Bujinkan Ninjutsu

These pages provide some information about Ninjutsu, The Bujinkan, and my experiences training in the martial arts. They do not represent the Bujinkan. I have provided some links to other web sites with useful information about the martial art.


WHAT’S NINJUTSU?

Ninjutsu is a martial art with its origins in Japan. Some say 1,100 years ago. There is no single source of the martial art, it was a collection of effective martial arts passed on through the generations. There are loads of theories about where the art originated from. Sources of the martial art include the military, sailors and even China. The history of Ninjutsu is explained properly in Masaaki Hatsumi’s books and sources on the internet. There are currently nine traditions within ‘Ninjutsu’, they are:

Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu Shinden Fudo Ryu Dakentaijutsu Kumogakure Ryu Ninjutsu
Gyokko Ryu Koshijutsu
Kukishin Ryu Happo Hikenjutsu Gyokushin Ryu Ninjutsu
Koto Ryu Koppojutsu Takagi Yoshin Ryu Jutaijutsu Gikan Ryu Koppo Taijutsu

Each school, or ‘Ryu’ has it’s own characteristics and emphasis. Some of which concentrate provide information on feudal espionage, combat in full armour, exotic weaponry and other skills which are less relevant to situations we would expect to experience in our lives.

Ninjutsu isn’t a sport. We don’t compete against each other, we don’t win trophies and we always have to use control and respect for each other when practicing.

WHAT IS NINJUTSU TO ME?

I had practised a few martial arts before ever coming across Ninjutsu. When I was at primary school I did Taekwondo and was a fierce 4 foot blue belt to be reckoned with – so long as you were a wooden board held at head height. At high school I did some Karate and some training with my friends that did Judo. I was about sixteen when I went to see my first Ninjutsu class. I had to go and watch the class three times before I was ready to sign up. I had been used to martial arts where the punches are always pulled and you didn’t really learn techniques that were ‘dangerous’. I really wanted to make sure I could trust the people I would be training with and that I was interested in the realism that Ninjutsu provides as a ‘survival art’.

In my youth I had a few close encounters with some people who wanted to do me harm. Generally these people were much bigger than me, much older than me and much stronger than me. For obvious reasons I was interested in a martial art where your size and strength wasn’t the limiting factor of the art. In Ninjutsu I found we trained with realistic ‘street scenarios’, dealt with commonly used weapons and trained to defend against a larger opponent and group attacks.

I was also happy to hear my instructor tell the class – ‘If someone pulls out a knife and demands your wallet, you probably want to give them your wallet, you can get a new wallet‘. That might go against the macho image of martial artists – surely you would overpower the guy, pin him to the ground and then call the cops on your mobile? – well that would be great, but realistically, if someone is determined to attack with a knife, even trained professionals are likely to get cut. So what would you choose – getting cut with a knife or loosing your wallet. When you put your ego aside, the decision is pretty easy. That’s not to say we don’t learn knife defence, but the teachers wanted us to understand fighting someone with a knife can be life threatening. Don’t forget you can negotiate or run like mad if that’s going to get you out of a knife fight.

I have been training in Ninjutsu for about 12 years now and could talk about Ninjutsu until the cows come home. There is a lot of variety within the Ninjutsu disciplines. Generally Ninjutsu techniques are quick, effective and provide an exit. Your intention is definitely NOT to trade blows with an attacker to see who is tougher – even though Bloodsport was quite an entertaining movie! Power is generated by shifting of the body weight and speed, rather than spinning and muscle strength. Taking an opponents balance is central to many techniques – making them effective against larger and stronger opponents. Kicks are generally to lower parts of the opponent to avoid loss of balance. Grappling is taught and is similar in many ways to Aikido and Judo, sharing some of the same throws, limb controls and pinning. Classes also sometimes look at – pressure points, chokes and strangles, weaponry, sensory training, meditation, massage and historical context for techniques – eg. use of armour and traditional weapons. A philosophy of ‘if it works, use it’ seems to be prevalent. This does sometimes lead to the perception of Ninjutsu being a ‘dirty’ or ‘unsportsmanlike” fighting art. Ninjutsu techniques were not developed for competition, they were battlefield orientated where the concept of a ‘fair fight’ was unimportant.

Since I began, I have been studying Ninjutsu within the Bujinkan organisation. I have trained in Australia – Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra and also overseas in England, Scotland and Spain. I have met some of the senior members of the Bujinkan – ‘Soke’ Masaaki Hatsumi, ‘Papa-san’ Ed Martin, Ed Lomax and lots more at the Taikai. Learning Ninjutsu all over the place is a mixed blessing – on one hand you get to learn from some amazing teachers and you can see the strengths of each class. On the other hand it can be hard to develop a relationship with an instructor if you are only training in their dojo temporarily.

ARE YOU A NINJA?

Short answer is NO. The goals of Ninjutsu practitioners in our time are different in many ways and the same in others. I don’t claim to be a Ninja – I haven’t dedicated my life to perfecting my martial art. Ninjutsu was practised by families in Japan where tradition was passed down through generations. My training experiences are rewarding, but I am definitely not a Ninja as they existed in Japan.

I’VE SEEN THE MOVIE…

Unfortunately Hollywood has continually portrayed the Ninja as a ruthless killer with a black hood on. In the 80’s this resulted in lots of ‘Ninja’ schools appearing throughout the West. Often these schools were simply ‘re-badged Karate’ with little relevance to Ninjutsu. There are still plenty of terrible schools out there. The only way to know for sure it to check it out for yourself. Learning a martial art provides an opportunity to develop both physically and mentally, and also provide a very effective form of self defence. We are taught to be responsible with what we have learned, avoid confrontation and to be kind to others.

THE ESSENCE OF NINJUTSU

When the current grandmaster was asked ‘What is the essence of Ninjutsu’, he replied – ‘Sitting and watching my grandchildren play in the garden.’ It probably wouldn’t make for a great movie, but it’s definitely a more satisfying than the life of violence portrayed in the movies.

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