Awareness of Ninjutsu

Some Points to ponder on our Journey [Author Unknown; September 1998]

This letter is for all students of Ninjutsu and for our Soke, Hatsumi. What I am about to say will undoubtedly shock many of you, however I believe it has been a long time coming. This letter has been duplicated and has been sent to every single Bujinkan Dojo around the world, without exception; even Hatsumi Sensei has received a copy. It has been posted on bulletin boards on the Internet and has been sent to newsgroups on the web. I have also sent it to many martial arts
magazines globally for publishing. Who am I? This question bares little importance, it is my words that need to be heard. But I will however tell you this - I am not acting alone; there are many people who feel the way I do about the state of ninjutsu.

Westerners have turned ninjutsu into a joke. Because of you it has become rotten to the core. Your inflated egos and foolish arrogance has allowed ninjutsu to be turned into a money-making scheme. You have deliberately abused the beauty of our art without a single thought for the consequences. Listed below, are our thoughts on the reasons behind this corruption. We have also offered answers. If this letter can change the thinking of at least one westerner, then our efforts would not have been in vain.

1) There is too much internal politics between western black belts, Shihan and Shidoshi students. There is too much verbal back stabbing, petty squabbling and distrust. If you paid as much
attention to your training as you do with each other, maybe you might then be able to live up to the standards and responsibility of your rank.

2) Western teaching and training methods have become stale. You don't train for yourselves, instead you train to attain the next level belt. Everybody wants to be better than everyone else. Dojo's compete for students and teachers vie for popularity and pecking order amongst themselves. There is very little quality in the teaching standards therefore the training standards of their students remains poor. It is basically a case of 'the blind leading the blind'. What we have, are teachers who know very little about the spirit and art or reason of ninjutsu trying to pass on their meagre knowledge on to unsuspecting students.

3) The pattern to treat black belt and higher grade instructors like minor gods must end. The trend to place these people on pedestals is not only destructive to the students but also to the instructors themselves. It is very easy for the ego to become inflated. Ego is like a disease, first it attacks your mind giving you delusions of grandeur, then it attacks your attitude making you feel superior and indestructible, then finally it infects your heart and you are no longer able to judge your own training and your thoughts become clouded. Too many able instructors have become arrogant due to this fact. A note to students: save your reverence for something that deserves your gratitude and awe, like the mystery of creation; for the fact that you are here and free in this time, standing in your own shoes.

4) Americans translate ninjutsu in an American way; Europeans translate it in a European way and so on and so forth. But ninjutsu is intrinsically Japanese. Ninjutsu is a language unto itself. How can you ever hope to learn the essence of ninjutsu when you continue to translate it in your own western style? It stands to reason that you will not get the full effect of the art; remember that there is always something lost in any type of translation, some portion of its meaning gets misinterpreted. You will never understand or acquire the meaning of the 'full circle' of ninjutsu unless you begin to think like the Japanese students, unless you try to think more like
Hatsumi Sensei. It is all about a question of empathy.

5) Soke allows all westerners to get along with whatever they are doing, he allows them to get along with however they choose to interpret ninjutsu because it keeps them happy and keeps them quiet. But perhaps you no longer want to be self-deceived by your ignorance?

6) The wheels of the ninjutsu money making machine should no longer be oiled by greedy Bujinkan opportunists who have turned the art of ninjutsu into a profit making scheme nor should they treat ninjutsu as their sole source of income. It is no longer right and no longer ethical that you should be paying for these western Shidoshi to travel abroad, why pay for them to conduct seminars especially when they do not have a fundamental understanding of the subject they are teaching? What can you possibly learn from these people that is worth paying for? This is a major problem and of major concern.

7) You must understand the beauty of ninjutsu and not abuse it by taking it for granted. Many of you treat dojo as a place to learn self-protection only, where you can learn how to hurt or damage
another human being. This is ignorance at its highest. But the real spirit of the dojo should be in every single aspect of your lives; it should compliment and harmonise with all the lessons that you have so far acquired through the trials of general day-to-day living. Budo is more a dance of the spirit than anything I have ever witnessed. Ninjutsu is nature, nature is beautiful, and we all try to preserve the beauty of nature and do our best to keep it in its original form, untouched, don't we? Why can you not have the same attitude towards ninjutsu? Why have you allowed it to be turned into a moneymaking business? Yes, beauty sells. Yes, nature sells. But at what price?

8) Teaching people ninjutsu should not be used as an excuse for a job opportunity. Ninjutsu was not given to you as a means for paying rent or bills or buying new cars. The real sacrifice is not in
attempting to devote your whole life to ninjutsu, it is not a religion. Ninjutsu and ultimately Ninpo should be allowed to fill your life with out taking it over. It is a question of balance, of transformation. Only then will it become your 'breath'.

