Thursday, August 13, 2015

The 102 families of Iga & Koga Ninja

If you are wondering the 102 families are the 49 Iga families and the 53 Koka/Koga families. Actually, there are less then 102 families, since some of the Iga & Koga families are the same, According to the Bansenshukai the Iga & Koga, translation by Anthony Cummins & Yoshie Minami The Book of the Ninja page 25; "The people of Iga & Koka had never had a shugo governor and each clan was self-governing; they constructed small castles in each estate independently and had free rein. As having no shugo or a lord. there was not a governor to oversee them. There were numerous instances of them fighting each other to take away the other's land. Therefore, their main concentration was set on battles, each morning and every evening, and their life revolved around armament and defence. They would search for a gap within each other, send shinobi to infiltrate and set fire on each other's castles, get inside information on the enemy, interfere with the enemy's plans of alliance by disinformation, carry out raids or night attacks, and conduct strategy with innumerable changes to catch the enemy of guard."

Clearly, this destroys the myth of the Iga being a republic of freedom and defines Iga & Koka as a lawless land of chaos and constant warfare. It is comparable in modern terms to living in Afghanistan or Syria, or Yugoslavia between the years 1989 to 1992. Being in the eastern Ukraine right now or for my survivalist & prepper mates the US when society breakdowns happens.

This provides a great deal of understanding into where it was created and what ninjutsu is. In fact, the translation from The Book of the Ninja goes on to say starting on page 25 and ending on page 26: "Therefore, the result was that they thought that, in order to defeat the enemy's greater forces by using a small number of people and defeating the heard and strong, it is best to use the flexible and supple, and nothing is better than the use of the shinobi to do this. Therefore, they had every samurai hone himself with the skill of the shinobi and the lower people or genin [kanji] learn in-nin or 'stealth' techniques."

A footnote on page 26 says that " appears that high-ranking people performed predominantly yo-nin as it required a high level of education; however, it is difficult to assess how much of each discipline the different classes learned."

In Volume Eight, titled Yo-Nin (Page 100 of Book of the Ninja) the Bansenshukai says "Shinobi no jutsu consists of yo-jutsu and in-jutsu. Yo-jutsu in to infiltrate the enemy in plain sight with elaborate plans of ingenuity, while  in-jutsu is to 'steal in,' hiding yourself from people's eyes. In this volume are written the techniques to infiltrate by inventing innumerable plans which should be ever changing according to the situation, and finding and taking advantage of any gap within the enemy while you are in plain sight - that is why it is titled yo-nin."

So we know now that Yo-nin and yo-jutsu are the same things, its just logical to assume (correctly so) that in-nin and injutsu are the same. What is of great importance is in understanding the text I've cited on a deeper level. When you hear about "high-ranking" and "low-ranking" here they are talking about social status. The genin were therefore criminals or other low-ranking people in society. So even if one was a high-ranking member of society they were required to know certain things like burglary, pick pocketing, forgery and so on.

Even when discussing "low-people" in modern society, a modern shinobi should be aware of and/or experienced with the methods of criminals and other unsavory types in "the gutter." However, yo-nin is what I wish to focus on, the to infiltrate the enemy in plain sight with elaborate plans of ingenuity. There are a list of skills and methods for doing so both within the Bansenshukai and within Black Dragon Ninjitsu. It is unknown if the Iga and Koga shinobi had different schools and traditions with a variation of ninjutsu techniques but clearly Fujibayashi who compiled the information in the first place traced ninjutsu back to one point. So we are found with a quote from Fujibayashi that he attributes to the Dialog of Tai-Zong, in which Li Ting says:
"Zhang Liang learned the Six Secret Strategic Teaching and the Three Strategies of Huang Shigong written by Jiang Ziya. Also, Han Xin learned Sima Rangju and Sun Tzu."

However, Fujibabashi goes on to state "However, it was limited to the Three Focuses and the Four Schools. One of these three focuses is about ninjutsu." on page 24 of The Book of the Ninja.

