Ninjutsu the Martial Art of the Ninja
Written by Ofer Cohen from Israel

Ninjutsu is an ancient Japanese martial art that has been transmitted from teacher to disciple for more than 900 years. The current grand master is Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi who is the soke - the head of the school and as such, the 34th generation leader of the Togakure Ryo Ninpo. Nowadays the Art is also called Budo Tai Jutsu, where Budo means the combat way, Tai means body and Jutsu mean system. Another name of the school is Bujinkan which means the home of the warrior.

Bujinkan Dojo is spreading far and wide through out the world. One can find vigorous, gallant, and high level Bujinkan members that are partners for sharing ideas and training in many countries. It is worth knowing that Israel took a major part in the new history of Ninjutsu in the middle and late 20th century. Two Israelis, Danny Waxman and Doron Navon, were the first two western disciples of Dr. Hatsumi Sensei in the sixties. They brought Ninjutsu to Israel and taught generations of students and instructors.

Doron Navon contribution in helping Hatsumi Sensei in his efforts to teach outside Japan and in developing Israel martial arts in general and Ninjutsu in particular is especially remarkable. Doron Navon devoted much of his time in the eighties and the nineties to escort translate and represent his teacher Hatsumi Sensei. He led hundreds of students through direct observation or through his inspiring personality to reach the level of Shodan and above (black belt). Many of them are now active instructors.

The Bujinkan School is actually the unification of nine systems of fighting arts that Dr. Hatsumi Sensei inherited from the 33rd Soke, Takamatsu Sensei, and the Tiger from Mongolia and hence became his chosen successor. These systems include 3 kinds of schools or Ryu. Traditional schools of the Ninja stealth, fighting and surviving methods. Old Jujutsu schools that the Samurais used in the battlefields. Martial arts schools that are Chinese in their origin or have greatly absorbed Chinese martial arts influence.

Practicing Tai Jutsu means fighting by using the body movement. This is an essential element of Ninjutsu as a martial art. Every change of movement or attack or defense originates in the body. You will not find any part of the body, be it a hand, a finger, or a leg moving by itself without the rest of the body participating in the movement. Another essential element of Ninjutsu is the notion of the flowing movement. The movement changes sides and directions. Once it is fast as lightning and other time it is elusive and slow. All the time, there is continuity and flow between the movements. When the student is aware of this dynamic state of the body, he or she can learn the secrets of motion and the secrets of releasing power without using any excess force. The whole body participates in the actual motion and knows how to naturally adjust itself to its opponents and to the specific conditions of the fighting area without unnecessary efforts.

In Ninjutsu there is an infinite number of techniques. Why is that? Because in addition to the hundreds of techniques and counter techniques, there are endless variations that are created and invented in the actual encounters with different opponents and different fighting conditions. Yet, the emphasis in Ninjutsu is not on the success or failure of applying a specific technique. Hatsumi Sensei says that fixation on techniques is a recipe for death. Advanced students in Ninjutsu are like Jazz musicians. They have been practicing all sorts of combat situations and endless number of techniques for years; yet at the moment of real danger, their body will react by itself in the appropriate timing and speed, without thinking and without focusing on any technique whatsoever. They will simply do the right action. It is exactly like a Jazz artist that improvises freely, taking a well-known melody and using his creativity and vast knowledge of music and experience to perform his interpretation in a completely new and unique way.

Another thing that characterizes Ninjutsu is the indispensable use of weapons. The curriculum includes traditional Japanese weapons as well as new, surprising weapons of the 21-century. It contains all sorts of sticks: six-foot stick, a three-foot stick, a very small stick, long and short swords, bayonet, Naginata, all sorts of clubs and knifes and similar tools like Jutte or Kunai and Shurikans. The student learns to use every available object as means to defend him-self while in danger. One of the deep levels of attainment in Ninjutsu is Muto-Dori, a state where the student learns to face a sharp sword with bare hands.

In the Bujinkan, the students have to exhibit, in thought and action, a very high standard of humanity. They are polite, patient, tolerant and modest. They will never use the great knowledge they have acquired for bad causes and will not boast their abilities. Violent people or those who are possessed with malicious thoughts can not advance and become high level students.
In the Bujinkan, safe practice is tremendously important. The other participants in the training sessions are our friends and partners for growth and mutual development; they are not our rivals. We have to see that they will have safe training and help them to progress. Safety, appreciation and acknowledgment of others as complete human beings are related to two very important aspects that are stressed in Ninjutsu, namely environmental awareness and the heart (Kokoro).

Developing a Human Heart is one of the most important goals of every real martial artist. In Ninjutsu, there is emphasis of actual development of courage, peace of mind, practical humanism and self-discipline. It also stresses the elimination of selfishness as well as performing optimally in uncertain conditions. Those who are immersed mainly in their anger, weaknesses, negative feelings, troubles and ambitions, can not fully be a part of the reality they live in. they can not feel other people and be socially tuned in and as a result, can not become a high level students. Their insensitivity may lead to fatal consequences in real life or death situations.

To Sum-up, we can see that Ninjutsu does not only teach techniques of defense and attack. Ninjutsu is a vehicle to help people develop themselves as complete human beings, integrating body, soul and mind, and expressing this unification in realty.

Ofer Cohen 6Dan, Israel
Student of Danny Waxman and Doron Navon.

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