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[ olvasnivaló » Ura & Omote - 1996 August ]

Ura & Omote - 1996 August


Content


POINT OF VIEW: IS THE INTERNET HARMING THE BUJINKAN?

Masanori Harada
translated from the original Japanese by Martin Herlihy
Recently, the development of the Internet and other networks has advanced to the point where even people who previously had no interest in personal computers have taken an interest in them. In the Bujinkan, the number of computer users has been increasing and they are designing home pages, etc. I also have access at my university and often view such home pages and receive newsletters. I had a chance to speak directly with Hatsumi Sensei about this topic, and at that time we exchanged opinions on the advantages and disadvantages of Internet usage with respect to martial arts training. Hatsumi Sensei asked me to convey a message regarding this issue, which is why I am contributing this article.

The Internet and other such networks are certainly convenient. For a researcher like myself, it is extremely convenient to be able to search for information and exchange mail. However, is it absolutely necessary for someone who is training in the martial arts? The creation of martial arts friendships and exchange of information is undoubtedly interesting, but doesn't it also have a harmful effect on martial arts training? In recent years I have read various articles and home pages about the Bujinkan and I felt that there were a great number of mistakes. These range from basic translation errors that any average Japanese would spot to incorrect information.

Hatsumi Sensei and I broadly discussed such points of view and he said, "when something becomes convenient something is also lost, isn't it?" For example, with the development of the automobile civilization people have lost important knowledge about "walking". In addition, Sensei stated, "instead of becoming focused on networks, they should work hard at their practice. They generally don't come to my practice, but they exchange information on histories and kata which they've read in books or interpreted however they please. It's such a waste!" What he means by "my practice" is not participation in overseas seminars, but making the effort to come to Japan and go to Hatsumi Soke's practice.

In closing, I have a message from Soke.

"If there is something that you want to know, ask me, the Juyushi who come to practice or their advisers!"


Masanori Harada is a Ph.D. student in Aeronautics and Astronautics at the University of Tokai. His research focuses on the optimal control of aircraft. He is also Vice-President of the Bujinkan Dojo Juyushi and can be reached at <aska@keyaki.cc.u-tokai.ac.jp>.

Martin Herlihy is a friend and student of the author. He works as a software engineer in Yokohama and can be reached at <martin@gol.com>.


GETTING THOUGH ON REQUIREMENTS

Ilan Gattegno

Only a handful of teachers in the Bujinkan are qualified to teach. In this art becoming a "teacher" is quite simple: You get a black belt and Sensei says: Go teach. You go to your community, find an empty space, allocate the time, gather a few people and become the local authority. Of course, in most cases you know more than the others in the group, but being a teacher, a true teacher, requires much more than that simple process.

It was a law imposed on the Israeli Bujinkan teachers that forced us to deal with this task more seriously. The law forbade teaching any physical activity without being certified by an academic institute. You may ask, what can a school of physical education tell me about Budo Taijutsu that I do not already know? How can anyone question my knowledge when I am certified by the Grandmaster himself?

Well, a lot. Over the past two years we have spent more than 170 hours at the Wingate Institute studying topics ranging from the physiology of stress, to building up stamina, first aid, and of course Budo Taijutsu. The extracurricular courses were taught by people from the institute, experts in their respective fields, and the Ninjutsu portion was taught by five teachers from the Bujinkan Israel, each with at least 10 years of teaching experience.

We took this opportunity to get the 90 course participants to a new and equal starting point. We went over the whole Densho and worked on establishing requirements from those of the lowest kyu to those who are striving for a black belt. Since teachers all over the country have modified their individual requirements over the years (we have been practicing Ninjutsu in Israel since 1974), we had to make sure that a black belt holder from one club would not feel like a stranger in another. We had to get all the students to the same level of proficiency and we chose the toughest measures.

In Israel we are faced with many successful Martial Arts from Japan, China, India, as well as some locally developed self defense Arts which deny any connection to the East -- although they use the gi, the belt and the techniques found in Far Eastern schools. We could not have a Black belt from another school beat any of ours, and challenges exist, especially at the age of national service. It is a healthy competition, so we had to cater for the needs of the younger students and strengthen their confidence in Budo Taijutsu.

Our problem started when the lessons at the Bujinkan mellowed and we started practicing what the Karate people called "Master Techniques." Yes, for Hatsumi Sensei it was right, since he had already gone through a tough period of rigorous training including sparring and fighting. Before he started Ninjutsu with Takamatsu Sensei, he already had 6th-Dan in Karate and 5th-Dan in Judo plus experience in other Martial Arts. Could we make that quantum leap and do what he does now without first going through the basics of self defense?

We did not like the story we heard about one Bujinkan club in North America, where a group of thugs came into the training hall and threatened to beat up the teacher and the students. In this club they went on practicing in hiding, putting the reputation of the school in jeopardy. Therefore, when someone puts on a black belt, we have to make sure that he can defend himself, representing our school in a "fair fight." We regard the Black Belt holders as our diplomats. They must know the fundamental parts of Budo Taijutsu and be proficient and able. We can have some honorary black belts, but we must have a back up of capable people. In 1980 I was going to school in the USA and I saw the Ninja Boom coming. I called Doron Navon and told him we could hit the jackpot. He had knowledge and ability that everybody else could only dream of. But he was not interested. "We need to have a big enough school," he said. "It is not when I am able, but when my students are. Only when enough of you are ready." In retrospect he was right. We had a few challenging moments in which we thanked him for his caution. When you are a stranger in a strange land, you need to be good enough.

Being good requires ability and that comes with practice. It is not enough to go to a Tai-Kai and get the automatic promotion. You need to be worthy of the rank and look around at other Martial Arts and see how their equally ranked people are doing. None of us feels happy with ranks here, and since 6th-Dan in 1989 we have declined any ceremonial promotions. Some of us have certificates for higher ranks, but we prefer to keep that a secret. How can we claim 8th-Dan rank when a 25 year veteran of Karate, a Master highly praised all over Europe is a mere 6th-Dan in his school and has put many more hours into training than all of us combined?

The teachers' course gave us an excellent opportunity to gather all the ranks and make sure everybody knew the whole set of requirements. We established a "pyramid of study" starting from Kihon, going through Kata, then Randori, then Kumite and at the tip of the pyramid we come to the void, to the part we all love in Ninjutsu, playing with the techniques. But the foundations must be strong. Building that strength takes years of practice. In Ninpo Taijutsu we have all the answers but first we must learn to ask the right questions. Then one can become a good student and consequently a good teacher.


Ilan Gattegno has been practicing Ninjutsu with Doron Navon since 1974. He is one of the senior instructors in the Bujinkan Israel and has a special interest in teaching. His book "The Art of Learning" came out in Hebrew in 1995, and is soon to be published in English. He is married to Julia (Reynolds), the first Western woman to have a Black Belt in Ninjutsu. They met in Japan and now live in Israel. They can be reached via E-mail: <olamot@shani.net>


5 ELEMENT-CODES (PART 3)

Jeff M. Miller

This article is the third and final part of an open response to a question that I encountered on America On-line in the Martial Arts' Ninjutsu Forum. The question (paraphrased) was: "What are the 5-elements (earth, wind, water, wood and metal) about that I have seen mentioned in books on ninjutsu?"

In this installment we will examine both the Godai and Gogyo 5-elemental systems, in their combined or complimentary forms, and their use in personal development training. The approach here is not solely in the same mechanical application or psychological strategies of each system but in their use as mirror images of the same processes.

