Kempo Health Walking

by William Durbin, Soke of Kiyojute Ryu

There are many ‘secrets’ to the martial arts, which are not practiced by modern martial artists because they have nothing to do with competition or being violent.  But they are essential to the development of a complete human being who hopes to live a long and healthy life.

          Some of the masters I know, or have researched, have always considered walking one of the most important activities in which a true martial artist can engage.  For instance, my instructor Rod Sacharnoski loves walking and uses the time he spends walking to develop his Ki.


Ryukyu Oke Hiden Bujutsu

          The great Okinawan master of Ryukyu Oke Hiden Bujutsu, the Okinawan royal family secret traditional martial art, Seikichi Uehara said that the secrete of his martial art was in simple walking.  People would watch his walk and not notice anything amazing until he applied his walk to his martial art and then he was seen as incredible.

          Masaaki Hatsumi is known for his walking training, though it is unsung in the states by many practitioners of his system.  But in the past, practitioners of Ninjutsu considered the art of walking, very important.

          According to the books of Seiko Fujita, Soke of Wada Ha Koga Ryu Ninjutsu and Namban Satto Ryu Kempo, there were three methods of training essential to the development of a Ninjutsuka, as he would refer to Ninjutsu practitioners at times.

          The three arts were, Hokojutsu, Choyakujutsu, and Onshinjutsu.  This article will be about the first of those arts, Hokojutsu, the art of walking.



          The art of walking dealt with the basic idea of walking, specifically in a rural setting, but also with other very special methods of footwork, some of which could be applied to the special skills needed for the arts of espionage and guerilla warfare.

          Hokojutsu in Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei is a branch of an overall health walking art literally written with two Kanji that are pronounced Kempo.  The idea of this is to remind the Kiyojute Ryu Kempoka that everything they do is a part of their Kempo, fist law.

          To practice the art of walking a Kempoka begins with Ayumi Ashi, which could be translated as regular walking.  This is the normal heel to toe method of walking.  During this type of walking, while it appears normal, it should be used by the Kempoka to develop a light step and soft movement.  In other words, the Kiyojute Ryu Kempoka should do their best to be light on their feet.

          This takes a lot of practice, with a focus of moving from the center of one’s body, the Hara or stomach area, specifically the Itten, one point, located one to two inches below the navel.  When moving in this way, the step will be light and the Kempoka will develop the ability to move quietly, one of the main skills necessary for Ninjutsu.


Nimpo Kempo Kobujutsu

          In the special sessions of Kiyojute Ryu Nimpo Kempo Kobujutsu time is spent on Hokojutsu specifically, developing three ways of walking.  In the ancient art there was a fourth method, but even back then there were recorded injuries from practicing the extra method, so that it has been dropped in modern times.

          Along with Ayumi Ashi, the Kempoka during the practice of the specialized form of walking known as Nimpo, literally, stealth walking, the Kiyojute Ryu practitioner performs nine other methods of walking.  These are special forms, which have many applications to scouting and guerilla warfare.

          As part of the overall program of Kempo, health walking, there are also three methods taught under the specific division known as Hayagakejutsu, the art of fast running.  In Kiyojute Ryu Nimpo, this method is excellent for teaching a person to run and yet without the extremism that marks many forms of running and can lead to various forms of injury due to overuse.

          To prepare and keep the body ready and healthy for all martial arts skills, but most especially the various forms of walking and running taught in the manner used by scouts and espionage agents, the Kempoka should try to practice daily the regular walking of Ayumi Ashi.

          There are three phases to the walking.  As noted above is the physical aspect, which incorporates the heel to toe walking and moving from the center, so that one is light on their feet.



          The second phase is mental and incorporates the concept of Zen.  While being totally aware of one’s surroundings, the Kempoka should be able to walk with Mushin, no mind, thinking nothing but observing everything.  The mind should be open, to take in one’s surroundings but not occupied by thoughts of walking nor lost on the problems of today.

          The mental phase is to walk without thought, but with total being so that you can react to whatever is going on in your environment.  Never wear earphones that cut you off from your environment, this is dangerous and people have been killed because they did not hear a threat coming their way.

          The final phase is spiritual.  When a person walks from their center they should feel as if their Ki is pulling them along.  They can also envision that they are surrounded by a ball of Ki energy, which rolls along as they walk, giving a smoothness and balance to their mobility.  People who have mastered Kempo Ayumi Ashi have been said to look as if they are floating along the ground rather than walking on it.



          This form of Kempo, health walking, and the Hokojutsu branch of it is a part of Karumijutsu, the actual central art of all forms of traditional Japanese Bugei.  Without training in Karumijutsu, a person is only learning technique, but the idea of Karumi, which can be traced back to the Shaolin temple, means body lightening.  It is a Ki method of developing superior athletic skill in the human body.

          It has been said that all great martial artists engage in walking as part of their training.  This can definitely be said about the past masters, Seikichi Uehara and Seiko Fujita, as well as, the contemporary masters, Masaaki Hatsumi and Rod Sacharnoski.

          I encourage all practitioners of Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei to engage in a walking program.  Walk whenever you can.  When you go shopping, if you can, park away from the door to increase how much you walk.  Walk around the store or mall several times.  Mall walking is a great safe way to exercise in a safe environment and during inclement weather.  When you can go for long walks in the outdoors, walk for a mile or two, it is great exercise and can greatly benefit your martial arts if you remember the three main aspects; physically walk from your center and step lightly, mentally walk with the Zen mind, and spiritually let your Ki flow as you walk.

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