Detailed Articles

This section contains  indepth articles written by our instructors at the Maai Hyoshi Dojos

The Hidden Agenda within Martial Arts


Article written by the late Michael J. Gent 7th Dan Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu



All martial arts (regardless of style or system) are physical in their application and they all have a formula that is unique to that application. Their formulas range from punches and kicks to locks, throws, postures, weapons and stances.



These are termed as basics which in reality are skills of the body. Once these skills are taught to a student, they are then organised into techniques that display the various ways that  ‘style’ or ‘system’ approaches physical confrontations.



 The general idea is to guide a human being along a path of awareness stemming from a warrior’s view of life, much the same as an explorer is guided by the natives through the jungle.



The combination of skills ironically, is also designed to seek the destruction of the human body if the need arises, with this structure fitting together like a finely laid out jigsaw puzzle.



Also the picture of combat that any style or system displays is limited only by the situations that the art (over its history) has learnt to deal with. For example, some arts fight inside, with others fighting outside. The main theme of many martial arts is based around weapons and some have no weapons training at all.



Many martial arts over the years have added skills or in some cases eradicated skills from the system. But the general overall picture remains the same. All of the above (I suppose) sounds quite simple and rather easy in its explanation, but just like any great philosophy or teaching there is always a harder task ahead that makes the adventure ahead very interesting.



Even though, (as I have stated) all martial arts are taught from a physical plane of understanding, the very task of teaching must cross over into the spiritual realms of training.



I call this the Hidden Agenda. Some would say “secrets of the arts”, others might say “what lies beyond the techniques” and others might say “internal energy of the body”. But whatever way you see it, the agreement is that there are certain types of knowledge that one can’t be taught by simple physical understanding. That there is a mystery within all martial arts, a deeper level that at certain stages shows itself if only for a fleeting moment.



So lets look at the first hidden agenda called Ki - it would seem that this unseen force has been misquoted and misused with many stupid claims that have no real base to them. Now let’s move into the simple understanding of Ki. Ki is nothing more then your life force or the life force of any living thing. If you don’t have it, then you won’t be reading this because you will be dead and your Ki will be gone never to return. We can’t see this Ki with our physical eye, yet it is as real as any part of our body.



We as westerners call this force our “soul” which stems out from our religious beliefs and doctrines, but this mind set or belief doesn’t quite fit within the realms of a warriors view point.



The Japanese arts of fighting used Ki because it fitted into the normal everyday view of life. For instance, if a man was sick, he was said to have ‘weak Ki’, and if he was well he had ‘strong Ki’. The word Ki was used to explain many things and many ideas, ideas that don’t always have an understanding or explanation.



So back to the start, Ki is your life force with the word life being the ‘key’. So if one wants to increase Ki then one must come alive or at least the skills that the martial art has taught must live within you. This produces many things, one being a greater awareness of one’s body. If anyone has experienced Ki, then they will tell you that they feel totally alive, strong and fully in control of their centre or power.



All this is leading one on a journey inwards so it can be expressed in the physical realm. Expressed by the feeling of being fully alive. Every part of the body is working together as one unit, the mind is in the correct place, following and flowing with the physical movement.



We can see this in life everyday if we become aware enough and see it. A person, who stands out in a crowd of friends or strangers that becomes noticeable to eyes, has a strong Ki or life force.



Martial artists over a period of time also attain this strong Ki and can be noticed among the everyday activities he or she is involved with. Various exercises are used to increase Ki and these are too numerous to mention, but one form that has grown in the western world is Kata. This deep searching for perfection with oneself is an ideal condition for developing this life force. The idea is to correct and condition the body and mind to move more freely which in turn brings the body alive and thus the Kata lives. And again I must say that like any deep mystery to life, there are many hidden factors to developing Ki.



Zazen for instance is another part of the hidden agenda. This is the ability to sit in one position and remain motionless even if only for a short moment. Beginners are usually taught to count their breath cycle so that the constant flow of thoughts are recycled. Sounds easy doesn’t it. But it isn’t. In fact it is quite hard for anyone to sit and  think of trying not to think. Anyway, after a period of time this flow of brain activity is slowed down to a trickle so the body learns to relax and the mind learns to see without seeing. From this state, one then learns to stand and walk (this will take many years) and eventually do techniques which lead us into the next hidden agenda called Mushin.



