Friday, July 31, 2015

Interview with Grandmaster Jay "Flying Tiger" Blanton

Note to Reader: This is an interview conducted over e-mail I wish I could have gotten more involved but do to time constraints for all this stuff  have going on I had to cut this short.

Ok today we are going to interview grandmaster Jay Blanton. Right off the bat I'd like to congratulate you on you life story becoming a movie. So to start of with I would like to begin there. 

Can you tell me about what got you into martial arts?
Hey Ron I am honored to be interviewed and thanks for your kind words. I got into the martial arts because of being bullied because of my speech problem and as a child I watch all the Bruce Lee and kung fu movies and being bullied I thought if I can do what Bruce Lee does these people will leave me along. Going through grade school I met a friend in Tae Kwon Do and he took up for me against the bullies and basically protected me against their physical abuse. He told me I need to take a martial arts class. I told my parents but we did not have the money to afford the classes at that time. So when I got into Jr. high school again a friend who was taking Tae Kwon Do and teaching it at our local community center told me i needed to get into the martial arts and it would help me against all the physical abuse I was going through. He said I only charge you $ 5.00 a month I signed up along with my other friends and the rest is history.

Having been bullied yourself, you started the BDFS Anti-Bully program what can you tell us about the program?
I started the BDFS Anti-Bullying Program to be more than just a bunch of martial arts techniques like most martial arts schools have. I wanted a unique training program not only show how to defend yourself against bullies but to educate the student and everybody what bullying is. We have a Instructor's Manual to help anybody not just martial artist to understand what bullying and how to avoid it at all possible and how to teach this to others. We also have a Student's Manuel so the students or anybody can understand and get educated on bullying it is like a school or college course it has everything in it the Instructor is teaching you. And we test the Instructor's of the BDFS Anti-Bullying Program as well so they are Certified to teach our unique program.                                          
Now in October in Chicago you are going to demonstrate an "anti-bully" kata, can you shed a bit of light on that?
We have came up with a Level 2 Instructor's BDFS Anti-Bullying Program Certification with the help from Gm Ashida Kim and Gm David Harris we are working on a "new" book and a manual for this program and Gm Harris will be helping me on a phone app and dvd and Instructor Certification in the future for the program. We will introduce this new Level 2 program in Chicago and the Kung Fu technique is called "Shen" which will address the psychological part of bullying and the technique will help everybody who is or has been bullied as well clear their minds from all the mental trauma they have suffered a unique and easy technique to learn and anybody can do it.  

You've met some very influential people in the martial arts too haven't you, so martial arts has really changed your life for the better?
Yes I have meet so many wonderful martial artist and had the pleasure of training with them not enough room here to name them all so I will mention a few Gm Richard Hedrick he guided me so much in my martial arts career with all his different styles and varies Instructors at his school, Gm Kang Rhee the Instructor of Elvis Presley, Bill "Superfoot" Wallace and he even trained with Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris, Gm Rhee name my system of martial arts "Mang Ho" which is Tiger in Korean which is the animal nickname he gave me. Since I had combined all my other styles into my system he told me that you have done like Bruce Lee you have created you own unique style. I call it a system because I continue to add to Mang Ho Ryu which I call it now.                          
Gm Donald Miskel my dear friend and brother I call him my family we talk on a regular base and Gm Ashida Kim again part of my family who has helped me so much not only re-doing my book but helping me with the BDFS Anti-Bullying Program Manuals. Gm David Harris again family who is helping me and teaching me "Shen" and other private things going on. And then Hanshi Frank Dux what can I say not enough room for what he has done for me again family. He has trained me in Dux Ryu, got my book and the BDFS Anti-Bullying Program in Mexico, presented me with the Dux Ryu Fellowship Award and allowed me in the Dux Ryu Circle Of Iron and named me Flying Tiger because of all the things in my life I overcame. And all the Dux Ryu patches on my uniform and my most honored one my Flying Tiger patch my personal patch in Dux Ryu I could go on. I now go by Gm Flying Tiger                        

Any advice for parents looking to enroll their kids in a martial arts program?
My advise to parents is to Please sign your kids up in a good martial arts program it will help them the rest of their life, check out the school and Instructor(s) before you jump into a martial arts school. Ask questions, take the free class, talk with other parents etc check out other martial arts schools in the area and ask your child how he likes the Instructor(s) and the class etc. It's the best thing you can ever do.                                  

Does religion or spirituality play a big part of your outlook?
Yes. Religion is a big part of my life being a born again Christian has helped me forgive all those people that have bullied me all my life from physical abuse, mental abuse and even into adulthood on the job. I could easily have beaten the snot out of those people and the people on the job but through all my martial arts training and my spirituality I didn't. Martial arts teaches us not to use what we have learned to hurt others or bully them but to only use it if we have to defend ourselves. I have walked away from many attacks and let it go rather than to hurt some one, which I knew I could easily do and being a Christian I have to to this as well.                                                                                                                    
So how is the Film project coming along &, thank you for taking the time out your busy schedule for this interview?
The movie is coming along Gene Michaels of Show Biz Productions is writing the screen play along with my help I will keep everybody updated on the progress I know this movie will help all understand bullying and when you bully some one it last a life time.                                                           
Thank you Ron for interviewing me it was my honor to share my thoughts with everyone God bless Gm Flying Tiger

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Ninjutsu: An Study of History & Human Nature

Saga Rebellion painting by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 1839 to 1892...

