The Secrets Of Ninjutsu

Ninjutsu is probably one of my favorite Arts – its unique and unorthodox techniques, its higher-level, somewhat ethereal concepts, and the intriguing furtiveness captivated me from the get go.  It is, truly, an Art…and as a dancer and ice skater at heart, artistry is my language.

I’ve (rather sadly) seen traditional Arts dismissed as irrelevant – many modern-day practitioners want techniques that they can apply to modern-day scenarios.  Makes sense.  But therein lies the deception. Being rooted in a deep and complicated history also means that there are thousands of gems lying within the teachings.  Ones that have not only stood the test of time – when it was truly life and death – but ones that can also be very readily adapted and applied to “today.”

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One of the most interesting facets of Ninjutsu is the whole air of “secrecy.”  It sounds like an exaggeration but trust me, it isn’t.  Even within the walls of an official school, we find lots of “Henka,”or variations on specific techniques – the thing is, they are not always relayed in a straight-forward fashion, and sometimes are only hinted at.  For some Artists, that idea doesn’t go over (I can feel the eye rolls.)

While reading a Curriculum, for example, you might see images that don’t always jive with what the written directions are saying.  It ISN’T a lost-in-translation mistake either.  It’s completely deliberate.

The idea here is not that the “powers that be” of Traditional Ninpo are aiming to be unreasonably difficult, nor necessarily that they want to add some mysterious air that the Art can’t back up.  It’s more about the principle that learning is very much about DOing. Your Sensei is “passing down” the traditions, so to speak, and it drives home the idea that just reading a book, going online, or cerebrally understanding concepts ISN’T enough.  Martial Arts transcends any one approach – it takes grasping the fundamentals intellectually, absolutely, but the Art cannot be realized without being fully hands-on.

Taking it a step further, there are countless layers to the Art – you may learn a technique at one level, only to discover – throughout your own progression – profound jewels embedded deeply with in them…ones you neither could see, nor were capable of comprehending, in earlier training.

Ninpo embraces that we are not always ready for all of the “secrets” but that to develop our true “artistry” will take time, hard work, both finessing and breaking down the techniques until we can create our own. I suppose in a way many Martial Arts take that tact but here, some of the information is simply not shared until one has proven oneself to be ready.

The multi-faceted Ninjutsu is 1,000% NOT for everyone. It is acrobatic, intense, a little bit cryptic, unabashedly sneaky, and incredibly down-and-dirty at times.  Remember, the Ninja needed to survive…not stand on the battlefield until they – or you – were terminated (a la Samurai.)  

Ninjutsu focuses more on learning to keep distance, disabling, taking up an opponent’s space (including mental and spiritual) and getting away with one’s life.  To me, that’s the ultimate – I never began Martial Arts to “beat someone up.”  It’s an ART first and foremost for me, personally.  But, should I be faced with a true threat, I want the ability (or at least the tools) to disable, disengage, and get to safety.  It isn’t about “the fight,” but minimizing injury and getting away.  No ego.  No heroics.

Ninjutsu specifically will expose the student to everything from joint locks, small joint manipulations, grappling, takedowns, throws, sweeps, striking and weapons, to name a few.  I love that we have the opportunity to have such exposure, as many Arts are much more limited in scope. That said, the journey for each practitioner is unique, and built upon vastly different goals – in my own heart, I believe all Martial Arts are worthy and beneficial, markedly different they may be.

Martial Arts isn’t for the faint of heart – Ninjutsu isn’t “gentle” by any stretch, but it does teach us skills by which we can learn to keep ourselves – and our opponents – safe.  At the end of the day, however, we are taught that if we must overcome that individual, we must be prepared to do so.  Fortunately in modern times we don’t have to take it quite that far (certainly not in practice!)

Sometimes techniques hurt, sometimes they baffle, and other times they’re a little difficult to track down…. But each one of them – both the clandestine and the clear – are there should we be required to use them.  

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Martial Arts Humor – The Trained Response To A Knock?

So…I’ve done this more times than maybe I should admit.  And those incidents were WELL before I began my training.  I’d love to think I was born a ninja, but I do have to work pretty hard at it…  That said, I’m glad I have an inherent “ninja-like” response to a knock at the door – I’ll take what I can get.

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Martial Arts – Progression

I’m super thankful that I have been able not only to do five different Martial Arts thus far in Life – having, mind you, only started in my 30’s (I’m currently 38) – but also to have achieved some ranks in each one.  Mastery in the Arts is a lifetime pursuit – belt color doesn’t mean much when you look at the larger picture!  But taking tests – and passing – is a really awesome feeling.  I always like to be as prepared as possible, and feel blessed to have the opportunities to demonstrate my knowledge every so often.

I’ve been doing Ninjutsu for just over 8 months – I set a lofty and ambitious goal (from the get go!) of making every single testing cycle no matter what.  There are days where that’s not easy to do – I’m either physically not around to be IN class, or I’m flat-out exhausted.  That said, I keep in mind – always – that I have these opportunities NOW.  I may not always.  I want to take advantage of the learning, and progression while I can.

I most recently took my 6th Kyu test, and with that came a second “initiation test.”  The initiation essentially boiled down to one hour of my classmates testing my knowledge of all the techniques from the tests I have done up until this point, and doing it in a less structured, “real life” way – I have to say, it was maybe the most fun I’ve had in any Martial Arts test yet!  

The honor of receiving my Genbukan patch – one aspect of passing my initiation before 6th Kyu – was a big one. I come from a background in Korean Arts, so re-learning, adapting, and working within an Ancient Japanese structure has been a challenge, to say the least (maybe not AS severe as my Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, but difficult all the same!) 

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While I have a LONG way to go – and yes, I have goals in place to pass my 5th and 4th Kyu by the end of the year! – I appreciate the steps along the way.  

Earning ranks, and the responsibility that goes with them, is an honor in my book, and a blessing.  I work hard for it, no question, but I also feel grateful because not everyone can.  Some simply are physically unable.  Others, less able to apply this level of discipline to an activity that’s “extracurricular” and supposed to be fun!  For me, though, learning IS fun – I enjoy the challenge and putting myself in places where I am not at all comfortable.  It’s in that zone where the good stuff happens. 🙂 

More Martial Arts fun!