Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Life-Giving Sword

In this age of the common man, where hero and warrior are maligned, where the effeminate urbanite is exalted, the act of killing has been demonized by the aristocrat, and forbidden under any circumstance.  Polite society shuns even the notion of physical conflict as academe heaps scorn on those stout souls who posses the temerity to defend themselves against the ogres and goblins of our age.

 It was not always so.

 In ages past, thinking men who gave contemplation to the laws of nature and to nature’s God were drawn inexorably to the logical conclusion that man was endowed with certain personal rights derived from his peculiar position as having been created in God’s image.  It was observed that the beasts of nature were provided by providence with tooth and claw, with fang, poison, or brute power.  Nature’s harsh law provided for defense and the implementation of killing, Res ipsa Loquitur.  So much the more, should man wield the power of death justly.  It is a lamentable fact that, in this world of corruption, man must avail himself of tools of power to thwart the wicked intentions of his fellow man.  Sadly, as once great societies tend toward decay and dissolution, the noble principals once commonly known among citizens become perverted.  For instance, “Thou shalt not kill,” does not forbid killing under any circumstance but forbids the act of murder.  Indeed, the charter for human government is expressed to Noah in Genesis 9:6, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”  Here is the limited purpose of human government expressed and here government is charged with the power of capital punishment.  Furthermore, government is charged to execute justice not promote reform: “And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” Exodus 21:23-25  Government, not the individual, is to exact a just recompense once immanent peril is extinguished.

 In a more noble age, where the souls of heroes and warriors were forged in the foreboding darkness of vast wilderness, men were expected to deal with violent action and to confront it, to master it with success.  It was, in fact, a moral imperative to confront violent aggression and to triumph over the wicked aggressor.  The ancient samurai knew this code and gave it a name: The Life-Giving Sword.  When confronted with the wicked aggressor, who by his actions condemned himself to his ignoble end, the ancient warrior responded with a righteous indignation and cut down the evildoer.   The ancient sword saint would accomplish his purpose upon the evil aggressor and thereby spare any future victim; his sword gave life to those who would otherwise be defenseless.

In our day, we see the spirit of the ancient warrior and sword saint when a man takes up the defense of himself or another to thwart the actions of the thug, robber, rapist, murderer, or terrorist.  Though the warrior must now often sulk in the shadows, while the dandy struts about in polite society to the praise of the sycophant urbanite, he must still honor his ancient heritage, living by the principal of The Life-Giving Sword. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Real Bushido

"As a military man, to serve one's country, to serve one's lord, or to die for an ideal is important.  But something that transcends this is to protect one' s country, protect one's lord, and to attain an ideal.  This is the true essence of the warrior, and what flows there is the real bushido."  Masaaki Hatsumi, Advanced Stick Fighting

The West has a distorted view of bushido, due in part to a perversion of the original understanding of the ideal in the East.  The concept  of bushido or "the way of the warrior" was conceived out of the flowering of noble ideals and to properly understand its meaning, the modern day warrior must see the term in relation to the ancient purpose and meaning of "samurai." Most westerners who have any understanding of Eastern martial arts have heard the definition of samurai as "one who serves."  

To be samurai, in ancient times or in modern, one must serve.  The ancient samurai served Lord and clan; the modern serves country, community, and family.  And, it is out of this philosophy of service that the concept of bushido should be understood.  Bushido is not merely a credo of reckless abandon culminating in death for any cause but a deeper, spiritual, and subtle philosophy of death to self, of death to ego.  Therefore, bushido finds its expression in the mundane of daily life.  Understood in this way, bushido lives in this modern age just as vibrantly as it did centuries ago and gives the modern warrior a very real connection to all of the true warriors of the ancient past.  "What I urge people to understand here is that the so-called essence (gokui) should not be regarded as the peak of the mountains, rather it is more like the flat of the plains.  Gokui means to lead an ordinary life, it is to possess an "everyday Mind" (heijoshin)."  Masaaki Hatsumi, Advanced Stick Fighting 

Though the concept of bushido is generally thought of as an Eastern ideal, it does find a parallel in Western thought.  It is my personal belief that all truth is God's truth and I think that the ancients uncovered a bit of God's truth in the original conceptualization of bushido.  Biblically, the concept is revealed by divine inspiration when the apostle Paul writes, "I die daily." 1 Corinthians 15:31  Here, in three words, the ideal of bushido is given its most succinct and profound expression.  In its highest form, bushido is a call to selflessness and a mandate to service.  The real bushido is a living philosophy encapsulating the highest ideals of self sacrifice which finds living expression in the mundane aspects of daily life.  The real bushido then is a daily death to selfish desire, to physical comfort, and a call to the service of country, community, and family.  For the warrior, bushido may result in his physical death, but more importantly it requires the sacrifice of the self in his everyday existence.  

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Why Ninpo Taijutsu?

"By opening his eyes and his mind, the ninja can responsively follow the subtle seasons and reasons of heaven, changing just as change is necessary, adapting always, so that in the end there is no such thing as surprise for the ninja." Toshitsugu Takamatsu

Of all the arts of martial discipline, it is within Ninpo that the art of war finds its fulfillment.  Ninpo is the embodiment of thousands of years of unbroken tradition whose techniques find thier genesis on the field of battle.  It is a system complete and refined which makes no distinction between the "empty hand" and the use of weapons.  It encompasses the manipulation of the physical as well as mastery of the mental and the development of the spiritual.  Indeed, man fights primarily with his brain and by the strength of his heart.  Ultimately, as Ninpo teaches, the outcome of conflict is determined by the destiny prescribed by providence.  

Ninpo is not an art for every man or woman (kunoichi).  Ninpo embodies the heart of the warrior, exists for and because of the warrior.  And, in this age of the common man, warriors are in short supply.  Ninpo's techniques are not for the faint of heart, for the effete.  Specifically, Ninpo Taijutsu embodies a system, not based in technique, but on the feeling of combat and the manipulation of the combat dynamic.  This process is not easily apprehended and is beyond the capacity of most dabblers to endure.  It is as it should be.  For the very essence of Ninpo is to endure; to endure pain, fear, monotony, discouragement, or whatever challenge that may raise its serpentine head to devour the heart of the warrior.  The Ninja endures because he must; he trains simply because that's what warriors do.  The warrior is compelled by his nature to endure.

Why Ninpo Taijutsu? Though some of what exists today echoes aspects of Ninpo, none posesses the purity of its battlefield spirit as demonstrated in its theory, technique, and feeling.  Within Ninpo Taijutsu an unbroken line of tradition extends backward for millennia and embodies a treasure gained from the blood and toil of ten thousand battlefields.