|[ olvasnivaló » Ura & Omote - 1995 December ]|
TOGAKURE NINJUTSU TO BE IN 007 Visiting staff learns from Hatsumi (Tokyo Times - Monday, March 6, 1966)
Producer Louis R. Broccoli and five staff members for the James Bond film "You Only Live Twice" came to Japan last month. The purpose of the trip was to meet Yoshiaki Hatsumi, a 35-year-old Noda-city bone doctor and "34th Generation Togakure-ryu Ninja."
Over the course of two hours, the blue-eyed visitors picked Hatsumi's brain for ideas on new and rare weaponry at his dojo.
Outside of Ninjutsu, Hatsumi holds some 150 grades of black belt, in such arts as Bojutsu,Jujutsu, and Kenjutsu. This proverbial "Superman" fielded questions and revealed several secrets to his foreign visitors.
After receiving the request for an introduction to Ninjutsu, Hatsumi concluded the preparations in April and May that would assure his art's place in the James Bond film.
Kyoten Nagashima, head of Nagashima International PR, the agency that introduced the 007 staff to Hatsumi, comments, "The staff was quite please with the trip and believes that theincorporation of Ninjutsu into the James Bond series would make it all the more interesting."
NINPO INITIATION WONDERFUL 007 Director, Staff on location in Japan (Noda) (Tokyo Shimbun, 1966)
Producer Albert R. Broccoli, Director Louis Gilbert and five others in charge of the new JamesBond film are on location in Japan and looking for new talent. The evening of the fourth, thegroup viewed the rudiments of Ninpo at the dojo of Yoshiaki Hatsumi, a 35-year-old bonedoctor who also happens to be a 34th generation Togakure Ryu ninja.
Clad in black, Hatsumi revealed ninjutsu techniques to his foreign visitors, taking up some 10weapons, including Shuriken and Shikomi-jo. The group called the experience "wonderful."
The staff, involved in "You Only Live Twice," the fifth 007 film and follow-up to "Thunderball,"were extremely interested in incorporating Ninjutsu into the film and subsequently contacted Hatsumi.
After making a promise to return to Japan to consult Hatsumi again, the group returned to the U.S., impressed with the possibilities of Ninjutsu.
Although it is unclear in just what form Togakure-ryu Ninpo will take in the next Bond film, it is all but certain to be included. And that is something we can all look forward to.
My interviews with the students wrapped up roughly around 10 PM. Even as they were leaving, Joe Maurantonio's students were energized. They lingered on their way out, as if they didn't really want to go home, didn't want to leave his magic space, but knew they should. I knew that feeling well. There have been many times that I've lingered at my school, talking to an instructor, sharing the warmth from our training, knowing fully well that I should change and go home, but staying anyway.
Finally, there were only four of us left - two students, Joe and myself. Joe brought out some Japanese teacups and shared some tea with us. We made ourselves comfortable on the floor. I pulled out my list of questions and started the tape recorder, its hum audible in the now empty dojo. The interview began.
U&O: Joe, would you tell me a little bit about yourself?
JM: Sure. I'm 31 years old and I currently work in information services. I've found I prefer jobs that are oriented towards interacting and helping people directly. I enjoy my job and it allows me many wonderful opportunities.
U&O: That's very interesting. It seems like good work to be involved in and it sounds like it keeps you happy. What's your family life like? Do you have siblings? Are you married with children?
JM: I was born and raised in an area of the Bronx called Wakefield. Most of my formative years were spent there. In college I majored in Computer Science and Italian, an odd combination. My ethnic background is Italian. . . My entire family was born and raised in the small Italian village of Adelfia, Bari. During my childhood, we would travel abroad and visit this quaint town every other year or so. I had a definite sense of family kinship. We're a really close-knit family and that's one of the things I value most. And on a more personal note, I'm not married. Children? None. . . but I have 3 nephews and 6 nieces who are very much a part of my life. They're all interested in their Uncle who does ninja-stuff. My family is very important to me. It's one of the reasons why I live in New York, as opposed to anywhere else in the world. It's also the reason why I chose not to live in Japan and why I chose to open a dojo here.
U&O: Why did you choose Budo Taijutsu? Did you study any other arts before that?
