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  • Writer's pictureDave Giddings

Relevance in a modern world

How do traditional martial arts - especially ninjutsu - translate to modern times? In a time where there seems to be more unrest and higher crime rates, the traditional martial art may well seem to be out of touch with the needs to the general public.

However, all is not how it seems...

The traditional martial art, if taught from a principle based approach will have the adaptability to be applied to a modern conflict. Even more so with ninjutsu. While there will always be the mis-informed view that ninja were assassins, who skulked around in the dark on rooftops, the reality is much more relevant.

The art of ninjutsu is based on the key principle of survival and protection. The skills taught lend themselves to a modern environment, with a view to dealing with multiple attackers, evading conflict and using applied force to create opportunities for escape. The ability to leap, roll and traverse obstacles in what is called Shoten - the ninjutsu version of parkour - is effective in loosing pursuers and escaping overwhelming odds. This is why at the beginning of every class there is training in rolling, the precursor to being able to successfully cross obstacles and move fluidly.

The actual techniques are taught on a simple principle of a) move your feet, and b) Use the least amount of strength to be able to achieve your effect. This means the student learns to apply techniques with the whole body not just the biceps. Which makes this an effective martial art for both men and women, large or small. In fact the larger, stronger student has more to unlearn as there will be a tendency to over power and rely on stature and strength.

Within ninjutsu there are many weapons. In reality, in the modern world, you should use whatever is to hand to defend yourself. However, none of us know what will be 'to hand' at that precise moment. So we teach many weapons, differing stick lengths, edged weapons, flexible weapons (rope and chain) thrown weapons. This conveys principles that can be applied to whatever environment the student finds themselves in. Oh, and the argument 'Why train with swords? No-one uses swords these days?' may I offer the following picture....

Attacks with bladed weapons - from knives to machetes and swords - do happen. While a knife is more common it would be foolish to not consider longer bladed weapons.

But probably the biggest advantage to those who train in ninjutsu is the emphasis on survival as opposed to winning. The difference may seem moot, but its actually more than that. If you are unfortunate enough to be in a fight and you are focused on winning there will be a reluctance to disengage and leave. To win you must beat the opponent, you stay engaged until the opponent is down, out for the count or leaves. This opens up a whole range of issues. To 'win' you may cause significant injury to the opponent which has legal ramifications, as self defence is harder to prove than some may think. Staying to 'win' the fight can allow time for their friends to join in or turn up, and allow them opportunities to gain the upper hand.

However, if your focus is to escape, then your techniques and acceptable outcomes become safer. You look for ways to evade, you are more likely to target the opponents legs and ankles so you can outrun them, and you will use all and any objects to create these opportunities. Ego is in many ways taken out of the equation, which helps with knowing when to leave. The most effective footwork when facing an armed opponent is rapid ones in the opposite direction.

The relevance of traditional martial arts in the modern setting will always come down to the individual. Ninjutsu has many advantages so long as it is taught and learnt with the correct ethos and spirit.

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