Ninja Self Defense Find the ninja in you! Sat, 24 Jan 2015 06:34:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 We’re Growing Fast! Mon, 12 Jan 2015 16:05:44 +0000
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To all of our subscribers,

The response to has been overwhelmingly positive! People like you have helped make a little experiment more popular than we planned for at the present time. We are happy to announce that we’re upgrading our platform to be better prepared to accommodate this enormous growth.

Some key improvements are:

  • Receive subscription payments from additional payment gateways, such as credit cards
  • A new learning platform that will allow you to pick up a course or curriculum of courses where you left off
  • The opportunity for us to provide assessments as you progress through your training
  • Vastly easier administration of subscription renewals and upgrades to serve you better
  • An integration of the To-Shin Do online pro shop, which includes tickets to training events

We are extremely excited about our new platform and are working hard to make the transition as seamless as possible.

The transition has been scheduled for Saturday January 17th and Sunday January 18th. New sign-ups at will be disabled during this time. The site will be offline on occasion during these two days.

After the transition, you will receive an email from us with a new password to use when you log in. Please follow the instructions that you receive to ensure that your access to is uninterrupted. As of Monday January 19th, your old login will no longer work.

Please email if you have any questions, and we appreciate your support through this transition to a better platform and a better learning experience for all of us who love to train in To-Shin Do.

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Do You Guys Spar? Mon, 12 Jan 2015 16:04:18 +0000
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A difficult question to answer. Difficult because I know the answer will be misused by people not sympathetic to our training methods.

Fast answer is there was very little “sparring” in the dojo back in the 1970s.

The classics, when done the way they were practiced in the 1970s, were applied as a flow of such abuse that there was little opportunity to “bounce back” with a reply technique. Hits to limbs and joints were immediately followed by ripping grabs to secure and unbalance, followed by unsportsmanlike head-butts and pull-downs into ground locks and finishes. Takedowns invariably involved joints being driven into the floor with knees, fish-hook pulls into the cheek, and windpipe crushes with the fingers.

The classics were developed to deal with a fully committed adrenaline-soaked murderous battlefield assault. Boom – the guy is 100% on you. There is no room for the set-up or “feeling out” that permits effective sparring as I experienced in my time of competition karate, wrestling, and kickboxing years ago. A major part of this 100% assault is the psychic energy that explodes out from an aggressor who is freight-train direct in his absolute lack of self-referencing awareness and complete imperviousness to any thought of possibly being harmed himself. It’s the, “I won’t ‘spar’, but I will chew your ears off as I kill you,” kind of maniacal intention that happens in wars.

Yes, I know that answer is not popular with young martial artists enamored of MMA/BJJ competitive training today. But all I can say is that the severity of the pain and the directness of the onslaught did not allow much back-and-forth that one might associate with boxing or judo or wrestling training.

And… in another post I will give my views on why we now choose to do more “freer style” training in our To-Shin Do dojos today, even though that was not the way I was taught in Japan 40 years ago.

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Choosing Peace From a Position of Power Mon, 12 Jan 2015 15:54:41 +0000
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Why do we train with such dedication? Well, for one thing, it’s fun; got to have fun! Beyond that, for very serious To-Shin Do students and teachers this is a life style. It’s a healthy life style for mind, body and spirit. To my mind there is a component to this life style choice that informs and shapes the nature of our training and indeed who we become as a result of our training.

I believe the cultivation of compassion for all living things, including ourselves (not as easy as one might think), is an inherent part of the To-Shin Do (the way of the heart and the sword) life path. In my nearly six decades of walking around the planet I have seen more than enough senseless violence and needless bloodshed. The last thing this already-troubled world needs is more violence. This is one reason why To-Shin Do training does not include contest violence. To-Shin Do training is not about who can be temporarily designated and celebrated as the “best fighter.”

We train ultimately to improve ourselves; our minds, our bodies, our life and health management skills, and the ways in which we engage the world. In this way we can have a brighter life experience, and in so doing we improve the parts of the world we live in and interact with. There are many paths to this end. Because we have chosen the way of martial arts we train physically and psychologically to be prepared to manage successfully any event in which the universe has placed us in harms way. For example, when a confused and misguided individual is intent on doing harm to ourselves or loved ones.

