Ninja Training and the Psychology Professor
Back in the 1980s, I encouraged my friends and students to take our ninja historical martial arts into new areas where our knowledge could help others. How about military applications, police work, health restoration, corporate leadership training, running a local community dojo, and yes of course movie, TV, or novel entertainment? Take this art and do things with it.
Do things that I would not be the best one to do, I urged them. I was the guy who wrote books and conducted seminars and published the newsletter (that was how we communicated way back before the internet) and generally proved the art to the greater martial arts world. I was very good at that apparently, based on the resulting reputation of the ninja martial arts up to the end of the 1980s, and the massive river of American and European students who poured into my teacher’s dojos in Japan.
Yes but… It used to surprise me how many students did not take my suggestion. Instead, many tried to do just what I did. They started to publish newsletters and write books and conduct seminars – all the things that I was already doing. Whoa! Don’t compete with my work, I urged them. That just forces too many similar opportunities on too few consumers, I warned. Do something new and different from what I am doing. That way, instead of us all having to settle for increasingly smaller pieces of a shrinking pie, we could create a massive ever-growing-in-size pie.
By the end of the 1980s, the once-impressive image of the ninja had fragmented with so many voices competing against one another for authority in the art. With all that confusion, much of the world concluded we must not be for real, and the ninja boom faded.
But then a wonderful thing happened. Now out of intense public scrutiny, many students began to look for new ways to bring our gift to more lives. 5th Degree Black Belt Richard Sears is one of those special students who started with me as a teen back in the barn dojo days, went through years of personal growth and exploration, and is now doing what I had encouraged so many to do those decades ago.
I asked Rick to reflect and write on why he stuck with our training all these years, and where he has taken his passion for the art as his own personal contribution to a better world. Give it to me straight, I urged him. What are you doing now with all you have studied, and where are you headed, and why was this so important to you?
Here is Dr. Richard Sears reply:
I first began studying with An-shu Hayes as a teenager in 1986. For many years, I delved deeply into the art of the ninja, and even ran my own school for about seven years as one of the very first SKH Quest Centers. I also began studying the mikkyo esoteric mind tradition with one of An-shu’s teachers, and was ordained at age 21.
As I grew older, I realized that there was so much more to learn than what would be taught in the training hall. In the dojo, I learned principles that were timeless, and through the example of An-Shu, I came to appreciate the importance of translating the principles to a broader audience.
Because of my interest in the mind, I began to study Western psychology, and eventually earned a doctorate degree and board certification. I also obtained a master’s degree in business administration, helping me to understand how to effect change at the organizational and systems levels.
Today I am a professor, and I teach others who study to become psychologists. It is fascinating how psychology is now doing empirical research on the forms of meditation that I had first learned from An-shu, techniques that have been passed down for thousands of years.
Putting together all of my training and experiences, I have worked with Union University to start the Center for Clinical Mindfulness & Meditation. Already I have been asked to conduct several professional training sessions, and to contribute regularly to a local magazine. I hope to create a forum where scientists, clinicians, and practitioners can work together to share knowledge and experience and develop new ways to improve the well-being of the general public. An-shu has agreed to join as one of the first members of our advisory board.
It is an exciting time to be alive. For the first time in history, we now have access to thousands of years of historical knowledge, cutting edge science, and access to amazing teachers.
While there is a need to preserve tradition, how can you take what you learn and put it to use in the world? How can you positively affect your own community? What unique skills and interests can you leverage? How can you be of help in a sometimes confusing world? Finding your own way to share and encourage strength is the true ninja legacy that An-shu brought to us from Japan those decades ago.
(Read an interview with Dr. Sears in Natural Awakenings on pages 8-9)