GETTING THOUGH ON REQUIREMENTS
By Ilan Gattegno
Only a handful of teachers
in the Bujinkan are qualified to teach.
In this art becoming a "teacher" is
quite simple: You get a black belt and
Sensei says: Go teach. You go to your community,
find an empty space, allocate the time,
gather a few people and become the local authority. Of course, in
most cases you know more than the others in the group, but being a
teacher, a true teacher, requires much more than that simple process.
It was a law imposed on the Israeli Bujinkan teachers
that forced us to deal with this task more seriously. The law forbade
teaching any physical activity without being certified by an academic
institute. You may ask, what can a school of physical education
tell me about Budo Taijutsu that I do not already know? How can
anyone question my knowledge when I am certified by the Grandmaster
Well, a lot. Over the past two years we have spent more than 170
hours at the Wingate Institute studying topics ranging from the
physiology of stress, to building up stamina, first aid, and of
course Budo Taijutsu. The extracurricular courses were taught by
people from the institute, experts in their respective fields, and
the Ninjutsu portion was taught by five teachers from the Bujinkan
Israel, each with at least 10 years of teaching experience.
We took this opportunity to get the 90 course participants to a
new and equal starting point. We went over the whole Densho and
worked on establishing requirements from those of the lowest kyu
to those who are striving for a black belt. Since teachers all over
the country have modified their individual requirements over the
years (we have been practicing Ninjutsu in Israel since 1974), we
had to make sure that a black belt holder from one club would not
feel like a stranger in another. We had to get all the students
to the same level of proficiency and we chose the toughest measures.
In Israel we are faced with many successful Martial Arts from Japan,
China, India, as well as some locally developed self defense Arts
which deny any connection to the East -- although they use the gi,
the belt and the techniques found in Far Eastern schools. We could
not have a Black belt from another school beat any of ours, and
challenges exist, especially at the age of national service. It
is a healthy competition, so we had to cater for the needs of the
younger students and strengthen their confidence in Budo Taijutsu.
Our problem started when the lessons at the Bujinkan mellowed and
we started practicing what the Karate people called "Master
Techniques." Yes, for Hatsumi Sensei it was right, since he
had already gone through a tough period of rigorous training including
sparring and fighting. Before he started Ninjutsu with Takamatsu
Sensei, he already had 6th-Dan in Karate and 5th-Dan in Judo plus
experience in other Martial Arts. Could we make that quantum leap
and do what he does now without first going through the basics of
We did not like the story we heard about one Bujinkan club in North
America, where a group of thugs came into the training hall and
threatened to beat up the teacher and the students. In this club
they went on practicing in hiding, putting the reputation of the
school in jeopardy. Therefore, when someone puts on a black belt,
we have to make sure that he can defend himself, representing our
school in a "fair fight." We regard the Black Belt holders
as our diplomats. They must know the fundamental parts of Budo Taijutsu
and be proficient and able. We can have some honorary black belts,
but we must have a back up of capable people. In 1980 I was going
to school in the USA and I saw the Ninja Boom coming. I called Doron
Navon and told him we could hit the jackpot. He had knowledge and
ability that everybody else could only dream of. But he was not
interested. "We need to have a big enough school," he
said. "It is not when I am able, but when my students are.
Only when enough of you are ready." In retrospect he was right.
We had a few challenging moments in which we thanked him for his
caution. When you are a stranger in a strange land, you need to
be good enough.
Being good requires ability and that comes with practice. It is
not enough to go to a Tai-Kai and get the automatic promotion. You
need to be worthy of the rank and look around at other Martial Arts
and see how their equally ranked people are doing. None of us feels
happy with ranks here, and since 6th-Dan in 1989 we have declined
any ceremonial promotions. Some of us have certificates for higher
ranks, but we prefer to keep that a secret. How can we claim 8th-Dan
rank when a 25 year veteran of Karate, a Master highly praised all
over Europe is a mere 6th-Dan in his school and has put many more
hours into training than all of us combined?
The teachers' course gave us an excellent opportunity to gather
all the ranks and make sure everybody knew the whole set of requirements.
We established a "pyramid of study" starting from Kihon,
going through Kata, then Randori, then Kumite and at the tip of
the pyramid we come to the void, to the part we all love in Ninjutsu,
playing with the techniques. But the foundations must be strong.
Building that strength takes years of practice. In Ninpo Taijutsu
we have all the answers but first we must learn to ask the right
questions. Then one can become a good student and consequently a