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Combat: We hear that you have recently completed your Ph.d in Japanese Studies, so it’s Dr. Zoughari now isn’t it?

Kacem Zoughari: Yes, so now I’m a doctor, but I never heal anyone! I finished the Ph.d, but I never aimed for the title, the most important thing was to finish the work. That was more important for me.  Because it was six years of study and a lot of things happened within my family at this time, it was a very  terrible, tough time. But at the same time there were good things too, I met a lot of people. It’s not so  much an achievement, for me it’s just the start. So when people say ‘Dr. Zoughari’ I feel a little bit shy, I  don’t think of myself as a doctor, just a Japanese researcher. But thank you very much.

Combat: So could you tell us about the title of your thesis and the scope of your research.

KZ: I changed the title twice. At the beginning the title was ‘Martial Arts History, Truth and Structure’, and as I worked more, researching, collecting scrolls and meeting with masters, one of my mentors at University, a professor said it would be nice to call this work ‘Tradition of the Movement’, so I said ok and in French it became ‘Tradition du Movement dans les écoles de combat classiques du Japon à partir des documents les plus anciens’ – in English: ‘The Movement’s Tradition in Classical Combat Schools of Japan based on ancient scroll’.
I didn’t use the words ‘martial art’ because I deal with scrolls and studies where those words didn’t exist. All my studies are about the technical way of fighting and using weapons on and off the battlefield. So the word I use is Heiho (or Hyoho at that time), which people usually wrongly interpret as ‘strategy’ but it’s much deeper than that – it’s every aspect of war and fighting, including strategy of course but also tactics, fighting many people, leadership on the battlefield, all the planning for war, number of soldiers, food, etc. etc. – so it’s a lot of things, heiho itself.
And this word came from China, so I deal with the primary word. Even though the word ‘Budo’ is a very old word we still have to wait 8 or 9 centuries until it starts to be used. It was never used in the Warring States period or in scrolls, people started to used the word ‘budo’ in the Meiji era.
So, as I said, the title of my thesis is ‘The Movement’s Tradition in Classical Combat Schools of Japan based on ancient scroll ‘. It’s about 800 pages and divided into 3 parts.
The first part is called ‘The Master’, it deals with history and historical context, the primary scrolls, the masters life, initiation into martial arts, the how and why, the primary schools, can we translate ‘ryu’ as ‘school’, etc. etc. So it’s a very deep investigation into the field, using a lot of historical and family chronicles to present the context and how a master should use one disciple rather than another. It also explains the transmission.
The second chapter is called ‘Densho’ or transmission document. In this I explain how to read a scroll, the purpose of the scroll, I describe it and also the things that aren’t written, what are the keys you need to understand what’s written. Even things like the ink used and how to understand if it’s a real scroll or not. I show the different kinds of scroll for the successor of a school, or a shihan, etc. etc. After that there is an analysis of three scrolls: Kage mokuroku (影目録), Shinkage Ryu Heiho mokuroku (新影流兵法目録事)and Tsuki no Sho (月之抄). Also, the Heiho no Kadensho (兵法家伝書). I explain which ones I use; I used only originals or copies of originals, no English or French versions. Everything in Japanese, and even then there are 5 or 6 versions for each one and I read every version just in order to be able to do things correctly. Of course this doesn’t deal with only kenjutsu – it deals with every martial art.
And finally the last part, the most important, deals with the movement: form and structure. What was the movement of a master like Kamizumii Ise no kami, Yagyu, Tsukahara Bokuden, Hattori Hanzo, Izasa Choisai, Jion Nenami, etc What was the type of movement? What helped those masters to reach an economy of movement? An ergonomic type of movement – very efficient, very flexible even when they got to a very old age, how could they make that? What is the process? The psychological, the physical process? – And I explain that.

Combat: To anyone interested in martial arts doing research like this sounds like a dream career, but the reality is a lot of hard work, for instance you need to achieve quite a high level in Japanese before you can even begin to research properly?

KZ: Yes it’s true. I started Japanese Studies at University in 1994, after my second trip to Japan. Before that I had some experience learning by myself, and was learning with a young Japanese woman. But the way she was teaching didn’t really attract me so I said that I would like to learn Japanese from martial arts books, but even for her, being Japanese, she couldn’t understand it! We worked on kanji like that. And even when I started Japanese studies… Well, if you say ‘I want to do something on martial arts’ most of the professors look at you like a jerk, ‘who is this guy, does he think he’s going to be a samurai or something’. And if you use the word ‘ninja’ it’s much worse. So I had a lot of obstacles, a lot of mountains. Anyway I had the chance to push more, to have access to a lot of things too, because I know some people and had to work a lot. I received a grant from the French government’s foreign affair department call Lavioisier’s grant a very high class grant, very difficult to have. From that point I started to go to Japan more and do many things. So it’s a lot of work, you need to know not only kanji but many types of kanji, very old kanji, you need to be aware of kanbun or classical Japanese (Chinese), be aware of history, of Buddhism, of sociology – a lot of things. Because when you read a scroll, when you read martial arts documents you need to be aware of many things in order not to make mistakes. Also what’s very important is to get out of the prejudice, to get out of the main fixed idea of martial arts. This is very difficult for most people, when they want to do research on martial arts they want to express that their master or the school is the greatest and everything else is stupid. So they forget the context and don’t take enough objectivity, don’t take enough distance; when you’re a researcher you have to always be in the middle and present the facts, only the facts.Of course I am interested in legends, myths and things like that, but what is more important for me is what really exists, how it works and if we can relate it. And in university it’s like that, it’s very difficult to become a scholar on martial arts, there is no class on martial arts, I had to do everything myself: put forward the methodology to show the scroll, to find the scrolls that are authentic – not something written by anyone and bought in Jimbocho or some kind of shop in Japan, and passed off as ‘this is what my master gave me’. No, no, no you need to understand, you need to do tests, you need to know about Carbon 14 and things like that. Otherwise it’s not research. I mean just for my thesis I have over 200 books, and not only on the Yagyu or Shinkage Ryu, but every school, all those from Shinkage Ryu but also you need to study Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu, Kashima Shinkage Ryu, Jujutsu schools like Takenouchi Ryu, Shosho Ryu, all the main schools, all. You need to be aware of everything, spear, everything. And also the customs of the warriors of that time, the way of fighting, the clothes, armour, what type of sword, the history of the sword, the work of the silversmith. It’s a lot.

Combat: One school you particularly researched in great detail is Shinkage Ryu. Some modern martial artists may not be familiar with it, please could you tell us something about the school?

KZ: Yes, the thing is, when I started to do the research for my thesis, I needed to have the scrolls, but also real records – historical records that don’t have any doubt, they are identified and accepted within the scholarly world. Firstly in Japan – if it’s accepted in Japan it’s accepted everywhere. So you need to have access and be able to find the scrolls where there is no confusion about who wrote it and what it is. And the best school, with the most old things is Shinkage Ryu, we have the Kamizumii Ise no kami writing, but previous masters like Tsukahara Bokuden, Matsumoto Bizen no kami, Issai Chozanshi – we don’t have, there are reasons for that, no problem I can explain it one day. But Shinkage Ryu has all those kind of things, but you need also to be aware of the name of the school, the history of the school and the scroll of the school I just mentioned. So Shinkage Ryu has things, and the good thing is in Shinkage Ryu, the Yagyu family as well, you have scrolls that show the martial art, the transmission, between 3 periods – end of Muromachi, Momoyama-azuchi and Edo, so you can see how the movement transformed and how things have changed. So it’s very easy to see part by part and understand why the movement has changed, why it’s lower, why it’s higher, why you teach like that etc. etc. So that was the reason why.
Of course if I do something on Jujutsu, and I did a little bit, it’s a lot of research, it would be on Takenouchi Ryu, because they also have all the scrolls, the older Inka was written in 1580, something like that. But what they give is not enough, but it’s good for example to research into jujutsu. And this is one of the things I am working on right now.

Combat: Many of us have trouble with old English, Shakespeare, Chaucer, etc. How can you ensure the accuracy of translating old Japanese, when even modern Japanese isn’t a first language for you?

KZ: Yes, so do I in French! So here again, I am very happy to be a scholar for that and to follow a very accurate and deep methodology in my university in France, INALCO – same in Japan. With this you need to have a high standard of reading, you need to know the language and every word and it’s meaning at the time when the scroll was written. When you are aware of that your translation will be deeper. Do you understand why?
Because when you translate old Japanese with modern day English or French it’s good if you want to sell a lot of things, but you miss a big part of the scroll, you miss a big part of the explanation. Sometimes, and it’s the same for old French, a lot of people don’t use old French, but you need to be aware of that because this I think pays respect to the one who wrote the scroll or wrote the book, to give him the possibility to match the same high quality level of language. And to explain you have a lot of footnotes, you have a lot of things you can do for that, so I think it’s very important, if you don’t do it you miss a lot. Because for example, for Japanese it’s kanji, we use words, Japanese use ideograms – one kanji can mean a lot of things, and sometimes a master can create his own kanji and give it it’s own meaning, so if you’re not aware of that… well you’re lost…
If you translate just the name of the technique as it is, it’s a big mistake – before technique there is a movement, sometimes the name of the technique doesn’t have any connection, no relation to the technique itself. That’s why you need to have the master’s image and have the relation with the master, and after it depends on the degree of this relation. Always it depends on the degree of the relation, it’s not because everyone goes to the source that they have the source in their heart and whole body.
For example, see this water? Let’s say this is the source of what you’re looking for, we are 4 or 5 people and we take this pure water, this clear water, the knowledge you see, it’s clear, and when you put it to your mouth, already the water is mixed with your breath, your skin and things, and it changes, it changes and it becomes yours. It’s still the water, it’s still flowing but it becomes yours – it’s not the pure one. Now when you drink and it stays pure, through here, to here, to here [throughout your body] – that’s great. This is how the transmission should be, and this is how it has been. Of course it has to evolve, but still – stay liquid.

Combat: In talking about Koryu and Kobudo some people may recognise kobudo from Okinawan weapons training, but that’s something different isn’t it?

KZ: Yes, it’s completely different. Most people practise what they call ‘martial art’ coming from a translation of the word ‘Bugei’ – ‘bu’ war and ‘gei’ art, martial art. But the problem is most people who think about martial arts have an experience with Judo, Kendo, Karate, Aikido, Shorinji Kempo – things that have been created in the Meiji era, at the moment when Japan was learning a lot from Western people and a way of using the body from Westerners. And the way the body is used in judo, kendo, karate, aikido have been deeply influened by the way of movng from Western’s sport. All of those things have been turned into sports, and mostly been developed in the academic world, university. And you don’t have people doing koryu, mainly people who have strong experience in judo, karate, kendo, aikido . Koryu and those “martial-sports” are completely different – the way of using the body is very different. Its also important to mention that the word koryu is new, as wella s as the word kobudo. They have been made up in the Meiji era, and especially Taisho, in order to show the difference between what come from the past, useless not fonctionnal against what is new and more functional. Before in Edo period for instance you never used those words.
What we want to express by kobudo is… You have budo, gendai budo which means nowadays martial arts – judo, kendo and everything born in the Meiji era, and kobudo is things which have come before. So between Muromachi and Edo; Muromachi , Momoyama-azuchi and Edo – Muromachi is 14th century, Momoyama-Azuchi is 15th century and Edo is 16th century, even in the Edo era you cut it into 2 parts – first part and second part, also the Bakumatsu – the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
So even in that you have many types of old school, all have special characteristics: some are created in the peaceful era, some just between the peaceful era and the warring states period, some during the warring states period – all those things are called koryu, which we translate as old school but it’s more like ‘classical’.
So what we mean by koryu – it’s everything before judo, karate, kendo, aikido. For example in judo Kano sensei practised mainly Kito Ryu and Tenshin Shinyo Ryu, especially Tenshin Shinyo Ryu at first, then afterwards Kito Ryu. This word koryu, we consider these koryu, classical schools but they are completely different to what judo is now, and even before. Because what Kano had was a very limited transmission of this school, even though he studied a lot and he was a clever man, but what he was looking for was an educational system. So judo = gendai, kobudo = Kito Ryu and Tenshin Shinyo Ryu. The same goes for the nowadays jujutsu and the olden days jujutsu.
Now what happened in Okinawa is a little bit different, it’s not really attested by records because Okinawa used to be the bridge of diplomatic relations between Japan and China, so you cannot have a place, soil, where there is war. So you don’t have a lot of records about war in Okinawa, it’s always a place of diplomacy, people come to exchange things , there was a Chinese Embassy there, etc. etc. And in the 16th Century the Shimazu han (clan), very strong samurai with a reputation of being very fierce, very brave, invaded Okinawa and there is no record that people used peasant weapons to fight against the warriors, soldiers – in Okinawa you don’t have that. You have of course nobles, court people, but most of the people who used to practise karate were peasants or rich merchants – completely different, they were not warriors, it was not their job. Doesn’t mean that their practice was wrong, it was very high level, effective self-defense, but not something from the battlefield. And later some people of course used the tools, peasant tools, work tools as a weapon and they call this kobudo. But the word budo even cannot fit for karate, it’s completely different, budo means ‘the way of war’. Of course some people use ‘the way of stopping war’ or ‘the way of stopping the halberd’ but it’s a way of war and by war you mean battlefield, killing.
So we need to at first understand the nature of the word, his evolution and the definition of the word, be aware of the context where it’s been used, because nowadays people use the word budo as they want, and koryu as they want. In order to make things a little bit more general: judo, karate, kendo, aikido – this is gendai budo – so ‘nowadays sports martial arts’ or ‘martial arts turned into sports’, you have rules, even the way of moving is completely different, nothing is made for killing, of course you may injure someone but it’s ok, there is no weapon inside, in aikido they used to practise jo and ken but its very rare nowadays. Of course some still practise jo and ken, especially people who used to practise a lot with Morihiro Saito, you have also some master who used to do Iai, judo, karate and they study this in order to make their aikido deeper etc. etc.
Of course you have iaido where you use a sword, but only on one side, most of the form are fixed, even if there are many iai’s schools, but you still have competition, where everything is focus on the ethics, the rei, so this is really gendai budo. When you start to talk about koryu you start to talk about something that doesn’t have too many people who practice. – a master, we follow an order, techniques are pretty much old… sometimes they might change a little bit… and the way of ranking people still follows the Edo period system, what we call the Menkyo Shiki or Menkyo Seido: this system is the fellowing: mokuroku, dai mokuroku, or mokuroku, chu mokuroku, dai mokuroku, menkyo kaiden, then you become shihan and you open your own school. So this is the difference, one is more classical, before Meiji, before the 18th century, and the other is after the 18th century.
I’m sorry if that was too much, but there is a lot to say about that.

