation on the shuto and rotation on the knee also helped. These small details made the difference between the technique working well rather than not working at all under resistance. How important!

Keto, Gyokko Ryu and the principle of change.
Uke kicks zempo geri to Tori’s midsection. Tori evades and keri kaeshi with kick to kobura. Uke perceives this, so pulls kick and punches instead. Tori blocks punch then shakoken to men and zempo/harai geri to knock uke down.

This technique provided us with a great opportunity to nurture the correct mind/attitude (spirit). The principle incorporated dealing with change. Sometimes tori took the kick. Sometimes the keri was countered. Sometimes the keri was pulled and the punch came. Then the technique was resisted to see how it held up. Gaps in time, space and positioning were closed up. We first worked on principle, then form, then combined both. We then watched demos and picked up on what was missing.

We discovered that uke and tori both need the correct mindset to train in the present moment and not preconceive responses, while giving good attacks and counter attacks.

We also discovered how uke and tori must work carefully together otherwise tori could become stiff or unhelpful with fear.

It was shocking to discover that even though we had been training in this way for well over an hour, before long, everyone was back to preempting the next move and not committing to the individual parts of the attack or counter. This clearly needs work!

A great night of training.


Posted in General1, New on May 6th, 2010 by Paul

Like a tree our growth depends on our foundation. In the martial arts we begin by learning the basic form and slowly begin to internalise the fundamentals which builds the basis of our skill. We continue to grow by copying the form and experiencing the feeling of movement, and as we progress we discover we have to become more self-reliant as our improvement depends on self-refinement.

To turn rough, coarse abilities into fine skills, we need to commit ourselves to the process of refinement. We should make it part of our standard practice to continually refine our movement, attitude and understanding. This is the mind, body and spirit of our art.

Coarse movement lacks the control of technique, distance, position and timing. A coarse attitude is limited by ego, unawareness and its conflict with nature, and a coarse understanding is limited by a handful of tactics and pre-conditioned patterns. Refinement requires subtle awareness, precise careful training and a clear and focused mind. With practice we can fulfil our potential, and with an upright spirit we can realise that our potential is limited only by our own preconceptions.

For the rough and ready or those who have pre-conceived ideas perhaps a few coarse techniques will suffice, but this isn’t the pinnacle of martial arts skill. The further we travel along the path, the more we realise the interconnection of mind, body and spirit, and those with a coarse unrefined spirit will not develop into refined martial artists.

Are we training to live out a fantasy or do we want to get to the bottom of life and death? Training is a mirror in which we discover ourselves. We may or may not like what we see, but if we can realise that we are always facing ourselves, we have the chance to recognise our true spirit and cut through the bonds of the ego and its delusions.

We should forge and refine our self-control, mentally, physically and spiritually so that we can respond in measure to circumstance and adapt to small changes, fitting to each situation like a key to a lock.

As with any journey we can follow directions, but progress ultimately relies on us. It is our responsibility to refine our own mind, body and spirit. We should not excuse ourselves for having coarse, unrefined skills, we should not use strength to compensate for poor technique, and we should not rely on anything to improve us but the measure of our own effort!

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Connection Class Notes

Posted in General1 on May 5th, 2010 by Paul

Black Snow Taijutsu Class Notes – 4th May 2010
This was a practical and theory class exploring some interesting ideas on the topic of connection in ninpo taijutsu.

We should refine the way we understand and use connection.

Connection is a two way conduit. Through it we can know what?s incoming and respond appropriately, exerting control by return.

Connection transmits intention, so we should receive ukes intention without giving away our own.

Connection depends on joining uke via the senses. Connection begins the moment a situation is born and it evolves without stopping.

Receptivity requires open awareness, a relaxed body and a fluid mind.
With a correct spirit, we should not transmit intention or resistance.

A broad connection means a wide bandwidth – the more points of contact and the more senses that can be brought to bear on uke, the more information we are likely to receive.

Connection to uke may be passive (receptive) or active (controlling).
Dragon & Tiger alternate as we change our mode of connection.
As dragon we can accompany ukes intention, redirect it or refuse it.
As tiger we control uke and take or occupy the space that uke needs.

Ukes commitment to attack becomes his weakness as his intent, balance and structure become fixed. We can take advantage of this if we have a good quality connection.

There is also our connection to space, time and the environment.

Class Practical
Tsuki kata
Various defences using connection to ukes double tsukis.
Eyes open/eyes closed/eyes to second uke.

