|[ olvasnivaló » Ura & Omote - 1995 November ]|
"Be like the wind with this one," says Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi while demonstrating a technique. An elusive man that merely steps out of the way of a lightning fast punch or kick, then proceeds to destroy any further attack, Hatsumi moves appropriate to the attack, many moves going unnoticed except for the person on the receiving end.
"Don't use big movements like in the movies," he says, showing in slow motion all the little moves he had just performed on his assailant for the sake of those who stood in awe the first time, wondering what he had just done to drop someone with ease. He speaks about " feeling" Taijutsu and of the life skills this ancient art of Ninjutsu will give to those who persevere with training in the Bujinkan system.
Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi is better known as the 34th Grandmaster of Togakure Ryu Ninpo, a title handed down through an unbroken chain of Soke before him. He also holds the same title handed down by a succession of masters to other schools of Budo. He is: 28th Soke of Kukishinden Ryu Bikenjutsu, 14th Soke of Kumogakure Ryu Ninpo, 28th Soke of Gyokko Ryu Koshijutsu, 18th Soke of Koto Ryu Koppojutsu, 28th Soke of Shinden Fudo Ryu Jutaijutsu & Dakentaijutsu, 17th Soke of Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jutaijutsu, 15th Soke of Gikan Ryu Koppojutsu, 21st Soke of Gyokushin Ryu Ninpo. This is just some of the inheritance of a long study of the martial way; other interests include painting and writing, as well as working as choreographer and technical advisor for some film producers on top of his initial career as a bone doctor.
During a short interview with Dr. Hatsumi in the lunch break at his Tai Kai recently held in Auckland, one could feel that the following barely scratches the surface of what this man has to offer.
Translation by Ben Jones.
KB: Hatsumi Sensei, welcome to New Zealand and thank you for the opportunity to conduct this interview. You came to this country primarily to attend the wedding of Anthony Netzler. This is a momentous occasion, you must hold Anthony in the highest esteem.
H: Yes, of course. He is a good student.
KB: What sort of feeling do you get from the attendance of New Zealand students here today?
H: I feel they are all trying to find the true martial arts and I realize they are all training well and with dedication.
KB: Can you explain about the type of training so far today, its origins and history?
H: There is no particular theme today. I am not trying to concentrate on one particular school today, it's just the feeling that I'm trying to get across.
KB: Although training in the Bujinkan system is practiced in the traditional form, do you see it as basically a study of old martial practice or as a defense system still applicable in our society today, or more than this?
H: I believe its the same no matter what period you live in. So whether you're trying to light a fire by rubbing two sticks together or by using flints, or whatever you use the principle is the same throughout time. So as far as life is concerned, the period you are in doesn't matter. It's always been the same throughout life. People tend to try and create themes which are not always correct; they make too many of these. Because man is an animal himself if you look at it from the point of view of anthropology.
You should go through the martial arts to see how human beings should live, so whether you're strong or weak - that's a load of rubbish. It's totally worthless; a form of gambling, on whether someone's strong or weak. If you don't understand this thing, you'll never become a true martial artist.
KB: You have also studied other martial arts as well, before studying under Takamatsu Sensei, the previous Grandmaster to the Ryu which you house under the Bujinkan banner. I believe you attained a Dan grade in Aikido. Could you give some more details of that and previous training before finding Takamatsu Sensei?
H: In Judo, on physical ability as opposed to an honorary grade, I attained 5th Dan, Kendo, a 10th Dan, and with the Katana, also a 10th Dan. I did all these things, then began to feel a few questions regarding these sportified martial arts and that's when I went into the path of Kobudo, the ancient martial arts.
It was only once when I had met Takamatsu Sensei and was accepted as a student, I knew this is it, this is the real thing. Takamatsu Sensei, as you probably know, had experience of real combat in various situations. He was a friend of the last emperor in China and was also the president of the Butokokai martial arts organization in China. There was also a Butokokai in Japan. There was fighting all around China at the time and it was far more dangerous than in Japan. So Takamatsu had been through real combat for over 10 years in China and survived it all, and that's who I had the pleasure of learning from.
KB: What was training like with Takamatsu Sensei? I believe he was an awesome sort of person and a very hard man.
H: He was actually very kind. He taught me at the level appropriate for my rank at the time. He was very good at teaching, very skilled.
KB: How did you make contact with Takamatsu Sensei? Did he openly take students much the same as you do now?
H: For the 15 years that I was learning from him, there were no other students learning from Takamatsu Sensei. If other ones came, Takamatsu Sensei would say, "Go and learn from Hatsumi." Takamatsu obviously did teach many people before then, but seems to have gotten bored with them. There must have been some sort of link between Takamatsu and me, some sort of connection. Even if there was someone being taught by Takamatsu, if Takamatsu didn't think the person had the heart of a martial artist, he would say, "O.K., you don't need to come back tomorrow," and dismiss them on the spot.
So the very fact that I was able to learn from him for 15 years is one thing I am very proud of.
KB: What things come to your mind when thinking of your training with Takamatsu?
H: I was always trying to pursue the truth. The essence of truth. I didn't look at learning from Takamatsu to become a teacher myself, I had another profession, the profession of being a bone doctor. The thing that really surprised me as I traveled around the world was the number of people who didn't study the martial arts but made use of the martial arts for their own living. So the reason I travel around the world now is to show people that this is what the martial arts are really about.
KB: How does learning under your guidance now compare with how you trained as a student of Takamatsu?
H: It is the same.
KB: You have conducted a Godan grading today, a test which you alone measure. Considering this test is a lot different to what other martial art systems use, what is the significance of this test to you?
H: It did exist in other martial arts before, but has disappeared back in the Edo period, over a hundred years ago. Because there was a long period when they didn't need these kinds of things in combat, they forgot about the Godan test and concentrated only on getting the forms and appearance right.
KB: A lot of martial art practitioners from other styles seem to rubbish this art for students achieving grades very quickly in a lot of cases. What do you think of this?
H: All they need to do is get into a real combat situation and they will understand who is the stronger. That's the real problem. I am not teaching people about winning and losing, I am teaching people how they can survive and live. This is a basic problem that people should understand. It's not just a question of who wins, who loses. If you think about that you will be defeated. If you learn how to survive and how to live, then in the long run you will win. This is important.
KB: It has been said before of your talent for performing uncanny, rather mystic feats. Is this a gift passed on to you from Takamatsu Sensei, or derived through religion, or by what means?
H: It's probably something to do with the 3000 years of martial arts that I have inherited. I try not to think too much about things like this. It's like the Godan test: you can't do it if you thing about it and try to do it.
KB: There has been a lot of promotion of this art as Ninjutsu and portrayed as Ninjas thanks to the media and those wishing to cash in on the Ninja boom in general, however I believe the Ninjutsu part of the Bujinkan could be quite small. Is this correct?
H: Yes, just look at it as one small part of it.
H: They're all divided and classified into different sections but they're all linked together, so it's just one big home. It's very difficult to split it up and apply individual names to what we study... it's the same way as... where there is air, human beings will live and survive. That's the sort of feeling behind it.
KB: Some time ago you produced a book called Stick Fighting, showing the techniques of the Kukishinden Ryu. Will we see any more books like this in future about other Ryu that you are Grandmaster to?
H: I will show many things like this in Sanmyaku, the magazine I am producing now in 18 or so countries. I am also planning on making some more videos.
KB: Is there any more you would like to say in finishing?
H: I joined the Japan Writer's Club to see which is stronger, the pen or the sword. I am now the president of the International Division of the Writer's Club. I am probably going to write a lot more from now on. Sanmyaku is going to be a major part of this. I hope people will understand the real martial arts from this. I hope Sanmyaku doesn't get thrown away, but kept and people read and re-read it in future as this is one way I leave a legacy behind. Via a medium like this, plus all the videos of Tai Kai I have been to, probably over 100 by now. I want everybody to see these. People from all over the world attend these Tai Kai. A gathering of people who agree "Let's think about life through the martial arts, use the martial arts to look at life and see how one should live." Everything changes depending on the era when you are, and the environment you are in, and themes change all the time, so you have to be able to search out and find these changing things.
And with that, Dr. Hatsumi left to walk outside and conduct the afternoon training session of sword vs. sword, and sword vs. yari (spear), emphasizing taijutsu again.
