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...
- 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...
- 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.
- 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.
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...
Even in Japan, they make fun of the Bujinkan: I'm not a bullshido.net fan but the have their moments... and this was it. Thank you, Bullshido.net & random Japanese show for the laughs.
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.
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.