Shiroto has expressed his greatest relief that he trains in Konigun. The effective and practical training that he receives in Konigun Ninjutsu allowed him to save himself and his sister from harm.Hi!I'm Shiroto Blazej. I train under Samurai Pawel Szatkowski (Suzume) in delta group in Inowroclaw. A few days ago I had an incident. I think that was 10 p.m., when I was going across the park with my 15 year old sister. She asked me to pick her up because she was scared of walking through the city when it's getting dark. I saw that there was a drunken man. He started to insult me, screaming many horrible things in my direction. I replied only, "Hey, think about who you are..."Then He tried to punch me in my face. I blocked his first punch and then the second. Then I did the grapple sweep technique the same as I was practicing during my trainings in dojo. I take him to the ground and then I hit him in his ear with my head. He started to bleed, so I left him.I took off my coat and took an advanced stance, but he started to laugh. I thought that there is no sense to continue this fight and resigned. I turned around and went to my sister, but he jumped on my back. So I fell down with him (again to the ground). I started to strangle him for a moment, but I resigned a second time and I got up.My T-shirt was dirty with blood from his ear. I want to go away, but I heard him chase after me. I turned around and I wanted to kick him in his head, but there is a problem, I am wearing beggs; they are wide pants and they constrain me. So I kicked him in the chest twice with whip kicks and a third time I used a front snap kick, but he grabbed my foot. Now I must use elements of my environment. There were iron toys on the playground. I took his head and hit it on an iron toy. That was the last time he tried to hurt me. Finally, he resigned. I took my sister and went home safely.That's all. I think that it was an enlightening experience, but I hope that something like that will never happen again, because that kind of situation is very stressful.Shiroto Blazej
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
The 2008 Konigun Ninjutsu Gathering has just concluded, and so we'd like to take a moment to catch you up on all the incredible things that transpired. This year was an action-packed and intense experience with plenty to keep us busy for the whole nine days.Arriving at the Gathering was a task in and of itself. Some drove from Mississippi and New Jersey, some flew from Massachusetts, others swarmed from various parts of Tennessee. It was a veritable stampede of ninjas, which begs the question, "Can you hear a ninja stampede?"
Each morning students were greeted with a series of grueling physical training exercises at the hands of their loving, but stern instructors. All of their hard work, however, was well-rewarded with a much-anticipated piping-hot breakfast. Every night, the students went to bed not knowing what kind of chaos they would wake to, courtesy of four mischievous puppies. One Monjin, in particular, had his Senpai essay eaten. Truly, the dog ate his homework.
This year, as an added surprise, a water tower had been erected, so showers were available to students without ever having to leave Koyoma. Perhaps next year, the showers will include hot water?
Throughout the week, emphasis was placed on weapons training. This year, the weapons of choice were Nunchaku and Tonfa. Students learned nunchaku basics as well as tonfa rolls and grapples. Students were very pleased with the vast array of weapons available for purchase.
Certainly, everyone at camp this year realizes that hard training equals cuts, bruises, and bumps. Fortunately, this year we had a very capable person assigned to the position of medical officer. Meiyo Bushi John was never in short supply of superglue and applied it generously. Whatever ailments could not be solved with superglue were treated with a special cream for itching and rashes lovingly made by Shidoshi with help from Meiyo Bushi, or with sulfur to keep the bugs at bay.
Senpais going up for Meiyo had their hands quite full with categories necessary for their next rank. They were required to spend eight hours off the ground in a tree as part of their wilderness training; sleep was optional. This particular task was more difficult for some than for others. One Senpai had a knee injury, and we're still wondering how he got in the tree (levitation, perhaps?) The joy of finally exiting their leafy abode was overshadowed by bug bites, sore bottoms, and lack of sleep.
All Senpai were required to fight eight opponents simultaneously after, of course, running four miles and demonstrating all katas. The Senpais were pushed to their limits and their opponents are still recovering. Also, mouth-guards were made mandatory after one match in particular.
Another aspect of brown sash testing was the endurance swim. Due, to a mix-up, it was believed that a mile-long swim was required to rank. It was discovered, only too late, that a half-mile swim was all that was required. Even so, now Meiyo-Musha Oyston has qualified for her 5th degree swim category.
In the last days of camp, tightrope walking and balance beam sparring were made available to the students and everyone really seemed to enjoy that aspect of training. Also, students were given a chance to run a nighttime navigation course and draw fire-watch duty.
On the final day of camp, in a picturesque park by a lake, and with their fellow students looking on, the Monjins were afforded the opportunity to check off on their board and staff breaking categories. Every Monjin executed all their required breaks with all the skill and determination that one looks for in a brown sash.
After the Monjin board breaks and a few rounds of sparring, everyone was called to formation for the sash award ceremony. This year, we are pleased to announce that every student was able to achieve their next rank, and they worked very hard to earn it. We are also pleased to announce that we have four new Meiyos: Patrick Duckworth, Dan Ford, Sarah Oyston, and John Westcott! As an added treat, Taibushi Bonnie Specht came down from Massachusetts to present black sashes to Dan and John, who are her personal students.
The 2008 Gathering was an amazing experience and a great opportunity to meet with many people from throughout the United States and train together. Students were able to share knowledge, improve themselves, and create lasting memories. Truly, this year was one for the books, and the 2009 Gathering can't get here fast enough.
Story by: Sarah Oyston, Christy Butler, and John Westcott
PS. More pictures from the Gathering 2008 can be found right here.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Saturday everyone learned how to use a compass and performed the day navigation course which consisted of 11 points on a course that covered more than 2 miles. Afterward, we have hamburgers and chips for lunch and go back out to learn how to defend against stalking in the woods. We learn where someone stalking you in the wilderness is likely to hide themselves and where best to stop and observe a road to check for stalkers. As night falls we are able to see how to blend into the woods in twilight even if we have a very bright shirt on. We take turns hiding and then casually trying to find each other. We head back after everyone has their turn and get some much needed water. Then we head back out to learn about smokeless fires and hidden fires. As a part of his Senpai test Monjin Duckworth is required to teach the other students at camp how to construct these two different fires while the instructors observe him. After the initial explanation, the students are divided into two groups and they make their own smokeless fire mounds. It was way too hot and dry to light the fires, so we just stacked the wood instead. After we finish, we head back so Monjin Duckworth can spar 6 on 1 for his Senpai test. He did very well and took a much deserved break after the match.
In order to help energize everyone for the night navigation course, Yoshi Medina cooked a wonderful meal consisting of roasted chicken, baked potatos and gravy, brocolli, and rolls. It was delicious. Thanks to Yoshi Medina for preparing the meals at camp. After we were all juiced up and our stomachs had settled we go back outside to learn how easy it is to hide in plain sight at night. With our black gi we are able to blend into dips in tall grass as only a sliver of the moon was available for light on that cloudy night. After everyone got a chance to hide, we get our gear and glow sticks and head out for the night navigation course. This course consisted of 8 points and covered a distance of probably just over 1.5 miles. It sure seemed like a lot further, though. With only a glow stick to light your way, distance and time seem to stretch out. Some hours later we emerge victorious and are able to head back to the house to get away from the horse flies (they really are horrible little creatures). Everyone slept well and we began the next morning.
Students learned how to build a teepee lean-to against a tree and also how to braid grass into grass rope. It was very exciting. Now that camp is all said and done, everyone looks back with fondness. In fact, many ask when the next such camp will be held. They're reminded that the Gathering is just around the corner and many nature skills are tested at the Gathering.
Sign up while there's still time! I hope to see you there!
Monday, May 12, 2008
The Koka (Koga) Ninja village we visited is nestled in a small valley all its own and was created by Shunichiro Yunoki. It is reported that he was the last surviving Koka practitioner and started the village so that everyone could experience the tradition that his ancestors kept alive. As you leave the parking lot and head to the entrance you get the sensation that you are traveling back to a different era. The 8' wall surrounding the village is made from bamboo and is decorated with various signs. The entrance fee is used to cover the upkeep and repair of the many displays and of the village itself.
After we ask to see Mr. Shunichiro, the person at the front gate leads us down a manicured trail, around a big pond with a rope stretching across, past numerous huts containing the many displays until, finally, we reach the central store area, which also houses a place to sit and eat. Yoshi Jim Haynes acts as translator as we get to sit and meet with Mr. Shunichiro. We explain how we represent Konigun Ryu and asked about Koga Ryu. Mr. Shunichiro tells us how they refer to it as Koka and that he constructed the village as a way to maintain the traditions he learned as a child. He tells us that many come each year to use the facilities of the village to train with each other. We explain how we are meeting with different leaders of the different Ninjutsu Ryu to pay our respects. When we ask about other Ninjutsu Ryu, he said there are no more Iga or Koka except for the ones that came each summer to train. When we ask about Bujinkan he just shakes his head and says that they are not Ninjutsu. At each place we stop, we try to discover other Ninjutsu Ryu that the locals might know of as well as to discover the origins of what is known over here in the states.
