Evolution of the Maai Hyoshi Dojo’s in New Zealand

Contributed by S. Cockell


The Maai Hyoshi Martial Art system has evolved over a number of years. Originally part of the Bujinkan Wayne Roy Dojos, the traditional Japanese techniques were taught to the three founders of Ninjutsu in NZ, one of which was Michael Gent. In 1987 Michael Gent travelled to Australia and received his black belt and returned to NZ and began to instruct and develop the traditional Japanese martial art of Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu, as taught by the Wayne Roy Bujinkan Dojo’s applying it to NZ conditions. By 1991 the school was well established and many schools were founded around the country.



Searching for the truth to the fighting arts, Mr Gent travelled to Japan to train with the Grandmaster of the system Masaki Hatsumi; furthering the Maai Hyoshi’s understanding of this vast and fascinating art. The years 1992-1993 saw the development of Ninjutsu in New Zealand. Many hours were spent practicing the arts techniques; the classes were filled with people eager to learn this new martial art with its natural movements and practical applications. It was very easy to apply the system’s training methods to NZ conditions. With blood sweat and tears the students began to learn and master the many techniques that made up Ninjutsu. But this was not enough for Michael Gent.



Not content with just learning to repeat choreographed manoeuvres, Mr Gent began to pressure test every aspect of the system and began to learn what worked under actual combat situations. This resulted in the removal of a lot of superficial manoeuvres, and the honing of realistic fighting movements began. In 1994 the Maai Hyoshi Dojo’s entered fighters into the full contact karate arena in order to test their skills. It was a very successful endeavour with two fighters achieving exceptional results, and several fighters being disqualified for excessive contact.



In 1994 after a dream in which he saw himself crossing a road, on the road there were many cars but they were all stationary and he was able to walk between them with no difficulty. In the next instant, the cars were moving at great speed and he had to evade and dive to safety in the gaps between the cars. This epiphany became the founding inspiration for the drills used to develop the distance and timing skills of the Maai Hyoshi Dojo’s.



Michael Gent started to view Ninjutsu in a different way. He began to enforce some radical changes to the system. These changes were extreme and dangerous – they consisted of a large number of timing (Hyoshi) exercises and distance (Maai) exercises. These were created by him to provide the student with the sight to see opportunities, not seen by any other martial arts systems. These exercises involved all weapons, spears, six foot sticks, swords and knives, as well as unarmed attacks including fists and feet. In these exercises the students had to put their bodies into the space/ gaps that existed in between the attack combinations. These attack combinations were launched at the students at full pace – some of these attacks were terrifyingly fast and emotionally confronting.



Many times students were struck by these weapons, many scars were earned and blood was spilled. In that initial period of learning, two of the most important lessons were: learning to time your movement into these spaces to the millicentimetre. If Sword cuts missed by just a gi (jacket) lapel this was considered a good judgement of distance. The second lesson is best summed up by Mr. Gents quote “seeing the space is one thing – getting into this space is another and doing something when you’re in the space is something entirely different too”.



Under this training environment you learned to operate on a level of speed that places you in a totally focused mind set. What you develop with this mind set is the ability to see and feel the essence of combat and learn what it takes to overcome an armed attacker who is intent on doing you harm. It is an eye opening experience or a very painful one. If you move too fast, your attacker will change his attack and if you move too slow you get hit (and that hurts) but, get your movement just right and you enter a gap that leaves your attacker vulnerable and allows you to control and execute your finishing technique.



In 1995 the Maai Hyoshi Dojo’s was formed - a new syllabus was created, made up of skills that students have had to learn. As the student progresses their skills increase and they are able to merge their skills together giving them a better understanding and insight into how these skills work within the traditional techniques of the nine schools of Ninjutsu.



In 1996 Brazilian Jiujutsu was introduced to the Maai Hyoshi Dojo’s it was integrated into the system to provide a complete awareness of all fighting environments: Stand up fighting, Clinch fighting and Ground fighting.



Ninjutsu didn’t cover ground fighting to any serious degree. Ninjutsu has a mantra ‘if you’re in the street stay on your feet’. BJJ’s introduction provided a much needed understanding as to how to deal with combat if it goes to ground.



In 1998 – 2002 the Maai Hyoshi Dojo’s provided fighters for the first No Rules Fighting competition in Auckland this new style of fighting allowed the school to experiment with what it had been training. The results spoke for them selves three New Zealand titles;  Light heavy weight, Heavy weight (two champions)  and a contender to the middle weight title (our fighter lost on points, after 3 x 5 min rounds) all of these achievements in four years.



2004 - 2006 saw the development of control and restraint methods. This was in relationship to many of the schools students working as door staff and close protection operatives. Mr Gent also improved his own understanding of combat systems by studying the Israeli fighting method of Krav Maga. His goal was to obtain his instructors license in this extremely effective fighting method unfortunately he was unable to achieve this.



 In 2006 on the 14th of March, Shidoshi Michael Gent passed away, he died in his own dojo doing what he loved, training in the martial arts.  He left behind a legacy of endurance and perseverance in the study of martial arts that is continued by all his students throughout New Zealand.



