|[ olvasnivaló » Ura & Omote - 1995 April ]|
Ninja have many techniques, but their secret is Kyojutsu ten kan ho (the art of changing). Today's society is very crazy. There is no good philosophy. Heart is the most important element of my philosophy. It will carry the warrior through this confused time.
Budo Philosophy: In general, it is used to protect the country, your community, and your own body. The way one approaches and uses this philosophy is very important. People say that the way you cut with the sword is important, but good eyes, strong muscles and bones are not the "way". Gross technique is more like cutting wood than swordsmanship. Swordsmanship against an opponent involves a totally different "way". You also need to learn different techniques but the "way" is the important part which sensei stresses.
Jutsu means technique, but it also means heart. Jutsu must come from the heart. Therefore, your heart must be straight and honest. If your heart is not clear and straight, your jutsu will be lacking and you will not improve in the martial arts. Lust for victory will not give you the victory. You must receive the victory from your opponent. He has no choice but to give it to you because he will sense your heart as better or truer. Nature is your friend; it helps you to win. Your enemy will have unnatural movement, therefore you will be able to know what he is going to do before he does it.
I refer to mastery as a "feeling" in the individual. The certificate, even 10th degree, is no proof. One must be honest and think on this very deeply. There is no proof, however, if you look for it. When you don't need to look, that is the proof. When one develops Shin Ki To Ichi (the heart, universe and weapon as one) that is mastery. This is the proof; this ability always allows the budoka to win, his technique always works.
Ninpo protects all of you, your body and spirit. Other budo philosophies don't have this. In budo, and other philosophies, if your spirit is not straight, you can kill yourself! For example, medicine should protect one's health, but used improperly, the same techniques will kill. Likewise with eating and drinking; improper habits will destroy the body. The same with the leadership of a country. Leaders should protect the people; a bad leader (poor philosophy, greedy, selfish) can destroy a country. Religion can be good for society, but greed and fanaticism can destroy. Here is a paraphrase of a letter from Takamatsu to me: "The Universe gives you a mission and guides you-- no one can stop you-- you will gain enormous strength, lose all fear, become as one with all of the natural world, and have total freedom in your movements. Your mind will be straight and honest. If you are truly straight and honest, you can get this power. Common sense, justice, and no surprise: this is Togakure Ryu Ninpo".
How to learn the gokui (secrets) so as to become Meijin (a master)? Everyone wants to get the Makimono (Ryu Scroll Legacy that is held by the Grandmaster). Only by studying long and hard can you become strong enough to take the Makimono. Once you have it you may find that it is hard to move for several years because the Makimono is too heavy. You begin to understand the commitment that using the gokui entails. The Makimono becomes like a physical weight. Here are some clues to the gokui (secrets). It has to do with Takamatsu Sensei's return to Japan from China. In China he was known as Mo-Ko, the Mongolian Tiger. But in Japan his friends called him the Yamomoto Pussycat. They asked him why he was acting like a pussycat, and not like a tiger. Takamatsu said that he needed to act like a tiger in China to survive. Now he needed to act like a pussycat so that women would like him and want to pet him. The secret is flexibility and appropriateness. When you need to be a tiger you can, and are one. When its better to be a cat, you can be and are.
I was once asked by a friend: "Why don't you fight a bull like Mas Oyama? You are a very strong Ninja master." I smiled and said that even though a bull has more muscles, even a farmer can pull it around by the ring in it's nose. Gokui (the secrets of martial arts) is in a person's heart and his personal commitment. Be ready to think all the time. If you want enlightenment, practice every moment how to answer these type of questions, like the one about the bull. This means everyone has the capability to learn the Gokui in Ninpo. Practice every day, every moment. Prepare your heart, make it pure in the way that the Universe is pure--natural energy. Then your techniques will also be pure and from the heart. You can learn from anyone if you are sure of yourself. If you are strong you can have good friends and bad friends, and learn from both. I have all kinds of friends because I have no compulsion to judge them. I am not susceptible to bad influences, nor over-influenced by "good" influences. To keep your focus, you must have a purpose --don't waste your time. Learn from everything.
People like to practice budo in the dojo with their friends. It is very important to go by yourself into nature and work against trees, rocks, with animals. Study the movement of animals and "wrestle" with nature. It is important to have a master, but if he is no good, it could be better than none. Look to nature.
If you, as a teacher, have a student who doesn't respond to teaching, don't teach him. Leave his training to him. If he likes Ninpo, he will learn on his own by observing; if not, he will leave. Don't talk too much: demonstrate. I have many very high level techniques that I never teach. If the student's are not advanced enough, the training can be detrimental.
