|[ olvasnivaló » Ura & Omote - 1996 June ]|
This article is the 1st part of an open response to a question that I encountered on America On-Line in the Martial Arts section's 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?
So as not to duplicate any responses already given, this is my own perspective and understanding of the material.
The metaphysical lore of the East is, quite logically, intertwined with the arts associated with the Shadow Warriors of Japan. Often the influences are obvious, as in the use of the Shinto ceremony of respect and acknowledgment used to open and close classes; others, like the 5-element classification systems are not as apparent.
Many of the books on ninjutsu, as well as the over-abundance of "New Age" tomes on the market, written by less than knowledgeable individuals make reference to a system of classifying all that exists in the universe. This system of 5 Elements is actually 2 systems; each used to describe a different process. Unfortunately, the information is often offered in one of three ways. They are:
The first system, dealt with in this article, is known as the Godai or "5 Great Elemental Manifestations." The elemental codes, in ascending order are chi "earth," sui "water," ka (or hi) "fire," fu "wind" and ku "void." This is a system based on, and leading up to, the rokku-dai "6 Great Elements" as used in esoteric Buddhist study.
The elements of the Godai are often, quite erroneously, confused with the elements that make up the Periodic Table used in the study of chemistry in Western science. I even remember a time when I was in school and one of my science teachers, who was covering the base elements, laughed quite condescendingly about how the people of the Orient believe that there are only "5" elements and, naming the above, pointed out the "real" 81 (at the time).
In fact, the Godai elements are not meant to be used in such a detailed and destructive way as the ones of Western science. "Things" are not broken down so far that they become indistinguishable from their real form; the 5-Element code is actually a means of cataloging and grouping like concepts, aspects, strategies, energies, etc. The Western system can actually be reorganized and lassified using the Godai system.
The five elements of the Godai, their symbolic representation, their appearance in the human being, and their use in the teaching of the ninja's arts are:
"Earth" - represents the firm, hard objects that appear in existence. Rocks are probably the best symbol of the earth element in nature in that they are incapable of change, movement or growth, without the help of the other elements.
In the human being, the "earth" element shows up in the body as the bones, muscles, and other tissues. In the mind, it is confidence; and emotionally it is a desire to have things remain as they are; a resistance to change. When under the influence of this chi mode or 'mood,' we are aware of our own physicality and sureness of action.
As a means of self-protection, which is based, as are all of the strategies of the ninja's art of operating with natural laws, on the student's emotional level or mood, when the attack starts 'earth' represents our desire to hold our ground and 'crush' the assailant's attack with our strength. We are calm and unbothered by their threats and we firmly resolve to stop them in their tracks.
"Water" - are elements in a 'flowing' or adaptable state. Aside from the common sense identification with natural water sources, plants are a good example of the "water" element in that they are, while incapable of movement, capable of adapting to their environment (i.e. turning their leaves toward the direct sun, growing their root systems in the direction of the most nutrient rich soil, etc.) In our bodies, the 'water' element represents the blood and other fluids necessary for life. Mentally, the code is the ability to adapt to and change our strategy, or way of doing things, if change is needed. At our core, it is our emotionalism and ability to 'go with theflow.'
In the self-protection strategies of the ninja's armed and unarmed combat arts, the 'water' element identifies both our defensive adaptation to the enemy's attack and our ability to 'flow' with their actions. The feeling of being overwhelmed by their force or technique causes us to want to back up and create more space and time between us, as we attempt to cover and protect our targets from their attacking limbs.
"Fire" - as a code, this symbol represents those elements in a combustible, or energy-releasing state. It also symbolizes force and direction. Animals are a good example of the 'fire' element in that they are capable of movement and direction, though limited by primitive 'programming' or instinct.
In our bodies, this element is represented by our metabolism and body heat. Mentally, it is our directness, commitment and desire to be better than we are. Internally, from our heart come the qualities of will or intention, motivation and competitiveness as well as an outgoing or domineering spirit.
As a defensive strategy, 'fire' represents our committed spirit directed against our opponent as we take the fight to them. In reality, there is no such thing as a 'fire' technique per se - just as there are no water, earth, etc. techniques, either - but only our energy level or emotional mood that causes us to move in against the attacker.
"Wind" - is the symbolic representation for elements in a gaseous state. Freedom of movement and an expanding nature are the keys here. Again, apart from the naturally identifiable 'things' alluded to by it, the 'wind' element is best symbolized by human beings. Human beings, in their lower or most common states of development, are capable of movement, direction and have intellect; the trait necessary for development, growth and overcoming the limiting tendencies of programming and the primitive instinct from our 'animal' nature.
In our body, the 'wind' element is our respiration and the processing of oxygen and other gasses between cells. Mentally, it is our intellectual capabilities and our ability to be 'open-minded.' Emotionally, we are carefree and not influenced by stress.
As a basis for self-defense, this element shows in our desire to avoid, and stay just beyond, his reach. We naturally want to avoid any conflicts or at least a direct confrontation. Our strategy is reflected in our turning and evasive movements that allow us to flank him and smother his assault attempt if necessary.
The "Void" - is the code for the sub-atomic or 'creative' foundation of all that is. Actually, the term "void" is probably a bad translation when compared to the definition of what the element represents. The English language word "de-void," as in the absence of any pre-determined shape or character, is much closer to defining the nature of this element. Human beings in a higher conscious state are the representatives of this element, just as the sub-atomic material that forms the atoms that group into the molecules that form all other material things in the universe are the base example from nature.
In our bodies, the 'void' element is our ability to think and communicate with others. Mentally and emotionally it represents our creative nature, as well as our personal means of self-expression as we identify with and operate in the world around us.
As a self-protection method, the 'void' represents several tactics. They are:
The Godai elements, as codes for action in a self-protection situation, serve as a guide for the student, not in learning set techniques or kata as such, but in relating to their emotional moods and responses, and their influence over the student's mental and physical options.
It must be remembered that, as human beings we have a 'natural' way of learning effectively and efficiently. A physical, hands-on approach, coupled and followed by theory leads to an emotional feeling about that which we have learned. This feeling could be good (we like it), bad (we dislike it) or neutral (we neither like it or dislike it.) Unfortunately, we deal with stress (read: fights) in just the opposite way. First we experience an emotional response about the situation, encounter, environment, etc. Based on whether we are attracted or repelled, etc., we form a mental strategy based on what we know and what we think we can do, and finally we go into action. Though taking several sentences to describe, the actual impulse to response time takes only a fraction of a second.
Beginning students, more often than not, do not understand the defensive strategies implied in the techniques being learned, let alone have an awareness of their emotional state at any given point. The Godai then, explain the modes in which we operate, their prompters and the possibilities available based on what the body is, and is not, capable of when under the influence of each emotional state.
Next month, we will examine the Gogyo 5-Elemental Transformations as a guide for learning the ninja's survival, escape and evasion methods and in gaining an understanding of the advanced strategies which can make ninja seem like a wizard and reader of people's minds.
Study in the Bujinkan is a recent and very rare opportunity. It is easy to overlook in the rush of our daily lives that it is a fragile one, too.
The vast majority of people around the world who study the martial arts train in one of "do" systems constituted in the mid-twentieth century. A number of these forms are widely popular and available, even in the smallest towns, having prospered as businesses through focusing upon sport applications. In so many places, if one school closes, there may be two or three other similar schools for the displaced student to choose from, even in the same style. But there are very few authentic Bujinkan dojos.
