Happy New Year Buyῡ
– welcome to the Year of the Pig!
The twelfth and final animal in
the Chinese zodiac is the Pig
(or Boar). Actually it is the year of the Earth Pig. The
Pig is not thought to be a smart animal in Asia. It likes
sleeping and eating and can become fat. Therefore it may
have a reputation for laziness and clumsiness. On the positive
side, it behaves itself, has no plan to harm others, and
can bring affluence. The Pig is a gourmet, faithful
in friendship, stylish, and can actually be a perfectionist
and hardworking. He is a tolerant being, recognized by his
friends for his kindness and generosity. The Pig is passionate,
caring and seductive. His big heart attracts faithful friends
as well as others who seek to enjoy his benevolence. However, he can also be irritable and resentful,
it is better not to be an enemy of the Pig!
Interesting! A being with two-sides
– in and yo. Some
good, some not so good. Like most of us, I suppose.
We'll revisit this in-yo dichotomy, below.
So what happened in 2018? Quite a bit, as usual!
In terms of international
travel, my first stop was Switzerland to see my friend
Phil Bradshaw and the Zurich
Buyῡ Dojo folks. We had
a great time and everyone is training very diligently.
Phil and Zurich Buyῡ Dojo
There's always a stop at Restaurant Zeughauskeller for bratwurst,
sauerkraut and beer. Here I am with my friend, Luke Walker
(his real name!).
Jack & Luke (Sky)Walker
I attended the German
BuyῡKai in July. It was at a new venue this year, Schloss
Buchenau. We celebrated the 35th anniversary of Steffen & Sabine Fröhlich's dojo. I have participated
in BuyῡKai a number of times. This is a GREAT event and
I encourage all my martial arts friends to attend. I think
there were buyῡ from over 17 countries there this
past year – with some top-notch coaching on everything from
the basics to pretty advanced stuff. Really, you MUST go.
The hostess and host - my good
friends Sabine & Steffen
Friends for more than 35 years
- Marco, Jack & Sveneric
We lost an international pioneer of the Bujinkan this
year, Bo Munthe.
Bo was a great friend and one of the very first to
introduce Ninjutsu to the outside world. Rest in peace,
We also had training seminars in NJ, of course. It's amazing
how many people from around the world find our little training
group in Spring Lake.
with the South and Central American contingents.
Sadly, we lost another great buyῡ
this year. Vaughn Troy Aiken passed after a long battle
With Vaughn and Victor. We'll miss you,
We had a couple of workshops in Florida. Ed and Claudia
Tampa Bay Buyῡ Dojo (Ed also trains the Orlando group)
sponsors these workshops.
With Ed, Claudia and special
friend Sheila Haddad and buyῡ
I traveled to Grand Rapids (there's still no rapids, by
the way). Had a great time training with some fine
Craig and the Grand Rapids training
Thanks, Craig Gray, for setting that up and buying the coffee.
I also got to train once again with my friend, Joe Lopez,
and the dedicated buyῡ
of Hawaii Bujinkan.
Jack and Kylan working on the
Joe and the boys of Hawaii Bujinkan
- Shaka no Kamae
While in Hawaii, I was asked to come out to Marine Corps
Base Kaneohe to do some MCMAP sustainment with the Marines
there. We had a great time. More about MCMAP, to follow.
A little training...
A little talking...
The Marine Ethical Warriors of
I am lucky to be spending more and more time in Hawaii,
and it so great to have friends and my Marine brothers and
sisters there to train with. Mahalo! See you in 2019!
We enjoyed another Buyῡ
Camp East in New Jersey. A new place the last couple
of years – much more room inside and outside. Definitely
an upgrade, although we'll miss our old spot, the site of
so many camps with folks like
Mark Hodel, Dick Severence
and Ed Martin. We'll never forget you guys!
