3 Essentials in Budo

“In budo, too, there are three important essentials: 
first, seeing and knowing oneself, one’s own strengths and limitations; second, the sword of discrimination, of decisiveness, for eliminating faults, weaknesses, and the unnecessary; 
and last, the sincerity, feeling, devotion, insight, and understanding of the heart.”
– Soke Hatsumi

Forget your sadness, anger, grudges, and hatred…

“Forget your sadness, anger, grudges, and hatred. Let them pass like smoke caught in the breeze. You should not deviate from the path of righteousness; you should lead a life worthy of a man. Don’t be possessed by greed, luxury, or your ego. 
You should accept sorrows, sadness and hatred as they are, and consider them a chance for trial given to you by the powers… a blessing given by nature. Have both your mind and your time fully engaged in budo, and have your mind deeply set on bujutsu.” 

Soke Masaaki Hatsumi

KoFuKu No Shi Ori


“The way to experience ultimate happiness is to let go of all worries and regrets and know that being happy is the most satisfying of life´s feelings. Reflect back on all the progress in your life and allow the positive, creative and joyous thoughts to outshine and overwhelm any sorrow or grief [bitterness] that may be lingering there in the recesses of your mind. Knowing that disease and disaster are a natural part of life, the key to overcoming adversity is with a calm and happy spirit. Happiness is waiting there in front of you. Only you can decide whether or not you
choose to experience it, take this to heart!”
Toshitsugu Takamatsu.
33rd Soke,Togakure-Ryu Ninjutsu

The tradition of the Bujinkan recognizes nature and the universality of all human life, and is aware of that which flows naturally between the two parts:

“The secret principle of Taijutsu is to know the foundations of peace.”

“To study is the path to the immovable heart ( fudoushin ).”

Banpen Fugyo

Banpen Fukyo (Fugyo)

“10,000 changes, no surprises”

We talked about this in class last night.  The discussion focused on the feeling of being “centered” or in your own bubble and not allowing outside influences startle or change you.  Although not a fan of the “foo foo” mystical martial arts terms that folks throw around like State of Zero, or whatever, I do believe in the idea of being centered in yourself.  Only things that enter your orbit and require a response are the ones that warrant a response.  This is a very difficult state to enter, much less maintain in today’s modern society, however I think it is worthwhile to cultivate that mentality.  Observe, don’t react until it is time to react.

Waza = “Reference Architecture”

On Saturday, we explored the next Waza in the Jo Ryaku No Maki level of Gyokko Ryu – Renyo. We looked at 6 (Six!) different sources of material for descriptions of the base/core waza, including 3 from the Boss himself.

We tore apart the notes, read them, re-read them, did our best to interpret what we were reading, and identified what we felt was working (and perhaps not working). We did inside, outside angle versions. We moved the timing of some of the elements around vs what was in the Waza description, and we tried variations as seen and recorded by various teachers over the years.

One of the main points to come out of this effort was using the Waza as a “reference architecture”, ie as a framework or a “box” to explore ideas and concepts. To treat it as a baseline or a starting point and to tease out the essence of perhaps what it is trying to teach us. Waaaaaay too many people simple perform a set of movements that they think is closest to what they think a Waza is and then move on to the next one and they do not peel apart the layers and depth of what is inside. These people are technique collectors and what they are doing is shallow understanding at best, and a pale approximation of mimicry at worst.

This is all about the PROCESS of learning. Of utilizing the FRAMEWORK of a waza to explore within and about bringing the material ALIVE. It is about concepts, not techniques. And when you can understand concepts, you have a meta model that you can apply anywhere.

(Oh and for my geeky friends, this is a cybersecurity Reference Architecture. Kind of a high technology version of a waza, eh?)


Everything is Sakizuke.
“The award of rank before actual attainment of skill and understanding.”

