"Only a Ninja can kill another Ninja…"
My friend Luca Paniconi, head of our Ancona, Italy, To-Shin Do training group, got his first article published in the Italian media. Luca’s essay so impressed Kevin Keitoshi Casey, co-owner of our SKH Quest Center in Boulder, Colorado, that he worked to translate it into English for all to read. Here are Luca’s thoughts condensed and brought into English by Kevin:
“Only a Ninja can kill another Ninja…”
Anyone who was a kid in the 1980s remembers this dramatic phrase from the B-movies that were part of “ninja-mania”. The world was fascinated with the Japanese shadow warriors and plunged into this new market with a river of films, comics and books.
Today the terms “Ninja” and “Ninjutsu” are so compromised that they conjure images of ruthless killers or friendly turtles. Yet the “art of winning” is alive, real, tested through centuries of history, and has enormous potential for the modern Western person’s well-being and happiness.
Stephen K. Hayes’ pioneering work opened the doors to the ninja martial arts in the West, and made his teacher a celebrity in Japan. Imagine this ordinary guy from Ohio in the 1970s who decided to sell everything and move to Japan to find the last Ninja alive, Soke Masaaki Hatsumi. An idea like this would be like someone leaving Italy for America in hopes of becoming assistant ranger to (Italy’s legendary comic book American hero) Tex Willer.
An-Shu Hayes became a Ninja, but if you hope for a dark man made of stone and ice, you will be disappointed. He is open and cheerful, able to accept everyone with a smile and make all feel at ease. His charismatic presence communicates something beyond words. His lessons, designed to change your life every day, are based on pragmatism, understanding, and a strong heart.
An-shu’s ninja-based To-Shin Do brings to life cultural technologies for defense and development from a people very different from Italians (or any Westerners). After all, if a technique requires a 13th century enemy wearing Japanese armor, how many of us can immerse ourselves in the mechanics, energy and psychology of this situation? On the other hand, how many of us can relate to Paul, the clerk who was beaten during an attempted robbery, or Christina, who was assaulted during a date gone wrong?
The context is the difference. What is real today? I have never been attacked by a spearman while parking the car, but it is very likely that a drunk, with no martial arts experience, throws a hook punch in the disco. Of course, advanced study addresses rare problems like combatting an Olympic Judo competitor or an International Vale Tudo fighter. The course of study is a simple matter of reality and statistics.
This is why meditation and the natural health of the body are also part of self-defense. To-Shin Do proposes a way of moving and being that feels natural to everyone from professional athletes to housewives, and provides inner development to overcome obstacles, demoralization, and oppression.
Classical training, such as stealth and shuriken, is reserved for advanced students, not to make it exclusive, but because it takes more time for these to become natural. The goal of Stephen K. Hayes’ To-Shin Do is real personal improvement and a genuine understanding of the art of the Ninja, not to enchant with exotic weapons.
Ultimately, An-Shu Hayes’ work is a “translation” rather than a “modernization” of Ninjutsu, because no principles are changed. The course fits the time without cutting its roots and its history. The true art lives and is lived.