Camps are a great way to connect with old friends
and get the "continuing education" and inspiration that
will help you "keep going" when you get back to your own,
local training group. Please keep an eye on our
seminar page for news
about Buyῡ Camp 2019.
I was able to visit Japan in 2018 to train with my teacher,
Soke Masaaki Hatsumi. We had plenty of training and a party.
It was Hatsumi Sensei's 87th birthday! He's still training
several days a week and painting for everyone. He's really
Good old Noda-Shi, home of Kikkoman
soy sauce. Many memories...
Senno Sensei giving a speech
at Soke's Birthday party.
Despite some health challenges, Senno Sensei still trains
My old sempai Kobayashi San.
Many bruises from him back in the day.
A gig in Shibuya - thanks, Doug
The owner of Rockin' Cafe
渋谷 GABIGABI sitting in on some Allman Brothers.
Here's a clip:
Old Shatterhand and Winnetou
My "Big Brother" Kan-San
With Jeff, Steve and Doug. Hanging
in Tokyo after sword gazing.
– Doug and I looking at his sword and gun
We lost yet another great friend of the Bujinkan, this past year:
Quest President, Yoji Kogure passed away suddenly in 2018.
gone too soon.
Sayonara, Kogure San. You were a great man, and you will live on through your many
With Hatsumi Sensei on his
Ja mata, Japan, I'm sure we'll
meet again soon!
There are many more pictures of my Bujinkan training
and travels on our Buyῡ Facebook page here.
here for upcoming
seminars in 2019, including Buyῡ Camp East in New Jersey
My book "The Ethical Warrior," is still doing
well. Click the cover if you want to read the book.
And, if you read the book and like it, please
consider leaving an Amazon review. Thanks!
You may know that Bruce Gourlie and I wrote a follow-up
book for protector professionals called "The Ethical
Protector." Check it out!
And don't forget the
re-release of the old videos I did back in the 90's
on Bujinkan basics. All 4 videos are now on one DVD.
I had a laugh looking back at some of the footage
– boy I'm getting
There is some pretty good stuff on there, especially
for people working on the basics. And you'll see some
of your favorite buyῡ on there lending a hand.
You can also stream it on
This past year I was again privileged to work with the
Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) in Quantico,
Virginia. This important program is led ably by my good
friend Joe Shusko (LtCol USMC ret.). It covers armed
and unarmed martial arts techniques, combat conditioning,
mental training and character development.
As an American
(or ally), I think you would be proud of these
young men and women. They are physically and mentally
tough, yet respectful and ethical. Many are veterans
of both Iraq and Afghanistan. For those of you who feel
called to warriorship, and are of age, consider joining
them. The Marines are always looking for a "few good
men." And women!
For several years
now I have been talking about
Resolution Group International.
As you may know, RGI is made up of military and law
enforcement professionals who teach conflict de-escalation
under stress. The RGI curriculum extrapolates on the
work I have done with Robert L. Humphrey and the Marines
in the areas of ethics, conflict communication, physical
protection skills and leadership. We had more RGI Conflict
Resolution Courses in 2018 for Police Officers and Park
Rangers in New Jersey.
The RGI Ethical Protector Course consists of more than
just sitting around looking at PowerPoint presentations.
We work on real protector skills, such as defensive
tactics and physical fitness. As we like to say
"you can't buy memories like these!"
Police officers practicing take downs - the RGI way.
RGI Combat Conditioning for protector professionals
RGI Instructor and MARSOC
Marine Alex Carney - The Protector Mindset
If you haven't already,
check out RGI instructor, Joe "Marine" Shusko's book,
"Tie-Ins For Life." Tie-ins are stories that teach values
and inspire moral behavior. The book contains many of
the values stories we tell at both MCMAP and RGI training.
I worked with our other two NJ RGI associates, Toms
River NJ Police Chief Mitch Little and Marine Corps
Special Operations (MARSOC) Officer, Alex Carney and
Stockton University to provide de-escalation as part
of the NJSACOP Leadership Program For Middle Management.
