Did Sensei Give The Theme For 2018?

Shiro Kuma


Is Mutō Dori the first step to knighthood?

Is it possible to become a knight in the modern times (Jidai), or was it only possible in the past (Jidai)? (1)

Here is an occidental Knight’s oath that reminded me of the Mutō Dori theme:

Be without fear in the face of your enemies.

Stand brave and upright.

Speak the truth always, even if it means your death.

Protect the helpless and do no wrong.

When you read this oath from the past, you see similarities with what Hatsumi sensei is teaching at the Honbu dōjō. The Mutō Dori of 2017 is to move towards the opponent with no fear even if you might die. And this whether you have a weapon or not. Ethics and values will keep us brave and upright. But this requires physical courage and high values.

How many Bujinkan Shihan and practitioners understand that today?


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Kiichi Hogen

Translated from Pertti Ruha’s Blog HERE.

In the mythology of the schools of the Bujinkan, there exist a person called Kiichi Hogen [鬼一法眼] (also sometimes romanized as Kiitsu Hogan) as mentioned in Takagi Yoshin Ryu’s Ryuko no maki. He is a legendary figure, who we do not know much about. Hogan lived in the 1100s in the areas around Kyoto.

He is said to have been skilled in onmyojutsu  (陰陽道)  a form of Japanese Taoism — and was a famous strategist.

Kiichi Hogen

Among the documents that are left behind after the “Kyoto’s eight schools,” Kyo Hachi Ryu, mentioned him as a prominent figure, whose teachings have been embraced among many of the martial arts schools that came from western Japan. Among other things, he must have left behind the piece of text included in Ryuko no maki;

“If the opponent comes, welcome it; if he goes so send him away. Add five to five and to receive ten; add two to eight, and to receive ten. How to create harmony.
Assess the situation, see through the intention; the large larger one ten square feet; the little penetrates the smallest things.

It can get hectic, but when you face whatever is in front of you, keep a cool head. “

According to a book from the early Edo period this was most like Chujo ryu. The tachi used was short and a characteristic technique was to squeeze close to the opponent.

The brief description of the sword he used is similar to our Togakure ryu sword and the  techniques of Kasumi, Fuma and Aranami with movements that oshi kiri and Raikou ken etc., are extremely similar.

A temporal link with the Togakure Ryu is also a legend that Hogan was Minamoto Yoshitsune’s sword teachers, the same Minamoto Daisuke Nishima fought before he was forced to flee into Iga mountains.

If this connection is true, then one can also speculate that Chujo ryu, a famous but now extinct school, could have links to Togakure ryu and Gyokko ryu.

Kiraku-ryu and the Toda Family

Kiraku-ryu (氣樂流) is a composite tradition including the use of the sword, grappling, chained-sickle, and more. Some of its secret teachings involve the Kuji, various mantra, accupressure, kanashibari spells, and so on.

According to the Menjo (diploma; 免状) of the school (my source is written sometime between 1862 – 1870), the founder was Toda Echigo no Kami, though there has been research that suggests that this is not accurate: possibly Watanabe Mokuemon (according to Serge Mol (2001: 209)) or Izuka Garyusai Okiyoshi (according to Watatani and Yamada (1978: 233). The Menjo simply lists these individuals in it’s list of past soke, or reputable practitioners, along with short biographies of each.

It is interesting to note that under the heading for Izuka Garyusai Okiyoshi it is stated that Kiryaku-ryu and Toda-ryu are one and the same and both founded by Toda Echigo.

Similarly, there are a number of other members of the Toda family found in this listing including Toda Naiki Yoshinori (戸田内記義則) and Toda Hayato Yoshitoshi (戸田隼人義敏). Though not likely to be expressly related, for those following Sean Askew‘s work on the Toda family, I have added the passages regarding these two Toda’s (Some of the other headings discuss parts of the Toda family, but they are seemingly further off topic).