In such a case I have heard proponents of peace suggest that they would turn the other cheek. This phrase, which can be traced to Jesus’s sermon on the mount, is not a mandate to passively endure physical abuse or mortal danger. The intent was more of an injunction against retaliation against affronts to the ego as opposed to protecting oneself from physical harm. In other words, when non-violence is an option it is always the best option.

My sense is that those who are too quick to invoke this “turn the other cheek” doctrine as a credo for the enlightened pacifist may be demonstrating the absence of having a choice. That is why I believe it is the wise and seasoned warrior who grasps the breadth and depth of personal empowerment in choosing peace from a position of power. When one has the power to easily vanquish an adversary yet chooses compassion, understanding, and non-violence as a course of action, this is choosing peace from a position of power. This sense of enlightened personal power is ultimately, I believe, what captures the hearts and minds of die hard practitioners of our way of the heart and sword.

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Kamae 構 Base Mon, 12 Jan 2015 15:30:52 +0000
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Spend any time at all in a To-Shin Do dojo, or watch any of our courses, and you’ll hear us talk about kamae all the time. Without the proper structure to our body, techniques don’t work the way they should and we open ourselves up to more dangers. Without good kamae, we create more potential problems instead of creating more potential solutions.

“Knees bent, back straight, hands up,” are words that echo in every training space. Those are the essential points of good kamae, and we want to be constantly aware of them. There are also some other important ways of training with kamae, so here we’ll explore that concept a little further.

The sixth of our twelve keys is:


“Good flexed-knee foundation for balance and mobility – Head over shoulders, …over hips, …over feet? Face safe? Hands cover targets? Legs ready to protect”
-An-shu Stephen K. Hayes, To-Shin Do Official Curriculum

The first step in studying kamae is finding our body in the correct position to use our skeleton for strength and balance, instead of muscles alone. In general terms this means shoulders over hip, hips over ankles, and the spine in a straight alignment. We want to constantly check to be sure we are not out of place or out of balance. Without proper kamae we have lost our own balance control, have a much harder time controlling the opponent’s balance, our ma-ai timing, our coordination, all of these other skills within our twelve keys fall apart quickly. Good kamae also means we are able to effectively use our tools when and where we need them. If our strike or kick feels slow or weak or clunky, one of the first things to check is whether or not we started in good kamae.

As we get more comfortable with proper posture, another level of practice is to be aware of all the advantages within each kamae we use. Whether it is unarmed, sword, bo, or any tool whatsoever, how we hold ourselves and the weapon creates certain openings, and takes away certain openings. Hold our hands one way and it is more likely we’ll get punched in the stomach rather than the face, for example. It also can change which strike or cut we would ourselves use. There are natural ways to attack with a sword from daijodan no kamae, for example, and there are ways that are more awkward and easier to see the cut coming.

Another level of this concept has us examine kamae from the inside. If our body is trying to charge forward with fire energy, but our mind and spirit want the space and comfort of water distancing, then our body might be in perfect kamae, but we are out of kamae on the inside. Our kokoro-gamae, the kamae of our heart or spirit is not where it should be. Having the right intention and focus of spirit is just as much kamae, and just as important, as the alignment of our spine, just as important as our mi-gamae or kamae of our body. If the spirit is in the right place, often the body will find its way into kamae.

We can also start looking at our attacker’s kamae, which will lead to the key we will explore next month, controlling balance. Kamae is a rich and important concept to explore. Having one of these ideas as a focus of training on a regular basis is vital for taking our taijutsu skills to the next level … no matter what that next level is.

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Science of Striking Mon, 12 Jan 2015 15:21:49 +0000
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We had a question about striking in class recently from a newer student who had trained in boxing and karate. We were doing some pad work with jabs and cross punches. He made note of how different it was from what he had done before.