Combat: So talking about menkyo and menkyo kaiden, we often see people claiming such things. Could you tell us something about that please and what kind of documentation and licensing should traditionally go with such titles.

KZ: This is a very good question. Actually I’ve dealt with it in my thesis, and it takes me around 20 pages and 50 footnotes.
First, the more old attestion given by a master to a disciple was not menkyo, but was call Inkajo, or Inka, and this comes from Injin koka no ryaku used in Buddhism, especially esoteric Buddhism – there are a lot of records on that. In Buddhism you used to give a kind of ‘attestation of transmission’ from the master to the student to attest, to certify, that this student received certain Buddhism teaching from me, from that he becomes a master. Martial artists needed to use something, so they used the same things, so here you can see the influence of the religion into the martial art. And the first word we have in Japanese is inka, inka means only ‘attestation’ – it’s a certificate, that’s it, nothing more. It attests that you have seen things and the master who gave you that thinks that you have the level. But the problem is (and this is already since the 14th century, and in Buddhism since the 10th century) in martial arts the older attestation we have is the Ichinin, Ikoku inka or Hitori Ikoku inka – it means one attestation for one man into one province. This one has been written by Kamizumii Ise no kami, and the older one 1566, ’65 – before that we don’t have any. So when you read this one you can understand all the transmission modes; the problem is sometimes the master needs money, he needs to eat so he might sell it , and that’s why you have 4 ways of giving a menkyo.
The first one is Giri, giri-yurushi, it means giving because of duty. You are samurai under a warlord, you’re a good master but have a duty to give it to him, otherwise it’s not good. Doesn’t mean that the guy is good, you have to give it to him, giri.
Second is of course Ie-yurushi, family, because of the blood, doesn’t mean that the son is good but he uses the name, it’s money.
Number three is kane-yurushi, you sell because you have to eat if you don’t have a position. And the last one, very famous and very rare at the same time, Ude yurushi, the one who has the capacity, the one who is good because he shows something. So this exists and we have a very good statement about that written by Yagyu Mitsuyoshi Jubei, the elder son of Yagyu Munenori, where he explains this, and he said ‘my father used to do this, to follow this’. And this thing you can see in Kamizumii’s way of acting and many masters: Musashi, Tsukahara Bokuden, Matsumoto Bizen no kami – everyone did that. You know in Japan during the 10 century Monk from various temple used to sell the ‘attestation of enlightenment’! So you see for example when they need money to take care of a temple the monk goes to the temple and, ‘you’re good, you’re good’ [makes as if offering a certificate]. The guy gives money an you get a new statue, here it is.
So when you receive the inka or inka-jô with this you also receive a scroll. So at that time (the time of Kamizumii Ise no kami and a little bit before, Muromachi/Momoyama-azuchi period, 14th/15th century) things were not really fixed yet; a scroll was about few explanation of the highest technic of the school, the goal to aim, the way the highest technic have been found, the main names of techniques and things like that. This type of scroll was call mokuroku. People translate mokuroku as a technical index, but it’s more than that – for the one who received this from the master that he loved it’s not just a technical index, it’s more than that. I will talk about that later because we are dealing here with the densho and presentation to the student, so it’s a little bit bigger than that.
Anyway, mainly you achieve a certain level under a master, there are few levels. The first level is mokuroku and you receive that, so it’s a kind of scroll with the names of techniques of 3 levels. If we are in a time like the Edo era they create more levels like mokuroku, chu mokuroku, dai mokuroku – this is also a way to keep students close to you and to keep the money coming, it was a business, martial arts, already by the Edo era, there are a lot of records about that – a lot of records about that.
And after that you get also levels like Chu gokui, Gokui and finaly Menkyo kaiden. Kaiden means “stairs”, so menkyo kaiden can be understood as the certificate of all the different levels of the school. So when you receive this you’re (normaly) good, enough to create your own school, but not enough good to become the next successor of your master, or the next soke. Because the tite of soke it’s different and includ other aspects. When you receive menkyo kaiden you receive always scrolls with it. So you have two types of scroll, you have Makimono (the rolling scroll) and Densho, which is like a book. ‘Den’ means transmission and ‘sho’ (kakeru) means book or writing, so ‘writing of transmission’. There are many types of those books, depending on the master, the level, finance, if he knows how to write or to read, if he wants to do it –a lot of aspect connected with the master’s private nature, history and knowledge. Among the scrolls, some dealt about, for example, the history of the school, how it came about, the main techniques, the direction you need to follow, technique names, sometimes with explanation sometimes with no explanation, sometimes the mains weapons of the school with explanations how to make it, fighters of other schools, etc. etc. So when you receive menkyo kaiden, automatically you need to receive that, this is the rule of the classical school, of the koryu – you don’t have that… it’s not… well… you’re a strange menkyo kaiden. But it means nothing technically, it has meaning for the ones attached to the paper, because in all martial arts whatever the school the only one real is who can be the last standing man, the one who can face everyone. This is the real menkyo kaiden, and history proff that the one who have the full capacity, talent and the knowledge to face everyone doesn’t really need of any paper, because his talent and his movement (technique and mind’s attitude) represent the reality of the master and is school, not one piece of paper that can be falsified or buy. There are a lot of case in japan where someone received a menkyo kaiden but not because he is good, he might buy it, or just help the master in something important to do like the promotion of the art or the school. Sometimes the menkyo kaiden can be given just because one is very old in the practice, or to honored a talk or a word to someone’s family… here its not about the capacity of face anyone, its more because of personal problem and human relation. So it’s not because you claim yourself to be a menkyo kaiden, or receive this from the master that you are like the master. Its really important to understand the fact of the nature or the degree of relation with the master and the place of the disciple (the one who received the menkyo) in the master’s heart. His place in the school of the master, ect. Its not because someone lives long time close to the master who frequent his classes twice or three times per week that he is automatically in the master ‘s heart. The main problem, and its very human, is that everyone (whatever the school or the organization) wants to believe that he have a very deep and unique relation with his master. But I deeply think that fact goes beyond words, as well as reality (master/disciple relation) and action (capacity, talent and knowledge) goes beyond paper and other certificate; the main problem is to accepted and recognize. So a Inka, a menkyo, or menkyo kaiden, whatever the certificate, reflects the relation you have with the art, the school and with the master itself, the way you are (your physical and mind attitude), and a lot more things too, a lot of things that no one knows directly but that open to our heart as you grow in the art and come closer to the master’s heart. If you buy it, if you gave money to help the dojo or to promote of the master’s art, if you’ve been close with the master or with one of his shihan, or if you’ve been the one who’s done the paperwork for the master and you receive this because you’ve been here for a long time… here it is. Did I answer enough?

