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Distance and Time, Ma-Ai


The study of distance and time is essential in the martial arts. In Japan, there is a word “ma-ai” which could be said to be the study, application, or the use of distance and time. With distance and time all problems can be solved!

The once gleaming palaces for kings and queens now lay in rubble where only foxes play and birds sing in the trees that grow in the ruins.  The Kings and queens, for all their court affairs, have vanished. Evaporated into the air with distance and time. If you can correctly understand distance and time, your life can become easy and joyous like the foxes and birds.Screenshot_2020-06-16 All sizes Happy foxes playing Flickr - Photo Sharing

My teacher often called his art the martial arts of distance and time.  Ma Ai. It is written with the characters, space/gap 間, and the character 会, meaning to come together or meet. It conveys the space between two objects, and the timing involved in an interaction or aligning of the two.

The distance between two objects or opponents, although often quantified with measurements, can also be vague and elusive.

One meter can be made to appear farther than it is and conversely can also be made to appear closer than reality.   Movement can also appear to be very fast when, in fact, you are moving very slowly and, at the same time,  can appear to be slow when you are moving quickly.

Just as the passage of time can feel different depending upon the situation, time flies when you’re having fun.Time can also drag when things aren’t so happy. As a child, one hour of math class seemed an eternity.  But the hour for play seemed over before it started.

Now as a father every day passes in the blink of an eye and I wish it would slow down like those lazy childhood days.  Some people report a sensation of the slowing of time when in dangerous situations or accidents, as if they were in slow motion. (myself included)

Distance starts with knowing where you are in space. Take the surface of a ball, like a basketball, and use it to represent the universe.  Forgetting for a moment the mathematical inadequacies of the example, wherever you place your finger on the ball, can be the center of the surface of the ball. Understanding that every point can and will be the center of the universe is an interesting to place to start! With an appreciation that all objects have a gravitational pull, the space between two objects becomes full indeed. Space no longer seems empty but becomes an almost tangible and malleable substance. This manipulation of timing and space or, in Japanese jiki and kukan, can be considered an aspect of Ma Ai.  With an understanding of these aspects, the feeling of Ma Ai will start to thrive in you.

My teacher loved to play with words and puns. He often interchanged the Chinese characters to create more subtle nuances for greater understanding and contemplation.  Many years ago, he changed Ma to devil and Ai to love which could be translated, among other ways, as love of the devil. But it has nothing to do with good or evil but an appreciation of the dedicated effort one must make to see the Ma Ai and the bravery needed to enter and manipulate it.

Perhaps if you love your demons enough, their horns will drop off and they can become angels!


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Secret Transmission,Togakure Ryu Ninpo!

To thank you all for your generosity during this pandemic.  To show my great appreciation, I will try to translate bits of this book by Hatsumi Sensei that stand out to me.   This is one of my favorite books by Hatsumi Sensei and continues to shine bright even after 40 years or so.  Wisdom has a timeless beauty and this book is packed with gems.

This is the very first passage in the book and sets the theme and tone of the book.  Therefore I have decided to start at the beginning.  If this brightens your day or gives you some new inspiration in your training and study, it will most certainly brighten my heart as well!  Feel free to join our chats as well.  Now, lets jump in!

Poster 1

Philosophy of the Martial Way, Philosophy of the Way of Nin

This chapter forms the basis and main theme of this book. Therefore I would be delighted if you read it several times to capture the essence of it.

The Philosophy of Budo, the martial way.

In a grander view, the martial arts are used for the protection of ones` country. In a smaller view, they are used for the protection of the people and for the protection of oneself.

It could be said that striking with a sword using technique and artistry is martial arts. If you were to say that simply striking relying on brute strength in the arms and body is martial arts, then one could foolishly assert that chopping wood is a marital art!

The art of the sword is the study of the proper place, timing, truth of the, way to strike. Just as knowing the manner of wood or way in which a log can be split would be considered true wood chopping.

Using technique is an art. And the basis of art is in the heart. If the heart is not correct, there can be no progress. If the heart is not developed, there can be no understanding (of a proper way, greater truth). This understanding (of a proper way, greater truth) is similar to art. If actions are not proper (aligned with a greater truth and understanding), there can be no art.

True victory lies not with oneself but with the opponent. The opponent will naturally offer us the key to victory. Do not seek victory yourself but allow it come naturally to you. For it will come to you as surely as a spark is born when metal strikes flint.

