April 21, 2019

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The Ninja Art of Invisibility -

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Throwing Stars -

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Everything is a Weapon- Part One of Three -

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Vanishing into Mist -

Friday, May 11, 2018

Escaping a Sealed Choke -

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Ninja Invisibility -

Monday, April 9, 2018

Ninja Media

Interview with Ninja Author Michel Farivar, Part 1 of 3

 

ninja technique

Grandmaster Law Shows Dr. Farivar a Deadly Edge

Dr. Michael Farivar is a local Cleveland practitioner of ninjitsu trained by Grandmaster Robert Law. He also holds a medical degree in psychiatry and has been featured in martial arts documentaries as well as holding annual seminars in Ontario, Canada and Virginia, USA. I recently had the chance to interview him regarding his perspective on the Ninja art, how it’s currently presented to the public, and ask him how he hopes the art can evolve. ∼ Staff Writer Cyril Jackson   Ninja author Michel Farivar, MD

Q: What does ninjutsu mean to you?  

A: That’s too broad a question, but in general I find it’s a way of thinking, planning, feeling, moving, and doing things.  Once you have trained in it long enough I think you will find that it affects all aspects of your life, from small and seemingly insignificant activities to those moments when important and potentially life changing decisions have to be made. The depth of our training is expressed in our actions, influences, or thoughts, helps us understand our emotions to the point of being able to decipher our aspirations, and guides our decisions in a way that reflects our values and ethics. It’s strange to me to think that a system that emphasizes martial arts so much could do all that. But if you think about what martial arts are for, they wouldn’t be much good if they didn’t explore all that. All these aspects of training are tools for our personal transformation to be who we aspire to be. If you learn this, then martial arts will have meaning for you, as it does for me.

Q: What is, in your opinion, the current state of ninjutsu? Either in general or as a practiced art used in modern society?

A: Ninjutsu, as it is practiced now, seems to have two main approaches: One is to preserve a historic martial arts system, which includes ancient methods of espionage, combat, and strategy. Practitioners who emphasize this use weapons that we are likely never to use ever again in a substantial way. Much of this material can be adapted, perhaps in a limited way, to modern combative applications, but this would seem a very indirect way and impractical way of doing things if the goal is to have a relevant modern combat system. The other types of practitioners are more interested in studying the underlying principals of the art, which are universal and can be directly applied to practical self-defense methods. Both require a lot of study and lead to distinctive outcomes. A lot of modern ninjutsu seems to have more emphasis on the historical art rather than the practical applications.  You see a lot of training with swords, naginata, long staffs, and Shuriken/Shaken, very little of this material will be useful in modern combat, and most of these weapons are medieval tools for killing that you cannot carry with you. There are practical applications within these arts, but again, it is an indirect path to accessing this knowledge. I personally like these arts and I do feel it is important to preserve martial heritage, but it is not necessarily what your students or clients are seeking. I think that ninjutsu would be more appealing to most if it emphasized a more modern perspective while paying respects to its past.  

Q: Do you feel, with the experience that you have, any responsibility to improve upon how ninjutsu is perceived?  

A: Certainly we can talk about perspectives, especially given how little the general public really knows about the art. I think the only influence any martial practitioner has can only be measured by the quality of the work they leave behind. Therefore, if I teach and nurture students who are capable and if I prepare information  that is useful to others, than I may be able to influence the art in the direction that I think it should go.   Martial arts are so diverse now that it’s hard to predict how they will evolve. But if there is anything that I would like to see change in martial arts in general and specifically ninjutsu, it’s the image of martial artists as being egotistical, loving violence, self-serving, claiming champion status, and acting narcissistic and unintelligent. Few like to admit it, but martial artists are frequently bigoted about whose art is best and feel disdain and jealousy for others. All this personal focus we can see with cults of personality and larger than life figures that draw us away from the most important concern, which is why we train in martial arts, and how can we use our knowledge to make life better for everyone, rather than just ourselves. I’m hinting at broader philosophical ideas here that, as martial arts practitioners, we have both an opportunity and a commitment to explore.  

Q: What is your vision for the future of the art?  

A: My dream or vision of how I would like to see the art pursued is to develop it into something that is both practical and useful to all members of the general public. That means women, children, the elderly, and the disabled. To make life safer and happier for them and perhaps that they don’t have to live with so much fear and vulnerability. That people will be healthier and use the knowledge to better relationships with others. Applications and usage in both law enforcement and military, while more specialized, are not out of bounds for ninjutsu strategy, thinking, and methods and as important as those professions are, I think, many civilians would benefit a lot from the knowledge in ninjutsu.  

