Bugei Yoroi-kumiuchi

Considerations on the methods in classical martial arts that governing the body, the mind and the heart in the “Bugei Yoroi-kumiuchi” (武芸鎧組打)

Considerations on the body

Shinmyoken 心妙剣

The “heiho-sha” (兵法家) or master in the strategy of the “Bugei Juhappan” (武芸十八), could detect and perceive to detail in a unique visual and sensory test the level of depth and conditions physical and psychic of a practitioner in the art of combat and survival, this display to observe the ability of a practitioner is appointed by the master founders with the term of “metsuke” (目着) (or 目付) (Note 1).”Ashi Koshi Tanren” (足腰锻錬) is a term used by the masters of “kobujutsu” to refer to the physical and psychological principles that govern the instruction in the disciplines of the “Bugei Yoroi-kumiuchi” (武芸鎧組打) or art of combat armor. Understanding that the word of “Bugei” (武芸) is interpreted as all the techniques and strategies needed to fight and survive with or without weapons in any space that can be considered a field of battle.

The founding masters through this visual examination or “metsuke” (目着) and with the concept of “Ashi Koshi Tanren” (足腰錬锻) assessing the physical and psychological predisposition of the practitioner to receive the transmission of the methods that governing the interiorization of the martial movement with “yoroi” or armor. Already “Taijutsu” (体術) with heavy armor, light armor, or without armor, are foundations or principles (kiso – 基礎 – bases or foundations) of essential motion that govern the classical martial arts methods in a koryû.

In his origin the techniques of strategy and survival that the classic masters developed to fight on the battlefield, and thus in any space that could be transformed into a space of battle and of danger for one’s life, was founded under the precepts of the instruction of the movement with armor, the best-known term is “yoroi kumiuchi” (鎧組打). However, there are other terms that can also refer to the combat armor, as “gekito” (撃刀), “Kumatachi” (組太刀) or “tachi uchi” (太刀打ち), all these terms refer to combat with or without armor, but the matrix principle and the methods of movement are independent whether carrying or not carrying armor, the essence and the nature of the root in a “koryû” movement is always the same, the threshold born of the movement of the body under the precepts of the current (ryû; 流) that the founders masters transmitted in origin.

I would like to emphasize that the “Form follows function” and “from the unit towards the multiplicity” that the teaching transmitted by the masters does not differ from wearing or not wearing armor, the methods that goverins the essence of martial movement in a “koryû” is a matrix code.

Oishi Shinkage-ryu Tojutsu mokuroku 01
Shinkage-ryu entry detailing the principles of Tojutsu (刀術), Isshin (一心), and so on.

A phrase of Munenori Yagyu (柳生 宗 矩, 1571-1646, founder of the branch of the Edo period Shinkage-ryū school – 新 陰 流), can join in the process of diving into this:

“Although there are several hundreds of guards, the victory is obtained only with one.”

A guard and a movement with and without armor is similar and equivalent in the body, the mind and the heart of the practitioner, this is one of the fundamental principles that express the concept of “Ashi Koshi Tanren” (足腰锻錬) in his depth.

Concept that refers to the conditioning of the legs and the hip through the domain deep in an attitude of body motion where the back, the control and stability of the legs (knees and above all the joints) and the hip had to be profound and deep, through of the interaction and knowledge of the movement of the skeletal system,tendons and ligaments involved in the technique and in the biomechanics of the movement. (Control and dominance in the movement of the head, shoulders and the bone structure of the top train of the body also comes into consideration, however if there are deep control of the movement of the hip and legs, there will be a lineup right back and thus of all the top train of the body, giving as a result a access to low and diaphragmatic breathing. A breath which gives access to the use of the coordination of the movement with the respiration. Angles, rhythms, respiration, distances, balances and imbalances merge into the form and unity of the “taijutsu”, movements where minimizing the use of muscle strength and of the intention of the conscious mind (“chikara wo nuku” (力を抜く)).

