Gyokko Ryu’s Internal Power Training

There is no doubt in my mind that Hatsumi Sensei possesses unusual power in his budo.  Anyone who has trained with him can tell you that!  But what is it and where does it come from?  More importantly, how can YOU develop it as well?

Soke’s martial movement displays many of the characteristics associated with Internal Power training: ghostly movement, immovability (static and dynamic), shockingly powerful strikes with little windup, adhesion caused by movement, kuzushi on contact, and others.

The real question is whether his martial movement power is driven by true internal training or simply sublime, highly skilled Taijutsu (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).

Hatsumi gyokko ryu

Esoteric Training

It is my contention that there exists a powerful method of esoteric training within the Bujinkan arts that is meant to be used to condition the body to create Internal Power.  Since Gyokko Ryu comes from China and is known as the oldest and most foundational of our 9 schools, it seems the logical place to begin.

“In connection with the budo of Gyokko-ryu Koppo jutsu, during the instruction from Toda Shinryuken Sensei, I was finally taught that Gyokko-ryu Kosshi jutsu kihon gata gave rise to the Koto-ryu and is the root from which many other Budo techniques developed.” – Takamatsu Sensei

The Asian arts share many common training methods that originated in India and crossed over to China, then Japan, which have been used for centuries and are known to create internal power and aiki.  All are based on yin-yang (or in-yo) theory – the union of opposites.  By creating opposing forces within the body (up/down, left/right, front/back) through the use of intent we begin to increase the mind-body connection to a remarkable degree.  Through the solo training exercises we condition and strengthen the entire fascia network, as well as tendons and ligaments, throughout the body.  This process serves to create a highly stable and connected body through the center so that when ‘one thing move, everything moves’.

This type of body conditioning changes the way outside forces act on the body.  The structure becomes dynamically stable so that applied force can either be distributed throughout the chain and dissipated or, at a higher level, simply reflected right back onto the opponent.  When force is reflected back this is what is known in Japanese as Yamabiko, or Mountain Echo.

Hidden in the Gyokko Ryu Densho

Throughout his vast amount of written and video resources, Hatsumi Sensei has gradually released a large amount of material from the densho of the various Bujinkan schools.  In the book, Unarmed Fighting Techniques of the Samurai for example, he shares many of the kamae, kata, and strategies from 6 of the 9 schools.

What I have done is pull out a few references from the Gyokko Ryu kamae that specifically discuss known concepts of internal power training.  Below are just a few of them, there are others.

[The information from Gyokko Ryu below has been culled from many different resources over the years, both written and video, including my own notes, training, and personal conversations.]

 Ten Ryaku Uchu Gassho

“All of the elements from the right and the left combine in this kamae.”  This is classic yin-yang theory uniting the opposites, which is the basis of all internal power training.

hatsumi ten ryaku

“Ten Ryaku Uchu puts you into a beam of energy coming from the sky.”  Ten (heaven) is the force of gravity coming down.  Chi (earth) supports and reflects creating a force coming up.  Combined, these 2 forces are controlled by Jin (man) in the middle and manipulated through intent.  Again, a known reference throughout Asian martial arts for creating internal power.

Tenchi Inyo no Kamae

From the elements being united in Ten Ryaku Uchu above, they are then split into opposing forces by Tenchi Inyo – Heaven and Earth, Union of Opposites Posture.  This classic posture of one hand up, one hand down splitting heaven and earth is seen throughout Asian martial culture as a way of codifying Internal Power training.  Although, even without seeing the pose, the name is a dead giveaway!


Hicho no Kamae

“This kamae has the feeling of storing up energy in the entire body, like a bird being wrapped up by a snake.”  Here again is another way of using intent to create unusual stability and power in the body.  The bird opening its wings has a feeling of outward expansion, while the snake coiled around it is compressing.  Combined the 2 opposites unite to create a known method of internal power training.

Hatsumi Hicho


Why Isn’t This Taught?

