Was Ninjutsu EVER Effective?

Chris Parker

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And thats where I find the large ASSUMPTION in all of this. And in the "authenticity" of most trad arts in general.

You ever play the grade school game of whispering a message from student to student then comparing the original message with the end result?

That is a fair point.
However I would point out that that is why Menkyo Kaiden are given out very sparingly and only after many years of personal tuition: to make sure that the one whispering on the message fully understood it before he is allowed to pass it on to the next.

Actually, Bruno, no it's not a fair point. It's frankly a false analogy, and is incorrect.

In the game (Chinese Whispers), the phrase is heard once, possibly misunderstood, and passed on based on this possibly incorrect reception. In Koryu training, the message is repeated constantly, and refined and corrected constantly. It is also written down, rather than just being heard. So the only way that analogy actually works is if the children have the message written down for them, and they pass along another written form of it after having it cross-checked and corrected before it gets passed on, ensuring that it is actually a direct copy of the original.

This is really the basis of Koryu (traditional Japanese martial art training) transmission, so to assume that things may not have been passed along due to your not understanding how they actually were is rather presumptuous, honestly.
 

Brian R. VanCise

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Hey Bruno,

I understand that you were trying to represent it a certain way so that is cool!

In the Bujinkan the kata are learned exactly as they are supposed to be done. However, there is a lot more emphasis placed on the concept and henka. That does not mean that the core kata from the ryu-ha are not trained. Just that there is more freedom for movement and exploration within the concepts taught witin the kata! There are plenty of Bujinkan practitioners who know the core kata's very well and perform them with exacting discipline and yet they also explore beyond!
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Archangel M

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The belief that ya'll are doing the EXACT same art as the ancient Ninja/Samurai..unchanged down the eons because of the Japanese method of teaching/scrolls etc. is the foundation of martial fantasy. Folks will do as many mental gymnastics to preserve their cherished mental picture of doing EXACTLY as the ancients did as they will defending their political views. I'll even admit to THAT myself.

IMO

And if you think I was using the Chinese Whisper game as an exact analogy you are being intentionally obtuse. Nothing passed that far through time is going to be "pure" at the other end. Koryu fails to take human nature into account IMO. I cant get 3 witnesses to recall the same event that happed 5 minutes ago the same way. Chances are they would STILL have different stories even if they all had video of the event to watch.

Your stuff may have many of the characteristics of the "original" art but if this were sci-fi and you hopped into a time machine I'd wager that it would have more characteristics of pantomime than you would like.
 

Bruno@MT

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The belief that ya'll are doing the EXACT same art as the ancient Ninja/Samurai..unchanged down the eons because of the Japanese method of teaching/scrolls etc. is the foundation of martial fantasy. Folks will do as many mental gymnastics to preserve their cherished mental picture of doing EXACTLY as the ancients did as they will defending their political views. I'll even admit to THAT myself.

IMO

And if you think I was using the Chinese Whisper game as an exact analogy you are being intentionally obtuse. Nothing passed that far through time is going to be "pure" at the other end. Koryu fails to take human nature into account IMO. I cant get 3 witnesses to recall the same event that happed 5 minutes ago the same way. Chances are they would STILL have different stories even if they all had video of the event to watch.

Your stuff may have many of the characteristics of the "original" art but if this were sci-fi and you hopped into a time machine I'd wager that it would have more characteristics of pantomime than you would like.


Let me use a different analogy.
Suppose you see maths as an art. Say... differential equations.
Every teacher has his own ways of teaching, and the examples in the class may or may not be 100% the same. But every student who makes it to graduation has a correct and complete understanding of the principles of differential equations.

Traditional arts are imo the same. Kukishin ryu is a good example because there are so many lineages. Or Takagi Yoshin ryu. Those arts are represented in a technical way by the kata from which they are made up. But the kata exemplify underlying concepts and techniques.

In kukishin ryu, kata may be performed in a nearly identical manner, but with superficial differences. Kata from different lineage may end in a different kamae, or target a different body part with a certain strike. But at heart it is still kukishin ryu, built on the same concepts.

So in a manner, yes you are correct that what there are bound to be differences creeping in along the years. But the underlying concepts will be identical. Or at least I think so. That is the whole point of koryu transmission.
 

Cryozombie

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I believe he has "Changed" a number of things about his art since the 70's-80's hasn't he?

