When the topic of martial arts arises in conversation among the average person today, the mind is filled with imagery of battles and the execution of complex techniques and fighting styles. This line of thinking can also be found among many martial artists themselves.
While martial arts are revered for its self-defense and physical benefits, it was originally perceived a spiritual practice in ancient times. The Encyclopedia of World Religions by Robert S. Ellwood, states the following on 279 of the said work, under the topic Martial Arts and Religion:
“In many societies the way of the warrior has been seen as having a religious signifigance….The warrior is then one who has realized the full potential of his inner life, who acts in accordance with nature, and who has the ability to live in the present moment with total awareness.”
The Stone Tablet: The Record of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts, published an article back in 2004, entitled The Shamanic Fist by Ted Mancuso. The article opens with these words:
“Occasionally people take up martial arts as part of their “shamanic” quest. Of course such a thing is totally appropriate since warrior arts have long been associated with such journeys.”
Martial arts originates in shamanism. We are often told a half-truth that the Shaolin monks developed martial arts by their observation of the “animals” and were able to adapt methods of defense based on their movements. However, this is somewhat a half-truth if taken literally. Let us look a little further.
Martial arts developed alongside Traditional Chinese Medicine. It wasn’t literal “animals” that the Shaolin monks were observing, but the “wheel of animals,” the zodiac, and through their communion with the stars they would receive certain knowledge in dreams and astral projection. Watching the animals is really a metaphor that was symbolic of communing with the zodiac. We can be certain that this was the case because this is how the science of acupuncture was developed.
Each constellation in the zodiac represents a section of the body. The monks were able to commune with the stars and could tell the nature of the physical body by understanding the stars that were in the corresponding constellation symbolic of the body part. The light from these different stars dictated the “metals” that were used for the needles in acupuncture. It was during the development of this science that martial arts was created.
Martial arts, like acupuncture is a healing science. While Traditional Chinese Medicine focuses on healing by relieving blockages in the meridians in order to balance the movement of “chi energy,” martial arts was created as a form of exorcism, and by such a person can be healed.
In ancient times, and widely held opinion still held among shamans and spiritualists today, criminals and people who randomly attacked others, were viewed as individuals possessed by wandering spirits. Wandering spirits are disincarnate people who may have experienced an accidental death, and attached themselves to the someone spiritually weak as an escape from their pain. The possessed person is then led into the world of crime, or may inflict pain upon others. It is due to such that martial arts were developed. The same points that were used in Chinese Medicine were now used to exorcise a wandering spirit by punches and strikes. If the spirit had permanently taken over the body the martial artist may have had to kill, in order to release the spirit from this realm. In this, we learn that the true purpose of martial arts was that of a healer and an exorcist. Today, there are a lot of people who study self-defense, but there are fewer and fewer martial artists as time moves on. We can see the same comparison in yoga, a one-time spiritual practice that is growing, but only for its physical benefits.
Based on such, we can say that there is a distinct difference between a student of self-defense and a martial artist. Fortunately, there are many “elders” in the martial arts’ community that are to share their knowledge. Unfortunately, some of these “elders” have been criticized by students of self-defense who are not aware of the true purpose of martial arts.
One of these elders, we had the honor of interviewing recently. Grandmaster Ashida Kim is a true martial artist, as he stresses the importance of the practitioner’s spiritual responsibility. Many of Sensei Kim’s findings and knowledge in the field of Ninjitsu, called Esoteric Ninjitsu by some, has been validated by historians like Antony Cummins. Sensei Kim stated decades ago that Ninjitsu is not a specific martial arts style, but their fighting style could be described as Mugei Mumei no Jitsu, a Japanese phrase meaning “no name, no art.” It is “the Way of no Way, having no form, as form, and no limitation as limitation.” Basically the Ninja used what was applicable for the time, the present moment. Sensei Kim’s understanding of the Ninja’s tactics and methods are confirmed for us in the Bansenshukai, where Fujibayashi Yasutake is quoted as stating the following:
“Thus, as a basis, you should embrace the old ways of the shinobi who served under ancient great generals, but remember not only to keep these ways but to adapt them, each dependent on the situation and the moment. Ignorant ninja are not aware of this principal but directly stick to ancient ways and do not even know the simplest of facts…..It is folly to see something as unchangeable and stick to an old method without realizing that things keep changing and are in flux.”
Based on the Bansenshukai’s observation, written in 1676, the most-valued art of the ninja was their ability to adapt to their changing circumstances and environment. The Ninja who remained stuck on certain patterns of fighting and etc, were seen as ignorant. Based on such, Sensei Kim’s perspective on the Ninja of old is correct.
Esoteric NinjitsuMugei Mumei no Jitsu is founded upon three esoteric exercises that are useful methods of defense on their own, but also represent the acquisition of certain knowledge on higher planes.
