Modernization of Ninjutsu

Yamabushii

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Hi All,

A bit of background to set some context from my position first. I haven't posted here in a very long time. I used to post on martial arts forums quite often when I first began my training in Ninpo in 2012. At that time, as a complete novice to the art (not in martial arts as a whole), I thought I had all the answers and everyone else sharing their opposing opinions online about Ninpo were wrong. A few years later my teacher left the Genbukan and I with him. It was at that point that I truly began to realize how much fluff and nonsense is in the world of traditional Ninpo within the big three Takamatsuden orgs today (though admittedly I have no experience with the Jinenkan). Don't get me wrong - there are tons of incredibly effective techniques. I love the art, but, respectfully, I don't think Soke Hatsumi or Tanemura are running their organizations in a manner that is relevant to today's world. Living in Japan I wonder if they are sort of stuck in their own bubble.

Living in the U.S., many of us are fortunate enough to be a part of a mixing bowl of martial arts. We have almost every single major to minor martial arts style in every major metropolitan area of the U.S. This opens the doors to quite a bit of additional knowledge for us to take advantage of compared to people in some other countries. In our current organization, for the physical techniques we focus heavily on Jujutsu. We're in the process of becoming certified to teach a few additional modern systems as well, but when it comes specifically to the shinobi techniques, I've found myself teaching it less and less. Now, we just had our annual shinobi seminar which is around 30 hours of training in a single weekend, both indoors and outdoors, but most of the "ninjutsu" we teach is primarily strategy, philosophy, history, and sometimes spirituality if someone specifically asks about it. Of course there are more "shinobi-centric" weapons techniques, and a bit of taijutsu, but again most of the physical techniques are really just some forms of jujutsu.

With that said, my opinion is that we live in a time of relative peace, compared to feudal Japan at least. In most countries today, you can walk around safely to and from your home to the grocery store and back. In some areas you may get jumped, but at least you're probably not worrying about an entire clan on horseback sacking your apartment the moment you leave. Shinobi no mono/Samurai essentially trained 24/7 and lived for a single purpose. That type of training was incredibly different. It required a level of mastery obtained through countless hours of shedding actual blood, sweat, and tears on a daily basis for many years. Our lives aren't that way, unless you're in military special forces. We pay $XXX to train, often times under a legal agreement, and do it either as a hobby, for fitness, for clout, or, sometimes, some of us are truly passionate. Most of us also have our "main" lives which is supporting our families and working, most of the times having nothing to do with our training. However, many practitioners are posting videos doing funky hand signs, wearing black shinobi shozoku in broad day light, and/or sitting on broken tree trunks doing awful ukemi, meanwhile hash tagging everything and end up getting laughed at online.

Regardless, I find that Ninpo is still incredibly useful today as long as you're teaching it from a realistic perspective. I advertise my school as a Japanese Jujutsu school even though we cover a lot of Ninpo, but I don't segregate the two when I teach them, often times not even mentioning it. The problem I have with some of the traditional X-kans is the manner in which they teach. They discourage tournaments/competitions, so few people actually spar. My students are constantly sparring and doing randori drills. I encourage them to go out and learn other things as well. It's a very Jeet Kune Do approach (take what's useful and discard what isn't). We train with compliant uke to let people get techniques down then switch to randori or sparring so they learn how to do them without compliant uke as well. Our students will throw a boxing jab and cross instead of a traditional tsuki (lunging in straight hand punch and waiting for eternity), and the uke's attacks are always some form of a realistic attack. This prepares my students for knowing how to actually put someone in a position to go for an omote gyaku or waki gatame or goja dori or oni kudaki or seoi nage or kubi nage or ganseki nage, etc. I find all of these are severely lacking in your average X-kan school and I have rarely seen that kind of training being pushed from top-down leadership as well.

So my questions for anyone willing to answer:

1) Do you find the traditional teachings of Ninjutsu are still applicable and effective in today's world?
1a) If so, do you have successful real-world experience in applying your techniques in self-defense or in the defense of someone else?
2) Do you think Ninjutsu needs a massive modernization in its methods of teachings in the big 3 X-kans?

Disclaimer: No disrespect to anyone in the Buj/Gen/Jin orgs since I know some folks in the orgs that thankfully don't fit the description above. They are, however, the minority exception.
 

drop bear

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There hasn't been a change in effectiveness or applicable ideas in martial arts. (Sort of. Obviously it has gotten better but that is a different argument)

We can look at three thousand year old pictures of wrestling for example that show techniques that are still used today.

If whatever it is you are doing isn't relevant or working it is the training model or the system.

Which is easily fixed by training via a scientific method.

 
OP
Yamabushii

Yamabushii

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There hasn't been a change in effectiveness or applicable ideas in martial arts. (Sort of. Obviously it has gotten better but that is a different argument)

We can look at three thousand year old pictures of wrestling for example that show techniques that are still used today.

If whatever it is you are doing isn't relevant or working it is the training model or the system.

Which is easily fixed by training via a scientific method.


I agree completely. Techniques that broke bones a thousand years ago will still break bones today. My issue is particularly with the lack of emphasis on realistic attackers/training methods from some of the more traditional large orgs today. Every now and then if you go to a taikai you may learn some incredible moves from one of the Soke, but the issue isn't their skill level, it is how their orgs are run. It is a top-down leadership issue.

For example, there is no Gracie school where you are not constantly doing randori, so Gracie white belts tend to be much more effective and comfortable with resistance training/sparring than most Ninpo practitioners still in their kyu ranks. Admittedly, and obviously, I have not met every Ninpo-ka out there so I base my views off what I have seen at multiple taikai that I have been to as well as workshops and seminars with other orgs.
 

Chris Parker

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Hi. Omar, yeah?

A bit of background to set some context from my position first. I haven't posted here in a very long time. I used to post on martial arts forums quite often when I first began my training in Ninpo in 2012. At that time, as a complete novice to the art (not in martial arts as a whole), I thought I had all the answers and everyone else sharing their opposing opinions online about Ninpo were wrong.

Ha, not uncommon... a bit of a look has you posting here in 2017, where you said you had been training in martial arts for 10 years... so that's 5 years of "martial arts" before joining the Genbukan in 2012, teaching from 2017 or earlier. Cool.

A few years later my teacher left the Genbukan and I with him. It was at that point that I truly began to realize how much fluff and nonsense is in the world of traditional Ninpo within the big three Takamatsuden orgs today (though admittedly I have no experience with the Jinenkan).

So that was 2018, cool. I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "fluff and nonsense"... depending on the context, that could be any of a number of things, some more valid than others.

Don't get me wrong - there are tons of incredibly effective techniques. I love the art, but, respectfully, I don't think Soke Hatsumi or Tanemura are running their organizations in a manner that is relevant to today's world. Living in Japan I wonder if they are sort of stuck in their own bubble.

Well, everyone's in their own bubble, realistically... as far as "running their organisations in a manner that is relevant to today's world", well, that's really a matter of expectations more than anything else. For them to be run in a way that is relevant, then all that means is that some people find relevance in them to their modern lives... which a large number of people certainly seem to. Mind you, as you're focusing on the techniques, then it's not a matter of how the organisations themselves are run, but how the arts are taught within them, and how you perceive their connection to modern violence... correct?

Living in the U.S., many of us are fortunate enough to be a part of a mixing bowl of martial arts. We have almost every single major to minor martial arts style in every major metropolitan area of the U.S. This opens the doors to quite a bit of additional knowledge for us to take advantage of compared to people in some other countries.

Hmm... to be honest, I don't think this "additional knowledge" is what you're making it out to be, nor is it something that really has a lot of relevance to the discussion.

Here's what I mean: You seem to be doing what a lot of people do, which is fixate on a single context, whether understood or not, and expecting all martial systems to be answers to the same questions... they're not. But misunderstanding the context that they're meant to be applied in, and expecting them to have some relevance in that different context, then you'll never really get anything close to any understanding of these other arts, no matter what "access" you have to them might be. Additionally, access to a wider selection can also be a bad thing... not to pull too much of the curtain back here, but one of your affiliated dojo teachers proudly talks about his rank in a particular art, listing the teacher as well... thing is, that particular art is a fake system created in the 1980's, and will only give a rather inaccurate understanding of the entire field if it's followed... despite other, more solid teachers and arts this teacher in your affiliation has.

In our current organization, for the physical techniques we focus heavily on Jujutsu. We're in the process of becoming certified to teach a few additional modern systems as well, but when it comes specifically to the shinobi techniques, I've found myself teaching it less and less.

"Shinobi techniques"? Can you clarify? Are you meaning the physical techniques from the Genbukan Ninpo Taijutsu syllabus? If so, most of those are still what I would classify as "jujutsu", just with a bit of a flavour to them.

Now, we just had our annual shinobi seminar which is around 30 hours of training in a single weekend, both indoors and outdoors, but most of the "ninjutsu" we teach is primarily strategy, philosophy, history, and sometimes spirituality if someone specifically asks about it. Of course there are more "shinobi-centric" weapons techniques, and a bit of taijutsu, but again most of the physical techniques are really just some forms of jujutsu.

Well, yeah, they are going to be dominantly jujutsu.. with only a very small number of exceptions, most "ninja" weapons were samurai ones... after all, most "ninja" were samurai, just engaged in a particular more information-gathering activity. When it comes to "strategy, philosophy, history, spirituality", those are all very much parts of "samurai" arts, so should form a reasonable part of their teaching as well.

With that said, my opinion is that we live in a time of relative peace, compared to feudal Japan at least. In most countries today, you can walk around safely to and from your home to the grocery store and back. In some areas you may get jumped, but at least you're probably not worrying about an entire clan on horseback sacking your apartment the moment you leave.

While it is overall safer, I don't think it was as bad as all that "back in the day"...

Shinobi no mono/Samurai essentially trained 24/7 and lived for a single purpose.

Er... no.

That type of training was incredibly different.

Was it? What I mean by that is, what are you basing this assumption on?

It required a level of mastery obtained through countless hours of shedding actual blood, sweat, and tears on a daily basis for many years.

Not really. And exactly what was required would vary greatly based on the period, domain, role, rank, and so on... but, in the main, no.

Our lives aren't that way, unless you're in military special forces. We pay $XXX to train, often times under a legal agreement, and do it either as a hobby, for fitness, for clout, or, sometimes, some of us are truly passionate. Most of us also have our "main" lives which is supporting our families and working, most of the times having nothing to do with our training.

Yep, agreed.

However, many practitioners are posting videos doing funky hand signs, wearing black shinobi shozoku in broad day light, and/or sitting on broken tree trunks doing awful ukemi, meanwhile hash tagging everything and end up getting laughed at online.

Firstly, it seems you're watching different videos than I am, and I'm rather glad of that, ha! Secondly, if they're doing things like that, then, yeah, I'd laugh at them too... thirdly, and this is the important one... so what? Are they members of your dojo?

Regardless, I find that Ninpo is still incredibly useful today as long as you're teaching it from a realistic perspective.

Okay. I would say that what needs qualification is "realistic perspective".

I advertise my school as a Japanese Jujutsu school even though we cover a lot of Ninpo, but I don't segregate the two when I teach them, often times not even mentioning it. The problem I have with some of the traditional X-kans is the manner in which they teach.

And, honestly, a lot of criticisms of their teaching methodology can be quite valid... but it needs to be valid in the context in which it's intended. As the, likely apocryphal quote from Einstein says, "Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by it's ability to climb a tree, it will spend the entirety of it's life thinking it's an idiot."... likewise, here, the criticisms have to match the aims... and, to be honest, I don't know that that's always the case... a good case in point these days is the Martial Arts Journey you-tube channel, where the you-tuber, Rokas, only sees his own particular (and, to a degree, inaccurate) beliefs, and judges things based on an expectation that should never be applied.

They discourage tournaments/competitions, so few people actually spar. My students are constantly sparring and doing randori drills. I encourage them to go out and learn other things as well. It's a very Jeet Kune Do approach (take what's useful and discard what isn't). We train with compliant uke to let people get techniques down then switch to randori or sparring so they learn how to do them without compliant uke as well. Our students will throw a boxing jab and cross instead of a traditional tsuki (lunging in straight hand punch and waiting for eternity), and the uke's attacks are always some form of a realistic attack. This prepares my students for knowing how to actually put someone in a position to go for an omote gyaku or waki gatame or goja dori or oni kudaki or seoi nage or kubi nage or ganseki nage, etc. I find all of these are severely lacking in your average X-kan school and I have rarely seen that kind of training being pushed from top-down leadership as well.

Yeah... look, I'll be honest here, and say that you're looking in the wrong place, so no wonder you're not finding your answers there...

I'll put it this way: Why would you expect an art, or series of arts, taught in a traditional manner, from a different culture and time, dealing with a different cultural approach to violence, a different cultural approach to passing on traditions, with the emphasis being the continuation of traditions themselves, including traditional skills, to actually be something geared up for what would be a completely alien context to the one they were created for? It's the equivalent of complaining that the course in classic French cuisine didn't teach you to make a pizza or hamburger, and that's what you want to eat...

So my questions for anyone willing to answer:

1) Do you find the traditional teachings of Ninjutsu are still applicable and effective in today's world?

This needs major qualification... what teachings of "ninjutsu" are you referring to? Climbing castle walls? Silent running? Water concealment methods? Disguise? Weather prediction? Next, what kind of application are you expecting them to have? There are traditional methods for lighting fire, or a candle that always stays upright (and lit)... but today we have flashlights on our phones, and lighters and matches... so... no? Yes? As far as "effective", well, that depends on the first two parts... the candle still works, but it's not as effective as a powered light, so, how does that work?

Of course, if you're talking combative techniques, then there's a whole other mess of things to go through... including whether or not that's actually the point of the techniques themselves...

1a) If so, do you have successful real-world experience in applying your techniques in self-defense or in the defense of someone else?

Yes, but it's not likely in the way you might think.

2) Do you think Ninjutsu needs a massive modernization in its methods of teachings in the big 3 X-kans?

It's a traditional martial art... to "massively modernise" it would take it away from being a traditional art... so, if the point is that it's a traditional art, and people study it because it's a traditional art, then... no. I would probably argue that a number of the methods of teaching that traditional art are sub-optimal, or overtly geared towards one facet over others (including image projection, but that's another conversation), but we're now back to the idea of looking for answers in the wrong area. If you want something geared towards modern violence and self defence needs, well, don't do a traditional art. You don't have to change them, just do something different.

Disclaimer: No disrespect to anyone in the Buj/Gen/Jin orgs since I know some folks in the orgs that thankfully don't fit the description above. They are, however, the minority exception.

Okay.

There hasn't been a change in effectiveness or applicable ideas in martial arts. (Sort of. Obviously it has gotten better but that is a different argument)

Well... yes, there has... primarily cultural. This whole "it's gotten better", frankly, I would dispute pretty strongly... it's more that many modern systems are geared towards a similar (relatively small) application, with little grasp of much beyond that... and, you know what, those modern arts, designed for application in their context, are "better" in that context... big surprise there... but we're back to a fish in a tree here...

We can look at three thousand year old pictures of wrestling for example that show techniques that are still used today.

That just tells you that biomechanics haven't changed much, which is not the factor that determines what has (or hasn't) changed.

If whatever it is you are doing isn't relevant or working it is the training model or the system.

Or you're expecting the fish to climb a tree.

Which is easily fixed by training via a scientific method.


Er... no. The scientific method would only apply if you can have a control group, strict parameters, and a repeatable result... none of which are possible in this area. There are just too many factors involved... oh, and that video shows, well, nothing that has any relevance to your comments... unless you're saying the police officer applied a "scientific method" to training a highly unlikely and unusual technique in a situation that is almost equally unlikely... so... huh?

I agree completely. Techniques that broke bones a thousand years ago will still break bones today.

To be honest, this argument (and this is far from the first time I've heard it) is deeply lacking in understanding how violence changes... sure, mechanics are still mechanics... application, however, is in the cultural context...

My issue is particularly with the lack of emphasis on realistic attackers/training methods from some of the more traditional large orgs today.

You said it yourself; they're traditional. Why would you expect them to have modern attacks? I don't expect my seniors in Katori Shinto Ryu to suddenly start teaching me how to use a naginata against a FMA guy, just in case...

Every now and then if you go to a taikai you may learn some incredible moves from one of the Soke, but the issue isn't their skill level, it is how their orgs are run. It is a top-down leadership issue.

No, it's a disconnect in expectation (and the image you have in your head of "martial arts" and "self defence") and the reality of a traditional art.

For example, there is no Gracie school where you are not constantly doing randori, so Gracie white belts tend to be much more effective and comfortable with resistance training/sparring than most Ninpo practitioners still in their kyu ranks.

So, a competition based system, which trains for competition, and has competitive training methods, is better at a competitive application and training context than ones that don't? Okay... but how's their swordsmanship? What's their appreciation of cultural aspects? How's their sense of ma-ai when dealing with different weapons? What's their reigi and zanshin like? Can we see how one approach might be more geared towards development of different things than another?

Again, to me, this is pretty simple... if you are training in a traditional system, and are upset that you're not likely to monster someone in the Octagon, well, no kidding? Similarly, if you're training for the UFC, don't expect to learn much that's outside of that context either... both are great for different people, but expecting them to be equally applicable across the board is to fundamentally misunderstand martial arts and their scope.

Admittedly, and obviously, I have not met every Ninpo-ka out there so I base my views off what I have seen at multiple taikai that I have been to as well as workshops and seminars with other orgs.

And fair enough. And, just so it doesn't seem like I'm just making excuses for these arts, the idea of not really getting the difference in contexts is pretty rampant through even these organisations, trying to be all things to all people, so it doesn't overly surprise me that you might be having these (to my mind, unrealistic) expectations. One of the most senior Genbukan instructors in the US, Michael Coleman, has recently started doing a series of videos, starting with some ryu-ha ones that I linked on another thread... slightly more recently, he's put up three videos looking at the Genbukan Goshinjutsu (Self Defence) program that Tanemura created... and, watching them, all I could think of was that there is absolutely no appreciation for the different forms of violence today in the West, as it's all still very much "traditional" in execution and application... and, honestly, I feel sad for people who think that that equates to a modern self defence approach, as it frankly isn't. And I like Michael... this is just... bad information.



 

drop bear

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Er... no. The scientific method would only apply if you can have a control group, strict parameters, and a repeatable result.

That is pretty much the definition of sparring resisted drills and cross training.

The flying kick was in relation to a comment made about horses and out dated techniques.

There is an ide that the flying kick is out dated because it was a technique to unseat horsemen.

But here it is being used in a modern context.
 
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drop bear

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Well... yes, there has... primarily cultural. This whole "it's gotten better", frankly, I would dispute pretty strongly... it's more that many modern systems are geared towards a similar (relatively small) application, with little grasp of much beyond that... and, you know what, those modern arts, designed for application in their context, are "better" in that context... big surprise there... but we're back to a fish in a tree here...

Nope. Definitely better. Better athletes. More depth of knowledge, easier access to innovation, better technology, more time spent training the right way and doing it earlier.

Better all round martial artists. And they are getting better still.
 

drop bear

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So, a competition based system, which trains for competition, and has competitive training methods, is better at a competitive application and training context than ones that don't? Okay... but how's their swordsmanship? What's their appreciation of cultural aspects? How's their sense of ma-ai when dealing with different weapons? What's their reigi and zanshin like? Can we see how one approach might be more geared towards development of different things than another?

Yeah. But just being athletic. Having a huge gas tank helps you win a fight when the other person has more of a technical advantage.

And that is a trained skill.

If you wanted to develop a catch all system to encompass all the elements of martial arts for every context in one drill. The closest would be hill sprints.

And you would be developing your mental stoicism game along the way.
 

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Stephen Hayes does modern form of ninjutsu, people will say hes bs yet The Pit where Chuck Liddell trained didnt think so.
 

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Yeah. But just being athletic. Having a huge gas tank helps you win a fight when the other person has more of a technical advantage.

And that is a trained skill.

What does that have to do with different activities being explicitly intended to operate in specific contexts?

Pretty sure I've heard military folks saying something about outrunning a bullet?
 

Chris Parker

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That is pretty much the definition of sparring resisted drills and cross training.

No, it's not. It would be considered a sample study at best, and not definitively conclusive. In other words, no, this is not the "scientific method".

The flying kick was in relation to a comment made about horses and out dated techniques.

There is an ide that the flying kick is out dated because it was a technique to unseat horsemen.

But here it is being used in a modern context.

What?

The whole "knock people off horses" is utter garbage, so, no, there is no claim that "flying side kicks are outdated" due to such an apocryphal misinterpretation of reality is, well, meaningless. Additionally, the clip proved nothing other than that, at one point, a somewhat overzealous police officer decided to launch a fairly badly done jumping kick against a non-fleeing suspect...

Nope. Definitely better. Better athletes. More depth of knowledge, easier access to innovation, better technology, more time spent training the right way and doing it earlier.

Better all round martial artists. And they are getting better still.

Frankly, you are looking at one context only... in a number of other contexts, it's actually the opposite. Of course, this is the issue with only having one view of what martial arts are...

Yeah. But just being athletic. Having a huge gas tank helps you win a fight when the other person has more of a technical advantage.

So... you missed the point entirely. Okay.

And that is a trained skill.

No, it's not. It's a developed trait, and one that can be developed in martial arts, out of martial arts, and completely independent of anything related to martial arts. But, for the record, this is hardly a new idea... the longer kata of Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu were developed, at least in part, to help with developing endurance and stamina for fighting in armour over the course of a long battle... Yagyu Shingan Ryu has a whole set of exercises based on developing such concepts and traits... Araki Ryu uses a series of exercises designed to develop an "Araki Ryu body", including such concepts... and, on this topic, the concept of body conditioning, including a set of specific exercises known as Ryutai Undo ("Dragon Body Conditioning"), focused more on flexibility and suppleness, are a part of the study.

If you wanted to develop a catch all system to encompass all the elements of martial arts for every context in one drill. The closest would be hill sprints.

Your deep ignorance of 95% of martial arts notwithstanding, hill sprints don't do anything for developing "all the elements of martial arts"... they can be a great workout/exercise to develop a number of physical fitness traits that can help in (especially) competitive martial arts... but to say that it's a "catch all system" for all martial arts? Dude, you don't even know how much you don't know here...

And you would be developing your mental stoicism game along the way.

How unique do you think that would be? I mean... you do realise that such mental considerations are a large part of traditional and classical martial arts, yeah? So... your point is?
 

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What does that have to do with different activities being explicitly intended to operate in specific contexts?

Pretty sure I've heard military folks saying something about outrunning a bullet?

I have heard military folks stress the importance of fitness for combat. Is that what you mean?
 

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One of the most senior Genbukan instructors in the US, Michael Coleman, has recently started doing a series of videos, starting with some ryu-ha ones that I linked on another thread... slightly more recently, he's put up three videos looking at the Genbukan Goshinjutsu (Self Defence) program that Tanemura created...
This man should not learn how to escape from the mount...
 

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How unique do you think that would be? I mean... you do realise that such mental considerations are a large part of traditional and classical martial arts, yeah? So... your point is?

Yes the concepts are not unique hence why I used that training exercise as an example of catch all training.

So if you can perform that one function for example it makes you better at other aspects of martial arts.

The mental considerations are a large part of traditional martial arts.

So that one exercise makes you fitter. Makes you mentally tougher and more disciplined. Will make you last longer in a fight. Makes you able to train for longer with better results.

So while you might suggest you have advantages out side of context.(in this case being running up and down a hill)

You actually kind of don't have as much advantage as you think you do.

Basically you might have studied mental toughness and be an expert on the subject. But are not as mentally tough as that person who isn't an expert but just grinds harder.

Quite often this idea of specialist skill in context turns out to be not true and is more of an ego stroking exercise.
 

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I mean you're talking apples while the thread is about oranges.

No. The specificity can be a false choice. Designed to market a product dishonestly.

Think along the lines of female razors that cost more than male razors.

They invent a context that doesn't exist in any practical sense.

Why is one more expensive than the other. Well you can't compare apples to oranges.

If you are going to modernise a system you need to remove these conceptual falsehoods and marketing gimmicks or all you do is replace one mess with another.


So if for example you replace swords with body armour and machine guns. But still dedicate your training to a bunch of compliant drills. You don't really get an improvement.
 

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Frankly, you are looking at one context only... in a number of other contexts, it's actually the opposite. Of course, this is the issue with only having one view of what martial arts are...

Well if OP discussing a modern approach I would suggest he is asking for a practical approach.

And honestly modern and practical are kind two different things.

So practical honest training, honest evaluation and efficient development, ego free culture, cult free culture all that kind of thing is kind of the context I am discussing here.

How to be a better martial artist and how to be a better person.
 

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No, it's not. It would be considered a sample study at best, and not definitively conclusive. In other words, no, this is not the "scientific method".

It doesn't have to be definitively conclusive. It is a structure to build personal development honestly. Not a peer reviewed paper.

So you observe your historical technique.

Research what it is supposed to do.

Suggest if it is going to work or not.

Go fight a whole bunch of guys and try to make that work.

Figure out if it was you hin or the technique that failed.

Then do the whole thing again.

Once you get a bunch of guys doing that. You can get a general feel as to what is going to work and what isn't.

Like fly kicks. Which have a lot of very interesting preconceptions around them. Designed for horses, doesn't work on the streets and so on.
 

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dunc

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Hi All,

A bit of background to set some context from my position first. I haven't posted here in a very long time. I used to post on martial arts forums quite often when I first began my training in Ninpo in 2012. At that time, as a complete novice to the art (not in martial arts as a whole), I thought I had all the answers and everyone else sharing their opposing opinions online about Ninpo were wrong. A few years later my teacher left the Genbukan and I with him. It was at that point that I truly began to realize how much fluff and nonsense is in the world of traditional Ninpo within the big three Takamatsuden orgs today (though admittedly I have no experience with the Jinenkan). Don't get me wrong - there are tons of incredibly effective techniques. I love the art, but, respectfully, I don't think Soke Hatsumi or Tanemura are running their organizations in a manner that is relevant to today's world. Living in Japan I wonder if they are sort of stuck in their own bubble.

Living in the U.S., many of us are fortunate enough to be a part of a mixing bowl of martial arts. We have almost every single major to minor martial arts style in every major metropolitan area of the U.S. This opens the doors to quite a bit of additional knowledge for us to take advantage of compared to people in some other countries. In our current organization, for the physical techniques we focus heavily on Jujutsu. We're in the process of becoming certified to teach a few additional modern systems as well, but when it comes specifically to the shinobi techniques, I've found myself teaching it less and less. Now, we just had our annual shinobi seminar which is around 30 hours of training in a single weekend, both indoors and outdoors, but most of the "ninjutsu" we teach is primarily strategy, philosophy, history, and sometimes spirituality if someone specifically asks about it. Of course there are more "shinobi-centric" weapons techniques, and a bit of taijutsu, but again most of the physical techniques are really just some forms of jujutsu.

With that said, my opinion is that we live in a time of relative peace, compared to feudal Japan at least. In most countries today, you can walk around safely to and from your home to the grocery store and back. In some areas you may get jumped, but at least you're probably not worrying about an entire clan on horseback sacking your apartment the moment you leave. Shinobi no mono/Samurai essentially trained 24/7 and lived for a single purpose. That type of training was incredibly different. It required a level of mastery obtained through countless hours of shedding actual blood, sweat, and tears on a daily basis for many years. Our lives aren't that way, unless you're in military special forces. We pay $XXX to train, often times under a legal agreement, and do it either as a hobby, for fitness, for clout, or, sometimes, some of us are truly passionate. Most of us also have our "main" lives which is supporting our families and working, most of the times having nothing to do with our training. However, many practitioners are posting videos doing funky hand signs, wearing black shinobi shozoku in broad day light, and/or sitting on broken tree trunks doing awful ukemi, meanwhile hash tagging everything and end up getting laughed at online.

Regardless, I find that Ninpo is still incredibly useful today as long as you're teaching it from a realistic perspective. I advertise my school as a Japanese Jujutsu school even though we cover a lot of Ninpo, but I don't segregate the two when I teach them, often times not even mentioning it. The problem I have with some of the traditional X-kans is the manner in which they teach. They discourage tournaments/competitions, so few people actually spar. My students are constantly sparring and doing randori drills. I encourage them to go out and learn other things as well. It's a very Jeet Kune Do approach (take what's useful and discard what isn't). We train with compliant uke to let people get techniques down then switch to randori or sparring so they learn how to do them without compliant uke as well. Our students will throw a boxing jab and cross instead of a traditional tsuki (lunging in straight hand punch and waiting for eternity), and the uke's attacks are always some form of a realistic attack. This prepares my students for knowing how to actually put someone in a position to go for an omote gyaku or waki gatame or goja dori or oni kudaki or seoi nage or kubi nage or ganseki nage, etc. I find all of these are severely lacking in your average X-kan school and I have rarely seen that kind of training being pushed from top-down leadership as well.

So my questions for anyone willing to answer:

1) Do you find the traditional teachings of Ninjutsu are still applicable and effective in today's world?
1a) If so, do you have successful real-world experience in applying your techniques in self-defense or in the defense of someone else?
2) Do you think Ninjutsu needs a massive modernization in its methods of teachings in the big 3 X-kans?

