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Thursday, April 3, 2014

IN SEARCH OF THE NINJA: The Historical Truth of Ninjutsu

BOOK REVIEW:  IN SEARCH OF THE NINJA: The Historical Truth of Ninjutsu.

Article By Phil Elmore

 I’ve tried. I’ve tried more ways than I can count to review In Search of the Ninja: The Historical Truth of Ninjitsu.  I’ve attempted to do so in good faith but, honestly, this book has defeated me. Its prose makes my brain hurt. The claims of its author Antony Cummins make my brain hurt. Its author’s self-important presentations make my brain hurt. (In his most recent video, Antony appears wearing a t-shirt with his name, CUMMINS, emblazoned across the chest). Ultimately I simply cannot take seriously what is in this book because the claims of any “historian” rest on his credentials and his credibility. Mr. Cummins appears to have neither, at least not in the traditional sense.

“To begin with,” writes Cummins early in the book, “this will be done by exposing what is believed to be the origin of the ninja and then replacing it with the facts. Like Hansel and Gretel we will then trace the breadcrumbs into the darkness, through the grammatical gore and the slippery surface of syntax…”
Is this a realistic goal? Mr. Cummins’ Internet critics frequently cite the fact that he is not fluent in Japanese — which would seem to be a prerequisite for translating and understanding ancient Japanese texts on war, warfare, and ninja business of whatever stripe.  Apparently Mr. Cummins is also on the outs with the most significant of the latter-day ninjitsu schools, too — that of the Bujinkan, an organization he seems to spend a lot of time denigrating online.

Add to this the fact that Mr. Cummins associates, at least through the Internet, with a number of characters from the Koga-ryu ninja crowd that I would consider people of extremely low character and credibility, and this, at least by association, does him no favors.  A historian must have your trust before he can tell you about things you have no way to verify or to know. He can easily lie; he can make things up as he goes; he can befuddle you with BS as readily as he can baffle you with brilliance. In reading through the tortured prose of In Search of the Ninja, I can’t help but conclude that, while a very entertaining story about the history of said ninja, I cannot afford to believe anything written in its pages.

By what authority would I check its validity? Shall the reader learn Japanese and then compare Antony’s work to the source material? Those who speak Japanese and who have compared Cummins’ translation of the document called the Shoninki (a translation Cummins calls the “definitive work” on the topic) say it does not hold up favorably to other translators’ work. But we shall have to take their word for it, too… won’t we?

Cummins is the man behind the “Natori Ryu” and “Ichigun Ichimi.” The latter is a loose confederation of every half-baked Koga-lineage YouTube-ryu ninja school and practitioner you could ever want. Its Facebook page quotes a Natori Masatake, who allegedly said, “Later, the people from Kōka甲賀, next to Iga伊賀, followed this path of ninjutsu and having made the oath of Ichigun Ichimi一郡一味, the friendship oath of ‘one district and one band,’ joining the people together. They went out expansively to various provinces to utilize their skills…”

As you can guess, there’s a link here: Cummins claims that the last descendants of the Natori family gave him their permission to “resurrect” the “Natori-Ryu” under Cummins’ guidance. “The school manuals will be translated and published in English for students to enter the school and study the military ways of the Natori Family,” says Cummins, who at this point has essentially appointed himself as the head of some kind of ninja and/or samurai school of martial arts or feudal traditions.

Where does a dedication to historical research end and a smug, self-important cult of personality begin? It’s hard to say. Certainly the line blurs here.  I don’t normally review the author of the book to the exclusion of the book itself, but frankly, there is no other means available to me. Anthony asked me to review the book; he encouraged me to trash it; he wrote, in an inscription, that I should “take my best shot;” he then called me a liar and demanded I ship the book back to him in England when I didn’t review the book on his schedule (which I told him would not be possible).

When you buy a book written by Antony Cummins, I fear you have no choice but to buy the man as well. There is no quantitative measure by which we can gauge the accuracy of his research if we are not both fluent in Japanese AND have access to his source materials. Neither is possible.


Either you belong to the cult of Cummins and you laud his work, or you are vaguely suspicious of everything he does. Either might constitute a truthful evaluation of In Search of the Ninja. Don’t ask me which, though. I honestly couldn’t tell you.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

NINPO SECRETS: Philosophy, History and Techniques by Grandmaster Shoto Tanemura

BOOK REVIEW

Ninpo Secrets (Hiden Ninpo) is published by the Genbukan World Ninpo Bugei Federation and provides an excellent overview of Ninpo as it compares to Ninjutsu. The book covers a complete historical background of Ninjutsu from the early beginnings to it's modern legacy. Shoto Tanemaura  does a fantastic job of dismantling all the myths and illusions and brings the truth to light.

