|[ olvasnivaló » Ura & Omote - 1995 December ]|
His muscle makes you fear him, but when he's moving, it seems that he does not use his strength at all. He moves so gently and smoothly, that it becomes difficult to tell whether he's fighting or dancing.
Shihan Toshiro Nagato does not share the enthusiasm that others have about his rank. To them he occupies a lofty perch, but he still considers himself a beginner - still learning all the time. To him, ten years of ninjutsu is nothing to write home about.
The 40-year old ninjutsu master teacher started his life as a martial artist when he was eight. Like most Japanese school children, he took part in the compulsory judo lessons that are as much a part of the educational system there as gym classes are to American children. The young Nagato enjoyed his judo training, and his unusual size and strength helped him win third place in the Kodokan tournament for junior high school students.
Nagato is very tall for a Japanese man and his size drew him to participate in the sport of Japan's larger class - Sumo - but at 22 decided to abandon the field completely. Sumo was not for him. He went on practicing judo for several more years and qualified for his fifth dan.
As far as Nagato was concerned, this was to be the end of his career as a judoka, but the Kodokan masters thought differently. They decided to send Toshiro to the U.S. to teach judo at the University of Ontario in Oregon. While teaching there he was also studying, all the while dreaming of something else. He had heard the name of the budo master, Masaaki Hatsumi and, while in the states, had read Andrew Adam's book Ninja: The Invisible Assassins. Nagato wanted to be a true martial artist not just a judoka, and ninjutsu seemed the way to go. He decided then and there that when he returned to Japan, he would seek out this art. Things didn't quite work out the way Nagato had planned as circumstances led him into the professional kickboxing ring. He began entering competitions in Tokyo to earn badly needed money.
Where size had always been his ally, it now became his adversary. A giant at 90 kg (about 195 pounds), he was far heavier than any established division in Japan. He then undertook a strict diet that would eventually drop him to 72.5 kg still the heaviest division for competition. In three major events in Korakuen Halls, he won all his fights - all by knock-out. These victories made him champion of the shin-jin - the newcomers. Despite his victories kickboxing was no fun for Nagato. "Too much beating up, too bad for the health... bad for my face and also it was not a martial art." Before he began to explore ninjutsu, Nagato felt that he had to get out of Japan. Having been in Oregon, he knew that there were places in the world that offered less stress than Japan. Kickboxing had been a way for Nagato to release some of that stress, but now that he was through with that sport, he felt he needed a change of atmosphere.
A friend in America, Michael Echanis, a former Green Beret, invited him over and he accepted. Echanis, a professional soldier and Vietnam veteran, wanted to learn the martial arts from Nagato. Echanis said there was a job waiting for him at the Special Forces camp in North Carolina. "They wanted me to be a Green Beret, and when there was a mission for everybody in South America, they asked me to join them. I felt wrong about it and I told them that I wasn't interested. Something in me said, 'Danger'".
Unfortunately, Nagato's feelings about the mission were well founded. While in South America, the plane crashed and all aboard were lost. "There was a feeling inside me that told me not to go," said Nagato. "It convinced me that it was time to go back and find the true martial arts teacher".
Nagato found Hatsumi in Noda City. Ninjutsu was completely different from anything he had yet experienced in the martial arts. "It wasn't a sport, but I was glad because I didn't want to fight any more. I didn't go there to fight. Lately, though, I feel that I miss the fighting a little bit, but it's nothing".
Hatsumi immediately saw talent when Nagato came to him. He saw the man's fighting spirit right away. There is no wonder in this, however, as street-fighting was common in the neighborhood that Nagato grew up in. His background in judo and kickboxing was a big asset as well. Nagato rose through the ranks like a rocket. He put a lot, into his training and, before he knew it, he was a master teacher.
Nagato teaches a handful of students in a small, family-like dojo. Most of his people are Japanese, but he does have a few foreigners under his tutelage. Robert Bussey of Nebraska was his student for a while and was graded a fourth dan by the time he returned to the States. "I don't discriminate against non-Japanese," says Nagato. "I teach them the same as I teach the Japanese. In all, six of my students have passed the godan (fifth dan) test from Hatsumi Sensei". Nagato earns his living as a honetzugi ( bone setter ), just like Hatsumi, and lives happily in Saitiama ken with his wife Mamiko and two sons, Yoshiki and Yuhe.
Nagato doesn't feel very special being graded as a ninth dan "I have to feel the responsibility, but there' s nothing. Maybe some responsibility, but I still have so much to learn. I must stick to Hatsumi Sensei and hold onto him to learn all that I can learn. Okay, so I have a little feeling of what it means to be a martial artist, not much more."
Nagato wasn't happy when his fellow student Tsunehisa (now Shoto) Tanemura left the school of Bujinkan to form his own Genbukan system. "I was sad, but he had a different way of thinking; different ethics. Hatsumi Sensei thought differently."
Nagato does not foresee a big change in ninjutsu in the future. "We don't consider ninjutsu to be the ultimate art," says Nagato. "Budo, the martial arts world, is the essence of everything. It's all still alive and we want to keep it alive. We look for understanding, for peaceful life and happiness. Budo is good for the country, and for the whole universe."
The real question was: What could we say that would be easy to understand and truly useful for those with no experience? The venue and audience demanded brevity and simplicity or the article wouldn't be read. But relevance and effectiveness could not be sacrificed to achieve that.
Previously, I had observed that suggestions to novices frequently fall into two categories: vague, conceptual transmissions; or highly precise technical instruction. Neither approach benefits beginners. In fact, those sorts of explanations interfere with basic learning.
Students greet large concepts with a great deal of head nodding and noises of agreement. But when the talk is over, the student is left to figure out exactly how to apply such abstract things to the very concrete situation they are facing. Not only would they need to be an expert to create accurate specifics from general ideas, but also they won't really have time for all that thinking in the middle of an assault.
Detailed, mechanically oriented explanations for beginners result not in greater understanding, but rather in more questions as the student tries desperately to remember a list of points composed of unfamiliar words. Afraid that not getting every detail will result in failure, the poor student concentrates so hard they squeeze out anything they might have remembered - just as physical tension ruins good taijutsu.
To avoid these pitfalls in our article, we limited ourselves to three major kyusho which are extremely effective and accessible even with rudimentary skills. We mentioned a few very natural methods (for non-martial artists) of hitting each. And we described directly the results of striking them.
In retrospect, this approach provides a good 3-point model for giving advice to those new to the training:
First, keep suggestions brief. Over-explaining causes "brain overloading" which makes them reflexively discard everything they just heard. And grand explanations communicate primarily to the intellect - precisely what they won't have access to in a stressful situation.
Second, give advice which fits reasonably with current habits. Otherwise, ingrained responses will overwrite the new programming under the pressure of a real situation. Fully transforming inefficient responses is the work of extended training. Remember, too, useful advice must be specific yet without great technicality.
images and unambiguous words facilitate recall when under stress. Use common language in place of foreign words and insider-jargon. Even when the "generic" explanation is not precisely correct, it is the best one if it helps someone remember and do the right thing.
Once, when my father, Marvin, was a young boy, his mother came to pick him up after school and discovered him embroiled in a scuffle with a bully on the playground. At the middle of an excited crowd of gawking school kids, my father warily circled the other boy, not knowing what to do in response to the threats and feints. My grandmother watched for a moment, realizing that although she certainly did not want her son fighting, if she stepped in and dragged him off his classmates would tease him mercilessly - and the bullies would never leave him alone again. Instead, from her place at the edge of the crowd she called out, "Hit him, Marvin!" And dad did.
Suddenly sporting a painful bloody lip, the other boy decided fighting wasn't such a great idea after all. He quit, the crowd dispersed and my dad went home with his mother.
The story stands as a fine example of how to give good advice: Be brief, be relevant, be useful
About nine months ago I moved to Philadelphia to begin graduate school at Temple University. The problem is that there is no training group within reasonable distance. So what's a lonely 6th kyu gonna do in this wilderness, no milestones in sight? Why recruit, of course!
If you want to practice your two person kata, you have to have another body to practice with. In the course of time, I have found several people to practice with. But now I have to teach them the fundamentals. Won't do having my training partners go home injured. They won't come back that way.
So, I was leading a practice and I pulled out one of my books and picked a basic Kata. I looked at it, and found out that I didn't "know" that one, so I did it once or twice to figure it out. Then I taught it to them. The next day, I realized something. I had just passed another milestone. I actually know enough to understand basic kata myself. My teacher has successfully given me the first couple of principles, and I know how to use them.
I no longer consider ranking to be milestones - they're signposts. Milestones come at regular intervals. To recognize them you only have to be paying attention. Signposts, on the other hand come irregularly. You never know when the next one will show up. In hilly and wooded terrain there might be several signposts between milestones. In flat, unobstructed terrain there may be many milestones between signposts.
On our path, we do need to pay attention to the signposts. Just don't forget to look for the milestones.
The first training drill I was ever introduced to was one dealing with movement. Like many drills, your partner attacks you. Your objective is to get out of the way - without touching your partner.
BASIC DRILL: Have your partner stand in "ready position" and attack you with a specific attack at either 1/4 speed or "slow motion". Before you tell him/her that you are ready, choose an element to move in. When they attack, get out of the way. If they hit you, figure out what you did wrong, and do it again correcting the problem. If they miss, check your positioning. Is it safe? How easy is it for your attacker to continue on? Is it correct? Is your kamae correct for your body? What could you do from here?
There are, of course, many more variations, but this should keep you busy for quite some time. That is, unless you ignore the rest of your training. But that's another story.
Some people we have seen are too eager to reach the formless state. They try for formless but only attain worthless. Some teachers act like Hatsumi Sensei instructing a class full of godans, but their students are the ones who lose, because they believe they can do something when they can't. You have got to have form in order to lose it. What that means to the average student is not to concern yourself too much with all the variations of the techniques we do. While this is an art that encourages and actually depends on your creativity and improvisational skills, you must understand that these abilities develop spontaneously through years of practicing forms.
In the first year of your training, do not try to be creative. Stick to what's shown. If you can't make a technique work, don't automatically go off on some variation of your own. Don't worry about how you look to others. Find out why it didn't work, and practice until it does work. Then, once you have understood the essential elements of the waza being shown, you can see and apply variations. I can't stress enough how important that is.
Here is an example: a particular kata, Koku, for example, doesn't work for Student #1. He misses the keri-kaeshi counter kick to the enemy's kick. He just can't get the timing and distancing to connect with his foot. So instead, he throws a punch and grabs. He shouldn't continually do this. he should stop, start over and work on the method. Maybe he sees Student #2 punching and grabbing instead of kicking, and he knows Student #2 is almost a black belt, so he thinks it must be O.K. to change. But maybe he doesn't realize that Student #2 can do the technique forwards, backwards and blindfolded. There is nothing wrong with Student #2 changing the technique, because he knows it well. Student #1 should work at understanding and applying the correct methods, so that he can one day be able to properly change techniques too.
Once you mast the forms, yes, you can break them apart and put them together in whatever way works for you. To be able to do that without thought or effort is an important vital skill. But there is no shortcut to attaining that; no quick training trick to give you that ability. The fastest way to really get there is the slowest way. Shortcutting this process leads you nowhere at all.