The ranks in the Bujinkan are for the heart. Those with the right heart will accept rank from their teacher without question. Students having a feeling of discomfort or inadequacy for their new rank ( which should be everyone ) will then go away and train hard until they become worthy of the grade. This is understanding Sakizuke and the correct feeling to have when dealing with the grades of the Bujinkan Dojo. 

Sakizuke 先附 or 先付け

Sho Shin

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“Shoshin (初心) is a word from Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind.” It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would.”  Bujinkan Life Dojo Facebook post

Even after 33 years in the martial arts, I still approach any subject with open eyes and an open mind.  Learning never stops.  The basics are not something you do once and forget about.  There are layers upon layers of understanding within our basics, and each new day brings new eyes to see what you did not see before.  Some of this is due to the fact that your own skill level changes over the years.  Early on, you just simply may not be able to process what you are seeing and practicing, or only see it at a gross mechanic level.  Later, as your skill and understanding grows, then you gain fresh eyes and can see the same material in an entirely new light.  Those that do not bother to re-look at the basics as they progress in their training, or do so without a beginners mind will miss the value and truth buried within.  Be humble.  Go back to your basics.  Look at them with new eyes and always consider your self a student.


Learning is a multi-modal experience. What I mean by that is that true learning comes from absorbing information  – physically, mentally, with your eyes, your ears, touch etc. One of those modes is via reading. So you bought a few books from Hatsumi and other trusted sources. But did you READ them? or did they go on a shelf?  Have you gone back and re-read them?  Taken notes?  Highlighted pertinent passages?  Dog eared the pages that “speak” to you?  Applied the learnings in your training and ethos?  if not, why not?
Tsundoku (積ん読) is acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them. The term originated in the Meiji era (1868–1912) as Japanese slang. It combines elements of tsunde-oku (積んでおく, to pile things up ready for later and leave) and dokusho (読書, reading books). It is also used to refer to books ready for reading later when they are on a bookshelf. As currently written, the word combines the characters for “pile up” (積) and the character for “read” (読).

Are you a Flat Earther?

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Are you a Flat Earther?

In class recently we re-examined the common angles inside of our art (45 degree, 90 degree, etc.)  On our Dojo floor we have three stars taped down on the floor to show the “9 Demon Gates”.  We use these to give students visual aids on how and where to move their feet.  We also use them as a teaching aid to show the various angles for strikes and cuts with a sword etc.  

The other night, I explained to the class not to limit themselves to thinking about these angles in a linear or flat world, but rather in a 3D world.  So while it is easy to move forward or back at a 45 degree angle, there are so many other ways to move in time and space along similar angles in 3D space.  The eye’s opened wide as they all started to mix and match angles and movements as they started to move inside their own “globe”.

Are you limiting your options by only thinking of the world in a “flat” way?  Or are you exploring and applying your movements in a rich 3D world?


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I.M.O.P. Principle—Intent, Means, Opportunity and Preclusion

How do you know when it is legal to get physical with an adversary? Learn the I.M.O.P. (Intent, Means, Opportunity, and Preclusion) principle. All four of these criteria must be met before you have a good case for taking action. If one or more of these conditions are absent, you are on shaky legal ground.

How do you know when it is legal to get physical with an adversary? Learn the I.M.O.P. (Intent, Means, Opportunity, and Preclusion) principle. All four of these criteria must be met before you have a good case for taking action. If one or more of these conditions are absent, you are on shaky legal ground.

These guidelines are not only useful, but they are also easy to remember in the heat of the moment on the street. That’s because they are based on common sense. You must be in danger, or “jeopardy” in order to protect yourself from harm. Obvious, right? Danger from another human being comes from their intent, means and opportunity.

The hard part is that knowing this is not enough. The presence of intent, means, and opportunity may be sufficient for you to act in self-defense. However, their mere presence may not be enough for you to prevail in court. You must also be able to explain how you personally knew that each element was present in a way that the jury will believe.


