Sunday, October 26, 2014

Ninjas can disappear! - Ninjutsu Myth #382

In this new series I'd like to call "Ninjutsu Myths", I plan to address various questions posed to me by my students who train with me. Some of the questions are so common, and many end up asking me the same questions, I actually wonder if people really come to train in Bujinkan Ninjutsu for self development or because they were influenced by cartoons, movies and pop culture.

Many of my students have asked me if Ninja's can disappear and if I can teach them to become invisible. (usually its not a "if" its a "when", as in "when can we learn to become invisible"). My usual answer is something funny or irrelevant but I thought I'd take this opportunity to elaborate.

Ninjas Can disappear or turn invisible at will.
Practitioners of ninjutsu can neither disappear nor turn invisible. Yes all of us would like to know the skills to disappear in a puff of black smoke when confronted by an enemy (or a bad boss, ex girlfriend, present wife etc), but the reality is far from there.
This fantasy seems to have originated because of the the following Taijutsu principles 

1. Be Patient
One of the core tenets of our martial art is being able to be patient. Timing, Distancing and Angling being the most important components for good taijutsu, the principle of being patient and moving at the last instant is one of our basic concepts. (Kotsu)
You wait for the opponent to make a move and only react to him when he is totally committed to the attack and cannot change it even if he wants to. This enables one to trap the opponent using his/her momentum and intent to attack. The outcome of successfully executing this principle is that the opponent feels that you literally “disappear” from the line of attack and end up being present elsewhere.

2. Overwhelm the senses
As a follow-up to the above principle, we learn to strike in multiple number of locations, this prevents the opponent from being able to perceive your next move and planning his next action
The opponent now is on the back foot has no idea where you are and his senses are numbed to perceiving your position. You "disappear" in his mind since he is now solely focused on surviving.

3. Distracting &a then Getting Away
This myth probably also came about because of our basic philosophy of avoidance of conflict. The first rule the Ninjas followed (to safeguard their lives and survive) was to get away. If a ninja could avoid fighting, he would.
In order to achieve this goal, he might have needed to create a diversion of some kind, such as throwing shuriken, setting off a smoke bomb or throwing sand in the opponent’s eyes. By the time the opponent recovered from the distraction, the ninja would be gone. There is no magic involved here – just common sense.
We use distraction in our movement, form and techniques on a regular basis. We disappear yes, but only after distracting.

3. Destruction of the Ego
At an esoteric level, perhaps our martial art is all about realising that in the vast scheme of things you are but a mere spectator. To become aware of our littleness and to to simultaneously realize that everyone else has the same potential as you, is perhaps one way to destroy your ego. The Bujinkan is an art of humility. We are reminded often to place virtue before vice, values before vanity and principles before personalities. Training in the Bujinkan helps you become a true Martial artiste by destroying you ego. In very simple terms, picking fights is ego driven, going for trophies is ego driven, you get the idea. The bujinkan stays away from these and concentrates on self development

So perhaps when they said the "Ninjutsu teaches you how to disappear", maybe then meant that "Ninjutsu teaches you how to let your ego disappear".
When the ego disappears, the real self surfaces. Perhaps we train really to help our ego to disappear and be more real?

So if you ask me casually in class, I'd probably say yes. But if you want to know how, you'd probably have to train. There is no other secret to mastery of ninjutsu, there is no magic in ninjutsu, other than hard training.

So would you like to come to class sometime soon and learn how to disappear??
Train hard, Stay Happy

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