Disclaimer: No disrespect to anyone in the Buj/Gen/Jin orgs since I know some folks in the orgs that thankfully don't fit the description above. They are, however, the minority exception.
Hi
I do think there is scope for (& value to be created by) updating the lessons from our traditions
Learning how to deal with attacks that are not really present in the old forms is an obvious place to start
There are clearly areas that have been further developed over recent times. most notably ground fighting and the use of protective gear in training
Finally Id suggest that there may be benefits from devoting more time to weapons such as hanbo and knife compared to the traditional mix which focused more on old weapons like sword and spear
 

Tony Dismukes

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It's a traditional martial art... to "massively modernise" it would take it away from being a traditional art... so, if the point is that it's a traditional art, and people study it because it's a traditional art, then... no. I would probably argue that a number of the methods of teaching that traditional art are sub-optimal, or overtly geared towards one facet over others (including image projection, but that's another conversation), but we're now back to the idea of looking for answers in the wrong area. If you want something geared towards modern violence and self defence needs, well, don't do a traditional art. You don't have to change them, just do something different.
By your own argument in the other thread, the curriculum in the various X-kans is really a modern synthesis rather than an authentic transmission of the historical ryu-ha. That being the case, wouldn't it make sense for such a modern synthesis to be functional for addressing modern violence? If it's already been changed as much from its historical antecedents as you argue, then further change to achieve such functionality seems reasonable. (Especially since so many instructors within the X-kans promote their art as being functional against modern violence.)
So, a competition based system, which trains for competition, and has competitive training methods, is better at a competitive application and training context than ones that don't? Okay... but how's their swordsmanship? What's their appreciation of cultural aspects? How's their sense of ma-ai when dealing with different weapons?
I can appreciate an historical art which focuses on aspects of violence which are not so relevant to modern usage, such as swordsmanship. I think such an art can be enjoyed for its own sake and can even lead to insights into principles of fighting in other contexts. However I do want such an art to be functional on its own terms. If you teach a sword art, it should work for actual sword fighting. Unfortunately I have seen numerous high-ranking X-kan instructors teaching swordsmanship which is ludicrously bad. The ma-ai is completely wrong for the historical weapons being used and some of the techniques would literally only work if the opponent happened to have a stroke in the middle of his attack. I'm not saying this is true of all X-kan instructors. I'm just saying that it's widespread enough that an X-kan student with no relevant outside experience will have a hard time recognizing which techniques being taught are valid and which are bogus.
One of the most senior Genbukan instructors in the US, Michael Coleman, has recently started doing a series of videos, starting with some ryu-ha ones that I linked on another thread... slightly more recently, he's put up three videos looking at the Genbukan Goshinjutsu (Self Defence) program that Tanemura created... and, watching them, all I could think of was that there is absolutely no appreciation for the different forms of violence today in the West, as it's all still very much "traditional" in execution and application... and, honestly, I feel sad for people who think that that equates to a modern self defence approach, as it frankly isn't. And I like Michael... this is just... bad information.
I finally got around to watching these and I have to agree. He seems to be a sincere guy and the quality of his movement isn't bad, but the majority of the techniques shown will not work the way he thinks they will. It's not even just a matter of "modern" vs "traditional". Yes, the attacks shown are mostly not typical of modern violence. However even if he were transported to some historical/cultural scenario where someone came at him with kind of the attacks shown, he would have a very low success rate, assuming the attackers were even halfway competent and determined.

BTW - Michael clearly has a high regard for his instructor. That's not a bad thing, but too much faith can lead to blind spots. According to what he says in the first video, Tanemura created this self-defense curriculum based just on moves that he had personally used successfully more times than he can remember, presumably during his career as a police officer. It's possible that Michael may have misinterpreted what Tanemura meant. If Tanemura actually is making those claims ... I don't want to violate the MartialTalk TOS, so let's just say that I would have a very hard time believing him without some solid evidence. There are way too many techniques in the curriculum, a large percentage are against attacks that a police officer is unlikely to encounter, and a large number are techniques which have a very low percentage chance of success. It's theoretically possible that a criminal tried to wristlock Tanemura and he successfully countered with a Kani Basami into an incompetently applied ankle lock, but I doubt it. It's theoretically possible that a criminal tried to stab him with a knife and he successfully defended by delivering a shuto to the bicep so powerfully that the suspect not only dropped the knife but fell down and stopped fighting, but I doubt it. It's theoretically possible that a criminal attacked him with a sword (very poorly) and he was able to evade, grab the wrist, and disarm the suspect using a technique where his leverage was inferior to that of the swordsman, but I doubt it. I really, really doubt that these and others happened more times than he can remember.
 

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