The notion of “Ashi Koshi Tanren” (足腰锻錬) jointly emphasizes the knowledge, study and preparation of tonic musculature and especially of the phasic muscles within the martial body movement, once more the domain of the body weight and the flexibility are the key to the art of science in the Biomechanics and ergonomics of the movement in the classical martial currents. The physical, mental, and emotional unit, the union between form and attitude, are the key elements for an adept in the art of “taijutsu”. The flexibility is vital in this quest for spiritual unity (underline at this point of flexibility and encounter with the unity of body, mind and heart, the “Gokui” (極意) or fundamental principle of transmission of the phrase “Cultivate the heart of flowers and the spirit of bamboo” “kajō chikusei” (花情竹性) or “Kajō-waraku” (花情和楽)) (Note 2).

Considerations on the mind and the heart

However the masters had perfected his study of the art up to the paroxysm, and did not contemplate only the physical body domain, they declared that the art of the body movement implied an interaction of body, mind and heart with the art and his current or “ryu” (流), they were searching the meeting with a state of total adaptation and with any reality that could mean a State of danger to the survival of his being (Note 3).

Ashi Koshi Tanren” (足腰 锻 錬) in the art of “Bugei Yoroi-kumiuchi” (武芸鎧組打), also involves the study of the strengthening of the interior of the practitioner (the human psyche), considering that carry an armor brings to tolerate situations as much as internal and external situations that requiring a spirit of perseverance in accordance with the depth of the practice in the art.

The Sun, heat, cold and wind, learn to as much as physically and psychologically unseen behind the armor by the enemy, without losing energy physical or psychological , learn to rest and feed with the armor, learn to carry various weapons without performing a power cost extra, etc.

This is assimilated and experienced within the statements and instructions of the “Bugei Yoroi-kumiuchi” (武芸鎧組打), with and without wearing armor, without creating separations, the matrix of the strategies of movement and the essence of the body attitude transmitted are identical, and these concepts are still transmitting in the same way by the masters of the koryû today through the concept of “Kako genzai Mirai no jutsu” (过去现在未来之術). (“Kako” means the past. “Genzai” means the present and “mirai” refers to the future. The meaning as a whole expresses that art created by the founding masters and refined for the next generations, contains the information to adapt and confront any situation, time or moment, contains everything that the disciples need to live, practice, and transmit to the next generation the current and the essential source of the art, “ryû” (流)).

Kato Kiyomasa
Kato Kiyomasa – note the positioning of the feet, hips, and shoulders, as well as the spears to the center line of the body.

The study of the human psyche is linked to the evolution of the movement of the body in a koryû, therefore the martial arts and the transmission is also based on the relationship that is established between two human beings, the master and the disciple. How to reach to a deep into an art but is through of the opening of the doors of the heart in a communication from soul to soul (I shin den shin; 一心伝心) between master and disciple?

However, is important to develop a specific and deep look to be able to probe the movement of a Sôke (宗家) or a practitioner with “menkyo kaiden” (免許皆伝) or somebody has attained the mastery and is called “Heiho-sha” (兵法家).
Indeed, the movement in his maximum expression is what the masters call as “mukei no kurai” (無形之位) or formless form, thus formless hidden the movement and the form of the art until the last moment where the technique is performed by the expert in the current or ryû (流), leaving no trace or sign of anything that could be probed, copied or assimilated. (Note 4).

Anything, everything to fulfill the purpose of reach to have a good technique, day and night” Hatsumi soke in his book Unarmed Fighting Techniques of the Samurai.

There is an important concept called “Nichiya-tanren-kofu” (日夜鍛煉工夫) mentioned by the classical masters of the Koryû that can help us to deepen in the understanding of “the form without form“. This term refers to the ability and the talent to deepen in the form received by the master and the power of art, in the current or “ryû” (流).

Nichiya (日夜) refers TO THE DAY AND NIGHT, if the practitioner delves into every breath, thought, word and action during the day and the night cultivating the image received by the master and the power of art, the result will be a profound practice that will allow the practitioner to explore in depth the dimension of the use of methods that govern the states of the body and the weapons, reaching the mastery in the art.

The Japanese art studies the movement until the paroxysm, and places emphasis on the control in the form of walking, dressing, sit down, take a brush, etc. Nothing stays at random in the search of the meeting with an art, and in the case of a martial art where his roots lie in the coexistence with the life and the death, the thoroughness in the evolution is of a spiritual depth.

“I have discovered that the way of the samurai is death. During a crisis, when there are so many possibilities of life as of death, we should choose the death. There is thus nothing difficult; just arm yourself with courage and act. Some say that to die without having finished his mission is to die in vain.”