An enjoyable day for the 190 plus students (21 from overseas) and 70 spectators attending. _____ - Photos by Mark Stewart in association with 60 Minutes TVNZ, and Wendy Hart.
release more of this hard to come by information. This is part of a series of authentic Ninjutsu material available in the martial arts section of America OnLine. Type Keyword: Grandstand. Send feedback to Shadowswrd@aol.com - Ken Harding.
Being a relative newcomer to this art, I am always fascinated by the tales of those who have "gone before". Their trials and tribulations, stories of training gaffes, and accounts of moments of enlightenment are a constant inspiration to me. They keep reminding me that there is more to this art than what I'm currently working on and that others have already been through the confusion that I'm finding to be so new and frustrating. I always feel honored to be included in these conversations or moments of reminiscence and look forward to connecting to my seniors on this very personal level.
I had heard of Shidoshi Maurontonio early on in my training. Students from my school had gone to visit him and stayed for a class or two, or they had gone to attend his special seminars. I knew that Joe had a good reputation and was held in high regard among the instructors at my school. He was also pretty well-liked, so I planned to visit him one day - when I felt I was "competent"enough with my skills and wouldn't be an embarrassment to my dojo - and take in his perspective on Taijutsu.
Well, as fate would have it, Joe, despite his busy schedule, became a contributor to Ura & Omote. We had a few e-mail and phone conversations concerning the newsletter. One day when Joe invited me to come visit his dojo and attend a seminar, I jumped at the chance to visit him. I saw an opportunity for me to speak and meet with someone whose perspective and training experiences were entirely different from that of my teachers.
This happened in either late June or early July. However, fate and finance had a way of keeping me from attending his seminars. I kept promising Joe that I would visit him and I finally bit the bullet in September, although I couldn't train because my back was acting up, and went to visit his school. Joe teaches every Tuesday night and on alternating Saturdays, so I arranged to go visit him on a Tuesday evening.
The fateful Tuesday arrived and I excitedly went to the Metro Northat Grand Central Station to catch my train. The earliest train that I could catch would arrive in Bronxville at roughly 7:06 so I would get to his school just a little after training began. I had already prepared a list of questions for Joe and brought a tape recorder along so I wouldn't miss a word. Excitedly, and a bit nervously - I kept checking the map to make sure I was on the correct train - I watched the stops go by until the conductor announced that Bronxville would indeed be the next stop.
I stepped off the train and started following the directions to 27 Milburn Street that I had hurriedly taken down from Joe. Being a New York City girl all my life, with a limited experience of life in the burbs, I naturally got lost. A visible lack of discernible street signs and other signs of civilization had me entirely confused. I had no clue as to where I was, or where I was going. It was raining so there was no one on the street that could give me directions. I doubled back to the train station twice. I decided that if by the third time I didn't find the school, I would just turn around and go home!
Through luck and perseverance - I found someone who gave me directions, I finally found my way and arrived at the dojo around 7:35 PM. Leaving my shoes outside, I tried to make as inconspicuous an entrance as I could. I was embarrassed because I was REALLY late, but nobody blinked an eye when I stepped into the dojo.
Joe Maurantonio's dojo is a bit odd in it's layout. It is located on the 2nd floor and divided into two distinct "dojos" with a small hallway connecting them. Joe shares these two training spaces with Tai Chi, Karate and Kung Fu groups. He was in the smaller of the two training spaces that evening - a charming area with a brown carpeted floor, a few tumbling mats on the ground, a mirrored wall and a small weapons rack by a window. It was "homey", though, and you could feel the class' energy because of the space.
There were roughly 16 or so students in the class, with 2 black belts (other than Joe), 1 brown belt (the senior student), and one brown belt visitor in attendance. The rest of the class seemed to be an even mix of white and green belts. They were performing one of the Sanshin no kata - Ka no kata, I believe - when I arrived. Although we had never met, it didn't take me long to figure out who Shidoshi Maurantonio was. A slim, soft-spoken man, he was observing his students' actions when I arrived and I was taken with his poise and self-confidence walked around the dojo. You could definitely "feel" his presence in the room.
Joe demonstrated the next technique with one of his black belts, Adrian Kaehler. The attack came in the form of a punch, and Joe fell back into ichimonji no kamae and performed a defensive strike, following up by rocking through the kamae and delivering a left ura shuto to the throat. It looked so easy and fluid. He demonstrated the technique several times, emphasizing the defensive footwork and the follow-through using the body which gives the shuto its dynamic power, but never losing the grace of the kamae or the fluidity of the movements. He split the class into two and sent the white belts off into the other "dojo" with another black belt. He then turned his full attention to the green and brown belts in the room, walking around critiquing their kamae, footwork and movement. After a few minutes, he jogged over into the other dojo, laughing, to "Make sure everyone is still alive over there". A very dynamic and spirited individual, Joe had the class in his thrall. really good sense of humor - something that I consider essential when teaching this art. When demonstrating a technique, he took one of his students down in a hon gyaku using knee leverage. The student landed across one of his arms and Joe locked out the student's free arm and commented that he couldn't hear him tap out! Another thing that I secretly commended Joe for was his use of students based on skill/body type - not rank. For instance, he used the green belts to demonstrate techniques just as often as he did the black or brown belts. Share the pain appeared to be his motto!
Shidoshi Maurantonio's attention to detail also spoke volumes about him. Joe called his students up in pairs and made them demonstrate techniques in front of the whole class. While they were doing this, he made extremely minute corrections to foot placement, etc. for all his students to demonstrate proper taijutsu and natural body alignment. He corrected some weirdly turned feet and ankles, and corrected bent backs and other structural flaws. Joe also acknowledged that people with different body types might not be compatible to do a technique together and had a smaller person with shorter arms work with someone who had a similar body type.
Towards the end of the class he was walking around and observed a student who wasn't ready for an incoming attack hold up his hand to stop the punch. His partner obliged and stopped the attack. The student tried to focus but again he wasn't ready for the next attack. This time he shifted only slightly out of the way as his uke pulled the punch. Joe went over to the student and he explained to him that he should move his entire body to get his head out of the way in every case, even if he wasn't ready to defend or do the kata. Joe pointed out if the punch were to actually connect he would be knocked out. He emphasized good training habits and not to ingrain bad movements or habits because your life may depend on it. He pointed out that you will inevitably fall back on what you practice most and what your body/muscle memory has learned.
The class ended roughly around 9 PM with a question and answer period in which Joe tried to address some of his students' issues. It was apparent that his students didn't want to leave once the class was done, though. They were milling about trying to keep the energy and spirit that Joe had inspired in them.
Keith:My name is Keith. My answer to the question is the versatility of the art, where it doesn't have just one specific counter to a specific attack. You can do a multitude of things from one attack and there's not really.... uh...
U&O:There's no set technique.
Keith: There's no set technique where you're in line doing, practicing in the same exact way. It's more, um..., I don't know the word I'm looking for, but it's different than arts I've studied before, and different in a better way because of the way the class is taught. It's not, in karate class everything was done 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.... There were forms and they were extremely structured. This isn't as structured, but its seems to have more flow to it. Which is a lot better I think.
U&O:Cool! Thank you. And you are...?
Seth: I'm Seth.
U&O: What do you like best about being here or what have you learned that has, in the short time that you have been training, made you want to stay with the art?
Seth: It's very practical in my line of work.
U&O: What's your line of work?
Seth: I'm a massage therapist and I meet STRANGE people on occasion.
U&O: (laughing) That's great! We have some massage therapists in our school also and they get to integrate their taijutsu into massage, which can seem weird to the person you are massaging.
Margaret: He does ichimonji to massage people. (laughs)
Seth: Yes. I once found myself using the ichimonji rocking motion during a massage. (laughs)
Miya: I don't know. It just made me a little bit... I wasn't not confident before, but I found that I felt better about myself. Like I had a better head on my shoulders afterwards. It's not like I was totally in pieces before, it's just like now I feel like I'm even more together.
Margaret: I also like the awareness training. I know that... I do a lot of walking; I just walk around everywhere. I teach at Bronx Community College and I walk from the Fordham train station to BCC everyday when I teach there and it's made me so much more aware of my surroundings so I can kind of, not psychically, sense, but I can sort of be where if someone's kind of behind me and maybe he's a little creepy, I can sense where he is.
Miya: I used to be so unaware. My friends would be behind me and...
U&O: Sneak up on you?
Miya: And now I can... I mean, it's still not foolproof for me, but I'm better at sensing them. I'm usually pretty relaxed. Sometimes I'm like too relaxed. People would be like "You're gelatinous". (Mimes someone putting a piece of paper on the top of her head) "Miya you have a piece of paper on your head." (laughs) People used to do that to me because they could, you know. (laughter) But, I mean, I'm still not... I just feel people around me more now.
Margaret: I also feel the "confidence thing". I used to have a big thing with really obnoxious people who would pull an authority thing on me where they would just get in my face and just put me down. I felt like I was sort of quailing when they came over. Well now I can stand up to them and say "Well, I'm sorry. I respect your opinion but I don't think so."
Miya: Right. That happened to me last night with some friends I was arguing with on the phone. It was 8:30 last night and they wanted me to go out with them. But if you call someone at 8:30, you can't expect them to say yes. So they started in on me. "Come on..." I know that a few months ago I would have totally given in and put off what I had to do. But then I was just like "No, I have to get this done and I'm going to get distracted with people around me, so I'm just going to stay in." I think that I surprised them too. That was last night and that was the first time with those particular people that I said "no".
Margaret: I think like both of us (indicating Seth and herself) can say the same thing. We're married so both of us have had situations were we've managed to stand up to people who were sort of nasty and pushy and said "Back off." And people have said, "Oh, they stood up to me."
Miya: I'm working on adults. (laughter) I have this teacher who's 6' 3" (giggles) and he's seated me at the front of the room. I'm a whole foot shorter than him and now I'm sitting down. And he likes to stand right next to me and look down at me like this (looks down her nose at an imaginary student). So I always crank my head to look up at him and I find if you look him straight in the eye he stops doing it, but it's really annoying having someone towering over you looking down.
Margaret: I have older colleagues who are super-condescending sometimes. I've just become a full-time member of the faculty and not that I was always backing off, but... Now I feel like I'm capable of working with them as an equal and not being nasty about it.
U&O: Great. Thank you so much. This is wonderful feedback. (Turning to Adrian Kaehler) Adrian, I know that you used to train with Richard Van Donk, I believe, in California and you moved out here and just basically, why are you in ninjutsu and what has kept you in it and what do you think of Joe as a teacher?
Adrian: OK. So, in 20 words or less.
U&O: (Laughing) Well in as many words as you'd like.
Adrian: OK. Originally I started training in California with Richard Van Donk, then I moved out here for school. I asked Richard Van Donk for some advice on people that I might train with. He offered me a list that had some people who he thought were very good and some other people he thought I might train with if I couldn't find the people who were very good. Joe was the first person on his list. I called Joe up and said "Hey, can I train with you?" And he said "Well, I don't know, I don't have a lot of students. It's kind of a small dojo kind of thing. I don't think you'd like this." I said "No, no! That sounds great" He tried to discourage me and apparently he, well at that time we were training in his yard. (laughs) But, I said let me come on up. I came on up and trained with him once or twice. I really enjoyed the training. I got to know him a little bit and really liked what was going on. And I said "Can I stay?" So (laughing) he said, "OK, you can, of course you can stay." So I was very happy about that and I continued to train here. And in, over the years, we sort of moved into this little dojo; we have more students now. But, I was very happy with him as a teacher. I like the way that he teaches. I like the mentality of the school; it's very very serious. I mean we're very playful with things but at the same time we're very serious - more so than in my previous training in ninjutsu and much more so than my previous training in many other martial arts. I pretty much enjoy the... I like the fact that when we hit each other, we HIT each other. You now... when we're training we hit hard enough to really know that something's there.
U&O: So, you hit each other with love?
Adrian: With love, but the kind of love that makes you want to hit the person hard so that if you get hit on the street... you know. Its very nice. I like the atmosphere here. That mentality. The idea that you have some compassion for your fellow student so you hit them really hard is very hard to actually have in the dojo and have it work right and have the people get along well. And it really does go well here and a lot of that is because of Joe's personality and the way he teaches. The atmosphere is very conducive to that very solid kind of training among people who are really very close to each other. Actually I've trained in a lot of martial arts all my life and that was something that was sorely lacking in a lot of training with a lot of teachers. So, I very much appreciate this and enjoy it a lot.
My reasons for studying ninjutsu are many, but I think my reasons for studying martial arts in general are that I think that people should be, should feel free. People shouldn't make decisions in their life because they are afraid of someone, or afraid to go somewhere or they don't want to walk into this neighborhood or do this, do that. And so its not so much that I want to be able to do, its things that I don't want to feel that I have to do. You know, I don't want to be afraid of things. And I think that... well, experience has shown that training is about gaining back insights. As I become more skilled, I become more confident and less afraid of a couple of things, then I enjoy my life a whole lot more and I could do a lot that I might not have done otherwise. And that makes it invaluable to me. So that's my reason for training and that's really my reason for staying. You know, as I train more and more I see that that becomes even more true. And I find more ways, things I didn't realize I was once afraid off, I now see that I can do easily and they don't bother me anymore and then that's a very good thing. Like the thing he was talking about at the end of class (Joe discussed what to do if someone was "stalking" you and how to deal with the feelings from that) Very much the kind of thing that to me is a lot of the heart of the training.
U&O: It's really funny because Jean-Pierre, my teacher, has this definition for what a "Warrior" is. He said the characters that make up the kanji for "Warrior" mean "to stop conflict" and that's what he's trying to teach us to do. And not necessarily to stop conflict in a fight but to stop conflict in just being able to take care of yourself. Because if you're not a victim, then crime stops there. And its this mentality, this goodness, that you bring that into the world, that can make the world a better place. And that's important. That's kind of what you expressed in a different way.
Adrian: I believe that very strongly. You know, if a person's a good person or a bad person, but they're weak (laughs) and they've kind of a feeble personality, then you don't notice if they're good people or bad people. But if you are to become stronger and more confident, and assert what you believe in more in the world around you, then its more important that you become a good person. I think that's something that has been realized through the ages by many people who have trained in this art. It's a realization that you only come upon through the training. You really have to gain a bit of that confidence, a little bit of that strength. Then you have that realization for yourself and that's very valuable. That's not so much why I train today because that's sort of something that happened for me a while ago. I'm happy that it did. It's something that I've gained and its a good thing to have. But it is one of the reasons why I feel it is important to teach, which is why I feel that new people, new students should come and experiece and train with us. I think that is a wonderful thing that people can do. That's why I want to encourage other people to train.
U&O: That's great. Thanks so much for your time Adrian.
* * *This last interview was submitted via e-mail by Don Houle (email@example.com).* * *
Don: I train with Joe Maurantonio and was at class the other night when you were there to interview him. At the time, I couldn't think of any comments to add to what others had already said. On my ride home (which is pretty long since I live in New Jersey) I did think of a couple of things I'd like to say about Joe and about training at the BNYD.
I've been involved in ninjutsu since 1986 when I began training with Shidoshi Tim Dean in Worcester Massachusetts. Later, I trained with Mark Davis of Boston, MA. I have also traveled around a lot to train with Stephen Hayes, Bud Malmstrom and whenever I had the chance, Hatsumi Sensei and any of the shihan or shidoshi. I relocated to New Jersey in early 1994 and began to look for people to train with. I was lucky to meet Joe at last year's seminar in Maryland with Manaka Shihan. I checked out his classes and (even though the dojo is about an hour's drive from my home) I joined as soon as a spot opened up in the class. I've never met another person in the Bujinkan who is like Joe.
Joe is a compassionate (your word, Liz) person who really cares about what his students learn and how they learn it. He sizes up individuals' strengths and weaknesses (physical and mental) and makes sure that we are given the information and techniques that enable us to eliminate the weaknesses. I guess one of the ideals of the Bujinkan (or at least of most of the teachers who I have met) is that student's should decide the course of their own training (e.g. "I should go to this seminar or that seminar even if I am not ready for that knowledge just yet."). A teacher's guidance is sort of secondary. Joe is always sure to make strong suggestions regarding what we need in our training (e.g. "Focus on the basics and, when appropriate, experiment with the rest."). I often go to him to feel out what I need to work on.
The atmosphere in Joe's classes is different from many dojo I have visited as well. There is an intensity that I find lacking in a lot of people's training these days. We still joke around and goof off from time to time but Joe will often push us to our limits, demanding that we go as far as we can in our training. I am often amazed at what I'm capable of doing. It's not always comfortable, but I really believe that this intensity has added something to my training.
