Dr. Kacem Zoughari is a well known Japanese History and Martial Arts researcher and practitioner. Born in Paris, France he began studying Martial Arts as a teenager and quickly began visiting Japan to further his studies. He has practiced Ninjutsu for well over 20 years and is a personal student of Hatsumi Masaaki Soke and Ishizuka Tetsuji Sensei.
Presented by Dr. Kacem Zoughari, transcribed by Luke Croker
You see this as a scholar, then after you have the faith. Of course, the book needs to be read with faith, but what kind of faith? It’s the same as the scrolls, with the scrolls you have to read with a certain faith. The faith in the master, the faith in the art, the faith in your practice. You have to understand those books, well it’s hard to use the word “book for them, anyways, those texts, those writings, they are written with a certain cleverness. Do you understand that? With a certain intelligence, a certain faith, a certain love. So, automatically they talk to your cleverness, to your intelligence. You have to read them with a certain state of mind, a certain psychological predisposition, then it’s clear. If you don’t have this, then no matter what, if you are a scholar or a religious man, you will always turn to a kind of fanaticism. That’s why it’s really difficult; the book is for everyone, but the way you use it is your problem. Don’t blame the book. If you blame God because everyone is bad, he gave you the chance, everything is in front of you on the table. You don’t want to take it, you take the knife. It’s your choice. But don’t blame the writing, blame the interpretation. The interpretation is free, it’s already a big gift.
So, what I’m trying to explain to you here about the densho, Sometimes the densho is very simply: “grab, hold…” I do this sometimes with the translation of scrolls, and it means nothing. Why do I do that? I do this in order to show you that if you don’t have the practice, and the relationship with the one who wrote this, when you read this without that support. And everyone in your line of work, your everyday life, for example in your duty or your specialties, you know what you are doing because you have read many things, and when there is information that comes from another part of the country, or from someone else, you understand each other because you have pretty much the same background. You have something in common. So, when they send you something, you can analyze, see, observe, what is good inside, and what is bad; you have to read it in that way. But we need keys, to read a scroll, like any kind of book which talks to the intelligence, you need keys; keys of course the practice, a certain culture of your own brain, etc.
I hope this is clear for all of you. This is why where I know? where I see this? It’s easy, I did the technique, one day, I saw the boss, and what the boss is doing is clear as water. When he moves, he doesn’t shake; me? When I move I shake, and when I do the techniques, he says, “dame!” (no good; ダメ). I hate that word in Japanese. But its good, that means you know where you stand. If he says “ah, very good!” you know something is off on your legs. He said “very good” and you say “I’m not really sure ya’know…”. So, he said “dame!” and at that moment you make yourself very small, you don’t want to try again because you know you are going to do the same thing. “Dame koshi wo takai” (ダメ腰を高い), “your hips are high”. And here, it’s like an insult, like common! It hurts my heart, I practice, and he’s right. And like that everything froze, he can freeze the moment like a second.
Gogyō doesn’t mean, as a scholar, I would never translate it as “five elements”, it means the “five phases”. Secondly, it’s not really martial arts, the meaning of the word is deeper than that. It is written, “Gogyō no Gokei Jo”, the five areas,Me, I, Mi, Shu, soku nari (目、意、身、手、足成り). Translation: the five things is the way you look, the eyes, the intention and the way you develop and cultivate the intention, Mi is the flesh, hands and legs. So, it’s how you practice, how you breath, how you condition your body through the technique.
Then, when you understand that, there is the Sangaku (Three learnings; 三学), the three knowledge of the practice, Ichimonji, Jūmonji, Hichō. And you’ll see what’s really cool is that this is just the beginning.
There are a lot of things to say [about densho], some people might say that it’s not important. Some people have even said that densho (documents of transmission; 傳書) is written for kids. I have never heard Hatsumi sensei say this or any kind of soke.
Densho is written by… First in order to write down something, you need, in this case of classical ryuha, in the case of a warrior who has a ryuha, a founder of a ryuha, etcetera, etcetera… Being able to write down something that makes sense, that has a logic, that has an orientation, a direction, for the future or to explain, requires automatically a certain level of brain, culture, and study. You don’t write stupid things. So, densho is written by the intellect, by the heart of someone. So he talked to the intellect and the heart of someone. Which means that you have to level up your own heart, your own intellect in order to fit the needs of the technique. So to my point of view, and this is what I’ve learned and have heard many times from different master, especially Hatsumi sensei, Ishizuka sensei, you have to do as it is, as it is written. the problem is the meaning of what is written and how you see this, who told you that, who showed you that. Some say “Hatsumi sensei did it like that, some master did it like that, another master did it like that, I saw him this, doing this in 2000, in the 90s, like this.” Yeah where are you between those times? What did you do from what you received? From what did you show? Are you sure this is what you saw, or what you wanted to see?
There is a lot of things here. That’s why you first practice things as they were and the reason why they were. The it is written in a certain way, there is a logic, there is an orientation, and a direction. It needs to fit a certain reality. If you do things the way it’s written, but the way it’s written doesn’t fit reality, it’s impossible to apply. You have to question the text, and you also have to question your practice, and at the same time you have to question the one who wrote it and the one who presented it. Why like that? It’s not a matter of if the scroll is made up, the scroll IS made up, writing IS made up. You have to make it, you have to write it or it’s not true. It works: it’s true. That’s classical martial arts, that’s ninjutsu, that’s warriorship. It works, it’s effective, it’s true. So that’s very important.
In the scroll, you can read many times. If it doesn’t talk about violence, it doesn’t talk about strength, it doesn’t talk about being stiff. tadashiku (正しく), correctness, rightness, precision. They just name the word, name the kyusho (vital point; 急所), name the strike, it doesn’t show you how it is. that’s why you need someone to explain, so the scroll is important with the master; the message with the messenger. The densho, makimono, is a relationship with the master. And if for example you dont respect what is written or you do your own way, I question the relationship with the master. the master took the time to write it, thought to write it, pulled to write each word, why, the reason why. At that moment when he wrote it. Also don’t confuse notes and scrolls; it is different, it is of course based on the same ink and paper, but it is different. You take notes during a class, most of hte time you are the only one that can read your own notes. A scroll is written in a way that someone who have been witness of a certain transmission, received something, can read it and can make it. That’s a very important thing. And he has to be respected, because by respecting what is written you respect the one who wrote it, and all of the history, and all the culture behind that. That’s the reason why it is very important.
Now, if yo say the scroll is unimportant… Everyone does things the way they want, the true thing is what you can do and what you can handle in reality, and what you express, the way you are, what you reflect. If my movement reflect at the same time, the respect of the scroll, the form of the master, and the past, future, and the present…
Transcribed by Luke Crocker, minor edits for understanding.
Flexibility, stretching, extending yourself… well first, when you talk about stretching, you need to understand the idea of “warming up”, and those kinds of exercises you do before starting the class.
First of all, you need to understand that in classical martial arts, whatever the ryūha, whatever the style, doesn’t exist. Warming up doesn’t exist, and nowadays every ryūha does warming up, even in kendō and things like that, they are things taken from sports in order to fit or to help to practice. In classical martial arts there is no warming up, etcetera, exercises. There is this aspect of Tanren (tempering ; 鍛錬) conditioning and reinforcement. So every movement that you do in daily life needs to support, it needs to apply the technique. So you need to work your body in order to be flexible, to be precise, to be shaped, but at the same time to not show that you practice martial arts, or that you practice those kinds of techniques.
In the world of warriors, in the world of the 14th century, 15th century, 16th century, showing that you are strong can be good, but can also be a problem, and you can be a very easy target. You cannot show that you have a certain kind of ability. A ninja cannot say, “I’m a ninja!” and jumping like, etcetera, and doing things like… so they might recognize you, you need to always hide the aspect of knowledge you have of the art of fighting. You are a master, you are known as a master, but we don’t know how deep you can fight, unless we don’t see it completely, unless we don’t show it, the master doesn’t show it. That’s a very important thing.
You cannot also, have two different kinds of exercise like something to warm up the body, and something for practicing martial arts; you can’t divide a practice. You need to have everything as one thing that supports what you want to build. So some people might practice yōga, some people might practice stretching, that’s good! But as long as it doesn’t make your practice worse. For example, there are some people that are very good at yoga, that are very good in flexibility, but when you ask the to kick and keep the foot out at a certain level, and do the same movement, they cannot because this requires a certain kind of flexibility, and a certain kind of work on the ligaments, and the muscle as well. And at the same time some people can rise very well, and lift the legs, but not do flexibility. Here again it is a certain kind of muscle working.
