September 30, 2009

James Morganelli in London, England, November 21-22, 2009

In this workshop, James will be sharing insights on this year's theme of Tsunagari,
“connection," and Nawa no Kukan, to assist participants in defining ownership of their Taijutsu, specifically in areas of core principles and self sufficiency.

James' training philosophy replaces static, repetitive imitation of techniques with a direct connection to the ebb and flow of martial principles that are in constant flux. This focus results in efficient and contextual understanding of the art's intent, fostering the continuous creative adaptability necessary for students to claim ownership of their training to 'be good today' instead of always training 'to become good.'

Tomoko Horikawa will again lead morning and afternoon sessions of Makko Ho, a
Japanese stretching art, focusing on Hara Kokyuho, abdominal breathing, and Hodo
Taiso, supplemental massage techniques using Taijutsu to improve the circulation and
well being of another. Makko Ho has only four poses (similar to the Ryutai Undo of
Junan Taiso) and concentrates on core strength of the Kosshi, lower back, and Tanden, lower abdomen, through breathing and bowing movements. Tomoko is one of only three licensed instructors in the United States.

Date: Nov. 21st – 22nd
Time: 11:00 -17:00 (both days; please arrive early to register)
Venue: London Buddhist Arts Centre, Eastbourne House Bullards Place, London, E2 0PT

£60 – Both Days
£40 – One Day

For more information please email Shidoshi Stephen Kovalcik (Bujinkan Shingitai-Ichi Dojo – London) at Please notify him by email of your intention to attend and pay at the door.

September 19, 2009

In Search of Musashi

The alarm goes off, but I either don't hear it, don't care, or the woman next to me turns it off (it was Tomo, but let's say I don't hear it). So, I'm already late in catching the bus to Kumamoto. And it's raining. Hasn't rained all week; sunny and beautiful all week long. Today, it rains. Off and on, all day, raining. Nice.

The bus ride normally takes about two hours. But remember, it's raining. So we'll tack on an extra 10 minutes or so. Great. You see, I'm on a schedule. I'm out to find as much Musashi stuff as I can before and after I make my way to "Reigan-do," (and no Reigando is not the latest magical pop sensation from Mexico, I write of the Reigan Cave, the very place 'El Musashi' put brush to paper and wrote/finished the 'Gorin no Sho,' "The Book of Five Rings" for the martially impaired out there). My bus leaves at 13:10 and there's only one bus per day. Why one bus? Don't ask me. That's how they roll in Kumamoto. I need to be on that bus. I will be on that bus, so help me.

So far, I'm on schedule. I'm flying across town in a taxi to the Kenritsu Bijitsukan, a major art museum that holds several of Musashi's works. I've been online and seen swords, a black bokken, and several of his most famous paintings. I'm stoked. The driver weaves through the city, snaking in and around Kumamoto's most famous resident, "Kumamoto-jo," the castle first built in the early 1600s, by Lord Hosokawa, subsequently attacked, housed Musashi for a time before his death, and now looms over the city, a monolith of Edo-jidaism, just begging Godzilla to step on it. The driver is flying. In fact, I think he hit a few people - some old ladies or something - I don't even care. The driver pulls up. I pay him and race into the museum. Let's do this.
Museum Lady: Welcome dear patron. We have two showings today - this Hosokawa bullshit or this other Hosokawa bullshit.
Me: (slightly breathless) Uh, actually, I'm here to see Miyamoto Musashi's bullshit.
Museum Lady: Oh, (tittering laugh) we aren't displaying any of his bullshit.
Me: None of his bullshit?
Museum Lady: None of his bullshit.
Me: (Scenes in my head of flying 8000 miles to Japan with dollar signs overlaid) What about the other museum? The Shimada Bijitsukan? Are they displaying any of his-?
Museum Lady: No bullshit. Sumimasen.
Me: (Frowning)
Museum Lady: Just in case my previous Sumimasen was not enough, sumimasen.
Me: (sighing loudly) I hate you so much ...
Musashi - 1
Me - 0

I find myself outside wandering the parkway next to the castle. I am despondent and muttering to myself. I need a plan. My first plan failed on contact with the enemy, so I have to fall back to plan B. But by the time I remember plan B is a James Bond-ish attempt at 'underwear cocktails' with the museum's Director, I am already walking into Kumamoto-jo. So much for witty banter over whiskey in briefs.

