Questions and Answers for An-shu
Two young men in Texas – Patrick Tow and Rayford Outland – decided to do a History Fair high school project about ninjutsu training and my work. They did a good job gathering information from my books, DVDs, and the internet. Their teacher asked for more detail and urged them to write to me personally with some more questions.
Just in case any one else out there might be interested in some minor points about my life and how I ended up where I did, here are questions 1-4 and the answers I sent to Patrick and Rayford.
1. What interested you in ninjutsu?
I first read about the ninja in a James Bond novel in high school, back in the mid-1960s. I was fascinated with all the capabilities that they cultivated – physical defense, climbing and stealth movement, using the power of the mind to win without being perceived as an enemy.
I began karate training as a teen, and studied for 10 years. I loved it, but always felt that I was missing something – all the Japanese weapons like sword and staff, and the mind training aspects. In mid-1970s when I was in my mid-20s in age, I made up my mind to go to Japan and find the grandmaster of the ninja and ask him to teach me. Fortunately for me, I did not at the time know how impossible my challenge was, and so through good luck and innocence of spirit I succeeded.
2. Can you tell us something about your life before martial arts; for instance, about your parents and how life was like growing up?
Mine was a pretty typical suburban Midwest American 1950s upbringing. My father was a corporate executive, and my mother was a homemaker for us. There was nothing there to push me towards martial arts training. I somehow came up with that determination all on my own.
I saw bullying at school, and decided that I wanted to be able to stop that. I wanted to have the strength and ability to make there be peace when others may have opted for psychological and physical violence.
I saw a Lassie TV program as a child, in which a young Japanese boy was forced to defeat a gang of farmyard bullies, and then after doing that, he went around restoring the boys’ arms and shoulders he was forced to injure defending himself. He called the technique judo, and it was my first vision of Japanese martial arts in action. I was electrified. I vowed to learn that.
3. How did your life change after you took up ninjutsu?
My life really flourished, personally and professionally. I was learning all kinds of skills and methods that felt so right for me. I was gaining the insights and capabilities that would allow me to operate as a force for good in an often confusing world. Many people responded so positively to my message, and I soon had many eager students all over the world, and I enjoyed travelling to present seminars for their own students where they lived.
4. We’ve heard about how To-Shin-Do is basically ninjutsu, only modernized. What are some specific differences between the two arts?
Fights in 1500s Japan and 2000s America take very different forms. One big difference between To-Shin Do and classical ninjutsu is the emphasis we place in our classes on how fights start. In modern America, there is often a distinct lead-up to a fight – the way aggressors pose themselves, the way they interrupt a likely victim, the way they use words and emotion to start a fight, and the way they move as modern street fighter aggressors.
What we do in To-Shin Do training is to take the principles of authentic historical ninja taijutsu unarmed defense along with weapons like knife or stick and adapt those to the differences in the way aggressors fight today in America and Europe, along with the differences in the laws that govern self-defense in America today as opposed to feudal Japan.
Answers to the next 8 questions in the series will be published soon: