The way of doing, way of work


October 18, 2007
Yossi Sheriff

By Yossi Sheriff

I love he who loves work - By Daniel Sheriff

Budo Ninjutsu is doing with the body, doing physical work.

Although Martial art helps us develop and maintain strength, power, speed, physical and mental health and ultimately becoming fierce warriors, most of these fade in time.
We can only hope for “something” to accumulate over time. This sediment presents itself to us under the Japanese mantle: Do.

Simply put, Do is the Way, the Path, and the path requires work.

At the end what remains is the “Do”. What this means for us is that the effort is lifelong.

There is no “Kfitzat Haderech” here, this path has no shortcuts, although there will be times when progress will come in jumps, when small understandings will lead to bigger understandings.

The Red Queen Hypothesis in Martial Arts


October 7, 2007
Ido Kron

By Ido Kron

One of the more interesting terms in the field of evolution is co-evolution, or, in other words, the evolution of different species that affect each other and evolve side by side. This field encompasses a wide range of species, having symbiotic, predator-prey or parasite-host relationships. The patterns in which these species affect each other received the term “Red Queen Hypothesis / Syndrome” (see reference number 1).

 

This principle was first suggested by the evolutionary researcher L. Van Valen in the year 1973. It is derived from the story “Alice in Wonderland”, in which Alice runs alongside the queen but notices that they are not moving at all. When Alice asks the reason for the phenomenon, the queen answers “You have to run at full speed in order to keep standing still. If you want to get elsewhere, you would have to run at least twice as fast (2)”. Van Valen suggested that if species a, which is in competition for resources or is the predator of species b, were to gain an advantage over his competitor, it would be able to push the other species from his niche, and in extreme cases bring about extinction. In response, so as not to be left behind, species b will develop means to deal with species a, and thus the two are caught in an “arms race”. Such an arms race will bring about evolution and development in both species, focusing on traits that enable them to deal with each other, a development that would not otherwise occur.

 

A common example for this phenomenon in nature can be found in predator-prey relationships: if the dove were to develop an ability to fly faster not allowing the falcon to catch it, the latter would have to develop increased speed as well so that its fitness is not harmed. In such an arms race, both species raise their flight speed yet their abilities in relation to each other remains the same. It is important to mention that evolutionary changes do not affect an individual but rather a particular group or population over several generations, and this change is passed on to offspring genetically. The development is expressed in a trait that a certain individual has attained, and if this trait increases its fitness, it may become an integral part of the population. However, when addressing the Red Queen Hypothesis and the arms race out of the biological context, it may be applied to other fields such as physics (3) and political science.

 

I would like to apply this principle in the scholastic-developmental sense on martial arts in general and specifically on Budo Ninjutsu.

 

In Budo Ninjutsu you learn constantly. In the beginning you learn the basis and perhaps a little too much. After a while, when things sink in, you learn new things or understand the basics in depth, this is learning as well. The veterans, from their many years of experience, can introduce new techniques and new forms, compare them to the existing ones and then break or leave some of the old. Every practice brings about new learning of technique, attention and dynamics with the training partner. At the end of each training session we test some of the things we learned in practice through Randori and sparring.

 

Randori, which is combative in principle, enables us to test and apply the understandings from practice together with our training partner. When Randori becomes a little competitive, it places us on Alice’s running track facing our training partner. In order to remain better than my partner, I must outrun him. The competitive instinct, which exists in some of the trainees, pushes them to progress and learn, improve and work harder in order to better deal with their Randori partners. The difficulty which arises during Randori urges us to cope, and if the partner uses a new technique on us we will try to learn it, as well as its counter, so as to be more prepared the next time. This is a non-genetic arms race, but rather a scholastic and acquired race. In this arms race, just like any other, “not improving” means stopping progression. Often a trainee reaches a certain moment when she feels comfortable and able to defeat others with no effort. This can be followed the by a realization that she has rested on her laurels, some better opponent is the wake up call. Those who she had once easily defeated, now make her surrender, thus she (or he) is faced with two options: to run faster or to stay behind. Staying behind is not a bad choice for someone who is not competitive, but a competitive individual might despair and leave, for example.

 

Leaving is analogous in martial arts to extinction. Running is difficult, uncomfortable, you have to learn new techniques and polish the old ones, you have to face the hardships after supposedly reaching the summit, yet this all leads to development, to evolution.