Wrist Grab & Tsuki
Feel ukes focus shift and balance change on tsuki. Various waza.
Eyes open/eyes closed.

Lapel Grab & Tsuki
Feel ukes focus shift and balance change on tsuki. Various waza.
Eyes open/eyes closed.

Lapel Grab & Tsuki
Block without transmitting intention, then move to a dominant position.

Tsuki – Dragon
(i) Accompany ukes tsuki (ii) Refuse ukes tsuki (iii) Redirect ukes tsuki

Lapel Grab & Tsuki – Tiger
Use connection to open uke up. Create & occupy space via connection.
Practice making multiple connection points. Change controlling limbs without transmitting.

Balance Workshop

Posted in General1 on April 26th, 2010 by Paul

Shinobi Kai Seminar Workshop Notes – 26th April 2010
This was a 45 minute workshop for students to practice some of the basic principles of balance in taijutsu.

Refine principles, movement and awareness through self-control
Balance is an important principle in strategy, operations and tactics
Taking balance is of great advantage
There are many kinds of balance
Taking balance is often a primary part of technique
Taking balance can allow us to strike without being struck
We should learn to control our balance and break ukes (kazushi)

Workshop Practical
Shizen – feet together, eyes closed, feel oscillation
Shizen – lean with straight back – 8 directions of losing balance
Hoko – feet apart, eyes closed, feel oscillation
Hoko – strong line (side to side) vs weak line (front to back)
Hoko – push test from side with feet narrow distance
Hoko – push test from side with feet wide apart
For and against wide kamae (stability, power from ground etc)

Ichimonji no Kamae
Strong line to uke, relaxed muscles, upright axis, straight back, neck and head. Engage hips and tanden.

Tanden – your centre of balance and gravity
Like walking – always move from tanden, then move feet
Do not lose control of feet or over-reach
Shisei – taijutsu should always use agile, smooth body movement

Ichimonji to Ichimonji
Use tanden and gravity to sink naturally into kamae and use tanden to travel between kamae. Do not bob.

Ichimonji to Tsuki
Same as above with fist. Transfer power from floor. Ken tai ichi jo (body and weapon as one). This should be used as our basic punch!

Kihon Happo – Ichimonji
From ichimonji, draw opponent by offering opening, angle right, break ukes balance with jodan uke without over extending own arm, use koto ryu style footwork (front foot comes back, rear foot steps forward) to throw the whole body weight forward (use being out of balance), attacking ukes broken line/weak line of balance with shuto, end in ichimonji.

Kihon Happo – Hicho into Muso Dori
Don’t overtravel on gedan uke and remember to drop the hips as part of your motion, throw balance forward while kicking zempo, natural footwork after kick, ura shuto while stepping (ken tai ichi jo), slide in to capture balance taken after shuto (don’t give uke balance back), grab ukes shoulder and use gravity to sink to bend uke (lift your leg a little to drop your weight), apply muso dori and takedown along ukes weak line (remember the three legged table!)

Kihon Happo – Omote Gyaku / Ura Gyaku
From shizen step back into hira as uke attemps to lapel grab, extend ukes balance by grabbing his wrist, tori and ukes centre should become connected here, step back to hira on other side with a smooth transition, don’t give balance back, ken tai ichi jo.

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Balance & Kazushi Class

Posted in General1 on April 12th, 2010 by Paul

Black Snow Taijutsu Class Notes – 9th April 2010
This was a practical taijutsu class with loads of theory to give students an overview of balance and kazushi. There is a great deal more than one lessons worth of practice here!

Balance – Body, Mind and Spirit
Body – upright, relies on correct position, distance and timing
Mind – responsive, not stopping, not grasping, fluid
Spirit – bright, open, aware, self-illuminating, without ego

Center of Balance
Physical center – hara/tanden (one point)
Find center and focus breath to store energy – deep in, long out
Recall awareness of hara during movement, walking, sitting etc
All movement should be directed from the hara

General Movement
Like walking – relaxed, without thought and move as one
Shisei – agile, smooth, balanced – not sporadic or stiff
Body should be relaxed above knees, solid below knees
Walk naturally and keep feet constantly moving
Dont lose control of feet and over reach

Importance of Balance
Taking balance is often a pre-requisite to technique
Taking balance alone can often achieve our objective
Taking balance can redirect ukes harmful intent
It is important to keep our own balance
It is important to take ukes balance

