1984 Ninja Night Warriors
Let’s go way back in time, back to the early 1980s. Think of a time when there was no internet, no DVD, no self-publishing, no MP3, no YouTube. Old enough to remember such a time?
We had magazines. We had books. Those were my only possible channels for getting word out to the world that there was a new possibility in the martial arts – the training legacy of the ninja. And those channels were owned and controlled by a tight group of business people known as “the publishing industry”. If a publishing company did not believe that:
- My credentials were authentic
- I was capable of delivering what I claimed to deliver
- I could write effectively and engagingly
- What I wrote was true and verifiable
- I was disciplined enough to deliver a finished manuscript on time
- Other people would want to read what I wrote
- What I wrote was important enough to see print
- What I wrote was a good investment for the publisher (“I would make them money”)
- What I wrote would add to the prestige of the publisher’s reputation
- What I wrote would so impress readers that it would lead to even more books or articles that would make even more money and prestige for the publisher
…then there would be no way for my message to see print on paper.
Back then, if I were just some silly barely-literate inarticulate poorly-skilled but big-ego wanna-be in a less than mediocre martial art method, I never would have made it in the door of a publisher, and never would have seen my work in print by a reputable company. Of course those were the days before YouTube freedom to willfully and thoroughly embarrass ones foolish self in the eyes of the entire world.
Back in the early 1980s, a new 3rd realm of publishing arose next to magazines and books. Videotape instruction became the new darling of sports trainers and instructors. But early videos focused on the sports of the wealthy who could afford the technology required to watch videos. Everyone knew that martial artists are notoriously lower-class poor as a group (as opposed to golfers or yacht crews), and so the big question was, “Would martial arts instruction ever make it to video?”
I was approached by Robert Clouse, director of “Enter the Dragon”, Bruce Lee’s final film, with a proposal to do a 2-tape VHS video exposition of the ninja martial arts. The company was Hawk Films, the producer was Nigel Binns, and I along with 3 other hand-picked martial stars flew to Ashland, Oregon, to film our four individual projects.
Those two VHS tapes were important in that they gave the world a first-hand look at what was only a frozen-pose 2-dimensional presentation on a page up to that time. I way over-packed the presentation with everything I taught – unarmed classic combat, unarmed modern combat, bo staff, Japanese sword, hanbo cane, shuriken star blades, kusarifundo chain, Ryutai Undo body flexibility, and stalking and climbing. The tapes sold like crazy in the 1980s and into the 1990s.
We eventually converted the two tapes to two DVDs, and added some updated footage. I was a little nervous preparing to watch the reissued scenes. That was 25 years ago when those were filmed. I was middle-30s in age. What if I now embarrassed myself with what I thought was cool or skilled back then but was now only amusing? What if by redistributing those original videos, I accidentally created my own embarrassing YouTube-style exposure? What if I wished everyone would forget what I had done back then?
I watched. I smiled. I nodded “yes”. Young guy in that dark beard way back then did not let me down today. I am delighted to see that what was real back then is still eye-opening today. One training friend (who admitted he was not even born when the originals went on sale) claimed the “paper napkin diner defense” was worth getting the whole set for. One friend cheerfully admitted to what he called “lifting” the sword segments and running them as a Black Belt Club course in his karate school, and he actually looked good with his copycat movement. A few Quest Center owners had school parties for viewing the DVDs together.
The set is now “back from the depths of the vault” and available if you would like to own a piece of ninja history in the Western Hemisphere. CLICK HERE to preview some scenes on your screen. I heartily recommend the DVDs, I am happily relieved to be able to report.