The Strategy of Chaos

A few quick questions to start this post:

If you were a big organization looking to maintain control, which would you prefer: a cohesive, well-run, well-integrated company, or a fragmented, mismanaged environment rife with ego-battling?

If you were a shadowy conspiracy type, do you think the powers that be would have an easier time controlling and manipulating the populace if they pitted multiple factions of the bitter, angry folks against each other or if the people were living in harmony with one another?

If you were a boxer, do you think it would be easier relying solely on a one-punch knockout, or would you rather use a series of combinations to set up your opponent for an eventual knockout shot?

In each of the above situations, the element of inducing chaos is one of the strategies that might be employed. Chaos, by its definition, is great disorder or confusion. And perhaps more than ever before, inducing chaos is a strategy being relied upon by anyone looking to control or manipulate something or someone.

The martial art of ninjutsu, which I’ve had the great fortune to study now for over twenty years, is a system of espionage and intelligence gathering as much as it is about actual physical fighting. In some respects, the importance of espionage and intelligence gathering is even more important, because if through objective observation one can determine the scenarios which might unfold, then a physical confrontation may never even be necessary. And it’s always nice to win a fight without having to fight.

The lessons within ninjutsu are both common sense and profound, but only if one sees the lessons being presented. Within the Bujinkan organization, the grandmaster Masaaki Hatsumi, is the ultimate spymaster. He knows what makes every person who walks into his dojo tick. And he often gives them exactly what they’re looking for. Back when the rest of the world was just beginning to learn about ninjutsu, Hatsumi-sensei’s organization was a small, type-knit group of core practitioners. These men were his original circle of trusted students and friends. But when “The Ninja Boom” of the 1980s happened, Hatsumi-sensei was faced with a great task: how to manage an organization that exponentially exploded almost overnight? Was it best controlled through a series of stringent guidelines that produced a cohesive student body governed by an established hierarchy?


After all, there are rules for “participation in the Bujinkan,” that spell out what is expected of the practitioner, his or her ethics, morals, etc. (And there is some degree of hierarchy, but it’s frankly rather silly. Westerners with a tenth of the time training in the art are promoted to obscenely high ranks and then attach titles like “shihan” to their names in an effort to make themselves look better than they actually are.)

But Hatsumi-sensei uses a better technique for controlling his organization: chaos.

How does he do it? Pretty easily, actually. His understanding of human nature is so refined that he knows what a little bit of disinformation will do if placed in the appropriate ear. All it takes is a few insecure individuals puppy-dog eager to consider themselves as close confidants of the grandmaster and you have all the messengers you need. Hatsumi-sensei then plants a small seed of suspicion, or an opinion, or some other statement. Then he sits back and watches it work.

Perhaps he says something like, “Teacher X doesn’t visit me that much in Japan anymore.” It’s a pretty innocuous statement. But when placed into the ear of an insecure person, it becomes much more than that. That recipient then starts spreading this nugget around. “Well, I heard Hatsumi-sensei say that he’s concerned that Teacher X doesn’t visit him in Japan anymore.” And knowing how gossip grows and spreads, the rest is history. Before you know it, the internet is abuzz with people declaring that Teacher X is no longer part of the Bujinkan or some other equally silly notion.

Consider this: if Hatsumi-sensei knows he’s got someone nearby who happens to be among the most vocal of gossipers, he might just wait until they’re getting ready to leave the dojo. Hatsumi-sensei will then ask for their help “removing some of the highest ranks name plackets from the rank board.” The student dutifully does this for Hatsumi-sensei and then leaves, already texting that he saw Hatsumi remove Teacher Y’s name stick from the board. Of course, Hatsumi-sensei may just have been dusting the board, or he may have removed it at Teacher Y’s behest. Or he may have done it to further induce chaos into his organization.

Perhaps Hatsumi-sensei has a particularly annoying visitor always hanging around his office. This guy just doesn’t know how to take a hint that Hatsumi-sensei would like some alone time. So, rather than simply telling this guy to take off, Hatsumi-sensei uses it as yet another way to control his organization. So he shows this clown some of the scrolls from one of the schools we study from and says something like, “This is the only way this kata was done.” Now the clown goes around telling practitioners that Hatsumi-sensei told him the kata was only done this particular way. Further, this clown now states that anyone training with him should only be training with him because he alone knows the true correct way to practice the art. (Of course, you’d have to be pretty stupid and naive to actually believe this, since this is a combat art and there is no ONE way to properly apply this art in the midst of combat. You do what works and what gets you home safely – if you’re bitching about whether your rear hand is properly positioned to approximate the Gyokko-ryu, you’re probably already dead – and mercifully so.)

So now, the grandmaster of ninjutsu has an organization that functions exactly the way he wants it to. There are rival factions, massive egos belied by even more massive insecurity, and rampant silliness that produces a mockery not seen before in the martial arts world. The vast majority of students fall for this manipulation because they forget what the nature of the art is. And this is perhaps the biggest lesson of all: Hatsumi-sensei isn’t doing this maliciously, per se, (although he is most certainly interested in keeping things under control) but he’s offering students of ninjutsu a tremendous opportunity to learn how they might ensure they aren’t manipulated by others in this fashion. And how to include this technique in their own arsenal.

