|[ olvasnivaló » Ura & Omote - 1995 September ]|
In order to master any form of art, whether martial or aesthetic, consistent everyday training is crucial. It is well known that in the world of traditional Japanese Kabuki theater. The actors who portray female characters on stage (there are no actresses in Kabuki; male actors alone take all roles) maintain their feminine mannerisms even in daily life off stage.
What is the appropriate attitude for martial artists concerning consistent training? Bufu-Ikkan, or "consistent warrior living", is my only advice. Naturally, this is all I can say no matter how the question is put to me - Do not give up. Keep going!
From my earliest years in the world of martial training, it was my goal to be truly good. In striving to attain that goal, I trained in the physical techniques three times as hard as a normal student. I devoted three times the normal mental effort in coming to a living understanding of the martial arts. I invested three times the normal amount of money that most students would spend in order to obtain the insights I needed. I trained fanatically and consistently and I became strong. As I found myself attaining the strength I had sought, however, I curiously enough came to discover a subtle new form of weakness in myself. I searched diligently for the roots of this suspicion of weakness. But I could never seem to get to the bottom of the question. I was truly at a loss. Nonetheless, I firmly believed in the validity of the teachings of the martial tradition behind my art, so I was sure that my continuing consistent training would eventually lead me to the enlightenment I sought. I just kept on training. I kept going.
One day, an invisible insidious enemy attacked, and I found myself struggling against a serious illness that had set in against my body. I knew in my heart that I faced a survival situation so dangerous that the outcome would literally be life or death. Simply standing up straight required a huge amount of energy. At times, my vision failed completely. I struggled to regain my health for five years. Sometimes, the demands were so great that I found myself thinking that death would be a much easier route than living.
In the depths of that dark period, I discovered that my previous strength, the vital and virile martial power that I worked so hard to cultivate, was indeed a false strength. My previous power depended entirely on my being in peak health. When my health began to decline, my power began to vanish with it. Power that is at best conditional or temporary is not true power at all. It is merely the illusion of power.
Despite my weakened condition, I kept going with my training in the warrior arts. I never quit. Slowly, I began to regain my health. Eventually I recovered from the illness that drained me so for five years of my life. Looking back on my period of illness and recovery, I came to realize that I had consistently kept at my training the whole way through, no matter what my condition, no matter how weak or drained I had felt.
From this experience, I learned the value of consistent training - adjusting the methods, pace, and focus to fit my body and mind no matter what the state of my mental and physical health. I now know that there is in consistent training a series of developmental stages appropriate for all the stages of life. There is an appropriate way to train when you are young and vigorous. There is an appropriate way to train as you enter the advanced years of your life. There is an appropriate way to train when you are ill, and there is an appropriate way to train when it seems that no training will fit. Even facing death at the close of life is a form of training; most people get caught between their fear of death and their hopes for immortality. Accepting the inevitability of death as something natural at that moment is a form of training for the warrior. Consistent training, ever fitting the goal to the means at hand, is the only way to cultivate the true strength that transcends all limitations.
Five years of struggling with illness led me to discard any concern with comparative values of what others would conventionally brand as strength as opposed to weakness, speed as opposed to slowness. In the grander scheme of things, from the higher divine levels of vision, the ultimate form of strength is a totally relative concept. I learned the power of "natural and fitting technique" a higher form of strength that transcends the conventional strength of raw physical power or even mental willpower that is so often the only thing taught in conventional martial arts schools.
In your training career, there may come a time when you find yourself frustrated and disgusted with what you feel to be your own dullness. You just can not get the techniques right. Your training just does not seem to go the way you want it to. I consider this slump period to be absolutely necessary for your own growth. Your sense of frustration and constriction leads you to the breakthrough you need for advancement. Like a snake that struggles to shed it's skin so that it can grow larger, the martial artist too must pass these inevitable stages of molting for growth.
This molting period can be a dangerous time for the unwary, however. Because of the frustration experienced in working through your current training barrier, no matter what it is, you can become an easy victim to the seductive allure of all the other martial technique systems that suddenly seem to appear to be so much more desirable or more glamorous than your own system. Just as one child is always more impressed with the toys of another child, it is a common weakness for students of our art to reach a point of "tough going" and then suddenly look to the other martial arts as a form of distraction. Anything and everything else suddenly looks so good.
Use your commitment to consistency to work through these difficult periods. Keep going. On the other hand, however, it is of course necessary to realize that not everyone is destined to be a master of this art. You have to know the difference between working through a difficult period as part of the growth process, and struggling pointlessly with a hopeless goal. If your feelings of frustration and constriction stretch out for ten years, it is perhaps wise to re-evaluate your commitments. Perhaps this is not the art for you after all.
Train from the beginning with a sincere heart directed by proper motivation. It is pointless to work at the martial arts with the mere intention of collecting as many techniques as possible. This form of consistent concentration of course lacks the counter balance of the power of observation. Training for experience without awareness will only produce a martial arts scholar - one who is no more than a walking technique catalog with no real heart.o
There's a lot we didn't discuss, but I've enjoyed sharing this with you. We do have a few more minutes, if you do have some specific questions.
QUESTION: (Paraphrased) Well, I'm not involved in the martial arts. But do you have to go through rigorous physical training to get the most out of this way of working with the mandalas?
STEPHEN HAYES: No, I don't think so, and that's the good news. I enjoyed being physical about it and so that's how I got introduced to it. I could kind of plot out my own life's progress based on a lot of this stuff, and how I accidentally found it. And a lot of us accidentally find this stuff in one way or another. It accidentally kind of occurs to us from somewhere within, or we accidentally meet somebody who is talking about this and get involved with it. That's kind of how it happened to me. So, no, I don't think so. You don't have to be physical at all. In fact, some of the people that I study with, the teachers are very unphysical by my standard. And they're real fine with me being in the physical world and so forth. I find application for my martial art - in my real life I do physical things - and I enjoy being able to experience that as a self development method as well.
QUESTION (Tex Konig): Could you elaborate a little bit more on the wind and earth aspects?
STEPHEN HAYES: This is what is called the 'jewel bestowing truth' form. And I translated it down for human relations as being the one that gives the rewards, that gives inspiration, that gives form to something. The ultimate leader. That's why I used our parents as a good example. Whether they were good leaders or not, as little kids we thought they were, right? I've heard some horror stories about stuff that kids go through. Old man's a drunk, beats him up. Mother abandoned him years ago. But in their mind they have this beautiful recollection of what their parents could have/should have/would have been. And I even hear stories from friends of mine who do social work. They'll rescue a child from this absolute hell that they're living in. "Good news, got you out of that thing before you were killed." The kid fights my friend because he or she wants to go back to that home, because that's where mommy and daddy are and they love them. So, it's such a compelling need in us to be around that which is boundary giving and rewarding and so forth, and even when we don't get it we're still going to associate with that need. That's why people serve leaders and rulers who have no right to be a ruler. That's how cults begin. Somebody who can kind of manipulate and so forth. See, so all of these are crossed influences in here. Down here (water) science and knowledge operates as a very beautiful thing. But when I get a little too far away from people here, it starts to serve myself. So, what I would do is have not quite developed knowledge, but have the knowledge of how to manipulate people. The weak negative version of this scientist, and you can think of this being slightly out of focus here, or whatever, would be some kind of a phony, a manipulator, a trickster, somebody that's going to come in and make you think that they're supplying what it is that you want. "Oh, we love you here in this community. Shave your head and join us. We love you here. Put this particular kind of clothing on. Sign over all your worldly property the blessed one who lives in the pantry with some of the females who come in here." We hear about these kinds of things and people sign up for those kinds of deals. Again, manipulative. Okay, so leadership. And then, every leader, in order to be effective, has got to have a vehicle or a means to promote his or her vision in the world, and that's the server, the one who serves the greater ideal. Every server needs to have an ideal, something that they can find to be of value, which is worth serving.
