“Fumio sat in the small soba shop, carefully positioning himself near the rear exit but allowing him an unobstructed view of the front of the shop. He had already noted the two men sitting at right of the shop when he entered, both whom were armed with tantos under their clothes. The tattoos indicated they were Yakuza. Fumio rarely missed an opportunity to hone his awareness and observational skills, as in his line of work it could spell the difference between life or death….”
Our ancient Ninja predecessors possessed an almost superhuman ability to observe and analyze their surroundings, giving them an “edge” over those individuals attempting to do them harm. This isn’t just some “spy” tactic but a real world skill that you can learn and improve upon, it is known as situational awareness.
Situational awareness is being aware of what is happening around you and understanding and processing that information, so that you can take actions that may be necessary in a variety of situations. What many people won’t tell you though is that situational awareness is’nt a natural occurring skill, and it is perishable, and requires practice to be maintained.
When I teach others about situational awareness I normally start off with this basic drill(I have written about this before)
Drill #1 – “What would I do if….” Ask yourself what would you do if a situation occurred when you were in a restaurant. Can you access a weapon? Are you carrying a weapon, where is the best cover and or concealment, How would I get my loved ones to safety? Etc etc, this game can go on and on and it should be a daily part of your life and training.
Ok, so you probably all remember that drill so here is the next one in the training series:
Drill #2 – “Eyes up and ahead” – Each day when you are walking, take a look around you and notice how many people will not make eye contact with you, or are caught up on their phone, texting or even listening to music. Now your part, don’t look down or away, but each person you walk by try and make eye contact with them. Be confident and sure of yourself, hold your head up and eyes ahead, be aware of who is approaching or entering your space.
So, it two drills to quickly start adding to your skill base. But…wait there is more!
Drill #3 – “Kim’s Game. I love this game, I have used it in many, many ways teaching this to boy scouts, police, military as well as martial artists for years. The game develops a person’s capacity to observe and remember details. The name is derived from Rudyard Kipling’s story, in which the hero, Kim, plays the game during his training as a spy. Basically at it’s simplest, it involves setting up a few objects on a tray covered and then quickly removing the cover, allowing the students to see them and then quickly covering them again. Now it is up to the student to remember what is was on the tray. Now that is a simple version, one I often add is to ask my students questions like “ How many cars are in the yard? What color are they? What was different on the way into the school? And I ask these a lot! Forcing students to be aware of what is around them as they never know when I am going to ask the next question. This game is utilized in military sniper training, recon work etc. It will go a long way to building your observation skills!
Drill #4 – “Wide angle vision” – This drill is a great way to help people understand we too often have tunnel vision when we are in an area we feel comfortable in. Focusing only on what is right in front of you is a sure way to get yourself killed on a battlefield. Basically this drill involves you using drill #2 but also to expand your view to take in everything that is in the 180 degree capability of your eyes.(Yes, I know not everyone can see that wide! But try!)
Drill # 5 – “Exit interview” – Now this one you will need a partner for, next time you go somewhere let’s say a restaurant, after you leave ask your partner How many people where at the server station? How many people were in the waiting area? What color was the shirt of your server? What was there name? How much was the check? Again this is another way to get you tuning in on what is going on around you each day.
Too often we are in a bubble that surrounds us and we close off what is actually going on around you. We need to break down the artificial barrier and take in with all of our senses what is going on around you. Not only will you be better prepared to face potential threats but also you may just take in more of life that is going on just outside of your awareness.
Alright now no one ever has a crises occur in their life… maybe someone does or did, it could have been you. I know that I have gone through a few like lost my job, been lost in the wilderness, had to treat some serious first aid situations etc. With each of these events there are some common items that will help you “Be Prepared” to face the next challenge in your life.
- Accept the situation. Yes, this is tough to grasp but to deal with what is happening you need to accept the fact that it is occurring to you, right now. I cannot tell you how many times I see or have heard someone in denial of what is going on to or around them. Instead of the denial, accept fully what is occurring and own it!
- Plan now. Prior planning prevents poor performance!! Yes, sit down and take stock of what is going on to or around you and make a plan of attack. Practice this skill it can be developed. As an example I use the scenario based exercise “what would I do if…” , whatever the situation take a mental not to think what would I do if this or that occurred to me right now. I practice this at a stop light, in a mall, at dinner etc. I even involve my family in the scenarios for their input.
