After my 5th Dan Test. Nagato Sensei at Bujinkan Hombu Dojo, 2013. Japan.
After my 5th Dan Test. Nagato Sensei at Bujinkan Hombu Dojo, 2013. Japan.

After one year of my Godan Test, I would like to express myself a little bit about it. I think this kind of experience will always be reminded and understood from many different perspectives along the way, then that is my way of thinking for now, maybe it changes in the future. When I was in Japan last year, I was there looking for many things. Since few years before, I felt that it could be very important for my life, even not realizing why. I felt pressured to be there, although I had waited for long time until the moment that my life changed dramatically, I mean on my personal life. After that, the opportunity happened.

Last year was my first time in Japan, so the plan was to meet Soke, discover more of Bujinkan and Japan itself. Actually, I was not there only for practicing Budo Taijutsu and bring something new. The idea was to take the first step to go deeply on this way, and if it was not possible, at least check why I felt that I had to go there. Making many decisions too, after that. Everyone here dreams with it, of course, I mean everyone that practices Budo Taijutsu in Brazil, but it was not about it.

In the beginning, my own foundations were tested, and it has shown that I have too much to improve. It was my first shock and I appreciate it. It was a blessing. I prefer to be honest than create crazy “nice” stories to excuses my own faults or blame someone for it. People here say that go to Japan changes you completely. Several teachers here. I believe it. They say no one comes back from Japan as the same. Even people from old Bujinkan Dojo here. Everything changes after this, and I agree with that.

At that time I had about 12 years of training under the supervision of my teacher in Brazil. However, it is really important to be connected to source on the way. Maybe it depends on practitioner and what heart is asking for, but for me is really important. Telling the truth, I was very late to be there, in Japan. My heart was asking for it since long time ago. I recommend to every practitioner. But this post is not about it. There, I was recommended to take the Godan Test that everyone knows in Bujinkan and for me was an amazing experience! Not those great stories, where you take the test and just pass, then you are the guy, awesome, and a fantastic Budoka. No… I was hit and more than once! Even by Hatsumi Sensei (what is blessing for me).

First of all, for long time, I was this kind of guy that thinks being promoted in Japan or recommended for an exam is go over the teacher’s authority, you know, like being not loyal. I was very concerned about it. After being recommended by Noguchi Sensei, I was very nervous to take this exam because I was concerned on it. I thought “What will my teacher think about it?”, “My buyu, and students?”, “Maybe they will think I am here just for it, and in South America to take an exam, we spend a lot of years I’m going over them”. “Maybe people will think many things about me”, you know, many illusory “bla bla bla” coming from my mind. Many worries. Initially, it is the most wanted experience for practitioners here, like a dream coming true. Definitely, I was not prepared. I don’t know. Some people in Japan said that no one is when they take the test. What I tell you is that I was between my heart asking for the experience and my mind asking to avoid it, in order to avoid social problems.


With this in mind, just after the recommendation I took the test first time under the Sakki of Moryu Shihan (from Argentine), after the Soke class, I and failed, trying to escape many times. Moryu Shihan was very kind trying to make me less nervous, asking me to think nothing and trust. In the end, Duncan Shihan said me “Ok. Keep going, try next time”. Not knowing so much about it I remember that I asked to him “Can I try again in next class?”, He said “yes!”. At that time, I thought that we need a year to take the test again. That day I came back to hotel internally destroyed, literally. Judging myself in ultimate level, of course, my mind massacring me. In next class of Hatsumi Sensei was not there. I took some time to deal with it. It was very hard for me. I felt many things, including shame. Everyone that knows me, knows that I always trained what I learnt diligently, in the most hard conditions, and now, I had another concerning, I was the first member of my teacher’s dojo being recommended to Godan Test, and I FAILED. Lol. That was my crazy mind was telling me. Now, it is very funny, but it was hard. You see, too many thoughts for this kind of thing.

I remember that when I was going out of Hombu Dojo, Shiraishi Sensei said me, please come to my next training, I think I can help you. I was not in the next training, but I was in his trainings later. I was emotionally destroyed that time. Then I tried again, this time at Tokyo Budokan and I failed under Noguchi Sensei, after that, Hatsumi Sensei took the Shinai of Noguchi Sensei and hit me very hard! Lol. I felt this pain on my head for two weeks! Nonetheless, I was not so destroyed emotionally. This time, it was more like a cleansing. I felt that it was not good, but necessary. In train going to hotel the guy that was my Uke in Budokan said me “Well… you are still nervous. Try to breath deeply one time before take the test. Still, you are not being natural on your escape. Don’t try to make a technique.”

In Budokan, before this test, I was less nervous than the first time, but I was impressed and very happy for this opportunity. Why? Well, it was my first time in Tokyo Budokan, there were many of those Shihan that we admire for what people say about them, what they share (posts, videos etc), they are like celebrity for us, people that understanding deeply this art, you know, many of those Shihan were there watching my Godan Test. Closing my eyes, and I still keep the image of the last moment, they there in Seiza watching my Godan Test, deciding if I passed or don’t. I feel good when I remember this. It impressed me, and made me very happy. I went to Japan alone, no one familiar, no close buyu, or someone that I met before Japan, I felt a little bit alone in these experiences. This time Soke said that I really need to become Zero and I was still trying to escape.  Kacem Shihan was translating this time.

In between these two tests, I was attending many classes in different dojos. Soke classes, Dai Shihan (Nagato and Noguchi Shihan), Duncan Shihan, Bujinkan Zeropoint Dojo, and Shiraishi Sensei. I learnt many things on each one, and I’m still working on these teachings. I discovered many gaps on my taijutsu, way of thinking, and heart. I can talk about this later in other posts. After this, I came to hotel, I decided do not take more tests on this travel, and be happy! Then, I went out that night to dine alone. Something that I like, I relaxed, and without too much judgment on my mind. After all, I decided to enjoy the rest of travel, and forget it.

