The Problem with Today's Ninjutsu...

Tez3

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Amazon.com

And Jesse Enkamp has also spoken of this.

You previously mentioned that ninjas basically stopped being a thing after the Meiji Restoration. Think about the possible reasons for this. During Sengoku, if a ninja assassinated someone from an enemy province, think about what the consequences were for the entity that sent the ninja. Then, think about what the consequences would be if they were sent to China for that purpose. Consequences are much bigger, correct?

Now, imagine what they would be after the Meiji Restoration where Japan was now acting on an international scale. Let's say they send one to Europe to assassinate a high ranking noblemen. What would be the consquences for Japan for doing this? Let's say today: Japan sends one to North Korea to take out Kim Jong-un. Is Japan ready for full-scale war with not only North Korea, but also two other nuclear armed countries (Russia and China) that would undoubtedly rain down the wrath of god upon them? They have no use today.


Putting a link to a site where we have to buy the book to read it is a poor citation to a source. I'm not paying 瞿12 to read it.
 

瘚芯犖:

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The problem(s) with Nin-<insert Kanji here> is no one accepting that the age-old patterns should be studied as a progression, but need to be dissected for the common crowd to use in modern day self-defense, that it's no shame to be "just" a Shodan so long as you have good teaching and people skills as well as experience handling violence and that lapses in focus or commitment can be caused by life getting in the way and that the dojo needs to create value for the students just as much as the students need to keep their fees and etiquette in good standing.
 

Chris Parker

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There was an interesting video I watched by The Karate Nerd, Jesse Enkamp, where he discussed how mainland Japanese karate began to focus more on internalization and spirituality post-WWII, as Japanese society seemed to deeply contemplate some of their country's decisions after they were nuked.

(Okay, I said I was coming back to this, but we gotta go back a bit first... sorry for the delay).

Look, Jesse has some good stuff, but a lot that is a bit more... inaccurate. To begin with, the focus on a more "cultured" presentation was prior to WWII, and was more to do with the Okinawan arts being seen as less refined or socially lower than the native Japanese arts, culminating in the 1934 meeting of major leaders in Japan officially changing their naming to Karate-do, using the kanji for "empty hand" rather than "China hand", and integrating the "do" concept. "After they were nuked" is, bluntly, a callous and insensitive way to describe the end of WWII, and is unnecessary, as well as being inaccurate (as to the reasoning).

Honestly I believe that happened to Japanese martial arts as a whole, not just Karate.

Then you'd be wrong.

There was a push following the American occupation, and the lifting of the ban on martial practices in government (public) buildings that followed the war to give a less aggressive image, but that's not the same thing. More importantly, the idea of internalisation, spirituality, and so on being involved in the study of martial arts goes back to the origin of martial arts in the first place, as many schools were involved in being part of an overall social education for the samurai class, rarely just "this is a sword, it does this".

So in terms of Ninpo, what's taught today is mostly Taijutsu (including Jujutsu/Jutaijutsu/Aikijujutsu/etc.), even though almost any historical scripture on the Shinobi clearly discussed the use of military tactics like subterfuge, espionage, disguise, concealment, survivalism, weapons, and so many things OTHER than Taijutsu. Granted, some people in the X-kans are specific in that they say they practice "Ninpo Taijutsu" which is fair, but no one can effectively use "Ninpo Taijutsu" in any real encounter today unless the technique has come from Jujutsu (most of Ninpo Taijutsu is from some form of Jujutsu) or it's LARPing with your Uke.

So.... lots of confusion on terminology here.

"Ninpo" is a modern term. It is a term that, although seen in very rare occasions historically (I can think of one example in a text from the 1800's), comes realistically from Takamatsu. It's a term derived from the base "Ninjutsu" or "ninja", taking the shinobu/nin kanji (敹), and combines it with a more modern kanji, hou (瘜), referring to "methods/law", giving a term that meant "the laws/higher methods of shinobu" (I would say it's not important to translate shinobu itself literally, as the term creates its own context, applying the term in a new meaning). This term was then applied in his reconstruction/creation of "Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu", which is where the term is taken from (this art came about from his efforts to create a "Kukishin Ryu Ninpo" that was denied by the Kuki family, for the record). The point is that there is no real historical usage, as it's a modern term used to move away from the Japanese perception of "Ninja" and "Ninjutsu", where it's more associated with the idea of "black magic" and superstition, than martial arts or warriors.

Next, jujutsu is a rather generic term for unarmed or lightly armed combative Japanese methods.. that's it. If it matches that description, you could realistically call it jujutsu (here's a fun one... in Japan, Wado Ryu, a well known karate school, is officially referred to as Wado-ryu Kempo Jujutsu, as it's origin is a combination of Shotokan karate and Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu). Jujutsu wasn't even the most common historical term... arguably, yawara is the more common historical term, but others included yawara-gei, yawara-gi, wa, wajutsu, hade, taijutsu, koshi no mawari, kogusoku, and more. Fun little thing here, though, dakentaijutsu, jutaijutsu, koppojutsu, and kosshijutsu? Not so much... the only examples I've ever found are in the modern X-Kan arts... just fyi. But, realistically, what you're saying is that the unarmed combative methods are really the unarmed combative methods... well, yeah?

Finally, LARPing. Look, this term is often thrown around in relation to the X-kans, and I can see the reason, however it's a rather inaccurate application of that term. LARPing is, literally, "Live Action Role Playing", and is where persons take on particular characters in order to live out imagined adventures physically. The X-kan's may be arguably far too compliant in their training methods, but that's a different flaw to being LARPers, as the practice doesn't involve practitioners taking on characters, names, costumes, story lines, all outside of the actual personality of the practitioner themselves. So... perhaps, as an ostensibly involved person, you don't further inaccurate descriptors, yeah?

I'm with you on this. It's easy to want to believe this stuff when you're actually in an organization and want to believe anything your infallible grandmaster may say, but my opinion is that that's typically rooted from a strong sense of bias and not objectivity.

I'd say it's based in a few other things....

Obviously, I was once in that boat as well. My direct experience was directly with the Genbukan, and while most of my experiences were overwhelmingly positive, that began to quickly take a turn for the worst when Tanemura started casting out a lot of his most loyal students (including 2 of his top Shihan who now both have their own orgs). I believe the only two Shihan left now are his son and nephew, so...family. Tanemura is indeed a highly skilled martial artist, I would never take that away from him, but his inability to spread his experience from decades in the Tokyo police force into his curriculum was questionable. He obviously had his own perspective on Takamatsu granting him certain Menkyo Kaiden shortly prior to his passing, but no one really knows what's true.

Organisational issues are something to contend with everywhere, and, certainly, if they seem to be something that is outside of what you're willing to accept, they're a real problem. I note, for instance, that the Genbukan page no longer lists the senior ranked members, for the reasons you've listed, so that's all perfectly valid. What's less valid are the leaps of logic and outright inaccurate parts of the above... Tanemura was a police officer for decades, that is true, however that is not something that automatically translates to anything related to martial arts (teaching, practice, knowledge, skill, or anything else), so to conflate them is to be a bit off-kilter to begin with. Additionally, Takamatsu gave Tanemura no ranking at all in anything... Tanemura met him once, when Hatsumi brought a number of his most senior students, including Tanemura, to meet Takamatsu close to the end of Takamatsu's life around 1970. Tanemura was a student of Hatsumi's until 1984, when he left and formed the Genbukan. So, while Tanemura has spoken of letters and correspondence with Takamatsu, his ranking has come from Takamatsu's students, not from Takamatsu himself... and certainly not Menkyo of any kind.

To be honest I've always struggled with the categorisation / marketing of the Bujinkan

Okay. One could ask exactly how much you understand of the categorisation and reasoning for the marketing, but that's not really relevant right now.

As I understand it, Hatsumi (like Tanemura) came from former Samurai families.

No, they don't. I know Tanemura claims it, but it's not supported, and his claim is that his father was the "17th head of a samurai family", even though his father was two generations removed from the samurai existing. Along with a number of things in Tanemura's bio, it needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt.

I was never in the Buj but I feel like Hatsumi gravitated more towards his Samurai lineage hence referring to his Ninpo as "Budo", even though it really just means 'martial way'.

In common vernacular, it is the term for "martial arts". So, you think he's leaning into an imagined "samurai lineage" by calling his martial arts "martial arts"?

Tanemura on the other hand seemed to be a lot more closely attached to the pure ninja side, but one thing I did really like about Tanemura was that he actually was a really solid martial artist - which isn't hard to believe considering he spent over 34 or so years in the Tokyo police force and a detective. But like you, I'm not really sure what they were thinking and I gave up a while ago trying to understand.

Again, you're conflating two unrelated aspects (being a police officer, and being a practitioner/teacher of traditional arts). Not overly surprising, as the Genbukan and Tanemura themselves have often conflated them to bolster his credibility, often to wildly unbelievable degrees (every technique seems to be one that Tanemura-sensei has applied "in his life as a police officer in Japan countless times", despite the incredible lack of violence involved in Japan, even for police officers). As far as "attached to the pure ninja side", personally, I think that's a two-fold reasoning... first is imagery (a defined image is much easier to market to people), second is a way of subdividing the organisation to maximise fees.

Regarding Jujutsu, that's how I market my school now. Fortunately I have zero competition with JJJ schools in my area even though it's very populated, but there are still people who like to ask what kind of JJJ I teach. I just tell them it's a hybrid-system, but its core systems are from Kokusai Jujutsu Renmei (Tanemura system) and Daiwado Jujutsu (Sato Kinbei system) - though I've changed them so much it would likely be difficult for anyone to be able to tell today. At the end of the day, JJJ is far better for marketing than Ninpo if your target audience is adults.

I'm curious as to how much exposure you've had to the Daiwado approach, but I'll leave that for now. More importantly, if you've moved everything away from the Japanese approach, and moved to more, what you consider "modern" methods, is it still really Japanese jujutsu? I'll say again what I've said before, if you're wanting something that isn't a traditional jujutsu approach, do something that isn't a traditional jujutsu approach... it's really that simple. You think sparring and competition is important? Great! Go do that! You don't like the idea of kata, or the cultural trappings and context of a traditional system? No problem! Then do something else! You aren't interested in the history, cultural teachings and understandings, and related facets of a traditional Japanese art? Guess what? You don't have to be involved in one! But, and here's the real issue... that doesn't mean that you are in a position to denigrate or disagree with the way other arts, and other practitioners, with a different set of values engage in their art. You don't like how you perceive the "marketing" of X-kan and derived arts? If you're not actually doing them, then why care? And, if you think you still are, then, frankly, you have a lot to learn, so your opinion holds little weight.

To be fair, no one truly knows when the last one really died. Even the Bansenshukai makes reference that the legendary Sannin were only the greatest Shinobi that the public knew of, not necessarily the greatest Shinobi out there. But at the end of the day, that's the argument the modern Ninpo community has latched onto - so if you can't verify it, it's not worth wasting your time on, because life truly is short and not everyone gets to train forever.

The Bansenshukai is more a publicity piece (propaganda and fantasy) than a genuinely historically reliable document, for the record...

Yes, we do. The Japanese government is the arbiter, and the Japanese government says that Seiko Fujita is the last ninja. The case is closed.

HA! No, the Japanese government is not the arbiter, no, there is no arbiter, no, they did not say that Fujita was the last, and the case was never really opened in the first place. One simple argument is that the idea of shinobi/ninja was one associated with feudal Japan, and, once it moved out of the samurai era, such occupations (as they were dominantly samurai in the first place) ceased to exist. That hasn't stopped a good dozen or so "last ninja" from coming out, of course...

I'm no expert on this tradition, so I have a question: was the term "ninja" (or "shinobi") only used for government agents? If not, why is the government the only possible arbiter of this?

It wasn't, they weren't, so... yeah.

Typically by the Japanese government or down to the domain (prefecture) level and, during the feudal era, by daimyo.

There's a lot wrong with the understanding of politics and governmental structure in Japan over the centuries in this little sentence, but, in short, no, that is not correct. Would there be various "ninja"/shinobi agents employed by various local leadership (and not so local when it came to the oniwaban and onmitsu employed by the Tokugawa shogunate) over the time? Yep. But that doesn't mean that they only existed as governmentally employed agents...

Since the beginning.

Of.... what?

Oh really? Tell me again how the shinobi were affiliated with the government prior to Oda's invasion of Iga?

See, now, that leads into a lot of discussion as to what, exactly, constitutes a "ninja" or "shinobi"... one could argue (quite easily) that the various groups around Iga weren't actually "ninja", although they have been historically tied to them for a range of reasons, and that the concept of "ninja" has been reshaped in order to accommodate them... which means that the idea of the invasions of Iga being some kind of "entrance" of the ninja onto the stage of Japanese political and military actions is inaccurate to begin with.

They were hired by daimyos. I said this already.

They might be, or they might not be. Think more about private contractors in a modern setting... they may get a government contract, or they may work privately... they don't stop being a contractor if the contract isn't governmental, nor do they only start being one once they get a government contract.

Shinobi weren't widespread across Japan until after the 2nd Oda invasion of Iga. Prior to that, the bulk of shinobi were centralized in the Iga and Koga provinces. I won't argue there may have been outliers in other areas of Japan, but regarding shinobi it's common historical knowledge that the Iga/Koga operated separately from the emperor/daimyo/shogun of Japan prior to Oda's war with them.

Again, this gets into a whole mess of how you define things, but, simply put, no. That's all incorrect. Shinobi/ninja is more a descriptor of an agent engaging in particular actions, and such actions would be a part of any mid-to-large scale military force (even a number of small-scale ones). The basis of it came from Sun Tzu (Sonshi) and the tome on the Art of War, specifically the 13th Chapter on the use of spies. That puts it about 2,000 years ago. In the 9th to 12th Centuries, the higher ranked members of Japanese society would be expected to be able to read Chinese, and be familiar with what was called the Five Chinese Classics, Sonshi being one of them. We have stories of the Minamoto employing "shinobi" methods in the 12th Centuries... the origin of Kukishin Ryu involves such infiltration and exfiltration methods, including disguise, information gathering, and more to extract and safeguard the emperor Godaigo in 1336, very much "ninja" actions... Katori Shinto Ryu has included ninjutsu teachings from the mid 15th Century, many other Sengoku period schools (and later) had similar aspects to their teachings as well, all before the rise of Oda Nobunaga and his invasions of Iga and Kohka.

The people living in these areas were more religious separationists than what we could call "ninja", living in areas that were more remote, and existing in a rather self-sufficient manner. Oda had had issues with a number of these Ikki factions, culminating in the Tensho Iga no Ran (Pacification of Iga War), which was basically two invasions, one led by his son who was unsuccessful, then another by Nobunaga himself, which was definitive. It succeeded in largely decimating the population there, leaving not huge numbers to leave them "widespread across Japan" afterwards...

Are you making this stuff up or have you actually done research on this topic?

While Hot Lunch is incorrect, frankly, I can ask the same of you. Are you just making stuff up? Cause it seems you haven't done any real research beyond listening to the claimed histories put out by the various Kan's.....

Defending territory. Sounds like the kind of things militaries do. In any case, however you have to interpret things to maintain your beliefs, you're free to do so. What I know is this: once again, the Japanese government says that no ninjas have existed since the death of Seiko Fujita. Win, lose, or draw; arguing with me isn't going to change the fact that the Japanese government is the bigger beast that you can't slay in this argument.

The Japanese government has no say in the matter, and holds no authority in such statements. Furthermore, I'd challenge you find any official statement one way or the other from them. It'd be like them making an official statement on whether there are any bakers left, as they don't employ any directly, and besides, no-one makes bread like they used to...

Oh I'm not arguing with you. It's very clear you haven't actually performed any research on shinobi history. Obviously you choosing to believe the government is up to you, but there are a lot of gaps in the information you're presenting here. "Government" is a big word and there are various departments. You're specifically referring to the military side of the govt, which only makes the claim that Fujita was the last active ninja.

Even there, no, they don't. And there isn't a "military side of the government" in Japan... there is the Japanese Defence Forces, but the constitution the Americans forced Japan to accept following WWII stated that they are not able to have a standing military. Where this confusion comes in is that Seiko Fujita was brought into the Nakano military academy during WWII to act as a guest instructor to the officer candidates there... he taught them karate. Nothing at all about "ninjutsu", nothing at all about being employed as a "ninja", he was there as a guest to teach karate concepts to the officers. There were also sword instructors, Aikido instructors, and others who did the same thing... does that mean that there is no more Toyama Ryu Battodo just because it's not part of the Toyama Military Academy anymore? Do you think that means the government says that there are no more swordsmen?

However, their govt also Jinichi Kawakami is an authentic Soke of ninjutsu lineage - he also happens to be the director of the Iga Ninja Museum.

No, they don't.

Look, there is no branch of government that authenticates, validates, enforces, or decrees anything to do with martial arts. At all. It can't be done, for one thing. So, no, they make no statement on the authenticity of Kawakami's claims. As far as the Iga museum, he is an honorary curator (he's also a guest lecturer on ninja at Mie University, for the record), so they support his claims, but that's it. It's a private museum, with no more credibility than Disneyland stating what is and what is not a mouse. They also used to support the Bujinkan, and Hatsumi was an honorary curator for a while as well... so... okay?

Personally I don't know if I believe him, and I don't trust that just because the govt's last supposed dealing with an active Ninja was Fujita, to me that doesn't rule out there may have been others who were never under the spotlight or created their own organization...which is why I made a reference to the Bansenshukai which made it very clear there were many shinobi whose names were never recorded.

The Japanese government didn't deal with Fujita as an "active ninja", creating an organisation isn't an overly "ninja" thing to do, and the Bansenshukai is not a trustworthy historical document (more fan fiction than anything else). So... no.

To you, "research" means learning whatever YOUR school is teaching.


That museum says he's the last ninja. Not the Japanese goverment.


Do you believe that you can debate a Japanese government official on this and win?

To me, research means actually studying the subject.

The museum supports Kawakami's claims as to his lineage, that's all.

The Japanese government has no position or standing on this matter, and I don't know what the hell you're thinking you're talking about... what government official are you citing?

You've made quite a bit of generalizations here and I'm losing interest in this debate with you. First off if you read any of my other posts in this thread then you would have seen my school isn't Ninpo. I've also read several books about Ninjutsu and have studied its history for quite a while. I also expressed my agreement with the others that I also believe the version of history that today's modern Ninpo grandmasters share are skewed and questionable. What I presented to you was actual historical facts about large groups of shinobi who weren't affiliated with govt. I don't care if you choose to believe or not believe the govt, but it's very obvious a govt doesn't always know what doesn't exist. I literally just said "you don't know what you don't know" and your response was "no I know everything". I'm not really interested in carrying this debate with you any further. Plus it's really off topic any way.

Frankly, Omar, you're as much in error as Hot Lunch is... neither of you know what you're talking about. You've read some books? Great. Tell me when you want to actually get some understanding, because all of this shows that you don't have any yet.
 

Chris Parker

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Next lot...

Hi
Can you point me to the source for this
Thanks

Good question.

Any and all sources that speak of the missions he was sent on by the government. Those were the last. Unless you've got more to supercede this.

Bad answer.

Fujita was not sent on any missions by the Japanese government. He taught as a guest instructor at the Nakano academy, and taught karate. While the Japanese military has employed spies, that is not the same as the Japanese government, and is not the same as employing "ninja" for "ninja missions". Strictly speaking the Tokugawa regime had people employed as onmitsu as part of their security measures, but that's about it, and that ended with the end of the Tokugawa regime around 1868.

When Major James Williams dies, there will be no more Buffalo Soldiers left. You can try to do the things that Buffalo Soldier did, but unless the US Army resegregates and established all-black cavalry units, no one will be a Buffalo Soldier after he dies. This works the same way.

It both does and doesn't. The Buffalo Soldiers were the product of a particular time and culture, as well as a particular job that they were employed for (largely fighting native American uprisings), and refers to dominantly segregated troop divisions formed in the 19th Century, whose last engagement was in 1918. In other words, to be a Buffalo Soldier, you needed to be a member of a particular troop at a particular time in history. Shinobi, on the other hand, was not something that required you to be necessarily of a particular group, but to engage in particular actions within a cultural and societal context, and, once that context ceased to be in existence, the ability to "be" a ninja also ceased to exist. Whether you had been one at one point or not.

This makes me wonder. Did they actually state he was the last, or is he just the last that they documented missions of? If the second, along with what others have already stated, they could have simply stopped announcing publicly their missions. And/or ignored announcing missions carried out by anyone not working for the government directly (so the ninja equivalent of private contractors essentially).

They state nothing at all in relation to his status or employment as a "ninja", as it didn't happen. The rest is, honestly, not a factor.

Relying on doubt to maintain hope? I'm sure that psychologists have a word for this.

Psychologists have many terms... one that could be applied here is "delusional", but I think simply "wrong" sums it up well.

What am I maintaining hope for? This is the first I've heard of any of this, and I don't particularly care if ninjas still exist. I've got 0 dogs in this fight. Honestly my assumption before this thread was that ninjas stopped existing basically after the meiji era.

In a very real sense, yep, that's accurate.

I actually thought from the posts that what you were writing made sense - if the government outright stated that there were no more active ninjas after world war 2, I'd believe that barring a specific reason not to.

In a very real sense, no. That was making no sense. Importantly, there is no reason for any such statement to be made outright in the first place.

But if they just stopped reporting on ninja activity after world war 2, and made no indication that there were/weren't other ninjas, nor refuted the claims of others who claimed to be ninjas, it sounds more like they just stopped making it public. Which would also make a lot of sense given the outcome of world war 2, the role of ninjas in general, and the limitations placed on them. There's no longer a reason for them to publicize it.

As a social construct, as a role for which persons may be employed, they stopped existing when Japan ended it's feudal period, so... this is all based on an idea that is, simply, not reality.

So if you can provide a source, as already asked by someone else, of the japanese government definitively claiming he is the last ninja, I'd believe it. But it sounds like there either isn't a source stating that, or you don't know of it.

And this is correct.

What they're asking for is something that emphatically states "the Japanese govermnent states that he's the last ninja," and not "he was the last ninja employed by the Japanese government." In reality, they're the same statement. But logic is that if the sources only state the latter, then ninjas must still exist.

No.

There is no statement from the Japanese government to either affect. And, no, logic does not indicate anything of the kind... while it is true that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, that is stretching the maxim in this case.

Hence, why I brought up Buffalo Soldiers. I've got a better example than that: musketeers.

The last war where muskets were used in Europe was the Crimean War. In the US, the Civil War. Those were your last musketeers, and infantry units eventually converted them to riflemen.

Which is closer, but you're talking about a technological development in the application of military tools, and a change in terminology to reflect that, which is not the case we're discussing here.

Is it possible to get trained on using a musket today? Yes. People do it all the time. But are they musketeers? No. Because, by definition, a musketeer is a profession.

No, a musketeer is someone who uses a musket... a Musketeer is a profession, most typically (popularly) used to refer to the kings guard of France (Musketeers of the Guard), created in the mid 16th Century, and existing until 1776. Elsewhere, the term survived in German forces until WWII, for the record. But, simply, it's a military role for a light infantryman, with the exact title referring to a particular piece of equipment (hence the change when the equipment changed).

Specifically, a soldier (i.e., an enlisted member or commissioned officer of a nation's army) who wields a musket in battle. If someone claimed to be a musketeer today, what would they be doing with their lives? Passing time until the military needs their services (which is likely doing to be never)?

That depends on if they're claiming to be a musketeer by profession, I suppose... but no modern military personnel will use such terms to describe themselves, so... okay?

Same thing with ninjas. If ninjas still existed, what would they be doing right now if the Japanese government isn't employing them? Being Peeping Toms and snapping nude photos through people's windows while hiding in their backyards?

You do have an odd view of things... is that what you imaging Fujita was doing?


Such books are rarely more than a collection of stories, devoid of historical verification... but, importantly, it doesn't support anything you're saying. There is no mention of any government statement, there is talk of rumours of Fujita leading a group in Burma during the war, but then quickly debunks them as being fantasy, going so far as to point out the timeline issues evidenced by the training and licencing of various people during the time he would have been out of Japan, proving that such events never happened. Lastly, it was only his own students and friends who made any claim of him being "the last ninja"... so... care to try again?

And Jesse Enkamp has also spoken of this.

Jesse does a lot of clickbait videos and articles, and "karate really came from ninja!", citing Fujita's Shito Ryu karate and his Koga Ryu Wada-ha lineage made for an interesting, albeit largely baseless video. Additionally, while he has done some decent delving into the history of karate, Jesse is far from an authority in many regards, and certainly not a source for definitive answers outside of his own arts (even there, I have issues with some of his ideas and claims).

You previously mentioned that ninjas basically stopped being a thing after the Meiji Restoration. Think about the possible reasons for this. During Sengoku, if a ninja assassinated someone from an enemy province, think about what the consequences were for the entity that sent the ninja. Then, think about what the consequences would be if they were sent to China for that purpose. Consequences are much bigger, correct?

Dude... no.

Firstly, "ninja" were not assassins. There is one, and only one, story I have ever heard of associating ninja with assassination, being that "a dwarf ninja hid in the bottom of a toilet ditch for Takeda Shingen, and stabbed him with a spear through the rectum when he came to relieve himself". This was a story whose basis is that Takeda likely had a form of bowel cancer. There is no credibility to it at all, and no other "ninja assassin" accounts outside of modern (Western) fantasy.

Secondly, they stopped being a thing the same way the samurai stopped being a thing, the same way daimyo and shogun's stopped being a thing... the society that fostered them no longer existed.

Lastly, are you suggesting that the idea of international wet-works were the reason there's no such thing as ninja? Do you think that such things don't go on today? International espionage doesn't exist? Well, that'll take a load off the minds of the CIA, ASIO, MI5, and so forth... they're not needed anymore! You've just saved all that tax-payer money, well done!

Dude.

Now, imagine what they would be after the Meiji Restoration where Japan was now acting on an international scale. Let's say they send one to Europe to assassinate a high ranking noblemen. What would be the consquences for Japan for doing this? Let's say today: Japan sends one to North Korea to take out Kim Jong-un. Is Japan ready for full-scale war with not only North Korea, but also two other nuclear armed countries (Russia and China) that would undoubtedly rain down the wrath of god upon them? They have no use today.

See above. You have no idea what you're talking about.
 

Chris Parker

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Continuing the path...

My only worry is that if someone learning how to stealthily trespass onto other people's property in order gain intel or perform recon for personal reasons, then we've got some serious problems to deal with. Luckily, their intent is the only problem. The ability to do stuff like that these days is carried out by professionals who receive training that probably costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars for each agent. I'd actually love for such an agent to make a YouTube reaction video to some of the training that goes on in these places.

Oh good, so only fully trained and licenced people know how to stalk others... that's good. All those victims of abusive partners they try to escape, victims of criminal targeting and scoping for burglary and other acts, are all fine because the "ability to do stuff like that these days is carried out by professionals"... that's good to know...

Anyone that's performing any type of spying, infiltration, bodyguard(ing), assassinating, information gathering, or espionage in a professional sense can essentially be considered modern day ninja.

No.

The Japanese, nor the Chinese, were the first to employ these kinds of people to their advantage. So folks like military Special Forces, CIA, DIA, MI6, NSA, professional hackers, etc., they may all fall under that category.