In many martial traditions, regardless of whether they are Japanese or Chinese, the solo training exercises required to build Internal Power and Aiki are secret and passed down to only 1 or 2 students per generation.  This training was considered secret and very high level thus it was usually reserved for only the successor and maybe 1-2 other senior students.  The rest of the students were taught external forms without the real power training behind the art.

Luckily, this has changed in the past few years and there are now some teachers who are willing to break tradition and teach these things openly.

Who says there are no more secrets left in martial arts???!



We Were Once Warriors…

We Were Once Warriors…

For centuries the warrior has been the archetypical model of physical fitness and power.  This is due to the extreme nature of their training and overwhelming odds that they must have had to go through waging war in the ancient world.

The multifaceted development of skills required for the warrior’s brand of life and death combat is second to none.




Warriors needed to be able to carry heavy loads over long distances on uneven terrain, wield heavy weapons while wearing armor, wrestle and engage in other forms of hand-to-hand combat, fight for hours or perhaps even days on end in mud, sweat, and blood, all while continuing to display power, coordination, agility, and speed.  This was not a game with a medal or trophy at stake, but their lives and the lives of their comrades in arms, not to mention the entire village or tribe who were relying on them for protection.  All of this placed immense demands on the warrior physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Today’s Training from Yesterday’s Triumph

The skills we know today as fitness, or strength and conditioning, depending on whether your term is all inclusive or a specific subset, all evolved over time from man’s need and ability to wage war.  In fact, one of the earliest examples of sport in the western world is from ancient Greece; we now call it the Olympics.  These early games were created as a way for warriors to channel their aggressive and competitive natures, while simultaneously allowing them to hone their battle skills, in times of peace.

So we can see from this quick look back in time that originally almost all athletics and sport competitions were based on the martial skills of the warrior and utilized as a way to sustain and practice those skills.

Now, working backward this time, is there a way to reverse engineer a warrior’s training regimen and use it to improve the components of martial skill, conditioning, AND athletic performance?  Absolutely!!

Try This Warrior Workout on for Size

1)  Heavy Sandbag Carry (Zercher carry, bear hug carry, over head carry) – 3 x 300 ft.

2A) Pike Push-ups on Fists – 4 x 10

2B) Mixed Grip Pull-ups (change grip each set) – 4 x SM

2C)  Loaded Airborne Squats (load up with clubbell, Kettlebell, dumbbell, or sandbag) – 4 x 5/5

3)  H2H Touch & Go Kettlebell Swings x 100

If you train in MMA…

NOW go punch, kick, knee, and elbow a heavy bag or have a partner hold focus mitts for 3 rounds x 3-5 minutes each!  How is your performance?

Or, if you’re really daring and want to test your mettle, now is the time to go spar with a completely fresh opponent for 3 rounds of 3-5 minutes!  How has your performance changed?

If you train in Bujinkan or other form of combatives…

Do the same as above but utilizing the basic techniques of your particular style.  For Bujinkan peeps that means try out all the Kihon Happo on a fresh uke!

Build your own Martial Power <<====

Martial Power Cover



Training Through Injuries

Four weeks ago I injured my ankle.  The diagnosis?  Peroneal tendonitis.  Walking was painful.  Squating was painful.  Lunging was out of the question.  Heck, even balancing on my injured foot hurt. [Read more…]

Training in the Elements

If you are a martial artist, it is essential to train your art outside in the elements.  Since most traditional arts were born outside, and not in a gym or dojo setting, it is important to every once in a while get back to the roots of your art.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as I know most wars have been fought outside in the elements, through all different types of weather conditions, and on changing terrain.  I think we have all become way too spoiled and comfortable by training in a sheltered and heated (or air conditioned) dojo, on a flat, mat covered surface all the time.  Get out of your comfort zone!  Start to get comfortable being uncomfortable!  Get a little wet and dirty.  Have some fun! [Read more…]

The Ninja 300 – Advanced Level

Before proceeding onto this Advanced Level of my Ninja 300 Workout, make sure you have successfully completed the Level 1 Warm-up and the Level 2 Intermediate Workout! [Read more…]