JM: Ah, yes. Ninjutsu (jokingly). . . I studied other martial arts, but not to any great degree. Just enough to gain some bad habits (laughs). In one style, I found I had a knack for training. Perhaps, my teacher saw I was very enthusiastic about the training I was involved in and that I gave it my all. At the time I really wanted what he had to offer. So, even as a Karate white belt, I was set to train and spar with higher ranking partners. . .
U&O: Senior students?
JM: Yes. And a couple of the teachers, too. I often sparred against brown & black belts. I would do things that the teacher would question, "Where did that come from?" I was very creative in defending myself and was encouraged by my teachers confusion as to the origins of my techniques. My methods weren't traditional but were scoring points regardless. Eventually, I realized I didn't like sparring and the Karate rigidity wasn't appealing to me. Yet, one of the very important lessons I came to understand from this training was tenacity. I think it struck a cord deep in me. Tenacity. Eventually, I came to understand it as perseverance. I can't stress this concept enough. Other arts had training in which I was required to do something like a 1,000 crescent-kicks. Right side first, then left. We would follow those with pushups. And, you know, I didn't enjoy it, but I learned to give it my all. Not just survive, but grow from the lessons and experiences.
U&O: How did you end up training in ninjutsu?
JM: In my freshman year at college, one of the martial arts which I was being shown was supposed to have ninjutsu in it, and it didn't. Well, earlier that year, I found this "Ninja" book by Andy Adams and enjoyed it. . . Which made me buy another by Steve Hayes. And when I was done rereading these two books, I thought to myself, "You know, this sounds like the training Ishould be doing." That winter I met someone who would later introduce me to the real art of ninjutsu. He was walking around campus with a shoulder patch that read "Shadows Of Iga, Ninja Festival". He and I were introduced. I asked him if he would want to train and he said, "I can't. . ." and listed reasons why he couldn't train with me. The old lesson of tenacity paid off. . . in time I convinced him to share his training.
U&O: Who was your first Ninjutsu teacher?
JM: Well, as far as a "teacher" is concerned, it was Steve K. Hayes. He was the teacher who ranked my college friend. At that time in America, only 1 or 2 people were able to award rank in the Bujinkan. So, pretty much the training came from Hayes in Ohio. In less than a year the training group we had grew a bit and I ended up with the main chore of leading classes. So, by 1984 I was leading [instructing] about 3 classes a week on campus. That same year I met Darryl Caldwell and we invited him to come to New York for a seminar. Thereafter, Darryl was our sponsor and Steve was our teacher. Darryl would come in and keep us on top of the training and show us how to progress. We trained with Steve to see where the taijutsu was leading. Darryl was (and is) a great guy! He was training simply because he loved it. The man was so easy going! He was the first person to ever tell me 'nothing should ever come between you and your training.' And was the first to show us what he meant by this in that when we had difficulty raising money for a seminar he said, "Don't worry about the money." Because of his frankness and willingness to share, I found myself becoming his friend. We just seemed to hit it off. Back then, he was my sponsor. And it's Darryl who eventually became my teacher and showed me what it meant to be a real friend. And even to this day he's the kind of guy who calls me, we talk, hours fall away and the phone company owns our butts. (laughter) Darryl would tell me the way things were, no holding anything back, no lies, just truth. He was the guy who told me "honesty is a sword." He'd come into New York 4 times a year for about a week each time. Steve [Hayes] was doing East Coast seminars about twice a year. So, I went to those events and visited Ohio, too. Other instructors came to New York. . . Dan Johnson, Ken Brooks, Dave . . . These are all names from the past. A lot of them don't train in ninjutsu circles anymore. The training was very flow oriented at that time. No kata. We were all chastised (in a good way) not to act rigidly. Much of that training, the way we were able to hit each other hard and not be hurt. . . well, it all came from the fact that we were learning intensity and relaxed movement. I think many teachers in our art today have lost this quality. Before I go into that, I'd like to say something else. There came a time when I couldn't be a teacher anymore. I wanted to learn and grow. I had never WANTED to be a teacher. I wanted to train. So I turned to Darryl and said, "Man, I don't want to be a teacher anymore." And Darryl kicked my arse across a Wisconsin prairie. (laughing) We were out doing some training at a camp and he's just kicking me around, throwing punches at me saying, "Do what you want to do! Train. Give up the group if that's what you want. Let them find their own training." So, basically, I came back to New York with this resolve, that I was going to teach a little while longer until I finished my college education, and then I was going to dedicate myself to training. On the day I graduated, I gave up teaching and left New York behind. I did not teach for five years. Not until I learned what it meant to be a good student and what it was to have good teachers. But even now I think of myself as a student first and a teacher second. This "learning" was very important to me for five years. I say this number simply because I think a lot of people haven't been students. They describe themselves as "teacher-students" but they're not. On the other hand, there are people like Mark O'Brien or Andrew Young who live in Japan and are students who visit America and share their knowledge with us. You know, Mark's done this sharing for 8 years. I look at these people and I sort of, maybe I shouldn't do this, but I throw myself in with them. I really respect what they've done. This is something I say because there are a lot of teachers out there who haven't been students and I would ask them to reflect back on this. It's something I would like to share with them. Being a student first is of utmost importance.
