Bujinkan – What It Is?
Bujinkan Budô Taijutsu is a martial art formed by sôke Masaaki Hatsumi in the 1970s based on nine old styles (koryû), whose sokeship he inherited from sensei Toshitsugu Takamatsu, and teachings of a few other styles he trained earlier. Originally the composition was known as Togakure ryû Ninpô Taijutsu, after that Bujinkan Ninpô Taijutsu and since 1995 the present name has been used.
Translated “Bujinkan” means place of martial god, which sôke Hatsumi uses to honor sensei Takamatsu; “Budô” means martial way; and “Taijutsu” means body technique.
Togakure-ryû Ninpô: Taijutsu, philosophy, and weapon skills.
Gyokko-ryû Kosshijutsu: Close-range techniques to soft parts of the body and philosophy.
Kotô-ryû Koppôjutsu: Longer-range techniques to harder parts of the body.
Shinden Fudô-ryû Dakentaijutsu: Taijutsu based on natural movement.
Kukishinden-ryû Taijutsu: Battlefield taijutsu and majority of our weapon skills.
Takagi Yôshin-ryû Jûtaijutsu: Versatile, straightforward taijutsu from a bodyguard school.
Kumogakure-ryû Ninpô: Not generally taught, but some principles are in use.
Gyokushin-ryû Ninpô: Not generally taught, but some principles are in use.
Gikan-ryû Koppô: Not generally taught, but some principles are in use.
All the styles were founded between 12th and 16th centuries, before Japan’s Tokugawa period. Because of this the styles contain real-life combat techniques instead of being geared for competition. The styles are sometimes practiced separately, but generally in Bujinkan we practice a martial art that is formed from the best principles of these older styles aiming to natural use of the body. This art is applied to using different tools as weapons.
Despite there being “budô” in the title, Bujinkan is not a “dô art”, but with “jutsu” part closer to bujutsu or bugei. What I mean by this that our purpose is not to seek harmony through the perfected performing of forms of movements. The ideal could be defined as a skill to defend oneself and others in physically and psychologically using freely different tools or acting against those.
The training logic is to use techniques (waza) ja their combining forms (kata) to learn working principles and good methods of action. Waza or kata in itself is not the focus of learning. During a class we might begin by refreshing some kata. After that it’s waza, principles or feeling is applied to variations (henka), which could be practiced both unarmed and armed.
The purpose of a martial art is serve the whole lifespan, so one very important point is training safely. It’s not very logical to injury oneself while learning how to protect oneself and close ones? Naturally, though, bums and bruises happen occasionally.
Areas of training:
– Taihenjutsu (body changing technique): Skills for moving the body, to improve moveability and awareness of the body; especially receiving the impact when for example falling.
– Dakentaijutsu (striking fist body techniques): So called “hard techniques”; strikes, kicks and receiving the same.
– Jûtaijutsu (soft body technique): So called “soft techniques”; joint locks, controlling, throwing and strangulations.
– Bukijutsu (weapon technique): Using different weapons teaches how to use the body in more versatile and free ways; the usual weapons are sticks of different lenghts (hanbô, jô, bô), different Japanese swords (ken, tachi, katana, wakizashi/kodachi, tantô), chain and cord weapons (kusarifundô, kyoketsu-shôge) and throwing weapons (bôshuriken, shaken); practicing with these gives the ability to use all kinds of weapons, including firearms that are also sometimes used.
Aforementioned are linked together, for example while avoiding with the body one takes a control while striking; either unarmed or armed. They are also linked to the spiritual side of budô which develops while training.
We use a black training uniform (keikogi, or in slang gi), tabi footwear and a belt with color fitting person’s grade. The origin of the black color is either the color of master in budô (Hatsumi’s view being that Bujinkan practitioners are in master level comparing to modern budô) or the color (mistakenly) linked to ninja warrios. I like the color, I mean the stains from training outside don’t show so easily and why would one use the color of death? In samurai culture white was used when readying oneself to death, for example usage of white when departing to a final battle or the white outfit of a person committing seppuku (ritual suicide).
The grades in Bujinkan contain kyû grades from 10th to 1st and dan grades from 1st to 10th, while the 10th dan contains still five more grades (normally referred as 11th to 15th dan). All the grades are available, the persons between 10th to 15th dan tend to have trained 20 to 30 years. The grades shouldn’t be compared to other budôka, as they are something between teacher and student and quite general – and especially comparisons shouldn’t be made between different martial arts. However one’s own grade should be seen in how it fits within the wide variety of grades.
– Jukka Nummenranta, shidôshi, dôjô-chô
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