Metsubishi-ko (sight removing technique) represents the transformation of character in order to overcome weaknesses in ourselves. This can be seen in how the exercise is executed. The student drops down in front of their opponent and picks up sand and hurls it into their opponents eyes. Physically, this is an effective method and can save your life. It can also be practiced as a form of physical conditioning, increasing strength and flexibility in the thighs and back. It has similar physical benefits to that of the horse stance if done repeatedly. Esoterically, dropping down in front of the opponent means abandoning the false ego. Picking up sand and throwing it into our opponents eyes represents entering a situation with new awareness and looking out into the world with a new perspective, thereby, blinding negative desires and thoughts that may try to enter our hearts and minds.
Shime-Waza (Japanese Sleephold) is a very serious technique that can put an opponent into a state of unconsciousness or “sleep.” Physically, the practice of this exercise is useful in building up strength in the arms and calf muscles. Esoterically, Shime-waza represents the ability to travel in the astral realms at will. It is symbolic of rising up above the restraints of the physical body (the opponent), by means of astral projection while the body appears to be unconscious, or in a “sleephold” figuratively speaking. The ability of competent astral projection was also held by the ninjas of ancient times.
In an Interview With Sensei James Brown, Grandmaster Ashida Kim stated the following:
“One cannot learn to be a Ninja, one must be born a Ninja and then discover that he or she is on that Path. In olden times, babies as young as three months would be taken from their mothers and tested by the clan elders. Sometimes they were tossed into a pool or river to see if they would come to the surface, an indication they possessed the necessary survival instinct. Of course, none were permitted to drown, but a parent was forbidden to rescue his child too soon, as this was an indication of his own lack of confidence in the infant. True Ninjitsu is not for everyone, only a few are chosen to learn the Silent Way.”
Sensei Kim’s observations are confirmed for us in history. The life of a ninja, was the same as that of a shaman. One is called into the work. They are born Ninja. Ninjutsu:The Enduring Legacy by James Clum states:
“There was not really any attempt to take in people seeking to be ninja since they were considered as lowly undesirables. Once born into a ninja family, one became a ninja and learned the skills of one’s ancestors….The ability to improvise was essential to their survival. Because Ninja used whatever means necessary to survive and complete their missions, they were considered dishonorable. A ninja was supposed to tolerate unbearable humiliation and suffering in the service of others.”
it is interesting to note the symbolism in Sensei Kim’s statement about how infants were tested by being placed in a pool, or river. Water is a symbol of the astral world. Youth Is a State of Mind by Eugene Beadle, makes the following observation:
“Now we shall take a long walk on water. The expression simply means astral traveling. In ancient mystical writings water is the symbol for the psychic, and, the astral world.”
An infant being thrown in a pool of water, or a river, by the elders of their community was indeed a test to determine if the baby had a certain “survival skill,” but was also a test to see if the infant possessed “astral awareness,” which is essential for the work of a true martial artist and his task of exorcising wandering spirits. It is interesting to note that in ancient times, what we call ninja today, was often termed monomi, meaning “one who sees.”
Today, there are a few who are born a Ninja, without a family, but will hear the voice of the “master” and be guided into the true meaning of life’s training, for the true master is Self, as often stated by Grandmaster Ashida Kim.
Tamieshiwara (Board and Brick Breaking) is the third principle exercise in Mugei Mumei no Jitsu. Physically, it consists of a method of breaking boards and bricks with one’s bare hands. This exercise, when practiced over time, strengthens one’s ability to deliver effective strikes. Symbolically, it represents one’s ability to influence physical things by invisible means.In this case the brick, or board, represents the earthly realm. The bare hand that is able to break through the physical plane represents the use of invisible power to help accomplish the goals at hand.
So far throughout this discussion we touched on the basic esoteric knowledge that comes from the practice of the three basic forms of Mugei Mumei no Jitsu. however, there is a wealth of knowledge and understanding on an esoteric and physical level that comes from practicing these three steps, some of which I cannot speak on in honor of my oath and respect for Sensei Kim. However, i will say that these exercises are equivalent to the first three degrees of Freemasonry when properly understood and serves in such capacity for a brotherhood of martial artists that I am happy to be a part of.
Attacks By Students of Self-Defense on Martial ArtistsEarlier in our discussion, we outlined distinct differences between students of self-defense and a martial artist. A student of self-defense simply practices certain techniques for either physical fitness or to protect himself and hiss family. The martial artist also uses such techniques for the protection of their own being and family, to maintain physical health, but they also recognized that they have a responsibility as a healer and exorcist. It is by a combination of punches, strikes, and kicks, that they are able to exorcise an evil spirit that has possess an individual and has cause them to lead a life of crime and attack people. yet, at the same time the martial artist knows that such exorcism and healing can be performed by how he, or she, leads their lives and the example that they set for others. A true martial artist can protect a whole community by the nature of his or her energy emanating from their aura, which was cultivated in their training.
