Today was a monumental day – pun not intended.

The day started with me just barely making it to Seno Sensei’s early class. Seno is one of the Japanese teachers that for some reason or another I never got to train with, but knew I should. Seno gave us ample time to work on each set of movement as we zero’d in on the precise angle of attack to take the opponent’s balance. Kevin was my partner, and we both went back and forth trying to help eachother let the other know what was working. It payed off, because there was a huge moment of glee when I looked up at Seno Sensei while practicing and he game me an approving nod. I might as well have gone home right then and there because it won’t get much better. I was wrong.

Soke’s class was next. We did alot of muto dori, and bo work. Again it started to be a little more familiar. Lisa was very gracious in her time in class as we both encouraged her. Again Soke talked about doing thing naturally – that we must match the flow with our partner and not move from step 1 to step 2 etc. Again, incredibly hard to do.

Then something pretty amazing happened: after class Shihan Lawrence invited me to Soke’s house. Um Yes! I got a lift with Daishihan Arnaud and Shihan Tanaka.

We got a tour of Soke’s Shrines as he talked about his plans for creating a lasting monument to everyone training in the Bujinkan.

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Then came the next surprise: we were going to do weeding around the Shrines. Now you might chalk this up to free labor, but it was actually pretty fun. I got to bond with many of the Judan and Shihan there. By the end of the hour or so we were laughing and joking around with eachother. I don’t know if this was part of Soke’s plan, but that alone was worth it.

The big payoff came next: having beer and shochu with Soke. I got to see him joking and hanging out with everyone, a side that I would otherwise never see. He is definately charismatic and doesn’t take himself to seriously. He asked that everyone lives as long as possible. When asked what’s the secret to a long life he simply said “there are no secrets…there are no secrets in the Bujinkan”.

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I took that wisdom as meaning not just that there is transperancy, albeit with alot of ambiguity, but also that there is no easy way – there are no shortcuts. Some times you just have to get on your knees and pull weeds.

On the car ride back I got to talk more to Arnaud and Tanaka who were talking about ranking in the Bujinkan. He eloquently echoed what Shihan Woodard always told me: you’re ranked on potential and it’s up to you to live up to it. He then explained the difference between a Shodan and a Shidoshi:

“A shodan moves like crap but knows the basics. A Shidoshi moves like crap still, but at least knows it.”

I think I’m living up to that standard. We then got a bite and I got to learn more about the history of the Bujinkan and got some great advice on how to move forward with my training. We graciously parted ways, and I thanked him for all his time and help.

Today I got to experience a whole new side of the Bujinkan, and build some bonds. It was truly a great day.

On to tomorrow…

Shidoshi Hamilton

Scott Hamilton is an 8th degree black belt in the Bujinkan, and travels regularly to Japan to train. In addition to being the owner and head instructor of Todai Dojo, Scott is also the CEO of a national manufacturing company. He has also received training in other martial arts, and in-depth modern weapons training.

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