Updated: Dec 15, 2019
Bujinkan training wasn't developed for today's man and woman. It was developed in a time when the status quo of physical competency was well above what it is now. The problems we have to overcome in order to move well, are issues that the creators of these martial arts were not even aware of. It is a state that is unique to our generation.
Through my observation of many practitioners I have grown to realize that Bujinkan training alone isn't enough to break through the devolved state of the modern human body. Without specifically working to transform your physiology, how can you facilitate the proper movement? If you start from where you are, you are building skills on a weak foundation. That is why I integrate methods like MovNat and Functional Range Conditioning in my approach.
I have wanted to clearly convey this for a long time: Why I have chosen the modalities I integrate, and how they benefit my Taijutsu practice and teaching approach. Here is a list of core Bujinkan practices, along with an explanation of how MovNat training and other modalities uniquely affect the development of Taijutsu skills.
The science of passive receptive body movement. This includes rolling, breakfalls, inversions, climbing, leaping, running, and walking techniques. Bujinkan training approaches all of these movements from a lens of combative application, but learning the heart of the movement, with all extra contextual demands set aside, is a great place to start. Especially when it comes to improving the ability to perform a forward leap, roll, or other locomotive movement.
MovNat provides a "vanilla" version of every locomotive technique in our art, whereas ours is always a "combat" flavored version. Understanding the difference, can really shed light on the actually practical benefit of the combative application as well.
Junan Taiso & Kokyu Ho
Junan Taiso is the Bujinkan's mobility development protocol which involves 4 hey hip stretches, ankle mobilization, and walking practice. Kokyu Ho is the Bujinkan's breathing exercise and meditation approach. MovNat, Sotai, and Meridian Exercises delves into breathing as well, and the approaches are similar although taking different forms. It comes down to synchronizing respiration harmoniously with movement.
The six basic Meridian Stretches include all 4 of the Bujinkan's Junan Taiso stretches, and Functional Range Conditioning explores cutting edge methods for working with joint mobility and expanding range of motion. Sotai is a method that can address specific imbalances that would otherwise take extremely long to work through with Junan Taiso alone.
With the tools and perspective of these other modalities in my belt, I can more deeply help Bujinkan practitioners overcome their mobility restrictions if they are willing to put in the work.
Striking, Kicking, & Blocking
Develop your skill with a number of different strikes including elbows, knees, 9 fist formations, forehead, a few different kicking methods, and more. Learn pressure points and targets for each different strike, and how to strike with your body and fist as one.
Your strikes are only as strong as your ability to use your whole body, MovNat movements like crawling, throwing, and climbing build a strong core connection with the extremities and greatly benefit the ability to strike and block.
The better your ability to balance, the better your ability will be to kick. Leg swing jumps, and other movements also improve the core connection with kicks. These are just a few examples, but at a certain point, punching isn't the only (or best) way to build stronger punches.
A focus on the science and application of joint-locking, pinning, throwing, choking, and tripping, as well as escaping from such techniques. MovNat manipulation skills such as lifting, carrying, throwing, catching, and other core-to-extremity building skills such as crawling, climbing and vaulting all help include a person's ability with grappling skills.
Mobility development, and especially the joint control and range of motion work from Functional Range Conditioning can prevent training injuries while improving the ability to slip out of restraining holds.
Escape for Self Defense (Hajutsu Kyuho)
This is about learning to use what you have even if you have no experience under your belt. Learn strategies for preventing and dealing with an assailant; different parts of your body to use in defense; three key targets to focus on; simple movements to escape attempts to restrain or attack you.
MovNat Combatives parallels the approach of breaking contact and escaping, that system emphasizes an approach and mindset, with little focus on fighting skills. Taijutsu fills in that void, and the Combatives has a concise way of explaining the escape mindset, a good reality check, and helps greatly to bring the Hajutsu Kyuho to life in modern context.
Ongoing Progression (Bujinkan Membership)
The curriculum for rankings is based exclusively on Bujinkan skills. Though utilizing every tool to build skills is ideal in regular classes, it is important to know the correct way to do each skills when progressing as a Bujinkan member when approaching a grading.
How it all Came to Me
I started training in the Bujinkan when I was 19 years old. I wanted to build my life around it and make sure everything I did was a boon to my martial arts training. I chose Shiatsu because I read Hatsumi's statement along the line of how martial arts and the movement of a good therapist are the same. I figured that every time I do a Shiatsu treatment I'll be improving my Taijutsu as well. I immediately saw the relationship between the Junan Taiso and Meridian Stretches. Later on, FRC provided great tools to apply to the mobilization process.
When I discovered MovNat through a recommendation from a fellow martial artist, it was described to me as Taijutsu without the overlying context of a combative situation. Upon closer investigation I learned that all of the locomotive movements in Taijutsu were present in some form in MovNat, and the differences between them only deepened my understanding for why we do things in certain ways in Bujinkan training.
If you are approaching Bujinkan Taijutsu training, I hope that you will find the value attending MovNat classes, as well as participating in mobility workshops when they arise. It is all connected, related, and touches your practice in a way that you won't find anywhere else.