The biography of Toda Echigo no kami Shigenori as found in the Kiraku-ryu Menjo (1862 – 1870)

Toda Echigo Morinobu no Kami (戸田越後守信)

“As for the the Toda family line, its ancestors also possibly called themselves the Tomida family (富田派) line originally; being the clan of the family of Gōshū Sasaki, many living in the generation of the family of the ranked official Asakura. They themselves, afterwards, were acting as public master instructors of swordsmanship under Toyotomi Hidetsugu (1568-1595), with the resignation of 70 years teaching in various provinces on the forefront of the field. With 400 households, they presided over swordsmanship with three blossoms: the tradition of the unrivaled Muteki-ryū spearmanship, the Tomida-ryū family tradition of jūjutsu and Toda-ryū family tradition. Mastering three traditions of inner technique, they went about serving in battle out of the province in Echizen /  tsuzen with the family of Lord Maeda Toshiie, during which they faced 138 famous unequaled rivals. Later to defeat other first class parties and obtain the title of a Chief  family with seven classes, due to having a myriad of battlefield deeds, the Toda family was honored with Sanzengoku, becoming known as the ‘Protectors of Echigo’. Being the aforementioned founder of Toda-ryū jūjutsu at the time, he was 70 years old when he passed away.”

Toda Naiki Yoshinori (戸田内記義則)

“Regarding the Toda family line, its original name was Yamada / Kumada family line at  Shiro / Jo province, natives of Fushimi, with Lord Yodo appointed as an official after his wanderings with Shindo Uunsai. Therein refining his character by diligence, the product of the merits of his actions, he, in the end, evolved into a topnotch master of the secrets and founder, venturing deep to the source of Toda-ryū. In both modern and ancient  times, the advantage of such personas, wandering alone unequaled in good name throughout the country, is the notable trace they leave. This master died at age 72 years.”

Toda Hayato Yoshitoshi (戸田隼人義敏)

Biography of Toda Naiki Yoshinori and Toda Hayato Yoshitoshi found in the Kiraku-ryu Menjo (1862 – 1870).

“Regarding Yoshitoshi, he was a legitimate son of Toda Naiki / Uchiki, wearing his father’s badge upon his leather garments, engaging in intense active practice himself, unceasingly in the house of (?) Koemoto (?). He was a person of recreational diversions, his name carried near and far, but he was repeatedly emotionally volatile. Yet in service to Lord Yodo, he was chief instructor, who, before long, increased that family’s  prosperity. This master died at age 82 years in Yodo’s feudal domain.”

Pushing the space


On my last trip to Japan in February, Hatsumi sensei spoke of a somewhat obscure principle: pushing space or emptiness on the opponent as he attacks us. How can we interpret that?

In the mid-1980s, I graduated in hypnotherapy. If there is one thing that hypnotherapists know well, it is surely the unconscious fears. Those that come to haunt us from our dark side of the brain. What is the relationship between this and the concept taught us by Hatsumi sensei? Understanding the mechanisms of the subconscious.

When I give seminars and even on occasion with new students, I make a small game that demonstrates these two facets of our personality. At a distance from my arm, I explain to the student that I am going to hit him with a slap on the top of the forehead and that he will have to block my arm without retreating. The…

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Solo training for self-protection

Everyone has a more or less developed instinct to defend themselves, and these instinctive skills can be developed into functional skills with focused awareness and practical solo training (Hitori Geiko; 一人稽古).

Even with minimal instruction, it is easy to figure out which parts of the body can be used as weapons.

Combative striking includes the use of both hands and feet, and can be trained solo against a suitable tree.

Shinden Fudo-ryu Tanren Undo

Soft body weapons can generate lots of impact on hard surfaces without any major discomfort or risk of injury to your own body. Try the lower part of the palm, parts of your forearms, your heels, thighs, the edges of your hands and feet, etc.

Do not use the tips, elbow tip or knee bowls against hard surfaces. This should be obvious. To some extent you can feel what you can do with the forehead and the thighs.

Training Tips

  • Take it easy at the beginning, warm up your strokes and see what you can do. Do not hurt yourself!
  • Move around the tree while using different types and body weapons.
  • Target the tree with the whole body – high, low, at multiple locations simultaneously, etc.
  • Use minimal movements with maximum force.
  • Test how fast you can hit with maximum power (without damaging you) as you move around the tree.
  • Hold both hands in front of you.
  • Imagine how to avoid, absorb and neutralize an opponent’s attacks.

Keep in mind that goshinjutsu (self-protection skills; 護身術) must be functional – safe to use, effective and should be used with minimal energy consumption.

Imagine having to fight for your life (or someone else’s) against a violent attacker. Do not risk your life by doing any cheeky techniques and do not be cocky.

Kukishinden-ryu Bisento

Bisento from the Wǔ jīng zǒng yào (1040), vol. 13.

An illustration of the Bisentō (眉尖刀) is found in the Chinese treatise, the Wǔjīng Zǒngyào (武經總要) compiled around 1040 to 1044 by scholars such as Zeng Gongliang (曾公亮), Ding Du (丁度) and Yang Weide (楊惟德), whose writing influenced many later Chinese military writers.

It contains the earliest known written chemical formulas for gunpowder, made from saltpeter, sulphur and charcoal along with many added ingredients. In addition to formulas for gunpowder, the compendium contains details on various other gunpowder weapons such as fire arrows, incendiary bombs and projectiles, grenades and smoke bombs – all tools found both in common manuals of strategy and battlefield martial arts. It also describes an early form of the compass (using thermoremanence).
Bisento from the Wubeizhi (16th century), vol. 37

Much later, this seige weapon appears in the famous Wǔbèi Zhì (武備志) is the most comprehensive military book in Chinese history. It was edited by Máo Yuányí (茅元儀 1594–1640~), an officer of waterborne troops in the Ming Dynasty. Wǔbèi Zhì contains 240 volumes, 10405 pages, and more than 200,000 Chinese characters, which makes it the longest book in Chinese history regarding military affairs. Being known as “a military encyclopedia in ancient China”, Wǔbèi Zhì is one of the most influential works in Chinese history on warfare. It is a rare source of some compass maps and designs and some weapons has contributed enormously to corresponding areas, and it also gives an account of ancient Chinese military theories and Chinese militarists’ thoughts.

According to the Nihon Budō Jiten (日本武道事典), an encyclopedia and dictionary of Japanese martial arts related terms, the Bisentō can also be found in Okinawan Kobudō, in a tradition called Ryūe-ryū, where it is sometimes referred to a Chugoku Naginata (Chinese halberd; 中国薙刀). The founder, Nakaima Kenkō (1911-1988) learned Chinese martial arts from Xie Chongxiang, who was also known as Rū-rū Kō (1852-1930), who was the founder of Whooping Crane Fist. this system still has some exotic Chinese weapons, including the staff, trident, dual sickles, the rowing oar, the spear, and of course the glaive, which they call the Bisentō.
In the Kukishinden-ryū, one of the nine traditions that the Bujinkan derive from, it is said that the founder, Izumo Kanja Yoshiteru revolted against the Imperial Regent Tadamichi Fujiwara during the Hōgen period (1156-1158) and escaped to a cave called Izumo-no-kuni Inome-dōkutsu (according to the Kukishinden Zensho). It is here that he is said to have been instructed in the bisentō by a Chinese Tang-dynasty martial arts master Tǐe zhàng Sēng (Jp. Tetsujō-ō 鉄杖僧).
Currently, there are nine kata publicly taught in the Bujinkan regarding this weapon, each of which are demonstrated in Masaaki Hatsumi‘s video detailing Kukishinden-ryū naginata, nagamaki, and bisentō, as well as in his book, “The Essence of Budo“.
  • Ōshin 汪振 (Deep Wave)
  • Kakugyaku 鬲逆 (Tripod Reversal)
  • Chikusha 竹斜 (Leaning Bamboo)
  • Namiba 波刃 (Wave Edge)
  • Battō 抜刀 (Drawing Blade)
  • Gisen 㬢先 (Before the Light of Day)
  • Shintō 伸刀 (Lengthening Sword)
  • Seitō 惺刀 (Tranquil Sword)
  • Miken 魅剣 (Demon Sword)
A modified Pudao with reinforced and extended tsuka to recreate the Bisento (private collection)

Seikatsu 生活

Lately, there’s this lovely post floating around Facebook, and as it’s quite similar in nature to some of the other lifestyle articles that we have here, I figured it would make a nice addition. There will also be some of my commentary and thoughts after the below quote.

