Ninjutsu takes on many forms these days, with many claims and counter claims as to what the style is. Serval things all these modern ninja groups can agree on are, they wear black gis in the dojo, practice weapons, focus on self-defense and survival, and practice or learn stealth maneuvers.
I remember when I was a young teen and practiced Tang Soo Do at a local karate school, and reading about the mysterious art of the Ninja by the only authors available at the time on the subject, Steven Hayse and Ashida Kim. I imagined earning a black belt in this deadly art, dressing from head to toe in the commercially available ninja costume, slipping out the window in the evening for a night time mission.
Thirty something years later after earning a Shodan in one of the well-known Ninjutsu organizations, as well as earning several black belt levels in other systems, that using stealth techniques in real life as a non-military personal, is a lot less dramatic. Do I use methods gained from such study often, yes, do they involve dressing up in a special outfit with a grappling hook and smoke bombs unfortunately no.
To examine the reason for training in stealth technique we have to justify the necessity for taking the time and effort in the first place. Unless you are a secret opts agent working for the military, or someone working in some kind of criminal organization there aren’t a whole lot of practical purposes for such skills. For me personally they are a useful tool for danger prevention. They also lend a helping hand for avoiding awkward situations.
For the past decade I have lived in China a communist country that doesn’t always take the straight forward way of handling business. Often the term cutting through the red tape comes to mind, or perhaps mind games. For a [wai guo ren 外国人] “foreigner” a term used for none Chinese, this situations can be quite a nuisance. For example in the previous city I lived in called Shenzhen, each building complex was surrounded by a gate or fence and a security guard was stationed at the gate’s entrance. This meant upon entering and leaving my residence I would have to deal with the daily chore of being the “none Chinese”. One would think in 2015 being a different nationality would be no big deal, but actually I would daily get prolonged stares by the same people as if they never saw me [or a foreigner] before in their life. To make life simpler, I found an alternative route. This involved going behind the building climbing a fence or two and leaving through a small exist in another gated community. This simple method didn’t involve a single acrobatic flip, smoke bombs or being covered in head to toe in a black masked uniform, though it can be considered just as much of a Ninja technique as the previously mentioned. This method of entering and existing the building meant I could go an entire day unseen by the guards.
When using ninja techniques to avoid danger, two things come to mind, awareness and distance. To begin with one has to be aware of subtle changes, some may say to the point of almost having a sixth sense. For the modern day Ninja student there are ways to train this ability. One method involves standing in a darkened room with a training partner about 15 feet away. The partner will be armed with a practice padded stick or club of sorts. His/her goal is to sneak
up on you without making a sound and touch you on the top of the head with the practice club. Your goal is to sense him/her and raise your hand as he/she is close and ready to strike. The attacking partner must think violent thoughts, as if he or she wants to actually bash your skull in with a blunt object. It is these feelings that you will pick up on through this training exercise. This is one isolated exercise but even without having ever trained in such a drill a long time martial artist regardless of the style will gain such sensing skills.
The other day I had such an experience. To begin this story I must give a brief introduction to my current situation. For the past decade I have been living and training in Chinese martial arts in China. For the past year and a half I have been living in Songshan Shaolin [birth place of The Shaolin Temple]. Yesterday upon arriving at my Shifu’s school before reaching the outside training yard, which is down a slight hill, I paused and told my wife wait, I want to see if a certain person was outside training with my Shifu’s group. My wife assured me that he had left to work in other city the previous week. This is what we were told, and he had been absent from the school for at least a week. By all accounts he should have been gone for good. Something however told me this wasn’t the case. We were still at a distance and I planned to train in the other yard to avoid a certain someone if that induvial was present. Sure enough my instincts were right. The induvial was present that day.
In this way heightened senses and awareness of distance can be the best defense. If someone is bothering you or has the potential of causing you physical, mental or spiritual harm you can often simple avoid or gain distance form such a threat. As in a physical threat it is always better to be prepared and not taken by surprise. This is not always possible but by training your senses and trusting them often they can prepare you for what is yet to come.
About the Author
Chris Friedman has done the martial arts since
His early teens. He has spent the past decade training in China.
He currently resides in Shaongshan Shaolin as a disciple and assistant instructors to visiting foreign guest. He is also a writer for Kung Fu/Tai Chi Magazine and jetli.com
For more info on Chris please go to www.shaolinwithchris.com