We are all fortunate to be at the time in history when the grandmaster of the last unbroken Iga traditions chose to reveal - for the first time - a significant cultural patrimony of Japan to the West and to the world. Our mothers and fathers could not study ninjutsu. This has only been truly possible in the last fifteen years or so. It is in perhaps the quickness with which modern history can replace perspective with perfect hindsight that we cannot find a moment to consider the great courage and vision of Hatsumi Soke to challenge his own national traditions and open a nine-hundred year-old secret Japanese art to the modern world. As we face the kamiza before the bow-in, we may even forget to reflect for a few moments that we are all products of the incredible integrity and talent of Shidoshi Stephen Hayes and others in the west who only very recently risked the original journey to Noda City, and from there, back centuries in time. Since then, an extremely small number of men and women have made enormous personal sacrifices to become sensei. These are the instructors who make this ancient undiluted bujutsu available today in a limited number of locations around the world.
Our commitment as students to the training can sometimes be difficult. It requires sacrifice in both financial and personal terms. Yet in the dedication each person discovers their own private benefits. We encounter and overcome physical and mental limitations. We learn things we did not know the day before. Our personal capabilities are increased. And we are allowed an element of romance in it all, in our private journeys, through this study of ninpo. For a time each day in the dojo we are in the absence of the mundane, that which at its worst can rob us of spirit in our daily lives. But when you next deal with the financial or personal struggles in the commitment to training, and you think about the spirit that keeps you at this, dedicate a few extra moments to reflect on the practical commitment of your teachers. The letter from the sensei who was forced to close his dojo stated that he was simply unable to continue to shoulder the financial burden of operating the school. This dimension of the equation is not always obvious. Dojos are businesses. Owners and full-time instructors have to earn a living in order for doors to remain open for us to study. The business challenges are not apparent, as they teach first and foremost from their love for the art and a sense of responsibility to bring it to those who want it. We too have a responsibility to try to support them, to help ninpo survive and thrive in the western world today and into the twenty-first century.
We are among the first generation in the west to study the secret arts of ninjutsu. Hatsumi Soke, Shidoshi Hayes, and our instructors have brought this to us. But there is a price for it to be available. So do what you can. Support your dojo in a practical fashion. If your dojo has a membership drive, try and bring in a friend. If you can buy the martial arts book or the new gi from the dojo instead of the discount mail order catalog, spend the few extra dollars. Ask your instructor if you can purchase the weapon for the next kyu from the school. Take the seminar you've been thinking about taking. Donate some labor or material to help the dojo build their new rank board. Volunteer to sit at the front desk for an hour. With your favorite uke, pitch in and sign up for an occasional private lesson. Take a little extra time to welcome the new white belt, to encourage people to become full-fledged members. Don't begrudge a small price increase in your annual membership at renewal time. Your instructor's compensation and the lease on the training hall are impacted by inflation, too. If you value it, protect it. It's the warrior's way.
Don't take it for granted your dojo will always be there. Unless your dojo grows, the next letter on the bulletin board might be about your school. And we would all be the worse for that.
U&O: How long have you been training in this martial art?
Mark O'Brien: I started training some time in the early '80s - I don't remember exactly when. The first time I saw Hatsumi-Sensei was in 1986, at the first US Tai Kai in California. My first exposure to the Bujinkan was when I stumbled on Mark Hodel's training group in Stockton, California. Through this group, I found out that Jack Hoban was teaching in San Diego. At the time, he was the only black belt in California. Bill Atkins and I began making the eight hour drive down to train with him once a month. There wasn't a lot of training back then so you had to go to where it was. So I've been training in taijutsu almost ten years in Japan now, and three to four years before that in the States.
U&O: Why did you begin training in this martial tradition?
MO'B: Well, I've always enjoyed the martial arts, and I tried several prior to this. In other martial arts it always seemed that they specialized in a certain thing. For instance, in karate I did a lot of kicking and punching, and in jujutsu I did a lot of locks and grappling. It seemed that none of them was really well-rounded enough to cover everything. When I first heard about what we used to call "ninjutsu," it seemed like it incorporated aspects of both ends of the scale. It had the grappling and locks, and then you also had the striking and kicking. At that time, it just seemed more well-rounded to me. Plus I kind of liked the idea that it had a bit of a dark image in the early days. In general, those are the reasons I started training in this art.
U&O: What's the most important thing or lesson - it doesn't have to be a physical technique - that you have learned or gotten out of this training?
MO'B: To put it into my words, what I've learned from training in this art is the idea of perseverance, which is a big part of training. That's an idea you don't always talk about in other martial arts. The concept of not giving up. . . Also, our idea of henka, or change - that you don't stay committed to a technique when it doesn't work; you do something else. In general, those seem to be pretty good lessons for dealing with life, death, and whatever else is out there.
U&O: I was wondering if you would share any impressions or anecdotes about training with Hatsumi-Sensei or about training in Japan.
MO'B: Well, as you saw today, through the sample of Japanese training that I presented, it can be pretty confusing.
U&O: Yes, it can be. . .
MO'B: Hatsumi-Sensei is an interesting person - very serious at times and totally the opposite at other times. The training has definitely become hard and pretty serious these days. He's not too light-hearted; not too jovial in the training these days. He's taken a much more serious approach in the last year or so than previously. m not exactly sure why this is, but he's made the comment that training in Japan with him now is going to be the most dangerous training in the world. So, get ready. Hang on to your hats.
As far as "what training in Japan is like," a lot of people ask me that question. It's not an easy one to answer. One of the best things I can tell people is to go there and find out for yourself. It's different from other places in the world - as to why, that's difficult to say. What exactly is different is hard to pinpoint. Let's just say that the feeling is different. Maybe it's the fact that you're where the training all comes from, as opposed to some place far away thinking about a guy who lives in Japan. There's just a different feeling to it all which is very hard to explain.
U&O: One last question. What does the future hold for Mark O'Brien? What do you have planned?
MO'B: Well, Hatsumi Sensei is talking about the next few years being very crucial to learning the art. He says this concept of budo taijutsu which he's recently come up with is going to be established this year and the next year. I keep telling the people who write my visa that I only need a couple more years (laughs). On the other hand, if Hatsumi-Sensei actually retires (as he's also been talking about doing sometime in the near future), it would be a loss not to have been there for the years that he was teaching. So, my future is pretty up in the air right now. If possible, I would like to train as long as Hatsumi-Sensei's still teaching over there. At the same time, staying in Japan all year is less than satisfying, so it's nice to come over here once in a while. I'd like to continue what I'm doing now - which is to stay over there and learn for a while, and then come back here and share the things I'm learning with people that want to experience what Hatsumi-Sensei is teaching this year, but don't have a chance to get to Japan.
I don't see myself going out and starting a dojo anytime in the near future. If I end up coming back to America and living someplace where there isn't training already, then that may become a possibility, but that's not really why I'm in this art. I enjoy the training and I enjoy a lot of the people that I train with.
The future. . . that's a really good question. I just don't know. It's kind of a joke, but one thing I often tell people is, "When I finally get that last technique (the one I've been holding out for) - the turning into a crow technique - I'll know it's time to leave. I'll save a lot on airfare." (laughs)
It was not until we reached Noda-city, on a chilly evening in October 1983, that Doron realized how much the training had mellowed at the Bujinkan Hombu dojo since his departure from Japan in 1974. Originally, he came back to Israel after 8 years of hard work - a rigorous practice that had brought him to the threshold of malnutrition. Many parts of his body were injured, and his right knee was in bad shape. His hopes of representing Israel in the Olympics were gone. He was a wreck physically - from the intensive training with Sensei and the five Shihan of that time: Fumio Manaka, Tetsuji Ishizuka, Tanemura Tsunehisha, Hideo Seno and Kohi Oguri.