It was around the beginning of the Tokugawa period also know as the Edo period when the capital was moved from Kyoto to Edo (modern day Tokyo) 1603 to 1868. The Tokugawa Shogunate/Period was founded by Tokugawa Ieyasu who was a loyal retainer of Oda Obunaga. I just remember the 3 major periods for ninjutsu & martial arts as Sengoku (Warring States Period): when most of the wars and fighting occured, Tokugawa Period (relative peace and isolationism): this is when the classes became lock and Ashigaru went from being conscripts and other classes who became part of the warrior caste to being considered low level samurai & the Meiji Restoration (marked the end of feudalism and when Japan was opened to the west).

Whats funny about the Meiji and it meant the end of the samurai class and there were numerous uprisings by Samurai against Japanese "colonialism." The Samurai of the Fukuoka Domain established a very ninja like secret society called the Koyosha, that became the Genyosha after the Satsuma Rebellion. The Koyosha worked to build secret alliances, gather information, smuggle supplies and carried out assassinations, sabotage and terrorism during the various samurai uprisings. All very ninja and carry out by former samurai. Which raises certain questions, if ninjutsu was a stand alone system why were samurai of the peaceful Tokugawa Period using "ninjutsu" skills to resist the Meiji Restoration? What if ninjutsu isn't the exclusive art of specific family schools of ninjutsu but a sub-set of skills in samurai ryu? If so many samurai ryu had ninjutsu in them, why did ninjutsu become such a lost art? Was it such a lost art if the Samurai of the Fukuoka Domain seems to have used it in the formation and operation of Koyosha? Then if ex-samurai resisted the end of their cast system using a secret society (clandestine network) and very "ninjutsu" like methods can we say the "end of the ninja" in Tokugawa Period was an end to their use and not to the study?

If ninjutsu was a sub-set of skills in various samurai ryu and not an exclusion school/style of thinking, then there never were "ninja warriors" only samurai with training in covert and clandestine operations. More so, it is possible for "ninjutsu" to have survived in some form and its seems to have done so up to the Meiji period and beyond by looking at groups like the Koyosha, Genyosha and Kokuryukai. This is an element addressed by Turnbull's article and articles various other people. Especially, looking at historical records where "shinobi" was used pretty loosely even for the Ashigaru sent on scouting missions, but little formal training in a samurai ryuha. More so, other terms were used for spies and scouts in said records then "shinobi."

So lets look at the "ninja" and use a different term, "samurai." Tokugawa's era mark the end of the warring states period, it meant samurai became more government agents then warriors. Without the need to actually use covert and clandestine tactics and strategies they became openly discussed and the modern "ninja myth" was born. Certainly, the Tokugawa Period meant that many samurai never faced combat or warfare in the later years of the period. Certainly, stories of father's exploits during the Sengoku period, became grandfather's exploits and great grandfather's exploits and eventually your ancestor "__fill in the blank__" with the passage of time. The Tokugawa period lasted 200+ years and the end of ninja's usefulness in warfare ended with the samurai's usefulness in warfare.

By comparing this to American History, the Colonial Era prior to the American Revolution produced Roger's Rangers covert skirmishers, and clandestine scouts. This was added to by various periods of Western Expansion and adding and altering the tactics and techniques of the "Ranger Docturine" disappeared between American Revolution and the Civil War. However, it should be noted Rogers Rangers fought for the Loyalists and the American Colonial Army used Roger's doctrine to create Knowlton's Ranger The Ranger's disappeared until the Civil War and only the Confederacy used said Ranger Doctrine, due to the fact that many Confederate officers were trained at West Point where they studied Roger's Ranger Doctrine and their use actually prompted the creation of only one Union Army Ranger unit: Mean's Rangers. Rangers were never used again until World War 2 and were used in the "fashion of British Commandos" however it should be noted the US Army Rangers still trace themselves to Roger's "Ranger Doctrine" which was studied and applied. Even the Alamo Scouts founded in World War 2, trace elements of their doctrine to Roger's Rangers with additions of more modern intelligence gathering & combat skills. I've read this was a direct response the operations of Japanese Nakano operatives and Kokuryukai, formed by Uchida Ryohei in 1901 who was a protege of Toyama Mitsuru a founder of the Koyosha & Genyosha and who fought in the Saga Rebellion.

Now I'm not suggesting the Kokuryukai had ninja... I am however addressing even in more modern history, principles of doctrines do not just vanish because a line of transmission of disrupted. Most Samurai Ryu existed from the Sengoku period, through the Tokugawa period where they had little usage due to that long period of peace to the Meiji Period (1868). I do not believe the Samurai just stopped studying warfare because of peace, they were the Warrior caste after all. Doctrines change with technology and situations by which they are employed. I do not believe human nature is so different just because of cultural differences. And I do not believe "ninjutsu" was a stand alone art practiced by specific schools. I believe it is a lesser skill studied by certain members of Japan's warrior caste, not only limited to the samurai but most connected to the samurai because of the status as "governors and officers" to the Shogunate. I'll let you assess your own opinions.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Comparative Study: The Bubishi "The Bible of Karate" Translated by Patrick McCarthy & Yang Zhee Lee's Dim Mak Simplified

This was a interesting study in examining the Bubishi. First, Patrick McCarthy is a Karate Historian and his research into the "Bible of Karate" actually reveals Karate's roots in White Crane Gung-fu and among the wealth of knowledge in the Bubishi is several charts on Dim Mak. I full well plan to do a comparative study of the Bubishi & Count Dante/John Keehan's World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets, as well to see if Keehan has in fact read the Bubishi or had some access to it. I will include some questions directed to Keehan's students and those following his legacy in this matter as well. However, our focus will in fact be on Yang Zhee Lee's work for this article.

I don't need to tell you Yang Zhee Lee is a pseudonym. If fact, he explains this in the Dim Mak Simplified. The person behind the pseudonym doesn't want to tarnish his business or alternative medicine with being a martial artists and writing a book on what he considers a perversion of acupressure and acupuncture.
Now let us get to the bare bones of this examination, this is not found in the comparison of techniques between Chinese Street Fighting and White Crane Gung-fu. Nor, is it in the examination of Karate techniques but in the methodologies and vital points reference by both documents.

Let us begin with Yang Zhee Lee's simplified Dim Mak points...
Here Yang Zhee Lee breaks his target points into two specific types, points for grabbing and points for striking. More so, Yang Zhee Lee describes these vital points fall into three categories of vital points and in further description of individual points notes that some points are in more then one category of martial arts. These three categories are Dim Mak: attacking acupressure and acupuncture points to disrupt chi within the body, Dim H'sueh: which effect blood vessels and, Dim Ching: which effect nerve clusters.

Comparing it to the Bubishi we see may of the same points... though fewer used in Dim Mak Simplified. The Bubishi is of course a detailed study of martial sciences, to include herbal medicines and healing arts.

If you wish to argue that the Bubishi is merely demonstrating Kyusho or Koshijutsu, let show this & explain that even within the Bubishi is a detailed description of the Bubishi's Chinese roots, this is of course expanded for us Westerns with Patrick McCarthy's own historical investigation. And yes, the Kanji of Dim Mak & its alternative Dim Xue both of which stand for vital point manipulation.

Even in the above image you can see a reference to the time table for striking said vital points which is a powerful characteristic of Dim Mak, often separating it from similar Japanese styles. It is important to remember Okinawa is not Japan and benefited from trade and colonization with the Chinese Ming dynasty in Kume village from 1393 to Okinawas Japanese annexation of Okinawa (called the Ryukyu literally "School Boy") in 1873, following McCarthy's research. In fact, Kume was called "Okinawa's Window to Chinese culture" because Chinese immigrants brought Chinese literature, music, poetry, engineering, medicine and more. In fact, no one know who wrote the Bubishi but it appears to be Chinese in origin & a "secret" of Okinawan Karate Masters for centuries.

Those same time tables are discussed by Yang Zhee Lee using a simple set of charts, that a reader would need to reference to find the best time to strike the listed 21 Dim Mak vital points for maximum effect. In fact, the contents page explains much of the information detailed within Dim Mak Simplified.
Section 1: Details basic Gung-fu/Kung-fu beginning with the basic 5-Animal Stances: Crane, Snake, Tiger, Leopard & Dragon and their principles for application. This then addresses basic striking techniques and chin-na grappling.
Section 2: Breaks down the 5 animal short form into individual fighting tactics. Each Short for is expanded by moving from one form to the other.
Section 3: Describes training drills and exercises to build the body and develop physical power and endurance for application of Gung-fu/Kung-fu in self-defense.
Section 4: Details the charts and time tables that can be use maximize the already effective vital points of Dim Mak striking, such as; Chi Principles for understanding what chi is how it functions within the body and the universe, the five element theory of Chinese Alchemy, the Solid/Empty Organ theory of how chi circulates in the body and, finally the 12 hours of the Chinese calendar and times when chi flow is strongest to vital areas.
Section 5: Give a brief overview of Chinese Street Fighting Rules, Ranking and History.
Section 6: Deals with the Author's philosophy toward violence and how kindness is a stronger weapon then aggression. It also explains some practical first aid applications of Dim Mak.
Section 7: Is an about the author and why he chose to use a "pen name."
There is an Appendix A demonstration a 14 step Boxer's Form for additional study.

