Back in the 1980s, I had very few actual students studying the ninja martial arts with me. Instead of running a dojo, I ran seminars around the world.
Into the 1990s, I had 13 actual challenges come up at these seminars. Guys figured that if I was on the cover of Black Belt Magazine, and they beat me, THEY would then be on the cover of Black Belt.
They were underhandedly sneaky. I was in “teaching and helping mode”, and the challengers were in “put it all on the line mode”. It would take me a moment to realize that a challenge was happening, that the “student” was in actuality testing me and not at all asking me to teach him.
I was successful in all challenges, but it was quite unnerving. What about liability laws? Could I have been sued after sometimes drawing blood from another person? Or what if what I had to do to shift emphasis from actual scrapping to a more calm handling of the challenge was perceived by less mature participants as “backing down”? Or maybe there was a team of challengers who would move into action while I was responding to the one mouthy guy?
I have not had any serious challenges in recent years, discounting of course internet huff and puff insults, where I am invited to get on a plane and go to where the challenger is and attempt to defeat him there. But those are mere trolls; I do not take those as serious challenges. And of course now I’m 73 years old.
But those challenges were an important and crucial part of my career. In those challenges, I quickly realized that I had to alter the 1500s Japanese fighting style to fit a 20th century American and European underhanded attack. I was forced to face the reality that my historical training in Japan was but one stepping stone in my path of progress. Thus was born the need for a To-Shin Do in my life. I have never looked back.