Japanese calligraphy of Ninja symbol
I picture to people, one of them Nagato sensei doing a martial arts technique in Honbu Dojo

On Budo

Toshiro Nagato

On Budo

Toshiro Nagato

There are some people who use budo as the base of their livelihoods. There are even some who claim to be doing it “for the sake of Bujinkan, for the sake of Togakure Ryu” whereas in fact they are merely using it for their own personal sakes, using it for their own professions. These are not true martial artists, they are martial art businessmen. (Soke is a martial artist, an author, a producer, a painter, a doctor, and the top level at each of them. For the past year he has also been an actor.) As for myself, I have a job just like anyone else, which I use for my livelihood, and i see by budo as existing on top of that base. I’m not saying that budo business is a totally evil thing. Things vary from country to country—for people who can survive just on budo, that’s fine. However, I do sometimes think (as a parent might), seeing as they have not got the necessary experience, what on earth are they teaching? It can’t be all easy sailing for these inexperienced ones, either. Looking at the current situation, there are only a handful of people who can really do taijutsu and understand budo, and all the rest need a lot more time and training. There are even some deluded children who take a few years of (in-) experience, some sort of feel for sports, mix them up together and try to prove what a “genuine expert” they are…

To be quite honest, unless someone really understands what Soke is saying, they have absolutely no right to use names “Bujinkan” or “Togakure Ryu”. If they get a reputation for being a user, well that’s more than understandable.

Soke just watches them silently. If someone does not understand your teaching, what’s the point of wasting energy on them? That’s what 1,000 years of history have taught. There are even some total idiots who try comparing Soke with their own feeble experience, and use their own petty powers of judgment to criticize him. Maybe it’s for the sake of making money———the advertisements are big—but the real contents are just a shame. What on earth can such people be thinking off? I suppose it must be just themselves

But even then Soke says nothing. Budo is not as trivial as that. It is not the kind of thing where you can throw your responsibility to the winds, teach anything you like just however you like, and thus satisfy your ego. It is backed up by a long history of battling for peace. It is a splendid form of art; it is human culture of a high dimension. And as for those who encounter this martial art but then drift away from the core without even realizing it, and head off in the wrong direction, they are rather to be pitied.

Soke never forces his students to do anything. Instead he always says “If you just do budo for your own sake you’ll get worse.” “Do not think of yourself, do it for the sake of your country” is what he preaches wherever he travels throughout the world. He also says this to those who come to train in Japan, just before he sees them retum home. At first they seem to understand the gist of what Soke says, and their hearts bum with the feeling of their duty to teach true budo. But after awhile, what with the pressure of work, money, etc., they change heart or simply forget. Of course, I’m not saying that absolutely everybody is like that. As time passes everything changes. However, if one’s own feelings change, that is not simply a result of time passing. Those who are only thinking a of their own self, their own affairs never last a long time. Even if they did (for their whole life) it would just be a waste of time.

Bufu Ikkan (being blown by the martial wind for one’s whole life): I wish that people never forgot the impressions, emotions, and resolves that they felt when they first encountered this budo. Some come to train in Japan from overseas. That requires some doing, and I take my hat off to all such people. However, just coming to Japan once or twice and staying for a few days can’t teach you that much. And especially those whose heads are all full up and confused with concepts like speed, power, business etc. will find it harder and  harder to understand what this budo is all about. After a few years, they may seem to be succeeding to a certain extent. But then they have to think of how to protect the livelihood, status and honor that budo has brought them, and it’s the beginning of the end. They do not even notice when they slip off the true path, and start wandering through a maze. And if they were alone in this maze, then that would still be tolerable, but once they start causing problems for others one must ask “just what is this budo you think you know?”

In one sense, budo is very dangerous. It is quite feasible that self-defense can bring about self-destruction. I might be tempting as a trade, but there are traps lying all around. Once you understand budo, and manage to perfect it, then there will be few problems, and there is little danger of failure. But unfortunately, there are but few students who have reached that stage yet. Yet, you are still stuck with the problem of upholding your family, and your own livelihood. The only solution is to understand what I am trying to say, endure it and keep on with the training. You get blown by the wind of budo from Japan, take back the seeds of budo, make its flowers bloom and its fruits ripen. You also have to cope with the natural struggle for survival. It may take several years, several decades until a martial art which is truly suited to a certain country gets naturally weeded out and comes to rest.

This must be stressed from the very beginning. Our budo is the history of 1,000 years of weeding out. How on earth is someone meant to understand it in just two or three years ?

Some people are cherished with the illusion that they have already understood—but the true way is rather to realize how you gradually stop understanding. Unless you have a pure heart, which can listen carefully to what Soke says and try to understand, then you will not be able to build up any trust relationships. Even if Soke teaches with all his might, unless there is a receptacle waiting for his teaching, it’s just wasted effort; it’s pearl before swine. Even when he talks of the culture and art that has lived for 1,000 years, some just get caught up in small concepts like speed and power, and miss what is most important for life. If faced with someone who doesn’t understand no matter how much you tell them, then you have no choice but to leave them to flounder.

In a real fight, it is correct judgment that decides whether you live or die, in a split second : speed and power are far less relevant. This power to judge correctly is nurtured by the repeated practice of taijutsu’s variations and flow. To be able to respond correctly with both hearth and body to the opponent’s various changes, you must practice correctly, gently, and relaxed. Some people say, “that’s too soft” or “too slow,” but if you are trying to learn correct movements nothing can be “too soft” or “too slow.” Surely this is plain logic- can’t everybody understand it? After you have become able to move correctly, you should just move in a natural style suited to your own body. lf you think about speed and power from the beginning, you lose your mental flexibility, start moving as your ego dictates, and become unable to change yourself to respond to your opponent’s changes. Four or five years ago, training at Bujinkan was quite hard, but know it has become very soft. Some people question this. As far as I myself am concerned, I have no complaints about the present way of training. It is just those who are no good at budo yet who complain, and they should stop before they voice their “logic,” shut up and just train-they should be able to produce the answer from there. If someone doesn’t understand budo, it doesn’t matter how much they wonder about whether the present training system is suited for country X or not: they haven’t got a hope of understanding. Just as Soke says, they should keep on going with the training, first. And then if they see the result, that’s all that’s needed.

lt may sound like a matter of course, but during your training you will undergo various social and personal experiences. Not all of them will be fun. On the contrary, trying, sad, aggravating, or boring things are more common. That is exactly why Soke is preaching a method whereby anyone can leam together and urge each other on enjoyably, without forgetting the most important point, the soul of the martial arts. No matter how often you tell them, those who are stubborn, who lack a cooperative nature, who want to be No. 1, or who have too strong a desire to maintain their egos, will not be able to understand this martial art.

The “nin” of ninjutsu can also be interpreted as the “nin” of ninshiki (awareness). Soke says that true courage is being aware of everything, and then going beyond this. lf this is lacking, then no matter how many techniques you know you will make mistaken decisions. If you just try and think things out yourself, there’ll often be mistakes. This applies even more to those still undergoing training. Making mistakes is unavoidable. Lf you think you are mistaken, then correct it. lf you practice again correctly, then that’s all you need. This also needs courage. lt takes time, natural time until you can understand budo. And those who can’t endure the many years are no different from those who don`t understand culture, art, and human nature.

Source: Tetsuzan

Japanese calligraphy of Ninja symbol

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