Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bujinkan UAE Top 10

December is the traditional time when everyone looks back over the year and reflects on what actually happened and what it all means. This is when you take stock of how the year went by, and you make decisions to better it next year. Its a time of celebration and festivity and a season to let the old move out and new move in. This is time when you reflect and instrospect, on your life, and living in general.
This is also the time when every media publication and outlet will publish their top 10 lists, each in their own field. So keeping with the spirit, I have tried to list out a top 10 this year for Bujinkan UAE. If you have a few top moments of 2014, please share it with me below as a comment.

These are my favorite moments from 2014.

#10 - We started regular classes again at KO Gym in Dubai Marina in June. As you already know now we have classes every Wed & Sat at 8pm.

Training at KO Gym, Dubai Marina
 #9 - Our Friday classes lead by Shidoshi Juan Pablo at the Shangri-la Hotel in Abu Dhabi have been on full swing. This is by the beach and really a fantastic venue to have classes.

Training by the beach in Abu Dhabi
#8 - Our new Website was launched thanks to Fred who did a great job on it. if you havent checked it out its Thanks to the website and social media we now have a strong presence in the international Bujinkan Community and had a few visiting shidoshi and black belts during the year. We can expect more buyu and high ranks from around the world stop by Dubai in the years to come.

Happy faces after class at KO Gym, Dubai Marina
#7 - A whole bunch of new Buyu have joined us this year and we are really happy now with the spirit and energy that the classes have. A few buyu have left the country and we are sad about that but know we cant do anything since change is the only constant and Dubai is never really a permanent home for expats.  

Visiting Shihans / Shidoshi
#6 - Our Facebook Bujinkan UAE Group and FB Page have seen more activity than ever before. New members, posts from others, etc make it a really vibrant social community. We are also slowly growing on This is the best place to be updated on upcoming events.

Shihan Arnaud class.
#5 - In March we had a demonstration at the Maraya Cultural centre and a good year of succesful Bujinkan Socials. Our last one in December had around a dozen of us meeting up. Its a good way to unwind and talk non-budo stuff and just chill and relax. We went to the Belgian Cafe in Tecom and had lots of fun. We hope to have more in 2015, and hope you can attend. 

Maraya Japanese Cultural Centre.
 #4 - This year was great for Bujinkan UAE for grades. Hassan (who is now in Qatar) passed his Sakki Exam in Japan earlier this year. It was conducted by a Japanese shihan and was awarded the Menkyo Shidhoshi Diploma and his Godan (5th Dan) by Soke. He will soon start teaching in Doha.
Fred was awarded his Shodan (1st Dan) Black Belt by Shihan Marcelo and now holds the title Shidoshi Ho.
Shidoshi Juan Pablo was recommended for his 7th Dan this year and will receive the diploma shortly.
I was recommended for my Godan Test by Dai Shihan Nagato Sensei (and Shiraishi Sensei) in November during my trip to Japan and subsequently passed my Sakki test and awarded my Shidoshi Menkyo by Soke. A lot of buyu have gone from MuKyu to grades this year and that includes Ben, Rami, Ahmed(sr.), Kathy, Leila, Rym, Adam, Sabrina, Irshad, Marcel, Joyal, Ahmed (jr.), Maria Napoli, Anton and a few others. This is great news for Bujinkan UAE as it shows constant growth and that comes with traning. We wish 2015 brings in more grades and ranks, and most impotantly more knowledge.

Grading at Safa Park
 #3 - We had an extremely succesful 2 day seminar organised by Shidoshi Juan Pablo. It was a seminar with Shihan Marcelo from Argentina. This was by the beach and covered Taijutsu and Sword fighting basics. We had a strong attendance of 30 people and are really thankful to all the buyu who could make it. We can expect a repeat seminar in 2015.

Seminar with Shihan Marcelo
 #2 - Our First seminar of the year was with Dai Shihan Arnaud Cousergue. It was in April this year and was well received by everyone. We had around 35 people who attended this 2-day seminar. We also got considerable PR coverage in the UAE for this seminar. Dai Shihan Arnaud will be joining us in April 2015 once again for a "Kihon Happo" (基本八法型), seminar and it well be yet another fantastic training opportunity for all of us.

Seminar with Shihan Arnaud Cousergue
 #1 - The highlight for me personally of 2014 was my trip to Japan and training opportunity with all the top Shihan at the Hombu Dojo. Of course, it so happened that I got my shidoshi diploma after I passed my Sakki test but the connections I forged made the trip more worthwhile. Japan in itself is a fantastic destination to visit and being able to train with the likes of Japanese Dai-Shihan's Nagato, Noguchi, Shiraishi and Seno and Gaijin Dai-Shihans like Arnaud, Lubos, Petrocello and others... that made it really memorable. I thirst to go back there and to keep connections alive. I cant wait to go there again. Perhaps you can join me??