Of course, you’ve got to be able to see it and most of these people never will. Which is fine. And even though some of the people this article speaks of will read this, they will just as quickly shake their heads and discount it. Because if they acknowledge the theory that this might be true, then the foundation of lies they’ve built their shaky house of fantasy on comes toppling down and what they’re left with will be a truth too brutal to bear.

But what if you don’t practice ninjutsu? Does this concept hold true elsewhere?

Let’s look at the political world. We’re less than one week away from midterm elections and the airwaves are filled with more attack ads then ever before.

Ignore your own political leanings for a moment and consider this: when President Obama was swept into the presidency, there was a real groundswell of optimism brewing in a significant chunk of the population. Those who voted for him were enraptured, to some extent, by his promises of a brighter future, change, and prosperity. He had the charisma, the ideas, and the oratory skills to make his case for occupying the highest office in the land. And he won.

If you agree with the idea that the real power in this world isn’t held by politicians at all – but by various consortia, corporations, dynastic types, the ghost of Elvis, whatever – then can you imagine what they must have felt seeing that emerging sense of unity and optimism? I’d wager they saw a significant amount of their control slipping away. After all, a unified people are much harder to control, much harder to sway. So what to do?

The Tea Party.


No longer do we have a political landscape dominated by two parties (some might argue this, but both parties have been endangered by the emergence of these new players). The Republicans and the Democrats now have other things to worry about from both a new third party wanna-be and disgruntled members of both parties going Independent. An undercurrent of fear – which the previous administration used so adeptly to finagle nefarious legislation through Congress – percolated until it was ready. Now we have a nation that is being subjected to the most divisive extremist thought being espoused by candidates in decades. We have long-time incumbents being accused of ethical violations. We have a voter body so exhausted by the continuous mud-slinging that many of them don’t know who to vote for, just so long as the advertisements and robo-calls stop. And nowhere in this election cycle do we have candidates actually fielding solid plans for making things better. Every one of them is engaged in countering attacks, redirecting attacks, ducking the mud, and just trying to not look as bad as the other guy long enough for Tuesday to get here.

And you know what? That hope and optimism that endangered the control of this country is now gone. It’s been replaced by fear and division.


Those in control know that the vast majority of people won’t take the time to actually get the truth about things. They know that a whispered snippet of suspicion, that a sound bite that hits a primal fear, or that just the right look of contempt, are all the majority have time for. “President Obama is a Muslim.” “Christine O’Donnell is a witch.” “Sarah Palin is an idiot.” “Nancy Pelosi cohabitates with a transvestite koala bear named Zippy Garlin.” So that’s exactly what they give us. They don’t want one party in command because that’s simply too dangerous. They want a divided union; one easier to sway and manipulate and bend to their own actual agendas.

For the boxer who relies on the single knockout, it can be a dangerous road to victory. He’s got to bob and weave and jab and position himself just so perfectly in order to unleash that one single juggernaut shot that will end the fight. While some have the skill to make it look easy, it’s anything but.

Most boxers work combinations. And for good reason. A series of shots to various parts of the body overloads the nervous system, inducing chaos within the opponent. As the opponent’s nervous system struggles to catalog and address all the impulses flooding it (registering the hit, the pain it causes, the physiological reaction to the shot, etc. etc.) the boxer sees other openings – other targets to attack. And the tidal wave crashes down on the opponent again and again until a knockout is achieved or the fight is stopped. The boxer divides the body of the opponent; he breaks up the harmony that his opponent has trained so hard to achieve; and he uses that to ultimately control the opponent with a KO.

The inducement of chaos is brilliant strategy for controlling and manipulating situations and it’s literally all around us. What makes it so hard to defend against is our own human nature.

In the case of the ninja grandmaster, he knows that people want to feel like he’s confiding in them, that they are “special” or that they need to be “protectors of the lineage.” The truth is the lineage doesn’t need them; it’s been around for a thousand years and will be long after they’re gone.

In the case of politics, those really in control understand that most people are easily swayed by that which requires the least effort on their part to understand. The truth is they don’t care how we vote, provided no one party/ideal/attitude has too much sway. A divided union is an easily controlled one.

In the case of the boxer, he knows that a string of hits is going to be harder to defend than a single KO shot. The truth is if he can overload his opponent, then the KO shot will come naturally.

Using chaos to control a situation, a body of people, or even a nation is a pretty fascinating concept and by studying it, it allows us to objectively understand how others might be trying to employ it on us. Then we can take steps to make sure we don’t fall prey to its incredible power.

Thanks for reading!

