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. 🙂
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.
I was asked today to write something about Kaname in advance of a seminar I’ll be giving at Bujinkan Manitoba on May 26/27. The following are some thoughts I put down based on my experience of feeling and hearing what Sensei has been teaching on this subject this year.
Kaname (要) is a word that means “essence,” or “essential point.” It refers to that which is necessary for a thing to be what it is. For example, each technique from our Nine Schools has something about it that makes it unique. For Ganseki Nage to be Ganseki Nage, and not Omote Gyaku, there are things about it that make it distinct. Those things are the “Kaname” of Ganseki Nage, the things that make it what it is, distinct from other techniques, the things that comprise its essential character.
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I’d like to start this blog by thanking the readers who have expressed their appreciation for the posts I’ve made thus far. Thank you for your feedback and letting me know that you’ve found what I’ve written to be helpful to you. My intention was to make one entry per month, but last summer became very busy, and that continued right through the end of the year, so that whenever I would prepare to write an article, I’d think to myself, “Is this really the most productive thing that I could be doing right now?” The answer most often was, “No.” And so the blog went quiet for a few months – but in the meantime, I’ve kept an active list of interesting topics that I want to write about, so these will gradually be coming out in the next little while.
What I wanted to write about today is the latest DVD set from Hatsumi Sensei. Last summer, I received a handout at Hombu Dojo that asked Bujinkan instructors in Japan to speak with their students and see what questions they would like to ask Hatsumi Sensei. The questions could be about anything – directly related to training or not – and we were told that Sensei would discuss the questions received on a DVD. This DVD set (2 DVDs, 2 hours each) was released for sale at Daikomyosai 2011, and is entitled, “Hitsumon Bujinden (必問・武神伝): Wisdom Necessary for Quest.”
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In the first part of this article we looked at some early uses of the term “demon” in the West in order to help us more fully understand some of the things that Sensei refers to when he talks about the demon motif in connection with the Bujinkan martial arts tradition of Kukishin-ryū (九鬼神流). We also looked into some psychological principles derived from the demon idea and how those principles can be used to make our lives happier and more balanced. In this final part of the article, we will look at principles of Japanese geomancy (fuu-sui, 風水) related to the demon motif, and give some very brief hints as to some ideas for application of these principles to the Kukishin-ryū taijutsu techniques Kimon (鬼門) and Ura Kimon (裏鬼門).
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The Bujinkan martial arts training theme for 2007 was the Kukishin Ryu tradition. (There is some debate over which term is best to use, Kukishin Ryu or Kukishinden Ryu, and Hatsumi Sensei uses both of these seemingly at random. I am going to use “Kukishin Ryu” in this article for the sake of convenience.)
The meaning of the term “Kukishin” is one that causes discomfort for some, as it involves a word usually translated into English as “demon,” – the term “Kukishin” being composed of the characters for “9 – Demon – Spirit[s] (九鬼神)”. Depending on your religious background and upbringing, this can be the source of a certain amount of trepidation. “See?” you’ll hear some say, “What further proof do we need that at the real heart of Japanese martial arts lurks all kinds of darkness and evil?” Unfortunately, the modern English term “demon” has taken on quite a different meaning from the way it was first used in past millennia, and it is this modern understanding of the word which causes some red flags to go up.
This article will first look at early uses of the term “demon” in the West in order to help us more fully understand some of the things that Sensei is referring to when he uses the corresponding Japanese term “oni” in training. We will next look into some psychological principles derived from the demon idea which we can use to make our lives happier and more balanced. (Yes, you read correctly.) In the final part of the article (Part II, separate post), we will look at principles of Japanese geomancy related to the demon motif, and some taijutsu ideas which can be interpreted in light of those principles.
The second annual Sakura No Kaze (“cherry-blossom wind”) seminar was held in Surrey, BC, just outside Vancouver, on May 14/15. Bill Brown and I team-taught for the two days, alternating back and forth, sharing lessons that we’ve learned from our time in Japan training under Hatsumi Sensei. This included both unarmed taijutsu techniques as well as variations with the sword and the 6-foot bo staff. We also taught techniques from both the perspective of a defender using the technique against an aggressor, and also from the perspective of having the technique applied to you by someone else, turning the technique back upon them (this is known as kaeshi-waza, 返し技).