“Every encounter is sacred and could present the one potential key to the perfection of the great universal enlightenment we seek.” - Masaaki Hatsumi
The head of the Bujinkan organisation, Masaaki Hatsumi, is the lineage holder of several ryūha taught in the Bujinkan, transferred to him 1958 by his teacher Takamatsu Toshitsugu.
A little bit of history
The Bujinkan organization is the modern continuation of ninpo as carried on and adapted from its foundations in Feudal Japan. Thus Bujinkan taijutsu has many similarities with older forms of other Japanese martial arts including Aikido and Judo.
Bujinkan Budō Taijutsu practice does not normally include participation in competitions or contests, as the school's training aims to develop the skills to protect ones self and others, through the use of techniques which often focus on the disabling (breaking) of the attackers limbs and which can also intentionally cause their death.
The Bujinkan does not adhere to any guideline or set of rules to limit action or techniques during training, as such many of the staple responses of a student would be illegal in most competitions. Specifically however, the Bujinkan is mostly known for teaching koshijutsu (pressure point, muscle attacks/tears and joint dislocations), koppojutsu (bone breaking), jutaijutsu (throwing, grappling, ground fighting), dakentaijutsu (strikes), happo bikenjutsu (various modern and traditional weapons), and ninpo tactics and strategies (Ninjutsu). The depth of training in the Bujinkan, is designed to open the eyes of the student to the endless possibilities and potential in all situations.
The name of the discipline of Taijutsu, literally means "body skill" or "body art". Historically, the word taijutsu is often in Japan used interchangeably with jujutsu (as well as many other terms) to refer to a range of grappling skills. The term is also used in the martial art of aikido to distinguish the unarmed fighting techniques from other (e.g. stick fighting) techniques. In ninjutsu, especially since the emergence of the Ninja movie genre in the 80s, it is also used to avoid the undesired bravado of explicitly referring to "ninja" combat techniques.
Several of the above martial arts taught in the Bujinkan can allegedly be traced back to the Iga region of Japan and were developed and used by the Yamabushi and the Ninja. The arts said to be in the Iga-ryu Ninjutsu tradition include Gyokko Ryu, Koto Ryu, Gikan-ryū and Shinden Fudo Ryu. The alleged connection to Ninjutsu is through Hatsumi's teacher Takamatsu Toshitsugu who was, among other things, permitted to copy the Amatsu Tatara scrolls. Takamatsu Toshitsugu's grandfather was a samurai and a direct descedent of the founder of Gyokko Ryu (the Gikan-ryū was passed to Takamatsu Toshitsugu through another source). Other arts, such as Takagi Yoshin Ryu and Kukishinden Ryu were developed and used by members of Japan’s Samurai families. Today the Bujinkan incorporates techniques from all of the above 9 ryu and others.
In 1843 several of the Bujinkan ryūha were mentioned in the Kakutogi no Rekishi (“The History of Fighting Arts”). Although details of the ryūha were omitted, the publication states, "even though they are not mentioned in this particular periodical, there are several schools that are well-known for being ‘effective arts’ (jitsuryoku ha)."
Among the schools listed in this section are:
- Gyokko Ryū,
- Gikan-ryū Koppōjutsu,
- Gyokushin-ryū Ninpō,
- Kukishin Ryu,
- Takagi Yōshin-ryū Jūtaijutsu,
- Asayama Ichiden-ryū (which is not part of the Bujinkan’s nine schools but was studied by Hatsumi via Takashi Ueno).
Bujinkan Taijitsu seeks to use body movement and positioning over strength in order to defeat the opponent. All techniques in Bujinkan Taijustsu revolve around getting the opponent off balance while maintaining your own balance. This is achieved by moving the opponent perpendicular to his or her weak line, the imaginary line drawn between the opponents heels.
Ukemi refers to the act of receiving a technique. Good ukemi involves a roll or breakfall that is used to avoid pain or injury, such as joint dislocations or throws. Thus learning to roll and break fall effectively is key to safely training in Taijutsu. Before receiving the 9th kyu, the first rank, a student must demonstrate the ability to smoothly roll in a variety of directions without exposing the neck to injury.
