Open post

Becoming a Ninja Part 2

 

In our last post, Sensei Roemke shared how he began the journey that led him to devote most of his life to the study of martial arts, in particular ninjutsu, the art of the ninja. If you haven't heard that story, you can check it out here.

In this next part of the story, he tells how he found ninjutsu and ended up with a private invitation by the Grandmaster, Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi, to visit with him on his first trip to Japan.

But, what is even more interesting, is the story within the story. Within the short video below is the story of perseverance. So many martial arts students begin their training inspired by a new art or by a new teacher. Between white belt and black belt lies a crucial period of training where the majority drop out. Once again, having a good teacher at this stage is crucial. However, in Mark's case, his instructor at the time actually dissuaded him from pursuing ninjutsu when he first discovered the art.

Good thing he ignored that advice.

And then he left the art when he joined the U.S. Army.

For many, it's even more challenging to return to an art once you leave it for years.

As a musician, I think of all the instruments I have seen over the years covered in dust, in the backs of people's closets or hiding in the corner of rooms.

"Oh yeah, I used to play that," is what you often hear.

Still, when Mark left the Army, he moved to California and where he searched for his next instructor. And that encounter led him to wandering the streets of Japan at 4 a.m. That wander led to the voice of the Grandmaster of ninjutsu who called out from a window and invited him up to tea.

But I'll let Mark himself tell that story.

Hope you enjoy this second part of his journey. Stay tuned, part 3 is the next of 4 chapters to this story that is up our gi sleeves.

Open post

Becoming a Ninja Part 1

 

How does a person go from having zero experience in an art to being one of the highest skilled practitioners on the planet? 


In nature, a person beginning the journey of connecting to the landscape is like a tourist in their own backyard. Imagine this person as one who cannot identify the birds, trees, or plants outside their front door. If lost in the wilderness, they likely wouldn’t know how to make shelter, find water, locate edible plants or catch food, make a fire, or recognize medicinal plants under their feet. 


In other words, they wouldn’t last long.


At the other end of the spectrum, picture an indigenous tracker who by age six could identify all the plants and animals around them. They could also identify all of the tracks and signs of the animals in their region, including even insects. They would know all the edible, poisonous, and medicinal plants and could track weather patterns. By adulthood, this same person could not only run at full speed for hours while tracking an animal, but they could create fire from the landscape, find water in a desert, and create shelter, all while avoiding the lions and other large predators around them. The result is that they would have deep connections to all the species around them on the landscape. They would not only survive in the wilderness, but thrive.


Now imagine another type of person who trains in a different kind of survival skill.


In the world of martial arts, people usually begin as a white belt and work towards attaining a black belt. A small subset continue further to levels beyond black belt. In ninjutsu, the art of the ninja, the highest level one can attain below that of Soke, or Grandmaster, is Dai Shihan. Sensei Roemke has made it to this level. 


But how does a person achieve this level of skill, be it as a deeply connected tracker or a 15th Dan Dai Shihan?


Focus? Yes.


Will power? Probably helps a lot.


Motivation? Helps get you out of bed at 6 am on cold, dark, winter days to train.


But there's one critical piece needed as well. It's probably the most important factor required to reach the highest skill level in any art. Without it, you won't make it far beyond white belt.


What is it?


A good mentor.


The first teacher in any art can be just as important as the Grandmaster. They give you that first nudge and provide inspiration to journey down the trail of learning. There are unfortunately too many stories of a new student encountering their first teacher who then causes the student to turn away from an art.


Fortunately Sensei Roemke had a different experience with his first teacher.


Below is the first part of Sensei Roemke's story about how he started on this journey with his first teacher. If you listen closely, you will hear the "secret mentor sauce" that was used by his first martial arts teacher. This teacher helped nurture an interest that lasted a lifetime.

Becoming a Ninja Part 1

Sensei Roemke is an unreasonably happy person. Just looking at the thumbnail above makes me think of this. I think it's really funny, and fitting, that Youtube’s algorithm picked this photo of him for the thumbnail for the above video.


