My Bio: History and Tradition
This post was supposed to be a bio, but I’m not particular keen on writing about myself. However, it is important to share some of my background in the martial arts for potential students on why they should train with me and at the dojo.
I have trained in the Bujinkan since 1993 at the age of 16. My first teacher was Rick Spangler, who at the time recently became a new godan (5th dan) that same year. The training at that time consisted of the Ten Chi Jin no Maki, with some weapons training. I met Gabe Logan during my kyu rank years, Gabe was a recent Shodan and I think I was a gokyu (5th kyu) or around that rank at the time (although he was not a part of the dojo). At the time, we had several dan ranks in the dojo with various ranks shodan-yondan. In those days, the group was small; kind of like our dojo today.
I would attend various seminars, with different American Shihan of the day; Phil Legare, Mike Pearce, Jack Hoban, etc. These three people would influence my later decision to move to Japan. During my college years, I had a small group I ran with a fellow dojo mate from Spangler’s dojo. I taught four days a week and trained once a week at Spangler’s dojo in addition to living with fellow dojo members during college. In those days it was kind of a half budo frat house/ house of gaming. I took and passed my godan test on the first attempt in March of 2005, on the same day as Gabe Logan. In those days, Hatsumi sensei was still giving the test and the second chances were given by the Japanese Shihan and Phil Legare only. I remember meeting Lubos Pokorny, Greg Hinks, at the old guest house in Koshigaya, and Akira Tomiyama at the hombu the first time. Shortly after my godan test I moved to Japan.
Nine Months in Gunma
I began my life in Japan as an English teacher at a Jr. High School in the countryside of Gunma. I would take a train to the Hombu, or Ayase to train with Hatsumi sensei and the Japanese Shihan and I would drive over a mountain to Tochigi to train with Oguri-sensei. My first nine months in Japan I was nearly always broke, spending money on training. During my time in Gunma, I met new people would would influence my training. I met Mark Lithgow and Roger Anderson for the first time, our conversations would greatly influence me, along with my conversations with Pearce and Legare. I could only afford about four days of training a week and my travel times were 3-4 hours round trip. I soon moved to Kasukabe, which was a mere 25 minutes from the Hombu. When, I moved to Kasukabe, I trained six days a week.
In Kasukabe, I also worked for a near by BOE as an English Teacher at a Jr. High and Elementary school. I would be introduced to Kendo at this time, by Ishikawa sensei. This is also the time, I became a student and member of the Noguchi dojo, continued to train once a week with Oguri sensei and Hatsumi sensei. I also trained with Shirashi sensei at the budokan in Kasukabe for a little bit, but I was persuaded to stop. I met for the first time other resident martial artists, Doug Wilson, Paul Masse, Yabunaka, Rob Renner, Shawn Gray, Liz Scally, Mike Looman, Pete Reynolds and many others; all of whom would either directly or indirectly influence me. When people visited from the States, I would occasionally go to other dojos as well. This is when I met most of the people in the Bujinkan. I met more people in Japan that train in the Bujinkan than my time in the United States. My schedule was packed during my years in Kasukabe. I would teach English during the day then afterschool do kendo at the school five days a week. Here is my typical schedule I settled into:
Kendo Teramoto sensei (not the famous kendoka)
(Monthly with Kono sensei, Souseikan)
Kendo Teramoto sensei
Hatsumi Sensei (Ayase) (or day off)
Kendo Teramoto sensei
Kendo Teramoto sensei
Kendo Teramoto sensei
Hatsumi Sensei (or day off)
Kaminoda Sensei (Shinto Muso Ryu)
Tomiyama sensei (kihon)
Kuroda Sensei (Shinbukan, Komogawa Kaishin ryu, etc)
It was my conversations with Mark Lithgow and Roger Anderson that influenced my decision to seek out a dedicated sword school. In 2008, I started training with Kuroda sensei, Kaminoda sensei, and Kono sensei. These three teachers have also had a great influence on me, in addition to my main influences Noguchi sensei, Oguri sensei and additionally, Tanaka Sensei and Tomiyama Sensei (sempai in both the Noguchi and Oguri dojos). During my time in Japan I only went home to the states once, before moving back. I moved back to the states in the fall of 2010.
Back in the US
Upon my arrival back to the states, I continued to practice and chase budo. I’ve taught at Taikai, even hosted a Taikai, visited other dojos and trained, gone to seminars. I’ve returned to Japan to continued my training and to visit family every couple of years. Finally, last year I finally felt my mind settled enough for all of those lessons that I absorbed have begun to ripen and bear fruit. Leading to me to open the Bujinkan Roselle Dojo (alternative name 龍真改心道場) in October of 2018.
My training philosophy stems from my commitment to the study and development of the martial arts. There are four main points along with a general theme of “great faith, great doubt, and great effort.”
Training is an individual’s responsibility.
Training is up to the individual. What an individual wants out of training is important, but equally important is what they learn from training. A role of the teacher is help guide an individual’s study and development. As a teacher we transmit what we know as accurately as possible. We must know our students to help develop their strengths while limiting and removing their weaknesses. This is true of both children and adults. Each student to a degree receives Isshi soden (一子相伝); one on one transmission of the secrets usually between parent and child. Both, the teacher and student have a responsibility in the training.
Practice is the Way
While it is important to attend training sessions, practice should never be confused with attending sessions. Practice is what happens outside of the dojo. It can happen inside a dojo as well, but practice is the responsibility of the student. In order to achieve goals in the martial arts, practice is the only way to really achieve them, or rather for these achievements to have any meaning. For every hour you spend learning, you should practice a minimum of three.
Kata and the Basics
Kata and the basics contain basis of our martial arts. The secrets are contained in them, but the kata and the basics can only get you so far. You must train to make the kata and basics flawless, after you must drill and find openings by testing them for yourself. Taijutsu isn’t the techniques, it’s what is found inside the martial artist.
Drilling is very important as well as randori. This helps perfect our techniques and provide a basis to truly use the art as self-defense. While, our art is also great for personal development, self-defense also should be a focus as well. The way of self-defense is drilling and testing our techniques through randori and active drilling. This brings the art alive, rather than keeping it as a museum piece. If you don’t wish to do randori, you should at least do some drilling during every class.