In this very direct way begins the famous Japanese literary work of the Hagakure “葉隠” written by Yamamoto Tsunetomo (1659-1719).

Tengu Geijutsu Ron Maki Ni (1729) Chozan Niwa (illustration 02)
Tengu Geijutsu Ron Maki Ni (1729) Chozan Niwa. Again, note the body positioning.

This leads us to think that every thought, emotion and action make sense in the life and the way of practice of which aims to achieve the mastery in the art of the”koryû”, control of the bodily presence is brought to the space of an inquiry “quasi” spiritual, is the study of life and death through the experience on the way of practice and inquiry with the body ,the mind and the heart of the current and the source of a “ryû”, during the day and during the night.

The ultimate sense of all the sciences of combat, martials and of strategy is progress and adapt to any environment, atmosphere and reality, the ability of a “ryû” is the art of adapting from the past, to the present moment, to the here and now and to project in the future, in a way incomprehensible and invisible (“mienai” – “見えない”-invisible) (“wakaranai” “- 分からない” – incomprehensible) through which the classic martial masters called “kami waza” (神技) or divine techniques.

I think that this last paragraph will lead the reader to reflect on the great depth that involves the study of a classical martial art, is analogous to the search with the spiritual encounter through the religion of a human being with the Holy Spirit (seirei; 聖霊). (“When the man believes in something, when something is it the unquestionable reality, is it religious.”Religio” does not come, as they say, from “religare”, be tied man to God. As so often, is the adjective who keeps us the original meaning of the noun, and “religiosus” meant ‘scrupulous’; “therefore, he does not behave lightly, but carefully” in every act and action of his life “paragraph adapt for the article, the real text is of the author “Ortega y Gasset in essay of the Roman Empire”).

Returning to the “formless form” and to put more light on a concept that is so diffuse, I think that these words of Sun Tzu in his treatise on the “art of war” will help of support and reflection to go deeper on the state “cuasi Mystic” which adopts an expert master or “meijin” (名人) in a “koryû”.

“Therefore, the acme of the formation of an army is to arrive to the formless. When you have no Form. The undercover espionage cannot discover anything; the information cannot create a strategy”.


Within the concept in the art of “Bugei Yoroi-kumiuchi” also enters the study of military combat strategy (“Heiho” or “Hyoho” (兵法) – note 5), since such a general could cause that another warrior carried his armor, creating confusion in the battlefield, or on the contrary the enemy could use oil and a torch to burn the warriors with armor. Art masters watched all sorts of strategies and possibilities in the art of combat, already be in combat one on one,or combat inside all that can become in a battlefield.

Thus joins the one with everything, in fact the basic form of “Ashi Koshi Tanren” (足腰锻錬) already includes this such of strategies because to connect with that physical, mental and heart condition, it is necessary a strategy and a thorough of the study of the human body and the human “psyche” (mind and heart), and therefore is necessary the study of the unity in the multiplicity and the multiplicity in the unity.

The Form and the current practiced and created by the master are a reflection of his spirit and his attitude of life, therefore if the heart of the disciple and his spiritual attitude are adequate, and practiced under the spirit of “Nichiya-tanren-kôfû” (日夜鍛煉工夫), the practicioner will see that the Form that he has received from his master already hidden inside the secret of the “Bugei Yoroi-kumiuchi” (武芸鎧組打).The art and the current of the “ryû” is based on the tracks and signals to let that the art continues to be transmitted from generation to generation through the Form transmitted by the masters.

We must never forget that the art is based on human relationships, and relationships are based on his essential roots in the love, a martial art does not exclude this principle of love. Love of an art, to a “ryû”, love for the master and his transmission, love for the nature and the life, For this reason the study, respect and understanding of the death that leads to respect and love for the life and the nature that gives us life. For this the master is one with the art, and from that unit with the art and the nature that gives life and energy will transmit to his disciple to the following generations, this is the “nagare” (流) or flowing current of “ryû” (流).

