Position Statement Regarding Frauds in Ninjutsu
Since the time that Grandmaster Law went public with his Ninjutsu Training, we have had to deal with what can essentially be characterized as “martial arts politics.” To define what this means leads us to a broad and non-specific definition, which includes anything from disagreements about technique and strategy to who is the true representative for a martial art, to the back stabbing of schools competing for their market share. These dynamics between martial arts groups and “styles” are nothing new. They go back centuries.
Martial Arts are invested with a great deal of emotion, and some of these emotions are based in sincere pursuit of the goals of an earnest trainee. Others are less noble and based in immaturity if not fantasy. These include feelings of grandiosity, excessive pride, jealousy, vanity and even megalomania. The unhealthy and ultimately self-destructive emotions listed above are based in what is called narcissism. In Ninjutsu, excessively narcisstic people are considered weak, shallow and basically untrustworthy, although they make good lackeys when manipulated to do the bidding of others.
Even earnest practitioners can be misled by lies and or misstatements made by instructors, and are prone to responding emotionally when they believe they have been slighted or challenged by another party. It might be helpful to think of martial arts practice as being similar in some respects to religious practice. Particularly in North America , people tend to consider religion a very personal subject. Although most religious people are possessed of their own wits, and maintain some degree of open-mindedness, a smaller core of “fanatics” often initiates arguments and conflicts.
People who really love training invest a lot of time, money and effort into their martial arts practice. All martial arts require their students have faith that the teacher is adhering to the stated character and purpose of their particular art. Those who train in ancient art forms look for validation that the art was tried and tested in battle. Opportunities to test skills involving potentially lethal techniques and scenarios scarcely exist now for the law-abiding citizen. Students therefore are concerned with technical and historical authenticity. Therein lays the real debate, because “authenticity” can mean many different things.
Does authenticity mean that the art has remained unchanged since the time of its original development? Could it mean instead that although its techniques may have changed during its evolution, it still retained certain specific characteristics and thus remained true to its ancient ideal while evolving in form? When a master in an art deviates from tradition, is that evolution or deterioration? Can authenticity be confirmed by possessing copies and/or originals of what documents remain from the ancient period, or is it in fact demonstrated otherwise?
These four questions reveal a complex subject that requires study, investigation and time to understand. They are important to understand because whenever a person seeks to study something uncommon, mysterious, and arcane or all of the above, claims will be subject to skepticism and that is when overall credibility becomes an issue. Practitioners should be aware that debates of this kind are by no means unusual or unique to martial arts. Fields such as archeology, anthropology, theological studies and many empirical scientific fields have fierce debates within their disciplines and these occur between highly respected, educated and knowledgeable people. Martial arts are not scientific in the strict sense of the word, but they do have scientifically based explanations for much of what they practice and, like science, each theory has both its proponents and detractors.
At this point, it helps to take a look at the “politics” surrounding the subject of Ninjutsu. The first challenge was delivered by martial artists that disputed the very existence of Ninjutsu and whether or not it possessed its own distinctive martial arts. It was not uncommon to hear Judo, Aikido, or Karate instructors claim that Ninjutsu had in fact died out long ago, and that its revival was based on instructors combining already established arts, making cosmetic changes and then calling the result Ninjutsu.
When some instructors observed the popularity of the “Ninja craze” in the 1980s, they did exactly that, and leant credence and support to the idea that what the public was seeing wasn't real Ninjutsu. The motives of instructors exploiting the Ninja fad appear to have been based almost entirely on cashing in on this new niche in the martial arts market. This is an important point to remember, as it is a key issue in how to determine what is in fact real Ninjutsu.
Around the world, many such teachers continue to get away with this because most of the public does not know what real Ninjutsu looks like. The vast majority of people in the world only know of the Ninja through the media. They cannot be blamed for thinking or even assuming that Ninjutsu should look like conventional martial arts. An analogy would be trying to understand what Shao-lin boxing should look like based on fight scenes in “Enter the Dragon” with Bruce Lee. These scenes are supposed to represent high proficiency in Shao-lin; when in fact they bear only a small resemblance to the diversity of the martial arts practiced at the Shao-lin. Not only that, but basing observations on these movie scenes would not give a person any inkling as to the wide variety of fighting skills developed and practiced by the Shao-lin.