Guidelines on the important foundation of a healthy lifestyle for a Budoka (martial artist), passed down to Hatsumi-Sensei by Takamatsu-sensei:

  • Stretching exercises for thirty minutes before sleep. (寝る前に柔軟体操三十分。)
  • Raw food and exercise. (生食と運動。)
  • Respecting the Gods and Buddhas. (神仏を尊び)
  • Whatever may happen, don’t become anxious / fearful. (何ことも恐れず。)
  • Go with the natural flow of things (Kami-nagara gyōun-ryūsui; 神ながら行雲流水。).
  • Make simplicity / innocence the foundation (kihon) of your lifestyle. (The simple life.) (天真らんまんの生活が基本である。)
  • “You mustn’t become angry, don’t allow your heart (to be clouded) by anger. (「怒るということはいかん、心から怒らんことや」。)

“戸隠流忍法体術 Togakure Ryu Ninpō Taijutsu, Masaaki Hatsumi (1983 Japanese Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha)

Stretching before sleep

For the first point regarding stretching for thirty minutes before sleep, I’ve seen over the years many articles suggesting and discussing this. Some of the benefits include improving the quality of sleep by stretching out the tension of the day, reducing stress levels, and offsets the chance for injuries, etc. I also recommend this in the morning as well. For years I’ve avoided having a warm-up or stretching part in my classes as I want the students to understand that it is their responsibility to start the day on the right foot and not take way from learning time in class. So with that line of thought, it makes sense to stretch every morning and evening.

Raw Foods

The next point mentions eating raw foods. This is something that I lean towards myself, though there are certainly many times that I crave a greasy something-or-rather at the local pub. But this reminds me of the quote by Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu,

“Ninja should eat food that is uncooked. People begin losing stamina, energy, and their sixth sense as a result of eating cooked food. Ninja must become familiar with eating natural food. First though, we need water, but drinking water is not enough. You can also fill your chest with mountain air.”

And indeed, it has been my personal experience that I have had more physical energy and steady amounts of energy since going vegetarian, and then later vegan (though now I am a Pescetarianism, because, sushi is a thing), as well as a notable decrease in sick time; I’ quite used to several colds and flu sickness a year, but now it’s only once or twice a year. By correlation, most of my food (including the fish) is raw.

Respecting God and Buddha

Tian Tan Buddha of Ngong Ping, Lantau Island, in Hong Kong

Contrary to the current trend of atheism, and a general disposition regarding religion (for most, in all its forms), there are many benefits to at the very least respecting such figures as God or Buddha. For the context of things like the martial arts or trauma, I feel that this best fits into the theories of Post Traumatic Growth (PTG). This is basically when one is subjected to something highly traumatic, whether an accident, sexual assault, violence, and so on, usually resulting in experience somewhere on the post traumatic stress spectrum. The coping methods and mechanisms that allow one to not only resist, recover, and overcome this Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but even grow from the experience and process of recovery.

In regards to religion ad spirituality and PTG, “Spirituality has been shown to highly correlate with posttraumatic growth and in fact, many of the most deeply spiritual beliefs are a result of trauma exposure” (O’Rourke 2008). For some, it is a little like when you suffer a care crash, and have physical and emotional trauma to recover from, “knowing” that this experience was a test of faith from your god, gives you a sense of both place in the cosmology of your beliefs, as well as a certain closure.

Avoiding Anxiety

Anxious much?

It has been observed that people who have a nervous or anxious disposition tend to be rather drained, make poor gut decisions (because it’s not their intuition, it’s their fears making the decisions), and often drain the energy from their relationships.

Being nervous and anxious is also bed for the nervous system, and by extension the immune system as it gets drained. Thus for a martial artist, having a weakened sympathetic nervous system means that you are less able to respond to sudden emergency, and having a weakened parasympathetic nervous system means that shock and tunnel-vision are likely to be the response to the emergency. As a result of having worn down nerves, the results are contrary to the goals of any martial artist.