U&O: I agree with you. I don't think you can be a good teacher without being a good student first. If you don't go through any learning process, then it's all artificial. You can't go through life thinking that you know it all when you can't even relate to what your students are going through at the moment, because you were never in their place. Everyone has a lot to learn. I think that the people who say they know it all and put themselves beyond reproach, don't really know anything and can't really teach anything.
U&O: I've noticed you make light of the new name of this art, "Budo taijutsu". Why don't you like the name?
JM: I don't like or dislike it. . . I joined "ninjutsu" but the name matters little. What I've learned, what I study, what I teach. . . well its beyond names and labels. But the sign in the window reads "Ninja Taijutsu". (we laugh) It was a sign made by one of the students here. He's a wonderful guy and he made this great sign and well, it looks good. Should I ask him to make a new one? You know Liz, when I started this art it was called ninjutsu and that was what Hatsumi Sensei was calling it ten years ago. Eventually, it became "ninja taijutsu" in America. At the moment, I still wish to acknowledge the fact that I was attracted to the mystique of Ninjutsu. It was the little carrot that dangled out in front of me which I grabbed and tried to nibble, and so I like to look back on that. Those were the roots of my attraction. I believe the reason Hatsumi Sensei has chosen to call it Budo Taijutsu is because the Japanese still have bad "feelings" for this ninja stuff. They aren't sure if its "myth" or "thievery". It amazes me that Ninjutsu is much more prosperous outside of Japan. And so, Budo Taijutsu, I think, is a very good alternate name for it, in the sense that the name doesn't need to be defended or explained and rather people can focus on the actual training. After all, it's what is in your heart that matters.
U&O: To a certain extent you agree with Hatsumi Sensei's name change of the art?
JM: Yes, Budo Taijutsu is cool. Hatsumi decided that's what HE's going to call it and everyone in every other country has the right to choose to call it what they want. Mark O'Brien recently wrote, in one of his "Japan Reports", that Hatsumi Sensei has told him if you want to call it ninja taijutsu, and it is appropriate for your country, then do so. Well, the Shidoshi here in America know what's best for their cities. If we feel we want to call it Budo Taijutsu as he has, and would be received better, in our city, in our state, then that's fine. I think there may come a time when I choose to change its name, just so the guys who come in here asking, "Do we get to wear masks?" (laughter) will come less frequently.
U&O: (laughing) I know that you've studied with Hatsumi Sensei. Did you study in Japan or did you study with him in the United States? For how long did you study? Was this during your five-year "wandering" period?
JM: No. This is actually after that period. I met Hatsumi Sensei in 1986 at the first US Tai Kai. Anybody who was anybody in ninjutsu was there. People like. . . Well, rather than naming names, let's just say they were there. At this Tai Kai I heard Hatsumi say, "If you want to come to Japan you are all welcome. But dedicate yourself to training." Well at the time, choices had to be made. Where would mine lead me? This was the beginning of my musha shugyo. Some of my friends were going to train in Japan while others were moving to California, Ohio. . . I chose to move and train full-time in Washington State. At class, we didn't worry about what to call the training - instead we just focused on the training itself. There were no ranks. We just trained. We had instructors who previously were ranked in Aikijujitsu, Tae Kwon Do, Hwarang Do, and other martial arts, yet the common bond we shared was ninpo taijutsu from Shadows of Iga sources. However, when I met Hatsumi Sensei, I was really impressed by him. During my travels and relocation I had lots of contact with friends traveling to train in Japan. Some had visited us and told us of their journeys to Japan. When I moved back to New York, I chose to train a bit with my Shidoshi friend John [Lindsey] who lives in Texas. He invited me to an upcoming Tai Kai. It had been a few years since I'd been to one. John helped me to reorganize my priorities a bit, showed me some new forms, taught me their Japanese names and helped me decide the direction of my future training. He introduced me to Mark O'Brien and "made" me take the Godan test. One of the things I think John liked about my skill was I had fluid movement. I believe he also liked the way I hit hard. . . My training was quite combat oriented.
