is the third Ninja boom coming?

The first boom was in Japan during the 1960’s, they produced a lot of ninja movies then. The producers asked Takamatsu Sensei and Hatsumi Soke for advice and help. The first “Shinobi no mono” movie had Hatsumi Soke as advicor, it turned out to be really cool movie, they made eight movies between 1962-1968. There was also many other ninja movies.

Then in the beginning of the 1980’s the second Ninja boom cam, and it became really big in the west. The Swedish “Ninja Mission” hit big in the US, it was more popular than the new Clint Eastwood movie at the time. It had Bo Munthe who then was a 4’th Dan in Bujinkan (the highest ranked in Europe at this time), and many of his students did stunt work.

There was also plenty of ninja movies and TV series from Hollywood at the time. People came from everywhere and wanted to study this mysterious art Ninjutsu. In Stockholm the dojo had several hundred meters of people lining up to start training. In other countries which hadn’t so well established Bujinkan dojo’s there was charlatans who saw the opportunity to make money. The choice of American filmproducers how they displayed the art was not in favour for true Ninjutsu practitioners. It was often kung fu, tae kwon do, karate, kendo practitioners who got the stunt cordinator job for these movies, the biggest star of this era was probably Sho Kosugi.

He claims he learned Ninjutsu from a “strange neighbour” when he was 7 years old. I believe the neighbour was strange, but I don’t think he knew much about Ninjutsu. How the film industry portaited the Ninja was not good! I wish they (Hollywood industry) spent more time on research than listen to someone who was taught Ninjutsu by a crazy guy when he was seven years old.

Now 54 years later Kosugi still have too much influence in Hollywood, who apparently decided that there will be a third Ninja boom to cash in money on. They still prove they are too lazy to do proper resarch. The forth coming Ninja Movies (see below) this summer and autumn of 2009 will probably not be as successfull as in the 80’s, but they will certainly enforce the stereotype of what a Ninja and Ninjutsu is, which is not true at all.

Ninja Assassin (2009) by James McTeigue

He previously worked with films such as Matrix, V for Vendetta, and is currently working on the new X-Men to be released in 2011. In this movie the old star Sho Kosugi is playing Lor Ozunu. The main character Raizo in this movie is played by Rain, who is a big pop star in Asia.

Ninja (2009) by Isaac Florentine

The film stars Scott Adkins as a westerner named Casey, who is studying Ninjutsu in Japan when he’s asked by the Sensei to return to New York to protect the legendary Yoroi Bitsu, an armored chest that contains the weapons of the last Koga Ninja. Somehow, cops, the mob, and a rival ninja enter the picture. Much death, sword slashing, and ninja ass kicking ensue.

The Warrior’s Way (2009) previously The Laundry Warrior

G.I. Joe Rise of Cobra by Stephen Sommers

Not exactly a ninja movie, but there will be ninjas in it.

Kamui gaiden (2009) by Yoichi Sai

A Japanese Ninja movie, the ninja movie boom never really went away in Japan.

Recommended reading

If you as an practitioner or teacher in Bujinkan Dojo is getting interviewed by journalists, this article “Ninjutsu and the media” by Mike Hennessy is really good.

For people who doesn’t know much about Ninjas and Ninjutsu apart from what is portrayed on movies, comic books, and games, there is a few things you should know.

There was a Ninja master who died in the 60’s, his name was Seiko Fujita. He wrote books about Ninjutsu (only available in Japanese, and if you are lucky). There is many people who claims that they was taught by him. As far as I know they are all lying. Fujita died without a successor. Basically everyone that claims to teach from the Koga-ryu are all fakes, so please be careful about who to trust.

There was another Ninja master called Takamatsu Toshitsugu had many students in his life time, but at the end when he died in 1972 he only had one true student, and this was Hatsumi Masaaki. Before the first Ninja boom in the early 1960’s there was no other known master of Ninjutsu other than Seiko Fujita (who died without a successor), Takamatsu Toshitsugu and his student Hatsumi Masaaki (Yoshiaki at the time).

Hatsumi Soke is still alive today, he has many, many students all over the world. Hatsumi Soke is the last true Ninja…

Hatsumi Soke had two older students that only once met Takamatsu Sensei that broke off and formed their own organizations, namely Genbukan and Jinenkan. Hatsumi Soke still have students that still trains with him weekly in Honbu Dojo that also meet Takamatsu sensei on the same occasion. Anyone else living than Hatsumi Soke claiming to have been a direct student to Takamatsu Sensei is not telling the truth at all. Unfortunately there is people claiming this.

Organisations that is more or less still teaching Ninjutsu is the following…
Bujinkan Dojo (headed by Hatsumi Masaaki)
Genbukan (headed by mr. Tanemura Shoto formerly student of Hatsumi Soke)
Jinenkan (headed by mr. Manaka Unsui, formerly student of Hatsumi Soke)
Toshindo (headed by mr. Stephen Hayes, formerly student of Hatsumi Soke)

Unfortunately there is bad examples everywhere, so please don’t judge a whole martial art based on a few rotten apples. Keep an open mind.