Kumamoto-jo is huge. Its layout made the place impregnable for a time. Built early in the 1600s by the Hosokawa clan and sacked during the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877, a restoration of the Lord's residence, the Honmaru Palace, was completed in 2007.

I know none of this when I enter the castle. I just want to see something authentic. I am in search of authenticity - the works Musashi himself has laid hands on - so I figure the castle will be a decent second. Besides Musashi stayed here for a brief period toward the end of his life. So, in I go.

And, how is the castle? Nice. Really nice. Too nice. The main keep may as well be a movie set - it's a reconstruction built in 1960. Oh, sure, the outside looks right, but inside, the place is a museum, with just a few old things, and a giant concrete spiraling staircase comprising the spine of the place. I can't believe it. The accompanying Honmaru Palace is, in fact, perfect. Beautifully redone by some of Japan's artisans, it is a testament to - wait a minute, I don't care about any of this shit. I am here to see 'Old Japan.' Not, what 'New Japan' thinks 'Old Japan' looked like. Sigh.

Musashi - 2
Me - 0

I will sigh a lot this day. I make my way down the road, back to the Kotsu Center, where I had originally arrived. I see a taxi at the roadside and look at my watch: 12:15. Almost an hour until I have to catch the bus to Reigan-do. His grave. I can make the grave - Musashi Zuka. I've got time. I talk to the Taximan - Musashi's grave? Yeah, sure. Great. We drive. It starts to rain again. Hard. Boy, there's a lot of traffic in this city. And we drive. And drive. And drive. I look at my watch, it's nearly 12:45. What the-?! My brain goes into NASA calculation mode: make it there, see the grave, get back to the center, denominator ... "Houston, we have a problem." There's not enough time to do this. In fact, I still have to make certain which bus I am supposed to exactly, precisely take. I explain this to my driver. He nods, "Sumimasen." I sigh.

Musashi - 3
Me - 0

He turns around and heads back. I pay him 3000yen. About 30 bucks to drive me around in the rain. Don't worry, he says. Musashi Zuka is open until 6:00pm, so I can see it when I return from Reigan-do.

I've just a few minutes left to catch the bus. I race inside and ask about the bus and bus stop. They tell me, and remind me of the return schedule, taking a moment to print out a copy of it. Great, whatever. I run to the stop. It's 13:08. No bus. I wait. 13:09. 13:10. 11. 12. Bus Number 6 finally rolls up. A bunch of old ladies get on before me. I ask the driver if this is the bus to Reigan-do. He nods. Beautiful.

We drive out of town, into the countryside. We turn up a nearby mountain. A big one. And weave around its turns, slowing anytime we pass oncoming vehicles. Man, it's tight up here. It should be - the road is only wide enough for one vehicle. Why? Because that's how they roll in ... nevermind.

40 minutes later I step off the bus at, 'Iwato Kannon Iriguchi,' which, had there been a nearby map would've been labeled, "MIDDLE OF NOWHERE," right above a dot saying, "You are here." There's a road, leading off this main road with some promising signs. It starts to rain again.

I head up. And up. And up. The road leads me to Iwato No Sato Koen (Park), and then I see it ... a massive, white marble statue of Musashi in Zazen. I made it. I'm here.

Musashi - 3
Me - 1 (Take that Japan!)