- Take action. For those of you following the Facebook page posts, I often write about taking action. Why you may ask? Well, without action nothing occurs, and I mean nothing. When I took my first CPR/First aid training session the instructor made a huge impression on me by stating, “if not you, then who, so take action.” You may act and it may not work out as you planned but I would venture to guess it will be better than sitting back and not taking action.
So how does this apply in ninjutsu? Well in being ready to “expect the unexpected” events that happen in life. How many people in the recent natural disasters thought about being ready to take action if there was a fire, flood or other event, Probably not that many. So if you are serious about Living the Ninja Lifestyle, you need to adopt these three primary lessons into your daily routine.
Short post, but to the point.
Train hard and realistic!
“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990, p. 3)
This brief quote is a fantastic description of what many martial artists strive for, that feeling of oneness, flow, mushin. When I am asked about what is mushin, I usually respond with “living and being in the moment, deal with what is there, not what has past or what will be, just now.”
There is no easy path to reach this aspect of the martial arts or with any skill that you are seeking mastery in. What this brief lesson will bring you is a few tips to help you accelerate your journey to mushin.
#1) Master the fundamentals. (A simple statement yet so profound in its measure.) Over the last few decades I have met and trained with fantastic martial artist from many different systems, yet only a few have truly master the fundamentals of their respective arts. Each session practice the fundamentals of your art, if it is ninjutsu then start with sanshin no kata or the kihon happo, ukemi, aruki, and taisaabaki, if it was boxing then jab, cross hook, uppercut, feinting, footwork etc. Without a firm grasp of the fundamentals you cannot hope to move effortlessly.
#2) Put in the time with real training partners. These are the ones that everyone avoids because they “train to hard”, or like to “mix it up a bit.” These are the ones who will push you beyond your comfort zones.
#3) Controlled randori with a good coach. You cannot achieve mushin through meditation alone, you must deal with an attacker, multiple attackers and that has to happen many, many times. A good coach/teacher will push you safely with multiple attackers challenging your skill level while keeping it as safe as possible.
#4) Mental development. Just because I said you cannot achieve Mushin with meditation alone, does not mean you can neglect this critical aspect of your training. A calm, focused mind is not an easy thing to gain and you will need to learn to quiet those doubting thoughts, master your breathing, visualize your movements just as you are required to deeply grasp the fundamental physical techniques you should know.
#5) The last tip…..TIME! It takes time to gain this level of skill, with hours of diligent practice and the additional mental training your skills will develop over time, so be patient!
Airyu –“Living the ninja lifestyle!”
Hey Ninjutsu fans I’m finally back from traveling around the States this past month. Now while I have been traveling I have also been building my intelligence gathering network. Establishing a strong network of individuals that feed you information isn’t that difficult to put in place and the rewards are fantastic. (I’ll share a quick example that just occurred in my work network that I have been cultivating)
So how do you go about building the network, well let’s keep this short lesson fairly brief:
- When you are in an event where you are meeting many individuals or just meeting someone for the first time, you have a great opportunity to add a node to your network. Learn their name and what they do for work and if the will share a bit about themselves what the enjoy doing outside of work.
- After meeting take notes on the individual and add them to your network by filing the information on mindmap. You may need several maps to encompass different networks ie:Work related, martial arts related, informational etc. (personally I have three)
- Routinely review and reach out to the individuals building your relationship with them and deepening the information you gather from them.
- Put the knowledge to good use!
Pretty simple process and yes it works! Here are a few examples,
On a flight out to Tennessee, I was seated next to a young lady who asked me about a book I was reading, I had already noticed what she was reading and struck up a conversation regarding the material in what she was reading, this lead us to exchanging business cards. A week later I reached out to say thanks for the conversation and when they wrote back it ended up with a big lead for me on a non profit organization that I am doing some work with now.
A recent martial arts gathering lead me to new contacts that have now hooked into my network and I have a new student who lives fairly close, that one of these individuals had spoken to them about training with me, new student has been on boarded!
A tier 1 operator that I trained some years ago, reached out and we are now sharing some training materials, this lead me to some great work with very talented individuals!
This are just a few examples of what a network can do for you, and I have hundreds of examples of this process and information that I have gained work to my family and my benefit. There is a lot that I cannot share for very particular reasons, but let’s just say a Ninja should always be prepared and in order to do so they require strong information from many sources HUMINT is only one.
