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Combat martial art?
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These questions are posed towards the teachers out there, those with their own students.

Most Bujinkan practitioners agree that we do not train or teach a sports martial art, but a combat martial art, there are no points and no ring, what we train is designed to maim, kill, or otherwise incapacitate one of more opponents. (Not counting the escape techniques, of course).

So here's my question to you teachers;
Do you feel that you are doing our art and your students right?

Are you teaching them to be ready for combat if or when the day comes?

Can you honestly say that everyone you've bestowed the grade of Shodan can protect themselves or others in life and death combat? (Assuming it takes about 3 years of training to become Shodan)

(Here's where I expect to take the most flak..)
If your answer is 'no', my personal opinion is that you take a long hard look at why not.

We can talk about non-violence and non-lethal combat all we want, but when push comes to shove, are we training a combat martial art or not?

Certainly there are other aspects of Ninpo than physical combat, but physical combat IS a large part of the whole that is Ninpo.

Next time you face your students, take a look at each of them and ask yourself "Have I taught this student properly?"


The reason for making this post is to hopefully make people think.

If even one teacher takes a step back and thinks about how they teach, it'll be worth whatever flak I get for writing this post.

Posted on: 2013/3/12 11:35
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Marcus Fernstrom
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Re: Combat martial art?
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Than you for your post. I will share some immediate thoughts.

There is a lot to train in the Bujinkan and a lot of techniques are outdated in terms of direct modern application, eg armor specific stuff etc. However, training in the Bujinkan gives you a chance to go deeply into the study of traditional fighting that in my opinion is unique considering the depth combined with the range of schools and weapons.

On the other hand, training these things can have an indirect effect on your ability to defend yourself as it gives you understanding of distance, timing, angles etc. The same goes for a lot of the training we do in balance manipulation etc. It builds skills that are useful in a real fight even though some of the dojo training we do are exercises in developing those skills, rather than directly applicable self-defense techniques.

Then, of course, it is possible to always train for the purpose of fighting and defending. However, the best way to do that is to limit your training to the simple stuff. Kicking the groin etc. That is fine, but for me I would probably be bored very soon if I only got that kind of training. I would probably be fed up after a few years ant move on to something else.

Personally I shift in focus depending on what I want to pursue at the moment. Right now I try to improve how I use my hip to get faster and cleaner taijutsu. At other times I train more self-defense, or go into exotic weapons etc depending on the interest I have at the moment. I tend to keep bringing up self defense in my class but most of the training are around themes that I set up for each semester.

Whether or not I as an instructor is "obliged" to teach combat I think depends on what I communicated to my students. If I marketed my dojo as a combat training, I should provide that. If the dojo is marketed as a cultural historic study of traditional martial art, there is no need to put a lot of time into self defense or randori or such. The important thing is to be clear about what you teach and deliver on the expectations you create.

On the topic of fighting, I noticed that the Bujinkan methods appear effective as long as the attacker is attacking with an offensive intent, to injure or kill. But with sports martial arts attackers, they tend to attack defensively, they are keeping a defense while attacking. This makes it difficult to receive the attack in a way that allows for manipulating the attacker in the way we tend to train in Bujinkan. I know some dojos have worked much more with this so it would be interesting to hear opinions and suggestions about it.

Cheers

Posted on: 2013/3/19 21:15
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Re: Combat martial art?
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Thank you for your reply, Kent T.

Are you saying that Bujinkan is not a combat martial art then?

Soke has said numerous times that Bujinkan changes and updates to reflect the modern world, because times have changed, if this is true then it's supposed to be a valid combat martial art, otherwise why update it?

One of the reasons given not to spar is that the techniques are too dangerous to practice, but that's completely beside the point then, Kent, if there's no focus on combat techniques or combat readiness.

If you strip out the life or death aspect, what do you have?

Not a whole lot, since most dojos and most teachers aren't teaching much of the spiritual aspect, which makes up another large chunk of Ninpo.

If you're training traditional combat, then why the lack of structure and proper technique?

Why not teach it the way it was taught in the past?

I don't know about you specifically, but I've seen a good number of Shodans and above who have created their own "version" of techniques, some look nothing at all like what was taught to them, or passed down from hundreds of years of history, yet they teach those versions and use the names of the originating techniqe.

If you're training and teaching historical ninjutsu, shouldn't there be rigid structure on learning the techniques, mindset and tactics, not to mention all the other historical aspects such as explosives, poisons etc.? I mean, if it's all for historical teachings, then you should be teaching *all* of the history, right?

You can't claim to teach historical combat arts and then not teach all of the aspects by saying it's not applicable in today's world (Which is the most common excuse I've heard.)

