-- Ninja Masters - Winter 1986----
|Have Sword...Will Travel||
|Ninja : Can you tell us something about your training ?
Daniel : I have been lucky enough to train with most of the better known instructors who, because of dojo obligations, do not get to travel around and visit other dojo's both within Ninjutsu and other styles. You know, I often hear people say the historical Ninja were trained from birth and anyone not trained in this way can not really be able to do the techniques of Ninjutsu. The more I thought about this the more I have come to the conclusion that there are many people who have in effect been trained from birth.
Ninja : How is this possible? After all, ninjutsu really came to America sometime in the 70's.
Daniel: Well lets look at what one means when they say trained from birth. Also, and this is far more important, lets look at what one does when "training from birth". First of all, children thus trained have to start out playing games that will help them in later life. Balance games, special games to develop hand-eye skills and of course endurance and strength are all important. Later, perhaps in the teenage years, special skills such as fighting would be learned. Interestingly, many children in America grow up playing sports and games that are not all that different from this. I grew up playing a variety of sports such as football, baseball and basketball. Later I learned to box and I wrestled in competition. Like many Americans I learned to shoot so early in life that I can not ever remember a time when I did not know who to use a gun. There is nothing unusual about this and this may help explain why ninjutsu has such a large following.
Ninja : What about other martial arts? Have you studied others ?
Daniel : Yes, before ninjutsu I was training in Hapkido. Since I came back from Germany in 1984 I have spent more time with instructors of other styles than I have with ninjutsu practitioners. This might sound strange, but there are many experienced martial artists who enjoy exchanging techniques and idea's. If one has not done some hard training with a variety of styles, then how can they have any real confidence in what they are doing ? This is not unusual for many practitioners of ninjutsu. Dr Hatsumi has a variety of ranks in martial arts. Major Manaka has travelled the world with elite military units all over the world. Dr Higuchi has an open door policy and even encourages his students to study a variety of styles.
Squared with his attacker.....
the ninja parries the downward cut straight to the ground
The ninja then drops his opponent by smashing his right leg with his knee
the ninja finishes his man with a powerful blow.
Ninja : At the recent Ninja Summit you gave a talk on the historical development of western fencing. How did you get interested in swords ?
Daniel : Actually, that all started as a part of my training in ninjutsu. I was fairly lucky in that for a long time when Taro Yoshikawa and I trained together, I was his only student. During that time he stressed muto which involves unarmed technique against the sword. In order to understand how one can dodge or even take an opponents sword, one must of course know something about how a sword is used. For this type of training, a sword is very important because every hand held weapon is contained in a sword, except of course projectile weapons such as pistols. But even these weapons have a line of attack not unlike a sword cut or thrust. At the beginning I spent more time studying Japanese sword technique. However, there are a large number of techniques that the Japanese do not have because of the design of their weapons or their particular way of fighting. For this reason, I branched out and began doing research in old weapons books written in the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe. These books were rather difficult to find and translate, but the effort has paid off. Also, I trained at the Atlanta Fencer's Club.
Ninja : Do you consider yourself a specialist in the sword?
Daniel : No, not at all. I have studied the sword because it is one of the more difficult weapons. However, like most people in ninjutsu, I have trained with a large number of weapons. In taijutsu many of the principles used to perform unarmed technique carry over to weapons. This same thing - is found in most martial arts. However, I personally look at weapons as nothing more than tools to help my taijutsu or unarmed technique. It is only natural to speak of weapons as giving an advantage to the armed party. Thus if one trains against a variety of weapons when unarmed then they will naturally come to a wider understanding of distance and timing and learn how to apply their techniques in situations where they are at a disadvantage.
Ninja : Could you say something about the way you train.
Daniel : One of the main components of my training is that it stresses the proper use of basics under a wide-variety of situations. Proper footwork to avoid an attack, distance and timing drills receive a lot of attention. I firmly believe that one never finishes the basic techniques of any martial art. So stance, footwork, distance, timing and very basic techniques make up the majority of how I train myself and others. This may sound simple at first, but let me give you just one example of just how difficult basics can be. Everyone knows that the Japanese sword art of kenjutsu is concerned with the combative use of the sword- the cutting down an opponent. However it is shocking for most people to find out that many people that practice kenjutsu and kendo do not know how to cut with a sword. And often people who have a little skill in this area are totally ignorant of how armor can influence cutting. Of course one could always claim that no one wears armor anymore but in that case they would look rather silly training with a sword in the first place. Basic techniques do not have to have any relationship to real fighting that a non-expert can see. Of course there are people out there who know such things and they probably should be considered expert swordsmen.
Ninja : What do you think about the element of mysticism that is often associated with ninjutsu?
Daniel : Personally I think a great deal of it is just done for the sake of marketing a product. Much of it is along the lines of "I have a secret" which is, of course, nonsense. There is definitely a process of (for lack of a better term) mental of spiritual strengthening or training that goes on in all martial arts, but these are based more in hard training and proper understanding than in any particular secret. The process of training day in and day out has much more to do with how skilled someone is than who trained them or what style they practice. Of course proper understanding is just as important because without that, one will not train themselves correctly.
Ninja : I think that there are a number of people who would say that you sound like you don't think instruction is all that important.
Daniel : Well after one has learned the proper basics it really isn't, except perhaps on what I call an encounter basis. That is if one is training properly then they probably need to see an instructor more on a fine tuning basis than on a day in and day out basis. If one spends too much time with an instructor then they will lose the habit of finding answers for themselves.