Well first off Sun Tzu (the most well know eastern strategy doctrine in the West) was not as widely available then at it is now. In fact, many people who had access to the information did not openly share it. Some of those who who had it had incomplete copies of the iconic text. Also, only when one has studied the text multiple times and in depth does one find those brief passages repeat a theme within the text. These general themes are never openly explained and are therefore considered "secret" because you have to read, study and meditate on the text to understand these themes.

But, Fujibayashi is not speaking of Sun Tzu instead his is speaking of the Chinese treatise on civil and military matters title the Six Secret Teaching by Jiang Ziya but also connects the strategic principles to Sun Tzu. The Six Secret Teachings is important because it is the only one of the seven military classics that is written from a revolutionary prospective.

The Six Secret Teachings is organized into six chapters:
  1. The Civil Strategy: Is focused on organizing the state to support military action and the importance of alliances and diplomacy. 
  2. The Military Strategy: Is a continuation of the concept of using alliances and diplomacy, as well as the focus on what we call "winning hearts and minds" today. A concept that historically allowed us to win every battle but lose the war in Vietnam.
  3. The Dragon Strategy: Is a chapter focused on core basic military matters ranging from general maintaining military moral, order and discipline, to basic tactics and use of unorthodox thinking and flexibility between commanders and leaders "on the ground."
  4. The Tiger Strategy: Focuses on tactical principles and military equipment. Tactical principles are focused around ambush and withdraw under assault, favoring speed, maneuverability and  misdirection.
  5. The Leopard Strategy: Is focused on using terrain to one's advantage, use of strategic forces and tactical thinking deployed against a stronger force by targeting strategic weaknesses.
  6. The Dog Strategy: The dog strategy contains a lot of miscellaneous material, for the other chapters on weakness to exploit within the enemy, the use of selecting soldiers for elite infantry units for special missions, training those soldiers, as well as detecting enemy moral and a warning against attacking when moral is high.
This is a huge difference in how strategy is view by Jiang Ziya and as it is presented in the Bansenshukai is that Iga and Koga. Fujibayashi's statement about clans (families) of Iga & Koka being without a Lord and so engaging in various and constant internal conflicts shows were ninjutsu moved into specifically Japanese context. These internal struggles would require an indirect method of using small teams of soldiers as opposed to sending whole armies (which would very small compared to a formal armies under shugo made up of several clans) to commit to direct battle.

The Chinese states that influenced ninjutsu were in many cases the size of Japan's main island or, larger then Japan's main island of, Honshu. So they had more resources and larger forces, they could expend the waste of man power in open war. Even then much of Chinese thought was conserving resources more so then throwing resources at the enemy recklessly. The Three Strategies of Huang Shigong are an extension of Jiang Ziya's original Six Strategies. Jiang Ziya is credited with being the first person to write a doctrine on military strategy in China, predating Sun Tzu and believed to have been studied by Sun Tzu as well... 

In the 3 Strategies of Huang Shigong, we taught that the 3 strategies are fixed to each of the three styles of government, the importance of Generals being unquestionable once they assume command & that attacks are to be swift and deceive guided by strategic goals. More so, the principles are laid out that should be mastered are;
  1. To alternate between hard and soft approaches, with a leader being both awe-inspiring and  benevolent as the situations calls for it.
  2. Act according to situation and avoid habits, patterns, similarities to other events or one's desires. Judge each situation with perception, observation and be willing to adapt. 
  3. Offers insight into others, and warns to use only the capable.

Han Xin, is a historical figure in ancient China (birth date unknown but died 196BC) who was a brilliant military leader. Sima Rangju, a powerful general and author of The Methods of Sima, another of the seven Chinese military classics.

"Zhang Liang learned the Six Secret Strategic Teaching and the Three Strategies of Huang Shigong written by Jiang Ziya. Also, Han Xin learned Sima Rangju and Sun Tzu."