Combat: Yes I think so, thank you

KZ: But it’s very deep, and we can go more, but then it becomes a small thesis and I don’t think people will be very happy to read that!
Combat: So there are lots of people claiming titles like Soke, Shihan etc. As a researcher, how is it possible to verify certain claims? And related to that, how is it possible to verify whether certain documents are legitimate, and also that’s what being practiced and interpreted is correct?

KZ: This is a very good question; very difficult to answer by, ‘you do this, you do this, you do this’ – there is a methodology, when you do research you cannot shut down any leads, you have to be very wide and to watch everything and at one moment you need to choose. And when you choose there is of course a responsibility, what scrolls or what things you’re going to read.
First, in order to know if a scroll is good (if it’s a real one) you need to read it, have it in your hands and touch it, you need to have this kind of relation with the paper.
Second, you need to study what kind of paper they used, what type of ink, what type of words. If those type of words had been used at this time in history. You need to be aware of and collect all the information about the writer. This can be good information, bad information, good for the writer, bad for the writer – you need to be aware of everything. When you have this you need to meet after all the students, or find all the documents written by the students of this master. Why some are different etc. etc. When you have all this amount of things, you start to dig and to see things – what goes together, what is in confusion, what sources oppose each other. And at this moment, when everything is clear and on the table, you can (a little bit) start to have a lead. Doesn’t mean that it will bring you to the truth, but it brings you to one truth. So for that you need to be aware of a lot of aspects, the general historical aspect, sociological aspect, but also the human aspect. This is very important, maybe sometimes more important, because the human sometimes is what’s going to make you choose this student rather than this one. Maybe because this one I like him and this one I hate him, I don’t know, maybe I don’t like his head! All the masters and founders of schools are human. So their life, parent’s education, faith, reflect in their practice and the way they transmit their art. In many cases, those different aspects can (or can not)influence deeply their character and mind during the processes that lead them to the level of master. So there are questions like : ‘why does he write down this for this disciple, and not for another one; why is this thing is impossible to do for this disciple…’. This are the general question that its important to answer when someone studies scroll and the history of the master. After for the technical side’s studies, its important to have a clear image of what you read. When this image is clear must find people, master, instructors who can adapt the explanations to actions, who can do this. So for that you need to met the master, to talk with him, to create a trust ambiance, a trusting relation; and step by step things come. And this is not coming in 1 day, 2 days, a week eh? It’s a lot of time, because martial arts are always about trust – it’s like between a man and a woman. And the more people have practised in a way which is very dangerous the more so. Because the question in a master’s heart, from the beginning to the end, is about: “Why should I give to you, someone I don’t know, what it’s taken me a lifetime to polish?” Now if you transpose this phrase, this way of thinking into the 16th century, 14th century, it makes more sense. Some masters have kept this inside, some do it more in a sports way, some do it for a business, some are between, and so it’s very difficult to become a trustable disciple. This is one very important thing. Second, in order to know if a scroll is a real one or not you need… well, there are researchers in Japan who do things on martial arts in university, and they are not stupid – there are scrolls and you know they are old, you know they’re real things because there have been studies on that, they have been researched on various aspect like the paper, the words, the technical lexica, the signature – the Kao, it’s a kind of, not a stamp, but a seal – so everything has been studied, everything. And you can use those studies that have been done for very famous names like Oda Nobunaga, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Hideyoshi – they have their stamps and things and you know if they know how to write, how to read. And before you just need to compare, after all they lived in the same area and at the same time, there is a common way of talking, a common way of using words etc. etc. so when you are aware of that you just do that. But if for example someone says I have a scroll written in the 16th century and on the cover of the scroll it’s written ‘budo’ you can be sure that this has been made up. Because the word ‘budo’ never appears in any scroll from the Edo era or before. So just by this you need to be aware of the context, you need to be aware of what judo, karate, kendo, aikido is; you need to be aware of this kind of movement (judo, karate, kendo, aikido) where you use the hip and there is no connection with the weapons and armour and things like that. Well I don’t say that with aikido there is no connection with weapons, it comes from using a weapon, but it’s not what Ueshiba sensei did, and it’s completely not what Takeda Sokaku sensei, the master of Ueshiba, did. In Iaido of course there is sword, but they use only one side, if you ask them to use it with the left – of course you have some techniques with the left, but some. So it’s… it’s very different, you need to be aware of all those kinds of things, you need to study everything and never, never, never have a kind of fixed mind about martial art – you need to like everything and to give to them all, every one, every martial art – and get into their history according to the certain fact. So when you are aware of that you can find it. Did I answer well?

Combat: Yes, very well, thank you. And in answering you touched on another question: in older times things were very different maybe, especially when people were really fighting, you wouldn’t teach just anyone because they might use it against you. So could you please tell us something about that, and that again relates back to trust and the nature of a proper student-master relationship doesn’t it?