The point of this article, as in the previous two, is to explain the connection between the two systems of five elements, that were originally condensed into one in the question. I will try to do this to the best of my own knowledge and understanding but, due to the content and scope of the material and its strong spiritual nature, I understand that it may not be as readily accepted as the previous articles.

In the metaphysical lore of the East, there are several ways that have been developed over the centuries to explain the workings of the universe and man's existence within this cosmic framework. Two such 'ways' or systems developed to do this were the Godai or 'Five Great Elements' and the Gogyo, the 'Five Goings or Journeys.' The Godai's 5-elements are called manifestations or appearances and are seen as a means of cataloging all the parts or individual 'items' that show up in existence. The elements of chi, sui, ka and fu or the earth, water, fire and void go much further than identifying those natural phenomena that each seems to point out. The element 'earth,' for example, alludes to much more than simply the ground beneath our feet. It is a way of identifying and coming to a deeper understanding of those firm, absolute, and stable aspects of existence, regardless of whether we are operating on a natural, human, sub-atomic, conscious or subconscious, or pure energy level. The same goes for the remaining elements.

This system, imported from Tibet, is often used as a way of describing the creation of the universe. First there was a single germinating cause ("Big Bang," God's word, etc.), representing the formless potential and creative aspect at the void level. Next, atomic particles gravitated toward each other forming loosely grouped masses which were free moving, called gasses in the scientific community. As these gasses at the fu or 'wind' level continued to condense in on each other they began to react with one another, giving way to the connectedness, energy and reactiveness of the 'fire' element. Continuing to condense to the point where the particles were close enough to roll around on each other, they became the elements and 'things' in a fluid state. Finally, coming together to the point where motion can no longer be discerned (there is ALWAYS motion), the solid, firm "earth-like,' aspects of existence came to be.

This systematic coming into being is also seen in the creation of a living organism but I will use the Gogyo to explain this process (in that it is easier to see). But the godai can be used to easily identify the 'formation' of the organism after 'creation.' (Check your science notes folks.)

First the physical tissues and structure, including the heart forms. Next the heart begins to beat and the fluids begin to 'flow' and circulate. The baby does not yet breath air so the oxygen metabolism and continual cell division is the representation of the 'fire' element in operation. As the child enters the world, the 'wind' element comes into being as he or she takes their first breath. And finally, they learn to think and communicate with their world around them. It is here that we enter the connection of the two elemental systems, or the forming of the Rokudai or '6 Great Elements.' The ability to think and communicate, to create and conceptualize requires consciousness beyond the preprogramming at the primitive cellular level of the animal world. This requirement then become the underpinnings or foundation of all we experience. The sixth element, shitta (citta in pali, sittam in Sanskrit), 'mind' is the combinations and flow of the gogyo on a human psychological level.

As a refresher, the Gogyo or 5 Elemental Transformations or fluctuating energy states. Developed and imported from China, the gogyo can also be used to catalog phenomena, but at a different level than the godai*. Where the elements of the godai describe and catalog energy "types," the elements of the gogyo describe and catalog energy "states" or stages in the continuing change through which the energy flows.

The five elements of the gogyo, sui, moku, ka, do and kin or water, wood, fire, earth and metal (in their 'productive' cycle) show the life (or death: water, fire, metal, wood, earth cycle) of any 'thing' as identified in the godai. This behind-the-scenes flow of the 'what-is' can be seen in the creation as opposed to the formation of an organism as discussed previously.

Beginning, arbitrarily for our model, with the symbolism of the 'metal' element which depicts the planning stages or motivating factors behind the current flow, we have the initial intention or preprogrammed inclination towards procreation on the part of the parents. Next, the coming together of the egg and sperm (in the case of we humans not having attained God-hood yet) which carry all of the necessary requirements (water) for life. This then leads to the beginning of a new life (moku) at birth. The growth of the individual through the energetic years of childhood represents the energy transition of the 'fire' level leading to the adult years where the individual settles down with a companion (earth) and carries out the necessary actions for the next cycle (metal).

An easier way of looking at the relationship between these two systems has been provided in the esoteric mind-science training known as Mikkyo. The graphic representations or maps known as mandala can help to show in a pictorial form, the processes described so far. The godai manifestations are represented by the Taizokai mandala which even shows us a picture of what appear to be individual 'things' and, in some cases, groups of likes with subtle differences (i.e. tree = pine, maple, oak, palm, etc.). The gogyo is then depicted by the Kongokai mandala which is laid out in a systematic, almost simplified, manner. Where the taizo mandala depicts individual potentials or already manifested realities, the kongo view describes and shows the development and inter-relatedness of any one of these individual 'things.'

An excellent example of this, drawn from our own Western sciences, is the relationship between Anatomy and Physiology. One is the study of the individual parts and the outer is the study of how the parts work together as a whole. Without the parts, the whole could not function properly, but, conversely, breaking up the whole to examine the parts ends the life of the organism.

In our study of the martial arts, the godai/taizo examples represent all of the individual techniques, kata, waza, strategy, principle, disguise and tactic, while the gogyo/kongokai coded representations represent the drills, experimentation and exploration leading to the mastery of each. Where the godai/taizo are the kata, the gogyo/kongo are all of the possible henka that could ever exist from each kata. One is the parts, pieces, examples and form or outward appearance, without which we could not identify it as some-thing, the other is the life, breath and rhythm that makes it 'real'.' ("Hatsumi-sensei says life is the most important thing. . ." quotes the fool -- without ever learning the lesson!)

Both systems in and of themselves are life filing cabinets with each drawer containing an element. Each drawer then contains folders with examples and aspects on various levels which describe a concept (i.e. personality, nature, energy, emotion, mental attributes, constitution, physical quality, etc.) in both a positive and negative context. Each system provides a view from which we can look at the world. But we cannot have one without the other. The godai and Taizokai representations show us the reality (read: perspective) that everything is separate and identifiable. We see the trees and the mountains and the wars and the . . . The gogyo and Kongokai view show us the reality (see above) that everything is ultimately connected and the essence and direction toward the potential of each manifestation. You cannot have form with that which it is made of and you cannot identify the universal laws and potential without the forms.

The understanding of the combination of the two systems into one is the beginning of higher levels of mastery, not only of our martial arts, but of ourselves. And the most important thing to remember is, just as with gravity, you don't have to study it or even believe in it, but it is there working all the time

*The five elemental manifestations known as the godai can also be written with the kanji for gogyo (five forms). So Hatsumi-sensei's use of the term Gogyo no kata when referring to the elements earth, water, fire, wind and void is, in essence, correct. Be careful about arguing over what is right and wrong when it comes to his teachings. The level of a genius is never understood by fools."


Jeff Miller is a Licensed Private Investigator and Personal Protection Agent. He is the chief instructor of Miller's Martial Arts/Bujinkan Kuryu Dojo in Sunbury, PA. He has been training in the martial and meditative arts for 2/3 of his life with the last 11 years attempting to capture the "essence" of ninpo-taijutsu, under the guidance of Shihan Stephen K. Hayes. Mr. Miller is a firearms instructor and wilderness survival tactician and conducts seasonal seminars on the topics. He is the editor of the HANNYA ('Insight') newsletter for individuals interested in learning more about themselves and their art. He may be contacted at: <JMMiller@aol.com>.


