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New Year's Message

January 1, 2003

Dear Buyu:

Thank you all for helping me to "keep going" for another great year!

I sit here on New Years Eve, as I have done for quite a few years now, and reflect on the year that has gone past. I have that "good-tired" feeling that you get after a nice, long day of training. It's a special feeling, and I bet you know just what I mean. But, the REALLY special times are when we have just had that tough day at work, and we think we'll just skip training for the night. Yet we change our mind at the last minute and drag ourselves to the dojo. And like magic, an hour or two later we are re-energized. I call those the "keep going" nights. It's amazing the kinds of insights you get on those exceptional nights. Don't you think?

The year 2002 has been another year of great training (I think I say that every year!). We studied Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jutaijutsu and Dai Sho Sabaki. We continued our study of the concepts of "space," "perspective," "kukan," and fighting in "three dimensions." We started to look at the conflict in terms of terrain and tactics, rather than just from the perspective of the technique. We spent a lot of time on our knees, and we became "Men In Black...Dresses" (women, too, of course) as we trained in hakama.

Training with Hatsumi Sensei in 2002 was also very special. He seems to have grown more joyous, more spiritually powerful, and his energy is unflagging. What an inspiration!

As usual, there was plenty of travel for me. I went to California three times. Florida twice. I made another trip to Chicagoland to train with Mark Hodel and Buyu there. I went to Atlanta to train with Bud Malmstrom. I went to the Norway TaiKai and the St. Louis TaiKai, as well.

I also was in Japan with many of you for the Daikomyosai and Hatsumi Sensei's birthday. Great training, great party. You really have to hear Noguchi Shihan sing his annual version of "Ginza Monogatari" (Tokyo Love Story). Plan to go to Japan this year if at all possible!

This summer also saw the fifth "Buyu Camp" in San Francisco under the Golden Gate Bridge on the Pacific Ocean. Again this year, many highly regarded Bujinkan martial artists from around the country and the world were in attendance to share their insights and gather the views of their fellow Buyu. The Buyu Camp has really become a fun and international event. See you there in 2003!

Last year I had a chance to teach with several friends and Buyu who came to New Jersey. There was Steffen Fröhlich from Germany, Bud Malmstrom from Georgia, and Dick Severence from Florida. These Shidoshi seminars are really fun and a great chance to meet people from around the nation and world who share our love of Bujinkan training! Look for visits from Bud again this year. Also, maybe a surprise guest or two.

Another seminar that has become an annual event, is the "Life Values Workshop." This is a seminar where we practice our Budo in the context of Robert L. Humphrey's Life Values teachings. We even do the STRIKE training, which Humphrey devised to help Marines overcome the stress of real combat.

And we added a seminar that will be our annual remembrance for the September 11th attack. My friend Joe Tenaglia (retired Navy Commander, EOD commando, and Anti-Terrorist expert) gave a brief on the terrorist threat. We followed up the "classroom" portion with a session that covered what you could do if you were ever involved in a terrorist incident. The training included a section on "weapons of opportunity." It's amazing the damage you can do with a chapstick!

Check the WIN seminar page periodically for details and join us for these interesting workshops.

Now let's talk about the training for 2003. As most of you know, Hatsumi Sensei has been giving us a theme to work with these past several years. This year it is juppo-sessho (possibly from the perspective of Shinden Fudo Ryu). There has not been talk of studying the waza of any specific ryuha (at least thus far). We'll be working with some classic Japanese weapons, as well, including Kunai, Tessen, Kyoketsushoge, etc. Great! We can work on any waza we want.

The kanji for juppo-sessho is probably 十法 殺生 (although you can never tell what kanji Hatsumi Sensei will use to illustrate different iterations of the sound). Ju means "ten" and "ho" means "direction," so Juppo means "the ten directions." We all know the word happo (eight directions or ways). The ten directions are east, west, south, north, northeast, southeast, southwest, northwest, and upward and downward. These represent all directions, the whole of space, or the whole world. (Three dimensions? Where have we heard that before?) In Buddhist philosophy the meaning of space is frequently discussed. In these discussions, the word juppo is often used to describe space (kukan?). Very interesting, neh?

Setsu (koro su) means killing. Sho means living thing. This term is often used in Buddhism in the context of an admonition to avoid killing (including animals), particularly in a thoughtless or cruel way. I can only speculate on where we will go with this concept--but I have already started!

One of the most exciting things that is happening this year is that the TaiKai will be in New Jersey! What a privilege for us to be able to host it in 2003. Who knows how many more Sensei will be able to do. Don't miss it! Info is here.

Hatsumi Sensei drew three kanji for me this year that I thought were very interesting. I have put them below for your study.

I am sure you recognize the one on the left. It is "Buyu - warrior friend." This has a different feel than the one we usually use for our Buyu Dojo, but it is wonderful, don't you think? The one in the middle is "Buyu - courageous warrior." I like that one so much you may see it on the TaiKai T-shirt. The third "Buyu?" It just means "male." But it looks cool, doesn't it?

And that brings us to our Buyu theme of the year. It is...Buyu. We will study the art of war (bu) this year, and explore the courage (yu) it requires to act in times of crisis. And maybe even what it means to be a real man and wo-man. And what it means to have and be a warrior friend (buyu). This is a good time to have Buyu. I believe the world has been at war since September 11, 2001. For many, war is an obscure concept, especially a war like this. It doesn't really touch them. And for the most part, that is a good thing. Most people are too lucky to have the capacity to live consciously with war on a day to day basis. It has touched me, though, and I know it has touched many of you. Our warrior art is really about how to deal with and survive war. And preserve life if possible. It is not about techniques, or ranks, or politics. Or organizations.

I was asked this question in an interview this year: How should we behave and train in the Bujinkan? My answer was this: We should behave like human beings, like warriors. We should follow the example that has been set for us. Listen to our teachers. Trust them. That doesn’t mean that we are robots, or members of a cult, or that we must change our personalities, it only means that we should follow the principles as they have been shown to us. What are they? Look at Sensei, he is following them, too. He is following them, as we all must. The principles certainly have the flavor of his personality, but they are the principles passed down from the previous Sokes of the arts that make up the Bujinkan. They are principles that are immutable, although the manifestations may change.

Many people worry about the future of the Bujinkan. Don’t even think about it. The future will come in its time. We should face it using the principles we have been taught or discovered on our own through training. Why think about the future? Why even ask about it? It is like asking, “What is the future of tides?” Well, as long as there is a moon, there will be tides. What is there to think about? On more human terms, consider the concept of motherhood. Is it a technique? An organization? A cult of someone’s personality? No. It is a fundamental of human existence. And so is warriorship. The principles that are represented by the art we call “Bujinkan” are fundamental to the human experience and have a life of their own. They are the laws of the warrior. They will endure as long as there is one true warrior in the world. Let's explore THAT important line of thinking. With courage, as true men and women. With our friends. Of course there will be plenty of fun in the dojo, too! Train hard. Get in shape. Pay attention to the environment.

Keep going!

Jack Hoban