There is also a few Japanese Ninja Museum’s, some of them also have coreographed demonstrations (rarely with no authentic Ninjutsu training at all). Please keep in mind these are Museums, and they are not Martial Artists!

横砂の器 Empty the cup

Sorry for not posting anything for a while. The trainings here in Japan is great, at least for those who have been training for a while. For beginners it might be hard and difficult. It is not said right out but I guess it’s expected that you know the basics well before you come to training in japan. There is plenty of good teachers everywhere, somewhere around 150 “true” master instructors in Bujinkan Dojo. You don’t need to go to Japan for good basic training if you are under 4’th dan!

Soke says that it is time for us to throw away the basics. He said we should throw away Sanshin no kata, Kihonhappo and everything else we know at the moment. This reminds me of a famous story about a zen master, I will quote the story from memory (so please don’t take it literally)…

Once an experienced samurai visited a zen master and said that he knew everything about the martial arts, but he have not yet reached enlightenment. So he is coming here for advice about how to reach it. The zen master offered him to sit down and have a cup of tea and talk about this. He put a cup on the table and started to pour into the cup. The cup was filled but the master kept pouring. The samurai said, can’t you see that the cup is already full?
The master said yes, and it is the same about you! You have to empty the cup (mind) before you can fill more into the cup. The samurai understood and later on finally reached enlightenment.

This is the meaning of 器 UTSUWA. It can mean a bowl, vessel or container. But it can also mean ability, capacity or caliber. When you have learnt all the basics and all the techniques there is the cup will be full. In order to pass beyond this stage you need to empty the 器. See other posts about the theme of this year and 才能魂器 (sainou kon ki / sainou tamashi utsuwa).

Everytime you go to training you should throw away everything you know, “empty the cup”. Then eagerly try to take everything in like a sponge with a playful and artistic kind of mind. This is the 極意 GOKUI essential point passed on through many generations in Gyokko-ryu that we study in Bujinkan Dojo. Keep the mind of a three year old kid that want to learn everything. Even if you think you know everything (see my previous essay) throw it away. The one who gives away everything has it all.

Keep this in mind when training. Also keep in mind that there is 20 years of 面 omote-training and then 20 years of 裏 ura-training. I might come to this in a later post.

Japanese beer test #5

On the left is still my favourite so far, Yona Yona Ale from Karuizawa Nagano.

On the right was an alcohol free beer from Kirin. Pretty lame compared too good alcohol free beer like Jever and Klausthalle. It had some weird taste which reminded me of sweatty shoes.

The middle one is with alcohol 5%, Sparkling Hop from Kirin breweries. It has hops from New Zealand. This beer is also without bite :-(. It taste almost like all their other beers. Kirin have thousands of different beers and they are all the same more or less. What a boring brewery! That is why I didn’t include them in the earlier tests.

It will probably take some time before I write about Kirin again. Same goes for Asahi and Sapporo. It seems to be as difficult to introduce dark bread as ales in this country. It will change, I know!

四世界 The four worlds

I learned these stages of development a few years ago from my TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) teacher. He taught it as four levels of development in becoming a TCM master, but it goes with any trade or area of study.

The first stage is when you are in an incompetent awareness stage. When you start learning someting new you know that you are a beginner. You are humble and like a sponge, you absorb and learn everything new.

After some years of studying you are entering the incompetent unawareness state. The stage where you think you know it all. Be careful, many people get stuck in this level forever because of their ignorance. People say you are good, it is getting difficult to teach you because teaching can only go to a certain level, next you need experience and guidance. Maybe you heard about the “invisible training”? The more experienced you get the more transparent the teaching will be. Be careful that you don’t stop growing here or feed the ego to much. I’m sure you seen a few people that have some experience in other martial arts and after a few weeks or months they think they know Bujinkan.

When you get competent awared you have passed all the illusions and start seeing clearer. You know what you can do and can’t do. This is the stage when you are skilled in what you do, but hang on you’re not a master of the style yet. You need to always be aware of what you do to do it right.

The fourth level is when you are competent and unaware. In Bujinkan we often say it is the zero state. The art is so deep within us that we don’t need to think or remember any techniques at all. This is the level most people in Bujinkan is talking about. But I strongly believe you need to pass all levels. If you think you are at this level you could still very well be unaware of your incompitence.

You don’t need to think about this and try to figure out what level you are in. It’s no point doing that. Besides I remember Soke answering a question of what the highest level (in mikkyou, I think); he simply said there is no highest level. No matter how far you go you will never reach the end. This is also the 道 DOU, the path you have chosen to walk.