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Kihon-Happo: meaning and essence

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

(Note: the numbers in the square brackets refer to the "Notes, Clarifications and Extensions" appendix, which is at the end of the article)


Many times we hear during training the term "Kihon-Happo". Some of us "know" that these are "basic exercises". But what are those "base exercises" and why are they called that ("base")? In this article, I will try to clarify all these questions and remove the fog.

"Kihon" is usually translated as foundation or base in all Japanese martial arts. Kihon in itself contains all the elements that make up the training - position ([1]kamae), receiving attacks (ukemi), striking, locking, throwing, walking... everything that is in Ten (heaven) and [ 2]Chi Ryaku no Maki and more. The Kihon was also often described, by Hatsumi Sensei, as - 奇本 Mysterious origins.

"Happo" (八法 Happo,) - means eight methods, principles or laws.

Together the term refers to the eight basic techniques of budo taijutsu (it is important to emphasize here that each school and each method has its kihons and since the Bujinkan has 9 schools, then we have many forms to perform the 8 basic exercises, the kihon-happo).

The kihon-happo consists of 3 work/manipulation techniques on the kosshi (skeleton and bones) and 5 torite[3] (bolts and throws).

It is claimed that "in every technique, we perform in Budo-Taijutsu, there are parts of Kihon Happo". Hence the great importance of practicing and assimilating Kihon-Happo into our body and soul.

Hatsumi says that the origin of a huge number of techniques in the world of martial arts is from those 8 techniques of the Kihon-Happo. But Hatsumi didn't invent these things and neither did Takamatsu Sensei, his teacher, who said the same things: "Kihon Happo is the basis of all martial arts".

According to Hatsumi, you will never be able to advance higher in the martial art without mastering the kihon happo in an excellent way and the great importance and meaning he attributes to it can be seen in the following [4], taken from the [5]Sanmyaku #9:

"When training in the Kihon Happo of Taijutsu, one begins by learning the 3 techniques of Kosshi Kihon Sanpo ("the 3 techniques of attacking the skeleton/spine[6]") and 5 techniques of the [7]Torite Goho (bolts and throws). One cannot say that he has understood the Kihon Happo unless he has been able to connect these patterns with the Hapo Biken[8] ("The Hidden Sword"), the Bugei Juhappan[9] (the 18 fighting specialities of the samurai) and the [10 ]Ninja Juhakkei (the 18 specialities of the ninja).

Once this kihon happo gives birth to 10,000 forms of execution and the 10,000 forms become infinite, it becomes the basis, the source of the martial ways. That's when the real taste of Kiyhon Hapo is revealed".

It will be clarified that the Kihon Happo consists of a combination of Kosshi Sanpo and Torite Goho.

According to Hatsumi, the Kosshi Sanpo refers to [11]Ten-chi-jin and Sanshin[12], and the Torite Goho is a path of enlightenment (Go Gyo), which aims to understand the Chi-Sui-Ka-Fu-Ku[13] and the activation of Gogyo[14] [This is the theory of the 5 elements of fire (hi), water (Mizu), wood (ki), metal (ka), and earth (tsuchi). which refers to the principles of yin-yang [See the expansion in the footnotes, at the end of the article. S.R].

Hatsumi says that the heart contains the Jin-Gi-Rei-Chi-Shin (kindness, honesty, fairness, wisdom and sincerity) and alternatively it represents the "moral code" of the martial artist: Kan-Chu-Ko-Ji-Ai (loyalty basic and deep, devotion to family and self-love).

All this produces the harmony of a warrior's heart that is seen as sacred (there is a reference here to Bushin Wa-o motte Totoshi-to nasu[15] - cf. Sanmyaku#4), and thus the Kihon Hapo exercises are given to us from heaven and by receiving them we become warriors connected with the divine will and able to walk the mysterious path of the wonderful in our lives.

That is why the way of strategy is also known as the way of magic. This is the truth of the Kihon Hapo of Budo Taijutsu.

Once this Kihon happo gives birth to 10,000 forms of execution and the 10,000 forms become infinite, it becomes the basis, the source of the martial ways. That's when the real taste of Kihon Happo is revealed.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, the Kihon Happo of Budo-Taijutsu is a collection of techniques divided into two categories: Kosshi Kihon Sanpo (Koshi Kihon - "techniques for attacking the skeleton and bones") and Torite Goho (Torite Kihon - bolt and throw techniques) that come originally from Gyoku Ryu Kushi-jutsu, and content to some extent the basis of all Bujinkan. The Kihon-Happo contains 3 techniques from Koshi-Jutsu (Koshi Kihon) and 5 Torite. But, although the origin of Kihon-Happo is the Gyoku-Ryu, we perform the 8 techniques for all the schools taught in Bujinkan. Hence we have 72 versions (9 versions per Kihon). Also, there is no set rule regarding the way the techniques are performed, and with different teachers and dojos, it will be possible to see certain changes in the content of the Kihon Happo and the way the techniques are performed (although the review I did revealed that the changes in the content are only in a small part of the techniques of the torite).