Evolution of a Martial Art

When I started training in martial arts several decades back, the styles I studied were very two-dimensional. In other words, they were written down – sometimes with photos or illustrations – but there was nothing alive about them. They were a cataloged series of techniques/kata/movements that existed for me much the same way they had existed since the art began many years ago. It was passed down, ostensibly by teacher to student who would progress to become a teacher with his own students, pretty much as it had been for generations previously. Even today, there are certain koryu bujutsu enthusiasts who believe that techniques must be preserved and passed on exactly as they were for hundreds of years. They are exacting – to the point of being incredibly anal retentive – about what they do. But most of them are also honest: they don’t pretend to be able to use their art in combat. For them, it’s more of a recreation, much the same as those who dress up in military uniforms from the Civil War to reenact battles would be.

For a combat martial art like Ninjutsu, however, this approach is wrong; it robs the art of its life. There’s no sense of vitality to it. Combat cannot be reduced to two-dimensional snippets. It is an ever-changing, ever-evolving situation and the art needs to be that way as well.

As a beginning student, we walk into a new school filled with wonder, apprehension, and the proverbial empty cup. As years pass, we grow comfortable with the tradition, its mechanics, and the training partners we sometimes come to call friends. Eventually, our own evolution in the art produces a certain degree of skill within us and we may be inclined to become teachers. Sometimes, this happens when the student is ready to take on the mantle of teaching and the incredible responsibility that position entails.

The best teachers are those who continue to view themselves as students, always looking to add to their pool of knowledge and experience. They are forever looking further down their own path to the information they can incorporate into their own evolution. They study constantly, subjecting the techniques to the constant fire of real life, for it is only in this crucible that true experiences worthy of being handed down to a new generation of students are gathered. This is the legacy of this martial art. It is the reason why the art continues to evolve instead of being confined to the two-dimensional status of other arts.

But sometimes, becoming a teacher happens much, much sooner than it should. The reasons can be many: rabid insecurity and a lack of success in other areas of life may cause one to seek the position, a student may be graded at a higher rank as a test by their teacher to see if they allow their ego to trip them up, a desire for fame, status, or money, the need to be seen as some type of expert, etc. etc. etc.

Inevitably, what happens to those who should not teach – but do – is that they end up killing the art they may once have loved. They stop learning; they stop evolving. Worse, their inability to pass on even basic fundamentals to students can end up causing those students to get hurt or potentially die because of the teacher’s lack of experience. Those who teach but should not have a tendency to view themselves as masters of material that is far greater in depth and volume than most of us – truthfully, pretty much all of us – have the capacity to learn to the degree that we can pull it out and use it when we need to. There is simply too much to learn.

Yet the best teachers always try.

Those who teach but should not don’t try to learn this material as if they were still that beginning student filled with wonder. They try to assimilate the material only enough so they have something new to show their students. But they know deep down that they don’t understand it, so they explain that lack of ability away by casually lumping in this new information with the old. “This is just like that kata” or “this is just like that movement we did six years back.”

Only it’s not.

The best teachers don’t allow themselves to get trapped by the position of teaching. In other words, when it’s time to teach, they teach from their experience of working with the material they have learned and tried to master as students; they teach having used this stuff in the real world, knowing the emotional flux that happens, the uncertainty of facing a real threat, and the confidence they have gained from emerging safely on the other side of the conflict. But when they’re done teaching, they go back to being that student all over again. The cycle repeats. And as their experiences mount, their students are richer for it. This natural cycle becomes the basis of why this art continues to evolve.

Those who teach but should not, on the other hand, find themselves trapped by the status they sought so fervently. The need to always be seen as someone who is an expert, or the desire for others to gaze upon them with wonder, or the need to change their own personal history to try to be a part of something they never were, is fueled by insecurity and inability to stop the downward spiral they’re trapped on. The result is a further diminishing of skill in that would-be teacher, in the skills of those they would teach, and in the art itself. One only need go to Youtube and enter “Bujinkan” to see ready examples of why this art suffers from a tragically horrid reputation within the martial arts world. Too many people want/need/must be teachers without having the time, skill, or personal integrity to be one.

Those who teach, but should not, are forever scrambling to find new material to teach their students, lest they lose their students. As they scramble, the veil of ineptitude slips inevitably away, exposing the lack of skill. The students leave anyway.

But the best teachers have an inexhaustible supply of material to teach based on the fact they are always having new experiences from which to draw. As they evolve, so too do their students. So, too, does the art.

So while there exist far too many teachers who should not teach but do, there are also those who teach and should. For this amazing art, that is a good thing. It means the art will continue to live and evolve as it should, to always address the needs of the newest generation of warriors.

While those who teach but should not will inevitably end up blowing away like the very same two-dimension pages they draw their limited scope of knowledge from.

And the evolution continues.

Bujinkan Komugakure Group

I’m very pleased to announce that I have formed a training group in the Metrowest Boston area for Ninjutsu. Called the Bujinkan Komugakure Group, this is NOT a dojo. Members who opt to come and train with me are expected to attend regular classes at another recognized Bujinkan dojo in the Massachusetts area. I will not be testing anyone or otherwise awarding rank in this system. I am simply too busy in other areas to commit to the kind of quality instruction that a full-time dojo can provide a dedicated student. My intent is to focus on enhancement of the basics (kihon) of the system, development of an understanding within group members of WHY they choose to train in this art, and real-world application of techniques in environments that are non-dojo.

