Friday, September 11, 2015

Tonpo: Counter-Tracking

This article was inspired by something I saw posted on the blog. While bioprepper is a prepping and survival site, the issue of evading someone following you has many self-defense applications. The article How to Escape Your Tail And Avoid Being Followed can be viewed here & its fairly basic...

You need to understand basic tracking to understand how to avoid being tracked. The first step to this is understanding mental conditioning of the tracker. Trackers need to pay attention to details and to know their environment and terrain. This is required to find spore & spore is more then just foot tracks... and following spore is called Sign Cutting. Sign Cutting is simply the process of following one spore to another, literally cutting a trail from one sign of a person or animal's passage to the next sign.

Types of Spore:
  1. Tracks & Foot Prints: Anyone can follow tracks in the dirt or mud, that is easy... but what about on hard ground? A person crossing a stream by stepping on rocks will leave a trail of damp or wet rocks. A person travelling on hard packed dirt will leave a diminished or partial print more visible from a lower position to the ground. Soft soled shoes without heels such as tennis shoes, kung-fu shoes, tabi boots and moccasins leave less of an imprint the heeled or hard soled boots like combat or hiking boot. 
  2. Waste & Trash: Animal or human waste is a good indicator of one's passing. This why burying or bagging said waste and transporting it with you is used to conceal one's presence.
  3. Bedding & Camp Sites: Fire provides light and can be seen at a distance, even a cigarette "cherry" can be seen from over a mile away at night. Even if one uses a fire pit, the digging and burying the pit leaves disturbed ground. Fire is should not be used except at mid day to cook and using only dry hard woods to produce as little smoke as possible. Many animals will dig dens and gather grass to make bedding for their rest. Some will eve preserve food by burying it to return to later.
  4. Movement, Shine, Color, Sound and Scent: Drab clothing and gear is best, too dark or too brightly colored clothing can make you visible. Tans are an almost universal color for going unnoticed, it will often blend with sand or stand stone perfect for urban and desert environments and match dead foliage on the ground in most forests. You do not want loose items or clothing to be snagged on objects or make extra sound. You also want to conceal scents such as cooking by boiling foods & not using spices or sweat by "dry washing" regularly or using scent blockers such as animal urine and smoke to cover one's scent. 
  5. Disturbed Ground: This applies to tracking by looking not tracks but spore produced by attempting to hide spore, such as disrupting one's tracks by brushing over them with branch (a favorite of cowboy movies and spaghetti westerns), this leaves an even straight line pattern which is actually unnatural and this creates spore.
  6. Broken or Bent Branches & Grass: Broken branches and bent grass can show were wieght has been applied or where someone has passed. Many times this includes snapped fabric or fur from whatever passed by. A ninjutsu technique called a sweeping cat step, is intended to prevent such spore but it is not always possible and a mistake can leave spore at sporadic locations while cutting sign.
A person learning to track must first learn to pay attention to details and to always scan their environment for details.

Take deer for example (I am a hunter), they are creatures of habit and will use the same paths and trails. Stags will also leave rubbings on trees from rubbing the Velvet off their antlers. Deer also hang around watering holes to drink and to eat the plants. Deer are common known to bed down on high ground to see or hear a possible threat at a distance and avoid it. So even you aren't following Spore (Tracks) you know a water source is a likely starting point and so is a high point like a hill top in the predawn moments.

Tracking people is often easier then tracking animals (cops do it without any specialized training), human's are the only animals that move in a straight line from point A to point B barring terrain obstacles. We are also creatures of habit and social animals. So if a person is moving say South West, you don't have to "track them" you just have to know locations associated with them, basic habits and general places they would provide shelter and/or resources. Police use this method by staking out the "hunting grounds" of criminals. The criminals move into those zones to commit criminal activity maintaining their habit and needs... Like a deer returning to the same pond to drink and eat or a wolf pack staking out the trail of said deer to ambush the deer for food on its way to said pond.