Airyu – Living the Ninja Lifestyle!
I’m right there, right in front of you!
Happy fourth of July Ninja fans!
First, to all of our veterans, thank you for your service to our country. Now, let’s get into some discussion here. Our ancient ninjutsu forebears, were independent minded, hard working individuals, who out of necessity learned to protect themselves with specialized skill sets to prepare them for direct or indirect conflict. They had developed skills to gather intelligence to stay one step ahead of their opponent’s as well as unconventional warfare skills that allowed them to strike in the middle of the night to instill fear and confusion to their enemies.
Now today, most of us practice the martial side of our traditions but have not cultivated the more esoteric sides of our ancient arts. When was the last time you gathered intelligence regarding the political scene in your area? I am not just asking you to go along with your party line but to actually in detail research a particular political candidate or party line? Here is an example of this process:
- Read 4 pro and con articles or news feeds on a topic. The feeds need to be both left and right of the subject being reviewed.
- Hit the internet and review a particular topic. Use the various search functions like Bing, yahoo, google, duckduckgo, etc. Compare and contrast the various opinions.
- Compile your notes and set up various contrasting maps of the subject
Alright so you have a few tips on remote intelligence gathering, now how about your food independence setup? Are you even remotely trained in how to forage in urban and suburban areas? What can you eat if you had to hit the road quickly with little supplies on you? Well here is a good resource for you to start your education www.eattheweeds.com , now what about any food storage you may have? Do you actually know what you have on hand? So how about you start an inventory list and once you review that learn to have a minimum of 1 month of on hand supplies in your pantry. Why you might ask? Don’t be stupid, shit happens and being prepared with food storage is just a smart thing to do. Think about if you lost your job tomorrow wouldn’t it be nice to not have to worry about buying food for a few weeks? (This actually happened to me a few years ago!)
Last one for this short rant, how are your finances? Are you practicing the 52 week challenge right now to help build up a cash reserve? Why not…is it too difficult to give up a few dollars each week! Well suck it up and get on the plan, having a little rainy day fund put away will make you feel a lot more comfortable and able to handle those short term cash emergencies that happen in life.
Ok, so now you have a different view of Independence day. It is time for you to start being more independent and prepared in life, not so different than our arts history and development through the ages,
Do you feel that you are prepared, not just for a physical attack, but prepared for a mass shooting, disaster, medical emergency or even a financial one? I’ll bet you dollars to donuts, you can’t say yes to all of these items.
Jeff Cooper penned the Condition Color code system that is still relevant in today’s crazy ass society. On a day to day basis, my family and I are in condition yellow, calm alertness, scanning and being aware of potential threats.
The other day another mass shooting, what would you do if you were there? How about tomorrow your business closes it’s doors, are you ready for three months to live without a paycheck? Is your ninjutsu training teaching you the skills necessary to survive during either of those two events? Well, I haven’t been in a shooting (but oh yes, I practice my firearm skills regularly so that if I need to use a weapon I can) but several years ago I was hit in a layoff. Now it did shock my world, but I was also somewhat prepared financially to live a few months without a steady check, and I was able to work some light construction to stretch out my savings until I was ready and found a job that I wanted to take. Now I don’t say this lightly, you need to be prepared to do many things, and a ninja of old had no one to rely on, other than himself and family. They knew how to do basic medical treatments and first aid, they farmed or knew what they could forage on a mission, they could be financially prepared , communication skills, etc. All skills that have fallen off our training and life as we become so much more beholden to technology. I am not trying to be a doomsayer or a technophobe, I love technology and use it for all it’s worth, but I also have a few back up plans incase my tech goes down. I teach my scouts basic orienteering skills and one of them said to me “I will just use my GPS and find my way out” well on a recent trip there was no GPS signal and yes we relied on a map and compass!
But back to condition yellow, are you aware of what is going on around you on a daily basis and are you making plans to be prepared for whatever is coming your way? If not take a moment to work on the following skills:
- Financial – 3 months cash put away in case you need it quick have some of it out of the bank and in your home.
- Medical skills – Take a CPR/First aid class. I cannot tell you how many times I have helped or administered first aid to someone.