Ninpo Secrets  is divided into five major sections; Part 1 - What Is Ninpo?, Part 2 - Ninpo Philosophy, Part 3 - Ninpo History (History section includes a history on Koka/Koga ryu as well), Part 4 - Ninpo Techniques, Part 5 - Others (i.e. Glossary, Bibliography, Genealogy of Ninpo), each of which provides a great deal of information about the Ninpo way of life.

Shoto Tanemura explains that the enlightened warrior (Shinobi) will not be content with just a way (do). The enlightened warrior's goal is to live within natural laws, to fully develop martial techniques, and to understand the eternal truth. This art should not be called "Ninjutsu," but instead it should have a spiritually significant term, "Ninpo".

The Ninpo Techniques section of this book is well written and heavily illustrated with photographs demonstrating Taijutsu as well as weapons techniques such as hanbo-jutsu, biken-jutsu and shuriken-jutsu. The book also covers techniques such as kiai-jutsu (power yelling for breaking an attacker's spirit), jumon and ketsuin (incantation and finger entwining), gofo (talisman) and ho-jutsu (illusion techniques).


I honestly cannot say enough about this book, IT IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST HAVE, AMAZING BOOK!!!!! Ninpo Secrets is a a source book that will never age, a very essential book for any practitioner of Ninpo or student of ninjutsu. The detail, depth, and accuracy of this book is simply outstanding. Ninpo Secrets is the best book on Ninpo/Ninjutsu written in english.  It is a very good looking paperback book indeed, well put together with tons of photographs. It is in print and can be ordered from Grandmaster Shoto Tanemura from his website.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

THE NINJA DEFENSE: A MODERN MASTER'S APPROACH TO UNIVERSAL DANGERS

I am always on the lookout for books that teach honestly, truthfully and effectively. They have often been hard to find.  Stephen K. Hayes is well known in the Ninjutsu community and in the martial arts field and has numerous books and videos on Ninjutsu. I have read most of his books and seen several of his dvds.  I like Mr. Hayes approach and teaching methods. His coaching skills are excellent and very professional. Most importantly any good coach or instructor has to have the ability to communicate with his students and get his points across.

There are many things to like about this book. Besides the clear instructions and the color photos showing each technique, this book also includes an excellent (almost 70 minutes) DVD which reinforces the techniques and tactics explained in the book.  The book and Dvd set approaches the subject of self-defense in a unique and interesting way. Mr. Hayes has created a simple and effective method for the average person to avoid trouble and defend themselves in numerous situations by applying traditional principles of ninjutsu to the possible conflicts we may find ourselves in today’s world.

“The Ninja Defense” covers preparation for real threats and not just from a physical aspect but from a mental and psychological aspects as well , making the choice to fight, winning mentality, how danger escalates.  Also  defense postures, five phases of the fight, forward strikes and kicks, front arm captures and restraints, front body holds and restraints, captures and restraints from behind.

Mr. Hayes is open and honest that this is level one training or a beginner level and that there is more, much more to learn.  I believe this to be for anyone interested in learning a simple and effective self-defense method but also for the serious martial artist.

The material on the DVD ties in directly with what you're reading in the book and brings it to life. The DVD shows each technique numerous times and again the instruction by Mr. Hayes and his instructors are clear and concise. The teaching and coaching style again is excellent I see a lot of positive reinforcement which makes for a more productive presentation of his modern ninjutsu applications.


The last chapter deals with why the ninja approach may in our day and time be better than the samurai approach. Ninjutsu has very little to do with proving yourself the toughest guy on the block at every chance.  Mr. Hayes applies traditional ninjutsu to modern self defense as well as takes into account things like the laws we live under.  The Ninja Defense by Stephen Hayes book and DVD  is full of quality information and quality instruction and for the price is an absolute steal.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

KUNOICHI: FEMALE NINJA

Kunoichi (くノ一?) is the term for a female ninja or practitioner of ninjutsu (ninpo). In Japanese, the 'ku' is written in hirigana, 'no' in katakana and 'ichi' in kanji. Interestingly if you add the three together you get the Japanese word (in kanji) for woman.   So the term kunoichi, or simply female Ninja, stands for a Japanese woman, a professional Ninja from the Ninja class of warriors who are adequately and specifically trained to become a perfect killer and spy.  

 A Kunoichi is maybe more mysterious than any male ninja and her weapon skills are perhaps just as deadly as of the male ninja. Women, just like men, were perfect killers, but the kunoichi had to demonstrate their ability in a world dominated by men. Trained from childhood like their male counter parts  the Kunoichi trained in unarmed combat and a variety of weapons just as the male ninja did. Typically, because of the different situations they faced, smaller close range weapons were more often utilized. Weapons like shuriken, blinding powders, poisons, knives, rope, hair pins and even the fan were often carried because they could be used at close range and easy to transport without notice.

Poison was one of their priorities and a kunoichi learned this mastery very early as they made her weapons deadlier and gave the ability to kill faster, so the victim could not ask for help. When she used her seduction techniques, she would often camouflage her weapons. It was very important to have small weapons so she could kill somebody in just one blow, and using the poison would of course facilitate the task.The kunoichi were trained to safely fall down and get up swiftly this is the art of taihen-jutsu (body movement skills).

Probably the most lethal weapons  the kunoichi  possessed was her beauty, and  the art of seduction. A female Ninja could use her own femininity to get very close to the enemy. Using psychological warfare and mind manipulation as weapons, the kunoichi could get in close enough to gather intell, protect herself or even kill or assassinate. The kunoichi knew how to control a man’s desire and handle it as she pleased. If it was necessary to spy on a man, being a beautiful and seductive woman made that task much easier to accomplish.

Women are attributed to more charm and power towards men and thus, there are places closed for men but for the charming and seductive woman all the doors are open. The kunoichi would take advantage of this very often. Sometimes she would marry him to earn his confidence and make her espionage purposes easier.

Today Ninjutsu can be a great form of self defense and exercise for women. I think women progress well in this style of combat (if they have a good teacher). Though the conditioning  is demanding the techniques 
don't require a great deal of strength or muscle. 

Modern training today continues to utilize the same skills and powers inherent in women. Building  not only a strong body and spirit but also intelligent confidence and awareness, women learn to utilize everything at their disposal to remain safe in a conflicted world.

Women training in ninjutsu in the modern world are just as likely to be found in roles and professions that in former times would have been limited only to men. Women training in ninjutsu can be found in fields such as: law enforcement, military, executive protection, legal, medical and private investigation as well as any other field out there.

SHINOBI IKKI

By Barron Shepherd

We are well into 2014 and like every other year the blog continues to grow expand evolve. Several times I have thought why does the blog continue?  It is almost as if the blog has a life of its very own. It lives it breathes it finds directions and meanings. It even feels as if it beckons me.  Perhaps it is simply just me as I mature and grow and my research continues my outlooks change or expand and evolve.  It is almost as if it is a movement, a uprising, an “ikki”,…..A SHINOBI IKKI.

Blog readers may also notice I don’t use the term "Koga ryu ninjutsu" on the blog banner anymore I have changed the banner’s artwork and heading.  Quite frankly its time to move past the term and just delve into what ninjutsu really is about. What is the true nature and heart of ninjutsu.

Shinobi no jutsu/Ninjutsu shows the innovative ability of the mind. Anything and everything can be modified and used for other purposes. Some people say ninjutsu died, and others say it only lives in the manuals or thru lineage. It seems to me that ninjutsu lives in the creativity of any human mind, just waiting to be coaxed to the surface.

SHINOBI: Ninja
Throughout the world the Shinobi, more commonly known as the ninja, has always been that of a black clad assassin, a shadowy wraith, a demon that appears from out of nowhere and disappears into the darkness, an ultimate warrior, capable of explosive skills, intellect, and diverse fighting ability. Despite this dark iconic image one would be surprised to find the virtues of the real ninja indicate quite the opposite and diverse.

The Japanese character of "Nin" means to endure (the character is a heart under a blade).Whether this blade is a ‘sword of justice’ or a ‘sword of evil depends’ on the heart below.  And "Ninja" is a person who endures. "Jutsu" are skills or techniques, and ninjutsu would be the techniques to endure. This is the way of the ninja. The fundamental concept of ninja is ‘Empty Hand’, which means that even without a weapon or shield it must find the way to overcome.

The essence of nin is the correct heart and mind. Without first having a correct heart, it is impossible to take advantage of strategy. It is said that not cultivating the proper heart will cause confusion and distress. The meaning of "correct heart" is the adherence to virtue, righteousness, loyalty, and sincerity. Without maintaining virtue, righteousness, loyalty, and sincerity, it will be impossible to have intrepid spirit.

IKKI: a league, a uprising, a insurrection.
 In Japanese history, “Ikki” referred to uprising groups of low ranking samurai, farmers, and monks that were against the Japanese daimyō in Japan. (An ikki is an alliance formed for the purpose of military security against invaders, mainly from the feudal lords.) This belief fostered a democratic spirit among the population by negating all differences arising from economic or social class and stressing the equality of all people.  It is also means "riot".