QUESTION: Would you characterize yourself as a warrior and priest, rather than warrior/priest, and secondly did you train at "Enryaku-Ji" temple in the Tendai sect in Kyoto? Is that where you got your training ? And finally, the warrior/priests of a thousand years ago had rather bad press, and I'm wondering if from within the monastery they have a different view of that tradition and whether it's still honoured as such?
STEPHEN HAYES: Well, I'm very nice when I'm in Kyoto. First question, yeah, warrior, priest, I'm also that jerk in the jeep sometimes, and I'm dad. So I really think of these as all a part of my personal make-up. If I were forced to use a word, if I had to use a word to answer the question "what am I?", I would tend to use the word explorer, inner and outer exploration - I really identify with that word, I'm the explorer. There are people who know more about warfare, "warriorness" than I do. They may, ironically, not be able to teach as much as I can about it because they may be so into operating as some kind of a warrior/soldier or mercenary or worse, that they can't identify with the ability to communicate it to others. And I think we've seen that in martial arts. Have any of you been around a martial artist who was technically excellent, but they just couldn't even begin to explain what they did? Sure, we've seen that. And there are people who are much better priests than I. I'm noisy and I'm running around here, and they're much better priests than I am, but again, it's that balance that I'm looking for, where I get to explore a lot of these realms at the same time.
Your historical question is a good one. It's intriguing to me. Again, it has to do with who writes the history. You know, the guy who wins the war is the guy who writes the history books, and so they're going to describe the ones that they fought against in the worst of terms. My suggestion would be to consult Dr. McMullin, because he's much more of an authority on the history of Hiei and how that whole phenomenon was seen through Japanese eyes, contemporarily and also through history. I know when to duck (laughter).
QUESTION: Do you think that there is more ??? places in the world, more emphasis or importance on the priest, and would you prefer that they not try out other areas than, say, the warrior, where you're suppose to strive to be better and perhaps become the priest? How does Buddhism address that? I mean, it would seem that to become a priest is the ultimate power in present day society. ?????
STEPHEN HAYES: Well, a lot of it is symbolic language, too. There's a famous four line quote from some of these original teachings of Buddhism that talk about this, that literally means we know enlightenment by the shine of the warrior's armour, and also by the depth of the priest's meditation. So, you can take it literally, but it's also a metaphor which says there's going to be outward reaching activity. And that's what we mean by warriorship. I myself have never put on a uniform and gone off to war to fight for a political side. And yet I still will look at anyone in the audience and say I am by my own definition a warrior. I've taken my physical risks in different kinds of uniforms. It's this outward reaching activity. What we do as warriors in that sense of these original Buddhist teachings, is that we go out into the world and we try stuff out. We take chances, we go out into the world and we look for opportunities to build up our momentum of accomplishment, which is a term I use. And of course the more success we have, the more that momentum builds up. And we discover truth in all the chaos. The opposite of it - and it's equally valid - it's like the head or tail of a coin; you can't have one without the other; you've got to have both sides - the opposite would be the priest, who retreats from all the chaos and crazyness and says "If I just cut out all of this kind of contact, where there's just me in here, (whatever me is), and go even into the centre of that, I'm going to discover the truth of what reality is." So, in that sense, we talk about priest and warrior. And it also could be interpreted literally.
QUESTION: I guess I'm being needlessly argumentative here, because it seems to me that one of the things that we're seeing in your own country is, as you mentioned, this poor choice among potential leaders, and it's maybe because we're asking more of them, asking them to be more well rounded. And that we're not happy with just one dimensionality. Take Bill Clinton as an example, and the criticism towards him because he didn't serve in the war, wasn't the warrior????
STEPHEN HAYES: Yeah, inside we have stereotypes of what we think we're going to find, and then realistically what we expect. And we're like children on this kind of stuff, I think. And I'm not going to apologize for it. I think, we really are like children in our life. I mean, we want a presidential candidate that's like George Washington. Well, nobody remembers Washington. The guy owned slaves. I mean, there are all kinds of things you can point out about George Washington. But we've got the stereotype. He's almost a deity now. Lincoln is almost a deity now. They've working hard to make Martin Luther King a deity and he will be in a few more generations in America. He'll be grander than human. So we've got these stereotypes and like children what we want is something that will satisfy this, and then the rougher the times get - and this is just my opinion - the more people tend to want to retreat back into centre. I mean, if we could, we'd want to retreat way back to where we were kids and said, "Dad, I'm scared", and dad came with a little glass of warm water in the middle of the night. And I think a lot of people in the voting public are responding in that way. Very scared. Gee, what's going on in the world? Our products aren't competitive, our services aren't there. I think the more scared people get, the more these very stereotype things emerge. We want to be in the presence of a king. No one's going to agree with me in America, but the truth is that a lot of Americans really want a king, they really want to have somebody that's that inspiring. Again, no American that I know of is going to agree with me. But I saw what they did to Ronald Reagan, and I know they want a king.
Ronald Reagan was this actor, not even a great actor, when he was in movies. Now, I'm not a politician, and I don't know anything about politics, I'm just this crazy guy running around in these mountains in Japan. But what I did notice about Ronald Reagan was that he looked like the kind of a person that we wanted to be our president. He was presidential looking. He was regal. His wife looked like what you would expect that kind of a person to look like. The voice, talk about the voice. The communicator, they called him. It's crucial for a leader. You've got to be a communicator. (Puts on high-pitched funny voice) If you talk to the people like this, it's hard to move them (laughter). Well, a person could speak with that voice and be very logical, but not touch people. Reagan looked a certain way, he spoke that way, he did move the people. He had a lot of gimmicks that he used. Now what he was really doing in the White House, oh, I mean, still no one knows (laughter). But, God, he was great on the surface. People really liked him; they wanted to put him on Mount Rushmore out there with Washington. It's funny, because the people want a king. So, I'm sort of envious of countries where there is an above-it-all royalty. You have the Queen, and I realize the British Monarchy is having some tough times in trying to be above it all and inspiring people. Japan is still hanging in there. I mean, when you see the Emperor and Empress, there's just an air about these people, where, oh, it just makes you feel so good. It's like being little and scared in the thunderstorm, and mom and dad walk in the room, and now everything's great, because there they are.
QUESTION: Where would somebody go to do the initiation ceremony of throwing the flower on the mandala?
STEPHEN HAYES: These are done on a mountain in Japan, Hiei Mountain, and they could also be done in some other temples. One of these Tendai sect temples, where there is a priest. And the energy has to be right. You wouldn't just walk in and toss a flower down. The energy has to be right, and I can't rationally explain how it works. But the energy is just right and there's a happenstance and so forth, and so you wouldn't do that in a parking lot. It has to be a very special place, a very special temple, and to where a person has at least made a commitment of alignment with the tradition. You wouldn't go in there and not believe, and say, "Well, let's see where this flower goes. I bet it's going to fall on the janitor up here, you know "(laughter). Have any of you fooled around with the I Ching, where you try to trick it? I'm not a superstitious individual, I don't claim to be one. There's enough of that earth in me, enough of that water scientist. But I can remember in Japan a bunch of us were playing the I Ching, and decided we would fake the numbers the second time. Well, it didn't work and the coin fell the wrong way, and it chewed us out (laughter).
