Death Of The Bujinkan Part 2
Recently I have been receiving a few emails about my blog post back in December 2022 about the death of the Bujinkan. It's interesting to see how many people feel the same as I did and have felt pushed out by the constant politics from the Shihan or that become disillusioned by the way the organisation is run.
So how do I feel about it all a year on? I eventually decided to do my own thing and break my dojo away from the Bujinkan, I am still a Bujinkan instructor but my dojo is the Seal Martial Arts Dojo and we teach Seal Martial Arts Kobudo which is a combination of Ninjutsu, FMA (Filipino Martial Arts) and Combatives. I licensed my own system based on all of the knowledge that I have acquired over the years from training with other martial artists and in other systems and I am much happier as I can now do what I need to do with my dojo. I didn't feel I could accurately represent the Bujinkan anymore and conform to their rules and regulations such as not allowing people living with mental health issues to train as I just outright disagree with that sort of discrimination despite understanding the reasons for it.
People often ask me what is happening in the Bujinkan currently but I only hear bits and pieces and I'm not actively involved with the Bujinkan as such these days. The last I heard they were trying to sort out quality control within the organisation and have applied new rules to the way that people can obtain grades to stop people from jumping grades. Should have been done years ago in my opinion and the damage is already done but it's not my business.
It's surprising to me how many people feel pushed out of the Bujinkan or get absolutely no support in how to properly run a dojo. I will be offering more services in 2024 to help Bujinkan instructors learn the basics of running your own dojo and I don't care if you outrank me I run a successful full time dojo and have grown my dojo into a full time business so I'm already ahead of 90% of the Bujinkan instructors out there, Just saying lol. Seriously though there is a big problem in this area specifically when it comes to the Bujinkan in the UK and I want to help people get in the same position as I'm in. This whole you shouldn't teach martial arts/budo for a living is bullshit as I have done so successfully for years and honestly can't imagine doing anything else. There is definitely something to be said about having a black belt in martial arts and having a black belt in business or you will struggle to succeed.
The Bujinkan is now not viewed particularly well in the martial arts community and this is largely because of instructors posting stupid dumb ass videos online and students not questioning the teachings from their Shidoshi/Shihan. You need realistic application of the techniques and the art has to evolve past forms and kata but people still do the same old thing without thinking about why? If you don't understand why you are doing something and just repeating it then you are missing the Gokui (Secret) in the technique and won't be able to apply it in a realistic way, it just becomes a dead form. It's one of the things I like about Combatives as it's simple and direct, As Tommy would say "You create a space and fill it with violence" and you need this same mentality with your Bujinkan training. It's all well and good playing with Kukan (Space) but if someone is really trying to kick your head in you better know how to go back at them with everything you have got! I think there is loads of good material in the Bujinkan but a lot of the stuff being taught (Yes even in Japan) is not concerned with realistic application these days but understanding concepts like controlling someone with the tip of their extended forefinger which is just laughable. We need more Shinken Gata (Live Forms) and realistic sparring to stress test the students abilities so that they actually learn to fight properly, It's all well and good in theory but I fear the Bujinkan is becoming more of an academic art than a proper martial art. I'm not saying it needs to be MMA but you need to train with the proper intention and ensure you are not being a shit Uke when training (Ong) by teaching the Tori (Attacker) bad habits.
This is why I have established the Shinken Tournament 2024 which is being hosted at the Seal Martial Arts Dojo in Rugby on the 2nd of June 2024. This tournament is open to everyone who wishes to participate and will give students the chance to actually test their skills against one another on the mats. There is a lot of big talk in the Bujinkan but we need more action and to prove that the art is as effective as everyone says. We will have divisions for heavy weights, medium weights and light weights for men, women and children so as I said everyone can participate and the winners will receive a trophy, medal and the title of the Shinkan Tournament Champion 2024. The tournament is open to all styles not just Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu so if you are a martial artist you are welcome to participate.
Overall I feel the Bujinkan needs to evolve from what it was, There is too much clickiness and people internally promoting one another in certain organisations like I have seen someone who was a made a 4th Dan when I was back in 2019 ascend to 15th Dan, In 4 years they graded 11 Dan grades which is bloody ridiculous and now they are teaching all over the place as a master Shihan lol. It's become a joke in my opinion and it's no wonder they are scrambling for quality control as the entire system is geared towards passing money up the chain to the Shihan so people who don't know how to properly run a dojo rapidly promote their students in hopes of making a quick couple of hundred pounds, It's a farce and is no better than a pyramid scheme. That's my honest opinion and why so many people get disillusioned with the Bujinkan as they can see it happening and it doesn't go down well. The fact is the Bujinkan operates like a cult and it's not so much the Japanese Shihan and Soke but over zealous western Shihan that are the problem as they feel they own the art and everyone has to fall in line with their demands. I could name loads that legally have no control over what you do but they damn sure will make out like you will be kicked out if you don't do exactly what they say and pay them to be under their supervision. The fact is people are quite within their right to tell them to piss off and go their own way as nobody puts more work into running your dojo than you do! Obviously you need to be a qualified instructor but if you have been training for 30+ years and someone is telling you what to do then remember to tell them to do one as you don't owe them anything. I have come across it so much where instructors that don't know what they are doing come down hard on all the higher grades as they are trying to build their own pyramid. Lots of Benben stones in the Bujinkan and that's what largely puts me off these days. There is more than enough room for instructors to get out there and teach in their local community and legally people can do whatever they want as long as they conform to the law and have a proper system in place. It's the students choice who they decide to train with at the end of the day.
Anyway I feel the Bujinkan as it was is dead these days, Now in 2024 there are like 13 Soke for the different schools and it's impossible to keep track of properly unless you are regularly in Japan. Frankly you can get just as good training here in the UK though by training with instructors from various arts, I know we all worship the Japanese when it comes to martial arts but there are only so many techniques under the sun and the key part is to get out there and start training regularly and trying new skills. I love the art of the Bujinkan but I can't deal with the silly politics and find that I have learnt a great deal about other aspects of teaching from studying FMA for example such as better timing and the ability to be ambidextrous when handling weapons. Keep an open mind when it comes to your training, Try not to get tunnel vision and hyper focus too much on one thing as rank certainly isn't a representation of skill. My point is you can be a 15th Dan Shihan and still not be able to fight your way out of a wet paper bag, Your mindset is very important and you have to develop the ability to switch on the violence to deal with confrontation efficiently. As I said I feel this is often overlooked in the modern interpretation of the Bujinkan it has become soulless with students just practising Kata for the sake of Kata. Most people are in the dojo to learn how to protect themselves and there is nothing more dangerous than a martial art that isn't actually effective for self defence.
If you want to email me to discuss what I have said or want to discuss getting advice on how to run your dojo full time then you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org