Avoiding being tracked is also simple, 1) exercise noise and light discipline, 2) avoid high points, 3) maintain a 360 degree view of your environment (this is where a ninjutsu pivot step applied by the individual comes in), 4) travelling in a round about manner (S-pattern) and staying off trails and roads, 5) doubling back at regular intervals, 6) bury trash and waste, 7) use fire pits and only with dirt walls to conceal the glow, 8) use a turning step to obscure and confuse one's spore, 9) as a last resort use an ambush with the goal of injuring and slowing down your tail, 10) pay attention to animals around you they will alert you to others in your area, 11) Do not travel in valleys  as this can be used to predict your path of travel (the sides of hills just under the ridge line is best), 12) do not cross rivers or streams at regular fords, 13) use decoys to draw attention and divert those tracking you, 14) scent can be concealed with smoke or used to lead a false trail, 15) if being tracked by dogs ambush the dog handler first this will confuse the animal, ambush the animal second, 16) booby traps can be used to slow down a trail as well (even if it is noticed the psychological effect will cause delays and 17) when crossing stream move down stream and double back to cross at another point & 18) apply all individual stealth walking methods.

As a group, 1) travel one behind the other stepping in each other's foot prints to hide numbers, 2) spread out on soft group to obscure the trail, 3) maintain all the individual skills. 4) In urban locations you can use things like glass and polished vehicles to look behind you, 5) stop and prepare to defend at potential ambush sites. 6) cross roads and trails at bends in the trail & 7) cross roads by posting a 360 security on onside and crossing as individuals maintaining 360 degree security.

You don't have to be an expert tracker to prevent being tracked and maintaining certain actions and tactics means that anyone can prevent or delay being tracked by anyone short of an expert tracker. Even then an expert tracker can be delayed but not prevented. There are few expert trackers in the world... technology and the use of blood hounds makes sign cutting a dying skill.

Here are some basic Shonobi Aruki methods from an older youtube video I did back in 2010.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Warrior, Predator & Healer... Archetypes of Omoto Ryu Budo....

In Black Dragon Ninjitsu we use these three archetypes to reflect the mindset of the practitioner of martial arts and ninjutsu. The term predator is not the original term, since the original term is "Hunter" but we are taught that a hunter should reflect the attitude of  a "animal on the hunt." These three archetypes reflect the essence of Omoto Ryu Budo, three paths that one must walk...

The journey is the destination... or as Tolken wrote "Not all that glitters is gold and not who wander are lost..." You live, you do stuff and you die. The End... Everyone's life story summed up in a very small sentence. That is the simplicity of life, what you do between birth and death is all that matters. No one gets out of life, alive but, that does not mean our lives are without purpose or meaning. This is the nature of the first path, one must be a Warrior...

The Warrior, is first phase of one's development. Taking responsibility for one's self, striving to better one's self in all ways and at all times, maintaining faith in one's beliefs and respecting one's self. The warrior not merely someone who fights but someone who is willing to lose their life for something greater. A future... the future. The warrior is were one learns to embrace hardship and forges themselves like steel. Each day for the warrior is competition with one's self. Competition with others only allows one enjoy their success in forging themselves but the goal is always in bettering themselves.

The Warrior, is a learning and exercising of the traits of Courage, Personal Honor, Loyalty to one's beliefs, Self-Discipline and Duty to one's higher power. There will always be those who see the Warrior as "hero" or "villain" but the warrior does not concern himself with such labels. The Warrior, does what he (or she) much because they can. Warriors do not call the call 911 to save a child in a burning car, they rush into flames because they are there. The Warrior must defeat their greatest enemy, their only enemy; themselves...

Self-Discipline is the core of the warrior's personality. They are in control of their emotions, they do not let fear, anger, sympathy, lust or love sway them. It is not to say that do not have such emotions, it is to say strive to control them, to do the hard right over the easy wrong. The warrior is not cold nor is he out of control, the warrior is logical and purpose filled. As I said this is the beginning of the path.

The Hunter is the next path. This is beginning of the path which leads to understanding tactics, strategy and in fact human psychology. The hunter studies his prey, manipulates it's habits and actions. The Hunter, requires all the Self-Discipline & Courage of the Warrior but adds the quest for understanding the nature & methods of their prey. A Hunter must be cautious not become the Hunted, as is the case when dealing with any dangerous animal.

The Hunter, shares traits with Carl Jung's Trickster & Magician... The Hunter baits, traps, ambushes, hides and stakes out the goals of the prey. The Hunter also lives with nature and uses the ebb and flow of nature; seasons, tides, etc. to bring about their end goal.