When Fujibashi goes on to state "However, it was limited to the Three Focuses and the Four Schools. One of these three focuses is about ninjutsu." we are left with an unclear understanding of the Three Focuses (without studying said Chinese Military Classics), which Anthony's notes at the bottom of page 24 that explains what these three focuses are; Strategy, Troops and Resources. The matter of four schools Anthony cites as "Strategy & Tactics," "Circumstances & Developments," "Yin and Yang" and "Techniques and Craft." According to Fujibashi only one of these skills focuses on ninjutsu.

Allow me to show you were this all going...

The above graph is hopefully able to get you to understand where ninjutsu fits into the world of warfare, in the Asian mindset. The four schools, are schools of thought concerning assessing & evaluating the situation, while 3 focuses are the foundations of directing forces; strategic goals, man power and supplies. Ninjitsu is not only the methods of psychological manipulation, strategy and tactics, infiltration and disguise but it heavily tied to the study of military strategy at all levels. The 49 Iga families/clans and 53 Koka families/clans applied strategy to "Economy of Force" (to borrow a martial arts term) with a lawless land of social chaos and constant infighting.

Note: Anthony's translation said Yin & Yang and I don't know if the Bansenshukai originally said this but, assuming it does, anyone familiar with Taoist philosophy know that Yin and Yang are two halves of the Tao. The Tao is a reflection of balance and acceptance of positive and negative, give and taken, loss and gain. A manifestation of the polar opposites that presents an ebb and flow to existence.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Investigating Fujita Seiko leads to more Takamatsu conflicts with his Ninjutsu/Ninpo claims

This was brought up in a forum and I'm going to put the information right here to be saved for future reference. This whole affair started off as a debate as to whether Fujita Seiko was the Soke of all Koga Ryu Ninjutsu or just Koga Ryu Wada-ha Ninjutsu/Wada Ryu Bujutsu. Now this came about from a translation of Fujita Seiko's autobiography by Don Roley...

Anyone who knows Don Roley knows he has an agenda of trying to push the Bujinkan and the Takamatsu-den arts as the only legitimate sources of ninjutsu. Mr. Roley is also a high ranked Bujinkan member, or so he claims. Now if might come as a surprise but the portion of the translation by Don Roley I don't really have any problems with except at two minor points which have been brought by fellow "ninja-geeks". The image of origional Japanese is below...

And this is what Mr. Roley stated...
Ok, so I have been told that there are accusations against me regarding my translation of Fujita Seiko's biography. People are trying to say I am making stuff up and that Fujita never said that he was the last, etc.
Well, here is a picture of the page from his book in Japanese, along with my translation. I do tend to edit things so the story flows better without need to keep checking footnotes to understand things, but those who can read both languages can tell that the information about the history is intact.
Here is the English translation. Parts in brackets are from the prior page.
("My family founder, Wada Iga-no-kami.
Today we know of the Iga ryu and Ko)ga ryu, but these were not names used for the schools originally. The birthplaces of ninjutsu are Koga in Shiga prefecture and nearby Iga in Mie prefecture. The area is composed of sharply rising mountain ranges and in their narrow valleys are the remains of fortresses and strong points cover about 1000 meters. While trying to continue their lifestyle, they kept themselves sharp, preparing for conflict and searching out any piece of information they could on possible enemy moves. Thus, in their precarious position, they were well placed to put great importance and research into developing the skills of espionage and scouting.
And, in 1487 when the Ashikaga Shogun Yoshihiki attacked Sasaki Kourou the Iga and Koga served him a defeat so spectacular that their name and the skill they possessed became known and sought after among the various warlords in the nation and the Iga and Koga traditions were born.
In the times that followed, with the nation plunged into war the skills of the ninja became more and more into demand and the traditions extended into schools such as the Akutagawa ryu, Negoro ryu, Mafuu ryu, Ninkou ryu, Kouyou ryu, Kishu ryu and others. About 25 schools of ninjutsu came into being.
But, all these schools came from the two main sources of the Iga and Koga. And even when talking about the Iga, they themselves were composed of 49 traditions while the Koga had 53 families passing down their skills.
My family was one of those 53, and more specifically part of the 6 families of Minamiyama, also known as the six great names of Koga. From Wada Iga-no-kami 14 generations passed down. In olden days this was how important ninjutsu was, but today it has all but died out and I am the last."

