“Guys, you know what? I joined a martial arts class!” exclaimed the excited, idiosyncratic senior HR professional. His well-heeled contemporaries who were corporate honchos were nonplussed. “That is not a corporate sport,” retorted one. Another compassionate executive was worried that practicing martial arts would inflict grievous injuries on her buddy (the quirky, quixotic HR professional) and that he may eventually end up in a wheelchair. “You should play Golf or Tennis or Poker,” was the refrain. But nothing could deter the determined, resolute, intrepid martial arts aficionado from deep diving into Murthy’s Tae Kwon-do at The School of Martial Arts (TSMA.) He trudged on despite the dissuasion from his well-meaning yet faint-hearted comrades and the disruptions arising from his high-pressure job. And ultimately ended up, not in a wheelchair, but as a black belt. No prizes for guessing who that person is. That’s me!

I was fortunate to have come across some wise people early in my life who reinforced the idea that health is an invaluable asset. Jim Rohn, the American motivational speaker was so very right when he said, “Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live.” And my way of taking care of my body was to go to the gym. And gym did I for almost three hours a day, five times a week as a sixteen-year-old colt. The rewards were seemingly enviable. More cosmetic appeal and more heads turning. I still pump iron occasionally to retain and tone muscle mass. But it was decades before I realized that gymming caters predominantly to only one of the components of a total fitness regimen – strength. Total fitness is comprised of at least three more dimensions – suppleness, speed, and stamina. We, the students of Murthy’s Tae Kwon-do in TSMA are privileged to undergo holistic training which promotes speed, strength, suppleness, and stamina. Do we have the stamina for a three hour, grueling Sunday workout? To undertake an arduous trek? To run a marathon? Yes! My buddy Jagadeesh from TSMA has run a full marathon in 3 hours and 46 minutes (no mean feat.) Do we have the suppleness to do back bends? Flips? Yes! Do we have the strength to grapple with an opponent heavier than us and execute a shoulder throw or a hip throw? Of course yes! What about speed? Watch our black belts in action – punch for punch, kick for kick, all with stunning speed when sparring.  

I have not witnessed this kind of holistic training in the martial arts classes which I have been to in several cities by virtue of my erstwhile job in the corporate sector.  Nor have I seen such a wide spectrum of students. Which school of martial arts but TSMA can boast of enrolling multiple dad – son dyads? We have four such dyads (read super dads) at present. And sometime in the future, we will definitely have three generations working out simultaneously in TSMA, in real time!

I must confess that I had a bit of unfair advantage by virtue of my training with two exceptionally talented batch mates who have also been to professional Muay Thai fights! Ramesh Giri is an affable, gregarious and fun loving guy. But beneath the deceptively gentle demeanor lies an indomitable spirit that can take the world head on. Time and again he has battled appalling adversities and emerged unscathed, tougher and wiser. Jagadeesh, my other batch mate is empathy personified. He derives utmost satisfaction in ensuring that we as a team attain perfection in performing the techniques. I have derived a lot of inspiration and strength from both my batch mates. Their advice, suggestions, commitment, and sheer involvement during the strenuous workouts were instrumental in my achieving the proficiency of a black belt. Furthermore, I also had the exclusive advantage of living under the same roof with a black belt from TSMA. Vasanth, my bosom pal (A.K.A. my son to the rest of the world) has been a good analyst, appraiser, and coach in refining my techniques. He had no qualms admonishing me when I made mistakes. It did help immensely, living in TSMA in a manner of speaking!

The profound, positive impact that TSMA has made in my life and career cannot be over emphasized. This is no courtesy stuff that I am doling out. Evidence of the effectiveness of martial arts in producing affective, cognitive and behavioral benefits has come from a number of studies. Improvements in self-esteem (Fuller, 1988), a more positive response to physical challenge (Richard and Rehberg, 1986; Trulson, 1986), greater autonomy (Duthie, 1978), emotional stability and assertiveness (Konzak and Boudreau, 1984) and reductions in anxiety and depression (Cai, 2000) have all been associated with martial arts training. Konzak and Boudreau (1984) have also drawn attention to the social benefits of such behavioral change – in particular, the relationship between martial arts practice and aggression. Several studies point to the effectiveness of traditional martial arts in reducing aggression (Zivin et al, 2001; Nosanchuk, 1981.) 

A study investigating the effects of grappling training on mood and general well-being found that people who trained regularly in a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gym were shown to have higher energy levels, were more agreeable, clear minded, composed and confident when compared to a group of non-grapplers who trained regularly at a health gym and another group of light exercisers (McCafferty, 2014).

But if one were to ask my inamorata Revathy if I am calm and composed one will hear a resounding “No!” How do you explain this dichotomy? Are the research studies to be rubbished? Of course not. A discerning mind can easily fathom the extent of restlessness that must have existed before the martial arts training! The enervating stress of running my start-up would have incapacitated me but for the behavioral benefits that I have reaped from the martial arts training in TSMA.

I have received stupendous support and succor, both overt and covert from Veena, my little mom (daughter, if you will.) Veena is to me is what mitochondria are to the cell. A veritable powerhouse! One look at her seraphic face and I feel completely charged and raring to go. Members of my extended family too which includes the senior black belts in TSMA have reposed total faith in me that I will beat the odds and become a black belt. You guys made a difference.

And the chief architect and co-designer of our dazzling destiny is Master Ashwin. Sometimes I reckon him to be no different from Harry Potter! He possesses the uncanny knack of transmuting people; the impossible then becomes the inevitable. Six months into Hogwarts, sorry TSMA and one can watch the magic unfold. Skeptical about miracles? Come to TSMA. It is a quotidian event. Time and again, Master Ashwin has amazed me with his deep insights into human behavior in general and particularly about the mental make-up of the students of TSMA. As a professional with a doctoral degree in Psychology, I sometimes feel that the discipline of Psychology has lost a virtuoso who could have added tremendous value to the body of knowledge had Master Ashwin chosen a career in Psychology.

