Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

Aikido Demo at a Tokyo Garden

During the New Years holiday, I was at Hamarikyu Garden in east Tokyo to look at Japanese falconry when I came across a brief demonstration of Aikido. Aikido is as many people know a Japanese martial arts which is about redirecting an attacker’s energy and neutralizing them without causing them physical injury.

Though it doesn’t look like it, it was freaking cold being January 3rd!

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January 4, 2010 Posted by | aikido, japan, japanese culture, Japanese martial arts, karate, martial arts, Sport, tokyo, video | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Martial Arts Demonstration On Culture Day Video

Here’s a video I made back in November with various martial art scenes from Culture Day in Tokyo at Meiji Shrine and Imperial Park.

It’s set to a familiar tune and yes, I know it has nothing to do with Kung-fu so spare me the inevitable commentary. I like it because it has a fun dance-like quality that matches the moves in the video.

 Enjoy!

 

May 24, 2007 Posted by | Blogroll, culture day, dance, entertainment, karate, Kendo, martial arts, Sport, tokyo, tradition, traditional art, travel, video | 1 Comment

Ninja in Action!!!!

Here’s a short clip of a Ninja demonstration in Iga, Japan, basically the home of the Ninja.  

May 23, 2007 Posted by | entertainment, japan, karate, martial arts, ninja, tradition, traditional art, travel, video | Leave a comment

What Really Happened With The Enron Scandal

THE TRUTH BEHIND THE ENRON SCANDAL

The Shocking Truth Behind The Scandal At Enron And The Possible Cause of Kenneth Lay’s Retirement and Early Death.

It seems the whole thing was a cover-up to avoid the embarrasment of saying what really happened to the investment money and employee pension fund that was presumed to have been stolen by crooked Enron execs.

Even the California Energy Crisis which Enron was blamed for profitting off of by manufacturing black-outs was a result of the subject of this documentary.

The Truth may shock you and scare you! Your financial savings are never completely safe from these masked rogue traders of death and dismemberment!

April 18, 2007 Posted by | 1980s, Blogroll, california energy crisis, enron, enron scandal, humor, japan, karate, kenneth lay, Lee Van Cleef, life, martial arts, Master Ninja, MST3K, Mystery Science Theater 3000, ninja, sho kosugi, TV, video | 2 Comments

Bunka-no-Hi: Japanese Culture Day

Japan’s Culture Day Keeps Traditions Alive


Martial arts demonstrators sparring in sight of the Shinjuku Building on Culture Day.

In this fast-paced modern world of whizzing beeping flashing technology where people rush hurriedly about to keep up with these fast-changing times, it’s all too easy to forget the traditions and customs of earlier slower times. Japan’s efforts to keep a tenuous cultural link to its past is the national holiday known simply as Culture Day (Bunka-no-hi).

Culture Day (Nov. 3) was originally a holiday to celebrate the birth date of Emperor Meiji (1852-1912). After his death, his birthday was designated as Culture Day, a day in which cultural arts are honored.


A mother and 3-year old daughter dressed in Kimono visit Meiji Shrine

Honoring Imperial birthdays is a relatively new tradition. For long centuries, the Emperor was a shadowy figure controlled by the military dictators known as Shogun and before them the regents and ministers of the Imperial court.

Emperor Meiji was the first emperor in a long, long time to emerge from the shadows to reclaim the power and dignity of the Imperial family. The Shogun government was abolished in 1868, and Japan began its advancement into the modern world.


Yabusame archer prepares himself for the next target

Culture Day also marks the day when the post-war constitution was officially announced — Nov. 3, 1946.


Kendo competition

Every year the Emperor awards individuals for their endeavors and accomplishments in the cultural arts or academic pursuits. The Order of Culture is one of the highest honors to be given from the Emperor. These awards are not limited to Japanese citizens, however. The American astronauts who first landed on the moon in 1969 received the Order of Culture.