The work of a martial artist is to heal an individual of possession by wandering spirits and help create an environment that keeps such things away from hard-working ordinary people. Cleanliness of mind, body, and spirit plays a prominent role in such. In Shinto Metaphysics, no beneficial spirit can inhabit an unclean place. Spirits is a broad term and can refer to our emotions, as well as, disincarnate spirits.The knowldege is effective for both. Sensei Ashida Kim also promotes such philosophy. On his publishing company’s website, Dojo Publishing, we read:
“Ninjitsu is the only non-violent martial art known to man. We don’t want to hurt anyone. But, neither we will allow anyone harm us or those we love and have sworn to protect. We don’t want to be kings or masters. We only want to practice our art and enjoy our lives. But, we will not tolerate oppression, slavery or bigotry. We have always fought against injustice and crime. We have always been among you. Watching and waiting, down through the centuries, until it was time for Way to be made clear. Now you too can become part of this most ancient and honorable tradition. Men of peace, humble as the dust; who can fight like ten tigers. Be one of the Few, the Chosen, the Ninja…”
You would think that Sensei Kim’s philosophy in such matters would be praised among those who claim to be students of the art, and students of self-defense. However, we find that this is not the case. it is quite understandable if two people may not agree on a certain style of fighting or and approach to a certain art. Yet, there still remains honor in such agreement because it is recognized, that no matter how crazy someone may appear, if he or she is offering something that others can benefit from, it may not be the normal way of doing things for some, but it does serve to contribute a certain knoeledge that can help others. It’s sad that we find people who have create entire websites to try and debunk Sensei Kim. can you imagine what type of energy it takes for a person to write a series of articles in order to discredit someone? I wonder what type of passion must be in that person’s psycheto do such a thing? I can understand an article or two. not everyone is going to see eye to eye on how a certain art form should be promoted and done. Yet, when we see someone constantly writing on such subject, then we know its about something else. It’s like the woman who goes around making a negative statement to every positive review that someone has made about one of the book that was written by Sensei Ashida Kim. Every review? I know then that this is about something else.
Wandering spirits are not stupid. As they gain more power in the physical world, they will seek to secure by creating a level of ignorance about their existence. Another method is by reducing the amount of knowledge, or people, that can be used to exorcise them. we can see example of this even in comic-book, where some malevolent force will try to make the actual hero look like the enemy. During this time, the real hero must discover a tool or ability to banish the true villain. All of these are parables in laws of exorcism. Manly P. Hall in the work Magic: A Treatise on Esoteric Ethics, stated:
“We have reached a period in the history of the world when ignorance is criminal and deserves the heaviest penalty. ignorance is not black magic, but is the greatest ally that the black magician has in the world today. People who do not know any better are constantly doing someone else’s dirty work. That is the fruitage of their indolence. When we attempt to break nature’s laws, we tear down our bodies and render our consciousness negative, in this way opening those centers of our being through which we can be influenced and often obsessed by the black forces. This is almost a great a crime as perpetrating black magic yourself….In this day and age, the light must shine forth and the rulership of demons must be terminated. A large percentage of man’s spiritual, intellectual, and physical affairs are today in the hands of elementals—brainless creatures–and their masters, the black magicians, whose minds are dens of iniquity. Out of this world must come a few, who with hearts and souls undefiled, will keep the light burning, that the powers of darkness shall not triumph.”
Today, these bearers of light are still in the world, working behind the scenes for the greater good. We hope that you can join us someday. Let us conclude with the following words by Grandmaster Ashida Kim:
“A Ninja who has attained the level of sage is so at peace and in harmony with the way of Nature that he remains virtually untouched by the passage of time or the change of regimes. Such a warrior views Yin and Yang as balancing forces of the universe and recognizes the endless cycle of change, inevitable and inexorable.
The sage communicates with the Hidden Masters and is in touch with the “cosmic conscious-ness” by means of his ability to direct, or flow in harmony with, the psychokinetic energy of the mind and body as one. This is spoken of in many arts, but is achieved by few. It is often known as channeling the chi, or vital life force. Thus it may be said that the superior man has a secret language of his own, and can communicate by telepathic means.
This level of skill is so high that there are seldom more than a few such masters known in any one generation. They rarely live in or near cities, preferring the solitude of rural or ascetic settings. They have been known to “interfere” in the affairs of men from time to time, however.
This is the basis for the legends of the Old Man of the Mountain, a figure that recurs in both Chinese and medieval stories and mythology. By virtue of their simple, monastic existence, the sages are readily able to find or manufacture for themselves almost any item or device necessary for their survival. They are patient and diligent, and they are generally considered excellent craftsmen and gracious hosts. Because of their highly developed senses and their perception of the foibles of mankind, they often appear to embody, or to have, what might be considered supernatural powers.
Unlike the Ninja who have accomplished the lower stages, the superior man attracts no band of followers, imparting to each pilgrim enough knowledge at one time that prolonged study with the sage is unnecessary. “