One last point that I'd like to make that most of the people who train with Joe might not realize: You will not find any 2 or 3 year black belts who are Joe's students. Glenn Catania, the senior student at the dojo, has been training with Joe (off and on) since 1984 and he holds a brown belt. I had received my black belt from Tim Dean and the other black belt student in class, Adrian Kaehler, received his from his previous instructor as well. The next senior-most students in the dojo have been training for at least two and a half years and are seventh kyu. Joe does not promote students easily. There is a lot of thought that goes into his ranking procedure and it is not based on a rigidly defined set of "things you need to know for such and such a rank".
Finally, I would say the most important concept in the dojo is respect. There is a respect for Joe and for each of our fellow students that is not always present in other dojo.
Thanks for coming to take a look at our class and for giving me a chance to comment on some of the things that make Joe Maurantonio and the Bujinkan New York Dojo different. _____ - The second part of this article, the actual interview with Shidoshi Joe Maurontonio will appear in next month's Ura & Omote.
A while ago, I realized a lot of things that happen on a basketball court also happen in a confrontation or fight. Patience, perseverance, stealth and the ability to adapt to and overcome negative/losing situations have been part of me since I was 8. Ninpo was the art I found to take me from being one type of warrior (a street-fighter, in essence) to being a new, more refined and skillful warrior. But this isn't an article comparing ninjutsu and basketball.
People have been telling me to quit playing basketball for a while. Most of the injuries that I've had were received during basketball games. Yet, the game is in my blood and it's nearly impossible for me to quit cold turkey. I started a year ago by quitting playing competitively, in an effort to ease out of the game. Basketball, though, has still been my way of getting my aerobic exercise. Recently, while playing a few friendly games one Sunday, I severely injured the ligaments in my ankle to the point where I could barely walk. I had to be carried off the field and taken home. I became immensely depressed because I was due to take my Shodan test really soon and I now felt that I could kiss my Shodan goodbye. I was in extreme pain and knew that it would literally be months before I could train again. After sitting and beating myself unrelentlessly about what happened - How could I be so careless?!? Why did I have to play that last game?!? All that hard work for nothing!!! - I decided to put it all behind me and to continue my life and training as usual, because to me this was a part of the Shodan test.
I really had to look at the symbolism behind the kanji symbol for "nin": To not give up and submit to this small setback (perseverance); and to be able to heal with time and wait until I am ready to continue (patience). Injuries are blind lessons that you have to dig inside and find out what you can learn from them. For example, on another occassion, I injured my right shoulder while working on my ukemi skills. Because the pain was so great on my right shoulder, the lesson I learned was that I needed more work on my left side - which I was forced to use more often because of the injured right shoulder. With the latest injury, I'm learning the inner workings of myself through patience, because if I'm not patient I can re-injure it again and put myself in this same predicament. Experience teaches us that you learn from mistakes and setbacks that we all try not to repeat.
Respect injuries and heal properly because no matter how "tough" you are, a relapse of that injury will bring you right back to the real world. It's important to find out the extent of the injury and then stay with the treatment until you are healthy again.
Say what? Information is information, isn't it? It's either true or isn't true, right? Substance is more important than form isn't it? If we lived in a perfect world all of those statements would be true all of the time. Unfortunately, when dealing with the media, packaging your information properly is the only chance you have of getting your message across.
Going into an interview you must keep several factors in mind. Reporters spend most of their time covering stories for which they have no specialized training. For example, most of the reporters covering the O. J. Simpson trial are not lawyers. This is not to say that reporters are ignorant or stupid. In extreme cases a reporter might cover a school board meeting in the morning, a fire in the mid day and the opening of a county fair in the evening. The reporter has to grasp the central core of the story, understand what makes that story news and put it into a form the public can understand, often under intense deadline pressure. Reporters quickly learn to spot a hook they can hang their story on. The hook is something they find interesting, easy to understand and easy to put into story form. The problem you have, is that if you are the subject of the story, the reporter's hook may not be the one you would choose. Remember, the reporter may be friendly, honest and sincere, but they don't work for you!
The best way to get your story told is to understand what reporters from each of the media need to put a story together. In addition to a hook, they need information. The information must be in a form they can understand and, more important, must be in a form they can put into their story.
I must digress here for a moment. After spending almost my entire journalistic career in television and radio, I believe that what works when dealing with the electronic media also works when dealing with the print media. The impact of the electronic media grows every day. With that growth comes a shrinking of the average attention span.
Consider that the goal of every political consultant during a presidential campaign is a ten second or less piece of sound called a bite that sums up a candidate's position on a particular issue. You don't believe that? George Bush won the 1988 election with one phrase: "Read my lips, no new taxes!" That took about 4 seconds. (Of course that same phrase cost him the 1992 election after he made a deal with the Congress that raised taxes.) That phrase not only sounded great on radio and TV, it made great reading in the next day's papers. The bottom line: if it sounds good on radio and TV it will look good in print.
So how do we go about preparing for media interviews? Pick up a stop watch and a portable tape recorder and get to work. A friend can help by asking you questions that might come up in an interview. Have your friend play reporter and ask you why you practice Ninjutsu. Answer as quickly and concisely as you can. Then try to guess how long it took you to answer that question. (Keep in mind that a 10 second is your ultimate goal.) You'll probably be appalled when you realize that answer is far longer than that! While 10 seconds is the goal, radio and TV often use bites that are 20 or 30 seconds. Just remember that a 10 second bite makes the reporter's job much easier. It also gets you labeled as someone who is media friendly. This means that you will be at the top of the list when a reporter needs an expert to comment on a story you are qualified to talk about. It may also mean the reporter will call you for an easy story on a slow news day to help meet their story quota!
The exercise I've recommended will help you deal with most reporters. Believe it or not, most of them are honest, hardworking and underpaid. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. How would you answer if someone asked you this loaded question: "How many ways do you know to kill someone?" In a case like this, what you have to do is deflect the stupid question while answering one you want to answer. Instead of calling the reporter a jerk for asking such a dumb question, you might point out that killing people isn't really what Ninjutsu is about and explain what Ninjutsu really is about. Easier said than done, but then that's life, isn't it?
Whether you've been interviewed or not, you should be able to come up with a list of questions you can expect a reporter to ask. For example: How long have you studied martial arts?; Are Ninjas really assassins?; Where did you learn Ninjutsu? As you prepare your practice questions, keep in mind the journalist's 5W's: Who, What, When, Where, Why? and sometimes How? The better you understand the journalist's job, the better chance you will have of getting your story told.
It may seem backwards to tell you how to deal with media interviews before telling you how to attract enough media attention to warrant an interview. As my friend Stephen K. Hayes often says, "This is Ninjutsu and we do a lot of things backwards!" In a future article, I'll make some suggestions for getting media attention.
Why is this happening?
There has been a recent attempt to use cyberspace as a means of conveying the authentic qualities and life-enhancing strategies of genuine ninjutsu. A concerted effort among practitioners, both advanced and new has prompted many people to carefully consider Ninpo a viable and worthwhile pursuit. This has hurt the enrollment of many other schools. When enrollment decreases, one of two things will occur: the school will lower its prices since it cannot compete technically with what is offered in the Ninpo curriculum, or it will market itself as ninjutsu in the hopes of attracting and maintaining a steady stream of students.
Inevitably, this path fails. Lower prices may guarantee student retention but only for a short time. Eventually, the owner of the martial art school will be forced to hike his prices in order to keep pace with inflation and make ends meet. When he does, he will again face the problem of having a curriculum not nearly as enriching as that of authentic Ninpo.
The second attempt, namely classifying one's school as offering ninjutsu, fails when either someone from the authentic ninjutsu school in the area stops by for a chat, or when students of the owner's school stumble upon the authentic school and undergo a reality check.
While the "ninjamania" of the 1980's was primarily a tool for getting-rich-quick, the reemergence of this marketing strategy shows that many martial art schools are concerned about their own survival under the shadow of the pragmatic and life-enhancing methods of authentic Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu.
Certainly false representation is an illegal activity, especially where retail goods and services are concerned, but the threat of discovery is minute. This is simply due to the fact that the authorities do not have the knowledge, technical expertise, or even funding necessary to ensure legitimate schools teach exactly what they are authorized to teach. There are no checks and balances in place that enable the martial consumer to find what they are looking for with no worries about being ripped-off. The consumer must exercise the same caution as one does when buying a used car.