This Mushin or state of mind is not just an element in martial arts; it is also in many forms of the Japanese arts. Mushin in its true form is a natural state and almost everyone has experienced it at one time or another. Mushin is the ability to react without thinking in any given situation. For in combat or fighting (one and the same really) to think is to die.



For instance as a boy I would have to hang out my mothers washing on lines that you could adjust by pushing or lowering a stick connected to the line. At night (or dusk) the clothes would have to be brought in and the line would have to be lowered to about head height. I would walk out the door (forgetting about those damn lines) and without seeing the lines suddenly react by ducking and coming back up, my heart in my mouth wondering what the hell had just happened. This was a form of Mushin – reacting without thinking.



There are many more  hidden agenda teachings like Aiki ( the use of the spirit) , but what one soon learns to understand is that this journey is one of going inwards to find yourself, your centre and then return to express it in the physical world. That to embark on this journey is as natural to martial artists as kicks and punches are.



And I must say here that even in this endeavour of finding among our feeble language, words to describe these hidden teachings, one can’t really explain the depth or feelings that this training brings. That is why physical training must always be present when trying to express this understanding. All enlightenment of any form must pass (at some stage) the words, the ideas and find the freedom of experience, for this is what we are all searching for in some form.



Ninjutsu and its street application explained….

Article contributed by Sensei Steven Cockell


16th century Japan is definitely not the same as 21st century New Zealand, we very really see armed Samurai walking down Queen Street. When Ninjutsu was evolving it had to consider many factors. These factors took into account what they had to face and what the likely threats were in the time period the art was being used, such as being attacked by bows, swords and spears which were carried by the Samurai and soldiers of that era. These weapons were quite common and could not be taken lightly. What can we, living in New Zealand today learn from what the ancient practitioners of Ninjutsu and how can we apply it to 21st century New Zealand.


Many of the World’s oldest martial arts contain techniques that are in their most basic form the same. Let’s take one example, imagine your attacker has got both his hands gripped around your throat and is throttling you with all his might, as your life flashes before you, you strike out at his eyes with your fingers driving his head back and drive your knee into his groin, strike down onto his arms to knock them off, head butt him in the face and shove him away. We’ve all seen this done in training and in the movies, it seems to be a generic technique and it is. However, if you trace the technique back through the ages you can see where it comes from. It has universal principles contained within it which can be found in many martial art forms. In Ninjutsu, the above technique is known by many names.  In the Koto Ryu it is a technique called Keto, this same technique can be found in the Southern Praying Mantis style of China, in the Indian fighting style of Kalari Payatta. It is also taught in the little known martial art of Janna which originated from the Middle East and in Prankration a martial art style from Greece.  What we see from this brief trip around the world of martial arts is that the situation of “being throttled by someone” was common to all cultures and that surviving this attack required you to strike out to your opponent’s vital targets so you could immobilise him quickly.


What this allows us to learn is that techniques that are effective get passed on to the next generation and they begin to spread throughout the world as the population expands. This same technique can be seen on ancient pottery bowls that date back to the Mesopotamian era (that’s very old indeed). Even older still are paintings inside ancient  temple structures in Egypt, these pictures show warriors at war, including a picture of a man being throttled, he is kneeing his attacker in the groin and raking at his eyes. The time line of this technique can be seen from the fighting styles it can be found in. Starting in ancient Egypt it travelled to the warriors of Mesopotamia. From here it began to spread out as the human race began to find new places to live (where ever humans dwell, conflict can be sure to follow). Upon reaching Asia Minor (this area included the Ottoman Empire which is modern day Turkey); the technique’s path seems to have had a clear split at this point. It can be followed to Greece and Sparta, (as a interesting side note, the Spartan warriors never wrestled they considered it a waste of training time and only trained in killing techniques, the quote “if your wrestling your wrong” may have originated from the way the Spartans trained).  From Greece and Sparta the technique would have been absorbed into central and eastern European fighting systems. The second path the technique followed was over to Syria (the birth place of the legendary Hashshashin or in the English language “Assassins’) and Iran, then to Afghanistan down through Pakistan and India then over to China. As China expanded its nation the technique found its way to Korea then over the Sea of Japan to Japan and now we are learning it in New Zealand. Its principles still apply here because the human body and ways to attack the human body has not changed. This is how we need to look at our techniques they may be old but they are built on solid principles that still apply to us in the modern times. An attacker today is anatomically the same as he was centuries ago.


