Italia 2006

Return to

Books and Videos



Whenever a Ninja of feudal Japan went on a Mission and returned safely, it was customary for him to make a report to the elders of the tribe so that they might evaluate what he had learned and gather intelligence about things outside the tribal domain. Many times this was done by reciting the events in one long verbal de-briefing session. Either to a designated Chunin, or middle level agent. Or, to the Grand Mute. This was usually a statue where a sentry would be positioned behind or nearby to overhear the report spoken to the stone face. Or, a masked figure who did not speak, so that no one knew for sure to whom the report was made. This was part of the security of the clans so that the real leaders of the Ninja were not known even to their most loyal followers. That way they could not be betrayed even under torture.

The following activity report was made verbally to the Grand Mute upon Kim-Sensei’s return from Italy and was de-classified 30 May 2006 for publication and distribution among our martial arts fellowship.

1600– 25 May-Thursday

He was a large man. Some eighteen hands at the shoulder, about fifteen stone. [Secret Ninja measurement system used to confuse the enemy– one hand equals 4 inches, or 10.16 centimeters; one stone equals fourteen pounds avoirdupois] Long, dark, curly hair with a few streaks of gray and a full beard, sparkling eyes and a warm smile. He greeted with a firm handshake across the golden brocade tablecloth, fine porcelain plates and silverware between us. His Sergeant-Major, Diego, was at his side as he welcomed me in a full rich voice to Pavia (pa-VEE-ah) in the Lombardi section of northern Italy, Maestro Mario of the Accademia delle Arti da Combattimento, We toasted with sparkling wine and began to chat as the maitre d’ served the meal. He was a long time friend of Maestro and hosted several of us who were attending Tai Kai 2006 at his accommodations, Petite Hotel Giannino.

I had arrived earlier that day…

We used a standard visual recognition code. I carried a copy of the Da Vinci Code so his people would be able to recognize me at the airport. The book was still popular but most people had read it or were waiting for the movie so it was not overly in great evidence. The plane had come in early and the traffic in Milano had been particularly difficult, so we missed connections upon arrival and I had a chance to explore the airport and exchange some currency. Even paying business class airfare rates can't guarantee you will arrive at your destination on time After a few minutes I saw two athletic looking lads, one carrying a sign with “Ashida Kim” in bold blue letters. I could see they were looking for the book I was pretending to read, so I tipped it down and looked off toward the coffee shop to avoid eye contact and become invisible.

I sat quietly as they passed on their way to the gate.

Just a little private Ninja invisibility joke.

Then signaled to them.

Once we made eye contact, it was obvious they recognized me and we greeted with smiles and congratulations all around. Simona and Ricardo delivered me to the Petite Hotel Giannino where I had showered off the flight and awaited the next contact.

We snacked on fresh baked bread and fromage (cheese) as the impressario poured a second glass of wine for the meal. Blanco (white) this time. Maestro asked me if I liked white wine and I replied that I enjoyed it but had heard that red wine was actually more healthy.

He smiled broadly, “Bene! (Good!)” he exclaimed and called for vino rosa (red wine) explaining that white was bleached in processing, even in Italy, and the more natural enzymes were truly to be had in the red variety. This brand was especially for the house by a local brewery and had been for many years the finest. We held it to the light and considered the clarity, swirling it gently in this the third and largest of the glasses thusfar poured. This produced a fragrant aroma within in the tapering glass above the stem that was next enjoyed, before gently touching the glasses together and savoring the flavor of a sip. The secret here is to breathe out somewhat before you drink. Not gulps but a sufficient sip to fill at least a third of the mouth and stimulate the palate. Breathe in slowly. Swishing the wine from front to back with the tongue stimulates the salivary glands, producing enzymes essential for proper digestion and initiates the appetite. Breathe out slowly. Swallow and breathe in slowly through the mouth to capture the aroma lingering in the palate. Hold for a moment, then, exhale gently through the nose with your eyes closed to experience the entirely of wine tasting. In this way the wine is experienced by all the senses. The eye sees the color and clarity, the nose the aroma, the touch of the wine on the lips, the taste on the tongue. And, to the ear, the gentle sound of the glasses touching in friendship. It is an art, that teaches you to enjoy your life.

