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Becoming A Ninja Part 4

Here's the final addition to a 4-part series by Dai Shihan Mark Roemke called "Becoming a ninja."
When we last encountered our unreasonably happy Dai Shihan, he was describing the origins of Pathways Dojo. Before that he told about how he found martial arts and the how he found ninjutsu. 
Today we wrap the story bundle with a look into the possibilities of the future, specifically how the philosophy of "everyone is a teacher, and everyone needs a teacher" is a key principle in changing the lives of people, lots of people.

Warning...Mark gets really excited about this topic in the video below, and it's not because of his favorite matte beverage. 

There are a few key things in the video below that are worthy of hitting the pause button to think about. I'll save you the trouble by briefly breaking a couple down. 

"We are pre-programmed to teach." 

He talks about how this is so obvious in kids. As soon as we teach them something and they develop a competency, be it in the dojo or nature, they really want to teach the skill to others.
In the dojo or even our zoom classes for example, we can ask..."Raise your hand if you can demonstrate jumonji no kamae."

Boom...hands go up everywhere.

Or in nature..."Raise your hand if you can teach the knife safety techniques."

Boom...hands go up everywhere.

There is a flip side to this as well. I'll let you in on a little detail about Mark if you haven't trained with him. It's this...

You never know when he is going to call on you to teach something. 

What's the effect of this?

It puts you on edge. 

It makes you pay attention.

And ultimately, you learn so much more, about whatever art you are studying, when you are in the teaching role.

This philosophy is behind the vision of Pathways Dojo.
I'll cue the Dai Shihan here to explain this vision in his own words. 
 
We hope you enjoyed this final episode that explains a little more behind the scenes about the history of Pathways, Sensei Roemke, and where ultimately we intend to take our mentoring in the future.
We hope too that this inspires you to step into a mentoring role to help create a positive change in those around you.
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Becoming A Ninja Part 3

 

Welcome to part 3 in our ninja mentoring series called Becoming a Ninja. In this four part blog series, we follow the journey of how Sensei Mark Roemke went from a youth with no experience in martial arts to Dai Shihan, 15th Dan, one of the highest levels one can attain in the art of ninjutsu.

In other words...what's the secret sauce behind this process?

We also take a deeper look behind the scenes through the lens of the "ninja mentor" to see what's really making Mark's brain tick. It's not just mate, which we can vouch does get him excited before he teaches his weekly online classes. There's more to it. Trust me.

In the first installment, Dai Shihan Mark Roemke told the origin story of how he found martial arts in his youth and the effect it had on him. If you haven't checked out, not to worry. Here's that story portal.

Part 2 was about how he continued to train, and train, and train, and his first meeting with the Grandmaster Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi.

But now a death and origin story.

Mark died, technically speaking. No joke.

It involved a motorcycle accident. Fortunately, due to the technology of high voltage in the operating room, he was resuscitated.

Side note...Mark's a professional electrician. Hmmmm. Back to the story cliff notes.

In the short story below, when he returned to health, Mark found himself asking one question...

"What am I doing on this planet?"

The answer to this question laid the foundation for the origin of Pathways Dojo.

The answer to this question was about giving back, about healing, and about nature connection.

But I'll let him take it from here...

I hope you enjoy this short story. There's one final chapter to this. In Part 4 Mark talks about a vision that we all can be a part of.

One last thought...

In the video above, Mark talks about wanting to help kids. One way we are doing this is through our Ninjas in Nature Program. We've recently laid out a roadmap for connecting kids to the art of ninjutsu and the natural world in a short book that links to skills videos, games and more, called the Ninjas in Nature: Guardians Guide. These skills are like jumper cables for activating kids.

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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.

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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.

 

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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

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