I shake and ring the rope bell to wake up the Kensei and head in. The park is simply the entrance to the outer area of a temple that houses Reigan-do. I find a small road that snakes around into a valley on the other side of a ridge, where I find several houses and ... chickens? I see another sign, I think it reads "Unganzen-ji," the temple. Not too many visitors on this rainy Saturday, in fact, none, when I arrive. I pay the smoking man inside the tattered outbuilding 200yen and he buzzes me through a metal gate into the grounds.

The first building I come to is actually a huge glass paneled case with several articles inside. I am surprised to find several of Musashi's works, a large black, oar-like bokuto, and a couple articles of clothing. None of it real I guess, for it's basically sitting out in the elements. (Tomo would later translate a few of the photos - articles of clothing, or type of clothing relate to a woman named "Higaki Hime," from a famous Edo-jidai story, a black bokuto of "4 shaku and 2 sun" was supposed to be the length used by Musashi to fight Sasaki Kojiro at Ganryujima, and a mantra written by a monk helped to cure a woman's eye infection.)

I make my way up a rise and am confronted with hundreds of seated statues, each posed differently. Some are silently crying out to heaven, some are headless, some in repose. The silence, the enclosure, the stillness, make it awfully creepy. It is the "Gohyakurakan," the 500 Buddhas dedicated some 160 years after Musashi's time. Many of the statues did not survive earthquakes and hurricanes, but the story goes, if you look them in their faces, you'll eventually find one that looks like you.

Over another rise and I can see the enclosed path to Reigan-do. I make my way slowly. Reigan-do means "spirit cave" and is undoubtedly millions of years old, but has only been reportedly used since the Heian period, 794-1185, to house 'Iwato kannon,' a Buddhist deity. The cave was well known for answering prayers. In fact, 'Reiganzen-ji,' a temple dedicated to the use of the cave, was founded during the Nambokuchojidai, 1336-1392, but no longer exists.

Several monuments have been set out ahead of the cave, which finally comes into view. It is huge. The mouth is nearly 50 feet high and almost as wide. I am once again disappointed to find a modern update to this original - concrete stairs and a raised wooden platform have been built into the cave itself. However, I notice some of the original steps, carved right from the bedrock, still exist.

Going into the cave brings you above the original 'floor,' where this new wooden floor creates a level surface for tourists. A massive rock, called "Funatoseki" or "Sentoseki/Sendoishi" dominates the middle of the cave.

At the back, a makeshift wall sections the cave off - I have no idea how far back the cave actually goes. A small shrine (to Musashi or Iwato Kannon or both) has been encased there.
The rock walls are cold, but dry. I climb up onto the massive rock, which the floor has been built around, look out, and am instantly disappointed. Whatever inspiration Musashi found here from Reigan's view, is gone. Trees have been allowed to grow just outside its entrance, obscuring the original view. I will not see what he saw.
It makes sense that a view would have been preferred from this spot. Part of the cave's 'power,' perhaps, might have been found in the perspective it affords, not simply its isolation. Reigan's position is high enough to see for miles ahead of it, but the surrounding forest has been allowed to close in tightly.

I say a short prayer, climb down and try to light some incense, but there are no matches and nearby lighters are dried up. My offering will go inextinguished. Perhaps this is the way offerings should be. A few locals show up and mill around the cave for a time and then leave. Another light rain falls. The blanket of rain intensifies the surrounding sounds as they drift into the cave.

Musashi began writing 'Gorin no Sho' at Reigan-do in 1645 at four in the morning, giving new life to his experiences, knowledge, and testament to his sheer persevering will, as his own life was ending. It is a shame that after millions of years in existence, and so many centuries of dedicated use, this cave, with all its collective years of inspiration and solace, has fallen from collective consciousness into seeming disuse. It is now a tourist stop for curious Japanese and strange foreign Budoka, who probably show up from time to time.