It matters little if you are an Eighth degree black belt or a Master, it proves nothing. You must only taste deeply the essence of the most beautiful, subtle, and mysterious technique; If you think it exits, it does not. If you believe it is not, it is.

When the energy of the heart and the sword become one, this is the origin of the martial way.


I hope you enjoyed this! Thank you for all your support! and if you would like to make a contribution for the continuation of this work, please click the link below.

Otakaraya Antique store in Yokohama

Otakaraya Antique store in Yokohama posted by Tomoe

Paul and I like to look around antique stores to find  good  old Japanese stuff. It is a truely joy to decorate our Kasumi An Study Center with old Japanese antiques. We have a few favorite antique stores, but we think this place is the best.

They sell western cups and arts on 1st floor. But upstairs they sell really ancient swords, scrolls, and other antiques. Every time we go there, we talk with the guy at shop(I forgot his name).  He gives very useful information about the swords and other antiques. We like this shop not only because their selection is so good, but also because he is such a nice guy.  His knowledge is deep and wide .He has more than 300 katana in his personal collection and he told us he must clean a few swords every day one by one just for maintenance!  Chatting with him is so much fun. Unfortunately he does not speak much English, if you can understand a little bit of Japanese, you will enjoy this shop very much!


Here is the photos from this store.

Human Bonsai!

bonsai1Over the last twenty three years here in Japan, I often have the pleasure and honor to translate for my teacher Masaaki Hatsumi Soke. Often a student has a question that he would like to ask. It is a always a delight to be able to help facilitate communication between teacher and student. So many questions and so many unexpected answers! One episode comes to mind.

A student asks, “Why are some people friendly to your face but then are hurtful and mean behind your back?”.

Sensei replies nonchalantly, “that is just how people are made.”. As I translate, I can see the look of confusion cross the students` faces. I too am at a bit of a loss. So the question is asked again and once again the answer is the same,”that is just how people are made.”.  Then Sensei looks up into space and asks me, “Paul, have you ever seen a bonsai?”. (small miniature Japanese art trees)I nod my head “yes”. In fact, I had just taken some friends to a bonsai garden the day before so I was a bit surprised by the sudden question about bonsai. He continues, “it is like a bonsai, people are made. You can make a person any way. But it is not natural. You would not go to a forest and find a bonsai. It is not a natural state. But you can twist a bonsai into any shape you want. People are the same.”

How true! Just the prior day I was remarking on the branches of the bonsai. Each branch wrapped with wire and forced to go this way or that way. Every branch! bonsai3Each branch wrapped in wire and forced to take a seemingly natural posture or kamae. And how unnatural it really is. We, too, as humans, each being wrapped in the culture, politics, education, religions and beliefs of those around us and society. Some people wrapped as capitalists, some marxists, some Christians, some Muslim. But all are being bound by the conditioning of the environment and society. Then what you think are your own thoughts can betray you.  In a tragic conclusion, we often we take a kamae or stance for or against another wrapped up in a different shape. Both unaware of the wires that trap them in this position.

Unwrapping these wires and constraints is an important step in the practice of Ninjustu. A true ninja will become free and his tree will grow strong and pure into a natural state in accordance with the natural state of his existence. A Ninja is able to explore his true essence in infinite space. That is why in the Go Jou or Five Precepts as taught by my teacher, a constant diligence and watchfulness to your true path is essential. First become aware of where you are now. What shape are you now? When your shape become visible, start unwrapping!

Kan Nin Dokuso (part one)


Artist: Paul Masse 2007. Inscription: 天上天下唯我独

“In the all the heavens and earth, only I am exalted!”

Kan Nin Dock Son is a phrase you may hear around the Bujinkan dojo this year. Is it the theme for the year? Maybe, maybe not. Who knows?! But whether it is a theme or not is really not important, it should give you something to ponder and explore this year in addition to your continued practice of the physical movement and techniques. Kan Nin 貫忍, steadfast and single-minded perseverance all the way. Doku Son 独尊、to be revered or exalted. It most likely refers to a story of the Buddha. The story is, when he was born, the Buddha took seven steps and pointed one finger up and one finger down and exclaimed, “In the all the heavens and earth, only I am exalted!”.  What is this elusive I? Some think of it as me, my name, age ect. But you would lose some of the poetry. Who are you when your name, age, social status are stripped away. Going deeper, who are you when the body is stripped away and the mind faded and gone, and even your conscience vanishes like smoke after a fire?Maybe you have heard the Gokui (inner teachings) Persevere the body, Persevere the heart, and Persevere the conscience.