This may also have an impact on the ideas of rank within the western world. Many martial artists view the attainment of shodan as the zenith of their martial career, the ticket to opening their own school. But in the wake of authentic Ninpo, they may now be forced to admit that they have neither the experience nor technical proficiency in their art to properly convey all aspects of it and thereby retain students who are interested in pursuing that particular art.
It is entirely possible that the repercussions from this "fad" may be far-reaching. Prompted by consumer concerns, authorities may investigate various schools and even establish a type of "martial arts oversight committee" to handle consumer complaints and maintain proper marketing and teaching policy of martial art schools.
There may also be a restructuring, if not externally, then perhaps internally, of what it means to be a black belt in a specific style. Perhaps individuals will not be quite so eager to open up a martial art school once they know how difficult it is to maintain enough students and make a living doing so.
And finally, there may come a day when the martial arts community will be able to say without blanching, that the authentic Ninpo as disseminated and taught in the Bujinkan, is both an excellent means of self-protection and a viable lifestyle alternative.
Hopefully, they'll be able to do so without calling themselves ninja
As Stephen Hayes says in his book Wisdom from the Ninja Village of the Cold Moon:
The Warrior of merit collects his victory in ways that do not cause others to feel defeat. He wins before the conflict erupts, succeeds before the challenge appears, and possesses his prize before anyone thinks to oppose him.
He goes on to say:
Use your weapons with prudence employing them only when the cosmos demands it. Use your creativity as the first means of preventing danger. Use your creativity as the first means of preventing danger. When you cannot prevent avoid. When you cannot avoid confuse. When you cannot confuse, dissuade. When you cannot dissuade, hurt. When you cannot hurt, injure. When you cannot injure, maim. Only when the scheme of totality demands you be its messenger, kill.
It is these philosophies that are the foundation of my street survival skills and I try to win without fighting whenever possible.
The Ninja families of feudal Japan used every resource available to them to avoid confrontations and live in peace. Whether it was information provided by their elaborate intelligence networks that was used to prevent a major conflict or a strategy employed to confuse the enemy and avoid a small skirmish, the idea was to prevent violence from escalating and only fighting when there was no other option left. There was no glory in killing another human being, it was simply the only course of action necessary for survival at that moment.
This type of strategy is very different from what is pictured today on television or in the movies where the hero wipes all the bad drug dealers and blows up cars buildings, etc. to accomplish the mission. Many people get hung up with this unrealistic stereotype and they want to hear how I beat up twelve bad guys using my ninjutsu skills. So my strategies are not appreciated by the masses and may even seem cowardly.
In the feudal days of Japan there were times when it was necessary to use the physical strategies in combat. That is why we are studying them today - because those people that survived the bloody battles came home and wrote the techniques down on scrolls and taught these tactics to there friends and family. Our art was not made up by some martial artist who never saw combat. With an efficient combination of tactics, strategies and combat skills even though out numbered at times and having little resources, the ninja families survived the brutal oppression of their time and our art survived to the present day.
In the twenty years I have been in law enforcement I have faced several life threatening situations and I used the approach of avoiding confrontation and using the minimal amount of force necessary. When I began training in this art I not only saw how practical the physical self-defense was but was equally impressed with the strategies the Ninja families used to win without fighting.
While most people are interested in hearing of how someone confounded a mugger or thwarted a rapist. I'm going to give you an example of what I've been talking about. It's something that happened to me during a special assignment.
The Mayor of New York City created a special task force that operated independent of the police department. As a member of the task force I found myself in one of the high crime precincts in New York City. I was part of a cover team investigating illegal drug trafficking by members of the Police Department.
The idea was to go into the area and have the undercover agents make contact with the targeted drug dealers, purchase drugs and leave the area without incident. Going in undetected and leaving undetected was of primary importance to the cover team. Anything that went wrong would ruin months of work to say nothing of embarrassment to the Mayors Office. Avoiding confrontations was essential to the success of the operation.
Months were spent gathering intelligence and putting together the right team. Tremendous pains were taking to take even the minutest details into account.
As the operation began I "ground" myself employing several of the skills I had been taught in the dojo, from using the "earth breath" to calm my mind to using the kuji energy channeling to stay alert, to sensitivity meditations to expand my awareness. As I worked on the streets I began to notice a rhythm or pattern to the activities of the people in the neighborhood. They seemed to be a uniformity to the chaos of the street which I called "orderly chaos".
As the operation went on I found that actually being in dangerous situations day after day heightened my survival skills. There is no substitute for real experience.
I faced several dangers simultaneously. I had to be aware if being ripped off by local thieves while listening to what was going on with the undercover operatives on the radio receiver to ensure their safety. Gun battles between rival drug dealers were a common occurrence in the neighborhood and we had to be careful not to get caught in the crossfire. I always wore a bullet proof vest because we did end up in the cross fire from a gun battle once, during which our surveillance van took a few rounds. Luckily, no one inside was hurt.
One day I was posing as a lost tourist in a car with Connecticut plates, while covering an undercover operative as he bought drugs from a local drug dealer. As if this wasn't bad enough, I had injured my leg during training and could barely walk, and I was by myself. As I sat there and made believe I was reading a road map, I noticed a guy across the street hanging out and talking to one of the local merchants. There was something that I didn't like about him so I kept my eye on him. And sure enough he crossed the street made believe he was going to get in the car behind me. He began stalking me like an animal stalking his prey. He slowly worked his way around the back of the car behind me and slowly walked up to the back of my car. This took about twenty minutes. As he crept a little closer to the back door, I drew my weapon and turned my body so I could get the first shot off if he drew a gun on me. There was no doubt in my mind he was going to try to rip me off.
As he was stalking me I thought if I didn't give off "victim energy" maybe he would pick up on it and it would dissuade him. So as this was going on I began to channel the kuji energy of the protector to give me strength and keep me calm.
As we played this game of cat and mouse I visualized a energy shield protecting me and I extended it out. I decided that if he got any closer I was going to preempt his attack and stick my gun in his face. As he crept closer I waited for just the right moment and I decided to attack first. As I grabbed the handle and opened the door - I only got the door opened about an inch - he disengaged and went back across the street. I watched him for a while until he disappeared around the block. In the months to come I never saw him again in the neighborhood.
Everything went very well that day and that was one of several close calls I had during the course of the operation. The investigation was completed and 30 cops from the precinct were arrested for accepting bribes from drug dealers and ripping off other drug dealers for their drugs and money. As I sit here and write this article 60 Minutes is doing a report on the investigation tonight.
Another day I wasn't as lucky. A guy confronted me and grabbed my coat lapel with one hand and tried to punch me with the other. I used the angling 45 degree ichimonji foot work to prevent him from lifting me up onto my toes so he could punch me. As I moved each time he tried to off-balance me. He could not get me in the position he wanted and finally he let go of my coat and walked away cursing and threatening to kick my ass. He finally went into a store cursing and screaming. I never saw him again.
In each of the two incidents I described above I could have become aggressive and accelerated the violence but I did not want to get into a physical confrontation unless I had to as a last resort. I saved myself a lot of grief by waiting and using other means to diffuse the situation. Accelerating the confrontation would only have served my ego and not served the greater good of society. A society I swore an oath to protect.
This is the part of the training that I believe students tend to ignore leaving them with only part of a self-defense system.
I will never be able to write a book about how tough a guy I am and no movie will be made my career in law enforcement, but that's the way I prefer it. I'm in no hurry to get in a gun battle and hope I never do. Though I am confident that my training has prepared to fight if necessary and there are times when this may be necessary.
There was another guy in law enforcement who thought differently then I do. He let his ego get in the way of his duty to serve the common good by giving into the "lust for the bust". He ordered a raid to take place while ignoring information that clearly indicated that the raid should have been called off. We know that operation as the Waco incident.
The strategy part of our training is extremely important and should always be taken as serious as the physical tactics we learn. Cultivating Wisdom, Clarity, Faith, Concentration and Mindfulness is just as important as learning self-defense. One should always compliment the other.
I believe the era of survival of the fittest is over. Pure brute strength and savagery will no longer determine who holds the power in this world. As we approach the year 2000 it's not the strongest warrior that will survive, it will be the wisest warrior that will survive. The warrior that gains wisdom and clarity and is able to integrate that wisdom into every day life will be the one that succeeds and survives and gains power. The new millennium will belong to the peacemakers.
I recently conducted a two-day outdoor seminar. The Mountain Warrior seminar was held at a regional wilderness park. The county will not allow anyone under the age of 18 to stay overnight in the park due to some recent predations by mountain lions!
