Happy New Year buyῡ
welcome to the year of
Actually it is the year of the Fire Rooster. Asian people say this year people will be more polite and less stubborn, but will have
a tendency to complicate things.
2017 will be dominated by an orientation towards progress, honor and maximum integrity, people learning to temper their ardor.
After our recent political upheavals, I certainly hope
so! But, I am thinking that people do overcomplicate things,
and I certainly hope that we all will keep the beauty of
simplicity in mind as
we go about our lives and deal with others in 2017.
I'm ready for a New Year. How about you?
So what happened this past year?
Plenty! Much of it closer to home. But I did attend the
BuyuKai in July at Castle Kattlenberg
in Germany last summer. I have participated in BuyuKai a
number of times. This is a GREAT event and I encourage all my
martial arts friends to attend. It is organized by Steffen & Sabine Frφhlich. I think there were buyῡ from
over 14 countries there last year
with some top-notch coaching on everything from the
basics to pretty advanced stuff. Really, you MUST go.
Steffen & I relaxing after Buyu Camp at the Jersey Shore
Buyu Camps are a great way to connect with old friends and get
the "continuing education" and inspiration that will help you "keep going" when you get back to your own, local training group.
Our usual spot will not be available in 2017, so we are
looking for a new place. Change is good! So, please keep an
eye on our seminar page for news
about Buyu Camp 2017.
We also had training seminars in NJ, of course, and a fun
Paul's Palm Beach Dojo gets the prize for the most exotic
I was able to visit Japan twice in 2016 to train with my teacher, Soke
Masaaki Hatsumi. A special seminar in April 2016 commemorated the anniversary of Takamatsu senseis passing and marked the 42nd
year of Hatsumi Sensei's training cycle. Hatsumi Sensei said it took him 42 years to understand what Takamatsu Sensei was trying to teach him and that 2016 marked the beginning of a new cycle.
42 years to understand our budo, wow where does that leave
As part of the celebration, I and several others
grasped the sword that Takamatsu Sensei reportedly used to give Hatsumi
Sensei his sakki test.
Takamatsu Sensei's Sword as Doug looks on.
As may be considered typical of Hatsumi Sensei (as well as
Japanese culture, in general), there was not too much
detailed discussion of this "ceremony." A transmission of
some kind? Perhaps, but I'll take more of my teacher's
advice and not think about it too much. Just "keep going."
and my oldest buyῡ toasted each other. Great time!
5th dan test at the Hombu Dojo as Sensei oversees.
Spring is the
time of cherry blossoms in Japan.
It was back to Japan in late November/early December for
Sensei's annual birthday training.
As is the tradition, I led the group in "Happy Birthday,"
and a toast to his health and longevity. Sheila and Sensei
danced together another tradition.
Doug and I
wishing Sensei a Happy 84th Birthday!
buyῡ trip to Mt. Takao
out some of Sensei's work at the Hombu Dojo in Atago.
In 2017 there may be an exhibition of Sensei's paintings.
Keep an eye on the
Buyu Facebook page for more info.
And there are many more pictures on our Buyῡ Facebook
My book "The Ethical Warrior," is
still doing very well.
It is on the Marine Corps Commandant's
reading list and I was invited to the Marine Corps
Expeditionary Warfare School in Quantico this past summer to
discuss warrior ethics with several hundred young officers from the
Marine Corps and our allied countries. It was quite an honor. Click
the cover if you want to read the book.
We released an old video I did back in the 90's on Bujinkan basics. I had a laugh looking back at some of
boy I'm getting old!
But there is some pretty
good stuff on there, especially for people working on the
basics. And you'll see some of your favorite buyῡ on
there lending a hand. You can get it
here, or on
This past year I was again privileged to work with the Marine
Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) in Quantico, Virginia. This
important program is led ably by my good
friend Joe Shusko (LtCol USMC ret.). It covers armed and unarmed
martial arts techniques, combat conditioning, mental training
and character development.
As an American, I think you would be proud of these
young men and women. They are physically and mentally
tough, yet respectful and ethical. Many are veterans of
both Iraq and Afghanistan.
I know that many readers of this page have been in
the military or are strong supporters of our armed
forces, but there is no doubt that there is a cultural divide
today between the military and the rest of society. For nearly two generations, no American has been obligated to join up, and few do. Less than 0.5 percent of the population serves in the armed forces, compared with more than 12 percent during World War II. Even fewer of the privileged and powerful shoulder arms. In 1975, 70 percent of members of Congress had some military service; today, just 20 percent do, and only a handful of their children are in uniform.
3.1 percent of all living Americans have served in the Army, 1.7 percent in the Navy, 1.4 percent in the Air Force and 0.8 percent in the
[I got this info from a good article here].
This, I think, is a potentially dangerous thing and this
lack of understanding between the two groups could be
the source of further divisions in our society. So what
can we do? Learn more, visit military graduations, talk with
vets, volunteer with veteran organizations. Do you think of yourself as a warrior? There are
many warriors in the the military. Real ones. Consider
joining them if you are still of age.
The warriors I am privileged to train with are quite physical,
but are also focused on how to maintain their ethics and
a "protector mindset" under the adversity of war.
"Training" USMC photo
courtesy of Homer Brett 2016
"Talking Ethical Warriorship" USMC photo courtesy of Homer
My MCMAP inspiration and
boss, LtCol Joe Shusko (Ret) roguish!!
"Marine Ethical Warriors"
USMC photo courtesy of Homer Brett 2016
Martial Arts Center of Excellence (MACE) Staff
MACE Staff with Guadalcanal hero Jim "Horse
Check out this video on our Marine Ethical Warriors.
Want to help our wounded or aging warriors? Check out
For several years now I have been talking about
International. As you may know, RGI is made up of
military and law enforcement professionals who teach conflict
de-escalation under stress. The RGI curriculum
extrapolates on the work I have done with Robert L. Humphrey
and the Marines in the areas of ethics, conflict
communication, physical protection skills and leadership. We
had 3 more RGI Conflict Resolution Courses in 2016.
The infamous RGI beach workout!
SgtMaj Brian Pensak and myself moto!
Joe "Marine" Shusko giving one of
his patented "tie ins."
RGI also conducted several Executive Level Training Courses
in New Jersey for Chiefs and other Law Enforcement leaders.
detective and RGI Associate Artie Mark mentoring Police
I was also invited to be the keynote speaker for the Canadian
Association of Police Governance Conference in Ottawa
last August. What an
We are just getting warmed up and RGI is poised to do even
more cool things in 2017.
If you are interested in learning how to apply the Ethical
Protector training as a law enforcement or military
professional or just want to explore the concept with the
top-notch RGI instructors in a hands-on setting as a
civilian warrior check out RGI
And there is more news and lots more
pictures on our RGI Facebook page
Played a good bit of music in 2016. Our band "Rogues
on the Run" had another fun year. We did more gigs
with legendary drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie (Aretha
Franklin, James Brown, Steely Dan, Hall & Oates, Alan
Jackson, etc. etc. etc.).
Purdie & Jack
Here's my new 125 anniversary double-cutaway Les Paul. Cool, huh?
Jack, Mario , Gene, Vel & Rob Rogues on the Run in Vermont
Bernard and I re-united with our old Jersey Blue band mate,
Gene McCormick, at the Newport Jazz festival in Vermont this
with Stanley Jordan!
Jack & Stanley Jordan
The Rogues released a live album in 2016 featuring
Bernard "Pretty Purdie. Here's the cover, and you can
click the links to hear some of the tunes.
I also got to
check off a major item on my musical bucket list in 2016.
You may know that my favorite guitarist is the great Robben Ford. Robben is one of the premier electric guitarists today, particularly known for his blues playing, as well as his ability to be comfortable in a variety of musical contexts. A five-time Grammy nominee, he has played with artists as diverse as Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Witherspoon, Miles Davis, George Harrison, Phil Lesh, Bonnie Raitt, Michael McDonald, Bob Dylan, John Mayall, Greg Allman, John Scofield, Susan Tedeschi, Keb Mo, Larry Carlton, Mavis Staples, Brad Paisley, and many others.
Well I got to play with him in 2016. Wow!!!
I was so happy. And, besides being a great guitarist, Robben is an interesting and unique person
When we weren't playing we bonded over a "couple" of
drinks and found some common ground. But mostly it was
about the blues!
start 'er off blues in A.
favorite guitarist Robben Ford.
Two things happened during my time with Robben that I
think are important to share. First, I heard someone ask him how he gets ready or "warms
up" for a performance. Robben's answer, I think, was
really cool. He said: "I am always ready
to play; my concern is just to make sure I am never
ready to play." Wow! A lesson for martial artists right
The second was something that happened during a jam with
another great guitar player who was also with us. They
were playing a hot blues number and Robben took the
first solo. It was a typically great Robben solo. This
other player took the second solo, really pushed hard
and also played a great solo. Robben was listening and
had a quiet smile of approval on his face when the solo
finished. Then Robben calmly, politely and without
fanfare simply blew this guy away. Otherworldly! As he
finished playing, Robben then nodded back to the other
guitarist to take another solo. That guitarist just
shook his head and raised his hands in surrender. It was
just so cool and classy on both their parts. But it
absolutely made me think of a great martial artist who
wins without killing his enemy. He just shows so much
skill that the opponent surrenders gracefully and
Speaking of the connection between martial arts and the
other arts, you may know that Hatsumi Sensei is planning an
exhibition of his artwork this year. When asked why
he paints, Sensei answered "I paint as a way to teach
people about martial arts." How does painting teach
martial arts? Well, you can hear Sensei's answer in this
It seems to me that all the real arts have much in common
and true artists can understand each other and
cross teach us. I feel that the essence of all true art is the
same to inspire us to embrace and enjoy the depths of
human creativity, beauty and feeling. In other words, to
honor the fact of life. What do you think?
A little bit of a different kind of year (as usual), but a full and
rewarding one. So what's
in store for 2016? When I was in Japan Sensei was going to
paint me a calligraphy and he asked what I wanted. At
first, I said, "nande mo ii (anything is fine)." He painted me this:
Calligraphy "Mei Yun" by Masaaki Hatsumi from author's personal collection.