“Sôke signifies nothingness, zero, emptiness, void. Something that exists, and yet does not. The Sôke is just an ordinary person, and yet, somehow, he is someone who is living his life according to some invisible divine command.” – Masaaki Hatsumi

General notes of the article:

Note of the Article: Inside the “Ashi Koshi Tanren” (足腰锻錬) also enter the deep study of the forms of sitting inside of the artistic currents of the koryû, in this article I explain “superficially” about this topic, however I wish and I hope that reading between the lines take you to a motivation (“motus” = movement) more deep in your way of the Form in the art. (Muto Dori)

Note 1 –

The concept of “metsuke” “目着” or “metsuki” “目付 I develop it in the following article:
Muto Dori part 2

Note 2 –

Inside of the method of survival and strategy in the field of battle with the armor is used a position of low hip called by the masters “Koshi otoshi” (落 腰), a body attitude of laterality known for example for the following terms as “Shûmoku” (撞木), “Hitoe” (偏身), “Ichimonji-goshi” (一文字 腰), “Hanmi” (半身) or “Ichimonji” (一文字).

Basically this body attitude seeks that the practitioner to stand in side way and in a position close to the ground, reaching a balance and taking advantage of the protection that gives the armor (Sodes (袖), Kotes (籠手), Haidates (佩楯), Kabuto (兜) for example), in this way the warrior wants to control his Center and the Centre of posture and movement of his opponent or opponents, this concept is known within the Koryû as Naka-zumi (中 墨), Shinmyo-ken (剣 神妙) or Seichu-sen (正 中线) and allows the practitioner to adapt and anticipate the danger within the field of battle. This body attitude requires knowledge and the adoption of a type of movement specific within the classical Koryû, I explain in a more extended form these principles in the following article:
Muto Dori Part 3

Note 3 –

About the interaction of body, mind and heart in the motion within the art and his current or “ryû” (流), I explained more comprehensively in the next article: “The art of copying the master image”.
The Art is to Copy the Image of the Master

Note 4 –

The founding masters at the pinnacle of the martial art used the body attitudes and positions of the body that do not broadcast nor offensive form, nor defensively form, the famous “formless form” that classical masters expressed through the concept of “mukei no kurai” (無形之位).

The master offered a position and an attitude of neutrality from a spirit of inner emptiness, that spirit permeated the movement of the body of the master, creating a form of movement where the enemy (teki; ) cannot plumb or collect any information, this what we see in terms of ““(空),”empty”, and”Kokû“(虚空) which we could interpret as “opening in the distance and the space”.

From this position and body attitude the master expected the attack of the enemy until the last moment, the master expresses his spirit in a movement of be without being, he is but is not, remains in a state of zanshin (残心) or attitude of maximum internal alert and minimal expression of form and external presence, before, during and after of the technique (Zanshin no Kamae; 残心の構). This is the expression of “mienai waza” (見えない動き) and “wakaranai waza” (分からない動き) or incomprehensible and invisible techniques and are part of what is called in the kobujutsu as “Hiden” (秘伝) or transmission secret and hidden.

It is important to add that from these positions of no form and of interior vacuum the founding masterss had developed the ability to create a sensory aura through of his perception and vacuum state, that carrying them to develop the technique of “sacchi suru” (察知), we could interpret it as predict or feel the danger, it is the technique of anticipate, read and hear the movement of the opponent or a dangerous situation.

Therefore in the last moment of the attack the master was effecting a movement where he hiding his body form and his inner attitude and performed a movement of attack and defense in unison, what is understood under the concept of “jiyujizai” (自由自在).

These arguments of not emission of movements and transfers of weight of the body , we can be found in different martial’s currents and in different traditional concepts used by the masters in the transmission , like for example : “Musoku no hô” (無足之法) which can be interpreted as “Method of displacement without legs”, “Musoku-nin” (无 足 人) which could be interpreted as “people who are not legs”, “Kagefumi” (影踏み) that could be interpreted as “a step in shadow”, “Mizudori no ashi” (水鳥足) that could be interpreted as “the bird’s feet in the water”, “Kieru Ugoki” (消える動き) that could be interpreted as “To extinguish the movement” or we can simply recognize this concept in the name of the current, because his culture and art of motion is based on this invisibility of motion , for example Kage-ryū (影流), Togakure-ryû (戸隠流) or Gikan-ryû (義鉴流) .

