Speaking with a friend today, I asked myself, why do people train? In the nineties, it was easy, the ninja boom made the dōjō growing fast. During this golden age, it was not rare to have 60 or 70 students per class. Today when we have 20 students attending, it is good. In the 90s’, many newcomers were there because it was trendy to do Ninjutsu. This is not the case anymore today. Today people want sport martial arts, not learning an art that is a thousand-year-old.
At the end of 2019, the attendance is so low that, sometimes, I am not sure if it is good to keep the dōjō running. In a regular class, only 6 to 10 students of all levels are attending. During the last Tenchijin seminar, in October, only seven students attended.
That is why I want to know, “why do you train?”
For me, training is a part of my life. It is some kind of life hygiene. Without teaching or training, something is missing. But if I understand why I train, I keep wondering why the students come to the Dōjō.
When you already have a black belt, or if you are a Shidōshi, I suppose that training is part of your life. But beginners stay long in the dark before discovering the beauty of our art. The learning process in the Bujinkan is slow. And it doesn’t answer the need for speedy knowledge by our younger practitioners. Young students need fast answers. Everything they do in life is fast and goes through the passive link they have with a smartphone. They have an attention default. They are unable to focus more than a few minutes!
This year, I was hoping to have a new bunch of beginners coming to the Dōjō. I was happy to see that two to four new students were popping up each class to try the Bujinkan arts. Usually, we seduce 4 out of 10 people. Not this year. To give them more chances to join, we let them try for three classes. And they attended the classes, for not coming back.
I analyzed this. I discarded the fact that teacher’s skills were not in cause. And I came up with a non-exhaustive list of the reasons preventing them from learning Bujinkan:
- They are not used to pay for things, they want everything for free. This is what I call the “app syndrome”.
- They are so used to zap from one thing to another that they are unable to focus. Young people are looking for instant gratification (1)
- They “try” many arts to finally stay at home and play with their phones. That is because they are not used to being in charge of their lives.
- They come to us because of video games where pain doesn’t exist, where you can revive yourself with a magic potion. And if you die, you start another game. There are no consequences for the actions they take.
- If it is a movie that brings them in, then they are surprised not to learn how to fly or to become invisible!
- The image of the ninja transmitted by the media is wrong. And this image breaks into a thousand pieces once they enter the Dōjō. They discover that to be good, you have to train a lot. And that goes against their ADD (2)
- And finally, they find out that pain exists. What a surprise!
If you experience the same situation, with many tries and no inscriptions, feel better, you are not alone.
This year, I only have 16 registered students in my Dōjō, and I’m a Dai Shihan! But before the rank, I am a Bujinkan student; I follow Hatsumi Sensei’s Budō; therefore, I never give up, I keep going. And you should do the same.
Whatever level you have, I hope this article will motivate you to join and to train more often in your Dōjō. And always keep in mind the reasons why you train!
- ADD: Attention Deficit Disorder, check (1)