QUESTION (Ace Osmer): I'd like to just bring this to a metaphysical edge, too, if I can here. In the first part of your talk, Stephen, with the Taizokai mandala, you seemed to imply that the human being is a collection of habits or conditions, basically, that there's really no-one home. If you took all that away, who is home? There seemed to be the implication that there's no individualized spiritual being present. But in the second Kongokai mandala you talk about the person finding their way to certain wisdoms, and then finding their way to the centre. My question is who is it who is finding their way? Is it just a collection of habits finding their way or is there an actual individual spiritual being evolving to that place? Who is the 'I', in other words?
STEPHEN HAYES: (He looks at the clock. Laughter) Want to do a series in Dimensions? (laughter) Oh, killer question. Anything I say isn't going to answer it, so let me say this from my experience, from my studies. And there are a lot of knowledgable teachers of Buddhism who could talk about this. In fact you don't even have to be a Buddhist to address this question. What I would probably toss out briefly would be that there is indeed a collection of conditions - and this is demoralizing for some people - but there's a collection of conditions that is the human being that we are. And stop and think about all of the things that you want to boil it down to. Well, what am I? Who am I really? Well, here I am. I know I'm me because I'm here. This body, this is me. So, okay, if that body wasn't exactly like that, then it wouldn't be you, right? You got your leg shot off in the war. Well, it would be you, but not quite fully you. But if you had an artificial leg on for long enough, it would be you after a while. In fact, to see you without that artificial leg on, you know, if you had the flesh and blood one down there, they'd know it wasn't you, right, because you've got an artificial leg. Well, so, it can't be the body. Yet, it is the body, but it can't only be the body.
It's my personality, maybe my upbringing. Well, based on all the experiences you've had in life, any one of those might have gotten replaced. What if you were born with different parents who didn't partially potty train you, or some such thing? Well, you'd be a different person again. So we keep kind of fishing around for it. Ultimately, and now I'm going to give you my view on this one - this is my view only; this is not Tendai, not even Buddhism per se - but my view on this is is that what we're discussing in terms of this spirit or soul or this one entity that's doing all this, is so beyond the comprehension or the ability of the human being to comprehend, that the original Gautama Shakyamuni Buddha wouldn't even discuss it. There were several stories of how these metaphysical debaters would want to engage in debate on this, and his constant reply was well, I've expressed no opinion on that. After a while the guy got so annoyed with this, that he left. Well, the way I interpret that was that there's no point in discussing that. On the one hand it's like me discussing what life is going to be like on Venus. I could come up with an idea, but it would be ridiculous to have an idea because I've never been there. So I think there's a part it where this isn't addressed in the teachings.
The other possibility, and this is going to be real foggy, but take it for its brief value here, is that both of these mandalas have this character in the middle that's called "Dainichi Nyorai", and there are different poses. The hand positions have a particular meaning, and I didn't go into any of that tonight. It's the same character but as seen from different views. So, if I'm in my living room and the person looks in from the front door, I look a certain way, and to the one who looks from the kitchen, I look different again. This character represents the totality of all consciousness, bodyness, personalityness, experience, communication, everything that could/would in the future or in the past ever exist. And that collection is called the universe as we know it. And the way we might explain the individual experience, is that a little bit of that universe becomes aware of itself.
So, if I've got this jacket which is the plane of the universe, and somehow a little bit of that experiences itself (he bunches a small area in his hand) and now it looks around and it thinks it's it. But it sort of forgets - this is a weird analogy - (laughter) it sort of forgets that it's a part of the whole thing here. So for a while there really is this kind of a button hole thing here. It really does exist. But later on, when we're out having a tea or something and we're talking, somebody's going to come over and they're going to go, "Oh, it's gone!" (laughter) It was there, but now it's all of this. So, again, it sounds facetious, but it's a very deep and demanding topic, and maybe those two examples will almost, sort of touch on addressing this awesome question.
STEPHEN HAYES: In its proper form, and this is my opinion, there is no such thing as a bad characteristic. It's like I was saying, this one's (earth) apologizing for being a stick in the mud, but actually that's a good quality compared to this one (wind) who is running around spinning its wheels all the time. There is no bad characteristic. It's just the way it shows up in the weave of things and the way we interpret it. If we apologize for it and it gets in our way and it's not balanced, then we call it bad. So that to embody any one of these characters, there's not a so-called bad characteristic at all. We may call it bad, because we're ashamed of it, or it's gotten us into trouble, or we've been told we ought to be ashamed of it. There's a lot of that going on, too. We get culturally told that we should act certain ways and shouldn't be other ways. Other cultures have an alternative view of the same kind of thing. So there's all that going on. What we're trying to do is pick a particular image of potential that rises completely above all that stuff, above culture.
Now, I've been having a lot of fun, we've been talking about everyday life, and I haven't even talked about the so-called cosmic plane on which these operate. And that's on purpose because we really didn't have enough time, and so I've left a lot of this unsaid. But any potential within us to be developed, if it is this gateway into wisdom, it's all positive, because it's a part of the make-up of all, and we take our place in that particular form or way, temporarily. See, the key to freedom, the key to being totally free-and that's one of the reasons why I got into the martial arts in the first place, and certainly why I'm involved in the practice of Tendai - freedom, the key to freedom is multiples of choice. The more I can choose from, the freer I am. So, if we're in this room and the door is locked, I can't get out. But I want freedom. I can run around talking about freedom all I want, but that's not going to get me freedom. What I have to do for a little while is be the opposite of freedom. What I'm going to have to do is narrow myself way down, my whole consciousness narrowed down to a space in the room that's this tall and this wide, the key hole. And then I need a key to freedom that I can put just in that space at the right time with the right motion. But for a little while it'll be the total opposite of freedom, absolute limitation. I don't even exist, because I don't matter. It's the key, put the key in there, turn it, hear a noise, door swings open, we look out, freedom. We don't need the key anymore. So I think a lot of it in the martial art practice is a model of that key.
For a little while, for me to attain what I know my potential is, this ultimate freedom of vision, freedom to be, I'm going to limit myself down to a certain mode that my body takes, a certain way that I hold my hand, or use my voice. Sometimes I don't even use my voice in English. I make just certain sounds, sound a certain way. We do the same thing; we call it music. Certain kinds of music make you feel melancholy and certain kinds of music make you want to move around and so forth. So I sound a sound a certain way and I hold a vision in my mind that allows for only that. I no longer am that jerk in the jeep. I no longer am dad. I no longer am lover or son or whatever. I'm absolutely what I'm concentrating on and what I'm putting all my energy to being for a moment, for a moment. And when something goes right and the key turns and clicks and the door swings open, oh, then we've found the way home.