Mechanics of Balance
Center of gravity
The effect of height
Balance distribution
Stable upright central axis
Being a biped and the use of our muscles
8 Corners of balance
Balance in continual motion
Moving within the limits of balance
Body weight carried over center
The weightless state
How we use being out of balance
Reclaiming lost balance

Taijutsu Practice – Keeping & Taking Balance
The reality of balance in combat
How blocking can be bad for our balance
Evasion – the importance of getting out of the way
Taisabaki – moving out of the way of punches, kicks & cuts
Balanced kamae – relaxed & upright, connection through hara to legs
Balanced striking – fists, kicks, on knees etc
Balance in movement – walking, running, jumping, rocking, shuffling
Losing balance – using gravity, rolls and breakfalls
Sphere of balance – maintain balance, center and edge
Sphere of distance – unbalance uke with the control of distance
Sphere of position – unbalance uke with the control of space
From wrist grab take ukes balance in the 10 directions
Ways to use ukes being out of balance
Capture ukes overbalance
Extend ukes balance
Lure uke into committing his balance
Take balance throughout the application of taijutsu
Attacking towards ukes weakest line of balance
Take uke down (extend him) through his weakest line of balance
Do not give back balance taken
Maintaining balance when pushed and pulled

Taijutsu Practice – Taking Ukes Mind
Kiai, feints, kyojitsu, saminjutsu, diversion, division, distraction, offering openings to draw him out

Taijutsu Practice – Taking Ukes Spirit
Capture intent or will to fight, induce erratic behaviour, create and take advantage of flightiness, slothfulness, arrogance, pride, jealousy, aversion, attraction

Taijutsu Practice – Strategic Balance
Change the balance of the fight, control the conditions to draw uke into your sphere and out of his own

Applying the Sanmitsu to Balance

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Keeping it Real

Posted in General1 on April 5th, 2010 by Paul

We need to be clear about our training. We need to know how to train and how our training translates to real life situations, otherwise we can easily become confused and lose our way.

There is training in the ‘application’ of taijutsu, and there is the practice of taijutsu ‘exercises’ to focus on specific principles. These two should not be confused. Training in the application of taijutsu requires that we train realistically as we cannot afford to train for real. This means that we should constantly ask ourselves what a real attacker might do on the street, or what effect real circumstances might have on our ability.

We should consider our response to danger – mind, body and spirit (psychological, physical and emotional). We should train to keep calm through meditation or conditioning and we should consider how the overspill fits into our taijutsu.

We train in koryu bujutsu – the old martial arts of Japan. These were developed in the feudal era to work against a fully committed attack. We need to be clear about this, and not confuse what we do with sports based martial arts which are based on a different concept. Taijutsu was not designed for sparring which requires restraint by both parties and constriction by rules. Taijutsu requires the full expression of uke and tori’s mind, body and spirit by design, so it has limited application as a sport.

If we happen to fight a boxer on the street the last thing we would want to do is box! Use a different strategy! Find an advantage! Escape while they bob around(!), grab a weapon or use space to draw them out so they have to commit their intention and balance.

As uke, we should think about giving tori a realistic attack. This does not mean a real attack – unless we are happy to receive a real counter! Our job is to play the role of uke, not become uke! Training is not a competition and there is no place for ego in the dojo. We are here to help tori so we should consider what kind of uke is required at each moment of tori’s training.

As uke and tori we should bear in mind the object of each specific technique. Are we to focus on the form, the feeling, the distance or the flow? We should focus our training and work with uke to achieve this.

‘Keep it realistic – not real’ was a phrase I heard from Mark Lutman. Many thanks Mark!

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Natural Ability

Posted in General1 on March 19th, 2010 by Paul

We all possess amazing powers. We each have the ability to process information at speeds equivalent to 100 million million instructions per second, and we have a memory capacity equivalent to 100 million megabytes of data. It is important that we recognise these abilities and know that they operate on a subconscious level – without any conscious effort from us.

How amazing! – that we can feel the reach of the opponents sword, the trajectory of his kick and the timing of his punch before they arrive, all without conscious deliberation! With a calm heart and mind we can discover and harness our natural abilities, and so we should make sure that we allow them to work for us in our training.

It is very easy to allow our practice to become an intellectual exercise setting us further apart from the reality we strive to understand. We need to ‘learn how to be natural’ and make sure that training accords with reality and our natural responses to conflict.

We should keep in mind that in the heat of combat our emotions will affect us and we will have no time to think. Training in the dojo affords us the luxury of safety and time – so we must not be fooled but train beyond thinking and learn to use the subconscious mind. Furthermore, we should deepen our relationship with our nature through training and meditation. This will help us break the spell of our emotions and give us the potential to discover the secrets within ourselves.

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Mushin – Learning to Forget

Posted in General1 on February 27th, 2010 by Paul

As a martial artist, we train to face a combat situation that will require us to engage on both a conscious and subconscious level, and so we should focus our practice with this in mind.

The conscious mind is a great tool, providing us with our sensory input, the capacity to evaluate, the intelligence to plan and the wisdom to change. These qualities are inherent in everyone, and their skilful use is essential to the martial artist. We have the ability to perceive a situation as it develops, weigh it up, devise a strategy and take action. However, when action turns to combat there will be little or no time for us to think. This is when we need to rely on the subconscious.

The subconscious is a storehouse of imprinted information. The mind creates long-term memory by strengthening the synaptic pathways through the repetition of an act. This allows us to train through experience and increase our physical and mental abilities. Subconscious action is very efficient. It does not stop the conscious mind or get delayed by thought. However, subconscious responses are pre-programmed patterns that have not been adapted to meet the needs of our present situation. To adapt, we need to utilise our natural awareness and the creative freedom of the moment.

We practice taijutsu forms and principles so that we can deliver what works and understand why – then we need to know how to give our taijutsu life. This ‘what, why and how’ is the foundation – the body, mind and spirit of our training method.

Considering this, we should take time to study strategy, we should practice our taijutsu carefully with the correct movement and we should apply taijutsu principles mindfully. Forms and principles should be trained so that they become subconscious skills – then we will have the capacity to be without conscious form and respond freely.

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Commitment to Training

Posted in General1 on February 20th, 2010 by Paul

The student’s commitment to training is very important. If the student works in harmony with the dojo, the student’s training will be effective and the dojo will thrive.

Every dojo is different, each offering their own unique program of training. Dojos are naturally geared towards students that are suitable for their specific training program.

On joining, the student should make sure that they meet the dojo’s requirements. This includes that the student agrees to meet the level of commitment required by the training.

As a vehicle, training requires momentum to get students from A to B. Momentum is created by consistent effort and focused by direction, so the student should get on board to meet the dojo’s momentum.

The key to training is consistency and dicipline. Days off due to rain, low energy, sniffles, cinema or otherwise will certainly not help to build required muscle memory or a strong spirit. Authentic martial arts training is a contradiction in terms if we take it as a hobby.

In a serious training dojo, the hobbyist will find improvement difficult as they will not be able to keep up with the program. They will fall behind and lack in performance, attendance, commitment or focus and this will not be beneficial to the dojo either.

I hope that all students find a dojo which inspires them to raise their game. Total commitment to training means that everybody wins.

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Square Peg, Round Hole

Posted in General1 on February 18th, 2010 by Paul

There is more than one way to skin a rabbit and there is more than one way to defeat an opponent. In the matter of life and death, doing whatever works is what counts. On a good day, your opponent may fall onto his own sword, while on a bad day you may fall onto your own. With so many variables at play, chance always deals a hand and there is no prospect of a guarantee. However, we train to raise our odds by working with what we know and have control over. We study how to defeat uke’s body, mind and spirit, we learn how to protect our own, and we train to recognise and command the relationships between them to win the advantage.

If what works counts, then taking advantage of conditions to achieve ‘what works’ is the object of our training. Our methods need to be adaptable and repeatable, and so we should realise the great benefits of basing adaptable taijutsu on strong foundations.

Good training requires that we train both with and without form, and we begin to realise that one exists within the other. There is no form but function, and the expression of function is form. Sounds deep, but this unites the ideal and the real within our training so that we are free to run without falling over.

We practice set techniques (form) to develop movement, position, timing and tactics and as we progress we also discover the inner principles, feelings and subtleties. Consistent practice develops our capacity for formlessness, and through this we can realise our ability to respond appropriately and utilise conditions freely.

Training should begin with the practice of form to build a good foundation. With correct training, things will develop from here if the student takes ownership of their taijutsu. Improvement continually depends more and more on the student. It is easy to teach movement, but difficult to create a perceptive, creative and free martial artist. :)

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A Good Question

Posted in General1 on February 15th, 2010 by Paul

One of my students asked me the other day ‘What can I do to become a better student?’ This is a most important question we should ask ourselves and our instructors. It is up to the student to take a personal interest in studying their art, both in theory and in practice. There is always something to research and always something to train, and yet many students sit back and just attend a class or two a week expecting to be given all of the skills, answers and grades.

As with most things, true understanding comes from direct experience, and this deepens with time and awareness. If we are commited to our training, we should make time to study the things we do not have time for in class. This includes theory, repetition of taijutsu drills, physical conditioning and extended meditation.

In class we should aim to become more focused on the subtleties of our taijutsu, and like a carpenter who gradually refines his work, we should constantly try to refine everything about our technique; timing, distance, balance, posture, rhythm, flow, feeling and spirit. We should try to realise the natural function of our taijutsu and look beyond the form to understand ‘why’ it works.

We should question ourselves to find and realise the answers, and ask those more experienced if we are unsure. In truth, we ourselves are the teacher while sensei just points the way. With all of this in mind, we should ask  ‘What can I do to become a better student?’.

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Ukemi – Beyond the Mat

Posted in General1 on February 15th, 2010 by Paul

To the novice, ukemi or breakfalls are seen as little more than floor slapping exercises to help us reduce the impact of falling. This idea often continues way into our training and the benefits to be gained from a better understanding of ukemi remain unexplored and undeveloped.

As a beginner, we are first introduced to the practice of ukemi when we find ourselves falling towards the floor. We soon discover that we have two options, an uncontrolled landing or a controlled landing. One of these results in injury and pain, falling in a heap at the whim of uke, while the other results in safe landing under the control of ourselves. This control of self is a very important point, for as long as we have control over ourselves, we have some control over our situation.

With this in mind, we can start to see the principle of ukemi, and this reaches much further than a hand to the floor. Ukemi is the way to survive. It is in fact at the heart of our art, teaching us to become invisible to uke by not opposing his force. Uke cannot fight his fight and his intent becomes the cause of his own destruction.

Ukemi also trains us to pre-empt uke’s next move, and we can take advantage of this foresight.

“Good ukemi training will allow you to see the future truly because your vision will be based on observation and intuition, rather than an arbitrary decision made in advance of the evidence. Good ukemi represents the same wisdom as that of the fisherman who through long experience can sense what the coming weather will be.”
Saotome Sensei

Let us consider how to apply ukemi in training so that we can learn how to keep balance, protect ourselves, overcome uke’s intentions and develop foresight. The following are practical applications of ukemi and training starts here…

Ukemi and the Role of Uke (attacker)
Uke and tori should work together as a team so that they can help each others training and roles must be balanced otherwise improvement will be difficult. To begin with, uke must supply tori with a clear and meaningful attack. This doesn’t need to be fast or powerful, but should be appropriate for tori’s ability and must have the intention to connect. Having someone just hold their arm out to simulate a punch is useless, and it doesn’t help uke or tori.

As tori applies their technique, uke should neither resist the technique nor turn to jelly. Even moderate resistance is likely to cause permanent injury over years of training, however if you are overly compliant you will throw yourself – and that will not do either! Instead, uke should allow tori to lead and uke should follow and go with tori’s technique offering only light resistance. This flow protects ukes joints and allows uke to control his own balance as the technique is applied to him. By taking ukemi in this way, uke has the ability to take advantage of openings in tori’s control or find reversals as tori applies the technique.

To improve, uke must train with focused intention and tori must apply the technique in a gentle manner so that uke can learn to ride with it until balance is lost or recaptured. If balance is lost, uke can lower himself in a controlled way to the floor. Classic ukemi begins the moment we start to receive an opponents’ technique and ends when we have followed it to its conclusion or have re-established control.

Ukemi and the Role of Tori (defender)
As a beginner, tori should apply techniques softly as the lack of experience and the erratic, awkward movement can easily injure a training partner.

As tori develops and grows more confident in movement, he should gradually begin to assert his technique. Working with a good uke offering light resistance, tori should be able to develop effective technique and flow without the need of power or speed. Tori should apply just enough to make the technique function in a smooth and controlled manner. If uke resists, tori should explain that it may cause injury if the technique has to be forced. Even moderate resistance is likely to cause permanent injury over years of training! (If uke locks up, you can always strike to help him relax:-) Tori should take care not to overstress uke’s joints or limbs at maximum twist or extension.

