June 4, 2012

Confessions of a "Real-Life Ninja"

"Upcoming guest on the podcast: REAL-LIFE NINJA! Send us questions for the ninja..."

-Nerd Nite Podcast Twitter Feed
Okay, I got interviewed. About ninjas.

"Nerd Nite Podcast" host Dan Rumney interviews people around the globe from authors to neurologists and the fact their expertise makes them a "nerd." Now, if you have 50 minutes to burn, have at the interview, perhaps you'll find it mildly interesting. Like pineapple salsa.

Nerd Nite Podcast - Episode 20

How did I feel being interviewed as a "Real-Life Ninja?" Easy - I said I wasn't a 'real-life ninja.' In fact, with the exception of Hatsumi sensei, there are no more ninjas. And yet, I can't completely deny any connection.

Look, if you meet someone who says they are a real-life ninja, or insists they can teach you to become a real-life ninja, you need not think further, need not trouble your weary mind for answers, for the truth is staring you - crazily and wild-eyed, probably - in the face. Don't ask questions, don't become argumentative, just relax, breathe - smile even, it will calm them - and back away.

Saying you're a real-life ninja is like saying you're training to be Batman - it's weird. In all my years training I have never, not even one time, used the word "ninja" to promote myself. Ever. I know of no one training legitimately who would either. The baggage attached to the word highlights the stylized, confused, and stereotypic view society has concerning ninjas and martial arts in general.

Not the hero treats deserved, but the one they needed.
It's also an example of the double edge of the ninja craze: Serious practitioners are often defined by the loudest frauds and loonies looking to live up to, train up to the hype of being a "ninja." And like I mentioned in the interview, instead of being inspired by Batman's sense of justice and doing something worthwhile, they're duct taping their batsuit together and spray painting their mom's Camry black. These are the same people buying antique Chinese scrolls on eBay to claim they're inherited densho from Soke Cucamonga.

You will cover up that sack ...
I know of no other martial art with the kind of deep-rooted misconceptions like those found in Ninjutsu. And one really does have to shrug it off - ninja stuff is tailor made to be exploited and exaggerated - what with all the shadowy, black-clad assassin, cloak-and-dagger, mythical nonsense that's attributed to it. And yet, these stereotypes reveal the very aspects people find intriguing. On a recent video shoot for a temp agency, one of my guys met a woman known as the "Office Ninja." She gets sent in ahead of time to handle all the logistics - it was even on her business cards.

People want to be invincible, undefeatable, they want access to that kind of power or at least training that they believe can lead to it. And when they don't or can't find answers about the training, they make it up - they find an answer that satisfies. And so, you wind up with handfuls of "YouTube ninjas" doling out everything from techniques to recipes.
Full disclosure: Had it. Wore it. Loved it. 

But here's the funny part: The reality of training, the actuality of the art, is way cooler - WAY 'effing cooler - than any comic book could ever detail, than any exaggeration could imagine. Use any weapon? Move/fight from any disadvantage? Turn "invisible?" Absolutely. All true. All totally true. True because within reality is the real way to do it. The folks trying to live up to the hype are only seeing the cartoonish aspects of the art, in other words, only what they can imagine. "Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." So, they are unconscious of the art's tactics, strategies, and principles, let alone its values, morals, and ethics - the stuff that can actually assist us in living better lives and help others to do so as well.

RealLifeNinja says: Everybody wins.
So, what is the reality? Simple: I study not just a martial art, which is actually a combination of historical Japanese lineages and techniques; I also train a martial way, a manner of perceiving the art and its inherent principles so I can apply them under the circumstances in which I need to protect myself and others to live a better life.

Crap. Maybe I am a real-life ninja. Except, like, you know, in real life and stuff ...

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