One thing that we must consider in today’s times is that our survival instincts are repressed due to the way we live. Society as a whole is a safe place, we have laws and law enforcement officers that keep the peace so our need to rely on our survival instinct is diminished. We can go to the mall and feel safe, do our shopping and enjoy a movie and not think about any danger around us, there are no real predators or dangers out there so we feel comfortable in the environment and let our guard down, but if we travel to a foreign country our survival instincts increase as this is unfamiliar to us and our comfort level is reduced so we stay on guard. Imagine travelling to the streets of Brooklyn in New York one of the most dangerous places in America, it would be sensory overload as your inbuilt natural survival traits kicked in because you aren’t use to them operating at such a high level of intensity. You would find yourself in a heightened state that would be very unfamiliar to those not used to dangerous places. As an example I once walked down Queen Street with a man who had just returned from active duty in Iraq, watching his awareness was a great learning experience he was scanning for snipers, unusual behaviour, hidden or concealed weapons and other dangers, he was doing this instinctively even though he was on holiday in a “safe” country you could see it in his mannerisms and movements.


One of the most important principles we need to adhere to is don’t get surprised, a Ninjutsu proverb is “expect the unexpected” it is our awareness that helps prevent this and techniques don’t always teach awareness its something that needs to be trained and practiced. Something Mr Gent said many years ago lends advice to this “if you’re doing techniques then your too late “he considered that techniques were the middle portion of the fight, his question was always “how did you get to this stage”. Consider this, if your techniques get you to punch, kick or grapple with your opponent how did you get there? How did your opponent get that close? Were you ambushed, asleep or drunk?


In Ninjutsu we like to consider our techniques as I A’s or Immediate Actions, these are principles to use under the intense pressure of a street encounter. In its first levels of learning, Ninjutsu teaches escape and evasion techniques. Our first posture is called Ichimonji No Kamae which is a defensive posture that teaches the student to create distance and escape from the danger. This is a fact that is often over looked by many martial arts styles i.e. learning to run away when our opponent has all the advantages, we are brought up on martial arts movies where the good guy destroys the bad guys with little more then a scratch left on him.  However, in the real world this is seldom the case when ambushed, outnumbered or up against a armed attacker there are real consequences that aren’t portrayed in the movies. Consider our ancestors of old, do you think their families or clans considered them cowards because they ran away from the sabre tooth tiger, I think not. This is where Ninjutsu has a great amount to offer, it is built around being the under dog and views escape as a serious option not a cowardly act.


To quote Grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi “To be able to acquit yourself without injury when attacked by armed assailants requires a degree of skill that is achieved by few.”


As you continue your training, you start to learn ways to incapacitate your opponent or opponents, these are methods of fighting designed to get you away from danger as quickly as possible and include striking techniques that allow you to immobilize your opponent and escape. With further training you learn skills that allow you to control your opponent so as not to maim or seriously injure them, this requires considerable skill and it is not taught immediately so as not to provide information overload to the new student as this can be fatal. Ninjutsu always adheres to the K I S S theory, which is” Keep It Simple Son”, This is mainly due to the fact that under high threat situations humans do not perform fine motor functions they perform gross motor functions (we will look at these a little later on).


When you live your life in the real world you under take life’s activities on a regular basis, things become routine, you drive, walk or bus to work, you entertain yourself and friends or look after your children, all these things occupy your daily life, you may not be ready for an attack in the street, it may have been a hard day at work, you’re tired from the kids nagging, you’re just finished a long run or out enjoying yourself after a movie not thinking of danger.


