Ninjutsu Books

Razor

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I know topics about books come up quite a bit, so bear with me. My question is a bit more specific than books in general.

I am looking for another book on Bujinkan as a complement to my training. I have two books already (Simon Yeo's Ninjutsu: The Secret Art of the Ninja and Masaaki Hatsumi's The Way of the Ninja) which cover a lot of Taijutsu and other concepts. I would like a good book about weapons, preferably katana. I have looked at reviews of Hatsumi's books on Amazon and found them quite mixed. The main thing I feel however, is that I don't know if these people actually are martial artists or those who are just interested or perhaps trying to learn from the book and finding they can't, so I am unsure how valid their reviews are.

Ideally I would like something by Hatsumi, and a book that focuses more on technique than esoteric, spiritual issues that he often write about. Pictures would be preferable; I am looking for a reference guide, so for example something that I can use to look up the techniques after training or maybe practise again in my own time.&nbsp;<br><br>Any suggestions? Also, does anyone know if Hatsumi's "Japanese Sword Fighting" is the kind of book I am looking for?
 

gregtca

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Katana%20Cover.jpg
Ken, Tachi, Katana
[SIZE=+1][SIZE=-1]Detailing both the history and usage of the Japanese sword in a way not seen in modern budo. Hatsumi Soke once again shows the strength of Bujinkan kenjutsu in a manner most effective you can almost feel the hits he gives his senior Shihan. Supplemented by over 20 minutes of Hatsumi Soke classes on swordsmansh[/SIZE]ip.Ken, Tachi, Katana dvd[/SIZE]


Have you tryed this dvd?, You really should try and get to a proper sword school and get proper instruction - imho,i am sure alot more ppl will answer this thread for you as well.
 

Sanke

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Katana Cover.jpg
Ken, Tachi, Katana
[SIZE=+1][SIZE=-1]Detailing both the history and usage of the Japanese sword in a way not seen in modern budo. Hatsumi Soke once again shows the strength of Bujinkan kenjutsu in a manner most effective you can almost feel the hits he gives his senior Shihan. Supplemented by over 20 minutes of Hatsumi Soke classes on swordsmansh[/SIZE]ip.Ken, Tachi, Katana dvd[/SIZE]


Have you tryed this dvd?, You really should try and get to a proper sword school and get proper instruction - imho,i am sure alot more ppl will answer this thread for you as well.

Unless I'm mistaken, it sounds like he's already got a school he trains with, and is looking for material to further his studies. Would I be right in saying that, Razor? I can't speak for this DVD, though I've heard things about it, and it's probably worth a watch.

As for books, almost all of Hatsumi's books are going to be full of esoteric writings, it's just his style. It can be difficult to read at the best of times, but that's just my opinion, and I've only read one or two.
I don't think there's too much out there written by Hatsumi that will focus on technique, most old MA systems typically don't write that kind of stuff, rather preferring to rely on directly teaching the material. It might be better to write your own notes based on what you do in class and refer to those.

This is assuming you're doing the Bujinkan approach to sword, btw, correct me if that's mistaken.
 

Chris Parker

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Yeah, Hatsumi Sensei's books (at least the later ones) are really best used in conjunction with the lessons you get in class... as a "dry read", they can be a little difficult to see what on earth he's talking about sometimes! With regard to "Japanese Sword Fighting", it covers the Kukishinden Ryu Happo Biken Kenpo syllabus (the long sword), as well as the Kodachi Dori (well.... after a fashion, anyway), and the Muto Dori of Gyokko Ryu (the Ge Ryaku no Maki). The descriptions, if you know the kata, can be very interesting and helpful. If you don't, though, it's a different story.

For "esoteric" writing (philosophy etc), I'd look to "Ninpo: Wisdom for Life: (http://www.budovideos.com/shop/customer/product.php?productid=19771). But, as Sanke said, there's a lot of esoterica in pretty much all of his writings. In fact, I'd probably only recommend them after a number of years of training, before that they're really more like a collection of pretty words, without the lessons being too accessible... but hey, that's kinda the definition of "esoteric", when it comes down to it!