Well, not a real practical lecture here tonight. How do you go home and do this? (laughter) It's sort of weird. It wasn't a how-to thing. I do some seminars, travel around and do seminars where people can try to touch some of this stuff. But tonight's objective, based on what I have been invited to speak on, was to give some of my experience, a bit of my background, by no means exhaustive or complete, and definitely biased, definitely my experience, of this as it touched me, moved me, encouraged me to see life in a lot better way so that I feel like I'm a more developed person, closer to being the free person that I want to be. Closer to being a strong person. I go back to those early days in the dojo, and things don't hurt as much anymore. If I get my windpipe collapsed or somebody sneaking up and putting one of these finger daggers in my back, it doesn't hurt as much anymore, because I know what life is and I know what forward momentum is, and I know what my potential is, and I see all the other people out in the world working their way through the same journey, the same path, trying to find that single space and time and place where they're going to get their key in there. And every one of our keys looks different, doesn't it, to our house? Your key won't work in my house, and mine won't work in your house. So, they're all specific, but the concept of getting it in there and attaining our freedom, that's what we're all working for. If nothing else, maybe it just urges you, "Don't let them talk you out of it. You've got a lot of potential, you've got a lot of things you're supposed to discover this lifetime. And when you discover them, you will become the inspiration for other people and you will have what it is that you need to serve. You will have your science that you need to perfect and your expression of it will be your art, and you'll end up home in the middle."
Well I've enjoyed speaking. Thank you so much, and I look forward to meeting you here some time again.
Jack Hoban: Yes.
CM: Does that make you America's number two Ninja?
CM: Why not?
JH: My taking of the test was just a matter of timing. Both Bud Malmstrom and Charles Daniel passed the test, basically, within the same time frame. So did Sven Eric Bogstatter of Sweden, I believe.
CM: What is the significance of the 5th dan test [where the student must dodge a shinai attack from behind administered by Soke Hatsumi]?
JH: The test has significance because of the subconscious communication that occurs between student and teacher at the moment of the attack. I suppose that if you want to be a commercial martial arts teacher, passing the test and being awarded the Shidoshi license is a sort of necessary credential. But, in my view, the significance is different for each person who takes the test. It is a "rite of passage," I suppose, for practitioners of this warrior lifestyle. I consider Ninpo to be a lifestyle martial art.
CM: What do you mean by lifestyle martial art?
JH: Maybe I should have just stopped at lifestyle. Ninpo is a lifestyle. I mean it is a lifestyle as opposed to a sport martial art or a performance martial art. A ninja isn't something that you do, it's what you are. The purpose is to live. There are "good" ninja and "not so good" ninja. "Successful" ninja and "not so successful" ninja. Just like people everywhere. The real value of the lifestyle, for me, is a developed awareness of nature: not just Mother Nature, but our own human nature, as well, which is not the same thing at all.
CM: What is the difference?
JH: Mother Nature, if you will, is rather Darwinian. You know, survival of the fittest, and all that. Very beautiful, but very brutal - by nature. Human nature, on the other hand operates on a different principle - we are protectors of all life - weak and strong - by nature. That is why we consider Mother Theresa a saint and Hitler a monster.
CM: What is your martial arts background?
JH: I dabbled in Korean Karate in High School and college. Joined the Marines as an officer and saw all the karate and judo guys in Okinawa. I also went to Korea and the Philippines. I particularly like Escrima and Kali. But that all wound down for me when I met Steve Hayes and shortly afterward, Dr. Hatsumi.
CM: So Stephen Hayes was responsible for introducing you to Masaaki Hatsumi and the art of Ninjutsu? JH: Me and everybody else in America, not to mention just about everybody else in the world except maybe a couple of guys in Israel. Don't let anyone tell you different.
CM: Yet Stephen isn't really your teacher?
JH: It's better than that. He's my Sempai [senior] and friend. Same with Bud Malmstrom, even though I took the test before he did. Again, the test means nothing in that regard.
CM: What is your opinion of Ninjutsu in the world today ?
JH: It is a beautiful and worthwhile lifestyle being viewed as a mere - and therefore, mediocre - martial art.
CM: What do you mean by that?
JH: It is very hard to explain, but consider these questions: Who is a better fighter, a professional kickboxing champion or a Navy Seal? Apples and orange, right? Who is a more enlightened, a yogi or a happy family man with a happy wife, happy kids and a nice normal life? I could go on and on and never explain it exactly. But we're talking about the difference between a martial artist and a person who lives a warrior lifestyle - in times of peace as well as in times of war. People are trying to make a martial art out of Ninpo. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong, and a lot right about martial arts. But Ninpo isn't a martial art in the common perception of the term. Sorry, I can't explain it very well.
CM: That's O.K. What is your training like these days?
JH: Well, mostly I train the trainers. I teach a low profile class at the local YMCA and I do a seminar once a month or so for people who have to travel; that's on the east coast, New Jersey. Twice a year I go back to my old stomping grounds in California. I still have a bunch of friends there. I go to Japan once a year to see Dr. Hatsumi and visit my wife's family, they live in the Tokyo area, too.
CM: Your wife is Japanese; does she practice Ninpo, also?
JH: Everybody in my house practices Ninpo.
CM: You have written three books about Ninpo...
JH: Yes, for Contemporary In Chicago. One is on knife fighting - pretty much a takeoff on what I taught in the Marines; one is on stick fighting, one is on philosophy. I also edited two of Dr. Hatsumi's English language books - that was something! My last project was a book on values by my graduate school teacher and mentor, Dr. Robert L. Humphrey. Talk about a warrior, this guy was a Marine Rifle Platoon Commander on Iwo Jima!
CM: And do you have a "day job?"
JH: Yes, I am an executive in the health care industry.
CM: What is your focus going forward?
JH: My focus, of course, is my family and my job.
CM: How about in terms of the martial arts?
JH: Well, it's hard to say just "martial arts." I guess my spare time is dedicated to my personal training which is mostly taijutsu, yoga, long distance running and ocean swimming. I work with Dr. Humphrey a lot in connection with work he does with the Marines regarding low intensity warfare. You know there are two types of Marines: The "nuke'em till they glow" commando types, and the "win their hearts and minds" types. In this post Cold War era of cultural warfare, we need to train our Marines to be the latter type. And it's hard, you know, to have the confidence to walk into a Third World country and make friends, overcome the culture shock, and act like the warrior/knight or the protector/defender. It may take more of a man to do that than to be commando killer. And we have a great need for warriors in our society. Warriors, and those who can say and do the right thing - partly because they can't be silenced. They have the skills. Self defense is self defense; warriorship means defending others. Any so-called "warrior" training that doesn't prepare for physical defense of self and others ain't warriorship - to me.
Now, the cause of all this ethnic violence may be our over-emphasis on cultural values. Cultural values, despite what we were taught in college are relative and a shaky basis, at best, for true respect between men. It is the life value that defines our human equality.
CM: What do you mean by the life value?
JH: Well this gets back to what I was saying before about human nature. It means that my life and the life of my loved ones are as important as yours are to you. That's the life value. That's why I study the warrior skills, to uphold that value, but everybody's got that value, I don't care what their culture. Acknowledgment of that value is the first step toward peace.
CM: Thank you.
JH: No charge.
Since beginning training over a year ago, with Adam McColl, many perspectives have passed through me. I have found myself in awe of techniques, blinded by ego, discouraged by inability, sidetracked by inhibitions, but most importantly distracted by my perspective. Regardless, and to my surprise, I have, on occasion, noticed Taijutsu trying to express itself through my body and affecting my outlook on life.