We camped on the periphery of the campground. The camping area is a small section of a 20,000 acre wilderness area. There is a river that has dried up during the summer to the point where it has just a trickle of water running down it. We crossed the riverbed and hiked up into a remote area to begin our training.
The first morning session consisted of instruction in escape and evasion techniques along with instruction in camouflage and concealment techniques. After the instruction period, the students were split into two groups. One group was to "escape" and the other group was to track them down. The "escapees" had only a short time to find a place to hide and had to stay within certain boundaries. The trackers had a limited time to find them. By the time we broke for lunch, everyone had some kind of a story to tell and an entirely new perspective on what it takes to hide and what kind of effort it takes to track someone down.
The afternoon session consisted of exotic weapons training. These weapons are some of the traditional ones that were utilized by the ninjas of feudal Japan. We trained with the Kusari Fundo, Kyoketsu Shoge, Kusari Gama, Naginata, and Yari. Some of the students had trained with some of these weapons in the dojo, but had never used them in an outdoor environment. We then tried attacking with and defending against each of them. Everyone had a problem with the large oak trees that spread over our heads. Techniques that were so easy in the dojo suddenly became major undertakings when your attacker forced you into the brush or under an overhanging tree. Corded and chained weapons now required a lot of thought and planning before you started swinging them! This became a major "eye-opener" for everyone.
The night session was just incredible. There was only a sliver of a moon so the visibility was almost nil. All of the students were wearing the traditional outdoor uniforms complete with hoods and gauntlets. In the dim light it was impossible to tell one student from another. Our training became a randori session. One person would stand in the middle of a clearing about 20 feet in diameter. The other students would conceal themselves in the shadows or in the surrounding undergrowth. One by one they would roll out from their place of concealment and attack the person in the middle of the clearing. When the defender had finally dealt with all of the attackers, he would roll into the brush and disappear. One of the others would take his place and the session would continue. Throughout all of this session there was very little talking. Everyone was impressed with how easy it was to disappear at night and everyone agreed that it was almost impossible to see anyone even in the moonlight. We finished up the session with a 45 minute meditation session. During the meditation session you could hear the "critters" sneaking up through the grass and brush to check us out. There was one large animal that we never saw but everyone agreed that it probably was either a coyote or a mountain lion. With each telling the animal seems to get larger. We finished up around 9:30 and sat around afterwards telling lies about what great martial artists we were.
The next morning everyone rolled out of their sleeping bags in various stages of disrepair. Some complained of being cold during the night (apparently they didn't read my article on sleeping bag selection). It didn't get that cold but some of the students didn't have sleeping bags or had summer weight bags. By 9:00 everyone was up, fed, and ready to go again. We hiked back into the wilderness area again and trained in armed and unarmed techniques until noon. At that point, everyone agreed that while we had a great time, a Big Mac and a Coke was sounding better than trail mix and water. There was a lot of bonding and lots of "Wait until next time...." as everyone packed up their gear and headed for home.
The one common element that everyone agreed on was that this training works. Dojos are great for learning the basics but the outdoor training really brings home the validity of the art. When you train outdoors, you realize that those high kicks just don't work. You learn that it is extremely difficult to do a backward roll uphill. You also learn that if you are going to roll downhill, you will develop an amazing amount of velocity before you stop. In short, your perspective changes significantly.
After we returned home and were back in the dojo, those who didn't attend were extremely envious of those who did. The stories have been told and retold until you hardly recognize the events and the participants. For those who have never participated in this type of training, I urge you to try it. Become a part of the legend!
I have been a student of the martial arts for more than 25 years. I have trained physically and mentally seven days a week, sometimes as much as four to five hours a day. If I were a student in college, I would have my Master's degree. The martial arts changed my life and, if you find the proper school for your child, it will do the same for them.
The most common misconception and question about the martial arts for a parent is, "My child is already very energetic and I am afraid that he or she will use these newly acquired skills to hurt someone." Commonly, if the school teaches proper ethics of the martial arts, your child will be taught not to fight at every little provocation. They will be taught self-control and self-discipline. Remember, there is also the situation when self-defense will be necessary, which will then put the physical aspect to use.
The next question is, "Will my child fight with his brother or sister?" Or, "He already fights with his brother of sister and I don't want them to hurt each other." Again, in a martial arts school, the Sensei (teacher) should teach brotherhood and harmony. To instill these values to a small child is not an easy task, but it can be accomplished, A good stern explanation of how you must be nice to your family and treat them kindly is a way to teach these values. Children tend to listen to their martial arts teacher in addition to their parents. The Sensei tends to be taken to heart quicker in some cases because children are not sure where they stand with the teacher. They know he is an authority figure and are not sure that they can get away with anything.
Another common question: "My child has so much energy. How do I control him?" Martial arts is a very tiresome activity but fun, so the child doesn't lose any interest. Most of the time the parents are able to take their child home and let them relax without having to deal with all of that energy. The list of questions goes on and on. I know that the martial arts changed my life. I know from what the parents tell me of my students, I have changed their children's lives as well.
The martial arts are not just kicking and punching. It's as much a mental discipline as it is a physical one. We teach brotherhood, love, honor, patience, respect for themselves, the environment and of others around them. Even parents with the most perfect child need to have their values reinforced outside the home. A martial arts school can be the perfect place for this.
Well, the trip was going well for the first part. We had taken some pretty rough rapids, but nothing we had not ever experienced before. Suddenly we felt the raft catch on something in the river. We could not tell what we were logged on but we knew we had better get off of it without tearing the raft. After several attempts we were still unsuccessful so we slid into the water from the raft and tried to lift the raft from the object, as we did so we heard the raft rip and started to move down the stream. We quickly scrambled back into the raft and searched frantically for a patch kit, unfortunately there was none to be found. We tried to calm down and look at our options we had. We knew that there was some heavy rapids coming so we had to think quick. Since there was no way to go on to the bank of the river we decided to get out of the raft and use the rapid float technique to brave the rapids. Fortunately are planned worked and we only sustained some minor bruises and scraped from the rocks in the water. From that point on we were able to swim to a small overnight location that two-day rafters used.
Although we did not have a tent, we did some matches and a couple of knives. Thanks to our extensive outdoor training with Robert Bussey and his instructors, the threat of roughing it for the night was not even present. We were able to construct a small shelter through the use of the damaged raft and some trees nearby. The next day a group of rafters passes by and sent word of what had happened to the company. They sent a raft for us and we got home safely.
My point is that besides being able to choke an attacker, or knock someone's head off you gain other elements from the martial arts such as patience and the ability to keep a level head
Fuel: Before deciding on the stove that's right for you, you should look at the types of fuel that are available in your area. There are three types of fuel available: White Gas; Pressurized Gas (Propane or Butane); and Kerosene.
White Gas is by far the hottest burning fuel and is available at most outdoor equipment stores. It burns hot and efficiently in cold weather and at high altitudes. Additionally it is environmentally more sound than pressurized fuel in canisters that cannot be refilled.
Propane/Butane is easier to use since you don't have to pump (pressurize) the stove to get it started. It's lightweight and there is no fuel to handle.
Kerosene is the cheapest, most common fuel around. It doesn't burn as hot as white gas or propane/butane, so cooking time is increased. Kerosene has a very disagreeable odor when it burns. It also burns dirtier, so you will be cleaning the stove more frequently
Stoves: Generally stoves fall into one of two categories. The pressurized gas cans are usually twist and light, where you twist the canister onto the stove, turn on the gas and light the burner in accordance with the manufacturer' instructions. White gas and Kerosene stoves usually require a bit of pumping to build up pressure in the fuel tank. These stoves seem to be more reliable in cold temperatures as well as being a better choice environmentally (no empty canister to discard).
Pump Stoves: MSR WhisperLite: White Gas - This is one of the best stoves around and is my personal favorite. It features a separate fuel tank that allows you to isolate the burner with a windscreen for greater fuel efficiency and a hotter-burning stove. Its low center of gravity provides a stable base for your cooking pot. Easy to prime, light and quiet, the WhisperLite has a reputation for being one of the easiest stoves to repair in the field. (12 oz. without fuel) Cost: $49.
MSR WhisperLite Internationale: Same as above but this stove will also burn White Gas, commercial grade jet fuel or kerosene. (12 oz without fuel) Cost $57.
MSR XGKII: Same features as above but will burn White Gas, kerosene, diesel or gasoline. It was designed for high altitudes and sub-zero conditions. (14 oz without fuel) Cost $80.
