Why go outside to train in our martial art?

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.

 

21/07/2007

The Dojo that is Hidden

By Yossi Sheriff

I grew up in my teacher’s Dojo. I was only thirteen.

We started training in Doron Navon’s old house, he used to live in Afeka. After a year we moved to an old henhouse, cleaned the rubbish, painted and Doron planted a bamboo, dark green and lovely. Everything taking place in such a fitting address: Number 3, Flowers St. between vast empty fields and Kiryat Shaul, the cemetery of Tel Aviv.

Many things happened since, the old hen house is now an interiour design shop and I became a nomad, a travelling Ninjutsu instructor in many Dojo: At the bomb shelter in Jerusalem where every winter we waded to our knees in sewage, at the school corridor in Tel Aviv and at the baby gimbory place in Ramat Hasharon, practicing underneath huge pink elephants- funny. Just like an old indian would say:”Many winters…” and for me many years, many training mats to lift, many toilets to clean.

I do not need a Dojo, I do not need a special training apparel every morning when I practice, most of the times I just do my morning duties in my pajamas. The real estate Dojo is not important, It is temporary, but it is still the place to meet veteran friends and to exchange insights. My Dojo has been Mount Eitan, repeating an old Katori kata for the thousand time, or even this web site and the hidden part of it, the vast AKBAN database where I can talk and learn.

The real Dojo is now an interior decorating shop but my hidden Dojo will never be a shop, it existes under the power of friendship, and passion for martial arts. I tell myself: If we can understand this we can relax. It is easy.

13/12/2006

Outdoor Training and Budo Ninjutsu

By Yossi Sheriff

In Japan, a stay in the field went without saying in ancient times. A warrior would pass through the field on his way to battle or his teacher. A warrior would sleep in the field during this stay. There were people who mastered the art of being in the Japanese terrain: the mountains, the valleys and forests, which changed them. These were the Yamabushi, those who “sleep outside”.

A martial art can exist very nicely without spending any time outdoors. But some of us think of such an art as a weak new creation and synthetic. In the martial art we practice the old paths play an important role. This connection to old ways is an option, not a necessity, much like the practice of the sword is a very old path, one which not all veterans choose to take.

I try to walk both new and old paths. The newer ones because of their comfort, the excitement, for entertainment or just because it’s necessary. The old paths I walk for the benefit of my soul.

05/12/2006