When I was eating, some guy sat in another table in front of me, and I read clearly what was written in his T-Shirt. It was something like “We want to you Become Zero” and it was clear. I smiled, and muttered alone “I’m becoming crazy. Forget it, and let’s enjoy the dinner”. Finally, I slept very well. So, I enjoyed many classes, sightseeing, things like that during the rest of the travel. After that, I went to visit a friend of mine in Tokyo, I told him I little bit about it, and he encouraged me to try again because he knew me, he knew that I trained hard and I overcame many challenges in my life. However, I still stood this position of forgetting it during this travel. After this visit, I came back to Kashiwa.

Already to come to Brazil, I went to Narita airport, got on the line and the girl from the airline said that the jet was broken, and my flight had to be changed. It was Saturday morning. I’m very religious man as everyone knows, and this time I felt very strange, and I realized quickly that I had one more Soke Class at Hombu. Only this. Then, I left the airport very conformed and trusting that Universe had purpose for this. I came back to the Hotel, and on Sunday I went to Hombu Dojo. It was completely different to before.


Somehow, life is a process of purification where we learn dealing with illusory way of thinking and feeling. A continuous process of removing ego and correction of our desires.

Other students, other teachers, other “everything”. First, I recognized Rob Renner Shihan, I have training with him (and his method) since few years ago, and who chosen some students to help me in this travel to Japan. Also, I recognized Amiiru Higashi Shihan who was never introduced to me, but I knew before that he is Brazilian. I fast went to him talking in Brazilian Portuguese, and happily he invited me to be your training partner. Then, Hatsumi Sensei enters wearing a Brazilian Soccer Team T-Shirt. Lol. If you know something about Brazilians, you know this is a kind of “sacred robe”. Lol. For me it is not different. It is a sign. Lol.

During the training, Amiiru said me “Well, you are doing good, probably you are godan, right?“, I answered no, and I explained that I failed. So, he encouraged me to try again.  I stood my position saying to him that I left to the next year. But he insisted kidding me with the “responsibility” to represent us this day that Hatsumi Sensei uses our T-Shirt. Lol. It was very funny, and I relaxed. Then, during the art break I went to talk with Rob Renner Shihan, and during the conversation, he ask me about my rank, and I told him the whole story about it quickly, and my real worry. He said me things that changed dramatically my way of thinking and feeling of it. He said me, something like “Well… For passing successfully in Sakki Test is important to desire it. If do not have desire, you will never pass”, and then, he explained what rank really is in Bujinkan, and more about the connection between the attacker and who is taking the test. In a few minutes, with few words, he simply destroyed the excess of “judgment” in my mind. I told him a little bit a about the “signs” for me, and he said something like “So, why do not try again?”. Internally, I asked me “Why not?”.

The class has finished, Hatsumi Sensei asked “Is anybody here to take Godan Test?”. Amiiru said “Let’s go”. With my heart free, I looked at Rob Renner Shihan on other side of dojo, breathing deeply. He looked at me, and I put my hand up and took the test under the Sakki of Nagato Shihan. When I sat down, I just thought one thing:

“This time, I will not listen my mind, and I will not move anything, It doesn’t matter what.”

Then, I just remember that I opened my eyes, everyone was clapping, and I looked to Rob Renner Shihan, and through gestures I asked if I passed successfully, and he moved his head positively. After that, I went to Hatsumi Sensei to compliment him.

At Shinshō-ji (新勝寺 "New victory temple") with Fudō-Myōō Sama (不動明王). Ask for help is part of the process.
At Shinshō-ji (新勝寺 “New victory temple”) with Fudō-Myōō Sama (不動明王). Ask for help is part of the process.

This was amazing experience for me! I’m not talking about the last test, the whole process itself. It discards many illusory thoughts and feelings. Ego is not about the feeling of being “the guy” or look for ranks that you do not deserve. It is much deeper, much deeper. Some people believe they don’t have ego, and that is an illusion of the ego. Everyone, I mean every single human being has ego, and have to deal with.

First of all, what is ego? In a way, Ego (me) is something hidden, and very specific for each one that makes each one of us unique, separating us from each other, creating “space” between us, and it is expressed in many ways. For example, the way of thinking “I’m the guy” (comparison/space) come from ego, but the opposite “I don’t deserve it” (comparison/space) or “I’m not good enough” (comparison/space) also come from ego, they come exactly the same place. Some kind of fears comes from ego because they are just an illusion created by mind based on past experiences.

It is really important deal with this deep questions. I mean, anyone have a certain time for it. Budo, in a way, is life. Nowadays, we don’t live like ancient Japanese warriors and it is strange to think in live like them, even in martial arts. It is a different time and space, and several possibilities are in the core of this. I saw, for example, many people talking about the “Ultimate Truth” of martial arts, and they live in peaceful country without facing any trouble during entire life. It is really strange! Nonetheless, we have our concerning, and our training helps us to find gaps, enlightening these spots. That is exactly the idea of training. No one is here, in fact, to correct others (I mean, in big picture) because it doesn’t work. Actually, you only change others by changing yourself. Look for these gaps and keep going! Hatsumi Sensei, and several Shihan are examples for this goal…

Assume Kamae, take the responsibility of your own gaps and work on them. Hard, without excuses, do not blame others!


(Bufu Ikkan)

Pedro Henrique

Bujinkan Shidoshi