But in this moment, I cannot help but imagine if forethought had kept this cave raw and unencumbered by a changing world; if its caretakers had sought not to "add" to the ease of its use, but prevent the same. Its hollowness and perspective unchanged, the cave would today allow fellow travelers the same privilege of its use, while providing us a glimpse into the past, from the very seat from which so many contemplated the same questions we seek to answer today. Alas, it is not to be. The cave's update, leaves us lost in translation. As I leave and move up another rise, I discover a glimpse of the view from Reigan-do. It is magnificent. Miles away, in the distance, misty covered mountains frame the sea.
I buy (yet another) copy of Gorin no Sho from the same smoking man who gave me entrance and I'm off down the mountain, remembering faintly, earlier words reminding me of the bus' return. As I race down, visions of time schedules in my head, I'm trying not to let my feet slip out from under me on the wet pavement. Or get hit by oncoming cars. Or let my friend Joe's $2000 Canon be smashed by the preceding. A breathless, sweaty, wet mess, my shins killing me from braking down the steep incline, I make it to the bus stop and find ... I am 10 minutes too late. I would have time enough after that, to contemplate my own questions.

Musashi - 4
Me - 1?

Two hours later, I roll back into Kumamoto. Musashi's grave is closed. In fact, everything is closed and I have had it. I call Tomo and relate the story to her in animated fashion. "Come home," she says. I do.

Musashi did not make it easy for me. Of course, that was how he lived his life. He never did anything the easy way. He purposely made it hard. That is one of the enduring qualities of his life, his works, and his lesson. Experience, perseverance, and sheer will were his teachers. And here I was enthusiastically pursuing only what was left in his wake - his art, his residence, his contemplation, his death; only the things that were left behind. But instead of being treated with the appreciation of his art and examples of his history, I had been given a rare lesson into his purpose. I was out in front of his wake, ahead of it, experiencing life as he might have: As I looked for answers, I found none. As I pursued another's experience, I discovered my own. As I was faced with disappointment at each turn, I kept going.

Perhaps this is a window into Musashi's genius. The life of Budo, the life of the real budoka, is not flashing swords and swirling brushes, astounding techniques and dynamic tactics. It is our quiet, everyday self-driven purpose. The perseverance of our will, the cultivation of our courage, the search for higher truth, calling to us, for an enlightened existence. Musashi's lesson offers, no matter how great the teachings, we are our own greatest teachers and we can discover our own magnificent perspective from the solace, security, and strength of a cave of our own making.

The following day I went to the local Fukuoka museum, where they just happened to be displaying Musashi's original painting, "Hotei, God of Fortune, watching at cock fighting."

It was really cool.

September 13, 2009


We've changed locations. Tomoko and I are now in sunny Fukuoka, in the south of Japan. She's here to teach some Yoga and I'm here to support her and track down Miyamoto Musashi, but more on that later.

My last day of training was Wednesday with Nagato sensei in the afternoon and Noguchi sensei that night. Both were terrific. Nagato sensei and I talked, along with a few others, almost as much as we trained, about a variety of things as they came up.

During one technique, we were to grab the person by the shoulder and take their balance. This was to be done using, Mushin, 'no mind.' "Don't think," he said, "Just do it. Just take it." Nagato said this was the same way of thinking one needed to catch a bee. In fact, that's the teaching. He commented that his own wife, when she was very young, used to simply take honey bees off flowers and collect them in her hand, until one day she was stung; she had stuffed too many in. Because she had no fear, no thought about getting hurt, she did it naturally, casually, and had never been stung before.

A question came up about training both sides of the body. Nagato said it was only necessary to train on one side. He said in some parts of the densho, it specifically mentions training a particular technique on both sides, but otherwise we should train only the one. He explained why, talking about how the earth and universe only spin in one direction, and yet are in balance by being 'out of balance.' Nature too, remains 'in balance' by necessarily being 'out of balance.' It was complicated.

