The traditional schools are proven, time-tested self-defense techniques—guided by a compassionate heart.
Respect is key to participating and growing in this art. Ninpo and Jujutsu are very traditional disciplines.
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The warrior tradition known as “Ninpo Bugei” is based on the indigenous Japanese martial art of “Taijutsu,” the origins of which date back more than one thousand years.
Over the centuries, it has evolved into a unique martial discipline for training the mind, body, and spirit, by cultivating a sense of inner peace and the superior self-protection skills for which the “ninja warrior” was renowned. As several centuries passed, Ninpo Bugei Taijutsu evolved into a deadly art—this was in response to the demand for realistic self-protection skills during an era when martial arts were considered a basic survival skill of the warrior class.
Ninpo Bugei Taijutsu is considered the highest-class of striking and grappling art, which can effectively counter the conventional Jujutsu or Hakuda fighting techniques used by both samurai of the past and the modern martial arts being practiced today.
It also incorporates several styles of Japanese martial arts such as “Daikentaijutsu” and “Jutaijutsu.” These lessons were only taught orally to a few select individuals and were never taught openly among members of the warrior class.
This subsequently prevented it from being included in the samurai fighting arts and the popular modern Japanese martial arts that have evolved from Jujutsu, such as Karate-do, Judo, Kempo, and Aikido. Up until only fifteen years ago, authentic Ninpo Bugei Taijutsu had only been taught to a select few individuals who resided in the remote Iga and Koga regions of Japan, causing this martial discipline to remain virtually unknown.
Such obscurity subsequently left the true nature of this unique martial discipline (and the important historical role of the men and women known today as “Ninja”) shrouded in a veil of mystery. Many of the great Japanese samurai were secretly trained in Ninpo Bugei Taijutsu, which in turn resulted in many of the ninja warrior’s greatest historical contributions to Japan going unrecognized.
These achievements include their role as the personal protectors of the Emperor and the Japanese royal family for more than fourteen centuries, as well as their role as Japan’s first police force during the Tokugawa era, which, thanks to their unique skills, enabled them to subdue armed samurai without causing any lasting physical harm. Even though the term “Ninpo Bugei Taijutsu” has been in use since World War II, most people generally incorrectly refer to the martial art of the “ninja warrior” as Ninjutsu.
However, the two terms have quite different meanings: “Ninjutsu” merely refers to a collection of techniques. “Ninpo Bugei” means “the enduring principles of martial skills.” “Ninpo Bugei Taijutsu” refers to an enlightened warrior tradition that encourages the highest possible development of one’s spirit (or self-growth), as well as one’s martial skills.
Through the practice of Ninpo Bugei, one learns to use the mind, body, and spirit as tools for self-defense. Ninpo Bugei Taijutsu is not limited to any one style or school (“Ryu-ha”) of Taijutsu. Instead, the basics taught at Niji no Hashi have evolved out of various schools, which include the Togakure Ryu, Kumogakure Ryu, Kukishin Ryu, Gyokko Ryu, Gyokushin Ryu, Koto Ryu, and Takagi Yoshin Ryu, in addition to elements of the Iga Ryu, Koga Ryu, and other schools.
The unarmed fighting techniques of the ninja warrior have been known by various names over the past millennia. When the ninja were very active during Japan’s medieval era of warring states, these martial traditions were known as “Shitojutsu,” “Koshijutsu,” “Koppojutsu,” and “Hichojutsu”—just to name a few.
Today, everything we know about the ninja martial traditions of Ninpo Taijutsu comes from Sensei Takamatsu .
As a result of its historical roots and continued focus on self-protection, Ninpo Taijutsu is a unique martial discipline that incorporates many elements unseen in the modern-day martial arts, such as Karate, Judo, Aikido, Kempo, etc.. The physical training taught by Niji No Hahasi Dojo “Tai Sabaki,” or the use of refined body movements that facilitate the skillful use of self-protection techniques—as opposed to using techniques which rely solely on muscular strength.
Training sessions are usually conducted with students working with partners, so that they can develop correct timing, distancing, and body mechanics. As the conditioning is skill-based and not strength-oriented, it has proven to be a highly effective means of handling a confrontation with larger and stronger opponents.
Also, while natural speed and strength decline with age, consistently practiced techniques will constantly improve over time. Throughout all levels of training, numerous drills that require students to develop a strong spirit and spontaneity are employed.
A student cannot be content to mechanically repeat the classic patterns (or “Kata”) in a textbook fashion. Techniques must be both organic and realistic—movements must seem flowing and natural to be effective. Through persistent training, a student will develop the skill and spirit required to use self-protection techniques effectively, should the need arise.
Japanese martial traditions of Ninpo, Ninjutsu, and Jujutsu.
With only a few students practicing in Japan, within a few years, as the quality of the teachings became apparent to many martial artists around the world, the organization grew.
The Essence of Budo
as a Practitioner “Budo” is Budo—that’s all. Budo involves thinking of a battle as a life-or-death scenario.
It is important not to confuse true Budo with “Bushido,” which is a philosophical tradition born in the feudal samurai era that combines theories of Zen and Confucianism.
Within the bounds of Budo, if you lose a fight, you face death. The Budo practitioner has to be prepared to die at all times. We have to master ourselves through Budo training. Currently, movies and modern-day culture offer many flashy and intricate martial arts’ moves. True Budo demands that a practitioner concentrate on developing a strong “Ki,” or life-force.
One’s will must strike fear into an opponent’s heart. If one cannot do this, one cannot survive a real life-or-death encounter. Budo is not for students who wish to use flashy moves or play at martial arts. Even when heavily injured, a Budo practitioner is committed to the utter submission of his or her enemy. Budo is strictly for defeat-or-be-defeated situations.
