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Dispelling the Myth of the Ninja

Dispelling the Myth of the Ninja

Straight Talk on Finger EntwiningWho has ever sat down to watch one of the many 'Ninja Martial Artist Movies' only to find at some timeduring the ever-present training/tests that the hero gets to sit down and twist his fingers into all sorts of knots, the reason for which we have never really been told?

In Japan, Masaaki Hatsumi has been shown in photographs and reports in magazines to use this finger-weaving to open classes, also the other noble art of Katori Shinto Ryu, an art of great antiquity and Budo, uses the finger-weaving exercises to open the way to esoteric studies.

On top of this, such former Togakure Ryu Ninpo luminaries asStephen K Hayes and his students are shown in magazines andon the covers of books to be using this 'finger-weaving' ritual, not so much for its 'effectiveness' but to sell theirstory and book to the ever-hungry mystically inclined public,and it worked!

So have you ever wondered what all this 'weird' finger-weavingcrapolla that you've seen is really about? Why is it used at all? Where did it come from? Why even waste paper writing about it?Well, to answer the last question first, there are still many individuals who have got caught into the psychological net of thinking that this stuff will work for you, the Westerner who has been brought up on apple pie and Christian or Anti-Christianethics - depending upon your household, and experience.

The Kuji (Finger-Weaving) of the Ninja, is for fully-fledged Buddhists. I say this, because the symbolism and 'heroes' referred to in the proper Kuji finger-weaving ritual are all obscure Buddhist figures. Obscure to us, but not in Japanese religious lore.

The reason why the exercise is used at times in Japanese MartialArts, and in religious orders of the Shingon Buddhist, is that the Japanese people have been brought up from childhood with this lore all around them, just as the westerner in today's society is brought up with the Christian lore around him - inwhatever context.

If you are a Shingon Buddhist, with a complete understanding ofwhat it is that you are doing in the ritual, and most importantly,if the words and actions hit you through uncontrollable, oruncontrolled feeling and not just created or controlled/simulatedfeelings from the head down, that is to say, spontaneously, with feeling, then you are not doing the Kuji / Mikkyo Finger Weaving ritual, you are just deluding yourself with it.

How horrible, to find yourself using an exercise designed to awaken you from delusion, to delude yourself - what an internal conflict that must create.

The particular Kuji referred to here is that of Rin-Byo-Toh-Sha-Kai-Jin-Rets'-Zai-Zen. Indeed this 'spell' is called Kuji - that is its title. Its role is that of dispelling evil and negative influences, or to promote the positive feelingin an area. So what is the Western equivalent, it is the cross.

Although there are nine different physical 'entwinings', eachwith its own Mantra or verbal chant, the whole ritual in actuality deals with spiritual 'powers' governing each of the four directionsaround the centre, and the central form itself. Each of the cardinaldirections is given two guardians, and the centre is held by Fudo Myo-oh, or the Immoveable Power that is not moved by fear or desire.

So that in the end, it is the sign of the cross that is formed, with the God-like psychological position being taken that is unmoved by anything temporal, death or otherwise.

So, if your training teaches you to have very little or even nofear, regardless of how quick that sword is, regardless of how close that bo-staff swings when you are trying to protect yourself whilst unarmed against it, then you are studying thisKuji ritual - because you are learning to overcome fear, justas the ritual teaches you. The ritual is used to remind you of what your training is trying to develop, a warrior's fearlessness.

In origin, the Kuji isn't even Buddhist, it was adopted by the Buddhist tradition from the Taoist faith, and so severalof the symbols given in such descriptions as Stephen K Hayes are references to the much older Taoist tradition, with the latest Buddhist Hero-Divine Energy underlying it.

Described in Western terms, the Kuji forms can take on the following meaning to the Western observer's mind - this is presented here so that if the reader ever comes across this 'stuff' in the years to come, you will have some sort of positive view to it, and if the -performance observed is doneby a westerner, then you will perhaps have the smug satisfaction that you know more about it than the fellow goingthrough the ritual.

The first, Rin, is a symbol of the Geni bottle, similar to thelamp that Aladdin finds. The second, Byo, can be thought of by the Westerner as a gold ring, or wedding band in meaning. The third, Toh, can be thought of as a Medieval Knight's lanceused in battle, and the fourth sign, Sha, should be thought ofas his shield. The fifth sign is the central form, Kai, it canbe thought of as a diamond, perhaps uncut and polished, but a diamond nevertheless. The sixth sign, Jin, can be thought to try and express the 'flaming sword that turns in all directions', which is placed before the tree of life in a well-known book in Western culture. The seventh sign is that of Rets, which can be symbolised by the sword. The last two, Zai and Zen, can be thought of as the Sun and the Moon respectively.

Now, some of those 'symbols' may have caused a wry smile, araising of the eyebrows, or even the thought that 'this issh@!', and disgust; well, it was supposed to.

Any spontaneous feeling that you had, and I don't care what it was, because it's your beliefs and feelings that caused it, not mine, are examples of Kuji at work, where it has tapped into that part of your personality that you have nofull control over, which is normally wonder and disgust intoday's world.

The full Buddhist meditative forms used in this ritual will not be expounded here, nor will the many syllables of the Mantra that go with the exercise, nor the full psychological implications of this ritual on the user. Why? Because the roleof this article is to address just one small misconception about Ninjutsu that was started by 'ninja-salesmen' about twelve years ago.

This ritual is not included in the cited martial arts curriculumin the West, and if it is, then it is normally just a one-offthing to prepare the students for true Japanese expression of the ritual, and to deal with and recognise Western instructors who don't know what its all about.

The time spent doing this ritual in the Western Dojo could bespent dealing with the fear of weapons, and injury in actual blood, and sweat training. In the end the inner result offearlessness is the same, one-way may take you years, the otherway may also take you years, but you'll be really, really goodin your taijutsu (body movement) as well.

To produce the full facts of this ritual would only cause someindividuals to integrate it into their existing 'false ritual system' and 'expertise', if you want to test that expertise,then just ask them where Fudo Myo-Oh stands in the nine kuji,and hope that they haven't read this article.

Ninjutsu is true Budo, your task is to train in its physicalforms and recognise that the established esoteric rituals are the wrapping around the gift and not the gift itself.

For those who just train and don't worry about such things, who concentrate on getting the physical / psychological messageof the training and push themselves to the limit to achieve excellence, I offer my congratulations and support; true Budo is in the heart, so get that muscle pumping.

By Bruce M. Gyde