This same principle applies to an individual and also applies to entire disciplines and schools in the field of martial arts. The need to preserve the traditional and existent knowledge is obvious, and it may clash with the need to innovate, refresh and update knowledge. A discipline that closes itself up for change, that stops innovating and progressing, leads itself to extinction. When is this apparent? Whenever the veterans in the discipline begin to leave and search for alternative places to train.

 

Perhaps the most pronounced example of the Red Queen Hypothesis in martial arts is the competitive fighting arenas – UFC, MMA, Pride etc. In the beginning these were mainly composed of big strong men who beat up other big strong men. Along came the men of technique and showed the world different and much more effective ways to make men bigger and stronger than them surrender (for example the Gracie family). Several years passed and fighters from other disciplines were forced to learn Jiu-Jitsu in order to cope with the small man choking them from behind within a few seconds, and thus the wheels turn. In contrast to what happens in nature, evolution here is rapid, and its cycles can be seen every few years. Even inside the field of Jiu-Jitsu an arms race is going on, and we profit.

 

Speaking of fighting arenas, the arms race occurs not only in a technical aspect but also when dealing with illegal substances. If my rival is pumped up on steroids, I would have to act as he does in order to beat him, and, when possible, through the use of more effective drugs. This is an arms race in which there are mainly losers. This phenomenon exists also in nature, when species compete with each other and the traits they acquire bring down their overall fitness: in the forest, for example, trees compete for sunlight; a taller tree is capable of receiving more light than its competitors. This causes the other trees to grow higher, thus creating a situation where the fitness of species “a” in comparison to species “b” remains as it was, yet both species invest more resources in order to reach the desired height and the overall fitness is compromised.

The arms race exists also between the developers of illegal substances and those who are required to detect them, which is reminiscent of the arms race between parasites and their host (5), as well as within the immune system (6).

 

The Red Queen Hypothesis can be applied to many aspects of our lives that contain an element of competition. This interaction with “competitive species” leads in most cases to change and development, it makes us learn more and improve, it leads to a desire to practice better Ninjutsu.

 

=== References: ===
# http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/REDQUEEN.html

# http://cewh-cesf.ca/PDF/health_reform/gba-red-queen.pdf
# http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3114432,00.html
# picture taken from image

# Yoshihiro Haraguchi and Akira Sasaki (1996). Host-Parasite Arms Race in Mutation Modifcations: Indefinite Escalation Despite a Heavy Load? J. theor. Biol 183, 121-137.
# Andrew F. Read (1994). The Evolution of Virulence. Trends in Microbiology, vol.3 no.2 73-76.

Sport Ninjutsu?


September 29, 2007
Nimrod

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 – 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 – 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 – 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.

Video, Surveillance cameras and martial arts practitioners


September 25, 2007
Yossi Sheriff

Yossi Sheriff


Recent years has seen the number and spread of video and surveillance cameras on the rise. We can safely assume that the number is going to grow. The current terrorist fright that effected the western hemisphere since the September eleven attack, has given a green light to the explosion of surveillance and surveillance cameras. The state sanctioned videoing, and the fact that many cellular phones have video cameras, leads to a level of transparency unheard of: in youtube alone, 523,000 videos tagged with the word “street”, 15000 tagged with the word “neighbor”, 97,400 tagged with the word “violence”.

What we do can become visible and recorded. Exposed Recorded Action ( ERA) will be a feature of modern life.
Only three decades into the internet-cellular revolution, the lives and actions of an individual are more public then ever. Community and institutionalized surveillance present an immense cultural change. We in AKBAN try to factor this major change in our eclectic discipline.
ERA is intriguing because it has not yet passed the test of time, documented visibility did not have time to evolve and integrate itself into personal habits and individual lifestyles (1).

When we imagine surveillance or as we call it, Exposed Recorded Action (ERA), what might spring to our thoughts is a government taking satellite pictures of terrorists in faraway mountains (2), or the mall or municipal security handling disturbances using CCTV cameras (3 PDF) . But in addition, there are new concerns that rise due to the increase of documenting devices. For example, camera equipped cell phones (4) in private hands.

Whether it will be through “Google street view (5)”, cell phones posting or the far reaching percolation of youtube clips, more parts of our lives are going to be public. It can be safely predicted that new software capabilities will filter, search and sift through visual information, video and images. Some initial projects already exist. These have rudimentary abilities to do basic image processing. For example, search for a specific face in many images. Andy Warhol predicted: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” We might guess that this fame will be immortalized (6 PDF) and searchable using the World Wide Web.