Some time ago, a Bujinkan student named Don Roley wrote an article on his current understanding of on the history of the Koga Ryu Ninjutsu line. This article appears fairly well researched and uses what public data is available in Japan to trace the disappearance of Koga Ryu. In this article he makes several important observations. Among them it is that Iga and Koga were contemporaries and often historical allies. He goes on to point out that the techniques of Iga and Koga based Ryu should therefore resemble each other. This is in fact correct. All Ninjutsu groups practice very similar techniques. He points out that the phonies try to exaggerate differences with other groups in order to bolster claims of authenticity, which is precisely what gives them away as phony. This is also correct. Ninjutsu bears no resemblance to Karate-do, Tae Kwan do, Judo, Kendo or any of what are now essentially sport arts. This observation alone permits a person to eliminate a number of instructors claiming to teach Ninjutsu, but who in fact have learned conventional and popular arts. Interestingly, a number of these people are not even highly proficient in the arts that they practice. What they have learned about “Ninjutsu” comes from common media sources, books, videos and even movies. So to people whose only sources of information on Ninjutsu are the afore mentioned media, these arts (term used loosely) look like what they expect Ninjutsu to be, not what Ninjutsu actually is.
The distinction can become more difficult for people who have better knowledge about Japanese Budo. Although this seems ironic, better knowledge about Budo means having some knowledge about the origins and workings of Budo, and for some, Bujutsu. There are schools that teach primarily Samurai Budo or Bujutsu who are in fact claiming to teach Ninjutsu. The Bujutsu are commonly described as the arts that were originally practiced by the Samurai. Literally, they translate as “warrior method(s)” and therefore can also generically mean “martial arts”. However, in discussion about Japanese martial arts, the distinction is made between “Classical Bujutsu” which are the Samurai arts and “Budo” which translates better as “Martial ways”. This later term commonly refers to conventional martial arts and martial practices devoted to spiritual and cultural refinement and which are derived from the Classical Bujutsu. A further distinction is made between those originating before and after the Meiji Restoration (abolition of the Shogunate and restoration of power to the Emperor). This subject can get confusing at times when people speak using these terms interchangeably. The Ninja also practice “Bujutsu” as well, but they usually do not use this term so as to distinguish their practices from those of the Samurai Class and instead prefer use specific art names like Taijutsu, because many arts practiced by the Ninja are not the same. In this article the terms “Samurai Jujutsu” will be used to refer more or less generically to the empty hand arts of the Samurai, which therefore include grappling, self-defense and striking methods. A deeper discussion of how the arts are differentiated is beyond the scope of this text.
Although the Ninja arts are correctly stated to have originated in China , this origin is more remote than the connection with the arts that gave birth to both the Samurai and Ninja arts. As you get closer to the core of these arts it then becomes evident what defines and distinguishes them from each other.
The Ninja and Samurai changed their arts over time. Prior to the Edo period, the Samurai trained much of the time in arts that were needed in large-scale field battles and for the defense and taking of castles. During the Edo period these traditions continued to be taught, but the Samurai in this time of relative peace spent more time perfecting their martial arts for the protection of their domains and of officials as they went about conducting their business. Many Samurai functions were becoming more administrative, cultural and security related resembling those functions we now ascribe to elected officials, scholars and police.
A modern analogy would be when invading army combatants are at first soldiers conducting a war, but later converted to peacekeeping functions like establishing infrastructure and common law enforcement.
The Ninja always trained for smaller scale skirmish encounters, and the kind of hand-to-hand combat that would occur in the course of their espionage, sabotage, capture and assassination operations. Thus the Ninja by necessity preserved and developed different martial arts than those of the Samurai. In addition to this, the Ninja had to have strong working knowledge of the Samurai arts, since they fought mainly against Samurai.