Optimus Climber 123: White Gas - This stove is also very reliable. The fuel tank is very small and it is prudent to carry additional fuel. Use an eyedropper for priming or purchase the optional pump. (19.5 oz without fuel) Cost $75. Pressurized Canister Stoves: EPIgas: Propane/Butane Mix - This mixed gas stove ensures high performance at altitude and low temperatures. The canisters come in different sizes and are interchangeable between stove models. The Micro stove is very light (11 oz with canister) Cost $37 and the backpacking stove with windscreen weights only 20 oz with canister. Cost $34.
Gaz Bluet: Propane or Butane - The multi-use model 206 stove weighs 16.7 oz with canister. Cost $32. The high performance 470 weighs 30 oz with canister. Cost $34. The Ultra S470 features Piezo automatic ignition for fast starts. It weighs 31 oz with canister. Cost $43.
Coleman Peak 1 Multi-Fuel: White Gas, Coleman fuel or kerosene. This stove pressurizes well, using the Coleman classic pump system and has one of the shortest pre-heating times of any white gas stove. It requires no priming and is self-cleaning. 27.5 oz with fuel. Cost $79
I hope that the foregoing has helped you decide the type of stove that is best for you. If you need any advice or counsel, please feel free to contact me.
... Ashiko are foot claws that accompany the hand claws (shuko) the ninja used in climbing.
These eight sections are the requirements for ninja ryu. If a ryu doesn't contain the above sections it is not a ninja art. Therefore a person who holds title to an art which doesn't contain all eight of these sections, doesn't actually represent a "ninja" art. There are many arts which contain some of the aforementioned sections but not all. These teach some of the concepts of our art but are not real ninja arts.
Realize that the nine arts that make up the Bujinkan are not all "ninja" arts in the pure sense either. Do a little research, find out for yourselves which are and which aren't.
It should be noted that these attacks are not necessarily the same thing. Weak points can occur within balance, stance, the natural structure of the body, the operation of the individual nervous system and even the mental outlook. This confusion about what is an actual weak point as opposed to a simple sensitive spot on someone's body is one very important reason most martial artists spend their entire life training and still reach only a rather insipid level of skill.
According to kuden (oral tradition), koppojutsu originated in ancient China. It was brought to Japan by the monk Chan Busho, who was born in what is now present day Korea. (Author's note: For those readers interested in the little known subject of ancient Korea's influence on Japanese culture, the book Korean Impact On Japanese Culture by Dr. Jon Carter Covell and Alan Covell is a good place to start.)
What type of monk was Chan Busho? The traditions are not clear. However, his name does have some interesting linguistic relationships. In Chinese, Chan means "Name of Wind". That is, the name and mind being substance. The more popular claim that Chan translates into Japanese as "Zen" is actually a misinterpretation. However, like many such mistranslations, once it gains a certain amount of popular acceptance, there is little one can do except point out the original error and accept the fact that most people will not want to be confused by the facts. The name Busho is very close to the Japanese word "Busho", which means Buddhist scripture. Thus there is a fair case that Chan Busho (or who ever took koppojutsu to Japan) was a Buddhist.
Given the nature of Koto ryu techniques and taking into account some of the current Chinese martial arts, a fair case for some connection between the two could be made. An example of the Buddhist teachings can be seen from the following quote taken from the writings of Takamatsu Toshisugu:
"No one possesses the knowledge concerning the events of tomorrow. This means that we do not know when our life will cease. However, you should never be surprised by any kind of happening. Whether a change in the cosmic process occurs, a cutting action is attempted by an opponent or natural catastrophes take place, you should never feel such a thing as surprise. This is the spirit of Banpen Fugyo."
While these teachings may at first sound somewhat simple, they can take years to realize in actual living. The history of Koto ryu has it that the techniques were passed down from Busho through several generations until the teachings reached Sakagami Taro Kunishige in the mid-l500's. From here, the ryu was passed down to the famed ninja leader Momochi Sandayu. The ryu stayed in the Momochi family for a number of generations until it passed to the Toda family. Toda Seiryu Nobutsuna was the first Toda family grandmaster of Koto ryu and he headed the system from 1624 A.D. to 1644 A.D. From the Toda family, the system passed down to Takamatsu Toshisugu and into the modern world. The teachings of Koto ryu are organized on the usual ancient Japanese system of Shoden, Chuden, Okuden and Hiden. Although there is some relationship between each level of the techniques, each group has its own important points.
An interesting aspect of Koto ryu is that the techniques would work against a man dressed in modern clothing or armor of the type worn in ancient Japan. This reflects the fact that although the ancient ninja are often associated with the practice of espionage, a number of them saw action on battlefields of old Japan. Another interesting aspect of Koto ryu is that the concepts and techniques greatly compliment the ideas and techniques contained within Gyokko ryu.
The Kihon Waza of Koto ryu contain such basic techniques as rolling, hitting, jumping, and proper body conditioning. This last, that each ryu has its own conditioning associated with it, is often overlooked.
The Shoden Gata is contained in 18 methods. These methods deal with a variety of attacks and show the proper use of such striking techniques as kicks, head butts and different strikes with the hands. While on first examination, these techniques look fairly simple and straight forward, they are not, because of the number of situations under which they can be used. It should be noted that the Koto ryu has its own system of attacking the various weak points of the body and the study of how to match the proper body weapon to the point of what is being attacked is a rather wide area of study.
According to the book Dai Nippon Bugei Ryu Ha, the following provides an outline of the history of the Koto ryu. The names listed are those of the grandmasters of the system. There were, of course, a number of famous ninja and samurai trained in the techniques of the Koto ryu. For example, the famous ninja Ishikawa Goemon learned ninpo from his master, Momochi Sandayu. Goemon is best remembered for his role as Japan's "Robin Hood". Goemon also attempted to kill the famed leader Hideyoshi, but without success. According to popular legend, Goemon was eventually executed for his activities (a common fate for many at that time) but other Kuden states that he escaped this fate.
As mentioned earlier, the exact origin of koppojutsu is lost somewhere in the mist of ancient history. The techniques of the ryu were reorganized by Sakagami Taro in 1542 A.D. The man who was to become second headmaster of the ryu, Bando Kotaro Minamoto Masahide was killed in battle later in that same year. This event resulted in the ryu being passed to Sougyoku Kan Ritsushi.
While it is true that the techniques that were to become Koto ryu were brought to Japan from China, there is ample evidence that the teachings and techniques that were named "Koto ryu" at a much later date actually originated in ancient India where it was called "karanai". At that time, these techniques (actually what today is called koshijutsu and koshijutsu) were considered to be practically "miracle" techniques because these techniques enabled one to easily control or defeat an enemy with almost no effort.
When these techniques were imported into China (probably during the fall of the Han dynasty) it was part of the information flow that brought Buddhism into China from India. Although it would be nice if it were possible to narrow this transmission down to one man (much like is done by modern kung fu salesmen), there is really little reason to believe that these techniques were the property of just one individual. Granted they were not (and still are not) common knowledge, but they probably were changed, improved and adapted in China before they ever actually got to Japan.
Once this knowledge arrived in Japan, it was further developed and even today there is a continued process of change and development taking place. Once in Japan, the teachings of koshijutsu and koshijutsu quickly became the property of an elite group of families. Often, only one person in each generation was taught these techniques.
In the stream of martial arts that is today known as ninjutsu, the historic development of the fighting arts shows that the oldest of the taijutsu arts is koshijutsu (e.g. Gyokko ryu). This was followed by the development of an independent form of koppojutsu (e.g. Koto ryu) and this was followed even later by a system of koppojutsu based on the earlier systems. That is that the later Gikan ryu koppojutsu was a direct outgrowth of the teachings of Gyokko ryu and Koto ryu.
There is of course good reason to question the reason why anyone should be interested in the history of such esoteric fighting arts and why what technique goes to what ryu is of any importance whatsoever. As is often the case, asking such questions reveals more about the questioner than it does of the one questioned.
In an earlier article on Gyokko ryu, I commented on the fact that each ryu has to train according to the Ten, Chi, Jin structure that has been passed down from ancient times. The alert reader will have noticed that I used the Chinese expression of Ten, Chi, Jin rather than one of the structures normally associated with the gradings or groupings associated with Japanese martial arts. There is of course a very good reason for this.
