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© Mahoutsukai Dojo 2016


Mahoutsukai DOJO

By Ilan Gattegno

You can be easily fooled by his smile — a sincere one that, to some, might belie his stature. When you talk to the accountant of the firemen^ squad in Noda City, Chiba Perfecture in Japan, you would never guess that this man is one of the most highly ranked master teachers of Togakure-ryu nin- jutsu in the world. If you asked him about his hobbies, he’d probably say that he’s a singer and guitar player in the Hawaiian music band —hobbies one might not immediately associate with a ninja master. Ranked a ninth dan, Shihan Tetsuji Ishizuka is only one step away from the top, but he doesn’t necessarily see it that way. ‘‘When you look at the world around you, ninjutsu is a very small part of it, *, he says. ‘‘If you have this attitude, you are certain to have the appropriate perspective to life in genernal, and to yourself. He was fifteen years old when he started practicing ninjutsu. Until then he was a student of judo, kendo, karate and shorinji-kempo, enjoying all these arts very much. Once, during a training session, he received a serious shoulder injury and had to go for treatment. He was referred to the local hone-tzugi (bone setter), "this strange bone setter, Dr. Yoshiaki Hatsumi, lived in a house full of animals, most of them cats, that roamed freely — even into the doctor’s tiny clinic. Two caged iguanas stood silent sentry over the patients waiting their turns. While treating his shoulder, the doctor asked young Ishizuka if he wanted to practice something far stronger than the martial arts he was familiar with. “I felt I was strong, but I was also very curious to see what it was. I joined and soon found out that I wasn’t strong at all. He beat me up in such a way that I had to go on and learn more. Not that I was a masochist, I just saw it as some-thing real. Now, more than 25 years later, Ishizuka is one of Hatsumi leading teachers. During Hatsumi’s trip to the U.S.A. last year, he was at his side all the time — always there as the master’s right hand. For years he’s been referred to when foreigners call looking for Hatsumi sensei. Hatsumi just tells the stranger to call Ishizuka and gives them the phone number. There, Tetsuji and his wife, who both speak English quite well, can deal with the newcomer and get him started 1 2 3 4 5 6
DEFENSE AGAINST A LAPEL GRAB/PUNCH Grabbed and punched, Ishizuka avoids the blow using tai-sabak. He then strikes the punching arm to deflect and stun (2) and raises his left arm inside the arm that is attacking his lapel (3). He then wraps his arm over the top of his enemy's elbow (4) and backaround to the front (5} creating a shoulder lock. Cranking his arm up and in, the maximizes the pain (6).
Ishizuka finds it very natural to still be a student of the Grandmaster after so many years and that he hasn’t opened his own seperate school. Since this budo (old martial art) has virtually no end, it is always interesting. Sensei (Hatsumi) is very special and ninjutsu is very special.A teacher who runs out of teaching material is no good. To master ninjutsu you must devote at least 40 years, and even then you’re not sure that you know everything. Ninjutsu and Sensei are a great combination. After 25 years I still feel that the future is still ahead of me and it just makes me happy that I have much more to learn. It gives a lot of interest to life.” The relatively long time that Ishizuka has been involved in nin-jutsu, longer than most practitioners, enables him to give some advice to those who want to practice and achieve ninjutsu higher levels. 4'I didnt have to learn ninjutsu to fight. But on the broader meaning, ninjutsu is very helpful in all aspects of life, come to think of it — in life, in self-control, in living without unnecessary effort, you have to experience. Without the experience there is no understanding and you can never reach the enlightenment.’’ As a ‘‘foreign minister” of the Bujinkan Dojo, Ishizuka Shihan has a few words of comfort to the many non-Japanese who have been training in ninjutsu recently. “We treat everybody equally. We don’t care about the country of origin, Japanese, American, Israeli, Swedish. If somebody is practicing seriously and enjoys it — that’s what is important. If somebody wants to learn ninjutsu, he should seek a good teacher, a teacher with common sense and good judgment who has a good heart and has in him the three elements of ninjutsu: ‘shin' (heart), “gi’’(technique) and “tai.’’ (body). Those who are not sure which is the right way should go to Japan, see how we train at the main dojo and take example. Now some video tapes of Sensei are available, and also the master articles in magazines give the spirit of his teaching. If you see the master move and you see a teacher following him you can tell who’s connected to the source and who isn’t. “Ninjutsu preaches to avoid fighting and to avoid the attack. This is one of the most important characteristics of the art. We practice so that these incidents won’t happen, and if they ever occur there’s no choice and we fight. But the aim is to prevent the fight not to get into it.” Once he started studying under Hatsumi Yoshiaki many things have changed in ninjutsu. Hatsumi was announced grandmaster and changed his name from Yoshiaki to Masaaki for good luck in his new role. But ninjutsu didn’t really change — it adapted to the changing world. The only big change is in the way of practicing. Once it was much more violent and demanded endurance, but now itJs much softer and more gentle. But the way of thinking is still the same. “Hatsumi Sensei says to forget it all, to keep learning what he’s teaching now.” Ishizuka sees his long tutelage under Hatsumi Sensei as a valuable experience. ‘‘Some of the things I’ve learned from Sensei twenty years ago were very difficult for me to understand, simply because I was too young then. But with the years came maturity and I’ve reached an understanding. It doesn’t mean that now I understand everything. But life is there to practice. Theory is not enough, muri, as we call it in Japanese. I’ve learned to hang on when necessary, and to stop myself from doing things which might harm me. This is happening every day. I wouldn’t do things I used to do before I be-came aware of ninpo (the higher level of ninjutsu). It doesn’t seem to have a connection with the practice, but it is all linked. “One should also remember that it takes a long time to know nin-jutsu and it isn’t as simple as it looks. That’s why there are so few people in the world who really know the art. In the Western world, only eighth dan Doron Navon from Israel has reached the understanding. He has spent enough time with Sensei, and his fluent Japanese enables him to communicate with us and learn everything.” There is only one step between Ishizuka Shihan and the mastery. But Techan, as Hatsumi still calls him with a lot of affection, is not looking for the title. iCl want to go on training in budo, and since I have so many students of my own, I must go on enjoying my time with them and develop together. Beyond that, there’s nothing I can see that is going to change. Through Budo you can develop and become aware of things so you can enjoy life, so let’s all enjoy it.” Ishizuka is considered by his peers to be one of the strongest peo-ple they know. His punching board, a piece of wood stuck near the dojo door, is full of marks from his fists. When these fists hit some-body, there sure to be damage. I myself have had the painful pleasure to experience the piercing force of his knuckles. In a training session in' his Kashiwa dojo, he once demonstrated a nerve attack on my arm. He was very gentle and I didn’t quite get the feeling. I didn’t realize what I was asking for when I said it wasn’t working.His second punch was right on the spot. The pain was incredible I’llnever forget it. For six days afterward I couldn’t move my entire arm. It was para-lyzed from the shoulder down. I couldn’t even pick up a piece of paper.But during that same week I saw the other side of his strong fingers. Back in his home, in Noda City, he played the guitar beautifully, while his wife Mako played the organ. We all sang Beatles songs 'till sunrise.
Ishizuka Shihan poses with the author.
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