Veterans would argue that combat presents a much higher risk of death, and while death by firearm may indeed be more probable on the battlefield, I would argue that death by stampede during the first moments that a store opens presents a much more gruesome demise.
Of course there are the lines at the cashier to contend with. Perfect for Hicho no Kamae practice. To other patrons it merely appears that you have an uncontrollable bladder and this may actually help you move the line faster. No cashier wants a sudden bladder release all over their electrical equipment, and suddenly a credit card procedure takes far less time than it did earlier on. In the end, it works out better for you since you got through the line quicker and your legs enjoyed a workout, unlike the poor sod that locked his knees and passed out a few lines away...
That glorious task of writing greeting cards around this time brings out the "creative writing genius" in us all. My personal limit is an honest half dozen cards and then it's off into the wacky world of false truths regarding the events of the past year. "Building a second home on the French Riviera" really begins sounding like fact after you've written it for the tenth time. And if you have children, what better time to bring up the "fact" that your child has recently been the tester for the new IQ exam that goes beyond the previous limit of 170? Or that little Michael has recently been selected as the Preschooler of the Century?
You've seen these folks, I know. My wife and I receive at least five cards each year written by the parents of the next Einstein, or from high school alumni busy trekking through Nepal while discovering the cure for cancer...
There are some problems, of course, namely temporary blindness due to branches poking you in the eye, but tjis os onlt twmpirsry snd ususlly clwars ip shprtly...
Be careful that you don't get too into the act and heave the tree off your shoulders as Noguchi-sensei does. I had to remodel my living room last year...
Naturally, I haven't really seen the application of the "Hold the ribbon down while I tie it" mudra, but I'm sure it's a powerful one...
Last year my wife dragged me to midnight mass at her congregation and sat us in the front row. Needless to say I was quite appreciative of my wife's understanding of my desire to remain as unobtrusive as possible, but once seated I realized what a great opportunity was before me.
Focus is so important in everything we do and I chose this occasion to work on mine. The mass began and it was a wonderful time and I concentrated on everything that the head priest spoke about. Gradually I began to lose control and drift off, each time forcing myself to stay awake. Angered, I shifted my focus and concentrated instead on the three assistant priests who sat comfortably behind the head priest... sound asleep. Well, maybe your own experiences will be better...
Second only to holiday card writing, unwrapping your gifts allows you to once again practice the fine art of Kyojutsu Tenkan Ho...
Eating the family meal presents its own unique challenges, namely deciding how to stack everything on your plate without it falling into an unrecognizeable congealing mass of foodstuffs. Of course, there never seems to be enough room to eat everything, so pretend you're about to go off on some mission and this is the last food you'll see as you jog 350 miles to Edo. Well, maybe "jog" isn't the best word at this time...
Body control plays an important role in the after dinner environment. As Ninpo practitioners, we have been schooled in the importance of breath control, but perhaps now is the best time to reinforce those shrugged-off notions of belching and flatulence control. Key to any after dinner talk is environmental integrity. Perish the day when any of us are accused of threatening that delicate eco-system...
So which ever holiday you celebrate, take heart! This is no time to acknowledge a lapse in our training, for there exist a multitude of opportunities. You need only look beyond Aunt Edna's lengthy nostril hairs to discover your own menu of training delights. Happy Holidays.
During the months of chemotherapy preceding my surgery I decided to augment my healing with lessons I had learned in my ninjutsu training. I would practice kuji-in energy channeling techniques for optimum health, visualization to strive towards recovery, and meditation to diminish stress, anxiety and gloomy feelings.
One day during my physician's daily visit, he announced that he was going to attempt an experimental surgical procedure in order to save my leg. My doctor explained that massive reconstruction would be required and he stressed that it has never been attempted before, it may not work, and I would probably not have full use of my leg rendering me partially disabled.