If you want to "share the stoke" as he puts it, and end up with a smile like this, you can train weekly with him, from anywhere on the planet, multiple times a week. It’s good medicine for our times. But to learn more, you'll have to enter the secret ninja stoke portal here.

If you enjoyed this story, here is the next chapter in this four part series that leads to becoming a Dai Shihan.

 

Open post

Ninja Gratitude

 

Every year, during this week, here in North America, our nation turns our attention toward one word- thanksgiving. While there is a lot to unpack around the origins of this holiday, I'd like instead to turn the awareness toward the concept of gratitude.

Sensei Roemke has a reputation as being "unreasonably happy." I'm going to let you in on a secret behind this happiness...gratitude.

In my martial arts training journey, I've been in a lot of classes in various disciplines, in a lot of dojos. I can still remember the day at Pathways Dojo when we lined up to bow in that set this dojo apart from all of my previous experiences. Before doing our usual bow-in opening, Sensei Roemke turned to us and said,

"What are you grateful for?!"

You could see the collective flinch in the group as everyone snapped to attention, caught off guard somewhat by this question. Then, one by one going down the line up, each of us took a moment to voice something important in our lives. I loved it! I had never been in a dojo that started classes this way.

Since then, I've seen Sensei Roemke do this many, many times, in classes with kids and adults, virtually with our online PNT classes, and even with parents in the bleachers watching classes. It's no longer a surprise. I've watched him do this at checkout lines in grocery stores, to random people on the street, and to gatherings of large groups for classes he is about to teach.

At Pathways Dojo, we start all of our staff meetings this way. And, if we don't, something feels off. It's almost a game now to see who can ambush the others first by asking..."What are you grateful for?"

But what does this have to do with martial arts training?

A lot.

But I'll let Sensei Roemke tell you himself. Check his video below where he dives into the mindset of gratitude.

 

I'll let you in on a little gratitude awareness secret... gratitude is about more than just being thankful. It's about an itch for storytelling.

What?!

We all have an itch for sitting and listening to a story being told. This goes far back to our ancestors who told stories by the fire, under the stars. But, each of us also has a strong itch to share the stories that we experience. If you listen carefully to people sharing gratitude, you will often hear headlines for stories that are itching to be told and heard.

If you go back to Mark's video above, did you catch his gratitude story headline? He said...

"I'm grateful that I'm alive because I almost died."

Wait, hold on, what!!! Back up there...some of you who know Sensei have heard him tell his story of almost dying.

Gratitude can be an invitation to share deeper stories, and in the process connect more deeply to each other. It's also an opportunity to connect more deeply to our inner selves. When we tell our own stories, it opens up deeper levels of learning about ourselves, and the natural world around us.

So, as many of us head into this holiday in North America, I invite you to become the gratitude ambush ninja that Sensei Roemke embodies. Ambush a random person with this questions, or your friends and family and watch what unfolds.

Open post

The Power of Rope and Ring

Recently we guided a group of youth ninjas with our online live training program through the process of making training kyoketsu shoges. What's a kyoketsu shoge? For starters, a homemade version with parts gathered from nature looks like this...

A rope, ring, and wood. To be specific, the ring in this photo is made from a dog chewie. This is the training version. The ancient ninja version would have been made from an iron ring, and used among other things to hit the hands of sword wielding opponents, causing them to drop their sword.

A few summers back, Sensei Roemke and I co-led East and West coast summer camps where we had the kids make their own kyoketsu shoges. We realized that branches from trees made perfect handles. It was amazing to watch the focus (and quiet!) that kids put into carving, sanding, burnishing, and oiling their wood.

Then we started to train with them. So much fun.

Target practice, wrapping around branches, spinning drills. I can't tell you how high the youth stoke factor was, and for the instructors too!!!

What was really cool was how the kids used their creativity with these. They quickly figured out that with the right throw, that they could wrap them around branches and use them as a rope swing, or to climb up into the tree.

Then Mark showed them this "advanced" neck spin in the video below. Check it out. So much fun. But...you have to make one first! I'll save that for a future blog entry. For now, enjoy this one.

Kyoketusu Shoge Neck Spin

Posts navigation

1 2
Scroll to top