With regard to the Ken Tachi Katana DVD, it's quite a decent one. There are a few things that I'd probably have issues with, mainly from my other Kenjutsu training, but it's far better than the way the sword is used in many other videos.
 

Brian R. VanCise

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Stick Fighting and Advanced Stick Fighting are still some of the best books he has written. (particularly the first one)
 
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Razor

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Unless I'm mistaken, it sounds like he's already got a school he trains with, and is looking for material to further his studies. Would I be right in saying that, Razor? I can't speak for this DVD, though I've heard things about it, and it's probably worth a watch.

As for books, almost all of Hatsumi's books are going to be full of esoteric writings, it's just his style. It can be difficult to read at the best of times, but that's just my opinion, and I've only read one or two.
I don't think there's too much out there written by Hatsumi that will focus on technique, most old MA systems typically don't write that kind of stuff, rather preferring to rely on directly teaching the material. It might be better to write your own notes based on what you do in class and refer to those.

This is assuming you're doing the Bujinkan approach to sword, btw, correct me if that's mistaken.

Yes, I already train in Bujinkan. Do you know of any book that does then? I really liked the approach to technique that Simon Yeo's book takes, but to my knowledge he has not written a kenjutsu book or have any plans to. I suppose I could try to write notes. The problem I would have though is that it is a 2 hour class and by the time I get back to my house I probably will have forgotten the details of the last technique, not to mention the first one! I sometimes have difficulty remembering even 10 minutes later and only remember when practising it again later (I do usually remember after a while though when we practise it a lot, like Kihon Happo for example).



Yeah, Hatsumi Sensei's books (at least the later ones) are really best used in conjunction with the lessons you get in class... as a "dry read", they can be a little difficult to see what on earth he's talking about sometimes! With regard to "Japanese Sword Fighting", it covers the Kukishinden Ryu Happo Biken Kenpo syllabus (the long sword), as well as the Kodachi Dori (well.... after a fashion, anyway), and the Muto Dori of Gyokko Ryu (the Ge Ryaku no Maki). The descriptions, if you know the kata, can be very interesting and helpful. If you don't, though, it's a different story.

For "esoteric" writing (philosophy etc), I'd look to "Ninpo: Wisdom for Life: (http://www.budovideos.com/shop/customer/product.php?productid=19771). But, as Sanke said, there's a lot of esoterica in pretty much all of his writings. In fact, I'd probably only recommend them after a number of years of training, before that they're really more like a collection of pretty words, without the lessons being too accessible... but hey, that's kinda the definition of "esoteric", when it comes down to it!

With regard to the Ken Tachi Katana DVD, it's quite a decent one. There are a few things that I'd probably have issues with, mainly from my other Kenjutsu training, but it's far better than the way the sword is used in many other videos.

Sounds like "Japanese Sword Fighting" is what I am looking for. I am sure as the theme for this year is the katana my instructor will be teaching a lot of kenjutsu, so hopefully I will get a chance to practise some of the kata before reading about them!

Thanks for the comments guys, I am starting to approach the kyu grades where (my instructor at least) wants to see that you can handle weapons properly, so I am trying to practise with bokken, hanbo staffs etc a bit before the grading in a few months.
 

gregtca

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Hi Razor, dont worry about remembering the techniques , they will be ingrained into your mind/body , i pointed out a sword school might be a good start because imo many ppl cant hold or cut properly with a katana , so a sword school would teach you these little things get the basics correct and build on them, Soke has not produced a sword techinque basic book , Charles Daniels has a kenjutsu book which in quite interesting, As for the theme of "KEN" this year , no-one really knows what soke will teach

Best luck with your training

Regards
Greg
 

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Some times it can be good to find oneself as a "living note" where your solo training at home reflects what you have covered in class.
Other times you may find your solo training at home reflects what you need it to - such as when one finds insights into something they have practised, turn up to training and are told they have it right!

