Today was a beast of a day. I decided to call it “Hell Day” like “Hell Week” in the military. It was one of the most technical and exhausting training days I’ve ever had. But as much of a challenge it was it was also maybe the most rewarding.

Ishizuka Sensei

Based on multiple recommendations I decided to try a class at Ishizuka Sensei’s dojo. Ishizuka Sensei is Soke’s oldest students and teaches the most old school. He also seems very cool and laid back, making for an interesting dichotomy. He was on a hiatus for about a decade and is now back in the Bujinkan.

He had to leave class after the first 20 minutes for a concert he was performing, so most of the class was taught by his senior students. However, it was one of the most eye opening experiences ever.

His students had tremendous power – I have never been hit so hard in my life. The surprising thing was that they weren’t using strength but we’re very relaxed. They used impeccable timing with their shifting of body weight that caused their shuto to act like a whip.

One student was explaining that the subtle dropping of the hip delivers momentum in a downward shuto. It was almost imperceptible. I immediately thought of Soke, and realized how much was happening that may be so small that we couldn’t see.

They also gave a ton of feedback on what things I need to work on in my striking. I got a shuto in my arm that was so powerful I almost threw up.

It put the entire art and training into perspective. This is where it begins. These are the core mechanics I’m lacking.

Someya Sensei

I was happy to see that Someya Sensei was wearing the shirt I gave him. I took it as a small nod – or at the very least a sign he liked it. I thanked him for wearing it.

We worked on bo gata, and Steve Olsen’s seminar came in handy. I was working in a group of 3. I noticed I was one of only a couple people who were using a type of heavy block. As someone else did the same type of block, I watched his face and saw a micro expression of concern. I decided to ask him which block was best.

It seemed like he was waiting for me to ask it, and it turned out I was doing it wrong. Someya is very traditional so it doesn’t seem he likes to correct – rather the student must ask for help. I felt happy that I had caught it. Overall, Someya seemed to be in a good mood.

Furuta Sensei

After all this hard training, my movement had become a bit rigid as I concentrated on being super proper and deliberate in all my movement. This made Furuta Sensei’s class quite challenging. He noticed my movement and even said “this is good basics but we’re doing higher level training”.

I realized that he was right, and I needed to relax to make all the movement work and not miss the subtlety of what he was doing.

Furuta is incredibly friendly, and thanked us for taking his class. You sometimes can tell when someone just has a good heart.

Sakasai Sensei 

Last up for the night was Sakasai’s kihon class. While it might be called kihon in reality it is quite challenging.

He gave us some correction on Kamae, and he corrected me on a few subtle things I was doing incorrectly.

He then began with a relatively simple gata from kukishinden done fairly traditionally. From there he began to break down timing and foot work to make the technique flow better and have better timing. This continued with other excersises.

While doing this I was reminded of watching Ishizuka’s student talking about how in the beginning you do things one two three – then later making it flow. It clicked that what Sakasai was attempting to do for us is bridge that gap. I also realized that at some stage he must have had that hard kind of training.

It’s quite interesting seeing the connection between hard and soft training. While it may seem it is at odds with each other, I’m starting to realize they are two halves to a whole. They compliment each other in many regards.

More things to think about as we head to tomorrow for Nagato and Soke’s class.

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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