Through legislature, communities might try to control the amount and scope of knowledge that various organizational institutions have on our lives, but controlling the crowds is not only a different problem but one of a completely different magnitude. Transparency will probably be a dominant feature of our life.

What has this to do with martial arts practitioners one might ask, well, we think, a lot. This immense cultural change has to be reflected by a change in practice, a change in that part of martial arts that is labeled as “self defense”.

Now, web literati are thinking about many ramifications of the exposure of the most private data (7), but what we suggest focuses on this part of personal security, our document-able visibility. The visibility problem is a small but significant part to the more generalized problem, the loss of privacy. Documented Visibility is not only martial artist’s problem, it’s everybody’s problem. Here we focus on the implication to the practice of “self defense”. We use our structured methodical practice to highlight the new challenges and to suggest some new solutions.

In a fight, most of the times, the proceedings are not always clear-cut. Sometimes something was said before, an incendiary remark, sometimes, way after there is no danger from the opponent, one of the involved hits again, carried by a wave of adrenaline, rage and fear. The possibility of the fight being documented must be factored in. Making the correct decision and protecting ourselves and dear ones from violence is one big part of what martial arts are. In AKBAN, we try to look at things from different perspectives. A confrontation does not end when the physical clash stops, it can reverberate for many years.

In this era, all actions of self defense oriented martial arts should be conducted accordingly. To put it clearly, we suggest a lower level of violence in all possible scenarios. Martial arts have many aspects and specializations, in the field of reactions that are intended for defensive use, whether the user is a cop (8), a security personal an soldier or a regular civilian – the possibility of Exposed Recorded Action must influence the level of aggression and the actual nature of the techniques used. Everything has to be moderated down.

Many koryu (traditional Japanese martial systems) techniques are not defendable under any scrutiny in the court of law. Western self defense law prohibits any violent action that is not in response to threat. Old style martial arts carry ancient messages that are just the opposite, for instance, Kendo seitei gata, that initiate a sword cut, cannot be legally justified under regular circumstances.

Even more potentially dangerous are sport oriented martial arts. In sport oriented martial arts a practitioner learns to do the routines, combinations and techniques under stress. Drilling and competing under stress enhance memorization and assist in automatic retrieval under stress (9). In duress, the adrenaline and usability that are gained in competition might prove to have a carryover effect: from the competition to the confrontation. Any automatic level of devastating responses might not be legally justified.

What we, in AKBAN, try to teach in recent years is a segregation of ancient and sport techniques from techniques that are self defensive. We can continue to learn tradition and accumulate a wealth of very devastating techniques, but we must try and separate these from those that will protect us both during violence and afterward, when the video of the confrontation will be public.

Failing to segregate sport techniques, or aggressive illegal ancient patterns might cause severe legal problems, even to an innocent defender.

Not all the time, but many of our actions, especially the dramatic ones will be watched. We must learn new strategies, ones more adaptive to the new circumstances, keep what is appropriate and legal and preserve all the rest as a relic in the training ground only. Failing to do so can get us into deep legal and monitory problems. The era when nobody was watching is gone, now comes the time when we all will be watching.

 

"In a place where there are no men "


September 21, 2007
Kfir Mazaki


By Kfir Mazaki

As a civilian security professional and a martial arts practitioner for many years I’m always dwelling on the ways in which we use power. The recurring questions arise: where are the boundaries and what amount of force should be used? are translated into particulars: should I storm forward the aggressor or just try to contain the situation?

Or maybe a different reaction should be used?

After many years of on field experience I still have many questions and uncertainties.

Daily life make us meet different kinds of people, every one of them will have his own insights according to his experience and the way he deals with it. Accordingly his reactions to the events will be unexpected.

I can not expect a behavior that suits my caprices, and I can not judge a person. We all have good and bad days, but inside this cauldron I hang on to some sort of guiding principle written in Pirkei Avot by Rabi Hilel Hazaken: “In a place where there are no men strive to be a man”, or as I see it: to try and be humane at the most basic level when I need to do my job in front of impolite or aggressive behavior.

Every time when things are boiling around me (and in my profession there are many times like this), I see myself being tested in three areas: ethics, personality and self control. These situations are the best places to check myself.