Recently, while I was visiting family in Toronto, I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to study with Andrew Mah and Ed Brown, who have been planting seeds in my brothers. This was one of many new beginnings for me. The effectiveness of Andrew and the gentle flow of Ed's body was impressive, but what really touched me was their openness and genuine concern for my growth. I felt that they really tried to give me something I could take away with me however, I admit to having no idea what this is...seeds?
The present theme of my training is that of surrender - begin where I am. The essential need to train, practice, and study outside of the dojo is now quite evident. With this in mind, again I doubt myself; can I persevere? This doubt is just another manifestation of looking too far ahead. Being present, with as much of my attention as possible, appears to be the only way.
Among the other people who have inspired me is, of course, Hatsumi Soke; in his writings and body movements. Mark O'Brien; who takes the time to come out from Japan and share what he has been exposed to. The greatest inspiration though, has come from my training partners. I have seen their growth before my very eyes; relationships flourish. I have observed their recovery from physical and mental defeat; and it has never ceased to amaze me that they will, willingly subject themselves to physical pain so that I may be given the opportunity to learn/improve (THANKS!)
Then there is Adam, whose quality of instruction and understanding I quite often take for granted. His hard work and intentional suffering is something I hope, one day, to live up to. He has taken the time to try to understand who I am and has presented the art in a form I can perceive. However, he has made sure that it is always just beyond my reach.
While reflecting on what I have written and trying to come to some conclusion, I have to wonder why I even began to write. This, in itself, speaks volumes on how the training in Taijutsu overflows into all aspects of ones life. The act of formulating my thoughts has also caused another shift in my perspective:
Although I can not jump over my own knees and it is absurd to try to kiss my own elbow... I can continue.
10th Kyu to 7th Kyu: What is looked at is your ability to roll properly and move correctly. How to walk naturally and your knowledge of stances. Smoothness and naturalness are developed at this level. You must learn how to correctly deliver strikes and kicks, and be able to block them with balance and effectiveness. You are expected to overcome awkwardness and learn how to relax while in stances and in movement. We usually call this the "soft period," because everything you do should be slow, soft and natural. This is when the foundation of your correct taijutsu is developed. At this level, you should not concern yourself with real combat. This period normally lasts up to six to ten months.
6th kyu to 3rd Kyu: What is expected at this level is knowledge of techniques. How to correctly execute locks, throws, complex striking and kicking applications, chokes and submissions. While a good foundation of movements has been developed up until now, you will continue to work to improve your footwork while adding realism. The basic movements will now be done with more speed and power. Your rolling and breakfalling skills should be developed to the point where you can receive realistic throws without injury. You should have a working knowledge of basic weaponry. This period is considered the "hard period," because you discover the true power of whole body taijutsu, begin to move realistically and with speed. This period normally lasts up to 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years from when you began.
2nd kyu to black belt: What is expected at this point is "putting it all together." Realistic combat skills, smooth natural movement which produces speed and power with ease. A seamless combination of hardness and softness, using each when appropriate. Whole body movement and awareness, top notch grappling skills, devastating striking skills, full knowledge of pressure points, the ability to perform at full speed, a solid foundation of weapons skills. In short, everything that is required to move you beyond black belt into advanced training. To reach black belt normally takes 2 1/2 years to 3+ years of active, continued training.
Of course, these are just the physical skills. They will, to some degree, contribute to the growth of your spiritual power. However, this spiritual growth depends largely on your life experiences. Your level of maturity is also a major factor in the awarding of your rank. For instance, a person who jokes around with firearms, pointing a gun at others, or shooting at inappropriate targets, is hardly a qualified gun owner. The same goes for this art. Unless you can show the due respect for the techniques being shown, you can't get past the lowest levels. Treat these techniques like a loaded gun. Realize the seriousness and the hidden power of what is being shown. Only then can you push through the barrier and obtain the inner secrets.
Ninpo is not just a physical art. It is very heavily imbued with the spiritual and to be a true practitioner of Ninpo, or for that matter any true traditional martial art, one must delve into the spiritual. Without the spiritual aspects we are little more than trained fighting animals.
But we are martial artists, not animals. At the beginning of class we all focus our energy on the central point of the dojo, the kami-dana, so that all will be in harmony when we train.
The actual kami-dana should be placed if possible, on the north wall of the dojo. The second choice is the West wall, next is the East wall, and last is South. The north has the significance of being heaven's path since the north star is considered the first star of heaven. Remember that in ancient times the North star was the beacon of heaven on which navigators plotted their course.
Once you have decided its location, put up a shelf about five or six feet long and on this place a wooden shrine. This shrine should have a "prayer paper" inside.
On either one side or both sides of the shrine you should place cuttings from a green plant, or a plant itself, in a small container. This stands for life, something growing.
Next put three separate containers, one with salt, the next with rice (wash it first) and the last filled with water on the kami-dana. These represent the elements needed to sustain life. Place these to the side of the shrine.
After all this place three, five, seven or nine candle holders on the foremost edge of the shelf (in front of the shrine). For a dojo it is best with either five or nine candles. Before each class the candles are lit, at which time we meditate, then we have our recitation, and finally our bow. The fire from the candle has many meanings for us. The fire means the light we give to the world of darkness.
You should hang a rice rope in front and above the kami-dana (if you can't get rice rope then any kind of natural fiber rope will do).
Last but not least get rice paper and cut and fold it so that you end up with four or five pieces of paper resembling lightning bolts. Hang these from the rope. The white rice paper has the meaning of "this Is the Spirit's place, pure and clean."
If you wish to put up pictures of your instructor or master, hang them to the left or right of the kami-dana and not on the shelf itself. This way there is no mixing of the spiritual with the mundane.
In the Dojo there is no preference of religion. We in reality, are not dealing with religion. We are in the place of the martial artist. We come together as one in the universal spirit of the martial arts: HARMONY.
Tents are much like sweaters: If you have one, you may or may not use it. If you don't have one and you wind up needing it, you are in deep trouble.
Tents come in a bewildering variety of shapes, colors, and materials. A tent's basic purpose is to give you shelter from the elements. There are a number of considerations that should be addressed before you invest your hard-earned money.
Weight is of primary concern if you are going to be carrying it on your back. If you don't plan on carrying it, get the get the biggest, most comfortable one you can afford. If you plan on packing it, then you had better be concerned with weight.
Since I am a backpacker, I prefer a lightweight, igloo shaped tent with a rain fly. The igloo shapes are self-supporting and doesn't require guy ropes to support it. The rain fly keeps it waterproof and still allows the tent to "breathe". The igloo shape is also very good in windy situations because it doesn't offer a solid plane for the wind to push against. A good three-person tent can be purchased for as little as $100.
Another style is the wedge-shaped "pup tent". These are relatively inexpensive and provide reasonable shelter for under $50. These cheaper models usually don't have a rain fly but utilize a urethane coated fabric. The are completely waterproof, but they don't "breathe". Consequently, condensation will build up inside the tent and can make for some rather soggy conditions.
All tents should have some provision for sealing out bugs. I have a real phobia about waking up and finding something moving around in my mouth besides my tongue.
A viable alternative to the tent is the Bivouac Bag or Bivy Sack. I recently purchased one on sale for $49. It has a urethane coated bottom and a breathable Gore-Tex top and mosquito netting to seal the top. I can save about five pounds by leaving my tent behind. What I lose in privacy is more than compensated for by the weight saving.