Think of it this way: you are a clear glass of water. The techniques shown to you are like spoonfuls of sugar. You can see the sugar as you put it into the water. It floats down and settles on the bottom of the glass. Put in the spoon and stir it up. After a while, depending on the temperature and hardness of the water, the sugar vanishes, and all that remains is the clear water.
Forms and techniques are added to you like sugar into water, and as you practice (like the stirring spoon) the techniques are worked into you. After a while, you can't see the forms anymore. They dissolve without any visible trace. But you know they are in there, even though you can't see them, because you put them there. Like the sugar, you can taste them.
I can't tell how long it will take until the forms vanish inside of you. It depends on how much you stir (practice), and how hard your water is (tension). If the water has impurities, that doesn't help. Try to be pure and ready. A relaxed body indicates a relaxed mind. Both of these are absolutely necessary to do what it is we do. I hope everyone can understand and absorb what I have said.
Utilizing the various talents of the group we designed and built ourselves a two story Dojo over the course of 1 year. Although we have only 900 square ft of actual training space, with a changing room/ bathroom and therapy room downstairs, we feel it is a royal palace.
All of us are very proud of this Dojo because of the fact that we built it ourselves. It shows a dedication to training aside from the actual weekly practice and seminars. For me, it is another reminder of what being a member of a group and being a martial artist is all about. Lots of lessons on working together, team building, etc. which I cannot even begin to describe, took place over the course of building the Dojo.
I would like to formally thank those who were involved, and offer an invitation to any Bujinkan members thinking of visiting New England to stop on by and train with us. Drop me an Email or call The New England Ninpo Dojo (603)672-4053.
Historically the concept of a dojo dates back to the Samurai, who used training halls to teach large armies of men combat techniques. There were huge schools or "Ryu" for families and clans from the different territories of Japan to train in. After the warring period of Japans history the dojo evolved into a facility for training in the combat "arts", transforming the skills of war into a system of personal self defense and spiritual enlightenment. Which brings us to modern day dojos, which for the most part are training facilities for self defense purposes only.
I believe that a dojo is not just a facility. A dojo is more than a training hall or building where martial artists gather. It is a group of solid, like-minded individuals that have common goals to train and better themselves as human beings. It is like family. They should be our closest friends. And without the cooperative efforts of its members a group never becomes a true dojo. The quality of the members and not the sum of them completes the equation. (The whole is greater than the sum of its parts) The quality of a persons character outweighs their martial arts skills. The skill comes with time. (Heck, I'm still working on my own!)
It takes a good friend with a mutual understanding to train. The pain shared with each other through joint locks, throws, kicks, and punches is enough to make the average person get pretty angry. But with understanding and consideration of your Uke or Tori, the pain means nothing. We can get up from the mat with a grimacing smile saying "Ooh.. good one" without the desire to beat them senseless. It's a desire to learn, without ego or pride, and with compassion. Forget the fact we're actually learning how to hurt someone. We don't need to hurt each other or fight internal battles within the group. No bad-asses allowed please. Hatsumi himself said "We have no time for the idly curious, or mentally unstable."
I am a new student of Ninjutsu and a novice to this art. I am convinced that without the support of my training group, this could have been another passing fad for me. The insight I was given from the beginning furthered my interest in Ninjutsu, and gave me the personal curiosity to delve deeper into the subjects being taught. (And I'm finding that the deeper you go with Ninjutsu, the deeper it gets. Its like never hitting bottom.) The initial curiosity gave birth to great desire and then a "lust" for more knowledge of Ninjutsu, and Ninpo. Now I live and breathe it. The teachings of Ninpo are being integrated into every part of my life. Still, as much as this is a personal art and a selfish one, there is no substitute for the fine group of Bujinkan friends that help along the path.
But how about just purely and simply relaxing your body and mind with no particular questions to he answered, no specific work to be done just taking a few minutes of your day just to "BE"?
By experiencing a state of "being", your body can go on auto pilot and allow the natural healing processes to flow freely. By "being", the mind can take time to become uncluttered with everyday thoughts. allowing creativity to flow free from the limitations we often inhibit ourselves with.
Whenever you decide to stop what you are doing, and to take some time for a real break; that decision will enhance your self esteem you have decided that you are worth it.
So how to begin relaxation? Here is one suggested way. Find yourself a comfortable spot; in as quiet a place as you can. IF it pleases you, have some gentle music playing. If your chosen place cannot be a quiet one; allow the noises around you to form the background music even the sound of passing traffic can become relaxing.
Decide how long to give yourself and say the number of minutes out loud. You can then let go of this time limitation, knowing that you will feel relaxed, yet energized, when it is time to carry on with your day.
Sit with your feet uncrossed and flat on the floor, with your hands placed comfortably in your lap. When you are comfortable, gently close your eyes.
We begin with physical relaxation:
Become aware of your feet. How do they feel to you? What temperature are they? Can you feel the inside of your feet limited by the skin that surrounds them?
Now, in your mind, see your feet beginning to expand, to grow, widthwise, lengthwise, up toward your knees, down through the floor. As you see your feet expand in this way, notice how they feel. Do you notice any change in temperature? Do they feel any heavier or lighter? Allow any pleasant sensations you are experiencing to replace any tension; any tiredness. You might like to tense your feet up at this stage, and then experience how relaxing it feels to let that tension go. When your feet feel so comfortable that you are hardly aware of the ground beneath them, begin to bring your feet back to their "normal" size. See them return and feel them return. Take a deep breath and breathe out any remaining tension.
Now put your awareness in your tower legs. From your ankles to your knees. See minds' eye, feel how they feel. Repeat the process as for your feet. Feel your lower legs expanding, growing. Feel all the tension leaving them. Then bring your legs back in to their "normal" size. Take a deep breath as they "pop back" into your skin and let go of any remaining tension as you breathe out.