Now the issues my "ninja geek" friends addressed was that
a) Mr. Roley's translation refers to 49 Iga traditions. Anyone who knows Japanese history Iga ninjutsu was traced to 49 families of kokujin or Ji-Samurai (country samurai) and Koga ninjutsu is traced back to the 53 families of Kokujin. So their arguement is that Mr. Roley is in fact suggesting/implying that the 49 families of Iga were in fact a seperate tradition  and the 53 families of Koga had only one tradition.
b) That Mr. Roley was excusing his implied difference in the tradition/family by posting the origional Japanese when he said "Ok, so I have been told that there are accusations against me regarding my translation of Fujita Seiko's biography. People are trying to say I am making stuff up and that Fujita never said that he was the last, etc."

The issue is simple, anyone who is seeking to do legitimate historical research on ninjutsu doesn't discount that Seiko Fujita said he was the last. The big debate comes over whether Fujita Seiko (proper Japanese, with the Surname first) was the last of the Wada line or all of Koga Ryu.

Now the issue rests on this matter, Fujita Seiko had no proof he was Soke of Koga Ryu Wada Ha ninjutsu. As Fujita clearly states in the translation provided by Mr. Roley, his family was one of the 53 families and his line began with Wada Iga no Kami. You'll notice first that Seiko states that "Today we know of the Iga ryu and Koga ryu, but these were not names used for the schools originally. The birthplaces of ninjutsu are Koga in Shiga prefecture and nearby Iga in Mie prefecture."

Now to any ninjutsu researcher, we understand that Fujita Seiko was explaining that Iga Ryu & Koga Ryu is a blanket term for schools arising from those areas. And many feel that Don Roley is translating the text to account for why there are multiple ninjutsu schools in the Bujinkan that would be referred to as Iga Ryu: Togakure Ryu, Gyokushin Ryu & Kumogakure Ryu. However, Koga Ryu in Japan only goes so far as Fujita Seiko's Wada Ryu.

A very in depth article on Koga Ryu Ninjutsu by the Shuto Karate Club, the article notes that there is a mention of 3 Wada schools in the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten, a listing for Koga Ryu Wada Ha on page 273, a mention of Wada Ryu on page 921 & a mention of another school called "Wada To" on page 273. Watatani Kiyoshi stated in the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten he believed Fujita Seiko was only expertise extended only to Koga Ryu Wada Ha. Meaning it is possible for other Koga Ryu Ninjutsu lines to exist...

Now as a person associated with Frank Dux and Ashida Kim, both claiming Koga Ryu lineages what I feel about Fujita Seiko being the last of the Wada line and last Soke of Wada Ryu could be seen as my own bias. But, what about Watatani Kiyoshi who has nothing invested in any such systems? More so, it is my belief as an amateur researcher & "ninja geek" that Fujita Seiko may have been the last ninja period... end of story. We all know I think Takamatsu made up his ninjutsu and when I got into researching Fujita I found some interesting facts...

1. Fujita Seiko's first book on ninjutsu in 1936, during Japan's own Ninja Boom (50 years before America's 1980s Ninja Boom) in pop-culture.

2. That Takamatsu's claims in China cannot be verified, most of his claims in Japan cannot be verified. However, Takamatsu's autobiography states on interesting things.

First, that Takamatsu wrote this brief autobiography in 1955, nearly 20 years before his death...
Second, that Takamatsu claims to have learn ninjutsu from both Ishitani and Toda Shinryuken. However, Takamatsu only lists Ishintani Matsutaro Takekage as him teaching Kuki Happo Biken no Jutsu (this is a reference to the Kuki family's art of Kukishin Happo Biken Jutsu). He attributes Toda to teaching him Koto Ryu and Togakure Ryu and Koshijutsu. With no mention of the other schools...