The Ninja 300 – Next Level

Did you do the basic level of my Ninja 300 Warm-up?  How did you like it?  I’ve had several positive responses to the basic version, along with requests for the next level, so here you go! [Read more…]

Kettlebell Training for Bujinkan Footwork

Recently I was asked about how to use a single kettlebell to train footwork for Bujinkan martial arts.  Here is a video I put together showing a couple different exercises to enhance stability and mobility for footwork training using the kettlebell.  Enjoy!! [Read more…]

Are You a Martial Artist or Martial Hobbyist?

Sometimes the lines between martial artist and martial hobbyist get blurred.  How do you determine whether you are a true martial artist or just a martial hobbyist?  Here is a quick and easy way to find out…

Martial Hobbyist or Martial Artist Quiz

  •  Do you train only when it is convenient?
  • Do you train only when you feel good?
  • Do you train only when you have nothing better to do?
  • Do you train as a way to get out of the house?
  • Do you train to socialize?
  • Do you train only when it’s fun?
  • Do you only train when you are in class?
  • Do you only train when someone is watching?

If you answered YES to one or more of these questions, then congratulations, you are a Martial Hobbyist.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.



  • Do you train regardless of whether you feel like it or not?
  • Do you train when you have a headache?
  • Do you train when other people are relaxing?
  • Do you train when it’s raining outside?
  • Do you train even when there is a new episode of Big Bang Theory on TV?
  • Do you train every day no matter what?
  • Do you train for life?
  • Do you train even when there are better things to do?
  • Do you train when it’s boring, repetitive, and dull?
  • Do you train on your own without supervision?
  • Do you constantly strive to get better each time you train?
  • Do you define yourself through your martial practice?
  • Do you look at everything else in life through the lens of your martial training?


If you answered YES to 3 or more of these questions, then congratulations, you are a Martial Artist.



This post was inspired by reading about a dedicated yoga practice earlier this morning and what it takes to achieve a committed, dedicated practice.  Hopefully no egos were bruised in the reading of this post!

By the way, if you want to move from hobbyist status to artist status, here is great article on How to Train More Every Day.  Enjoy!


Protect. Break. Leave Behind.

How can we train for the friction and chaos of battle when following a set fitness routine?  Physical preparation for combat readiness must be, by its very nature, a multifaceted approach.  If the combatants have to be ready for anything, shouldn’t their fitness regimen reflect that?  Surely the idea of training random workouts each and every day must help better prepare the person to face any challenge, right?

Well, yes and no.

As with all things, fitness is a skill.  The body must be adequately prepared at a baseline level through rigorous training AND practice to establish a solid foundation of GPP.   To suddenly subject a trainee to an onslaught of arbitrarily selected workouts is only a recipe for creating a shallow level of skill in a bunch of random areas.  It is also a great way to cause injury rather than seek to prevent it.  Random training produces random, haphazard results.

The Warrior Fitness Training methodology follows the Shu-Ha-Ri model of teaching prevalent in schools of traditional Japanese martial arts.  Shu-Ha-Ri translates to “protect the form, break the form, leave the form behind”.


Usually within schools of traditional Japanese Budo this is a linear model where at the beginning of training the student is taught to carefully protect the form without deviation so as to template themselves to the teacher and to the martial system.  After becoming proficient in the exact techniques of the school the student is then encouraged to begin breaking the form.  And then slowly, very, very slowly, after decades of practice the student finally begins to transcend the form and leave it behind thus moving at the level of principle.