We did four of them in 2018.
NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal visited
one of our RGI Ethical
Protector Conflict Resolution Course at the Middlesex
County Police Training Center. He gave a short address
and thanked the officers for their good work. Motivating!
If you are interested in learning how to apply the Ethical
Protector training as a law enforcement or military
professional – or just want to explore the concept with
the top-notch RGI instructors in a hands-on setting
as a civilian warrior – check out RGI
Events. And there is more news and lots more pictures
on our RGI Facebook page
Another project that RGI has been involved in for the
last several years is with Lake Highland Preparatory
School in Orlando, FL. This school is the first school
in the country to adopt the RGI Ethical Protector concept
as part of their school culture. They have two Ethical
for the guys, and Dara for the gals. We have built a
mentor corps within the school by training society members
in leadership, ethics, fitness and protection skills.
This is done at our friend, retired Major General Tom
Outdoor Odyssey Academy in Boswell, PA, every June.
Participants include Blackwatch and Dara members, as
well as, a dedicated group of teachers who also undergo
the training. Outdoor Odyssey's motto is "Leadership
Through Adversity." Believe me, its challenging!
RGI De-Escalation Training
with the Blackwatch Ethical Protectors.
Talking leadership and ethics with Blackwatch.
Lake Highland Dara and Blackwatch after
the "Crucible" final event.
It all starts at Outdoor Odyssey, but the secret to
Lake Highland's success is sustainment. Dara and Blackwatch
meet frequently during the school year and members also
mentor the younger students into the Lake Highland Ethical
Protector culture. It's all about the students, and
their results are amazing. Disciplinary problems and
bullying are way down, academics and athletics are off
the charts! All American educational institutions should
take note. If Lake Highland can do it, why not other
I look forward to heading back to Outdoor Odyssey in June
to work with a new batch of Lake Highland Ethical Protectors!
Rogues on the Run
live at the Ragin' Cajun.
Mario, Jack, Phil, Vel, Ilya and Rob.
We did several gigs with the
great Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, including a sold out
show at the Falcon in New York!
Bernard "Pretty" Purdie with
Rogues on the Run at the Falcon.
My friend and guitar virtuoso,
Jeff McElrain, sat in with us.
Jeff, Bernard & Jack
at the Falcon.
If you have Facebook you should be able to see a
As you may know, Bernard asked me to produce his next
album! In fact, we are pretty much finished. I wrote
13 songs that cover a wide variety of the different
kinds of music Bernard has recorded over the years.
Some top-notch (and pretty famous) musicians
Mixing the Purdie album at
Lakehouse Studios in Asbury Park, NJ
Pretty happy to be involved!
want to say too much else, but things are going great.
The album is scheduled to be released in 2019, so stand
by! (I know I said last year it would be 2018, but,
that's show biz!).
And don't forget to pick up Bernard's biography. It's
a wonderful read!
You may know that one of my favorite guitarists is the
great Robben Ford. Robben is one of the premier electric
guitarists today, particularly known for his blues playing,
as well as his ability to be comfortable in a variety
of musical contexts. A five-time Grammy nominee, he
has played with artists as diverse as Joni Mitchell,
Jimmy Witherspoon, Miles Davis, George Harrison, Phil
Lesh, Bonnie Raitt, Michael McDonald, Bob Dylan, John
Mayall, Greg Allman, John Scofield, Susan Tedeschi,
Keb Mo, Larry Carlton, Mavis Staples, Brad Paisley,
and many others.
Well I got to play with him again in 2018.
Robben & Jack 2018
Guitarists: do you see what
I see? Robben's Dumble!
Rick Wheeler: guitarist,
producer and guitar tech for Robben and Larry Carlton.