Your body had plopped out of this earth and it will dissolve back into the earth. No matter how good they wrap you like a mummy! But what of a natural energy? A power of nature that drives the seasons, sings thru a myriad of creatures? This power that keeps the clouds drifting and the water flowing, and an infinite number of stars alight? This natural power, the natural power of life is what we must become aware. When you have persevered thru all, this power will shine. Hatsumi Sensei once said to me, “it is like in the movies, when someone opens a treasure box, and their face is lit up by the golden light of the treasure.”. I really like this image. This is the treasure of Nin or Ninpo, 忍宝。 Kan Nin will help to uncover it. Be like Indiana Jones and go treasure hunting. The treasure is so near! When you uncover it, you won’t need to be and air bender or water bender or fire bender. You will know that you have been bending them all the time!

人心看破術 Jin Shin Kan Pa Jutsu


Visitor at the Kasumian.  Even though the dragonfly has two big eyes, They won`t help him with Jin Shin Kan Pa Jutsu.  Which eyes do you see with?

The other day I was in the dojo training when a friend who has not been in Japan came in and greeted me. His boyish good looks still evident but under a layer of new chubbiness. (Hopefully due to a good life overseas) My initial thought was “Wow, he`s gained some weight!”. Of course, as learned etiquette demands, I did not mention it and we began training. About five minutes later Hatsumi Sensei comes walking over and greets him with a hearty “Hello! Good to see you” and “Oh I see you have gotten fat!”. Well I almost fell over and the three of us burst out laughing. As I was catching my breath I hear my friend say to Sensei, “Yes it`s true, I have gained weight and my hair is changing to gray. I wasn`t sure that you would recognize me.”. Sensei replied, “of course I know you!”. What he said next was very interesting. He pulled us together and speaks, ” I may forget a face, and I may forget a name but I never forget the mood or feeling of person. This is important, to understand someone`s mood or the feel of that person.”.

Instantly, I am thrown back in time to last October (2015), Halloween, I had dressed as Harry Potter and came to the dojo early to joke around with my friends. After having a nice laugh with everyone in the dojo and before Sensei arrived, I changed into my dogi but kept the wig and wire rim glasses on; thinking I might fool Sensei. Some Japanese say all foreigners look alike anyways! A few minutes pass and Sensei enters the dojo and barely glances at me as he walks by. Immediately I know he knows. For he would have certainly greeted a new comer more warmly. I ask “Sensei, how did you you know it was me?”. He looks back over his shoulder at me and says “Of course, I know it`s you. I don’t look at the outside, I look at the inside of everyone.”.

A few days later, I am thinking about these two events when again I am thrown back in time to about ten years ago when Sensei used to tell us the importance of the art of Jin Shin Kan Pa Jutsu. The art of reading, seeing, sensing the heart, intent, feel of a person. To know a person instantly, know his intent, his heart, clear or dark. The importance of not being fooled by outwardly appearances. If you are always taken with the outwardly shapes, forms, colors of the people and things around you will often miss their truth, their intent, their nature – good or bad. This can lead a multitude of troubles, from being swindled in love and money, to more perilous, dangerous or even life threatening situations. The ninja often used the opposite of this, henso jutsu (disquise) to hide in plain sight. Often in our training, we enjoy the practice of the more outwardly and sometimes fun henso jutsu practice but forget about the this equally important inner ability. With consistent practice to nurture a calm clear heart, the art will naturally and surely take root. The ninja must endeavor to master both the inner and outer arts to ensure a safe and a happy return.

中今(Naka Ima) Here and now are the only realities.




Enter a caption

This is a work of art for my friend Matthew by Hatsumi Soke. It reads in large characters, Divine Dragon (神龍) and in ancient “Age of the Gods” characters (kamiyomoji), Shiken haramitsu Dai Koumyo. Sensei often writes this for people who are having difficulties with health or as a general Omamori or talisman for protection.






When my good friend Willy Iglesia went to Japan at the tender age of 18 to train with Ninja Master Hatsumi Masaaki, his first lesson was an unexpected one.  Hatsumi Sensei took him to a restaurant and ordered two plates heaping with vegetables for the two of them.  Willy, being a young man from Argentina, (people form Argentina eat a lot of meat! How much? Well, think of a whole hell of a lot of meat and then think even more!) So Willy, looking at the plate of greens, says “Sensei, I don`t eat vegetables.”. The reply from Ninja Master Hatsumi, “First lesson, now eat vegetables!”.

We often forget the foundation upon which our Ninpo is based.  A healthy body/mind organism.  In his very first books on Ninpo, Hatsumi Sensei stresses the importance of proper nutrition and exercise.  Yet often we are controlled by our senses, eating and partaking in activities solely to please the greedy senses. My yogi teachers would say, “you are eating donuts to please the tongue while the liver dies in silence.”. These words I can never forget.  If you look deeply at this one sentence, you may grab the essence  of the Rokon Shojou 六根清浄  (禄魂笑浮)teachings of several years ago as well.

I  train a small Bujinkan group in Yokohama and have had the good fortune to meet Matthew Dons who became an ardent supporter, student and good friend. Matthew was recently diagnosed with stage four cancer having spread to many systems in his body. He is 36 years old with two small children. The prognosis is that he most likely has only a few months to live.  We live our life as if we have an unlimited amount of time.  Once I was speaking with Hatsumi Sensei about the later years of life. He said, “Don`t think about the later years, right now, these are the later years of your life.  live now. this is naka ima! (中今).”. Be in the middle of right now. The Buddha once said, “life is but a single breath.” How deeply can we live and love in this moment.  Often we think, when I get there, I will be happy then.  Remember, there and then are fictions. Here and now are the only realities.

If you are able and would like to help, please click the link below  to help Matthew fund his treatment and other expenses in this difficult time. We are hoping to extend his life for a few more precious moments to be with his family.  Wishing you all health and happiness, Now!

A side note. We once announced an opening party for Kasumian Study Center a year and a half ago, Matthew is the only one who showed. He came all the way from Yokohama to support us.  I am very grateful for the time we spent together. Thank you for being there Matthew.  Buyu 武友、武祐、武勇。All are pronounced Buyu. Martial friend, martial divine help, martial courage.  They are all of them you and may they continue to be with you!





Yoga Retreat at Kasumi An Study Center (July17-18, 2016)

Rejuvenate body and mind on an yoga retreat in Chiba on July 17 – 18. You will take three yoga classes and have some healthy food. This retreat is for sharing Paul and Tomoe’s experiences and practice ideas from India. You can expect to sweat a little, laugh a lot, meet new friends, have a great time, and with a little luck, discover something awesome! This retreat is open to students of all levels.

* Drop in is welcome! 2,000 yen per class.

【The Daily Schedule】

July 17(Sun)
15:30 Arrival
16:00 – 17:30 : Opening + Yoga(Paul)
18:00 – 19:30 : Hot spring & Relaxation
20:00 – : Dinner

July 18(Mon)

9:00 – 11:00 : Asana + Pranayama(Tomoe)
11:00-12:00 : Pick up Vegetables at our garden
12:00 – 14:00 : Lunch
14:00 – 14:50 : Yoga Philosophy(Paul)
15:00 – 15:50 : Meditation(Tomoe)

【The Cost】
The price of the retreat includes;
3 Yoga Classes
1 night accommodation in Kasumi An Study Center
Lunch & Dinner
Total price is 14,500 yen.

You can pay when you arrive at the Center.

You will stay in a private room or share a room with another friend. We will prepare towels, shampoo, and conditioner.

6-94 Miyazaki Noda-shi Chiba




Zen Tai 全体

When you come to Japan, you may often hear the expression `zen tai`.  Simply translated, it means 全 whole/complete and 体 body/essence.  In the dojo, Hatsumi Sensei uses this to describe the movement to which we should aspire in our taijutsu, moving with our whole body, integrated and one.  In the beginning it is natural that we move our hands and feet in a disconnected and often awkward manner.  Think of it as puberty!  We are always a bit embarrassed when your family pulls out a picture of us from our awkward years.  So it is natural to go thru an awkward puberty again in taijutsu! Maybe this is what keeps us young on the path.  It seems I am constantly going thru puberty in my taijutsu trying to keep up with my teacher! But once we pass thru puberty, we begin integration.  Learning to move as an adult, as a human, from the essence of humanity.

In my dojo in Japan, Kasumian Study Center, I often use a trick my teacher taught me.  I strap the arms of my students to their sides to force them at first to move physically from their center and whole.  Look at the word holy, when you are moving from the whole as one, from your very essence, you become holy.   Your movement can take on a sacredness.  But don`t get caught in religion here.  Think of it more naturally, when standing near a waterfall, small droplets of water hitting your cheeks can feel refreshing.  They are individual drops separate from the stream, they have broken away and become separate.    Now stand under the waterfall and feel the crushing force of all the drops that are moving as one.  Even a small waterfall can effect enormous  power because it is moving wholly.

onamiThis reminds me of a zen parable about a great wrestler named OoNami (Big Wave)  He was of great build unstoppable in practice, throwing all opponents with ease. Even his teachers could not keep up with him during training, such was his ability and stunning techniques. But before every match, without fail, he would get so nervous and cowardly that he could barely stand and he would lose every competition. He would even lose to his students. He was fractured, not moving as one, he was disconnected. Just a bunch of moving parts, not crystallized as one.  He was so frustrated that he went to a Zen master for help.  The Zen master told him, “if your name is big wave, don’t think of yourself as a cowardly wrestler. But imagine yourself to be a great huge wave! A tsunami that engulfs and washes away all in your path! If you can see that, you will become instantly the number one wrestler in the country. You will beatable!”. In the temple that evening, he tried hard to envision himself a wave but his thoughts were disturbing him. Then slowly he started to feel the wave growing in him. As it grew later in the evening, the wave grew too, washing away the flower vases around him. The wave grew stronger still and washed away the statues of the deities in temple. And yet it grew bigger, washing away the temple and finally it engulfed the whole grounds of the temple washing everything away.  At that moment, the master spoke, “You have done it! You will be unstoppable like this wave now.”. From that day on he moved as the ocean, with the force and power of great waves, like a tsunami.  He became the number one wrestler in the land, sweeping away his opponents with ease.  He became the tsunami.  He became integrated and whole, each cell and fiber moving as one.  Hatsumi Sensei would often tell us to become like a tsunami. A series of unconnected attacks or techniques will not defeat an opponent. But a connect whole, a flow, a wave like a tsunami will fell the toughest opponent.  Zen Tai, whole essence, whole body, imagine you are the tsunami, and flow with natural power and rhythm!

Shin Shin Shin Gan 神心神眼

Shin Shin Shin Gan is an expression you may hear during your training in Japan.  It can be translated as the heart and the eyes of the divine.  Shin 神 (kami, sacred, divine) Shin 心 (heart) Shin 神 Gan 眼 (eyes). Shin Shin Shin Gan.  shinshinshingan

Your eyes can be easily deceived.  In fact, all of our limited senses can be easily deceived.  Just think of the magician that makes a tiger appear in an empty box.  The tiger is not appearing out of the air, it is skillfully hidden in the unseen compartments of the box or stage.  But we are very surprised.  We pay a lot of money to see magicians fool our eyes and senses.  Sometimes it is pleasant to be fooled and sometimes not so pleasant.  The ladyboys in Thailand love fooling the love hungry soldiers coming in off the ships! Maybe it is best they never know the truth!

It reminds me of a story.  In the honbu dojo in Noda, Hatsumi Sensei has a picture in the dojo of a woman putting on makeup.  He once told me it represents Yamato Takeru No Mikoto, a Japanese legendary prince of the Yamato Dynasty. To kill a very powerful enemy, he once dressed as a woman maid attendant at a drinking party and successfully assassinated his opponent.  Yamato_Takeru_at_16-crop

Even a picture in the dojo fooled me. You may even be looking at something directly for many many years and not know what it truly is!

A true ninja cultivates the heart and eyes of the divine.  Not seeing with just the eyes, not listening with just the ears, not tasting with just the tongue, not smelling with just the nose, not feeling with just the hands.  If you don`t cultivate yourself, you will be fooled over and over.  You will continue to chose poorly and find yourself at the point of your opponent`s blade.  This is true for choosing teachers as well, if you choose wisely, you will have a wonderful experience. Choose poorly, and you will find yourself on a dark and perilous road.  But don`t worry, in the end, both will die!

Those that have cultivated the heart and eyes of the divine are like sunflowers.  They don`t choose any more.  They just move.  When the sun rises in the easy, they turn their faces to the light, when the light moves to the west, they turn their faces westward.  Moving with the light, they don`t choose, they just move in the direction of light naturally, without thought.  A true ninja is like a sunflower, it is hard to judge him because we are always fooled choosing this or that, but he is always moving naturally with the light.Sunflower-Sunset-HD-Images-Wallpaper1