You must love before you can create. If you love Ninpo, you can learn with or without a teacher. Strive to find the root of winning. Practice yourself, by yourself if necessary, all your life. Don't be wishy washy. Use your brain. You can learn many things. Learn them all rather than wasting time vacillating between what you think is important to learn. Never give up, even if you get sick. I thought about budo 3 times as much as anyone else I knew, trained 3 times as much as anyone, and spent 3 times as much money in my martial quest. I got strong enough to find out that I was weak. I became very confused, but didn't give up. I tried to just stop worrying and train. But I got sick anyway. I thought that I would die at one point. I was in bed for five years. I thought that if I died, then I might find peace. After the five years I realized that, no matter whether you are alive, dead, sick or healthy, old or have lots of vitality, you must practice, honestly, according to your situation. Now I don't worry anymore!
Use natural technique; nature's power. When you look at someone else's technique and you feel inadequate, you are probably open for improvement--unless this feeling persists for more than ten years: then give up. Use your practice to gain insight into other things. Techniques are based on philosophy. The fundamentals of both must be strong. Practice the basics. Don't worry about the flower, worry about the roots. Some day you will bloom into a beautiful flower anyway. Dreams can help you improve your techniques. Dream about the techniques. Practice also, again, again, again.
You have to have a purpose. Why are you studying? Most great martial artists have these purposes:
It is important to know how little you know. When learning Ninpo, keep the fire in your heart. Your technique will then be forged from fire like the samurai sword. Fire and justice are the keys. If you want to change your body and your life, train with fire and live a just life. The number of techniques you know isn't as important as your attitude. You need purpose and and good eye for those things in life that help your purpose.Takamatsu Sensei was in many real fights and never lost because he was mindful of these important things.
How to become a student: first of all, you need a good teacher. If you have a quack for a "Master" then you are wasting your time. Usually a great teacher will go through many students looking for the ones who have a great sense of the martial arts. In the old days, students had rules--for example, they had to cut wood, clean house, etc. for several years. The master then judged their strength, patience, perseverance, and attitude. If the master decided that you were good, he would invite you into the dojo. There the training would be very hard. Some students couldn't hack it. They thought that the master was cruel. The ones who could make it were the ones who saw the greatness of the master.
The purpose of each person's quest can differ: physical strength, mental strength, animal desire to win, or it may be an emotional quest. Practice religion if you want to make your mind/spirit strong, not martial arts. Martial arts can kill. However, to make your body strong enough to just kill or win honors, lift weights, eat vegetables, and walk to become strong. Don't bother with the martial arts. Only 1 in 1000 will continue to seek the true practice of Ninpo. He is stubborn with a one track mind bordering on stupidity. Student and master must respect each other. Takamatsu Sensei always called me "Sensei". But master is master, student is student, always. I learned life's most important lessons from Takamatsu Sensei. Of the three great relationships -- Parent/child, wife/husband, master/student, the third is the most important in life.
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If I see that this is done properly, and if people request it, I will release more of this hard to come by information. Send feedback to Shadowswrd@aol.com -- Ken Harding
Today, students of the Ninja's art may begin their study for various reasons, including physical fitness or self-defense, but usually stay involved because of subtle beneficial effects, such as learning how to maintain health, reduce stress and avoid danger.
Fundamental to the practice of Ninjutsu is Taijutsu, the structure of the unarmed self-defense techniques, which can translate as "the art of using the body". From the Taijutsu, all of the weapon techniques and the more subtle mental training have their foundation. It is in fact because of this mental training that the current generation head of the system, Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi (34th Soke of the Togakure Ryu), has decided to call what he is teaching Ninpo, changing the jutsu (art/set of techniques) of Ninjutsu to po (law/set of precepts.)
Stephen Hayes is an internationally renowned martial artist and is ordained in an esoteric Buddhist tradition. His teachers include the last known Japanese Ninjutsu grandmaster and the God-King of Tibet. He has spent most of his adult life travelling the globe, studying and teaching what he has learned in a fashion that, while true to tradition and history, is no longer the preserve of dry scholars and musty clerics. He is a contemporary Renaissance man with almost two dozen books, videos and cassettes to his credit--about the only thing left is a duet album with Kitaro.
Introduction by Courtland Elliott
Ace Osmer: My experience with my Ninjutsu (or Ninpo) teacher here in Toronto is that there is a very solid spiritual foundation that works into the study of this martial art. Is Ninjutsu a path, a philosophy, a secular spirituality? How would you define it?