When confronted by a street attack with no preparation time your body may not be at its best, you may be injured, have a cold or distracted by some problem at home. You must learn how to train yourself to react to this situation should it occur? Training in the dojo is a start it will teach you the basic skills of self protection, but can also breed routine you turn up to the dojo on time, put your gi on and commence your training. Start with a warm up, do some basics then work up a good sweat as you practice, practice, practice and finish with a warm down, head home and shower before a good night sleep. But this isn’t how a street fight occurs is it? A street fight will occur when you least expect it, your body will be cold, tired and not focused.

       There are two questions you should ask yourself before this happens:

What will happen to my mind/body in this situation?

What can my mind/body do in this situation?

Under high stress physical situations the body will revert to gross motor function 

Gross motor function: Is when the body is required to undertake strenuous activities extremely rapidly, it steps up a gear as the adrenal gland secrets large amounts of adrenaline which coarse through the body preparing it for action. Next the brain tells the heart to provide the major muscle groups with large amounts of blood so that these muscles can perform to the requirements demanded of them. Our breathing becomes deeper and faster as we attempt to provide enough oxygen to the lungs for the blood that the heart pumps to the muscles. These types of movements are known as Gross motor functions and power the body through the required activities. Running, jumping, kicking and punching are good examples of gross motor function. 


Fine motor function: Is when the body is required to do detailed or delicate manoeuvres, the brain tells the smaller muscles of the body to focus and work together to complete the task. Our breathing becomes steady because we are required to focus on the task at hand. This does not require a lot of blood in the minor muscle groups so we can relax and this aids us in completing the detailed task. Some good examples of this are using a pen to write something, typing on a keyboard or threading a needle.


Fight, flight or freeze are common body reactions that you will experience in a violent street encounter, so let’s look at the normal person, there’ve just taken the shopping to the car and are attacked, they weren’t expecting it, their  mind and body were not ready. The moment the attack occurs their body kicks into defensive “flight” mode, they have no thought of attacking, it’s a simple case of escape and get away from the danger. Their body’s gross motor function will fuel the main muscle groups to allow them to escape quickly. There is nothing wrong with this. It’s their natural instinct working for them. This is the same as when you lift a rock in your garden and a large spider runs out at you, you jump and repel away from it until you get your senses back. It is a natural human impulse to help keep you alive. You cannot over ride it (flight mode), you must learn to deal with it and use it.


The “freeze” mode is usually experienced by people who have had a little training, they have an idea of what to do but it isn’t instinctual so they freeze while trying to recall what they were taught to do. This can also occur to highly experienced martial artists, who have too much knowledge and can’t make a decision quickly enough to deal with the assault - this is known as “analysis paralysis”.


The mind can only handle a certain amount of information before it is overloaded, so keeping it simple really does work here, close in on him and fight like the tiger or create distance and escape like the rat. You can see these tactics being used in the natural environment amongst the animals. Just watch when your cat ambushes your neighbours intruding cat, when the attack is launched the intruder springs in the air and escapes to a safe distance where it will posture and act tough. This instinctive posturing is the minds way of trying to organise the body to do something. In Ninjutsu you have postures that are designed to promote behaviour within you. Ichimonji No Kamae is designed to get you away. Jumonji No Kamae is designed to protect your body and crash into your opponent. Doko No Kamae is designed as a counter offensive position (half in, half out as it were).


The “fight” mode is when the person attacked suddenly explodes in a fury of desperation and pure instinct, lashing out with animalistic attacks such as clawing at the eyes, punching/kicking wildly and even biting their attacker. This animalistic fury is what must be harnessed and trained to be unleashed under the hostile situation of a street fight. After studying Ninjutsu for a number of years you will start to see that a large number of its techniques are made up of this format.

·          When threatened with violence deliver a pre emptive attack at you opponents vital targets such as eyes or groin, then deliver a major immobilizing attack such as a throw, choke, lock or leg stomp

·          When you are being attacked defend against the incoming attack as best as you can then strike out at the opponent’s vitals and keep striking until the opponents is no longer a threat. If you are able to control the opponent, you can use a throw, choke or a lock to finish.