After our cup of tea, Mr. Shunichiro calls someone over to show us the village. This man leads us out of the restaurant/store to the authentic Ninja House containing a series of false walls and trap doors which allowed a quick escape. An example of one of trap doors requires a little more in-depth description of the construction of the traditional Japanese kitchen. It is a room located inside the house that centers on a lowered section in the middle of the room which contains the fire pit. They put the whole fire pit on a runner system so that it slides under the surrounding floor exposing the crawl space beneath the house. Japanese houses are built a couple of feet above the ground, leaving plenty of room to move about when needed. As we follow our guide down one hallway he turns a corner and is gone--we were at a dead end. Then another section of wall rotates and exposes his smiling face as he gestures us through a secret hallway that leads into almost every room.
After we leave the Ninja House, we stop at the well at the back of the house and he gets in and disappears from sight. When we investigate further we see a series of handholds that will take us into the bottom of the false well. Once we reach the end of our descent, we find ourselves at the beginning of a long tunnel which comes out across the village behind some bushes. I imagine that during the time of the warring states period of Japanese history such methods of escape were the only way many survived hostile attacks.
The big pond of water that we passed on the way down is used to train villagers and students the various aspects of water walking using the pond walker shoes, buckets, or even tires. Although not deep, you really have to have good balance to be able to stay out of the muddy water. We wind through the bushes, across ridges, and down paths until we come across a balance rope spanning a gully. Being the only path, it must be traversed if you are to head up to the small Buddhist shrine that sits in a peaceful corner. The shrine is obviously maintained with love. Our path leads to two buildings containing all the artifacts of the Koka ninja that have been collected. We saved all our pictures to document the many exhibits we found within the two buildings. Like the Iga Ryu museum, the Koka have collected an impressive array of ancient artifacts. We can see all the manuals and scrolls outlining their different techniques. The authentic weapons and tools that Koka ninja used to practice their trade are on display with explanatory cards written in Hiragana or Kanji. One display shows the shoes they used to walk across marshy areas; in another the picks they used to pick the door latches or crude locks that were used in those days. We can see collapsible grappling hooks, collapsible boats, swords, kubitan, shaken, and every other manner of throwing device imaginable. It is evident from the size of the armor and weapons that the samurai and ninja of yesteryear were much smaller than the current generation.
After our tour of the grounds and the museum we return to Mr. Shunichiro where we express our admiration for the wonderful job he did in creating the village and the museum and all of the hard work it must have taken. After seeing all the scrolls, Yoshi Jim asks about the Ban Sen Sukai and the Nin Pi Den scrolls that Bujinkan claim as their heritage. He explains that these were reprinted in the early '60's and were readily obtainable from any book seller. He even brings us the copy he used to have on sale in his curio store to demonstrate his claim. We thank him for his time and before we leave we discuss the possibility of training with the Koka when they gather in the summers. We leave the Koka having made new friends and continue our journey through southern Honshu in our search for more information on the various Ninjutsu Ryu and their interactions with Konigun.
I must take a moment to state that although 7-Elevens have all but disappeared here in the states because of all the new chains that have cut into their market share, the same cannot be said in Japan. I think that they must be the only American chain of convenience stores over there and are matched in popularity only by McDonald's. It became a game of who would spot it first as they appeared practically on every corner. Southern Honshu is an industrialized area and the road south went through the heart of it. Although we follow the coast road, it is a non-stop stream of buildings. Stores and businesses are only broken up by the occasional hotel. We reach the southern tip of Honshu at night and can see the lights of the bridge stretch south across the channel to the island of Kyushu. The bridge is so tall and high off the ground that I imagine any ship that crosses beneath has more than enough clearance. We follow the signs, get lost, follow some more signs, and finally make it over the bridge and continue on our journey to Fukuoka where we stay the night. We leave with dawn the next day and travel south along one of the super highways that the Japanese have crisscrossing the country. The roads are well maintained. We make good time and are in Kagoshima within a couple of hours. Yoshi Jim asks a curator at the Kagoshima museum about any displays featuring Konigun or Saija. The curator looks at Jim and asks, "Do you mean the ninja?" When Jim says yes, he told Jim of a museum in Satsuma Sendai. We were on our way!
Kyushu is a strange contrast to the main island of Honshu. Because Honshu is so developed, Kyushu feels undeveloped due to the zoning requirements that allow no permanent building along the side or tops of the mountains. Kyushu is mostly mountainous, so this leaves the numerous valleys and coastal regions to support all the population. The only exceptions to this rule go to the buildings created before the law came into effect. Also, you can build up on the mountainside, but the structure has to be torn down once a year and made anew.
