Wisdom from the Master

Translated from Hiden Ninpo

There is a lot of misunderstanding regarding the Ninja. Some Ninja were originally “failed Samurai”;they started out with a bad reputation. The Japanese character for “Shinobi” implies a lack of heart, coldness, and ruthlessness. That applies only to the lowest or worst class of Ninja. True Ninja have very deep and proper emotions. Love and peace is very important to them.

They must, however, learn to be very patient with their bodies and emotions. They train their subconscious (natural intelligence) also. They are not concerned with “saving face”. They strive to win in the end. The Ninja’s emotions are like a flower. Ninja enjoy the peace of nature, and have a peaceful nature as well. They use natural movement to disappear when attacked with a sword. They fight to protect community and country.

Heart is the most important element of my philosophy. It will carry the warrior through confused times. Budo Philosophy: In general, it is used to protect the country, your community, and your own body. The way one approaches and uses this philosophy is very important. People say that the way you cut with the sword is important, but good eyes, strong muscles and bones are not the “way”. Gross technique is more like cutting wood than swordsmanship. Swordsmanship against an opponent involves a totally different “way”. You also need to learn different techniques but the “way” is the important part which sensei stresses. Jutsu means technique, but it also means heart. Jutsu must come from the heart. Therefore, your heart must be straight and honest. If your heart is not clear and straight, your jutsu will be lacking and you will not improve in the martial arts. Lust for victory will not give you the victory. You must receive the victory from your opponent. He has no choice but to give it to you because he will sense your heart as better or truer. Nature is your friend; it helps you to win. Your enemy will have unnatural movement, therefore you will be able to know what he is going to do before he does it.

I refer to mastery as a “feeling” in the individual. The certificate, even 10th degree, is no proof. One must be honest and think on this very deeply. There is no proof, however, if you look for it. When you don’t need to look, that is the proof. When one develops Shin Ki To Ichi (the heart, universe and weapon as one) that is mastery. This is the proof; this ability always allows the budoka to win, his technique always works.

Ninpo protects all of you, your body and spirit. Other budo philosophies don’t have this. In budo, and other philosophies, if your spirit is not straight, you can kill yourself! For example, medicine should protect one’s health, but used improperly, the same techniques will kill. Likewise with eating and drinking; improper habits will destroy the body. The same with the leadership of a country. Leaders should protect the people; a bad leader (poor philosophy, greedy, selfish) can destroy a country. Religion can be good for society, but greed and fanaticism can destroy. Here is a paraphrase of a letter from Takamatsu to me: “The Universe gives you a mission and guides you– no one can stop you– you will gain enormous strength, lose all fear, become as one with all of the natural world, and have total freedom in your movements. Your mind will be straight and honest. If you are truly straight and honest, you can get this power. Common sense, justice, and no surprise: this is Togakure Ryu Ninpo”.

How to learn the gokui (secrets) so as to become Meijin (a master)? Everyone wants to get the Makimono (Ryu Scroll Legacy that is held by the Grandmaster). Only by studying long and hard can you become strong enough to take the Makimono. Once you have it you may find that it is hard to move for several years because the Makimono is too heavy. You begin to understand the commitment that using the gokui entails. The Makimono becomes like a physical weight. Here are some clues to the gokui (secrets). It has to do with Takamatsu Sensei’s return to Japan from China. In China he was known as Mo-Ko, the Mongolian Tiger. The secret is flexibility and appropriateness. When you need to be a tiger you can, and are one. When its better to be a cat, you can be and are.

I was once asked by a friend: “Why don’t you fight a bull like Mas Oyama? You are a very strong Ninja master.” I smiled and said that even though a bull has more muscles, even a farmer can pull it around by the ring in it’s nose. Gokui (the secrets of martial arts) is in a person’s heart and his personal commitment. Be ready to think all the time. If you want enlightenment, practice every moment how to answer these type of questions, like the one about the bull. This means everyone has the capability to learn the Gokui in Ninpo. Practice every day, every moment. Prepare your heart, make it pure in the way that the Universe is pure–natural energy. Then your techniques will also be pure and from the heart. You can learn from anyone if you are sure of yourself. If you are strong you can have good friends and bad friends, and learn from both. I have all kinds of friends because I have no compulsion to judge them. I am not susceptible to bad influences, nor over-influenced by “good” influences. To keep your focus, you must have a purpose–don’t waste your time. Learn from everything.