The following is only MY OPINION and may or may not reflect the truth as a whole:

Yes and No. Things have changed in the way they are trained, what the focus of the training is on, etc... the schools and techniques, and the principles of timing distance and balance that makes them work have not.
 

Brian R. VanCise

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One thing that is true is that nothing remains exactly the same over long periods of time. Things do change, different teachers may put in their input. In the case of the Japanese martial arts each new Soke may make changes and that is their right as the leader of a system. However, other systems may keep it very close to how it was origionally done but...... knowing peolple like I do they like to have input and there will always be some that are more creative and do not want to be stifled! ;)

In the case of the Bujinkan people follow Hatsumi Sensei lead. The same holds true for the Genbukan and Jinenkan with their respective leaders!
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Chris Parker

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The belief that ya'll are doing the EXACT same art as the ancient Ninja/Samurai..unchanged down the eons because of the Japanese method of teaching/scrolls etc. is the foundation of martial fantasy. Folks will do as many mental gymnastics to preserve their cherished mental picture of doing EXACTLY as the ancients did as they will defending their political views. I'll even admit to THAT myself.

IMO

And if you think I was using the Chinese Whisper game as an exact analogy you are being intentionally obtuse. Nothing passed that far through time is going to be "pure" at the other end. Koryu fails to take human nature into account IMO. I cant get 3 witnesses to recall the same event that happed 5 minutes ago the same way. Chances are they would STILL have different stories even if they all had video of the event to watch.

Your stuff may have many of the characteristics of the "original" art but if this were sci-fi and you hopped into a time machine I'd wager that it would have more characteristics of pantomime than you would like.

I'm not sure how much exposure you have had to the Koryu, and the mentality associated with them, Angel, but I can assure you that your expectations are incorrect here. Koryu does not fail to take into account human nature at all, it's the basis of the teaching methods. What is more likely to have changed over time are the training methods, but not the art itself (and even then not as much as you may think... the biggest influence would be the amount of time that could be dedicated to the training, and that frankly wouldn't even be much different to today). Many Koryu retain not only the documents that state the way training was conducted, but the actual training methods themselves, as well as the kata and techniques.

Once again the very concept of Koryu is that the teachings and Ryu are passed down unaltered in many cases, to change them (without very good reason) is rather anathema to most Koryu traditions. That's not to say that there hasn't been any change in any Koryu system (I've detailed a list or two around here of some of the more well known changes, as well as the reasons they happened), but they are rarely the norm, more the notable exception. In fact, I'd wager that in the hypothetical tmie machine trip, the Koryu systems would be very recognisable, and be rather devoid of "pantomime".... although, honestly, I'm not sure exactly what you mean by that.

When it comes to your witnesses and their different accounts, again, this is not a good example to use. They aren't the Koryu, nor are they the transmission. The video in your example is the Koryu, and the transmission would be to get everyone to say what they think happened, then show them the video to correct them. Ask them again, and then show the video to correct them. Ask them again, and then show them the video again to correct them.... and so on, and so on. Although you'd start out with very different accounts, I'm sure that by the end there'd be a rather constistent version, wouldn't you?

Let me use a different analogy.
Suppose you see maths as an art. Say... differential equations.
Every teacher has his own ways of teaching, and the examples in the class may or may not be 100% the same. But every student who makes it to graduation has a correct and complete understanding of the principles of differential equations.

Hmm, honestly Bruno, that's closer to, say, a Karate class than Koryu. Koryu tend to have their traditional training drills/exercises/methods, as well as the kata/techniques, so the maths classes would be of very similar methods of teaching, with the same examples for the most part, if it was to be Koryu. As with everything, though, the caveat has to be made that it really does depend on the Ryu in question....

Traditional arts are imo the same. Kukishin ryu is a good example because there are so many lineages. Or Takagi Yoshin ryu. Those arts are represented in a technical way by the kata from which they are made up. But the kata exemplify underlying concepts and techniques.

In kukishin ryu, kata may be performed in a nearly identical manner, but with superficial differences. Kata from different lineage may end in a different kamae, or target a different body part with a certain strike. But at heart it is still kukishin ryu, built on the same concepts.

So in a manner, yes you are correct that what there are bound to be differences creeping in along the years. But the underlying concepts will be identical. Or at least I think so. That is the whole point of koryu transmission.