Old and new come together

All over Japan many cities and villages put together various art and cultural presentations such as historical re-enactments, parades, festivals, martial arts demonstration, etc. Quite a number of adults and children will wear kimonos and visit shrines and temples. Traditional Japanese weddings are popularly held on this day too.


A female Yabusame archer

Meiji Shrine which enshrines the spirit of Emperor Meiji, holds a number of events on Culture Day. Various martial arts are demonstrated using wooden and steel weapons. The mounted archery ritual known as Yabusame is performed as well. Yabusame involves an archer riding a fast horse along a narrow track while shooting arrows at two or three targets. In the past Yabusame was only performed by Samurai, but now women participate in the ritual as well. This shows that Culture Day is not some inflexible stuffy holiday designed to resist change but rather that it is adaptable to the changing times.


Youth practicing their skills and disclipline

On the grounds where the old Shogun Castle once stood, a kendo competition was held this Culture Day at the Budokan Hall. This is where the Beatles played when they toured Japan back in their heyday. Kendo is a traditional martial arts based on the samurai fencing schools of the past in which the participants garbed in armor from head to waist fight with swords of bamboo.


It’s a nice day for a white wedding at Meiji Shrine.

Whatever its origins, a Culture Day holiday is a wonderful idea. The modern world needs such days to reflect on the cultures of the past by both learning from the mistakes of the past so as not to repeat them and keeping traditional arts alive to be passed down to future generations.

Kendo
“The Way of the Sword”

Kendo is one of the oldest traditional martial arts still practiced by many in Japan. It derives from the old schools of sword fencing that samurai attended to improve themselves both physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Today many top Kendoka (practitioners of Kendo) are police officers. It’s a rather expensive pastime to get into, as the equipment all told can run upwards in the thousands of dollars.

Kendoka use split bamboo swords and wear armor that covers most of their body. The most recognizable feature of their armor is the cage-like face mask. In competition earning points is quite difficult, as a Kendoka must demonstrate a perfect attack with sword, body, and spirit.

November 18, 2006 Posted by | Archery, Blogroll, culture day, festival, horses, japan, karate, Kendo, life, martial arts, matsuri, Meiji, samurai, Sport, tokyo, travel, Yabusame | 12 Comments

Where Have the Ninja Gone?

The Enigmatic Japanese Ninja

Cheap fuel-efficient cars, VCRs, and stereos weren’t the only Japanese exports that flooded into America during the 70s and 80s. The plucky indigenous ninja cleverly smuggled themselves over the sea to dazzle American audiences with their seemingly magical martial arts abilities. They were soon to find fertile ground in American pop-culture and almost immediately a Ninja Boom was born.

There was a time when ninja were as abundant as the stars in the skies. They were everywhere in America. They were in movies, on TV programs, in comic books, in newspaper personals, on street corners.

Masterpiece Ninja Theater: “Who’s Afraid of Hattori Hanzo?”

Just opening the pages of any comic book back then you could find throngs of ninja taking on small bands of heroes. On TV you could watch ninja fight each other, the A-team, greying old ex-pats, G.I. Joe, and so on. Less respectable movie theaters showed Ninja movies every other week. In bookstores, you had your pick of ninja books that detailed every aspect about these secret warriors from their skills, their weapons, to their breakfast cereals.

Master Ninja Lee Van Cleef with Big-Ass Funky Disco Medallion

Everybody wanted to be a ninja or at least own their weapons. Nun-chunks were once as plentiful as handguns in American households. No impressionable 13-year old boy could hold his head up high amongst his peers if he did not own at least half a dozen shurikens (“throwing stars”). That these JC Penny shurikens failed to stick in anything did not deter their popularity one bit.

For those who aspired to be ninja through mail-order training books, there was always the feeling that one day, they might be called upon to use their ninja skills and weaponry to take on bullies, bank robbers, Russian spies, space aliens, or chemistry teachers. And when that day arrived, the suburban ninja disguised as a mild-mannered pimply-faced gawky teenager would save the day and win the heart of the head cheerleader.