Clearly Dim Mak Simplified lacks the depth of Bubishi & few works modern or ancient truly compare the Bubishi. However, the vital points between the two works clearly overlap, though there is many more charts found within the Bubishi's texts expanding & overlapping with the 36 vital points mentioned in this article. The Bubishi is catalog of essays, philosophies, and skills ranging from simple fighting techniques to medicine and healing arts. Dim Mak Simplified is a stripped out bare bones explanation of an art without masters where one's status is obtained only by fighting others (Chinese Street Fighting) and simplification of a whole science detailed in Bubishi. Both are worth a look and both reinforce principles in the other.

The Bubishi
Dim Mak Simplified

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

On training with Ashida Kim & Why I left the Bujinkan...

It is sometimes a surprise that I am associated with Ashida Kim, yes some people do not know this... but, I am. I have been asked some stupid questions to try to discredit me and its honestly entertaining.  Discredit me why because I think Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, formally Bujinkan Ninpo Taijutsu & formally Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu is a crappy martial art and the Bujinkan organization is a cult. Yet, I associate with Ashida Kim "the notorious ninja fraud" & fly the Black Dragon Fighting Society flag proudly...

To understand this you have to understand why I left the Bujinkan. Now I started in the Bujinkan 1993 and got my shodan and left the same year, my shodan had less to do with how awesome I am then Dojo politics. I love throwing the shodan, however undeserved, to tick off the Bujinkan guys. Its entertaining to watch them squirm... Prior to the Bujinkan I trained in Shotokan Karate, Goju Ryu, Judo and Sport Jujitsu. I already knew the same throws, pressure points and joint-locks and I learned Shotokan, Judo and Jujitsu in a McDojo that was a belt mill. If you know anything about Sport Jujitsu it blends Karate striking with Judo ground fighting and throws & Jujitsu standup grappling into a single sport.

So I was living in Charlotte, North Carolina when I started taking classes at a Bujinkan Dojo, why? Because I watched way too many ninja movies and wanted to be a ninja. Why is a long story but what I'm going to tell you will destroy some "sacred cows" & for now why doesn't matter. I don't remember what all I had to do at each rank but I remember being told "no sparring" until shodan (not even then really what they call Randori is a joke) and, book reports. That's right I was required to buy books and write book reports on them... History & Traditions by Hatsumi, The Grandmaster's Book of Ninja Training & one of Hayes books I can't think of the title right off, just to name a few.

Now that's not so bad but, don't ask questions... don't disagree with the "official story" and most of all don't think competition is a good thing. You basically have to accept the line "because Soke says so." Now one of the strangest things to this whole affair is that I hate the Bujinkan style of punching, and the big exaggerated stances. So I asked questions... Now I'm more then happy to say that I could take anyone there in an open competition, I even got into trouble for not using "official" techniques. But when my friends (Asians btw) heard I was training in the Bujinkan dojo they started giving me grief. I don't speak Japanese beyond Dojo and technique terms but, its funny when my friend's Japanese-American parents & grandfather are saying things like "There are no Japanese in your dojo?" I started asking questions. I always took it as a question but now that I think about maybe it was a condemning statement "There are no Japanese in your Dojo."

Now here is something to consider, there are Kung-fu schools, Tae Kwon Do schools, Karate schools and Judo and Jujitsu schools and a pretty sizable Asian population in Charlotte... you saw Japanese in Karate, Aikido and Judo schools, Koreans in Hapkido and Tae Kwon Do schools and Chinese in the various Kung-fu schools (even knew Chinese kids who learn Kung-fu under an American, not a Chinese-American but a "white guy") but we never had any Japanese in our Bujinkan dojo. In fact, it was kind of a joke with them. Now I don't doubt I got promoted to shodan to keep me in the school because when I started asking questions, others started asking questions even if our instructor didn't like it, he was easily losing creditability. So I was a shodan and got take part in Randori (Sparring)... here I was taught a lesson, that I couldn't use non-Bujinkan techniques. I couldn't punch like boxer, they have no defense for this... I couldn't use Jeet Kune Do fight strategies because (yep you guessed it) they have no defense for that... and God help me I couldn't say I thought other MAs were good. God forbid I mention other "ninjutsu instructors" from "other styles." I mentioned reading Ashida Kim's Secret of the Ninja at a public library and all I heard was only "Soke Hatsumi is the true Ninjutsu master" for about 3 days (Classes were Mon, Tues and Thursday so, those 3 days was our training week).