No.

Personally I have trained with, and still am associated with, people who work for intelligence agencies and others who also provide training to private American military/civilian contractors. There's a surprising amount of overlap in what methods and tactics they use with traditional ninjutsu methods, but obviously also very modernized with a broader range of skillsets as well.

Yes. But that doesn't make them "modern ninja". A ninja/shinobi no mono/rappa/kusa/suppa/any of a dozen other names, is a particular product of a particular social and cultural environment, with a range of specific trappings used to define its status as such.

Spartans basically are ninjas.

Absolutely not.

"To make life even tougher, Spartan boys were fed a meager diet. Xenophon, a philosopher and historian who lived from the late 400s to mid-300s B.C., noted that one purpose was to keep them slim, which Lycurgus, the founder of the Spartan system, believed would make them grow taller. But the boys hunger was also intended to embolden them to steal food from gardens and other places in order to make the boys more resourceful in getting supplies, and better fighting men, Xenophon wrote. But to make sure they learned cunning, boys who were caught stealing were whipped."

And how, exactly, does that relate to the idea of ninja?

The big difference between Spartan life and Ninjutsu is the solo aspect. Spartan soldiers operated in big groups, Shinobi were solo infiltrators.

That is also incorrect. In fact, I would posit that the majority of engagements were in groups, albeit small ones. Groupings of 3 to 5 seem to be the most common. There are far more differences between them, such as that one is a group (hoplite) melee battle specialist, and the other is not a combative engagement operative, but an espionage/information gathering one. As to life, there are also a large number of differences, both culturally influenced, and socially influenced.

Which is why that damn Ninja vs. Spartan episode of Deadliest Warrior was so dumb. They basically argued bronze armor is better than wooden and leather armor, there the mid 16th century ninja loses to 650 BC military tech. Yeah right.

Who had wooden and leather armour? Japan never did... most armours were steel, occasionally it would be lacquered leather, but never wood or bamboo... I honestly have no idea where that lunacy started from... honestly, that show had so little historical accuracy across the board as to be utterly meaningless in anything other than popcorn entertainment.

Okay, caught up to where I was earlier...

To my knowledge, was either by the national government, the domain (now prefecture) level, or daimyos. If anyone else here knows different, I'm listening.

Are you? Really? Read the last few posts, then, if you would.

But here's something else to consider: if there were ninjas doing "ninja stuff" on their own with no authorization from those who held some form of legitimate office, then wouldn't that reduce them to thugs, criminals, and gang members? A precursor to the Yakuza, if you will?

Firstly, I don't think you have the first idea what "ninja stuff" would entail... but, for the record, sure. The Yakuza themselves claim to be derived from ronin, rather than ninja (again, the idea of a ninja in Japan is a person engaged in black magic and spells, not a warrior or soldier), so the fact that you're wildly off base in your understanding isn't helping. Of course, you're also wildly off base with what authority and direction would consist of as well... but that's getting back into the weeds.

Your entire post reeks of personal feelings and assumptions. For anyone that didn't know, based off your response they would assume you knew me...except you don't and we have never met. I'm perplexed at the amount of inaccurate accusations and assumptions you've lumped in together, both about my experiences and/or those I've met and trained with.

Omar, I don't need to have met you. I've read your posts, and I can tell how little you actually know about any of this, where your assumptions and inaccurate beliefs are coming from, where your lack of understanding leads to your frustrations and perceived issues, and more. Of course, should you wish to point out the inaccurate assumptions, please, go ahead. But this is based on reading your posts, seeing your website, and talking with your seniors and teachers. Believe me when there are no personal feelings, other than providing informed counter to your criticisms, based in actually knowing what the context is. And, as I said at the beginning, didn't we do this already? You've been told all of this before, which is why I was a little more blunt this time. You didn't listen.

FTR, I haven't been training for only 10 years lol. As I've said in a previous post to you a while back, if you consider me so "inexperienced", you're more than welcome to stop in by my dojo if you're ever in the Washington D.C. area. Associating number of years of your experience in martial arts doesn't make you a good martial artist. I know many people like you who are just "kata heroes". You even admitted yourself before you've never had to employ your martial arts in a physical sense, which alone speaks volumes. But, quite frankly, I'm not really interested in engaging in this kind of discussion with you.

Kid, you have no clue what you're talking about. You are inexperienced, and deeply lacking in awareness and insight, for the record, and, no, I'd have no intention of being in a room with you, let alone training with you. The "kata heroes" dig is snide, but also shows your lack of understanding of kata in the first place (to be fair, I have yet to meet a Kan member who does get what they really are, how they're meant to be trained, and what the purpose is outside of members who also study koryu), so that doesn't exactly endear me to your cause. And the idea that I haven't employed physical skills in the real world is also completely inaccurate... what I told you is that I have utilised the teachings of the arts in ways that you are unaware of, outside of physical conflict. The physical methods of a traditional art purporting to be from centuries ago simply isn't suited to a modern form of violence, so that's to be expected... but if that's what you're training it for, you're in the wrong art... which is also what you've been told.

But, to set you at rest, yes, I've been in physical encounters, and, yes, I've used my arts methods to successfully apply them in a range of contexts... I just don't consider those successes in the grand scheme of things, as they ended in a violent encounter. My best applications avoided that to begin with.

Well, I thought his comments to me were pretty legit.

Chris posts, like, 1-2 per year. There is a lot of value in there when he does. Like an uncut gem. The last time he posted, I read it in a US National Guard curated vaccination line.

To answer Chris' questions to me personally, if say that yeah, there are no authorities on ninjutsu. Which makes it very unique, because every other martial art has some sort of authority.

Other than internally, very few martial arts have any kind of authority. So, no, far from unique, I'd say.

While the Kodokan is the governing body for Judo, it has no say over karate. The ZNKR governs modern Kendo, Iaido, and Jodo, but has no influence or authority on anything else, such as koryu Jo or Iai, or any jujutsu school. No government has any authority over any martial art at all, with the exception of some locations requiring particular teaching or coaching accreditation to open a commercial school. All martial arts are internally self-regulating, as that's the only way it can work.

I was specifically referring to his personal comments and assumptions about me, which of course isn't his first offense either.

Oh, we can cover the list of offences you've made, if you'd like... but, again, if there are inaccuracies, name them and defend them.

Omar, I think 10 years of training is what you mentioned when you joined this site 6 years ago, right?

I have also never met Yamabushii in person, so I have no particular knowledge of or opinion regarding his skill level.

What I will say, from my perspective of having trained martial arts for 42 years and BJJ for 24 years, is that I know people who have "only" been training for 10-15-20 years who are much more skilled, more accomplished, and more knowledgeable in their martial art(s) than I am in mine. Mat hours, quality of instruction, and even natural talent all play a role.

It can be fun to play the "I've been training longer than you've been alive, kid" card. But I know all too well how much I have to learn from some of these "kids,"

That's both a yes and no thing, though, Tony...

From a Japanese art perspective, the experience is a major thing. Your seniors are your seniors. Of course, I don't necessarily expect that to transpose itself across here, however that lack of experience and depth of understanding does typically reflect a somewhat unmatured grasp of the topic, despite fervent beliefs that the person actually knows what they're talking about. Omar, in particular, joined the Genbukan in 2012, his teachers left in 2017 (I remember discussing the process and reasons with one of his seniors when they were mulling it over, actually, as he was seeking my take on a number of aspects privately), which is when Omar started teaching. That, bluntly, is very premature for the arts we're discussing, and, taking on the teaching role too early can result in a number of problems, such as the belief that you already have the experience necessary to change things, or that what you've been exposed to is all there is. From there, it's not uncommon to seek to reinforce beliefs, false or not, that you may have about the art... there are reasons that only fully licenced people are teachers in a number of classical systems, as it's only from that vantage point that one can see what is important or not, and how it all fits together. Without that, it's easy to misunderstand a whole array of methods and practices, as their value isn't obvious.

So, yeah, you can get very skilled and knowledgeable "younger" practitioners... but that's more common in sporting style systems, where technical application in a particular context is more of the measuring stick... in these arts? Bluntly, Omar is little more than a high school student (generously), being introduced to topics, but not knowing how they apply, as he can't see the overall context. In this case, yes, length of exposure, as well as insight and understanding, are key.

Negative. At that time it was only 10 years in Ninpo, but overall around 20 years in martial arts as a whole. Still not as much as some of the others here, but I'm really in no competition with anyone else.

Negative. At that time (2017), you were explicit that you started "Ninpo" in 2012.

Your first post in the "Modernisation of Ninjutsu" thread, from September, 2021 (when I said we'd gone through this already) states:

"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."


So, while your description of your history is changing, it's nice that you've been consistent in thinking you have the answers, that everyone else is wrong, and that you still are quite a novice.

Regardless. I have been training longer than you in a style more legitimate than you is style bashing.

So there is that.

Essentially the same system, dude. So, there is that...

Bear in mind it isn't something you have to defend.

Have to defend? No. But it does put things into their proper context.

You're a good man, sir. I truly appreciate it.

At the end of the day, my students and I are just open books for all sorts of martial knowledge.

I know a number of people who would make that claim, but few that actually are, for the record. We'll see with regards to yourself... but it's not looking all that good. Frankly, all your posts seek validation of your prior-held beliefs and interpretations of the arts, regardless of how accurate they are. So, if you'd like to prove your words, I suggest going back through my posts, and removing the emotional filter you're viewing the through now (that's not an assumption, by the way, it's an observation), and see what you can discover... it may mean a complete shift of what you're doing, it may mean dropping the whole "Japanese martial art" thing entirely, as you're pretty much there already, just hanging on for emotional (ego) related reasons... but your values have shifted you away from anything close to what we do from your descriptions. That's fine... but it means that you aren't really in a position to say anything other than you do something that is not this.

Most of my students have experience in other arts. One of my students has trained far longer than me, has almost 3x as many black belts as I do, and is a two-time martial arts hall of famer. We joke sometimes when I ask him what the heck he is doing with me, but at the end of the day, he finds value in what I teach and how I teach, and in turn, I respect his experience and learn from him at the same time.

Him finding value is the reason for him to be there, which is great. And I have no issue with what you're doing, as it suits your values and ideals... the issue is thinking that what you're doing is anything like Japanese martial arts, particularly classical and traditional ones, as you're simply not interested in anything that those arts offer. Do your own thing, have fun. But don't think you're in a position to make comments on an art you're barely past being a beginner in.

The same goes for most of my students who have prior martial arts experience, including folks from MMA, BJJ, wrestling, boxing, taekwondo, tang soo do, and Judo. May have left out a few, but comparing people based off the level of years they have been training really speaks to other people's character more than the points they are desperately trying to make.

I speak specifically of your years of experience in the art you're trying to discuss. And, there, it's very relevant. Honestly, if you had had a proper education in this area, you'd see that, and this conversation would be markedly different.

And a quick look into Chris Parker's posts shows he has a tendency to speak (type) in a fairly condescending manner - something I've distanced myself from WRT some of the more traditional Ninpo orgs I have dealt with in the past.

I'm not about to deny that perception... however you'll find that it gets harsher the less you listen to what's being said. Again, from the perspective of the arts you're discussing, you're not in a position to educate, especially someone like myself. You simply don't have the experience, background, or understanding to do so. And that's not an attack, it's a simple statement of fact. And has nothing to do with what arts your students have also trained in, nor in your skills as a practitioner. It is more just about how much you understand.

At the end of the day, if Chris or anyone else from the forum here would like to stop by my dojo if they ever find themselves in the area, I'll welcome anyone with open arms for an even exchange of information. To me, martial arts isn't a pissing contest. It's just to learn what we can in a short lifespan, and the proof can then present itself without putting each other down on online forums.

I haven't come close to putting you down, Omar. And, frankly, it wouldn't be an exchange of information, as I'd be the one coming with it, and (honestly, again, not an attack), you have little to offer in that regard. Again, that's okay... but needs to be recognised before such offers can be made.
 

Chris Parker

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Last one (for now)...

Would there be a modern-day position analogous to the daimyo (from a social perspective)?

A company CEO. Literally. Many of the larger companies from Japan were started by high-ranking samurai and daimyo when the shogunate fell and they lost their (social) status.

It seems it'd make them analogous to ronin - which could arguably be what you're saying. The question is, would that mean they're no longer ninja (I don't think ronin were considered "non-samurai")?

Most ninja were samurai... it was literally just a description of a person engaged in a particular job. Ronin, on the other hand, were socially samurai, but not in the employ of a daimyo or other lord.

I've been training for about as long as you have, and I'll second this. I think your 42 years (specifically, the latter half of it) probably goes farther than my 41 years. And, like you, I've known people who developed in several ways much faster than me, for many of the same reasons. I suspect I have a theoretical/conceptual understanding that is well above average, but there are certainly those who - with less calendar time - have become better teachers, technicians, and/or fighters than me.

Calendar time is considered important in Japanese arts due to the kohai/sempai relationship. Sure, they may end up outranking you, or developing a better understanding, but, if you've been around longer, then you're always in the sempai position. It's like two siblings... the younger one may be the more "successful", but the respect is afforded the elder by virtue of being the senior (age-wise). Just to put it back into context here. The other aspect this implies I'll address in a moment.

Agreed. But it does help to give some context to discussions.

Hence the initial comment, yep.

My favorite students were mostly those with significant prior training. All of those were better than me at something - usually at least one thing that I taught, which was really cool. I got to learn from them, sharpen myself on them where they were better, and let them share some of that knowledge with other students. They also tended to question things better (and more) than those new to MA.