People like to practice budo in the dojo with their friends. It is very important to go by yourself into nature and work against trees, rocks, with animals. Study the movement of animals and “wrestle” with nature. It is important to have a master, but if he is no good, it could be better than none. Look to nature.

If you, as a teacher, have a student who doesn’t respond to teaching, don’t teach him. Leave his training to him. If he likes Ninpo, he will learn on his own by observing; if not, he will leave. Don’t talk too much: demonstrate. I have many very high level techniques that I never teach. If the student’s are not advanced enough, the training can be detrimental.

You must love before you can create. If you love Ninpo, you can learn with or without a teacher. Strive to find the root of winning. Practice yourself, by yourself if necessary, all your life. Don’t be wishy washy. Use your brain. You can learn many things. Learn them all rather than wasting time between what you think is important to learn. Never give up, even if you get sick. I thought about budo 3 times as much as anyone else I knew, trained 3 times as much as anyone, and spent 3 times as much money in my martial quest. I got strong enough to find out that I was weak. I became very confused, but didn’t give up. I tried to just stop worrying and train. But I got sick anyway. I thought that I would die at one point. I was in bed for five years. I thought that if I died, then I might find peace. After the five years I realized that, no matter whether you are alive, dead, sick or healthy, old or have lots of vitality, you must practice, honestly, according to your situation. Now I don’t worry anymore!

Use natural technique; nature’s power. When you look at someone else’s technique and you feel inadequate, you are probably open for improvement–unless this feeling persists for more than ten years: then give up. Use your practice to gain insight into other things. Techniques are based on philosophy. The fundamentals of both must be strong. Practice the basics. Don’t worry about the flower, worry about the roots. Some day you will bloom into a beautiful flower anyway. Dreams can help you improve your techniques. Dream about the techniques. Practice also, again, again, again.

You have to have a purpose. Why are you studying? Most great martial artists have these purposes: 1) Self improvement. They never quit. They practice all their lives to improve. 2) They realize that it is their own self improvement that is the positive thing that rubs off on others. Both good for themselves, and good for those that come in contact with them.

It is important to know how little you know. When learning Ninpo, keep the fire in your heart. Your technique will then be forged from fire like the samurai sword. Fire and justice are the keys. If you want to change your body and your life, train with fire and live a just life. The number of techniques you know isn’t as important as your attitude. You need purpose and and good eye for those things in life that help your purpose. Takamatsu Sensei was in many real fights and never lost because he was mindful of these important things.

How to become a student: first of all, you need a good teacher. If you have a quack for a “Master” then you are wasting your time. Usually a great teacher will go through many students looking for the ones who have a great sense of the martial arts. In the old days, students had rules–for example, they had to cut wood, clean house, etc. for several years. The master then judged their strength, patience, perseverance, and attitude. If the master decided that you were good, he would invite you into the dojo. There the training would be very hard. Some students couldn’t hack it. They thought that the master was cruel. The ones who could make it were the ones who saw the greatness of the master.

The purpose of each person’s quest can differ: physical strength, mental strength, animal desire to win, or it may be an emotional quest. Practice religion if you want to make your mind/spirit strong, not martial arts. Martial arts can kill. However, to make your body strong enough to just kill or win honors, lift weights, eat vegetables, and walk to become strong. Don’t bother with the martial arts. Only 1 in 1000 will continue to seek the true practice of Ninpo. He is stubborn with a one track mind bordering on stupidity. Student and master must respect each other. Takamatsu Sensei always called me “Sensei”. But master is master, student is student, always. I learned life’s most important lessons from Takamatsu Sensei. Of the three great relationships — Parent/child, wife/husband, master/student, the third is the most important in life.

Soke Masaaki Hatsumi