What does this mean? From my point of view it means two things: paying attention to the surroundings, the human environment, and being aware of my own feelings inside the complicated situation.

The need to use force is sometimes necessary in a confrontation; in this case I do not have time to hesitate. Afterwards I look at the “emotions after” and have many questions: did I use force properly? Was it to satisfy myself, to prove something? Was it for protection? Was I hot-blooded? Was I afraid?

Last years have seen me react better, in a suitable way. In situations I encountered I did not fret too much but remained attentive to my inner principle. For me, this kind of a motto is like an inner Kamae.

“In a place where there are no men strive to be a man”

link to the AKBAN ethical code

The secret behind the fighting stance – the kamae


September 19, 2007
Yossi Sheriff

By Yossi Sheriff

The defense and attack positions in the Budo Ninjutsu are an internal state of mind that we project using the body. Like many things in our school, the meaning, the importance, are hidden behind tough physical work.

First the practitioner learns the mechanics: how to stand correctly, what is a straight back, how the feet stabilize the pelvis and the most efficient position of the hands in front of an opponent. When stances and the transitions between them are preformed well and become instinctual, the student is ready to learn other important parts of Kamae.

The positioning of the hands, the tension in the face and abdominal muscles, breathing and especially the intent turn each stance into a seal of fighting emotion.

The warrior’s state of mind has utmost importance, as important as technique. A perfect technique dwells in a winning frame of mind. A proper inner state wins battles, good technique, alone, does not. A warrior who finds himself in real combat must know that winning or loosing is not only the outcome of physical ability. Budo Ninjutsu Stances are an internal seal of emotions that helps us put things in order during chaotic situations.

Our waiting and attacking positions where designed hundreds of years ago and are continually practiced to this day to face a variety of situations: fighting against many opponents and fighting along inner fears.

Preserving a fighting tradition is like gardening; The knowledge that the warrior receives must be rooted and nurtured in a supportive environment and under proper conditions. Our knowledge lives.

The essential conditions are: an instructor, real contact sparring and outdoor practice. With these a trainee progresses from practicing the physical aspects of stance in front of an opponent to creating and maintaining a proper inner state in life.

 

Fighting spirit and a warrior’s insight


September 10, 2007
Carmel Zitronblat

By Carmel Zitronblat

In our daily life we can aspire to be decisive but calm. Every action that we will do in this frame of mind will be simpler and correct. We can see a simple example for this in a test we attempt to answer. If we encounter a difficult question and stress accordingly we will perform below our abilities.

As practitioners of martial art it is important that we get acquainted with the inner feelings in a violent confrontation and aim to be in the best inner attitude to deal with these situations.

Soldiers who fight professionally learn very few techniques. A soldier learns a limited number of rote reactions to many situations. It seems to me as the basic level of being a warrior; it is most suitable to armies where you never have enough time to learn a large variety of techniques. Sometimes in this sort of fast military training, the warrior acts from an emotional base of fear and anger and not from real understanding. Misunderstanding and lack of insights in military training, and training that duplicates it, can leave a residue of negative emotions and fix the warrior in a sub-professional techniques, reactions and behavior.

A warrior or martial art practitioner who practices for a long time should be based in understanding so he can work out the optimal reaction to the many possibilities of violence.

Myamoto Musashi – a legendary Japanese swordsman from the 17th century, wrote in his book that a warrior should step into battle when his spirit is clean. In battle the warrior is under life threatening pressure that has physical and mental aspects. In this situation it is better to stay calm and sharp so the best solution will not be obscured. So better not to fight with fear, anger, hatred or any other strong emotion that might cloud our senses and affect our decision making. That, in my opinion and experience, is the ideal we should aspire to.

To understand fighting and have the correct fighting spirit we must train many years. Many training situations and various tests and encounters will promote our professionalism and give us the best set of tools to deal with violent situations. These tools can later be “left”, be “broken” to leave a clear no-mind attitude according to our individual insight and character.

Martial arts and childishness


September 5, 2007
Shay Dill

By Shay Dill
There’s always someone telling me I’m being childish. Of course, it starts with my mother who usually says, especially after an injury: “What where you thinking? When will you stop with this Ninjutsu stuff? When will you act your age?”
And it goes on with my wife who thinks that my version – “only those people who participate in some discipline or have a hobby are interesting” is a bit of a childish exaggeration.