Move up your body. Repeating the process, until your feet, lower legs, thighs, stomach, chest, shoulders, upper arms, forearms, hands, neck and head have all experienced this expansion. Remember to take a deep breath as the part you have been concentrating on comes back to your physical body.
Take three deep breaths as you begin to focus on relaxing your mind.
If you have thoughts or worries crowding into your mind; imagine you can see those thoughts as sentences written on a page. Begin to split the words in those sentences so they no longer make sense. Then split the words themselves into letters, so that on their own the letters make no sense. Imagine all those letters spiraling upward to a small point somewhere at the top of your head.
Just above your head place a small white fluffy cloud. Now see the individual letters spiral up into that cloud. When the cloud is nearly full, it starts to pull away, floating away from you. Allow the cloud to drift away not completely, you may want those thoughts back to enable you to resume what you were doing before, but far enough away for you to have a break. There may be some thoughts still lurking in your head. You can let those too spiral out of your head and go chasing after the cloud. When the cloud, filled with your worries, is at a safe distance; find yourself walking in a beautiful garden. Fill your senses with the loveliness of this place.
The ground on which you are walking is soft and springy. A falling of dew has left iridescent beads sparkling in the sunlight on the path before you. As you cross the garden you are aware of the beauty of the colors you are seeing all around you. Every green is so green, every yellow so yellow, every shade of every color is so vibrant. It is as if you are seeing color for the first time. As the colors around you blend with your own, you feel so welcome, such a part of this serene place. Feel any remaining tensions or cares drop away from you now, to be replaced by a calmness complemented by all that is around you.
From a distance you become aware of a gentle splashing sound. You know that somewhere nearby there is water. The sound seems to beckon to you, so you make your way towards the source. As you look up into the sky you see birds of every description flying high, floating on a warm current of air.
And as you once more look to what is around you, you find yourself at the heart of the garden. the source of the sound of the water in front of you. It may be a stream, a fountain, the sea or waterfall. Whatever you create, the water is so inviting, so cool and clear. You lie down beside it, perhaps dipping your fingers or toes into its crystal clearness.
Use the rest of your time to enjoy and absorb the peace and calm that the garden gives to you and that you give to the garden.
When it is time for you to open your eyes, come back gently. If you wish to take back any of the thoughts you left in the cloud, allow them back in.
Open your eyes, stretch and look forward to your next visit.
First, Ninpo training requires daily study and attention to detail. Maintaining a finely forged sword or knife is no different. If you own a live blade, you should know how to take care of it. Most modern replicas of the Japanese Katana or Daito (long sword) and Ninja To (straight sword, also known as a Chokuto) are made of stainless steel, usually 440, 440C or 420B. Stainless steel is normally carbon steel with nickel added to it to make it more resistant to corrosion. Modern commercial sword manufacturers use stainless steel because it is air hardening. This means that the tempering method is quicker and more fool proof than the method used to temper carbon steel. A stainless steel blade that comes out of the forge is merely left out in the air to cool. Carbon steel blades require quenching - plunging the hot steel into a liquid bath. A real Japanese Katana uses selective tempering so that it produces a blade with a very hard edge and a body that is relatively softer and more flexible. This enables the sword to better absorb shock when delivering powerful cuts. Although stainless steel is tough and holds a decent edge, carbon steel offers better flexibility (depending on what heat-treating method is used) and edge retention. Carbon steel is also much easier to sharpen.
Corrosion from perspiration, skin oils, blood, and exposure to the elements are the problems we need to know well. In the case of carbon steel, these culprits can cause severe discoloration and rust very rapidly if neglected. I own swords that literally will rust before your eyes if left unoiled. This is a very serious problem the martial arts student must know how to combat. The edge is the thinnest part of a cutting implement and the most vulnerable to neglect. If allowed to rust, a razor-sharp weapon will become dull in a short period of time. Genuine Katanas are famous for their polish and mirror like finish. This is not for merely cosmetic appearance. Steel has microscopic pores that collect moisture. A finely polished blade has smaller pores and sheds blood much more easily than an unpolished one. Hence, the more corrosive agents that collect in the pores, the more tarnish and rust will accumulate. A sword should be wiped down with a clean piece of cloth to remove old oil before use. Oil on the blade can interfere with it's cutting ability. After use, the blade should be wiped off again to remove skin oil and perspiration, then lightly oiled before storage. As to the selection of what kind of oil should be used, here are some things to consider. You will be handling the blade when you resheath it (noto) and a little oil will get on your hands. Most petroleum-based oils are toxic and can build up after being absorbed through the skin. Common vegetable oil quickly goes rancid when exposed to the air and can severely discolor carbon steel if not properly removed on a regular basis. For centuries, the Japanese have used Kurobara (camellia oil) to care for their swords and tools. This oil is non-toxic and non-allergic. In a pinch it can readily be used for cooking and it even works well as a skin softener. A little bit of this excellent oil goes a long way and can easily remove light surface rust . Among Kurobara's other benefits is that this fine oil also conditions wood. A proper Saya (scabbard) made of wood can soak up oil over a long period of time and help preserve your steel sword every time you resheath it. If you can't find Kurobara, Choji (clove-oil) works very well and has the added advantage of being a natural anesthetic for small cuts. Lastly, extra-virgin olive oil can serve to protect your sword from rusting. A light coating will seal the metal from air and prevent oxidation. Be sure to always wipe the sword from the Habakimoto (widest part of the sword) towards the Kissaki (point) and not the other way around. Also make sure the Ha (edge) is directed away from your hand. Failure to pay attention while you're doing this can result in a nasty cut.