The street fighter will use any advantage he can get. He attacks first, seizing the initiative and gaining the first strike edge “Hit first and hit hard” the attack is fast, unexpected and savage, they have that little bit extra time on their side because they started the fight. The warrior scholar Sun Tsu writes “the army with momentum wins the battle” with this fact we learn that if the street fighter uses the element of surprise on his victim  then his attack will most likely obtain the desired result.


The difference between a street fighter and a competitive tournament or ring fighter is the ring or tournament fighter knows the day he will fight, even the rough time his fight will occur, he knows his opponent or can study him, the internet these days is littered with information on fighters and their fights, he knows that where his fight will take place, it will be clean and safe, (no rough concreted ground or broken bottles) the fighter will have time to warm up for his fight. He has trained hard and has a strategy to win and is in peek condition.


What we seek in our martial arts training should be a blend of both types - we should compete because it gets us used to acting under pressure. We also need to insure that what we train in is able to be used in the street confrontations; an even balance is what we ideally seek. There are many tournament techniques that should never be used in the street such as dragging your opponent to the ground or flashy head kicks which can leave us unbalanced and vulnerable, these are just too risky in the streets. The same can be said for street techniques in tournaments most are dangerous and can injure or maim our opponents, kicks to the groin or fingers in the eyes have no place in competition fights where rules are set for fairness to allow competition.  Please note that I am not detracting from the tournament or ring fighters, I myself have fought many times in the ring and tournaments and have found it invaluable to my training. Humans are naturally competitive and we should always encourage this because it enhances our lives “the thrill of victory” and “the agony of defeat” breed outstanding people who become inspirational to others, so let it continue.


What we have to remember is that there is a time and a place for fair competition with like minded people, but in the world outside this controlled environment there are people who will at any given moment seize the chance to inflict pain and injury on others to boost their own ego’s or take out their frustrations. What this teaches us is that even the best trained fighters can be defeated by opponents who are smart and time their attacks to target their victims when they are weak or unaware. When learning to confront street type attackers it is our awareness and common sense that is our best weapon, as my close friend Etama Byrnes says “prevention is better then cure” so arm yourself with awareness to prevent yourself becoming a victim, and if you are caught out have simple and effective strategies that are well trained under realistic conditions that can be used to get you out of trouble.


Here are some sayings that can provide simply word recognition to what you may have to do in a fight. Ask yourself what these sayings mean to you or what images they conjure up.

Hit first and hit hard.                                                                                                                       

Fight dirty and never give up.                                                                                                           

Run like the wind.                                                                                                                               

Act don’t re-act.                                                                                                                                   

All martial arts are based on deception.                                                                                            

Act the lamb but strike like the lion.

I hope this article helps shed a little light on the subject of how we can apply our traditional Ninjutsu training to street/survival training in the modern New Zealand urban environment. Survival training is what Ninjutsu is based on, the Ninja have practiced it for hundreds of years and it does not take much mental application to apply it to where and when we live now. But it will take a considerable amount of physical practice to master the techniques so practice practice, practice and enjoy.

Yours in training

Steven Cockell

PRACTISE...The True Martial Way

By Shidoshi Michael Gent (1958 - 2006)


Tesshu Yamaoka, founder of the Muto Ryu, School of No-Sword, was a master calligrapher and Zen master. Tessu emphasized the spiritual rather than the technical dimensions of Swordsmanship.



New entrants to Tesshu's Shumpukan dojo were told "the purpose of Muto Ryu swordsmanship is not to engage in contests nor to defeat others; training in my Dojo is to foster enlightenment and for this you must be willing to risk your life. Attack me any way you wish. Do not hold back!" And so if the candidate's spirit was strong, he was selected for admittance to the Dojo.



He also stated "If single-minded determination is absent, one will never advance". Even Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido once said "True victory is self-victory". And by now you will be wondering what has all the above got to do with the title.



Well, firstly, let me ask one simple question. What is the core of any skill, realization, technique and understanding in any Martial Art? OK, that’s long enough...its practice, practise and more practise.