THE HEART OF A WARRIOR

Ken Harding

"Because of the multitudes of teachers out there, I can be more picky about whom I teach. I will be teaching only those with great hearts. Warrior hearts. And I hope that you all, when you return to your homelands, will teach only those with good hearts. That is my wish." -- Soke Masaaki Hatsumi, January 23, 1996

"This is the era of martial arts. People who are afraid of putting their lives in danger should quit. The Bujinkan already has enough people. It doesn't need to get any bigger. We have no need for such people. There are people all over the world who don't understand the heart of the warrior. People with bad hearts, I want them to quit training or they will be forced out." -- Soke Masaaki Hatsumi, February 20, 1996

These statements set my thought processes in motion. What is this thing we call 'the heart of the warrior?' How is it different, and why do people have a hard time developing it? These will be my own observations on the Heart of a Warrior from what I have been taught. It is a frequently used phrased used in our art, by the Grandmaster and by me in my own writings for many years. At times I am not sure that people in the martial arts realize what it means. Either that or they don't care, thinking they can get to the higher stages of this art without it, especially when they see the few who have.

There are some people who are born with the heart of a warrior; that is to say, they have these qualities without trying too hard to develop them. Most people, however, who have it had to acquire it through a lifetime of hard experiences.

The heart of a warrior is compassionate. It feels for the pain of others. A warrior can put himself in the place of another before he judges. This is called empathy. It is important to realize that there is a big difference between empathy and sympathy. The heart of a warrior does not feel sympathy. He does not feel sorry for others and their situations. Sympathy is not in the heart of the warrior, but in the heart of the politician, who tries to solve everyone else's problems because he thinks people cannot solve their own problems if they are made to. The warrior is not drawn into and trapped within other people's pain. Although he tries to understand, he realizes other people are ultimately responsible for their own situations, and holds them accountable for their actions. The warrior understands the plight of the man who has no food, but would cut off the hand of that man if he tried to steal from the warrior's table. The warrior would rather have the hungry man work to earn the food from him, and would give freely when he did. The opposite of the compassionate heart is the heart of the hunter, that which feels no empathy, and remains unaffected by the slaying of innocents. This does not refer to someone hunting for food, but one hunting for sport. The warrior appreciates and protects innocence, realizing how rare and special it is. Innocence occurs naturally in only two instances: animals and children. Both are incapable of a malicious deed. Unfortunately there are those who prey on them both.

The heart of a warrior is honest. He does not say "the check is in the mail," he says "I forgot to send it, I'll do it today." He does not say "I don't know what happened to that cake," he says "I ate it." The man with the heart of a merchant says things that he thinks others want to hear, and shifts the blame away from himself. The merchant looks on people for what they can give him, not what he can give them. The world is filled with martial merchants posing as martial artists, selling watered-down versions of real combat arts and baby-sitting young kids with the pretense of teaching something to them. The heart of the merchant is concerned about what sounds good, like: "I ordered it, but it is on backorder from the manufacturer," while the heart of the warrior says, "I had several orders ahead of yours and I haven't gotten to your order yet, but I'll do it right now." Which of these ways sounds most like you?

The heart of a warrior is responsible. The warrior is the first to step up and admit responsibility for a mistake, and realizes that more can be learned from a mistake than a correct action. He does not "pass the buck," but stands up and faces the fire. He is the first to say "I did it," when he is asked about a mistake he made. The warrior does not blame others or his past for his circumstances or feelings, but realizes he is the product of his own choices. He takes responsibility for his failures as well as his successes. He knows his obligations and lives up to them.

The heart of a warrior is brave. It operates on a set of principles, what we in the art call Universal Justice. One way to understand what is meant by this is to visualize a closed room of ten people. Ask them all which direction is north, and you will see fingers pointing in ten different directions. But pull out a compass and you'll see immediately in what direction true north lies. Peoples' opinions about where north is do not affect in any way the real direction of true north. Universal Justice is this way also. It exists outside of human consciousness. It is exhibited in nature. Animals do not kill out of malice or greed, but only act out of survival and propagation.

There are things you know are right and things you know are wrong, regardless of the current circumstances or your opinions. Right and wrong don't change depending on what's going on. If you act on Universal Justice, you will be the defender of what is right. This takes much courage, and may require you to put yourself at risk.

As parents, we tell our children that there are no such things as giants, wicked ogres and boogey men. But that is not true. There are horrible evil, powerful monsters in the world, and they walk in the shape of mankind. All you have to do is watch the evening news and you will see it. You will never rid the world of them as long as humans exist. But you can develop yourself to a point where your fear is lessened by the fact that you also possess powerful skills of destruction.

The heart of a warrior is selfless. Hatsumi Sensei sent me a copy of a document called the Laws of the Iga Ninja, written about 500 years ago by the famous Ninja Momochi Sandayau. Among the laws is one that goes something like this: Act for sovereign, country and community. The warrior does not do things with himself foremost in mind. There are two ways to run a martial arts school. One is as a martial merchant, teaching in a weak, watered down way to make sure he keeps as many students as possible and so make a great profit. The other is teaching as a warrior, offering only the true arts, not concerned with having a large school. Hundreds of years ago, the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi wrote in the Book of Five Rings that martial arts is the most unpopular of professions. If that is true, why then are there so many martial arts schools today? That's because they are not teaching what Musashi was referring to when he said 'martial arts'. Difficult, painful and unpopular is the way of the real warrior arts. I give these teachings to my students like a parent gives bad tasting medicine to their children. It is unpleasant, but it is good for you, and later you will be glad that you took it.


This material appears in Ken Harding's new book in progress "The Heart of the Warrior".

Shidoshi Ken Harding, 7th dan, heads the Missouri Bujinkan Dojo in St. Louis. He received his rank and teaching certification in Japan directly from Grandmaster Hatsumi, and returns to Japan on a yearly basis to further his training from the true source of the art. He is the author of Shadow Words: Ninpo's Art of Kyojitsu Ten Kan Ho, and publishes the monthly newsletter Shadowgram. He is a full time instructor and author who devotes his life to the study of Ninpo, as well as the philosophies of many cultures. He is a member of the Shidoshi-Kai (the official instructors organization of the Bujinkan), and enforces proper membership requirements as issued by the Bujinkan Hombu Dojo. He may be contacted via E-mail: shadowsword@primary.net or Web page: http://tiger.coe.missouri.edu/~ninpo


THE LEGACY OF MARTIAL ARTS IN DAILY LIFE

Bo Munthe
or How to Develop Inner Strength
My interest in Japanese Martial Arts started at the end of the fifties. At that time I had to train using the few books that were available. Only one book at that time, ZEN COMBAT, talked about using a person's mind in conflict. It described many of the arts, such as painting, calligraphy, etc. and their relations to fighting arts. My interest in the Zen philosophy had to wait a few more years before I could focus on the spiritual training.

A kohai -- beginner -- in Martial Arts is often a seeker in one way or another. Reasons for beginning training could be one of the following:

Some beginners have become interested in training because they read a book in which a hero was using some obscure ancient Asian philosophy. One example is Lustbader's book "The Ninja" from the early 80s. That book introduced the good and the bad ninja to thousands of readers. I still have to tell some of them that it is a fiction novel.

The underlying thought in all Martial Arts, the true legacy, is that the arts were once used by warriors who protected their country, their families and themselves The warrior was a person with high morals, because without a true moral sanction to act, one could never be a warrior -- only a killer. The moral side for a warrior in Japanese bushi, is found in Nitobe's book,

BUSHIDO, THE SOUL OF JAPAN.

This book was written in 1899, after the demise of the Tokugawa-rule and the samurais -- when Commodore Perry and his black ships entered Japan in the 1800s. During the Tokugawa era, as well as before that, the samurais had a code -- unwritten at that time -- by which they lived. Nitobe wrote it down and published the secrets of the samurai. The Bu-shi-do/the military-warrior-way is basically a code of daily living for the fighting nobles, a moral code and ethical system, comprised of:

Those seven ethical rules are still of current interest, for businessmen this time -- the warrior of the 21st Century.