Rice with mushroom sauce, pasta, salad, and a glass of McAllen whiskey for dessert. The meeting lasted two hours. We adjourned to the Dojo, about a ten minute ride through a mixture of ancient shops and neolistic businesses. Traffic swirling all around you, The roads are somewhat narrow and, although they drive on the right, they also pass on the right; and the left; and the shoulder. There aren’t many stop signs or signals. Traffic flows along pretty much at a steady pace and it is catch as catch can for the right of way. But, I never saw a single accident and only one chap getting a ticket. So, I must conclude that the Italians are just good drivers. I expect Ferrari owners would agree. Under the bridge by the shopping center, through the roundabout, along a straight road lined with ancient villas, surrounded by fields of rice and corn.

The Dojo was located in Carbonara al Ticino, a community of 1,472 inhabitants (Carbonaresi) with a surface area of 14.7 square kilometers; 81 meters above sea level at Latitude: 45° 8' 0'' N and Longitude: 9° 6' 0'' E; time differential is EST + 6 hours; located some 10 kilometers northeast of Pavia, in the state of Lombardy. Carbonara al (to the) Ticino is a pleasant place on the coastal side of the river it overlooks. It presents various demographic and agricultural features of interest in its territory between the Canarazzo and Cantarana tributaries which lead directly to the rivers, Sabbione and Campomaggiore.

The name of the community is derived from “Sylva Carbonaria,” the ancient forest that extended between where the tribal population lived and the Ticino river. In the past, this was periodically set on fire in order to produce a primitive type of firewood coal. This immense forest spread from the Terdoppio until it reached the Ticino and then flows on to the Po river.

Pavia is known as the capoluogo of omonima the “territory of the common one” because of the confluence of the Ticino and Po rivers that meet 4 kilometers south of Milano and divide into three zones: the Pavian, to the northeast; the Lomellina, to northwest, between Ticino and Po; and the Oltrepò, to south. The territory of the Siccomario, at the confluence of the two rivers, would be found in Lomellina, but, for historical reasons, it is considered to be part of Pavia.

In the courtyard of the elementary school is restored an ancient Romanesque sink. Currently the country extends in a territory of rare beauty, cultivated in rice and maize, across from the Ticino river that is just in front of the Canarazzo Fraction. In the fields and along the rivers are found a rich variety of flora and fauna, including: aironi, cicogne, garzette, anantre and germaniums.

Tourists to the region often take excursions along the river and smaller water courses to observe these indigenous plants or visit the local farms including the cattle breeding facilities. The parochial Church, dedicated to Saint Giovanni Evangelista, was erected in 1753. Inside are found sacred pictures and effigy between which is a 15th century representation in wood of the Madonna with Child and Knows (two monks in prayer), attributed to the school of the Borgognone.

Of the history of the region, it can be said that they established some of the first laws regulating commerce and the use of symbols of their regional products. One of example of this would have to be the diplomatic Code Longobardo which mentions a regal diploma of Cuniberto (690 A.D. approximately) recorded in Curte Carbonaria.

The Camuni, “use of the symbol and logo the Lombardy Region” it is restricted by an ancient law, which establishes the characteristics and the several uses for which it may be employed. Lombardy is deriving from the German word -longobarda, which meant, “Earth (or “land”) of the Longobardi clan.” The official symbol of the region is composed from a rose camuna on a green field. The stilizzato flower represents a sign still found on cliffs of the Valcamonica. Recorded from a time at the beginning of Lombardic history. The Lombardy is one administrative region of northwestern Italy. It is population is approximately nine million inhabitants. Its capital is Milan. The state of Lombardy is bordered on the north to by Switzerland (Canton Ticino and Grigioni), to the west with the Piemonte, east with the Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, and to south with the Emilia-Romagna.

