April 1, 2011

10 Questions with Shidoshi Jim Delorto

Jim Delorto has been training with me for more than 10 years now. He started back in the early days, when I had just returned from Japan and I was teaching in the back of a video store in Elgin, IL, more than an hour from where I lived, three days a week. Eventually, our Friday night trainings became legendary: we'd start about 7-ish and train all night long, finishing sometimes at midnight or later, and then go out for beers. Great times.

Jim has probably been my most consistent student. He is exacting in his movement, yet supple in application. His exterior is quiet, reserved, but inside his thoughts on Budo race as he searches ever deeper for meaning. Jim is also one of the nicest, politest people you'll ever meet. And he's an incredible teacher to boot, mixing application with real-world data to give folks context and clarity.


What is your personal martial arts biography?

Like many I was swept up in the ninja boom of the 80s and the martial arts boom in the 90s. I would read the old "Ninja" magazine and I even bought my first ninja book at the ripe old age of eight - Steven Hayes', Mystic Arts of the Ninja.

When I was ten, I began training in the martial arts. The first style I picked up was a blend of Judo, Aikido, and Karate called at first, "Budo Aikido" and later, "Budo Tai-jutsu." I received my black belt in this at 16 and was a 2nd degree when I moved on. In high school, I really began to experience a wider array of martial traditions. I was a wrestler my freshman year and also began to study Shaolin Chuan Fa Kung Fu under Sifu Chris McClure, Sifu Catherine Blaisedell, and Sifu Gia and Dino Spencer.

It was through my time at this school I was exposed to a multitude of other systems through guest instructors and seminars. I came in contact and had training in Xing yi, Baqua, Tai Chi, Jujitsu, Kali, Escrima, Arnis, Muay Thai, Hapkido, and western boxing. I met and training with a great many teachers with exceptional backgrounds, including a shaolin monk. I also studied fencing. Shortly before leaving high school I attained the rank of junior black sash.

Upon entering college, I took up Jidokwan Style Tae Kwon do, Aikido, and Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu. By the end of my sophomore year I had stopped taking both Tae Kwon do and Aikido and focused all my attention on the Bujinkan. While both other arts had been enjoyable and I advanced well - Cho Don Bo in TKD and 5th Kyu in Aikido - and had exposure to a Korean TKD Olympic Champion and one of Ueshiba Sensei’s students, neither fit me as well as the Bujinkan.

I began training with Gabe Logan and through him came to train with James Morganelli, who I currently train and teach under. I have trained in the Bujinkan for 10 years and along the way have attended seminars with instructors such as Mark Hodel, Jack Hoban, Ed Martin, Dick Severence, Andrew Young, Luke Molitor, and others. I have participated in two Tai Kai, two Bufest, and one Buyu camp. I have traveled to Japan twice and attended classes with the Japanese Shihan and Soke and look forward to future trips. My Godan test was passed in 2007.

Why do you train?

While I hate to give a simple answer to such a deep question, I train because it makes me better in all areas of my life. Through training, I am a better man in all the roles that I have in society. I’m a better husband, a better son, a better friend, a better student, a better citizen, etc. Training makes me better in all these areas of my life.

What do you think is/are the core value(s) of martial arts training?

This is a very difficult question to answer. For me, I’d say the core value from which all others spring is life. All the other values that martial arts of any style claim to value, all come back to life. Because all of those other more relative values are all to protect life, whatever they are - strength, power, cunning, perseverance - whatever it is. They all should be used as tools and means to protect life.

Can you explain your method of training and teaching?

To be honest, no I can’t. While I can try and pin down what I do to both teach and train, it would only be true for a moment, and then would change. One day I might focus on the technical aspects of a movement or waza, the next on feeling the energy of the attacker. I tend to, for lack of a better turn of phrase, train/teach on a whim and see where it takes me.

Is there a “secret” to training?

Ganbatte. But not just keep going, keep making progress no matter how small an increment.

What would you recommend others do, to improve their training?

Learn to seek and enjoy being frustrated. It means you’re doing something new and that means progress.

What are the biggest differences today, than when you first began training?

There has been a swap from physical to mental. Training is no longer as physically demanding as it once was. We used to train for 4 or more hours a night and be physically exhausted. Now we train much less, about 2 hours a night, but the exhaustion is more mental.

What is the role a martial artist plays in our world?

To be honest, martial arts today is entertainment. It has become a means of making a buck. That is why I don’t think of the Bujinkan as a martial art, it is a warrior art. Warrior arts are those that adhere to the true spirit and purpose of what used to be “martial arts.” Warrior arts protect all of mankind; most so called “martial arts” have forgotten this, their true purpose. And that is truly sad.

What one thing would you contribute to a “Book of Knowledge?”

I’ll steal this one: "Education is not about filling a bucket, it's about lighting a fire." William Butler Yeats

Do you have any great hope for the future of martial training?

I would say my one great hope is that the few of us that practice in the true spirit of a warrior art can do so in a way that shows our world it can be better than it is and that we as human beings are better than what we have been.


Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that my "questions" were posted this month, as it will be my birthday the 29th. If anyone has any questions or wants me to flesh out an answer more. Either comment here or feel free to e-mail me at sanshin00@hotmail.com.

Jim Delorto

Anonymous said...

I miss training with you Jim. I miss the whole group.

Take care,

Ganbatte Kudasai


Ed Ammendola said...

Man Jim, you have come a long way. I remember when you were a green belt. Looking forward to more training with you!