Members of Komugakure Group will train mostly outdoors in all weather conditions, and in street attire. We’ll work the basics in all types of environments thereby helping members understand and improve on the vast tools the system affords us. Additionally, some of the training will replicate high-stress situations so that members will have the opportunity to explore how emotional and physiological changes affect their technique. The goal, of course, is for all of us to improve and better understand the art which we study. All of us. While I will lead this training group, I may have guest instructors show up from time-to-time, both Bujinkan and non-Bujinkan, who will provide interesting and educational counterpoints and perspectives to the training. But I’ll be learning as well. All of the teachers in this art that I have been fortunate enough to train with – men I respect immensely – are first and foremost students. They continue to explore, learn, challenge themselves, and evolve – even while they help guide others down the path. I’m still learning as well.

There is a lot of nonsense in the Bujinkan right now. Youtube videos uploaded by people who are clueless (at best) or only interested in self-aggrandizement (at worst) plague this system. Countless Bujinkan practitioners isolate themselves from reality by failing to address real-world situations and opponents in the interest of being seen as a master, the head of a dojo, a supposed expert on history, or some other silliness. All the while, they willfully forget that we study a “martial” art. This art was born on the battlefield; it was developed in response to unbridled aggression and greed, and as such, it is difficult & demanding to study and learn from. A practitioner needs to be honest about his or her motivations for studying. A teacher even more so.

It is my hope that members of the Komugakure Group learn a lot about this art and what it is truly capable of, outside the dojo. It is also my hope that members become better practitioners of this system, and, by being so, help to undo much of the damage that has been wrought by those who would rather pose than train and continue learning.

Training events are sent to group members closer to the actual day, but for now, Sunday nights will be fairly constant. To stay abreast of everything we’re doing, please join us on Facebook by clicking here!

I look forward to the future with you all!

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The Path of a Warrior

I’ve had several conversations lately about the path of the warrior – especially as it relates to studying ninjutsu. I thought I’d take an entry and express what this thing is all about – at least to me, right now at this moment in my personal evolution. (My way of saying this could easily change in a few years based on me getting some more mileage/experiences under my belt…)

Ninjutsu, the martial art I study, attracts more than its share of nut jobs. In fairness, all martial arts styles have their percentage of whackos – god knows I’ve met plenty – but there’s something about the whole “ninja” thing that sends people into loopy Obi Wan Kenobi behavior without even having the ability to throw a proper punch. People have this idea that they can achieve some sort of supernatural ability to deal with attackers with a flick of the finger and a wink of the eye.





Way. (and yes, I’m using bad grammar for effect, dammit)

People often embark on the path of a warrior without fully comprehending what it means. It’s a novelty. Something cool. “Hey man, check me out…I’m a warrior now.” They have this notion with the right look (camo gi, tabi, face mask) or by chucking shuriken on a Youtube video they can simply start referring to themselves as a “ninja warrior.”** They go looking for something that’s not there; some sort of shortcut to martial invulnerability and this attitude of invincibility. When they don’t find it, they tend to short-circuit and immediately search for an excuse or someone else to blame for their inability to stay the course. Because they’ve found what actually IS on the path of a warrior: endless challenges and obstacles. And worse: they lack the ability to persevere in the face of those challenges.

A lot of folks equate being a warrior with being an amazing fighter. In reality, the path of a warrior is something you choose knowing full well that the only thing before you is an infinite amount of hard work, frustration, challenges, and temptations to stray from the path. Along the way, you might learn how to be a good fighter, but that’s not the essence of warriorship. I know plenty of good fighters; I know very few true warriors.

The few I am fortunate enough to know all share one thing in common: an inner drive of such power that any obstacle set before them simply stands no chance. They will either go through it, around it, seduce it, cajole it, or otherwise overcome it on their way to achieving whatever goal they have in mind.

There’s more…

Along with that incredible drive comes an acute and honest realization that challenge isn’t something that happens once or twice and then the gates of some proverbial heaven open before them; challenge happens for as long as they remain on the path of a warrior. There’s no end.


I’ve often remarked that there’s a definite sense of masochism that goes along with some of the more intense training in the dojo I’m lucky enough to study at. It’s a sort-of running joke with my training partners, but there’s truth there as well. You’ve got to love the pain; you’ve got to love the struggle; you’ve got to love the nights when nothing makes sense; you’ve got to love the frustration and uncertainty of the training – of walking the path. This is what it means to be alive – truly alive – forever testing yourself against all challenges and insecurities. Without that spirit of contest, without that spike of adrenaline when things don’t go right, without that attitude of “WTF happens now?” there’s no sense of knowing the greatness that comes from persevering in the face of bad times.

