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Tag Archives: ukemi

KACEM DENSHO

“Takagi Yōshin-ryū is a style of jūjutsu. Of course it’s not ninjutsu. That is obvious. Historically, the founder of this style, Takagi Oriemon, practiced a school called ‘Takenouchi-ryū’ (竹内流), one of the oldest and most famous traditions of ‘sōgō bujutsu’ (composite martial arts; 総合武術) of Japan. The reason why I say sōgō bujutsu is because you also have weapons. So, sōgō bujutsu in martial arts means ‘general martial art’ or ‘various martial arts’. From one point, a nucleus, they teach many, many weapons. Takagi Oriemon had learned this method with the second generation, but the problem with the Takenouchi family is that they never gave the inner movement, the deepest understanding, to someone from outside of the family. That was one of the main rules back in the 14th and 16th centuries. But he learned enough to create his own style. He received many things and, with that, he had many matches, fights, and duels with many people. He then went to learn ‘Yagyū Shinkage-ryū’, and from that point he created the school called ‘Takagi Yōshin-ryū’.
What you need to know is that what he created, was not all the techniques in this scroll. You need to wait at least four generations following his lifetime before you start to have something that is possible to pass on. Because in order to be a master, first you need to master something. Then, you need to be able to teach it, talk about it, give it to someone, and to explain to someone. If you can’t explain, you need to find someone who can explain for you. In the martial arts, this is very deep and very difficult. So we need to wait four generations, until the day that Takamatsu-sensei met Mizutani-sensei. And, before this, Takamatsu-sensei had already inherited seven traditions from his grandfather, Toda-sensei. So, already he was skilled in the way of observing and performing techniques in a very special way. Something unique to ninjutsu. Something different. Different in using the mind and different in using the body. So, when he watched and learned Takagi Yōshin-ryū, after only one year he was taught the top level techniques; the ‘gokui’ (essence of the tradition; 極意). He was only seventeen. Of course Mizuta-sensei had different students who received ‘menkyo kaiden’ (full license transmission; 免許皆伝). Both were menkyo kaiden, as it is mentioned in this history section of the scroll. Sometimes these things were bought because, of course, Mizuta-sensei sometimes needed to eat; since his only source of income was martial arts. So, sometimes a master would sell a certificate of transmission. This isn’t too different from nowadays, as well. So Takamatsu-sensei, as he had very beautiful handwriting and had learned Chinese, was the one who wrote the scroll. So. he wrote these scrolls by his sensei’s instruction, and sometimes Mizuta would say, “Write this, but don’t include this part.” So, step-by-step, for example the art of ‘iai’ (drawing the sword; 居合), the art of ‘kodachi’ (short sword; 小太刀), the art of rope, or the jō (approx. four-foot staff; 状), was lost or forgotten. Takamatsu-sensei, though, received the entire transmission of the school.
So you have many branches of Takagi Yōshin-ryū. They have the same name, the same principle, but the way of using the body is completely different. Why? Because, when Takamatsu sensei had learned this tradition, he already knew how to ascertain what was effective and what was not, using what is important and removing what is useless. Of course, this is ‘jūjutsu’. But, through the eyes of ‘ninjutsu’.”

✧ DR. KACEM ZOUGHARI

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SANKEN

SANKEN (三見), which translates literally as ‘the three glances’, is a term that was used by various highly-skilled swordsmen of the Yagyû clan in Japanese history. It indicates the three-fold action of vigilant and highly focused observation of the enemy’s mental state, physical posture, and method of initial engagement, the moment when weapons are crossed in battle. The way in which the enemy holds his weapon is one facet of this intense observation and gives immediate insight as to whether the opponent is nervous, composed, weakened, strong, highly skilled, or inexperienced. Thus, one gains an edge on the engagement and can therefore take the proper initiative and course of action in combat.

✧ KACEM ZOUGHARI

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BATTLE

For warriors on the battlefields of the civil war era of Old Japan, the weight of armor and the constraints imposed by the various moving parts were not easily controlled. Loss of balance during combat was frequent. Here intervenes the art to fall or roll on the ground without being wounded. Most masters and founders of combat methods had lost balance more once during battle. However, how does one fall while wearing armor of which certain parts and the reinforcements of the helmet can be used against one by the enemy? It is not a question here to carry out a beautiful fall, as most people practice ‘ukemi’ (受身) these days, striking the hand to the ground as they tumble.
Arts such as Jûdô and Aikidô, which are practiced almost entirely on tatami, employ this modern method of ‘ukemi’. Yet, this is a far cry from the original methods used in life and death combat situations by warriors on the battlefield, who had to devise a way of using the body to fall without being wounded. It was necessary to be able to be able to counter a technique, to escape a technique, to even place an attack or a defense while falling on the ground. On the battlefield, it was impossible to use the hands to contact the ground and break a fall, because warriors were always carrying weapons. In the first traditions of jûjutsu like Takeuchi-ryû and the Shoshô-ryû of which the documents of the oldest transmission were compiled in 1585, there is mention of a type of fall or tumble developed where the head and hands did not touch the ground. It was named ‘kaiten’ (回転), meaning“to turn and reverse” one’s direction. In order to remain alive, warriors had to develop a razor-sharp and constant awareness to the quickly changing terrain surrounding them, while amid the fierceness of battle, along with an acute sense of body control and precision. This is the reason, unlike today, that ‘ukemi’ was not taught until the ‘okuden’ levels in many true combat traditions. It took a seasoned veteran of war or a master with decades of practice to hone such a refined control of the body. Only then, could one perform and demonstrate true ‘ukemi’.

– DR. KACEM ZOUGHARI