That is why you can say that there are two kinds of flexibility: there is dynamic flexibility and static flexibility. Then after there is the flexibility that you need for the martial art, that you need for the art you practice, whatever the ryūha.
So about this flexibility and things, the word itself in Japanese, you have many words. For example, Jūnan (flexibility; 柔軟) like the Jūnan Taisō (calisthenics; 柔軟体操), the word on itself you don’t find before the Meiji period (1868-1912.), it’s something created with the foreign influence. The kanji you use mainly in Japanese mainly are for example for flexibility are like yawarakai (softness; 柔らかい), yawaragu (to soften; 和らぐ), the kanji of wa (harmony, peace; 和), which expresses not only flexibility, but at the same time the image of the branch, of something that takes the weight but doesn’t break, something that bends, also something that fits, something that adapts. And this image of the nature, this image of the bamboo… that’s the idea of the things we have of yawarakai, of Jūjutsu, Jūdō, and also the other kanji of ‘wa’ as in yawaragu, a very interesting kanji. For example, the ‘wa’ of Wadō-ryū (和同流), which is used also for jūjutsu. Why? Because in this way it also means peace.
We think that everything that bends, everything that fits, everything that accepts the situation means that it can be in balance. By being balanced, you are in harmony, you synchronize. So your body needs to be synchronized, your body needs to follow the flow, needs to be part of the flow, needs to become the flow. And for that, of course, because the body is consisting of 70% of water, and because everything inside is not made to be like a rock; you just need to see the internal organs, just need to see the muscle. You can get harder, you can get stiff, but the bodies nature still, look, flesh, blood, certain kinds of liquid; so we are not made of rock, not like a tree… we are very weak, the body is weak, but I think there is great strength in understanding the weakness. You have to understand your weakness which is also another aspect of the flexibility, because flexibility is weak. But strong…. Strong, deep, because of all this different weakness adds to a deep weakness makes something stronger.
So flexibility is very important, but being flexible and being stiff in the mind, it’s illogical; you have all the flexibility, and also to support a certain vision, a certain way of looking at things. By stretching means to stretch your mind, to stretch yourself. Then after there is different kinds of exercise; you need to understand that flexibility can be not good for the body if you don’t do it in the right way. You have to listen to your body, that’s what I mean by weakness; know your weakness, study your weakness, understand your weakness, understand the nature of the weakness of your body. Like this you understand the weakness of your psychology, and from that you can understand what is strong, what can be strengthened, reinforced, etcetera. So in that case, practicing flexibility is very important.
Now when we look at certain pictures of Ueshiba Sensei, the way you see hi at a certain age, you can see a certain kind of flexibility. We have also accounts from different people who have met Takeda Sōkaku, they used to say that the man was very flexible. True or not we don’t know, it’s always dependant of the men, how flexible he was and what is the nature, or the definition he had of the word flexibility and stretching.
In the case of Hatsumi sensei, like Takamatsu sensei, even now at eighty years old, a lot of people have noticed, have witnessed the kind of flexibility. The fact of going lower like that when splitting the legs (splits stretch) at eighty years old.
Flexibility is a proof of a certain kind of health of the body, how the body can be healthy, how the tendon can work. At the same time, the muscle needs to be strong, you need muscle and flexibility that fit together. So it’s a kind of… not perfect balance, but a certain kind of balance that allows you to always support the movement you are looking for. You need a certain kind of flexibility for a certain kind of kick, a certain kind of flexibility to sit like that, to kick like this, to move. You need a certain kind of flexibility to add to it a certain beauty, because flexibility includes a beauty, includes also synchronization of the movement. Flexibility without synchronization? No.
I mean, everyone on earth doesn’t [necessarily] like ballet or the classical dance, but when you look at the way they do it and the grace in the movement, slowly, surely, and even when they go fast they are sloe, there is a certain kind of beauty. Which of course this is related to that kind of fraise, “the slow is smooth, the smooth is invisible” in the case of the practice. Everyone thinks that the martial arts should be done- or the technique should be done fast. Actually the more you do it fast, the damage you receive are faster, in both cases. I think, the word “flow”, which is really similar to the word “slow”, I think the flow is slow. You don’t really see it because it’s a flow. And flexibility is based on that.