Actually different branches can be rather radically different. Shinkage Ryu is different to Yagyu Shinkage Ryu (although technically it is just a different branch), and the differences between the various Kukishin lineages can be huge! Really, you can look at two different Kukishin branches next to each other and barely recognise the connection, often it is present most obviously in the names of the kata. This, really, is what happens when Koryu change (as Archangel M is putting forth), it typically becomes either a new branch of the Ryu, or a new Ryu altogether.
 

EWBell

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I think your off base there Bruno. Way off base! In the Genbukan and Jinenkan you are learning a line or lines or ryu that were passed on to Tanemura Sensei and Manaka Sensei via Hatsumi Sensei. (irregardless of whom Tanemura later went to train with) Manaka Sensei also verfies this in his book as he gives credit to Hatsumi Sensei! In the Bujinkan people have and are learning the origional unmodified forms as well as henka and variations off the origional kata. While quality in the Genbukan or Jinenkan is higher because they are small organizations in comparison you can find equal or even better quality in the Bujinkan if you know where to look!
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I can't agree. What we do in the Genbukan sometimes looks nothing like the Bujinkan or the Jinenkan. If it was exactly as they were passed then we'd all look essentially the same. I personally believe that Tanemura Soke's way is an amalgamation of what he's learned from Hatsumi and the other students of Takamatsu Sensei.

I also don't necessarily believe that the quality is all together better in the Jinenkan and Genbukan because of their size. I think a lot of it has to do with having standards across the board as to what passes the mustard and what doesn't. I always see this, "we have it if you know where to look" phrase a lot, but that's about as useful as a radar detector in a Yugo to a beginner. No one ever says WHO these uber-instructors are, so how is one supposed to get t3h r34lz?
 

Dean Whittle

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Another take on this is that what has changed since the feudal battlefields of Japan is what we scientifically know about how the human body responds under stress, ie within a conflict, and after conflict.

I think it's fair to say that information is readily available to those who look for it about the effects of adrenaline on the body during stress and how this affects our ability to respond to violence. This information, in it's present 'scientific' form was not available to our martial forebears, although I'm sure those with combative experience had some understanding of it. The question is though, if Ninjutsu is being taught as a form of self protection, either in a cilivian or military/LEO/security context, is this invaluable knowledge incorporated into the curriuculum? Does it inform what is taught and how it is taught?

Furthermore, I know that some koryu had practices, both physical and spiritual, that attempted to innoculate their practitioners from the stress of conflict, or what we know now to be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, however I think it's fair to say that these methods are not widely practiced or disseminated. And they're certainly not covered in your average class. Again, if Ninjutsu is being taught as a form of self protection, either in a cilivian or military/LEO/security context, is this invaluable knowledge incorporated into the curriuculum? Does it inform what is taught and how it is taught?

Whilst we can argue until the cows come home about whether what is taught in koryu/ninjutsu dojo is what was used on the battlefields of Japan, the fact is, regardless of that, is it appropriate/suitable, legally and morally, for the confrontations it's practitioners are likely to face in their particular environments.

With respect
 

Brian R. VanCise

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I can't agree. What we do in the Genbukan sometimes looks nothing like the Bujinkan or the Jinenkan. If it was exactly as they were passed then we'd all look essentially the same. I personally believe that Tanemura Soke's way is an amalgamation of what he's learned from Hatsumi and the other students of Takamatsu Sensei.

I also don't necessarily believe that the quality is all together better in the Jinenkan and Genbukan because of their size. I think a lot of it has to do with having standards across the board as to what passes the mustard and what doesn't. I always see this, "we have it if you know where to look" phrase a lot, but that's about as useful as a radar detector in a Yugo to a beginner. No one ever says WHO these uber-instructors are, so how is one supposed to get t3h r34lz?

It is all good and well to be proud of your organization but...... trust me in the Bujinkan there are excellent places to learn with people that have been training with Hatsumi Sensei for a long, long, long time. Actually one of the greatest strengths of the Bujinkan is that people explore...... This exploration leads to some incredible practitioners at the higher level. Maybe you have not experienced them but I certainly have going way back in the day to Doron Navon, Mark O'Brien, etc. Plus there is a whole new generation coming out that are very, very good too! What one person may see as a weakness actually may be a great strength. Plus most Dojo's in the Bujinkan have standards and train quite hard at least the ones I am familiar with!
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As for t3h r34lz you train in the Genbukan so what really is it to you? (by the way I can list lot's of t3h r34lz)

Tanemura Sensei spent all of his fundamental time with Hatsumi Sensei. That is his line and the small time he spent with other Takmatsu Sensei students does not negate that. That is reality! Plus he is an exceptional martial practitioner because of it! (having spent time with Hatsumi Sensei) They had their issues went their seperate ways and hey that is what happens in this world! At some point a student should go out and explore and learn and pass on their teachings and not all students are meant to stay in one place forever! I like the Genbukan and the Jinenkan and have a lot of respect for both Tanemura Sensei and Manaka Sensei even though I do not train with them. Tanemura Sensei went out and is now doing his own thing based on his interpretation of the Takmatsuden arts. Hey that is great more power to him. The same applies for Manaka Sensei! Having said that it does come down to size as there are some mediocre Genbukan practitioners and not so good Jinenkan practitioners but both organizations are very, very small in comparison to the behomoth that is the Bujinkan! They are also well more controlled because of this small size. That is just the way it is!
 

Chris Parker

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To be honest, Brian, that is not strictly true in the case of Tanemura Sensei. Looking at his lineages, only one of them (Gyokko, I believe) relies on Hatsumi Sensei for it's lineage, the others all come from outside of his training with Hatsumi (Koto Ryu from Sato Kinbei, same with Hontai Takagi Yoshin Ryu, Togakure Ryu from Fukumoto Sensei, etc - for clarification, this is from memory, any Genbukan members please correct this if needed. Any corrections from the Genbukan should be considered accurate). So while it's certainly true that his training in these arts is rooted in his training with Hatsumi, the lines Tanemura teaches don't actually come from him. I'm not commenting on the reasons I've heard for why that is, though....

With Manaka Sensei, absolutely it comes from Hatsumi. But the lines in the Genbukan are rather different in a number of cases.
 

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Exactly. There is no difference at all between a group of heavily armored and armed Samurai, and a group of Hells Angels, other than the Angels horses make cool "Vroom Vroom" sounds, rather than whinny.

FWIW, not all members of all "one percenter" motorcycle clubs are violent thugs; many, in fact, are not even remotely criminally involved.
Our local bike mechanic, who runs a thriving legitimate business, is widely known as a reliable mechanic, family man, and full member of HAMC for over 20 years. The man is clean as a whistle, doesn't even use cannabis (which is certainly common amongst what we could call "fringe society"...) - heck, I wouldn't go to a mechanic or be involved whatsoever with any infdividual that is involved in illegal activity. Of course, I didn't come down in the last shower and am well aware that many of his fellow club members would most certainly be involved in dodgy doings, however I felt it was worth pointing out that not all bikers are violent thugs!

In regards to whether or not the Bujinkan has decent practitioners all I can say is that the Shidoshi I train under is an exceptionally talented martial artist. The sempai where I train also display exceptional skill. Some of these people certainly use what they learn out in the field in various volunteer and career roles, from community patrols, to the security sector and even prison work.

IM-very-HO what I have observed, however, is that as opposed to some other MAs most of the truly capable/fearsome ninjutsu practitioners have been in the art for at least a decade. What I am saying here is that it takes time to develop and build the skills, a lot of time.
Also, a lot of Bujinkan videos out there on sites such as Youtube &c. are quite terrible.

I saw one the other day with a bunch of Americans training with Soke. He was absolutely sublime, a purity and fluidity of movement and excellence of execution (to borrow a phrase or two) whereas a few of those Americans were absolutely shocking. Really lousy to watch, punches directed at some mysterious point half a foot above the other man's head &c.

As for Genbukan and Jinenkan I have never seen or experienced anything whatsoever from them, however I do not believe that any inter-organisational comparisons are relevant at all.

My .02, it is what it is lol.
 

Brian R. VanCise

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To be honest, Brian, that is not strictly true in the case of Tanemura Sensei. Looking at his lineages, only one of them (Gyokko, I believe) relies on Hatsumi Sensei for it's lineage, the others all come from outside of his training with Hatsumi (Koto Ryu from Sato Kinbei, same with Hontai Takagi Yoshin Ryu, Togakure Ryu from Fukumoto Sensei, etc - for clarification, this is from memory, any Genbukan members please correct this if needed. Any corrections from the Genbukan should be considered accurate). So while it's certainly true that his training in these arts is rooted in his training with Hatsumi, the lines Tanemura teaches don't actually come from him. I'm not commenting on the reasons I've heard for why that is, though....