Maybe one of the main characteristics of children is that they see things in either black or white. When you grow up you understand there are some grays. I stayed with my black and whites, somebody is either good or bad, I love something or hate it. Of course there are embers of grey. Grey is mostly an uninteresting color.

Some weeks ago I had a conversation with a remarkable lady. I told her that sometimes, when I look at people who do not practice, their lives look very boring. On the other side, when I look at people who train or have some discipline, their lives look more passionate, more involved.

There are many anecdotal contradictories – I met a guy who runs diligently and he’s a bore, or a girl riding a bicycle for triathlon that was even more dreary.

To go back to the interesting woman, she commented on my childish observations and said that her goal in life is to do whatever she does the best, perfection. I can honestly declare that I do not share this goal. I know that in order to do something perfectly you have to invest much more than if you aim for doing it 90% good. I’m sure that this post contains some mistakes but it doesn’t bother me enough. Maybe it’s because I never have spare time. My attitude is that once I get to the core goal, perfection is not that important.

The woman I was talking with, the one whose aim is “doing whatever she does perfectly” is the best mother I know. Alas, she does not understand a thing in martial arts. Does this mean she has uninteresting life just because I don’t see her at the dojo twice a week? Probably not; I stand corrected.

To get back to where I started, am I childish? Being childish is fun!! Life is simpler, colors are clearer and you sure have good time. In every instance someone tries to pin me back to the ground (not a training mattress but the grownup ground) I desist (unless it’s my wife. In that case I tell her she’s right, I’m sorry, I’ll try to be more mature – there’s no end to what a person has to do for a peaceful home).

Probably there is no clear-cut conclusion here. I gather now that other people have interesting life even though they do not train in martial arts, but when I immaturely compare, I see: we people have a common interest, a forward moving skill and we really do have fun. Maybe this is because martial arts in our school and in similar places attract people that essentially posses young spirit. Hey, just look around and see, so many people smiling. This is not the way adults look!!!

Fighting and sparring with friends


August 25, 2007
Eli Shirian

By Eli Shirian

Last year has been dotted with minor scuffles with friends and relatives. These people know I have been training for many years in Budo Ninjutsu; they want to check my abilities, even if it’s done jokingly.

 

Almost all the confrontations looked like this; a friend was talking to me and then suddenly charged forward with pushes and shoves that end with my back to the wall, meters behind me.

 

All these incidents happened in the gym I work at, and the machinery and free weights lying around make every throw an imminent danger for my opponent. Now, if this was a regular confrontation against someone I don’t know I would deal with it rather easily, but when my fight vocabulary is restricted because of safety reasons my response will always be lacking. I did not mention this, but an important fact is the weight difference, all my friends are very muscular bodybuilders, and weigh at least 90 kilogram (180 pounds) that’s much heavier than me. The weight and strength differences are a major factor, because it makes “playing” the confrontation very difficult.

 

In all these cases I was pushed against the wall and only then, when the wall countered the push and helped my position, I managed a guillotine or carefully went down to the floor with my friend.

 

I recalled what yossi said: “you shouldn’t be in these situations”, but for me not to reach this situation means being tense and ready all the time, even with my friends, and that’s a lifestyle I do not want to adopt. A tense state of mind is not something I am willing to experience all the time. At this phase in my life these confrontations are a given, my close social circle know I am an AKBAN veteran so friends will check my abilities.

 

Technique is not the main point here, as my abilities can be shown only against an experienced practitioner or maybe in some severe, real-life situation. The main point is the attitude.

 

When you lose you learn to deal with your surroundings, it is a problem. Some martial arts systems do not prepare the practitioner for different grades of confrontation and the shame that losing carries with it; so even in sparring people tend to come on strong, to try to “win”. This is not our way here, in this school; I can see all the time veterans spar and intentionally lose – they play. If someone is just looking from the side, if someone does not initiate him or herself into this intentional playful loosing frame of mind then there is no way to understand the real world usage of this behavior, but I know.

Women in martial arts


July 26, 2007
Karmit Sagiv

”’By Karmit Sagiv”’
Up to a time, not so many years ago, women were completely dependent on men for their livelihood and safety. In order to gain independence, they were required to separate themselves from the men and make their own living. Virginia Wolfe claimed that “a room of one’s own and a certain sum of money” would suffice and lead to women’s independence. In fact, Wolfe stated that women would have power once they could stand on their own and not be dependent both financially and mentally on their man. Is this in fact so?