“I wanted to explain to you about flexibility, because if you want to be accurate, you need to be flexible. If there’s one thing that you will notice about Hatsumi sensei, and even Takamatsu sensei, is their flexibility. Those that get to the age of 70 and keep on practicing, they are deeply flexible. Even for example, those that practice Taichi Chuan, Chigong, they have a certain kind of flexibility. So flexibility is the key, and also a certain type of muscle, a very long muscle. Actually what you practice is the inner muscle. I’ve explained this to many people: you have superficial muscle and inner muscle. It is the inner muscle that allows you to move from sitting to standing without showing anything. Because if you lean or anything while in armor, you can lose your balance and create openings. But by moving the inner muscles, you don’t need to lean. That’s why the way of standing up is to do so without showing many things. And this sort of moving, if you can do it in a very small area, imagine doing it in a wide area.
It has to be healthy, if you practice wrong, you hurt yourself. That’s a matter of fact. Look at the practitioners of karate, kendō, and aikidō, at the age of thirty, they start breaking down. This is because the classical martial arts and especially the nin schools [of the Bujinkan] are created for longevity, not for the physical education of children. That’s why with kid’s classes in the nine traditions all you can teach is jumping, dodging a sword, and throwing shuriken. Karate, teaches you exercises on how to move, it’s very easy because it was created for that.” (Kacem Zoughari, Margate 2009)
“The ‘Sanryaku’ (三略傳) is a treaty on Chinese heihô, attributed to the great military strategist Chiang Shang.
Oral traditions speak of the work being disseminated to Japanese warriors by the legendary Kiichi Hogan and secretly preserved from generation to generation, mainly because of the value of its contents in the field of the military organization and the pragmatic application of certain strategies in combat.
The Sanryaku was traditionally composed of the three following rollers: Jo-ryaku, Chû-rayku, and Ge-ryaku. We find this manner of separating the rollers or chapters from a treaty or work in many documents of transmission of techniques of combat of Japan. The lesson of the Sanryaku refers to one historical period, that of the Han dynasty, when the Han consolidated their political power. The essence of the Sanryaku deals mainly with administration and control of the government and army. Aside from some briefs passages, the discussions on the strategies to be carried out at the time of the various military campaigns or on the tactics of combat on the battlefield are absent.
The author of the Sanyraku concentrates his comments on the following points: rules necessary for the installation of a ruling government, administration of the army, unification of the people for a common objective, intrinsic qualities of the ideal general, methods to develop and maintain raw materials, the methods to motivate the subordinates and the soldiers, applications of the reward system and punishment, the art to maintain the relations with subordinate provincial lords, and the need for keeping a perfect control of an attitude which oscillates between flexibility and firmness. The fundamental lesson of Confucianism is obviously present in all the text, and particularly with regard to qualities which a general and his commanders must have.”
– Dr. Kacem Zoughari
“‘Seigan no kamae’ is a guard found in all Japanese sword traditions and is also utilized with virtually every type of weapon. It is thought that its origin is in the use of long weapons, such as the spear and the halberd. It evolved in battle situations where to attack by maintaining a strategic distance and not to be reached by the enemy was very important. The first ideogram, ‘sei’ (正), which has the reading of ‘tadashii’, means ‘correct’, ‘just’, ‘right’. The second ideogram, ‘gan’ (眼), which is also read ‘nemui’ and ‘nemuru’, means ‘to sleep’, ‘to be sleepy’, ‘the eye’. Often translated as ‘the correct eye’, which expresses that it is a question of penetrating the glance of the enemy to perceive his weaknesses. In practice, ‘seigan’ means to direct the point of the weapon and the hands towards the eyes of the enemy. The body must be ‘hidden’ behind the weapon or the empty hands. It is thus about a guard of combat which makes it possible to carry out any type of attack while, first of all, seeking to take the stability of the enemy and to scramble his sight. By hiding behind the weapon, the arms tend to direct the point of the weapon, or the hands in unarmed combat, towards the eyes of the enemy. The distance is thus lengthened and the body becomes one with the weapon which makes it possible to defend and to attack at the same time.”
