Sunday, January 06, 2008

Human Weapon and the notorious ninjutsu episode...

Let me start with something that may seem completely unrelated...

There was a fantastic episode of the classic TV series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" which starts with Buffy on one of her regular patrols of the Sunnydale cemetary. She encounters a small group of nameless Vampires and starts a fight. She kills the first couple with little effort and even trades a couple of quips and one-liners. Suddenly, one of the Vampires stabs her with one of her own stakes and she barely manages to dust the punk before he kills her.

Buffy gets patched up by her Watcher, Giles, and is dumb-founded that some low level, pissant Vampire had snuck a basic attack in on her. This shouldn't have happened; she's The Slayer, and has survived longer than any other Slayer in history.

Buffy finally decides to bring the problem to Spike, a powerful Vampire who she with whom she shares a strained friendship. Spike killed two Vampire Slayers in the past, so if anyone can tell Buffy what mistakes were made, it should be Spike.

The rest of the episode is Spike recounting how and why he came to kill two Slayers, but Buffy isn't prepared for his answers.

Spike explains that part of his success was that he wanted the victory more. And the rest, and really the better part of it, was that the Slayers both just had bad luck.

And that's the lesson. It doesn't matter who you are, or what your training is... in the end, you're just human and can be defeated.

Much has been made of the Challenge segment from the Human Weapon's Ninjutsu episode. I've watched it maybe a dozen times, and come away from it each time with a different opinion.

If you haven't seen it: both hosts, Bill Duff and Jason Chambers, got to spar with two senior students of the Bujinkan. The sparring match consisted of a three round point match with mostly fukoro shinai (padded bamboo training swords), although other weapons and unarmed techniques were employed.

Bill Duff came out of his match against a 13th Dan Boojie the winner on points. Jason Chambers fought a 15th Dan Boojie and technically lost on points, but showed extremely well. Jason provided the most fodder for the Internet's Monday Morning Fighters when his opponent chose to throw away his weapons and close for grappling. Jason, apparently a BJJ Brown Belt, rather handily tripped his 15th Dan opponent, mounted his back, and instead of choking him out, chose to retrieve a shinai and "stab" the Boojie for a point.

The internet has been a flutter with comments. Everybody seems to think the challenge validates their own point of view. And on the Internet, Dueling Agendas are much like Nuclear War -- nobody really wins. After repeated viewings (including one simultaneous with writing this post), I have mixed reactions. Even after reading and meditating upon the (rather brave) explanation from Jason Chamber's opponent about his decision to grapple an MMA fighter, I still don't know what to think. I do think the episode was eye-opening for many Bujinkan practitioners.

I choose not to comment more directly on the episode. Some may consider this the coward's way out. Beyond saying that anyone can lose, no matter what offical rank certificate has been issued to them, I do not want to become a Bujinkan apologist in this instance. My long experience with Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu and first hand knowledge of people who have used their Bujinkan training in dangerous occupations (military and law enforcement) makes me confident that it is a martial art of value.

I prefer to answer the challenges and issues raised by this episode in my own training rather than empty words on the Internet. You'll see plenty of posts on my training in 2008. So if you want to know what I really thought of the Human Weapon: Ninjutsu episode, keep reading the blog...

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