A large variety of weapons are taught, including swords such as daitō, wakizashi and tantō, bamboo shinai, wooden bokken, mogito (a flexible aluminum replica sword that holds no edge), or swords made by soft modern materials are employed for safety such as fukuro shinai, staves of varying lengths (bō, jō), short staves called (hanbō, hanjō), nawa (rope), kusari-fundo (weighted chain), kusarigama (scythe with chain), yari (spear), kamayari (spear with curved scythe-like blades crossing the principal head), kagiyari (spear with 2 rearward hooks), bisento (known in Mandarin as 'kwandao'), kyoketsu shoge (similar to a kama except it has a dagger point and a rope of several feet attached to an iron ring), jutte (sword trapping truncheon), tessen (iron fan), naginata (Japanese glaive), kunai (a blunt digging tool), as well various form of shuriken including bo-shuriken and senban shuriken. In training, students are encouraged to always use any available weapons, including the environment. In some dojos, students will practice hiding training weapons in their uwagi or somewhere on the mat, and surprise their uke (training partner) during technique. While in many other oriental martial arts this is seen as dishonorable, the emphasis Bujinkan places on stealth and deception makes it a valuable exercise when practicing awareness.
Opening and Closing Ceremonies
At the start of the lesson the class kneels in grade order and faces the front of the dojo (or kamiza if there is one) and the class instructor does the same. The palms are raised above the head and the instructor says Shikin Haramitsu Daikomyo which is then repeated by the class. The whole class then claps their hands twice and bows. Coming up, the hands are raised once again and clapped (though only once this time) and the bow repeated. The instructor then turns to face the class and everyone bows repeating the phrase “Onegaishimasu”. Any special instructions for the day are then given and the class starts. The same is repeated for the end of the class except that the final phrase is changed to Domo Arigato Gozaimasu. This means thank you.
Shikin Haramitsu Daikomyo has no exact English translation though the general meaning is as follows:
* Shikin - A greeting, sensation of harmony, perceived by the heart.
* Haramitsu - Wisdom from courage and effort fosters sincerity, loyalty and faithfulness.
* Daikomyo Bring respect and reliance, illumination from the inside to the outside.
Unlike other systems, these ceremonies have no religious connotations.
The Bujinkan Dōjō has a series of nine kyū (grades) below the level of shodan, starting with mukyu ("without grade") and then from kukyu (9 kyu) to ikkyu (1 kyu), with 9 kyu being the lowest rank and 1 kyu being the highest. Unlike other Japanese martial arts, such as karate and judo, unranked (mukyū) practitioners wear white belts, kyu grade practitioners, green belts, and those with ranks of shōdan and above wear black belts. In Japan, it was once customary for kyu-level men to wear green belts over a black gi and women to wear red belts over a purple gi; however, this practice has largely been abandoned. Now, both male and female Bujinkan practitioners wear green belts at most Japanese dōjō. Outside of Japan, some countries still follow the green for men/red for women custom, while others use green for all practitioners.
There were originally 9 dan levels, as with many other martial arts using the kyū/dan system, but this was changed by Hatsumi to 10 and later, 15 dan levels. The grades are divided into three groupings; 1-5 dan Ten (Heaven), 6-10 dan Chi (Earth), 11-15 dan Jin (Man, in the sense of Humanity). The Jin levels are further divided into the five elements of the Godai; chi (earth), sui (water), ka (fire), fū (wind) and kū (void).The practitioner's level is displayed by the color of the art's emblem, called wappen, inscribed with the kanji "bu" and "jin". There are four kinds of wappen (9 to 1 kyū, 1 to 4 dan, 5 to 9 dan, and 10 to 15 dan) sometimes augmented with up to four silver, gold or white stars (called hoshi) above or around the emblem, representing the individual ranks.At 4 dan (yondan), practitioners submit to a test before the sōke to establish that they are able to sense the presence of danger and evade it, considered to be a fundamental survival skill. This is called sakki. This is the test for 5 dan. A practitioner with the level of godan or above is entitled to apply for a teaching license (shidōshi menkyo). A shidōshi is entitled to open his own dōjō, and grade students up to the level of 4 dan. A practitioner with the level of between 1 dan to 4 dan may become a licensed "assistant teacher" (shidōshi-ho), if backed by and acting under the supervision of a shidōshi 5th to 9th dan or a person who holds the level of 10 dan (jūdan). In the Bujinkan a person who holds the level of between 10 dan and 15 dan is often referred to as a shihan.In addition to the kyū/dan system, a few practitioners have earned menkyo kaiden "licenses of complete transmission" in individual schools. These menkyo kaiden essentially establish that the master practitioner has learned all that there is to learn about the particular lineage. Whereas the kyū/dan ranks are often made public, those select practitioners who have earned menkyo kaiden rarely divulge their status, sometimes even being reluctant to recognize their actual dan ranking to outsiders