At a recent private seminar for 15 special friends at my personal house dojo, I explored 3 specific open-ended topics that the high rankers in To-Shin Do will focus on this year.
First, we are challenged to translate a late 1500s Japanese martial art into relevance in 2016 in America and Europe. This is a much bigger deal than it sounds like on first reading. We need to examine the current cultural climate. People do not fight like they did in 1500s Japan. We need to carefully study and understand how trouble makers go about attacking good citizens these days. This means studying police reports, YouTube videos, and currently popular arts like MMA and Brazilian jujutsu to be clear about what is happening on the streets now.
We next need to thoroughly understand what I studied in the 1970s. Kata are preserved as a means of teaching viable fighting skills. But too many people training with my teacher merely re-enact the moves. There is so much more to be learned. Certainly, a traditional kata teaches some specific things – secrets for success in a fighting clash. But there is also a principle that is taught in the movements of the kata. This principle is even more important to learn than the mere moves. Any given scroll might have 8 to 12 kata principles taught to those who know how to extract the true deeper lessons.
Then we need to understand how people learn. There are more or less appropriate techniques for a white belt, a green belt, a 2nd degree black belt, a 6th degree black belt. We need to pace the learning so that people are focusing on the most appropriate things for their experience level. Immediately useful techniques, that secretly teach principles, are needed in the beginning months of training. Later we can expand on the more subtle – and thereby devastating – aspects of true ninpo taijutsu. It is no small thing to design a practical and useful and encouraging curriculum for learning self-defense martial arts.
Sure, it is interesting for some to practice an antiquated martial art just the way they did it 500 years ago, but that is not our promise to people in 2016. The promise of 20-year-old To-Shin Do is to offer a relevant and useful 21st century program of training for self-defense and self-development, based on timeless principles handed down by the ninja families of Japan. We need to update the applications without changing the principles. This is my first commitment to offering the most relevant self-defense system we can.
(Read about An-shu’s second and third commitment in future issues of Ninja Now!)