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kitsuno
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2007 7:38 am    Post subject: Mystical Ninjers R Aweseme Reply with quote
The once and future ninja

By Beau Miller

TOKYO —

The first rule of being a ninja is, you do not talk about being a ninja. So says Shoto Tanemura, one of the last living links to the ancient and venerable art. Rather than refer to himself as a ninja, Tanemura insists he is “a historian of ninpo” — a term that refers to the blending of ninjutsu martial arts with spiritual elements.

The grandmaster’s home in Saitama serves as the headquarters of the Genbukan World Ninpo Bugei Federation, a martial arts school he founded in 1984. That’s where we meet Tanemura for an interview, and he impresses us as both wise and gentle — here is a man, after all, who holds the key to techniques and tricks that have been passed down for some 2,500 years. “These are the secrets of survivors,” he says. And Tanemura is careful to guard them, for the one matter that will ultimately define his legacy is what he reveals, and to whom.

The popular notion of ninjas as a secretive group of stealthy assassins has its roots in actual history. Somewhat ironically, many of the tactics associated with ninjas were first introduced by the Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu, whose Art of War advocates espionage, misinformation and sabotage. Though these tactics belied the Japanese ideal of honorable one-on-one combat, the underhandedness proved effective for commoners defending their families and homes during periods of unrest.

This need for self-defense, and the knowledge brought by immigrants and refugees who landed in Wakayama port, contributed to the development of the art of ninjutsu, first in the mountainous Iga region of Mie Prefecture, and soon after in the nearby Koga region of Shiga Prefecture. During the power struggles and land-grabbing that occurred nationwide in the 15th and 16th centuries, these regions were, for the most part, left to their own devices.

“Iga and Koga were like Switzerland,” says Tanemura with a proud chuckle. “No shogun or samurai could attack them.” The tricks and psychological warfare of the ninjas proved too much for any aggressor. One army, for instance, was trying to overrun a castle in the region. During a break in the fighting, a ninja left the fortress and snuck into the enemy’s camp. The next morning, the army men awoke to see their flag flying from the castle. Confused, they stopped their siege — and eventually retreated.

Some of the area’s stealthy mercenaries-for-hire were contracted by warlords in Japan’s feudal period. Since the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu unified the country around the turn of the 16th century, however, trained ninjas have been using their unique combination of wit, grace and power to keep the peace.

Tanemura was born on August 28, 1947, into a prominent family in Matsubushi, Saitama, with a direct bloodline to the daimyo who controlled Iga and Koga. Before World War II, his family owned over half of Matsubushi township; after the Occupation, they were left with less than three acres.

He began studying martial arts with his father and an uncle at the age of 9, and his relatives did not spare the rod. Training was conducted barefoot and outside regardless of the weather, and whenever the boy was knocked unconscious — a not uncommon occurrence — he was revived with a bucket of icy cold water.

At 22, Tanemura joined the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, where he worked for 15 years. Part of that time was spent training riot control officers, sharing his ability to stun and demobilize an opponent while avoiding inflicting lasting harm. At one point during our discussion over tea and chocolates, Tanemura showed how this is done by crushing a pressure point on my forearm. For a guy going on 60, his grip was uncannily strong.

Trained SWAT, FBI and NYPD

After “retiring” at 37, Tanemura traveled extensively, spreading the gospel of ninpo, and he briefly trained with Japan’s last practicing ninja, Toshitsugu Takamatsu, before Takamatsu’s death in 1972. Tanemura even voluntarily trained America’s elite SWAT, FBI and NYPD organizations, and says he supports the efforts of law enforcement agencies. “Soldiers have to kill in battle,” he explains, “while policemen only kill in self-defense.” His students echo this point, noting that one of their first lessons was about avoiding people and situations where conflict might become necessary. Even when forced to fight, the objective is always defensive in nature.