Most modern replicas have a cast polyester Tsuka (handle). This is another time-saving shortcut in order to keep the cost down. In my thinking, these handles are wholly unacceptable. I have broken more than one from normal usage and now make my own out of solid oak. If you train enough, you'll be sure to notice that the Nakago (tang) tends to wear away the plastic handle from the stress and strain of frequent drawing and cutting. The tell tale signs are powdered plastic dust working it's way out of the Fuchi (metal collar on the handle) that's close to the Tsuba (guard). This indicates that the Nakago is wearing loose. Left unattended, this can be an accident waiting to happen. Those of us of the western persuasion tend to be much taller than the average warrior of feudal age Japan. The length of the Tsuka was determined in the Kamakura (warring states) period by measuring the distance of a warrior's grip plus the length of his forearm. This long, two handed handle enabled quick, powerful and precise cuts with the Katana. If you are having a Tsuka made for you, make sure this measurement is taken from your own forearm to better understand what a real Katana should feel like. You will find your sword Kamae (posture) improves dramatically with a proportionate Tsuka.
The Nakago is fitted precisely to the Tsuka and secured in place by a Mekugi (bamboo peg). Always inspect the Mekugi before Kenjutsu training because if it is damaged or even worse, missing, the blade could fly out of the Tsuka and create a tragedy. Shihan Stephen K. Hayes related a story from Japan about how a Kenjutsu practitioner failed to notice his sword's Mekugi pin was missing and while performing an Iaijutsu draw, (drawing and cutting with the sword in one quick movement) the blade flew out of his Tsuka and impaled a 12 year old child, killing him.
Next, we need to know about another important piece of hardware used on Japanese swords - the Habaki (metal collar). This is the collar you will see fitted around the blade above the Tsuba. When resting in the Saya, the Habaki fits snugly in the Koi Guchi (mouth of the scabbard, or literally, the carp's mouth ). When pushed in, the habaki ''locked'' the Katana in the saya to prevent it from falling out at an inopportune time, such as while riding a horse or running on foot. The warrior would ''free'' the blade by firmly pushing forward on the Tsuba with his left thumb. This action would allow a fast and smooth draw. The tight fit of the Habaki also served to keep rain and dust out of the Saya.
Now we look at the place of rest for a Katana, the Saya. A normal Saya made for Katanas and Chokutos are heavily lacquered to facilitate being thrust through the Obi (belt or sash) when worn with daily wear. This allowed fluid and unhampered movement when removing and inserting the Katana close to the body. On the outside of the saya is a device called the Kurikata, which serves to hold the Sageo (utility cord). The Sageo was used, among other things, to tie up the sleeves of a warrior's kimono. This enabled him greater freedom of movement and prevented his sleeves from becoming entangled. I earn part of my living restoring antique edged weapons and have often seen the end result of neglect, or even worse - abuse. Some of the horror stories I can share include people that ''played Zorro'' with genuine 16th century era Katanas and clacked the swords together, severely knicking the edges. One of my customers brought me a genuine Wakizashi (companion short sword) and remarked how well it cut down the trees in his back yard. I have seen swords that their owners had tried to sharpen using a mill file, or even worse - a power grinder. It has taken me a great deal of time and energy learning how to properly polish and sharpen a real Katana, so if you don't know what you're doing - DON'T DO IT ! One person I met recently asked me how effectively a Katana could cut through concrete! I guess he got the idea from the movie ''Highlander''.
All this aside, Katanas are well known for their awesome cutting power. These swords are designed for a very specific purpose - killing living beings. I would be remiss however, if I failed to add that the sword in Japan is considered an important tool for preserving life, peace and order. The art of live blade cutting is called Tameshigiri. In old Japan, Tameshigiri men were professional sword testers. They cut a variety of objects, including cadavers and sometimes living human beings. Only after cutting several things would they judge whether or not a sword was suitable for use in combat. Today, any serious student of Kenjutsu practices Tameshigiri on a regular basis. Takegiri (bamboo cutting) is a very challenging technique for the student to evaluate his cutting skills. Another good target is a plastic milk jug filled with water and suspended with cords from a tree branch. Try swinging one to practice timing your cut on a moving target. When training with a razor sharp steel sword, we are moving into the area of Shin Ken Gata (realistic training). This means that one slip of technique can cause severe injury to the practitioner or some innocent bystander. Never try any cutting technique without first consulting a qualified instructor.
Lastly, my original Sensei - Dr. Kelly Hill once told me that the best weapon is the one in your hand. This means that if you have a piece of jagged glass in your hand, you should still be able to deliver a good cut with confidence. In the Austin Kunren Sukisha Dojo, we also study European weaponry and fencing. Soke Hatsumi-sama points out that eastern and western combat methods are fundamentally the same. We have applied Taijutsu Kamae (unarmed fighting postures) to Rapier and dagger methods, and they work very well indeed. I recommend Ninpo students to explore Shinobi Kenjutsu techniques using western swords such as a Falchion or Great Sword. An edged weapon does not have to be of Japanese origin to be effective. My favorite fighting knife is a Bowie, even though I like a Tanto (knife with a guard) as well. Ninjutsu is an art that thrives on spontaneity, pragmatism, and a profound respect for the truth. No swordsman worth his or her salt would be able to wield only one specific blade and no other. Anyone familiar with the vast number of weapons in a Ninja's arsenal can agree that there is more than one way to accomplish success in an armed encounter.
The external-frame packs large load-carrying capacity is also it's biggest shortcoming. It is awkward on anything but a well-defined trail.