The Healer is the final path of the ninja, it is the path of learning to undo damage. Healing isn't just treating physical injury but, mental and emotional pain as well. The Healer is a storing force, a truce maker and teacher. This is were the traits of forgiveness, benevolence and mercy come in. The Healer's first patient is himself (herself). Such things are a manifestation of the complete circle of following the three paths.

Note: Image from, it seemed most appropriate...

The Warrior is disciplined and fights to preserve that which he loves, the Hunter is cunning and uses his (her) enemy against themselves (We are our own worst enemies after all...) and the Healer mends our wounds and seeks to help let go of old grudges. These three archetypes guide and manifest the nature of Omoto Ryu Budo...

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Secrets of Budo: Esoteric Philosophies in Martial Arts

Budo, the warrior's way, often promises to teach one the secrets to the esoteric universe... But, what is it? Many times people mention their martial arts passing on "esoteric secrets" but what does that all mean? First off let say this, I can sum up what Budo is and what it is meant to convey in very plane simple American-English. I will save my take on Budo for the end and you can skip to it if you don't want me to explain the nature of Esoteric Philosophies.

Now the word Esoteric gets thrown around a lot in the martial arts world. Many people don't even know what the word esoteric means. So lets start there, generally speaking the term esoteric is related to religion, specifically speaking the Greek Mystery Religions. Esoteric generally refers to Private or Secret Knowledge belonging only to a select few. Now in the "ninjutsu world" this gets broken down in to two things, 1) strategy and philosophy that address incites into human nature and/or 2) religious mysteries and philosophical incites into human nature.

One good example of such case is the often debated Sakki element of martial arts training. Now Sakki is literally translated as "Air of Murder" and refers to the uneasy feeling one gets when danger is close by. Now there are multiple explanations of this, ranging from "guardian angels" and mystical powers gained through meditation to the subconscious mind and psychic powers. Now guardian angles is a general term for guardian spirits & not specifically limited to Judaeo-christian or Islamic mythology. Sakki can best be summed up in modern terms as a kind of "Spidey Sense" that warns of possible threat.

It is actually interesting that the scientific community has attempted to investigate and examine this phenomenon. On multiple occasions, and science has explained this (at least in part), psychologists and other researchers have found that the subconscious mind seems signs of a threat and relays this information to the conscious mind as "feelings." So what is such a mystery concerning this matter? One study conducted back 2008-2009 produced this result:
The characteristics identified as beneficial to IED detection came as little surprise to JIEDDO’s command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Burnett, USA (no relation to Dr. Burnett). Command Sgt. Maj. Burnett has extensive in-theater experience, including performing route clearance missions, and he says he expected the person who would be best at finding the devices would be a little older and have hunting experience because that involves the ability to remain still and take in a 360-degree view of the surroundings.

So is hunting an esoteric practice? In ninjutsu there is a term Haragei which literally means "stomach art" and it is the Japan practice of reading (between the lines) non-verbal ques. It is not specific to martial arts but Japanese culture. You see the Japanese are very polite people and rather risk offending someone with direct response that would be viewed as negative, they give indirect responses that basically conveys the negative response in a less perceived offensive light. So must have a Haragei "gut instinct" for what is meant regardless of what is said. Understanding a true meaning through implication. This also means the Japanese deal more with reading body language and what isn't said as much as what is said... This not secret art form but a common cultural aspect of the Japanese culture.

In martial arts there is also the term Mushin which means no mind, and this has a simple meaning of acting without thought. Mushin is gained by developing one's Kan or intuition. There is a story in Shotokan of how the founder of Shotokan Funakoshi Guchin asked his students to attack him at random to develop his skill in Karate as a form of training. Following modern studies into soldier's Combat Intuition this a simply building said intuition through experience. This is good training and not some "secret" known only to a chosen few. It develops Kan or Intuition.

Now most often the "esoteric" teachings come in the form of quasi-mystical semi-religious thought, what child psychologists call "magical thinking." Now magical thinking is basically counter to any religious belief system, and I don't want to be accused of picking on anyone's religion so I will leave my religious beliefs to be addressed by addressed below. I will state religions are like relationships and so can be toxic, misleading and abusive. I know a great many people who have done more harm to themselves using the religion of Wicca to try to force things to happen or the reading of horoscopes and tarot cards to convince themselves of lies. It is of course not the fault of the Wiccan religion that they used "magical thinking" to deceive themselves.

