Climate change is now accepted. As a consequence, polar bears are having increasing difficulties in feeding themselves.
“Because of melting sea ice, it is likely that more polar bears will soon starve, warns a new study that discovered the large carnivores need to eat 60 per cent more than anyone had realized. Turns out they are high-energy beasts, burning through 12,325 calories a day—despite sitting around most of the time, according to a unique metabolic analysis of wild bears published Thursday in Science.” (…) “Climate change is heating up the Arctic faster than anywhere else, and sea ice is shrinking 14 per cent per decade.” (1)
That means that by the end of the century, the Arctic will be nearly free of ice!
I am concerned because I am a polar bear. In 1987, Sensei saw my picture taken in the snow and nicknamed me “Shiro Kuma”, the polar bear. (2)
I can easily view a lonely polar bear drifting on a shrinking iceberg. With the pandemic, Our Bujinkan lives turned into the ones of a polar bear. Since March 2020, we are in a world pandemic. For many students and teachers, it has been difficult, if not impossible, to train in a dōjō. And I’m not even considering training at the Honbu. It is forbidden to travel to Japan.
The world of martial arts was huge, comprising millions of practitioners worldwide. It collapsed in a few months with the spreading of the virus. In this metaphor, martial art is the arctic ice bank melting down. And martial artists are the polar bears isolated on the melting icebergs.
The recession in the martial arts world has and will continue to strike us. I see the majority of martial arts halls disappearing by lack of practitioners. This is sad but doesn’t mean the end of Budō. You can find the seeds of success in the midst of defeat. Hatsumi Sensei repeated in class that “it is ok to lose a battle, as long as you don’t lose the war in the end.” We lost this battle, but the war is not over yet!
To win the war, we have to change our understanding of what and how we train. Since our dōjō closed last March, I have been thinking a lot about our next Budō moves. With my students, we conducted some experiments with that and came up with a few rules:
- Budō practitioners are still there, but training places are closed
- A lot of self-training can be implemented, but there are limits
- We can train alone, but we often need an external “eye” to improve
- Budō training should be more adapted and teaching chiseled
To get to that, we must accept that big dōjō or organizations might not survive the virus. As a result, “family size units” or small structures will be key elements to our rebirth. I am preparing a book on that. (3)
These small training units will become the “ninja clans” of the 21st century. The virus forced us to recreate the ancient ninja clans of feudal times. This is why our future structures have to be limited in size. I call this new period of Bujinkan training “clanification 2.0.” (4)
Obviously, there are benefits and disadvantages to this “clanification.”
|Better quality in teaching||Skills limited by the size of the group|
|Real student / sensei relation||Technical diversity limited to the abilities of the teacher|
|No hiding in class: better control||No hiding in class: lesser skills|
|Bad teachers will self-disappear||Less exchanges with other “clans”|
|The arts will survive||Some teachers will turn into half-gods|
|Hyper specialization of the group||Hyper specialization of the group|
When we reopen our Bujinkan training groups, we will have move from “Taijutsu” (5) to “Taijutsu.” (6) We will train like our Budō ancestors. Right now, we may be like drifting polar bears on a chunk of ice. But I am confident we will find land soon. And our ancient traditions will survive the harshness of history once more.
After all, our only job is to survive.
1 From National Geographic https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/polar-bears-starve-melting-sea-ice-global-warming-study-beaufort-sea-environment
2 白熊: Shiro Kuma, white bear aka polar bear
3 publish it soon
4 clanification: I made-up this word by adding clan and the suffix “-ification.” The Oxford dictionary definition for the clan is “a group of people with a strong common interest.”
5 体術, Taijutsu: fighting technique done with the body
6 隊術, Taijutsu: fighting technique done by a military unit; or army squad