When shopping for an external-frame pack, there are specific things to look for. The first and most important question is "How long will I be out there?" If you are going for a week on the John Muir Trail, you'll be wanting a large capacity pack. The second item of importance is how easy can you adjust the frame to your own particular body characteristics. Look for a pack that has numerous adjustments. Look for mesh back-bands....they are much cooler than the older style. Look also at the waist belt and be sure that it is contoured to fit your particular body. Are the shoulder straps fully adjustable? When you are carrying 40+ pounds for days at a time, you will want as much comfort as possible. Look for a pack that will carry the bulk of the weight on your hips. Don't be afraid to bend the frame if necessary to make it fit.
Look for as many adjustment points as possible. Since the pack fits against the body, it is naturally hotter in the summer. I prefer the top loading style with a separate compartment for the sleeping bag in the bottom. Many of the newer styles have a zip-out divider that will allow you to have one large capacity bag. Look for compression straps on the side. These allow you to compress the loads significantly and keep the load close to the body. This is an important feature if you are climbing or hiking in very rugged terrain. Make sure that you have shoulder and hip stabilizers and a comfortable lumbar and/or posture pad. Added niceties are such things as removable side pouches, sunglass cases, D-rings, key-hooks and removable top pouches that double as fanny packs.
Most modern backpacks are constructed of a urethane-coated 8 to 11 ounce nylon packcloth. The zippers should be of a type that won't clog easily and will function well even in cold weather.
Prices will run from $100 to $400. Some of the finest backpacks in the world are manufactured by REI, Alpenlite, Lowe, Kelty, MEI, Mountainsmith, Jansport, Camptrails, Gregory, and The North Face. They can be purchased locally from REI, Adventure 16 or other outdoor outfitter.
When considering the acquisition of a backpack, do your homework first. Decide what type of camping you will be doing, look at what others are doing and above all, ask questions. Try the pack on and do as much adjusting as you can at home with a full load in the pack.
Start by packing your sleeping bag in the bottom of the pack. Heavy items go against your back, high for comfort while trail walking; low for good balance while hiking off-trail or climbing. Pack clothing around them so they don't shift around. Items you'll need during the day go on top or in locations that are readily accessible. Color coded stuff-sacks will help to organize single compartment packs. Odd sized items can be lashed to the exterior of the pack using accessory straps or by using the compression straps and wand pockets.
Even though the suspension system and components comprise the bulk of what makes a good pack, there's still a lot more to consider. A great pack does more than just hold your gear; it protects it, organizes it, makes it accessible and adapts to the size of your load. Regardless of the type, size or manufacturer, it is a very personal decision that you will make in selecting a backpack. Consider it carefully and decide on what is best for you.
. . . the ninja of Japan were trained in eighteen fundamental areas of knowledge covering expertise in both the physical and mental. (10 - 18 are listed below)
Dorje, meaning literally "lord of stones" is the Tibetan word for the Sanskrit vajra. In ancient India it was the weapon of Indra, king of the Vedic gods, who hurled it as a thunderbolt to defeat enemies of his people. In Tantric Buddhism it has been made into a small scepter, symbolizing the power of universal compassion; unbreakable as a diamond and powerful as a thunderbolt. When the practitioner holds the dorje in the right hand, it reminds him or her of the supremacy of love and compassion in the enlightened universe.
It is reported that Gikan ryu came into the Ishitani family during the battle of Tenchigumi (August 17, 1863), which Uryu Gikan participated in. He supposedly was shot in the arm, and retreated to a temple where he was found by Ishitani, who took care of him. They became friends, and Ishitani helped him to escape back to Iga.
The punch of Uryu Hangan Gikanbo was said to be so powerful that he once broke a sword with it.
One of the teachings from Gikan Ryu is said to be "Bufu ni sente nashi," which could possibly be translated as "From this side there is not the first strike," in other words, not to attack first.
Gikan Ryu was developed by Uryu Hangan Gikanbo from knowledge that he received from Sougyoku Kan Ritsushi of the Gyokko Ryu.
Fumio Akimoto was a student of Takamatsu Sensei's prior to Dr. Hatsumi's time. (If you notice, Fumio died before Takamatsu Sensei).
Gikan Ryu has been taught extensively throughout Europe, most notably by Sveneric Bogsater, 10th Dan, of Sweden.
I wish to thank Peter Carlsson of Sweden for his help in supplying me with this correct information.
The first point I'd like to address is the knee. Sometimes I have to laugh when watching the consummate skill of many 'instructors' throwing their students. It is rather simple to toss someone around with one hand when they stretch their punches out so far they grip the ground with their toes so they don't topple forward. IMPORTANT TAIJUTSU POINT NUMBER ONE: DON'T BREAK THE PLANE OF YOUR BIG TOE WITH YOUR KNEE.
The second important point I will mention is the use of striking or lack thereof. Taijutsu is a complete art, containing strikes and throws. But sadly, many instructors tend to leave out the hitting portion of the art when teaching beginners. Of course when doing the 'Kihon Happo', they teach a kick and a knifehand. Striking goes much further than that though. Many teachers separate the throws from the strikes, you can't do that. Now I know, at first you have to concentrate on each thing separately but after awhile the two must merge into one. Throws without strikes incorporated tend not to work in the real world. IMPORTANT TAIJUTSU POINT NUMBER TWO: REMEMBER TO HIT.
The third point I'm going to mention is the lack of stability in the footwork. Many people try to emulate Hatsumi sensei by trying to apply his method of taijutsu. This is rather difficult to do if you ask me, the Japanese Shihan can't even come close to applying the taijutsu like Hatsumi sensei does, yet there they are, the American 'Shihan" demonstrating on their student's they have taught to be perpetually off-balance doing the smallest motions and throwing people to the ooh's and ahh's of their awestruck 'students'. IMPORTANT TAIJUTSU POINT NUMBER THREE: NEITHER YOU, NOR ANYONE ELSE CAN PERFORM TAIJUTSU LIKE HATSUMI SENSEI.
