Always loved these words, and – thankfully – always believed them.
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.”
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.
I can be far too hard on myself at times. It’s landed me in precarious and damaging situations, so much so that I am not only more aware of it – all this time later in Life! – but, despite slipping, I am also more willing to work hard to get to the root of it. (I’m blessed to have the support in so doing also – that makes a world of difference.) Doing so, however, means being more vulnerable, but it’s a necessary part of growth and overcoming hardship – it takes (often uncomfortable) work to get to the other side!
I’ve come a long way, and weathered storms like most human beings (after the age of three!) and it’s important I remember that… It’s important for all of us to remember where we have been, what we have accomplished, and that we have more strength than we think – because it’s so easy to forget and beat ourselves up.
It’s also important to remember that we are works in progress. Recovery is a journey – It doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes you can sail through the day, and others requires a moment at a time.
What NEVER slips my mind, though, is how grateful I am. No matter my flaws, my moods, my “humanness”…not a day goes by that I am unaware of how blessed I am to be healthy, and to be alive.
I remember that time I fell down the stairs, and had trouble with my legs buckling every so often – my body was eating the muscle from the inside out and I could no longer support my weight at times.
I remember waking up with eyes so swollen – one of many effects of hyponatremia – that I actually staggered back, not recognizing the stranger staring back at me. I stared into a reflective abyss confused, terrified, and wholly unable to see myself. What HAPPENED..?
I remember when getting coffee and adding something to it – even a drop of skim milk – felt like an impossible hurdle. 15 extra calories? Not then…
So when someone offers a kind word – whether of support of my lifestyle or some result of it…or simply asks for health or fitness advice – I feel it profoundly. At times I even want to cry because I am not only touched and honored, but I know what it’s like to NOT have health, to watch myself dying a slow and painful death. . .and what it took to get where I am today. (I am, incidentally, choked up with tears even writing this now…all this time later.)
To be active and fit is a gift I will NEVER take for granted. Not only in remembering my own experiences, but knowing those without the fortune to walk or speak or see. . .my eyes have been opened in a such a way that I cannot UNsee.
I am thankful to each and every person who takes the time to encourage, to ask for help, to offer a kind word – you motivate and inspire me just as much, if not more so. I work incredibly hard at it, and try my best…but I fail plenty too.
To know I’ve potentially lifted one other person – even if only temporarily – is an honor. It reminds me that my suffering was not in vain, and that I can give so much more having known it.
With gratitude. . .
Nothing in Life worth having is free, or easy. Period.
We all have a different path, different goals, different failures and struggles… But the one thing we can have in common – if we choose it – is opportunity.
If you want it, you have to be willing to work.
Some days the journey feels insurmountable, but the results are always within reach if you keep at it. There would be no meaning, nor joy, in any of it were it not the case – to be handed what we have not earned will never give the satisfaction.
Sometimes I annoy people with my positive outlook. Other times, I flat-out frustrate. Maybe they aren’t internalizing that I have days where I feel down, discouraged, angry, and disappointed too – trust me, there are plenty! Maybe they just don’t understand why, in spite of the ugliness Life can occasionally dish out, I even want to focus on the good.
For me, energy is everything – I view the world in energetic terms, and (again – for me) it matters what I put out, and what I focus on. I have witnessed “unfairness” at it’s finest – whether in suffering, death, abuse, misfortune, or debilitating pain… I’ll never gloss over the “tough” without tears, reflection, acknowledgment, and sometimes despair… But I will try – my damnedest – to find the lesson, the blessing, and the good in everything. There have been times I’m not sure I’ve actually found the “good”…but I try to at least go in that direction knowing that in doing the opposite, I may as well surrender my own wellbeing.
Whenever this “Thanksgiving” holiday rolls around, I feel like I actually become a little bit annoyed myself. I’m not on board with the idea that we have one day of “thanksgiving” but I guess if that’s what gets people together, and in a positive mind frame, why not. That said, thanksgiving is something I personally try to make room for each day.
I’ve had a lot handed to me – neither will there be a day that I am not acutely aware of the sacrifices made to make that happen, nor that I am not immensely grateful. There is also a lot I had to work my ASS off to have, and lot I’ve had to work through. There might be only a small handful of people who fully understand the “work” I’ve put in, and just how far I’ve come, but I’m okay with that. I’m thankful for my own journey – the good, the bad, and the downright horrifying.
I don’t always remember to write out those things for which I am thankful – generally I think them, or say them to myself. Writing, though, is a phenomenal exercise – not only in mindfulness, but in self-learning. When we take the time to sit down, peel back the layers, delve deeply and feel, we come up with a lot more than we might have expected.
You can be thankful for little things as much as the substantial.
What you feel thankful for is never “wrong” because it is what feels right to you.
Gratitude goes a looooong way energetically, sharing with the Universe what other “good” should come your way.
I’m thankful for so much I think I could fill a book…but why not, after all? The more, especially in this case, the merrier. ❤
Exactly the attitude I think everyone should have – not only in Martial Arts, but in Life.
Our learning never ceases – we will never know it all, and we can always take something positive (and useful!) away from each individual we work with.
From teaching children to helping a student new to Martial Arts (or just your specific one), we can always learn something we didn’t know before – truly, it is limitless.
Stay humble, with an open mind, and the knowledge will flow.