Stephen K. Hayes: I think the most direct answer would be that Ninjutsu, per se, is a Martial Art, and the training does tend to attract people who wish to learn how to increase their own and other's personal security by means of preventing danger, or being able to be strong enough to endure danger. That's the common focus. Woven around that are things like 'life ways'. Some people take it very seriously, and they start to see patterns from their Martial Art training in their lives, and it allows them to use it as a 'life way' or life guide. So we have Ninpo, and the 'po' of Ninpo means law. Actually it means law in the sense of the Buddhist word, meaning how the universe works. So, some people are drawn to the spiritual aspects, and by spiritual what I mean is that anything that you examine from living life, of course, has grander significances behind it, even the small, humble things that we experience. And you can get spiritual truth from that, as well. In addition, there is a formal spiritual practice that is not Ninjutsu, per se, but is a parallel development rooted in Japan. And this involves esoteric Mikkyo Buddhism, which came to Japan from the Himalayan cultures by way of China. Historically, the Ninja, in a lot of cases, were protectors of the Mikkyo institutions, and they in turn gave a lot of inspiration to the Ninja. So there was an extreme overlap there, and I blend all of that together in the way I work.
Ace: There are also elements of Japanese Shinto spirituality at the heart of Ninjutsu. Does that connect to the particular way you work with the elements?
Stephen H.: There are two systems of elements. There is a Chinese system which a lot of Chinese medical practitioners work with, and which is also found in Tai Chi and some Kung Fu systems. And that involves earth, water, fire, metal and wood, and has to do with cycles of growth and what interrupts those cycles. There's another series of five elements that comes out of the Tantric tradition in India, which involves earth, water, fire, wind, and void. Both of these systems were used in the original Ninja training, but for different purposes, because they really represent different phenomena. Now it's a little unfortunate that some of the names are the same, because it can be confusing. The Chinese system has to do with change and progression, natural cycles of life, and also an awareness of what would block or jam those cycles. And the Tantric system has to do more with why things take the shape they do, the structure of the physical universe and also the structure of our self as a small model of the universe.
Now Shinto is the ancient indigenous spiritual system of Japan that acknowledges the power of forces that work in our life. And a lot of those forces are of Nature. Again, think about people three thousand years ago, doing their best to make sure that the rice grows and that the fruit trees produce fruit. If there was a dry year or a too cold Spring, people would die for lack of food. So there was a deep awareness of natural forces and cycles, and being very delicate about them, appreciating and understanding them. Then, during the 6th century, Buddhism was first imported to Japan, and Buddhism had to do more with the forces inside the individual, what I call the mind science. So now they had this perfect pair. There was a way to deal with and understand and acknowledge the forces that move outside of us, that make us feel like we're just a pawn or a small thing in the middle of a storm, but also they had matched that with Buddhism, which showed us how, as individuals, we could relate to these things. So we have in Japan today a balanced situation with these two systems, which from the outside look to be very different. And the Japanese have no problem with that blending.
In the West, if someone were to say, "I'm Jewish, but I attend the Lutheran Church", that would be weird, strange, and we couldn't imagine somebody saying that. Whereas, to be married in a Shinto temple and turn right around and have your grandad's funeral in a Buddhist temple, would be no contradiction at all in Japan.
Ace: This sense of cultures being crossed, and religious and historical boundaries being bridged, is very reminiscent of what seems to be happening in the new consciousness movement in North America. What do you make of the new consciousness movement and how does Ninjutsu or Ninpo fit into that?
Stephen H.: Well I see this new consciousness phenomenon on the whole as a very healthy situation, and it's about time (laughter). The new awareness movement, to me, represents the notion that we have to pay attention to the world and its resources. We're paying attention to the fact that everything's global now and we can't just ignore what's going on in Bangladesh and say, "Well those people have nothing to do with us." Those people are the world now. If something happens to the market or the economy in Japan, we're directly affected, and we can no longer pretend that it isn't a whole world. So I think that's very encouraging.
My model for the new consciousness is to take some of these ancient ways, the Ninpo, the Ninja warrior tradition, this esoteric Buddhist tradition, some of the aspects of Shinto, study them in their very ancient and formal traditions, but then, because I know the Japanese culture and I know my own culture, I can translate them into a form that people here in the West can more readily understand.
Ace: Often in movements you get a cycle of expansion, or breathing out, followed by a contraction, a breathing in, and a deepening. In terms of Ninjustu, the expansion phase, with the silly Ninja movies, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc., has reached its zenith. And now there's likely to be a contraction and a deepening. What do you feel that deepening is going to involve?
Stephen H.: There's a parallel phenomenon going on here. On one hand there's the public 'fad' of Ninjutsu, where it expanded out from the early 80's into the mid-80's, when there were all these Ninja toys and these ghastly Ninja movies. The Turtles were kind of cute (although they certainly don't represent Ninjutsu at all). And all of these things were quickly relegated to video shops where you have movies where people are tearing the faces off babies, all this kind of stuff, and calling themselves Ninja. So all of that expanded out and got to its real zenith around the late 80's and then it kind of dropped off. Now, at the same time, we had a situation where, in the art itself, the number of people practising it quickly grew until the middle 80's, and then there was a splintering and a falling off, because a lot of people got to the point in their training where the next step for them was to make real changes in their lives, and a lot of people just aren't willing to do that. So they fell off rather than make those changes, and we all of a sudden went into a contracting phase in the practice, while the fad was getting bigger. Now the toys seem to be less popular in general, but our training is starting to expand. There is a grass roots phenomenon occuring where more and more folks are establishing clubs all around North America and teaching the art of Ninjutsu.
