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The Worst Advice I Ever Got

Worst advice I ever got? “Shut up and train. Don’t bother me with silly questions about people or techniques. Just do what I say. Practice the martial arts in their unchanging classical form and you can easily adapt them to modern 21st century self protection; it will be simple.”

Wrong on all points. I studied an antique form of Japanese martial arts in the 1970s, and did thoroughly enjoy it. But people in 2020s America fight very differently from people in 1500s Japan. When I returned to America in the 1980s, I found a vastly different landscape than I had encountered in Japan a decade earlier. I desperately needed to change the techniques and especially substitute how aggressors attacked in modern America, while at the same time saving the all-important principles taught in the ninja martial art. Such a major transformation required an enormous body of questions that needed years of careful and accurate answers.

Of course, not all those who studied in Japan were happy with my need to update the techniques. I was criticized or written off by die-hard traditionalists who feared my radical stance. They would dismiss my years of exploratory work with comments that you could easily convert the techniques to a modern slant if you needed to. Which was totally untrue. When an emergency situation like a surprise attack on the street happens, you will instinctively respond with what you are most deeply familiar with. The intellect crashes down, fine motor skills immediately fail, and you lose auditory and visual broadness. You will do what you have done the most for the longest period of time. You have to actually practice what you hope to deliver, over and over.

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