When we talk about warriors we see them as the soldier of today, fighting today's wars. If we use this interpretation of the word, we get away from the true meaning for us budokas (Martial Artists) The proper context of the word is found in the Japanese traditional philosophy. A warrior was a person that could fight in all ways, known and unknown. But most of all, it signified a person who knew when it was moral to act, and why and when it was immoral to use his skills. A warrior today, as it was yesterday, is a man of action, guided by reason and motivated by love. A discussion of warriorship must contain the usual aspects of warfare, strategy and fighting. But what does a warrior do when he is not at war?

He continues to live a normal life, with his family or alone, depending on his life situation. However, all the time he is engaged in developing his mind, his inner thoughts, his spiritual life in an ongoing cycle forward mental development.

2,300 years ago, a Chinese man by the name of Sun Wu wrote a book that was to be read with great respect during the coming hundreds and thousands of years. Today, SUN TZU, THE ART OF WAR, is something businessmen all over the world are reading and studying with great interest. From being a book on warfare and strategy, its meaning has been changed to reflect on the "warfare" in business life. The same thing happened with the book BUSHIDO. Another samurai book translated into English, and used today in the context of business development is GO RIN NO SHO, Miyamoto Musashi's BOOK OF FIVE RINGS. It seems the knowledge and the philosophy from ancient Japan is evolving today. More and more people are using strategies, written down by samurais that lived 4-500 years ago, or more.

In feudal Japan, the counterpart to the samurai was the ninja. The ninja was an agent that could be bought for different purposes. The code of the samurai was not the code of the ninja -- the ninja belonged to a counterculture. Today, when we read about the history of Japan, we need to remember that the history books were written by the dominant society, the samurais. The truth, however, is difficult to find, but nevertheless, 100 million Japanese can not be wrong, or could they? When I visit Japan, speaking, as a gaijin, foreigner, to a Japanese person, and I tell him that I am a ninja, the person normally stares at me, and then he starts to laugh. For the average Japanese the ninja is related to the chanbara movies, the samurai, sword yielding movies that one can see on Japanese television everyday. One of the hoodlums in those movies, as well as they are in the modern western movies, is the ninja. A cloak and dagger, black-masked person with evil in his mind.

Things can not be further from the truth than this. One of my colleagues in the USA once wrote that Lustbader's ninja book, as well as those ninja movies today, give the same approach to the truth, as if the beaches in the USA were all infested with sharks as in the movie Jaws. The ninja once were warriors with great knowledge of Martial Arts and used those skills when needed. Today the modern ninja still is a person with great knowledge of Martial Arts, but this time the reason for the training is different. The reason now is to develop one's mind and body, and as I said before, to develop the morality to know how and when to use our skills.

THE SPIRITUAL SIDE

The word for "whole person" in Japanese is Tatsujin. A whole person in that meaning is a person who has a heart, a mind and a body, in other words, completeness. Not in the way of a "perfect person", but in a matter of a person who knows his good sides, and also knows his weaknesses, and is capable of admitting those things, his faults and good sides to himself. In Sweden we have a saying, JANTE-LAGEN. It means that it is the law of Jante and this Jante was a thing, or a person, that always said to other people that "don't think you are anything, don't come and tell us anything " and so on. In other words, it is bad to look at yourself as a person with self-confidence and it is even worse to tell other people about your feelings. (In my mental development courses I give the students 5 minutes for writing down things they are good at -- and that gives me a great "phuuu" when they get the assignment, but it works. We have to find ourselves first, of course, since if we do not think positively of ourselves, other people will not do it either.)

THE INNER SIDE, URA

I have been training and studying judo, jujitsu, kenpo and most of all, the total Martial Art of ninjutsu, also called ninpo. (Ninpo is the higher order of ninjutsu and ninjutsu means techniques of the ninja. Ninja means man of endurance). To train in those ancient styles is to get a look back into the secret world of the people who lived during the feudal era. But training physically is only using the outer side, the omote. It is seldom that the teacher speaks about the spiritual part, the development of the inside of a persons self, the Tatsujin-concept. To find that, one has to search for oneself.

During the fifties and the sixties, not many instructors talked about the mental side. If that was because they didn't want to, or if they didn't know how to, I can not say. But, I'm sorry to say that there is still a big lack of information about the spiritual side. Instructors today are very eager to teach either how to defend oneself as effective as possible, or how to win a competition in any of those Martial Arts Tournaments. Very seldom have I met a person in Sweden, or in another country, who wanted to teach about the mind and the spiritual side. After almost 40 years in Martial Arts I see it as a very big loss for many of those seekers in Martial Arts.

To find and develop the mind one has to search for the right way. First one has to find the inner side and secrets of oneself. To know who you are, what your capabilities are, what you can do, what you can't do, your positive side, your negative side, to find your part in the IN-YO (yin yang) is very important. Too many people is running around all their lives in circles. Full of stress and anxieties, they live a life "filled" with emptiness.

The mind of a ninja today is the mind of a humble and loving person. It is the mind of a man who can act morally when it is needed. The humanity of the teachings, the message from the grandmaster, is always with a smile that show the feeling he has when a technique is executed.

To keep your calm and to listen to the messages you get from the outside, messages that give you information about things, creates a deep knowledge of the spiritual side of a person. To feel, and to think gives great chances to develop ones' mind. In the book THE CELESTINE PROPHECY the author is getting very close to some of the insights to what is the essence in my way of living. For example, the insight on circumstances, is something I have tried to develop in my way of life.

This spring I went through one of the worst crisis in my life. Things fell over me from the past -- I call it the Elastic Bang, the eighties hit me in the head (I'm a "victim" of the happy days during the 80s). To survive I realized that I could not manage to work with this problem myself, I had to realize my limitations. I had to find a person to talk to, a person who listened and also could give me some advice -- I found a therapist whom I trusted. But both of us realized, after a couple of months, when we felt crisis was over, that I probably wouldn't have managed to work my way through it the way I did without my inner strength from the Martial Arts legacy. My mental training gave me proof here -- it worked since I knew who I was and also knew that once I was out from the shadows, things would be better and my mind and spirit stronger.

FINDING THE INNER STRENGTH

To train in ninpo in a dojo (dojo means hall of enlightenment) is to work with all details that are existing in our 900 year old style. It is to work with the physical part of the body, doing different techniques that have their roots in the past. It is also, and as I see it, more importantly, a training of the mind for finding the spiritual part. The confrontation in the dojo, with your training partner, gives you reasons to look into yourself, how do you react? Physically you know how you react, but mentally? Here is the great challenge, the opportunity to develop your mind and to find your strong sides, and eventually also your fears, through the physical confrontation. From your reactions you can work with yourself and develop your mind. To build up your inner strength and to find your spiritual goal -- to be a Tatsujin . All the training in the dojo should be a kind of ninpo meiso -- ninpo-meditation.

The primary training is with the mind, the secondary training is with the body, and last but not least, is the training of the Art that is important for defending your family and yourself -- the goal of a modern warrior.


