- Do I need to be very physically fit to become a student of Ninpo?
We teach students of both very young and mature of all physical and mental capabilities; only the desire to learn and a strong sense of self-discipline are required. Sensei Rodriguez and Sempai Young-Rodriguez will tailor lessons to suit a student’s individual needs; the goal is not merely to master specific movements, but to learn to defend oneself from any real threat.
- Do I need to wear anything special to visit the dojo?
No; wear whatever is comfortable. You will not be partaking in any physical activity unless you wish to join the dojo; if your membership is approved, you will then be given a uniform (“Gi”) and instructed on its proper care and how to wear it. If you wish to be invited onto the mat or into the rest of the dojo, it might be a good idea to wear shoes that can be easily removed and comfortable socks, as no shoes are allowed past the foyer area, in accordance with Japanese tradition.
- Do I need to speak Japanese to understand the classes?
No; most students do not speak Japanese. However, parts of the classes are conducted in Japanese, and students are expected to learn to count in Japanese and to properly pronounce and recall on demand all Japanese terminology, both of the techniques and the philosophical concepts included in the lesson plans of their rank. Students will be tested both on the execution and understanding of these terms before being allowed to advance.
- Why do we bow to a shrine at the beginning and ending of class?
The shrine, or “Kamidana,” is present in all authentic Japanese dojos. It is an element of Shintoism, which—while technically classified as a religion—has no dogma, no place of worship, no people deemed holiest, and no defined set of prayers. Instead, Shintoism is a spiritual philosophy that uses collection of rituals to meditate on the relationships between the physical human world and the spiritual realm as it exists on Earth.
The central most theme of Shintoism is a deep love and reverence for nature. In addition to a sense of responsibility for the natural world, great emphasis is placed on tradition, family, ritual, and purity. These practices are still an important part of modern-day Japanese culture. Failure to show the proper respect or concern for others—including non-human life-forms—is considered to be a source of personal ruin. The worst expression of such an attitude is the taking of another’s life for personal advancement or enjoyment. That is why Ninpo so strongly emphasizes self-defense with a compassionate heart.
We bow to this shrine before and after a lesson (and when we pick up and put away our tools) to remember these chief principles and to honor those masters of this art who have come before us.
- Is religion a part of the spiritual practice of this martial art?
Absolutely not, and no religious rituals will take place at the Niji Dojo or Niji No Hashi Dojo. The dojo is a school of learning, not a house of worship. Students of all philosophies and faiths are welcome. Although elements of Shintoism are present in the dojo and ritual expressions are part of the lesson plans, nothing practiced within the dojo would qualify as religious observance. Even in modern-day Japan, festivals and rituals hosted at Shinto shrines are open to all, and the Japanese people do not regard these events as religious, as any person may attend, regardless of personal beliefs.
- How much do classes cost? [Sensei may wish to revise this or just list the last sentence on this site.]
Typically, a student takes two classes a week and is allowed to train with older students on Saturdays for a monthly fee (this is in addition to the one-time costs of a uniform and registration). However, Sensei Rodriguez’s goal is not merely to profit, but to profit in order to support a larger dojo and shelter for battered women and at-risk children. If a student with a truly sincere desire to learn cannot attend every class or cannot afford the full price tuition, it is possible other arrangements can be made. This is a matter to be discussed privately between you and Sensei Rodriguez.
- Why do practitioners of Ninpo not partake in competitions?
Many martial arts schools host tournaments and competitions as a way of attracting new students and allowing current students to level up in rank. The disciplines of the Genbukan Ninpo Bugei and the Kokusai Jujutsu Renmei Federations are not for show; the lessons are not meant to be taught to the uninitiated public. This is because many of the techniques may cause serious, lasting damage to an attacker and are to be used in a life-or-death situation, not in a sparring session. These techniques would be considered illegal in other martial arts’ competitions. While simple demonstrations of some Ninpo skill sets may be given, specific techniques are not allowed to be shown without Grandmaster Tanemura’s expressed permission. Furthermore, emphasis is placed on self-mastery and personal growth, not on rank or status. While there are ten levels to complete before attaining a black belt in Ninpo, that may take a student a lifetime to achieve. This discipline is about developing a quiet kind of knowledge to be used only as much as one must to survive; showmanship is not encouraged.
- What are some behaviors that are considered grounds for dismissal from the dojo or the federations?
Deliberate disregard of safety instructions; the selling or unauthorized sharing of techniques without written permission from Grandmaster Tanemura; the use of excessive force when not necessary; any snickering at the mistakes of fellow students; blatant disrespect for one’s seniors; and disregard for the law are all grounds for dismissal from the Niji Dojo or Niji No Hashi Dojo, as well as the federations. You may be given a chance to explain yourself or to leave the school of your own volition, but if a student is dismissed from the federation by Grandmaster Tanemura, he or she will be blacklisted from every registered and accredited dojo that teaches Genbukan Ninpo. One student’s actions and attitudes represent all students’ actions and attitudes; commitment to Genbukan Ninpo requires a commitment to self-control.