If a student only concentrates on form or on scoring hits—such as one would do in martial arts’ competitions—that student is not practicing Budo. Budo is not a sport but a means of survival.
It is extremely important that traditional, authentic Japanese Budo be practiced and preserved. A very famous phrase from China comes to mind: “One who knows well the way never claims so; one who doesn’t know the way soon claims to know it well.” —Revised excerpt from translated sentiments written by Grand Master Sato Kinbei, 1948
The Teachings of Bu-Fu
The following essay describes the teachings of “Bu-Fu” (“warrior-wind”) and gives an example of what one’s heart—as a warrior—should be like. Please read it again and again; find its spirit within yourself and nurture that. As a warrior, one should practice constantly awareness; from the moment one wakes in the morning, one should keep a watchful eye on his own behavior and manners.
One’s conduct should never forget the essence of humanism. Such consideration is the essence of Bu-Fu. One should never act violently nor be rough, and at no time should one take another’s life lightly.
One should try to foster a gentle lifestyle without attempting to hurry through one’s growth process. Consciously relax. Be not afraid of life; allow yours to be gentle and rich in love, in accordance with “Kajo-Chikusei” (a flower’s heart) or the spirit “Kajo-Waraku” (the spirit contained within growing bamboo).
Blossom. If you are proud of martial arts, do not tarnish its image by acting violently. It is often said that we should bring relief to those who suffer, stand up against those who oppress others, and knock down those who would destroy us.
That is so. However, one should also be cautious of the weak and never truly relax in their presence, for sometimes, the weak themselves turn into oppressors. Be not one who seeks battles.
If one wishes to use this martial art, it should be for the good of those in need and those who truly are both good and honest. One should never use this martial art to practice dishonesty or evil.
Those who follow these maxims may become true, learned warriors. If one is ridiculed or humiliated, it should not be allowed to move one’s heart or influence one’s feelings—instead, laugh it off.
It is this type of heart—a heart which contains the truly strong spirit of patience and perseverance (or “Nin”)—that belongs to a real warrior. The true spirit of Nin also lies in the ability not of drawing one’s sword (“Katana”) too often, but rather doing so only in times of great need.
A warrior must never forget to let the heart be strong and the spirit vigorous. One’s heart should shine, resembling the autumn sleet on fields that shimmer in the sunlight. One’s heart should be full of love, as gentle as that which is murmured by the fresh wind of spring. To attain this type of heart, a good balance of both philosophy and martial arts is of utmost importance.
Once these are obtained, a warrior is then a true servant of Bu-Fu. To begin learning the way of the ninja warrior, the study and cultivation of Japanese culture and philosophy is essential, as it a heart full of light, which will aid in dispelling evil and darkness.
One must have a flower’s heart. One must be honest. One should be as clean-cut and straight as a blade that cuts through a bamboo stalk. To face all challenges and solve all of life’s problems, one should allow the heart to grow in strength and power.
One should not rely on intellect or physical strength alone, but should develop these in tandem with the heart. If one is able to comprehend these essential elements, one will surely find Bu-Fu flowing within both the body and heart. Finally, one must turn into reality all the ideas mentioned above—one must strive to accomplish it all, so as to truly be a servant of Bu-Fu. Let us train! ” —Revised excerpt from translated sentiments written
by Grand Master Shoto Tanemura
The Traits of a Ninja
Three traits make up the ninja.
The most important one, honesty, is not only required in Ninpo but also applies to everything one does. A person with strength, skill, and intelligence will loose everything if he is dishonest.
Honesty, purity, and righteousness are the path to enlightenment. When one walks an honest road, lessons penetrate the body and heart the same way water enters sand.
Then a person can judge what is right and wrong, and their heart will act as a mirror of truth. Over the course of history, ninja have sometimes taken a dishonest road, but only as an instrument to achieve a good end. For example, diversionary tactics (“Kyojitsu-Tenkan”) are a temporary means of escape, and as such, they are not supremely important to the study of Ninpo.
The dark way is not the true way. The true Ninja has the ability to use both honesty and deception to arrive at an honest goal. Deception is not the “end” but only a “means.” The second trait involves taking an interest in everything.
This produces common sense, general knowledge, and enables critical judgment. The essential techniques of a ninja (“Sanju-Rokkei”) require this special insight or refined spirit (“Seishinteki Kyoyo”). Without this wisdom, an agent can fall prey to both bad manners and the traps of an enemy.
Martial arts (“Bumon”), spiritual reverence (“Shumon”), meteorological sciences (“Tenmon”), and profound knowledge of the earth (“Chimon”) must be deeply understood by those who wish to be Ninja.
Knowledge of culture and academics equates to intelligence, but it is not enough to be an intellectual. It is important to be able to use one’s knowledge in practical ways.
If one develops intellect with an honest heart, and unlimited wisdom (“Chi”) results; this will lead to spiritual refinement. The third trait involves effort. To be a ninja, a person must have a level of endurance that can withstand even in the most impossible of circumstances.
To achieve this trait, a practitioner must train both the body and mind to the extreme. It is impossible to explain the way I trained to obtain my patience, because my training is the result of a lifetime of studying Ninpo.
What I can explain is that, with patience, even the most difficult or impossible barriers can be overcome.
Inherent talent is not required to master the way of the ninja, for there is no relationship between talent and effort.
Effort alone can defeat even a the most accomplished prodigy.
One’s initial lack of talent should not bring despair, but instead foster the commitment to try harder. To be a true ninja, one must develop these traits to the best of one’s ability.
The principles taught by instructors I’ve trained should always stress the development of these traits.
Teachers must always consider what these time-honored principles—which proceed even the time of Sensei Takamatsu—emphasize: