2012 Mexico City - Bushinden Kai - Shihan Duncan Stewart

Thoughts on the the future of the Bujinkan and the responsibility of it`s teachers and students.

Many dojos around the world want to follow the way of training as experienced in the Honbu Dojo in Japan.

Unfortunately, people do this without giving much thought to their actual current ability and, the ability of their students. As a result, we often see people demonstrating skills and techniques that have no “bone”, or “skeleton” to the movements. To develop a sound base is to come to develop a working knowledge of the Kihon within the Kihon and, develop the body. If you neglect good, repetitive training, your body will take longer to understand the movements.

In the Bujinkan, people are talking more than training. At times, the talking is a cover for their lack of skill or actual taijutsu ability. It is time for people to really start training well.

Nagato Shihan has said that many of the older teachers in the Bujinkan are surviving on reputation and not based on their actual skill level. There are many younger people that have passed them in actual ability and, this is not good. If the Teacher continues to train ( and not just teach ) then this should not happen.

Over 30 years ago, Soke used to begin training with a short meditation, junan taisou and then kihon. This kihon was done in a circle and performed solo. Eg: Kicks, strikes, kamae, ukemi, jumping, etc. This lasted for the first hour and everyone would be dripping in sweat. Nowadays in the Honbu, we do not see this. Why?

The Japanese have done this training and are entering old age. They are training according to their age and skill. What is funny is, the younger generation have blindly started to train the same way. This is just foolish and an obvious showing of a lack of understanding. Upon conversing with the Shihan, they say that people are weak nowadays and need to train harder and correctly. Nagato Shihan told me that people cannot even punch or block properly and that teachers around the world are teaching students not to use power too early. It is important to remember that these statements of not using power, kamae,kata etc, are directed to the people that should have already trained hard in the basics.The 15th dans. He is not talking to shodans, green belts or white belts. Up until 4th dan, the student is expected to train hard to develop a sound body and skills. Look at the skills and training other martial arts do. They are fit, strong, flexible, develop sound technique and a strong martial spirit. Many Bujinkan Dojos are like “social groups“ rather than “Martial Arts Dojos!”

Look at the Japanese shihan. Their movements are precise, structured and correct. Yet, they are relaxed, and move very naturally, capturing the timing,flow and distance of their uke.

We all want to achieve this same skill but, how do we do it? In my eyes and experience, you do it through looking at how they trained in the past. This will give you an indication of what is necessary to get closer to the ability you desire. If you do not put in the hard work, feel pain, sweat, and taste some blood, then maybe, you are just “playing”?

Soke says to “play”. However, many people take this too literally and just go off and do whatever they like. If their technique fails, they just go and do a henka. Henka is something you do after you can do the technique. Because, henka is based on technique. If it wasn`t, where is it coming from? The void? What void is this? Your void?

This Bujinkan seminar will challenge everything you thought you knew or thought you could do well. After 22 years of training, I was told I had a bad habit in my jodan uke. So, I now train in Jodan uke a lot. You have never fully understood or mastered something. If you think you have, you are falling away from the martial heart and the spirit of a three year old child. Around the world, I see people extremely confident in their abilities that are in fact, quite laughable. In saying that, it is important to always search for your shortcomings. No one is going to show you. You have to find them yourself. If you keep the mind of a student, then you will see your strengths and weaknesses. This is very important. Being in a class is also the best way to “see”. That is why it is important to train under a teacher and not to become a teacher yourself. When you do teach, it is about your learning. It is about becoming better yourself. Your students will see this and become inspired and have more respect for you. Don`t stand there and tell people what to do. If you do, you have to ask yourself, “ can I actually do what I told them to do? Can I actually demonstrate that well?”

Noguchi san said to me that he is training. He is not teaching. He trains at his own pace and flows as he wants. He keeps control of his own training. This is the way training should be. Don`t be a teacher. Transmit from training. Your students will learn that way.

Soke has said the same. “ If you become a teacher, you will become a slave to your students!”

I was in Mexico last year and we did basics. I stood at the front and made people repeat basic movements over and over. People were puffing, and could not do it. I remembered that one of the Japanese shihan said to me that he thought the average Bujinkan godan would loose to a Karate or Judo Shodan. He said no one trains hard anymore. He understands that people around the world would look at many Bujinkan dojos and laugh. I was surprised to hear this, but not really.

People say that this is a real fighting art, but many people have never experienced a confrontation. It is not the art, but the person. Don`t blame the art if you fail. You must look at yourself and your training, your character. Many people are hiding behind their high ranks. There are very few people that actually demonstrate real ability and understanding of budo taijutsu in my eyes. And, I am not one of them.

Doing what you want because you cannot do basics or feel they are not relevant because you are small and have no strength is, sorry to say, a bad excuse.

Look at the late Oguri Shihan. He was a small built man, however, he had no problems controlling his uke both large and small. Why? Because he followed the teachings of Soke.

Regardless of if you are a small man or woman, etc, we all need to train in the fundamentals and get good at them. Any other way is to fall short of being a martial artist.

The secrets to controlling larger opponents are in the kihon. If you do not take the time to really discover these things, your skill will be lacking and, you will change the training to suit you. But, if you do this, are you really doing Bujinkan, or are you doing your own style based on your lack of ability or desire to endure with the basics?

Persevere with the Kihon and fundamentals of our art. There is much to learn. As a result, you will develop strength, flexibility, techniques, and the warrior spirit. If you still feel weak, you can add a weapon to your taijutsu. This is Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu Happo Biken.

The Bujinkan Shitenno in Japan demonstrate numerous variations, however, you can see their kihon in every movement. They move with structure. They have not left their kihon, they are using it. It is the basis of all their movement. They are our guides. Therefore, please watch your teacher closely.

Just like in Karate classes, we see the instructor at the front training and, training hard. The students follow his/her lead. In Mexico I did the same. The hosts came to me and said “ you are the first teacher that we have seen that actually trains. Everyone else shows a few techniques and then teaches. “

Yes, this is the case in the Bujinkan. It is ok for the Japanese, they are old men now. But still, some of them train in their own classes like this!
As long as the teacher is training, they will maintain a strong leadership in the dojo. But, if they don`t, the students will surpass them in skill level eventually.

This Bushinden Kai ( gathering to honor the teachings of our warrior ancestors ) will be to become more aware and discover ways we can better practice ourselves and therefore assist the future generation of the Bujinkan.

I will do my best to transmit aspects of training that I feel very important. I will be training as much as possible to improve myself as well.
I hope we can enjoy the training together and grasp the “kaname” of many things over the course of the seminar.

Duncan Stewart