Notes are very good, but mine are rather sparse. There are many books out there and there may be some bad parts in good books and some good parts in bad books - I, shockingly, even found one or two things which helped my kenjutsu flow more nicely in Stephen K Hayes's "Mystic Arts of the Ninja" ! And Stephen K Hayes, especially at the time, was not exactly an expert on Bujinkan sword principles...

However the key thing, as has been said, is the integration and management of information within the context of ongoing participationin live transmission of the art. Books and so forth can augment one's training, or more commonly for me simply help to adapt mindsets.

I made a comparison between the Bujinkan and blues guitar in another thread - to elaborate on that concept, I believe the two are very similar because they both take something which has history and theory and a set pattern of knowledge (for example the kata for the ryu, and say, scales and arpeggios) however once one has internalised the basics then one can move forwards into the realm of "feeling" the movement or sound - the blues guitar is all about feel.

Perhaps there is an analogy for slide guitar, which is what I play, but I haven't thought deeply enough about it to come up with some snappy cool remark just yet :p
 

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Oh and FWIW I think the esoteric side of Soke's writing can often be layered in such a way that it can mean something when you read it at a certain level of understanding, but when you come back years later it reads even deeper.

I liken it to the Summa Theologica - as a stock standard basic layman Catholic I can read the Summa and get what my mind needs from it, understand it at a level that I am at. However a theologician or philosopher can read it on levels far deeper than I, and get so much more out of it as well.
So these writings can often work on many levels.

Also for some reason in our dojo many have developed a habit of when reading books by Soke - read it three times in a row, as every time different aspects will stand out to you. Sounds odd but try it and you'll see!
 

Aiki Lee

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I agree with Brian that Hatsumi's books on stick fighting are still probably the most useful books on stick fighting that I've ever come across. They have very detailed photographs and as long as you have an instructor he should be able to help you understand the terminology.
 

Sanke

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Stick Fighting and Advanced Stick Fighting are still some of the best books he has written. (particularly the first one)
To be fair, most of the actual writing was done by Quintin Chambers, while Hatsumi provided the material. So while it's absolutely one of the best books he's been involved in, I'd personally say that's partly because it was written by Chambers, making it a much friendlier read than his other stuff. :)
 

Chris Parker

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I'm kinda umming and ahhing about how frank to be here... tell you what, I'm going to be frank and honest, but diplomatic (if I can be... let's see, shall we?).

First off, I'm going to clarify (as much as I can) where I'm coming from. In addition to the Bujinkan material that I teach (although no longer a part of the organisation, that is where my organisation came from originally, being the original schools in Australia, New Zealand, and a few other places), I am also training in a couple of Koryu systems focused on the sword, as well as having experience in the weaponry (including sword) aspects of another Koryu, and having attended and watched classes of other Koryu and their teaching of the sword. Additionally, I am friends with students and teachers of sword-related systems, and such things are frequent topics of conversation, as well as having a large personal interest in the study of the Japanese sword. Right, so that's me, then. On with the controversy....

As I said earlier, the Ken Tachi Katana DVD is probably the best source for Kenjutsu from the Bujinkan. This is primarily because it deals with the actual kata and material that is part of the Kukishinden Ryu, rather than the far more common approach to sword that the organisation shows, which is an exploration of principles, typically focused around Taijutsu, which happen to use a sword in the middle of them. The problem is that, in general, sword really doesn't exist in the Bujinkan. What there is is the use of a sword (or a representative, which can lead to issues all of it's own) without any understanding or acknowledgement of the realities of the weapon, used in a way where it's just a part of the Taijutsu.

