The Universal Principles of Budō


A plethora of Martial Arts exist in Japan. From arts dealing with  the sword, some the spear, the bow or empty hand, to those dealing with shouting your opponent to their knees or how to swim in armour. However, within all of the arts which fall under the title of Budō, Bugei or Bujutsu, exists the basic principle “Ichigan Nisoku Santan Shiriki” 「一眼二足三丹四力」.
Arguably four individual aspects, they unite to form the fundamental structure necessary to becoming an accomplished Martial Artist.

Now many may wonder why this article was chosen to be uploaded to a site dedicated to Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu and Iai, but the principles which will be discussed are especially important within Iai, and can indeed be applied to all arts descendant of the original Hayashizaki style. Secondly this article was inspired by a lecture given by Kawaji Toshihiro Kyōshi Nanadan, a practitioner of (Hayashizaki Battōjutsu Heihō) Musō Shinden Shigenobu Ryū, one of the arts with a direct lineage to Hayashizaki JInsuke Shigenobu and with Densho leading back hundred of years. Finally, a number of the succeeding arts of the original Hayashizaki style, including the aforementioned, are/were full systems not just composed of Iai, but Ken, Yawara, Yari, Naginata, Bō etc.

Ichigan Nisoku Santan Shiriki, one principle composed of four aspects, each being exceptionally important, however they hold a key order in the development of effective Martial Arts. The phrase itself is quite long for non-Japanese, so it will be broken into its individual aspects and expanded on.

Ichigan: 一眼 First, eyes. The use of the eyes in the Martial Arts is the most important step for beginners and masters alike. It should be developed correctly at an early stage  in one’s training. In the early stages of contact arts and arts with two-man Kata, the eyes are obviously used to look at the opponent, and focus on where one must strike. However the ultimate aim of the artist is to not look at the opponent, but to see them. The physical movement of the eyes gives your intentions off to the opponent, allowing them to read your strikes and move your targets out of striking distance. Seeing your opponent without faltering your eye line is the ultimate goal of Ichigan. The eyes can also be used to take advantage of the opponent. Feign a strike to the arm and the opponent is likely to move their arms, thus opening up the neck. Furthermore, the eyes are used to intimidate and pressure the opponent. Ganzeme眼攻, pressuring/attacking the opponent with the eyes. In other words intimidating them into apprehension and an early defeat.
In those arts based on single-man Kata, the eyes can be argued to play an even more important role. Not only must the above be applied, but the fact there is no physical opponent must also be considered. The eyes have to visualise the opponent whom is not there, and keep fixed on them in order to begin to be able to achieve focus, Ganzeme, Tsukekomi etc.

Ichigan, first master the eyes.

Nisoku: 二足 Second, feet. The use of the feet in martial arts is quite obvious. Incorrect footwork creates poor balance, weak posture, and further weakens the hips and upper parts of the body. The science of this however is paramount. Correct footwork creates a strong grounding and good balance, allowing the practitioner to more smoothly and freely in avoidance, and between strikes. Though when striking, it is the feet leading into the legs, the hips, then Hara etc which provide the power in the strike. Kinetic linking of musculoskeletal groups is started by the feet being in contact with the ground and pushing down. This power is then passed up the legs to the fist/tip of the sword allowing little effort to achieve phenomenal power. Even such arts as Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō Ryū and Takenouchi Ryū both contain sword strikes from mid-air, and the latter Yawara techniques, too.  This is achieved as the power has already been passed into the legs and carried to the Tanden by effective footwork.

Nisoku, second master the feet.

Santan: 三丹 Third, Tanden. The Tanden丹田 is the point in the lower abdomen where correct breathing is said to be controlled by, and where true power is said to be created in Martial Arts. One of the Chakra points in meditative techniques, it was passed to China from India, becoming know as the dāntián丹田 in Gongfu(Kung Fu), and then onto Japan from China. The Tanden is used to develop correct breathing techniques carrying the power from heaven in the air into the body to be combined with the power from the earth draw from the feet to create Ki for strikes. Scientifically speaking modern Martial Artists will tell you that this deeper Tanden breathing allows inhalation of more oxygen thus enriching the blood to bathe the muscles, reducing fatigue and possibility of lactic acid build up. The muscles surrounding the Tanden, the abdominal, gluteal, pelvic, lumbar and dorsal muscles all link together to create an effective, powerful strike with little effort. Utilising the Tanden to initiate this generation of power is the goal of all Martial Artists.

Santan, third master the Tanden.

Shiriki: 四力 Fourth, power. The character 力(riki.ryoku) can be interpreted as meaning strength, but this is not what is need in true Martial arts. Strength implies exertion. Effort mirroring strength, more effort, more strength. This is incorrect in the Martial Arts. To create strength through great effort takes time to build the power into a strike. Time, which allows the opponent to strike you first. Real power is created from through mastery of the above three points. By utilising the eyes to pressure the opponent, the feet draw power up into the Tanden where it is concentrated into power and transferred into the necessary location to deliver a strike. Most high-ranking swordsmen will say “Don’t cut with the arms…”, of course implying that you don’t need massive muscles to hammer the sword down into the target, but by using the Tanden to create power with little effort and achieving a beautiful, yet deadly cut.

Shiriki, fourth master power.

All combined in order, Ichigan Nisoku Santan Shiriki can be seen to be separate, yet completely intertwined aspects which build up into what all students of the Martial way aim to achieve. I hope this shallow article has proven to be of interest, and may some day even help in your training.

Master first the eyes and suppress the opponent, then the feet to become as swift as the wind, utilise heaven and earth in the Tanden to unleash true power unto the opponent