– DR. KACEM ZOUGHARI
Presented by Kacem Zoughari, Transcribed by Luke Crocker (all endnotes are Luke’s)
The following footage contains excerpts from various seminars by martial arts historian Dr. Kacem Zoughari, Ph.D.
In order to use the word “school”… I am sure you have all heard about Japanese names like Gyokko-ryū (玉虎流), Takenouchi-ryū (竹の内流) , Togakure-ryū (戸隠流). The word “ryū” (流) that we translate by “school” in Japanese doesn’t mean “school”. It means, “Current”, “way of thinking”, “fashion”, “continuity”. So, when the people have created a new way of using the body or weapon it was not something completely set. It was just an idea that helped you to survive. And you need to wait at least five or six generations after that, what was just an idea becomes something very sophisticated, well explained, as a school. At this moment we use the word “school”. And you mostly use the word “school” when it is a peaceful era. When you don’t need to fight anymore.
The beginning of a school, the beginning of the art is, what you need to understand, is the first level, what we call “shoden” (初伝), the first transmission, the first level. This is the higher… highest transmission. So they used to teach always the top technique in order that if one day you lose the scroll, you lose something, you always, always can find your way. You cannot lose the school. Why? Because you understand what is the most important, and you can make it. So from that you can make what you want.
Nine schools means nine lives, and you don’t have nine lives. Okay, so you need to understand the principle called “Ninpō Taijutsu”, and this starts from Ichimonji (straight line; 一文字). That is why Gyokko-ryū kosshijutsu  and Kotō-ryū Koppōjutsu actually used to be the basics of Iga-ryū and Kōga-ryū, the two main schools of the ninja provinces. Koppōjutsu and Kosshijutsu are the basics of using everything.
On Training and Practice
Of course you can do whatever you want here. You can, when you strike here you can kick at the same time, you can do what you want. But what you want… is not what the Sōke wants. You have been to Japan… what you want is what YOU want. If you do correctly the first technique, after, what you want goes without saying. That’s why it’s important first to limit ourselves. Limiting ourselves is something correct. When this correct thing is known, respected, polished, practiced through the years… what you want becomes useless. Because what you want, is desire. Martial arts is to go against your own desire. If you really want to seek the real… that’s why it’s close to religion, at this moment, no desire, and no intention. If you have intention he will feel it. You understand?That’s why in the martial arts, all the primary schools, Takenouchi-ryū, Kage-ryū, Kashima Shin-ryū, Kashima Shintō-ryū, Tenshin Shoden Katori Shintō-ryū, Nen-ryū. All those primary schools, first they have a very strong rule. “Taiyu Shiai Nashi”, there is no fight against other schools. Why? If the guy loses, the winner knows about the techniques of the school, first… Second, if you never show the school. You never show that you practice martial arts. Techniques sometimes, even the name of the school… Sometimes people practice the technique, yet they don’t know the name of the school and the name of the technique. It was like a whisper… Like the primary beginnings of the books of religion. You have something like this that was already a treasure, so you keep it.
So martial arts was like that, you should not attack, you should not offense. And there is… most of the schools, most of the great founders never accepted the place of Shōgun (warlord) instructors, because they know that life is made of changement, and one Shōgun will overpass another one, etc., etc… and even if they are with them, they need to commit suicide. All the top masters never committed seppuku, never. That was just for stupid samurai, for the honor. Life has more value than the honor itself. Life, on itself, is an honor. So here, if you show, if you do, that’s wrong. That’s why, no intention, no desire. You need to practice for the sake of the practice, for the sake of love and for the sake of the people you love. And again, in the world of protection, you need to understand the word “cause”. Which cause?
So imagine now, for me, I’m just saying very easy words, it’s not very deep or very clever. Imagine someone like Hatsumi sensei. The level of the man. The reason why he practices, the reason of his practice, the reason of the practice of Takamatsu sensei, and before. Try to look at the way you practice yourself… I don’t ask the same… But if you respect that, already the way you practice will be more on the right way.