Unfortunately, as fun as 2018 was, we seem to have lost
a lot of wonderful people. Among them was my friend
and mentor Mel Hood. Can't count
the times we spent singing, playing, talking and politicking
together. Irreplaceable man. God, we had fun. He was
such a wonderful singer, with phrasing up there with
the greatest of the greats. When he sang with us he
always wanted to to do 4 songs: Mustang Sally, Members
Only, Wonderful Tonight and (an original song) My Nights
Still Belong To You. Toward the end, Mel asked if he
could record My Nights. Saxophonist extraodinaire Tommy
Labella and I set up in my home studio to make Mel's
last recording. He was in a wheelchair and the Parkinson's
affected a few of the words. But I didn't fix them and
I wouldn't change a thing. This was Mel: beautiful tone
and world-class phrasing until the end. Sounds perfect
Goodbye, Mel. Our hearts still belong
Show them how it's done when you get up there.
One of my other crazy hobbies, as readers of
this yearly message may know, is bodysurfing. For decades, now in New Jersey, I have
swum with a cadre of "watermen" who meet early every
summer morning to work out, swim and body surf. And
guess what? I'm the youngest! The picture below was
taken on surfing
pioneer and legend Cecil Lear's
Robert, Jack, Cecil &
Between Cecil and Hatsumi Sensei, it's pretty hard to
think of myself as old. Oh, and here is a picture of
Ken Cassie, who's birthday was not long after Cecil's.
Ken's 83rd birthday breakfast.
The Jersey Shore Watermen:
Cecil, Ken, Robert, Raoul & Jack
Whew!! Another jam-packed year. So what is in store
When I was in Japan, I asked Sensei to paint me the
kanji 海龍 ("kai ryu" or "sea dragon").
He painted me this:
"kairyu" by Masaaki
Hatsumi from author's personal collection.
may wonder why I asked for kairyu. It actually
starts with my martial name "yama no tora," or mountain
tiger. Many years ago, Hatsumi Sensei
going through a stage where everything was tiger. I
guess we were all younger and stronger at that time,
so many of us received tiger-themed martial names. And
later there was the theme of "mountain." You may
recall that at one point he called himself Tetsuzan
or "Iron Mountain." So I got "mountain tiger."
In Japan, borrowed heavily from Chinese mythology, the
tiger is a fierce
and feared symbol, commonly associated with the concept
of the in of the in-yo dichotomy. The
tiger is portrayed as being the rival of the dragon. The dragon represents the other
side of that dichotomy, or "yo."
The dragon is a powerful and wise guardian
imparts wisdom and protects people from danger. Neither
of the two can dominate the other, so they remain an eternal
counter-balance to each other. So, we all may have a bit of
the tiger in us – I certainly feel that I do. And, I
guess, a little of the dragon. This year (my 63rd: 6+3=9, a good ninja year) I
felt that I should change my name to reflect my yo nature.
So, that is the dragon. And I live near, and am often
immersed in, the ocean. So, there you have it: Sea
Dragon. Incidently, there is also a Japanese
submarine class called Kairyu.
So on to 2019!
curious to see if this name change will subtly change
my approach to my martial arts practice and life.
I would like to be more wise, and I certainly resonate
with the role of protector. We'll see! By the way, at
about my same age, Soke changed his name to
白龍翁 (byakuryu-oh or venerable white dragon).
The new name was inspired in part by a change I feel
coming on in my approach to the training. I have studied
and practiced martial arts for more than 45 years, now,
and I have come to the realization that I did it mostly
from the perspective of the tiger. I am a Marine.
I train Marines. I train police officers in some
of the most dangerous cities in America. My focus
always been utility. Would this stuff really work? Once I was convinced
that it did, I was interested in how to make it work
in real situations for people who would need it, but
didn't have years to spend learning it. Training in
the dojo was more like a luxury for me and my friends. And the Japanese
culturals aspects and my many trips to Japan were, well,
Without, I hope, sounding disrespectful, I must say
I was never really that interested in the cultural aspects
of our art per se. Of course, there is no way
to study Japanese budō without having a deep connection
to Japan. And I do, in many ways. But, my cultural awareness,
I have to admit, has been employed mostly to peal away
the relative values surrounding our art to get at the
fundamental essence of warriorship. I guess I took to
heart some of Hatumi Sensei's earliest admonitions,
such as: "I am not Japanese" and "I am UFO." What those
meant to me was that, although Hatsumi as a man was
Japanese (as I am American and practitioners now come
from virtually every nation on earth), the essence of
budō was deeper than any
one culture – fundamentally and elementally more human.
