Bojutsu vs Kenjutsu vs Bojutsu vs Kenjutsu…

Cutting against his arm

This summer like most summers we train a lot more with long weapons since the dojo is too small to really use long weapons properly. This summer we train Bojutsu against Kenjutsu (long staff against sword). I think I teach and train a little different than most Bujinkan teachers out there, but I can’t really say maybe there is those who approach the training like I do. Let me explain.

Kote haneage followed by Haneage
Kote haneage followed by Haneage

First of all you learn how to use the staff, spinning and striking etc, this is mostly solo-training. Then you learn the Keiko Sabaki Kata (movement practice techniques) in my dojo we only practice one technique for the whole two hour class. Some students really have problems with coordination, others capture it quicker. In this first step I don’t mention distance, timing or anything except which strikes and blocks to make. This can also be solo-training and done alone against an imagined opponent.

Second I take the sword and we focus on how to handle the situation the best way with a sword. If he is attacking me with the staff I immediately counter him by stepping forward. I’m not gonna step backwards defending myself all the time, when he steps in to strike me in his preferred distance out of my reach; I boldly step in at the same time and block the staff and get even closer into my preferred distance so I can cut him with the sword. As I see it this is the only chance I have against a longer weapon, there is no point of running backwards.

Catching the staff and Tsuki
Catching the staff and Tsuki

Thirdly I take the staff again. I attack the kenjutsu-ka fully (not really, but almost) and make sure he does a good block, and as he block I don’t stay frozen or try to push harder on him. As I strike I’m already prepared for the next movement when he comes in and try to cut me, I move out to my distance and do the next strike.

Then I take the sword again and try to avoid being hit from this point in the technique, by blocking and countering again. I’m not really gonna give up or run away. If I can cut I will cut.

Then again I take the staff and try to deal with this really difficult opponent, I avoid his cut and counter him until the end of the technique where I make it impossible for him to do anything. Then the technique is finished without changing the sequences of the strikes, the only thing that is flexible is the distance and the timing. And this is where the true training comes in.

Then at the end of the class we record a short demo to video which will be available for download later. This is how we spend our two hour trainings at Kaigozan Dojo this summer.

No henka, no variations, true to the technique.

Kote haneage as he try to cut my left arm
Kote haneage as he try to cut my left arm

I always thought quality is better than quantity. It is amazing how cleverly these techniques is made up, it is so much more than executing the strikes rapidly against a rather passive opponent. If the opponent (sword-guy) is good and understand how to use the sword there is really not many options to change the technique and do something different, the possibility for henka becomes very narrow, what you can change is very small details. For me this is what henka means, you failed your initial technique and need to adapt because of miscalculation.

I know there are those out there only doing henka-training, but how do you do henka training only, henka of what? If you try to train yourself into intuition without basic foundation you are doing something I don’t understand. You weren’t born out from nowhere, someone did something very basic with someone and you was born. How do you henka anything into existence?

Victory ending of the technique
Victory ending of the technique

If anyone is interesting I’m doing three more one day Bojutsu mini-seminars this summer.

Happy Training!


Riga seminar in February 2011

The past weekend I was invited by Juris from Bujinkan Kurokawa Dojo in Riga to teach a seminar on Sanshin no kata and Juttejutsu.

On Saturday I showed and explained the way I feel is the base for Sanshin no kata. First we did the traditional warm-up routine; doing the first technique five times on the right side, and then five times on the left side, and finally ten times alternately on right and left side. Then the same with all the other four techniques. Sanshin no kata consists of five simple techniques…

Sanshin no kata


地 CHI (earth)
水 SUI (water)
火 KA (fire)
風 FŪ (wind)
空 KŪ (void)

In the early 1980’s there was a “guy” that had only been training a couple of years and interpreted these techniques with Buddhism and created his own philosophy around these techniques. He wrote many books on the subject, and almost everyone copied his idea. It was a very nice idea, but it was not the Sanshin no kata that Hatsumi Soke taught as many people believed at the time (and unfortunately still believes). Do not think of the elements too much. Just simply look at them as a way of counting, nothing else.