The 8 techniques/exercises are divided into the 3 prominent techniques of the kosshi kihon sanpo and the 5 locking techniques (bolts) of the torite kihon goho, as follows (I will present a number of common versions. There is no objection to changing and diversifying, but it must be taken into account that Each performer/teacher has his/her own form of interpretation and performance, so I recommend asking your teacher for performance instructions. Also, note that for most of the techniques I have attached a link to a YouTube video showing the performance):

a) Ichimonji no Kata

b) Jumonji no Kata

Torite Kihon Goho no Kata

a) Omote Gyaku – External reversal

b) Omote Gyaku Ken Sabaki – External reversal with a punch (tski)

c) Ura Gyaku - Internal reversal

d) Musha Dori – "capturing a warrior"

e) Ganseki Nage – "Throwing a heavy rock"

v There are versions in which it appears musso dori, Instead of one of the above techniques.

v There are versions with uni-kudaki.

v There are versions with Hon-Gyaku.

The 3 katas of the KOSSHI KIHON SANPO:

1. Migi Ichimonji no Kamae:

In a right posture: right ichimonji, in which the right hand is extended forward, the left hand is fisted with the thumb sticking out and placed above the elbow joint of the right arm.

Rotate the right hand in a large circular motion to the right (rotate clockwise, from the hips towards the left shoulder). As you rotate the arm, be sure to raise the left fist and this will help to thwart the opponent's attack.

The left-hand rises above the head, the palm is half-opened and strikes the Omote-shuto on the right side of the opponent's neck [hitting the Amado, the area where the lymph nodes are located, about two centimetres below the ear] at the same time as you step forward with the left foot.

Hidari waza (left side) is the same. Repeat this eight times.

2. Migi (right) Hicho no Kamae:

Lift your left leg to the knee area of ​​your right leg. left hand half open and outstretched; The right hand is fisted with the thumb open and placed in the area of ​​the left elbow.

Turn the left hand to the right, clockwise, and continue to the left and down without changing the position. As before [see Ichimonji no kata] the hands change position, with the right hand coming up to the head and semi-fisted.

The left leg kicks into the opponent's suigetsu (water moon - this point is just below the xiphoid, sternum ridge, this is the solar plexus. This area affects the diaphragm when striking) or to the Asagasumi (chin) as you move forward.

Partially open (half) the right hand and strike the omote-shuto into the artery on the right side of the opponent's neck. Note: the movement of the hand reaches from the right thigh area to the left shoulder area and leaves from there.

Hidari waza - left side - is the same. Repeat this eight times.

3. Migi (right) Jumonji no kamae:

Position yourself in Jumonji with an inside left hand.

When the opponent attacks with a tski: strike with the right hand daken (as it is) to the upper right corner (in front of the attacker's hand) and continue with a boshi jab into the opponent's chest area (with the right thumb). Raise the half-open hand to the right side and step back with a tai-sabaki to the left side and back.

Turn the left hand as it is to the upper left and continue with a blow into the opponent's right chest area with the left thumb (left boshi...). Perform a half opening to the right side, lifting and retracting in a backward tai-sabaki and finishing in a jumonji.

Hidari waza is also the same. Repeat this eight times.

Demonstration videos for different execution forms of Kihon-Happo:

1. Demonstration video of the Koshi-Kihon Kata:

2. Demo video of Hatsumi. Please note: although the title of the video is "Kihon-Happo in the Spirit of the Gikan-Ryu", if you listen carefully, you will be able to hear (and also see) that Hatsumi performs - for example the Omote-Gyaku - in the styles of several schools.

3. Ichimonji no Kamea. Hatsumi gives an in-depth explanation here:

5. Hatsumi demonstrates Omuta Gyaku Ken-Sabaki:

The kamea (posture):


Appendix - the original text of Hatsumi from the sanmyako (as it appears on Dai-Shihan Duncan Stewart's Facebook page):

By Masaaki Hatsumi (Sanmyaku #9) 宗家

When training in the Taijutsu of Kihon Happo one starts by learning the forms of Kosshi Kihon Sanpo and Torite Goho, and unless one builds a community between these forms and Happo Biken, Bugei Juhappan and Ninja Juhakkei. it is impossible to say one has understood Kihon Happo.

Once this Kihon Happo gives birth to 10.000 ways and the 10,000 ways become infinity [Mugen: normally “without limit” but here “without origin”], this becomes the root of the martial ways [ can also be read as “Mugen” ] and the true flavour of Kihon Happo comes alive.

I expressed the guideline that Kihon Happo consists of a combination of Kosshi Sanpo and Torite Goho; but Kosshi Sanpo refers to Tenchijin and Sanshin, and Torite Goho is a path of enlightenment [ Go Gyo ] whose purpose is to understand Chi-Sui-Ka-Fu-Ku and the operation of Gogyo [ here not five exercises~ (nor even “five elements”) but five deeds ].

The heart is Jin-Gi-Rei-Chi-Shin [ benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom and sincerity ]; alternatively, it represents the attitude of a martial artist. Kan-Chu-Ko-Ji-Ai [ thoroughness in loyalty, filial piety and self-love ].