Bo Munthe was born in Stockholm Sweden 1943. He is a teacher in Martial Arts, mental development and conflict-handling. He also works as a security-consultant for working-groups that are jeopardized by threat and violence at work. He has written several books on Martial Arts and conflict-handling, as well as several articles on the same subject. He has also, since 1983, traveled around the world holding seminars in Self-protection and Martial Arts. He can be reached via at e-mail: mailto:bo.munthe@mailbox.swipnet.se


SEMINAR AND TAI KAI CONDUCT

Stan Skrabut

I am writing this because although I had a great Tai Kai; probably the best I have ever had. It could have gone smoother with less problems. What a lot of people do not realize is the amount of work and money that goes in to a Tai Kai or a seminar. We started preparing for the Tai Kai in Holland a year in advance. We started making contracts with various agencies a year in advance in order to ensure the best for the participants. It is difficult to plan such an event when you have no idea if any one will show. As a matter of fact, the Tai Kai was almost canceled because very few people had signed up for it by the date stated. Then after the Tai Kai had started, we discovered that a large number of participants did not show without any notice. This puts the sponsors in a very bad situation because they had planned for X number of rooms and must in the end pay for those rooms. Where do you think that money comes from? All we are asking is that if you plan to attend then sign up and attend, and if you don't plan to attend then don't sign up and don't attend. No feels will be hurt.

We also had difficulty in a couple of cases of people trying to take something for nothing. Some folks tried to stay at the hotel for free, others tried to eat for free, and some tried to participate for free. This is unfortunate because it is cheating all those who paid for the event. Ethically it is the same as stealing, the sponsors have to pay for everything above what was planned for and yet used by participants. Some people left their rooms with telephone bills unpaid. It is unfair to expect your hosts to pay for your personal expenses.

Weather -- now that is an interesting topic. In Holland, the weather was I agree a bit cool. But since it was not raining, it was considered a nice day as far as the Europeans were concerned. Some participants became very vocal because we were training outside (although all participants were told, in advance, to bring warm clothes) and it was cool. I am sorry the weather was not warmer; a year an a half prior, we did plan for a warmer day. But face it folks, we are training in a martial art where being one with nature is a big part of it. We are also suppose to be able to plan and adapt to the unexpected. By reading a weather report prior to traveling and bringing appropriate clothing would have corrected everything.

Some people are invited as guests (usually staying and training for free or at a nominal charge), and others are assisted above what is normally expected usually for free. I personally think you do not have a great deal of room to start demanding things especially when what you got was free. Case in point, there was one group who had difficulties in finding sleeping accommodations. Rooms were found for free, and yet, the people who needed the rooms complained that the rooms were not convenient traveling to the training and wanted the sponsors to find better places to sleep. Come on, what kind of nonsense is this? We also had participants of a higher grade asking for things because of their grade. Sorry but everyone paid the same price; if we have to give to one group, we would have to give to everyone. I think the higher grades could have shown more leadership if they were trying to get better things for their group members rather than themselves.

Lastly, rules are meant for a purpose. The one that comes to mind is the one concerning use of a flash for photography. Why is this important you may ask. Two reasons; one, Sensei asked that they not be used. Second, there is a safety concern. Very often Sensei uses metal swords in demonstrating a technique. A flash of a camera at the wrong moment could distract either the attacker or defender in the techniques and an injury could be sustained. Please respect the rules laid out by your host. They are created for a purpose, not to hassle you.

You may read this and say that it just me complaining. But to be honest, a lot of people who sponsor seminars and/or Tai Kais will see that I have some valid points. As a matter of fact, these are the main grievances other sponsors had. All we ask is that you think of others not just yourself. Thanks.


Stan Skrabut is a 6th Dan and has been training since 1983. He is about to leave Belgium return to the USA. He is expected to start a training group in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was a busy slave during the 1996 Holland Tai Kai but is finding to time to answer his e-mail. He may be reached at: mailto:73444.2240@compuserve.com


SEEING BEYOND THE OBVIOUS

Jeff M. Miller

There is a story of a young and gifted sculptor who, during the early 1900s, left the cobblestone streets of Italy in search of opportunity in America. Spending his every penny to make the voyage, he arrived destitute and hungry. To make early ends meet, he accepted work under the stewardship of a respected stoneworker. Day after day, he was assigned stones which were two-feet square, and was directed to carve a straight line; on a second stone he etched a small circle. While the job provided means for shelter and nourishment, it was not long before the sculptor found himself disgruntled. With his vast skills left untapped, he felt bored and unfulfilled. One evening, while searching solace in the cool of the night, he happened upon a construction site of a nearly completed building. The edifice seized his attention. The entire face of the building was a display of stonework beyond what he had ever encountered. He marveled and deep inside dreamed of someday participating in such a work. "Someone," he thought, "is in the process of creating a masterpiece." In awe, he determined to get a close-up view. Crossing the traffic and slicing through a field, he scaled a chain-link barrier to reach the destination. his heart stood as he examined the work of art.

To his amazement, the "masterpiece" consisted of no more than a series of meticulously arranged, two-foot-square stones etched with simple patters -- straight lines and small circles. The creation was his own.


This story is an example of a common thing in the martial arts and everyday life as well. The tendency to only see what is in front of us, believing that "this is all there is." The saying that". . . we can only see what is in front of our face" or the analogy of the dog chasing after the steak in front of it while being led through a butcher shop are great examples of this.

Another good example of this is contained in the illusion that the outward appearance of your martial arts training IS the training itself. We come into the dojo and see the way the teachers move and speak. We hear their words of wisdom and dream of being just like that some day. That is the ideal; the way it should be. But then we see the system of progression through the different ranks and belts toward mastery, and the techniques and skills given to us in the form of booklets and curriculum sheets, and we think, "OK. I can do this. When I learn all of this I will be just like the master. I will have made it." In fact, the answer seems so obvious to anyone and everyone should be able to achieve mastery. But here is where the trap lies.

The problem is that many of us never make the connection between the part that led to mastery. We simply accept them as parts and leave them that way. We hear the master's words and we repeat the words. We learn the techniques, and cherish the techniques. We earn each belt and immediately wish it were really the next one instead. But we never quite make the connection that the words are not just words, but keys to expanding our perspectives, ideals and vision; the techniques are not magical movements but models of scientific and artistic application of the body as a tool for the accomplishment of great things; and each belt is a sign to the "teacher" as to where I am (or should be) in understanding so he or she can explain the material in a way that I, not a master, can understand at my current level.

Instead of getting caught up in the training to the point where we become the material taught, we get caught up in the belt colors, the cool weapons and how we look in our uniforms. We become comfortable and may even feel important and 'powerful' (read: egotistical) because we can show others a magical posture or answer another's question about our rank with "I'm a lavender belt." We like to tell stories about what the master(s) of our style can do while making excuses as to why we can't be like that.

It has been determined that only 1 out of every 100 students who begin martial arts training actually makes it to black belt -- and only 1 out of every 100 black belts is worthy of his rank. It seems that for most, the obvious thing to do when the going gets tough is to quit. For the majority of those who do stay, the obvious goal seems to be what color belt is around their waist as opposed to the actual skill that the belt is supposed to symbolize.

When I began training in this martial art, and eventually began teaching, there were only three belt colors and no formal training uniforms. We wore sweats of camouflage clothing and a sash or military-style web belt of the appropriate color signifying our commitment to the training -- white for beginners checking out the art, green for those working through the kyu ranks and black for those who were working to personalize the art for themselves. In fact, the Japanese system is still based on this with the exception that they use patches to represent these levels.

The training itself was based on one goal -- being able to use this art for defense in a real fight situation against an experienced attacker. In our system of ranking, this is symbolized by the promotion to nidan second degree black belt. But we had our eyes on the highest levels possible for ourselves.

