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Ninja Media

The Modern Ninja Defense



Review of “The Ninja Defense, A Modern Master’s Approach to Universal Dangers”
© Stephen Hayes, 2012

An-shu Stephen Hayes’s book The Ninja Defense, A Modern Master’s Approach to Universal Dangers is a well written book that discusses the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of ninjutsu as he teaches it through his art dubbed To Shin Do as well as demonstration on how to perform several self defense techniques to assist in preserving one’s well being. An-Shu Hayes makes the distinction that while his art To Shin Do incorporates some of the classical ninja arts, he in turn calls it a “more modern adaptation he has developed”.

The book caters mostly to readers with little to no knowledge of martial arts or beginners looking to find a particular ar to practice that is both effective and self rewarding. In An-Shu Hayes’s words in his introduction, “To Shin Do training is built around a very modern approach to handling successfully the kind of threats and confrontations most likely in our own contemporary culture, and for seeking answers to the deepest questions of life”.

While this statement can be interpreted as either bold or short winded, nevertheless, I think many people will learn some valuable information from this 193-page e-book.

About the book author: An-shu Stephen K. Hayes (born September 9, 1949) is an American Bujinkan ninjutsu master, Buddhist priest, and writer. He is known as the father of American Bujinkan and considered to be one of the ten most influential martial artists in history. His website is www.ninjaselfdefense.com. Even a brief visit there will confirm that this An-Shu Hayes is not only a great martial artist, but a brilliant organization builder.

I start this review by discussing several topics discussed in the book that different people may find certain parts to be informative. The introduction gives thorough definitions of Japanese vocabulary as well as An-Shu Hayes’s own perspective and philosophy on these terms. This is valuable to new or younger readers unfamiliar with terms such as the Japanese word taijutsu (the art or science of using the body in combat) and defining terms such as on page 20 where he defines Abundance, Authenticity, Association, Accomplishment, and Actualization to help the reader understand the sort of values his practice represents.

A very important but complex topic discussed in the first four chapters is how and why having mental preparedness and recognizing particular situations to act effectively in resolving conflict can help prevent escalating these situations into violence. He uses his own experiences of dealing with adversity to validate his motivations on wanting to learn martial arts. He stresses that striving to first be a “protector as opposed to predator” is what continues to drive him to refine his martial art and teach it to others. He continues further by analyzing the importance of preparation: gathering information, defining if a situation requires your direct involvement and “fight or flight” responses, in addition to whether actual retaliation is necessary.

An-Shu Hayes then describes his definitions for self defense, fighting skills, martial arts, and how they are separate from one other, though related. There is also an emphasis on key considerations such ashow one’s outward expression and appearance can help in determining actions. To round out An-Shu Hayes’s explanation of mental preparedness, he further discusses recognizing and predicting escalation, where one should consider many steps and consequences before actually resorting to physical confrontation.

This discussion on mental preparedness can be compared with what Jonathan Bluestein in his book Research of Martial Arts lays out in his discussion of “internal and external martial arts”. Internal martial arts defined as the wisdom, intelligence, and active mind to know when, why, and how to act in situations while the external martial arts are the interpretation and demonstration of martial arts techniques. An-shu Hayes bridges the internal discussion to external in Chapter 5 by giving a practical and physical example of preparedness by showing defensive postures, calling it the “4 Progressing Stages of Preparation”. Knowledge of these stages and using them effectively can not only help engage one for physical confrontation, but also be used cleverly to deceive an attacker or altogether avoid the conflict. Chapter 6 continues this by discussing the “Five Phases of a Fight”, also known as the 5D’s: Discern, Defend, Disrupt, Deliver and Discern again.