I smile when I recall the early days of training.
In the 1980's there was an international Ninja Boom,
and people came from everywhere to see ninjutsu for
the first time. We got some pretty weird visitors with
some pretty wacky questions. One time, I remember, a
sincere young man who had studied Kung Fu, maybe in
China, asked Sensei: "What do you think about animal
syle martial arts, like Monkey style, Crane style or
Tiger style?" Hatsumi Sensei, without missing a beat,
answered: "Ninjutsu is Human style."
Human style. I think there is a lesson in there for
everyone. Consider how easily our relative cultural
and political difference keep us from respecting each
other’s human equality – especially outside the dojo.
Only with a superceding respect for each others'
human-ness, can empathy, mutual understanding,
and collaborative problem-solving begin. Granted, it
isn’t easy. Yet, if our species is to survive as we
know it, we must stop demonizing and de-humanizing
each other over differences in our relative values.
We have no other choice.
Another reason I feel that my approach may evolve, is,
frankly, I'm following my teacher. He has said a few
things lately, that taken out of context, might sound
odd. They may even
seem wimpy or like a cop-out. But I think they are
worth deep reflection.
He has said many times recently in the training that
he was exaggerating certain aspects of the techniques.
That he was doing them in greater detail and much slower
than would be realistic. That he was working on the
finer aspects for fun and as a part of the artistry
of martial arts. After
all, he is 87 years old. Certainly one wouldn't expect
him to be training no-holds barred at full speed. But,
I think there is something deeper here than Bujinkan
becoming an "old man's art."
he would say, "you could hold this person with one finger."
And he would. But I don't think holding people with
one finger is the point. The point may be that, with
practice and refinement, we can find the most
important and critical point in a situation. And
control it without force. Hmmmm. Let's think about
that. This may not only apply to martial arts. What
do you think?
Last year I said: "But for the budōka, I believe, the
'real' life begins when you have already been taught
'everything,' and start to really practice. Everyday,
the same basic things. Over and over. Until you understand
them with that '86 year old mind' in
'whatever age-old body.'"
I have evolved my thinking on that. It's not
the same old things. It's smaller, more refined things.
Certainly we have to keep our basics sharp and we must
stay physically fit. But Sensei is saying that we can
do all that, or we must do all that, but still
pursue the art of martial arts.
So the tiger – the strong and fierce part of us, meets
the dragon – the ephemeral and benevolent part of us. This theme has been discussed many times over the years, but
now I feel it is filled with new meaning.
So, we continue to grow. Even when we are 87. As true martial artists. Our vehicle for that, as Sensei has said over and over,
is the study of
(無刀捕)." Literally, Mutō Dori
means "defense against a sword," but
our study has shown that this concept is much deeper.
We are controlling, not the weapon, but the
with, I think, space and our opponent's own balance – and
with our own courage and emotional detachment from the end
Of course, these are my personal thoughts. But, I think,
that is the beauty of the Bujinkan and Hatsumi Sensei's
way of sharing it. He says quite often, "I am not teaching
this. It can't be taught." But it can be experienced.
And from that experience we can guide ourselves forward
on the warrior path. For each of us, the path is a little
different. Maybe a lot different in some cases. But we all have
the option of staying together, respecting each other.
As we do every year in Japan.
"Isshou Ni," all
So, in 2019 let's re-commit ourselves to being the tiger
and the dragon, the warrior and the artist. And express
the essence of our humanity. Together.