Before going back to training and starting his dojo in Israel, he went to recuperate in Switzerland for a few weeks. It was there that he gathered the energy to pursue his goal and open the first Ninjutsu dojo outside of Japan. An article I published early in 1975, in the leading daily newspaper in Israel, brought many people who wanted to experience a true Martial Art to the dojo. At the time, not many who began stayed with the training and for many reasons. Many could not bear the feeling that the more you practiced the less you felt that you could do anything. Emotional and spiritual training aside, the physical training was also very physically demanding, not only in the dojo but also outside. There were many evenings when we left the dojo crawling.
While in Israel, Doron maintained the level of hard practice he had experienced in Japan. He often drilled us from wall to wall with all the Taijutsu techniques he had learned from his fellow students and from the Grandmaster. However, this period was also a difficult time for Hatsumi-Sensei. Since the death of his teacher he had imposed upon himself a rigorous training schedule, so he could feel worthy of being the successor to Toshihugo Takamatsu, the 33rd Soke of the nine ryu. His body could not sustain the demands of the rough training, and he fell ill. Soon it was difficult for him to even execute the smallest of movements. He had to change his ways, or face the consequences. At first he would not agree to change, and he even considered going on at the same pace, risking his own life. He was so determined to maintain this level of difficult training that he even passed the Menkyo-Kaiden to his top students, so they would be able to keep ninpo alive if he died. But reason prevailed and after many considerations he began to change his training methods.
As Hatsumi-Sensei was recovering from fatigue, I visited him in Japan for the first time. I went to school at the University of Nevada-Reno, and I took advantage of the month-break between semesters to go and see the legendary teacher of my own teacher.
Only a week after my arrival in Japan, did he agree to see me. He would not see anyone at that time. Up until that day I had seen him only in pictures. I could not tell he was in bad shape. He managed to hide it very well. But when I brought back some pictures I had taken in front of his house, Doron was so shocked that he immediately called Hatsumi-Sensei to hear him say how he really was with his own voice. At that time Sensei could hardly walk, let alone teach. The only person he would work out with was Noguchi, and that was also very gently and very slowly.
It was during these years that Hatsumi-Sensei developed a more mellow approach to teaching Ninjutsu. When more Westerners reached the Hombu Dojo they were exposed to a much softer version of the training than the one Doron encountered in his earlier years of practice in Japan.
In 1983, before the first Gashuko in Yumoa Mura, we came, as a group, for a month of training, and went from dojo to dojo - from one Shihan teacher to another - so that almost every day of the month in Japan we would practice with Sensei or with one of his top students. They tried to lure us to their dojos, exposing us to the highest level of training. It was a month well spent. For years afterwards we were practicing the techniques we gathered during that time, sharing them with our fellow students in Israel and also world wide. The next few years we helped other dojos in England, Norway, Canada and USA and introduced them to the practice curriculum we developed over the years.
Recently, after more than 20 years, we have made some adjustments to our practice curriculum, most of them due to the changes made by the Hombu dojo. Still, we did not lower the demands of the grading and performance is still the key factor in the tests.
The diversity of the senior instructors at our dojo allows all students to take part in different forms of training. Some teachers advocate sparring more than anything else, while some concentrate on kata and the differences of the 9 ryu in our school. Some emphasize weaponry while other instructors devote the main practice to Taijutsu and the correct use of Moguri and Nagare. We have many weekend seminars, with students going from one teacher to another to absorb more and to enrich their training. The last two years the instructors have been in a Teachers' training course - with more than 90 instructors or aspiring teachers participating.
The certification of Martial Arts instructors became mandatory in Israel, and all Martial Arts teachers were required to take a course in conjunction with the Wingate Institute of Physical Education. Courses for this certification included Anatomy, Psychology, Fitness training, Methodology and First Aid, as well as knowing the required curriculum for your particular Martial Arts school. We used these requirements to redefine the demands of the Bujinkan dojo in Israel and to put every practitioner back on track, so we could feel that we all belonged to the same school.
Currently, the course at our dojo lasts almost 200 hours, taught mainly on weekends, with all the teachers taking part and making contributions from their experience as Martial Artists and as students of Budo Taijutsu. The most recent course was headed by Moti Nativ, a retired Colonel from the Israeli Army, and a team of four other teachers: Jacob Hazan, Ilan Gattegno, Yossi Sheriff and Yossi Tshuva. The course has made a big difference in the way our students train and retain the information that is being given to them. It has also helped the instructors a great deal be exposing them to many different aspects of Bujinkan training.
More information on the course and on the possibility of conducting it in other Bujinkan branches can be obtained by e-mail in the address below.
A few issues ago I wrote an article about women in Ninjutsu. (ed. note: see above) I just came home from work, planning to finish the newsletter after dinner. But, while I was looking through the mail, all my old anger came back and I decided to finish the newsletter right away.
Why angry? you're probably asking yourself. Let me try to explain.
In the article I had written earlier, I talked about the way many men don't take women seriously as training partners in Ninjutsu. Maybe I was being naive, but I thought that the men I was talking about would have gotten the hint.
But no, big mistake! For most men, a woman training in Ninjutsu still does not have as much worth as a man. She is often overlooked and is considered by many men as a figure in the background, especially if she is in a relationship with another ninjutsu practitioner. Then she is treated as unimportant, not worthy of mention, even if she started her ninjutsu training separate from her partner or husband. Sometimes she is considered an "unworthy" or inferior training partner as well - a piece of "fluff."
Often, women who begin to have a relationship with another practitioner find that they suddenly become unimportant or unworthy of being noticed anymore. Or that they are, in a sense, "cut off" from the training around them. This has not only been my personal experience, but is an experience many others have had. I've found this discrimination on many levels. For example, when a woman who is involved with another practitioner is organizing a seminar, or putting out a newsletter, or doing most of the work for a dojo, it is often the man she is involved with that gets the recognition and the thanks - especially if he is higher ranked than she is. The woman who actually did the work they prefer to forget. Why? I don't know.
I've discussed this many times in the past because it personally hurts me very much every time I see it happening. I know several women who feel and experience the same. We feel that we are good enough to train with and are earnest and serious about our training.
But I still don't know why this discrimination, this narrow vision still exists. I would like to hear from the men and find out why they continue to ignore the women in this art. I sincerely hope I will get reactions from them. For myself, I can find a lot of explanations from a historical, cultural, and political point of view, but this still does not give me satisfaction.
For me, ninjutsu is more than just a martial art. It is a way of living and thinking, that also includes respect for men AND women. So, as long as I don't experience that respect and acknowledgment as a fellow budoka, I must believe that many men are still far away from the real ninjutsu. Or am I wrong and is ninjutsu considered only to be an art for menx and women are only good to support them in their training?
For the martial artist, weight training is a year-round endeavor which means there is no "peaking" such as what football or body building has. In addition, the martial artists workout should be a balanced one in that all major body parts are exercised. When some muscles are neglected or when others are over emphasized this could lead to injury as there would be an imbalance in antagonistic muscle groups. Also, workouts that are not balanced could produce a lopsided physique. (Popeye comes to mind.)
Before beginning a weight training program there are a some questions that must be addressed.
1. What do I want out of resistance training? (Improved physical appearance, better techniques, etc.)
2. Do I want to emphasize more on muscle strength or muscle endurance?
3. How much time and effort am I going to allow on resistance training?
4, Are my goals specific, realistic, and attainable? (Looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger in three weeks would not be realistic.)