Personally, I think this is because Hatsumi himself just doesn't have much interest in it. He loves his staff weapons, but sword just doesn't grab him, for whatever reason (I find this particularly ironic, considering he is the Soke of Kukishinden Ryu Happo Biken, which has as a primary focus it's sword aspects, Kenpo, Kodachidori,and Juttejutsu - he just seems to prefer the Bojutsu, which primarily comes from other lines of Kukishin Ryu). This lack of interest means that the early students weren't really taught a lot of sword... in fact, Stephen Hayes, my Chief Instructor, and others reported that they weren't really taught much in the way of sword in Japan, with Hanbo being the primary weapon explored. Occasionally the Hanbo would be used to substitute for a sword in Muto Dori techniques, but sword itself was rarely touched on. This lead to Stephen Hayes basically copying Kendo books, and making up what he thought it should be (with very mixed results, honestly), and my Chief Instructor using another Iai system as a base for our early exploration of sword. Most other Bujinkan instructors have essentially been left to their own devices to come up with what they can, or in some cases, what they want to. As you may realize, that is also a recipe for a rather mixed result.

If I'm to be blunt here, I haven't ever seen what I would consider "good" swordsmanship demonstrated in the Bujinkan. The aforementioned DVD is the closest, but there's still a lot there that isn't ideal. Charles Daniel's book (and I afford Charles a lot of respect) isn't really that good either, when it all comes down to it. To be blunt, it reads like someone who has read about certain kamae from a range of Ryu, and some concepts for strategies and tactics with a sword, but hasn't really been taught it. It was a cobbled-together piece, really.

I suppose the end result of this is as follows: The Bujinkan really doesn't deal much in terms of sword. Even those instructors who are supposed to be the "sword experts" in the Bujinkan are rather lacking when I watch them. Hatsumi himself tends, particularly when using fukuro shinai, to not use a sword like a sword, but instead like a stick. He hits with them, he doesn't cut. His Iai is more a collection of ideas, not actual Iai (there isn't really any in the Bujinkan). When using an iaito or mogito, he tends to do a range of things that, to be frank, are ill-advised at best, and downright dangerous, or, in some cases, impossible. By training in the Bujinkan, you'll be basically training in Taijutsu, and that will sometimes use a sword. But it's likely not what might be considered swordsmanship. So, the best thing is just to attend your classes, and follow the instruction of your teacher, as what they will guide you on could be very different to anything that we could lead you to.
 

jks9199

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Point of curiosity: Could the apparent lack of sword skill and instruction be simply that -- an appearance? Could it be that, at one point, Hatsumi didn't teach much sword because the majority of his students at that time, in that place had learned it independently, before coming to him? So, he doesn't bother to teach it to them since they already know it... and along the way, as things progress through students of students and down the line in time, new students without that background simply didn't acquire it, unless they did so on their own?
 

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Honestly, JKS, I'd doubt it. Remember we're dealing with people such as Manaka, who started training with Hatsumi when he was 14 (about three years after Hatsumi started training with Takamatsu, when he was just the head of a training group under Takamatsu Sensei), who came in as a youth Judo champion. Since leaving the Bujinkan, Manaka Sensei has developed the Jinen Ryu, a system dealing primarily with sword and related (two sword, Iai, tanto, jutte) as he feels that these areas were missing in the Bujinkan. Tanemura has also gone outside of the Takamatsu material to get sword teachings. And when one of the people who show, frankly, a large amount of gaps in knowledge and understanding of sword being Hatsumi himself, that leads me back to Hatsumi not really having the interest in it as a topic. After all, he's the Soke of a sword line (Kukishinden Ryu Happo Biken), so to not continue to teach sword in any meaningful way just doesn't make as much sense as him not really dealing with it in the first place. The Bojutsu from the Kukishin lines is where his interest is, and he's very good at that, but that leaves the sword behind.

Besides all of that, not teaching his inherited sword line because the students had picked up sword elsewhere is like you not teaching your system to a new student because they already know karate, and that's a hitting/kicking art. It just doesn't make sense, as no matter what experience or understanding of sword they may have come in with, they didn't have knowledge, experience, understanding, or skill in his sword system.