Some people talk about three different ways of doing these techniques and they also have a name (shoshin, gogyo, goshin). I have never been taught this by Hatsumi Soke or any one else of the Japanese Shihan, and I have never seen the source for this. So I’m not teaching this, but I think this also is a good idea. I think it is important to always look at things from three perspectives. For example left, right and middle. The way I taught on the seminar was the following.

The principle of capturing, strike and quickly capture again

Solo training, try to get the form correct and understand all movements, angles, timing, distance, technique, kamae and everything else. I heard that even the Japanese Shihan who have been training for 30-40 years still do this every day. So there is no reason for you to think that you have already learned it. I to still discover many things when doing the forms.

With a partner you will understand the the solo training forms better. The forms you do in solo training will never bee exactly the same when done with a partner, you need to adjust according the way your partner attacks. We did the base (as I see it!) with five different blocks and five different strikes, then moved on to applications and more direct response from natural posture.

Using weapons will increase the understanding even more. If you use a weapon try to keep to the ideas we learn from the forms. But small adjustments are done according the characteristics of the weapons used.

This 45 minute video from the seminar is available for instant download at BUDOSHOP.SE


the JutteThe jutte or jitte (十手), literally meaning “ten-hand” (i.e., the weapon with the power of ten hands), is a specialized weapon. In Edo period Japan the jutte was a substitute for a badge and represented someone on official business and was carried by all levels of police officers including high ranking samurai police officials and low-rank samurai law enforcement officers (called okappiki or doshin). Other high ranking samurai officials carried a jutte as a badge of office, “aratame” or official inspectors including hotel, rice and grain inspectors carried a jutte.

On Sunday we did the six techniques from the old Hanbo, Tessen and Jutte book published by Hatsumi Soke in 1984 ca. It has six basic techniques, we did them all. In 2003 the Bujinkan theme was Kunai and Hatsumi Soke taught five of these techniques using a Kunai. The weapons are different so adjustments need to be made according the characteristics of these weapons.

落花 Rakka technique

We studied the following techniques with Jutte in mind (not Kunai), first the basic form and then variations and applications.

桐之一葉 KIRI NO HITOHA – falling paulowina leaf (arrival of autumn)
落花 RAKKA – falling blossoms
水鳥 MIZU-DORI – water bird / 五輪碎 GORIN KUDAKI – five rings crush
雷閃 RAI-SEN – flash of lightning
竜下 TATSUGE – inferior dragon
廻捕 MAWARIDORI – revolve and capture

The training both days seemed to be successful and everyone seemed happy about it. I sure had a good time both in the dojo and outside before, between and after the trainings. The first time I was in Latvia in 2002? I asked about traditional masks but I didn’t know so much about them that they understood what I meant. So after the training Juris surprised me with a mask I asked about nearly ten years ago.

The arrival of masked visitors

This practise is variously referred to as budēļi, čigāni “gypsies, going gypsying”, kaladnieki, ķekatas, maski “masks, going masking”, nabagi “the poor ones”, etc. Although this practise could occur at any time of the winter (between Mārtiņi and Meteņi ), it was particularly common on Christmas eve. It is strongly reminiscent of the tradition of mummers and mummering in Great Britain and Newfoundland.

Latvian “mummers” might dress up as animals (bears, horses, cranes) or as Death. They would go from house to house and were warmly greeted, as they were assumed to drive away evil spirits. They would arrive in groups in front of the house, and sing songs and dance. Then they would be invited in and fed with bacon buns (pīrāgi), butter, sausages, and given ale to drink. They made a special effort to disguise their voices and mannerisms, so that no one would be able to guess who each one was, but if a mummer was correctly identified, he or she would have to “unveil”, i.e. remove the cloth which was covering their face.

It is still common for children to be required to recite an appropriate verse before receipt of their presents (there are many).

Vai, lielie ziemas svētki,
Puiši trekni, zirgi vāji;
Puišiem alus, brandavīns
Zirgiem tukšas redelītes.

Oh my, Christmas time
The lads are fat, the horses lean;
The lads get beer and whiskey
But the hay racks are empty.

