You’re Ninja? Good! I’m Santa Claus. 


The development of the Bujinkan (around half a million practitioners worldwide), has brought many good students, but also bad ones in our training halls. These individuals, not knowing history, believe in the ninja “super powers” as depicted in low­level American movies, Mangas, or comics. This is because of them, that our art has been badly judged for many years since the eighties. Now that the ninja boom is over, some true practitioners are appearing. But the spread of ninja myths and legends on the Internet is beginning to recreate the once gone “ninja dream”. It’s like believing that Santa Claus lives at the north pole! When I began training, the ninja boom was just beginning. I remember reading the few books available at the time. It seemed magic. I don’t recall believing in these fantastic stories I was reading, but it definitely kept me training.

Today the ninja boom is gone and the huge development of the Bujinkan worldwide has replaced the dream of the past by something less “sexy”, but definitely more interesting. The bujinkan as taught by our Sōke, Hatsumi Masaaki, is a deep, physical and philosophical system that abandoned the ninja dream, and let it vanish in the shadows. But is this ninja dream really gone?

Everyday on Facebook, I see more people spreading the same fantasies that were common in the eighties. The Internet is not helping the dreamers to step down. In fact, I sometimes have the feeling that the world is going back in time. This enthusiasm for ninja magic around our art, is hardly based on historical facts. The people of Iga and Koga (southern part of Iga) (1) were regular human beings. They were not calling themselves ninja! They were living in a remote mountainous area, outside of Japan’s main stream. They had developed a kind of “Republic”, with their own economic, religious, and political system inherited from the T’ang dynasty in China. Their language had not been influenced by neighboring communities. When Oda  Nobunaga and his army, “offered” the Iga community to join his unification process, they refused categorically, fought the invaders, and kicked them out. Because Iga is a plateau surrounded by high mountains, it was pretty much isolated from the rest of Japan. The people didn’t need a real army, as technically they had no enemies. In Iga there were no samurai, only jizamurai (2). The jizamurai would go to fight only when necessity would arise. The trained armies of Nobunaga came back a few years later. This time, they were too strong for Iga. The Iga warriors adapted their fighting skills and developed guerilla warfare. The war lasted about 10 years and is remembered, by historians, as the “Iga no Ran”, the war of Iga (3). Close to be defeated, the families of Iga flew out of the region and spread  all over the country, bringing with them their warfare knowledge.

Instead of becoming a “ninja”, please try to become a true human being. As Sensei said “ninpō is not made in Japan, it is made in human”. 

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1. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iga_Province

2. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jizamurai

3.https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenshō_Iga_War

Thank you to Patricio “El Pato” for  his collaboration. No animals were injured during the photo shooting. 

Teach Them Correctly, Please


Only 8 students in class at Noguchi sensei’s class but still, he was brilliant! The small number of participants didn’t stop his endless energy. We covered the first level of Gyokko Ryû (again). In my sixty trips here in Japan, I must have seen these techniques at least thirty times. And this is always a pleasure, as his interpretation of these known waza is always different. In fact, what Noguchi sensei does with the techniques is so far from the basic form, that it could be another fighting system. Because there were so few students, I trained with a young Shōdan. He was totally lost because he’s didn’t know the basic waza from the Gyokko Ryû. Even though I think that anyone should come here to train with Sōke and the Shihan, if you don’t know your basic forms, maybe it would be better to not come to Japan!

I wrote recently an article about the responsibility of being a black belt. As a teacher you have a bigger responsibility. 

Maybe because of the stress added to his lack of knowledge, my partner was only using upper body strength, and was unable to move his legs. I don’t blame him, I blame his teacher. How can you create black belts with an apparent lack of basics?

I was losing my time and began to be irritated (this is an understatement). I asked him why his level was so bad? He answered: “we do only basics”.

If it were true, he would have been good enough to train with, but that wasn’t the case. He didn’t know the Bujinkan basics at all. I don’t blame him, but his teacher. know that his teacher is Jûgodan, but I don’t know who he trained with, but he has to reconsider his teaching abilities. 

He let him go to Japan without the fundamental keys to survive here. If this young black belt had trained with another young black belt, I guess things would have been OK. But with me, he had a hard time, and the more the class was going, the more he was lost. 

I don’t mind teaching beginners, this is my main activity in my dōjō, but when I come here, I come exclusively to train, not to teach. As I had to teach him, I missed a fantastic class by Noguchi sensei because his teacher didn’t do his job correctly. 

I hope that one day I can meet his teacher, and tell him that what he does has to change. I’m aware that he might not even be responsible himself, maybe he too, had a bad teacher. 

Here are a few rules for teachers:

1.  Teaching is transmitting:

To teach, you must be focused on the quality of the transmission.

2. Having a high rank doesn’t make you a good teacher:

Having a black belt rank doesn’t mean you are qualified to teach. Teaching is an ability you learn  or develop. There’s no improvisation in teaching. 

3. Know your limits:

It is important to be aware of your teaching skills, if you don’t have any, the best is to stop teaching. 

4. Not every black belt is able to teach. 

As a teacher you are responsible for what you give. The world is not nice. Teach the right thing.  Because the lives of your students might depend one day  on the quality of your teaching and of your transmission. 

 

Hatsumi Sensei repeated in his last class, that he is only teaching the Jûgodan. He added that teachers have to teach the basics to their students. Without good basics, there cannot be any good transmission. 

I have sometimes the feeling that Bujinkan teachers are actors. They are keen in showing the “cosmic flow” (that they often don’t have) than to teach the foundation of taijutsu. 

Renember that what you see here in Japan, is not what you have to teach. What you see here, is your next personal goal, your potential future. 

So, please, teach your students correctly!  

As a teacher your responsibility is to teach the bio-mechanics of Budō, not the “cosmic flow”, it is useless, and only a show of ego. Your only job is to teach the roots of correct taijutsu.