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Stuart Campbell Session

October 8, 2014

Mr Stuart Campbell from New Zealand came by Singapore for a holiday. You know you are dealing with a real budoka when his idea of a good holiday includes training! Karl and I of course grabbed the opportunity to get ourselves educated, and so he led the session on 30th September at Karl’s side. Mr Campbell kindly gave me an outline of the session, and I have included those below with some clarifications (in regular text) and my thoughts (which could be wrong) in italics.

Tai Sabaki 体捌き – the first step is important. “Duh, JJ!” you may say. One thing I noticed about mid-kyu and above training is that we vary our first step – whether it’s straight back, to the inside or the outside. For people who are keen on MMA such things are a matter of preference and style. For us, we MUST be able to adapt and change our first step, because we have to take into account environment (fighting in an enclosed area?) and whether there are multiple opponents.

Sen-no-sen 先の先– understanding the point of commitment – There is a point of the attack when the opponent is unable to change the direction of his attack. That is the moment we are supposed to move, to begin our response.

A sure mark of the beginner is that he or she starts the technique at the moment the “opponent” moves. I close one eye to this at the beginning, because that is the time the beginner is struggling to learn how to control his/her own body. I wrote about it here. Notice that all those elements are about the student’s own body?

At the next stage (vital for anyone who wants any degree of combat ability) the student has to learn how to read and interact with an opponent. In fact, there are streetfighters and criminals who only have skill in this – they have one or two moves that always work in taking out their victims, because human beings are actually quite predictable. If you watch videos of sucker punches, you will see that the attacks have many commonalities. This falls under the field of learning how to control an opponent.

The third field is controlling the environment – pillar to the left, wall behind, mud/blood on the floor and weapons in hand. More on that in class some other time!

Ichimonji No Kamae 一文字の構- Kamae is anatomically perfect. Transition-the art is hidden between the transition of the Kamae.

To be frank, I am not sure I understand what Mr Campbell meant by anatomically perfect. It made perfect sense during the class when he said it, but now when I look back… I see the kamae as anatomically perfect in the sense of being able to deliver and shed off force in certain directions. Yoga people will see them as being great for the chakras or stuff like that (i don’t know yoga). Qigong people will talk about the flow of the vital energy and other funky stuff. A statement like that shows up the listener’s bias!

Jumonji No Kamae 十文字の構– the 45 degree angle is important for attacking – Mr Campbell had this radical move that involved moving forward at a specific angle and tempting the opponent into a predictable attack. It looks somewhat iffy, but only if you did not perceive the kuzushi 崩し he used to slow you down first.

When we tried the same thing during my Thursday class that week (no beginners present, so I could do anything I wanted) I realized also that the first step brought him into the opponent’s no-mans-land: too near to punch properly, too far for a proper elbow strike (watch out for that, it’s a Muay Thai specialty).

Kyusho 急所 – always practice striking to targets. – kind of obvious, if you don’t train for it you have no hope of achieving it.

Dakentai-Jutsu  打拳体術 -strike targets Tsuki, in the middle of the limb and at 90 degrees.

Henka 変化 – always be prepared to change as the Uke changes.

Juppo-sessho 十方折衝 -aim for a point of negotiation(then connection can be made). I see this as having other options besides destroying the opponent. Like it or not, destroying people can have unforeseen consequences.

Four modes of interaction-Defend, Attack, Receive, Evade (DARE)

Uke’s responsibility – be honest with your attacks and “Reset” after each technique as if it is your first time attacking.

Tsuki 突き- attack by shifting balance-hinging forward in a fluid motion. Mr Campbell did this with a yoko aruki for stepping forward. I cannot do it like that because of flexibility problems with my hip flexor/groin muscle area, (“胯” in Chinese). Makes my step much smaller than my first kamae. I want to work on it, though. The dynamics of the twist it embodies is a powerful tool for eventually being able to hit people at will. This is of course my take on it, since Mr Campbell took pains to emphasize that he does not teach how to attack people…

Targeting – by knowing where your Uke is attacking, you can predict where not to be.