The shared ancestry however, of these arts is evident in many of the remaining techniques practiced to this day. This is particularly true in Taijutsu, where the basic principles are nearly the same. Despite their resemblance, there are methods that are more uniquely those of the Samurai and also those more specific to the Ninja. Matters have been further complicated by the fact that some Ninja groups, in reward for service to a lord, were thereafter maintained in permanent residence with that lord, and given Samurai title and status. Some were put into positions where they taught Ninja arts to Samurai warriors. These Ninja groups were distinct in character from the non-affiliated Ninja warriors and clans who maintained their independence. Therefore, there are traditional schools where the arts are mixed and blended. Knowledge of the martial arts of the non-affiliated groups helps to distinguish (to a degree) methods more unique to Ninjutsu.
One significant distinction of the Samurai Jujutsu is that regarding styles practiced from the kneeling position. In addition to the fact that Japanese by tradition kneeled instead of using chairs, these methods were needed for Samurai who attended to high-ranking officials and were expected to kneel constantly in the presence of their superiors. Bodyguards to these officials had to observe the same etiquette, and therefore trained in techniques executed from a kneeling posture. This is evident in Daito Ryu, and essentially all of the Samurai schools of martial arts. Daito Ryu is mentioned because it is one of the major influences on the founder of Aikido, Morihei Uyeshiba. Aikido practices many movements in the “seiza” or kneeling posture. Some such techniques are also found in Ninjutsu, but are also done from other kneeling, squat and crouched postures related to stealth and not associated with Samurai etiquette. Seiza methods were not as strongly emphasized in Ninjutsu as in Samurai arts.
Samurai Jujutsu differs in other respects that are not often noted on casual observation. Ninjutsu hand-to-hand techniques stress the importance of nearly always keeping the hands free. Capturing movements, locks, pins and strikes will generally (although not always) use parts of the body other than the hands. When the hands are used they are involved in techniques that do not trap or restrict them. This strategy is meant to increase versatility through increased degrees of freedom. It also prepares the trainee to an easy transition to weapon use from empty hand. Observation of many styles of Samurai Jujutsu and Bujutsu indicate less concern with this strategy. Their techniques have less emphasis on versatility in an effort to enhance mastery and control. Samurai arts focus more on using the weapon itself than the entire body and the weapon together, as is done in Ninjutsu. We believe that the Ninja fighting methods evolved in this direction out of the necessity of fighting under conditions and by using weapons different than those of the Samurai.
Ninjutsu techniques are applied more directly to the body and apparently make greater use of joints in areas other than that seen in Samurai Jujutsu, which more strongly emphasizes the upper extremities and utilization of the enemies clothing in grappling. The grappling used by Samurai on the battlefield emphasized techniques that involved gaining leverage through grabbing armor and other clothing articles. This distinction should be regarded with some caution. The Ninja also use techniques ensnaring the enemy by their clothes, but these techniques are used less frequently and when executed they are meant to be as effective with the scantily clad as with those in full battle dress. Arts derived from Samurai Jujutsu; such as modern forms of Jujutsu, Aikido and Judo make more generous use of the “Gi”, the martial arts practice kimono we are familiar with in Judo, Aikido and Karate. Students of Ninjutsu often train in everyday street clothes or Martial arts attire as needed.
In general, Samurai Jujutsu and Bujutsu use wider stances than Ninja Taijutsu. Modern derivatives of earlier forms of Jujutsu have moved away from these. The wider stances appear to have come from the need for Samurai warriors to accommodate longer weapons and the leggings accompanying their battle attire. Modern Jujutsu now uses a more compact or tighter stance, like a few of those seen in traditional Ninjutsu. In Ninjutsu the practice of using wide stances is considered less stable and slower. Even the basic techniques do not use these stances. Ninjutsu training emphasizes economy of movement, and therefore spending time practicing a stance that will not be used in actual combat is believed by the Ninja to be irrational. Training conditions the individual to use what is learned for the purpose of fighting. If wide stances were learned first, the trainee would most likely revert to using them when under combat stress. Thus it is counter-intuitive to practice wide stances when training in Ninjutsu. When wide stances are seen, the technique you are observing is more likely to be Samurai Jujutsu and Bujutsu. It should be added that the Ninja typically only use actual stances during the execution of a technique, not before or after the technique has been completed. The position held before going into motion is usually a neutral posture that does not telegraph intention (some would refer to it as a neutral or natural “stance”). This is a basic, core concept to the art.