It depends on the value system of the school in question, I would say... for example, in a classical art, the aim is to maintain the purity of the school as much as possible... someone coming in with other experience can potentially lead to a corruption of the school and its methods. The idea is simple... you come to me to learn an art, it doesn't matter what you've done before, as it's not relevant to what you're doing with me. If you're wanting to know how we do things, and can put aside what you've done before, great. But if not, then there's going to be a conflict (between what you think you know, and what I'm trying to impart)... so it's better (as a student) when they come without pre-existing ideas, beliefs, training, and so on. Simply put, you come to me as a student, then do that. Not as an equal, as you're not. No matter what you've done previously. All that gives me is a reference point to help me explain things to you... perhaps.

I agree with this

I think you have to ask yourself are you making fast / efficient progress towards your objectives, are you enjoying the ride and are you honest with yourself and your students about what youre teaching

Agreed... with the caveat that what you're training has to be suited to what your aims are. Training a traditional/classical system for modern self defence is simply not appropriate, and will lead to a disconnect between what you think is reality, and what it actually is. Hence this entire thread (and the previous one two years ago).

Doing these things over time isnt easy actually, particularly if youre running a dojo

Easy? Perhaps, actually... all it requires is a clear vision, and the ability to assess suitability of various practices for it. The catch is getting past the fantasy first... which is just as prevalent in BJJ, MMA, Muay Thai, and other "modern" sporting systems as it is in more traditional and classical systems... it's just a different type of fantasy, is all.

In terms of online forums, where its almost impossible to discern the skill level of posters, I find it helps to have some understanding of peoples credentials. I think it makes sense to attribute more weight to comments made by people with strong credentials vs a beginner for example. Credentials in martial arts are probably a function of time (measurable eg 10 years), effort (not so measurable), quality/quality of instruction (pretty measurable, eg taught by XXX) & natural talent (not measurable). So its possible to get some idea of someones credentials on a forum like this (albeit not a complete view). Thats not to say you should discount beginners comments or take experts opinions without challenge/scrutiny

True. Forums are, by their very nature, about informational exchange, though, not physical skills... so, at the end of the day, all you really have to discern is how accurate their information is, and where their credibility lies there... which can be determined once sufficient education in the subject is attained, but is very tricky otherwise.

Also martial artists like to differentiate themselves from others in their style & their style from other styles. Its natural for people to believe that their approach is better than others. So of course people will pop up on this forum and tell you that youre doing it all wrong

Hmm... that, I feel, is less accurate... sure, people will have their own understandings and insights, but, outside of video, it's not common to get the whole "you're doing it wrong"... "what you're doing is less suited to your aims" is a different comment.

The problem is that in martial arts its very, very hard to discern what is actually better. Historical accuracy is a fallacy and theres no way to prove it one way or the other. Practicality is very hard to prove outside of a specific sporting context. Even in sporting contexts there are techniques that are used successfully at the highest levels, but are easily countered if you know how

"Better" is a value judgement, so that will vary... however, historical accuracy being a fallacy? No way to prove it? We hang out in different groups, I feel... as far as practicality, sporting approaches prove little to nothing other than some level of efficacy within that specific context, but there are things that can be ascertained if you know how to look... of course, there are safeguards for it, which is where lineage and transmission comes into classical arts, but (in this area), sadly, I don't know that that's all that well understood or appreciated.

So in terms of marketing (the OP) Im kinda a product guy. I believe its best to constantly seek out the best instruction you can, work hard to develop your skills (enjoying the grind of failing to learn) and always be honest about what you can offer your students. If you do that then I find the students come

But you will never get rid of the folk online who will disagree with your approach or what youre offering

I don't think anyone is disagreeing with what Omar is attempting, more that what he's aiming to do is have his cake, eat it, and complain to the chef all at once.

I agree 100%. Students can be just like teachers, it just depends on if instructors allow their egos to get in the way of seeing that or not.

Then they're not students, and the dynamic of the dojo is lost.

It can be challenging while running a dojo for sure. I've been very clear with my students to expect some adjustments to our curriculum a couple times a year as we all continue to grow, myself included, and they're okay with it as long as they're learning to be effective.

Here's the catch there... I was with you, up to the "learning to be effective". This is one of the most common terms thrown around, however it rarely has any qualification, as if it's assumed to be the same to all people, and, honestly, it's not. I would say that most will have difficulties actually defining what "being effective" even is, as what it means will be different to each art and system.

At the end of the day, the idea of "being effective" is highly dependent on the context and application of the art. "Being effective" in a staff art is different to a sword art, different to a throwing art, different to a competitive art, and so on. And none of the above are designed to be optimised for a modern, Western self defence situation. So, what ends up happening is people end up putting together something they feel is "effective" against what they think violence is... and that's rarely realistic. The most realistic (modern) systems are less concerned with the idea of "effective" techniques, as they recognise the fallacy that is present there.. instead, they look to contexts and environments, and operate with a series of principles and strategies and tactics to be able to handle set ups, initial encounters, adrenaline responses, psychological and mental recovery, legal issues, and so on. But, instead, people think MMA is realistic... or ground fighting is realistic... or going against a golden gloves boxer is realistic... so they look to combat sports and movies to create techniques (without any real basis other than "this works in this situation"), creating a rather disjointed and inaccurate view of "realistic self defence". Honestly, it's just as removed as any classical art... in fact, I would suggest even more so in a number of respects.

So... when you say "be effective", the natural question is, be effective at what? And how do you know if it is?

Fairly occasionally I have friends from different martial arts either teach or drop in as guests to share their perspectives on how they would approach certain situations when sparring. Personally I'm finding success with discarding any techniques that are overly complex and focusing on simplicity, and if they can't work against someone actively resisting during sparring, then how the technique is taught needs to be improved. If it doesn't work against your sparring partners in the dojo, it won't work outside. To us, history and lineage are no longer relevant in the context of the effectiveness of a technique, but can be helpful simply for the sake of historical knowledge.

And, again, these are your values (I would ask why the techniques exist, as it isn't always a matter of "this is supposed to work in a live situation", but you need to appreciate the pedagogy for that), and that's fine... but you've just essentially said that you don't care about the values of these arts. Great, don't do them, and don't pretend you do. What you do may be technically based in what you learnt in the Genbukan and your off-shoot from it, but what you do isn't really related at all.

Simply, you don't go here anymore, so don't worry about those that do. And take off the school jacket.

I like to keep multiple teachers in martial arts. Granted I don't get to see them as much as I'd like, but I do visit when I can. So I do completely agree with you, in all you've said.

To be blunt here, I'm not sure that's the best plan for you... if they're teaching different arts, and you're keeping them separate, you can do it if you're able to do that successfully (you'd be in the minority there, for the record)... if they're teaching the same ones, and not conflicting, then that's okay as well... however, having various teachers, and trying to have them all inform you from different perspectives is just a recipe for mediocrity at best. And the impression you give is that you can't see past the surface level of a technique, and have no real appreciation of how a martial art works, how the training works, what the aims are, and what the results should be.

In a way, martial arts are like a language. Having someone teach you German grammar, Spanish genderication of words, Russian alphabet, and English words ends up in a mess. Learning a language, studies have shown, influence the way you think and process information... thinking in a different language actually changes how you would solve a maths problem, for instance. Martial arts are the same... they are a physical methodology that influence your mental processing methods... the way one art develops the way your mind operates means that different arts are simply not compatible with others in the main, the same way you can't speak or write using all the linguistic influences mentioned above. And, frankly, you're too inexperienced to be mixing things you don't understand.

Haha I'd rather keep my opinion of Mr. Hayes' ninpo history off the forums, but I really do like his student Hardee Merritt who runs the Chapel Hill (North Carolina) Quest Martial Arts dojo. His approach to ninpo taijutsu is pretty outstanding, but mind you, his ability to teach ninpo techniques so effectively comes from a more modern background in BJJ, which he holds a black belt in.

How does that work? How does the physical skill set in an almost completely unrelated art mean he can impart knowledge in a second system better? Maybe he's just a good communicator, and it has nothing to do with the BJJ. Maybe he's been able to get his black belt in BJJ due to his understanding how to process information from his Toshindo studies. For what it's worth, most Toshindo teachers I've seen teach in a very similar way to Hayes himself (naturally), so maybe you just prefer the way Toshindo teaches?

I really love that I do systems now where this is basically built in.

Where the technique that catches you is the technique that works.

That people are playing and experimenting with their own games.

And there is this collaboration of ideas and experience.

Good that you enjoy that. It's a bit scattershot and inconsistent for my liking... but that's my concern with most sparring-based systems.

The last time that the US has had something like this would have been during the Civil War, when local civic and community leaders would be tasked with raising a battalion of men from the communities, that they would then command at the rank of colonel. Not exactly the same, but the closest thing we had. I know of no country in modern times - least of all any Western first world country - where entities outside of that country's national executive branch can raise armies independently of it.

Then you don't have much of an understanding of what a Daimyo was...

Oh you are lucky for sure. From the videos of his school I've seen, he does a solid job showing ninpo techniques through a more realistic lens. Here are two videos, one is a short and the other is a video where Youtuber Sensei Seth visits Hardee Merritt's dojo and sits in a class or two.



If you do go, I'd love to hear about your experience. I've thought about taking a long drive down to experience one of his classes in person.

Yeah... very much like Hayes, with some BJJ thrown in. A bit faster, perhaps, but then again, Hayes is getting on a bit... he has a tendency to keep his head very forward, which is not a good idea, there's a lot that's made up (the bo was terrible, honestly), and he suffers from the same false understanding of "old techniques equal modern application" that Hayes has (and you have, but you're realising the issues there, hence this thread). He also suffers from the common X-kan lack of knowledge of the historical side of things ("This old style Japanese ground fighting"... he then goes on to show something that would never be seen in actual old style Japanese arts, who didn't really do ground fighting in the first place, for very good reasons). He seems charismatic, and puts on a good show, but not something I'd go out of my way for...
 

Oily Dragon

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Who had wooden and leather armour? Japan never did... most armours were steel, occasionally it would be lacquered leather, but never wood or bamboo... I honestly have no idea where that lunacy started from... honestly, that show had so little historical accuracy across the board as to be utterly meaningless in anything other than popcorn entertainment.
I agree on Deadliest Warrior, and I don't even think it was popcorn worthy.

As far as steel, you're right Japan had it by the Samurai age (from Chinese methods IIRC). I'm not too educated when it comes to Japanese arms, focus in more on mainland Asia.

Wood and leather though, I've read that all over. I had it in my head the armor was composite of leather with wood pieces and maybe small pieces of steel, but you're saying there was more steel than I believed.

Thanks for clarifying.

So where would the wood be in the armor? Not plating?

Japanese samurai armor is typically made up of many small parts and a wide variety of materials. Steel, leather, and wood typically form the protective plating, which may be composed of many small sections laced together using leather or silk cord. Lacquer is then applied over the parts to hide the construction beneath a smooth, glossy surface. The leg and arm guards might be made from chain link or plating, stitched to richly decorated silks and leathers.

 

Oily Dragon

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Other than internally, very few martial arts have any kind of authority. So, no, far from unique, I'd say.

While the Kodokan is the governing body for Judo, it has no say over karate. The ZNKR governs modern Kendo, Iaido, and Jodo, but has no influence or authority on anything else, such as koryu Jo or Iai, or any jujutsu school. No government has any authority over any martial art at all, with the exception of some locations requiring particular teaching or coaching accreditation to open a commercial school. All martial arts are internally self-regulating, as that's the only way it can work.
What I meant by authority wasn't governance, but the authority of verifiable lineage (to some degree). ie people that can back up even half of what they claim.

For example, Bucksam Kong, Frank Yee, and Chiu Chi Ling are three authorities on Wong Fei Hung's lineage of Hung Ga Kuen, one of the most famous martial arts in Chinese history. They promote an art with verifiable Shaolin links, even though a lot of it is surrounded by questionable folk history and tall tales, the art itself is legitimately historical.

Similar people exist for various Karate styles, Filipino martial arts, and so on. When it comes to Judo, there is a massive network of authoritative teachers, both in and out of the Kodokan.

Which is great and, I think, a sign of each art's rich history.

THIS set of arts does seem to be unique in that the authoritative sources seem to distill down to a single point. In other words, Hatsumi is not one of several. HE is unique in the sense that nobody else in the world seems to really come close, and everyone I know of who also claims to be a lineage holder in these areas is either an outright fraud or has nowhere near the level of appreciation when it comes to students. Even Kano himself is not the only authority on the art he taught, because he formed it from older ryu. So Kano was more of a focal point than a capstone, in the sense Hatsumi seems to be.

And I think that explains the big power vacuum that people exploit. Imagine if all of Judo went back to ONE person, who claimed to be the lineage holder and probably was legit. There would be ample space open for any charlatan, fraud, or even well intended Youtube trained ninja master to step in to claim the throne.

Don't we see this all the time with ninjutsu? In the absence of a lot of verifiable sources, anybody can make stuff up and say it's tradition.
 
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Tony Dismukes

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The physical methods of a traditional art purporting to be from centuries ago simply isn't suited to a modern form of violence

At the end of the day, the idea of "being effective" is highly dependent on the context and application of the art. "Being effective" in a staff art is different to a sword art, different to a throwing art, different to a competitive art, and so on. And none of the above are designed to be optimised for a modern, Western self defence situation.
In an effort to steer the conversation away from "you don't know what you're talking about", "no, you don't know what you're talking about"...

You've often expressed ideas like the ones I've quoted above, indicating that the arts present in the X-kans and their offshoots are not intended for or well suited for modern self-defense and should not be judged by that standard. (You've also made the larger argument that all martial arts are really only suited for a specific context and that functional crossover to other contexts is limited. That's a discussion/argument we might productively have at another time.)

So... when you say "be effective", the natural question is, be effective at what? And how do you know if it is?

My question to you is, setting aside what the X-Kan arts are not suited for, can you explain your view on what they are suited for? Specifically, what skills, attributes, and/or values are developed through training in these arts and how do you measure whether those skills, attributes, and/or values are being successfully developed by the practitioner? What sort of limitations do you see for the student and teacher in accurately determining whether these skills, attributes, and/or values are being developed? In addition, what would you say is the value to the modern student in developing these things?

(I'm tempted to offer examples of how I would answer these questions with regard to my studies of contrasting arts like BJJ and HEMA, but that might be a bit of a derail for this thread, so I'll reserve that for later if anyone expresses an interest.)
 
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Tony Dismukes

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Imagine if all of Judo went back to ONE person, who claimed to be the lineage holder and probably was legit.
I'm not sure that this is the best example, since all* of Judo does go back to a single person, Jigaro Kano, who created Judo based on his experience with historical arts which were significantly different from the art that Kano created.

*"All" in the sense that all of Judo descends from a lineage that began with Kano, not that he personally created all the techniques, tactics, and training methods which have been used in Judo over the last 141 years.
 

Oily Dragon

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I'm not sure that this is the best example, since all* of Judo does go back to a single person, Jigaro Kano, who created Judo based on his experience with historical arts which were significantly different from the art that Kano created.

*"All" in the sense that all of Judo descends from a lineage that began with Kano, not that he personally created all the techniques, tactics, and training methods which have been used in Judo over the last 141 years.
I updated my post regarding this as an afterthought....but like you said Kano didn't invent anything. He organized previous material into a new curriculum (based AFAIK primarily on two older arts). He modified certain things for safety. But he's like a focal lens from past to present. Not a hierarchial figure that was "the only living" blah blah blah. If he never existed, you could still find practically everything in judo in some older jujutsu school somewhere.

There was still a long history of jujutsu masters behind him, with verifiable lineage. This was always important in jujutsu, name recognition is what "ryu" are all about. And of course since his death, nowadays we have thousands of authoritative teachers. Sure, Kano is probably on a wall picture at each of those places, but in the case of Hatsumi it's different. As soon as you get past him, things get very murky.

And that murkiness is, imho, the source of a lot of the controversy. Even Chris points this out, a lot of what passes for "modern" ninjutsu is fabricated made up stuff from the 20th century. Whatever legitimate old samurai arts are there are covered in generations of muck that require someone with a hell of a lot of free time to research.

And always, always, just like right now, you have two people (chris and yam) claiming the other hasn't done their research. I know which horse my money is on, though :D
 

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I really appreciate all of you on this thread. Right or wrong, agreed or not. It is a damn fine argument in a really educational way. I always learn, that I never learned much HAhA. But I am learning lots here.

Really do respect the convo going on, whether I agree with it all or not.

However I am reminded never to fight with Chris.
 
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Yamabushii

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Continuing the path...



Oh good, so only fully trained and licenced people know how to stalk others... that's good. All those victims of abusive partners they try to escape, victims of criminal targeting and scoping for burglary and other acts, are all fine because the "ability to do stuff like that these days is carried out by professionals"... that's good to know...



No.



No.



Yes. But that doesn't make them "modern ninja". A ninja/shinobi no mono/rappa/kusa/suppa/any of a dozen other names, is a particular product of a particular social and cultural environment, with a range of specific trappings used to define its status as such.



Absolutely not.



And how, exactly, does that relate to the idea of ninja?



That is also incorrect. In fact, I would posit that the majority of engagements were in groups, albeit small ones. Groupings of 3 to 5 seem to be the most common. There are far more differences between them, such as that one is a group (hoplite) melee battle specialist, and the other is not a combative engagement operative, but an espionage/information gathering one. As to life, there are also a large number of differences, both culturally influenced, and socially influenced.



Who had wooden and leather armour? Japan never did... most armours were steel, occasionally it would be lacquered leather, but never wood or bamboo... I honestly have no idea where that lunacy started from... honestly, that show had so little historical accuracy across the board as to be utterly meaningless in anything other than popcorn entertainment.

Okay, caught up to where I was earlier...



Are you? Really? Read the last few posts, then, if you would.



Firstly, I don't think you have the first idea what "ninja stuff" would entail... but, for the record, sure. The Yakuza themselves claim to be derived from ronin, rather than ninja (again, the idea of a ninja in Japan is a person engaged in black magic and spells, not a warrior or soldier), so the fact that you're wildly off base in your understanding isn't helping. Of course, you're also wildly off base with what authority and direction would consist of as well... but that's getting back into the weeds.



Omar, I don't need to have met you. I've read your posts, and I can tell how little you actually know about any of this, where your assumptions and inaccurate beliefs are coming from, where your lack of understanding leads to your frustrations and perceived issues, and more. Of course, should you wish to point out the inaccurate assumptions, please, go ahead. But this is based on reading your posts, seeing your website, and talking with your seniors and teachers. Believe me when there are no personal feelings, other than providing informed counter to your criticisms, based in actually knowing what the context is. And, as I said at the beginning, didn't we do this already? You've been told all of this before, which is why I was a little more blunt this time. You didn't listen.



Kid, you have no clue what you're talking about. You are inexperienced, and deeply lacking in awareness and insight, for the record, and, no, I'd have no intention of being in a room with you, let alone training with you. The "kata heroes" dig is snide, but also shows your lack of understanding of kata in the first place (to be fair, I have yet to meet a Kan member who does get what they really are, how they're meant to be trained, and what the purpose is outside of members who also study koryu), so that doesn't exactly endear me to your cause. And the idea that I haven't employed physical skills in the real world is also completely inaccurate... what I told you is that I have utilised the teachings of the arts in ways that you are unaware of, outside of physical conflict. The physical methods of a traditional art purporting to be from centuries ago simply isn't suited to a modern form of violence, so that's to be expected... but if that's what you're training it for, you're in the wrong art... which is also what you've been told.

But, to set you at rest, yes, I've been in physical encounters, and, yes, I've used my arts methods to successfully apply them in a range of contexts... I just don't consider those successes in the grand scheme of things, as they ended in a violent encounter. My best applications avoided that to begin with.



Other than internally, very few martial arts have any kind of authority. So, no, far from unique, I'd say.

While the Kodokan is the governing body for Judo, it has no say over karate. The ZNKR governs modern Kendo, Iaido, and Jodo, but has no influence or authority on anything else, such as koryu Jo or Iai, or any jujutsu school. No government has any authority over any martial art at all, with the exception of some locations requiring particular teaching or coaching accreditation to open a commercial school. All martial arts are internally self-regulating, as that's the only way it can work.



Oh, we can cover the list of offences you've made, if you'd like... but, again, if there are inaccuracies, name them and defend them.



That's both a yes and no thing, though, Tony...

From a Japanese art perspective, the experience is a major thing. Your seniors are your seniors. Of course, I don't necessarily expect that to transpose itself across here, however that lack of experience and depth of understanding does typically reflect a somewhat unmatured grasp of the topic, despite fervent beliefs that the person actually knows what they're talking about. Omar, in particular, joined the Genbukan in 2012, his teachers left in 2017 (I remember discussing the process and reasons with one of his seniors when they were mulling it over, actually, as he was seeking my take on a number of aspects privately), which is when Omar started teaching. That, bluntly, is very premature for the arts we're discussing, and, taking on the teaching role too early can result in a number of problems, such as the belief that you already have the experience necessary to change things, or that what you've been exposed to is all there is. From there, it's not uncommon to seek to reinforce beliefs, false or not, that you may have about the art... there are reasons that only fully licenced people are teachers in a number of classical systems, as it's only from that vantage point that one can see what is important or not, and how it all fits together. Without that, it's easy to misunderstand a whole array of methods and practices, as their value isn't obvious.

So, yeah, you can get very skilled and knowledgeable "younger" practitioners... but that's more common in sporting style systems, where technical application in a particular context is more of the measuring stick... in these arts? Bluntly, Omar is little more than a high school student (generously), being introduced to topics, but not knowing how they apply, as he can't see the overall context. In this case, yes, length of exposure, as well as insight and understanding, are key.



Negative. At that time (2017), you were explicit that you started "Ninpo" in 2012.

Your first post in the "Modernisation of Ninjutsu" thread, from September, 2021 (when I said we'd gone through this already) states:

"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."


So, while your description of your history is changing, it's nice that you've been consistent in thinking you have the answers, that everyone else is wrong, and that you still are quite a novice.



Essentially the same system, dude. So, there is that...



Have to defend? No. But it does put things into their proper context.



I know a number of people who would make that claim, but few that actually are, for the record. We'll see with regards to yourself... but it's not looking all that good. Frankly, all your posts seek validation of your prior-held beliefs and interpretations of the arts, regardless of how accurate they are. So, if you'd like to prove your words, I suggest going back through my posts, and removing the emotional filter you're viewing the through now (that's not an assumption, by the way, it's an observation), and see what you can discover... it may mean a complete shift of what you're doing, it may mean dropping the whole "Japanese martial art" thing entirely, as you're pretty much there already, just hanging on for emotional (ego) related reasons... but your values have shifted you away from anything close to what we do from your descriptions. That's fine... but it means that you aren't really in a position to say anything other than you do something that is not this.



Him finding value is the reason for him to be there, which is great. And I have no issue with what you're doing, as it suits your values and ideals... the issue is thinking that what you're doing is anything like Japanese martial arts, particularly classical and traditional ones, as you're simply not interested in anything that those arts offer. Do your own thing, have fun. But don't think you're in a position to make comments on an art you're barely past being a beginner in.



I speak specifically of your years of experience in the art you're trying to discuss. And, there, it's very relevant. Honestly, if you had had a proper education in this area, you'd see that, and this conversation would be markedly different.



I'm not about to deny that perception... however you'll find that it gets harsher the less you listen to what's being said. Again, from the perspective of the arts you're discussing, you're not in a position to educate, especially someone like myself. You simply don't have the experience, background, or understanding to do so. And that's not an attack, it's a simple statement of fact. And has nothing to do with what arts your students have also trained in, nor in your skills as a practitioner. It is more just about how much you understand.



I haven't come close to putting you down, Omar. And, frankly, it wouldn't be an exchange of information, as I'd be the one coming with it, and (honestly, again, not an attack), you have little to offer in that regard. Again, that's okay... but needs to be recognised before such offers can be made.

Chris, my responses to you are less emotional than they are me being dumbfounded by the brazenness and audacity of your posts. Bluntly put, you should come off your high horse. I refuse to spend a whole day responding to every few words of mine you have quoted over the last 3 or so months, and frankly I'm uninterested in debating with you, or anyone for that matter, when quoting line after line. I think you should avoid arguing over semantics because it's clear your only interest is to attempt to find any way to tell others they're wrong, even going out of your way for it. You say you've spoken to my "seniors", but do you believe that means you know me? Not that it's much of a difference, but I didn't begin teaching in 2017, it was a year prior in October 2016.

And to give you an example of just how much you're hyper-focused on attempting to undermine me, I didn't actually say I started training in martial arts in 2012. If you read what I said clearly, you'd see that I stated I only joined martial arts forums after I began my tenure in Ninpo in 2012.

Overall, a lot of your comments are simply wild generalizations based off a clear, emotional bias, and there isn't really a point to continue debating them. Your responses all reek of narcissism and some self-imposed sense of authority. It just leads one to think you're just out of touch with being a member of a society.

If you ever want to see what my training is like, PM me if you're ever in this corner of the U.S. and we can talk about our thoughts in person afterward without your negative bias.
 

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I agree on Deadliest Warrior, and I don't even think it was popcorn worthy.

Ha, agreed...

As far as steel, you're right Japan had it by the Samurai age (from Chinese methods IIRC). I'm not too educated when it comes to Japanese arms, focus in more on mainland Asia.

Wood and leather though, I've read that all over. I had it in my head the armor was composite of leather with wood pieces and maybe small pieces of steel, but you're saying there was more steel than I believed.

Thanks for clarifying.

So where would the wood be in the armor? Not plating?

Japanese samurai armor is typically made up of many small parts and a wide variety of materials. Steel, leather, and wood typically form the protective plating, which may be composed of many small sections laced together using leather or silk cord. Lacquer is then applied over the parts to hide the construction beneath a smooth, glossy surface. The leg and arm guards might be made from chain link or plating, stitched to richly decorated silks and leathers.


No, not in plating. The plates (kozane) would typically be steel, occasionally toughened and lacquered leather, but never wood. That's a really, really bad choice, as it's too inconsistent, too thick and weighty if any real protection is to be offered, and just badly suited across the board. The only wooden aspects to yoroi that I can think of are occasionally to create the crests and structures on the helmet (kabuto), forming things like simulated horns and so on, and the yoroi bitsu (box, which also typically contains a wooden frame for display). I've never seen, nor heard of any armour being made with wooden plating at all. Bamboo is also sometimes cited, which is only used in kendo bogu, not in actual armour.

The description of the suneate and kote (shin and arm protectors) is correct... there are a number of different forms and designs, but the essence is splints linked by chain mesh then stitched to a silk or cotton base. There would be a thicker brocade (kikko, named for tortoise-shell patterns) at the knee as well, in most forms. Very occasionally, the splints were wide enough to remove the chain links, but they were considered heavy and unwieldy without adding much actual protection, so they weren't very common.

What I meant by authority wasn't governance, but the authority of verifiable lineage (to some degree). ie people that can back up even half of what they claim.

Okay. That's not how I read it, so thanks for the clarification. Again, though, other than internal to the individual art, that's not really possible... in fact, the issues with trying to regulate such things is a large part of the "no fraud-busting" rules here.

For example, Bucksam Kong, Frank Yee, and Chiu Chi Ling are three authorities on Wong Fei Hung's lineage of Hung Ga Kuen, one of the most famous martial arts in Chinese history. They promote an art with verifiable Shaolin links, even though a lot of it is surrounded by questionable folk history and tall tales, the art itself is legitimately historical.

Similar people exist for various Karate styles, Filipino martial arts, and so on. When it comes to Judo, there is a massive network of authoritative teachers, both in and out of the Kodokan.

Which is great and, I think, a sign of each art's rich history.

Is it?

Frank Dux trained with Senzo Tanaka, a master of Yamabushi Ryu Ninjitsu, teaching Frank the secrets of the Dim Mak, and allowing his to be successful in an underground tournament when he was in the CIA. This lineage goes back centuries to Japan... except Frank made it all up.

James Williams founded the Nami Ryu, based in the teachings of Don Angier, head of the Yanagi Ryu Aikijutsu. Don, in turn, learnt the school from a Japanese ex-pat named Yoshida, who taught him this old art. Don took the art as he was taught it, and restructured it to create the Yanagi Ryu as taught... except Yoshida isn't someone there's a lot of evidence for, and the manner and methodology doesn't match the way Japanese koryu work, so....?

Tony Ball here in Australia teaches the Fudoshin Ryu, an art created by his friend and mentor, Bob Lawrence in the UK, who synthesised the art after studying a range of arts in Japan, such as Takenouchi Ryu, Katori Shinto Ryu, Judo, Karate, Aikido, and more. Except he didn't, and it's all made up, based in basic Judo, karate, and some completely fabricated weaponry methods. Tony's son, Darren, goes to Japan regularly to find the origins of his art, and always comes back with great photos, discussions, and memories, but no trace of the history he's been taught (villages that don't exist, arts that never were).

Sokaku Takeda was taught Ono-ha Itto Ryu and a form of "oshiki uchi", often described as "secret teachings" (not what the term means... it's a religious term from a particular Buddhist sect, and has nothing to do with martial arts) from his father, with the oshiki teachings claimed to be from Minamoto Yoshitsune, in the 12th Century... except it wasn't, and he was the founder.

Hatsumi trained with Takamatsu, who claimed much of his arts to have come from his uncle (or grandfather), Toda Shinryuken, a sword instructor in one of the Shoguns' schools, and teacher of Shinden Fudo Ryu. This is where the Togakure Ryu, Gyokko Ryu, Gikan Ryu, Koto Ryu, Shinden Fudo Ryu, and Kumogakure Ryu are said to have come from in the Bujinkan... except there is no definite evidence that Toda ever existed, let alone held the arts, or taught Takamatsu.

The point is that any art can claim a history, and, while some are easy to pull apart, others get quite difficult... Daito Ryu is a very technical and impressive school, and forms the technical basis for Ueshiba's Aikido, so is it benefited or hindered by its questionable history? How about Hapkido, where Choi claimed to have lived with Takeda, and got more detailed instruction that Takeda's own son (Tokimune), even though the only evidence seems to indicate him attending one or two seminars with Ueshiba, then claiming to have lost his documentation on the train in Japan before returning to Korea? Does that mean that Hapkido doesn't have credibility, with it's history not being what is claimed? What about TKD claiming 2000 years of history stemming from a kids game (Tae-kyon)?

The idea of having a lineage and history is great... but also easily faked. And there is no governing authority to determine the credibility or validity of such... so, no, there is no authority that any art has over any other either. And the authority any single art has over its own promotion is just that... internal.

THIS set of arts does seem to be unique in that the authoritative sources seem to distill down to a single point. In other words, Hatsumi is not one of several. HE is unique in the sense that nobody else in the world seems to really come close, and everyone I know of who also claims to be a lineage holder in these areas is either an outright fraud or has nowhere near the level of appreciation when it comes to students. Even Kano himself is not the only authority on the art he taught, because he formed it from older ryu. So Kano was more of a focal point than a capstone, in the sense Hatsumi seems to be.

No, I'd disagree with that. Most classical Japanese systems have their total authority centred in a single person... for Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, the one person is the current soke, presently Kajiya Takanori, the 12th soke of the school. For Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu, the current soke is Iizasa Shurinosuke Yasusada, 20th generation soke of the school, who is the ultimate authority as to who is or is not in the school, even though he doesn't practice himself (his son in law, and successor, Iizasa Kota, does practice, for the record). Within the Genbukan, Tanemura Shoto is the single authority, and within the Jinenkan, it's Manaka Unsui. We could look to Tatsumi Ryu, and Kato Hiroshi-sensei, or Yagyu Koichi-sensei being the current soke of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, Otsuka Yasusada as the second generation soke of Meifu Shinkage Ryu, and so on and so forth.

When it comes to Hatsumi, he was said to be the last student of Takamatsu Toshitsugu, which is really where these arts come from (hence the name Takamatsuden, or "transmissions from Takamatsu). He was not the only student, with others such as Sato Kinbei, Kimura Masaji, and others teaching their own smaller groups, nor was he the end of the line, with a number of his senior students leaving to form new organisations (Tanemura with the Genbukan, Manaka with the Jinenkan), as well as an array of Western students who left for various reasons, often continuing in their practice outside of the main organisation (Brian McCarthy, Peter Brown, Wayne Roy, Stephen Hayes, and more), with varying levels of success and influence.

What puts Hatsumi in his position is, more than anything else, his marketability, and willingness to exploit that. He had a product that was in the right place at the right time to capitalise on interest in the West, and seized the opportunity with both hands. One could argue that his approach was more about growing his base than growing the quality, but this is a value judgement. What is not something that can realistically be denied is that he was incredibly successful in gaining huge numbers of students and members, resulting in a large organisation that spanned the world, and, really, well done him on that. What went along with that, though, is something of a cult of personality revolving around Hatsumi... something that he himself seemed to welcome... where he is seemingly beyond reproach or criticism, and all manner of flaws are excused away. This also creates a structure where he is seen as above all others (Hatsumi on the top, everyone else below), which sees recent events such as the handing over of sokeship a largely toothless gesture, as all it did was split a fractured powerbase, keeping Hatsumi on top... it's something I consider a sad state of affairs, but is not really unique, sad to say.

And I think that explains the big power vacuum that people exploit. Imagine if all of Judo went back to ONE person, who claimed to be the lineage holder and probably was legit. There would be ample space open for any charlatan, fraud, or even well intended Youtube trained ninja master to step in to claim the throne.

Don't we see this all the time with ninjutsu? In the absence of a lot of verifiable sources, anybody can make stuff up and say it's tradition.

Hmm... arguably, it's easier with several "sources"... if there's only one, it's simple to check. If you want to know my, or any other claimed representatives of Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu's actual status, you just need to check with Kajiya-soke in Japan (really, check with the hombu, who acts as his authority in that sense). If I claim to be a part of the school, but he says "never heard of the guy", then you have questions that need answers... now, if I claim to be a practitioner of "Musashi Ryu Ni Ken Jutsu" (the REAL art of Musashi, trust me, don't believe those other guys who claim he didn't use 5 feet long chopsticks to defeat the great dragon of Eastern Mozambique...), and the reason Kajiya-sensei hasn't heard of me is that it's a different school, well, now we have to determine if the story checks out... but it's outside of the authority of HNIR to say that I'm wrong...

In an effort to steer the conversation away from "you don't know what you're talking about", "no, you don't know what you're talking about"...

You've often expressed ideas like the ones I've quoted above, indicating that the arts present in the X-kans and their offshoots are not intended for or well suited for modern self-defense and should not be judged by that standard. (You've also made the larger argument that all martial arts are really only suited for a specific context and that functional crossover to other contexts is limited. That's a discussion/argument we might productively have at another time.)

Ha, this is why I like you, Tony... and, yeah, it's all martial arts. By definition, really. But we can go back and forth over that later, if you'd like...

My question to you is, setting aside what the X-Kan arts are not suited for, can you explain your view on what they are suited for? Specifically, what skills, attributes, and/or values are developed through training in these arts and how do you measure whether those skills, attributes, and/or values are being successfully developed by the practitioner? What sort of limitations do you see for the student and teacher in accurately determining whether these skills, attributes, and/or values are being developed? In addition, what would you say is the value to the modern student in developing these things?

(I'm tempted to offer examples of how I would answer these questions with regard to my studies of contrasting arts like BJJ and HEMA, but that might be a bit of a derail for this thread, so I'll reserve that for later if anyone expresses an interest.)

This is one hell of a question, and deserves a fully structured answer. I'll see how I go in that regard, because a lot of it is "I know it when I see it"...

The first thing to discuss is what a martial art is, and what a martial art isn't. First and foremost, a martial art is a codified methodology of studying and training in physical combative methods, which is borne out of and based in particular cultural expressions of violence and social structure, informed primarily by the point of origin of the art itself. They require a consistency (internally) in order to operate without conflict, and are centred in a particular context that the art was designed to operate within. What a martial art isn't is an answer to problems and situations outside of its context. It is not a random assortment of disparate "techniques", hoping that that will give you the magic answer to the mythical "street attacker" you hear about. In fact, techniques are the least important... they aren't the martial art itself, they are simply the way the art is expressed; the way it is trained, and studied.

What do I mean by that? Well, a common complaint is that x martial art is only really good against x martial art... as the art in question tends dominantly to only train against itself (BJJ train against BJJ, Judo against Judo, karate against karate attacks, and so on). While that is true, using that as a complaint only shows a deep ignorance of how the training, and the arts themselves, work. Of course they do. They're meant to.

Training in a martial art is a way of training a very particular mind-set. That mind-set is contingent on the various aspects mentioned (social structure, culture, and context), and different arts will promote different mind-sets. A sporting art will develop and promote a particular mind-set that is both different and unsuited to a different system, to the point that it will be detrimental to the development of a practitioner who attempts to apply the same to both. One of my guys trains in the BJJ class that runs just prior to my own classes starting, and he was talking to one of the BJJ guys recently, who commented that he was interested by the meditation we go through at the beginning of class. "Oh, yeah", said my student, "it helps me get into the right mind-set. I go out of a competitive, protective mentality when training in BJJ, and into a 'ready to kill' mentality for the other class". The BJJ guys was a bit taken aback, and asked "You don't really think like that, do you?" "Well, yeah... swords are great, but they're not exactly something you use to be nice to someone with."

As a result, the training requires consistency above all else. This is why the arts practice against themselves... it's required for the real benefits (mental training) to be effective in its aims, so the practice needs to be the same on both sides. No matter which part of the training you're doing, it should be reinforcing the mentality and values of the system itself. Those values then inform the principles, which are then expressed via the context and cultural/social grounding of the system itself. What all this means, when it comes down to it, is that you need to be familiar with the cultural, social, and contextual structures and foundations of the system in order to understand what its aims are, and what it's designed for.

When we look at something like the Bujinkan, it gets a little convoluted, honestly, as the organisation/art seems to want to be all things to all people, which we know doesn't work... but it allows members to believe that it's suited for their own beliefs about what it's supposed to be for, regardless of the veracity of that belief. It is, at once, traditional Japanese martial arts, modern applications for self defence, a creative expression, an art based in body action, a widely varied weaponry system, a place for high rank, and one where rank doesn't matter. The fact of the matter is that it's kinda none of those... it's been Westernised to the point of only having the surface trappings of being Japanese, it's only superficially traditional, being far more modern than most will admit, it's based on stylised (semi-traditional... perhaps quasi is a better term) set of physical postures, strikes, and grappling actions, as well as archaic weapons, mixed with creative applications of modern ones... so, really, what the Bujinkan offers is a place where you can feel empowered in your own belief system, or fantasy. The ranking system then supports this by offering ever-increasing Dan grades, followed by Shihan status, then Dai-shihan status above that... as this inflated ranking system is difficult, if not impossible, to equate to skill, it ceases to do any such thing, allowing those that want rank to pursue it, and those that don't to denigrate the idea...

The Genbukan, on the other hand, is a bit different... it strives to also fulfill fantasy of training in classical (samurai and ninja) martial arts, but goes about it in an almost opposite fashion. Instead, it seeks to support this idea by having much more rigid training protocols, sense of hierarchy, and strict performance of technical materials. Catch is, of course, that this is not based in how classical arts are actually trained... such ideas are much more a WWII-influenced (and post-war) aim to prepare youth to be good soldiers than the way martial arts were genuinely trained. It also seeks to fill the image of "traditional Japanese martial arts", but goes a bit too severe, honestly.

In both cases, they are about filling a desire to "be" something that, largely, is a fantasy. And, to be clear, that's perfectly fine. The vast majority of practitioners will never need to employ physical skills in a real world situation, so such things can be good for the ego, confidence, sense of balance, and sensitivity with others around them. And the X-Kans are far from alone in this, of course. Most martial arts are filling a similar (imagined) requirement for most people, at least when they start them. From there, it's up to the individual to find their own value in them, as a reason to continue.

That may seem a bit dismissive of the X-kan approaches and offerings, and, honestly, I don't intend it to be... obviously, there are any number of values that people find in these arts and organisations. I suppose my take is based more on what is being aped, contrasted with the actual, which means that the benefits and values I find there are seemingly missing in the X-kans. And, I suppose that takes us to the values and benefits I find in more "authentic" classical and traditional Japanese arts.