KZ: Hmm, yes. So the first thing is you cannot use the word ‘teacher’ for martial arts uh? It’s impossible. ‘Teacher’ is for school, you teach; in Japanese this is Kyoshi, ‘master’ is Shisho – a master. The master never teaches, he transmits, he doesn’t say ‘a, b, c, d… you put your hands like this…’ A master pushes you to develop the more deeply how to see things, the art of looking and observation – because if he teaches and explains to you everything he shuts down your capacity to survive and to adapt yourself, for a warrior this is impossible and, if you apply this to Ninjutsu, it’s more deeper. You cannot teach, if you teach it’s like a condemnation if you want, you put him in a place where he cannot do anything. It’s like if you help someone to eat, you always cut up his food and after he always waits for that, because humans are like this, we take automatism very quickly. So first, there is no teacher – teacher is for fixed things, sports things, school; this is reason why the word Ryu cannot be translated as school, because primary master and foundator of ryu never acted like teacher, he never had a dojo. He was the dojo: wherever place he goes. A little bit like religion, when you have faith everywhere you go is the same – so here is a very important aspect to know and studies as well..
From that point, the relationship between the master and the disciple start. Because, and its important to never forget it, the practice of the martial arts start from a episode of life that deals with a relation with someone or something. In other words, we can say that the heart of the art is about human relation, a very deep relation. So, first, the master need to trust the one in front of him, and giving trust at that time (16th, 14th century), it’s not something easy. That’s why it’s sometimes the master give it to his son, but there are also a lot of examples in history where the son kills the father, and where they kill each other. So I think that its very important to be aware… be aware of the man’s heart, so that’s why the master need to stay with disciple, to study him, to measure him. And there are a lot of examples like that in many, many, many student-master relationships. Even between Ueshiba sensei and Takeda Sokaku sensei, Hatsumi sensei and Takamatsu sensei, even Kuroda Tetsuzan sensei and his father and grandfather – so this is very important, the nature of the relation with the master will show and reflect what you receive – full transmission, partial transmission, selling transmission, business transmission etc. etc. And the relationship is very deep, it’s like a father and son – but with a ‘plus’ – a father will never kill the son but a master could kill the student if you did something wrong. Here it is…
At that time… nowadays people wear suits, play and act as the master. But its very different. In order to be a master must have fellow a certain process and pass through different aspect of life that can help to see a certain type of Light that can lead and help other people or one and unique disciple. So it’s a lot of circumstances and facts of life that push someone who have the capacity and the heart to become a master.
One aspect of this principle of being a master is : a master is a master if there is a disciple, the reason of a master to pass down his knowledge. The reason for living of a master, is to find a disciple – there is no master if there is no disciple, we know about the master because the disciple talks about him and the previous one, we know about our grandfather because our father talked about him, you always need a link, that’s why we call this a master-disciple chain, if there is no chain there is no link, if there is no link you forget.

Combat: You mentioned Kuroda Tetsuzan, and during your research you travelled around Japan?

KZ: Yes, but not only Kuroda Tetsuzan sensei: Kono Yoshinori sensei , the late Yagyu Nobuharu sensei, the late Nawa Yumio sensei, Sakai Eiji sensei from Asayama Ichiden Ryu, there is Hirakami sensei – someone who has what, 5 or 10 menkyo kaiden in many schools, iaijutsu and things, I’ve met a lot of people from many schools, a lot of instructors. I don’t count them, because you know when you start to count people it’s like you try to make something big of it. I’ve met a lot of remarkable masters. Among them, some were very nice, some were diplomatic, some were very, very Japanese.

Combat: So did you practice with them, discuss history etc.?

KZ: Well, ‘practice with them’… It’s a little bit like in my case saying ‘I practice with Hatsumi sensei or I practice with Ishizuka sensei’ – this is a big word. You don’t practice with them, you go to their class or you attend to their class – point. Now, when going to their class, did I practice with the students or did I sit at the side and talk with them, this is the question. I have relation with all of them and used the same attitude with all of them.
I cannot go to their class and ask for practice with them or ask question like this – who am I for them? Nothings! I was in Japan for me of course, but firstly I had a grant and this grant given by France (Grant Lavosier, a very famous grant) allowed me a certain amount of money for doing research, and I did not have time to spend as I wanted or for doing selfish things. The main reason is that I have to write donw things, to show the thesis, to show the result of my investigations and researches. So of course I have bought a lot of books, dvds and things like that but my work is also to go into the field, and investigate in the field and meet with those master. So if I do the class like the others I am a student like the others and they treat me like the others, and I don’t have time for that. So I have to go and ask politely some questions (if first they want to answer) and tell them what I want to do – I need to be clear with them first and let them know that I was not here looking to buy a menkyo kaiden, or to become one of their ‘executive branch’ or ‘shibu-cho’, this or this. No, I was here to talk about their art and the relation they had with their previous master in front of everyone and bring this into the light. Because I find this wonderful , I find this rich and unique. So sometimes, the meeting is like: ‘ok, how are you? Blah, blah, blah’ we met and so you need a lot of time. Well, I’ve met with them but I didn’t practise with them in personal way. Sometimes, they catch my hand and show things and explain: “here we do it like that or like this”, “feel this”, “this is this type and this is this like that” – but that’s it, that’s it.  They don’t consider me as a student which is normal and logical. In the other hand I consider them as a master because they have a knowledge and they master something. This is the reason why I am very thankful to them because they explained and gave me a lot of things that I wrote down and I explained in my thesis. In a certain way I can say that yes, I am a student – in a certain way, but I am not a disciple. I am someone who comes to the class, listen, take and use, nothing more. The role and level of the disciple is more deep. I respect those masters very well but I am not one of them their student, I never practice what they do. Doesn’t mean I’m not interested? Not at all, I am very interested in all the schools that I have seen especially Kono Yoshinori, Sakai sensei in Asayama Ichiden Ryu, Kuroda Tetsuzan, there are a few more – Mori sensei, Hirakami sensei, I really love what they did, but I was already involved with something, so if you start to despatch yourself like that you know what happens… well you cannot… you completely “disintegrate”! What I’m looking for is to be “integrated”. So yes, I’ve met those master, some are nice, some are clever, some are very gentle, some are accurate, some are strange, some are… well, it’s life…

Combat: Everyone’s different then?

KZ: Everyone is different, but this is what is beautiful! This reminds me the following story: “ one day a disciple asked a holy man : ‘Why did God create people differently?’ The holy man said, ‘because God loves diversity’. And if you want to find the unity you need to be looking for the multiplicity and the diversity. Here it is.

Combat: So from meeting with those masters and your own practice and research, are there any ideas or characteristics that you find in common regarding a good attitude and good way to practice?

KZ: Yes. Yes, yes – well first they are Japanese so they always amplify the etiquette, they might hate you but etiquette is etiquette. So it’s kind of ceremonial, and for me ceremonial, I don’t care about that, eh, I have studied this too much, I know the ceremonial. Me – I am looking for what makes people alive, what makes the art alive. I understand ceremonial, I respect ceremonial, but when ceremonial steps over the effectiveness it kills the art. Now at the same time I also understand that sometimes effectiveness can be hidden inside the ceremonial, for example some masters can show a lot of good things like Kono Yoshinori sensei and even some master in Kyudo, Ogasawa Ryu, there are things in the way of walking, they way of standing, it’s great, but sometimes it’s too focused on that and you forget to shoot the arrow, and do it from both sides. But anyway they have (most of the people who practise koryu), they have common words, some are more clever or more talented to explain in an easy way and to open your eyes in an easy way. For example Kuroda Tetsuzan sensei has used words that no one has used before, or if someone has used them they have used them not in the same way as him. Same with Kono Yoshinori sensei – he used some kind of aspects or concepts for using the body that no one has used before too. Doesn’t mean that this doesn’t exist.
So returning to the question, yes of course some of the masters deal with the same points, same concepts and aspects of using the body. You can see also some similarities between the ways of movement and between some bodies too. Some go more deep, go less deep, some just a little bit, some keep on practising, some half practise and just stay with what they’ve accumulated – but the common points, most of the time (it depends on the master) but most of the time it’s the same.
After it’s the way of applying, some will do only with their students and will never accept that you do something different or you attack in another way, you have to stay within the Kata and things like that. So, well… it’s a personal choice of the master…

Combat: So is there anything from all your research and practice that comes out as being a good attitude for practise?