Some of Tanemura’s knowledge is shared through an English-language book, “Ninpo Secrets: Ninpo Philosophy, History and Techniques.” Although this 250-page work took seven years to compile, the author says that due to “lack of space,” he was only able to include a fraction of what he wanted. “Ninpo Secrets” is an edited transcription of interviews with Tanemura, published with the aim of reaching an international audience. Indeed, looking overseas for the next torch-bearers is a trademark of Tanemura’s approach, as it’s from abroad that he has found the most interest — nearly 500 foreigners have received black belts under his tutelage.

We arrived at the dojo after spending an hour and a half on two trains, another 20 minutes on a bus, and walking 10 minutes down backstreets under a refreshingly dark, starry sky. We were to observe a training session with Tanemura and four of his students, all black belts: the teacher’s 27-year-old son, Kotaro; Aly Ruston from Egypt and the UK; Nathan Wood — a 20-year student — also from Britain; and Brian Young from the U.S.

Wood greeted us at the station. He had on a heavy jacket over what later was revealed to be his training wear. Known as “keikogi,” the heavy-cotton uniform is jet black. “The uniform starts out white,” Tanemura explains. “When a student sweats and practices long and hard, his clothes should become darker and darker, eventually turning black.” The colorful emblem over the heart is to remind practitioners to shine a bright light on a dark world.

It was in this dark world that Wood found inspiration to start on the path that would eventually lead him to Japan. Born and raised in a blue-collar town south of London, Wood suffered bullying at school — including one incident where his head was slammed in a toilet stall door. The young boy was later enrolled by his father in budo classes, and at age 14, he joined a K-1-style kickboxing gym.

Two years later, while Wood was waiting at a bus stop, two men jumped the defenseless teen, knocking out his front teeth. That’s when he realized that K-1 and other “martial sports,” as he now calls them, emphasize offensive rather than defensive techniques, and lack a spiritual element. Soon after, he enrolled in a training course given by Tanemura at nearby Southampton University. “Within two or three years, I became an apprentice,” he says. “But really it was from day one.”

Entering the Genbukan headquarters, we remove our shoes and make our way toward the back of the building, passing through a “noren” curtain dividing the entryway and dojo. The room is fairly large, yet feels intimate, with wooden walls and red rafters overhead. The floor is covered with soft green mats that look like tatami but are instead made of a synthetic material that’s easier to clean. Photos — including one of Takamatsu — share wall space with an arsenal of weapons, and a shrine at the front of the room includes a wooden replica of Shimane Prefecture’s Izumo Jinja, the country’s oldest Shinto shrine.

The lesson begins with the four students facing Tanemura while sitting in a line according to their respective ranks. The teacher recites a prayer, which the students diligently repeat, having long since committed the words to memory. They clap twice, bow, clap again, let out an enthusiastic “Onegaishimasu!” and await instructions.

The day’s lesson is on “bojutsu,” or techniques using a wooden staff that’s strong enough to snap an iron sword. This weapon was commonly used by guardians of prisons or castles, and nowadays police officers can often be seen wielding them in front of stations or koban.The students start off with “locking” techniques that are employed to demobilize one’s adversary: one of them gets a lock, and the other escapes and counters. Next, Tanemura draws one of the many wooden swords from off the wall, offers it to the shrine out of respect, and invites the students to line up in order of rank.

Candidates judged on intuition

The object of the lesson is to avoid the teacher’s blows — yet students practice not just how to elude the fierce jabs and slashes, but also how to sense when they are about to be hit by facing away from their sensei as he attacks. This intuition is one of the many attributes candidates are judged on when seeking higher ranks.

After an hour, Tanemura goes to the closet and reemerges with two types of “shuriken” — the iconic throwing stars that are an inseparable part of ninja lore. He passes out nine each of the traditional “senban” stars and pencil-shaped “bo shuriken.” The students proceed to launch the razor-edged projectiles across the room into a sheet of wood, with varying degrees of accuracy and force.

Then it’s Tanemura’s turn. Demonstrating the skills he’s honed over 50 years, the teacher rapidly fires all nine “shuriken” into a clustered group. “Like bullets,” he notes with satisfaction.

It was about this time we realized exactly what we were witnessing: a grandmaster with direct bloodlines to the very first ninjas demonstrating a millennia-old skill that, in just a few decades, has been utterly bastardized. “Almost everyone steals my techniques,” he says with a gentle smile and a hint of concern.

