Why go outside to train in our martial art?


July 21, 2007
Yossi Sheriff

By Yossi Sheriff

The AKBAN way of doing martial art is intricately connected with training outside. Martial arts training, whether it is Ninjutsu or other Koryu from other parts of the world, took place outside. This background was so clear and obvious that it was not spoken of, just as we do not speak about going and opening a tap to take a shower. But there was a time, not long ago in the lifespan of our species that the Dojo was the outside, not a mattress in a training hall.

In our core martial art, Budo Ninjutsu, one cannot understand many techniques and moves without training and validating the system in the setting it was designed in. This is so well understood that the instructors and veterans in our martial school have this as a rare consensus; one cannot be qualified in AKBAN without spending time outside.

Ancient systems (Ryu) that went into the Bujinkan and other Takamazu-den schools were created in a natural outside setting and not in a dojo or even urban environment (some techniques in Takagi, Koto and Gyokko Ryu might be an exception).

We know this not only from researching old Japanese manuscripts but from watching and doing reverse Kata analysis on the existing curriculum we practice.

Many things that once were obvious, like walking from one place to another, necessitate an extra effort today. Being outside, moving through the terrain out there was not so long ago one of the prerequisites that surrounded the warriors and other people, people lived with less protection and padding from the outside. Today, we control our water with a twist of the tap; we set the temperatures of our protecting cube and light up our nights with the flick of a switch. This is news, people used to go to the river or well, isolate themselves with garments, not air-conditioning and move – a warrior that wanted to train with an instructor had to walk there, a warrior going to battle had to actually go, and everybody had to sleep outside every once in a while.

The outside abilities we resurrected in our school were once the common and very important background for every human being, warriors included.

Urban outside and forests

In some martial arts and systems the practitioner learns how to conduct himself in society, in a conflict happening with other people. In Budo Ninjutsu we try to teach the imperative human confrontation but we never forget the nights, the clouds and the outdoors.

In Israel we have many things different from current day Japan; the people are different, the animals, the sun, many things; but we take what we learned from the essence of our martial art, we might adapt the ingredients but not the essence. So we will drink water from springs, make tea in an old wabi sabi kettle, eat some biscuits, carry our weapons according to our walking style, eat more dust in one day then the whole Iga prefecture village might eat in a year, put on a big brim hat or Kaffiya. We adapt the details to the surrounding, but not the essence – the outside is not for the romantically inclined – it’s too tough, the outside is for everyone willing to pay the price of feeling free, the price of hard work.