Happy new year from BUJINKAN UAE
December is also the time when you make resoltions for what you want to do and be in 2015. We intend to immerse ourselves in training in 2015; its going to be a great year for Bujinkan UAE. This will include a team trip to japan in June. (And maybe a second one in December) We hope you are able to join us for traning soon and hope you are our co-passengers in this journey of self-discovery.
On that note, we wish you a very Happy New Year and sincerely hope all your dreams for 2015 come true. Dont forget “If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” The more comfortable you get with being uncomfortable, the faster you will grow. The year of the sheep should remind you to not be like one.
I wish you plenty of moving forward and lots of progress in 2015.
Happy New year! :)
Stay Happy Train Hard
Gambatte Kudasai

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bujinkan Shidōshi 士道師 Menkyo & the Sakki 殺気 Test!

Wow. What a buzz. I have some great news to share with you!!!
I was awarded my Godan Shidōshi 士道師 Menkyo (5th Dan instructor Black Belt diploma) 2 weeks ago in Japan at the Hombu dojo. You are given this grade when you pass the only organization-wide (world wide) official test of the Bujinkan system!  
The test is populary known as the Sakki 殺気 Test and its taken me 2 weeks to digest what actually happened and be able to somewhat articulate it. It's a milestone achievement for me in the martial arts, a sort of culmination of a journey, though I think the fun had just begun. Read on to know why it is so special.

Main Shinden at the Hombu Dojo in Noda, Chiba.
Traning in Japan
As you might have read, I had the good fortune to spend some time traning in Japan. During this time, I attended classes with some of the top Japanese Shihan and Soke. These included Dai Shihans like Nagato, Noguchi, Seno and Shirashi. I also attended classes by Shihan Arnaud and Shihan Lubos. My training partners varied in rank and nationaly and were from all around the world - Brazil, Russia, Spain, Australia, Argentina, Greece, Switzerland, Germany and many other countres.
I must admit I learnt different things from all of them. Of course I did manage to squeeze in some touristy activities and even a visit to kyoto and photos from there are on my facebook group and page.

With Shiraishi Sensei
With Shihan Darren and his team

So after around 10 days of classes I was recommended by Shiarishi Sensei for my Sakki test. I politely agreed but decided to hide when the opportunity came. I wasnt sure I was ready. You see the thing is In order to attain fifth dan (godan), fourth dan practitioners must submit to a Sakki (or godan) test before the Sōke Masaaki Hatsumi to establish that they are able to sense the presence of danger and evade it, which is considered a fundamental survival skill. The test involves not using any of your regular senses and sensing danger with the feeling of Sakki.

 I always wanted to a perfect Godan test (if there's a such a thing). I wanted to roll away in the nick of time, not too early and obviously not too late, I wanted to roll away to the appropriate distance - not too far so that I cant feel any more of the energy, not to close so as to not be hit / cut by a second horizontal sword swing. Ive seen many tests where the test taker just drops their head and doesnt roll away. Ive seen people just move their body slightly or half heartedly. Im not saying they were wrong, but I wanted a perfect Sakki Test.
With Dai Shihan Noguchi Sensei
After a class with Shihan Lubos
I started training in the Bujinkan after listening to the Sakki test experience of my teacher Shiva Subramanium. Its kind of ironic now, when I think back about it, and it feels good to know that I have reached this level too.

The Sakki Test
As I said earlier, this is the only organization-wide official test in the Bujinkan! After passing this test, a practitioner is considered to be under the protection of the Bujin, or Guiding Spirits, and is entitled to for a teaching license (shidōshi menkyo).

With Dai Shihan Nagato Sensei

Sakki (殺気) in general means “intent to kill”. Sakkijutsu (殺気術) is the ability to sense the thoughts and intentions of an attacker that arise from their conscious or subconscious mind. Before the attack comes the ability to sense Sakki allowing one to evade an attack or plot against you in life. So its quiet a bit of pressure on a young mans soul to give this test

.After a few more days of training at the Hombu Dojo, Dai Shihan Nagato Sensei (in the photo to the left) asked me what my Dan rank was was. I sheepishly told him and then he asked me who my teacher was. Right after that he asked Dai Shihan Arnaud to promote me to my Yondan (4th Dan) in itself a high compliment. He subsequently announced that he was recommeding me to take the Sakki test the "next day". More pressure please!