Another area that is especially developed in Ninjutsu is the strategy of taking advantage of blind spots and “neutral” or “void” areas in the enemies' position. Blind spots are either total or partial visual field gaps, where the enemy does not see the Ninja at all, or may be able to partially see them, but not the technique they are about to receive. Voids are positions where the enemy cannot strike or grab hold of the Ninja, even though they appear to be close enough. In contrast there are also psychological “blind spots” that lead the opponent to place themselves into compromised positions, which are often achieved through intentional deception on the part of the Ninja. Certain of these techniques can cause the opponents to turn their back to their enemy and even throw themselves. Techniques of this kind are at the core of other strategies that will not be elaborated further here.
Even techniques as basic as the rolls used by the Ninja differ from those of Samurai Jujutsu and Bujutsu. Almost all rolling techniques used by the Ninja guard the head, spine and the knees. Observation of traditional rolling techniques found in Aikido, Judo, and Samurai Jujutsu almost universally involve rolling into and arising from a kneeling position. Typically, they will alight onto one knee at least. There are a number of reasons why the Ninja do not do this; among them is the need to prevent injury when using rolls at high speed and on various rough or hard surfaces. Another is for stealth; the shoulders, hips and knees tend to make noise during rolls. When rolling onto the knees, the premature unfurling of the legs will make noise first when the hips contact the floor then when the feet contact. The Ninja do have some rolls that land on the knees, they are very short roles that start usually in a kneeling position, and they done very quietly, while avoiding any contact between the ground, spine and head. The Ninja make liberal use of roles in their actual fighting. Although there are techniques of this kind in Samurai Jujutsu and Bujutsu, they were used much less frequently. One reason for this has to do with their wearing swords. Both Ninja and Samurai knew how to roll with swords, but swords slow and limit rolling technique. Ninjutsu practice strives for as much versatility as possible and used weapons that permitted this, such as the Shuko and Manriki. Ninja also train in a large number of rolls along walls and around obstacles. These are exclusively for operations requiring stealth, and would be of little use in Samurai Martial arts. Any Japanese art where nearly all the rolls require landing on one or both knees is derived from Samurai Jujutsu.
In the empty hand and weapons combat of the Ninja, there is no blocking. There are strikes performed against the attacking limbs of the enemy, which only superficially resemble blocking. These are in fact very different than blocking. They differ in execution, anatomical target and in how they relate to body positioning. The Ninja's counter-offensive body movement is superior to blocking because it allows direct entry into the enemies defenses. Also, among a number of other advantages, there is little utility in trying to block a blade, or heavy weapon with bare arms for reasons that are obvious.
Many modern martial arts practice what are called “Kata”, “forms” and “patterns”. These are a series of predetermined movements intended to improve the trainee's technique through repetition. They also have the purpose of bolstering the spirit into excitement and thus combat readiness, or so it is believed. A clear distinction has to be made between the solo “Kata” practiced in modern Kung fu, Karate and related arts and those of traditional combative arts. The word “Kata” in traditional Samurai Bujutsu refers to a predetermined technique that is intended to teach a basic combat concept or principle. These are usually codified in the Samurai traditions and they appear in their Densho (scroll, manuals). In Ninjutsu the same principles and concepts can be demonstrated in many different techniques. The core forms, however, are hidden within the context of the technique taught and are not always explicitly revealed. While these also are shown in Ninjutsu Densho, the Densho are not reproduced and distributed to the students who have received their Menkyo (teaching license) as is done in Samurai traditions. Thus the “kata” in Ninjutsu is hidden during practice and core techniques are more difficult to discern from observation by outsiders.
Kata are always practiced by a person defending (Tori) against an actual attacker (Uke), who executes a specific kind of attack. Techniques are practiced the same way in Ninjutsu. The advantage of this form of practice over solo (practice alone without a partner) practice is that it teaches proper timing, distance and effect. There are no solo Kata in Ninjutsu. The attacker who receives the defensive movement learns first hand what it feels like, whether and how it works. The defender doing the movement learns the aforementioned in addition to how to execute the move because they exchange roles back and forth. In this way, the trainees can use the techniques with greater confidence because they've done them before and they then know how and why they work. It also teaches them to use appropriate methods and strategies to situations encountered, because they develop an understanding of technical limitations and advantages. When trainees have some mastery over techniques, they then learn the counter techniques, and counters to those and so on, until they achieve a level of competence where they can actually spar carefully without maiming or killing each other.