After 18 months of follow up surgery, chemotherapy, and physical therapy along with the aid and prayers from good friends; it was determined that the cancer was completely eradicated but my leg would possibly require years of continued healing before I could walk without the assistance of a brace or crutches.
I challenged my handicap and was still capable of working, but all the while I mulled over missing my martial art training. I decided that I would attend my Sensei, Stephen K. Hayes' upcoming Warrior Quest Seminar since the training not only incorporates taijutsu training but training in energy challenging, self empowerment and kuji-in exercises. I also felt I would seek feedback from my Shidoshi and instructors on whether I could still realistically progress in this art; I thought, "Who has ever heard of a disabled Ninja"?
In spite of my trepidation, I attended Warrior Quest III feeling rather foolish in my black training garb, on crutches and my leg in a cast. Fortunately my fellow students, the instructors and Shidoshi Hayes was very receptive in having me participate in the training. I participated in several techniques that I could manage, avoided almost all instances where I was uke and would often improvise my crutch into a technique when appropriate.
In a question and answer period during a group lunch break I asked whether I, as a disabled person would still be able to learn and advance in Ninjutsu training. I was not only assured that I would still benefit from participating but was encouraged to put myself to the task, ["One of the beautiful things about this art is that it is not rigid, that when properly learned it works for all; men and women, old and young, tall and short, stocky and petit."]...["Get the most out of your training as you can"]. I also had the opportunity to chat with Shidoshi Hayes where I briefed him on my situation and that allowing me to participate in the training meant a lot to me. He was as congenial as usual and added cryptically that my story was "inspiring." As often the case with me, I didn't fully understand what Shidoshi Hayes was relaying.
I was then determined to continue my training and attended Tai Kai 9 in Atlanta where I not only trained with Soke, but also met other other pioneers and practitioners of this amazing art. While meeting Hatsumi Sensei and his wife, he asked me about my leg, which I briefly described. Hatsumi then wrote me what was best described as a "healing prayer" on the back of his photograph and made suggestions on my diet. He then said in a nonchalant way, "You'll be okay." Being my first Tai Kai and meeting Soke, this incident only added to the experience.
By this time I was encouraged and still felt as though I was benefiting from my continued participation, but I still had doubts: Was I only encouraged to stay involved for my training and seminar fees? Was I being patronized because I was felt sorry for? And more importantly, would this art indeed work for me should I need to put it to use?
At the following Warrior Quest IV. The seminar was informative, instructive and enjoyable as usual but it was here that I decided to test for my 5th kyu. With the help of instructors, fellow members and friends who offered to be my uke ; I was able to master many techniques, often modifying them to accommodate my handicap. For example, since I cannot perform a kick or lever with my right leg; I will substitute a kick with a cane jab or use the cane as a lever. Besides the sense of accomplishment I felt in earning my brown belt, I was taken back by the compliments and encouragement from other students and instructors.
Today I still look forward to training, testing, attending seminars and festivals in order to learn and challenge my supposed disability; and I'm often approached by others who are glad to see me keep training because, they say, when they're experiencing minor aches or not feeling up to par; they see me in the dojo with my walking cast and cane and they are inspired to keep training.
I am fortunate to be in a career in which I often utilize the various aspects of my ninja training; but since my recovery, I had a very dangerous physical confrontation against violent adversary. I prevailed, however, I do not believe I would have been victorious if I hadn't studied ninpo or most other martial arts.
Do I attribute my successful battle of cancer and saving of my leg to my ninjutsu training and Soke's healing wish? I can't say for sure; and I certainly will not discount the gallant efforts of my doctors, health care professionals, and the care and prayers of my friends and family. But I do know for certain that I benefited from my ninpo lessons in overcoming fear, relaxing in times of stress, and not burdening others with bitterness or negative feelings.
As ninja practitioners/students we train to conquer dynamic physical battles, violent attacks and multiple aggressors. But more importantly; I've realized that this art also prepares us to successfully overcome the more common trials and battles in everyday life.
My story may not have the excitement expected of some ninjutsu practitioners. However, it's reassuring to know just how much ninjutsu training provides practical real-world self protection skills against all forms of 'enemy' for any individual, any age, in any physical condition.
Your training in the martial arts is very much the same as learning to ride a bicycle. It will take you further and faster than anything else in your life but it is important not to forget the maintain your balance. On our road there will be great hills, difficult to pedal up and exhilarating to coast down. Peddling up represents the effort of training. Without this effort we go nowhere. Coasting is the reward of effort. The thrill of coasting is the physical, mental and spiritual benefit that comes with training.