We follow the directions of our ever faithful "Tom Tom" which takes us directly to the address of the museum, but we arrive just as it is closing. We head back to town but stop at a temple that we passed on our way out to the museum. Situated on the top of a hill, you get to it by climbing a thousand steps. We climb the steps and at different times get help from each other making it up the long staircase. They say that the stairs are there for you to show the spirits your desire for your prayers' outcomes. By making the long pilgrimage up every step, you are putting your heart and effort into your prayer.
We start early the next morning after having spent the night in a hotel. I never thought I would like seaweed for breakfast, but I started to look forward to it and to the rice that came with the morning meals. We get to the museum and begin our tour beside a shop where an employee is working on a helmet. From there, we follow the pathway to the first building which contains a mock up of a daimyo lord with his samurai retainers. After we leave that building we see a man working with some stone statues and Yoshi Jim explains how we were referred to the museum from Kagoshima and asks if he knows where the exhibits are. The man explains that he put together the museum as a hobby because of his interest in local history. He introduces himself as the owner, Mr. Tanewa Shinobu, and offers to give us a tour. We readily agree and follow our host. He takes us into the main display room explaining that the museum is dedicated to Saigo Takamori. We learn that Takamori was the basis for the movie, "The Last Samurai." It seems that unlike the movie, Takamori came to lead the rebellion more by default than by any direct action on his part. After leaving Honshu and direct government service he returned to southern Kyushu to hunt with his dogs and train various samurai that came to him for training. Some of these same students, in protest of the government's actions toward the samurai class, seized the local garrison's armory and began the tragic tale. The government, unable to fathom that Takamori's students acted without his knowledge and support, laid a raid at his doorstep. He felt that since he could not escape being linked to the rebellion, his only hope of survival depended on its success. We all know how the story ends, but Mr. Tanewa shows us the many artifacts that he has collected through the years documenting the rebellion. We take lots of pictures as we make our way through the museum, documenting the swords, rifles, even the ninja chain mail and shaken that are in the displays. The other rooms contain depictions of events from Saigo Takamori's life from the time when he was teaching to the actual battles of the rebellion. Mr. Tanewa is famous for the armor that he makes for movies and recreation events. He takes Yoshi Jim inside another display building where he dresses him as a samurai. As you can see from the pictures, Jim looks at home in the armor.
After a wonderful lunch of soba noodles in broth, Mr. Tanewa continues our tour by taking us to his armor-making facilities in town and shows us some of the many weapons that he supplies to the reenactments. We even receive the honor of being invited to have tea at his personal home. He is very efficient and conscientious about everything he produces and it shows in the many awards he has received over the years. We left the museum with more information and the beginning of yet another friendship.
We stay north of Satsuma Sendai to make it easier on Yoshi Jim and Bushi Jason as they are leaving to tour Shimbara Jo the following day while Shidoshi Dallas and I are off to pay our respects to Insei Saija. I drop Yoshi Jim and Bushi Jason off at the ferry terminal and return to Shidoshi Dallas for our trip to visit with his teacher.
Monday, April 21, 2008
A weekend long ninja camp was recently held on top of Koyama, the "little mountain," in Whitleyville, Tennessee. There were students of all ranks and skill levels, some coming from as far away as Massachusetts. They came for good training, good friends, and great food. No one went home disappointed.
Camp started Friday night as all of the campers met up at Cici's Pizzeria for some socializing while we had our fill of the pizza buffet. Then it was back to Koyama where we all got bedded down for the night in preparation of the long weekend. Saturday morning started off with a brisk jog which was then immediately followed by a first rate breakfast of homemade biscuits and gravy with all of the fixings. After that we all got down to training. Everyone got to work on and polish their old stuff as well as learn a lot of new things. We spent several hours developing our kicks and strikes and we all got to see some very interesting grapples from Meijin Green. Students got to learn the katas required for their next rank and some of us even had the chance to have some of the katas we already knew broken down to some extent.
Later that day Samurai Greg started us on an intensive training program using the nunchaku. We learned more ways to roll two sticks connected by a chain around our bodies than you could even possibly imagine. We even got to spar each other with foam-padded nunchaku, which, of course, was a lot of fun. The night was wrapped up with a group movie and then back to our beds for some well deserved rest.
Sunday morning began where Saturday night had ended with Samurai Greg still teaching us the finer points of the nunchaku. By now some of the students had even moved up to using two nunchaku at the same time. At lunchtime we had several kinds of banana nut bread and cakes, all of which were delicious, but training wasn't over yet; we still had to pass our navigation course. All of the students were instructed on how to read a compass and other basic wilderness skills. Once we all felt comfortable enough with the idea of wandering through the woods with a compass as our guide, off we went. It was actually a lot more fun than it sounds.