In camping, as in life, everything is a series of trade-offs. If I were going up into the High Sierras for an extended period, I'd probably take the tent. On the other hand, for a three-day weekend, I'll use the Bivy Sack. I'll sleep just a comfortably and if the weather turns rotten, I usually head for home anyway.
In my next article, we'll talk about the various types of backpacks and the relative advantages and disadvantages of each.
For a number of years I have been reading a couple of books that seem to compliment the spiritual views of this art. Dan Millman, author of "Way of the Peaceful Warrior" and "No Ordinary Moments" awakened my senses with these two books.
"Way of the Peaceful Warrior is based on the true story of Dan Millman, a world champion athlete who journeys into realms of flesh and spirit, romance and terror, light and darkness, laughter and magic. Guided by a powerful old warrior named Socrates, and tempted by an elusive, playful woman named Joy, Dan is led toward a final confrontation which will deliver or destroy him. Join Dan as he learns what it means to die - and live - like a warrior." (editor Nancy Grimley Carlton.) It is about a college student that meets an unusual teacher in an unusual place whose lessons challenge all that Dan knows. Through experience, magical journeys and powerful anecdotes this unusual teacher shows Dan the way of the peaceful warrior.
"Way of the Peaceful Warrior" does illustrate some very important lessons but it does not quite teach them to you. It exposes you to many important universal concepts while entertaining you. This book hooked me into learning how to live in the moment, experience life, gain a better understanding of myself and how to open my heart.
After a few years of reading "Way of the Peaceful Warrior", I stumbled onto "No Ordinary Moments". On the cover under the title it says, "A Peaceful Warior's Guide to Daily Life". The book is true to the cover and is just what it says, a guide to daily life. It guides the reader through daily life in the way of the peaceful warrior. In the words of the books editor, "Our lives are like a journey up a mountain path. As we climb, we face challenges in relationships, sexuality, money, work, and health. We can find abundant information and advice about all of these subjects. Many of us know what to do, but to make real changes in our lives, we have to turn knowing into doing. Here, Dan Millman presents a peaceful warrior's way to turn our intentions into action, our challenges into strength, and our life experiences into wisdom."
For me, the peaceful warrior, as I have come to understand it and as expressed by the author, has the courage, commitment, and inner strength of ancient warriors and the peaceful heart of famous peacemakers of the past. Dan gives Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. as examples of peaceful warrior's that have applied a warriors spirit to the cause of peace. Two paragraphs he adapted from a poem by Lao-tzu illustrate the way of the peaceful warrior even further:
Peaceful warriors have the patience to wait until the mud settles and the waters clear. They remain unmoving until the right time, so the right action arises by itself. They do not seek fulfillment, but wait with open arms to welcome all things. Ready to use all situations, wasting nothing, they embody the light.
Peaceful warriors have three great treasures: simplicity, patience, and compassion. Simple in actions and in thoughts, they return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, they live in harmony with the way things are. Compassionate towards themselves, they make peace with the world. ...
I have read each of these books several times. Every time I pick them up I discover something new about myself and about reality. They have given me the ability to accept the gift of disillusion. The more illusions I am able to cut through the greater my awareness is heightened. I personally use "Way of the Peaceful Warrior" to gain perspective and focus. "No Ordinary Moments" is sort of a hand book for daily life. Its many exercises are both helpful and enlightening. I hope these books will help some of you to find the answers you have searched for. I would remind you that these are only my interpretations of what the author has written.
7. NAGINATAJUTSU (halberd fighting) The Japanese halberd was used for cutting and slashing attacks against adversaries at medium range. Togakure ryu ninja were also proficient with the bisen-to, a huge heavy-bladed version of the naginata halberd. Based on a Chinese war tool, the broad-bladed weapon was heavy enough to knock down attackers, smash through armor, and ground the horses of mounted samurai.
8. KUSARIGAMA (chain and sickle weapon) The Japanese chain and sickle weapon was adopted into the arsenal of the Togakure ryu. A chain, six to nine feet in length and weighted at one end, was attached to the handle of the traditional grain cutting tool. The chain could be used to block or ensnare the enemy's attack, and the blade could then be used to finish off the attacker. The kyoketsu-shoge, a weapon similar to the chain and sickle, was favored by the Togakure ryu. The weapon consisted of a short hand-held dagger blade with a secondary blade hooking out from the hilt attached to a fifteen foot long resilient cord usually made from women's or horse's hair. A large steel ring was attached to the free end of the cord.
9. KAYAKUJUTSU (fire and explosives) Ninja were experts in the effective placement, timing, and rigging of explosive devices for demolition and distraction. In later years, the use of black powder and other explosives was supplemented with knowledge of firearms and their strategic applications.
The Wheel of Teaching or DHARMACHAKRA has eight spokes symbolizing the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path. In the center the 3 swirling segments representing the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
Several generations later the Ryu passed to Oriemon Shigenobi Takagi, a Samurai from Katakura Kojuro in Fukushima prefecture. He was taught by Ito Sukesada from the age of 16 years, and was given the Menkyo Kaiden when he was 20. Oriemon was born on 2nd April 1625 and died 7th October 1702 (?). He revised and improved the techniques and put them together into what was known then as Takagi Ryu. It was also for this reason that the Ryu was named after him. The Yagyu Ryu were the sword instructors for the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 1600s. It is also possible that they were ninja. Takagi arranged several matches with them and being successful, put the Takagi Ryu on the Japanese martial arts school map in the 1600s.
The school passed on to Umannosuke Shigetada Takagi. Umannosuke started to study under Orieman in 1671 when he too was 16, adding new techniques from the Taijutsu school Takauchi Ryu. He however taught the school as Takagi Ryu Dakentaijutsu, Bojutsu, Sojutsu, Naginatajutsu, and Senban Nage. In 1695 he was recognized by the Emperor as a high class martial artist. He also studied Zen with Gudo-Washo, a Zen monk from the Chzen temple. Some of these Zen attitudes where also introduced to the teachings of the Ryu. Umannosuke traveled extensively throughout Japan teaching his system of Dakentaijutsu. He died 26 April 1711.
Gennoshin Higeshige was the son of Umannosuke and changed his name to Takagi Yoshin Ryu Tutaijutsu. He taught in Hyogo prefecture. He was good at Dakentaijutsu, and he changed the name to Takagi Ryu Jutaijutsu. Ohkuni Shigenobu was an expert in Kukishinden Ryu, he was invited to stay and teach his system to the Takagi Yoshin Ryu by Gennoshin. These two Soke rearranged the two Ryu making Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jutaijutsu and Kukishinden Ryu Bojutsu etc. Gennoshin became ill and died on 2nd October 1746. He asked Ohkuni to continue the original teachings in the new way that they had created together. Ohkuni then renamed the school Hon Tai Takagi Yoshin Ryu. October 1841, Yagi Jigero Hisayashi, a retired Samurai from AKOH castle in Hyogo prefecture, opened a dojo in Hyogo prefecture in Akashi. He taught Ishitani Takeo Masatsugu. His son Ishitani Masataro also became the Soke of Kukishinden Ryu and Shinden Tatara Ryu (this was later to be called Shindenfundo Ryu). He learnt the later from Akiyama Yotaro. He made some changes and the Takagi Yoshin Ryu was founded, but the old line of Soke was not forgot, but continued with the new name. Ishitani taught Takamatsu Toshitsugu from 1903-1911.