“Martial arts are a spiritual challenge, not a physical one,” to quote Ronny Yu. It is only natural that TSMA will stand out among the other martial arts schools since it is run by a behavior expert. Also, the camaraderie and the esprit de corps among the team which is a defining feature of TSMA will transform the years of travel into an extraordinary experience to treasure for life.

After all is said and done you have a choice. You can choose to not leverage the opportunities to elevate yourself, and end up as a debilitated, decrepit, weak, old, invalid biding your time to eventually become fodder to the relentless march of timeless Death, as yet another faceless creature. Or you can choose to be an ebullient, vivacious, sprightly, gallant, dashing, illustrious icon through enhanced self-regulation – historically known in martial arts as self-control – developing will and discipline; what you will, it will be!

WHAT YOU WILL, IT WILL BE

Suresh [ Black Belt ]

Published: 21st February 2016 (4th Black Belt Ceremony)

 

Ninjutsu is usually translated as the art of stealth. The Japanese character, "nin" (also translated as "shinobi") has many meanings, such as perseverance, endurance, and sufferance. The term Ninjutsu is most commonly used to refer to the specific methods

and techniques used by the Ninja.

Ninjutsu as a way of life didn't happen overnight. It developed over the course of many years. The name Ninjutsu itself didn't come about until several generations after the Ninja
lifestyle began. Ninjutsu was created in central Honshu (the largest of the Japanese islands) about eleven hundred years ago. It was developed by mountain-dwelling families in an area not unlike the American Appalachians, where the terrain is rugged and remote. Ninja families were great observers of nature. They felt a close connection to the Earth, similar to the Native Americans, and their lifestyle was one that lived according to the laws of Nature, not against it. Ninja were also very spiritual people, and their beliefs became an integral part of Ninjutsu.

One of the spiritual influences was Shinto, "the way of the kami." Kami is the Japanese word for "god" or "deity." It implies, however, a feeling for a sacred or a charismatic
force, rather than a being. The early Japanese regarded their whole world: the rivers, mountains, lakes, and trees, to have their own energy and spirit.

Another spiritual influence on the Ninja was Mikkyo. 
Mikkyo, for the Ninja, was not a religion as much as it was a method for enhancing personal power. These methods included the use of secret words and symbols to focus their energy and intentions toward
specific goals.

It is generally accepted that the methods found in Ninjutsu originated outside of Japan. After the fall of the T'ang dynasty in China, many outcast warriors, philosophers, and military strategists escaped to Japan to avoid punishment by the new Chinese rulers.
It is believed that Ninja families were exposed to many of these exiled people's sophisticated warrior strategies and philosophies over the centuries, helping to influence and shape what became Ninjutsu.

The Ninja were also very much influenced by a group of people called Shugenja, who roamed the same mountainous sections as the Ninja. The Shugendo method of spiritual self-discovery consisted of subjecting oneself to the harsh weather and terrain of the area in order to draw strength from the earth itself. They would walk through fire, stand beneath freezing waterfalls, and hang over the edges of cliffs in an effort to overcome fear and assume the powers of nature.

It would be incorrect to say that these three spiritual methods were the actual roots of Ninjutsu, but there is little doubt that they were a large influence. Ninjutsu was and is a separate philosophy.

The Ninja were not particularly warlike, yet they were constantly harassed by the ruling society of Japan. They were routinely subjected to unfair taxation and religious persecution. The Ninja eventually learned to act more and more efficiently in their own self-defense. They used their superior knowledge of the workings of nature, as well as specific military techniques passed down through the years, as weapons against the numerically superior government armies. They used any ruse, harbored any superstition, and employed any strategy to protect them. If necessary, they would use devious political manipulations to ensure peace.

There were as many as seventy or eighty Ninja clans operating in the Koga and Iga regions of Japan during the height of Ninja activity. Most of these Ninja were descendants 
of, or were themselves, displaced samurai. Therefore, they operated
on the sidelines of the political schemes of the government.

Sometimes a Ninja family would use its military or information-gathering resources to protect its members from becoming victims in a power play between competing samurai clans. Occasionally, a Ninja family would support one faction over another, if they felt it to be to their advantage.

As with any society, there were renegades who misused the training they received. Occasionally, "Ninja" would rent themselves out for espionage or assassination work. Unfortunately, these outcasts have become the stereotype of the "evil ninja" that we see today in the media. They were, however, a minority. The average Ninja worked very much in conjunction with his family and community goals.

Ninja were not always primarily soldiers. Of course, certain Ninja operatives, or genin, were trained from childhood as warriors. But this training was usually precautionary. Genin Ninja knew that they might be called to help protect the community at some future time, but they often spent most of their lives as farmers or traders.

Ninja intelligence gatherers sent to live in the strongholds of potential enemies were rarely required to act openly. If an operative was called to action, it was as a result of a carefully plotted, and usually desperate, plan. The genin would be contacted and assigned a mission by his
chunin superior. The chunin, or middleman, was a "middle-man" between the jonin family leader and the operative. Jonin made all philosophical and long-range strategic decisions for the clan. Often, the identity of the jonin was kept secret from chunin and genin, alike. Of course certain historical periods required more secret activity than others. Eventually, this activity virtually died out altogether but the legacies, in some cases, remained.

 

- Adapted from 'Ninja Mind Control.’

HISTORY OF THE NINJA

Suresh [ Black Belt ]

Published: 2nd august 2008 (2nd Black Belt Ceremony)

 

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