Well, in the Collins Dictionary it claims practise as being habit; exercise in an art or profession; given to action rather than theory. It is also something that all arts place upon their students while they study the techniques etc. of their art.



For the many hundreds of people who follow different forms of Martial Arts, practise consists of attending classes one or two times a week, some home training and a little reading about the arts as a whole. And this regime is followed over many years being awarded at times for their study and technique.



The same can be said of the different instructors, some teaching students to practise, by giving the student an example of what they will attain if they practise the correct way.



A student is taught to listen, watch and then head off to practise those techniques shown by the teacher. But is it that simple to study a Martial Art that has had former head teachers like the men at the start of this article. Well, I for one wish it was, but alas it just isn't.



Firstly, when a person enters a Dojo they need to be aware that commitment to training is the first hurdle that will present itself, with this being tested many, many times over the long training periods.



This human trait will be exposed to the limit and at times the student will want to expel him or herself from the training, as the path ahead will seem very unreasonable and the teacher, a b*st*rd. But this will shape your inner self and allow strength to appear, a strength that is solely yours.



From here (well, I hope I haven't put you off training. If not, then read on) the body will become the next upset within your training. If you refuse to do what the teacher asks, which these tasks will appear so easy to do when the teacher displays them. Long hours of practise and more practise will slowly begin to shape your body and dispel the bad habits of posture, etc that it has collected over your life. But also with this follows frustration that part of yourself is reminding you to give up, stop, don't put up with this.



At times you will dislike the teacher, because of any one thing that he has done, but mainly that he is showing you your weak points and is making you face them. Of course, at this stage of training a high dropout rate exists in most Martial Arts, only because it seems that the Art has become your worse nightmare.



Even so, the above can appear at any time at any level to anyone (just like a pimple) and can put you to the hardest test in any one's training, confronting oneself. This is where true practise takes place, to overcome yourself, by getting up off the chair and training. Arising one hour earlier and training before the day appears or practising at night before you retire.



That is what men (I should say warriors) like Donn Draeger, Otake Risuke, Masaaki Hatsumi, Morihei Ueshiba and many more have learnt in their study and practise of Martial Arts.



This also sets the standard for students who don't turn up to class, but think they are training or teachers who only teach and think this is complete training. It is only the way the above men were taught and that allows them to see the true path to follow, and that didn't happen by watching their teachers sit around doing nothing.



True practise is a very time-consuming commitment to an Art but the reward is beyond words, just ask.



Many people in many arts have tales of masters who could do amazing feats within the Arts they practised, but only because they set their hearts to learn and never once did they allow the inner self to defeat them, no matter what they felt.



They learnt that at times you are going to be hacked off with the training and even with the teacher. But they also realized that these things were soon left behind as they are a natural part of learning.



Today you must find that same heart, the heart that is called fearlessness for only with this can you truly excel in a Martial Art. This is how I study in my Art; this is how understanding my art and its teachers has helped me.


So Good Luck to all and practise, practise, practise.




Ninjutsu - An Unchanged Art

By Shidoshi Michael Gent (1958 – 2006)



The expression Ninja (when written using Kanji, the Chinese characters in which most of the Japanese language is written) is pronounced in Chinese style, and consists of two separate ideograms; NIN and SHA. In Japanese, it is written to mean SHINOBI and MONO. Both of these ways are to do with concealment and hiding. Let’s find out the rest of the truth behind the myth of the Ninja.



Well in this article, I have confronted the subject of the Ninja. There are so many views to such a misunderstood word. Is it an art or a dream, an idea or a fantasy?

Firstly, the image of the Ninja is of a black clad unknown super human who spied and assassinated everybody; they could disappear at the drop of a hat. That is the most well known concept that everyone in martial arts brings to mind when the word Ninja is heard.



Maybe some of these ideas have an element of truth to them, but I intend to lead you, the reader, on a more common sense approach by saying that the Ninja tactics were nothing more then unconventional Samurai warfare. When one begins to read form the record of ancient events called the KOJIKI (remember that the Japanese recorded everything) one soon realises that the Samurai used every tactic to win.



These men, called Shinobi Mono were Samurai of a lower class and so were given tasks that could cost their life.

To understand this fully we must break down the Samurai ideals

1         They were the military and ruling class of Japan.

2         They were retainers of very powerful landowners, who controlled huge areas of Japan.

3         They used war to settle disputes.



These Shinobi Mono men as we see from history were well educated, fiercely full of pride and well trained in the arts of war. These were the Ninja. They studied a variety of arts ranging from unarmed combat to horsemanship and calligraphy to swordsmanship with loyalty to their lords that defies belief, (they would if ordered take their own life). The Samurai and the Ninja or if you like Shinobi Mono were one and the same men, all fighting to stay alive in a time that most of us martial artists today would stand in horror of. The arts in that period weren’t called by the names that we have come to know so well, they were only part of the warrior’s martial training.



It was not until the late 18th  to early 19th century that a few brave men stepped forward and created fighting arts centred around one aspect of strategy – Jigoro Kano for Judo Morihei Ueshiba for Aikido and Nakanishi Chuta for Kendo to name a few. They created rules or something new with the meaning of NO LOSS OF LIFE. But some Ryu never went through that transformation, arts like Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu, Itto Ryu and of course Ninjutsu. For those Samurai, the old ways of training to become a warrior weren’t taken lightly and many refused to pass on the teachings.



Ok so let’s get down to the dark side of the history of Samurai life. Japan was at war with itself, warlords fighting for control of land and power, many men being killed or changing sides. There were many Chinese soldiers fleeing to Japan from their own country’s war.  These soldiers brought their own knowledge of warfare to Japan which was absorbed into the Samurai way of life.



Warfare started to change - Why?


 A book was introduced into Japan on warfare. It was written by a Chinese man called Sun Tzu or as the Japanese called him Son Shi, this being around the 4th to the 6th century BC. The art of war is the first great military classic and has exerted an influence on martial thinking ever since.

The account on spies was to become recognised as Ninja lore and is the 13th chapter of this work. The chapter is called KAN and some details as follows.



1.       Inlan - Native agents, this refers to the employment by ones own side of inhabitants, usually villagers, of an enemies province or country.

2.       Naikan - Inside agents, are the officials of an enemy government whom ones own side takes into its pay.

3.       Yukan - Literally means friendly agents, but the context explains that the understanding is of them being double agents.

4.       Shikan - Agents of death is the chilling title for those of ones own agents who are regarded as expendable.

5.       Shokan – Living agents are the classic Ninja like spies, who go into enemy territory and return with valuable information. For this purpose men are selected who have a high degree of intelligence and hardness. They must also be agile, brave and knowledgeable. They must be able to gain access to those of the enemy who are closest to the seat of power. It is no wonder Sun Tsu places such agents on the highest of pedestals.



From the pages of this book the tactics of the Ninja were born. Born from Samurai who wanted to win in the battlefield employing all and any means to do this. So what happened between then and now? Simply really, the media took the myth and made it into a movie and the ninja became supermen.



These men had great skill, as the times they lived in were very hard indeed and I amm sure that men of that day could do feats that would shock us. But it is the Westerner who has exploded these stories, for the facts can be found in any history books in the schools in Japan, if one looks hard enough or has the desire to know a little of the truth.



And what of the Ninja today. Well Ninjutsu is still taught in Japan, but one learns of the battlefields, just as one would have many years ago. Arts that were meant to win at all costs, with a history that stems into the bloody conflicts of that time.



One can also learn the art of Ninjutsu in New Zealand, taught with all its richness and history, a richness that covers many aspects of the Budo arts and history, a richness that covers many aspects of Budo combat from weapons to unarmed.



Even today, in Japan the Soke of the school spends more time on this ‘feeling’, the Tai-Jutsu (body movement) of the art than he does on the different techniques.

The art of Ninjutsu is a Budo art, but it is just like any other art, a bad teacher makes a bad art, a person with little skill will make do with whatever he can do to attract students and this is where the real heartache is. Schools like the Bujinkan Maai Hyoshi have worked hard to gain respect for their choosen art, respect for their training and respect for their students.

Ninjutsu is an unchanged art and hopefully will remain that way.


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