Ace: And what does the future hold for Stephen Hayes?
Stephen H.: I'm about to start a new expansion myself, in terms of some of the things I'm going to be doing, maybe even outside of the confines of the Martial Arts medium, and to explore not so much the hard aspects of the Martial Arts, but more of the kinds of things we were working on in this seminar, ("Ninja Mind"), the Mikkyo meditations and so forth. Also, in North America there is a rapidly growing phenomenon of men's groups and workshops, and I did one of those seminars here not long ago. I bring a little different slant to this work in terms of what it means to have a mentor, what it means to be a man. That's an area I enjoy and will enjoy growing into.
Ace: Is there a new definition of warrior spirit emerging among men these days?
Stephen H.: There could be. Warrior is such a loaded word. Sometimes, when you say it, people think about armies and going to war and organized combat, etc., and it summons up macho images of toughness and uncaring hostility. But that's really not the way we use the word. What I mean when I talk about the warrior spirit is one who has enough insight, enough strength and enough caring that he or she is willing to take a stand to defend what needs to be defended. So that's one definition. A second definition, which is one I use more in teaching Ninjutsu in my training hall here, is that the warrior is one who is willing to risk things in order to grow. And there's a dichotomy. There's the warrior who goes out into the world, engages the world, takes risks, takes chances in order to learn about how things operate, as opposed to the one who stays home, equally a valid path, the hermit, the one who cuts him/herself off from all of the craziness of life in order to really understand what's at the core of themself as a human being. Both warrior types are going to find the core, but by different means.
Ace: Could you address the attitude that a lot of people have towards Ninja, where they automatically associate the word with all the violence that is portrayed in those movies?
Stephen H.: Sometimes people say to me, "You talk about self development and Buddhism, and Buddhism is supposed to be non-volent, and here you are teaching knife fighting stuff, and stick fighting. How do you justify that?" To which I enjoy replying, "Well, we're not teaching people how to hurt others with knives. We are teaching them how to be resourceful enough not to be harmed by someone else's knife." Because if we're going to do good things in the world, we're going to have to be in the world. The scariest thing that a lot of human beings can imagine happening to their body would be to be attacked, to have their life snuffed out too early. And so we deliberately take that scary situation and we put people in it, so they can experience what it's like to be scared. And then from there we can show them ways of overcoming that type of fear, based on knowledge and experience, to where they are no longer as controlled by that fear. The analogy that I use is of a boy or girl Scout leader who would send a canoe full of young Scouts out onto a river and then flip them over. Well nobody is going to accuse the Scoutmaster of trying to teach the children how to drown one another in the river. It's a very loving thing they do. They say, "We're going to flip you over so that you're going to learn how to get the water out of the canoe and get back in there and save your own lives and the lives of the rest of the children." And everybody's quite respectful of that, and quite happy with that. Our use of knives and sticks and so forth is on an exact parallel to that. And that sometimes can help people understand what we're doing.
Ace: Ninjutsu has gone through a rough public relations period in the last six or seven years. Do you see a time when it will take an equal place among the Martial Arts, or is it so distinct in its own way that it will always be that 'other' Martial Art?
Stephen H.: In a way I feel that it's going to be difficult for Ninjutsu to become just one of the Martial Arts, in that there are certain aspects about Ninjutsu that don't lend themselves well to fitting in. We don't do competitions, for example, and it's very hard for us to do flashy, exciting demonstrations because the principles and the techniques are so pragmatic. And there is this strong psychological aspect behind it--why it is we do the things the way we do them--that make it so much more demanding an art to study. So for those reasons I think Ninjutsu is always going to look a little odd, look a bit different from some of the other Martial Arts, especially in North America. I would say that for the future, we may see quite an expansion in terms of different applications, based on the fact that we as teachers are such an independent lot. Some may do more bodyguard, executive protection type of work; some may take it out into police work; others take it out into health care, which may sound like a real stretch; others are out there setting up training halls where children can learn these values. I myself am looking forward to doing more with some of the spiritual aspects that are part of the roots of Ninjutsu.
Ace: I understand that you were ordained as a priest in the Japanese Tendai tradition of esoteric Buddhism.
Stephen H.: Yes. I'd been involved with that tradition for years, and I'd been training in it. I hadn't said too much about it publicly because frankly I had a feeling that here in North America it might tend to frighten people away. They might think that to come to this training you've got to be some kind of a religious person, or whatever. And it was something very private. But it finally got to the point, where, after all those years of work, I was not going to be able to continue receiving the instruction--I'd already received things that technically weren't supposed to be given to someone who hadn't made the pledge of loyalty to the tradition--unless I made up my mind to go further in the work.