Before we go too much further, for the sake of context, let's cover my background briefly. I started with karate in the late 80's, before studying Tae-kwon Do for a few years. I entered the Bujinkan via Wayne Roy's schools in the early 90's, gaining my Shodan in 1998. I also spent some time (in cases, a few months, sometimes a couple of years) studying BJJ, boxing, RBSD approaches, Kyudo, and occasional forays into Aikido, Judo, Wing Chun, and a number of others, most commonly as one-off or a few casual sessions. By the late 2000's, I was becoming highly interested in koryu (the classical samurai arts of Japan), and began my study of Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu, and Muso Shinden Ryu as formal practice, along with casual training in Jodo, Seitei Iaido, and some seminars with Hontai Yoshin Ryu, visits to other koryu teachers and classes, such as Tenshin Buko Ryu (then Toda-ha Buko Ryu) and Tatsumi Ryu, striking up friendships with practitioners of a number of these systems. A few years ago, I also began a formal study of Shinto Muso Ryu Jodo. My current practice is my Takamatsuden Jujutsu practice, into which I have incorporated my Muso Shinden Ryu and related studies, Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, in which I hold the position as the Australian representative, Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu, and Shinto Muso Ryu. As can be seen, I've spent time in modern and traditional/classical arts, competitive and non, unarmed and armed, from a range of sources over the past 3 and a half decades, in addition to my more academic studies related to the martial traditions.

Throughout this period, I've spent quite a fair amount of my time examining the core of martial arts, and what they are about, as well as the concept of self defence, and if they're the same thing, or even related (the answer there is no, for the record). And, one thing I've found to be true beyond all others, is that a martial system has to be absolutely consistent in all facets for it to have value. The physical has to match the intent and mentality, the philosophical outlook has to be reflected in the tactics, the training and teaching methodology has to express the beliefs and values of the school, and so on. In koryu arts, the entirety of the art supports the rest... the first clue you have about how the ryu thinks is found in the reiho (etiquette methods). These methods show a variety of aspects of a school, ranging from who the school is expecting to encounter, how it treats them, what context it will be in, what weapons may be expected to be needing to be dealt with, whether the school considers the opponent an equal, a lesser, or a threat, and far more. For each school, this will be unique, even if the actions are seen as similar with others, as the mind-set is unique to that school, and this is one of the most obvious ways the X-kans demonstrate their lack... the Bujinkan has barely any, with a (commonly) rushed Shinto-based bow/clap at the beginning and end of class, and little beyond that, while the Genbukan goes the other way, treating it with a reverence beyond the expected, making a show of how serious they're being. And, while the Genbukan will often differentiate reiho from ryu-ha to ryu-ha, the actual practice of it makes it more of a performance than a real application reflecting the ryu-ha itself.

I could go on, but we're tracking back over old discussions here... and, as said, this is really a case of "I know it when I see it", which, to be clear, only works when you can see it. The point is that you need to look at what is consistent in any art to figure out what the reality of the art actually is. For the Bujinkan, that is a sense of freedom and creativity... which has its benefits, and its issues. The Genbukan has its consistency in its more strict approach, seemingly offering very little personal expression in how a school is run, how classes are structured, and how techniques are performed. You'll note that nothing I mentioned there is really about the skills developed in each organisation, certainly not much about combative skill-sets, as that's not the key thing martial arts develop, even though most look to them as the main expression (they're far more important in sporting systems, but even there, I would suggest that they form an important base to apply the real mentality of the system).

I'm going to leave off how such things are assessed and measured in these organisations, as, to be blunt, I see them as missing key aspects, so the measuring is a moot point... essentially measuring something that's basically there in image only. Instead, I'll talk about koryu, and answer your questions with that in mind, as that's largely what the X-kans are attempting to imitate (value/trait-wise, at least).

As I've already alluded to, the real strength and benefits that these arts seek to imbue in their practitioners are psychological, relating to mental outlook and perception of the world around you. Obviously, this is different from school to school (my mentality in my Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu is different to when I'm training in Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu, and different again for Shinto Muso Ryu or Muso Shinden Ryu... my Takamatsuden practice is also based on this, with each ryu being distinct in its attitude and mentality, which is the biggest way I differentiate my practice there from any of the X-kans). SMR, for example, focuses on preparing the practitioner to be able to move forward and engage a potentially lethal threat (a swordsman), armed with an "inferior" weapon... its aim is to give its members a mind-set that engenders that form of courage. Katori Shinto Ryu, on the other hand, is about controlling the engagement from the get-go... it's a meeting of equals (whereas there is a power imbalance in SMR), and seeks to prevent the opponent from being able to directly move against you, giving the idea of always positioning yourself in a way that you cannot be safely attacked, you are always strong, and guarded. Not so much about attacking, but about not being able to be attacked. HNIR is the opposite... it seeks to control the distance and pressure, forcing the opponent into attacking so you can take advantage. It teaches to not rush into engagement and leave yourself open, but to force the opponent to do that to themselves. Finally, MSR (this is a little tricky, as there are really three ryu-ha within MSR in the first place) is about moving in between the cracks and seizing each and every momentary opportunity to overwhelm and strike the enemy.

Each of these schools has their own way of dealing with an antagonistic situation (symbolised by combative techniques), imparting a particular approach, mentally, psychologically, tactically, and so on. The techniques are then used to assess how well the mental aspects are embodied in the person... how much do they hesitate? How open are they to attack? How do they control the distance? How immediately do they take advantage of the smallest opening? These become dependent on the technique, clearly, with various kata giving different expressions of the underlying mentality of the school, but that should be ever-present. The late Nitta-sensei of (then) Toda-ha Buko Ryu (now Tenshin Buko Ryu) said that the spirit of the school is to crush the enemy in front of them... if you're not doing that, with that intent, you're not doing Buko Ryu, no matter how "exact" your kata is. How is it assessed? By having someone who has fully embraced and embodied it, and can recognise it in others movements.

This, of course, leads lastly to how this benefits modern practitioners... and the answer, of course, is "it depends". What is their personality like in the first place? What is their mentality? Are they timid, and need to develop their courage? Are they unbalanced, and need to work on their ability to stop in place? Do they let opportunity pass them by, and want to be more "carpe diem"? The point is that this is mental work, so the idea of the techniques being "self defence" (impossible, again, for any martial art to be such) is quite irrelevant. Even the idea of the kata being combatively effective, outside of the context of the kata, is not something overly important. This is the same if it's a koryu sword art, a modern karate-ka doing their solo kata, or a BJJ exponent rolling in a competition. The biggest difference is that, in the classical arts, we don't pretend it's about self defence... sword arts rarely are... but many modern arts think they are meant to be, so try to justify their idea that that's what they're about. They're not. And the sooner practitioners realise that, the sooner they come to experience the wider value.

Our big conflict here with Omar is his feeling that that's what martial arts are meant to be for... and his aim to find as many sources for as many technical answers as he can, thinking that's how it's supposed to work. That means that there's a lack of real consistency, and no real mentality and understanding guiding anything. His own website states that "while Jujutsu serves as the cornerstone of our hand-to-hand combat training, our system also integrates Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing, Taekwon-Do, and a diverse array of weapons disciplines"... and that, simply, doesn't work.

I'm not sure that this is the best example, since all* of Judo does go back to a single person, Jigaro Kano, who created Judo based on his experience with historical arts which were significantly different from the art that Kano created.

*"All" in the sense that all of Judo descends from a lineage that began with Kano, not that he personally created all the techniques, tactics, and training methods which have been used in Judo over the last 141 years.

Other than that I don't know that I'd class them as "significantly different", considering the Koshiki no Kata essentially is Kito Ryu, and the Itsutsu no Kata is taken almost identically from Tenjin Shin'yo Ryu, with the majority of the technical material being either derived directly, or greatly influenced by the methodologies of those two systems, I completely agree that it all comes back to Kano. What he did was to (almost accidentally) create a new teaching methodology, a synthesising of his educational work and his martial study, with the aim of creating a singular way for all practitioners of various arts to train together. Eventually, that method of having all systems (or, at least, many systems) having a generic, shared training syllabus/methodology would come to be it's own thing, being Kodokan Judo... but, yes, definitely all from the one man in a very real way.

I updated my post regarding this as an afterthought....but like you said Kano didn't invent anything.

Well... yes, he did. He created the Kime no Kata, the Katame no Kata, various others, he created a new training structure and ranking methodology, and more. He synthesised a number of methods from previous arts (most notably Tenjin Shin'yo Ryu and Kito Ryu, but others had influence as well), but that, in itself, is another form of creation

He organized previous material into a new curriculum (based AFAIK primarily on two older arts). He modified certain things for safety. But he's like a focal lens from past to present. Not a hierarchial figure that was "the only living" blah blah blah. If he never existed, you could still find practically everything in judo in some older jujutsu school somewhere.

Sort of... it wasn't the technical side that was his real offering... that was more about having a general, universal, simplified way of practicing a number of things that were (at least superficially) shared by the majority of schools at the time (that he dealt with). It really was Kano, with his education background, that lead to Judo becoming what it is, and the only reason he wasn't "the only living" etc was that that was his decision. He was listed as the only Shihan of Judo, for example, and the Kodokan actually employs the closest to the historical application of the soke position out of all martial arts (martial arts actually do it a bit unorthodoxically, for the record). To that point, the Kodokan has a President, who is seen to be the head of the organisation, very much like a soke in a classical school... and, as can be expected, there is only one living at a time...

There was still a long history of jujutsu masters behind him, with verifiable lineage.

Well... he was only about 3rd generation in Tenjin Shin'yo Ryu... it was a fairly new school at the time... it, of course, traces itself back through other schools, but that's almost besides the point, which we'll see next...

This was always important in jujutsu, name recognition is what "ryu" are all about.

Actually, no, it's not. That's a much more modern idea.

Trying to trace back a particular school, especially when people start with this idea of a founder passes on the school to their successor, who passes on to their successor, and so on, in a linear fashion, is fraught with issues and problems. What was more common was that someone would come up with a way of expressing their ideas on combative principles and ideas, and they would teach this to a number of students as their own system (ryu). These students may then continue to teach the same thing, with their own ideas being brought in (within the construct of the school), or they would create their own new art (ryu), by bringing in other influences and aspects. These may continue, or survive, with new branches and schools being created with each generation... what we have today, with specific ryu, with defined headmasters, are, in many cases, just the lines or branches that survived. At the time, there may be a dozen or so ryu with the same lineage, in the most part, but the recognition is more about the teacher at the time. Now, they may talk about their teacher, if that teacher or school (location) were well known, but not necessarily.

Shimizu Takaji was considered the "unofficial" 25th head of Shinto Muso Ryu, with his teacher, Shiraishi Hanjiro being the 24th... except Shiraishi's listing was by counting up the various heads of around three separate lines of the school that he learnt from different teachers (the ones that had survived up to that point), and came up with a more unified form for the school. Were there really a list of 23 previous heads in a linear manner back to Muso Gonnosuke? No. There were 12 in one line... 14 in another... 9 in another. By taking out the shared names, there were 23 individual ones, hence, 24th head of the school... in fact, after Gonnosuke, there was no singular head of Shinto Muso Ryu at any point up to Shiraishi... same as Judo, really...

And of course since his death, nowadays we have thousands of authoritative teachers. Sure, Kano is probably on a wall picture at each of those places, but in the case of Hatsumi it's different. As soon as you get past him, things get very murky.

There have been a grand total of 15 10th Dan holders in Judo... the Bujinkan has lord-knows-how-many 15th Dan and Dai Shihan...

As far as "getting murky past Hatsumi", not really, before Hatsumi is Takamatsu (and Ueno Takashi, but that's another story...). It's before Takamatsu that things get harder to find...

And that murkiness is, imho, the source of a lot of the controversy.

The pre-Takamatsu question certainly doesn't help... it's not unique, but it's not helpful...

Even Chris points this out, a lot of what passes for "modern" ninjutsu is fabricated made up stuff from the 20th century.

Sort of... what I said is that much of the approach of the Bujinkan is not really based in classical arts, even when it is (Takagi Ryu, Kukishin Ryu)... there are major questions as to the historical veracity of a large proportion of the Bujinkan (and Genbukan, and Jinenkan) ryu-ha, but more to the point, the manner of teaching shows a lack of distinction as indicated above. Honestly, I don't know that much was "made up", more reconstructed and re-labelled... some created, sure, but often from some credible material in the first place. The lack of ryu-ha transmission, on the other hand, further convalutes the whole thing, making it harder to see what exactly is what...

Whatever legitimate old samurai arts are there are covered in generations of muck that require someone with a hell of a lot of free time to research.

Again, sort of. They can be identified (in their basis), but aren't continued in the same manner, meaning they realistically don't exist anymore there. The new soke are, frankly, paper titles only.

And always, always, just like right now, you have two people (chris and yam) claiming the other hasn't done their research. I know which horse my money is on, though :D

That I leave up to the readers.
 

Chris Parker

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Chris, my responses to you are less emotional than they are me being dumbfounded by the brazenness and audacity of your posts. Bluntly put, you should come off your high horse. I refuse to spend a whole day responding to every few words of mine you have quoted over the last 3 or so months, and frankly I'm uninterested in debating with you, or anyone for that matter, when quoting line after line. I think you should avoid arguing over semantics because it's clear your only interest is to attempt to find any way to tell others they're wrong, even going out of your way for it. You say you've spoken to my "seniors", but do you believe that means you know me? Not that it's much of a difference, but I didn't begin teaching in 2017, it was a year prior in October 2016.

Really, Omar? You're uninterested in debating me? Okay. But it does rob you of getting your side across. And, yeah, I like to be thorough... you are free to answer my questions or not, to respond or not to is up to you... of course. However... no, speaking to your seniors doesn't mean I "know" you (although you have been a topic of conversation), it means I'm familiar with the situation. And you starting teaching a few months earlier that you'd already said? Do you really think that helps your case about being matured in the art?

And to give you an example of just how much you're hyper-focused on attempting to undermine me, I didn't actually say I started training in martial arts in 2012. If you read what I said clearly, you'd see that I stated I only joined martial arts forums after I began my tenure in Ninpo in 2012.

