Happy New Year Buyῡ – welcome to the Year of the Ox!
I think we can agree that 2020, the Year of
the Metal Rat, was chaotic with many unexpected twists and
turns. Once every sixty years the same year comes around,
and they tend to have similar themes. Metal Rat years have
never been easy, and they often brought great upheaval and
change. The Ox follows the Rat in the Chinese Zodiac
making 2021 the Year of the Metal Ox. Does that mean we
will be experiencing more shock, chaos, and sudden change
as we have in the Rat year?
The Metal Ox year will present its own challenges and just
like the Ox itself, it will be a year of hard work,
determination and building – or rather, rebuilding things
to make way for something better. This year is going to be
a perfect year to focus on relationships, whether we are
talking about friendships or love. 2021 is going to be a
year when hard work will get rewarded, but it may be
necessary to double our efforts to accomplish our goals.
It is said that it could be a favorable year for economic
recovery and for long-term investments. The Metal Ox year
is also a great year for love and making order in the
family. After all, if the family life is peaceful,
everything gets solved! Thus, 2021 is a year when all the
problems get solved with discipline. A lot of discipline!
So, are we ready? Yes? Let's go!
But first, I need to warn you, the message this year will
be a little different than other years. Most years I
travel a lot and get to do some interesting things. Not so
much of that in 2020. Like most of us, I spent most of the
year at home. I read a lot and worked out a lot. I swam a
lot in the ocean. If you didn't know, I practice yoga
daily, and highly recommend you look into it as a part of
your junan taiso training. Finding the right teacher is
key – so do your research!
So, 2020 was mostly a year of musha shugyo – solo
training. There was no Buyῡ Camp for the first time in
forever and I missed the BuyῡKai in Germany. No trips to
Japan, Europe, South or Central America, Florida,
California, Michigan, or any of the usual places.
We had a couple of training seminars in NJ, although we
had to limit the number of participants and practice
social distancing. We worked a lot on bojutsu and mutou
The 2020 Ninja mask
Josh and Bobby social
distancing with a couple of bokken
Wesley Hall – home of our Buyῡ Dojo
Hopefully, things will open up in 2021. You can see the
proposed 2021 schedule here.
And we had some sad news. We lost Mariko Hatsumi, Hatsumi
Sensei's wife. We all know the integral part she played in
our Bujinkan Dojo. Farewell, Mariko Sensei!
Mariko Sensei with Soke
And we lost another great man of the Bujinkan this past
year, as well. Murray Taylor passed away after fighting
off a couple of bouts of cancer. Murray epitomized the
essence of buyῡ – comrade in arms. Another irreplaceable
man has left us.
Murray – gone too soon.
Before the pandemic hit full force, I did get one trip in.
I was able to get to Hawai'i where I enjoyed training
again with my friend, Joe Lopez, and the dedicated buyῡ of
Joe and the boys of Hawai'i
Bujinkan – Shaka no Kamae
Mahalo, Joe. Hope to see
I also competed in the Waikiki Biathlon again. Much
better weather this year!
Check out the "Dad Bod," ha ha ha. It's gone now, don't
Brother Joe Marine Shusko
joined me for the run. Got to get him in the water one
of these years!
With Joe "Marine" Shusko at
the Waikiki Biathlon
I was invited by the
nationally-recognized and wonderful law enforcement
instructor, Ron Scheidt, to help teach some of our RGI
de-escalation techniques to Honolulu Parole officers.
I learned a lot. Thanks, Ron!
With Ron Scheidt in Honolulu
While in Hawai'i, I was
again asked to come out to Marine Corps Base Kaneohe
to do some MCMAP sustainment with a couple of the
Marines there. We had a great time. More about MCMAP,
Wrestling around with
20-year-old Marines - I'm too old for this!
Marine Ethical Warriors of Kaneohe – 2020
Got to hang out and go
bodysurfing again this year with my friend, Mark
Cunningham. Mark is a legend in Hawai'i as a lifeguard
and waterman. He is also a world champion bodysurfer
and a wonderful artist.
With Mark Cunningham at Makapu'u
I am lucky to be
spending more and more time in Hawai'i, and it so
great to have friends and my Marine brothers and
sisters there to train with. Mahalo! See you in 2021 –
Speaking of watermen, I
would be remiss if I didn't talk about some legendary
New Jersey watermen. I swim with these guys every day
all summer: Cecil Lear (90), Ken Cassie (84), Raoul
Cordeau (74), and the two babies, me and Cecil's
With Cecil, Ken, Raoul, and Michael
With the "boys" on Cecil's
They call Cecil "The
Legend," because he is famous for pioneering surfing
on the East Coast. We made a Waterman T-Shirt as a
Ken sporting the Cecil Lear
"The Legend" T-shirt.
As mentioned previously,
I've also taken up long-distance ocean swims. Here is
Alex and me at the 2020 Spring Lake 1-mile swim.
(So, guess who beat who? Again!
With Alex, Spring Lake 1 mile
ocean race 2020
In Japan last year we
shot a lot of footage for a documentary on Hatsumi
Sensei and the Bujinkan. Despite the cold, rain and
snow, we had fun time tracing Togakure ryu ninjutsu
back to its roots with a pilgrimage to Togakushi
mountain – birthplace of the Iga Ninja. You can see
those pictures in last year's message.
Our producer Ken Lux and
his director, Kim Furst have been working on it in
"The Last Grandmaster" Video
The documentary is
entitled "The Last Grandmaster," and is almost ready.
We hope to release it in 2021. Stand by!
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.
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 old!
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 Amazon.com.
This past year I was
again privileged to work with the Marine Corps Martial
Arts Program (MCMAP) in Quantico, Virginia, just not
as often as previous years due to the pandemic.
This important program
covers armed and unarmed martial arts techniques,
combat conditioning, mental training and character
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."
The warriors I am
privileged to train with are quite physical but are
also focused on how to maintain their ethics and a
"protector mindset" under the adversity of war.
Giving a "Tie-In" during
the Battle Course
The Ethical Marine Warriors
of MAIT 1-2020
And I couldn't resist sharing this:
"Training" Hahaha! – USMC photo courtesy of Combat
And check out this
video on our Marine Ethical Warriors if you
As you may know, I
have a training company called Resolution Group International.
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 2020 for
Police Officers and Park Rangers in New Jersey. Most
of which, however, were on Zoom. Adapt and overcome!
I worked with three other NJ RGI associates, Toms
River NJ Police Chief Mitch Little, Pine Hill Police
Chief Chris Winters, and Marine Corps Special
Operations (MARSOC) Officer Alex Carney, along with
the Rodgers Group and Stockton University to provide
de-escalation as part of the NJSACOP Leadership
Program For Middle Management. We did three more of
them in 2020. And we have big plans to expand the
Ethical Protector professional development program
in 2021 – so stay tuned!
One interesting program we ran was a special
de-escalation course that paired police officers
with mental health workers to deal ethically and
tactically with emotionally disturbed individuals.
Dealing with the emotionally disturbed, particularly
in situations that can turn violent, is a national
challenge. This new approach has a lot of promise.
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.
And, 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
Rogues on the Run - Mario,
Jack, Phil, Ilya, Vel and Rob.
In fact we only did one
live gig. Here's us at UVA's in Bradley Beach. That
night we had Rockin' Randy Ledet on keyboards and
Bernard Purdie on Drums. More about Purdie in a bit.
Rogues live at Uva's
With Bernard "Pretty" Purdie
I spent most of the Covid
Summer writing and recording songs for my new solo
album, tentatively titled "Blue Beach."
Some of the songs are
pretty sad, I have to admit, but some of the best
songs are. There are also a couple of fun, beachy
dance songs. I promise to have it out in 2021, so get
ready to dance – and drown your sorrows.
So, back to Purdie.
You may know, a few years ago legendary drummer,
Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, asked me to produce his
next album. We are pretty much finished. I wrote
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
Bernard has a new manager, and we are negotiating
with record companies. Cross your fingers that the
record will be out in 2021! (I know, I keep saying
that. Hahaha. Show biz, ugh!).
And don't forget to pick up Bernard's biography.
It's a wonderful read!
Another year come and gone. So, what does 2021 look
like for us?
At this, the very
beginning of the new year, I remind myself that it
will be the year of the metal Ox. And if there is
any truth to the Chinese Zodiac, it will be a year
requiring great discipline. I think an important
discipline will be the discipline of patience.
Do you recall the five admonitions for students
written by Shinryuken Masamitsu Toda, the 32nd
Grandmaster of Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu?