Ace: Does this mean that you have more or other responsibilities in terms of the community you live in, for example?
Stephen H.: For me it probably won't mean that, at least not for many years. The word priest is a difficult one. In Japan, in this mystical tradition, anyone who receives these Mikkyo teachings has to be totally involved, because they are very complex. You couldn't do it as a hobby. So anyone who comes in is given this particular title--Ju Shoku--which can mean monk, or it can mean priest. But, in Ohio, if you say priest, people think of the guy who runs the parish, or if you say monk, they think of this celibate possessionless person who is in a monastery somewhere. So neither word works. But what it means is that I am a person who is entitled to receive the higher so-called hidden teachings, and that I'm also allowed to share in my own way these teachings with people who would like to learn them. It's hard to find the right word, because we tend to think of Buddhism as a religion. I always did. But the more I studied it, the more I realized that it doesn't fit our Western definition of a religion in terms of why it even came to be. And yet it is called a religion. So we're saddled with these religious terms, like priest or accolyte or monk. The best English word I can find for it is practitioner, one who is doing the practice, but that's sort of a boring word (laughter).
Ace: You've developed a special relationship with His Holiness the Dalai Lama over the years, and I'm wondering what that has meant for you.
Stephen H.: I first became fascinated with Tibet as a child. It seemed like the most remote and exotic, unattainable place on the earth, and the legendary king of such a place was always intriguing to me. I can remember having books as a child about these Shangrila kingdoms. Then I had an opportunity to actually meet the Dalai Lama several years ago when I was in India. I had just come through Tibet, and I spent some time with him describing what I'd seen. He was interested, as a leader of his people, to hear about what was going on there, and I had wanted to ask him questions about some of the training that I was getting from Japanese sources. And as the years went by, I just found myself in places where he would be. It just so happened his older brother lived not far from where I live, so I got to know that family, and when His Holiness the Dalai Lama came over to his brother's place in Indiana several years ago, I got to be with him again there. And in California, when it was announced that he received the Nobel Prize, I happened to be there because I was visiting my publisher. Then, when he recently visited Ohio, my wife Rumiko and I both ended up being his personal...bodyguard is kind of a harsh word...escort or caretaker. And we picked him up at the airport and spent two days escorting him. It was just a marvelous opportunity because he is one of the few people I've met who totally lives up to his booking. He really does. He is amazingly strong and compassionate, and all of those overused adjectives that we all aspire to be. Just a really beautiful example of what it's like to be a total human being. So I thoroughly enjoyed being able to spend time around him, with his sense of humour and his sense of connectedness with whatever moment he's in, and his compassion and patience, all the things I'm not (laughter). And he's a living example that I can try to pattern myself after.
Ace: Before the beginning of each training session, we say 'Shikin Haramitsu Daikomyo', which literally means: "Every encounter is sacred, and could present the one potential key to the perfection of the great universal enlightenment we seek." How does one recognize that moment which is the one potential key to our enlightenment?
Stephen H.: I think the secret of "Shikin Haramitsu Daikomyo" is that every moment is that moment. Every moment could be that moment. It's up to us to take advantage of that moment. It's up to us to determine the quality or the influence or the effect of what we experience in that moment. And it's up to us to make it positive or negative. What is, is. I'm surrounded by these people, I'm here at this moment and I can choose to be touched by it or I can choose to be damaged by it. I can choose to be ignorant of it. So that's the key; it's a reminder for us to be ever mindful, to be ever aware that each one of these moments that make up our life could be that special moment. It's like putting together one of these jigsaw puzzles. If you are so intent on the puzzle you may not even know that you put the last piece in. And which is the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle, anyway? Is it this one, or is it that one? It just depends on the order in which they are placed.
Ace: What often happens is that people who are moving on a spiritual path, tend to put their enlightenment 'over there', in the future. How do you get to the place where you're not futuring enlightenment, but rather just letting yourself be in the light of each moment?
Stephen H.: This is a hard question, and I wish I could answer it. Then I could do it, and I'd be all right! (laughter) The good news is that there are many systems that talk about the same thing, and offer different ways in. Our job as individuals is to find the one that talks our talk, and seems to be going with the grain that we have, so that we can end up there. For some people that means being a monk in a Zen monastery. For other people it might mean working with an esoteric Buddhist approach, which is totally the opposite from Zen. For others it might mean doing helping work, in terms of injured people who need assistance. The key, I believe, is to engage what is going to allow you to be totally focused in the moment, so that the normal kind of distractions and things that cause hesitation, the things that cause me to remove myself from that moment, just don't even think to appear.