The five elemental philosophies of Taoist Alchemy and Shinto are a philosophical approach to nature science from a far older time. Thus they approached the elements of nature at basic levels, water, fire, earth, air & nothingness. These elements became expressions of energies, ideologies, personality types (archetypes) and motivations. They are elements of an ancient science and part of cultures and religions. Like the Ten Commandments, they do not have to be linked to religion to have value. You do not have to believe in the Judaeo-Christian God or Jesus to believe lying, stealing and murder are wrong. Nor do you need to worship the gods of Buddhism and Shinto use the ancient science within the religion. You don't have to believe in "Ki" or "Chi" (a manifestation of the void) to believe in Sakki or develop Kan. Often times these practices are used to entrap the weak minded and those who feel powerless by offering a "secret power" or Red Badge of Courage to feel special.

My Take on Budo: Warning you may not like this...
Budo doesn't and shouldn't be seen as a mystical philosophy. Quite the opposite, the Way of the Warrior is very straight forward, although the methods are generally not. The Samurai often wrote poetry and examined or expressed philosophies. Reading the Hagakure: Book of Hidden Leaves we see that certain Shinto religious philosophies are carried over and defined Yamamoto Tsunetomo, a Tokugawa Era Samurai. It has many comparable philosophies to the Go Rin Sho (Musashi Miyamoto's Book of Five Rings). While the standardized Bushido is a more modern construct based on historical philosophies the oldest of which was the Kojiki, dates back to 8th Century and is mostly a collection of old myths and stories, the story of Prince Yamato Takeru provides a basis for early warrior standards based off his live and exploits.The Gunki Monomatari or War Tales puts a particular focus on warrior ethics and calls lists them as Loyalty to one's Lord, Courage in the face a certain death, Alliance to Family and Personal Honor tied to Loyalty. Other, such historical accounts such the Tale of the Heike (Heike Monogatari) focuses on a fantastic and romanticized view of the Genpei War (a 5 year war between the Taira & Minamoto Clan), these same virtues of Duty, Loyalty,  Selflessness, Courage & personal Honor are focused on.

The term Do is the Japanese way of pronouncing Tao. Do is also linked to the Buddhist Sanskrit word Marga meaning Path. This frames the understanding of the meaning of Budo, as opposed to Bujutsu. Bujutsu is quite literally Military Art or War Art and Budo meaning  Military Way/Path or War Way/Path. While art is generally a reference to the methods of war, techniques and strategies used in battle, way or path often speaks of spiritual, religious or philosophical path. So if we leave out the spiritual and religious path we are left with a simple philosophical path. A way of thinking and acting in accordance with a non-religious philosophical values system. This makes the value of Bushido (The Warrior Way/Path) and Budo (The War Way/Path or Way/Path of War) basically the same in concept.

If we apply religion, it is the religious interpretation of the warrior's path. Looking at history and Shinto is especial true in the case where the Imperial bloodline is said to be derived from the Kami. Loyalty to one's lord is essentially loyalty to the Imperial family and to one's divine  beings of religion. Other virtues of the religion would of course also be associated with the virtues of a warrior. Certainly Shinto and Buddhism aren't the only religion to express this, even Christianity has it interpretation of the warrior's path. So what is so secret about the Warrior's Path that it conveys esoteric meaning? Does Honor, Duty, Integrity, Courage & Loyalty has some secret that only a chosen few can understand or is it just the quasi-religious cult following a martial arts cult?

The way of the warrior is straight forward, to charge headlong into adversity, conflict and hardship (combat both physical and mental) and the Way of War is embrace the Warrior mindset and character in mundane life and technical elements of military or paramilitary conditioning (martial arts) to develop the warrior character and teach warrior philosophy. In this way, Budo can be applied to business strategy and other aspects of life like other society interactions, not just a strict adherence to warfare.

Sometimes (more times then we would like to admit in the martial arts culture), Budo is used to teach and encourage Asian religions and other practices. This is often an interesting question when embraced by Atheists, Judaeo-Christian believers, Muslims and others who do not wish to stray from their ancestral or chosen religion. As it is a bit like tricking someone to converting to another religion, and many practices seen in martial arts training, like bowing a picture of the schools founder, then clapping and chanting a mantra are characteristic of said religious practices of Shinto and worshiping the "divinity" of said founder. This the problem with esoterics in martial arts...