EDIT: Oh, and to address the first contention, that the apparent lack of skill could just be an appearance, no. It's a genuine lack. In Hatsumi's case, I'd say lack of interest, as he could be very good, he just isn't interested in it. After all, it's not like he doesn't have the training equipment, partners, or material. And yet there are huge gaps in what he does (some of the things he was saying about the use of Tachi on the 2010 DKMS are just wrong...)
 

jks9199

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Hey, it was just a thought. I've seen similar things happen elsewhere. The idea being that the master instructor doesn't need to teach the basics and relies on his earlier students teaching them, but a breakdown happens. And, of course, the idea of mystery and deception inherent in ninjutsu...
 

Chris Parker

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Ha, yeah, I know... Honestly, the big problem isn't even that it's not Hatsumi's thing. He's just like everyone else, he's going to have preferences, and that's all cool. He's interested in the unarmed approach, and likes his Bo work, and he's very good at both. The problem is what might be called the "Bujinkan faithful", who seem to want to see Hatsumi as being basically infallible and all-knowing when it comes to martial arts. And, frankly, he's not. At all. For example, he mentions Musashi and the Niten Ichi Ryu, as well as the Gorin no Sho from time to time in his books, and he is without fail wrong everytime he does. He gets the reason the Gorin no Sho was written, and how it was written, very wrong in "Way of the Ninja", for instance. He also mentioned at a Daikomyo Sai a number of years ago that a certain thing he was showing was like Einstein's Theory of Relativity in that each action had an equal and opposite reaction, and, as that's what Einstein got his Nobel Prize for, all members of the Bujinkan had the equivalent. The problem, of course, was that "equal and opposite reaction" was part of Newton's Laws, not the Theory of Relativity, and had nothing to do with any Nobel Prize... but he got applause, and I've seen that comment reposted and cited a number of times since.

Hatsumi is very good at a large number of things, his sense of balance, distance, timing, control, are all at the highest level, but the desire for him to be at that level with everything, including general knowledge, is just unrealistic. The same thing happens with things like spear, for instance, when teaching the material (on his Sojutsu DVD), it's great. Then you watch the 1994 DKMS where it was one of the two dominant themes, and the gaps come straight out (a range of issues starting from unrealistic tactics and attacks, and continuing to some things done with the spears that, while the partner stood there and waited, were fun and interesting, but had no real value as the only way they could possibly be done is if someone just stood there...).

I just think it'd be good if Hatsumi was looked at a little more realistically, that's all. He does have a lot to offer, but buying into the idea that he's all knowing isn't helping him, or the Bujinkan, as it's lead to the way the Bujinkan operates now. Which is very sad.

Oh, but on the topic of the other organisations and sword, the Genbukan would probably be the best although there are a few issues there that I've noticed. The Jinenkan (and the Jinen Ryu) seems to be more what Manaka thinks should be there, rather than actually based in anything... the Iai, for instance, is overly complicated, and the position of the kashira for all kamae is far from what any system I've come across would recommend, for a number of reasons. What this has lead to is a number of X-Kan members looking outside their own system for sword, to varying levels of success (Richard Van Donk training in an Iai system separate, and now creating his own sword system based on that and Hatsumi's use of the weapon, Brian R Van Cise I know trains in another Iai system [with better results and standards than the one RVD trains... ], the Akban guys trying to copy Katori Shinto Ryu videos, and missing a lot of what they're seeing...). The material's there, and it's good stuff, it's just not easy to find someone who knows what it's actually supposed to be like.
 

jks9199

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That's something I've seen happen more than once, across styles... and worthy of a thread all it's own.

Do you think there are folks in the Bujinkan who are skilled with the sword?
 

Chris Parker

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I'm sure there are, if for no other reason that it'd be a huge statistical anomaly for there to not be... but I will also say that I don't think they would have gotten that skill from the Bujinkan itself, and, honestly, I have yet to see it. I saw a cutting demo by one of the guys who is considered the go-to guy for sword, and was not impressed. Nor were many other people who commented on the clip in question, I must say.
 
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