These questions should be answered before beginning any resistance training program, because without a clear definition of what you want and how you are going to do it, you could be led to become unmoti-vated, confused and ultimately disinterested in pursuing a weight training program.
Question number 2 addresses muscle strength and muscle endurance and which one you want to emphasize. Here are the differences between muscle strength and endurance.
Training for muscle strength tends to develop the "fast" twitch fibers in muscles. This means the muscle can exert a greater force, but for a short amount of time. (greater tension, greater fatigue).
In other words, muscle strength provides more power but for a short duration, as opposed to muscle endurance which provides resistance to muscle fatigue and the ability to repeat a movement with less chance of the muscle tiring.
Before and during your weight training exercise keep the following in mind:
1. Check with a physician or sports medicine professional before starting a routine.
2. Remember to warm up sufficiently before starting your weight training. Five minutes of walking, jogging or some other brisk exercise will get the blood moving and warm the muscles up reducing the likelihood of injury.
3. Stretch out the muscles being exercised before and during your workout. This helps to reduce soreness and keeps the muscles supple.
4. Drink plenty of liquids before and during you training.
5. Do not hold your breath when exercising.
6. Use proper form when training. If you don't know the proper form ask a personal trainer if one is available; if one is not, ask around and see how others do the exercise.
7. Use a spotter when necessary.
For maximum benefits, a program for strength development with high resistance coupled with low repetitions at a slow speed would be the best way. PRE or progressive resistance exercises have been found to produce the best results, and example of this would be:
Maximum or near maximum resistance 4-8 reps, for 2-4 sets at least 3 times a week.
Once you can do more reps with the weight you have been using, then use a little more weight to keep it between the 4-8 rep range.
Ex.: For 2 months you have bench pressed 155 pounds/70.45 kilograms for 8 reps, and today you find that you can do 10 reps. This means that your muscles have adapted to the resistance being placed on it and have compensated for it. This means you have become stronger and now must overload the muscle again,. Therefore you must add more weight. 5-10 pounds/2.27-4.55 kilograms should be sufficient to overload the stronger muscle.
Here are few basic weight training exercises:
These are just some basic exercises, and anyone starting a weight training program should check around and find more and different exercises to add to your resistance training regime. A trip to your local bookstore may yield some good reference materials that will enable you to design programs different from the one listed above.
These exercises should be performed with fluid, stable movements. Try to avoid jerky motions as they may cause injury. Also, any weight training exercises should be performed on days that you do not have martial arts lessons. If that option is not possible then exercise after your class is over. Weight training promotes muscle fatigue, and as such you may be too tired to perform training exercises at your dojo correctly. Thus you may end up defeating the purpose of your training. By engaging in a weight training program, we as ninpo practitioners can reap the benefits of resistance training as well as aiding us in becoming healthier and more physically fit individuals.
Animals do have something to teach us. Yet, for it to have value, we have to acknowledge our different structures. For example, battling male kangaroos' primary weapon is a double leg front kick. It's a good technique, but they also rest on their massive tails while doing it. Wolves and other canids primarily fight with their teeth. While we can use biting, it is seldom our primary strategy.
There are few specialist fighting animals. Most wild animals cannot afford the risk of serious injury. A dog can be injured to the point where he can't walk because he will have someone to take care of him. Wolves, on the other hand, cannot accept such an injury. The rest of the pack may or may not allow the injured animal to feed. The male lion is an exception to this rule. His job is to fight off other males. This, rather than laziness, is why he leaves the hunting to the smaller, faster females. It is also probably why lions usually win when fighting tigers. (Despite the encyclopedias of my youth saying that if the two fought, the tiger would probably win, the only actual examples that I know of were detailed by the circus animal trainer Clyde Beatty. In every case, lions won.) The lion, at least in the Serengetti, where most of the research has been done, is primarily a fighter. The male tiger, on the other hand, although he will fight during mating season - but only if absolutely necessary; when possible, they try to threaten their opponent away - is more of a generalist. He has to hunt as well as fight. Although not that much is known of the smaller wild felids, I would guess that they too fight far less than their domestic counterparts. So, perhaps this is one lesson to be learned from the wild - don't fight unless it's truly unavoidable.
What about techniques? As mentioned above, we have to take our different structures into account. Imagine walking along and then jumping, with almost no pause onto a board no wider than your shoulder width, six or seven feet over your head. If a human can do this, we consider it exceptional, but even old, fat housecats do it without thinking. Very few of us can scratch our ear with our foot.
Apes are probably closest to us in structure. Their technique seems to be one of grabbing, biting and striking, sometimes with an object. They also throw things, including feces. Probably a good tactic if you can stand it. There is, in a relatively old book on chimpanzees, a great shot of a male brandishing a stick in what resembles a kendo pose. However, again there are various structural differences. Apes are amazingly strong and agile. I once heard, though I'm not sure of the truth of this, that one reason they can't swim is because they have so much muscle that they are too dense to float.
In another recent nature show, the well-known chimpanzees studied by Goodall were revisited. Their hunting of monkeys was observed. The male monkeys tried, sometimes successfully to protect their families. They would attack the chimps, using their greater speed. Although some of them were grabbed and thrown, all the ones filmed, anyway, managed to catch another branch and escape.
There was one incredible scene of a male monkey swinging around the branch to dodge the grabbing chimpanzee. He would jump in, then jump back and swing around the branch out of the chimp's reach. Actually, he too was eventually caught and thrown, but it can give the observer some ideas about sui ("water"). Not to mention an incredible respect for the monkey's agility and courage. Some of these males, tiny when compared to the chimps, actually managed to back up and chase away their opponents.
The domestic cat is easily observable. Some of their moves are also similar to human fighting. Their fighting style is actually very well documented. Sometime ago, Dr. Paul Leyhausen wanted to see the pure instinctual fighting style of a cat. The problem is that the cat is reacting to his opponent. It is somewhat similar to the difference between a kata, where there is a standard manner of doing something, as opposed to an actual conflict, in which case, of course, one adapts to what the opponent's actions.
So, Leyhausen took a very aggressive tom cat and presented it with a stuffed rival. He doesn't mention if it was an actual stuffed cat or merely an imitation. The testosterone filled male (the cat, not Dr. Leyhausen) attacked the stuffed one. The doctor filmed the encounter and played it back in slow motion.
He found that a cat's basic strategy is to seize the opponent around the neck, leap in the air, try to kick out his rival's hindquarters, and give a killing bite on the nape of the neck. Since the rival is trying to do the same thing, it's not that simple. As anyone who has watched cats knows, basically they come together and usually wind up on the ground kicking and biting. However, it's not a bad idea, and could be adapted to human fighting, although I have my doubts about biting the nape of the neck.
Because cats are so flexible, it would, of course, be difficult for most humans to use such a strategy. Paw strikes are used, but once the animals close, most of the action is teeth and hindquarters. Perhaps, if we were looking to classify it, it would be ka ("fire"). Though I use the word strategy, animals seldom, if ever, have a conscious one. If something has worked, an experienced animal may try the same thing again, but generally, the mental state is as or more important than the physical. Among my own two cats, the smaller one usually dominates, due to his stronger personality. They do use some rudimentary strategies such as surprise attack or attack from above.
They did give me an idea once. Rather, they reinforced something I already knew. One was lying on his back, offering no openings. So, the other grabbed his blocking foot and began biting that. Oyama Masutatsu, the founder of Kyokushin karate is said to have used a similar strategy in tournaments. He would punch his opponent's blocking arm and break it.
