Living Martial Arts

Living Martial Arts

When it comes to training in martial arts there are so many different styles to choose from that it’s often hard to know which path to take and whats worth pursuing.

I often talk about how martial arts need updating for modern application online, especially when it comes to the Bujinkan as I have experienced firsthand where the pitfalls are in our particular art. 

It’s easy to think that because things have been done one way for generations that tradition dictates that we maintain the lineage and don’t make any changes. Sometimes even in the face of logic such as having entire sections dedicated to dealing with an opponent wearing traditional armour.

While i can see the appeal of studying the traditional side of martial arts it does worry my that people become stuck in their ways and can’t see the wood for the trees. If you adapt these traditional techniques and make them applicable to modern day body armour then it becomes far more practical for our current environment.

There is an argument to be made that the Bujinkan as it was is now dead. This is because Soke Hatsumi has stepped down and appointed Soke for each of the schools creating various branches which are something different. In essence the Ishizukaden, Noguichiden, Nagatoden, etc as you study under one of the newly appointed Soke. 

While this sounds like I’m being derogatory I’m simply stating a fact. The Bujinkan as it was is now dead but the schools themselves live on in a different form.

I think this makes it an exciting time for Ninjutsu instructors, It provides us with the ability to create the next evolution of the art!  

While I know most people are drawn to collecting kata in the higher dan grades I believe a lot of these techniques have become outdated by modern standards. 

People simply don’t move the way thats outlined in the kata where the opponent is deliberately placing themselves in a vulnerable position. This to me is a sign that the art has become stagnant and in essence dead just practicing kata for katas sake. 

It’s important that your art is alive! What i mean by this is that you should stress test it against a resisting opponent and see what works and what doesn’t. It has to adapt and evolve with the times and focus on the relevant threats in your environment. For example there isn’t much point in learning how to use a Kanabo these days but learning to use a Tanto is essential. 

There is no point in simply practicing kata due to tradition, what we do needs to be practical in its approach to deal with modern scenarios.

To provide an example recently someone said that Muay Thai, Boxing, BJJ and Judo are living martial arts because they work for practical self defence and it’s a valid point. Most of these styles spend extensive time sparring and stress testing their techniques over and over again against a resisting opponent to ensure that every move they make is thoughtfully planned like a game of chess.

If your martial art isn’t dedicating time specifically to sparring and testing the techniques that your learning then ask yourself why that is. It’s an important part of the journey towards your black belt! 

I feel that Ninjutsu has such a vast amount of techniques that in essence the syllabus could be revised down to the purely practical techniques like Gyaku Nage, Seion Jime, Setto, Osoto Gake, etc. This would make the students go to techniques the ones that work rather that techniques like Ashi Dome which will get you kicked in the face if you attempt it in reality.

There is a need to maintain the lineage and traditions of the martial arts but the focus should always be on the practical application of the techniques studied within that art. 

As i said earlier in the post we don’t really need to know how to use a Bisento in modern times but we should focus our time on weapons like the Tanto (Knife), Hanbo (Walking Stick), Bo (Staff), Shoto (Short Sword) and other modern weapons like the firearms, baton, flashlight. Even learning arrest and restraining techniques using handcuffs are very relevant in modern society.

I think the essence of Ninjutsu is perseverance and adapting to your area of operation so it seems illogical to ring fence the art purely to the traditional aspects of the art as generations of martial artists to come will have learnt nothing from us when the knowledge is passed on. 

Make sure that in the dojo your teaching livings martial arts! We can’t keep doing the same things the same way forever!