This is mainly irrelevant except when you look at the claim to Takamatsu learning ninjutsu from both men. Why is this important? Because Takamatsu was never known for ninjutsu in his early days. Takamatsu had a hand in creating a Japanese Martial Arts Organization known as the Minoku Seinen Botoku-kai but he was known as a master of Jujutsu & Bojutsu not Ninjutsu...

Now according to Takamatsu's Autobiography which can also be found here & here... He didn't open his private dojo: Sukisha Dojo until after he came back from China. The Biography at states Takamatsu spent 10 years in China & left when he was 20. So lets assume he was 29, for a man born in 1887 + 20 years... is 1907 and 10 years in China would put his return at 1917. A Genbukan site states Takamatsu returned from China in 1919 but says he started his personal school in May of 1950. Which means Takamatsu would have been 63. It is important to note that Takamatsu's ninjutsu legacy rests mostly with Masaki Hatsumi as Takamatsu was not known for ninjutsu previously... His first published article on ninjutsu was in the later 1960s and the article on Fujita cites his displeasure at Hatsumi and Takamatsu for openly teaching ninjutsu, but this was in 1967.

Now let us compare dates... Hatsumi and Takamatsu hold public demonstrations in the 1960s, I'll even offer the 1950 date. Takamatsu's first private Dojo (Sukisha Dojo) was opened in 1950 & before this he was know as a Jujutsu and Bojutsu master. His first, written article came in the later 1960s (1967 perhaps?).

The Historical Ninjutsu texts of the Bansenshukai, Ninpiden and Shoninki were translated in the later 1930s, Fujita Seiko had already written 3 books on ninjutsu by the time Takamatsu made his first appearance and already stated he was the last of the Wada line of Koga Ryu Ninjutsu.
Ninjutsu Hiroku 1939
Ninjutsu Kara Spy Sen He 1942
Saigo no Ninja 1954
Plus the entries in the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten as earily as 1963 (1st Edition)...

Fujita Seiko was ninjutsu researcher and known as the "last ninja" 11 years before Takamatsu formulated his own scrolls and claimed to have learned Ninjutsu. With the historical text being translated in the later 1920s and early 1930s, Japan's pop culture ninja boom occurring in the 1930s, Takamatsu's claim is suspect. This doesn't account for the pattern of behavior concerning his "theft" of the  Kuki families art and lineage or other claims which cannot be proven that sound very much unlikely and grandiose.

The problem with legitimately researching history, is that you have to work with the facts and not try to present facts to protect your own bias & opinion. The fact remains, no evidence of an existing ninjutsu school from history being in existence today exists. At best they are all modern creations, except where proven Koryu schools such as Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu have it as part of their kuden (verbal teachings) usually only passed down to from Soke to Soke.

So my addressing the information about Takamatsu I seemed to ruffled some feathers. As it turned out I was arguing with Don Roley's troll account Simon Edwards. Who (being Don Roley and Bujinkan member) was trying to declare all Koga Ryu extinct because Fujita Seiko was the last know practicer to come forward, apparently Don does not count Americans who claim Koga Ryu or Kawakami Jinichi. I was waiting on Don to make a few more argument before addressing a final trump card I had been holding.

You see there are 2 distinct points I chose to withhold both come from an older article written by Don Roley entitled: History of the Koga Ryu...
First someone letting it slip Simon Edwards is Don Roley:

Now comes the important points that reinforce my earlier statements concern the issue of Mr. Roley's translation. In Mr. Roley's article using the same material he translated from Japanese to English to argue that all Koga Ryu died off with Fujita Seiko, Don Roley explains Fujita Seiko own worlds stating that Iga & Koga Ryu were not part of a formal ryu or school like classical Koryu martial arts where.

So here Don Roley explaining that there was no formal schools of ninjutsu and that they were all associated by families. Don Roley states they would have names like Iga Ryu (family name)-ha or Koga Ryu (family name)-ha but notes these names didn't exist until after the warring states (Sengoku) period.

This brings us to my points; first there was no formal school of ninjutsu and by Mr. Roley's own statements how does the Bujinkan claim three distinct Ninjutsu Ryu; Togakure Ryu, Kumogakure Ryu & Gyokushin Ryu?

