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The Martial Art of Ninjutsu: 3 Lessons of the Ninja's Kamae

Jeffrey Miller
Jul 3, 2008
In the Ninja's art of unarmed combat known as ninpo-taijutsu, or budo-taijutsu, there is the core lesson of kamae - the use of effective body positioning. While other martial arts might refer to this strategic positioning of the body as dachi or "stances," the Ninja sees his or her kamae as an outward manifestation of the inner workings of his or her heart, rather than a fixed position dictated by one's style.

Progress through any educational endeavor is often seen as merely learning the lessons that the teacher gives us. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Rarely does a student question the relevance of any given skill or its relationship to other skills and lessons being taught at the same time. And this is no different in the martial art world.

This is especially true when it comes to the skills commonly referred to as "the basics."

In fact, it's these "basics" that often go overlooked by students and teachers alike as being anything more than merely base elements of a particular style. In fact, they're often seen as nothing more than...

...the stuff to learn so we can move onto "the cool stuff."

I know that I, myself, used to believe that. That is, until I went from conventional, sport-oriented, martial arts, to the art of ninjutsu.

Of course, in the beginning of my training, kamae were just that...kamae. I really didn't see them as any different from the "stances" of my earlier training in karate, tae-kwon-do, and other arts. Even though my teacher spoke of "taking up" the kamae and repeating the "idea" of kamae as meaning "mind-body-spirit attitudes" - being the physical manifestations by our bodies of how we felt and what we thought we could do in any given moment.

It wasn't until I had years of training under my belt, so-to-speak, and found myself hitting a wall in my progress and growth that I finally decided to take another look at the obvious - at these things called kamae.

I began by looking at all of the positions that I had been taught. Each had a name and came from a particular lineage, or school of combat that had been passed down to my teacher.

I pulled out my notes and reread passages in books by my teacher and others who had written about the Ninja's art of ninjutsu, or ninpo, as it's known in its higher, life-centered, order.

But, it wasn't until I took a step back from my role as a student trying to get rank - trying to learn the next kata or "fight-example" - that everything started to become clear. It wasn't until I switched my brain from "learning" to "experience" mode that things started to make sense.

When I looked at my experience as a police officer and body guard and the lessons that I had picked up in "the school of hard-knocks" I suddenly realized that, regardless of form...

...regardless of whether a kamae came from the Gyokko-ryu, Kukishinden-ryu, or Koto school, they all were teaching the same lessons.

And then something else hit me.

Even the basics, the things we think of as obvious lessons, are themselves teaching us lessons.

I realized that buried within each lesson - within each skill - whether it be rolling, walking, cutting, shooting, or kamae...

...were lessons that were universal in nature and yet invisible unless you either knew what to look for or had a teacher with real-life experience who could help you to see them for what they are.

It was then that I realized that each and every kamae was teaching the same lessons. Some of these lessons were at deeper levels and required more understanding, but there were three that stood out for the beginner.

These three basic lessons of kamae are:

1. Cover - the ability to effectively shield oneself and make it difficult for an attacker to get at you

2. Stability/Balance - the ability to properly position and align the parts of your body for maximum effectiveness and minimum effort, and...

3. Attitude - the ability to communicate your intention to your opponent with your body

Once I uncovered these three jewels, everything changed in my training. I was no longer trapped by the ignorant eyes of the beginner who, years before saw what he thought his teacher was doing. I was then able to correct my kamae and take up positions that had strength, power, and the ability to control an attacker's perceptions, decisions, and actions, without even touching him.
About the Author
Jeffrey M. Miller is the founder of Warrior Concepts Int'l. He is the author of, KUBOTAN: Self-Defense Keychain and the best selling DVD, Danger Prevention Tactics You can subscribe to his ezine, at http://www.warrior-concepts-online.com/newsletter.html
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