It seemed to him that the difference between the styles of punching he had learned and what we were teaching him was that they have different main purposes. He felt in boxing and karate the idea was to try to overpower your opponent, so the mechanics are designed to hit with as much force as possible. To him at this early stage it seemed the focus of taijutsu was more on controlling space and balance.

Warning: Science Geek Alert, I’m about to go geek.

My response was that actually the difference is in the mechanics not the purposes. Taijutsu is capable of hitting with very great force while at the same time having the benefit of still being in good balance and cover.

F = M x A    Force is equal to mass times acceleration.

For most striking is done by accelerating the fist with the muscles of the body. At contact if you were to draw a line back from the impact point there would be nothing behind it accept arm. With taijutsu at contact if you were to draw a line back the entire body is directly behind it.

The average adult’s arm is 6% of body weight, so in my case I weigh 250 pounds, my arm would be 15 pounds. Using my body weight behind my punches (even if I only get 30% of it behind) and using gravity for the acceleration, which is how taijutsu works, my force generated would be:

F = (30% of 250pounds = 75 pounds) * 32 feet per second squared.

If I put my arm’s weight of 15 pounds into the equation the acceleration I would need to equal this would have to be FIVE times the speed of gravity. That is not going to happen. My muscles cannot generate that much speed.

Taijutsu will overpower most any target. It just does it with elegant mechanics that don’t need to use force to create force. One of the ways to practice this is to use ideas from kenjutsu (sword work) to make sure your strikes are done with taijutsu.

Remember our system was developed on the battlefields of ancient Japan. There were not many reasons to fight unarmed. Its one of the beauties of our system, no matter what weapon you use or if you are armed or unarmed the taijutsu is the same.

To take advantage of this when practicing strikes I ask myself how would I move if I had a sword in my hand instead of just a punch. Would I being snapping my hand forward from the shoulder or would I being sinking into gravity to pull my weapon out in front of me? After I make contact with the target I check my alignment. If I put a sword in my hand at that point would I be in correct kamae?

These ideas helped me to discover how to delver very powerful tsuki, omote shuto, and ura shuto strikes. From there it is easy to take the concepts to all the other strikes.

If you want to learn how to kick really well…pick up a bo staff.

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From “…The Cold Moon” Mon, 12 Jan 2015 15:01:44 +0000
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Here is a New Year’s Extra from An-shu Hayes and A short excerpt from Wisdom from the Ninja Village of The Cold Moon

Despite the love you feel
and the joy you radiate
there are those misguided persons in the world
who would see you harmed.
They will confront you with fists
or await you in the darkness with blades drawn.
Do not fear them
or become angry with them.
Allow your heart to hold the emptiness of purity.
Your receptive spirit will hear the sadness and rage
of your attackers’ intentions
and your body will flow
with the winds of their hatred.
You will take them to the destruction they seek.
And as the dust settles
and the blood dries
do not let your own joy decrease
nor find the world any less beautiful
simply because some persons refuse to see you
with eyes that love.

Wisdom from the Ninja Village of the Cold Moon, by Stephen K. Hayes. Now available on Amazon for Kindle devices.

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The Art of Winning Sat, 13 Dec 2014 19:57:17 +0000
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I remember a conversation I had with my ninja martial arts teacher way back in the 1970s. I was in my twenties and had just moved to Japan to become a student in the grandmaster’s home dojo. I asked my teacher what was the most important thing to remember about martial arts training. “Why do we train?”

I was surprised at the bluntness of my teacher’s answer. I was expecting some lofty or highly philosophical answer, but he merely replied, “Katsu tame ni”, which is Japanese for, “In order to win.”

We train so that we can learn how to be winners. It really is just that simple. It really is just that uncomplicated. We do not train for the sake of beating others or making others losers. We do not train for the thrill of carrying out cruel violence. We do not train for the point of impressing other people, or proving ourselves as better, stronger, or meaner than others.

Katsu tame ni. We train for the sake of becoming winners. The way I now put it is, “The art of winning is the way of getting what I need in life in such a way that the world is a better place because of it.”

In many respects, this is why I became a professional martial arts teacher. I wanted to make the world a better place by way of receiving the kind of training and experience I needed so that I could become the most authentic me possible. What do you want? How would the world be a better place if you won and got what you needed? What are you willing to take on in order to be a winner like that?

After almost 50 years in the martial arts, I acknowledge that my childhood vow was to be a person who stopped violence. In order to do that, to win by getting what I wanted by becoming a force for stopping violence, I had to learn how violence works. I did not like violence as a young person, and so I had to learn all about how violence operates in order to learn how to make it stop. It was my path to have to come to grips with why there is violence in the world, and how violence is such a compelling choice for so many people.

By the nature of the word “violence”, a violent situation means someone will get hurt. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, or financially, someone is always damaged when violence happens. As a practitioner of the ninja martial arts, I had to learn how to neutralize an aggressor’s damage with techniques more sophisticated than mere brute force butting against brute force. I had to give up training in “how to not lose” and replace it with “how to win”. I had to learn to change my perspective to see any given moment from a more winning view point, and I came to see that controlling my own perspective is one of the keys to winning.

Sometimes people misunderstand my martial arts career and ask why I do not have a lot of trophies, medals, or championship belts after all these years. They ask why I do not regularly leap into a cage to try to defeat another man, or join some private army to test my killing skills. Clearly, their definition of winning in the martial arts is based on a standard that has no motivating force for me. My definition of winning through a martial arts lifestyle is based on what I need, and what I perceive will provide the biggest gift to the world.

Katsu tame ni. Warrior winners clearly define what they need, know what it takes to win, and then go about getting it done. And if they are noble warriors, the world is a better place because they won.

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Shu-Chu 集中 Focus Sat, 13 Dec 2014 14:12:19 +0000
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One of the twelve keys already discussed was about gathering as much knowledge as possible. In this concept we are looking at how and where we can gather that needed information in a conflict so that we can make the right decisions. Learning new ways to take in information, and being able to direct our focus on the correct area, or more precisely, on the big picture, can often mean success or failure when dealing with a problem.

Think about how easy it is to make a mistake if you don’t have all the information, or how easy it is to become distracted so you don’t see what you need. Directing focus toward something not important is what makes sleight of hand tricks seem like such wonderful magic. Less entertaining than a magic show, is letting our focus be directed somewhere we don’t want it to go by someone who does not have our best interests in mind, by someone who wants us distracted so their own goals and not ours can be met. Or we may find ourselves betrayed from the inside, with our own mind aiming us toward something that distracts us from the bigger goal we need to accomplish.

The fifth of our twelve keys is:


“Use your eyes and mind and sensitivity to connect to the whole picture so you can judge the problem and make the right decisions under pressure”
-An-shu Stephen K. Hayes, To-Shin Do Official Curriculum

This key is about how we take in information. Keeping your mind in the moment and paying attention is the beginning, of course. But where to keep focus, or how wide or specific to keep focus, are crucial ideas. Focusing on something too narrow (such as the knife in the attacker’s hand) can lead to tunnel vision and create a lack of awareness somewhere else. Too wide of focus and you run the danger of missing a detail (such as the handle of the knife protruding from the belt).

Moving forward into the training, we also need to learn to focus with more than just our eyes or mind. Our hands, our legs, all of us can connect with the attacker and be aware of what is going on around us. The more information we have, the better we will be able to make that right decision.

Try these exercises to develop more tools for taking in information:

Exercise One
As you practice a technique, where are your eyes as you are doing through the entire process? What are you looking at? Try keeping your gaze around their upper chest as an experiment. See if you can take in the whole body, and still be able to tell when their attack starts from the movement of their chest.

Exercise Two
Have your training partner tuck a training knife into their belt while performing unarmed techniques. Once or twice during your training session (not every time or the drill loses its purpose!) your partner will reach down in the middle of the technique and touch the knife handle (but not draw it). Your goal is to notice when this happens.

Exercise Three
Any time a part of your body is touching your training partner, what does that touch tell you about your partner? Do you feel tension? Do you feel balance? Go very, very slow through a technique and pay attention to touch and you’ll be amazed at how much information you can take in this way.