Go with the Flow

We call this Gyoun Ryusui, and its a little like having faith in your purpose in life, or simply not resisting the circumstances that come your way. Similar to the natural water cycle, water falls to the earth, hydrates biological life, evaporates and returns to the clouds, only to fall again. at no point does it resist its natural process, just fulfills it’s role. The problem is when the ego comes into the picture; what happens when the water doesn’t want to go with the flow anymore? What if that raindrop wants to be something great, to be recognized and leave a legacy behind that it was there? Then that raindrop is going to cause some problems. As usual, the ego continues to be the only real enemy… But when the ego is put to the side, then we have the energy and patience to be happy, to enjoy the life that we were gifted with, instead of fighting for things like arrogance, ambition, and materialistic gain.

Leading a Simple Life

Simplicity equals Sanity

I personally find it hard to elaborate on this one, as I am someone who deeply enjoys convolution, TV shows like Game of Thrones and Sherlock, and anything that forces me to think in order to keep up invigorates me, and if I’m still thinking of it a week later, all the better; I don’t turn off well.

But, I’ve known for a long time that leading a simple life is a surefire way to reduce tension, stress, anxiety, and most other ailments in life. If we are talking about having a healthy lifestyle, simplicity is key; one doesn’t need to study bio-mechanics to have a healthy jogging routine, you don’t need yoga class to stretch your body, you don’t need magazines to feed you dieting theories. Keep things simple – run, walk, paint, eat; keep it simple.

Avoid Anger

I can’t imagine very many times where I’ve made a good decision while angry, in fact, the only times I think such has worked out has been when I decided to wait to “consider things” (i.e. chill out), before making a decision while angry. As both a martial artist and a shinobi must be able to make sound judgement that will likely influence the lives of others, in some cases many others, then tat judgment and decision-making must not be colored by strong emotions.


Hitoe 一重


Mi o Hitoe ni kanari koto

The body must be maintained in profile.

Differences between the times of armor and the battlefield and today’s combative sports are numerous and diverse, from placement of the feet and hands, to the usage of kamae and tachi, types of weapons, qualities of movement, so on and so fourth. One of the first details that we are going to look at here is the notion of placing the body in proportion to the enemy on the battlefield.

More specifically, this is the idea of standing profile to the person in front of you; but why would we want to do this? does it not limit our options and maneuverability in combat? Well, this may seem unusual, unorthodox, or counter-intuitive, I can assure you that it is both a classical form of movement, and an incredibly effective method for managing one’s own body, though that will take a few steps to get there.

The History

The quote at the beginning of this writing is from Yagyu Munenori’s Heiho Kadensho (柳生 宗矩, 兵法家伝書, 1632), where it is written five bodily principles regarding the nature of one’s sword posture[1], and it’s relevance to the enemy. This quote regarding standing profile (hitoe; 一重) is the first of the five details, and as we like to say in ninjutsu, “the first transmission is the deepest transmission“,[2] and as such, this should be deeply considered.

This teaching however, stretches back to at least the Nen-ryu (念流) founded in 1368, where even in the current iterations of the Maniwa Nen-ryu we can see this a little, (as well as that of Hicho no kamae), as Nen-ryu was the origin of the principle of Tōtoku Hyōshi (刀匿礮姿), a principle derived from defending against projectiles, but had been adapted to the sword, spear, and much later, unarmed kamae.

Similarly, paintings and illustrations all through Japan’s history exemplify body positions like this, and it wasn’t that it was some artistic leniency that inflicted the art style; as we see variances between different social classes within the same artist or writers examples. Within one artists career we might find illustrations representing the forms of Nanba Aruki [3], Hitoe, and leg and foot positioning (ichimonji; 一文字) to allow for freedom of movement (jiyū jizai; 自由自在) in response to the needs of the battlefield. Indeed, it is even uncommon to see warriors depicted as not working within this form of movement.

