Ninjutsu was born into a world enveloped in war. Because of its violent childhood, ninjutsu techniques focused on methods that worked in the worst situations. Learn how YOU can apply them to your martial arts training!

Centuries ago, ninjutsu was born into a world enveloped in war. That one fact makes it vastly different from styles like aikido and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which were founded during peacetime. Because of its violent childhood, ninjutsu techniques focused on fighting methods that worked on the battlefield, behind enemy lines and against multiple attackers. The art grew to encompass principles for psychological self-defense that enabled its adherents to live out their lives on their own terms, free from fear.


Those same principles are now used by military personnel around the world — even though they probably don’t know where the teachings came from. Because we all face adversity — granted, it may not be as severe as that experienced by a black-clad warrior 500 years ago or an Army Ranger today — ninja teachings are just as valuable in the 21st century as they ever were.

 

Ninjutsu Training Tip No. 1: You cannot control your environment, but you can control yourself.

At the foundation of ninjutsu lies the basic understanding that you have little to no control over your attackers. Whether they’re physical, psychological or emotional sources of stress, to waste time fretting, panicking or denying the truth of the circumstances is to invite frustration. Or failure.

The inhabitants of the ninja villages in Japan’s Iga region were attacked almost daily. Instead of wallowing in their misery, they prepped themselves to function in fearful or stressful environments. Accounts abound of training sessions in which students ran through dark forests while their partners waited for an opportunity to launch a surprise attack. By mastering their breathing, their senses and their awareness, they were able to function.

What’s more, they learned how to remain relaxed under stress. These days, sources of stress take on many forms. Daily challenges may not become real psychological or emotional threats until they start to snowball. “It’s not an expensive car repair,” you might say. “It’s just that I need the car to pick up my cousin at the airport tomorrow. It wouldn’t be a big deal, but with my reduced hours at work. …”

Just like the ninja of old, we can’t control our environment, but we can control ourselves. Remember to keep breathing, smile and never lose your 360 degrees of awareness. You’ve no doubt read countless articles that explain the concept of “tunnel vision.” Frustration, fear and anger can narrow your awareness to the origin of those emotions (your attacker). As a result, you’re exposed to the possibility of multiple assailants. 

This principle applies psychologically, too. Spend your time frustrated or angry over your circumstances, and you’re liable to miss out on opportunities that are dangling just outside your peripheral vision. Opportunity is present in every stressful situation. Recall how persecution and warfare helped transform the ninja not only into survivors but also into legends.

Ninjutsu Training Tip No.2: There’s something to be learned from everything.

The ninja referred to this principle as shikin harimitsu daikomyo, which roughly translates as “every moment holds the potential for enlightenment.” The ninja’s enemies enjoyed superiority in numbers, weapons and supplies. The ninja, however, realized there was one thing their enemies could not take away: their ability to learn something new from each encounter.

This principle was embraced and eventually woven into the fabric of ninjutsu training. The beauty of historical ninjutsu is that training and living were the same. The only thing that separated failure from lesson learned was the mindset of the person involved. They strived to take something new from each encounter and apply it during their next one. They never allowed their egos to get in the way of revisiting that vital first stage of learning. 

Thomas Edison outlined this principle well: “I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work.”

Ninjutsu Training Tip No.3: Conditioning yourself will help you succeed in stressful environments.

The third principle is one that separates martial artists from sports competitors, and it lies at the heart of ninjutsu training. Bruce Lee reminded us that the best training for the event is the event. Separating excellent training from mediocre training can be challenging because we normally can’t participate in the event we’re training for. 

As explained above, however, the ninja were able to combine the actual event with their training, and they worked out a system for learning from each attack. A complete martial art trains you to remain comfortable in stressful or dangerous environments. To do this, it must push the boundaries of your comfort zone periodically to condition you to succeed under pressure.

Modern practitioners of the art accomplish this in many ways: training with the lights off, defending themselves while wearing blindfolds or handcuffs, fending off multiple attackers, overcoming environmental obstacles and defusing verbal attacks.

Remember that the goal isn’t to eliminate fear. It’s to remain comfortable in the face of fear and not be paralyzed by it.

About the author: A martial artist for 39 years, Chuck Cory has taught the FBI, DEA and regional law-enforcement agencies in the United States, Europe, Central America, South America and Asia.

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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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