For give life and sense for all this terms, is vital the “Kuden” ( 口伝 ) or oral transmission, the “Taiden” ( 体伝 ) or transmission through the body movement and the “Shinden” (心 伝) or transmission through of the heart of the master or “Shishō” (師匠) of the art. I’m writing about terms and techniques that pertain to concepts within the most mysterious of the art and which therefore belong to the mysteries of the heart and the spirit of the latest technique or State, “gokui” (極意).
To close the note I will give five examples where we can make sense of paragraphs of the note posted above:

a) “Kage no kurai” (陰之位) or bodily attitude of the shadow, where the master moves from a State of “Fudô-shin” (不動心) or status of the immutable spirit with the ability to adapt to any situation of danger, inside of this adaptation there is the sense of the kanji in “koryû ” of flowing or “nagare” (流れ).

b) “Otonashi no Kamae” (音無しの構) or the body position of no sound, no sound in the mind or in the heart, and of course is a metaphor for not emit signals in the movement of the body from the no sound.

Here I think that it is important to stress something that the masters repeat during the practice: “when you practice in a closed room, a room where there is no internal noise, care in a very cautious way your movement in such a way that it does not produce sound by moving you“, this is a metaphor for the state of deepening of practice masters sought to instill in their disciples.

Who “is in is outside“, does not produce external sound is a way of cultivating the inner silence of the dual mind and ego, opening way to the internal movement, the movement of the heart.

c) “Munen Muso no Kamae” (無念無想の構) or “Mu Gamae” (無構) the position and body attitude without form, position and body attitude of the intention of not intention and not thinking.

d) “Kata Yaburi no Kamae” (型破の構) or the attitude and body position of breaking the form of the opponent through to break your own form, is a metaphor in which through ot the technique received, seeks to insert in the practitioner the paradigm of internal break of the bad ego (the ego well understood is a partnership for development) and the rigidity of the mind, giving way to the fluidity and adaptability of the heart and spirit in a free motion with multiple adjustability.

e) “Kasumi no kamae” (霞の構) or attitude and body position of the fog, once again we find that the classical masters use names that allude to metaphors, metaphors that the masters used want to evoke images in the mind and emotions (the term emotion comes from the Latin “emotio” which means “movement or impulse”, “what moves you”) to promote and impulse the disciple to delve below the conscious mind,working with the power of the subconscious mind.

In the following link I write about the influence of the subconscious mind in the transmission of classical martial arts:
The Form Follows the Function 2.0

Note 5 –

This unit in the technique will take the practitioner to a multiplicity in the strategy; this strategy can be understood in the “kobujutsu” as “Heihô” or “Hyôhô” (“兵法”).

“Heihô” is literally the method of the soldier (this methodology are the rules, practices and techniques of the soldier, the disciplines called “Bugei Juhappan” (武 芸 十八)), nevertheless the Kanjis of “heihô” “兵法” respond to deeper meanings, like the terms of strategy or tactics.

This strategy consists of the unit of being able of adapting to any type of situation of danger or physical, psychic or emotional imbalance (Eg. economic crisis). This involves the acquisition of a state of deep technical knowledge transmitted by the masters, a way of life where adaptability, flexibility and humility are essential.

Author’s Note:

“Considerations on the methods in classical martial arts that governing the body, the mind and the heart in the “Bugei Yoroi-kumiuchi “(武芸鎧組打)” exposed in the present article, are brief notes that I decide to publish and share on my facebook wall. They are separated parts that come from a much more developed, elaborated, vast and extensive text, the present article exposes of superficial form a topic of deep investigation, study and argumentation .But I hope and wish that these brief notes can serve to inspire you to practice the art of deeper form, night and day, at dawn and at dusk, with a spirit of optimistic hope and inner growth.

Everything written is written from the humility of a personal way, with a spirit of communication and expression with me. I consider myself as a HUMBLE practitioner, student and instructor of the art. I am conscious of my basic and immature movement, knowledge and vital experience. I am in the encounter of my answers to my own way across of the practice of a martial way. If what you read is useful to inspire or to extend your paradigms of practice or of life, I will feel very grateful, thank very much for your attention and company to read me.

To the mountain it is possible to rise from infinite ways, and from all of them it is possible to see the MOON.

Most sincerely
David Esteban Guzmán


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