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Training Values (3) – Reality

January 10, 2018

A few years ago, I wrote about my encounter with an instructor who was either dishonest or stupid.

At the moment I wrote that post I was pissed off at the crap he was peddling to his students. Having had a couple of years to cool down, however, I realized that at a practical level, it was harmless. Yes, he taught his students the wrong distancing and dynamics for using a Chinese sabre against a Japanese katana. But frankly, how likely were his students to be attacked by someone wielding a katana? And while they were armed with an unusual Chinese sabre?

Odds are, his students would never ever have to bleed or die for the error he taught them in this area. So I could let that pass, I guess.

But when it comes to unarmed combat or situations that are more likely to occur, it is very important that the instructor keep things real. No matter what style you teach, if you claim to teach anything that has practical application in the real world, you owe your students to teach according to what does happen, not according to your own limited understanding or wishful thinking about how things ought to be in real life.

Or else your students could bleed or die because of what you have taught them…

In my earlier post I talked about instructors with too large an ego, more concerned about face in their own eyes rather than acting with honour. The following satire accurately describes what can happen in such an instructor’s class.

Firstly, he presents himself as an authority on a particular topic, such as self-defense against knife attacks.

Reality – even if his qualification is real, having certification in a martial art does not automatically mean he knows how to apply that art in self-defense. And that applies to everyone, including me. Just because I am a Bujinkan Shidoshi (5th dan) does not mean I know everything there is to know about Bujinkan Taijutsu. It certainly doesn’t mean I am qualified to talk about topics I have not been properly trained in.

Secondly, when his techniques fail, he makes excuses.

In the video, it was, “Like a lot of beginning students, you attacked me wrong”. They might say “Don’t worry, that will never happen in real life”, or blame the student or just simply dismiss any questions as being irrelevant.

For me, I like to keep things real. I appreciate it when people correct my wrong ideas. And that is a value I teach to my students in class. When they train omote gyaku, for example, they know the other hand is a real threat. To help each other get things correct and stay safe, they will point out in training if they are able to hit with the other hand. Students who have been with me long enough know enough modern knife to help us tell if a knife defense we try in class has a chance of working or if we would die instantly at the hands of a trained fighter. They know where the next stab or slash will go after you block the first attack. That is how my students keep things real for each other (and me) and help each other improve.

(By the way, ever since I met the student who was crippled by his teacher through an omote gyaku, I teach my students how to hit someone hard in order to escape the omote gyaku. They work on what I call the epic slap of doom in my class. I also teach them exercises that help increase their resistance to wristlocks. They won’t get total immunity, but they will get that extra split second of time to react, as well as some overall conditioning that reduces the damage they may take.)

Teachers who care more about their ego than about being real hate being corrected. They feel threatened when they receive such feedback. Since in their minds they cannot possibly be wrong, they blame the student or anyone else who gives them such feedback. They can keep coming up with excuses about why they were not in the wrong, when they ought to just stick to teaching things that they already know or grab the opportunity to learn something new.

Thirdly, they seek to punish those who threaten their ego.

In the video, the karate instructor went berserk on his new student. In the Chinese martial arts meet up I described in the previous post, the wannabe king gouged the eyes of the person who exposed his utter lack of skill in grappling, and by that action exposed his own character flaws as well.

Most of the time it isn’t that obvious. More often than not it comes out as cranking on the locks or techniques with more force or speed than is necessary. Or extra enthusiasm in applying pain compliance techniques. It may not be as obvious shown in the video, but it will be there. And it can be hard for the student receiving or the students watching to be sure if the pain inflicted was inherently part of the technique or if the teacher was deliberately going out of the way to punish or intimidate.

That is why such behaviour can continue, at least until someone is obviously injured or crippled.

Big Picture:

When students are injured by the teachers, it could be because of:

1) The teacher having flawed technique, and therefore compensating with brute force;

2) The teacher’s deliberate decision to go further than necessary; OR

3) The student flinches in unexpected ways, in ways that the teacher did not anticipate, and the teacher is unable to retain control.

Out of all the above, only the student flinching in unexpected ways is somewhat excusable. All the other reasons aren’t. So if you are new to the art and you are evaluating an instructor, you need to see if

a) his/her movement is sloppy or coarse, especially when applying locks, throws and the like. Such a person could injure you entirely by accident.

b) he enjoys bullying people or condones bullying behavior in his class (*cough hentai couple *cough)

c) he makes excuses or pushes blame to others when his techniques fail.


Any instructor in the Bujinkan can easily talk up a storm. Hatsumi Soke has always been a philosophical person, but over the past few years even more so. He talks about very big picture concepts, using puns and homophones to expand or redefine ideas he taught before. He has the skills to back up all his talk. I don’t, so I don’t talk about all that kind of stuff in my class. I am in the Bujinkan to train budo. If I wanted to spend my time talking and hearing others talk, I would have joined the Toastmasters instead.

I wrote these posts on Training Values so that people can look past the certs and the talk of any Bujinkan instructor and decide for themselves who is worth training with. Coarse techniques, a bullying attitude (even shown in dismissive words) or blaming the students are signs that such an instructor isn’t worth training with. Ponder seriously what I said here, OK? It is YOUR health and safety at stake. 

Junjie 俊傑
Bujinkan Ninjutsu


From → bujinkan

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