Blog Archives

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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