I’m happy about the whole seminar, and especially happy that people also came from the neighboring countries Estonia and Lithuania. I was asked to come back after summer, maybe in August. I’m already looking forward to it.

Thank you Juris and everyone who attended and made the seminar possible.

Happy training!

Click here for more pictures from the seminar.

flashback my past 15 years on the internets

I just found my old web site on :-), and a lot of memories comes back. When I made my first web site (in 1994 or 1995?) there was only one other web site on the whole internets that contained the word “Bujinkan” (I think his name was Shawn (an American not Canadian 😉 )). But before that I operated my own Fidonet BBS called 2:201/2123 Moko no Tora BBS on a computer under my bed between 1992-1996 (approximately, I don’t remember exactly). I was also at Compuserve when they got their first modem pool in Sweden. At that time you could not access the internets from your home as a private person. There was no provider that offered a modem pool you could call up, it was only at big companies and university’s at this time. Until Ragnar Lönn started Algonet in 1994 offering a connection for private persons. If I remember correctly, I got my subscription around Christmas time, and immediately started learning HTML by making the web site.

There was only the MS *plorer and Netscape browsers, I remember Netscape was better because you could change the colours on the fonts and background. There was HTML programs, but they where buggy, annoying and didn’t keep up with the new features that the Netscape browser gave. So I learned typing HTML with a simple text editor. I still do this, but I also use a CMS system (this site is on W0rpqr*ss ).

Over the years I had projects that grew too big to handle. More and more people got Internet and found my web site, I see that in the oldest record on the way back machine at that in May 2000 I had 154 016 hits since march 1995, I’m not sure if that counts the hits I had before on my Algonet page (yes it still sucks!). In January 2002 I had 426 844 hits, Anyway some of the bigger projects was…

BUUYUU www.martial.arts links project

This was link site with thousands of Martial Arts links, driven by a text database, but someone had to manually update with new links, lot’s of work. Thanks to Baubak G who helped me with this!

Masai forum board

Means polish your sword or skills. With a couple of thousand members it could sometimes get maybe too political, but often there was good discussions. Back then people where new to the internets and was willing to share stuff, even if it wasn’t well researched (me included).


NinZine actually started before in my Fidonet and Compuserve days. It was a type of multimedia magazine where you needed a PC with DOS to make it work. Later Liz made Ura & Omote which was more text based articles. I think I only released five or six issues. I tried to find the old zip files but can’t find them. If anyone have them, please contact me :-). I have planned for a while to use the NinZine name again for the web site project.

Bushikai (the whole Bujinkan world on one site)

Was a kind of portal for each country that showed links to web sites, clubs and local seminars for respective country. Here is Sweden for example (13 training groups, 23 web sites and 6 seminars registered at the time).

Ryu-ha history

This was probably the most popular segment. Thanks to Peter C who gave me most of the school information in the beginning. I added more and more to the pages without thinking or being able to check it’s sources.

At the end I removed most of the ryu-ha history notes because I was fed up with some people who knew better that liked to critizice instead of helping, people who took the information and presented it as their own. But mostly because it became too much work, people expected me to update the web site continually, and I wasn’t making any money on it. In 2005 I moved the forum to another web site, and about his time I went from 10 000 hits per month to a couple of thousand.


Sure I miss some of the projects a little, but if it means I have to do all the work and it is too much work or I don’t enjoy it I won’t do it any more. But I moved some of the projects to the web site…

  • The is the new NinZine! It is a script that get articles via selected RSS sources. Contributions is by people with their own blogs that I think make a good contribution to the Bujinkan community.
  • The Dojo locator is the new Dojo address database!. This is now handled by Google places, just make sure to include Bujinkan as a tag to get included here.
  • The Seminar database is practically the same as before.
  • The links…, when I started there was no Google!

My Kabutoshimen / Kesshi web site is more my personal web site and blog, if you are interested in what I’m up to. The Kaigozan Dojo web site is my dojo. I got a bunch of other sites to, I keep it separated (Bujinkan, me, dojo etc.)…

Well I don’t know how to wrap this article!
Can’t believe I’ve been doing this for more than 15 years!
I wonder how it will look like in another 15 years?

( I think I used this phrase for 15 years to 🙂 )