The 5 admonitions for
students - Shinryuken Masamitsu Toda (1818-1909)
The very first is:
Know the wisdom of being patient (literally, the
characters are: Nintai meaning patience, Mash
meaning to begin with or first of all, Ippuku
meaning a little break for drinking tea. To
is like. Shire is know. So, it may
mean, "learn that patience is like taking a little
break for a cup of tea."). I think of it as: "be
patient when there's nothing you can do about what
is happening." Of course, that is my interpretation.
I believe we are now
in a time of great social upheaveal. Whether it is
the virus or intrusive technology or even a sea
change in the flow of humanity – or maybe a
combination of all these things and more – it sure
feels as if profound change is upon us. And there is
little we can do as individuals to stem the tide. We
must be patient and go with the flow. And survive.
All watermen know that, when you get caught in a rip
current, fighting against the flow may mean death by
drowning. Counter-intuitively we must swim with
the current – even though it seems as if the
flow is taking us in a direction we are afraid to
go. We must trust that, at some point, the current
will subside, and we will be able to swim safely to
shore. When all the changes going on now normalize
somewhat, and humanity is in a new place, we can
reorient ourselves and move forward in our own
The second discipline
I think we would be wise to exercise is captured in
the saying: Ban Pen Fu Gyo (万変不驚),
sometimes translated as: "10,000 changes; no
It is the discipline
to be observant and ready for anything. Did anyone
anticipate what would happen to the world starting
in the winter of 2020? Maybe some did – but most did
not. How could they? But some people weren't frozen
with surprise; they adapted quickly.
This, I think, goes
back to what we were talking about last year. Do you
remember? Maybe you'd like to review last year's
message. It is
But to reiterate a bit
of what I wrote: the brain is made up of three basic
parts or functions. We have the stem or "reptilian"
part of the brain. It is the "oldest" part of the
brain and it controls our autonomic functions
(breathing, heartbeat, etc.), as well as, our
"instinct-like" behaviors – fight or flight, for
example. Then we have the limbic part of our brain.
It's where our feelings and emotions "reside." Last,
we have the neocortex, or as the name suggests, the
"newest" part of the brain. This is where we can
solve complex problems and make rational decisions.
We need all three parts, certainly, but it is the
neocortex, and the ability to access it under
stress, that is ultimately the most vital
functioning area of the brain for warriors in times
of great danger and stress. I believe we are poised
at one of those times (although I hope I'm wrong).
So, what does our reptilian brain want to do? It
wants to flee or freeze! That is, swim against the
flow and drown, or just sink and drown. How about
the limbic brain? It's not helping, its panicking
and screaming mindlessly.
If we listen to either
of those brains, we're going to drown. So, we need to
somehow override them. I call it toggling. We need to
toggle "forward" to our neocortex, because the secret
to our survival in this potentially deadly time is to
do the counter-intuitive thing and swim purposefully
with the current, our rational brain turned up to
high, ready to adapt and overcome anything.
As I said at the very
beginning, this message is a little different this
year, Typically I am quite optimistic, and I suggest a
way forward. Right now, I am only cautiously
optimistic and I have no plan to share. I will observe
This next piece may
sound a bit cryptic, but I have to leave it up to you
to connect the dots. It concerns the Dual Life Value
of human nature, as posited by my mentor, Robert
Humphrey in his book, "Values For A New
Millennium." If you are a reader of this yearly
message or have trained with me, you know this theory.
If not, I suggest you check out Dr. Humphrey's book here.
In a nutshell, Dr.
Humphrey said that human beings have only one absolute
value – the value of life. Don't overthink it. We all
have the Life Value or we wouldn't be alive. How could
we have any other values at all if we weren't alive?
All other human values aside from the Life Value are
relative (even the "great" moral values) and must be
qualified by the Life Value before we can know whether
they are truly moral or not.
For example, the Marine
Corps core values are: honor, courage and commitment.
They are great values, don’t you think? What could
possibly be wrong with them? Nothing is wrong with
them…as long as they are tied to the Life Value. Think
about it. Without the qualifying, foundational value
of Life, courage can become foolish martyrdom;
commitment can become irrational fanaticism; honor can
become self-righteousness, or conceit and disrespect
for others. These are what may be called moral value
“misfires.” They have misfired, because they have
ceased to be supportive of the Life Value of self and
So, life is a dual value
– it is the value of our life, balanced by the value
of the life of all others. Why all others? If the life
of all others didn't have equal value (thus the
concept of human equality) then life itself would be a
relative value. And that's the slippery-ist of slopes,
always leading eventually to conflict, violence and,
ultimately, death. Read my book, The Ethical Warrior, if you
need more on that.