The basic point here is to hopefully get to some practitioners that haven't been brainwashed by many of the great American Shihan to see through the illusions that these people create. Unfortunately many people become lost in this false reality presented by these so called 'teachers' and end up practicing ballet instead of Ninpo Taijutsu.
As a final note, I'm sure this is going to offend many people. I offer no apology for this, the Bujinkan needs a big shot of reality here in America so if you feel a need to respond to this please e-mail me directly and don't badger the editor.
According to another source, a famous musician and authority on the history of music by the name of Mr. An of Xian in China, there was a woman by the court in Xian (which was the main residence of Tang-dynasty), who was very famous for her skills in dancing and martial arts. By the fall of Tang-dynasty, year 907, many people of high stations in society escaped from China to Japan. The name that is connected to the origin of Gyokko ryu in Japan is Yo (or Cho) Gyokko. It could have been introduced by a single person, but it also might have been a whole group.
The first formal grandmaster in Japan was Hakuunsai Tozawa, who appeared some time during the period of Hogen (1156-1159). How he got the title, and how he got knowledge of the system is unknown. But Gyokko ryu, which means "Jewel Tiger", is according to Dai Nippon Bugei Ryu Ha one of the oldest documented martial arts in Japan.
The system was brought on and kept alive during Kamakura, Nambuko and Muromachi period, by the Suzuki family. In the 16th century it came to the Sakagami family, and between 1532 and 1555, the methods were organized by Sakagami Taro Kuniushige, who called the system Gyokko ryu Shitojutsu. The next supposed grandmaster, Sakagami Kotaro Masahide, was killed in battle 1542. Because of this, the title was passed on to Sougyoku Kan Ritsushi (also known as Gyokkan Ritsushi). Sakagami Kotaro Masahide was also known as Bando Kotaro Minamoto Masahide, and he was supposed to be the grandmaster of Koto ryu koppojutsu as well. He was never registered in Koto ryu, and his name is only mentioned in some of the lists of Gyokko ryu grandmasters.
Sougyoku Kan Ritsushi, who either came from the Kishu area or belonged to Kishu ryu, renamed Gyokko ryu Shitojutsu to Gyokko ryu Koshijutsu. He had some students who, in the 18th century, founded different schools based on Gyokko ryu and knowledge from Sougyoku.
In spite of the fact that two of the schools founded by Sougyoku Kan Ritsushis students went on to Takamatsu Toshitsugu and Hatsumi Masaaki, Gyokko ryu went it's own way along with Koto ryu. The schools went to Toda Sakyo Ishinsai and Momochi Sandayu I. After that, the schools remained in the Toda and Momochi families until Takamatsu, who was the last of the Todas to learn the arts, passed the schools to Hatsumi Masaaki.
It is thanks to the Toda and Momochi families' activities in the Iga province that the schools has come to belong to the local ninjutsu tradition, despite that the schools themselves were not really ninjutsu. Another connection in history is that Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu, Takamatsu's teacher and uncle, is said to be a descendant of Hakuunsai Tozawa's.
Toda Shinryuken Masamitsu taught Takamatsu that the most important thing is to study the techniques of Kihon Kata, also known as Kihon Happo, since they are the basis of all martial arts. This means that Kihon Happo covers all methods that are effective in real combat such as blocks, punches, kicks, breaking of wrists and elbows, and throws. The methods of Gyokko ryu are based on Koshijutsu (attacks against soft parts of the body). The strategy differs therefore very much from for example Koppojutsu, which concentrates on the bone structure.
While Koppojutsu motions goes in and out to come at right angles to the joints, Koshijutsu moves sideways, or around the attack, to get close to Kyoshi (the weak parts of the body). These targets can be nerve points, but also inner organs, or muscles and where the muscles are attached. One of the reasons for this system is probably because it was developed by a small person. The power in the counterattacks is therefore not generated by muscles, but by the hips and the spine. This is shown for example by the way of blocking, which concentrates on a powerful block to break the opponents balance, and thereby reaching the weak points of the body. An important detail in order to move close to the opponent, is that the back hand is always held in front of the face as a guard against counterattacks.
A frequently used body weapon in Gyokko ryu are the fingers and the fingertips. This is the reason for the earlier name Shitojutsu, which means techniques with the fingertips. Shitoken, also known as Boshiken, is the most common finger strike. This is a strike with the tip of the thumb, most often against where the muscles are attached or nerve points. The bone by the wrist is also a weapon, which is used for blocking, hits against Kasumi (the temple), etc. Another way of hitting is to push the knuckle of the middle finger in front of the other knuckles in a modified Shikanken. It is not only Boshiken that has another name in Gyokko ryu. Shutoken is called Kitenken, for example.
The thumbs are important in Gyokko ryu. It is mostly shown in the three official stances: Ichimonji no kamae, Hicho no kamae, and Jumonji no kamae, where the thumbs always are directed upwards. The reason is that the energy always should flow freely, and there should be no lockups in the movement. In Gyokko ryu it is important to protect the heart. Therefore a starting position with the right leg forward is preferred, so that the left side is turned away from the opponent. Shoshin no kamae, Doko no kamae - "Angry tiger", and Hanin no kamae are also said to belong to Gyokko ryu.
Gyokko ryu consists of several parts. First there is Kamae no kata (stances) and Taihen Kihon (falls). The next step is Ki kata, also known as Sanshin no kata. Ki kata teaches basic movements based on the five elements. These movements reoccur in all techniques in Gyokko ryu. After that comes Kihon kata and Toride Kihon kata, which are basic exercises for punches, kicks, blocks, grabs and throws. There are different statements on how many the exercises are, and which exercises that belongs. Usually there are three exercises for punches, kicks and blocks, and five or six for grabs and throws. The last are trained from both sides.
