Learning ninjutsu, just like anything else, can be a daunting task. Especially if you have no idea about where to start, or what to do next. Couple this with the way that ninpo-taijutsu is often taught, and you have the makings of confusion, indecision, and ultimately…frustration.
If you are trying to learn ninjutsu and you know that you could really benefit from a curriculum outline, then this article could just be what the Ninja Master ordered! Because what I’m going to share with you here are a few of the principles that I have my personal students focus on when they are first starting on the path toward Black Belt Mastery.
And, while this brief article does not present the specific technique models or many of the skills, I think that you will get a much clearer picture of what you should be working on as you lay the all-important foundation for mastery in the Ninja’s martial art of winning!
When first beginning in the martial art of ninjutsu, the first thing that you learn is that we do not think about things in the same way that most other fighters do. What I mean by that is that a ninjutsu practitioner does not think of strength, speed, or power, and the way these things are created and maintained, the same as everyone else.
In fact, one of the first lessons that you’ll learn is that strength and stability are born of positioning, not muscle mass and resistance. What that means is that if you know where and how to position your body as a whole, and the different parts of it, relative to your opponent’s body…
You will be able to fend off an attacker two and half times your size – with little to no effort at all!
Here is a brief outline of the core principles and lessons that you should focus on as a beginning student in the art of Ninjutsu:
1) Proper body alignment – The ability to carry yourself with natural alignment means that you will always be on-balance. This alignment is created by making sure that the ears are over the shoulders, the shoulders are over the hips, and hips are over the feet.
2) Correct footwork and walking – The fact is that most people do not move in a way where the legs and feet are carrying the torso. Most adults have simply gotten good at the “controlled state of falling” that they developed as a toddler. Without proper training and attention in this area, you will be open to attacks that focus on taking your balance.
3) Basic strike evasion – With rare exceptions, Ninja do not block. We prefer instead to “be where the danger is not.” What this means is that instead of trying to do the same one-two – block-punch rhythm that is indicative of instinctive, human movement patterns, the Ninja prefers to get out of the way of incoming attacks – rather than try to fight force with force, and strength with strength.
4) Using leverage to escape grabbing attacks – Again, rather than try to out muscle an attacker who is bigger or stronger, the Enlightened Ninja applies the principle of leverage – much like using a crow-bar to open a door – to effect his or her escape. At this level, you also learn to execute your technique while simultaneously covering and shielding against any follow-up attacks.
5) Basic positions of safety (known collectively as “kamae”) – By learning to control the distance between yourself and the attacker; remove your targets from his reach; and cover or shield those that you cannot effectively remove, you make your assailant’s job of hurting you, extremely difficult – if not damn near impossible! Instead of having stylized “stances,” you will learn how to effectively position your body and its parts so as to control your attacker’s perceptions, and make it as easy as possible for you to defend yourself.
6) The 4 defensive footwork patterns for attack avoidance – In a self-defense situation, unlike a karate tournament or mixed martial arts match, you never know where you’re going to be when you are attacked, nor will you know what the attack will be or your emotional state at the time. So, ninpo-taijutsu provides for 4 basic footwork patterns that serve to pull the body out of the way in different ways that fit these variables and allow you to have many more options than the typical “style-based” martial arts practitioner.
7) Fundamental stretching and body conditioning exercises – This should be a given. Ninja training is both taxing and beneficial to the body, as is a physical assault. So, the Ninja’s junan taiso, body conditioning exercises allow you to gain both the muscle strength and flexibility that will allow you to meet the challenges ahead with ease.
8) Dojo etiquette and proper respect – The dojo, or martial arts training hall, is a place for learning and understanding. It is not a place for idle chatter and game-playing. Therefor, there are certain guidelines for disciplined and respectful thought, speech, and acting that shows that you are mindful of the importance of your teacher, your fellow students, and your martial lineage.
9) Knowledge about the art and where it came from – While you will not be required to become a historian, there are certain key pieces of information and knowledge that you should learn to really begin to understand this powerful martial tradition. Being able to answer questions about what the term “ninpo-taijutsu” means in English (or your native language), where the art came from, and the name of your teacher and your teacher’s teacher, are all important pieces of information to know at the outset of your ninpo-taijutsu and ninjutsu training.
These study areas, principles, and concepts will allow you to lay a solid foundation for future work through the successive levels of training in the Ninja’s martial art.