Chapters 7 through 10 may be perhaps what the beginning practitioners of martial arts would be most interested in: demonstrations and explanations of To Shin Do techniques to subdue an aggressor as well as counter techniques used to defense against the very techniques initially shown. It is in these chapters I feel, as with any written word martial arts technique publication, that this form of presentation can have mixed results. The effectiveness of the explained techniques depend upon how the techniques themselves are photographed step by step, explained articulately enough for easy comprehension, and how the reader interprets and performs these moves. My opinion on this varies for each technique shown. Most valuable, of course, would be to see An-Shu Hayes perform them in person at his Dayton, OH headquarters.

First shown in Chapter 7 are direct strikes with hands and legs (punches and kicks) as well as their defense. While form and balance may be practiced alone, they are difficult to assess and refine without a prepared volunteer to receive the strikes. The photographs are a bit difficult to confirm what is going on and worded explanation of steps can be awkward to mentally picture if simply reading from the page and not performed directly. The close quarter techniques, ones done with as little distance from torso to torso of aggressor/defender as possible, appear largely more effective than ones where photographed practitioners have up to 1 foot of distance or more from an opponent before even making an initial attack or counter striking.

Next in Chapter 8, grabs and captures are taught on how to trap or immobilizing your target limbs. In this chapter, the photos are a bit better paneled and easier to understand, and appear far more effective than last chapter. The use of the “arm bar” is done very well here in my opinion. There are also steps to the techniques which say to “breathe powerfully” and “build and release energy”. I can understand the purpose of trying to convey the message to the reader to put forth great effort, but perhaps An-shu Hayes could have chosen a different way to phrase this to clarify what he means for the student. Also, shouting “Stop it!” as the book says could be a double edged sword: while if can be a split second distraction to your opponent and alert others who might help, it might also alert additional adversaries.

Tackle and choke defense are shown in Chapter 9. Again, I feel some techniques are photographed, demonstrated, and explained very well (tackle defense), while others like the choke and lapel grabs and defenses could profit from more detail.

Chapter 10 is probably the most disappointing in my opinion showing grabs from behind. In particular, nearly all of the photo demonstrations show the practitioners in awkward poses to demonstrate the collar grab defense. Many of them are in a squatted “horse stance” executing all moves in addition to, again, too much distance between the aggressor and defender, which may make any technique performed less effective.

An-shu Hayes’s final chapter, “Why the Ninja Approach is Better than the Samurai” is a return to the more philosophical discussions of ninjutsu with more factual and historical references. In addition, Hayes notes suggested considerations on approaching the modern world with a ninja’s mentality. Particularly interesting is examples of consequences of actions (possible retaliation from past foes) and using ones intelligence for deception, citing children’s fables. He also gives a realistic and comprehensive perspective on how to carry one’s self in theoretical business and personal dealings as well as contests or competitions.

Summary: An-shu Stephen Hayes has written a fine book which I feel is best marketed to newcomers to the martial arts world or even people unfamiliar with the purpose or necessity of self defense. These people should be able to find the most value in the book, although different readers may only find value in specific parts of the book. I am sure that in the future I will come back to this book and reread certain sections, and will gain a deeper understanding of that particular subject.

The contribution regarding the philosophy of martial art and what To Shin Do represents teaching which I feel has great value. The first six chapters as well as the last chapter were of particular interest to me as my own passion as an instructor and practitioner of martial arts always asks the questions on how to explain the mental aspects. Hayes and his editors I feel have done this very effectively, using relative and easy to understand terms with realistic but hypothetical situations to increase the readers understanding of these terms for practical use and further reflection.

While the book does warn its readers to be cautions and to use common sense in situations of heightened tension I would like to see the author go even further. An-shu Hayes could also document the injuries, accidents, and shortcomings he had to experience to become what he represents today and to make the techniques he teaches effective. And since he has lived his ninja arts for decades, this knowledge would give the reader a better idea of how demanding an art he teaches.

Like any martial art, one cannot become an instant master from simply reading and doing the book’s techniques. But I believe that paying attention to the chapters on mental preparedness will go a long way toward protecting the student from potential injuries.

Cyril Jackson, Staff Writer

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