Category Archives: Bujinkan
Bujinkan martial arts
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…
Kōfuku 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
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. 🙂
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. 🙂
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.
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 Iga–Ueno, located in present-day Mie Prefecture.
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.
Read the rest of this entry
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. 🙂
In Part I of this article, I wrote about how I became involved in Japanese martial arts and the reasons for my growing interest in all things Japanese. I arrived in Japan in August 1990, the 45th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. My 1st month in Hiroshima was a time of adjustment – and many social faux pas (which continue to this day!). In time, I took over the majority of English classes offered by the small English school where I was working, which was run by an American Christian missionary and his family. In fact, I myself had come to Japan on a “religious activities” visa, sponsored by an American missionary organization and the small country Baptist church in which I spent most of my youth. The church had a history of almost 200 years–and I was its 1st ordained missionary. 🙂
February 9th was the 20th anniversary of my first day of training in the Bujinkan. I mentioned it on Facebook, but was encouraged to write a series of blog articles about a bit of my martial arts history and how I found the Bujinkan and made my way to Japan to train with Hatsumi Sensei – to approach the heart of the flower that is Japanese martial arts, budo. I’ve always found it fascinating to hear stories of the adventures of my Sempai here (Mark Lithgow, Michael Pearce, Mark O’Brien, Andrew Young, and Mike L) and, now in my 17th year in Japan myself, I thought it would be fun to look back over the years, and in remembering, share some of that with the readers of my blog.