A Question About Ninjutsu

Discussion in 'Ninjutsu' started by Muawijhe, Apr 20, 2010.

  1. Muawijhe

    Muawijhe Green Belt

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    I have a question.

    Why is it ninjutsu, and especially the authenticity of the X-kans, under so much attack (particularly from those who don't even study under it)? It seems like if you study a form of ninjutsu, someone will confront you with, "Hi, I study karate. What you're learning isn't ninjutsu. Have a nice day."

    I can understand the need for ninjutsu to maintain its independence from the claims of modern upstarts and poseurs. And I can understand critisizm from within other branches or ideaologies of ninjutsu making claims or attacks to prove its own authenticity. But why from without of that particular field?

    Sure, there's the whole marketing ploy of selling the loaded term "ninjutsu" to make a profit teaching a martial art. But if someone is not buying it, nor are they selling it, who made them the moral authority to debunk it?

    From what I understand, ninjutsu is what it is: a phenomenon particular to the time, geographical location, political environment, etc. that it was spawned from. As such, it is not strictly a martial art, but encompasses many ideas, concepts, and metaphysical essences that aren't easy to explain, especially to one who is not familiar with the historical time it was created, nor having ever trained in it.

    I'm just confused, I guess. But that's typical with all martial arts for me. The whole problem of tradition versus evolution from within, and the naysaying from without. It just reinforces my opinion that martial arts are like religion: everyone believes theirs is the best, and in the end it requires a dose of faith in many things.
     
  2. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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    Why we get that criticism, I don't know. I suspect it is because people confuse us with the neo ninja and feel they need to loudly share their opinion. People being people I guess.

    Not really. I don't believe my art is best. It is just what -I- like best. I really like being a member of the Genbukan and I have a number of reasons that I stick with it, which might not be true for anyone else. No more, no less.

    I also don't take things on faith. I have spent a significant amount of time researching the various controverses, looking at what is publicly known from various parties, and then making up my mind about them. In that regard, one could argue that it requires a dose of faith. Otoh one could argue that I have looked at the evidence and used reasonable doubt to come to a conclusion.

    Sure there is enough stuff that I cannot personally verify, but then it is also of little importance to me and if those things were proven conclusively either way, it would not have a significant amount of impact on me or my membership status.
     
  3. MJS

    MJS Administrator Staff Member

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  4. Muawijhe

    Muawijhe Green Belt

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    Thanks for the response, Bruno!

    Let me quickly correct myself:

    Replace everyone with some people, often with the loudest voices. =)

    And to drill down on the dose of faith, let me say: Until one has done sufficient research into the art, the body, their instructors, and have trained to a level of competency, one must take it with a dose of faith.

    Sorry about being vague, but thanks again. I think its important as you stated, and especially so with martial arts, to train in what you enjoy, and in what you think is best for you and your goals. =D
     
  5. Tsuki-Yomi

    Tsuki-Yomi Yellow Belt

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    To keep it short and to the point the flack Ninjutsu gets revolves around the fact that there isnt much sparring involved. The typical response from the ninjutsu crowd is "we do Randori", but that answer never seems to work out. People see video clips on youtube and feel we telegraph our punches and kicks. Everything is rehearsed ect, and none of that can be done to a person that is really resisting or throwing real punches or kicks. There is no aliveness in the training, or why do they hold there hand out like that when they punch. These are all comments and critisism that have been in the air for a long time, and quite frankly you just have to keep going and learn to ignore stuff like that.
     
  6. Hudson69

    Hudson69 Brown Belt

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    I will speak to my own experience and only my experience(s) with Ninjutsu and Budo Taijutsu. I first became aware that there was a martial art called Ninjutsu in 1989 at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. It was called Ninjutsu and the head guy was Soke Hatsumi. We did full speed sparring and if you had a back ground in something else it was even more fun; I was actually an EPAK student at this time, rolling full speed with the ninjas.

    Later I took a break from "just sitting and watching the ninja class my friend went to," and went into law enforcement in Colorado (I was able to keep up on my Kenpo, luckily). I missed being OPFOR for the field training though, it was a fun way to put my military field training to use (I was an active duty Security Forces during part of this).

    In about 2007 I found a new "Ninjutsu" school opening up near my house and I was able to be an original student. Now though it was called Budo Taijutsu and most of the stuff I did when I rolled with the Utah ninjas wasn't in the current curriculum. At first I thought it was just a instructor thing and that eventually it would change; that wasn't the case.

    This was something I expected though, Soke was still in charge after all. But it took me a little while to process this, that Budo Taijutsu was what was being taught and it was (as it appears to me) the hand to hand, the ground hitting skills and the weapons, like most martial arts encompasse today and not the black pajamas, blinding powder throwing, tree climbing, field stalking class of yesteryear.

    The climbing, stealth, kugi in techniques and the rest was not taught while I was there, at least formally and yes sparring was absolutely not allowed and neither was randori.

    At first I didn't like it and moved to another instructor who was teaching out of his basement. It was the same thing; The Bujinkan was teaching Budo Taijutsu and not Ninjutsu per se.

    I made it only as far as 1st kyu and that is not very far and the biggest bulk of my promotion came at once when I "tested out" of a lot of lower belts by one of my Colorado instructors based off of my Utah experience.

    As far as I know the Genbukan, based off of my friend in Utah, the one who talked me into "watching" his ninja class 21 years ago, teaches ninjutsu and includes a curriculum as close to what I studied so long ago. I cannot speak for the Jinenkan, To Shin Do (I have some DVD's though) or anything else but this is my experiences so far (condensed version).

    Take it for what it is worth.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2010
  7. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hi,

    There are a variety of reasons that the ninjutsu-related systems get "put down" seemingly more than others... Part of it comes from the "mysterious" secret aspect of the art and it's history, which seems to allow more than the normal number of, shall we say, charletans (I just love that word...) to take advantage, usually with the line that they "were taught by their Master, who choses to remain secret... it was a secret art, you know, that's why you don't find any records.... etc etc". This, combined with some absolutely wonderfully bad films in the 80's lead to the art being looked on as being just fantasy movie stuffs.

    Another side of things was the rise of MMA and BJJ, which took tournament competition out of the point-sparring image of karate and tae kwon do tournaments which dominated the public image of martial arts, showing a different image than was previously seen. This lead to people insisting on what they refered to as "alive" training, which is essentially training against another person who is resistant to your techniques, as well as trying to apply their own. While this is great for competitive training, it is not what real violence is about, so it is not a feature of ninjutsu training. There is a form of free-responce training employed, but it looks rather different, and has very different aims, so it is generally discounted, which is a pity, really.

    Finally, there is the training itself. The Bujinkan teaches in a particular way, which has it's good and bad points, but a general overview (from another of my posts here http://martialtalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=80187) is:

    Over the years, the Bujinkan has gone through a number of very distinct training approaches. In the 60's and 70's the training was very restricted in terms of numbers, and was focused on hard body conditioning and (sometimes brutal) application of technique. Hatsumi himself has spoken about the way he taught and trained in those days, saying that he often went too hard and too far in the application, but everyone seemed to be fine with it.

    This was followed by a focus on basics (such as the Kihon Happo and Sanshin no Gata) as the art spread around the world, particularly to Western countries such as the US. At this time the Ten Chi Jin Ryaku no Maki became the standard teaching manual. However, the art was spreading in many directions, and rather than establish firm control over the organisation, Hatsumi Sensei chose to leave the teaching in the hands of the individual instructors which has had the downside of having vastly wide ranging levels of skill and standards across the organisation.

    Due to the large numbers, and very different ability levels, the training developed again into what became known as the Bujinkan's "Happy Heart" training. This was from the late 80's into the 90's, and was characterised by very relaxed movement, and focus on the "feeling" rather than form or power. It is thought that a large part of the reason was to ensure safety for the large number of people now training in the art.

    Eventually Hatsumi saw that this was weakening the practitioners, and it was time to change again. The story goes that around 1996 (from memory...) he was teaching a sword technique (using bokken), and the senior Japanese Black Belt was attacking with a "Happy Heart". Hatsumi told him to atack again, properly this time. The Black Belt attacked with a "Happy Heart". Hatsumi told him again to attack properly, and again was presented with a "Happy Heart". This time, Hatsumi struck down in responce to the attacking Black Belts forehead, leaving the watching group in shock. As the blood trickled down the Black Belt's foehead, Hatsumi turned to the mostly Western group there, and said "Playtime is over". Thus the period of "Happy Heart" training came to an end.

    And finally, as we have moved into the 2000's, Hatsumi has been spending more and more time focusing on the more "philosophical" aspects of the training, with yearly themes such as Budo of Life, Budo of Zero, Koteki Ryuda, and this year a theme of no theme... This has been reflected in a training method that is slow, and relies on concepts of manipulation of space, distance, angling etc, and is mainly demonstrated on simple attacks to demonstrate the concepts fully, however these attacks and defences are not exactly realistic. And they are not meant to be.

    The problem comes about when many members of the Bujinkan believe that they should only train exactly as they have seen in Japan, or more realistically, how they believe it is done in Japan (how they percieved it, even if they were there, is not always accurate) without the requisite background that the Bujinkan as a qhole has gone through, and the background that Hatsumi Sensei has spent many decades accruing. Very simply, by only training the way it is done in Japan, you are skipping to the end, and will not be able to really do what is shown, as you will be missing the basis that is required. However, a good instructor will be able to take you through that part.

    It should be remembered that the way Hatsumi teaches is really designed for only the high level practitioners with the requisite background to understand, not the less experienced. But the way that Hatsumi has set things up is by telling everyone that if they are not training with him in Japan, they are not getting the "real" art. This is, I must say, simply a control method. And it again has the downside of leaving many practitioners behind who do not have the experience to get the benefit of the way that Hatsumi Sensei teaches.

    As I'm sure you can see, I feel that the Bujinkan as a whole would benefit greatly from having much stricter standards, people would be able to get more out of the information and education that Hatsumi Sensei gives them, and the art as a whole would be much more positively recieved. These standards are found in organisations such as the Genbukan and the Jinenkan, and as MJS said, they are rarely targeted the same way the Bujinkan is. But the practical upside of everything is that it is entirely Hatsumi Sensei's organisation, and what he says goes as far as the Bujinkan is concerned.

    This "happy heart" training, designed to work on the subtleties after years of serious training, is what most people see when looking at ninjutsu-related training, whether on YouTube, or in many classes around the world, and I personally feel that that comes from people wanting to follow what Hatsumi is teaching, but not understanding why he is teaching and training the way he is, or whether or not it is approapriate for them at the particular point in their training. It may be, it may not.

    I think that covers most of it. One last thing....

    When did that happen? I go away for a few moments, I don't know....
     
  8. Muawijhe

    Muawijhe Green Belt

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    Thanks to everyone for your responses.

    Fromt what I gather of reading those, and the posts in the threads that I was linked to, is that ninjutsu takes a lot of flack primarily because of the "ninja" association, and our culture's take on ninja. Between bad 80s movies (was the American Ninja series really all that bad? :lol:) with black clothed super-gymnists and youth-oriented franchise marketing (comic books, actions figures, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), our poor culture by and large has no concept of what ninjutsu is.

    So on one hand, you have the serious ninjutsu student who isn't taken as serious because the detractors can only picture the above media influences. On the other hand, you have the serious martial artist of another art who looks at the overly-zealous ninjutsu student who has been adversely affected by the media ninja image (ie, he has the cowl on his head in every MySpace and Facebook picture of him). And everything in between.

    I think this bi-polarization trickles down and through other views of aspects of the art, such as the training. I won't go into the training, as there is already a great, if not sometimes very heated, discussion thread dealing with that on this forum.. Anyone reading the entirety of it will get the point well, I believe.

    So, to wrap up, I blame the media and ignorance of a culture at large. I must say, before I started learning more of ninjutsu, I'm sure I'd have given a cross-eyed glance (in fact, I know I have) to someone I knew who said they were studying ninjutsu ("Oh, so you learn to skulk around in black pajamas and kill samurai?").

    But, I think each martial art has had a similar period when it is brought to the attention of American culture at large. Kung fu in the 70s, with David Carradine and horribly dubbed Hong Kong action films. Or karate in the 80s, when most people's only reference to it was a Ralph Maccio and Pat Morita film.

    Just imagine if BJJ got its exposure here in the US, not from MMA, but form a children's cartoon...

    Post-teen Abnormal Brazilian Jui-jitsu Rabbits!
     
  9. ElfTengu

    ElfTengu Blue Belt

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    I think our main downfall is that too many people harp on about how Takamatsu Sensei went around Japan and China kicking *** and proving the effectiveness of his art/training, but out of the hundreds of thousands of practitioners today there is not one who is prepared to do the same. And there are plenty of opportunities in non-mainstream true No Holds Barred events.

    In fact, we wouldn't even have to 'win', just survive and avoid damage, which is apparently what we should be about today. I believe Takamatsu Sensei once evaded an opponent for long enough that they were exhausted, and then when he was about to take advantage of this the fight was stopped and he was pronounced the winner without landing a single blow. Surely someone can run and roll around a boxing ring or octagon until the same effect is achieved?

    But in true kyojitsu form I will have an opposing view tomorrow to what I said today.
     
  10. Jean-Yves

    Jean-Yves White Belt

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    I'm only a very beginner in the Bujinkan but find that the difference between instructors can be immense. I trained for a few moths with one sensei, a 6th dan, who was very hard in his teaching. Believed in toughening the body through pain. Yet we trained on mats. He travels to Japan once a year or so. The one I train with now is a 4th dan, and is much less aggressive in his methods. We train on wooden floors. He is also very much into the feel of the techniques and would occasionally spend a while going into the history or reasons behind a particular movement.