On the most mundane level, Ten, Chi, Jin can be taken to mean "Heaven, Earth, and Man" and as such it is often taken to just mean the basic (lower) middle and upper (advanced) techniques of a ryu. The expression can also be said to point out the fact that whenever one is training in a particular ryu, they should do the kata (or techniques) of that ryu while standing in a high, medium or lower stance.
While both of these ideas have some basis and they can even be of some use, they have little to do with the real meaning of Ten, Chi, Jin as this idea applies to something as complex as Koto ryu. The reason that the deeper meaning of this idea has been completely missed by the majority of ninjutsu writers and instructors (although I am not sure exactly what the difference between these two are) is that very few understand the connection of ancient and recent China to ninjutsu.
Of course, there are no (and to be technical there never were) ninja in China. Attempts to tie ninja with cave or forest cults are fun but they have no basis in historic fact. However, the impact of such Chinese systems of thought and action as Taoism, Buddhism, and a wide variety of cultural arts such as tea, painting, martial arts, etc. is common knowledge although the implications of such is generally overlooked. Granted, anything brought to Japan was mixed ( and almost always improved) with the knowledge already present, but that rarely meant dropping much of the original Chinese methods of training or the order in which this training was carried out. Thus, the expression Ten, Chi, Jin is actually a form and order of training that originates in ancient Taoism.
To look at this another way, how does one train once they have a good idea of the basic techniques of their selected ryu? Popular wisdom says that this is the time to take up the practice of sparring. However, one look at what actually takes place during sparring and one cannot really question the statement that if one wants to become skilled at something as trivial as sparring, they should take up boxing or free-style Wrestling and forget about the idea of martial arts.
Just how the idea that there is some relationship between the sport of sparring (and any form of fighting that takes place at an agreed upon time at a prearranged location is sport regardless of claims that there are "no rules" ... the very fact that both parties chose to play implies rules) and real fighting is beyond me. The fact that someone can overpower someone does not mean they are necessarily a better martial artist. It simply means the loser did not make a very good selection in terms of sporting partners.
The elements of time, place, condition of the people involved (if I was going to select just what condition an opponent was to be in I think I would want him in a coma or asleep ... not very sporting but very practical) and even the "junk" In the area play an important part within any given situation. This is why military units attack when the enemy is asleep or has just finished eating or even changing shifts. This same type of idea has to be incorporated into real training.
To return to the idea of how to combine basic techniques, one has to of course spend some time considering just how this is to be done and more importantly, where and when it is to be done. The point is to train so that the techniques and the style of movement central to the ryu becomes second nature and one is moving according to the teachings of the RYU without having to stop and think about what they are doing.
Thus kata that involve strikes can be easily combined with other striking type kata or even flow directly into a grab- takedown series of movements. Also, kata from one level of technique can be combined with kata of another level in an effort to better understand how the movement of a style works within the context of flow.
Less is more. If you have trouble doing a technique, the first thing you should do is to try it again, but do the opposite of what most people do. This time try it with less strength, less movement, less speed and tension. These things are barriers, and once you remove them you can get to the true power. In this way you can find success. Another thing that is difficult to understand about Taijutsu is that it is hard in the beginning to tell when you are doing it correctly. When you do it right it feels too easy, and you think that you need to be doing more. But more is less. I see many new students finally getting a technique right after 15 minutes of trying, and they look at me with a puzzled expression and say: "It that it? But I hardly did anything that time!" This martial art is done with ease, with natural power through movement. Once you break through the first few gates of understanding, it makes perfect sense.
Everyone enters this art, and other disciplines (like other forms of budo, yoga, Zen, religions, etc.) to improve themselves, to become more than what they were before. Yet even here, more is less. Imagine it this way: you are a block of marble, and you work hard, chipping away at it to reveal the work of art within. You exhaust yourself chiseling away, discarding the unnecessary, left with only that which you need. On the floor you see the scraps of what was once part of you: ego, selfishness, crudeness, childishness, pride. This is not easy. During your process of shaping yourself, you might not like what you see. Just keep going. In this way, when you become less than you were before, you have in fact become more. Within this paradox is the key. This chiseling is a long and difficult process, and is only attained through rigorous training. Sitting and thinking about it is not our way. You have chosen Ninpo as your means of personal improvement, and it is important to give it your full effort. The rewards are worth it.
Modern life is full of clutter. There are many things screaming for your attention. Most of them are useless distractions. It is our modern goal to fill our lives with as much as we can. Yet few people are happy these days. Do not be deceived into thinking you need to own many possessions to be fulfilled. Try to see what is important to you, and remove what is unnecessary. I think you will find that simplicity is happiness.
Sanshin- Movements encompassing the elements and basics of movement. These have been touted to me as being "the way"and in sense I agree. The trap here is to regiment the movements into dead kata. Movement and form is lifeless without feeling. To continue your growth, and to really learn from it, you must make it dance.
What I mean by this is taking the movements and flowing from one to another in a way that promotes a feeling. I found that taking the feeling and moving with it through all the parts led me to the next step, which for me was a dance that kind of resembled Tai Chi movements.
I found that while moving through all the different combinations - Left, Right, Chi no waza, Sui no waza, Ka no waza, Fu no waza and Ku no waza - I was more energized than before I started. I don't mean just raised blood pressure or anything, I mean I felt charged!
While doing these and just letting myself go as fluidly from one movement to the next, I found myself experiencing some of the actual emotion and intent embodied in each element and not just the "physics" of the form. Understand that I knew and had 'acted' and actually felt these while practicing these motions statically, but not of this depth or magnitude! Having experienced them now I would call the acting 'empty'. It was almost as if the element moved me, instead of my forcing the feeling. It almost had that 'thrill of the roller coaster' as I felt feeling (or energy) randomly blinking through me.
My purpose for sharing this with you is one of growth. It was much too important of a revelation to be kept to myself. If I had taken a little more time with the flow, and with the form, I would have had this insight years earlier, and I believe everyone can benefit from my experience. It was far too easy to get lost in the "is my elbow right..."of the experience. Just remember that the forms are the "beginning"and not an end, and this will translate into every movement in your life.
The Sanshin was explained to me as the "Three Heart Movement"and I have come to experience this in a multitude of levels. The key elements are avoidance, weight shift, and strike. The interesting thing to note here is that each piece can contain all of the others! (Hmmm, is that the number nine, again!?)
I remember starting the "where does my foot go again..?"phase and progressing to"what am I feeling here?". But for me it kind of froze there. My 'breakthrough' came with the thought of"connecting each to the other in a random flowing pattern". Remember each step is should be approached with what you have learned from the previous step. So... with that in mind, the following is how I did it ....
I know this will help. Some of you might feel I am stating the obvious as all of our training has this depth. But for me, this was the first practical realization of the meaning behind, "Do it with Feeling!" Ganbatte!
I've already started making my "Wish List" of things I want to accomplish by the end of the year, by my next birthday, by the next Tai Kai, etc. This evaluation of my current (and previous) goals and where I want to go with my life has surprisingly given me new purpose and direction. Although I've accomplished a lot this year, writing down all the things I want to do and get done - no matter how ludicrous or obscene or impossible they seem - has reminded me of things that I have forgotten to devote time and energy to or just put aside for "later". From saving enough money to buy a computer for my home to devoting time to find, promote and advance significant relationships to learning how to dance Flamenco to working harder on my taijutsu skills - these ideas, goals and fancies have been floating around my head waiting for me to take notice.
I imagine myself completing these goals. I see myself in a good, loving relationship. I see myself working from home more often and having the ability to do more work for the newsletter because of it. I see myself allowing the gypsy in me to come to life in the passion and romance that is Flamenco. I envision me passing my shodan test. I imagine these and other goals coming true and am now trying to plan them accordingly into my life. I'm going to make time for them now, so that I can live a full life with no or fewer regrets about missed opportunities.
I suggest that everyone "clean house" this month. It's actually very simple. Take a blank piece of paper and pen, or a blank computer screen if you're like me, and start writing/typing away. Think. What have you always wanted to do? What have you been putting off? What were your New Year's resoultions for this past year? Did you accomplish them? Write down anything and everything. Dust off those old goals. Take them off of that shelf in your mind and examine them again. Is this still important to me? Do I still want to...? Then do it. Plan the goal into your life. If your goal is to train one more hour each day, examine your current life and see where you have to make sacrifices. If you've always wanted to jump out of a plane, then look into it. Don't sit there and say, "Wouldn't it be nice.." Go out there and do it! And enjoy it.
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.