Today, the Maai Hyoshi is a continuously evolving combat system that prescribes to the Ninjutsu philosophy “adapt or die”. It fuses ancient battlefield tactics with modern scientific training methods to improve its students both physically and mentally. It is interesting to note that the old systems had within them the formulas that made man the ultimate predator on this earth. We have hunted and killed nearly every species that occupies the planet with us. These old styles had worked out postures, attacks and defensive movements that are the expressions of the human body’s optimum performance.



These old styles of fighting were developed and honed long before the science of Bio-mechanics was around and yet as modern athletes develop to extraordinary levels of speed and strength the study of these old martial arts develop our bodies so we are able to perform extraordinary feats. In modern martial arts the terminology and methods of training have evolved to incredible levels, with access to information and scientific methods that can improve the body, the student can attain levels beyond what the normal person can imagine. Bio-mechanics tell us how to position ourselves so we are our strongest, how to use torque and leverage so we strike at our most efficient levels. There is also access to psychological training that prepares us for the dangers of combat.



Martial arts training has come a long way from the middle ages, when a father handed his son a sword or spear before his first battle and simply said “hold it tightly and don’t drop it son” or the immortal line of Conan the Barbarian “hold it like this, swing it at his head, now you’re ready to take on anybody”. The need to learn to fight quickly and efficiently had extreme value to the warriors of old simply because their skills would be put to the test immediately, imagine if you had one week to learn a martial art because the very next day you had to partake in a death match, what would you want to learn?



One of the things the makes the Maai Hyoshi Dojo’s unique is that their main source, ‘Ninjutsu’ dates back to the fighting systems of the twelfth century. This makes us aware that warriors of medieval times would have used techniques that we are learning and practicing today. Techniques that have survived because the warriors who used them lived to pass them on, it is a proven fact that warriors who die on the battlefield don’t pass on their knowledge. There is no greater test of a fighting system than life and death combat, this is where the winner lives to fight another day - the loser loses everything. Ninjutsu survives today because its students survived. This keeps their legacy alive and as Mr Gent once said “it’s nice to know that we are following the footsteps of the great warriors of old”.



The Maai Hyoshi Dojo’s is continuing to provide the teachings that its founder developed. We strive to provide our students with the knowledge and skills to better themselves in what ever endeavours they choose to undertake.



An example of how the traditional schools of Ninjutsu influenced the evolution of the Maai Hyoshi Dojos

Shinden Koto Ryu

Founded in 1542 this Ryu derived as a battlefield combat system during the warring period. The founder of this Ryu was Sakagami Taro Kunishige. The name of this Ryu means ‘Spirit of Tiger Attack’.  

This Japanese martial art school influenced the Maai Hyoshi Dojo’s close range striking method by teaching us to move in close inside the punching range of confrontations. This neutralizes your opponent’s offensive attacks and allows the student to utilise the Koto Ryu’s speciality attacks, i.e. eye gauges, face rips, throat attacks, elbow strikes and groin strikes; all of which are needed for survival fighting


Shinden Fudo Ryu

Founded in the early 1300’s – the warrior who founded the Ryu was called Izumo Kanja Yoshiteru (he is also responsible for the Kukishin Ryu). The name means immovable God.

This martial arts school revolutionised the Maai Hyoshi’s close range grappling method, as much as BJJ did. It allows for a control and restraint option in the close range. This came about due to Mr Gent’s security work where strikes are often too brutal and lead to legal problems. Our school studied locking and choking techniques from the old scrolls and applied them to the modern problems encountered on doors and in personal protection. There are two distinct fighting methods used in the Shinden Fudo Ryu, the first is the close range striking method called Daiken Taijutsu, which predominately uses close range strikes to defeat its opponents. The second fighting method is the close range grappling method known as Jutai Jutsu, which predominantly uses locks, throws and chokes to control its opponents.


Gyokko Ryu

            Founded in 1207, this Ryu originated from Chinese Temple Boxing (Cho Gyokko) and Iga Ryu Ninpo. The warrior, Hakuunsai Tozawa, was responsible for this School.  The name of this Ryu means Jewelled Tiger.

This school uses wrist locks and throws to control armed and unarmed attackers. It influenced the Maai Hyoshi Dojo’s development by teaching us to give space to our opponents and capitalize on the opponent’s loss of balance, this takes the strength away from the opponent and allows for the use of wrist locks and throws. It also taught the importance of controlling the wrists when dealing with a swordsman. The school has exceptionally low postures to deal with the additional distance a weapon gives your opponent. It is a long range fighting method.


 Kukishinden Ryu

Founded in 1330 this Ryu derived from Yamabushi Mountain Priests and Pirates of the Inner Sea.   The founder of this Ryu was Izumo Kanja Yoshiteru. The name of this Ryu is called Nine Demon Spirit, Confronting School.

This school which is based heavily on weaponry, helped develop the Maai Hyoshi name. Our school's name literary means distance and timing. By being attacked with weapons, an understanding of speed and openings within your attacker’s assault is developed. This allows you to move in and shut the next attack down with split second timing. Thus, upsetting your opponent’s rhythm and allowing you to neutralise his weapon and attack with strikes or controlling techniques learnt from the old scrolls.


About our company
Enter a succinct description of your company here
Contact Us
Enter your company contact details here