So it's not so much an actively 'going after', ie, I want to be here, I want to be enlightened. But it's going to come when you let go of those thoughts. Because you are so involved in something that is so real that all of the things that normally get in our way, all the acts we do and the masks we wear, and the beliefs that we talk about but maybe don't believe, fall away. All of that posing and posturing and wishing and hoping just falls away, because we forget about it for a moment. That's what the Zen monk calls Satori, that enlightenment. That's what the doctor who is working for thirty-six hours without sleep in Zaire taking care of babies in an epidemic can experience. All of a sudden, all of the contradictions, all of the craziness, all of the pain and all of the injustice somehow seems to make sense in its own way, and life never looks the same after that. Everything has a different glow to it. And yet, the harder we grab for it, and the more of our stuff we bring along, the more elusive it is. How's that for a real backward answer? What it isn't! (laughter)
We are repeatedly told that things that have form can be destroyed -- a very good reason not to stay in one kamae. Kamae is merely a checkpoint for balance. So, as we progress, every technique should flow going from kamae to kamae. This moving to maintain our internal balance is part of what we call WAZA. In bojutsu, we even have a name for this proces ("IHEN no kamae"), a pretty good indicator of it's importance. Simply put, this means that since anything with form can be seen and destroyed, it is best not to stay there too long.
Remember the Shakespearean line "My lady doth protest too much"? If you use your mother's voice and mean it, a good firm "no" should do. Westerners use the handshake: we are taught that a simple firm handshake is best. Pump too hard and you convey unladylike ardor; too soft, and a man seems too frail. Think of the greetings engaged in by dogs ("sniff, sniff"), versus those used by cats ("a baleful stare"). I think that the Japanese, who are very physical with friends, simply determined a long time ago that the space between two people was a good enough indicator of their emotions. This is part of the beauty of the Japanese bow: a simple thing conveys so much. Think of the space between a rejected handshake and how it makes you feel. Psyche!!
So, you must study your kamae, remove yourself from it, then destroy it. Through slow non-stressful training, we learn to seaparate movements into identifiable sections. Just like calculus -- or law school. Then, after LONG years of training, the mind is able to quickly calculate and formulate options. Simple things (adding and subtracting) can be internalized quickly; others take time. This explains why the average age of elite forces is higher. This is urawaza.
Finally, let's look at the Japanese expression "WAZAWAZA TO" which is a gracious way of acknowledging the obvious effort of your host or anyone doing you a favor. The polite response, of course, is a quick, emphatic denial that the favor took effort, or that the result was anything of great benefit. Form does not control substance, and anyone seeing clearly understands this an is not impressed. Yet, most people do appreciate the predictability of set phrasing ("Hello, how are you?" "Fine, how are you?") Try actually telling someone how you feel, and see their discomfort. Make sure your TO (sword) is not a "wazawaza to."
The point that Sensei was making was that our art of Taijutsu is primarily defensive, not aggressive, so that the intention is to survive with the least injury to yourself (and to your opponent, if possible). You don't get any points for hitting an opponent, and you certainly don't get any trophies for winning a street fight. On the contrary, you must remember that (with some exceptions) one cannot attack and effectively defend at the same time. If you extend yourself to attack someone, even if the other person is the aggressor, you are exposing weak points in your form.
Training in the dojo is no different in this respect. When faced by an opponent, do not think: "How can I defeat this person?" or "How can I get in past his defenses?" Your attacker will show you how he is to be defeated by exposing weak points. You must remain calm and alert. Do not let fear and anger cloud your mind. Watch all parts of your opponent's body with a clear mind. Do not think about techniques- let your arms and legs remember the techniques they have done. Do not focus on beating your attacker; keep your mind focused on not being beaten by him. Sparring definitely has value, teaching realistic timing and distancing, but you should always appoint one person as the attacker or "bad guy" when sparring. Otherwise, you have two people both thinking about "beating the opponent", and there is no feeling. This is poor training.
What you will find happening to you as you continue to study Ninjutsu is that you will develop a calm and happy spirit. Ninpo will provide you with growth and empowerment in all areas of your life, if you train with the right heart. Ninja No Kokoro is the heart of the Ninja: pure and sincere. You will gain the security of your skills, the confidence of overcoming hardships, the determination of perseverance, the strength of enduring pain, the wisdom as taught through Hatsumi Sensei, acting without hesitation, and the compassion and internal strength of the warrior. I give to my students in their student manuals a page titled: "Precepts of the Ninja" by Grandmaster Takamatsu, written about a hundred years ago. I strongly suggest that you take that page out, or copy it, and put it up where you can see it every day. By reading it every day upon rising, and training faithfully, you may attain Ninja no Kokoro.
The local university recently sponsored a seminar by Mrs. Debbie Gardner, who is an ex-Cincinnati Police officer. Her husband teaches at the Cincinnati Police Academy. The seminar focus was women's self-defense. My wife and her best friend, both black belts in the Bujinkan Dojo, attended.