In Ninjutsu, there is no actual sparring like in arts like Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Kendo and certain styles of Kung Fu etc. Actual free sparring in these arts have rules combined with techniques so that they are safe enough to practice at nearly full power without seriously injuring the sparring partner. In this way beginners who have not necessarily developed good control can confront some of their anxieties about fighting. This is not a bad thing, but what students learn in sparring is what they will use in a real fight and this also presents certain disadvantages. The rules of free sparring used in conventional or common martial arts inhibit the student from fighting freely, thus limiting their effectiveness in serious conflict.
Outside of the Taijutsu itself, there are a number of differences in weapons use between the Ninja and the Samurai. In traditional Ninjutsu, the sword is neither favored nor emphasized. Arts, which have extensive practice of Kenjutsu, are typically of Samurai origin. Ninja learned Samurai style Kenjutsu and many methods specific to both the Samurai and Ninja. Ninja methods would seem to fall into a sort of category of dirty tricks for fighting with a sword. In fact, though unconventional, they are highly strategic and intelligent ways of using a sword. Tactics of this kind were discouraged and considered cowardly and unethical in by Samurai.
Since the Ninja did not live according to the code of “Bushido”, the opinions of the Samurai on this issue were historically of no concern to them. In fact this attitude of the Samurai was used against them in that they could largely be counted on to employ more “honorable” strategies and hence rendered predictable by the rules of their code of conduct.
Other distinctions were/are that the Ninja prefer to use shorter weapons than the Samurai. Bojutsu (6 ft staff) was trained in but preference and greater emphasis was placed on using the Hanbo and the Jo. Similarly the Ninja did not favor the Naginata, this is in spite of the historical connections with Yamabushi and Sohei who did make extensive use of these weapons. In general, the Samurai favored long weapons because of their advantages in dueling and on the battlefield. Long weapons were felt to be too cumbersome for the covert operations of the Ninja. Japanese Arts that strongly emphasize long weapons are almost universally of Samurai origin. Here again the Ninja developed a good working knowledge of these arts as part of training to fight Samurai.
So, what weapons were favored by Ninja? The weapons that are essentially exclusive to Ninjutsu are Shuko (claws), Shoge (rope with hooked knife), Fukiya (blowpipe) and to a lesser extent Kagi (hooks), Gusari (chains), nets, the short bow and Shaken (throwing stars), to name some. The Ninja preferred weapons that were multi-purpose (survival tool/weapon), light, portable, concealable and non-symbolic of status (swords and spears were status symbols). The Ninja spent more time training with their own favored weapons, since they used them liberally in the field. Greater emphasis on concealable and unorthodox kinds of weapons, along with the other characteristics outlined above, are consistent with Ninjutsu practice.
Frauds claiming to teach Ninjutsu will try to teach the arts of Ninja weaponry, but they are not capable of strategically and seamlessly using all the arts and strategies together. Ninja and Samurai arts can be better blended to an extent because of closer ancestral origins and technical similarity, than they can with modern Budo, but they still do not come together in the same way as the original Ninja arts do. Their purposes and applications are different. Frauds cannot perform proper Ninja rolls nor replicate the variety of techniques used in Ninjutsu. They block, they may perform solo kata, and they may free spar. They use low and wide stances. They generally do not understand applications of stealth and Ninja strategy. And, unless they are actually able to competently execute all of the technical aspects of Ninjutsu, understand them and explain them, they are not Ninjutsu teachers. They can talk about spirituality, philosophy, history, lineages, scrolls (Densho) and people known in Martial Arts circles (including quoting their statements and misstatements), all things that studious people can dig up and learn, but none of it is of any importance without the techniques and principles. What counts is not what comes out of their mouths or flows from their pens or keyboards but what they can actually do.
It is now necessary to address Internet debate on the subject of Ninjutsu. There are a number of web forums devoted to the various aspects of martial arts politics, even if they claim that their agenda is to debate honestly and get to the truth.