Of course, if you like to do things in order to… “Ah, I like my friends, it’s a group”, “It’s a social stuff”, it’s good. It’s like doing chess. But you cannot call this martial arts. You call this human relations. Martial arts is something more deep. It’s important that you know that, when you know that, after you can choose, and of course the choice is about you.
It’s very important for all of you to understand that there is… you see a master like Hatsumi sensei who have, uh… I don’t think you can use the word “knowledge” for Hatsumi sensei because he IS a knowledge… a human knowledge, walking… one knowledge. You look at him moving, he has a certain age, he has a certain process on the body, and he has met the right master, the right master put his life on his [Hatsumi’s] body. This man is not a man, he is a part of an art. And when he moves, you see his form is very difficult to identify, because we don’t have the process, we don’t have what we need, the mission piece to understand that.
So, oh, he moves like this, oh he uses his elbow, oh, he uses his hip… here it is: For him, “body” doesn’t have the same definition. “Elbow” doesn’t have the same definition. For example, he said here… “I use my elbow”, but his body is already on the angle. “Here I use my hip”, so people say “he used his hip”. The way he uses his hip, the way he has been educated in the way he uses his body, the way he disciplined his body, it’s out of our definition, and it’s completely different.
So that’s why they said in the martial arts, “you need to forget yourself.” In order to grasp what is right in front of you. Because copy… Ah, there is an old saying by Confucius, “if you copy the master, you die… if you follow him and you inspire yourself from him, you’ll survive.”
In the case of the martial arts, it’s different because the purpose is different. You practice for… challenge yourself every day. Not challenge yourself to challenge someone, challenge YOURSELF. A fight against yourself. It’s a fight against your bad habits, the way you are, for example… if you have a way to answer to talk to people which is a little bit disrespectful. It is also a way to be aware of every detail in life. So for a martial artist at that time, it’s to be aware of all the situations, who can kill me… if for example if I eat like that [head down], I cannot see here, so I’m going to eat like this [with the head up], my eyes are everywhere, I cannot do big movements, I go like this [subtle movements], I can throw like this [gestures with food bowl]… So for a master it was like that, so the art that we practice is created in this way. So when you polish your art and your body… by following this kind of form, it changes you.
Think that, every moment… try to realize and try to always have in mind that each of your movements that you do, even if it’s just a step or just a shift, inside is what you are looking for. There is a connection with the art. Even the way of sitting, the way of eating, the way of talking with people, the way of walking. And if you start to think like that, even if you have to do washroom or whatever, wash dishes, clean the house, in all those movements there’s martial arts, there is an efficiency to find. If you don’t do it, what you do is not martial arts, it’s just frequenting a class, and it’s just sports. Martial arts is everything. It’s like a religious man, he doesn’t only prey when he goes to the synagogue or to the church. Every moment of life he dedicates, he devotes himself to God. Just the act of drinking water becomes a prayer, and at this moment it’s not the Bible anymore that he reads it’s a connection directly. Think about that.
Those techniques are made, I’m sorry to say, under the blood of people. People have sacrificed their lives. Some people have lost family, everything, just to find one technique correct. Some people did revenge for understanding those techniques. So, they are born, they are created under something maybe nasty, maybe wrong, or maybe glorious, or maybe noble to protect yourself or whatever. So because of this, it’s not something light. That’s why I said to some people, “Put weight to what you do”. Weight doesn’t mean that you put your [physical] weight. Normally in martial arts, you should use your weight correctly. So that goes without saying. “Put weight” is put MEANING… be there, stay on the line, do correct, push him to move correct.
Some people said “real attack”, it’s impossible to do a real attack in the dōjō. You can fake the “real attack”. The people that can do the real attack are already on a level to control a lot of things. It’s not rushing yourself, it’s not to rush too much. You rush, there’s always a payback.
I know you’re tired. I know it’s more difficult to focus. I know all those kind of things because myself, I consider myself as a student. But this is the moment in classical martial arts, and especially ninjutsu, this is the moment where some are going to endure, persevere, and go deeper, and some are going to stop. It’s not a question of victory or fail, or lose, it’s who can keep going, keep on enduring, and remain patient, and that’s why it’s connected with life, nature, and many things because everyone can do that. But it’s until which limit? Which depth? Everyone is tired. Always think that you’re not alone. It will give you a bit of a boost. But it is very important, at the moment you’re tired, the moment your energy going to fail, your focus, your concentration going to go down, this is the moment where something might happen. That’s why holy men of the past you can find this everywhere, they always said, “The critical time, the more interesting time, moment, is at the end.” And it’s always like this in life. You sign the contract at the end, you talk one hour for nothing, but actually… and if you rush too much… that’s why wait.