You must be able to show that the threat (the standard cop term for a bad guy) wanted to do you harm.* You must be able to tell how you knew. Someone screaming, “I’m going to kill you!” is fairly clear, at least if his body language backs up his words. If the threat balls up his fist and draws his hand back, you can explain why you believed he was about to hit you. If a threat suddenly reaches under his jacket, you may believe that he is going for a weapon and can explain that too.

Intent is critical. People have chances to kill you all the time. The waiter bringing you a steak knife in a restaurant has a deadly weapon and is well within range. But we do not kill the waiter, nor do waiters live in fear, because we all understand that without intent there is no threat. No justification for force. So we don’t act.

This goes for the guy reaching under his jacket. This is an action that people do every day, getting out wallets, keys, and loose change. The hand reach itself is not enough. You will have to explain all the elements of that moment that indicated to you why that action showed intent. Did he continue toward you after being told to back off? Were you in an isolated area or alone at night at an ATM? Did you see, hear, or smell something that brought this everyday movement to a new level?

To be a legitimate threat, the person must have intent and you must be able to explain how you knew that.


All the intent in the world does not matter if the threat couldn’t hurt you. Most people have some means at some level—fists and boots and size. Others have weapons or indicate that they have weapons.

A two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum has some of the purest intent in the world, but he or she lacks the size, strength, and coordination to do anything severe.

The means that the actions you articulate must also match the means that were presented. People who were poorly trained in self-defense mouth the words, “I was in fear for my life,” like it is a mantra or a get-out-of-jail-free card. It is a bullshit platitude. You will be expected and required to explain exactly what made you fear for your life—the intent, the means, and the opportunity. If you are claiming the threat was deadly, the means have to be deadly. A shoving match does not count.

You must be able to articulate exactly what led to your fear in a way that demonstrates it was legitimate.


Intent and means do not matter if the threat cannot reach you. If someone is screaming he is going to kick your ass from across the room, he may be a threat but he is not an immediate threat. You can’t shoot him. If he has a gun, being across a room does not matter as much. You have a pretty good argument that you were in danger. Similarly, someone waving a knife at you from inside a vehicle while you are walking on the sidewalk is not an immediate threat. If he slams the accelerator and the car lurches toward you, that situation has changed significantly.

Intent, means, and opportunity are the desire, the ability, and the access to hurt you. You must be able to show all three to justify using force for self-defense.


Even if intent, means, and opportunity are clear, there is one other requirement (for civilians and in most states**) to satisfy. You must be able to show that you had no safe alternatives other than physical force before engaging an opponent in combat. If you can retreat without further endangering yourself***, this criterion has not been met. After all, it is impossible for the other guy to hurt you if you are not there.
These are the questions any jury will be asked and you must be able to explain: Could you have left? Could you have run? Did you in any way contribute to the situation getting out of hand? Would a reasonable person have seen a way out or seen a way that used less force?

All of these are preclusions that would have stopped the situation from going to force. You must not only prove the threat was real and immediate, but that you had no other good options.

Clearly you should never let fear of legal repercussions keep you from defending yourself when your life is on the line, but an understanding of the law can help you make good decisions on “that day” should it ever arrive.

* For self-defense. Other levels of legal force, such as refusing to leave the premises after a lawful order to do so, also require I.M.O., but at a different level.
**Law Enforcement Officers have a “duty to act” and can’t be expected to retreat. In some states, “Stand Your Ground” laws appear to remove the preclusion requirement.  “Castle” laws give great freedom for self-defense in the home provided the threat feloniously enters. If someone breaks into your home, a castle law essentially grants that I.M.O. are givens.
***The justifications for defending a third party are essentially the same as for defending yourself. Though you, yourself, might be able to leave safely if another potential victim would be left behind and helpless, you can articulate why you needed to engage.

(The above excerpt is from Scaling Force: Dynamic Decision-Making Under Threat of Violence by Rory Miller and Lawrence A. Kane)