However, as the warrior class moved away from armored battlefield combat, some of the perks of this positioning (which will be elaborated on in the next section) dissolved, and the combatants began to square their shoulders towards the opponent. This further suffered when foreign influence came into the picture and exposed the warrior class to what we today refer to as gendai taisō (現代体操), or modern exercise.


Though in order to not incessantly ramble on indefinitely on the subject, this will not be an exhaustive list, but at least three points will be explained here: Kamae, Sōgō, and Kage.

Kamae 構え

Kamae in this case refers to the position you take proportionate to the enemy, that is to say, they can only see the side of the body that you show them, at least half of your body is out of view. While in armor, this means that half of your openings are protected, all that remains is the face, the armpit, and the foot. Hicho helps to protect the foot, by pointing the foot at the enemy the armor’s shin guards protect the rest of the leg, the hand in front protects both the face and the armpit with what ever weapon you have through postures like seigan[4] and the principle of Tōtoku Hyōshi.

Sōgō 総合

Daijodan with a staff
A large staff being wielded just like a sword in the Daijodan position.

Most classical schools of Japanese traditions in the martial arts are comprised of numerous weapons and techniques, connected by common denominators. This structure is called Sōgō Bujutsu (composite martial science; 総合武術). This is how to connect one’s basic fighting posture between the sword, spear and unarmed; seigan no kamae is shared between each of the weapons with little modification, whether in armor or otherwise.

As such the techniques involved were developed to be adaptable to any weapon, the principles of each becoming the common denominators between each. This all comes from the postures itself, beginning from the feet, and their position, to that of the hips, and then the shoulders. The transition between each weapon is natural without much thought for extra thought and no need to adapt the movements. As such the idea of Sōgō Bujutsu illustrates the principle that from only one technique, only one form, multiple applications can be produced. The technique is an expression of the kamae, and both are in turn a reflection of the practitioners depth of practice, understanding, and spirit; a measure of how open and accepting to life’s adversities he can be.

Kage 陰

Kage, or “In” (as in Inyo; 陰陽, the Japanese reading of Yin-yang), refers to what is visible, and invisible, or out of sight. The term kage no kamae comes from the technical writings of Shinkage-ryu, but is referred to several times in the mokuroku of Jiki Shinkage-ryu.

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Most of the kamae found in ninja-related ryuha are positions where the body is also seen in profile and the feet are on one line (called Ichimonji; 一文字). To have such a profiled posture carries with it the “spirit of being profile”, in that it is an attitude or intention in which only half is allowed to show, what the practitioner decide to offer. The intention of this profiled posture is one of a state of hiding. To reiterate, the practitioner of ninjutsu doesn’t appear directly, doesn’t show everything to his adversary, but instead creates doubt about his real capacity.


Though this seems exceptionally difficult as well as counter-intuitive, I hope some of the logic and examples provided above give the reader some grasp as to how the classical warrior’s science differed from today’s practice of things like kendo. From bio-mechanical principles established in the late 13th century and survived all the way through the feudal era, only to dissolve due to complacency… It is a shame indeed that even though publications such as the Life-Giving Sword are out there and thoroughly reviewed, principles, right at the beginning of the book, and written in very plain legible English are all but completely ignored or overlooked when they form some of the basis for such famous schools as the Yagyu Shinkage-ryu.


  • Yagyu, Jubei Mitsuyoshi. Tsuki no sho (1642). Annotated by Imamura Yoshio. Sanjo-shi: Nojima Shuppan, 1971.
  • Yagyu, Munenori. The Life-Giving Sword: Secret Teachings from the House of the Shogun (p. 109). Shambhala.


[1] “Whether striking or parrying, these must not be forgotten. When one is a beginner, they are intended to correct strain from incorrect body posture. It is the same as correcting unevenness in a bow. . . . If you know your body well, knowing strain is knowing yourself. If you think only of what’s in front of you, you will forget about straining your body . . . correcting strain is the first stage of understanding in knowing yourself.” —Himonshu

[2] 初伝わ奥伝なり。 There is a few reasons for this: 1) In order to preserve some of the most important teachings of the tradition, it is structured in such a way that if the pupil learns only the first few teachings or lessons and the master dies, some of the most important lessons are not lost. 2) There would have been more individuals that have practiced the first technique, then any other technique, thus it has been exposed to more minds, refined more intensively, and had more knowledge compacted into it than any other technique in the tradition.