SHINOBI IKKI:

So the term “Shinobi Ikki” could be defined as;  1. A league of ninja. 2. An uprising or insurrection of Ninja. 3. A league, a uprising or insurrection of people who endure. 4.  A uprising of the proper or correct heart and mind. 


I believe this to be the course of the blog, it has taken years but its objective is still being sought, the ‘duties’ and ‘missions ‘of ninja are also known as ‘The Truth’ and ‘The Grass’. ‘Truth’ is in the immediate actions, ‘Grass’ may take years of preparation beforehand, maybe 1 year, 10 years or 20 years settling in some place ‘developing roots’ like the grass.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

BUJUTSU IN NINJUTSU

Article by Ikko Ikki

We already know that the scrolls don't pinpoint or isolate a specific form of bujutsu that shinobi favoured. No style is mentioned. An example of this can be seen with Kenjutsu. In the Bansenshukai, to learn kenjutsu was more important that any particilar style of kenjutsu.

The Shinobi Mission.

This is the reason why a style was not favoured. Ninjutsu and Ninja were active for almost 700 years if you consider their beginning date to be 1180, as the Shoninki says, until 1868 when proper lineage died.

Ninja only cared about one main thing, getting the job done. Bujutsu in itself is a complex matrix of skills. What was the only thing ninja could do with this?

I theorize three things. They would copy techniques from other systems that best suited shinobi missions. They would modify techniques from other systems to best suit shinobi missions. And last but not least, they would come up with techniques that best suited shinobi missions.

I think that the last section, Specialized Techniques that they developed in Iga and Koka were mostly lost after 1581. Iga no Ran was such an important event. When Oda destroyed Iga and Koka, so many documents, scrolls, manuscripts were lost. This event was so great that even Natori and Fujibayashi couldn't isolate a favoured style of the Ninja.

Today, we can isolate techniques from existing Koryu systems that best suited shinobi missions. We can amend or modify techniques from koryu systems that best suited shinobi missions and we can use the principles in the scrolls to help guide us in reconstructing possible techniques the Iga and Koka shinobi developed to better understand how they developed techniuqes that best suited shinobi missions.

With so little information out there, I figure these are the three basic things that shinobi could have done. And, this is the reason why no specific koryu style was favoured or mentioned in all three scrolls.

So, this is why I support Barron Shepherd's conclusion that shinobi improvised a lot. They improvised for almost 700 years. How can anyone isolate their way of fighting?
Their way that was constantly changing and evolving and adapting to the ever changing situations they were in.

Gold Bar and Gold Dust – It’s all Gold.

I think the ancients will agree with me, there is no historical and there is no modern Ninjutsu; there is just Ninjutsu. History has shown us, though, that Ninjutsu was different in wartimes and peacetimes. Yet, no matter the time period, gold is still gold and Ninjutsu is still Ninjutsu, no matter what your desk calendar says.

We live on a planet of laws and if you are to survive here, the,n you are to obey these laws. In the peacetimes that we live in, Ninjutsu can still be used for self defense, but Ninjutsu can never be used as it was in wartimes.

People who try to use “historical” Ninjutsu are stagnating in the past and their ways will not be appropriate for modern times. People that are ultra-modern will have difficulty in representing Japanese Ninjutsu with night-vision goggles, satellite tracking devices, and Krav Maga.

A balance is needed if you seek self defense and still wish to call your art Ninjutsu.
Fujubayashi said it best in the Bansenshukai: “Thus, as a basis, you should embrace the old ways of the shinobi who served under ancient great generals, but remember NOT only to keep to these ways but to ADAPT them, each dependent on the situation and the moment.”

History teaches us that both shinobi and shinobi-no-jutsu adapted all through time. A shinobi-no-mono from 1180 was very different to a shinobi-no-mono in 1868. For one, the shinobi in 1868 used guns, where his predecessor did not.

The principles of Ninjutsu will always stay the same, all across time; but the techniques to fulfill the principles will always change again. This is the law of Yin and Yang, In and Yo, which is found in all things, even Ninjutsu. But one thing is clear, principles and techniques go together.

Again, Fujubayashi said it best: “In essence, principles and performance should go together. If you are ignorant about principles, your performance will not mature.”

It is my opinion that if you stick only to the “historical,” then, you are larping. You don’t care about being effective in modern times. You don’t care about helping people defend themselves. You have a passion for live action role playing, and there is nothing wrong with this, but you should not attempt to use your methods for self defence today because even though your principles will never go out of date; your methods have expired, or they have not matured. Some would say “evolved.”

Fujibayashi sums it up best, when he said:

“Ignorant ninja are not aware of this principle
but directly stick to ancient ways
and do not even know the simplest of facts,
like ‘a ball rolls downwards if it is on a slope’,
which means that when they see that a moat is deep
and a stone wall is high,
they do not know how to deal with the situation
and even say there is no way to infiltrate such a place.
It is folly
to see something as unchangeable
and stick to an old method
without realizing that things keep
changing and
are in flux.”

Ninjutsu did not die out after 1868. It changed.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

FUJITA SEIKO'S SECRET KENPO KILLING STRIKES

There is a general belief that Ninja used in close quarter combat or in the close fight several dozens of external vital points or Sakkatsu that allowed him to either kill the enemy quickly and right on the spot or completely maim or disable him. This subject never ceased to attract acute attention of ninja, right on up to the man known as the last of the living ninja, who served in assignments for the Japanese Imperial Government during the Taisho and Showa eras, Fujita Seiko.

Seiko Fujita served as an instructor at the Rikugun Nakano Gakko the Japanese Imperial Military Intelligence School, teaching Ninjutsu and Nanban Satto ryu Kenpo. Fujita's style combat was well suited for the Japanese Army's special operations and guerrilla warfare training facility. Fujita’s Kenpô can be described as an unarmed/minimally armed close combat method for fighting and killing an opponent, using ancient methods and modern methods for attacking anatomically sensitive areas.

 Fujita stressed combat NOT spiritual refinement or Kata, just CQB close quarter battle. A non koryu killing art that Fujita synthesized from the koryu he knew at the request of the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII. A 20th century style method of killing to be used by Nakano’s Neo Ninja operatives.

Fujita led 2500 men into the Burmese jungle, their mission was to go behind the enemy's positions kill as many soldiers as possible, as quietly as possible, and to sabotage and prepare for an invasion without revealing their existence. Fujita and his elite unit stealthily eliminated the their enemies in the jungles behind enemy lines. In the end, only 14 members of this group survived the mission. It is said that during this time Fujita’s unit had over two hundred kills.

According to his autobiography, “Doronron Saigo no Ninja”, Seiko was ordered by the Imperial Japanese Government to put his expertise to further use. He was tasked to come up with a manual or hand book for the Imperial Japanese Army on Hand to hand combat. The soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army were trained in Karate and Judo or at least the basics, however, the Japanese command felt that it just wasn’t enough and was dead set on developing on shortest terms a system of close quarter combat that could kill the enemy out or put the enemy out of commission quickly and efficiently.

Fujita’s knowledge, expertise, combat experience and the research performed in service of his Government led to the publication of “Kenpo Gokui Atemi Sakkatsuho Meikai” & “Kenpo Gokui Sakkatsu Ho Zukai” (“Illustrated Secret Kenpo Killing Strikes”) Fujita’s “Kenpo Gokui Sakkatsu Ho” may have been the closest thing to an actual though modern shinobi (ninja) assassin martial art.

“Based on the result of a long term research on the Human body this book shows the right places of the most effective vital organ parts/vital points in anatomical diagrams for the secrets of killing and reviving.

This book also shows the effective way of hitting those places. If you learn the places of vital organs points and the way of hitting them you will obtain the way of Killing/taking down enemies with one stroke/strike.

 The most effective way of hitting the anatomical weak points/ vital points hinges upon multiple factors; physical application, conditioning, awareness of targets and psychological preparedness.
The right places to strike the most effective vital points for the secrets of killing/disabling/rendering unconscious/ maiming.( If you learn the way of hitting the vital organs points you will obtain the way of taking out enemies quickly and efficiently.)

The energetic transference of force needed to affect the targets:
1) Velocity: efficiency of the blow in a striking technique is determined according to the following: formula  I =MV2/2     where M- is the mass and V- is the velocity. Force is the speed: the bigger and harder the object is, the higher the speed, with which it is struck the more efficient the blow.
2) Body mechanics: all hand, hips, legs and foot movements are coordinated and fast.
3) Precision of the blow: Be right on target the strike must be executed at strictly the right angle to the target.
4) Drawing back the striking limb after the blow: (Snapping out and then back) after the blow you must pull back your hand with the same if not greater speed with which he delivered the strike be able to follow up with another. Striking should be practice in combination with withdrawals. In other words it explodes outward and is snapped back.  A violent and dynamic action.
5) The strikes are most effective/destructive when the piercing effect is combined with a revolving or snapping motion of the hand upon impact.

For the effective use of striking techniques one needs to be relaxed NOT rigid, calm, cold blooded and calculating. Strikes should be applied resolutely, fearlessly, without doubt whole heartedly and with full force based on knowledge of proper coordination of movements and distance."