Q: Ok!  You mentioned the media… Do you feel the media does a good job of portraying ninjutsu?  

A: I think the media does a good job of portraying the legend of Ninja, but not ninjutsu itself. Like Grandmaster says: the Ninja is a man, ninjutsu is the art. I don’t think the Ninja art is appropriately or accurately depicted. Too often it’s portrayed in a manner similar to the way pirates, knights, and other cultural memes are exploited…  Along those lines. The people who practice ninjutsu now are still routinely considered somewhat “fringe-y” in martial arts society, and also by the general public. Many in the martial arts realm who sees others claiming a ninjutsu heritage or lineage are looked at with suspicion of illegitimacy. Arguments about legitimacy are often a dead end street, that again, detract from consideration about whether a martial art, no matter what it’s origins, is relevant. I think the media has not done a good job showing the practical or real side on ninjutsu. You don’t usually see a great human story where martial arts bettered life for others. That is a much more complex message to get across than to watch “clash of the egos” on a screen with lots of fighting. Jet Li’s movie Fearless is a good martial arts movie with a great message. We need a ninja movie of that caliber.  

Q: How would you like to see the media depict ninjutsu?

A: If it’s going to be a historical portrayal, I would love to see realistic portrayals of ninjutsu strategy in action. If it’s a contemporary story then lets see it used in meaningful everyday situations. Even with all the lousy stuff out there, I think it’s possible.  Typically, the way most martial arts styles are portrayed, the aim is to demonstrate the technique and entertain rather than show a practical use. The attacks and stunt work or demonstrations are not necessarily what anyone would encounter on the street, so I’d look forward to anyone putting out something that changes the old formula a bit. It’s probably really challenging to do it given the love the public has for campy martial arts flicks. To a certain extent, it’s also true for many books and DVDs, Even very accomplished martial artists don’t shine all that well in training videos, and the greater applications and messages they have for us don’t really come across in much of the material out there. I don’t blame them for that, it’s really not easy to accomplish.  

Q: On the subjects of students:  The students are the future of martial arts…  Do you feel there is a particular type of student that is harder to instruct or is there anything that can affect the learning process?  

A: There are many things that can affect the learning process: The most significant ones are psychological maturity…  Narcissism… sometimes lack of intelligence…  Those are some obstacles to learning ninjutsu.  When I state intelligence, I don’t necessarily mean IQ… I more mean the ability to develop insight and apply what is taught in a meaningful way. There are many different types of intelligence and not everyone is going to be able to learn ninjutsu. The biggest obstacle is regular life and it’s distractions and complexities. Many people lack the depth of interest and passion to get through the rigors of training to reach the goal of competence in the art. People seem more attracted to the paraphernalia of martial arts, uniforms, weapons, patches, belts, a bad ass image… To me these are real obstacles to learning. Like my teacher Grandmaster Law says, I want students to stop “living in dreamland” with silly Ninja fantasies fed by media imagery, and try to see this as it really is. Not so glamorous, but so much more subtle and satisfying like the complex taste of coffee or wine. I find that students who are living in fantasy and deluding themselves that they are powerful worry me. They can do well with proper guidance, but they are harder to teach. One other category involves those with fragile self-esteem. They need a lot of guidance, but martial arts are often really good for people with this challenge; they also can do well if taught properly.

Q: Do you feel someone with martial arts knowledge has a responsibility to teach?  There are many teachers who hold back specific techniques or methods.  

A: Well, it certainly is their choice on what any teacher wants to teach.  There is no obligation to pass on everything they know.  That said, their teaching will have a strong influence of the outcome, such as the skillset the students will have. Not everyone should teach, some masters are very accomplished but may not be good at teaching. The one who teaches isn’t always the most highly skilled, but must still meet a high standard. It also depends on what the student picks up from the instructor.  If the students aren’t capable of accurately learning what is taught or if the teacher isn’t demonstrating techniques that his students can understand, you wind up with an unsustainable art. The blend of the right students and teachers is really important. They don’t have to see eye to eye on everything, they don’t have to have similar personalities, they can be very different. Some techniques are actually very dangerous and should only be taught to those who will not misuse them.

Q: Would you be willing to discuss the perspectives your medical training brings to the Ninja arts?  

A: No.  Not at this time.

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