An-shu Stephen K. Hayes teaches his approach to the four elements as four specific physio-emotional responses to an attack. Earth holding ground, water tactically repositioning, fire intercepting, and wind evading are the four key ways of movement to explore in your beginning study of To-Shin Do.
Courses by Stephen K. Hayes
Join An-shu as he delivers a one-hour virtual seminar on the elements of the mandala, from a martial art perspective.
In this course, An-shu Stephen K. Hayes takes students through several examples of how to successfully break the form in order to win. Unarmed taijutsu, knife combat, and hanbo cane fighting are offered as examples of the concept of how to employ the special mind set of kata yaburi.
This is an extremely advanced application of principles from the Gyokko Ryu Chu-Ryaku no Maki “Middle Scroll” of training methods. An-shu Stephen K. Hayes shows how to capture a knifer’s attack. Once captured, he then stays with it long enough to sense where the attacker is going, and he accommodates the attacker in a way […]
The course is required for those who would like to become a Hombu-Registered Trainer or Instructor.
An-shu details 弾 手 Dan-Shu (“Blink-of-an-eye hand hit” or “Bullet hand”) from Gyokko Ryu Kosshijutsu Joryaku
An-shu Hayes demonstrates various Ganseki Nage interpretations at his annual Ninja Festival.
This course covers grabbing attacks and limb restraints from the side and rear, as well as tackle takedowns. An-Shu Hayes and his instructors cover in depth technique details, drills, and target work, designed to give instructors tools to create dynamic earth level classes!
This course covers front striking attacks and limb restraints from the earth element. An-Shu Hayes and his instructors cover in depth technique details, drills, and target work, designed to give instructors tools to create dynamic earth level classes!
Learn grabbing attacks and defenses from the water element. This course covers in depth technique details, drills, and target work, designed to give instructors tools to take water level classes to the next level!
Explore striking attacks and defenses from the water element. This course covers in depth technique details, drills, and target work, designed to give instructors tools to take water level classes to the next level!
Explore some of the key 6th Degree To-Shin Do Black Belt principles and techniques with An-shu Stephen K. Hayes.
An-shu gives a from-the-heart explanation and interpretation of training in spiritual protection power projection for martial artists. This is the ninja legendary Kuji Kiri, showing Initiation into Kuji Kiri Grid of 9 Syllable Slashes.
The Kuki Shinden Ryu taijutsu exercise Gyaku Nage was most likely originally taught as a way to learn to fight an adversary in Japanese samurai armor. That is how my teacher first taught it to me in Japan in the 1970s.
The principle of ‘cutting the cut’ looks like a simple way to win when your adversary underestimates you, but you need bravery, precision, and well-practiced skill to make it work. We show you the secrets for Happo Giri as part of our dojo’s program for earning 4th Degree Black Belt.
Techniques to understand the wind element will bring you closer to your To-Shin Do Black Belt. Body positioning, kamae, and timing are the keys to success.
Lessons from the scrolls of Gyokko Ryu, Koto Ryu, Takagi Yoshin Ryu, Shinden Fudo Ryu, Kukishinden Ryu and Togakure Ryu for advanced understanding of the roots of To-Shin Do.
Explore Water and Fire elemental taijutsu and add alignment and timing principles to your self defense training.
