Skillful Means

Ninjutsu contains no basic techniques of defense and attack, but everything is movement-based principles of our somatic intelligence for the direct or indirect control of what threatens us. Hatsumi Sensei says that the division of a fight in punches, kicks, throws and grabs is a mere theoretical construction which is suitable for amateur teachers.

Instead of making use of concepts like struggle and battle in efforts to resolve a conflict, we should embrace the concept of Hōben (Expedient means;方便).
Hōben is a Japanese concept with Buddhist origins that lacks words in Swedish [or English]. The closest you can get in the English translation is “skillful Means”, as it is about the body skills that take the opponent’s will to fight.

We must learn to see the battle and life as a crumbling system of internal differences or dependencies between battle “elements”. The Japanese term “heiho” can be written with two pairs of kanji, the first one means method of war (兵法) and the second means methods of peace (平法) and hence the Japanese saying “methods of war are methods of peace” (heiho wa heiho nari; 兵法は平法なり) and this is one of our guiding principles.

In ninjutsu, we always use “skillful Means” as it is based on the body’s authentic and deep structural Alarm reactions (kosshi sanpo; 骨指三法) to face uncertainty and to manage an attack.
Authentic movements we define as deep and outside movements are made with indivisible effectiveness, that all reactions, feelings and thoughts are unified. In an authentic movement, there is nothing unnecessary, it is made with the highest practical facility.

The opposite of authentic movement is wavering movements which are made without contact with the internal subject (kokoro; 心). A wavering motion is learned outside but not internalized.

Authentic movements come from our intuitive limbic alarm reactions system. A typical alarm reaction is always the response to external influences and any variation in the reaction does not exist.
An alarm response gets all its energy from within. It occurs in the reptilian brain through an automatic, rhythmic impulse production. An alarm reaction is innate, unchangeable and effective in normal situations (but that we are aware of this effectiveness). To be authentic movements often show great ability to variability and customization is because they are directed by the linked unchanging deep structural instinct acts and variable surface structure international practices. The deep structural instincts and surface structure international methods highlights the technicians differences in character.

The specific technique is not something in itself, but is created by the difference in the relationship with other movements and movements in battle, both those I create myself and my opponent creates.

All tools and weapons used in combat have likewise no fixed shape in the starting position. Their shape is the tools temporary capacity, born just at the moment they are used, modified for its purpose, never to return. This is also something we call “Kukan” but writes with a different set of kanji (空観) which means “to appear in the blanks.”
Similarly, the Kamae (attitude; 構) we use only as fleeting positions, chimeric images of godai (five elements; 五大), in a constantly dynamic reality and its content is determined by the bounds of the situation.


One thought on “Skillful Means

Add yours

  1. Gabriel Rossa has brought it to my attention that this concept of Hōben is called “upāya” (उपाय), of which Wikipedia describes as :

    “A term used in Mahayana Buddhism to refer to an aspect of guidance along the Buddhist Paths to liberation where a conscious, voluntary action is driven by an incomplete reasoning around its direction. Upaya is often used with kaushalya (कौशल्य, “cleverness”), upaya-kaushalya meaning “skill in means”.”

    (Wikipedia article “Upaya”. Retreived July 27th, 2015)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: