Category Archives: Gokui

The Skipping Stone


The Skipping Stone

Ishi Tobashi  石飛ばし (Mizu Kiri 水切り)

By now, you may have heard that Hatsumi Sensei is using the analogy this year (2015) of a skipping stone to convey aspects of his martial art movement to us, his students. It is a wonderfully poetic expression to help us understand a very natural occurrence. When you skip a stone across water, it naturally skips across the surface in an easy natural way. According to the contact with the surface of the water, any waves, wind, etc., it moves naturally and freely to the next point of contact until it`s momentum is exhausted. The stone is free and moving without attachment to a particular point on the water. Imagine if the stone got attached to a certain point and said, `I like this spot. I think I will stop here.`. It would sink itself. It would find itself drowning all to soon. But all too often as martial artists, we find ourselves attached to a certain technique or idea, even ideas of what martial arts are or are not! By getting caught up in fixed ideas or techniques, we often find ourselves struggling, trying desperately to tread water with the weight of our ideas and techniques pulling us down into the dark depths. There is a Gokui (inner secret) that Sensei shared with us. When you are bogged down with no chance, only by throwing ourselves away (sutemi 捨て身)will a new tide rise and carry us along. This is a teaching worth reading over several times. Like they say in Japan about dried squid, the more you chew it the more flavorful it becomes!

In terms of Taijutsu (body movement art), the skipping stone gives us a nice image of moving naturally from one position to the next without getting stuck physically or mentally on a certain point or technique. As well, it asks us to move in a fluid connected way based on the movement of the opponent or uke. Based on the movement of the uke is very important. The movement of the uke helps determine and even dictates our next shift. Like the condition of the water and the wind help determine the next point of contact of the stone. Trying to do a certain movement without regard to the opponent`s movement, can be disastrous! The stone skips naturally from point to point. So should we, as martial artists, move without greed or intent of a determined outcome, naturally from point to point as lead by the movement of uke. We must learn how and when to let go, release, and move to the next natural space. Learning to let go is of utmost importance to the martial artist.

Hatsumi Sensei wrote a beautiful kakejiku (hanging scroll) for a student and friend of mine. (Alan-the Malteze falcon) It reads 飛石神道。Flying Stone Divine Path. The character Kami (神) can be interpreted many ways. Divine, Nature, Godly etc. If you recall the saying from Shinden Fudo Ryu `Ultimate Nature`(自然至極)Shizen Shigoku, you may find a feeling that fits with you. Can we touch this natural path? Can we connect with it in our arts and life? Of course. In fact we already are. we just need not block it, we must practice letting go, sutemi. Physically by releasing grips and techniques that are not working and mentally by not trapping ourselves in set ideas, thinking, and predetermined movement. And perhaps in a more humanistic way by parring away the unnecessary and rediscovering a more natural stance. Only when we can develop the sensitivity to let go, can we begin to move with the essence of the skipping stone. Feeling and sensing the grand power of nature flowing in, through, and around all.

Bufu Ikkan



Kajou Chikusei


Kajou Chikusei.

I often write Kajou Chikusei in my calligraphy, paintings and pottery. It seems like it was one of the first gokui (inner teachings) of Ninjutsu that Hatsumi Sensei taught me. So it feels natural to share it with you here as I start this new journey at the kasumian. At the kasumian, you will find many paintings and references to this teaching though out the center. Here is a translation of Sensei talking about Kajou Chikusei from way back in 1964. Before I was even born! I hope you enjoy.

Kajou Chikusei,
This means that if you want to reach to the highest inner teachings of Ninjutsu, you must have the kindness of the flower in your heart and the pliability/flexibility (sunao) and straightness and up righteous heart (masugu) of the bamboo.

This is the heart of the martial path, the warriors heart. And the warrior`s heart is, as it almost goes without saying, the pure heart (magokoro).

If the ninja does not have this heart, it simply becomes only a skillful manipulation of the forms of ninjutsu. Something quite ordinary. low, vulgar, and worldly. (俗物- zoku butsu).

*Sunao has the idea of being honest and pliable in an accepting way, kind of opposite to hard headed or stubborn. For example, a sunao person can accept well founded criticism and new ideas.

Here is the original Japanese for those who wish to read the original.


これが、やはり日本の武道の心、武心なのですね。 そして、武心とは、とりもなおさず真心ということなのです。

悟光護心 Gokou Goshin

20150306_185942-1Kannon Sama drawn for my friend Jess with the characters Go Kou.

悟光護心 Gokou Goshin

Many of my Bujinkan friends have asked me to write on the topic of this year`s theme of the Bujinkan dojo as written by Grand Master Hatsumi. First and foremost, perhaps this is better not thought of as a theme for the year, but more of a guiding principle for your martial arts and indeed life. The characters, as written, are Enlighten, Light, Protect, and Heart. Short and succinct but deep and profound as many of life`s simple things are. It reminds me of the Heart Sutra. It is said that in the heart sutra, the whole of Buddhism, it`s essence, is boiled down to a mere 260 chinese characters or 16 english sentences.

In many philosophies it is said that, at first, the Master speaks but in the end falls silent and in this silence, a transmission occurs. Words become no longer necessary. In the silence, in the space between master and student, communication happens. In the course of twenty years living and training in Japan with Hatsumi Sensei, it seems that he too, at one time kicking and striking like a tiger and leaping and spinning like a dragon, he has now become more and more subtle, graceful in movement. One could say softer, smaller and even delicate, yet heavy with that which can not be weighed. At one time his poems of the gokui (極意ーinner secrets) long and flowing become more and more abbreviated, condensed. Yet this compactness and simplicity, like a zen painting, adds weight and beauty. For me, these four characters, Go Kou Go Shin, remind me of the longer poem Sensei often says before class. Chihayaburu Kami no Oshie wa toko shie ni tadashiki kokoro mi wo mamoru ran. 千早ぶる神の教えは永遠に正しき心身を守るらん.
A poem which can be translated roughly as `the teachings of the divine forever protect the pure (correct) heart.` And as Takamatsu Sensei once told Hatsumi Sensei, `it is only the pure heart of man that has a connection to the divine`. Go Kou Go Shin, you understand? With age, the long poem becomes compacted, and boiled down to its essence, like a fine wine or fine whiskey takes many years in the barrel. And as Sensei approaches his 85th year, his teaching are becoming more and more elegant, seemingly simple yet heavy with experience and wisdom.

In an ancient Indian text, it says that in the center of the body. there is a little shrine surrounded by a wall with eleven windows. Hidden within this shrine is a lotus blossom. And within the lotus blossom is a tiny tiny room. Spark. Most seek outward for enlightenment. But perhaps it is something that already exists within us. It just needs to be uncovered, discovered, dug up. You must be like an archeologist. This is what we do in our training, whatever training you do. We strive to understand ourselves and uncover this treasure. The tears and sweat of our training act to soften the ground and wash away the unnecessary, the dirt, and give us a glimpse into ourselves, our hearts, this treasure within – Nin Po. (忍宝ーtreasure of nin) (Nin=perseverance). In training we are plowing the field of our hearts. Plowing is simply creating space (ku- 空間)in the ground for life to more easily thrive. Training plows our hearts, giving room for the spark in your heart to catch and burn bright in the vastness of space inside us. Like the sun which gives freely of itself to all beings and makes all life possible on the earth. Burning bright in the vastness of space, the sun creates and protects all life without bias on earth. The sun does not care the color of your skin, or the beliefs you hold. It shines unbiasedly on all life. All colors, all religions, all countries.  No Borders.**

And the sun asks nothing in return. It burns itself to give you life on earth. The sun never sends you a bill and the sun never negotiates prices and times with you. It never says `I gave you 24 hours of sunlight yesterday so today you work for me for 12 hours`. The sun always burns 24 hours a day for us. Without the sun, all life on the earth perishes. Without a sun, there is no life. There is also a sun in you, (hikari 光、or also pronounced kou). Uncovered and free, it too, will also create wondrous life and protect those upon which it`s rays shine.

In training, at the upper levels, just as there is the Satsujin Ken and Katsujin Ken, the killing sword and sword of life, we must train on how to bring the opponent to life. The killing aspect of martial arts is easy, even children can kill trained men. Once this killing aspect is mastered, one must then turn the other way, to change directions. 180 degrees. Now you must learn how to create and support life. By losing, as Sensei says, the intention of attacking and killing, we give opportunities for our opponent to live, to maybe experience a blossoming. Moving with compassion and the heart of the gokui (inner teaching) Amo issun no tama mushi, we gently envelop the opponent to protect not only ourselves but also to protect them, even from themselves. If we move from fear and anger, we kill and stop life, But if we build an awareness in ourselves, we can move with compassion and thus truly protect life allowing the next to flower. As Sensei has said, `there is no opponent, the opponent is ourselves`.

** Perhaps you might remember when Hatsumi Sensei first went overseas, he remarked, `I am UFO, I am borderless`. To become borderless, we must continually watch ourselves and throw away the unnecessary. to see thru beliefs, to understand that we have been indoctrinated by our by our cultures, education, religions, politics, ect.. Seeing thru them, can you realize the connectedness and power of supreme nature?