Our journey won't be all coasting and thrills. There will also be detours, twists and turns. We must learn to slow down and even stop when necessary in order not to lose our balance and fall. Each time we slow down or stop we are making a choice or decision. Should we go left or right? Did we make a wrong turn? Do we have to go back? The more we progress in our training the faster we can go without losing our balance and the easier it becomes to make the right decisions.
Our bodies are the bicycles which take us on our journey. We must take care of them. Keeping your body in the best possible condition is important since our journey through the martial arts is long and hard. Any vehicle that is neglected will fall apart before long. Do everything you can to keep yourself in top physical condition so that your journey can last a long, long time. The best journey you can take is one without an ending. Look in all possible directions. Do not see an end to your training and your journey will always be exciting.
The purpose of training is to prepare you to never be in a situation where you have to rely solely on muscle strength and fighting as your means of protection. If the situation arises where you are required to protect yourself, your body, mind and spirit must be able to adapt to whatever is there. By maintaining the beginner's heart, you are preventing yourself from erecting another barrier to natural movement/response. If you look at things with the eyes of a child, you may see things that perhaps you weren't aware were happening. Maybe the energy of the conflict was changed, maybe the body alignment was slightly altered, and maybe the attacker perceived "opportunities" that really weren't there.
One awareness exercise that I like to do involves just being aware of all the things that are going on around you. This exercise is designed to activate all of your senses to your environment.
Hearing: Just listen to all the sound around you, but try not to focus on any one.
Smell: Add all the scents in your environment.
Touch: Add all the tactile sensations, including the breeze that brushes your skin, the clothes that you are wearing, the ground under your feet, etc.
Taste: Add all the tastes that you are experiencing. Taste the air, your lunch or dinner, the water that you are drinking, etc.
Sixth Sense: Be aware of all of those intuitive "feelings". What do you perceive from other people. (It is easier to do this part in a place with a lot of people)
Vision: Lastly, add all the sights. Sight tends to be our primary sense, so I add it last. We have a tendency to overpower our other senses with our vision. Remember that what you see isn't always what you get, especially in ninpo taijutsu.
Try to avoid focusing on things for too long, acknowledge them and let them go. Is it easy? No, it may take a lot of practice, but it will give you an idea of that "moment to moment awareness". Try the exercise out. If you get frustrated with it, don't get stressed, just stop and relax and do just one part of it. Be patient and enjoy the experiences as they come.
Of course, next week, it still hurts. Except now it hurts a lot more. And now maybe it has swollen a little. Perhaps turned an interesting shade of purple and orange. But that's all right. It will go away. Then again, maybe it won't. But you don't really need feeling in your fingers, do you??? A little sarcastic, a little extreme, I grant you. Let us look at the flip side of this scenario.
"AAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!! My toe! I stubbed it! I can't walk! I think it may be broken. And just look at my gi! It's all crumpled!" How many times have you heard similar whining over some imagined grievous bodily injury that may be fatal given 50 years and no antibiotics and some arsenic? This too is a little sarcastic and a little extreme. Perhaps reality is to be found somewhere in the middle.
In my job, I am witness to many serious and minor hurts and illnesses. One thing that has struck me throughout is that whatever the severity of a persons problem, they tend to view it from the opposite extreme, with potentially damaging and sometimes even deadly results. We tend to generally try to play down a potentially serious injury, both in order to bolster our own self image and because we do not want to admit ourselves that we may be injured. So what do we do? We play it off, hoping it will get better. unfortunately, this is not always the case. It is therefore very important that we learn how to judge the severity of our injuries, and to know when to encourage our peers to take it easy, maybe they are not all right.
Allow me to illustrate with an episode from work. About six weeks ago, 21W, an ambulance from my station en route to a difficulty in breathing call was involved in a head on collision. My partner and I jumped on the call and were the first unit on the scene. The accident looked relatively minor, albeit we ended up with approximately eleven patients. Both the driver and the "tech" from the ambulance were both out of the ambulance walking about. The driver, a friend of mine, said to me that yes she did have pain in her neck and back, but that she would be all right and did not want to be immobilized, which is our protocol for possible spinal injury. After much persuading and a few minor threats, she finally agreed to be longboarded and collared. It later turned out that she had sustained two slipped discs and other spinal injury and would have otherwise been paralyzed if not for the immobilization.
