In the last few years we have been doing a lot of grappling and Brazilian ju-jitsu techniques, with references to our own Koryu tradition, though not all of us got the hints. Exercising combat sports is fun and helps us improve our stamina, strength and “clean submission” techniques. Through combat sports part of our team-mates became excellent sportsmen who manage to subdue their opponents in almost any ground situation.
Maybe our will to become experts in all combat sports technique can be equated to an orthodox Jew who wants to be religious but asks to eat un-kosher foods. How do the two connect? Well, you can eat kosher and you can eat treif* (non-kosher), but when you try to find the interim solutions, for instance to eat kosher pork, the end result seems to lack honesty. What can we do? Even a brief study of techniques delivered to us by Maasaki Hatsumi, shows us that Ninjutsu isn’t a combat sport.
Ninjutsu differs in essence from martial sports
Everything taught in the best martial sports clubs, is very practical mainly in a sports ring. Meaning, it might not be relevant to us and our violent and “messy” business. We believe that our organization has been experiencing a fair amount of confusion for the past few years, as a result of trying to combine elements from combat sports in our training.
While participating in the last “AKBAN 24 hour training“, we understood that a technical gap exists between the Beer-Sheva group, for instance, and the Tel Aviv group. The Tel Aviv group showed cleaner ground techniques, whereas the Beer-Sheva group showed a more rounded combat approach, a fighting “spirit” truer to Ninjutsu. In the past few months we have been witnessing to a reoccurring problem in black belt examination, where we see clean execution of techniques at the expense of the traditional Ninjutsu fighting spirit.
It’s both important and good for our warriors to join combat sports clubs
Some AKBAN veterans have turned to combat sports clubs, like Boxing, Judo and Brazilian ju-jitsu clubs. Some have even become advanced students in these fields. Our pupils have to spread wings and leave the nest, so to speak, to other combat sports clubs. Training in our groups should continue in our traditional and spiritual approach true to our discipline. Inserting “sport” into our organization can come in three shapes:
1. Inviting people from other discipline to train with us.
2. Going and practicing in other clubs.
3. Giving “tastes” and perspectives from other discipline during our lessons.
We believe the instructor should give examples of other doctrines. If for example we are practicing katas, we should expect our opponent to use various techniques from various disciplines, to do that he must know the basics of other martial arts.
We should learn the base knowledge of combat sports such as â€“ Muai Tai, Boxing, Judo, Wrestling, Kendo etc. inserting them into our syllabus in order to give a new perspective of ourselves as well as “knowing thy enemy”. The practice of combat sports within our organization should continue in order to answer the question of how to handle efficient sports martial arts used in the ring against tough opponents. We should be using our traditional technique and try to solve these problems.
The academic approach to martial arts
There is another thing, given our academic endeavor, we should systematically research Ninjutsu and its interface with other disciplines even if some of them are competition based martial arts.
The main rational for the academic study is one of the foremost principles in the growth of our school’s knowledge. With that said, it seems wrong to try and limit study in an academically manner using only our discipline’s “scientific” terminology, we must engage in practice.
Testing combat efficiency
Ninjutsu combat efficiency cannot be compared unless it will be tested in real experience. If we really want to test our combat efficiency we must analyse combats. This is done not through investigating combat sports in a ring but through the pinnacle of the methodical pyramid â€“ the Tatakai. This information, derived from documented live events such as video clips & credible testimony of professionals is the base of our knowledge. It can be further gained from security agencies, army footage, police & civilians caught in a violent situation.
In the combat sports’ ring Ninjutsu does not take first place. We must only see the combat sports ring as an experiment lab for our traditional martial art. We must remember that our most valuable simulator, the randori or the MMA competition, does not include all the characteristics of the street fight or what we consider a true harmful event.
Even though the best vindication would be by testing in randori, the Ninjutsu shown in a randori is a censored one.
This is the essential problem â€“ we can never prove efficiency by randori alone.
A major part of Ninjutsu is its use of the environment and surprise against the adversary, disrupting his tactical offences by breaking the rules of engagement and digressing from normal thought patterns. This approach is in constant conflict with the combat sports perception and does not fit what usually occurs in the ring.
We have learned that many street fights in the US have finished on the ground with position/submission. Meaning efficient ground work is an important drill. Though, many pupils of AKBAN that have experience in street fights we feel that the secret to winning a fight is one, managing to rally your aggression and two, Luck. Our experience in the IDF has shown only a limited emphasis on technique.
In conclusion, our Budo Ninjutsu is the best discipline for us and for who ever asks to join, it is not suitable for everybody.
Not all reasons for our practicing martial sports is to do with martial efficiency, there are a few other good reasons for practicing:
1. Acquiring physical and mental confidence.
2. Getting into a better shape and strengthening our body.
3. Drilling patterns and working at a higher level of intensity.
Bring back the Hakama
After years of experience in martial sports, we find we still lack understanding in the school we train in. It’s time to find a path and practice katas in the ‘protect’ format, with very few variations.
We would like to train together in a more guided format in order to reach better understandings of the katas and material.
We believe, in parallel to loving the sport part of what we do, that we should continue practicing and learning what we once saw as authentic Budo-Ninjutsu. Training that develops and preserves a low risk of injury, in good social atmosphere. We hope that the fun we are having in this process will preserve us for many years to come.