Even today, in a world where there are increasingly more independent women, financially and mentally, they still have trouble gaining significant power in the face of men. Why, then do women have trouble catching up? Why are they distinguished from men? Why are there still fields that are “for men only” while others are for women only?

Numerous sociological theories provide answers for these questions, while pointing out a process of socialization, or social structure, as the key to understanding the phenomenon. Women, from the moment they are born, are expected to act in a certain manner – “feminine” gentle, submissive, as a wife, etc. In fact, they are expected to function in a world which is a product of male thinking, a world where men of power and influence define concepts and attitudes. Since the world, in all its aspects: social, cultural and political, is a product of male creation, it is only natural that it be fitted to the needs of the male population more than to the female ones. The latter is required to live according to the male rules of play.

And what happens in the field of martial arts?

This analysis may explain the relatively small number of women participating in martial arts. It is a known fact that the number of women is significantly lower than the number of men, especially in advanced levels. In order to understand why the situation in this field is so grim, we need to look back in an historical scale to try and find out the root of the problem. It seems to me that focusing on sociological analysis combined with a psychological one, might clarify the picture: The field of martial arts was made property of men, similar to military systems, for example. However, why specifically men? Sigmund Freud’s interpretation on the differences between the sexes may help in this case. Freud speaks of the urge for competition as a male characteristic. The first and most shaping competition is the struggle of the son with his father over the mother’s affection. This struggle ends in the healthy situation, with the experience of defeat, from which the child continues acquiring new tools for coping with struggles. Is it possible that this primary male struggle never ends, and that it yields into fuel for a subconscious need to be stronger, better and with higher endurance (and I mean the spiritual meaning of the term)?

If it is indeed so, that the urge for competition in women is lower, as Freud suggests, it would be likely to assume that women would find less interest in fields that combine significant competitive elements. Even if Ninjutsu is not, in essence, a competitive sport, groundwork, throws and stand-up fighting insert certain competitive elements into the groups.

Even so, we are still faced with another riddle: Based on the previous paragraph, we would expect the number of women in Ninjutsu practices to be similar to the number of women in practices of Judo, Karate and other forms of martial arts. Things, however, are not so. I believe the explanation to be, that fields such as Judo, Tae-Kwon Do and Karate, have adapted themselves to female audiences. This adaptation is seen in numerous areas, for example in separating men from women in the competitions themselves. This situation encourages women to remain in the field, and steers them away from fields that do not act in the same manner, such as our non-competitive combat Ninjutsu.

In addition, it’s not just that the number of women who begin training is relatively low in comparison to the number of men, there’s also a higher dropout rate for women from Ninjutsu. A claim stated not once in the groups, relates the high dropout rates to the inability of women to understand the field in depth. Such a claim is one that removes all responsibility from those who build and characterize the entire field. It is possible that these key players are unaware of the power they have as ones who pave the way and set the policies. As leaders, they can choose training concepts that either include or exclude women. Inclusion may be reached in many ways, from adapting training hours, through emphasizing exercises “not solely for men” taking into consideration the female anatomy, as well as combining feminine terminology in training. In summary for this part of the conclusion I will add: It is easy to find guilt in the women, but the problem, I believe, is not with them, but rather in the surroundings, that distance women due to the male ethos in Ninjutsu and in AKBAN for women.

As stated before, the field of martial arts is a ‘system’ built by men, and is thus adjusted to male audiences, and so is inhabited mainly by men. This situation repeats itself. It is a male magic circle, which is unbreakable by a foreign power (women). Thus, a woman who succeeds in penetrating the circle and comes to practice still has small chances of persevering, since she will have to adapt herself to the rules of the male world. Let’s take, for example the setting of practices: The hours of training are the hours of the afternoon to late evening, a woman who is also a mother can not persevere and come to practice while the kids are waiting for her at home. Also, the warm up at the beginning of practice emphasizes groups of muscle that require strengthening in men, and neglects muscles women need to work on more in order to reach the level of a fighting man.

In order to persist in the training program over time, I feel, support from the trainers as well as from the veterans, is needed in all the practice groups. The organization must understand the special needs and gender differences, internalize these differences and needs and adapt the transfer of information to different audiences. So long as the organization does not take these measures, women will continue to be a strange rarity in AKBAN.