I'd like to say that after watching this, I then used it in the dojo, finally having some success against an opponent who always beat me. I'd like to say it, but the fact is, due to a knee injury I haven't been able to train at the dojo for awhile. So, for the moment at least, it's something that has given me an idea; a new way to look at my current strategies.
At this young age, both my cats rely primarily on a sudden change in speed. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. What we can learn from it is the sudden explosion into motion. Even when they are both crouched, and one knows that something is about to happen, the sudden rush is always surprising.
One lesson that we learn from animals is that courage and spirit are, within, of course, certain parameters, as important as strength. In one of the countless nature shows on TV, a bobcat was shown chasing a larger lynx, more by force of spirit than anything else. One must keep in mind, however, that most of these nature shows have artificially produced scenes. Whether such an occurrence would really happen or not, I don't know. A master's spirit is stronger than a beginners, but the master also has the techniques which help give him a quiet confidence.
While trying to exactly mimic an animal's technique would probably be self-defeating, in the same way that one uses the images of earth, water, fire and air, one can use animal motion as an image. It is easier to roll from four legs than two, and thinking of the image of a cat smoothly rolling down might help the beginner - especially, keeping in mind the idea of smoothly rolling and coming up ready. While I suspect few of us could be on the ground with someone and simultaneously give a chokehold and kick the person in face, (another common cat fight pattern) one might receive some inspiration - for example using kicks when down on the ground.
The master probably doesn't need such imagery. The beginner may find it helpful. The quick left right strikes of a cat might be transfigured into several alternate hook punches. The two foot, tail-balanced kick of the kangaroo might turn into a flying jump kick.
It is often said that we should learn from everything. Those who enjoy watching animals may with a bit of imagination, gain knowledge as well as pleasure from such observations.
Basics in ninjutsu can be thought of as the letters of the alphabet. Before you can learn to write you must first learn the alphabet. With the alphabet, you can then make words or as in ninjutsu, katas or henkas. Some become exceptional writers others can not write at all.
In order to increase your skills as a writer, you must learn all the letters of the alphabet. Without knowledge of all the letters, you would not be able to spell all the words correctly even though you may get your meaning across. An exceptional write learns to master his craft.
However, you can not only work on basics. You must also experiment with henka or you will still not be able to write but only be able to recite a wonderful alphabet. Some people out there are exceptionally good writers, but do they know their entire alphabet and could stand to improve their writing skills.
I personally know I have a lot to learn about my skills as a writer, and I am not afraid to admit that. And as a result, I devote a lot of my training to improving skills I am weak in.
But I also love what I do and I am proud to share it with as many people as possible. My ideas may not always meet with approval nor should I expect them to, but please do not disregard them entirely, and I won't disregard yours.
As my dear wife nibbles on my ear, I can't help but turn to a lighter mood. So with something entirely else on my mind, I want to wish you the best for the summer. Hopefully we will cross training paths soon. As Hatsumi says, "Keep on going!"
Modern ninjutsu! What kind of poor unknowing miserable bullshit is this? If your taijutsu doesn't let you win the fight, there, in fact, is nothing wrong with the taijutsu; it is YOU that are wrong!
What is this thing called modern ninjutsu? Is it perhaps creating a sport system out of the art? If so, to prove what? Or is it like kickboxing, where you take a few techniques from many forms, to do many techniques for one form? If so, to prove what? Maybe we should take today's hi-tech weapons and use them in a gi and a hood? If so, to prove what?
Or is it what I believe it is. I believe this way of thinking and talking comes only from some people's minds with only one purpose. . . to find a way to make more money, nothing else! Well, maybe another reason is so these people can then call themselves masters. Who are these people?
I am sure they are those who don't know enough basic taijutsu and they are afraid they will no longer be credible as martial artists. Therefore, they have found other ways to be believed. I think it is from them that we are hearing the talk of modern ninjutsu. They say, "We have to be more modern." What I hear is "I need to be believed."
If we like to play beautiful music (taijutsu), we have to practice. In the beginning, there is more dis-harmony then harmony and the sounds we make are not much like music. . . more noise then melody. But as we continue, we become more familiar with our instruments (mind/body) and we learn to create a melody (technique). Through everyday practice and study, our self-confidence increases along with our skills, eventually we will be able to play simple melodies (movements). However, we are still very, very far away from mastering our instruments. In order to do that, it takes years of dedicated study and hard practice.
As in golf or chess for example, some people have the ability to reach a "world class level;" others will never become more than very anxious "amateurs." But as in everything we do, to include ninjutsu, it is only our self-confidence, our study, and our dedicated hard practice which will give possibilities to each one of us to use our talents in the best way.
Don't waste your talents in what someone calls "modern ninjutsu" because as I see it, they don't understand the basics, the philosophy, the depth or the reality of taijutsu. Don't give up a current philosophy for a new one until you study long enough to know what you're giving. Don't feed those persons (who I think should do something else other than ninjutsu) who don't care to give you a true way to reload your batteries with clear and clean natural power, so that you can get the personal strength to shape that power with others.
Hatsumi says, "When you learn to listen to your own heartbeat, you will start to live; the sound from the heart is music, the melody of life. To live in, and with this fantastic melody is our budo."
To reach such a level, we have to STUDY AND PRACTICE; not only practice. Ninjutsu is taijutsu and taijutsu is not a simple self-defense system. The ninpo taijutsu is an art; an art to be lived, to show a way of living, and to survive. Ninpo taijutsu gives you, if you can see it, the possibilities to live your life - not just experience it. In fact, it is your attitude to the art, to taijutsu which will make it function or not function.
As I claimed earlier, there is nothing wrong with taijutsu; it is you who are wrong!
Please stop talking about modern ninjutsu in the meaning of changing the system. Let us instead, use the system to live and survive in our "modern" time.
Finally, I would like to say, "Look at nature to understand the art of ninpo taijutsu. But remember that what you see is not nature, but the nature seen through your own way of questioning."
However, as college students, we are accustomed to things being a certain way - our living quarters are already built for us, our food is sometimes cooked for us (depending on your dining hall!), our heat and electricity and phones and cable TV are piped into our dorm rooms for four wonderfully irreverent years. As students, we should take advantage of the facilities and privileges extended us in these four years. As ninja, we should also be aware and prepared for unusual disruptions in our daily lives.
Let's start with the basics of preparedness in the college dorm. First: do you have access to basic needs, like food, water, and medical supplies? Most survival books recommend that people store at least 7 days' worth of water in their homes and as much food as well. For the average college student living in a 12 x 12 room, this is a lot of food and water, and very little space to store it in. I would definitely recommend storing water - after all, you can go for days, even weeks without food, but not so with water. Keep water handy in your room - go down to the supermarket and drop a few dollars for one gallon jugs of water. As for food, try to keep a day's worth of dried goods in your room - granola, peanuts, cereals, and other edibles in case you have to stay in your room.
In this day and age, with the convenience of large superstores like Wal-Mart, there is no excuse for not having a first aid kit of some fashion. Be willing to part with about $10 for a basic first aid kit, and keep it well stocked. If you're on a more grandiose budget than the average college kid's shoestring, then by all means splurge to get a better kit. Don't be afraid to take a trip to the infirmary at your college or university and borrow a Bandaid or two and some aspirin - you've paid for it in tuition, right?
After you've procured the basics, think about other aspects of your safety. On my campus, we have multi-floor concrete dorms, which in a fire could quickly turn into a multilevel oven. Make a point of finding a fire escape route (your school should have a map or directions) and then make a point of finding TWO MORE, just to stave off the effects of Murphy's Law. Do you know where the closest fire extinguisher is in relation to your room? Practice from time to time finding your way out with your eyes closed. Yes, people will look at you strangely, but once explained, you might get them to think about their safety as well. Forewarned is forearmed!