It’s no coincidence that Genbukan’s start coincided with the so-called “ninja boom” of the ’80s. After a wave of violent crimes that involved “ninja weapons,” the British press took the story and ran. The government responded with the Criminal Justice Act of 1988, which banned switchblades and brass knuckles, along with swords and shuriken.

Visited White House in 1996

After the media-stoked ninja scare, Tanemura visited the White House in 1996 — the visit was arranged by Young, who at the time worked for the Democratic Party — to explain ninpo and Genbukan, as well as to receive an award recognizing his efforts to use his skills and knowledge to benefit humanity.

Tanemura could hardly be called naive, but he nonetheless admits longing for a society free of conflict and violence. “My dream is to get to the point where we don’t need martial arts or ninjas anymore,” he says. Until then, he will continue to do his bit to spread the wisdom of ninpo and clear the art’s name.

To this end, Tanemura has dedicated half of his life to teaching, lecturing and holding demonstrations. There are now 115 dojos around the world founded by his students, and over 4,000 practitioners. “There is no discrimination,” he says. “They are all my family.”

Learn the ways of the ninja

The Genbukan homepage (www.genbukan.com) has a dojo locator and a wealth of information and links to related sites. For those interested in training, also see the website of the Tokyo branch of Genbukan (www.ninpo.org), run by Roy Ron, Tanemura’s highest-ranking foreign student.



March 27, 2007
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msr.iaidoka
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2007 8:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
kitsuno,

"The first rule of being a ninja is, you do not talk about being a ninja." Says the guy who wrote a book of "secrets" and is being interviewed about being a ninja...who then crushes the interviewer after having lulled him into a false sense of security with tea and chocolate.
"Soldiers have to kill in battle, while policemen only kill in self-defense." Says the guy who has supposedly inherited the arts of assassination and yet focuses on defense.
It amazes me how many people claim to have taught the NYPD and FBI. Also, I was unaware that Switzerland was so powerful and threatening.


平和、

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Tatsunoshi
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 1:38 am    Post subject: Re: Mystical Ninjers R Aweseme Reply with quote
kitsuno wrote:

“Iga and Koga were like Switzerland,” says Tanemura with a proud chuckle. “No shogun or samurai could attack them.”


Selective memory also seems to be among the skillz of the ninjer, as Oda Nobunaga had little trouble stomping Iga and Koga when he got around to attacking them.

kitsuno wrote:
The tricks and psychological warfare of the ninjas proved too much for any aggressor. One army, for instance, was trying to overrun a castle in the region. During a break in the fighting, a ninja left the fortress and snuck into the enemy’s camp. The next morning, the army men awoke to see their flag flying from the castle. Confused, they stopped their siege — and eventually retreated.


I've heard that story before, only it ends with the attacking army getting angry, storming the castle and taking it...making the flag stealing trick a stupid move in retrospect.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 11:36 am    Post subject: Re: Mystical Ninjers R Aweseme Reply with quote
Tatsunoshi wrote:
Selective memory also seems to be among the skillz of the ninjer, as Oda Nobunaga had little trouble stomping Iga and Koga when he got around to attacking them.


Actually, Nobunaga had a hell of a time with Iga, eventually losing a brother or son down there. In the end, however, he did in fact stomp the living bejeezus out of them.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 16, 2007 2:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tanemura and Hatsumi hate each other and both are using Ninja to make money.
Their martial arts are nothing to do with Ninja.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 11:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I'm hugely interrested in finding the historical truth behind the ninjazz. Can someone point me to books or any ressources, english or whatever?
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2007 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I saw a documentary that suggested ninja's were specialy trained Samurai. This makes sense to me as compared to today's army intellgence agents for example.

The documentary suggested there was not a lot of history about them since it would have been considered dishonorable to win a battle via espionage

Rick
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2007 10:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I recommend reading Tales of the Heike and Taiheiki. I'd probably also recommend some of the legendary tales about Prince Yamatodake and others in the Nihon Shoki. Also, the various War Tales (gunki monogatari). Read through and you'll see plenty of the various things that people traditionally think of as 'ninja' (of course, they are usually being done by just regular warriors as a part of the battles).