This is radically different from what I see from most of the students who come to learn from me today, regardless of what they tell me. It seems that most want to be, and can only see the next belt level; and when they get it, they almost immediately wish it were the next one or even the black belt one!

Don't get me wrong; this is certainly a major stepping stone towards the grander goal. But what I see from most is that as they move to the next level, they forget to practice the previous material, as though it were no longer necessary. So, when they get to their black belt, it will probably be because they could only do their black belt techniques (after all, that's the test, right?!?) As a black belt, they are only slightly better than they were as a white belt. Instead of having four or five years of experience, they actually have three months experience sixteen or twenty times. It really doesn't matter though, because they have their belt!

The problem is not in having the goals you have but in changing your perspective about them. The trick is not in grabbing the obvious -- anyone can do that! It is in seeing through it; in overcoming the smallness of narrow-vision; to the realization of the ideal -- the big picture. After all, if mastery were easy, we'd all be masters in search of complacency.


Jeff Miller is a Licensed Private Investigator and Personal Protection Agent. He is the chief instructor of Miller's Martial Arts/Bujinkan Kuryu Dojo in Sunbury, PA. He has been training in the martial and meditative arts for 2/3 of his life with the last 11 years attempting to capture the "essence" of ninpo-taijutsu, under the guidance of Shihan Stephen K. Hayes. Mr. Miller is a firearms instructor and wilderness survival tactician and conducts seasonal seminars on the topics. He is the editor of the HANNYA ('Insight') newsletter for individuals interested in learning more about themselves and their art. He may be contacted at: <JMMiller@aol.com>.


QUESTING

Anonymous

I served in my nations military during wartime and was honorably discharged. While there was no formal martial arts training, I was fortunate to pick up a smattering of various styles ranging from jujitsu to karate, and learn that you never give up.

Years went by, with training in a style known as B.M.A.C. (Behavior Modification for Aggressive Clients) which basically is how to do unarmed combat while not injuring the attacker in any form and avoiding being injured yourself, and preventing others nearby from injury as well. Needless to say, this can be quite the challenge when in an enclosed area and having to be on guard for up to 8 hours at a time.

Over the years, from time to time, I would be requested to judge informal wrestling, sparring, etc. This is not to suggest that I am a sensei nor a sifu, but an interesting sidelight that you've got to be prepared for anything.

An injury was sustained while on shift almost 5 years ago. Landing on your back on a concrete floor definitely puts a crimp in your style, but you have to admit it definitely gives a major challenge at the same time.

I approached several senseis in the area where I was residing, requesting to be able to study with their classes. Due to the injury causing problems with range of motion, not to mention muscle spasms that can be alleviated by the practice of accupressure (yep, did some studying on that to find what works), not one sensei was willing to take me on.

I was fortunate enough to find a sifu, Ed Coppola, who teaches Yung style Tai Chi Chuan. The situation was explained to him, permission to study was granted by my medical practitioner, and the deal was struck that I could study, as long as I sat down if spasms or tiredness set in. Sifu Coppola was even kind enough to teach modified Qi Quong.

True, the masters would not be pleased with the purity of my form, but it works for me. I still work on rebuilding my range of motion, but have reached the point where I can practice with a sword as part of my regimen. I've even gotten used to practicing with the folding and straight canes which are required for walking any distance.

The strangest thing is that I find myself being approached by others now for teaching in Reiki, Tai Chi Chuan, and Qi Quong since we don't have a sifu where I presently live. Who would expect this since I have no formal diploma nor certificate, nor do I advertise? I do make it a point to stress to any who approach that what I know has been highly modified, and point them to places where they can be taught the pure forms.

I still hope that one day there will be found one who's willing to teach me more, that I'll be able to avail myself of the opportunity, and that the instructor will take into account that fact that modifications are required. The way I see it, the only way to go is to seek the way of the warrior, to never give up the quest of surmounting this obstacle, and to be the very best that it's possible to be.


The author of this article wishes to remain anonymous and may be reached via the editor at ashidome@usa.net


ADVANCED WEIGHT TRAINING FOR THE MARTIAL ARTIST

Luke J. Molitor

Have you ever found yourself doing the same activity over and over, whether it be a job, school, or some other function, and found that after a time you begin to tire of it and become completely unmotivated to do it? Just image how your body feels when it's bombarded by the same exercise routine for weeks or months at a time.

When engaging in resistance training it is always important to vary the types of workouts that you perform. Our bodies adapt to change very quickly, consequently we need to implement new and different techniques so that we can continue to advance. Here are some types of advanced weight training systems. These have been used by experienced fitness professionals, body builders, and world-class athletes to change up there routines. It is always advisable to check with a fitness instructor to insure that you are performing the exercises correctly.

1. Blitz Training --This training method consists of training one muscle group per workout session. Several varied exercises with many (4-7) sets are performed to work the muscle group.

2. Split Routine Training -- In a split routine you would train specific muscle groups on different days. Here is an example:

3. Great Set/Giant Set -- This method uses several exercises performed in succession targeting the same muscle group. Usually between 4 and 6 exercises are performed before resting.

4. Superset Training -- This is a method that involves performing two exercises targeting opposing muscle groups without resting between the two exercises. Opposing muscle groups would be: 1. Biceps/triceps 2. Hamstrings/quadriceps 3. Chest/back

5.Compound and Triset training -- These methods consist of performing two (compound) or three (triset) exercises in succession targeting the same muscle group before taking a rest. Here are some examples:

6. Partial Repetitions -- Partial repetitions consist of performing the exercises with a full range of motion until you feel fatigued. Then you perform partial repetitions, which consist of moving the weight only half way through the movement for as many times as possible.

7. Forced Repetitions -- This method requires the use of a spotter to assist you when you reach your "sticking point" in the set. Having the spotter there allows you to perform a few more repetitions after reaching muscle fatigue. This method helps to push your muscles past there threshold thus forcing them to respond by increasing in size and density. Use this method on occasion since it can cause extreme soreness and could possibly overtrain the muscle.

8. Negative Training -- Negative resistance training utilizes a movement known as eccentric contraction, in which the muscle lengthens during muscular tension. It will be necessary to have a spotter when performing this type of training. An example of this would be:

Bench press: The spotter lifts the weight into the extended position. The lifter slowly lowers the weight to his/her chest, lengthening the muscle in the process as well as fighting gravity, then having the spotter raise it to the extended position. This method is best used once a week for 4-5 sets with 4-8 repetitions.

9. Pyramid System -- This method consists of using progressively lighter or heavier weights when working a particular exercise.

1. The heavy-to-light method begins by using heavier resistance, performing fewer repetitions. In the following sets you would gradually decrease the weight while increasing repetitions.

2. The light-to-heavy method involves starting with a light weight, and subsequently adding more performing fewer repetitions.

3. The hill, or triangle method uses both the above principles in that you start with light weight and increase the resistance with each set you perform. Then you proceed to back down using less resistance over the next few sets.

The training method that works best for you depends on your body type, fitness level, and personal goals, as well as how much time you wish to devote to your resistance training. You should frequently change up your workout routine, in order to stimulate your muscles to grow as well as keep your motivation high.


Luke J. Molitor has been studying the martial arts for over 13 years. In 1990 he was introduced to the ninja martial arts and has not stopped training since. He has or is working every job known to man, and is working for his Bachelors in history. For comments, questions, queries and/or insults he can be reached at mailto:LJM99@aol.com


THE JAPANESE SWORD

Joe Maurantonio

THE CULTURE

The Japanese sword is considered to have virtually no parallel in any other form of art made of iron. In the sword, we can see the aesthetic and racial spirit of the Japanese ancestry. The belief that each sword was an extension of its owner, that each blade held a soul that was linked to its owner in some spiritual way, is apparent in how the sword's owner cared for its upkeep. And how it served and protected him in combat.

