Monday, May 01, 2006

Ninja Vanish!

Ninja 002[Dave/Scott]
Recommended Reading: Greimel, Hans. “Last Ninja: ‘Be able to kill your students.’” The Mercury News. 26 Apr. 2006.
"Young kids might be more interested in other sports that are flashy or fashionable," concedes Makinori Matsuo, an associate professor of martial arts at Tokyo's International Budo University.

"They tend to be turned off by the image of martial arts as sweaty and smelly," he said.

Ninja is a compound word from the Japanese characters for "stealth" or "endurance" and "person," a reference to their traditional role as spies, mercenaries and assassins working for medieval warlords.

Traditional weaponry such as swords and throwing stars feature prominently is Hatsumi's lessons, as do handclaws for climbing walls, blow darts and chili pepper dust to throw in an opponent's eyes.

But true ninjutsu, Hatsumi says, is self-discipline and balance in the boardroom and the battlefield. It's about mastering one's weaknesses, including laziness and fear, and exploiting a rival's needs, such as sex and pride.
I have to agree with Hatsumi, popular culture’s got the wrong idea when it comes to ninjas and ninjutsu. While living in Hawaii my brother and I picked up a book on ninjutsu technique. We were excited, thinking that it would have crazy shit in there that would make us badasses that could jump 30 feet in the air and chop up dozens of chumps with a katana. After flipping through the book, I noticed a lot of those preconceptions were wrong. Swords like the katana were rarely used because one-on-one, face-to-face combat with a samurai in swordplay was often a sure way to die. The book seemed to emphasize opportunistic techniques instead, seeking to deceive and unbalance opponents for easy kills or escapes. I guess stealth and opportunism aren’t sexy enough to be cool in the eyes of the popular cultures of the west, at least in their views of martial arts.

Instead people who’ve never really had the chance to practice Asian martial arts watch “dance” films like Hero, or anything else by Jet Li. Don’t get me wrong, the “dance” scenes are beautifully choreographed, but they’re not fights. Go look at footage of martial arts matches in say the Olympics (Tae Kwon Do and Judo) or other big tournaments around the world and you’ll see something more dirty and mean than flashy.
“This is not a dance.”
Movie of the Moment: Batman Begins directed by Christopher Nolan


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