Look at me! I’m a Ninja Bird!

As for the real Ninja, they served as the perfect martial arts foil for any aspiring hero whether they were samurai, shaolin monks, police officers, superheroes, or redneck truck drivers. Ninja were readily available for heroes to test their mettle against. It didn’t take much to find a few ninja back then as they were just about everywhere. A hero could hardly go for a leak without bumping into a pack of them along the way.

Then the butt-kicking would begin.

Despite their years of intensive training and strict discipline, ninja never won a single fight they were in even if they outnumbered their opponents 100 to 1. They appeared to be particularly vulnerable to an old-fashion left hook. The only time ninja were successful in actually killing someone with their skills or their myriad of pointy weapons was when they could manage to kill off the hero’s buddy, girlfriend, or dog. This minor victory was often short-lived and generally backfired on them as the hero would become enraged to the point of slaughtering ninja by the bushel. This would go on until the hero finally tracked down the Head Ninja and in an epic fight-to-the-death match, killed him. The few surviving ninja of the hero’s rampage would find themselves suddenly unemployed while many of them would have to apply for handicap parking decals.

Ouch! That’s got to sting a bit.

The fact that ninja were repeatedly beaten, pummeled, crippled, maimed, set on fire, and killed in their relentless encounters never bothered people. It was thought ninja would last forever. But like the mighty buffalo, even ninja had to succumb to the ravages of time and attrition to their ranks. With their secret training camps being infiltrated and blown up all the time, it was becoming harder to recruit and train new ninja.

One of their main problems was that they were victims of their own defeat. Everybody wanted to fight them. You weren’t considered a hero in those days if you couldn’t single-handily beat a dozen ninja.

Gay Ninja always had to strive harder to win acceptance from their peers

One has to admire their pluck in the face of adversity, though. A hero could slaughter 99 ninja and the 100th ninja — instead of doing the sensible thing like running away as most of us would do if we were in his slippers or just shooting the guy from a safe distance — attacks all out with his ninja skills no doubt thinking optimistically the hero must be finally worn out from killing all of the ninja’s colleagues. Sure the ninja gets brutally killed like all the rest but at least he tried and therein lies the difference between him and the rest of us. Of course, this spirit hasn’t helped the declining ninja population in the slightest.

Shameless self-promotion also played a hand in their demise. In the back of comics and magazines, you could find book ads promising to teach you the “Deadly Ninja Touch” and “12 Steps to Killing: the Ninja Way.” With their secrets up for sale by mail order and their weapons on sale at any department store, it got to the point where even housewives or girl scouts could defeat a herd of ninja by themselves. As a general rule of thumb, if you belong to a secret society of martial artists, you should never make your secret death touches available to the general public via mail order catalogs. Ninja never seemed to grasp this simple concept.

Let’s See: One “Secret Ninja Death Touch Scroll” for a Mildred Parkins of Kansas City…

Now Ninja are a vanishing breed — rarely sighted or fought. Even suburban ninja have disappeared and their shurikens put up for sale at flea markets. Grungy street thugs fill the void left by the ninja in the comics and movies but they sorely lack the style and panache their predecessors had. Gone are the nun-chunks that never hit anyone, the novelty smoke bombs, the throwing stars, the nasty foot pricks, the trendy black robes.

Me and the Ninja: ready to kick butt

Is it too late to save the majestic Ninja? Should limits be established on the number of Ninja that can be beaten up in a year’s time? Surely, if the world can come together to stop the hunting of whales, we can stop the noble Ninja from being beaten into oblivion.

Save the Ninja!

July 23, 2006 Posted by | 1970s, 1980s, A-Team, american pop culture, Blogroll, chuck norris, GI Joe, japan, karate, Master Ninja, ninja, Ninja movies, pop culture, TV | 2 Comments