THE MYTH

Japanese mythology has it that the deities of heaven presented to Amaterasu Omikami, the sun goddess, the three Imperial Regalia. These regalia consisted of curved jewels, a holy mirror and the sacred sword. This sword had been removed from the tail of the dragon Yamata No Orochi by Amaterasu's brother, Susanoo No Mikito and presented to his sister with the name of Kusanagi. Amaterasu entrusted the Imperial Regalia to her grandson when he descended to the Japanese Islands. These Imperial Regalia are said to have passed from emperor to emperor until the 9th century when replica were made for the Emperor to keep in his possession and the originals were placed at various shrines. [Note: the complete name of the Imperial sword is Kusanagi No Tsurugi which means "grass parting two-edged straight blade." The original sword was lost in the Battle of Dannoura (1185) and was shorty thereafter replaced.]

THE CRAFT

The Japanese swordsmiths sought to instill three attributes in the crafting of there weapons: unsnappablity, rigidity, and cutting power. This presented somewhat of a dilemma: In a sword unsnappablity requires soft iron, rigidity requires a harder iron as does cutting power. If the iron is soft it will not cut well and if it is hard is will break easily. The combination of these three contradictory elements seemed almost impossible. The fact that the Japanese smiths were able to overcome these great obsticles and forge some of the most unique swords ever is a credit to their genius. It's interesting to know that most noteable swordsmiths had personal methods and "secret" traditions regarding the processes of crafting these great weapons.

The methods employed by most smiths began with the wrapping of the outer skin by folding and hammering the metal over and over again. This process aids in the elimination of various impurities and also produces many layers of metal of differing structure. A softer inner core would be formed because of this process of folding by using a steel of lower carbon content, and then the harder skin was wrapped around it. Finally, a temper-line (along the edge) was formed by covering the entire length of the blade in a clay containing charcoal ash which was then scraped away in a desired pattern just prior to heating. The varying thickness of the clay result in causing the blade to cool at a different rate which in turn creates a variety of crystilline compounds of iron and carbon along its surface.

THE DEVELOPMENT

In the Jokoto (Ancient times) period we find the earliest remnants of the Japanese prototype swords. These had no curvature and were quite similar to the Chinese or Korean swords used during these times. About the Late Heian (c. 9th century) period we begin to see the origins of the curved blades that are familiar to us. In the mid-Kamakura (c. 12 century) period - as the Samurai class came into being - the blades become thicker, less tapering toward the point and had ample convex curvature. Also, Tanto were manufactured in great numbers.

During the late Nanbokucho to early Muromachi (c.14th century) many kinds of Kodachi and Tanto came into use and were produced to emulate their Katana or Tachi counterparts. In the late Muromachi (mid-16th century) period there were great battles being fought throughout Japan and a larger sword called the Uchi-Gatana, worn edge down, came into great use. When the Momoyama (16th century) arrived there was use of foreign metals in some of the swordsmiths works. It is from the Edo period on that a flamboyant style of temper-line came into design. This is mostly due to the peace-prevalent atmosphere of Japanese society.

At the beginning of the Meiji (1868) era and the arrival of modern times and modern warfare (the gun), there is an Imperial decree to prohibit the wearing of swords. Thus, we find swordsmiths deprived of their professions. In 1906, the Imperial government appointed two contemporary master swordsmiths to the positions of Imperial Arts and Imperial Crafts Artisans to insure the survival of the technology of Japanese swordmaking.

THE PARTS

The Japanese terms for various parts of the sword as well as there location are listed below:

The mekugi, or pin, is inserted through the mekugiana in order to hold the Tsuka to the Nakago. The mekugi should be checked, cleaned and replaced (when necessary) each time the Katana is used. Should the Mekugi rot and not be replaced the sword (even an alluminum replica) could come free of the mounting and hurt someone.

SWORD POSTURES

The main kamae, or postures, that are important in Kenjutsu for Kihon training are:

Jodan no kamae - ("upper level posture") holding the sword overhead at a 45° angle.

Seigan no kamae - ("true eyes posture") the sword handle is at hip level with the tip aiming at your adversary's eyes.

Hasso no kamae - holding the sword at your side in a manner similar to a baseball bat.

Gedan no kamae - holding the sword handle at hip height so the tip aims towards the opponent's feet.

SWORD CUTS

The most important Japanese terms for applying a cut are listed below:

Shomen Giri - A downward vertical cut. This strikes onto the head or the forehead cutting in a descending motion.

Tsuki - A thrust. Usually aimed at the stomach area, the solar plexus or the throat.

Kiri Sage (Kesa Giri) - A downward diagonal cut. Aimed at shoulder to hip or breast to waist area.

Kiri Age (Gyaku Kesa Giri) - An upward diagonal cut. Aimed at the waist to shoulder area. Can also be used to cut upward at descending wrists.

Do Giri or Kubi Giri - Horizontal cuts that travel either to right or left and attack torso or neck, respectively. Can also be used to attack face, hips, knees, etc.

THE TRAINING

In the Bujinkan New York Dojo we learn kihon kata (each with about 3 henka) that are mostly derived from Kukishin Ryu. These are the fundamentals of our lessons in Kenjutsu.


END NOTES OR "MEMORIES OF MY SHODAN TEST"

Liz Maryland

"Remember, Liz, the most important part of the test is just showing up." My friend Jason's words echoed in my head as I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. I closed and opened my eyes slowly, not wanting to believe that it was already morning. The alarm clock was still shrieking loudly, annoying me and giving me a headache at the same time. 7:02 a.m. I pulled a pillow over my head, wishing the world would go away. "Well, this is it," I thought to myself as I resolutely creaked out of bed and violently killed the alarm. The day I would take my shodan test had finally arrived.

There is no "set" shodan test in the Bujinkan. In some dojos, the head instructor miraculously hands you a black belt after several years of training. In others, you may get promoted after having demoed a few techniques or after being "spot-tested." For the schools that have formal exams, what the actual test consists of varies from dojo to dojo. It would be my damn fool luck to have joined a dojo that has a particularly emotionally stressful and physically intense shodan test.

For months, I nervously practiced the seven tanto dori (unarmed defense against a knife) and four muto dori (unarmed defense against a sword) katas that the shodan test consisted of with my uke, Eric. I obsessed over doing my tanto dori kata perfectly -- with flow, control and precision -- because I feared I wouldn't do well on the muto dori. You see, at New York Budo, the muto dori portion of the test, affectionately referred to by some of the students as "the beating with the shinai," is administered by the head instructor himself. The muto dori test is done at three speeds: slow, medium and death. What it boils down to is the shodan candidate, with his/her paltry three or four years of training, tries to successfully evade a particularly focused and intent Shidoshi Seibel, with his fifteen plus years behind him. Good luck folks!

I honestly didn't know what to expect from Jean-Pierre (and from myself) during the muto dori part of the test. Coming up through the ranks, I had heard horror stories of what the experience was like. "Jean-Pierre plays mind games with you. . . he brings up all your worst feelings and emotions. . . he beats you half to death. . . you don't stand a chance. . . don't look at his eyes; whatever you do, don't look at his eyes! . . ." I knew some students who had nightmares after their tests -- the experience had been that intense. I drilled my muto dori evasions repeatedly, practicing them as often as possible. I was trying to perfect them; to make sure that they would stay in my muscle memory. I wanted to make sure that my technique would not fail me despite the tremendous stress I was anticipating the test to bring.

