NINJUSTU BLOG (SESSION 1)Posted on 4 October 2006
Welcome to the Martial Arts TV Ninjutsu Blog.
The purpose of our blog is to share our experiences of Ninjutsu, good and bad, and give the reader an insight into the past present and future of Ninjutsu, particularly in the UK.
The study of Ninjutsu is all about blood, sweat and tears. Perseverance and endurance, to quote the Ninja credo. But it should also be about having a good time and making new friends. So I’ll be sharing the pain, the laughter and the downright inexplicable. I hope you enjoy our story.
In true martial tradition I should formally introduce myself first.
My name is Mark Lutman and I am Sempai to the Shinobi Kai Ninpo Bugei Hombu Dojo.
I am also Sensei to the Shinobi Kai Ninpo Bugei Dojo in Portsmouth and Basingstoke . My title is Hanshi.
That’s is the formal view. But I do not stand on airs and graces.
Its not for me to insist on being called by any title, its up to me to show my students I am worthy of being addressed how they feel is appropriate. They have to be comfortable in calling me Sensei. They have to have the confidence that I am Sensei. I am because I am, not because I insist on the title being used.
I guess the best place to start is with the writer, so this is how I discovered Ninjutsu.
In truth it was a complete accident and set of coincidences.
Way back in the dim and distant past the last thing I had in mind was being a martial arts instructor.
But its funny how life turns out and the journey it takes you on sometimes.
Now, I’m not going to claim to have been in Ninjutsu from day one, but day two for sure. I had already been studying Judo, Karate an Jujutsu for some time when I literally stumbled across Ninjutsu.
One of my hobbies was model making and I regularly purchased a magazine called “Military Modeller”. In those days most people who were into modelling chose the second world war or the American civil war as these were the most accessible in terms of what products were available.
Military Modeller constantly tried to show the readers another arenas to study and get involved in.
One month I was stunned to read an idea based on a Japanese group called “Ninja”. The article told stories of seemingly superhuman warriors, invincible in combat. As an experienced martial artist this was news to me; I had never heard of these “Ninja” before.
A writer called “Andrew Adams” and his book “Ninja, The Invisible Assassins” was quoted. That’s was it, I had to have this book and moved heaven and earth to buy a copy.
At this time you couldn’t just go into WH Smith’s and get it off the shelf, I had to go to a specialist book supplier and order it. I also had to wait weeks, which seemed like months.
This article and book were the first parts of my research. The book quoted the only living practitioner of Ninjutsu, a Master by the name of Masaaki Hatsumi, who only taught in Japan , to Japanese students. Little did I know how the future would change this.
So here I am, article and book in hand. But no Dojo, no instructor, no Gi, no “ninja sword” and to be honest, no idea. I had no way to get to Japan and even if I did, I had no way of finding out where Hatsumi taught. Not that it would have been much use, as the article said he only taught Japanese students, plus I didn’t speak Japanese.
It was a few years later and coincidence reared its head again.
Having spent a weekend in Eastbourne with friends I was driving back through Polegate and saw a mannequin outside a business unit. The mannequin was dressed as a Ninja and I made a mental note of where to find the unit again.
As soon as I got home I called a friend and fellow martial artist and told him what I had stumbled across. The following weekend we retraced my route and found our way back to a company, now known throughout the world; Battle Orders. Well done Graham by the way.
Where we proceeded to spend just about everything we had. One Saturday of every following month was spent driving all the way back and spending as much as we could afford “stocking up”.
Still a couple of small problems though; no Dojo, no instructor, no idea. Loads of equipment though, just nothing to do with it.
One visit to Battle Orders cheered us up though, they were closing the business unit and opening a shop in Brighton . Brighton was a hell of a lot closer to home and they would be stocking a lot more Ninja “equipment”. Music to our ears.
As soon as the shop opened there we were, money in hand. The shop was full of people, I hadn’t seen so many people crammed into such a small place before. There was a noticeboard on the wall for local instructors of any art to put their cards and posters up.
Over the next few months we got to know the shop manager quite well and one day saw a poster for “Ninjutsu”; classes starting soon, plus the details of where and when. I nearly fell over.
The following Tuesday saw us back in Brighton , in a dusty hall, hidden behind a church. Our first exposure to a “Ninja Dojo”.
The biggest surprise for me was the instructor. I had imagined a superhuman figure, large framed, imposing, dressed all in black, his features concealed behind a “mask”.
Imagine my shock when he seemed to be just like me. But smaller. And skinnier. And no mask.
By this time I was teaching Judo, karate and Jujutsu and taking part in Judo and Karate competitions all over the place.
I was fit. I was strong. I was very competitive.
My main idea was to find out out a bit about “Ninja techniques” and use them to help me win competitions. (of course I never took the next logical step to realise that had I done so, I would have been thrown out of the competitions. One thing Ninjutsu has taught me is to think and ask questions).
The other surprise about the instructor was how familiar he was. After months of getting to know the shop manager it turns out that he is the instructor. All this time and he never once told me what he did in his spare time.
This was my first experience of actually training in Ninjutsu and it was also another shock.
I cannot begin to describe how easily I was thrown. Or hit. Or locked up. Or kicked. Or how damn painful it was.
So there I am, a reasonably good and experienced martial artist, fit and competitive, with more than one martial discipline under my belt, being thrown around like a rag doll by a chap half my size.
Suddenly it all falls into place, this is a true martial art, everything I have always looked for. Size really doesn’t matter, technique and tactics are everything.
On further questioning it turns out that the instructor, Peter Brown , has been travelling to Sweden (and we complain when its raining and the Dojo is half a mile away) for years to study with Sensei Bo Munthe, the first European Dan grade.
Luckily for me Peter was one of the first two people in England to be awarded a Dan grade in Ninjutsu. It also transpires that Peter also wrote one of the very first articles I read, all those years ago.
Funny how life goes around in circles.
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