While it is natural for persons to support their organizations and the arts they practice, how they go about it can be problematic. Anyone who attempts to embarrass another person or group publicly will be met with feelings of hostility from the aggrieved party. Reading through any number of these exchanges can be quite irritating. Many contributors make blatantly hostile remarks against others, and at times, when attention is called to the hostility, they backpedal and claim that they meant no insult but were only challenging statements made by the other party.
This is disingenuous and can heighten hostilities, sometimes leaving the aggrieved party angry to the point of making threats and calling their accusers cowards for mouthing off on-line, but not being able to back it up with real skill in combat. The reactions almost take on the characteristics of road rage, where people in the security of their vehicle will display rudeness they would never exhibit in a face-to-face encounter.
Some of these forums go on “ad-nauseum” about things for which they have little real understanding. Our own school has been the subject of blatantly rude and profoundly ignorant statements. The vast majority of people making these statements have never set foot in the schools they are criticizing. They have never met the people they are ridiculing. Those critics that may have had contact are often people who lacked maturity, and had little actual experience at the time they trained. Some of them have spent little time at the school, and may have been intentionally held back because of their attitudes. Others have personal axes to grind, especially if they have been ousted from the school they are trashing. Even in a good place to train, a person can still occasionally have a bad experience. Remember that teachers are human; they can get emotional, have problems and even get mean and irritable sometimes. All of that has nothing to do with the authenticity of the art being taught.
Some people resort to personal attacks on the character of instructors or the Master. Even if for the sake of discussion, the attack turns out to be true, does this then prove that the rest of the critics' statements about the authenticity of the arts are also true? That would be a fallacy. People have publicly said that Dr Hatsumi is “eccentric”. While we don't share that opinion, and really have no interest as to whether or not it is true. Of what importance is it to us, or anyone but his personal contacts? If it is true what does it have to do with the quality of what he teaches? The personality and character of people are very complex; they cannot be deciphered simply through interactions in class, through statements made or through writings. At times generalities can be assumed only on a limited basis. Analysis of the character of a teacher may only be informative to a certain point, and is fruitless without understanding the content and context of what they teach.
Certain critics do have actual experience and knowledge, but lack maturity and perspective, which limits them from having competent debates about technical aspects of the arts without having to resort to idiotic sarcastic tones, personal attacks, and pointless arguments about who knows the history best. All of this is done in their usually anonymous web forums. The vast majority of self-respecting practitioners do not engage in on-line slander, even if they know someone is a fraud. They are however free to say so in their Dojo and to their students. It is interesting how it is implied that a person leveling criticism at another and questioning their credibility automatically casts themselves as being observant, objective and helpful to others. This changes quickly when the basis and information behind their “observations” are investigated. Often they are making statements that are blatantly wrong or intentionally deceitful. Some will state that the basis of their criticism is on the credibility of their own teacher statements and their schools reputation, which is highly subjective. Is it really so hard to believe that a teacher with public credibility in certain circles will still make errors of judgment and even tell lies? What is it in the end that determines credibility?
The absence or limitation of information given to the public about a school does not automatically make its teachers frauds. In fact, frauds can throw around names, lineages, scrolls and other sources of written material as “proof” of their legitimacy. Sometimes the documents they possess are fraudulent. Sometimes the documents are authentic, but they were obtained under circumstances other than by actual transmission of teacher to student. They may even have acquired the documents from their teacher (at or near the time of the teacher's death), but not have been trained in what the documents contain, or even be able to correctly interpret them. Most (but not all) of the misinformed commentary found on the Internet comes from people who have little concept of the depth of historical knowledge and experience needed to study historical martial arts records. Their knowledge is often obscured by perpetuated lies, misinformation and misunderstood statements and commentary made by a few historians and martial artists in a limited number of publicly available books or documents. Some of these books contain a lot of accurate and valuable information too, but when errors are present, it nearly impossible for someone who is not a scholar to find them. Nearly all such texts are in Japanese, are out of print and written in a Kanji that is not commonly used today. Reading and revealing some parts of this material makes the critic sound scholarly to Westerners who don't have ready access to it and therefore are not able to assemble the pieces of the puzzle. The average person has no way to actually verify the veracity of claims made by teachers, particularly those coming from Japan .
