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Path to the Heart of the Flower (III)

In Part I and II of this adventure, I wrote about how I made my way to Japan in 1990 to teach English, pursue Karate training, and look for ninja grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi. I had arrived in Japan in early August, and now, finally, in October, after getting settled into my apartment, teaching schedule, and Karate training, it was time to set off in search of the ninja master.

Getting information about ninja masters wasn’t as easy in 1990 as it is today. There was no Internet, at least not as we know it now. I remember writing letters home that would take a week to ten days to get from Japan to Canada, and a ten-minute phone conversation to connect with family cost me $100. The only information I had to base my search on was contained in two books on the ninja that I had brought with me to Japan. Both of these books were authored by the same American student of the grandmaster, and both of them pointed to the Iga region as the home of the ninja clans. Eager to meet Hatsumi Sensei for myself, I made plans to visit the area, the city of IgaUeno, located in present-day Mie Prefecture.

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Ayase Report (080422)

Class started out tonight with a demonstration of one of the first techniques of Togakure-ryu Ninjutsu by Noguchi Sensei. Soke then did his spin-off thing and soon had the full class in a state of confusion. Nothing unusual about tonight in that regard. :-)

We did a lot of work with “fist changing” tonight – using multiple strikes against the opponent, changing the strike from one form into another along the way. From a shishinken to a boshiken to a shutoken for example, 3 consecutive strikes with the same hand. It wasn’t as if we were just standing there hitting the other guy repeatedly with one hand though. Sensei stressed the necessity of *walking* through the technique. With every step, a strike would be applied. A step was used to power every strike. Sensei often uses the term “juppo sessho” (’10 ways of interacting’ is one rendering of that phrase) in relation to this “fist changing.” The number 10 represents infinity and circularity, continuous, never-ending change. The martial *artist* must be able to continually adapt his attacks and strategies to best fit continually-changing circumstances, “changing as change is necessary” to accomplish that which [s]he wills to do.

From the number 10, Sensei went on to talk about the “bugei juhappan”, 18 martial skills to be learnt by the common Japanese warrior (bushi). (“Ninjutsu practitioners also study Bugei Juhappan alongside with Ninja Juhakkei (the 18 Ninjutsu fighting art skills).”) Sensei said that by adding this extra dimension, we arrive at the number 36, which is a significant number in ‘fuusui’ (風水, pronounced ‘feng-shui’ in Chinese). He didn’t elaborate, leaving it up to the listener to figure out for themselves. (I could turn it into a ‘93′ by turning it around, but…) He did leave a hint though by stressing the *simplicity* of the concept, stating that its simply a continual circulation in two (or more) directions at the same time, much like the simultaneous circulation of blood through both the arteries and veins through the body. Once again we were left with the teaching that budo is simple, but its simple on a grand scale.