Kūkan (空関): The Empty Gate

When I was asked for a theme for three upcoming Bujinkan seminars (details below) that I’ve been invited to give in April, the concept of Kūkan immediately came to mind. Kūkan is a term that gets thrown around a lot in the Bujinkan, and Chris Taylor, host of the Vancouver seminar, asked me to elaborate more specifically on how we’ll be approaching it…

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A Guide to Happiness – Kōfuku No Shiori(幸福の栞)

Kofuku No Shiori - JapaneseA couple of weeks ago I posted a few of observations about Kōfuku No Shiori on Facebook – posting a longer follow-up here at the suggestion of friends.

fuku No Shiori (幸福の栞), which translates as “A Guide to Happiness“, is a short text by Takamatsu Sōke. In seeing the Japanese original again recently, a number of things came to mind and I thought it might be good to post an English translation that will perhaps breathe some new life into this well-known and meaningful piece. Here’s the Japanese original:


Let’s break it down and see what we can find … Read the rest of this entry

Muto No Kyojitsu (無闘の虚実)


Back after a _long_ hiatus, with a brief post to explain the theme for two Bujinkan seminars I’ll be doing in January – Vancouver (Jan 4/5) and Houston (Jan 11/12). Maybe writing this will also spur me on to go back and pick up Path to the Heart of the Flower, a story that I began to write in early 2012. I also have some other ideas that I’d like to write about, but it’s hard to find the time. Thanks to those of you who keep asking me to write, as it helps to keep it on my mind and pushes it a little higher up on the priority list. 🙂

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Path to the Heart of the Flower (V) – Back to Canada

Thanks to everyone who has continued to prod me to continue writing this blog! Life gets busy, and it’s always easy to find other things to do, but … here we go again. 🙂  (Yes, I promise I will eventually get to the end of this story! (Does it really have an end? Not sure about that one…) )

Last time I wrote a little bit about Karate training in Kumamoto and Kendo training in Hiroshima. Chitose Soke and Fujiwara Sensei were both amazing gentlemen who I’d learned a lot from in the short time I’d spent with them. In Part II, I wrote about my Karate training in Fukuyama with Kanao Sensei, who I continued to visit every weekend for training. In November 1990, he’d used his connections at the Fukuyama Post Office to make me “Postmaster-for-a-day” and weaseled me into being the poster-gaijin. A local TV station and 3 local newspapers came to cover the event. I discovered the old newspaper clippings in my closet and thought it would be fun to post them. 🙂

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2012 in Review

WordPress has prepared a 2012 annual report for my blog – thought I’d share:

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 12,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 20 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Greetings of the Solstice


To All My Friends,

Greetings of the Solstice!

This is a busy time of year with people travelling to spend time with family, and many celebrations to plan and attend, gifts to buy and send, cleaning, decorating, meal preparations, and the list goes on. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, stop for a moment. Did you stop? Good. Now stopped, realize that you are actually still moving. The Earth on which you stand, sit, walk, and run is constantly moving around and around, in its orbit around the centre of our solar system, a star which we call the Sun. No matter where we are on Earth, no matter what we are doing, no matter what traditions or beliefs we hold, no matter what holidays we celebrate – we are all constantly orbiting around our common solar centre.

The Sun, thanks to its gravitational hold, keeps not only our Earth, but also all of the other planets in its solar system, orbiting around it in an orderly fashion. Acting as a central axis of rotation, it keeps everything in balance. All of the planets owe their positions and trajectories to this central solar influence.

Like the planets, the various parts of our minds – our emotions, our preferences, strengths and weaknesses – all of the things that make up our personality, orbit around a centre – the centre of who we really are. Our true inner core. Our truest Self. It is this central Essence that has the power to bring order and balance to our lives, and the degree to which we live in accordance with this Core determines to a great degree how much happiness and fulfilment we experience in life.