9) Students should give Tai Kai more respect. It is enough of a phenomenon that the Grandmaster actually travels around the world to educate you in real ninjutsu. But what do we see at these gatherings? We see people peddling T-shirts with the Grandmaster's face plastered on the front and gaudy Bujinkan symbols are pasted all over the place, on all kinds of merchandise. A Tai Kai is a gift to all of you from Hatsumi sensei. But instead of
showing your gratitude by training earnestly, you have allowed your arrogance to turn this training opportunity into a circus. Buy your T-shirts and paraphernalia at music festivals, such things have no real place in ninjutsu. Do not for one minute think that you are honouring Sensei by these actions. I do not believe that Hatsumi sensei enjoys being an icon. You should walk away from a Tai Kai with some extra knowledge in your mind, not photographs of yourselves posing with Sensei. You have all missed the point entirely. To say "this is the western way" is no excuse.

10) Hatsumi Sensei is very diplomatic and evasive when speaking to you about your training standards, he does not want to hurt your feelings or bruise your delicate western ego. But it is obvious to many people that there is lots of high and low ranking Hatsumi Sensei is very diplomatic and evasive when speaking about your training standards, he does not want to hurt your feelings or bruise your delicate black belts who are totally crap. They and their
students are crap in form and in discipline. You lack the grace that allows understanding. Perhaps it is time for our Soke to give more honest interviews, and maybe his newsletters should be written in an easier, plainer fashion to consolidate your understanding. It is an obvious fact that there is a problem with the way western individuals process ninjutsu. You need to know the truth of what you have become. How else are you expected to grow? Proper guidance can only come from the ruthless delivery of truth. If you want to train in ninjutsu you must understand criticism.

11) There is another fact that you need to be aware of. Ninjutsu does not need us. Hatsumi sensei does not need us. Bujinkan will continue to exist for as long as there is someone to represent it. Hatsumi sensei represents Bujinkan. As Grandmaster he is 'the keeper'. In reality this is all the sacred spirit of our art needs. Ninjutsu is greater than the sum of its parts. But as long as there is always one good person to represent the art, it will survive. The moral of this informs you that everyday you should be grateful for the opportunity that Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu gives you. Honour the spirit of our art by training hard and by applying to your lives all
you have learned, in an honest fashion.

12) It would be a good thing for all western black belts to stand up and announce that they know nothing about the fundamental aspects of our art. Why do you people feel it is necessary to churn
out hundreds of esoteric articles and newsletters? You write about the values of life, yet you do not apply it to your own. You write about the strength of spirit yet it is not evident in your training. You write about topics that carry titles such as: "The Journey of Training", "See with A Warriors eyes", "Ninja Heart and Ninja Mind". Such articles are written and circulated regularly by many high-ranking black belts. There is something that you must understand, it is this - although you may feel an inner need to share these insights with others, you must first judge whether these 'truths' are real 'truths' or whether they are 'illusory'. At a certain stage in training, you begin to feel more aware because you have become more 'open', and this is good, but it is also a trap. Recognise the feeling, but do not dwell on it. It will develop as you develop. To
linger on the sensation of your new found 'eyes' will only cause your ego to write about issues of which it knows nothing. It is better for your reputations that you keep these 'insights' private.

13) Students must evolve to correctly accommodate the art. You cannot steer the art in the direction of how you think it should grow, in the manner of someone training the limbs of a tree by the careful pruning of its branches. Such action is futile and will only lead to self-deception and ego will become inflated as it has already become.

14) This point will be attacked by a lot of people because it is the easiest to criticise. However, I believe that all training should be cost free. Please try and understand that this is not a question of money, it is a question of morality. All training, including seminars should be free of charge, with the exception of students paying only for the cost of hall hire, their gi and weapons. Tai Kai should also be more cost effective. The only thing that needs to be paid for is the price of the venue, and personal travel expense. To attend a Tai Kai or seminar should not be a question of whether a student can raise the fee.

Bujinkan should liquidate its membership fees and dissolve its idea of membership cards.

Membership cards and black belt membership cards are intended as a system for individuals to prove that they belong to an authentic authority. It also gives non black belt students a feeling of
'belonging'. And it allows new students coming into the art, a way to separate the impostors from the real Shidoshi teachers. But my argument is this: you cannot stop unscrupulous individuals from 'cashing in' on ninjutsu, so why try? This is a fight that can never be won.

It is like when a stone dam is built in a river, the water will beat mercilessly against the stone and concrete because this is its nature. With the passing of time, the dam may be worn down, but if
the dam is still needed, then someone will come along to repair it making the construction stronger than before.

And this is how it is with the exploitation of ninjutsu - as long as there is money, prestige and fame to be made from the art then there will always be individuals who will come along to abuse it, thus fortifying the 'stone wall of the ninja boom'.

Ninjutsu is not always about winning; sometimes it is about knowing when to walk away. And so it is time for us to become 'empty' again. The best way to fight this fight is by the appearance
of 'no fight'.

Making ninjutsu into a business will only add fuel to a fire that is already out of control.

15) In the beginning, ninjutsu was not about membership cards; people belonged to the art in their hearts. In the beginning, ninjutsu was not about seminar fees; instead the strongest in spirit
persevered in training. In the beginning, ninjutsu was not about T-shirts or paraphernalia; blood, sweat and tears bought the essence of the art. There is a lot to be said for these old values. I cannot ask that we return to these old ways, but what I can ask is for all students to carry some of these ethics with them, on their journey.

"I shall not cease from mental fight,
nor shall my sword sleep by my side."