After training, Eric and I would talk about the test and what it meant to each of us. We constantly joked and spoofed the test -- "Yeah, and then I'm going to take the shinai away from Jean-Pierre. . ." -- in an attempt to downplay the seriousness of it. I've always admired Eric because nothing ever seems to ruffle his feathers -- he handles things with amazing aplomb -- and he believes in himself without question. I wanted to find those strengths and qualities, the ones that were quite simply a part of him, within myself. I tried to clear my mind and see myself successfully evading the cut of the shinai; the slash. I meditated and rested various injuries -- two sprained toes, an injured shoulder, two wrecked elbows; and I tried to be calm -- something which I tend not to be when I'm under fire. I listened to the Mortal Kombat CD. . . a lot, because it helped to make the test seem fun, challenging, less of an ordeal. I also vented my nervousness on an almost daily basis to Eric . . . who always found a way of putting the test into humorous perspective for me.

That Saturday, I was one of six who would be testing my mettle against Jean-Pierre. There were originally supposed to be seven people testing, but, unfortunately Shirley, one of the shodan candidates, broke her leg shortly before the test. Eric, Kris, Tim, Tracy, John and myself were up -- and we were all prepared in our own individual ways for the upcoming challenge. "I'm as ready as I'll ever be," seemed to be the catch-phrase of the day.

Before the test we alternately warmed-up and stretched, preparing ourselves mentally and physically. Tim meditated seriously in a corner, while I sat in seiza, facing the kamiza, listening to Mortal Kombat on my CD player. Tracy therapeutically iced her neck and back. Kris practiced her tanto dori kata one last time. Eric was just trying to get there on time -- his ride had unfortunately been delayed that morning. A little before the test began, a butterfly with orange wings flew into the dojo. I immediately threatened everyone within earshot with a slow and very painful death if they killed or harmed it in anyway. We didn't need any death in the training hall that morning. The butterfly navigated about lazily -- trying to find the way it came in -- eventually resting on the wall. At that moment I envied the butterfly, trapped in a foreign environment, but seemingly calm and restful.

Suddenly it was show-time! and names were being pulled out of a box. One by one, the shodan candidates went up to face the test. I held my breath each time a name was drawn, anticipating, anticipating. . . relieved when it wasn't me. I watched each test, pacing to keep warm, waiting for my turn. The word after the test was over was always the same, "It doesn't hurt when he hits you. . . It's not that bad."

It was my turn. Eric and I approached the test area, knelt and bowed to the instructors, who were lined up like black crows on a phone line, and then to each other. He stabbed out with the knife. . . and I went into my tanto dori. Evade, defend, disarm -- three times for each technique. At the end of the first set of kata, "This is the easy part," crept into my head and I laughed to myself. I lost my focus that instant, and failed to disarm Eric, stabbing myself with the tanto when I threw him. "So much for control", I thought. I started to get angry with myself. . . and then I let it go. I had to -- I still needed to face Jean-Pierre. I continued with the kata, sharpening my focus and not letting myself be so easily distracted. Two kata done. . . five kata. . . all seven. I bowed to Eric and looked anxiously at Jean-Pierre.

"Shizen!" he commanded as I stood nervously in front of him. He was smiling, holding the shinai in daijodan, and despite myself I jokingly asked, "What are you SMILING about?" His return comment was lost to me as the shinai came down and I evaded by stepping to the side. Shizen, Ichimonji, Jumonji, Hira. I knew what the drill would be, but my mind, my body were attuned to what was happening that very second. I had no thought of the future, no strategy, no plans, other than to do the kata that was being asked of me at that very instant.

It was not surprising to me when I got hit trying to follow up a forward roll with a boshiken (in ichimonji). I got up instantly and prepared for the next attack. Each time I got hit, I let it go and got ready to go again. There were times that I forced myself to roll, even though I thought I might get hit, because my body started to freeze. It was when I doubted my technique that I got hit the most. I let go of the worry that my knees weren't bent enough or that my hands weren't in the proper position, and rolled or leapt fearlessly.

The slow round was done; the medium round gone. The death round had come. The shinai was coming down faster and faster, and I kept moving -- evading sometimes and getting hit others. There were only two people in the whole world at that point -- Jean-Pierre and myself. I kept my focus on him and kept moving. As the speed picked up, I got hit more frequently, but I kept trying to evade, to do the proper muto dori kata. I had no time to think, or to feel. Thinking got me hit, feeling/reacting from emotions got me hit as well. I started to react from a state of total awareness and focus instead.

During the last round of Hira, my least favorite of the four muto dori, I realized that Jean-Pierre cheats during the test. Jean-Pierre was backing me into a wall -- the wall the butsudan was on. How can I roll from here? I thought in alarm. I took the hit, smiling, realizing the trap I had gotten myself into. I was ready again for the next attack. This time he was backing me up into the audience -- students and the friends and family of those testing. I made a conscious decision not to get hit. I bailed and rolled away from him, straight into the audience. I stood up, ready to go again.

Jean-Pierre bowed to me, ending the test. "That's it?," I thought in amazement. Tired as I was, I felt ready to go another round. As I bowed out with Eric, I realized that I had learned my most important lesson on that mat. To not give up on my taijutsu and to let myself believe in my abilities.

Much later that evening, after having gone home and watched my test on video a few dozen times -- and wondering whether or not I actually passed the test -- I went out to the corner deli to buy something to drink -- I needed it! As I walked up the street towards my apartment building, a butterfly with orange wings flew out in front of me. It circled lazily for a second, and then flew away.

At that moment I knew that -- even if I didn't get promoted -- I had passed the test.


That's it for this month, guys and gals! As always, please e-mail the authors with your support and recognition. Also, please e-mail me with any errors or adjustments to this newsletter.

See you next month!


BACKGROUND

This newsletter was started to connect budo/ninpo taijutsu practitioners from all backgrounds together. Ura & Omote's goal is to provide a forum where we can easily gather and disseminate information (both "obvious" and "hidden"), ask questions and, more importantly, get answers, and share experiences while living the art.

HERE'S THE LEGALESE

Ura & Omote will not be publishing any further unauthorized translations of Hatsumi Sensei's work. The editor will occasionally publish translations that have received a "stamp of approval" from Sensei. In order for you to learn more of Hatsumi Sensei's present attitude, the editor suggests that you continue your studies of ninjutsu by finding a legitimate ninjutsu teacher, using Hatsumi's Densho ("Sanmyaku") and his various books or videos, and by encountering him directly at Tai Kai. -- Liz maryland

We (the publisher and authors) are not responsible in any manner whatsoever for any injury which may occur through reading or following any instructions in this newsletter. Remember, these are martial arts techniques which may result in injury or death. Find a proper instructor wherever possible. Please consult a physician before engaging in the exercises described herein. 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 the editor and your request will be forwarded.


Liz maryland is the editor of this newsletter. She is a graphic designer by trade and an information gatherer by choice. She trains under the guidance of Jean-Pierre Seibel at New York Budo, where she hopes to never grow up:

sang to the tune of "Toys 'R' Us Kid":

I don't want to grow up,
I'm a kyu rank kid.
There's a million things in the kyus that I can play with.

One of Liz's current dreams is to found Chi no Dojo (Dojo of Death) -- where all the techniques are done for real! -- with her friend Eric. Still having flashbacks from her shodan test (No, not the LIVE sword!), Liz is actively seeking therapy, but in the meantime she can be reached via e-mail at: mailto:ashidome@usa.net

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