At my school, our multilevel dorms are concrete, but if a fire occurred in a hallway, students could be quickly trapped in their rooms. In that case, I would recommend having some good climbing rope handy - enough to reach the ground from the highest point on the building, in case you can go up but not down. At some schools, like Boston University, you could be in for a long climb down (i.e., Warren Towers is a very tall multistory dorm), but it's better than frying. Expect to pay around $.50 per foot of good static climbing rope, about $1 per foot of high quality dynamic rope.
What about general survival? If your school has a wilderness club, go camping with them some weekend and bring along a minimum of supplies. See how far you can go on as little as you can. Practice knot tying and rope climbing. College life has ample opportunities for people to try new things. One of the hottest new sports in college is paintball - if you get a chance and you want to practice some of your ninpo skills in a pseudo-real situation, go paintballing.
Don't be afraid to investigate around your school in terms of safety, either. If your campus has a safety and security force, go have lunch with a guard or two to keep on top of possible security problems in your area. Find out how qualified your security force is, what their response times are - for large campuses like Rutgers, the response time may be as long as local police times. If your security forces conduct routine patrols on campus, find out how thorough they are; watch them.
College students tend to get very isolated from the real world living in the exalted halls of academia. Don't let this happen to you - read the local paper from time to time to keep up on the activities in the local community. Is there a neighborhood watch program that you can be a part of? Are there incidents in the local area which you should know about that concern your personal safety and security? Watch the evening news from time to time - your local news, not network news. With the burgeoning internet, you can now read the New York Times and check in on CNN for free - take advantage of your college's computing facilities and use these powerful resources. Stay aware!
Last, and certainly not least, train! If you are near a licensed ninpo teacher, then by all means train! If you're not, try to get together with your friends and do what you can, but train!
In forthcoming articles, I'll take a look at various aspects of the college life and how ninpo applies to them. Look for them in the months to come!
Phil received his black belt first degree from Bo Munthe, the Swedish father of European Ninjutsu, and has subsequently risen to third degree. He has also been awarded the title of Shidoshi-ho. This means that Phil is registered in Japan as a coach and entitled to grade his own students.
Phil (29) has been learning martial arts for 18 years. He began, like a lot of martial artists, with judo. He learned judo from Brian Jacks whilst at Dorton House School for the Blind in Sevenoaks. He subsequently dabbled with various martial arts including aikido, karate, Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune do, and accidentally came across Ninjutsu in 1985. "I was at Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford at the time," says Phil, "The local Ninjutsu dojo started to use the college gym and a bunch of us went along thinking that it was a style of karate - nothing could be further from the truth. At the time, most of the dojo was made up by SAS soldiers, which was pretty intimidating at first. But we soon discovered that they were very warm, welcoming people, without whose input, I wouldn't be training now."
After leaving his special college, Phil had got the Ninjutsu bug and was very keen to carry on training. However, on arriving back in Peterborough, his home base, Phil discovered that the nearest dojo was in London. This left him with a dilemma, so Phil telephoned his Sensei in Hereford. He told Phil that if there was not a dojo close enough to him, then he should get together with some friends and begin one.
Phil was still only a white belt at the time. However, it is important to note that in 1986 there were only about 6 black belts in England. So Phil was very much thrown into the deep end. Not only did he have to travel all over the UK to attend seminars but he also had to pass on what he had learned to his students.
In 1989 Phil trained in Israel (then the capital of Ninjutsu outside Japan). Having attended the European summer camp with Bo Munthe, this led to Phil being awarded 1st degree black belt. This was all despite Phil's continuing deteriorating eye condition.
Phil is now a 3rd degree black belt and tries to train in Sweden every year. Bo Munthe is now semi-retired, so Phil looks upon Bo's former senior student, Johnny Lindroth in Stockholm as his Sensei (instructor). "I learn from Johnny by having him do the techniques on me," says Phil, "and it gives me a far greater insight into the techniques than fully sighted people have. Sight is one's dominant sense but often a very misleading one."
If you see Phil train and teach, you cannot tell he is registered blind and has only 15% of full vision. It is only when Phil looks at you askew that you realize there is something wrong with his sight.
"When people have got over the initial shock that I have to be guided to the door and that I am almost blind, most of them simply open their minds and accept what I have to share. Some don't do this and reject the fact that a 'disabled' person could teach a martial art, but such people would probably not take to Ninjutsu anyway. I spend more time convincing people that Bujinkan Ninpo Taijutsu, which is commonly known as Ninjutsu, is nothing like Hollywood's violent portrayal of the hooded assassin. Ninjutsu is a traditional martial art and has not been corrupted into a sport like most modern martial arts. Ninjutsu's philosophy is based upon Buddhism, it is a very caring and sharing martial art that is a complete approach to life." Phil is able to teach at a dojo thanks also to the support of his students, especially his two senior students, Michael Mounteney and Damien Reddy.
If you wish to see this extraordinary martial artist in action you can attend his regular dojo in Peterborough. You can speak to Phil on 0973 436959.
Vajrayana (Sanskrit for "Diamond Vehicle") is one of the three major schools of Buddhism. This form of Buddhism developed out of the Mahayana teachings in northwest India around 500 CE and spread to Tibet, China and Japan. It involves esoteric visualizations, rituals and mantras which can only be learned by studying with a master. It is also known as Tantric Buddhism due to the use of tantras, or sacred texts.
As soon as my student tries his newest technique on me, I noticed right away he has no balance or foundation. As you know if you are out of balance, you have no power. So I said to my student politely and whispered in his ear that famous word he has heard so many times, "KAMAE."
In all of my teaching and travels to seminars, I see very few people who know where their toes are. What I mean is they have no Kamae. Picture yourself in your mind doing your favorite technique. Now break it down into stop action movements like the frames of a movie film. In each frame ask yourself "What kamae am I in?" Then ask yourself a very important question, "Is the kamae that I am suppose to be in, in this frame, good and solid, am I overextended, are my toes pointed in the right direction, where is my center of gravity?" The list can go on and on. I am not here to teach you how to do Ichimonji no Kamae; that can and should be done by your qualified instructor. What I am trying to say is if it is not working for you look to your basics. I have found that most of the time when it doesn't work, you are not using good basics, like good kamae. I hope this has changed your outlook on how you are moving inside your technique. Look at your body and your feet and you will probably find your problem.
Next time I would like to look into another part of "why this technique doesn't work".In the meantime, forget about all the fancy techniques and continue to work on the most important part of your taijutsu. "BASICS!" "BASICS!" "BASICS!"
Shizen no kamae - Shizen no kamae is a natural stance, where the hips and the shoulders are square to (facing) the opponent. The hands hang naturally and the feet are shoulder width apart. The knees and elbows are not locked; they are soft, slightly bent. The head is erect.
Goku no kamae - Goku no kamae is a half facing stance. The body is angled at 45 degrees away from the opponent. The hands hang naturally, with the front hand open and the rear hand clenched into fudoken.
Hanmi no kamae - From shizen no kamae simply take a small step forward with the left. The body should be sideways to the opponent.
Ichi no kamae - To enter ichi no kamae from shizen no kamae take a step forward with the left foot and move the bulk of the body weight rearwards over the rear leg. The body should now be sideways to the opponent. The left hand comes up and points at the opponent. The right hand stays at the rear clenched in a fist at belt height just forward of the hip.
Ichimonji no kamae - Ichimonji no kamae is entered from ichi no kamae. The right hand is brought up level with the left shoulder, just outside of the chin. The knees are bent, with approximately 65% of the weight on the rear leg.