This produces the harmony of a martial heart which is held sacred [ a reference to Bushin Wa-o motte Totoshi-to Nasu – cf. Sanmyaku 4 ], and thus the Kihon Happo is given to us by heaven.

By receiving them we become warriors linked with the divine will. and are able to follow a mysterious path of miracles in our lives.

That is why the way of strategy is also known as the miraculous path. This is the truth of the Kihon Happo of Budo Taijutsu.


source list:

2. Ten-chi-jin: (Bujinkan dojo shinden Kihon gata tenchijin ryaku no maki divine transmission of the basic forms of the Bujinkan dojo):

4. For Kosshi Kihon Sanpo of Gyoku-ryu koshi-jutsu (Kamea and basic katas of: Hicho-no-kamea + kata, Jumonji + kata, Ichi-monji kata) See::

11. About the kamea and its meaning in Budo-Taijutsu (by Hatsumi):

14. Translations:, Google, Morfix,


Clarifications and Extensions:

[1] Kamea: note: unlike the Japanese word Tachi, which refers to the posture of the body ("standing form") from the waist down, Kamae refers to the posture of the entire body, including the spiritual-mental. The Kamae in taijutsu are considered regular positions that occur as 'snapshots' of movement sequences, instead of fixed attack or reception positions. The basic kamae is ichimonji-no-kamae, which refers to the 'straight line' that reflects the shape of the body when adopting this position.

[2]The basic curriculum (basic techniques) of the Bujinkan is called "Bujinkan Shinden Kihon Gata", but it is more commonly known as Tenchijin Ryaku no Maki. When the Tenchijin was created, the goal was to give beginners all the basics needed to easily learn the various Ryūha.

[3] Torite is a term that defines in the context of Japanese martial arts the techniques derived from hand throwing. Those techniques where the hand is used not only to produce punches or blows.

[4] The text is translated from the Facebook page post of Dai-Sheehan Duncan Stewart. It is not possible to translate directly to Hebrew (I'm writing here about the Hebrew version of the article) and in order for the text to be understood it is necessary to edit and interpret the translator. So I take full responsibility for any inaccuracies. The original text can be seen in the appendix.

[6] A very large deepening of the meaning of the term can be found in the following link. Recommended reading for those interested in deepening at a high level: [7] Translation: "5 methods for grasping a hand", or - "5 hand bolts". 2 types of Omote Gyaku - Omote Gyaku Ken Sabaki (one with a pull and Ura Shuto to the neck and the other - the "classic" - with a pull and raising the hand of the opponent/hoka), Ura-gyaku "classic" (with raising the hand of the Uke), Jigoku-dori and Musha-dori. [8] About the Happo-Biken: I recommend watching this video as well, by Shinden Fudo ryu happo biken jutsu: The meaning of the name "Happo-Biken" is: "The hidden sword of the 8 methods" (because in the 8 methods taught in Bujinkan there is the work of the "hidden sword"). [9] The 18 fighting techniques in which the samurai were supposed to specialize: See also: [10] About the 18 specialties of the ninja. See here: and also here: [11] The meaning of "ten" is "heaven", "sky". "Chi" means "earth", "the ground", "the ground under our feet" and "jin" "man", (mankind). The concept has a deep philosophical meaning and intent, especially in the field of martial arts. In general, this philosophy refers to the connection between these essential elements; How they connect and relate to each other, how they balance or fail to balance, and in reference to a state of harmony or peace. But here the reference is to the document issued by Hatsumi in the '70s, which details the Budo-Taijutsu techniques and divides them into 3 chapters called by these names (Ten = Heaven, Chi = Earth, Jin = Man). [12] Sanshin is an ancient Japanese musical instrument, consisting of 3 parts: neck, body and pegs to which the strings are attached (an instrument similar to a banjo). In Bujinkan, the concept is interpreted as "three heart patterns" (three heart shapes). These taijutsu katas are from the Godai philosophies and cover all 5 elements found within ninpo taijutsu. These five elements are earth (地), water (水), fire (火), wind (風), and void (空). [13] Godai - "Five patterns - large, wide, physical". They are the five elements in Japanese Buddhist thought of earth (chi), water (sui), fire (ka), wind (fu) and void (ko). [14] Gogyo: The theory of the five stages, the five elements, is a Japanese proto-scientific, nature-based theory introduced in the 5th and 6th centuries. It divides the material world into functional stages of: fire (hi), water (mizu), wood (ki), metal (ka), and earth (tsuchi). It refers to the principles of yin-yang and wuxing.

In Budo-Taijutsu this concept is applied to the set of katas under the San-Shin Kata. which include: Chi no Kata (地の型) “Earth Example” Sui/Mizu no Kata (水の型) “Water Example” Ka/Hi no Kata (火の型) “Fire Example” Fu/Kaze no Kata (風の型) “Wind Example” Ku no Kata (空の型) “Void Example” [15] Literally it means "remember that peace and harmony are the important things". But the word "wa" has the meaning of a concept such as "blindly following others", or "not pushing your opinion too much" "giving up an idea, a perception, because it brings an argument". So, "wa wo motte toutoshi to nasu" is a popular quote that explains the Japanese attitude.


Fotos Credits:

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