One of the points made by Mrs. Gardner was the importance of always defending yourself. Obviously, a mother will fight to the end to save her children if they are threatened. But what if the mother is alone when she is threatened? It is still important to fight to the very end, Mrs. Gardner said. It makes no difference if your children are nearby. They will still feel the pain and suffer the loss if you were to die. To further illustrate her point, Mrs. Gardner relayed the following true story.
A man and his family, from the Cincinnati area, were at home for the evening. An EDP (Emotionally Disturbed Person) started to hammer at their front door, attempting to gain access. The man, in an effort to protect his family, went to the door to try to stop the EDP. Meanwhile his wife ran to the phone to call for help. Once at the front door, which had now broken open, the man was attacked by the EDP who had a camping hatchet. The man was cut by the swinging hatchet seven times around the head and shoulders by the EDP before the man could wrestle the hatchet away. Then man laid in his doorway, bleeding, in front of his family, while the EDP made his escape. The EDP was caught later.
When asked by Mrs. Gardner "why did you survive?" The man responded, "I am very happy that I got cut. As each chop came, I thanked God that it was hitting me, not one of my children." The man claimed that in his desire to protect his family, he felt no pain from the wounds until two days later. He survived the attack and is now back with his family. This is a true example of Ninpo, one which we should all take to heart.
First you must unbalance your opponent mentally (ura kuzushi), whether it be by a slap, punch, kick, pinch, yell, or a kiss. This will serve to shift his attention away from his aggression momentarily while his mind assimilates the sensory input. Right at that instant his physical balance (omote kuzushi) must be captured and exploited.
To throw an opponent with your whole body is the preferred method in taijutsu, as opposed to only using the arms or the legs. Do not pretend that either method is good or bad though, each has merit and may be needed depending on the situation at hand. Any method that follows the path of nature and doesn't break the flow of the confrontation is likely to succeed. The mind easily can comprehend the logic behind the fact that an attempted throw will very likely be countered if the opponent's balance hasn't been fully captured. It is another thing for the body to accept this fact. Throws must be trained for success at first, and then later for failure. Unless it is trained this way, the body will be surprised when a throw fails even if the mind isn't. Luckily if trained right the second throw will often be more devastating than the first, the uke will more than likely over-react to regain his balance. This motion can easily be incorporated into a new throw that not only removes the person from his feet, but does this with the added speed and momentum of the action he thought was saving him.
The method for throwing in taijutsu allows no ukemi to be taken. For obvious reasons the throws must then be modified for safe training in the classroom. This softening of techniques can be dangerous also, many times we forget the initial purpose of a throw due to practicing it at a lower level of intensity for extended periods of time. In a situation that would call for severe techniques it may very well be a life or death choice between the two methods of throwing. Just be aware of the options and do not program yourself to react a certain way, that is not the true way of the ninja. The ninja adapts and changes every second, allow this philosophy to guide your training in general as well as specifically with the throws of taijutsu.
Kote Gaeshi is most widely known as a technique used by Aikidoists. There also happens to be a similar technique used in the Korean art of Hapkido. Incidently, you will also find Kote Gaeshi used in the Bujinkan Dojo. Most often it is presented as a henka (variation) of Omote Gyaku.
This is fine, but many people mistakenly practice Kote Gaeshi when they believe that they are doing Omote Gyaku. I have even seen it taught this way. Shidoshi and Shidoshi-ho alike should be aware of this during the course of their teaching.
Kote Gaeshi is usually translated as "wrist turn out." This is exactly what it is. The foe attacks, say with a lapel grab. The defender strips the grab from his lapel, and holds the hand in the same fashion as the beginning of Omote Gyaku. But at this point the two techniques diverge. In Omote Gyaku, the foe's arm is usually kept extended, as the defender rotates the wrist outward. This causes a lock upon the joint of the wrist. If done correctly, the foe will feel no threat until the joint lock is suddenly applied. By then it is too late, and in shiken gata (real combat) the wrist joint is shattered.
In Kote Gaeshi, the arm is not held in an extended position. It is usually allowed to bend toward the foe's torso. Also, the defender will often bring his arms very close to his own body, so that he must rotate his own torso by stepping away in order to cause a rotation of the foe's wrist. In either manner, the foe's arm bends, and the wrist is then turned outward. Unlike Omote Gyaku, where the hand is usually perpendicular to the ground, in Kote Gaeshi the hand is usually parallel to the ground. This causes a lockup of the tendons and muscle area of the wrist. The feel to the foe is that he will want to flip over in a high somersault to get away. It is this reaction that you see in many Aikido dojo.
