About the Oakland Bujinkan Dojo
Welcome to the Oakland Bujinkan page! We are a group of dedicated Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu practitioners training in the East Bay. We meet weekly to practice Budo Taijutsu as taught by SokeHatsumi Masaaki.
Our classes are principle-driven: we work with fundamental waza (san shin no kata and kihon happo), henka, weapons, and practicing our sensitivity to position and timing. We welcome beginning students and long-time practitioners alike and look forward to meeting you.
About the Instructor
Trevor Calvert Shidoshi. Trevor recieved his Shidoshi license in 2008 and has been regularly training in the Bujinkan since 2000. He goes to Japan annually to study. Trevor began his training with Michael Simien Shihan and continues his training most locally with Dale Seago Shihan and with other buyu in the Bay Area.
Where to Meet Us
We train on Monday nights from 7:15 to 9:15 in Oakland at the Temescal Arts Center. Monthly fees are $30.00.
Since I have been back from Japan (nearly three weeks now!) I’ve been meaning to write a review of some sort to share some of what I experienced. That, however, has proven more difficult than expected as life quickly reassumed its normal duties and constraints, but more importantly, I’ve found it difficult to put into words much of what I experienced. But as we hear so often in Nihon, gambatte! Here, then, are a few observations…
Technology vs. Art
Watching Hatsumi Soke paint and write calligraphy is always a joy. I forgot to bring paper this year for a painting, but was so happy to watch him paint or write something for everyone who asked. (BTW Steve Olson is collecting a lot of Soke’s art—which can be found here). Watching Soke this year allowed for something that’s been in my mind for a while to finally take form: what Soke is showing us every time he presents an aspect of our martial art is the same thing he is showing us when he paints: something dynamic that can only exist as it moves through space at exactly that time.
What kata and forms seem to encourage, at least at first, is technology. Something that is replicable and can be broken down into component parts—something complicated rather than complex. And this is right, I think. As we begin practicing a skill-set, we need forms to begin learning its components. Were I to begin learning how to paint I would need to learn how to place ink or paint on a canvas, what a paintbrush is, etc. Eventually I would no longer need to worry about paintbrushes in the same way, and could be more spontaneous. Yet, I realize that in the past I have gone to Japan, watched Soke, and then tried to bring some specific waza back. This proved difficult—as maybe others have also learned.
Paul Masse (who I was lucky enough to train with at Ayase) has a great post on “no tachi” wherein he describes a thought and a pun that Soke shared while I was there. While I don’t speak enough Japanese to understand him, I was grateful to the many excellent translators who helped decipher some of what sensei said. One concept that really stuck with me was the idea of muto dori (no sword movement)—which we practiced a lot over the two weeks I was there. My earlier understanding of muto dori was based in a technological level: muto dori was the collection of techniques and movement principles designed to avoid getting cut by a sword and then disarmament. Soke changed the kanji to mean “no struggle.” He then demonstrated this idea with training partners both with swords and without.
This idea of muto dori cannot be housed in a technological perspective—it is not replicable, does not have component parts and thus is not complicated (though it was difficult to do well! Ha!). But this also means that it is alive—Soke’s movements were a part of the world and did not add or subtract from anything—they just seemed the naturally correct move. I hope this makes sense, as it is difficult to explain.
Finding a place
At first I wanted to say something like “this idea of correct movement is something I want to hold on to” but not only is that sentence poorly constructed, it actually goes against the very idea I’m trying to present. A better metaphor would be something like, “I hope to hold a place” for what I felt during training. Pete Reynolds has a great space in Nezu where he holds classes. During class with Pete (which is always enlightening), he would remind us to be lighter, to use correct distance, and to not force our or our uke’s movements—that way the our movement will be correct as we will not be adding or subtracting from whatever the uke is doing, but instead will move naturally. If I try to “hold on” to this feeling, than perhaps I might miss the point, so instead, I will try to move naturally with this feeling, and let it find a space where it fits well. We’ll see how it goes. As so many of my teachers have recommended: “Keep going!”
This year, Soke has said that we should begin to work with the
jian ken, or rather the tsurugi ken .
This type of sword was used in Japan until around the 10th century, and moves differently from the katana. In fact, reading about the
tsurugi‘s ken’s use from different Bujinkan teachers kind enough to post their videos, blog posts, facebook updates, most have made clear that it is very different. Most have also said that one needs to be natural in its use. Arnuad has mentioned that one way to begin practicing is to use the kihon and the sanshin–your taijutsu–as your teacher and see where the tsurugi ken moves naturally.
You only have to do taijutsu, the blade moves by itself. Forget the blade. For example if you do a basic uke nagashi, do it with the tsurugi in your hand and see what is happening. Do not try to do anything with the sword, let it react on its own (mutô dori principle). — Arnuad Cousergue
In fact, training this way may actually illuminate well your natural taijutsu. What I mean by this, is that the concept of shu-ha-ri is always embedded in the idea of naturalness. We must all strive, at least at first, for mastery of form, then we can break and adapt it, and then we can forget it. This transition doesn’t happen all at once across a martial artist’s skill-set, but rather in more heuristically–different skills at different rates.
With that, one of the best places to investigate is from the ground up; where are your feet as you move, is your kamae fluid and balanced, are you back-weighted and stiff or evenly-weighted and relaxed? For the last two weeks in class we have been investigating this very specific topic (so much so that at times we would have probably looked silly to a casual and new observer). Yet, having returned to this very fundamental practice reminds me that our art is infinitely scalable. What I mean by this is that every facet of our taijutsu–from footwork to longer waza–can all be investigated and renewed and applied forever. Even the most fundamental movements offer new insights when they are returned to with a good mindset (and that is a whole other post!).