Dispelling a Modern Myth
So in order to understand the art of sword, you need to understand long weapons. And long weapons are the best to educate and cultivate both sides of the body. Because you practice, there is both sides. In the sword there is only one side. And there is no record that says that you should practice the sword only from one side. Most of the primary schools you practice both sides, because it’s war and you need to face any type of man with whatever the weapon you have and whatever the hand you use. That’s why each scroll, it’s always written at the end “sayu” (左右), practice both sides. I don’t know if they knew all the impact of the neurophysiology, I don’t think so. But for sure, when you have to survive you need to know both sides. If you get hurt on the right hand, how you do? You said, “Stop, please, I will come back tomorrow when everything is alright”? No, he kills you and takes all your family, and that’s not cool.
You need to move always from kamae to kamae in order that when you do a movement he cannot touch you, he cannot grasp you, he cannot hurt you. Kamae is like your own shield, your own protection. Everything you do with kamae, every time you take a kamae, it’s a way of look, avoid, move the sword and the center of your enemy. Each time, kamae should be this in your mind. Not just a posture, if it’s this you make a big mistake. That’s why after Hatsumi sensei, and he have the right to say, like many masters, kamae is wrong, form is wrong because it makes you stiff. You need to understand the form or purpose, in order to break the form after.
Kamae is your life. Of course there is no form, but you can understand there is no form when you have the form. The question is, you cannot grasp something that you don’t know, that you don’t see. We talk about spirit, you talk about the heart, and you talk about the muscle, but you don’t know what happens inside. You don’t know how it is. It’s dark, you need the light. The light is the form. So again, if your form is right, your shadow is. Kamae means “spirit attitude”. Most people translate this as “position”. Kamae, the word kamae comes from Nō theater. The Nō, and from the Nō they create this.
Martial artists didn’t have words for explaining their world. So they used words, from everything, “Ah, that’s great, that looks like what I want to say to describe what I do.” But that doesn’t mean the word has to do with martial arts. So they used the word “kamae”, which means “spirit attitude”. Kamaeru (構える)! “Ready?!” But kamae means also, what your body reflects. Your kamae must reflect what you really are inside. And when you are “nothing”, you become muge (無碍), mu form, without form, formless. And if you look at the process of ninjutsu, the process of Hatsumi sensei’s practice, which is more important, and Takamatsu sensei’s practice because now we have the DVD of Takamatsu sensei so we can have a form, we can have an image, you know, to compare.
It’s like, for example, when you start a technique, you don’t know how to teach, “dak, where here… one… two… Ichimonji no kamae, and when I step for the tsuki, you can move.” (Demonstration of Ichimonji gata from Gyokko-ryū). This, normally this I should not talk about. When you start to do things like that, it is not koryū anymore. We call this “yakusoku” (arrangement; 約束). Yakusoku waza, yakusoku katachi. This kind of thing are put for people who don’t know martial arts. It’s a sports way of looking at koryū.
In koryū there is nothing like that, classical schools. He attack you need to be able to do the technique. If you cannot understand this type of distance (arm’s length), by yourself, just by your nose, and by everything you have, you cannot survive. Why? Because all those techniques were practiced by people who had experience in war and fighting. This is one of the reasons that when Hatsumi sensei met Takamatsu sensei when he was 27 years old, he was already as master of many things, and he could see the value of that very deeply. How a master like that could exist and know things like that? How a way of moving like this could exist?
“I’m 27, 5th dan in Jūdō, 6th dan in karate, I’m talking with all the top men, I know Ueshiba, Mabuni… I do boxing, Chinese martial arts… I have already more than one-hundred scrolls… I can beat anyone, I know all the martial arts that exist, and this old man, 70 years old does something I’ve never seen before! Let me know why?!” And you know the history after… He becomes sōke of the nine schools.