So lets directly address my issues and why I left...
  1. I am a Christian, the Bujinkan was the name of Hatsumi's Dojo in Japan and later became the name of whole organization. Bujinkan means Hall of the Warrior God, and you always find a Shinto shrine to Takamatsu in the Bujinkan Dojo. You bow and clap and say some Japanese gibberish, which amounts to the  “Shikin Haramitsu Daikomyo” (The Benevolent Heart; Does what is Right) & "Onegai Shimasu" which doesn't translate well into English literally but has a general meaning "I wish or I pray for good fortune in our present & future relationships." The whole of “Shikin Haramitsu Daikomyo” is in fact a Buddhist like mantra that reflects Takamatsu's teachings... So you bow to Takamatsu's image and say his mantra & offer wishes/hopes/prayers for mutual benefit. You are in essence envoking a dead man's image to provide you with good fortune. Oh and the name Bujinkan, is what Hatsumi named his Dojo, because he felt Takamatsu was a "Divine Being." Thus Hatsumi is the ninja pope... and Takamatsu is Ninja Jesus...
  2. You were completely limited to only using Bujinkan techniques... Now granted I can't "thai kick" someone in a Judo competition but, Judo doesn't claim to teach "no rules fighting" either. And you basically did "point sparring" and called it Randori, where you could only use then Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu.
  3. You can't question anything said by Takamatsu or Hatsumi even when it conflicts with things they've said. Takamatsu wrote letters to Hatsumi telling him about "spy missions" he conducted in China during WW2 & its been claimed that Takamatsu taught ninjutsu as Nakano. Ok, so a man who couldn't join the Army (Takamatsu) was sent to preform clandestine operations overseas and wrote letters to his student, that thought he was a "god" (Hatsumi) about secret mission he did as a spy? He taught at the Nakano espionage school, without any proof because the records were so super secret. I believe Morihei Ueshiba & Fujita Seiko had proof they did. HELL, I'm more inclined to believe that 007 can bang every bag guy's girlfriend, introduce himself with his real name and no one ever know who is, then I'm willing to believe a clandestine agent would write letters detailing his missions him to his little buddy back home. I'm more inclined to believe Frank Dux (take that however you want)... You must accept anything said at face value, Takamatsu says he trained in Ninjutsu for 70 years at 68 years old & didn't take lessons in ninjutsu until he was 4. You have to accept it because he was a divine being... And you have to accept Takamatsu's divinity because Hatsumi said so.
So not long after this I left, I only stayed because I kept being told about ninja secrets... I was a Shodan for a week and quit. Dishearted and disenchanted, I was already training with Reginald Martin in Omoto Ryu Ninjutsu, I didn't start calling it Black Dragon Ninjitsu until 1999. In 1999 I was awarded my Shihan, my Godan in Omoto Ryu Budo under Kioshi Omoto (who openly called his school a Jujitsu and Budo school, even if it taught ninjutsu, i.e. tactics & espionage, so yes it is the same system) and he introduced me to the Nine Shadows of the Koga Ryu but I went more with Ashida Kim's Black Dragon Fighting Society. I started training with Omoto-Sensei in 1996.

A little secret about me, I still liked the idea of "ninjas" largely thanks to the lessons of Kioshi Omoto & Reg Martin and, Ashida Kim has always taught "ninjutsu" as a separate art of strategy and never tried proclaim to be the sole source of the "truth" and he has never bashed another Martial art. Cross training with Ashida Kim was mandatory, students and BDFS members were often sent on "ninja missions" to learn about other martial arts, methods and systems. There are even Bujinkan members who train with the BDFS to learn things like strategy, espionage principles and so on but keep their way of fighting. The fact is those are fun things to play with but have little use outside of those in the professional military, law enforcement & security fields, like business and marketing fields. Ashida Kim has always separated ninjutsu from martial arts...
 Here we see Ashida Kim's Secrets of the Ninja, Right off Ashida Kim discusses Espionage Principles and using intelligence gathering as a weapon. He addresses basic meditation and kuji-kiri as basic ninjutsu & then Inpo and Tonpo. Below in Ninja Hands of Death Ashida Kim breaks his book into 3 sections, Kata Dante, Submission Holds & Ninjutsu. Huh in 1981 Ashida Kim was calling ninjutsu espionage in Secrets of the Ninja & again in 1985 in Ninja Hands of Death.
Ashida Kim was awesome, I didn't have worship his master or him. I could question him and use different techniques from systems he wasn't trained in and on occasion he'd ask the "student" to become the "teacher." If I didn't want to use Ashida Kim's martial arts, I could still train in survival skills, intelligence gathering and strategy. Oh sure Ashida Kim gets his shots taken at him and has been harassed to no end by internet tough guys and keyboard commandos. And guess what all that lineage stuff that people say makes him a fake... I never had it force down my throat by the claim to unquestionable authority.

Even in Japan, they make fun of the Bujinkan: I'm not a fan but the have their moments... and this was it. Thank you, & random Japanese show for the laughs.
Compare it to this video of Judo Randori where the Vast Majority of students as actually Japanese (Asian at the very least). So your Dojo has so no Japanese...

If you want to waste the money buy a copy of the book; Mind of the Ninja: Exploring the Inner Power by Kirkland C. Peterson.
This book is an example of everything wrong with the Bujinkan. About half this book is bashing Ashida Kim, calling him the "Terrorist ninja." And that's not the worst part, the worst part is the last 1/3 of this book is focused on the spirituality of Shinto & the pseudo-intellectualism of calling eastern religion "superior." This book reinforces much the cult teaching I've said makes up the Bujinkan. Including a rant on how superior the Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu is to all other martial arts. The best part is it flat out denies ninjutsu as (I'm quoting the author citing Ashida Kim) as an art for "espionage, sabotage and assassination" strangely years, decades later really... Ashida Kim is proven correct by the English translations of the historical texts by Anthony Cummins. Cummins in turn is "discredited" (well accused of being discredited but not really) and inspired members of the Bujinkan, namely Don Roley, to make his own translations of the historical texts to justify the Bujinkan's stance on ninjutsu.

Now I admit, a bunch a non-Japanese teaching "ninjutsu" is suspect, but so is a cult to a dead Japanese man who told some cool stories and his disciple who thought the man was divine. I don't care if Ashida Kim said some made up BS about Atlantis; it was actually a pretty interesting point because he was comparing the legends of the Great Floor from different cultures, Atlantis to the Greeks, Noah to the Jews and Christians & the Pole Star School and Shangri-La to the Chinese. Hell I don't care if he made up his ninjutsu, its still better then being forced to Worship a dead man. Because it was an explanation that basically equates to here is some BS to brag about and sound like an idiot, because you want to talk and not train.

The Omoto family has been pretty cool about the ninjutsu thing, they wanted nothing to do with the "ninjutsu culture" and ninjutsu isn't a mainstay martial art it is a supplementary course added to their Budo; philosophy, jujutsu & weapons training. Omoto Ryu doesn't have a Soke who is head of the tradition, the highest rank award is Shihan (Master). In fact, they directed me to other schools of ninjutsu because that's what I interested in... Most people don't hear me talk about Kioshi Omoto a lot, that's because our relationship was very straight forward, learn "x" and practice "x." He wasn't a mentor or a drinking buddy and certainly not a father figure, he was a taskmaster. On the few occasions I got to ask him about things like "ninjutsu" and "lineage" his answers were short and vague. I honestly had a warmer relationship with my Drill Sergeants in Basic (and they were mentors and taskmasters, and I got to drink with them after graduation).

In my school (which I am in the process of reviving) we had boxers, karateka, hapkido practicers, BJJers, MMA wonnabes & street fighters, even a Sheriff's Deputy who studied the Bujinkan style. I didn't sit around doing Kata, non-resistant taijutsu/jujitsu drills and, talking about how our art is combat proven because our tradition is Koryu (a disputed opinion of the Bujinkan) with my students. We train... Sometimes we train in basic boxing, common for my newbies and sometimes I have guys who trained in BJJ or wrestling teach from those arts. I've had a student trained in Hapkido teach hapkido and became the "student" for that day. I've certainly done this when "Abomination" (Matt) was teaching BJJ. I'm practical, an art is only combat proven when, YOU use it in combat...

I'm also a dick, so most of my students don't want to have pictures of them with me online. Especially, those connected to the Bujinkan or the local police force. So when I seem like prick, well I am a prick but, I'm the guy who left the cult. If seem to not respect martial arts, that's cause I don't respect them out of context. When I say out of context let me explain, I don't know if Frank Dux is legit or not but Blood Sport inspired me to compete in Karate & Sport Jujitsu as a kid. When I was 15/16 year old and fought in local "street fighting" tournaments I was kid with Hollywood fantasies. I know that, I admit that but I got a black belts from belt mills, and grew up around a family of criminals. Violence was pretty common in my life and I used what knew when I needed it. Hell I even got a black belt by challenging the instructor and he wanted teach me a lesson. I learned a lesson all right, I learned martial arts are a baby sitting service for children and a fantasy camp for adults. You do it because you enjoy it and, claiming its worth based on who won what trophy or who else learned the art or claiming to have some great lineage is a sure sign of delusion. Look you can learn Navy SEAL Hand-to-Hand Combatives but that won't make you a Navy SEAL. Or to put it another way, you can train in Gracie Jiu-jitsu it won't make you a UFC champion.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Way of the Warrior

"Generally speaking, the Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death."