A whole lot more came up. In brief:
- At the beginning of one's training, Taihenjutsu is the most important. That and learning to be in a safe place.
- Positioning at the beginning of movement is critical. The first one or two movements make the difference, because we don't always know who the opponent is and what they will do.
- Footwork is vital. Too many people concentrate on what the top half of the body is doing when they should be paying attention to the feet.
- Keep training, and all good things will come when you're ready.

There was much more than this, but sometimes it's tough to remember what Ninjas said after they've said it.

Noguchi sensei's class was a great deal of fun. He took us through Kukishinden Ryu kata at a furious pace. He kept changing the movements again and again, so it was tough to keep up: now he's punching a guy in the gut like a stylized Kabuki dancer, now he's throwing me over his shoulder with no hands, now he's locking shoulders and arms and freezing people in place, now he's throwing my punch back onto my own skull ... All of it done with the connected feeling Soke keeps talking about.

Yesterday, I made my way to Kumamoto, site of the last days of Miyamoto Musashi, to track down his life, art, and death (grave). I've studied Musashi for years, having read 'Gorin no Sho' countless times in as many translations as I can find, including buying the original Chinese. But after my experiences there, I feel like Musashi himself had given me shugyo; I raced all over Kumamoto city, through its castle, and even into the depths of its surrounding mountains, in the rain, at great expense. Today, I'm exhausted, my legs are killing me, and all I want to do is soak in the local onsen and have a beer/s - I'm a wreck.

Want to know what I learned? I learned, "Sumimasen." That's what I learned. The day was strangely enlightening. Was it a taste of Musashi's training? I'll detail my pain in my next post. Tomoko just told me we're to meet up with friends bright and early tomorrow morning to hike up the same path the Shugensha did to some ancient shrine.

Great. With friends like these, who needs friends?

September 8, 2009

And the secret of Ninjutsu is ...

Had great training last night with Soke at Ayase. He started off explaining the use of the fingers to distract and create distance for further movement. He tossed several people around just to gain better positioning on them. One fellow got popped hard enough to drop. Soke had him explain the feeling, "The timing caused the hit to be at my worst possible moment. There was nothing I could do to defend it."

Soke went on to explain the idea of not finishing or following through with techniques, instead letting them "cook" together, to blend. It was unclear if this "cooking" was like the flavors of the ingredients in a stew. Soke also emphasized moving as if there is always more than one opponent, having everyone apply the single partner movements to multiple opponents.

Several folks also took the 5th dan test. All, but one, passed. Many of them were jumpy beforehand. Soke spoke up, "You need to forget yourself." After one couldn't, he continued, "You still have some part of you left ... let it roll away from you."

I received a good question about yesterday's post:
I guess my question for you is: What does it mean to say that training is 'hard' or 'soft'? What does 'hard' or 'soft' training look like? What are the defining features?

And then, I guess the next natural question is: How do we find this balance that Nagato sensei speaks of?

Part of training, in fact a large part of training, is the acceptance of responsibility for ourselves. It is up to us, has always been up to us, and will always be, to discover our training in ways that allow us to teach ourselves. We have to figure out which training benefits us and how to apply it. We have to be able to ultimately answer the question above ourself.

With that said, as long as we are maintaining the principles of Taijutsu, hard and soft training can come and go. Should we be able to punch strongly? Sure. But in the absence of strength, we should also be able to take advantage of our opponent's weak points at a time of our choosing. The balance between those two points is more effective than either on their own.

And finally ... In a conversation with a senior member, he commented he had been contacted by someone writing a book on Ninjutsu and had been asked, "What is the secret of Ninjutsu?" He replied, "Uh, I think you're going to be disappointed ..." I laughed and said, "If you think there's a secret ... that's it."

September 7, 2009

The Big(ger) Picture

Had a great training session yesterday with Nagato sensei. He went through much of the Te Hodoki and branched off from there. Lots of movement and even some twisty stuff when he dropped his knee onto his opponent's foot and turned over kicking him square in the gut. Good show.