Budo is about Ma-ai 間合い

Ninjutsu is about Maai Hyoshi 間合い拍子, 

Ninpo is about Kukan 空間

Nope, I don’t understand it either. Probably the kind of stuff you understand only by training…


Kuden 口伝 – “Oral Transmission”

“Efficiency is a measure of truth”

“If committing focus – remember to protect yourself first”

“Budo is about capturing the body, Ninjutsu is about capturing the mind and Ninpo  忍法 is about capturing the space”

“Practice Mu-No Kata 無の型-so you can easily change”

“Hide the drawing of the weapon within the movement of the body”

“Try to lock your opponent up, but ensure you are always free to escape”

“Use whatever is available at the time”

“Always replace one connection with another”

“Always ask yourself ‘Do I feel safe?'”

“Make the movement between changes as small as possible to eliminate Tsuki” 突き

“Always look for an ‘Ura’ 裏and ‘Omote’ 表in each aspect” 

Mr Campbell elaborated a bit more on this. It is about translation issues.

The Japanese language has a poetic and emotive aspect that is hard to translate by a Non-Japanese. Taking for example, the Sakura (Cherry blossom). When Hatsumi Soke says “Like the sakura” non-Japanese trying to translate it do not know if he is referring to the blossoming of the flower, the falling of the flower, or something else. Native-born Japanese get it immediately.

Likewise a Japanese word can have both an obvious meaning and a hidden one. Taking the word “Tsuki 突き” for example, you can see that the same kanji can mean both “punch/strike/jab/thrust” as well as “weakness”. Hatsumi Soke, is a very poetic person, and that means he can be speaking at a few levels of meaning at the same time, with the same few words. Add to that the fact that in Japanese homophones (words with the same sound but different meanings) abound, and usually no one dares to ask him to clarify any ambiguity, it is a wonder that we don’t misunderstand him any more than we already do!


It’s been a year since I came back from Japan. I have been working more on what is suitable for my students rather than on material that challenges me, so this training with Mr Campbell was a confusing (and refreshing) experience. Once again I am reminded that there is so much more to Hatsumi Soke’s art than I can grasp, and needless to say can convey to my students.

But that is all good!

If you ever have the opportunity to train with Mr Campbell, I strongly urge you to do so. His website is

Mr Campbell has also written ninja-themed novels (and with nearly 30 years of Bujinkan training, I’d say he’s better qualified to write them than Eric Van Lustbader). If ninja books is your thing, you can find his books at

OK, that’s it for now. See you at training!


俊傑 (Shunketsu)
Bujinkan Ninjutsu

From → bujinkan

One Comment
  1. Yamabiko – many thanks for the honest and refreshing interpretation of my class Junjie. This is what makes it such a wonderful art, not only our ability to find our own expression, but also to see value in others. Also for me as I alluded to about the beginning of an attack (interaction), this may have started days, months or even generations before-so for us the training began many months ago and culminated in this session. Just as when you plan to go to Japan, it starts a long time before, and there are many “Sen-no-sen” moments. For me I get sometimes more from the peripheral, than from the training itself-like your comments here.
    You mentioned some confusion around my reference to Kamae being “Anatomically correct”-so I should elaborate. It is with my observation around the 4 modes of interaction D A R E.
    All beings are always expressing Kamae-so when I say “Anatomic” I am referring to the interaction, not just the Kamae itself-maybe the word Anatomic is not the best choice for some, because as Kamae is about attitude, the physical form of this is not the only expression of Kamae-it is the attitude that it represents. I suppose one must appreciate the flow and nature of a lesson to realise that “everything is connected” and my reference was in context to everything else that was going on. Also this is a danger of “Kuden” and my slackness in not posting such a disclaimer that “Kuden can only be understood by those who were there” after all-it is “Oral transmission”-my apology.
    As far as Kamae being perfect-what is perfection? As far as I believe in very simplistic terms, I like the idea that perfection is ” something that is completely fit for purpose” and Kamae is exactly that-fitting with each of the “Modalities”. I hope this helps to see where I was coming from.
    Gambatte, Ninpo Ik-Kan

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