KZ: A good attitude is to be open. Not open because of self interest, because you want it, because you need something – but really open. To let people come and to welcome them wherever they come from, whatever the religion, whatever the ethnicity, whatever the country – this is the best attitude, to never have predetermined intentions, the door is open. Like a wise man said ‘I don’t have a door – you’re welcome to come and if you want you’re welcome to get out’, so this is the best attitude – to accept everyone. Why? Because God, or whatever you believe, have send to the master the student who knock at his door, the situation has put the master in a position where people come to him. If the master shuts them out, if he closes the door… well he should always remember that he was in the place of the student. This is the reason should never forget the mind and spirit of one student or disciple. This is the first thing.
Second thing, the type of attitude like: ‘you are not Japanese, you cannot understand’ this is completely stupid nowadays. A lot of Japanese study a lot of different things –painting, music… from different countries, and they devote themselves a lot. It ll be easy to said them the same thing . there are also the attitude of those foreigner who lives for quite long time in a country and act like they were Japanese or Chinese and always take the opportunity to lecture people… they act like they are more Japanese than Japanese or Chinese…this is simply out of the art, not related with the talent or the knowledge in the art, but just show how ego can be.
Being simply and truly open its very important, it’s the right attitude. To be open and to accept everyone In Japan with the etiquette, you can “accept” (or tolerate) people, you’re “polite” according the common etiquette, but it doesn’t mean that you really mean it So to be really sincere, really open and deeply – this is the best way to learn and to share.
It’s better to give than to wait to be given back, the return. So a master is someone who should give and never wait to be given back – I think. And this is what I have experienced with a few masters in Japan, especially Hatsumi sensei and Ishizuka sensei, and not in a ceremonial way. And I can let you know that Japanese are very strong for the ceremonial, for example for a lot of masters everything like the relation itself is all about ceremonial – you give something and he gives back the same, just because it’s duty.
But here I’m not talking about the common duty, I’m talking about something very deep, very human – so this is for me the right attitude, the best, the top attitude, after you have many aspects It changes according to master or disciple’s characteristics, the way they have been educated, the way they have been raised by their parents, their process, how they grew etc. etc.

Combat: So that’s a good attitude for a master, for a student?

KZ: Well I strongly think that, he master has to always, always, never forget that he was (and still in a certain way) a beginner – always keep a beginners mind or the initial mind that lead him to the practice. So the master has to be open, but the student also should be always open. You need also to always question yourself and also question the reason of the word of the master and not just to absorb everything blindly. The student or disciple has to think, he has to use is head and heart– because as a real disciple, he is a real master. The master was a disciple before, its logical. So I can said that a master knows very well what really mean to be a disciple. So I think that someone who practice martial art need to ask himself why? and when? And from that the real relationship – what we call Shitei kankei (master-student relationship) born.
Hatsumi sensei became Takamatsu sensei’s successor because he had something that the others didn’t have. It’s not only technique, because the technical side is part of the process of being a master. The very essential aspect is the heart, what he was deeply inside – and this aspect was always the essential one in the transmission in every school. You can be a good shihan, and stay just a good shihan, it’s always better to go to the ultimate. Ultimate is what is about the heart of a master and his art, his movement reflect this ultimate.

Combat: Switching the emphasis a little bit; readers from a karate background especially will be familiar with the word ‘kata’ but in koryu and the kind of martial arts we’re talking about it means something very different doesn’t it? Could you tell us something about that and it’s value compared to things like sparring and competition in modern budo.

KZ: The problem with this is it’s a thesis in itself! It’s very long so I will try to reduce everything. First you have 2 kanji for kata – one means the form and the other is the structure, what is inside the form. First its important to know that in classical martial arts create before the Edo period, the kata transmission, did not exist. We need to wait until the end of the Edo period in order to find the word kata use in a way more formal like in the sport martial arts of meiji perdio. In most of the scrolls of Jujutsu, Kenjutsu and Yari twriteeen during the first part of Edo period, the actual word ‘kata’ doesn’t exists. The word used was more Uchi tachi/Shi Dachi, that’s it. The Kata like you find in karate or in certain school was later, much later used in order to make easy the way of learning and teaching the technique to the student. There is another historical aspect to not forget and that help to elaborate the notion of Kata, especially during a peaceful era and master have time to think and to search what is the best word that suit his technique and what he found. From that many words, notion, concept have been used, some come from Buddhism, theatre, No, ikebana, Sadô, and so on. Secondly, when martial arts start to become more open the master or the instructor need to teach to a wide number of people. He need to create stuff, he need to create a form in order that no one hurts each other, the movement of the master is too difficult: his way of moving, his way of walking are like the river flow. This type of movement can not fixed in a kata. So students try to create something in order to reach that. And here come the notion o Kata. The main problem is that in order to reach the level of the master most of the student of disciple are stiff and stick on the kata, they think ‘yes, this is how the master moves’ – there is no proof that the master moves like that. By definition the master’s word or movement cannot be understood and catch by the disciple. It’s like a son who tries to understand his father, his role and action… It takes time, its necessary to have the same process, so this is one thing. So when martial arts became more popular, like I said, you need to create more things like that. But according to my research and the studies of few scrolls from various school, I have find 3 types of kata, actually 2, but you can divide into 3. There is what we call Tanren Gata or Jissen Gata. Tanren means renforcement, built and polish the body. The taren gata represents all the fighting techniques that help you to built your body and your mind, to reforce it and also to open his accuracy as well as the health aspect. [both roles – how to apply and how to receive]. The Jissen (or Shinken) is real actual fighting and represents all the techniques for fightinig and include, of course, the element of Tanren gata, actually tanren gata and jissen gate are one. Tanren, the renforcement and taking care of your body, because if you practice strongly but you hurt yourself, the D-day you have to use the technique the forgotten wound might come up and change your movement or maybe not be good for you.. So tanren, renforcement of the body, take care of the body, and jissen – they were the primary techniques. The other type of kata is call Hyoen Gata. Hyoen gata represent all the techniques for demonstrating in front of the public, to bring people, to earn money, etc. During the Edo perdio, especially the end of the Edo, the hyoen gata was used a lot. In karate, judo, aikido also there is a lot of hyoen gata, but there is also tanren and jissen gata as well. Not in the same way as koryu or kobudo, it’s more like self defense, self defense is not battlefield’s technic Self defense is against one or two in certain type of situations, war is different. In warfare there is a lot of things, there is everything. So this is one of the differences in kata: tanren gata, jissen gata, hyoen gata. But in case of koryu, rather than kata you should look at this as technique, it’s technique, it’s fighting technique, it’s not like doing something against an imaginary enemy and things like that. Kata can be translated like a sequence or modulation of form that conceals previous masters teachings. If the disciple or the student knows how to read it or to decode, if he have the keys to read it, he can find a lot of things. The problem is that sometimes the kata can become stiff, a lot of pieces can be forgotten. It includes also a lot of aspects like timing, like maai (distance), space, controlling and being aware the space, rhythm, breathing, etc Now compared to the sparring and things like that that you having in Boxing, Muay Thai, MMA – it’s a little bit different because martial art – it’s for killing. Because each technique is made and created for kiiling, most of them are born in the battlefield for survive, its impossible to use them in a sparring way where a lot of rules are fixed, even in MMA. Here comes the main argument used by a lot of people who practice martial arts. I can even say sincerely that most of them hide themselves behind this argument.. I hear often things like: ‘We are different, what we do is budo, it’s real, what you do is just sport’ – but when they face some MMA practitioner they can do nothing… And on the other hand, when someone does too much sparring…its impossible to keep this type of practice, the same energy when you get to a certain age, so the limit is very important. One aspect very important and very limited is the rules, even if the sparring can healp for a lot thing, in the street, in a real fight there is no rules, not times, no count down, no friend, no coach behind and no money at the end… Kata is interesting but you need also sometimes to see what is good in kata and what is not, what is effective, what is logical and what can make you practice longer and what cannot. Sometimes in Kata there are movements that are not good for the body, completely not heathy and against the bio-mecanics – So I think that its essential to think about that. And it’s the same things with sparring, there are some aspects that are not good. For exemaple choosing the type of sparring, the one who ll do the sparring. For example if he is very nervous or violent, you touch him a little bit, and suddenly, he becomes crazy and he hurts you, how many times does sparring finish like… well…of course there’s the opposite as well.So it’s a middle to find, the between, the inner space between to type of things, of thought.: Nowadays, the kata is a very educational system or method – the classical martial art is not for education, it has been turned into education, when it’s turned into education it bcome very different from what he was. The Culture of the body, culture of the mind, it’s not education, it’s something very deep. That’s why there is ‘cultivate’ and ‘educate’, I’m sure you see the difference, they are of course close together, connected, but different. When you talk about someone educated and someone cultivated, I’m sure you see the difference?