    I am not an aggresive person so feel much more comfortable with the one I am with now. Takes a bit longer for grades but I am much more comfortable learning from him. I guess it is a search for a teacher who matches our personality at the time.
     
  11. Satt

    Satt Black Belt

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    In a strange sort of way, it is nice that some people don't respect "Ninjutsu". The more people think I am weak, the stronger I can prove to be should the need arise...MUAHHAHAHAH!!!!!!!

    :jediduel:
     
  12. derobec

    derobec Orange Belt

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    Hi,

    For the first paragraph, I'd agree for sure.

    Second paragraph? Well I'm not too sure -smacks of the infamous Inoki-Alli 'fight', but would the present day spectator, brought up in a media rich environment be happy watching a guy show-boating for a couple of hours and then being awarded the win? Think not. That's not even taking into account whether they would have the stamina to outlast a MMA fighter for a couple of hours.

    the fight off at the end of the ninja 'Human Weapon' programme showed what a VERY high grade is capable of......and perhapps that's one reason why there's an apparent lack of respect for 'ninja' students.

    With Respect (and some anticipation!),
    William
     
  13. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Well if you look at the "Human Weapon" fight at the end Doug Wilson dismantled his opponent. How many times did the other guy get hit and decapitated ie. killed. Even when it went unarmed there was not clear cut victor though I would have to give the edge (literally) to the MMA guy in that one brief segment as when he picked up the sword he may have cut doug. (we just won't know will we) The fight before that well look at each individuals attributes. Attributes and athleticism always play a roll in any encounter. In that particular match I can think of a number of different individuals more capable than Bruce who by the way is a really nice guy!
     
  14. derobec

    derobec Orange Belt

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    Hi Brian,

    I really don't see an issue with regards to Jason Chambers and Bill Duff loosing their bouts. I was referring more to the way that the 'contests' translated to the TV screen. With the other fight-offs (at least, the ones I've seen) there was a certain 'urgency' which I don't feel was shown in the 'ninja' programme -to me, it came across as a very relaxed practice rather than a gritty I WANT to WIN scrap. There could be many reasons for this but perhaps the most likely is that the Booj doesn't (as far as I'm aware) prepare it's members for competitions so it would have been new ground for all concerned.

    All the Best,
    William
     
  15. Aiki Lee

    Aiki Lee Master of Arts

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    Oh, Mr. Parker, is there anything you don't know? (-:
     
  16. stephen

    stephen Purple Belt

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    The reason is precisely that wanting to win is pretty much a mortal sin in the Bujinkan.

    Leads to all sorts of dying, which is inconvenient.

    I was told recently by ASIR*:

    1. Be effective
    2. Don't lose
    (3. But don't try to win either)


    *A Shihan I Respect
     
  17. stephen

    stephen Purple Belt

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    Chris,

    Your posts are of a consistently high quality. However, while you speak as if these comments are fact, I would propose that there's a fair bit of opinion in there as well. As a Bujinkan member who has been traveling to Japan frequently (and having an instructor who lived in Japan during a period in the 90s), I'll have to say that, from my background, I've had a distinctly different experience than your statements. (And, I've never heard the phrase 'Happy Heart' before :) .)

    Where do you develop these opinions? Do you train regularly with Bujinkan instructors in Japan or abroad?

    I guess I'm just asking that you include more 'In my opinion' caveats as your writing style can come off as if you're reading 'settled history' and may also especially read that way to inexperienced people.

    As I said, you have consistently high quality posts, so please don't take this with any negativity - it's not meant in that manner.
     
  18. jks9199

    jks9199 Administrator Staff Member

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    I'd be interested to hear your own opinions and experiences on these issues. I'm not at all suggesting that Chris has the absolute word or that his interpretation or experiences are some sort of Gospel -- but he does, in my opinion, seem to provide a good, balanced account, but different viewpoints from qualified & honest people always provide more enlightenment on the issue.
     
  19. Archangel M

    Archangel M Senior Master

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    So what happens when Hatsumi passes? Who do you have to go to to get the "real thing" then? I see problems when high levels of an art can only be achieved by seeing one person.
     
  20. derobec

    derobec Orange Belt

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    Hi,

    Interesting philosophy -but is it meant to be taken literally? I can see how 'ASIR' might have been trying to instill the idea of 'letting go' of a narrow perception to try and get his/her students to get stuck in without any concern as to whether they 'win' or loose. BUT, if 'ASIR' was literally saying that you shouldn't try to win then I hope s/he is not claiming (even worse, charging) to teach realistic self defence.

    How anyone can learn to be effective if they haven't first developed a will to win I don't know -unless it's by accident.

    Best Wishes,
    William123
     

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