After class, a question was asked about training and in particular the way of training. "Soft training alone won't do it. But hard training alone won't do it either. You have to find the balance," Nagato said. It seems we often have questions on not just what to train, but how to train it. With Soke continually speaking of the 'connection,' it layers things even more.

I hesitate to mention this, but there's a lot of talk about Soke retiring and exactly what that's going to mean for the rest of us. The story is, in two years time, Soke may hang it up, or perhaps simply reduce his teaching. It sounds like he wants to concentrate more on his art and by removing himself, at least to some extent, he can see how resilient the Bujinkan is without his constant presence.

But it seems to me, too much of this talk is focused on ourselves. "What's going to happen to us?" "What are we going to do?" We should instead focus on Soke. He has dedicated his life to us in so many ways.

It was no coincidence he trained with the one man who was the last guardian of this information. It was no coincidence that one man chose him to become the 34th generational Soke. Hatsumi sensei set off a worldwide Ninjaboom, circling the globe, bringing this 'way of living' out of the shadow of history. He could have controlled its knowledge, he could have piece mealed it out only to those who could afford it, but instead, he simply handed it back to humanity, where it now resides in all of us. An open secret, welcome to everyone, with no invitations.

Think about how many have used our training to protect their loved ones and themselves from harm. How many have used our training to protect their communities and nations. Think about how many lives have been saved and will be saved simply because Hatsumi sensei has lived. In my book, that makes Masaaki Hatsumi the greatest Ninja in history. And at 78 years old, he still teaches three times a week, still gets interviewed for TV, writes books, and films dozens of DVDs. And for whom? Him? No, for us. For all of us.

So, whatever Soke chooses to do, we should support and be happy for him. He deserves it. Nagato sensei said we learn naturally in the Bujinkan; experience has always been our greatest teacher. Well, our experience already tells us what we will do and what will happen. And when change occurs we will change right with it.

September 6, 2009

A Busy Weekend

I've done a lot of training in the past couple of days. Tomo and I visited Nagato sensei on Saturday night and Sunday I saw both Soke and Duncan Stewart. Great fun.

Nagato used me as uke on Saturday, which always provides the best chance for 'transmission' of Taijutsu. I'm still processing it, but suffice it to say his movement is expanded, somehow broader and lighter, without losing the connection to the moment. Just a dozen years ago, when I was living in Tokyo, Nagato used me as uke often, but seemed to rely more on his tremendous ability inside the kukan. Now, I feel like he is manipulating the kukan itself. A very different feeling.

Soke's class yesterday was, well, Soke's class. As much as I feel I take away from his teaching (or coaching), I always leave with more questions, the result of trying to apply logic to illogical answers, I guess. 'Nawa no kukan' or 'Nawa no kankaku,' the feeling of rope, connection, connectivity, 'Tsunagaru,' is continually spoken of. No matter where he is, what weapon he is using, or how many opponents there are, Soke is always in control, without ever seeking control.

He spoke of Tenmon Chimon at the start of class. With the outbreak of influenza, we should take care of our health, paying attention to the weather and our environment. Soke also had us work with the shinobi zue, the staff with concealed chain, to further this continuation of rope-like movement. I've got to make one of those.

And yes, Soke's hair is purple, and I mean, purple. Now, I've heard several reasons and explanations as to why this is and I have reached this conclusion: Soke dyed his hair purple because ... he can. Everybody got it? Good. Let's move on.

Duncan is a great guy and we had some good fun yesterday. He has a solid understanding of Taijutsu and I would encourage everyone to train with him when in town. He teaches Sundays at 3pm at Hombu. Check him out.

Incidentally, during secret, secret conversations I have had with him, he has mentioned, nary above a whisper, the mighty and the deadly 'kancho ken.' Hatsumi sensei speaks little of this. According to Duncan, who has personally experienced this 'kancho ken,' when performed correctly, there can be no defense. Ask him nicely to see it, and he may, after a moment's thought, oblige you. But be prepared.