Posts by Stephen K. Hayes
Traditional martial arts training, back when martial arts prepared the practitioner for living accurately and safely, offers us a series of five states of mind to explore while training and moving about in the world. 初 心 Sho-shin, the “beginners mind”,a state of awareness that remains fully prepared to enjoy things for the first time. […]
Some scholars have in the past ten years translated into English some of the ancient classic books of ninja reference. An-shu Rumiko and I never considered doing such translation work. One, I did not think there was a big enough book buying audience to justify the enormous amount of work it would have taken. Two, […]
After 50+ years of teaching martial arts, some things stand out. Let’s take a look at 12 bare-bones gotta-do-it To-Shin Do skills as minimal requirements. In To-Shin Do Level 1 classes (White and Yellow Belts) as you practice the 12 fight scenarios and basic striking and ground-hitting skills, you have to constantly remember 3 things: […]
I was asked how I define our work, and specifically, what makes the Quest Center To-Shin Do schools stand out. Here is what I ended up replying: Vision: Life mastery through martial arts Mission: To encourage peace, happiness, friendship, and fulfillment through the practice of modern and classical protection, health and fitness, life organization, and […]
“An ant on the move is more powerful than a dozing ox.” – Lao Tzu Even though we start from humble beginnings, we can rise to lead a extraordinary life. If little practices are repeated consistently over time, we can improve ourselves and advance in capabilities. We come to the dojo two or three times […]
Something I will be emphasizing in seminars this year is the differentiation between concepts, principles, and technique instructions. If our students know the concept of good taijutsu and know the principle being taught, it may help them do their techniques more correctly. A CONCEPT is an overarching description that applies to everything we do. “Rely […]
When people come into our schools as white belts, they learn a three-part Student Code, or student creed, and promise to abide by it. We tell them right up front: “These are the three things you must remember whenever you’re doing anything dangerous, whether it’s a surf board, or a bungee jump, or martial arts […]
Growth of To-Shin Do in clubs and dojos is always a good thing. More people have more of an opportunity to study our martial art in person in their own city. Here’s something that should be mentioned as we grow. You need to be sure that your teaching staff is up to date and teaching […]
What if martial arts training is really an interactive experience of order and chaos? When there is an imbalance, there is less than effective training. You need to have order — the discipline, respect, and intelligently paced learning. You also need the chaos — free testing, the “try it outs”, and “what ifs”. When you […]
A few advanced black belts are taking private Skype lessons with me, studying aspects of kuji no ho “nine syllables of aspects of power”. I warned them that we can explore kuji, but it will feel different from studying taijutsu together. With taijutsu instruction, I tell you what to change, you do it, and you […]
I am 70, and have seen so many cultural fads come and go over the decades. WWII vets got parades; Viet Nam vets got spat on; Iraq vets got applauded in airports. Black and white were segregated in the 1930s; black and white were integrated in the 1970s; blacks demanded black-only spaces on college campuses […]
On our final Saturday of our Vajrakilaya retreat at Pema Ts’al Monastery in the Nepalese Himalayas, Eric Gadol, Lauren Garst, and Geoff Garst went with Rigzin Wangdu and me into Pokhara city to do a guest teaching for my friend Fatta Gurung. Fatta is a karate teacher who teaches Nepalese police officers hand-to-hand survival, so […]
Do not get mad at conditions in your life. That is pointless. What a waste of time and energy. Get mad about your reluctance to do something about those conditions. If you are not just a little bit angry about your condition — the shape you are in, the way you look, how you fit […]
In a third possibility, Hi no Kata fire element dynamics are the energy of committed intensity and focus. You learn to recognize a problem as it builds. You intercept at just the right moment. Theme – Clinging becomes desire which leads to energy The fire influence shows up as the magnetic power of energy, artistry, […]
Let’s continue our review the five elements that form the base for To-Shin Do training from the inside out. In this issue of Ninja Now, we”ll look at the water element. Theme – Knowledge leads to power Sui no Kata water element dynamics are the tactics of power and knowledge, self-discovery, strategy, and individuality. This […]
Let’s review the five elements that form the base for To-Shin Do training from the inside out. In this issue of Ninja Now, we’ll look at the earth element. The ground-holding power-exertion of the earth element shows up as the opposite of the free-moving evasive wind element, which will be described later From the earth […]
Several years ago, Rumiko and I were invited as special guests to a showcase of Japanese karate instructors. These were the men who brought karate to the USA in the 1960s when I was just dreaming about studying the martial arts. All were in their late 60s and 70s. The senior master instructors performed their […]
I have a curriculum all my friends use in their To-Shin Do dojos, from white belt through 6th Degree. 7th and 8th Degree are somewhat special, worked out between each individual student and me. My current major project is a rework of 4th and 5th Degree. The old curriculum was designed in the late 1980s. […]
Martial arts masters who share the gift of inspiration with us radiate something we feel in their presence: We pick up a quality in them that resonates within ourselves. They are what we want to be. We recognize their high spiritual energy, which we long to have active in our life. When we meet a […]