Obviously, not every little cut or bump is to be such a cause for concern. The important thing is to know your own body and your own limitations. Remember that YOU are the one who is going to have to live with these injuries for the rest of your life. Don't be ashamed to step away and say 'no, let me stop and have this checked out'. It can't hurt. The twenty minutes of training you miss may save you hours of training in the future. And of course, have fun!
It sometimes appears that the Bujinkan in the U.S. has become a dumping ground for all sorts of unrelated New Age garbage. Statements and claims that would be laughed at in other warrior traditions are here accepted solemnly, without question. Take the man who wrote in the January 1993 issue of the "Musubi" newsletter that he gained "a huge energy boost" because the full moon that night happened to be superimposed on a vastly distant star field that to some people resembles a fish (no doubt he also gained immunity from all training tools except those made of silver). Or take the silly Chinese restaurant horoscopes that our newsletter considers front-page news. Or these claims of who can or can't control the weather or fly around like a bird. Every time I read or hear about this sort of baloney I think of the events of the Boxer Rebellion of 1900.
Four or five thousand Chinese martial artists (who were called "boxers" because the foreigners had no other word to describe skill in unarmed combat) attacked a British troop train on its way to Beijing. As the Chinese advanced they made scary faces, entwined their fingers, and waved magic talismans, believing these would make them impervious to bullets. No doubt their teachers told them something like "your mind IS reality", blah, blah, blah. The British were at first stunned into inaction, but soon they set up a few machine guns on a flatcar and mowed down almost all of the attackers. The only reason that any Chinese lived was because some (in the true ninpo spirit, perhaps) had not blindly rushed forth but had hung back to see if what they had been taught was true; once they saw their mistake they were just able to run away to safety.
I can well understand why many of our fellow practitioners with doubts are afraid to speak up; they risk being sidelined, perhaps unconsciously, as "one of those people with closed minds, unlike us". To dare to question the extraordinary claims of these psychics and spoon-benders is to buck the tremendous peer pressure on all of us to conform to the group. But retaining common sense and discrimination in the face of inanity is not a character flaw to be overcome, nor are reason and rationality to be condescendingly smirked at. I hope that this will be reflected more in the future. After all, what can be harmless superstition in other contexts can be quite dangerous in a martial one. The New Agers who don't get a swift kick in the rear in the dojo will get one in the street - with unfortunate results.
You disbelieve? Meditate on this scenario: you can have all the secret hand signs, lunar power boosts, omamori amulets, full-bore nitromethane-boosted chakras, etc. that you want; just give me the machine gun!
A good fit is crucial to the parka's ability to protect you from the elements. If the fit is too tight, you will compress the fill and loose the insulating benefits. If it is too loose, the heat loss will be very rapid, gain loosing the insulating qualities you seek. A good fit means that proper wind seals occur at the neck, sleeves and waist. The sleeves should extend over the wrist to trap the warmth. Pay close attention to the way a parka fits around the neck. Windy drafts can reach the bare neck and chill you quickly. Neck features to check for are an internal knit storm collar, tunnel collar that seals the neck area, or the various hoods that attach below the collar with a drawcord that pulls close around the face without inhibiting your view.
Look for a durable external shell with a closely woven fabric of nylon/polyester/cotton. This will resist snags and protect you against the wind. This should be followed by an internal lamination of Gore-Tex. This is a lightweight, yet breathable waterproofing layer. Some shells are waterproofed with a plastic coating on the inside of the fabric. These are not breathable. These will keep you dry, but they tend to make you perspire and that can conspire to chill you. Next comes the insulating layer. As with sleeping bags, there are two types of basic insulation. Down is a natural fiber with excellent insulating qualities. Unfortunately, it looses most of its insulating qualities if it gets wet. Synthetics insulate as well as down but will retain approximately 85% of their insulating ability when wet. The most popular synthetics today are Thinsulate and Quallofil. There should be an internal liner of either nylon or cotton.
I like lots of pockets.... just make sure that you can get into them easily with gloves or mittens on. I particularly prefer cargo pockets with handwarmer pockets behind them. I also like insulated hoods with good easy-to-operate drawstrings.