[3] Nanba Aruki (ナンバ歩), a system of bio-mechanics seemingly unique to Japan for various reasons, that includes keeping the feet, hips, and shoulders inline while moving. Due to the very low strain nature of this movement, some have hypothesized that this is the human being’s natural way of walking and moving in daily life. I myself have spent the past 9 years working this into my daily behavior, and have noticed a reduction of strain-injury as well as more overall energy throughout the day. Studies have also shown that the nanba method of walking can reduce knee impact and strain, improve fluidity of movement, and reduced slip potential. Interestingly, within the Bujinkan, there is a series of exercises that educate the pupil on how to do exactly this called the Sanshin Gata (三心型).

[4] Seigan no kamae (正眼之構), a position where the sword, spear, or other weapon is pointing directly at the enemy’s eyes, serving as an obstacle that they have to circumvent in order to deliver and effective attack.

And the TL:DR version:

Yoyū 余裕

Today I had a friend from Japan come over to train at my home studio, which is always fun. He shared with me some details and ideas regarding Mutō Dori (facing a sword unarmed; 無刀捕), and Tōtoku Hyōshi (刀匿礮姿), as well as some unusual methods of Ukemi (受身) using the body. Interestingly, he kept using a Japanese term I don’t recall ever hearing before, Yoyū (surplus; 余裕). Though I didn’t know the term, it didn’t take long due to the context to get an idea of what it meant (It should be noted that I don’t tend to train with too many guys that train with Masaaki Hatsumi, but instead, train with the folks that train with Ishizuka and Kacem – not as a rule, there’s just more of one type of training in my area than the other).

However, in trying to think of a way that I could write about it, I cam up pretty blank; it’s more like a minute quality of movement and placement from the angle that I understand it; so I hit the internet to dog around about this; the first place being the dictionary:

“surplus;  composure;  margin;  room;  time;  allowance;  flexibility;  scope;  rope” (Tangorin)

This only kinda gets us anywhere in regards to it’s usage, so I found this article, La magie de yoyu 余裕 by Bernard Grégoire in French. Below is the translation:

“For a few years the word yoyu has been used in our Bujinkan vocabulary. Yoyu is the small surplus or more precisely the drop of water that overflows the vase. Only Hatsumi sensei could take such a word and make it a theme.

When an attacker executes a punch, he usually takes care not to strike too far so as not to lose his balance and not offer open places that could turn against him. Unfortunately for us, the intellect and the subconscious are two different things. The decisions made by our intellect are not always shared by our subconscious. This is the strength of Yoyu.

When a punch is fired, if the target is unreachable, our arm will automatically retreat to prepare for our next attack or simply to reinforce our guard. If it seems possible to reach the target, then the subconscious maintains the mission order, extending the arm more and more in order to reach that target which is there a few millimeters in range. This is a small part of the magic of Yoyu. To make believe the subconscious of the adversary that it will be able to strike us. Make it go a few centimeters more to make it lose its stability.

From the moment the opponent is unstable, he opens the door to all kinds of possibilities. The intellect knows it is a trap, but the subconscious does not see it that way. He continues to want to fulfill his mission at all costs. This principle of overcoming the opponent can be applied in various techniques, such as strikes or seizing techniques.

Those who had the chance to serve as a partner for Hatsumi sensei understand this principle of yoyu which makes us throw ourselves in spite of ourselves in the mouth of the wolf. When this principle is applied as Hatsumi Sensei does, it is realized too late that one has just made a mistake.”

I saw the application of Yoyū also carry a sort of feeling of “wiggle-room”, kind of like finding yourself in a spot where the opponent has no Yoyū (wiggle-room), while you give yourself Yoyū (options and opportunity).

However, it is pretty evident that there are many manifestations of this principle…

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