- Weapon skills – Augment your training with your EDC weapons whenever possible. Take a firearms handling class so you are more prepared and trained than your opponent
- Basic survival skills – firebuilding, shelter building, water purification. Know these three things and you will be a lot better off than 80% of the population
- Become self reliant! (more posts coming on this one)
Alright, I have left you with a lot to get going on, but do not forget the primary lesson here is Condition Yellow mindset in all things. You will thank me for this reminder someday when something goes to hell in your day and you were able to deal with it effectively!
Airyu – “Living the Ninja Lifestyle!”
Whew – just got off the home range with the family, great times and awesome movement drills!!
Today’s post is following up on our popular Grey Man Series and outlines a few financial alternatives to help you lower your financial traceability in society.
Do you know that 48% of all monetary transaction are now electronic? Think about the debit and credit cards you see everyone swiping at the store, and then asking for cash back. Now think about all of those data breaches that have occurred in the last few months, and yet we still don’t change our ways….pretty sad actually.
Ok so now what should you do to help become the grey man or modern day ninja for purchasing on or off line? Well, of course the first thing is CASH! If you haven’t figured it out yet, it is hard to beat cash in society. Many people will deal in cash and give a percentage discount so they don’t have to pay fees on the credit card or check processing. Not only that, cash does not show up anywhere if you have a stash of it in your home, so how are you doing on that 52 week financial challenge?(over $200 there now!)
I know you can’t use cash over the internet but there are several ways you can get around that as well.
- Prepaid credit or debit cards
- Alternative currency
Let me just focus on prepaid credit/debit card. I love these things as you can usually reload them when they are low, and if you are careful will not have any hidden fees, slowly draining your resources away!(So pay attention to those cards!) I have used mine on line several times with no problems, and I usually have 1 or 2 on me with either $50 or $100 on it. If it is lost stolen or hacked in anyway it limits me to $50 or $100 bucks and not my whole account. It doesn’t even have to use my name, so someone prying into my purchase habits is going to have a really hard time doing that!
Alright, so a few things to think about and put into action, so get moving!
More lessons to come….
Airyu – “Living the Ninja Lifestyle!”
The other day I was looking through my old archives of notes and videos of some my earlier days in training, and as I showed a few of the students, they looked at me as if I was out of my mind. One of the students looked at me and said “You actually trained like that back when you started?” and I said back, “I still do.”
What we were looking at were my notes on training in the snow. I wanted to develop my mental ability of focus and perseverance in difficult weather, so I would head outside to my outdoor training area, in my gi, barefoot and would practice! Training usually started out with a 30 foot rope climb, followed up with kata practice, and then makiwara sessions. My makiwara was 1 inch hemp rope wrapped around a tree stump that I would strike with all the traditional strikes as well as my fingertips, wrist, shins etc. My cool down was to take a piece of carpet and lay it out on the snow and practice 15 – 20 mins of deep meditation.
Of course I didn’t think I was crazy, there were many stories of this type of severe training from the many masters of the arts, but my friends, family and students though I was a psycho! Yet, it never stopped me from my crazy training. Even now as long as it is 15 degrees above zero, I will hit the trail or road for running and training sessions outside, and yes people still call me crazy!!
Yet, maybe all of this training has prepared me for and allowed me to be where I am at today, I don’t know? I can tell you I have pages of history from my past that give me examples of what I pushed myself to be capable of, because sometimes what we are capable of and what we actually do are two separate things.
We have all heard of the rough and tumble training that Soke Hatsumi use to put his students through in the early days, and from the conversations I have had with the various Shihan none of them would have had it any other way. Now is this path for everyone?? I would honestly say no it is not, but that is because too many people have become soft in their training and life and would not take well to leaving the skin of your knuckles frozen on the makiwara post (oh yes this happened to me a few times! and yes it sucked!!) or being uncomfortable in the cold, bruised and or sore from sparring sessions, or even taking a quick trip to the ER to be stitched up or a finger put back into place.
Would I change the way I train or have trained? Not on your life would I, and I also know and have been pushed way beyond what I thought I could do or take to my body and mind and yet I am still training rough and difficult for as long as I can. Would our ancient forbears have trained in any other fashion to prepare themselves for the potential hardships they would face in war or life? I don’t think so, and so I offer you this Ninja challenge – ramp up your training, push harder than you think possible, do things beyond what you think possible and see what your training and skills look like in a few months, I guarantee you will be impressed.
Airyu – “Living the Ninja Lifestyle”