-Musashi Miyamoto 1584 - 1645
Many times in the study and practice of martial arts, especially when on the internet, I often hear or see people declare themselves "warriors" because of a particular tradition or mental fantasy they carry. You may define yourself as a warrior but are you? What does it even mean to be a warrior?
Musashi the "Sword Saint" of Japan, arguably it's greatest warrior, says that the way of warrior is found in a "resolute acceptance death." But, what des that really mean? I will address this with two quotes from the Tsunetomo Yamamoto (author of the Hagakure: Book of Falling Leaves)
“Whether people be of high or low birth, rich or poor, old or young, enlightened or confused, they are all alike in that they will one day die.”  
-Tsunetomo Yamamoto
“If a warrior is not unattached to life and death, he will be of no use whatsoever. The saying that “All abilities come from one mind” sounds as though it has to do with sentient matters, but it is in fact a matter of being unattached to life and death. With such non-attachment one can accomplish any feat.”  
-Tsunetomo Yamamoto
 Following both lines of thought we see that they come to the same end. We will all die & accepting that we will die we seek to die well, as opposed to live well. For by accepting a "Good Death" we are able to live in a way where ego, pride & passion are controlled by us as opposed to controlling us. This is the difference between a person who likes to drink and a person who is addicted to alcohol (though this may be true of any drug). Both enjoy the drink but one is willing to suffer going without, while the other is a slave to craving. Being non-attached to whether one suffers or not, lives or dies, one is able to accept the price of one's choices without fear of that price. This is not an easy thing to do in anyway...
“There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to all things.”  
-Tsunetomo Yamamoto
 Of course the rainstorm is a metaphor for life's conflicts. Being unattached to life; sex, drugs, money, political power, ideas, religion and so on one is free die well. In dying well, we are free to live toward that end. This is where things like honor, courage, self-sacrifice and duty to something beyond one's self is made manifest. Now this is little different from the concept of Christian values, when David (the Jewish Warrior-King) said that "I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his Saints." -Psalms 116:14 & 15.
Now the common theme is a lack of fear toward death and living to serve a higher power then one's self by accept one's death in that service. Granted Japan at the time & even today is mostly a Shinto based nation where the Emperor is considered a Divine Being. Duty to one's lord (who was appointed by the Emperor) in Japan, was service to the Emperor by proxy. In either case, without the fear of death or suffering one is free to "do what is right" without concern for what is popular.
What does this have to do with martial arts and the way of the warrior? The Way of the Warrior is more then tradition, lineage or such and such art. The Way of the Warrior is a mindset, an acceptance of what is (unavoidable death) and the freedom to live with acceptance of what is. The Warrior fights both with his enemy and with himself; the enemy is of course trying to destroy the warrior and the warrior must fight his own fear of losing his life. They say "there are no Atheists in foxholes" but is true of those who are afraid. Before you can conquer your enemy, you must conquer yourself.
 To be a warrior you must seek the perfection of yourself but do so facing death, your mortality, which means taking risks and "living dangerously." Yes, this means that soldiers & police officers can be warriors as they face death daily. I say can be warriors because how they face death is more important then the act of facing death alone. Belonging to a warrior tradition literally means that you accept your death and without regard for your life in the service of higher ideas then benefitting yourself. In the Army my old XO Lt. Marshall (probably not a Lt anymore) used to say this was "Doing the hard right over the easy wrong, when no else was looking."
 Here in the US and in fact in many/most first world countries martial arts are about socializing, sports, hobbies and even a job. Rarely, do martial arts serve as a combat skillset for life and death situations. A unique trait of my upbringing is that I quite honestly come from a family of criminals, though I spent much of my life rejecting that life style and, it hasn't always been easy. More so, to be honest many criminals are more warriors then those of the martial arts with a rank in a "warrior tradition." They accept the risk occupation and risk to their lives, facing death and imprisonment freely. This isn't to glorify the criminal but, to demonstrate that the warrior can be both "good or bad" in their nature and motives. 
 Like the terms "Master," "Grandmaster" and "Soke" they mean nothing... Machiavelli once said "Men honor titles, titles do not honor men." I am who I am and my rank in ninjutsu does not define me nor does my rank in Shotokan, Judo, Jujitsu or my non-exist rank in the many arts I've dabbled in. I do not define myself as a warrior either. I understand the way of the warrior but there is difference between knowing the path and walking the path. Whether I walk the path or not is something I will let other's decide about me. I have placed my life in danger many times, sometimes in service to my ideas of honor and duty and sometimes just for the fun of it. However you define me is your definition and I do not care... but let me ask you, how do you define yourself? Are you following the Way of the Warrior or are you merely seeking to claim an empty title for your own self interests?

Interview with Grandmaster Donald Miskel Patriarch of the IFAA/BDFS

This an interview with Grandmaster Donald Miskel Patriarch of the International Fighting Arts Association/Black Dragon Fighting Society. I want to address the coming seminars & Open Karate Tournament in Chicago, this coming October 23 to 25th. So I'd like to begin by thanking both you for doing this interview.

I'd like to start be asking about asking about the event and what all it will entail?
Grandmaster Donald Miskel (GM Miskel): This event will be a homecoming reunion bringing the BDFS back to the place of its inception. We are offering seminars by three of our kumite warriors and several other of our masters and grandmasters. The Kata Dante will be taught and participants will receive certification. We are also offering certification in our Ant bullying program and our Referee/judges clinic. We will be presenting the first BDFS Hall of Fame and the first BDFS kumite commemoration tournament.