Duncan Stewart once mentioned to me in Japan that many of us need to actually trust our taijutsu. I suspect that when we don’t we begin to “make up” movement under duress because we suspect unconsciously that what we have learned won’t work. And, I think this is true–but not because the art has these holes, but rather because on a fundamental level, our taijutsu has problems; we may not consciously be aware of when we are unbalanced or stiff (etc.), but our body knows!
Our body also knows when it is in balance and when it is fluid. Now we can start to trust our movement, and begin to learn more about kukan, kyojutsu, yoyuu, positioning, and more nuanced weapon-work.
Take a moment today to stop mid-way somewhere and not only see where your feet are, but where is your balance–it is over your toes? On the inside edge of your foot? Your heel? Once you have determined where it is, ask yourself why, and investigate if there is a better alignment and how you might attain it.
Next week, I am going to Japan for two weeks to train. I am looking forward to learning from so many skilled artists, and to further explore my own taijutsu. I recall (I think) from one of Soke‘s books is that one should not add strengths to your skill set, but rather remove flaws. Hopefully over the next two weeks the
tsurugi ken will cut away some of mine!
- Arnaud Cousergue’s blog
- Bujinkan Dojo Genova & Torino Seminar
- Chris Cowan’s Bujinkan Fremont blog
- Shuhari concept from wikipedia
*a brief note on the edits: a tsurugi ken is a unique ken–so the emperor’s sword is Kusanagi-no-tsurugi (and it is also a ken)–sort of like Excalibur is a sword, but one cannot call all swords excaliburs…
Rob Renner Seminar!
Saturday, August 18th & 19th, 2012
9am – noon, 1pm – 4pm
125$ for both days.
From Mark Roemke:
Rob Renner seminar at santa cruz bujinkan dojo 18th and 19th of august. Three hours then lunch then three more hours each day. So happy this is happening rob is an amazing teacher. We met up with him on our last trip to japan and trained alot with him. He blew my mind on how he is doing kihon and economae of space. Also pressure pulse pressure concept. He will be teaching the Kihon Happo from the ground up, which includes on the ground. Get ready this will be a game changer for alot of you.
From Ken Lux:
Mark your calendars for Saturday, August 25, 2012!
Doug Wilson will be in the USA leading a martial arts seminar focusing on effective taijutsu and the “close-in” aspects of distance angles and timing. He will teach sword and the Bujinkan mindset Doug will be joined by other instructors throughout the day. Living and working in Japan gives Doug a unique training perspective, both as a student and translator for Hatsumi Sensei. The seminar is open to all participants, beginner to advanced.
Date: Saturday, August 25, 2012
Time: 12:00-5:30pm (registration, 11:30am)
Cost: $75 (cash at the door)
Location: Kaizen Martial Arts,
1101 Plumber Way, Suite 106
Roseville, CA 95678
(Near I-80 and Taylor Rd.)
Bring: Water, snacks, gi or easy to move-in workout clothes, bokken and other training tools – NO REAL WEAPONS.
About the instructor:
Doug Wilson has been involved in martial arts for more than 30 years, with over 25 years in the Bujinkan. Originally from California’s Bay Area, he is one of the few residents of Japan that has been training consistently at the Hombu Dojo for more than 15 years.
Doug began his Bujinkan training under the direction of the Stockton Bujinkan Dojo in the early 1980′s. He moved to Japan after graduating from San Diego State University with a degree in International Business focusing on Japan. Doug’s first experience living in the country was tenure as an exchange student, during which he spent the majority of his training time with Oguri Shihan and also attending Hombu Dojo training.
Doug often acts as the translator for Hatsumi Soke at training events and has co-translated several of the books published by Soke in the last decade; he can be seen translating in various Bujinkan training and Daikomyosai videos over the years. His proximity to Soke provides him with a unique perspective on training, and Doug prefers to act as a conduit to Soke’s teaching rather than teach himself. While he is rarely available for seminars, those Doug have taught have been very well attended and received.
Doug’s unique take on Bujinkan Budo taijutsu stems from his “keep it real” mentality — focusing on keeping the training and aspects thereof as realistic as possible. This training session will focus on effective kihon of budo taijutsu and the aspects of distance angles and timing.
Please email any event questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please pass it on and see you there!
Buyu Camp West is almost here! Read more here: http://www.winjutsu.com/seminars/buyucamp/
From the site:
BuYu Camps are a great way to connect with old friends and get that “continuing education” and inspiration that will help you “keep going” when you get back to your own, local training group.
If you are a “first-timer” — welcome! No prior experience is necessary. You’ll enjoy the cooperative and friendly atmosphere.
Training starts Friday Night, June 22 and continues until Sunday afternoon, June 24, 2012.
Many guest Shidoshi will participate and teach! The weekend will be led by Jack Hoban.
Here’s a little taste of Jack’s post:
This year at the DKMS Hatsumi Sensei announced that we would be practicing sword in 2012. He also said to me as an aside “…and guns.” Sounds good to me! I am chagrined by the cavalier way we sometimes talk about sword and gun-fighting – and knife-fighting, too. In the dojo it is easy to gloss over how serious a gushing gunshot wound or a sliced open body is. Many of us would go into shock or faint if we ever were exposed to the real thing. We need to be more aware of the realities of what we are training in – it is deadly serious stuff.
Another concept Sensei spoke about was finding the “kukan no kyusho,” or the critical point within the tactical space, which I thought was a very interesting consideration. Perhaps we will learn more about Sensei’s idea for 2012 soon. Buyῡ Doug Wilson’s blog often contains valuable insight into what Sensei is covering in Japan. Check it out here.
And you can read the whole post here: http://www.livingvalues.com/theme2012.html