When practicing wrist throws, be careful that you know the difference between these two. Many people do not. The Omote Gyaku shatters the wrist; the foe is often left standing in an unbalanced place. In practice in the dojo, the reaction is usually to turn and sit into a back roll. But in Kote Gaeshi, the reaction is to leap into a somersault. Learn both to apply in shinken gata.
Surviving Edged Weapons, by Calibre Press, is a video designed for law enforcement officials. As such it attempts to highlight what really happens "on the street." It does this extremely well. Director Dennis Anderson strives for a very realistic production and he achieves this easily. His demonstrations are both rehearsed as well as unrehearsed; he also includes a lot of footage of real encounters between officers and their suspects.
This is an extremely good video. It's production values are no less than those of any film coming out of the big studios in Hollywood. The narration is very clear, and the footage is filmed well. The tape begins with several officers describing what happened to them when they were attacked by a knife-wielding opponent. We learn that each officer interviewed was cut or stabbed; two almost bled out because of their wounds. This leads into an exciting demonstration by Master Gage, who shows how fast someone can draw a hidden blade and use it. The producers are forced to re-run this footage in slow-mo so that we can see what he does! It is an excellent eye opener for those who think that they could "see it coming."
Next the tape moves on to what happens in a real knife fight. This is where the tape gets really good. Unfotunately, it also get really graphic. To get their point across, the producers begin to show evidence photographs of people (usually other police officers) who were killed by knife attacks. The footage is extremely graphic; don't eat your Swanson's in front of the TV now! While very enlightening, it sets up a "queainess factor" that lasts the rest of the tape.
We move on to a discussion of proper defenses against a knife and the distance needed to properly defend against an attacker. Here, we see several unrehearsed demonstrations of officers attempting to ascertain the actions of a suspect found in a warehouse. These officers were told to find out what this man is doing in this warehouse. The man is Jeet Kune Do's Dan Inosanto. His job is to attack the officers with a fake knife, and see how they respond. This is the best part of the tape. Mr. Inosanto "kills" all the officers, several of which never get a chance to move. He does this from several distances; both up close, and also from across the room. Only one officer gets a chance to win; he falls down on his backside as Mr. Inosanto runs from across the room. As this officer draws his gun, Mr. Inosanto cuts his throat and races past, out the door!
This is an excellent tape for both law enforcement and martial artists. Many students practice knife fighting in class, but never learn the real effects of what they are doing. They never see what happens to a person when he is cut. They also never see how easy it is to lose to a knife attack. This video goes on to prove how an unprepared defender must have at least 21 feet between himself and the attacker if he is to be able to defend properly. As I already said, it is a real eye-opener. This tape is available through many martial arts catgs, or you can call Calibre Press at 1-800-323-0037.
"Nin-po Ik-kan" means "The law of the ninja is our primary inspiration."
"I am, for the most part, isolated from other practitioners, so I was wondering what other ninja-to-be do to train alone. It's not like TKD, where you can practice effectively with a bag. Please let me know which kata or techniques can be done by one's self. Thank you." -- JE
"Hopefully I will be going to Japan early next year. Where can I find Ninjutsu dojos in Japan? What can I expect in terms of training level, attitude of the Japanese to a Westerner, etc. I'd like for people to share their experiences." -- DB
"Can anybody recommend activities and exercises which can help improve your taijutsu, i.e. such things as coordination, balance, timing? (I've heard Sensei mention dancing and soccer.) Your ideas please! -- DB
"Is the "Boss" a living national treasure in Japan? I'm keen to know if this is a true title of Hatsumi's or just a piece of MA folklore." -- KC
This is your area! Feel free to ask question about anything, comment on articles, request information. If you have any answers or information for the questions/comments/issues herein, please e-mail UraNOmote@aol.com and the information will be included in the next issue.
In putting together the second edition, I was lucky in that I had several willing authors. However, worked called me away (for a rather extended period of time-- talk about OVERTIME) from my information gathering and I was unlucky in getting some of the articles promised. These articles (on producing dynamic power and on how to start a training group) will appear in future issues of Ura & Omote.
Note the new Waza and School Listing sections of the newsletter. Several people wrote asking for them and we pulled them together. Just remember, your participation counts as well! Send information and questions to us and see what results we can come up with!
That's it for this month. There will be more exciting articles next month, but prudence has taught me not to make any promises. So, I'll keep my mouth shut for now. You, faithful readers, will have to wait for the goodies until next month.
This newsletter was started to connect ninpo taijutsu practitioners from all backgrounds together. Ura & Omote's goal is to provide a forum where we can easily gather and disseminate information (both "obvious" and "hidden"), ask questions and, more importantly, get answers, and share experiences while living the art.
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We (the publisher and authors) are not responsible in any manner whatsoever for any injury which may occur through reading or following any instructions in this newsletter. Remember, these are martial arts techniques which may result in injury or death. Find a proper instructor wherever possible. Please consult a physician before engaging in the exercises described herein.