The Shu-Ha-Ri model is slightly different in the Bujinkan tradition that I study.  Rather than a strict linear progression, the model is not quite as fixed.  It may be Shu-Ha-Ri, Ri-Ha-Shu, Ha-Shu-Ri, or any combination of the three.  In this way, the student does not have to wait until he has trained for decades to learn how to break the form, nor does he always leave the form behind.  Instead the training progresses in an upward spiral where the teacher may start with the basics, circle up to breaking the form, and finally leave the form behind, followed by working again on the basics.  The same material is always looked at with fresh, new perspective and greater depth each time it is taught no matter where in the cycle it falls.  This allows for better all-around development and faster progression while still inculcating the basic forms and instilling a respect for technique.  It also gives the student the freedom to adapt to the friction and chaos of combat by learning how to both break and throw away the form when required yet still conforming to the strategic and tactical principles of the art.

How Does This Relate to Fitness?

What I have done is take the Shu-Ha-Ri model as taught within the Bujikan martial arts tradition and apply it to the programming in my Warrior Fitness Training System.  This means that within a complete training program, the student will undergo GPP (general physical preparation), SPP (specific physical preparation), TS (technical skills), and MT (mental/emotional toughness) to fully and completely prepare them for the task, goal, or mission at hand (For a more detailed description of each, please see my post on The 4 Levels of Preparation). Following the Bujinkan model then, the progression of training may not necessarily be a straight line.  Depending on the level of the student, GPP will most likely form the bulk of the training but it will be cycled out of and back into throughout the duration of the program.  As the student progresses and increases in the skill of fitness, their training becomes blended at a higher level of SPP maybe only cycling back into GPP to shore up certain weaknesses and then coming right back out again.  This insures that the student is constantly progressing and also constantly prepared without having to resort to a random workout generator model of training.

Ready to experience some real Warrior Fitness Training?  START HERE! <<=====

Become Unreasonable

Being reasonable gets you mediocrity.  Being reasonable gets you the status quo.  Nothing great has ever been achieved by men and women who were reasonable.  Every major (and most minor) human achievement has been accomplished by unreasonable people.

It was unreasonable of Thomas Edison to fail over 10,000 times before creating the incandescent electric light bulb.

It was unreasonable of Donald Trump to buy real estate in New York City at a time ever other “reasonable” developer was running out of there as fast as possible.

It was unreasonable to think that a man could walk on the moon until Neil Armstrong stepped onto its surface in July of 1969.

It was unreasonable to think the 4 minute mile could be broken until Roger Bannister broke it on May 6, 1954.

In the world of Bujinkan Martial Arts, it was unreasonable of Stephen K. Hayes to think he would be accepted as the first American to study the mysterious art of Japanese Ninjutsu, yet today he is known all over the world.

Unreasonable (1)

Over and over again, unreasonable people are succeeding, accomplishing great things, and leaving their mark on the world.  So tell me again, why would you want to be reasonable?

Do you ever get the feeling you were destined for greatness?  It starts like a slight nagging feeling in your gut that there’s something missing.  That you don’t quite fit in with the status quo.  It’s a dissatisfaction with ordinary or mediocre.  It’s the fleeting thought on the fringes of your consciousness that maybe, just maybe there’s something more than this for you.

“You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.  You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” – Morpheus

Unfortunately for the world, the majority of people out there will ignore that feeling.  They will make excuses why they can’t act on it.  They will be too busy, too tired, too involved in something or someone else, too lazy, too scared.  But not you.  You will act.  You will feel the fear just like all the rest of them, but your desire for greatness will allow you to overcome it.  You will have all the same excuses and rationales, maybe more, but the restlessness inside will not let you rest.

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them” – Henry David Thoreau

To bring this from the general to the specific, how do we become unreasonable in our training?

For starters, I have never believed that any highly skilled martial arts master was special.  Never will.  You and I have the ability to be as great as any one of them.  What one man can do, another can do.  The only way to insure you never succeed is to put them up on a pedestal and tell yourself they are special.  That they are geniuses.  That they are a rare, unusual breed.  That they are set apart.  Nonsense!  You want it?  Train harder.  Train more.  Train better.  Become unreasonable in your training.

You must train yourself to be so good that they won’t be able to ignore your skill, no matter who you are and no matter what your rank – or lack of!

Budo blasphemy?  Maybe.  But just watch me. :o)