Can you read it? It says mei yun or "great actor." And then
he said: "It's for your son." Well, you may know that my son
is a budding actor in L.A. (one of his movies is
here). But I
thought this was a cool painting for me, too.
Thinking about the political climate of the United
States over the last year, it struck me how wise it
would have been to be a "great actor" and hide one's true intent,
living in the kukan between the
clashing cultures. It was a very good time to be a ninja
master of kyojitsu.
Didn't we see myriad of examples in 2016 of how some people
were demonized and dehumanized because their relative
values did not coincide with the relative values of
others? And folks, they are all relative values
except the Life Value. A relative value only becomes
moral when it honors and respects the lives of self and
others all others. If your religious, cultural,
political or economic values or opinions make you believe that you
can dismiss those who don't agree with you as less than
equal human beings, you are immoral. If you
act on that immorality, you are unethical. No matter how
"right" you think you are or how "wrong" you think
somebody else is.
Ask yourself: Are there smarter people than you? Better looking? Stronger? Can you accept that? Are some people more educated? Richer? Members of a relatively more highly regarded social
status or political class or religious affiliation? Are there people who have done more good works in their lives than you have? Are some of a different race, creed or color? Of course! Can you live with all of that? Perhaps so. But what if someone were to say that one or more of those relative differences made the lives of those other people worth more than your life? What would you say?
Undoubtedly you would say No! Almost all human values and traits can be relative or varying in degrees, but life itself is not. That feeling is shared by all people everywhere; in other words it is universal.
That is why we consider Life to be an absolute value and an
unalienable right. I know it's the year of the rooster,
but don't overthink this. The value of our beliefs and
opinion are relative; the value of our lives are
absolute. We all have the Life Value or we wouldn't be
alive. And all of our other values are qualified by the
Life Value. In fact, how could we even have relative
values if we weren't alive first?
Now what if I were to ask: If there are people who are richer, smarter, better educated
and more politically connected than you, should they be
able to rule you?
You might say, that that those people, although relatively
superior in many ways, have no right to rule you. You might say something like: "And
they won't! It's my life and I'll make my own
mistakes, thank you! And I certainly won't vote
for a person who treats me condescendingly!"
Which brings to mind the
difference between a constitutional republic like the
United States and a body
like the UN or European Union. In a constitutional
republic, we vote for our leaders. Not in the UN or the
European Union there the "richer, smarter, better
educated and more politically connected" appoint
each other to rule because we normal people are considered unqualified to make
important decisions that effect the global community.
Well, we'll see how that works out.
By the way, what is the difference between a
constitutional republic and a democracy? A republic is a representative government ruled by law. A democracy is direct government ruled by the majority. A
republic recognizes the inalienable rights of individuals while democracies are concerned with group wants or needs (the public good).
Which would you prefer?
Well, we can all think about that. But, in the meantime,
let's get down to our training theme for next year. I
asked Sensei about it, and he said several things,
including "controlling the space" and "mutou dori."
Which, in a way, I think, are the same thing.
Calligraphy "Mutou Dori" by Masaaki Hatsumi from author's personal collection.
It is very hard to control others. We must learn, then, to control
the "spaces" around our opponents.
Perhaps you have
heard me say this: How do you most effectively hold a
fish? Grab it with with your hands and it is likely to
wiggle right our of your grasp.
up, grab it! Oops!"
Control it with a net, and it can wiggle around all it
likes, but it probably can't escape. In Japan this year,
Sensei said many times: "don't grab them, control
And, how would you control a tiger? Grab it by the tail?
"May Not Be Around In 2017 Award."
Again, don't grab him, the easiest way is to control
his space with a cage.
Controlling the space.
I'm not sure we should be trying to control tigers,
at all, but I have never had my herd of goats or child eaten by
one, so I'll just leave that for others to decide.
Mutou dori often refers to the skill of disarming an
opponent with a sword. This is all about controlling the
space, too. I was able to grab a sword last April, but
thankfully it wasn't being swung at me in an attack.
Maybe it is possible to grab an attacking sword and not
cut your hand off, but I think I'll wait until it
actually happens and I have no alternative before I try
I think that the concept of
controlling the space around a weapon any weapon in order to survive is mutou dori. Knives, sticks,
guns...same concept applies, I think. So let's practice a lot of
armed and unarmed scenarios against an attacker with a
weapon. Swords, of course, but anything that
could be used as a weapon.
And how about other, perhaps less obvious, "weapons." A weapon
is tool that gives one an advantage in conflict. How do people use other
advantages against us in real life? Financial
advantages, political advantages, emotional advantages?
Can we "wrap those advantages in space" and live safely
in the kukan?
What do you think? How would we do that? How could we
train ourselves to do that? What do you
Events, also, may seem
very much beyond our control. Hmmm...
By the way, for you music lovers, it's not only about
the musical notes it's about the space between the
notes. That's what makes a melody.
So Mutou dori and "controlling the space" it is for
2017. Have a wonderful New Year and I hope to see you in
the training. Keep going!