Kosei no kamae - Kosei no kamae differs from ichimonji no kamae by the shifting of the bulk of body weight forward and changing the arm positions. The right hand is clenched into a fist and raised level with the temple with the forearm rising at approximately 60 degrees into the air. The left hand is clenched into a fist and points to the right elbow.
Jumonji no kamae - From kosei no kamae the clenched fists become boshiken. The arms are crossed at sternum height. The body remains sideways to the opponent with the body weight forwards.
Doko no kamae - Doko no kamae is the basic fighting stance. The body is sideways to the opponent. The left hand is leading, but still fairly close to the body, the fist clenched. The right hand is clenched into a fist and level with the left shoulder just outside of the chin.
Boshidoko no kamae - From doko no kamae the clenched fists become boshiken. The left hand remains where it is. The rear hand comes up over the head.
Nage uchi no kamae - From doko no kamae the left hand is extended until parallel with the ground, the fist is rotated until flat. The right hand comes up to nose height and is rotated so the back of the fist is facing the nose.
I-nori no kamae - I-nori (or "pledge of the brotherhood") no kamae can be gained from doko no kamae. The right arm comes rearward slightly until vertical. The left hand comes around, parallel to the ground, until it crosses the right arm.
Shizumi no kamae - This is a low stance, where a deep step is taken rearwards with the right leg and the body comes down vertically over the right leg. The body is to remain vertical with the left leg fully extended, the left arm comes down parallel to the leg. The right hand remains up protecting the head.
Hira no kamae - In this stance the body is to be square to the opponent. The legs are slightly wider than shoulder width apart, the knees are not locked and the body weight is held lightly on the balls of the feet. The arms are extended straight out to the sides, with the elbows slightly bent and the hands open.
Hoko no kamae - For hoko no kamae it is easiest to describe from shizen no kamae. Take a short step forward with the left leg. The hips and shoulders are to remain square to the opponent. The body weight should be felt lightly in the balls of the feet. The arms are raised above the head with the hands open, and coming together to form an apex.
Hasso no kamae - Hasso no kamae is the ceremonial stance of Kumogakure Ryu.
Seiza no kamae - From shizen no kamae, the left leg is moved rearwards until the shin is resting on the ground and the thigh vertical. The left hand remains at hip height, will the right hand slides down the front of the right thigh. The right leg is now brought into position. The feet are not to cross. The hands are moved forwards equally until just in front of the knees. The body weight is evenly centered as you kneel.
Fudoza no kamae - This seated posture starts from seiza no kamae. As the body is brought over the back of the feet, the knees are splayed open, the right foot is in front of the left. The hands are clenched lightly and positioned on the insides of the knees. You are sitting mainly on your left foot, with the right foot in front, touching the left knee.
Anyone who studies a martial art that includes edged weaponry should own both "live steel" and training replicas that approximate each other. In Japan, Bushi (warriors) trained with a hardwood version of the swords they carried called Bokken. This tool was used for both training waza (techniques) and, in some cases, actual combat. Bushi would also make use of the Suburito, a Bokken that weighed at least twice as much as a real Katana. The Suburito was employed to strengthen a novice warrior's grip and stamina. Other cultures throughout history have used techniques similar to this. Ancient Roman soldiers drilled and marched using wooden versions of their Gladius (Roman short sword) and Scutum (shield) that weighed twice as much as the real things.
Nowadays, modern martial artists also have a new version of the Katana that is cast in Zinc or Aluminum and cannot hold an edge. These training swords allow the student to practice his or her Iaijutsu (fast draw and cutting technique) skills without the consequences of serious injury. I recommend this type of sword instead of rendering a tempered steel blade impotent.
The metaphorical parallels to a practitioner's skills, and how sharp and well-maintained his weapons are is worth examining. In the Austin Kunren Sukisha Dojo, we encourage newcomer's to avoid trying anything that looks too risky for them. I personally abhor peer pressure. We do not poke fun at anyone for not wanting to experience a Nage Waza (throwing technique) or Ryu Otoshi (dragon drop) before they learn Ukemi (breakfalls). Indeed, I personally respect a person's intelligence for knowing their own limitations. At the same time, there is a realm that many readers of this article understand well. This realm is known by any serious student who "goes for it." When I first began studying Ninpo, I learned to endure being thrown on the ground very hard for two hours at a time. Since I am 6' 6" tall, I make a good Uke (he who receives the waza). If a smaller, weaker student can learn how to throw and pin a giant with ease, he or she can confidently throw just about anyone. However, this knowledge has cost me dearly. I suffer from chronic injuries incurred from training with partners whose knowledge was greater than their skill. But to me, this is worth more than what I paid a hundred fold.
Nothing holds my interest if it is too easy or boring. I thrive on challenges, and while I'm not always up to all of them, I have a deep personal sense of satisfaction when I succeed. I have a strong sense of respect for the ultimate truth. As a large number of you know, it takes a large amount of effort and dedication to be really good at anything. Those of you who were brave and tenacious enough to take the risks and the pain involved in learning a martial skill know what I'm talking about. You are the few that "go for it." When I want to know whether or not a technique is effective, I ask to be the Uke. If your Tori (he who will defeat) is skilled, he or she can demonstrate a technique without injury to you. A good Uke just has to trust his instructor. Accidents can happen, but reasonable care can go a long way to avoid them.
Just like the care and maintenance of a steel sword requires dedication, so do your skills in martial arts.
It was after Mochizuki Saburo Kameie triumphed in the war against Taira No Masakado that he received a bit of land southeast of the Omo province. The area was called Koga-Gun, so Mochizuke changed his name to Koga Oni No Kami Kameie. It was his son, Oni No Kami Iechika, a talent in the military as well as in literature, that was supposed to have been the founder of the Koga Ryu. It is said that he studied Genjutsu from the Buddhist monk Tatsumaki Hoshi who lived in the area.
The tradition kept going for seven generations through Oni No Kami Ienari, Iesada, Ienaga, Iekiyo, Ietoo, Ieyoshi and Yoshiyasu, before it spread to other families: Mochizuki, Ugai, Naiki, and Akutagawa. To these five head families the remaining troops from both the north and south kingdom in the Namboku were joined (1335-1395) . With help from Koga Ryu they grew to 53 families. Some of the ryu (families) within Koga Ryu were:
While the Koga Ryu grew, there were eight families (Koga Hachi Tengu) that would be the strongest, leading the other ryu in Koga. The eight families were: Koga, Mochizuki, Ugai, Naikii, Akutagawa; Ueno, Ban and Nagano. But even groups in Koga such as Hiryugumi, Kakuryugumi, Tachibana Hachitengu Gumi and Kawachi Yon Tengu Gumi had ninjutsu masters of high class.
Under the Hokuto period (1441-1451), the leading heirs were Koga Saburo, Mochizuki Goro, Ugai Ryuhoshi, Naiki Fujibe and Akutagawa Kazuma. Under the Bunmei period (1469-1487) they were Koga Saburo Ii, Mochizuki Yajiro, Ugai Chiaki, Naiki Gohei and Akutagawa Tenpei who was hired by the Sasaki family - the Daimyo in that area - to lead their troops against Ashikaga Yoshizawa.
Almost 100 years later the Sasaki family hired ninjas again. This time they were ninjas from both the Koga and Iga area (1570). They also hired samurais from Koga and the goal was to destroy Oda Nobunaga. The samurais were trained intensively for a short period to be able to fight under the strategies that the ninja jonin had worked out.