Warriors understand this.

They actualize a concept known as “fudoshin,” – “immovable spirit.” While a literal translation might lead one to assume that fudoshin could be likened to simply being stubborn, it’s anything but. Fudoshin, in essence, is what defines a warrior: that drive, that willingness to accept the challenges on the path as the price of living a life filled with the potential of higher personal evolution and an understanding of our own place and role within the scheme of the universe.

There are no shortcuts. There are no excuses.

There’s only one easy way out: stop walking the path.

Of course, the ones who stop walking the path always have excuses ready. And the common denominator in all these excuses is that they’re externally-focused. “Things have changed.” “It’s not the way it used to be.” “I’m too busy.” True warriors are always looking to improve themselves so they spend more and more time taking care of their own failings and faults instead of looking for someone else to blame their shortcomings on. Warriors know that the ability to persevere and stay on the path comes from ridding themselves of the personal junk and clutter that affects us all. They internalize and work to vanquish their own demons through brutally honest self-assessment rather than spend their time only looking outside themselves.

It’s not easy. But then, no one said it would be.

That’s the path warriors choose to walk. Personally, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

** Which, of course, will cause some people to say, “Yeah, but Jon, on your website and elsewhere, you refer to yourself as a Ninja. Aren’t you just being hypocritical?” The answer is no: I use the term “ninja” to help market my personal brand and separate myself from the pack of other authors and producers since very few – if any – of them have spent the last two decades studying ninjutsu with acknowledged senior teachers in the art. I don’t purport to be an expert on ninjutsu; I don’t have a DVD series; I don’t even have a training group or corny Youtube videos filled with bad techno music (although I do have a few videos showing me doing some techniques). And I certainly don’t imagine myself creeping about the dark with a sword across my back. What I do have is fudoshin – and I happen to train and study my ass off, working to apply the principles of ninjutsu outside of the dojo to better my life, my family’s, and the lives of those less fortunate than myself – so I’m perfectly fine with the idea of using the term “ninja” as it relates to the actual definition of the term rather than the stereotypical silliness others would prefer to lazily employ. ‘Nuff said.

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Review of a Bad Book on Women’s Self Defense…

Ricky Sides claims to want to help women in his book “The Ultimate Guide to Women’s Self Defense.” If that’s actually true, then the single best way he could help them would be to pull this travesty of supposed self-defense off the web and delete the entire file. Not only is this book rife with some of the worst advice I’ve ever seen on the subject of personal protection, it’s also filled with what could best be described as “untruths” if not outright lies.

Since I first started my assessment of Sides and his supposed background as a “Chinese Ninja” over on the Kindle Board forum, he has challenged anyone to read his book and then make an assessment of it. And while I was able to discern immediately upon reading the sample he posted on the forum that he had little to no background instructing anyone on practical self defense, I decided to take him up on his challenge, if for no other reason than to hopefully dissuade people from wasting their time and one hundred pennies on this terribly misguided and irresponsible volume.

Instead of addressing everything that’s wrong with this book (because from start to finish, it’s terrible) I’ll highlight key points from each chapter of the book. Lest Sides take what I say here and then attempt to use my criticisms as a foundation for writing another tome on this topic, I’ll stick with key points and let the intelligent reader extrapolate from there.

Sides opens his book recalling his tutelage under supposed masters and secret lineages. This is always a massive red flag for anyone reading about martial arts. This is the 21st century. And while many schools and lineages might once have been secret years ago, in the age of the Internet, Youtube, and the like, the idea of some supposed secret Chinese Ninja lineage is simply absurd. The legend of Chinese Ninja has been refuted so many times, the only people still clamoring that they existed are the frauds who look to make a buck off of the continuation of such lies. But we’ll get back to that in a few paragraphs. Let’s delve into the actual bad techniques.

The first thing Sides advises is that by reading and practicing what he outlines in this book, “fear will no longer be a factor.” Here’s another red flag. Fear is *always* an issue, whether you’re a complete newbie to martial arts or a seasoned combat veteran with multiple combat tours under your belt. If someone tells you that fear isn’t an issue or that you shouldn’t fear a hostile situation, then run away FAST. Not only are they delusional, they are also lying. Everyone gets scared, terrified, nervous – it’s what you do with that fear that sets you apart from someone who balls up in the corner and waits to die.

Sides then goes on to ask you to complete a written test, telling us that he devised this test in 1984 – a mere THREE years after he himself started studying martial arts. 3 years is not nearly enough time to become an instructor in martial arts or rape prevention and anyone stating that after such a short period of time they are some sort of master should be avoided at all costs.

Chapter 2 begins by looking at pressure points. Why pressure points? Because according to Sides, “a woman can beat the stronger and tougher male opponent if she utilizes the pressure points on a man’s body.” This is complete bull. Pressure points are no guarantee of victory in a combat situation. But Sides opens with this because the lure of pressure points is an old one in martial arts. So-called masters have long used the allure of touching a key spot on the body and producing unconsciousness as a hallmark of their supposed ability. But Sides himself has obviously never attempted to use pressure points in combat or else he’d realize a few things: a) a hyped-up attacker isn’t all that susceptible to vital point attack b) attempting to target vital points in the chaos of combat is a recipe for disaster.

Sides then unloads a laundry list of stereotypical statements about women, including “it’s a biological fact that men are stronger than women.” Really? Seen any women who do Crossfit lately? Any Olympian bobsledders? “It is also a biological fact that men are more aggressive and women are more nurturing, thus reluctant to inflict bodily hard on their male assailant.” Laughable. I’d advise Sides hang out with some of the Israeli Defense Force Krav Maga women I’ve met and tell me if he still thinks that’s true.

Throughout this book, Sides sets up self-defense situations such as this one: “If a man grabs you from behind, his shins are very vulnerable because he is standing directly behind you.” Herein lies one of the biggest indicators that Sides has little to no experience teaching real world self-defense. No attacker grabs you from behind and simply stands there waiting for you to do some amazing neat-o Chinese Ninja pressure point attack on him. Indeed, throughout this book, all of Sides’ scenarios suffer from this syndrome. He paints a picture whereby the attacker makes a move and then that’s it – nothing else. If you get grabbed from behind in the real world, your attacker is going to jerk you off of your feet, throw you to the ground, drag you into a car or do anything *except* stand still. He’s not simply going to stand there and wait for you to attack his shins (as Sides advises in this particular scenario). This utter failure to grasp even rudimentary realities of self-protection is another hallmark of fraudulent instruction.

Sides next deviates from self-defense and opts instead to focus on hand and leg conditioning. It’s almost as if he knows that his techniques are so bad, that it became necessary to prop the book up with details of hitting homemade targets. My favorite portion of this section on kicking is as follows: “I have found over the years that the best thing to do when an opponent grabs one of my feet is to launch a flurry of punches at the man’s face. This usually causes the man to let go of your leg. It’s impossible for your opponent to block a flurry of your punches with one or both of his hands occupied with holding your foot. However, if he is holding your foot and your leg is fully extended, then you’ll need to close the gap a bit to attack with your fists. To close the gap, just give a little hop with the foot that is on the ground. At the same time, use your leg muscles to jerk back on the leg that the man is holding. This will close the gap sufficiently for you to strike with your fists.” If someone has grabbed your leg after you attempted to kick them, they will most likely topple you over on to the ground, affect a knee lock, or an ankle lock. You hopping toward them will only aid them in unbalancing you even more than you already are. But again, the realities of such aspects of fighting seem utterly lost on Sides.

Then Sides advocates that if you are interested in self-defense that you should learn how to take hits, so he advises having a training partner strap on some gloves and start hitting you. After several months, he advocates that your training partner basically beat on you while you try to fight through it. (Having taught actual real world self-defense before myself, I can just imagine how well this would go over with the vast majority of people.) Sides further states that this training should begin as early as possible – at “entry level.” Another laughable idea. Most people interested in self-defense have little to ZERO experience hitting or being hit and here goes Sides suggesting that you haul off and practice beating on them. Sides explains his own opinion on this training as, “I really don’t like this form of training. As I said, it leads to restraining the reflex to block. On the other hand, it does teach the recipient to really want to block. It’s a phase of training we all go through. That’s why our Grandmaster sped us through that process as fast as we could manage, and then got us into sparring with each other.”

One of my favorite chapters, is, of course, when Sides introduces the reader to household items that could function as weapons. “Up until this point, everything that I have taught you has been straight from the Wing Chun Kung Fu system. The lessons you are about to learn come straight from the Chinese Ninja system.” Oh, goodie. More about Chinese Ninja. Throughout this chapter, Sides stresses how utterly deadly Chinese female ninja are. “You can even use a lighter to ignite some hairsprays, thus making a primitive blowtorch. I warn you though, if you burn your assailant, you’d better follow up and either knock him out, or escape, because he will be furious and will react accordingly.” Gee, what if we don’t happen to smoke? What if a lighter is, in reality, probably the LAST thing I’d expect to find sitting near the can of aerosol hair spray? Of course, there’s nothing easier than trying to flick a lighter and then spraying flame all over the close confined space of a bathroom (y’know, with its shower curtains, towels, and other flammable items so close by) while an attacker is trying to rape or kill you. Why not just advocate setting the whole house on fire while you’re at it? Sides closes things out here by stating (again), “What is the most dangerous human in the world? A properly trained female Ninja, when cornered.”

Good grief.

Sides peppers his chapters with a lot of supposed stories from students. These are, of course, cute ways to bolster the author’s image that he’s truly an expert in fighting, but since they’re neither factual nor confirmable, intelligent readers who might already recognize the laundry list of bad advice that has (at this point) only brought us up to page 30 will find them equally suspect.