Hatsumi Sensei told me a story once about his early training with his teacher, Takamatsu Sensei. Several times a week, Hatsumi Sensei would travel for well over an hour to get to Takamatsu's house to train. When he arrived, they would sit together in the parlor. Mrs. Takamatsu would bring a tray with tea for both master and pupil. This she did every time he came. When she handed Hatsumi Sensei the cup, she told him what variety of tea he was drinking. This went on for a very long time. One day, Takamatsu Sensei brought out the tray. After he handed Hatsumi the tea, he asked of what variety it was. Hatsumi could not give the correct answer. Takamatsu Sensei scolded him, and said that it is important to be aware in all things. In this way it would be possible to detect if someone is trying to poison you. He said not to dull your senses with spices and over indulgence. After that, Hatsumi Sensei became aware of subtle things.
Work to free your mind from the useless chatter of everyday life. Float through the stream of your life like a leaf on the water, leaving no trace. If you move through the world in a natural and humane way, and maintain a pure and joyous heart, you will come to the way of the true warrior.
There is hope though. It can be seen as either the light at he end of the tunnel or it can be another trap to keep you floundering away (or it could be a way to 'look' like you know what you're doing to others when in fact you are just training the same way with different methods- much like the people who jump from one art to another after only learning the basics and then bragging that they "know" those arts.
One way of monitoring your progress and knowing where you are going is to examine the phases to be gone through in the training and development process. These phases are not limited to the martial arts in general or to ninpo specifically. They are a natural part of the growth and learning timeline. The 3 phases of skill development are:
Let's look at each of these phases and their place in the overall program of a student's development and a well-designed educational curriculum. I will be using the kyu/dan structure as most of the readers are familiar with it but it must be remembered that it is not the grading system that matters but the actual skill development that determines what level is a student is at. Belts, even in days past had little to do with actual mastery. They simply showed the time that a student had been involved and therefore had, or should have, attained the necessary skills of someone befitting that investment.
The student's goal/task is to learn the example techniques well enough to show an understanding of the basic principles of the art (in the case of the Kasumi-an curriculum, it is the 5-part self-defense strategy or the "5-D's") The student's movement quality, proficiency, exact technique steps, etc., are all secondary to this.
While self-protection is always a consideration, it is secondary at this point to form and understanding of the student's own body with concentration being focused on what is and is not necessary in the performance of a specific technique.
Remember that you are involved in an educational curriculum and therefore the program must be approached as if you were in (or teaching!) in any other educational facility. Could you imagine your or your student's progress if grading on a written report came before the skills of learning the alphabet and reading? Ridiculous right?! Not to look at the way that many teach or try to learn. People want to learn the 'nifty' kata first or jump right to creative response without taking the time to perfect the basic movement skills; not to mention those who have made those basic exercises (called the kihon happo) something sacred and holy like knowing a particular version makes them more knowledgeable.
As I said earlier, these phases are the same regardless of whether you are trying to develop the skills of a master martial artist or a master carpenter. The only differences are the skills and training methods. We learn to use our body parts first; the carpenter learns to use each tool in his box. We develop and use drills, reaction, decision-making, and others, next; the carpenter practices straightening nails as he continues to hammer. And finally, we explore the strategies, and tactics necessary to set-up an attacker so that his only means of attacking us 'just happens' to be the thing that ties him up; the carpenter approaches mastery when he can read the wood, choosing just that which is needed and by planning his construction, appears to put the building together like a kit when in reality he made it from scratch.
This is not to say that you won't, can't or shouldn't learn kata in the early stages of training. What I am saying is that you will not be deriving the benefit of them in their purpose of transmitting strategy, principles, etc. Since you have yet to learn how to position your body in alignment to the attacker, what constitutes a perfect (form) ichimonji no kamae, or even how to walk in a controlled, naturally-balanced manner, you can hope to learn little more from those kata than how to do them mechanically.
Mastery in the martial arts, like mastery in any other field of endeavor, is a process lead to by a well developed educational curriculum which takes the student through the natural phases of learning and skill development. The Path is no different. It has a starting point, a travel distance, and a destination (which, as we all know from our studies of Enlightenment 101, is just another starting point. . . or is it another traveling distance. . . or. . .
As always, I'd like to thank all of the authors for their wonderful contributions to the newsletter. Because of them, we have great breadth and scope of experience and knowledge. Please e-mail them and let them know how much you appreciate their efforts.