Sasaki's army was divided into three divisions. The first one was led by ninjas from Mikumo Ryu, Takanose Ryu; Mizuhara Ryu and Inui Ryu. The other army was led by the other 53 Koga families, and the third by the Sasaki samurais. In the battle, Mikumo Iyo No Kami, who led one of the Sasaki armies suddenly changed sides and attacked the Sasaki army's back,. This led to the defeat of Sasaki, who barely managed to escape.
When Tokugawa Ieyasu fought for power in Japan, the Fushima castle near Kyoto was occupied. They had to defend themselves against the armies in the west long enough for the Tokugawa army to regroup for the fight in Seki Ga Hara in the east. There were also 400 ninjas from Koga Ryu who helped them with the defense - some of them in the castle, while others terrorized the enemy outside with different kinds of raids. About 100 of them died, and after the Tokugawa victory they held a ceremony commemorating the dead, among whom Mochizuki and Arakawa were mentioned to have been killed.
One of the last times the Koga ninja were active in a battle was at Shima-Bara No Ran, when Christian samurais rebelled and occupied the Hara castle in Shimabara province on Kyushu. Ten ninjas from Koga Ryu were sent by Izumo Kami Nobutsuna to gather information for the Shogun samurais to prepare an attack against the castle.
They were led by Mochizuki Heidayu, 63 years old and Akutagawa Kiyouemon, 60 years old, both veterans from the battle at Sekigahara. The others from Koga were:
They arrived on the 4th of January 1638, and their first assignment was to create a map of the area around the castle. Only 15 days later, they sent a detailed map of the castle and the forces protecting it to Edo and the Shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu.
It is also said that the ninjas from Koga, or Ongyo No Mono (hidden persons) as they were also called, infiltrated the castle each night without problem. The 21st of January they stole food from the castle, which did not make it easier for the enemy since they already had very little food. They also managed to get some secret passwords.
January 27th, five Koga ninjas managed to get into the castle disguised as soldiers. They was Mochizuki Yoemon, Arakawa Shichirobei, Natsume Kakano-Suke, Yamanaka Jutayu and Tomo Gohei. The troops outside the castle fired with their rifles, and the enemy in the castle automatically blew out all the torches so they wouldn't draw more fire to them. Later that night, when the guards began to relax, the ninja could easily climb over the walls in the protection of the darkness.
Arakawa got careless and fell down in a hole. He got immediate help from Mochizuki. But because of the noise, the guards lit the torches again, and they was spotted. Mochizuki and Arakawa both ran right through the troops, snatched one of the Christian flags on the way, and got shot at. All five managed to escape, but both Mochizuki and Arakawa got wounded.
When the castle was attacked the 24th of February, the Koga ninjas served as an office of connections between the two troops. As a parenthesis, it can be mentioned that Musashi Miyamoto (one of the most famous swordsmen throughout the history), was one of the plan makers on the Shogun's side. He was hit by a rock thrown by a woman from the castle wall, he had to retreat from the battle complaining about his loss of youthful power.
The Koga Ryu survived into the middle of the 20th century through one man, Fujita Seiko (1899-1966). He said that he was the 14th Soke of Koga Ryu, but there was no proof to those claims. He led small special units in the jungles in the second world war.
There is a book called "Ninjutsu No Gokui" (The secrets of Ninjutsu), written by Gingetsu, who learned the techniques and history over a long period of time from Tanemura Ihachiro, a jonin in Koga Ryu. The techniques described in that book is very similar to those in the Togakure Ryu from Iga.
Those who claim to be "masters" of Koga Ryu today must be considered as con artists and nothing else. Based on the fact the body movement from the Iga Ryu and Koga Ryu was very similar, the "supposed Koga Ryu" that is taught today does not have much in similarity with the Togakure Ryu and the other traditional systems from Iga and Koga.
This is absolutely not to be taken as "true fact" since it is quite impossible to prove the Kuden. We would be happy for any kind of creative and serious research that you have found out, so if you have noticed some errors in this text or would like to point out something else worth a note please let us know so we could update and make this even more accurate. And if possible, please try to back up your claims with some sort of verification or serious references.
A big problem when one does research about the history of ninja and Bujinkan is when one compares information in books about the subject with general acknowledged history in history books. This means that all information in circulation is to be considered as gossip until it can be compared and proven against general history. This includes the text above.
Some of the people we wish to thank for the sources are here listed in no particular order. . . Sveneric Bogsaeter * Perti Ruha * Stan Skrabut * Mariette V. D. Vliet * Charles Daniels * Bernadette V. D. Vliet * Stephen Turnbull * Ben Jones * Paul Richardson * HATSUMI Masaaki * Gothenburg ninposaellskap (and possibly many others)
For more information like this get hooked to Internet and browse over to http://www.algonet.se/~helmet/BUJINKAN/ or phone ++46-8-985948 to MokoNoTora FidoNet BBS.
This translation is allowed to be posted electronically or printed as long as it is left unedited or changed in any way. It is not allowed to be reprinted in any way for commercial purposes without permission. (c) MATS HJELM 1996
I can remember times where things worked perfectly - a throw went off as planned or I actually felt the flow - that made me work harder and put more effort into getting good. I had seen glimpses of my potential - what I really could be, if I worked for it. Perfect practice makes perfect performance became my mantra. And I tried. . .
Then there was my first 9th kyu rolling class, when I left because I felt like a total spaz. I couldn't roll - let alone do the cartwheels and handsprings that everyone else in the class was doing. The most humiliating part of the class was when the instructor sent me over to work with the beginning students, people who had been there for a few weeks. My pride was hurt - I had been training for six months! I felt as if I didn't deserve my green belt and I ran off to cry in the dressing room. I stripped my green belt off and swore that I would quit training. I missed about a week's worth of classes, but I came back because I missed the training. I tried again.
There was another time about a year or two later when I walked out of a leaping class visibly crying because I just couldn't get my legs high enough to clear the shinai. The repeated thwacks on my shins, when no one else was getting hit, seemed to spell out, "You're no good. Just who do you think you are? You're a terrible student." Tears in the dressing room again. . . this time followed by a gentle knock outside and an "Are you OK? Do you want to talk about it? It's a very difficult technique, you know. . ." from one of the instructors. I didn't want to talk about it then, but I felt better because someone saw how I was feeling and wanted to help. I went home, debated about quitting, and came back the next evening for class. Back to trying.
Most recently, I felt completely inadequate while doing a knife disarm. . . I was getting cut each and every time by my training partner. I kept getting more and more frustrated. Doubts were creeping into my mind. "Maybe you're not as good as you think you are." "You really suck, don't you know that?" "Four years of training. . . and that's how good you are? Your grandma could kick your butt!" But instead of running, crying into the dressing room, I kept on trying to learn the technique and get it to work the way it was supposed to. I wasn't going to learn how NOT to get cut by running away from a difficult technique; from a difficult mind.
These days, I give myself more credit. I'm not saying that my days of crying in the dressing room are gone. I'll probably come up on one or two before my Godan test! The moments certainly occur much less these days, and sometimes the doubts linger on. But I realize that I didn't get this far by quitting. I can only try to live up to my potential. And I can only try to improve and keep going if I fail at something. You see, I might fail at doing it the first time. . . but, if I keep trying, I may succeed at it the second. It's very safe for people to quit and feel sorry for themselves. They don't risk anything because they cut themselves off from the danger of trying. . . and failing.
The real risk lies in trying and continuing on. . . regardless of whether or not you succeed the first time.
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 (I have a feeling that there are several in this month's edition).
See you next month!
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.