In June 1952 Sato Kinbei Kiyoaki was taught by Takamatsu and later became the 17th Soke of this school, but this is not the Takagi Yoshin Ryu as taught within the Bujinkan System. It is called Hon Tai Takagi Yoshin Ryu. In November 1989 Shoto Tanemura the Soke of Genbukan Ninpo became the 18th Soke of Hon Tai Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jutaijutsu. With the death of Takamatsu, Masaaki Hatsumi became the 17th Soke of Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu. There is a also another school in Japan called the Hon Tai Ryu Jujutsu. Three different schools exactly the same, but with different Soke, but now creating their own history.
Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jutaijutsu takes its techniques further than Judo or Aikido, who allow their opponents to breakfall or roll out of the techniques. Instead the techniques applied make as difficult as possible for the opponent to escape by rolling or breakfalling. In the past, these techniques were used in battle were Samurai would be wearing armor and punches and kicks would have little effect. Therefore it is more effective for the opponent to be dropped or dragged down by their own body weight. The basic techniques of Takagi Yoshin Ryu are as follows: breakfalls, blocks, and counterstrikes. These also included holds and releases. Followed by levels of SHODEN NO GATA, CHUDEN NO SABAKIGATA, CHUDEN NO TAI NO GATA, OKUDEN NO GATA, ERI SHIMEGATA, MOGURI GATA.
Following these there are techniques for dealing with armed attackers. Takagi Yoshin Ryu has a variety of ways for taking down an attacker which include nerve points, chokes, kicking the legs away, and throws.
Hatsumi Soke will only demonstrate Gikan Ryu when asked. Generally this school is not taught much. This school is also related to the Izumo ryu Koppojutsu. SPECIALITIES: Koppojutsu, jutaijutsu.
|1. Hiki Otoshi||13. Hiki Tate|
|2. Kakae Komi||14. Maru Mi|
|3. Kote Gaeshi||15. Gyakute Nage|
|4. Iri Chigai||16. Mojiri Gaeshi|
|5. Ete Nage||17. Ichimonji|
|6. Ryote Dori||18. Gyaku Muine Dori|
|7. Ryomune Dori||19. Eri Jime|
|8. Kasumi Gashi||20. Mae Kata Dori|
|9. Ori Ki||21. Tsuri Gake|
|10. Uchi Otoshi||22. Uchi Komi Kakae|
|11. Iki Chigai||23. Kaeshi Nage 1|
|12. Eri Hiki||24. San Myaku Dori|
In the beginning we, as ninjutsu practitioners, claimed that our 'system' had no kata. At the time, we called what we did Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu and all we had were training exercises. Eventually, it came out that we taught more than Togakure Ryu, and that we did have kata, although they were not 'kata' as most traditional stylists today think of them. During this period many practitioners hurried to learn this new information. After a few years what set you apart from the rest of the herd was how many kata you had in your notebook. Those people that didn't train kata were dinosaurs and weren't training 'true' ninjutsu. After this went on for a few more years, we shifted back to the first outlook and people who trained kata and sought out information were labeled 'kata collectors' and obviously weren't learning the art in a practical way. Now there seem to be two very divided camps of people training in this art in the U.S. Those who believe in kata training as it obviously preserves and transmits the art and separates the nine lineages we most commonly teach and train; and those who feel that training kata is training something that is dead and has no relevance to today's needs. Well let's examine these points of view and you can form your own opinion.
It seems to me that many people try to create the art anew by creating their own training exercises, or kata, but yet they claim they don't train kata. Well, they do, just their own kata. But since these kata don't have neat names they're simply 'training exercises.' Then on the other side of the coin, there are the people who immerse themselves in the kata and try to become the art, but in actuality they get trapped in the scrolls. Losing sight of the true reality behind this art.
Here is what I believe is a happy medium. Train kata, and realize them for what they are. Training exercises that were created by the founder of the art to express ideas and concepts. They are a beginning point. The founder of that specific art had a point to get across, in order to do so he wrote an example down that conveyed said point. He named it with a name that he thought fit his purpose and then he moved on. If you look at these kata as a starting point you can do what the 'kataless practitioners' do in much less time. The examples are there for you. You just need to interpret them and see them for what they are. By doing so you also avoid the 'kata practitioners' trap of getting lost in the kata itself. Kata should be used to get a point across, once the idea or concept is learned leave the kata behind. Preferably in your notebook, so you can look back and remember what helped you learn that point or concept so when someone new comes along you can dust it off and bring it back out to help that person. Just like they did in the old days. From my viewpoint, kata are a trap - a trap that you have to disarm carefully. Many avoid the trap completely by spurning what it offers, others just blindly grab the treasure then become caught in it. Those who take a step back, examine it then see what is going on can reap the benefits without becoming trapped.
Kihon Gata- Train the kata in a basic manner. Wide looping uke nagashi motions, generally using the forearms rather than the knuckles. Leave some of the strikes out that aren't necessary to get to the point of the kata. Do it at a slow pace paying attention to your breathing and your own body.
Shinken Gata- Train the kata in a more realistic fashion. Shorten the distance, use the knuckles on the uke nagashi. Put more snap and speed into the strikes.
Tobi Gata- Train the kata with tobi added to the motions. Start at a greater distance, have the uke practice the attack while in mid-jump, and you the defense also in mid-jump. Place jumping into the kata wherever it seems it would fit.
Henka Gata- Change the kata. Change the attack, change the distance, change the viewpoint (uke is now actually tori and vice-versa), change the throw or joint lock. Try to keep the same basic ideas though.
After trying those ideas and experimenting you will see what works for you and what doesn't. This is done now so you won't have to wonder "Will this work?" on the street. That is what dojo training and kata training is for.
As I said in the beginning these are my ideas. If you disagree with them, good. As long as you have a reason and have actually thought on the subject, you are living the art as it should be. As a thinking living being.
A kata, regardless of whether we are talking about the 'form' or 'fight-scenario' brand is used to transmit the principles and strategies of a particular system. Techniques, actions or specific skills are also contained but usually NOT the focus of a kata.
There are also many other uses for a kata and students should be aware of the focus of their teacher's lesson when practicing. Any kata, regardless of the name, can be used to develop and improve:
timing distancing and angling hand/eye coordination self-defense strategy success overcoming a failed technique flow stringing together basic actions history targeting & body movement precision form meditation developing fight spirit practice being fierce perceptions naturalness spontaneous response staging decision making skills as well as a focus for breathing rhythms, balance, and aerobic conditioning exercises. This is of course a limited list that could include many other topics.
As you can see, there is a lot that can be done with kata, but the major point here is that they should not be seen as 'holy' things that are unchangeable or THE 'things' that will make you a master. It should also be well understood that a kata is not what you will use to win a fight. If anything, it may show you possible ways that the energy of a particular fight might lead to a possible ending, in the training hall. The last thing you will want on the street is a pre-arranged scenario.
Remember that there are two things that everyone needs to do to become an expert at something; regardless of whether its taijutsu, chemistry, or carpentry. They are:
1. Basics (Kihon Happo) - These are the individual movements, strikes, kamae, etc. that will hurt someone when you mean to. They are the measurements, use of tools, tables of elements and building standards for the chemist and carpenter. These are the things, individually, that need to be drilled to death!