Now why does Don Roley say this, you might ask but answer is because Fujita Seiko said as much and Roley was quoting Fujita. This is reinforced by Bansenshukai who Don Roley's troll account Simon Edwards refers to as a "notebook" and I feel down plays the historical text conceal information that conflicts with his claims (but thats just). On Page 25 of the Bansenshukai translation by Athony Cummins and Yoshie Minami title The Book Of The Ninja states "The people of Iga and Koka (alternate spelling of Koga) had never had a shugo governor and each clan was self-governing; they constructed small castles in each estate independently and had free rien. As having no shugo or a lord, there was not a governor to oversee them. There were numerous instances of them fighting with each other to take away the other's land. Therefore, their main concentration was set on battles each morning and every evening, and their life revolved around armament and defence."

The second issue, is with each of 49 Iga families having a tradition and each of the 53 Koga families having a tradition, Fujita Seiko was only one line. Now I will say he never had a proven lineage, yet in the case of Mr. Kawakami he was historically correct. A big glaring issue here is not only later time in the 1960s of Takamatsu claiming a ninjutsu lineage, he also claims "ninjutsu ryu." So our second issue is the huge hole in the information Don Roley is presenting. Remember Takamatsu's own friend Watatani Kiyoshi said Takamatsu made use of modern information availabel on ninjutsu at the time.

Finally, because I will be called a liar by some concerning Don Roley's gaps in information, here is the entire article, via screen shots from the article at beginning with a close up of Don Roley's name as the author of this work...

Fujita Seiko was the last Soke of Koga Ryu Wada-ha Ninjutsu, he left no successor to his art. However if he was the only/last of the Koga families to practice ninjutsu or if more survived, I do not know. If his grandfather lied to him or if he himself was lying, as Mr. Roley addresses in his article, I do not know. Fujita was sometimes called a mere researcher and other times a ninja. You can believe what you like, I am merely presenting evidence for my belief that Bujinkan members readily run about internet calling out others as frauds, real and imagined because their own art is fraudulent, the pot calling the kettle black kind of thing.

What I do know is that Fujita Seiko, was a researcher and an author, an instructor at spy school and had a hand in making a partial translation of the Bansenshukai. He was Soke of Taien Ryu Jojutsu (short staff art), Shingetsu Ryu Shueikenjutsu (throwing blade art), Ichiden Ryu Toritejutsu (restraining or escaping from restraint by an attacker art) & Naban Satto Ryu Kenpo (lit. "Foreign Killing School" Kenpo) in addition to Koga Ryu Wada Ha Ninjutsu.

Seiko Fujita was also taught at the following...
  • Kokumin Seishin Bunka Kenkyusho (Cultural Institute of National Spirit)
  • Kobo Kinmu-in Joseisho
  • The Nakano Gakko/Espionage School
  • Toyama Japanese Army Academy
  • Rikugun Shikan Gakko/Military Officers Academy
  • Instructor in Police Bujutsu at the Tokyo Headquarters of Regimented Military Police
  • Educational Facilities of the Japanese Navy (existed from 1888 to 1945)
  • Adviser to Nihon Kararte-do Kai
I'm ending my updated information here. I more then doubled the length of the origional blog post.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Enlightened Martial Artist...

Yesterday I was talking about some events with the BDFS with a student of mine. I mentioned John Keehan/Count Dante and how he was training and thinking in 1960s. Specifically, how Dante had students drinking and smoking in class to simulate "bar room conditions" which was all part of simulating combat conditions. My student's reply was "That is like how you were training us, in street cloths and stuff..."

