by Don Houle
According to Soke Hatsumi, the basis of all our taijutsu in
the Bujinkan Dojo is the kihon happo. What are these techniques and how can they
help us to create a firm foundation for our taijutsu?
Most of us know the kihon happo as a collection of eight
techniques. Dr. Hatsumi has stated however, that these eight techniques are
really just the beginning. From each of these eight spring eight more, and then
eight more from each of these and so on into infinity. Herein lies the
limitlessness of Bujinkan taijutsu. Hatsumi sensei has often said that by
turning the number ?“ on its side, we get the symbol for infinity - this is a
good way to think of the kihon. As we master each technique, we should be able
to move from the fundamentals to henka (variations) at will. Of course, this
ability comes only with years of training in the basic forms.
The kihon happo are taught a little differently by each
teacher. Many of Dr. Hatsumi’s shihan will show different versions of the same
techniques. Sometimes the techniques included in one teacher’s kihon happo are
not the same as in another teacher’s kihon happo. For example, sometimes hon gyaku
is added to the eight techniques to make a total of nine. Sometimes these
changes cause a bit of confusion. The techniques that I describe below are the
way Manaka shihan and my teacher teach the kihon happo.
Kihon Happo literally translates to “eight basic ways”. The first
three techniques, known as the Koshi Sanpo Waza (finger striking three ways) are
thought to be from the Gyokko ryu and are: ichimonji no kata, jumonji no kata
and hicho no kata. These three also happen to be three of the basic kamae
(stances) which we use. These kata are basically made up of defensive movements
in response to an opponent’ attack and then an offensive counter.
The next five techniques are known as the Torite Goho (arm
attacking five ways) and originated from the Kukishinden ryu or Takagi Yoshin
ryu. As the name for this group of techniques implies, these movements usually
attack an opponent’ arms and involve taking the attacker to the ground in ways
that do not allow him to land safely. The five techniques are: Omotegyaku dori,
Uragyaku dori, Gansekinage (Muso dori), Onikudaki and Musha dori. Gansekinage is
often replaced with Muso dori as the two techniques are rather similar. An
interesting point here is that Manaka sensei has stated that onikudaki does not
appear anywhere in the Gyokko ryu, so that technique must have come from another
How can we use the kihon happo to create good taijutsu? Well,
the most obvious answer is practice...a lot of practice. Manaka shihan says that
he starts every training with go gyo no kata and kihon happo. Anyone who has
ever done the kihon happo as warm-up drills with Manaka knows that he has
obviously practiced them a lot (especially that hicho no kata...how does he do
that?). Major Manaka often relates the stories of times when he was away from
Hatsumi sensei due to his military commitments. He says that the kihon happo
were all he would practice for months at a time. No variations, just the basic
forms. That should be a lesson to us all.
Many martial artists who have seen the kihon happo practiced
have been known to say that the techniques would be useless in a real fight.
When I hear this, I like to smile and say “, they are useless in a real fight!“
Eventually, I get around to explaining that these eight techniques were never
meant to be used exactly as shown in shinken gata (real combat) form.
Bud Malmstrom stresses that the movements don’t work unless
something is added to or taken away from them. We need to set them up in order
for the techniques to work for us. The basic forms are used to learn the
movements and ideas behind the techniques. In a real fight, the techniques are
never going to work just like they do in practice. That is why Hatsumi sensei
stresses that each basic technique should lead to a minimum of eight more
techniques, preventing the student from relying on the basic forms in a self
This article reprinted from the
www.Kihon.com, without permission.