-Josh
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2008 7:02 pm    Post subject: Politics Sucks Reply with quote
shikisoku wrote:
Tanemura and Hatsumi hate each other and both are using Ninja to make money.
Their martial arts are nothing to do with Ninja.


In the end, learning any martial art is more about ensuring your survival and the survival of those that depend on you. I hate it when the so-called "political" aspects of "ninja" are brought up. I trained in the Bujinkan for 2-1/2 years and enjoyed it very much, until injury laid me out of it. My favorite quote of Hatsumi's was "shut up and train." Says it all, really. All this political and PR stuff is just a smokescreen for boosters and detractors and people who want to sell something. I learned some really useful techniques. Whether they're "real ninja" or not doesn't matter, as long as the other guy goes down and stays down. That's my philosophy, anyway. Cheers!
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phyllobius
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 6:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thank for the name of the books.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 1:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bujinkan is more popular in outside of Japan because of the image of Ninja.
Hatsumi knew Japanese wouldn't be deceived.
And now former Bujinkan practitioner Chosonninja claims he is a descendant of Korean Ninja(never exsisted) and is using Ninja to make money. Very Happy


Real Ninja "Ninta" and "Shinobu"
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 21, 2008 12:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
What I still wonder:
Some of the japanese members of the Bujinkan and the Genbukan, same with the Jinenkan have done classical Budo before, and some also mixed martial Arts for a modern combat self defense. Also some, and those only a few, have a master degree in other classical japanese samurai styles, like the Katori Shinto Ryu or Muso-Shinden ryu, and some even hold a master degree in the Hontai Yoshin ryu...
So this means, that they have long studied those schools, and master ranks are not sold by money I hope.
So why they were adictd to the Bunjinkan, Genbukan or Jinenkan?
If I do a ryu, I get a training and a feeling for historical correct things... most of these bujinkan menbers are not allowed to give training outside Japan,so have their own dojos... So why doing the bujinkan, starting from nearly zero and get a high rank shihan, if I was before running through a hard education at one of the classical and well-known ryu-ha of japan, with all it's tradition and links to the history and the proven lineage of ryu-heads?
Why?
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2008 7:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
(Friday, Karl Dr. "Re: Ninja and Ninjato" on the Japanese Sword Art Mailing List. May 19th, 1999):

He states, "In the 3rd edition of the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten, Watatan Kiyoshi (a friend of T. Takamatsu) stated that T. Takamatsu created his ninjutsu from childhood games."


I was wondering if someone sould help me here, since I am not very skilled at japanese.
Is it possible that Watatan Kiyoshi is being taken out of context or that the japanese is poorly translated?
I just have a feeling this is deliberately misunderstood to make a point, and I dont have the ability to check myself.

Thanks,
Ez
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2008 3:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Have you tried contacting Dr. Friday to ask him? His contact information appears to be there for all to see:

http://www.uga.edu/history/vitas/CVfriday.pdf

When I get a chance, though, I'll have to see if I can find this in the version of the 武芸流派大辞典 at home... unfortunately, I probably won't have time to look at it properly for another week or so. Still, I find this to be quite an interesting statement.

-Josh
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PostPosted: Sun May 31, 2009 4:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I have to correct my previous comment.
ChosonNinja wasn't Bujinkan practitioner, he hates Bujinkan.
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PostPosted: Sun May 31, 2009 4:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Hometutor wrote:
I saw a documentary that suggested ninja's were specialy trained Samurai. This makes sense to me as compared to today's army intellgence agents for example.

The documentary suggested there was not a lot of history about them since it would have been considered dishonorable to win a battle via espionage

Rick


I recommend this video.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpBGXtECIzA
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 5:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
"but also how to sense when they are about to be hit by facing away from their sensei as he attacks. This intuition is one of the many attributes candidates are judged on when seeking higher ranks." ~ Dodging unknown attacks. Thats about as applicable in battle as russian rulett. I guess this guy teachs how to catch a sword with your hands, aswell.
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