The issue could almost be characterized as “it takes one to know one,” but even this isn't totally accurate. Taking a broad inventory of martial arts and contrasting them is probably the best way for the average person to find out what is legitimate, and what legitimacy means to them.
Some might actually find it refreshing that they don't have to concern themselves with complicated issues like lineages. They instead can rely on their own empirical perspective about what they are training in and whether or not it actually works. If the trainee feels heightened anxiety that they cannot defend themselves because the training is either inadequate in scope or of poor quality, what does it matter if the teacher can show historical material? Susceptible persons are at risk of being duped by teachers who teach unrealistic methods, but the risk of this still exists even when a teacher shows official looking diplomas and even scrolls (even though it may be reduced). If the consumer really wants to know if it works, they can get into actual fights and try it out, although that is very dangerous and not a position taken at this school.
Many people try to make educated choices by shopping martial arts until they find what they think is best and there is nothing wrong with that. There are many factors informing that choice, some of which may be based on considerations unrelated to things like effectiveness in combat.
When consumers seek, they are more likely to succeed in being satisfied if they know what they want out of training, and make a determination based on experience with an art and whether that art meets their training needs. In addition to that it may take time to find what a person really wants, but in order to do so they must determine whether the claims made by the instructors actually bear out.
Reading a variety of books on martial arts may also help a student avoid being trapped into believing dubious claims made in the martial arts world. If you believe breaking boards and bricks makes you a more effective fighter, then have at it, but do not feel offended if someone tries to cast doubt on that assertion using sound reasoning.
If you take martial arts seriously and consider the practice as being something upon which your well-being might depend, then do your best to make an objective assessment based on what you can observe and actually practice. Look at the techniques employed in the art and ask yourself if it gives you what you are looking for. Listening to people who claim to know the most about an art because they “live in Japan ” or have read historical books and trained with this and that a master does not prove their claims to be authentic; it does not confer authority even if some of what they say is actually true. Also realize that just because a person trained with a certain respected master, does not automatically translate to them teaching and interpreting the art correctly. Trust even less a person who trashes others on-line while hiding behind a keyboard anonymously, afraid to reveal their own name. When challenged openly, these individuals generally won't step up, because they know the situation could quickly get out of control.
We have invited several instructors and students from other “Ninjutsu” organizations to attend our seminars for free. We would have treated them with respect, but they didn't come, sometimes justifying their choice by making statements as stupid as we (and more specifically Grandmaster Law) were just trying to get a photo opportunity with them. They may allege this because Grandmaster Law has had his picture taken with some well-known people in the martial arts world, as is common networking practice. One Internet fabrication is that Grandmaster Law, by extension, is said to have been trained by or have trained those individuals. He publicly stated that he has “interacted” with them; he never said he was trained by any of them. Some of the more senior people in our organization were there when these photos were taken and can verify this independently. We think the reality is that such instructors were afraid they might be confronted, and thought that this would put them in an awkward situation. Perhaps they were even worried that they might find themselves in a fight. Some students from rival organizations have come to our seminars, they were welcomed, trained with us, and we asked them what they thought of their experience. They had no problems being candid, and not one went away thinking that what we taught them was fraudulent Ninjutsu.
We are open to sensible dialogue with rational and respectful people who are interested in learning the reality of our claim to teach authentic Ninjutsu. People who posture on-line behind hidden identities lack the credibility that they are calling upon others to demonstrate. There is a lot of banter in forums, some of it is meant as humor, much of it is malevolent. Readers must remember that there is a limit to their ability to verify the statements made by such people without access to specific resources. So whether it is sarcastic buffoonery or a display of disrespectful ignorance, you as a practitioner or consumer of martial arts should be mindful of the motives for this behavior and whether it advances you toward what you are pursuing.
Our position is simple; experience the art directly, with an open mind and see for yourself. There is no other way for you to know, unless you are one of the rare few who has had the privilege to learn an art in depth and you already know by what is said and what the techniques look like whether or not what you are seeing is in fact Ninjutsu.
Sarcastic and disrespectful individuals will be treated as the buffoons that they are; we don't talk to people like that, it is simply a waste of our time.