My First Vow on the Warrior Path

Have you ever felt powerless to make the right thing happen as you watched a terrible injustice unfold right in front of you?

Walking home from middle school with a friend, we found ourselves surrounded by the gang of the cruelest violent predator at our school. This guy was no mere bully. A 26-felony teen, he was three years older than us because he had been away from school in a youth prison. This monster had not killed anyone yet, but that was definitely on his list for the future.

Angry, foul mouthed, and hungry for the pleasure of humiliating yet another boy, he barked out taunts and insults. He focused on my friend and closed in on him swearing and shoving. His buddies circled us smirking and chuckling.

Horror in slow motion, he grabbed my friend’s arm and barraged him with punches. My buddy was still trying to figure out what was happening. Neither of us was ready for this – we were still futilely working on talking our way out with dignity. Jerked off balance, my friend went down to one knee with his head ducked to protect from the blunt punches that showed no hint of letting up.

The ring of creeps positioned themselves to block me from aiding my friend, but they showed little interest in me as they hooted and laughed encouragement at their leader. It was his show.

It ended with the monster shouting threats to my downed buddy – say anything to cops or authorities and even worse would happen next time. The creeps flashed me a last mocking look of derision and then they were gone, strutting away with more foul laughing insults spit over their shoulders.

My buddy shakily rose to his feet and dusted himself off. Though scuffed and bleeding, he didn’t seem to be permanently injured. Neither of us said anything.

Furious with anger and embarrassment, my pre-teen mind churned with regrets and self-disgust. Why did I just freeze and stare? Why didn’t I step in and do something? What could I have done? What should I have done?

I made a vow to myself right there and right then that I would never be in that position again. I would never have to stand helpless and watch a good person be victimized by an ugly and horrific one. When slime gurgled up out of the gutter to threaten the right and just, I would be the one to stuff it back where slime belonged.

I vowed that wherever I had to go or whatever I had to study or whoever I had to find as a mentor – I would learn how to prevail over the cruel and unjust and brutal. I would never ever again have to stand helpless and watch the right be crushed into submission by the wrong.

That was way over 40 years ago. In the decades that ensued, I trained with karate and kickboxing champions, judo and jujutsu experts, SWAT specialists, elite military commandos, top-notch bodyguards, and eventually the grandmaster of the ninja in Japan. “Never again!” was my motivation, and I was the most determined and diligent student any of my fighting teachers ever had.

Somewhere along the way I found myself sharing with others the lessons I struggled to learn. Coaching others for power in a time of unexpected invasion became my career. Today, the results of my decades of training self and others in the ways of prevailing over the dangerous and degenerate is what I offer my community. More than anything else, I want you and the ones you love to have this power too.

14 comments to “My First Vow on the Warrior Path”

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  1. That is why I train! Thank you for sharing this story.

  2. This is great! Thank you Stephen K. Hayes Sensei.

  3. Inspiring!

  4. This article reminds me of that same energy felt when we first met over twenty five years ago….and it contiues to inspire as well as motivate even now ~ with each lesson, with each moment.

    That’s why continue the To-Shin path.

    As you once said An-Shu: “Keep Going ~ Keep Growing!”

    Stationed Overseas

  5. Thank you An-Shu, you always inspire me and have a positive impact on my life.

    With Gratitude – Gary

  6. Thank you An-Shu.

  7. Scott Workman says: -#1

    Back in 1984 i went to the movies to see ninja 3 the domination after the movie i spent the next couple of days making fun of the movie then a friend showed me an article in a magazine(ninja) with Mr. Hayes even though i started training in other martial arts and it would be 14 years later before i would be lucky enough to train under Mr. Hayes that article back in 1984 changed the life path i was on and am still on to this day.
    Thank you, Mr. Hayes

  8. That sounds EXACTLY like my own middle school years and it’s nice to know the founder of the art I study shares one of my core motivations for said study.

    Thank you.

  9. steve siverling says: -#1


    Yes, I know the feeling well. When I was in elementary school there was a group of kids that liked to beat me up. Then when I was in high school there was a kid that liked beating me up in the Gym Lockers.

    I was always wondering why I froze up when things like that happened to me. I blamed myself for not fighting back. I should have blamed the people abusing me. Looking back the reason I froze up was that my muscle memory wasn’t trained.

    I will not let others hurt me again like that. If I ever have kids there going to learn martial arts in a young age. They won’t have to suffer like I did.

  10. You said, “A whip.”- and I said a placator.
    You said, “A warrior”, and I said a slave.
    You said, “A welcomer”, and I said an isolationist.
    You said, “A wonderer”, and I said a ruminant.

    Same person
    Different life
    1Xwkly Now?

  11. Shidoshi, I too have been in the position you spoke of. Later i won a fight with my mind by asking a bully to let me warm up a bit first. When i was ready he was running away. Two people went away that day sound of health, for “When two tigers collide neither wins, one lays dead and the other scarred for life.” I have never attended your seminars, dojo or met you in person after 25 years of learning from you. It is still my great wish to do so. Frank

  12. Scott Rutherford says: -#1

    I heard Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal, make this statement on the radio today and I think it adds nicely to what Stephen wrote:

    “There are those who call 911, and there are those who are 911.”

  13. I grew up and hung out with unfortunately, the BULLIES/Gangs!!! When I was a teenager I learned of a martial arts school that was claiming to teach the art of the Ninja! I thought to myself, this is great! Now I can learn how to seriously hurt, intimidate, and bully people. I was taking every ounce of training to heart. Then something incredible happened during my training. The urge to hurt, intimidate, and humiliate people was gone. I now had a sense of obligation to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves. I later became a Deputy Sheriff for several years. I can wholeheartedly say Ninutsu definitely changed my direction and has been a way of life for me for my entire adulthood. Shidoshi Hayes you have played a great part in the moulding of my life. I have studied several of your books and continue to do so. Unfortunately, there are no Bujinkan schools anywhere near my area. I am planning on making a trek up to your Dojo in Ohio. It would be an Honor to train with your Family.

  14. Travis Smith says: -#1

    Thank you An-Shu I remember a similar situation like the others and you have stated except I didn’t freeze up. I was grabbed first and was able to throw the kid down who outweighed me by 10 lbs or so (alot for an elementary 3rd-4th grade kid) he then got up and i tried again but was thrown down , I was able to recover but when I attempted to go again I turned to see him and his three friends waiting.

    I made the same vow to myself first and to others later when he began to do the same, mostly I was able to redirect his barage or take just enough time away for the other person to escape. I think this is why I have never realy been content in one style bouncing through many to try and find that right technique to fit situations so others or myself wouldn’t be put through my past situations again.

    I hope to in the near future purchase your set of dvds and enroll in the home study course as you were my first introduction to a complete art, unfortunately there were no schools in the area, but through your books. I do have the Bujinkan (van Donk set) but I have a hard time relating to him and I don’t get the same feeling and assimilate the information as I do when I listen and watch you perform and explain the art.

    Anyway thank you again you are a wonderful teacher and person.

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