Sides’ section on dealing with armed attackers is amusing as well. Short on actual techniques (which at this point would only further underscore how ill-suited Sides is to teaching practical self-defense) he instead tells the reader to find items to use as protection. “Even something as innocuous as a shoe can save you in a crisis. Put your hand inside the shoe, and use it to block your opponent’s weapon.” Of course! You just have to first tell the attacker trying to kill or rape you that you need a moment to slide your shoe off and put it on your hand. I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to wait. Ugh.

Deviating again from actual techniques, Sides next ventures into blocking drills and stretching before then tackling the concept of grappling. Apparently, “men are prone to grabbing women by the arms.” Really? In what fantasy world does this take place? Oh, yes, the one that would bolster the rest of the ridiculous content found in this book. Throughout this chapter, Sides paints the silliest scenarios possible, including one where the attacker steps up behind the student and “grabs the throat with both hands.” Really? A rear choke executed in that fashion is not going to harm anyone, nor is it going to be much of a choke at all. Very little actual grappling is detailed until toward the end of the chapter when Sides gets to paint some “interesting” scenarios.

Sides details how these scenarios all take place when a woman is flat on her back with her arms pinned. The first scenario is when the attacker “bends down and forces a kiss on you.” The defense technique here is to bite the lip or, if he attempts to French kiss, bite the tongue. Really. Because this is, of course, the most natural thing any of us would be inclined to do while someone’s trying to rape us. Once you’ve apparently been successful with that technique, Sides next advocates the following: “If you bite your attacker and get blood in your mouth, try to spit it in his face. Try to blind him with his own blood if you can.”

Now once your attacker lies down on top of you (wait, I thought he was already there? You know, doing the kissing thing?) Sides tells you to bring him closer and try to bite into his throat. “Bite as hard as you can.” Awesome. Sides should rename this book “Vampire Tactics” or something. It might make it sound vaguely plausible.

Sides then delves into advocating what to do when the man is actually inserting himself into the woman – and frankly, since his earlier defense techniques have about zero chance of working – this is very likely to occur. Unfortunately, he doesn’t offer much in the way of a technique here, either.

He does state that if the assailant tries to force oral sex, that the defender should bite the the penis off “behind the head” and the defender should “Grind your front teeth into it and savagely shake your head back and forth vigorously. He will hit you hard, so be ready for the blows.” Sides goes on to state that, “If your attacker has tied your hands behind your back and is assaulting you, then try to rip out his throat with your teeth, or one of his ears if his throat is not exposed.” And then a little bit further on, “It would also help if you can learn to untie yourself. It’s merely a matter of manipulating the knot with your fingers until you can loosen the rope enough to slip free.” Well, sure because that’s easy to do when your hands are tied behind your back and your pulse is hammering and someone’s trying to rape or kill you and they’re lying on top of you crushing your wrists underneath you.

Where are we? Ah, page 52. Halfway through this junk.

Sides takes three more chapters to revisit kicking, hitting and finger strikes, which fortunately means there’s precious little in the way of actual bad techniques to rip apart. His passages are again laden with ridiculous assertions about how the CHinese Ninja have used this technique for “untold numbers of generations,” and all that assorted silliness.

Sides then paints a “Profile of a Victim” and uses more stories that sound remarkably concocted to bolster his various “principles” outlined throughout his book. It gets tedious and rather than offering actual sound advice, Sides simply tells more stories.

Chapter 13 offers what he calls “self-defense combat tactics” whereby supposed Chinese female ninja would pretend to be aroused during the course of a rape just so they could counter-attack. Are you kidding me? Sides advocates that women pretend to be turned on during the rape. This is so insane that it would be hardly conceivable except for the fact that it’s written in the pages of this ridiculous book. It’s so utterly unsound and irresponsible. Here’s a far better suggestion, Sides. Teach techniques that actually WORK and the situation won’t ever get to the point whereby a woman needs pretend she’s enjoying the criminal act. But then that would mean that you’d actually need to study something practical rather than relying on outright lies and bad advice.

The more I read this book, the more Sides appears to be advocating that women learn how to take the abuse and punishment of rape and accept it. He teaches horrible techniques that won’t work; he tells women to learn how to take beatings from their training partners, and culminates by telling them that high-level Chinese female ninja would pretend to actually be aroused by rape. Sides is doing anything but empowering women with this book; frankly, he’s attempting to glorify the physical, mental, and spiritual anguish of rape – which is truly a horrible thing.