To improve, tori should focus on refining technique, body movement and intention whilst also relaxing to discover the feeling, flow and connection to uke. Tori should train to perceive uke’s openings while protecting his own, upset uke’s balance while maintaining his own, and occupy a safe position while controlling the tactical space.

Classic Flapping and Slapping
As for slapping the deck – it’s better to break your fall without flapping and slapping if you can, as you never know what you might flap as you fall or what you might slap as you sprawl. You’ll never know how much space you’ll have or if you will be holding anything of value (a weapon?). For these reasons, students should master ukemi using both arms, one arm and no arms. However, if you’re empty handed, are confident of your surroundings and do fancy slapping some mat – go for it, but do only what is needed. No points for loudness and drawing attention to yourself. It’s just not very ninja!

Ukemi is one of the key principles found in the study of our art. It is much more than just a technique. Techniques are a combination of tactics that are the expression of principles applied to a specific situation. We should study techniques, understand the specific (tactics) and realise the universal (principals) so that we can apply what we have learnt to other situations. Consider how else we apply ukemi to protect ourselves, how we find balance in motion, how ukemi makes us invisible to uke and how ukemi follows the flow of nature…

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Shikin Haramitsu Daikomyo

Posted in General1 on February 14th, 2010 by Paul

We are all different people living different lives, but we share the enjoyment of training in our art. Whatever each of us gets from our training, we all share in the process of learning, experiencing, discovering, and developing. This is what being a student is all about. For some, training offers a great opportunity to get what we want and we leave the dojo having achieved just that. For others, training is a medium through which we strive to develop ourselves in a mental, physical or spiritual way. Many students train to develop one or two of these aspects and some hope to develop all three.

Mind, body and spirit are the ‘Sanmitsu’, the three secrets of our art. To make the most of our training we should develop all of these – but often the way is not clear. Learning Ninjutsu is much more than the intellectual passing of information – it’s a tactile experience beyond words. No matter how well someone describes a cake, it will not alleviate hunger! So learning takes place through the direct experience of the student while the teacher just points the way.

So it’s all down to us! Ninjutsu offers us a perfect vehicle to develop ourselves mind, body and spirit. If we really want to embody the art we need to look deeper and train with understanding. We must practice regularly if the body’s muscle memory, co-ordination, balance and strength is to improve. We need to look beyond every technique and understand ‘why’ so that the principles become clear and strong in our mind, and we need to search deep inside ourselves to find out how our spirit accords with the nature of things so we can flow in the moment. To advance requires that we change and grow, and if we have an open mind and heart we will have the capacity to look deeper and travel further. It’s fine if we want to practice Ninjutsu ‘our way’, but we will find ourselves at a dead end when we arrive at our own conceptual destination.

Shikin Haramitsu Daikomyo’ is a verse that we repeat every lesson, and it can be translated in a number of ways which describe how our training can lead to self-development and enlightenment. One translation of ‘Shikin’ is a heart with four dimensions. An open heart, a sincere heart, a heart in tune with the nature of things and a heart dedicated to a chosen path. ‘Haramitsu’ means the perfection of wisdom and ‘Daikomyo’ enlightenment. Together, this could be understood to mean ‘With a correct heart may I reach the perfection of wisdom and enlightenment.’ More profoundly, it can be translated as ‘Each moment holds the key to our enlightenment’, and it is through our direct experience of the moment that we should investigate and clarify all things for ourselves.

We should look deeply at the feeling of our taijutsu, discover the concepts behind our techniques, examine the meaning behind ceremony and etiquette and look into the depths of ourselves. We should look closely at everything and ask ourselves ‘what’ and ‘why’, and if we can’t find the answers, we should ask others. Once we have something tangible, we should question ourselves again to reason it out, decide on its place and try to realise it within our own experience. Then we can test, use and develop it so we come to understand it.

What is the purpose of the kamidana, the vajra and bell, the verse chanted by the instructor at the opening ceremony, the clapping, the meditation, the bowing in of weapons etc? What use are they if we don’t know their purpose? What is the point of learning 10,000 ways of blocking the same punch?

Let us look deeply to develop our training and ourselves so that we can help others. Only then can we invoke with purpose;
‘Shikin haramitsu daikomyo’.

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Ninpo / Ninjutsu Blog

Posted in General1 on February 13th, 2010 by Paul

Welcome to my Ninpo / Ninjutsu blog. Here you will find some of the thoughts that come to me as I teach and study Ninpo Taijutsu.

Please do leave a comment. I look forward to reading it!

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