Being an Uke

The role of Uke is a critical one in the Bujinkan and it has several layers to it.  At it’s base level, being an Uke is all about experiencing an technique.  One of the best ways to understand something is to have it done to you, or to “receive it”.  Our art is alive and being an Uke is one of the areas where you experience first hand how alive it really is.  On another level, being an Uke is all about being a good training partner for your partner/Tori.  We practice specific attacks with proper resistance so they have the opportunity to learn and grow.  Too little resistance and they get a false sense of security.  Too much and it just becomes a “wrestling match” and the specific concept being studied at the time is lost.  If you want to do free randori, then please be my guest.  But label it as such.  Another layer in our Dojo is a practice of rotating between training partners after each time.  This forces you to train with folks bigger/smaller/taller/shorter/stronger/weaker than you as well as an opportunity to train with folks of varying skill levels.  I think this is critical to a deeper understanding in a shorter amount of time.  And lastly, the interaction between Uke and Tori is really the crucible in which your own skills are forged over the years.  You have a role to play and it is a conduit for deep learning.  Respect it as such.  Take it seriously and realize that knowledge is gained by being on both sides of the equation, not just one.

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

PPM Self Defense Seminar

Senior PPM/Sentinal International Intructors Brent Earlewine, David Fetterman and Brian Fine will present a Self Defense Seminar utilizing the practical and pragmatic concepts of the PPM Level 1 curriculum. NO prior experience or martial arts training required.
We have spent DECADES studying real world violence, human physiology and martial art combatives. We bring this to you in a format that is instructional, concise and relevant to keeping you safe! This is not a session you want to miss. Bring your spouse, bring your college bound son or daughter, bring a friend.
If you ever wanted to learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones, this is it. All material is presented in a supportive safe environment designed to give you the mental and physical tools you need in today’s society.
Module “0” – We will explore the different types of violence, where and why it occurs, who perpetrates it and how to avoid it in the first place. This is a CRITICAL baseline knowledge set that most self defense courses skip entirely. We don’t, because you need to know it.
Module 1 – We will study violence indicators, situational awareness, assessing your situation, the survival mindset and the concepts of assess/plan/act. We will discuss fear management and how to “Break the Freeze”
We will explore the body’s natural flinch response and how to use it to our advantage, getting off of the “X” and basic defensive stances, moving and strikes.
Module 2 – From there, we will work on ground defenses (how to survive getting knocked down and protecting yourself while on the ground) and fighting your way to a safe location.
Module 3 – Then we will focus on defenses against grabs and chokes. We will use practical scenarios to highlight how to survive common scenarios of getting grabbed and choked, how to incapacitate the opponent and moving to a safe location.
Module 4 – We will review Defense against blunt weapons. Short, Mid range and long range blunt weapons, dynamics avoidance.
If time permits, we may take a look at some of the remaining 4 additional modules that make up the remainder of the entire Level 1 curriculum such as:
Module 8 – Defense Against Multiple Attackers and Using Improvised Weapons – Surviving multiple attackers, scenario discussion, stacking opponents, and forms/types of improvised weapons and usage.)
All of the material is extremely practical and presented in simple, no-nonsense terms and ways we can all understand. The way the material is presented is in a safe environment and will give you practical tools that you can apply immediately. No complex movements, no fancy terms and no BS.
This material will be presented by three of only a handful of internationally certified instructors for PPM in the world, Brent Earlewine, David Fetterman and Brian Fine. They will be assisted by several assistant instructors to ensure that you get the maximum amount of benefit out of your time at this event.
The event will be held at the Pittsburgh Bujinkan Dojo at 6901 Lynn Way, Suite 205, Pittsburgh, PA 15208. Map and directions included.
This will be a VERY full day of information, with the focus on actual drilling of the concepts presented. You will sweat, you will go hands on in a safe controlled environment, and you will walk away with new understandings of how real world violence happens and what you can do about it.
To ensure that we provide in depth hands on attention to each and every participant, space is limited. Reserve your spot today.
Fee – $40 per person, Payable ahead of time via Paypal (, or at the Door
Bring a Buddy! Bring your spouse, bring your college bound son or daughter, bring a friend. When on person buys a ticket at the normal price, the second person gets a discounted rate of only $35!
Target Age Group – 16 or Older
Audience – Anyone interested in Practical Self Defense, Women, Teens. No one under the age of 16 please.
What to wear – work out clothes, tennis shoes (no jewelry)
What to bring – Water, snacks, notebook, pen and an open mind
We look forward to seeing you there!

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.

Sho Shin

Image may contain: text

“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.

Bo – Essence of Budo – Martial Arts Seminar

The Pittsburgh Bujinkan Taka Seigi Dojo is pleased to host long time resident of Japan – Dai Shihan Phil Legare at our new Dojo for the weekend of April 5th, 6th and 7th.

This event will focus on the aspects of the Bo (6 foot staff). Come see why the RokuShaku Bo is the very Essence of Budo. Dai Shihan Phil Legare will also share the current Bujinkan training theme in Japan. This promises to be a jam packed weekend of training!

Saturday 10am – 5pm (Dinner afterwards, costs on your own)
Sunday 10am – 4pm

(We may have a short Friday night session as well, will confirm if timing works out.)

Open to all, no prior experience necessary. Please bring all associated training weapons with you for the weekend.

Fees for the weekend are $150 per person prior to the seminar dates ($160 at the door). No single day option available. You can send the seminar fees via Paypal to All credit cards are accepted via Paypal, and if paying at the door, we have Stripe merchant credit card processing account as well.

This will be another great weekend folks and we look forward to seeing you here!


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?

Image result for sphere angles

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?


Image result for scaling force rory miller

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)

Grand Re-Opening!

We are pleased to announce that we are up and running in our new Dojo Location (6901 Lynn Way, Suite 205 Pittsburgh, PA 15208).  This is an exciting next chapter in our story as we embark upon the NEXT 20 years of the Pittsburgh Bujinkan!  

If you have ever considered starting a martial art, now is the time to join us.  Schedule your interview to come in and observe a class.  This will give us time to discuss if we are a good fit for one another and to discuss your goals on what you want to get out of your training and the changes you want to make in your life.

Schedule your Appointment Now:

Schedule Your Interview Now!