When your eyes can see big, what is small… Do you understand? Once again, when your eyes can see clearly, “CLEARLY”, that means all the image, of a small detail, I’ll let you imagine what you can see in people’s movements. This is what ninjutsu is about. That’s why ninjutsu is “invisible”. Invisible because it escapes from the regular image of using the body.
For people like Hatsumi sensei, and even Ishizuka sensei on a certain level, it’s the same thing. For them this is non nothing, this is NOT nothing. They will not give you what they sacrificed their full life for, if they do not trust you. If you transpose this for Takamatsu sensei and before that at a time where a knowledge like that was the meaning of surviving or being dead, the choice of the student, of a disciple, was VERY heavy.
Shinzui no ninjutsu 真髄の忍術 (Essence of Ninjutsu). Transcribed by Luke Crocker. Published by Anderson Gray. Perf. Kacem Zoughari. YouTube, 2015. YouTube Video. 11 March 2015. <https://youtu.be/f9c2KJwQVCU>.
Zoughari, Kacem. Ninja: Ancient Shadow Warriors of Japan. North Clarindon: Tuttle Publishing, 2010. Book.
 Shinzui no ninjutsu 真髄の忍術 “Essence of Ninjutsu”, the kanji of this was shown in the title within the video itself.
 Takenouchi-ryū 竹内流, is the oldest school of jūjutsu of Japan for which hone has reliable documents of transmission. This allows one to follow the affiliations of the school since its creation by Takenouchi Nakatsu Kasadayū Hisamori (1503-1596). It is by far the most important school of jūjutsu in japan because it gave rise to the different branches of jūjutsu, kenjutsu, bukijutsu, and so forth.
 Shoden 初伝 “First transmission”. It is important here to understand this not as a “beginning level” or “basic level” as so many do, but instead as “the beginning of the school’s transmission”, as in the earliest development of the tradition itself – at a later level of polishing and tempering of course.
 Ninpō Taijutsu 忍法体術 “Principles of endurance, perseverance, and valor applied to the science of the body”, an exceedingly subtly method of utilizing the body to gather information on the enemy in close combat while mitigating the amount of information provided to them.
 Kosshijutsu 骨指術 “Science of the bones of the hand”, a system of striking, grappling, and massage applied with the structure of the hands to softer parts of the body, as well as tendons and ligaments.
 Koppōjutsu 骨法術 “Science of the principles of the skeletal structure”, a system of combat , as well as bone and muscle alignment focused on utilizing the skeletal structure of the human body to disrupt and damage the structure of the enemy. From this an understanding of Seitai (Chiropractory; 整体) developed as well.
 Nen-ryū 念流, is one of the principle branches of kenjutsu (science of the sword; 剣術), being founded at the start of the Muromachi period (Approx. 1337 to 1573 CE) by Sōma Shirō Yoshimoto (相馬四朗義元), who later became a monk and changed his name to Jion Nen Washō (慈音念和尚). The name “Nen” (念), is not arbitrary, and refers to one of the highest level lessons of the school. Referring to the ability to detect motives and intentions in the enemy’s movements. This went on to influence such schools as Kage-ryū (影流), Shinkage-ryū (新影流), Nitō-ryū (二刀流), and so on.
 Shuhari 守破離 “protect, break, and distance”, referring to learning the form (to protect it, not losing anything), destroy (break away from the structure or habit the form builds), distance (surpass and leave behind the form).
Always ichimonji no kamae (一文字之構). Always, always, always. It needs to become your nature, not second nature. Human nature, you only have a second. Ichimonji, not second-monji, it’s Ichimonji. Not ni-monji (二文字), san-monji (三文字), yon-monji (四文字), its ichi. Inside he has jūmonji (十文字), and Hichō (飛鳥), so he is “one”.
It’s going to be a lot of work for us. In Ichimonji no kamae, you need to have it [all] at the same time – lock and strike with one step. It’s not like “I lock, I step, and I strike.” Because if he does one step and he punch for example, one step one strike. I need to respond to that in the same way. If I respond with four or five steps, that’s not effective. And if you practice all your life, four or five steps against one step, what is going to happen? You are going to have to use speed. The speed, the force means frustration, and means tension.