We turned right onto via Vittorio around a winding left turn, back to the right and arrived at the International Accademia delle Arti da Combattimento.

The flags of Maestro’s friends and fellow martial artists flew outside the hall. Japan, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, South Africa, Greece, France, and more…All countries with associates and long time friends of Maestro. The Italian flag was inside, on the far wall, with the twin dragon white flag of the ADAC beside it.

The area was gated by a shoulder high iron fence that was rolled back by Maestro’s students as we approached. We pulled onto the pebbled drive and parked. There were two metal doors on the front, topped by high windows above. Making the structure about twenty-five feet tall. We bowed as we entered the training hall out of reverence for the tradition of the martial arts we all enjoyed so greatly. The floors were polished, tongue-in-groove hardwood and extended about fifteen feet to the edge of the large tatami area, padded with modern interlocking squares of impact absorbing pad. The central area was blue, twenty by twenty, surrounded by a three foot wide red “warning zone” before stopping flush with the hardwood. There was a red felt runway toward the northwest corner of the tatami and down the side to the back wall.

Just inside the door hung the blue and white flag of the United Nations. To the left, in the northeast corner of the building was a brand new professional boxing ring, complete with apron and mounted rest stools on the corner posts. This would be used by some of the Muay Thai fighters who would attend for part of the seminar presentation. In the southeast corner stood a temple frame with a variety of kicking bags. Some large and standard, some long and tapering, some small, heavy and light. All have their applications. A speed ball was at the farthest corner and a speed bag marked the center of the east wall between these two areas.

Next along the south wall is the shrine. A beautiful carved sandalwood Buddha sits in contemplation on a low dais with his right hand raised in the center of the red wooden framework adorned with tassel and cord. An incense burner sits before the shrine and a large dragon gong on its left. This area is used for ceremonies, and we lit incense to assure the success of our adventure.

Next along the back wall was the weapons wall. A dragon head katana, daito, bokken, hanbo, and knives on display. Protected by black Japanese bamboo helmets. Maestro had acquired many of these artifacts during his training in Japan years before. Next to this, the doorway to the carpeted locker rooms, with showers and a separate handicapped facility. Not required by law in Italy as in the USA, but a nice gesture. We were now at the southwest corner of the tatami area, where the red felt runaway met the center of the back wall. Crossing to the carpeted workout area there were a variety of weight benches and lifting gear available to the student wishing to train with them to develop more physical strength. Behind them was a brown wooden wall about ten feet high that did not extend to the heavily beamed and concrete ceiling. On the south wall were Maestro’s memoirs d’guerre. A shelf with his battle ribbons and decorations. He had seen service in the French Foreign Legion and participated in a rescue mission to save journalists kidnapped and held for ransom in Rwanda. Le Legion, it will be recalled, is the UN’s special forces, often taking on desperate missions like this that no one else would even attempt. Next to this, a rear door leading outside onto what will soon be the veranda. The roof is already in place. Once completed, this area will be used for what we Americans refer to as a Bar-B-Cue. Even now the tables and chairs were in place. Beyond this area was a sharp incline covered in undergrowth and brush. A pair of new peach tree saplings were just beginning to put out new leaves and small fruit. Maestro confided to me that he intended to build bungalows in the rear of the Dojo so he could host students who wanted to live onsite and train for some periods. And to develop an obstacle course in the wooded area below.

On the outside of the west wall were the kennels, where I was introduced to Maestro’s two Malamute Huskies who serve as perpetual sentries for the property at night. Back inside, we passed behind the wall that backed up the weight room area. Spacious wooden shelves for the library were in place on the other side, facing the closed rooms on the western side of the huge building. A solar tanning bed in one, a massage therapy table in the other, these leading us to the northwestern corner where the office area was defined by a counter that opened to the rightmost of the two large doors.