With Manaka Sensei, absolutely it comes from Hatsumi. But the lines in the Genbukan are rather different in a number of cases.

Chris some of those lines may come from Sato Kinbei and Fukumoto Sensei yet...... I wonder how much in depth time he actually trained with them. You see I feel he came to them from Hatsumi Sensei with a vast knowledge of some of those lines already as while there are differences I see more of it as a way that his system (Genbukan) trains in comparison to how vastly different the lines are. Understand that Tanemura Sensei trained with Hatsumi Sensei for a long, long, long time. So even if the lines that he has do not come from Hatsumi Sensei he trained in a similar (ie. very similar) line with Hatsumi Sensei where he received his fundamental training! This takes nothing away from Tanemura Sensei as we all know he is a great martial practitioner who is now the Soke of his own organization! It is just that they parted ways and Tanemura Sensei found a way to distinguish himself by having some training with former Takamatsu Sensei students. That also does not in turn change the fact that Takamatsu named Hatsumi Sensei as his successor!

In my opinion Budo Taijutsu has put out some tremendous practitioners of which Tanemura Sensei, Manaka Sensei, etc. are a part of that group.
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Chris Parker

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Hey Brian,

I really don't want to turn this into a Bujinkan versus Genbukan/Jinenkan discussion, however there are a few things to mention.

The lines that Tanemura teaches are not from Hatsumi, even though his initial (and formative) exposure was under Hatsumi for a number of them. I also wouldn't necessarily agree about Budo Taijutsu "producing" Manaka Sensei and Tanemura Sensei, as Budo Taijutsu didn't exist when Tanemura left, and Manaka left at about the time it matured in the Bujinkan. And neither Tanemura in the Genbukan, nor Manaka in the Jinenkan teach Budo Taijutsu. And one tiny correction, Tanemura is not Soke of his organisation, the same way that Hatsumi Sensei is not Soke of the Bujinkan. Both are Presidents (Kancho) of their respective organisations, and Soke of the lineages they hold.

None of this takes away from any of the men themselves, of course, nor Takamatsu's choice of successor in the lines he passed on as well.
 

EWBell

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That also does not in turn change the fact that Takamatsu named Hatsumi Sensei as his successor!


Well his successor in what he gave to Hatsumi Sensei. ;) Obviously there are other things he didn't give him, just like he didn't give his other students things he gave Hatsumi Sensei. Gikan Ryu might be a point of contention though. :D

Brian I understand what you're saying, I really do. I agree with it somewhat. However, I believe that Tanemura Soke was highly influenced by his other teachers as well, not JUST Hatsumi Sensei.

Also, I know there are some high quality Bujinkan schools around. However, I'm am just going to point blank disagree with why the quality in a great number of dojo is just plain awful. Sure size is a factor, but so is handing out grades, mail order black belts, etc. That stuff would not fly in either the Jinenkan or Genbukan. I'm not saying every Genbukan dojo is absolutely stellar, but there are organizational wide goals and standards to shoot for. Without that I believe you're pissing up a rope.
 

Brian R. VanCise

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Yes I would agree with you Chris on the semantics that Budo Taijutsu did not produce Tanemura Sensei. However we both know that his training with Hatsumi Sensei did produce him as a fine martial practitioner!
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(excuse me for the errors in the above post as I typed whilst taking care of my children this morning :) )

Personally, I think any Genbukan member should be proud of their organization as well as any Jinenkan member too. Just as any Bujinkan member should also be proud of their organization.

There are effective practitioners from all of them!
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Brian R. VanCise

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EWBell I am sure you and I agree on most points! There are certain things I have a great disliking for myself! Van Donks mail order stuff is repulsive! The handing out of grades is ridiculous as well and yet at the top I think it matters not a bit to Hatsumi Sensei as he has kept very careful control of who has been given Menkyo Kaiden. I would also say that I know quite a few high ranking Bujinkan practitioners who are fantastic people and martial practitioners who also maintain very high standards. Personally, I am on the fringe of the organization but also train as much as possible with people that I trust and also who maintian high standards. The Takamatsuden arts can be incredibly effective when taught and trained with passion!
 

EWBell

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EWBell I am sure you and I agree on most points! There are certain things I have a great disliking for myself!


Oh I'm sure we do. You'll have to forgive my jumpiness, just went through a rough round of 6 days with no power due to a round of "tatsumaki" through Alabama.
 

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