With the Solstice now upon us, the days have reached their shortest of the year and our external star begins to gradually warm us with the lengthening of days once again. In this next coming revolution around our outer, visible Sun, may the Rays of your own Inner Sun and Guiding Light bring you to further fruition in Beauty, Joy, and Love as it risis gradually to its zenith above, and may you be blessed by drawing one step closer to your own Inner Light, of which our visible Sun is but a pale shadow.

Many blessings,



Path to the Heart of the Flower (IV)

Finally, some free time to blog again!

In the last blog article I wrote on my early adventures in Japan, I related how I went to Iga in search of Hatsumi Sensei in October 1990, but didn’t manage to find him.

After not having found him, there was nothing else to do but return to Hiroshima and continue with my English teaching schedule. I also went back to my Karate studies, and continued pounding my fists into bloody hamburger against trees.

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Path to the Heart of the Flower (III)

In Part I and II of this adventure, I wrote about how I made my way to Japan in 1990 to teach English, pursue Karate training, and look for ninja grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi. I had arrived in Japan in early August, and now, finally, in October, after getting settled into my apartment, teaching schedule, and Karate training, it was time to set off in search of the ninja master.

Getting information about ninja masters wasn’t as easy in 1990 as it is today. There was no Internet, at least not as we know it now. I remember writing letters home that would take a week to ten days to get from Japan to Canada, and a ten-minute phone conversation to connect with family cost me $100. The only information I had to base my search on was contained in two books on the ninja that I had brought with me to Japan. Both of these books were authored by the same American student of the grandmaster, and both of them pointed to the Iga region as the home of the ninja clans. Eager to meet Hatsumi Sensei for myself, I made plans to visit the area, the city of IgaUeno, located in present-day Mie Prefecture.

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The Meaning of ‘Shihan’

What does the title Shihan mean?
This blog post is in response to a question that I received on Facebook the other day:

I’m surprised every time I see people in the Bujinkan title themselves as Shihan. If I’m not mistaken you never present your self with -san added, this is only used when addressing others. So would not the same thinking apply to Shihan?
I’m not sure when people started doing this, maybe when they got tired of “just” having 15 dan? However, this are just my own thoughts, which very likely can be completely wrong [:)] I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this. Maybe this could lead to yet another great and educational blog post of yours?

In the Bujinkan martial arts, the title “Shihan” has come to be used to refer to anyone ranked Judan (10th degree) and higher. Many people seem to think that it was always used this way, but it actually used to be used differently. So for this blog post I’ll be discussing what the word Shihan means in general, and how it’s come to be used the way it is in the Bujinkan.
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Koppō & Kaname: The How and the What of Bujinkan Martial Arts

Time has flown by since my last blog entry, and I’d like to thank the readers who took the time to share their comments here on the blog and share links to it on Facebook. Your feedback indicated that there’s still an interest in the personal histories of people who’ve devoted significant chunks of their lives to train at the fountainhead of Bujinkan martial arts in Japan, and at the same time several readers mentioned resonances with their own martial quests, creating new links and points of comparison. In the time since, life has continued to be challenging and exciting. Taxes, Training and Translation work have occupied much of my time, and I also made the decision to close down my guest apartment in Noda as of the end of April. (There were a number of reasons for the closure, but rest assured, the original guest apartment in Abiko is still available.)

Right after making the apartment move, I left Japan for six weeks to visit family and instruct at a number of Bujinkan seminars in Canada (“Sakura No Kaze” in Vancouver, and then at Bujinkan Manitoba in Winnipeg) and the U.S. (Bujinkan Sanami Dojo, Austin, June 9/10, and in Denver the following weekend). During the Q&A session at the end of the seminar in Winnipeg this past weekend, there was a question about the differences between the concepts of Koppō (骨法) and Kaname (要, also pronounced Yō). Afterwards, the seminar host, Adam McColl, asked if I’d write a blog post about it, and so here we are. 🙂

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