After all these basic exercises, you come to Koshijutsu. Koshijutsu is split in three main parts:
Joryaku no maki - Unarmed vs Unarmed Churyaku no maki - Unarmed vs Tanto or Kodachi Geryaku no maki - Unarmed vs Ken or Yari
Mutodori from Geryaku no maki are techniques against sword or spear and is considered to be the highest, and most difficult level of Gyokko ryu.
Katana, Tanto and Bo. Except for some techniques with Bo, very much of this is unknown. More of this will probably be known, however, since Hatsumi Masaaki is releasing more information on the subject.
Even though Gyokko ryu can not claim to be a ninjutsu school, due to the lack of philosophy among other things, there is one saying that has followed the school: "Bushigokoro wo motte totoshi no nasu", which means "The heart of a warrior is precious and essential".
This article will discuss Jutaijutsu as I have already discussed the other two.
Jutaijutsu teaches grappling with the opponent, as well as throwing, joint locking, choking, and escaping from these when your opponent applies them to you.
In Jutaijutsu the throws differ from judo and aikido in the fact that the throws are performed in a manner which makes breakfalling awkward or impossible for the adversary. The reason for this is to inflict the most possible damage through the throw, thus preventing the attacker from coming after you. Throws in Jutaijutsu involve attacking balance points and relying on form and momentum as opposed to muscling a person down to the ground.
Joint locks are usually used to immobolize and control an attacker. When practicing joint locks it is important to practice changing from one to another. By this I mean going from one lock to another so that if your initial attempt fails you, you don't stay stuck with what you first tried. When dealing with opponents stronger than you it is crucial to soften the attacker (with a punch, kick etc..) before attempting joint locks or he will resist using his strength. When learning these techniques take the time to find make them work without forcing or muscling the techniques. Doron Navon Shihan once told us that if we do the techniques with force and strength alone we will only be able to fight a person as strong as we are.
In throwing, too, it is important to practice going from one throw to another. Fluidity in technique and letting go of what doesn't work can save your life.
Remember, throws and locks are not separate entities. For example, many a time a lock is used to assist in throwing or a lock can be used to immobilize an attacker after throwing him on the ground. You should also practice going from throws to locks to chokes and vice versa in many different combinations.
Choking is also a part of Jutaijutsu you should also add to your training. Practice the various types of chokes and then practice them together with your throws and locks. There are two main types of chokes:
Be careful in your practice of chokes with your partner. Allow them to tap out and release the pressure on their throats. Blood chokes (those applied to the arteries of the neck) aren't very painful but cut off the blood flow to the brain. Your partner may get dizzy or brown-out if you hold on to these chokes for too long.
Do not forget to also practice escaping from throws, locks and chokes. Practice with a partner and let him attack you whether it be a choke, throw, or lock and find various counters to each of his techniques. In order to make the training realistic your partner should not stop his technique if your counter doesn't really work and you must do your counters in a manner which will make your partner feel that they work.
We must practice many forms of throws, locks, and chokes but remember that we are not doing it in order to memorize a certain number of techniques but rather to get a feel of Jutaijutsu and an understanding of the principles that lie behind the techniques.
Now that we have discussed the three main parts of Taijutsu I must state again that the three parts are not separate entities; all three put together make Taijutsu an effective means of self protection. You should not even think of them as separate things there is only the whole. I will try to illustrate this with the following example:
Your adversary attacks you with a punch. You block his punch and he continues with a kick which you dodge by leaping back and you immediately strike your adversary stepping forward. You now grab the stunned attacker and throw him to the ground. Now you attempt to immobilize him but he slips out of your grip and kicks out at you. You quickly roll away from his attack and get up ready to continue.
As we see, all three aspects are a whole used together. You shouldn't think of them as separate and the blending of the components should come naturally. Finally, I'd like to say that we all have to go out and train. For only through training hard will we come to grasp the true feeling of Ninjutsu.
I dragged my sore feet to the bus stop on Fifth Avenue and 48th and caught the M4 home. As I travelled along Fifth Avenue, I contemplated going to a bar and having a rather large beer or two. As I thought about this, the theme song from "Cheers" started up in my head. Normally an annoyance, this time I was tired enought not to care and I found myself actually listening to the words.
Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got. Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot. Wouldn't it be nice to get away? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, And they're always glad you came. You want to be where you can see, troubles are all the same. You want to be where everybody knows your name.
I thought about this dumb little ditty that didn't want to get out of my head and then it struck me. Hard. There WAS a place where I could go to take a break from my worries; to get away. And (almost) everyone there knew my name. I realized that my dojo, New York Budo, was MY personal "Cheers". It was the place that I went to in order to get over my frustrations over life, the universe and everything. It was the place that no matter how sick or sore or achy I was, I would drag myself to and sit for a few minutes, and in doing so I would find an inner peace. It was the place that I could go to to see friends - real friends (the guys that I "beat up" and the guys who "beat me" up). It was the place where I've learned some of my greatest life lessons to date.
I rode the bus to 28th street, going past my home and the bar. I went to the dojo that night and sat in the back of the room, absorbing the good will and energy. I felt better being there than any beer could have ever made me feel.
(Okay, so maybe this was too mushy. Sue me. On second thought, don't. I don't have the money.) As always, I'd like to thank all of the authors for their wonderful contributions to the newsletter. Because of them, we have great breadth and scope of experience and knowledge. Please e-mail them and let them know how much you appreciate their efforts.