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Resolutions Or Plans? Fri, 12 Dec 2014 18:53:02 +0000
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For many years just like most people I would make resolutions for the new year. Things like try to eat better, lose weight or get more sleep. All of which are excellent ideas but they usually fell by the wayside as the year progressed. In recent years I have given up resolutions and instead made specific plans based on cause and effect.

Studying cause and effect allows me to let go of disappointment and frustration with the perceived failure of my resolutions. Instead I look at my goals, for example we want to grow the student base at the school this year. The question is how?

Well we have studied over the last year what worked and didn’t work to bring students in so we have a good handle on the projects that need to be done. We line all these projects up and then figure out what has to happen or be done and in what order for each to succeed. What the cause of each successful effect we want is so we can plan.

This as you can imagine gives us quite a To Do list but we don’t call it that anymore because looking at it that way can be overwhelming. We look at it more as a holding pen for our actions. Then each day we take only one or maybe two but no more out and that becomes our action for the day. It may not seem like much but with the understanding of cause and effect we know that the one action we complete today will lead eventually to the desired effect.

Try it this year, forgo the resolution that will be forgotten in a month and pick a target instead. Work backwards to figure out all the steps to get there. Then take action each day.

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Success, Power, and Freedom Wed, 12 Nov 2014 18:14:33 +0000
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(With thanks to Mark Morgan Ford)

Many of us got into martial arts training with the goal of becoming successful, powerful, and free ( as opposed to living at-risk, being weak, and feeling dominated by others). Would you agree?

The first step towards the goal of success, power, and freedom is learning how to think like a successful, powerful, and free human being. Discover how successful, powerful, and free human beings do what they do, and then figure out and study how they think, and you may be able to upgrade your thinking to where you to have the kind of life successful, powerful, and free people enjoy.

Some Investigated Observations

From a lifetime of studying successful, powerful, and free people, here are some truths I’ve found:

  1. “Average” people are concerned with protecting their ego. When faced with a problem they do not truly understand, they pretend to be an authority and leap into action without finding out what anyone else knows. People with a success oriented mind ask questions unceasingly. They have no ego when it comes to learning. They know that more knowledge leads to more power.
  2. “Average” people have a consumer mentality. They see some hot new thing and dream about owning it. People with a success oriented mind have an entrepreneurial mentality. They look at what everyone else longs for and think, “How can I produce something similarly desirable in my own work?”
  3. “Average” people are wish-focused. They have a dim hope of magically making money without having to work hard. People with a success oriented mind are based in awakened reality. They constantly analyze their own success and comparatively consider how they could learn from the success of others.
  4. “Average” people resist change. They accept the status quo as “what is and must be”. People with a success oriented mind engage change. They see in change new opportunities to make things – even good things – better.
  5. “Average” people , when confronted with a challenging idea, think of all the reasons why it might not work. People with a success oriented mind see the potential and disregard possible problems until they have a clear vision of how it might succeed.
  6. “Average” people react in surprise. People with a success oriented mind are ahead of the curve proactive.
  7. “Average” people look at a successful and accomplished person and block their own power with comments like, “That woman’s just selfish” or “That guy’s a sell-out.” People with a success oriented mind ponder, “So, what’s their secret?” and “How can I do that?”
  8. “Average” people justify and even glamorize their failures. They look at successful people and twist that success into some sort of negative thing, as though success and power are somehow shameful things and being weak and dominated are to be admired. People with a success oriented mind stay focused on the benefits they seek by way of sharing something of value with others.
  9. Most importantly, people with a success oriented mind feel no guilt over living with the comfort, dignity, and elegance that come with being a successful, powerful, and free person. Rather than believing that suffering is noble, they think, “If I’m alive, alert, aware, and awake, I can create the means to live the way a human being is supposed to live.

Study this list and honestly assess your own impulses. Identify the good habits you don’t have and practice developing them. And one more way to begin living like a successful, powerful, and free person: Instead of thinking of this process as tough work, think of it as a fun adventure.

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