Combat: Yes.

KZ: So put this in a martial art and you will see.
Of course I don’t say that people doing MMA, sparring and things are not good. Actually it’s good, it’s good to be aware of that, to do the same, to have the experience of that, and to face people who do this. If you cannot, what you do is your own way, it’s like you choose the people with who you want to practice. Real fighting, real situation, you don’t choose anyone, you don’t choose the situation, you don’t have time to do your sparring, you don’t have your coach, you don’t have a lot of that. It’s you at the right moment – what can you do? It’s what you are. And in a certain way, in MMA and fighting sport, in sparring as well you find also this idea, because you try hard, because you give your best you earn respect in ti-his way, you show what you are. For reach that level, there is a very important preparation where everything is controlled, the diet, the muscle, the technic, and in certain case a little bit of…. hem… helpful ‘medication’ – but you don’t die, you may get hurt, after it’s finished you shake the hand of the guy. In a real art, every day there is fighting against yourself, fighting against your own habits, your bad habits. This why its not everyone who can do that and reach the highest level.

Combat: So you have a knowledge about lots of martial arts…

KZ: No, I have just read books, it’s not knowledge, because in ‘knowledge’ you have ‘know’ and ‘edge’ – so it’s being on the edge of everything. I’m just at the bottom of everything. And it’s good, like this, the more I study I learn humbleness and respect. This can be the best teaching from the time spent in the studies of other arts.

Combat: Could you tell us what it is you practice, and why you choose that one when you know about so many others?

KZ: Well, this is a little bit personal but I practice the 9 schools in an organization called the Bujinkan. So these nine schools are connected and related with an art called ninjutsu – a strange art for a lot of people, and not rally considered as an art for a lot of Japanese, even for some practitioners of Japanese martial arts,.Some Japanese masters even think like that because there are a lot of cliché, images, fixed information presented in mnay book and by many so call master..
So, I practice the nine schools which are connected with that. I follow the master of the nine schools Hatsumi Masaaki, the only disciple and successor of Takamatsu sensei. I’m close with one of the oldest students of Hatsumi sensei. His name is Ishizuka Tetsuji sensei. Actually right now, after a few of the old students created their own organization and fellow their own purpose, he is the oldest student of Hatsumi. I am following Hatsumi sensei, the master, but I’m close with Ishizuka sensei because he help me to understand his master which is Hatsumi sensei. When I am I Japan, I attend to Hatsumi sensei’s class and Ishizuka sensei’s class. Of course there is many other Japanese shihan in the Bujinkan organization and everyone can choose the one he likes.
Why I choose ninjutsu, the art? Because historically it’s the ultimate – there is no limit, everything is covered in studies and practice. It’s the art and technique of Japan’s primary spy, where its essential to go and think three times ahead before the danger. Its also important to understand the nature of the danger, this is also the meaning of ‘Shinobi’. In order to reach the ultimate level, its essential to study a lot of things because its crucial to know the information and to deal with it. One must be aware of the capacity and the style of any kind of man or enemy. So it’s an art where its necessary to study everything, and at the same time to learn to remain humble and to stay in the shadow – never to show what you can do, never to show yourself or to pretend that you know, or to show your knowledge etc. – it’s completely the opposite with ninjutsu. In my case, I prefer to say I practice nothing, I’m just a practitioner, which is true, just a practitioner, I don’t go looking for high rank or position. I’m not interested in things like that. I am just interested in practicing and going deeper. I practice and follow the principles of the master, nothing more, nothing less.
So yes, I choose ninjutsu because to me, historically, it’s the ultimate, when you put ninja in an area they can do everything and always achieve their mission.… because they don’t have any rules, they have to follow only the rules they have in their heart, to survive, for them and their family.This survival ideologies, this special mind, this way of thinking, has influenced the way of moving and the way of using the body, historically. Now I like ninjutsu because simply I like this – it’s not because I like to put on a black cowl and running around in the night, or chasing young girls – I’d be crazy to do that, even some like to do it! No, I like ninjutsu because there is everything, there are many weapons, there is something fun for me. But I like other martial arts too, it’s really important for me as well. I respect every martial art, I love all martial arts, there is some I love more than others because I found them more open, more wide – I like things which do not break the body and do not fixed close the mind. Sometimes there is art, form, martial arts form that really reduce people’s mind and people’s bodies, and you have to wait for the kind of practitioner who is clever and open enough to change that, and the other people think ‘oh, this man, what he does is wrong’ but no, it’s not.

Combat: You mentioned following Hatsumi sensei and Ishizuka sensei, what is it about those masters that inspires you?

KZ: Well, these were the first I met during my first trip in Japan in the summer of the year ’89. It’s like, for example, you go to a restaurant and the food was good, so you stay, until the food is not good, then you change – the problem is, the food is always great! Each time I go the food is great so I stay, and I’m very happy, they feed my appetite. But not like a religion can do Because they are just a man, man is just man, they lives and dies, th art like the religion always stay……
But the respect I have for those men, is difficult to express by words I have met a lot of professors, I’m close with other martial arts masters etc., all are nice, all have good points and bad points, but the good thing with Hatsumi sensei and Ishizuka sensei, they are maybe the first ones from who took everyone in the same way, they dosen’t have any of the: ‘oh, you are not Japanese, you cannot understand this’ or something. Especially Hatsumi sensei, I never saw someone like him, he’s a man of gifts – this man always gives, he gives. Of course, after, what you do with the gift, this is your problem – but this man gives. And I have been with him enough to see that, and he’s always like that. I spend a lot of time with him because I was living in Noda city where he lives. I walk with Hatsumi sensei many times. But I’m not the only one to walk with Hatsumi sensei in the Bujinkan, a lot of people did it. Among them some have lived in Japan for years, some also think they are close or think it makes them close, but it’s no problem for me. Close is just a problem of space, I’m talking about the heart, this is very different to know if you are close to someone with the heart, especially with a master like him, who you don’t know what he thinks, how it is. He is… complicated simple. It’s too simple, so simple it’s complicated for us, it’s too simple. It’s like when you watch the river and ask to yourself why the river is beautiful? It’s too complicated – he is like that, simply Simple. He is very strong to give to anyone what they looking for or wishes, this is the reason why I said its very difficult to know if someone is close or not, really close, in the heart of the master. With Ishizuka sensei it’s the same, but I have spend more time because I was mainling living in his housse, so here also my relation with him is very special and its more a world where there is no word to describe and its fine in this way. Sometimes there are no words you need to express what you feel for someone. It’s like trying to give wings to the words… its difficult and I prefer keep this in my heart. I have found with those masters a kind of openness, they are so open, so warm – I didn’t find this with other people. O course I’ve met some master with warmness, like Nawa sensei , a great and wise gentleman, now I understand why Hatsumi sensei loved him and they used to do a lot of things together. Unfortunately he died in 2006 but I’ll never forget him and I’ll keep all the letters I have from him. I must mention also Sakai Eiji sensei from Asayama Ichiden Ryu, this man is a flower, a man of good, very warm. But I know Hatsumi sensei, Ishizuka sensei… huh, I know! I mean I frequent them more. So there is something in them, difficult to describe – it’s not a question of charisma or something like that, some people love other masters that I found not completely interesting, but this is, you know… your own taste. It’s impossible to discuss, everyone chooses. I like them.

Combat: We hear that one of the major Japanese publishers, Tuttle, will be putting out your new book later this year. We’re told it’s the result of more than 10 years research and contains a lot of information from primary sources, some which have never been translated into English before. Could tell us a bit more please?

KZ: It’s a book about the history of ninjutsu. It deal with many aspect of history, the history based on historical fact, history based on scrolls. There is also everything I found in order to put ninjutsu in the place it has to be.
A lot of people think that ninja is base on black stuff and things like that, and here, historically, I explain the different reasons, where the image comes from, because we have the image that comes from the Japanese theatre, the image that comes from the Edo period, the image that comes from historical chronicle and literary chronicles, many things.
And in order to understand ninjutsu, its necessary also to be aware of the histrical context and also the other martial arts. So the book deals with many things, history of martial arts, classical martial arts – very quickly. And a lot about ninjutsu history – the primary facts, historical facts, where they were, who. And there is one part about Takamatsu sensei – how someone like Takamatsu sensei could see the art, so I take a text that he wrote called Ninjutsu Hiketsu Bun as it’s known by people, I had the chance to see the original 3 times in Hatsumi sensei’s home, and I have worked on that. But the text is very long, the only one thing we know is only one piece like this [indicates just a short passage of text]. So I use this text, I translated directly from the Japanese, and I make a lot of footnotes and things to explain the words – what it can mean. And from that, according to the few pieces of information we have from Takamatsu sensei’s Shinden Shura roppo, it’s on of the few newspaper articles that were done by him, I had a copy of the original, and I translate directly from Japanese and I try to match this with Takamatsu sensei’s process and try to give some leads from ninjutsu things.
So it’s not my opinion – I ask questions, I listen, I write it as it is, I give some kind of development about that and let people choose. I also try to explain different things between martial arts and sports martial arts inside. There is a lot of footnotes, that deal with a lot of principal schools like Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu, Kashima Shinkage Ryu, Kage Ryu, Shinkage Ryu, the Yagyu family, Miyamoto Musashi, there are parts of scrolls from Takenouchi Ryu, Maniwa Nen Ryu – all the schools that normally, when someone practise ninjutsu or other classical schools, should be known that and respect. Things about Kano sensei, Gichin Funakoshi, Otsuka etc. etc.
So yes, it’s about all those aspects, I wrote a book in French, but I wanted to do in English so I change everything and wrote something more accurate than the French version. It’ll be 3 or 4 times more accurate, more pages, more pictures, more scroll pictures etc. than the French version. I wanted something more wide.
Of course now when I read it again, because it’s been a long time – I wrote this book in 1999, so when I read it I found some mistakes but I’m already onto the second one which will be deeper with Bansenshukai, Shoninki, Ninpiden translations, and more and more. Also a few letters from masters translated, so I hope people will enjoy.
I wrote this book not to present myself or promote myself, because there are no pictures of me, no background about me, nothing. It’s martial arts through the eyes of a practitioner… plus, in a scholar’s way, in order not to, you know, serve the soup to one person more than another.

Combat: Thank you, thanks for your time Kacem.

KZ: The pleasure was mine.

4 Comments

  1. Great interview ! Kacem goes deep into various aspects of martial arts, shares his insight on practice. I like it very much.

    Thanks for sharing the interview.

  2. Thanks a lot.

  3. Amazing article!
    I need to get that printed out. Reading from a screen is good for FaceBook or MySpace, but not for a great arcticle like this.

    I know Dr. Kacem Zoughari a bit by now, and I can tell you: he is as amazed a martial artist, as he is a scholar!

    Even if you are not in the Bujinkan, but interested in any “traditional” Japanese martial art, please seek out an opportunity to learn from him somehow at least one time, and to discuss “traditional” Japanese martial arts with him.

    It’s a revelation!

  4. Great article i recently went to a seminar here in LA California this past weekend to learn From Kacem for the first time, and if there is one sentence in this article that capture’s his energy, it is this:….I am looking for what makes people alive, what makes the art alive. Thank You for sharing your wisdom, love and passion for teaching/sharing this art.


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