Yes the NEXT DAY!
No time to prepare, no time to decide, just 24 hours of anxious energy and wondering wether I would pass or not.  I know that fear is a dream killer. But I had decided to retain the positive anxiety to help me stay buzzed before the test.

The Godan Shinsha ( 5th Dan examination ) which is also known as Sakki Test, “Sakki” 殺気 which means “kill intention”, that is the exam to feel the murderous intent of the opponent. Sakki can be loosely translated as intuition or 6th sense or connection to the universe. This test can only be done in Japan in the presence of Soke Masaaki Hatsumi (picture ...below)

With Soke right after my Sakki Test.
The Test itself
This is a sword test where the one taking the test sits down on the floor and is cut/hit from behind without any warning. If you escape (roll away or something) just before the cut, then you pass.

None of your regular senses can really be used. You cant hear or see the person behind you. Even if you think of hearing the cut and moving away, you will probably be too late. Of course No taste, smell or touch! You roll away when the sword is swung at you because of the pure feeling of incoming danger that you sense. The test is done traditionally in front of Soke and when you pass you wait for him to say "Hai Ok!"
So I knelt and decided that I don’t care if I get hit.
I calmed myself and said I know I can do this but even if I cant it doesnt matter.
I get ready for it and say to myself "Ok hit me. Im ready" 
Suddently, I felt this urgency to move.. like something was pushing me from behind. Like something was about to come crashing down on my head. I decided to trust that feeling and so I rolled away.
Then I hear Soke saying "HAI OK".
I realised I had been swung at from behind.
Then the applause came thundering, and everyone was staring at me with a gleam in their eye and wide smiles.
I was releived it was over Phew!
I was Happy! :)

Why Did I move?
I'd like to think im well endowed with the power of logic and can have a scientific bent of mind. Yet I find it really impossible difficult to explain what I felt, and why I felt it when I felt it. I do believe in life energy and the inter connectedness of everything and this test for me was an expression of something more complex.
I had a few shihans compliment me on my precise timing and good distance and I am glad I could give a "good" Sakki test. I guess not being bothered about the outcome helped get into a state of calm and experience Zero no chikara ゼロ の 力 or 無 の 力, or the power of Zero.

Sakki 殺気
I'd like to beleive everyone has this sense of Sakki. Animals especially manifest this and people who have already had a sense of their own death by either being in a life threatening situation or an accident know this. People who've faced death, held someone's hand when they passed, witnessed someone being killed, been in the vicinity where a murder took place, etc., already know what the "feeling" feels like. No Bujinkan training or sakki test required. Traning in the Bujinkan helps you understand this feeling and this test just brings you close enough to know to save yourself. Its a deep gut felt instinct asking you to move and I'd like to beleive that training helps you to "not" ignore it.

There are no secrets here. Just hard Training. Training helps you listen to that feeling inside your gut and to not ignore it.  Training helps you to really learn to throw away the self and the ego to be completely in the moment and this is what I allows you pass the godan test.

One goal of our training that allows you to put oneself in a state of 無心, mushin (no intention, no thinking). When you enter this state of nothingness, you begin to move freely and naturally in time with unseen forces that co-exist all around us. All of us agree that our thoughts have speed. Passing this test requires us to be in a state of no thoughts. This ability marks the beginning and entrance into the world of true martial arts training and is cultivated by constant and continous training.

Soke's Budô is formless and always comes from a state of Mushin. This is what gives it tremendous power and this generates creativity. There are no predecided actions and no preconceived notions and absolutely no intention. Even for me, this is a very high level concept and not easy to grasp and I have read that not so many Bujinkan practitioners can even fathom the idea. Needless to say, the only way I see forward to reach this state of continous mushin is traning.

Can we become pure beings by letting go of all conditioning and only listening to pure intention and feeling? Can we find happiness in this purity? And I know for sure that right and continous training is the easiest path to this goal

Being happy and traning Hard
 I thank my teacher Dai Shihan Arnaud for conducting my Sakki test (I will post sometime in the future about Giving a Sakki Test) and Dai Shihan Nagato & Shiraishi Sensei's for recommending my godan test. And thanks to Shiva Subramanian for introducing me to the art and hand holding me through my journey. I am eternally grateful.

Here are some nice posts about the Sakki Test if you want to know more
Post by Dai Shihan Arnaud about the Sakki Test
A great post about the Godan Test from Bujinkan Dojo Genova

So what do you think about the Sakki test? Let us know your opinion in the comments below.