But for now, let's
concede that life is an absolute value, and a
self-others dual value.
As I said, The Life
Value is a balanced value. There is almost a
tie between our “self-preserving” and
“species-preserving” inclinations. So, what is the
rule? Is one side primary? Self or others? The answer
is: It depends. Would you protect your own life? Yes.
Are there times when you would risk your life to
protect someone else? Yes. When a ship sinks, would it
be correct to yell “every man for himself?” Could be.
How about, “women and children first?” Also, could be.
So, which side of the duality is stronger? Which
action is more correct?
It is empirically
evident that, when it becomes a matter of life and
death, as a rule, we humans value the ethic: “women
and children first,” over the ethic: “every man for
himself.” Think about it, what do we call people who
save themselves? We call them survivors. What do we
call people who make sure the less capable people are
in the lifeboat before thinking to save themselves? We
call them heroes, don't we? This reflects a common
acknowledgement that we all generally cherish those
people who serve others over self. You may have heard
a qualifying statement to the effect that “I should
protect myself first, or how could I be capable of
helping others?” But many of our most cherished heroes
did not do that. They sacrificed themselves for
The dual-nature of the Life Value, with its slight
tilt toward others in times of trouble, is well
recognized in all cultures. Isn’t it true that
virtually all of us admire those who protect others,
especially at the risk of their own lives?
The willingness of human beings to sacrifice or even
give their lives for others expresses a deep
Self-preservation is a powerful law of nature, but
protecting others (especially – but not exclusively –
loved ones) is even stronger. And the Dual Life Value
is a wonderful, organic balancer. In good times, its
perfectly OK to be a little self-indulgent. But, in
bad times the best of us rally together to help
And that's the bright side of human nature; the omote,
if you will.
But, as in all things, there is also the ura:
the dark side. It is the way the Dual Life Value can
also be used against us. In this time of great change,
the good, others-protecting side is a proclivity that
puts us at a possible disadvantage to those who would
seek to control and dominate us.
And this is how it is
All someone has to say
is: "You are selfish." And boom! We feel bad. Even
if it is not true! We are on the defensive. We
have been branded as having violated the Dual Life
Value's natural tilt toward species preservation. We
are bad people, and it is "moral" for us to be
And all they have to say
to take the high moral ground is: "We are generous." Even
if it isn't true! And boom, boom! They are our
superiors and have the right to look down on us,
disrespect us, marginalize us.
Use that strategy with a backdrop of an emergency, any
emergency, even a manufactured emergency (war,
economic troubles, rioting in the streets, a pandemic
– you get my drift) and it becomes even more
effective. I've heard this said lately: "You are being
trained to view your individual freedoms as selfish."
Have you heard this?
I plan to learn more
about the effect of positive and negative Life Values
reinforcement on the brain, but I suspect that when
you tell someone (or even yourself) that you are
generous, a pleasure chemical like endorphin or
dopamine is released in the brain and you feel good.
Even if you aren't really that generous. And the
opposite occurs when you are told (or believe) that
you are selfish. Perhaps, a chemical such as dynorphin
is released in your brain that makes you angry and
depressed. And on the defensive – handicapped to
refute the accusation or fight back. Even if you
are not particularly selfish.
Think how valuable this
knowledge of the Life Value can be to evil people
who wish to build allies and marginalize enemies.
Paint your enemies as evil and selfish; tell your
followers they are righteous and generous. Boom! It
works so well – even if the people being manipulated
really don't understand what is being done to them and
how. Hitler was a master. And Stalin. And Mao. And Pol
Pot. Who else?
connect the dots. But, beware. I believe it's
happening on a grand scale right now – ostensibly,
with the best of intentions by powerful people who may
truly believe they know what's best for the world. And
you. They don't. But, there is confusion as to who the
good guys and the bad guys really are. Be self aware,
don't be fooled, don't be manipulated. And don't be
surprised that it is happening. Ban pen fu gyo!
And that is our theme of
the year: many changes coming, but no surprises for
us. Train hard, be alert, be adaptable and keep going.
There will be light at the end of this tunnel. Or, to
mix the metaphor: keep swimming!