The following comes from a 1981 issue of Kick Illustrated magazine. I had some pretty bold and controversial opinions 37 years ago. How does this read today? I think I am still saying the same thing! Another area that Hayes feels is sadly neglected in current martial arts training is contemporary weapons. He stresses that […]
To successfully pass a Third Degree Black Belt test in To-Shin Do, you want to be sure that you know and can perform the Third Degree training exercises. I am not being funny or cute here. I am being painfully direct. It seems that some teachers have their students test for Third Degree apparently without […]
Get out of the dojo and into nature now and then. No healthier way to discharge pent-up energies. The mind-body throws off its excess energies spontaneously when you remove yourself from the artificial confines of your everyday world. Find a green open space, an expansive view of sky and clouds, a lungful of pure air. […]
In case you missed this important information from last month it is being reprinted again. Licensed Instructors, we have very few requirements governing your participation as head of a To-Shin Do club or school. The following are not new points. Most people have been observing these for years. But it might be good to state […]
To-Shin Do was developed with two purposes in mind. First, it is a modern adaptation of ancient ninja combat art philosophies. The techniques have been matched to the most common pressing threats of the 21st Century. For that reason, many are not the same as those methods for battling aggressors in 15th Century Japan. We […]
“Visceral Training” is the theme of our 37th annual Festival coming up this October 6-8, 2017. This year you have a chance to focus on honest realistic feeling – inside and out – in your To-Shin Do martial arts. Kata teach us the mechanics of how to do the techniques and how to approach embodying […]
People who do not practice To-Shin Do cannot figure out why there is so little cross training done by our students. Here are three thoughts as to why we find so little cross-training: Our base martial art is so old, that we predate the Meiji separation of martial disciplines into striking, throwing, sword, etc. specialties. […]
A relatively small raccoon can kill a much larger hunting dog with a surprising tactic. The raccoon can run up the front of the dog’s chest under the dog’s jaws and reach around the dog’s muzzle to scratch out the dog’s eyes. This is not specially taught behavior or a “raccoon martial arts secret”. It […]
A friend of mine who studies Shito Ryu karate relates how their founder developed a set of approaches to combat. Though he does not know about our 5 elements, he explains that the Shito Ryu approaches cover 5 different responses to fighting. It is debatable how many Shito Ryu students are aware of this. What […]
I was asked what advice I have for younger martial artists. I’d have to reply: Take it easy on yourself! Be smart. In my 20s there was a kind of prestige implied in what we called “hard training”. We actually damaged nerve plexuses and joint tissues by hitting and twisting body targets too many times […]
I am occasionally asked this question. The truth is I do not consider those exercises very important at all for new students looking for realistic self-defense fighting capability. The San-Shin kata were never intended for real fighting; not now or not never. No Japanese warrior ever fought using a kata from that set. They were […]
We all believe in something. We’d like to think our beliefs are based on “rational thought.” But truth is we more often act out what we believe instead of what we know. Some of our beliefs are so iron-clad they turn into inflexible conclusions about life. This is especially true if they were unconsciously imprinted […]
I talked with a person who commented that our To-Shin Do looked too slow to him. He felt that for a real fight, we should be practicing with “realistic speed”. I understand how he could feel that way. Once upon a time a long time ago, I too studied a less mature form of martial […]
For the past year, An-shu Rumiko has enjoyed a connection to the Japanese concept of Danshari – willfully and deliberately letting go of things that no longer serve you. We are enjoying our progressively “zenified” home and dojo. Want to bring abundance into your life? First let go of no-longer-needed stuff. Get rid of the […]
Have you noticed how negative and nasty Facebook can be? Sure, some people put up inspiring or hopeful material. But look at how many are there solely to express their anger at life or other people, relate negative experiences in their days, or criticize and pick apart otherwise happy people. Hard to remain positive, isn’t […]
We just finished Festival 36. 36! That’s a lot of years. There is time for 2 generations of people to become involved, 3 if you include me as the founder back in the 1970s. Reviewing feedback from Festival 36, I was a bit puzzled at first. “What did you like most about Festival 36? What […]
At this summer’s private seminar for 15 friends at my personal house dojo, I explored 3 specific open-ended topics the high rankers in To-Shin Do will focus on this year. As a first consideration, we are challenged to translate a late 1500s Japanese martial art into relevance in 2016. I wrote about this challenge two […]
At last month’s private seminar for 15 friends at my personal house dojo, I explored 3 specific open-ended topics 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. I wrote about this challenge […]
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 […]
With the recent death of Muhammad Ali, I have been seeing clips of his historical fights on social media. Something caught my attention. As Ali matured and gained experience in fighting formidable foes, he developed an increasing reliance on what we call “water strategic placement”. Watch and see if you do not agree. No, he […]
An-shu, what first got you interested in the martial arts? SKH: I wanted to be able to make there be peace when others chose violence and cruelty. As a small child in the 1950s, I remember seeing other children bullied and abused by bigger, meaner children. I was not comfortable with the thought of being […]
To-Shin Do takes the timeless principles of ninpo taijutsu and brings them into the 21st Century. Have you ever seen a proud YouTube video of a poorly trained Bujinkan practitioner attacking slowly with a non-accelerating lunge right foot and right arm, and leaving the right hand out there so that the defender can make his […]
Ever wonder what happened to me after I stopped writing the ninja book series in the early 1990s? Where I went once I slowed down my Japan trips and replaced them with trips to India, Nepal, and Tibet? An amazing series of events brought me in contact with the Dalai Lama. I started traveling with […]
Well, I got a lot of response to my last month’s article. Mostly agreeing, but some disagreeing. In last month’s opinion, I urged you to cut out online arguing. Don’t get into political battles that eliminate half of your potential training partners. Don’t “rant” and expose focusing on what is not working in your life. […]
Back in the Warring States era of Japanese history five hundred years ago, the ninja secret agents of the time developed a way of living guaranteed to keep their identity a secret. MU MEI MU GEI translates as “No name, no art” and sums up the attitude of the Warring States invisible warriors. If an […]
As a child, I wanted to be a force against brutality and cruelty. Once I started martial arts training, my entire focus was on practical defense. How do I handle the worst possible thugs and brawlers? I was never attracted to training as “art” or sport. But after a few decades of training, I came […]
Our mission for NinjaSelfDefense.com is to provide every student with easy access to the best possible training material so they can understand and advance. This plays a key role in our vision to make life mastery and inner peace attainable to anyone in the world through To-Shin Do training. One step towards the realization of […]
The Warrior Path is an amazing journey. Can you remember that moment when you knew you were in for keeps, intensely committed to the path for whatever number of years it would take? You saw the martial arts as a part of who you are. Your motivations for training were far deeper and more intensely […]
To-Shin Do taijutsu is ultimately about principles as opposed to techniques. Oh, sure, we start students out memorizing things, as opposed to considering things. But that is just an expedient to match their beginner expectations. Normal people expect they will be taught how to move faster, be stronger, and to know something that others do […]
Interested in running your own affiliate school? Are you emotionally attached to teaching your hobby – what you like to do as a martial artist? Or are you running a business, earning a dignified living teaching effective martial arts for the most benefit to the largest number of your community members? What is the purpose […]
Since To-Shin Do is a realistic approach to street and field violence, we have to take into consideration a lot more than sport martial artists do. In a competitive ring, you know why the other guy is there. He and you have agreed to a contest of fighting skills. All you need to do is […]
When I first left for Japan in search of the ninja 40 years ago, it was by no means a happy or triumphant thing. I had a small karate school, and I was not happy with where American karate was headed. It was the early 1970s, and big hair, gold chains, monstrous egos, and cocaine […]
Winning a fighting contest is such a different result than returning home healthy and happy each day. And yet many martial artists confuse this reality, talking on one hand about self-defense, but then on the other hand being drawn into a contest when someone makes a challenge. Our training works on a “continuum” model — […]
A common mistake regarding the purpose of studying the five elements is to believe that we somehow “choose” a particular element in the middle of a fight. Such a rational decision-making process would be totally impossible for the vast majority of people. Under the effects of cortisol and adrenaline stress chemicals that flood the bloodstream […]
What does it take to honorably pass a test and earn a new belt in the martial arts? My view is that there are: Things to know (we are informed – “I know something new!”), and often… Things to be able to perform (“I can do something new!”) And then on the other hand, there […]
“The way to experience happiness is to let go of all worries and regrets. Being happy is the most satisfying of life’s feelings. Reflect back on all the progress in your life and allow the positive, creative, joyous thoughts to outshine and overwhelm any sorrow or grief that may be lingering there in the recesses […]
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 […]
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 […]
(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 […]
Hosting our first Ninja Festival back in 1981 was one of the biggest gambles of my life. My ninja taijutsu was a totally new phenomenon on the martial arts scene 35 years ago. Yes, a few folks claimed to be “ninjas”, but only I could present evidence of actually living in Japan as a disciple […]
What if the point of martial arts training was to become invincible, as opposed to impressing others with visually entertaining technique? What if we trained to attune natural movements to a wide variety of possible assaults, rather than developing complex techniques for one-upping other competitors in a contest? Accomplishing great things with the appearance of […]
A student once asked me, “Japanese martial arts books sometimes describe a state called mu-shin, or ‘no-mind’. If I were thinking of nothing, how could I handle an attacker who was thinking very hard about beating or killing me? I mean, with nothing in mind, wouldn’t I just be an easy target?” I told him […]
I stood at the edge of the training area with one of the brown belt Trainers. She and I were watching a group of new students as they practiced punching into padded targets. “Look good, don’t they? Bodies moving with the arm extension. Hitting the targets well. Getting good results. Having fun.” She nodded silently […]