So I have had a few questions asked of me concerning the Black Dragon Ninjitsu Home Study Course... Here is a basic breakdown of the training. Like in a dojo you only get out what you put into it. So the focus for this course up to, about 5th Kyu is going to be Jujitsu/Taijitsu, at 4th Kyu you start to get into some aspects of stealth, escape, evasion & land navigation.
One of the unique functions of this video course is that while I have been out of training for something close to 3 years, those who use the course will get to see not only how the course works for them but for me as well. So while I already have skills I need I am working to build myself into a fighting fit conditioning.
Prospective students will find that some of the drills and exercises resemble MMA style training. That is because physical fitness and general health are elements we must embrace. There are elements of training from competition styles that are superior to the training methods used by Koryu systems & "traditional" gendai arts. This is based on two key factors...
First, many modern schools teaching Koryu systems, even in Japan (mainly in Japan) exist to pass on a tradition rather then let it die because it is no longer essential. So while Taiso, Body Exercises, were used to strengthen one's body many warriors also engaged in hard manual labor (a standard for getting things done at the time) and did not need such things as weight lifting or cardio training. While training attributed to the Ninja such as hanging from tree limbs by one's finger tips, running so that a rice hat was held to one's chest by the force of wind alone, drawing a bow and so on were also common to the samurai and in fact originated with the martial training of the samurai as at young age about 3 to 5 years old.
Here it is important to make a distinction in the Samurai class, there were Samurai who served a Shugo (a governor) and under each Samurai were smaller domains managed by Jizamurai or country samurai, each having a set number of Ashigaru (literally translated to mean "light feet" a term for infantry) under them. Some Ashigaru had jobs with their domain, as did the Jizamurai they served such as merchants, farmers, fishermen, etc. Many ashigaru were trained in a school of warfare under a Jizamurai who was trained under a Samurai over his domain. This causes some confusion about the Sengoku period where the classes were more fluid, as a Samurai or Jizamurai could have both a position in local government, a domain's military structure and still have a regular side job. The more urban samurai were dependent on taxes they gained from ruling an area, were as the poorer country samurai or Jizamurai had to be engaged in local commerce. This meant going to war, took men away from tilling fields and commerce to fight.
As Japan, was forced into a colonial government that used Western style conscripted soldiers for a central federal army and local military factions disappeared so did many of the local martial arts. Following the Tokugawa Shogunate to the Meiji Restoration (when the colonialism was forced on Japan by the US). So elements of Japanese martial arts found a use in the new government, though generally limited. So many martial arts started a slow decline and that after the relative peace of the Tokugawa shogunate many martial arts became more side show akin to pro-wrestling then combat based skills. This became even more so after the Meiji Restoration, while firearms existed prior to this period the concept of providing Basic Combat Training to conscripted soldiers, rifles and Western tactics was changed much of the concepts of warfare. Local domains were protected not by local armies but a central imperial government and army.
Though it should be noted, that a ninja named Sawamura Jinzaburo was order to sneak aboard Perry's ships to find evidence of the American's intentions, thus showing that until 1853 (say about 30 years would put it about 1883) and perhaps a generation afterward & perhaps much longer, Ninja and Ninjutsu still existed in Japan. In fact, according to a Japanese individual I have spoken with Ninjutsu is much more common in Japanese culture then we would like to believe. That in Japanese pop culture Ninja are seen as mystic-warriors but, seen as criminals, assassins and thieves in historical context taught in Japanese public schools. Much of the idea of the Samurai is akin to the Western Idea of Knights culturally and no Japanese really wants to see the Ninja as job performed by those iconic Samurai.
The second issue goes with many martial arts being deemed as unessential. So the focus is not on what makes them work in combat or for self-defense. These arts have been regulated to tradition, like flower arranging or tea ceremonies or, sports like Karate & Judo. In general they have become Budo (Literally Military or Martial Philosophical Ways) that seek to use strategy and military discipline for reaching goals and self improvement, an aspect linked to both sport and the traditional expression of an arts.
Looking at it through the eyes of a U.S. Army Veteran and as someone thinking in a military mindset. We need to develop our bodies, condition ourselves to push harder and further through physical conditioning. I am sure that the Samurai and any Bushi, engaged in their own methods of physical development. Martial arts should be about self-defense and, yes, with the self-discipline and self-improvement do comes with that, not by lax training to maintain a spirit of a tradition. However, the spirit or idea of the tradition should be an element of how one views one's goals.
In truth, this course is designed more for the paramilitary types; veterans, servicemen, militiamen, preppers & survivalists. Yes, Japanese culture is an aspect of the training course, primarily through the study of the Bansenshukai and the related Chinese Military Classics. It covers things like land navigation and herbal medicine, basic tactics and in order to earn your shodan, you have to take part in a 3-Day "Ninja Boot Camp" here in West Virginia ending in a 24 hour combat survival course. Basically, you have to evade people tracking you and try to infiltrate the camp site.
Why this standard? Because, no one else has it... I have a video course where a Physical Fitness Test (PFT yes its a military term) is involved. In getting myself back in condition, I am showing you how this training works to build yourself up and how the develop the skills and abilities you need to survive. Survive what? A mugging. A bar fight. Getting lost in the woods. Riots and Civil Unrest like Baltimore and L.A. Natural disasters like what we saw with Hurricanes Katrina & Sandy. Public utility failures like the water catastrophe in Flint Michigan or the collapse of the power grid on the East Coast in June of 2012. We live in an age of Global Terror Threats and psychological harassment and abuse through the world of electronic social media which lets the haters and bullies come right into your living room. Identity theft and the exploitation of information in our age of information are also concerns and by embracing ninjutsu espionage and psychological manipulation principles we can see the need to apply this level of knowledge to our self-defense tool box.
Also since I may be allowing Shodan to teach and rank up to Ikkyu, I want people at least skilled in using the art. Many times people say that the Black Belt is the beginning and not the end. I say instead there is no end... You can go further into a tradition or system of martial arts or not. Ultimately, you need to create your own way and not be fixed by the ideas of tradition. What happens if you learn all a teacher or master can teach you? What happens if you know every technique and part of a tradition, where do you go?
You live, your life... While a Black Belt is only the beginning, I have taken to training in different styles and what ended as me getting a black belt as a child (yes... It was a McDojo), I grew up in a way that required me to use what I learned and even then in the late 80s and early 90s, awarding me a black belt was one thing and allowing me to become anything more then a shodan was something else. Regardless, what happened when I got a black belt in Karate, I studied something else... I lived my life and progressed and cross trained with as many people are systems as I could. Somethings, many things cannot be taught and can only be learned from experience and life.
A Soke is the head of tradition, they are also the head of economic system within a particular tradition. There are Hanshi (grand masters) and shihan (masters) below them, all basically different grades of a Sensei (teacher) and each is over a group of deshi (students). A Soke in Jujutsu is not a Soke in Karate. A Soke in one school of Koryu arts is not equal to a Soke in another school of Koryu. That rank, any rank is just a standing within a tradition or particular system of martial arts. On the Battlefield of ancient times one Shihan might be killed by a lowly student of another tradition. In life a highly ranked martial artist can be beaten by an untrained or self-taught fighter because rank is only good for the tradition of the system and nothing more. The rank whether it is a 1st Dan or 10th Kyu is unimportant. What matters in knowledge, skills and how you use them.