You see Dante was an influence on me later on in life (my 20's) and Bruce Lee was an influence during my teens. Both heavily encouraged cross training and as a Black Dragon Fighting Society member I have the benefit of doing exactly that, we aren't a single art organization. If you ever read any of Dante's writings on the martial arts you'll know he didn't want to create a "new art" but, he did want to improve existing one's. Much of Dante's philosophy and ideas mirror those of Jeet Kune Do creator Bruce Lee. Being an influence on me, I've always tried to find better ways of training. I remember getting in trouble when I was nine years old because I had this idea to swing the heavy bag to simulate a moving opponent; my instructor just told us to line up and practice jump kicks against the heavy bag & I found a way to improve to exercise.

Some might find that arrogance but it came from a simple thought I had, as a someone on the receiving end what would be my first reaction? To move out the way. So why not learn to hit a moving target? It all seemed common sense to me. You see to understand my frame of mind you have to understand my childhood, when I three years old my dad, high on PCP tried to kill my mom. I remember bits and pieces of it. Enough to know I wanted to be strong and being a child of the 80's I had a whole mess of martial arts flicks to convince me that learning martial arts would do that for me. Also consider that my mother was a black belt in karate and started teaching my at 2 1/2- 3 years old. A large part of my child was devoted to becoming stronger. Sure I had other influences like Dukes of Hazard, MacGyver and the A-Team that showed anyone with a brain could improvise weapons tools. Which lead me to studying the Anarchist Cookbook as a teenager, which lead me to Uncle Fester (of Chemistry Porn fame). All this shows the elements that came to my understanding of creates an effective system.

You see these elements & ideas stuck with me even though I was learning martial arts, and of course Bruce Lee's philosophy (which I was first exposed to) through his movies. My mom, didn't believe in limiting yourself to one style of martial arts. Most of all, my mom didn't believe in having me to learn from "Paper Tigers" people with rank but little actual application experience. So many of my instructors were not always highly ranked but had a good bit of experience using what they knew.

How you use your art is vastly more important then what your rank is. Allow me explain, I had 2 karate instructors who were both Sandan (3 degree black belts). One was a Vietnam veteran with a habit of mixing hand-to-hand combatives in with his martial arts classes (he taught more then one art) and other an outlaw biker. I don't know if Sensei Smalls even used his art in combat in the military however, he did use it in bar brawls and back alley fights as a younger man. Sensei Massey of course was an outlaw biker & used his art in much the same environment. Their knowledge earned from experience out weighed their rank.

Now do not get me wrong, I am not glorifying violence or criminality but your experiences, even the things you draw inspiration from like TV and music, shapes who you are by influencing your judgement. Think about how you have some people in your life who always tell you how pathetic you are compared to them or your "heroes" suck compared to their "heroes." These are the people who try to influence you to fail so that they can feel superior. There are people who try to make you feel you can do anything. What influences you becomes a part of who you are, because effects your actions and thoughts. Ultimately, you have to use your art and the conditions for which you use it influence how you define you art. Definition alone does not matter...

I come from a family of criminals, I've seen things many people are totally unaware of. The world is not as clear cut, black and white as people want to believe. Some would say that the apple doesn't fall from the tree, well guess what... I've seen apple trees in the woods alone in clearings, things change. That is the one constant in life, events, people, outlooks and understandings are mutable. My mom, before I was born had seen how mobsters taught their kids, how these people not only had kids learning boxing and wrestling, karate and judo but how they were taught about business and philosophy. So my mom having seen this tried to emulate by who she found as my instructors. If I were to be a criminal, I would be a very dangerous and influential one. This is not me bragging or pumping myself up... It is me saying that I know who am because of what I have done.

You see in my experiences, which do extend across the globe to South Korea, Beijing and Japan, people are very much the same... The people who have to pull out their rank of (enter martial art here) don't have a reputation or the experience to back up their hype. Martial arts brings many benefits: enhanced fitness, self-confidence, mental focus and self-discipline. So don't think I'm bashing martial arts, even the less combat effective arts have benefits for children and adults alike. The one thing not all martial arts do is teach you to fight effectively.

Now don't think I am bashing martial arts, I am not. What I am doing to simply laying out the facts, as I see them. I kind of got off track here, but the jist of what I wanted to convey was simply that one's applications and experience defines one's art. An enlightened approach is to know yourself and your art for what it is.