In the end, there was one black sash instructor for every two students, so everyone got plenty of training and personal attention. Several students were ranked to their next sash, and a great time was had by all. All of this leads up to the Gathering this July, a nine day camp that brings students from as far away as Poland. With almost all of the students who attended this camp planning on making it to the Gathering, hopefully I'll see you there.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
In 1996, Konigun Ninjutsu participated in the Hollywood Classic. A group of 13 students drove out to LA, so that they could compete in this international tournament. As some of the students had never left their home state before, Shidoshi Dallas wanted the trip to be a learning experience. The Konigun members got to see the Grand Canyon on the way out to California and for some crossing Arizona and Texas was the first time to see the desert. There were competitors from around the world that came to compete and have a chance at meeting the many movie stars brought in to present the awards. The different categories covered sparring, kata, and weapons. Out of the 34 events entered, Konigun students won 30. See the picture of some of the students posing with their trophies after they returned to Mississippi.
In 1997 Konigun members again participated in The Hollywood Classic. In preparation for the event they held fundraisers and carwashes to raise money and thus were able to send more of the members to this year's competition. Russ Folks and Tim Baker, the producers of the Hollywood Classic had invited Shidoshi Dallas and his students to return and compete, because they had enjoyed meeting them the previous year. In order to make the tournament, the Gathering was scheduled so that all the students who could make the camp would then leave to compete in the tournament. The Gathering brought students from Mississippi and South Carolina to the Tennessee dojo. They trained and prepped for the tournament as planned, but as a surprise from Shidoshi Dallas they got to participate in a local movie production. The students were asked to play the "bad ninjas" in a made for blockbuster movie called "Fighting Chance". These pictures depict the shooting that took place at a local waterfall called Cumming's Falls. You can see the many scenes setting up the escape by the good guys from the "evil" ninjas. One of the other pictures is of the cast in the lower room of the Cookeville dojo, where they staged a group fight scene.
After the Gathering and the movie shoot, everyone piled into the cars and convoyed out to LA. Once again Shidoshi Dallas used the trip as a training tool for those that had never left their state. There were many stops, so that the students could see landmarks along the way. A popular favorite were the Indian shops that dot the highway. Even though we were enjoying the ride, everyone focused on the techniques they would need during the upcoming competition and practiced every time they stopped and got the chance. All of this practice did pay off though, because of the 53 events entered, Konigun students were awarded 50 trophies. Most notable during the event was that the winning students gave up their trophies, when Shidoshi Dallas told them that all the children's trophies (the last to compete) got destroyed while being delivered. The Konigun students volunteered their trophies in replacement of the ones that were destroyed, so the kids would not go home empty handed. Our members then drove home without their trophies. Tim baker and Russ Folks did ship replacement trophies later.
The trip home was exciting because the students got to see a western Ghost town and Calico mines, the Hoover Dam, and the Amusement Park of Vegas, as well as the lights of Las Vegas.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
The Homage 2007 brought together students and teachers from four different states to train for five intense days. Training at Koyama this year included never-before-seen elbow counters, sparring, rank testing, and a delicious buffet during the awards banquet.
For those of you who missed it, the following awards were given:
|Ninja Dad:||Shawn Sirgo|
|Ninja Mom:||Lynn Howe|
|Excellence Award:||Derek Egidio|
|Student Leadership:||Sarah Oyston|
|Black Sash Leadership:||Pawel Szatkowski|
|Jovial Award:||Beth Bennett|
|Perseverence Award:||Bonnie Specht|
|Golden Child Award:||Dan Ford|
|Koyama Award:||Jay Green|
|Style Champion:||Chris Greene|
|Nobility of the Year:||Jeff Green|
|Camper of the Year:||Seth Sirgo|
|Instructor of the Year:||Therese Clarke|
|Black Sash of the Year:||Zach Bennett|
There was also a new aspect of camp this year. Team awards were implemented to encourage teamwork and togetherness. Those awards were given to the following groups:
|Team Unity:||Spencer White|
|Team Efficiency:||James Denson|
|Team Excellence:||David Howe|
Congratulations to you all! Keep up the good work. For those who did not receive an award this year, keep trying.
In addition to awards being given, there were several people who moved up in rank due to their hard work, good technique, and skill. The following ranks were awarded during the Homage this year:
As you can tell, camp was very successful. Everyone trained hard and made the most out of the five days spent at Koyama. We look forward to see everyone again at the Gathering happening July 12 - July 20!