It's like claiming to teach herbalism, and only teach about flowers.

Posted on: 2013/3/20 5:03
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Marcus Fernstrom
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Re: Combat martial art?
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I'm not an instructor, Marcus, so I won't be posting any observations on this, but I think it's a good and very challenging question.

Have you posed this query to any of the Japanese Shihan?

Posted on: 2013/3/21 1:47
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Re: Combat martial art?
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I have not.

Though I see it as relevant to all Bujinkan teachers, I'd love to see input from Shihans.

Posted on: 2013/3/21 2:00
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Re: Combat martial art?
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Not all instructors give out ShoDan in three years. It should not be given until the student has the ability. I teach both traditional, and modern combat techniques (but some people say what I teach is too violent). I say those instructors have never seen just how violent an attack can really be, and how fast it happens. Soke has said to teach both traditional, and then change it to evolve with modern times combat techniques. Budo Taijutsu should always be evolving to fit todays type attacks you would deal with. Just my two cents.

Posted on: 2013/3/21 7:07
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Re: Combat martial art?
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Dear Marcus

Perhaps you read thins into my answer that I did not mean, but ok.

Let me pose a counter question; do you propose we should stop training our positioning, balance handeling etc and that it would make us better prepared at fighting?

I always consider my training to be of traditional combat art. However, the combat aspect may be empahzised to a higher or lower degree at different times due to the short term training goal at hand.

Best regards

Posted on: 2013/3/22 0:00
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Re: Combat martial art?
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Kent, those things are all part of training, and should be taught from the beginning on up.

But positioning and balance handling are only parts of the whole.

When was the last time you taught your students how to attack various vital points after they've outmaneuvered the opponent?

You say you teach historical combat arts, are you teaching how to make poisons, explosives, how to break into castles?
These things are all part of the schools history, and are techniques contained in the various schools.

The schools that make up Bujinkan Taijuts are all combat schools of one variety or another.

The techniques are designed to subdue, maim, or kill an opponent, that should never be forgotten in training.

There are many teachers making many excuses, ranging from "our techniques are too dangerous to spar", to "we teach historical ninjutsu".

Most of the excuses are not true, or taken to the extreme, such as the dangerous techniques one.

Randori is like going to the gun range, it's important and good, but it doesn't mean you're ready for combat.

Sparring is like going to a situation-course with marker systems, no actual bullets are fired but you train in a realistic manner with an unpredictable opponent with your weapons.

I'm saying that people have shifted from teaching a martial art, to teaching movements based on martial art.

In the end it's simple, Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu is a combat martial art passed down through hundreds of years of proven efficiency on the battle field and off, if your students aren't capable of defending themselves or others in life or death combat after a few years of training, you're teaching them wrong.

Think back a few hundred years and imagine the teachers of the various (Bujinkan) schools looking at your students, would they smile with approval or shake their heads in disdain?

Posted on: 2013/3/22 2:15
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Marcus Fernstrom
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Re: Combat martial art?
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If we're talking about Japan a few hundred years ago, the BJK teachers would no doubt shake their heads in disdain over the fact that all these foreigners are training in their art :)

More seriously, I'm curious how to test whether any techniques (BJK, BJJ, Systema etc) work in life and death combat without directly engaging in life and death combat?

I agree that there are teachers out there who have social clubs rather than dojos. But that's neither a monopoly of the BJK or anything remotely new in terms of unknown knowledge.

I'm just not clear on the ultimate point of this thread, which seems to be saying that there are a lot of BJK shidoshi who are promoting people to shodan too quickly who can't defend themselves in combat. Even assuming that's true, what's the prescription aside from harder, more "realistic" training under some sort of pressure be it randorii or similar.

The alternative is to airdrop a 1st kyu person into the Afghan mountains, the streets of Mogadishu or similar and tell them to make it out alive.

Posted on: 2013/3/22 3:48
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Re: Combat martial art?
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The ultimate point?

To hopefully open the eyes of those who wants to teach properly but may not be doing so.

The ultimate test of any warrior is life or death combat, be it one on one in honorable combat, or the nitty gritty of war.

Any teacher who looks at his students and doesn't think they would make it if they went up against another person with the same amount of training in a different art should take a look at how they teach and adjust it.

It really is that simple, Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu is a combat martial art, if your students won't make it in combat, you're failing to teach them right.

Moving correctly and fluidly is great, but in the end it's not more important than being able to use the techniques in real life.

If you can't *apply* the technique, what's the point?

Posted on: 2013/3/22 4:06
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Marcus Fernstrom
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