September 4, 2009

The Russians are coming!

Since my last update, I've been to an onsen in Hakone with Tomoko and her mom and trained with Soke last night, which was a trip.

Tomo's mom is very sweet and had set up quite the little adventure for us, so we could see Mt. Fuji from our onsen. Just getting there is a real story. We left Shinjuku on the Odakyu line, a private bullet train that looks like the starship Enterprise on rails. Ninety minutes later, we pulled into Hakone, a city surrounded by mountains. Another 40 minute train ride to zig-zag up the mountain, then a 20-minute cable car ride to pull us up the steep part, then a 'Ropeway' cable car suspended 200 feet or so to get us to the top. Then, a bus ride. Then, a 1/8 mile walk to the hotel proper. The hotel was nice.

Last Wednesday, I trained with Nagato sensei in the afternoon. He was in great form, as always. We worked movement to 'stumble' our opponent backwards as if 'falling into a hole.' We also worked 'one point' on the shoulder, just above the blade, to control the opponent's entire movement. During kukei, he talked about issues with bodybuilding, saying its unnaturalness makes Taijutsu more difficult for those who rely on it. He said fitness should be derived from natural endeavors.

That same night, I trained with Noguchi sensei, who always has a smile to spare, not to mention some mind-bendingly tough throw or something. And he did plenty that night. We worked our way through the forms of Takagi Yoshin Ryu with nary a moment of rest. Great fun. No sooner would we begin what he showed, he would change it, based on 'Juppo Sessho,' directional change, creating a constant flow of movement.

Last night, plenty were on hand for Soke's class, including a Russian TV crew that had scheduled time to come in and shoot. The atmosphere was charged and Soke really put on a show - we were his costars. Noguchi sensei got us started and things ramped up to a fevered pitch. Start, punch, stop, kick, sword, staff, demo, fall down, get up, get down, and boogie - double time. I've never seen it so tense. Soke did some wiping out with a shinobi-zue and called out a group to do 'Go-nin' - where five guys grab hold and you GO! with NIN!(persevereance). It was wild.

They demoed the 4-staff escape thingy and brought a bunch of us up consistently to demo, including me. Nagase sensei also did a shuriken demo and taught us the basic theory. He could nail any part of the target from a good 15 feet, pretty amazing.

Overall, the night was a blur, more so than usual. I'll see Soke again Sunday and Tuesday. Tonight, I'll see Nagato sensei at his dojo near Asakadai.

It's sunny here!

September 1, 2009

Buyu is a group ethic

It`s a gray day here in Japan. Overcast and cool. I found it strange waking up in Kashiwa again so soon after being here in June, but nevertheless, it`s great to be back. I am alone for this part of my trip and I have to say, I miss my crew.

Buyu are an interesting bunch, especially in the SGTIDojo, where we are consistently closer as friends than we are peers, students, or instructors. As such, I appreciate being in Japan experiencing this warrior training with warriors-in-training. The camaraderie masks a complex method of group learning, which makes it ever-more fulfilling.

In that light, Budo is as much a group pursuit as an individual one, whereas the individual can find ways to flaw, question, or even deny moral and ethical determinations in training, there is something 'immovable' in the 'check and balance' group instinct provides in answering these aspects. I have never known the group's 'gut' to be wrong in these cases. As individuals, we must try to uphold these ideals as best we can, under the conditions we are under.

Our physical training is no different. Taijutsu principles should always be practiced ideally, no matter the conditions we choose to train under, for it is the principles we are trying to intuit. Circumstances change, but adaptation to change is a core principle of the Bujinkan and integral to training. So, no matter what the particular situation may be, we should search for these universal principles to apply. It is the process of applying - adjusting, improvising, imagining - where Taijutsu actually occurs.

I'll be training with Nagato sensei this afternoon and Noguchi sensei tonight.