2. Free response (dynamics) - This is the ability to create something on the spur of the moment, based on your knowledge of the basics. The ability to fit-in with an attacker and let go of techniques that are no longer working. When you have problems here it is because you are getting further away from the basics.
The kata themselves are only vehicles to show possibilities and to teach you a strategy or principle. Anthony De Mello, in his book "One Minute Wisdom" uses a 'Master' to explain truth. One day the 'Master' is teaching his disciples that the barrier to our attaining God was our concept of it. A local priest came to him in a huff about it and stated that surely the word "God" could lead us to God. The Master said it could and the priest wanted to know how something could help and still be a barrier. To t his the 'Master' replied, "The donkey that brings you to the door is not the means by which you enter the house."
I think this explains things perfectly. The need to cling to the kata as being IT or as a sign of how good you are tends to be something that permeates a 'beginner's' mentality. 'Anyone' can learn a kata! To be able to identify the prompters that will lead to a similar ending in the heat of a fight, or to be able to embody the principles and strategies so well that your kihon (basics) flow effortlessly (dynamics) from moment to moment (staging) without the need for a 'kata' guide is the mark of a true expert.
One last word about self-defense - my focus for studying this millenium-old martial art. A student must be careful to monitor their progress towards any given goal. If your goal is to be able to protect yourself against whatever might come your way, you must make sure that what you are studying AND, even more importantly, that the WAY you are studying it will get you to your destination.
Speaking from experience, when you are confronted by someone who intends to do you harm there is only one thing that you can be sure of and that is 'how you feel' at that given moment in time. The only thing you will have to rely on is past experience(s). You cannot be sure of how he feels how far he is willing to go to win what experience he has at damaging other people the attacker's psychological state etc.
Self-defense as a focus of your training is very demanding IF that is truly what you are after. It is one thing to parrot your teacher or tell yourself that that is your goal, but ask yourself, "Is it really?".
It is much easier to concentrate on doing a kata picture perfectly and just become good at that. Many are 'wowed' by a great performance just as much as martial artists enjoy giving one. There is nothing wrong with doing kata for kata's sake, IF THAT IS YOUR GOAL. Just make sure that you are very, very clear on that point AND that you let others know it. It is easy to slip and cause ourselves to believe that we are practicing for self-defense if we are not. It is even easier for someone else to think that your study of martial arts is some kind of macho, testosterone-driven, 'tough-guy' (or girl) kick and decide to call you on it.
The kata are there. The choice is yours. What will you do with the knowledge?
2. All members must have a membership card for the year, issued by Hombu dojo. There are two types of membership cards - General membership cards and Shidoshi-Kai membership cards.
3. Membership must be renewed every year.
4. Members of the Shidoshi-Kai may apply to Hombu dojo for licenses up to 4-dan and award these to their students.
5. Shidoshi-ho are those from 1-dan to 4-dan, and may award their students up to the grade under themselves.
6. Shidoshis may award their students up to 4-dan.
7. When awarding licenses to students, the standard fee you should charge them is twice the price you pay to Hombu dojo for the license. The resulting profit is to be used for your own training and studies in budo. Shidoshi-Kai members have a special status in that they may profit from the community when ordering training badges, lapel pins etc. from Hombu dojo, and thus enable the martial ways to flow smoothly.
8. Only membership cards and licenses from Bujinkan Hombu dojo will be recognized as valid. Those who offend against this principle will be expelled from the Bujinkan dojo.
9. Criminals (those who break the law) and those who are mentally abnormal may not become members.
10. The "bujin" symbol is copyright protected. If planning to use it you must contact Hombu dojo first for permission.
11. Members must follow bufu-ikkan(the martial ways as a principle everyday of your life) for the sake of protecting natural justice and happiness through the martial ways, without turning to personal profits and desires.
12. Members must always contact Hombu dojo directly, and build up a community of members.
13. Communication with Hombu dojo must be in Japanese. This is to help business to run smoothly, now that Bujinkan has become international. In addition, it is because much of the true nature of true martial ways cannot be expressed except in Japanese.
- Mary Pickford
I have noticed a lack of progression since I started several months ago. The last few weeks I seem to be in a stall. I started working with weapons so that I won't concentrate on what is not working as well. Any advice on how to improve my taijutsu skills beyond this impasse would be greatly appreciated. - J. Eastman
Mark O'Brien is widely recognized as one of the most proficient and knowledgeable non-Japanese practitioners of taijutsu. He has over twenty years' experience in martial arts, and has been living in Japan since 1986, studying under grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi.
For much of this past nine years, Mark has served as translator for Hatsumi-sensei, who has honored Mark with the Bujinkan Fighting Spirit award and the Gold Dragon award (in recognition of Mark's love for the art).
Given that he has daily opportunity to compare himself to people who have been with Hatsumi-sensei for upwards of thirty-five years, Mark avoids discussing his rank. The last promotion he admitted to was eighth dan.
Joe Maurantonio, shidoshi from New York, says "If your'e talking taijutsu - lived in Japan for the last nine years, learned from the shihan and soke - real taijutsu, you must be talking about Mark. Hatsumi's translator from time to time, uke to sensei and Manaka, etc, good friend to many shihan ... Mark O'Brien's the man to train with."
As usual, Mark will be spending the fall teaching in the United States and Canada. I've listed his schedule, and the contact information for each seminar, below. Hope you can take advantage of one of these events. He's a kick. - Lauren Colias
San Diego, CA; Doug Wilson, host/(619) 283-4550 or e-mail:
Vancouver, BC; Adam McColl, host/(604) 739-7908 or e-mail: email@example.com
September 30-October 1:
Twain Harte, CA; Bill Atkins, host/(209) 533-9116
Albuquerque, NM; Abi Allen, host/(505) 867-0983
Oberlin, OH; Regina A Brice, host/(216) 774-4807 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dexter, MI; Otto Cardew, host/(313) 475-4232 or e-mail: email@example.com
Austin, TX; Jim Matteson, host/(512) 453-7753
West Palm Beach, FL; Paul Fisher, host/fax (407) 832-0618, voice (407) 832-5255 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fairview Heights, IL (near St Louis, MO) :
Linas Grybinas, host:
I've always looked at September as the sign of a fresh start. My accomplishments the year before didn't really matter since I was being judged by my ability to handle new situations and new material. Oh, the challenges! My teachers encouraged and pushed me to move beyond the basics I had learned and explore new avenues that I hadn't previously travelled. Sometimes it was easy - the "A"s in math and science often were - and sometimes I had to work hard to learn things - volleyball, for instance. It would have been easy for me to settle for a "D" in the subjects that were difficult for me. But I had higher aspirations for myself, so I worked hard and challenged myself. I didn't always get the "A" I wanted, but I felt better for knowing that I tried and I learned more than I would have previously.
This September, challenge yourself in your taijutsu. Are you resting on your laurels? Is there an area that you have been slacking off on? Don't settle for a "D" when you can have an "A". Push yourself. Travel down some new avenues, and take a look at the old ones you think you know well. Look to improve in all your skills, and you may see some breakthroughs in areas that you were previously stuck in.
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.
Keep in mind that all articles herein are of their author's opinion/research and the publisher of this newsletter will not be held liable for any errors or misleading information. If you need further information on any articles, or if you have questions for the authors, please contact them directly. If there is no E-mail address listed, please E-mail me and your request will be forwarded.