Sigh... no, you came here and said that you joined a number of forums when you first started Ninpo in 2012, thinking you had all the answers, and then learning you really didn't. You then joined here in 2017, when you said you had just started teaching (hence the above). In this thread, you have then said that you had 10 years of experience in Ninpo when you joined here in 2017 (Tony asks in post 60 for clarification, remembering you stating 10 years of training at that stage [2017], to which you replied "Negative. At that time it was only 10 years in Ninpo, but overall 20 years in martial arts in general"), which was not the case in your previous posting here, and shown to be inaccurate in your answer here as well.

Which is, if you read, exactly what I corrected your claim to.

Overall, a lot of your comments are simply wild generalizations based off a clear, emotional bias, and there isn't really a point to continue debating them. Your responses all reek of narcissism and some self-imposed sense of authority. It just leads one to think you're just out of touch with being a member of a society.

You haven't debated anything. You've made claims, I've argued against them, provided support, and fleshed out my thinking. You've said that I've made assumptions, despite it all being from your own words, and have refused to this point to actually clarify or correct, or even identify these assumptions. Oh, and my "sense of authority" comes from knowing what I'm talking about, for the record. If you take that as narcissism, that's fine, it's hardly the worst I've been accused of... but, if you can't, or won't counter any argument, you're not exactly in a position to claim you're not going to continue debating. You haven't started.

If you ever want to see what my training is like, PM me if you're ever in this corner of the U.S. and we can talk about our thoughts in person afterward without your negative bias.

I've seen your videos on your instagram. No need, really... but I will say they reinforced my previous assessments.
 

Tony Dismukes

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This is one hell of a question, and deserves a fully structured answer. I'll see how I go in that regard, because a lot of it is "I know it when I see it"...

The first thing to discuss is what a martial art is, and what a martial art isn't. First and foremost, a martial art is a codified methodology of studying and training in physical combative methods, which is borne out of and based in particular cultural expressions of violence and social structure, informed primarily by the point of origin of the art itself. They require a consistency (internally) in order to operate without conflict, and are centred in a particular context that the art was designed to operate within. What a martial art isn't is an answer to problems and situations outside of its context. It is not a random assortment of disparate "techniques", hoping that that will give you the magic answer to the mythical "street attacker" you hear about. In fact, techniques are the least important... they aren't the martial art itself, they are simply the way the art is expressed; the way it is trained, and studied.

What do I mean by that? Well, a common complaint is that x martial art is only really good against x martial art... as the art in question tends dominantly to only train against itself (BJJ train against BJJ, Judo against Judo, karate against karate attacks, and so on). While that is true, using that as a complaint only shows a deep ignorance of how the training, and the arts themselves, work. Of course they do. They're meant to.

Training in a martial art is a way of training a very particular mind-set. That mind-set is contingent on the various aspects mentioned (social structure, culture, and context), and different arts will promote different mind-sets. A sporting art will develop and promote a particular mind-set that is both different and unsuited to a different system, to the point that it will be detrimental to the development of a practitioner who attempts to apply the same to both. One of my guys trains in the BJJ class that runs just prior to my own classes starting, and he was talking to one of the BJJ guys recently, who commented that he was interested by the meditation we go through at the beginning of class. "Oh, yeah", said my student, "it helps me get into the right mind-set. I go out of a competitive, protective mentality when training in BJJ, and into a 'ready to kill' mentality for the other class". The BJJ guys was a bit taken aback, and asked "You don't really think like that, do you?" "Well, yeah... swords are great, but they're not exactly something you use to be nice to someone with."

As a result, the training requires consistency above all else. This is why the arts practice against themselves... it's required for the real benefits (mental training) to be effective in its aims, so the practice needs to be the same on both sides. No matter which part of the training you're doing, it should be reinforcing the mentality and values of the system itself. Those values then inform the principles, which are then expressed via the context and cultural/social grounding of the system itself. What all this means, when it comes down to it, is that you need to be familiar with the cultural, social, and contextual structures and foundations of the system in order to understand what its aims are, and what it's designed for.

When we look at something like the Bujinkan, it gets a little convoluted, honestly, as the organisation/art seems to want to be all things to all people, which we know doesn't work... but it allows members to believe that it's suited for their own beliefs about what it's supposed to be for, regardless of the veracity of that belief. It is, at once, traditional Japanese martial arts, modern applications for self defence, a creative expression, an art based in body action, a widely varied weaponry system, a place for high rank, and one where rank doesn't matter. The fact of the matter is that it's kinda none of those... it's been Westernised to the point of only having the surface trappings of being Japanese, it's only superficially traditional, being far more modern than most will admit, it's based on stylised (semi-traditional... perhaps quasi is a better term) set of physical postures, strikes, and grappling actions, as well as archaic weapons, mixed with creative applications of modern ones... so, really, what the Bujinkan offers is a place where you can feel empowered in your own belief system, or fantasy. The ranking system then supports this by offering ever-increasing Dan grades, followed by Shihan status, then Dai-shihan status above that... as this inflated ranking system is difficult, if not impossible, to equate to skill, it ceases to do any such thing, allowing those that want rank to pursue it, and those that don't to denigrate the idea...

The Genbukan, on the other hand, is a bit different... it strives to also fulfill fantasy of training in classical (samurai and ninja) martial arts, but goes about it in an almost opposite fashion. Instead, it seeks to support this idea by having much more rigid training protocols, sense of hierarchy, and strict performance of technical materials. Catch is, of course, that this is not based in how classical arts are actually trained... such ideas are much more a WWII-influenced (and post-war) aim to prepare youth to be good soldiers than the way martial arts were genuinely trained. It also seeks to fill the image of "traditional Japanese martial arts", but goes a bit too severe, honestly.

In both cases, they are about filling a desire to "be" something that, largely, is a fantasy. And, to be clear, that's perfectly fine. The vast majority of practitioners will never need to employ physical skills in a real world situation, so such things can be good for the ego, confidence, sense of balance, and sensitivity with others around them. And the X-Kans are far from alone in this, of course. Most martial arts are filling a similar (imagined) requirement for most people, at least when they start them. From there, it's up to the individual to find their own value in them, as a reason to continue.

That may seem a bit dismissive of the X-kan approaches and offerings, and, honestly, I don't intend it to be... obviously, there are any number of values that people find in these arts and organisations. I suppose my take is based more on what is being aped, contrasted with the actual, which means that the benefits and values I find there are seemingly missing in the X-kans. And, I suppose that takes us to the values and benefits I find in more "authentic" classical and traditional Japanese arts.

Before we go too much further, for the sake of context, let's cover my background briefly. I started with karate in the late 80's, before studying Tae-kwon Do for a few years. I entered the Bujinkan via Wayne Roy's schools in the early 90's, gaining my Shodan in 1998. I also spent some time (in cases, a few months, sometimes a couple of years) studying BJJ, boxing, RBSD approaches, Kyudo, and occasional forays into Aikido, Judo, Wing Chun, and a number of others, most commonly as one-off or a few casual sessions. By the late 2000's, I was becoming highly interested in koryu (the classical samurai arts of Japan), and began my study of Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu, and Muso Shinden Ryu as formal practice, along with casual training in Jodo, Seitei Iaido, and some seminars with Hontai Yoshin Ryu, visits to other koryu teachers and classes, such as Tenshin Buko Ryu (then Toda-ha Buko Ryu) and Tatsumi Ryu, striking up friendships with practitioners of a number of these systems. A few years ago, I also began a formal study of Shinto Muso Ryu Jodo. My current practice is my Takamatsuden Jujutsu practice, into which I have incorporated my Muso Shinden Ryu and related studies, Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, in which I hold the position as the Australian representative, Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu, and Shinto Muso Ryu. As can be seen, I've spent time in modern and traditional/classical arts, competitive and non, unarmed and armed, from a range of sources over the past 3 and a half decades, in addition to my more academic studies related to the martial traditions.

Throughout this period, I've spent quite a fair amount of my time examining the core of martial arts, and what they are about, as well as the concept of self defence, and if they're the same thing, or even related (the answer there is no, for the record). And, one thing I've found to be true beyond all others, is that a martial system has to be absolutely consistent in all facets for it to have value. The physical has to match the intent and mentality, the philosophical outlook has to be reflected in the tactics, the training and teaching methodology has to express the beliefs and values of the school, and so on. In koryu arts, the entirety of the art supports the rest... the first clue you have about how the ryu thinks is found in the reiho (etiquette methods). These methods show a variety of aspects of a school, ranging from who the school is expecting to encounter, how it treats them, what context it will be in, what weapons may be expected to be needing to be dealt with, whether the school considers the opponent an equal, a lesser, or a threat, and far more. For each school, this will be unique, even if the actions are seen as similar with others, as the mind-set is unique to that school, and this is one of the most obvious ways the X-kans demonstrate their lack... the Bujinkan has barely any, with a (commonly) rushed Shinto-based bow/clap at the beginning and end of class, and little beyond that, while the Genbukan goes the other way, treating it with a reverence beyond the expected, making a show of how serious they're being. And, while the Genbukan will often differentiate reiho from ryu-ha to ryu-ha, the actual practice of it makes it more of a performance than a real application reflecting the ryu-ha itself.

I could go on, but we're tracking back over old discussions here... and, as said, this is really a case of "I know it when I see it", which, to be clear, only works when you can see it. The point is that you need to look at what is consistent in any art to figure out what the reality of the art actually is. For the Bujinkan, that is a sense of freedom and creativity... which has its benefits, and its issues. The Genbukan has its consistency in its more strict approach, seemingly offering very little personal expression in how a school is run, how classes are structured, and how techniques are performed. You'll note that nothing I mentioned there is really about the skills developed in each organisation, certainly not much about combative skill-sets, as that's not the key thing martial arts develop, even though most look to them as the main expression (they're far more important in sporting systems, but even there, I would suggest that they form an important base to apply the real mentality of the system).

I'm going to leave off how such things are assessed and measured in these organisations, as, to be blunt, I see them as missing key aspects, so the measuring is a moot point... essentially measuring something that's basically there in image only. Instead, I'll talk about koryu, and answer your questions with that in mind, as that's largely what the X-kans are attempting to imitate (value/trait-wise, at least).

As I've already alluded to, the real strength and benefits that these arts seek to imbue in their practitioners are psychological, relating to mental outlook and perception of the world around you. Obviously, this is different from school to school (my mentality in my Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu is different to when I'm training in Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu, and different again for Shinto Muso Ryu or Muso Shinden Ryu... my Takamatsuden practice is also based on this, with each ryu being distinct in its attitude and mentality, which is the biggest way I differentiate my practice there from any of the X-kans). SMR, for example, focuses on preparing the practitioner to be able to move forward and engage a potentially lethal threat (a swordsman), armed with an "inferior" weapon... its aim is to give its members a mind-set that engenders that form of courage. Katori Shinto Ryu, on the other hand, is about controlling the engagement from the get-go... it's a meeting of equals (whereas there is a power imbalance in SMR), and seeks to prevent the opponent from being able to directly move against you, giving the idea of always positioning yourself in a way that you cannot be safely attacked, you are always strong, and guarded. Not so much about attacking, but about not being able to be attacked. HNIR is the opposite... it seeks to control the distance and pressure, forcing the opponent into attacking so you can take advantage. It teaches to not rush into engagement and leave yourself open, but to force the opponent to do that to themselves. Finally, MSR (this is a little tricky, as there are really three ryu-ha within MSR in the first place) is about moving in between the cracks and seizing each and every momentary opportunity to overwhelm and strike the enemy.

Each of these schools has their own way of dealing with an antagonistic situation (symbolised by combative techniques), imparting a particular approach, mentally, psychologically, tactically, and so on. The techniques are then used to assess how well the mental aspects are embodied in the person... how much do they hesitate? How open are they to attack? How do they control the distance? How immediately do they take advantage of the smallest opening? These become dependent on the technique, clearly, with various kata giving different expressions of the underlying mentality of the school, but that should be ever-present. The late Nitta-sensei of (then) Toda-ha Buko Ryu (now Tenshin Buko Ryu) said that the spirit of the school is to crush the enemy in front of them... if you're not doing that, with that intent, you're not doing Buko Ryu, no matter how "exact" your kata is. How is it assessed? By having someone who has fully embraced and embodied it, and can recognise it in others movements.

This, of course, leads lastly to how this benefits modern practitioners... and the answer, of course, is "it depends". What is their personality like in the first place? What is their mentality? Are they timid, and need to develop their courage? Are they unbalanced, and need to work on their ability to stop in place? Do they let opportunity pass them by, and want to be more "carpe diem"? The point is that this is mental work, so the idea of the techniques being "self defence" (impossible, again, for any martial art to be such) is quite irrelevant. Even the idea of the kata being combatively effective, outside of the context of the kata, is not something overly important. This is the same if it's a koryu sword art, a modern karate-ka doing their solo kata, or a BJJ exponent rolling in a competition. The biggest difference is that, in the classical arts, we don't pretend it's about self defence... sword arts rarely are... but many modern arts think they are meant to be, so try to justify their idea that that's what they're about. They're not. And the sooner practitioners realise that, the sooner they come to experience the wider value.
Thank you for the detailed and well thought out answer. My own views on the larger subject you address (with regards to martial arts in general, not specifically the X-kans) are a bit ... different. (Although we do have a bit of overlap.)

Would you mind if I used the quote above as a springboard for a new separate thread regarding the nature and purpose of martial arts and how that might differ (or not) from one to another? It would probably be tonight or tomorrow in order for me to take the time to formulate an equally thoughtful response.
 

Chris Parker

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Thank you for the detailed and well thought out answer. My own views on the larger subject you address (with regards to martial arts in general, not specifically the X-kans) are a bit ... different. (Although we do have a bit of overlap.)

Would you mind if I used the quote above as a springboard for a new separate thread regarding the nature and purpose of martial arts and how that might differ (or not) from one to another? It would probably be tonight or tomorrow in order for me to take the time to formulate an equally thoughtful response.

As always, Tony, feel absolutely free to do so.
 
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