Sides (mercifully) closes this book out by quoting from the supposed masters he studied with. The first “master” is Sifu Edwin SKinner who offers up this priceless pearl of advice: “How long does the instructor of the style tell you it will take to become proficient enough to protect yourself? “Why is this important?” you might ask. Think for a minute. If it takes three to ten years to be able to protect yourself, then that will be three to ten years in which you will have to run the risk of becoming a victim. This is what you are hoping to avoid, so the shorter the time between beginner to Practitioner the better.” SKinner is telling you here that it shouldn’t take long to get proficient at protecting yourself. That you should rush as fast as possible through whatever course you’re taking. I imagine this is exactly why Sides himself attained the ridiculous level of 5th degree after a mere four-seven years of practice (I say 4-7 because Sides’ various biographies across the Internet differ on how long it took him to reach this point…and this is, of course, prior to his becoming a master Chinese Ninja, lol) Dale McLemore offers up more chauvinistic views of women including that they “can, and sometimes will, end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Last I checked women didn’t have a monopoly on bad judgment. McLemore then states that since “the grocery store is a place women spend a lot of time,” they should use stuff on the shelves to protect themselves with. I think I saw this scene in Zombieland…

Grandmaster Tony Ragasa Fong chimes in at long last with what the reader would expect to be his advice on self-defense. But no, this uh…,”Tenth Level Master’s Rank in Chinese Ninja” offers up his advice on using Dit Da Jow, a linement that traditional Chinese martial artists have used for many years to relieve the injuries associated with conditioning exercises. He closes with, “The Wing Chun style is right for women. In the style, you will learn to use every ounce of your strength to good advantage in a fight. This is what a woman must do when she is fighting a male attacker.”

Sides, as if to answer the volume of critics who will undoubtedly question his claim to being a Chinese Ninja (like yours truly) then offers up this paragraph.

“Good books on the two styles are rare in the United States, because of the comparative youth of the Wing Chun style when compared to other styles, and because of the veil of secrecy surrounding Chinese Ninja. To this day, some martial artists deny that Chinese Ninja ever existed in the past.”

Because they didn’t. Ninjutsu is a Japanese martial art system with roots spreading back to the Himalayas. But its systemization occurred wholly within Japan. Anyone who says they’re a Chinese Ninja is a liar, pure and simple. Sides, claiming to be one, is a vain attempt to bolster his own credibility – especially in the face of such horrible advice.

“I know that a veil of secrecy obscures the truth regarding the Ninja of both nations.”

Once upon a time, ninja lineages in Japan were veiled in secrecy. Once. Not anymore. To insist in this day and age that there are secret lineages is ludicrous. But again, the air of secrecy lends a certain degree of mystique to Sides’ manuscript, which is exactly what he wants.

“The other book that you will probably want to read is titled Skills of the Vagabonds, also written by Leung Ting and is controversial because the Chinese Ninja are portrayed as Vagabonds and outlaws, hence not very nice people. However, you can learn from the book. Both of these books are not cheap and are available at You can find them on the Leung Ting author page at Amazon. There are also several books on that web page that I have studied in the past. They are the very ones my Grandmaster had in his personal martial arts library.”

Here at last we have the “source” of Sides’ ninja training with none other than Leung Ting. He’s another fool like Ashida Kim, who paints bizarre stories of supposed ninja training and lessons in order to bilk stupid people out of their money. Google “Leung Ting” and you’ll find a whole host of assorted tidbits, including a November 2009 arrest for assault on his girlfriend (he was later cleared) and the fact that while he claims to have studied with the great Yip Man, Man’s students claim that he never did. A lot of suspicious material and people across the Internet have found great amusement dissecting Ting’s various ninjutsu claims.

In Chapter 17, Sides posits, “Should I seek More Training?” and offers this as his answer: “My answer to you would be different. By studying the techniques in this book, and developing skill in all of them, you will have greatly increased your survival probabilities in a street situation. No home study course will ever replace the competent Instructor. It doesn’t matter how good the home study course is, and although I think this book contains the best one on the market today, your techniques would be better if you had a qualified Instructor with you to correct your mistakes.” First, it’s extremely doubtful that anyone trying the techniques Sides advises would improve their chances. I’d wager the exact opposite, in fact. This is why I’m so adamant that this is probably one of the single worst books I’ve had the misfortune of reading on this topic. Sides is both reckless and irresponsible so many times over, it’s not even vaguely comical by the time you reach the end of the book. I would agree, however, that anyone reading this garbage get more training – you’ll need training just to UNlearn everything that Sides has advised doing.

Sides then states, “If you follow all of the recommended training in this book, then you will never be helpless should you encounter a violent assailant.” My advice: don’t follow it at all. I have much more faith in women than Sides or any of his so-called masters do apparently, and tend to think that most of them would have a better grounding without this book than with it.

Sides ends the book (no, this time it’s actually ending…) with a bunch of pictures showing some of these hare-brained techniques. None of this stuff would work in actual combat, but the pictures help sell the idea that they would.

Sides has recently taken to whining that he “just wants to help women.” I find this laughable. Not only are his techniques (and calling them that is really not even appropriate) reckless and irresponsible, his attitude toward women throughout the book is both stereotypical and misogynistic, as are the attitudes of the so-called masters he supposedly “studied” with.

The single best thing Sides could do to help women would be to take this ridiculous book off the market and burn every file he has pertaining to it. It’s bad advice, bad training, and just so far from reality that it will only put more women into harm’s way than not. Add to that his ridiculous claims of being a Chinese Ninja and a Wing Chun master and this book is a waste of time, money, and common sense. Stay far away from this trash.