You must both be happy to get BDFS back in Chicago, could I get some background on both your martial arts training & experience?
GM Miskel: My martial art training began in 1957 when I began studying judo and Kano Jiu Jitsu. I studied shotokan karate with Sensei Sujiro Sugiama and shorei goju karate with Douglas Dwyer, Joun Keehan and Douglas Hayle. I studied Okinawan kempo under Sensei Dupre’ and Chinese kuntao and Chaun Fa (Chinese kempo) under Benji Appalado. I studied hakko ryu jujitsu, daito ryu aikijitsu and aikido under Sensei Robert Hackett, Master Gilbert James, Sensei Grazanski and Master Freeman Fox. I studied northern Shaolin praying mantis under Master James Hu and Tibetan Lama kung fu (white crane and lohan bafa) under Master Choi. I am the cofounder of the Black Lotus Martial Art Association and I’m the senior grandmaster of its fighting systems. I am one of the Patriarchs and the Head of Family of the Black Dragon Fighting Society and have had opportunity to train with some of its various masters.

Will the IFAA/BDFS be hosting other competitions such Judo, Sport Jujitsu or MMA?
GM Miskel: To date we have hosted two karate tournaments and we have cohosted one jujitsu tournament. We will be venturing into other areas of competition in the near future.

So what your opinions of our current social & political climate?
GM Miskel: I am in despair with some of the things I am seeing in our society today. It seems that we have taken two steps forward and three steps back. I am a minister and pastor as well as a martial artist and retired Psych professional. I look at what I see in our world today with total disbelief and incomprehension. It seems that the vocal minority has superseded the silent majority and what ever people scream the loudest for is subsequently granted however crazy it might be. There seems to be no moral fiber in our society and little respect for the church or Christian believers.

I know that some of orgional members lived through/survived the Civil Rights Riots and Battles of the 1950s and 1960s. I'm sure you have some insights that could benefit our younger generation at this time?
GM Miskel: I am old enough to have seen much of these transitions. The fifties, sixties and seventies were a time of change, some for the better some not so much so. I was in the military during part of the sixties and into the early seventies. That kept me out of the middle of much of that but I was aware of what was happening. I was active in some aspects of the struggle. I leaned more to the philosophy of Malcolm X than that of Dr. King. I was a Black Panther for a short while but my passion with the martial arts and my education began to consume most of my time. Plus I got married after boot camp and had a family to support.

I had mentioned this Shihan Lassiter when we talked on the Phone but, I had the pleasure of meeting Eric Larkin he was a Houstin Oilers player back in the 1987, origionally from Chicago. His cousin was at the infamous 1968 Democratic National Convention were Keehan/Dante was teaching the Black Stone Rangers and others to act as security. It was interesting hearing the him relay his cousin's account of the event after hearing Grandmaster Ashida Kim's account. Those must have been some interesting times to live through?
GM Miskel: Indeed. I was on leave at the time and saw much of the turmoil that resulted from the confrontation between the protesters and the police. It was insane. I didn’t know Ashida at that time but I had heard of his involvement in the security of the event. As much as I respected John Keehan I had little use for the Stones. I grew up affiliated with a rival faction in the streets of Chicago.

We had discussed the climate of conflict between martial arts styles and martial artists today, how does this compare to the infamous Dojo Wars of John Keehan/Count Dante's BDFS? Personally, I think most of the trash talker on the net wouldn't run there mouths the way they do in person but, thats my personal experience.
GM Miskel: One of my primary concerns is trying to promote unity in the martial arts. I knew Jim Konservic as well as Lawrence day, and Michael Felkof all of whom were involved in the incident at the Black Cobra Hall of the Green Dragon Society. That was a terrible time. I was caught up in much of the conflict between various schools and organizations as were many of John’s students. I saw the transition of John Keehan into the Count Dante persona and was there as the old World Karate Federation was scrapped and the Black Dragon Fighting Society was created. I was a member of both organizations though during my involvement with the WKF I was Kyu ranked and was a teenager. The last thing I want to see is a reenactment of the dojo wars of the sixties and seventies. I have labored hard to rid the BDFS of the stigma of those turbulent days. Talk is cheap. People run their mouths and indulge in what I like to call keyboard kumite. Social media and the world wide web has made much of this possible. Most of those same people would be silent if they had to meet the people they malign face to face

I'm going to ask Grandmaster Blanton about his own experiences and get his input but, I'd like both your opinions on the BDFS Anti-Bullying Program?
GM Miskel: A many of you know G.M. Blanton has stepped down from the head of the BDFS Antibullying program. I feel that his decision to do so is unfortunate but it falls into very capable hands in the person of Master Larry McFadden. Larry was a professor at Morano Valley University and is a natural teacher and a martial art Grandmaster. He has taught the program on the high school and college level in the United States and in Mexico. Master Blanton did a good job as the former head of the program but it must go on in his absence. It addresses an important issue that plagues our society and gives us a means of dealing effectively with the problem. It is one of our flagship programs.