It faced the kitchen and dining area that occupied the central half of the northern wall. Meat cutting area and tools, sinks, cappuccino machine. A separate cold storage area for drinks and ice. Salami, bologna, pepperoni, cheese, more fresh bread, and of course, wine. There was a wall separating this area from the weight room. On the other side of that were large mirrors for practicing posing or kata on the carpeted floor. Between the kitchen and the door we had entered was the long closet storage area and the audio system. It was a grand tour of a magnificent facility. We sat in the dining area for a while discussing plans for the seminar. Then back to the hotel for the evening.

The term Petite Hotel applied only to the physical dimensions of the accommodations. The generosity and hospitality are more than grand. The room was small, only large enough to accommodate the queen size bed. To the left as you unlock the solid door was the wardrobe, beside that a television set above a dormitory refrigerator at the foot of the bed. Beside that, the wall of bathroom facilities and across from that door a desk and chair. The wall across from the door had French windows that opened onto a terrace some three stories above the roadway. And a similar set of shuttered tall windows in the lieu.

I stepped out into the cool Italian evening, onto the small terrace. I was put in mind of a Bruce Lee movie, Return of the Dragon, (circa 1966) in which he had gone to Italy and fought a then almost unheard of Chuck Norris in a climactic fight scene in the Coliseum. He had stood on a balcony much like this in that film. Breathing in the clean fresh air, filing himself with vitality and energy.

“What a wonderful gift…” I thought to myself, to be here now and able to live such an adventure. I looked up at the night sky and did a few Chi Kung exercises to restore any imbalances that might have been created by flying across the ocean and the change in diet. And, because the balcony was long and thin I ended my solo workout for the evening with a quick run through of Tekki Shodan Kata from Shotokan Karate. At the conclusion of the form I did the customary bow and started to go inside. Before I could turn away, however, I heard the sound of one hand clapping. Somewhere in the darkness, someone softly applauding. Might not have been for me, but I took another bow anyway.

2100 hours.

0900– 26 May-Friday

The front desk called to say that my party had arrived. Down two flights of stairs to the lobby I met Maestro Adriano Pizzato, PhD, IWF-KA ONLUS Founder, President– Italian Representative for WBA, ICMUA, UWA, BBTINS and WMAOA, who greeted me enthusiastically and thanked me for coming. It was he who had suggested my name to the committee for this year’s event. I was introduced also to Maestro Adriano’s student Allesandro and Cesare “The Tiger” Spernanzoni, Italian Muay Thai Kick Boxing Champion. He spoke a little English and we chatted merrily on the way to the Dojo. He planned to marry in a few weeks and was debating whether to honeymoon in Mexico or Florida. Naturally, I recommended the Sunshine State. The weather there was much like the region we currently enjoyed.

Once at the Dojo we changed into our ghi (uniforms) and tried a few techniques on the tatami. Cesare hooked up with Didier Laborgne, the French Muay Thai Kicking Champion, and they began to go over the techniques they would be teaching at their clinic during the Tai Kai.

Maestro Piazzato practices a form of Small Circle Jujitsu that relies on sudden, startling movements to “bridge the gap” and close with the opponent to disable and restrain him. This aspect of martial arts, maia in Japanese, distancing, is one of the crucial steps in overcoming an opponent in mortal combat. Every movement designed to redirect the opponent’s own energy against him.

In Dojo, can practice and experiment. In Las Strada, the street, must be spontaneous and effective. This is why the emphasis is on “combatimente.” Because that encompasses all martial arts. Anything that can be effective is considered and evaluated. The idea is to present to the student a variety of options from which to choose. And, not be limited to one style or system. Maestro feels, as did Bruce Lee, that once you “put a name” on something, you immediately begin to limit it by defining what it is and isn’t. So, better to have no name for what we do. Because it also encompasses how to heal the injuries we may incur or inflict. What is important is to share the knowledge we have with those who seek it, and to enjoy doing so. It is not about hurting your training partners. Only Maestro is allowed to do that. Because sometimes you have to feel it to know it works. And, only a master knows how much force to apply and when to apply it.

It is about hurting your opponent so that he does not hurt you. Or, in the case of Ninjitsu, prevailing without throwing a punch. So that no one is injured. It is abut conflict resolution and self-defense. Not about imposing your will on the enemy. Even if he chose to make himself one. It is about enjoying working and training together and taking pride in ourselves and what we, as human beings, can do, because it is considerable. And, everyone is capable of that. What we do is show a variety of exercises from which to choose, so that you may do them and learn the transcendental lessons of martial arts. These cannot be explained in mere words. That is why they are transcendental. They are not a philosophy, and yet everyone who finds them is changed forever for the better.

Not everyone has to walk the same path. Between the “cowardly Ninja” who throws sand in the enemy’s face and runs away and the brutally basic Hand-to-Hand combat that saves a soldier’s life on the battlefield, there is no discord. Between the savage and terrifying techniques of the Hung Gar Kung Fu Iron Palm and the Aiki-Jutsu master who playfully leads his opponent around by the pain in his wrist and subdues with a series of bone breaking, twisting and locking arm, leg, and neck bars, there is no imbalance, there is only harmony. Between the Dim Mak master and the Chinese Physician who heals with a touch, there is only balance. Accademia delle Arti da Combattimento embodies this spirit of sharing and self knowledge that encompasses and appreciates all styles and systems, knowing that there is no one style that is “right for everyone.” What is important is to enjoy the training.

We worked on wristlocks initially. As Maestro Adriano said, “Once you get on tatami, you know or you don’t…”
“In Ninjitsu,” I began, allowing time for Allesandro to translate the phrases into Italian for the class. “They spend a lot of time working on escaping techniques, called Tonpo. This is because when infiltrating or escaping from the enemy camp, there is always the chance that you will be confronted and have to fight your way free. The modern application is self-defense. Many people don’t react quickly enough to a threat and so find themselves trapped in some sort of hold. Knowing Tonpo allows them to break free and escape. One such hold is the Hammer Lock where the arm is twisted behind the back…”

I showed them how to secure the hold, standing behind the victim, placing the right hand on the captured right wrist and the left on his left shoulder. Then how to reverse the grip and use the Back Out Step to duck under the attacker’s right arm and step sharply behind him, twisting his arm into the very hold he held only a moment before. The great thing about this is that it can be performed as a continuous drill so both partners get practice without having to “re-set” before each technique. We added a few modifications like an Elbow Strike over your shoulder to his head to distract him. Or, a Heel Stomp, Knee Break, or Heel to Groin Strike as similar initiating methods for this type of Reversal technique.

We moved onto Counters and Mirror techniques. I demonstrated how the same technique could be applied to either wrist to achieve a different controlling armlock. To practice the Entering Pivot have the opponent stand facing you and take a hold on your right wrist with his left hand. Swing your captured wrist inward between you and as he resists your attempt to escape, take advantage of his reaction to reverse direction and swing your arm up and outward while seizing his left wrist with your left hand. Step under his upraised arm and behind him. Then pull down on his wrist to lock his arm in a straight arm bar standing beside him. You have turned clockwise.

Now have him stand facing and take hold of your right wrist with his right hand. Perform exactly the same movement and you will twist his wrist upward and back over his shoulder into a Top Wristlock, from which you can control him or take him down. You now have two applications of one technique, the Entering Pivot. The Counter to this technique is for the opponent to grab your shoulder as you try to step under his upraised arm and bend his arm down to choke you. That is why it is important to strike him with your elbow as you step in, to distract him.

The Mirror Method is the most non-violent of all. When the victim attempts to swing the attacker’s arm up so he can step under it, the attacker makes exactly the same movement in the opposite direction. The effect is that the two Entering Pivots cancel each other out and the players return to their original positions. After a practice period we had a short break and photo session before dismissing.

Maestro Adriano and Allesandro were also stopping at Hotel Giannino, so we returned there for lunch. Another spectacular meal, served impeccably by our jovial host, His white coat and cravat drifting all about the room serving up his delicacies or refilling the wine glasses of his guests. In a different part of the dining room this afternoon I was struck by the elegant decorations. The walls were adorned with copper pots used long ago by such fine chefs. The far wall was covered with pictures of prize winning hunting dogs. The foyer with awards and pictures of the staff with famous guests. The workmanship of the tables and chairs, the details of the silverware, the heavy cloth napkins, the buzz of conversation in the room, all contributed to the ambience of warmth and hospitality. If there was a stranger in the room you would never know it. Everyone is treated so warmly and served with such graciousness.

We returned to the Dojo where Maestro Mario announced to the assembly that his Accademia delle Arti da Combattimento had that day received from the Italian government its official Olympic sanction and with it the right to display and wear the national colors. Congratulations and applause all around for this singular honor and distinction. A well deserved recognition of outstanding skill and ability.

We began the session after lunch with meditation. We went through the symbolic meaning of the meditation ritual. The left hand being Yin, the void circular, feminine energy. The right hand representing Yang, the linear masculine force. And Tao, the union of these two forces to create meaning and beauty, striving always for balance. The Five Elements, Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Wood, represented mnemonically by the five fingers. And the Kuji Kiri finger-knitting positions that raise the life force from the lower energy centers to the higher so it can be circulated for good health and vitality. These breathing exercises allowed time for proper digestion of the afternoon meal. After that we practiced the Forbidden Form, an aggressive kata (formal exercise drill) that represents the Fire Element among the Nine Fists of the Ninja.

Later that afternoon I was officially initiated into Accademia delle Arti da Combattimento. Maestro Mario’s ceremony employed the symbolism of the obstacles each martial artist must face to walk this path, the sword that represents the warrior art, the knife for self defense, the helmet, the warrior’s armor of protection, and the Lemniscate, sign of Eternity. I was presented with the ceremonial symbols of these devices as a sign of my acceptance into this elite fraternity, as I was welcomed by the other masters of the Academy.

Dinner that evening was at a local Pizzaria. Maestro knew the owner who welcomed our party of twelve up the stairs to his veranda with open arms. There was a discussion of which toppings to would be enjoyed and the thin crust pizza (a la Napoli) was soon covering the large table around which we sat. Maestro took the middle of the table, facing the portico. I was given a seat at one end so we all could talk and see each other.

We discussed many subjects, among them the $10,000 Challenge on my website.

“Why did you post such a challenge?” One of the students asked through Allesandro, who served as one of the interpreters for such discussions.

“So I don’t have to fight…” I replied.

“How do you mean?”

“Well, when you fight over some thing meaningless like an insult, even if you win, you have nothing to show for it. So, there is no point. Besides if you win today. Perhaps tomorrow I will win. So, even if you win today, it means nothing. Also, even if I win, and I am sure I can because I cheat and even youth and ability cannot overcome age and treachery, even so, I may be injured. How shall I pay for this if there is no prize? Then there is the matter of lethality. When you are in the ring you must WANT to hurt the opponent.”

Cesare nodded in agreement.

“Otherwise you will hold back and he will hurt you. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I just want to do my exercise. So, by making it impossible for anyone to meet the requirements, I avoid having to teach harsh lessons for free. Besides, I have no money to travel or meet all these challengers, and most of them never show up anyway. If the prize has no value, then the battle is just a test of strength. I have no need to test my strength. I have found it sufficient many times. There are plenty of opportunities to prove your techniques work in self-defense where it not only doesn’t matter but indeed is preferred the opponent be injured so you don’t have to hold back. No need to go looking for trouble. Cesare would not fight for free because he is a trained professional athlete. So too, in my own way, am I. Besides, Karma will take care of them eventually.”

“You mean one day their own actions will cause them to be punished. Like if someone put the publishers who stole your money out of business?”

“Karma is not necessarily about getting even. It is about getting better. One day they will wake up and see that they are wrong and mean, and petty and that money doesn’t matter in the long run. See, when you die, you can’t take it with you. All you can take are your memories. That’s why it is good to have friends and make memories like we are now. ”

We talked long into the night. All the other customers went home. All the staff went home except the owner. It was wonderful.

0015- 27 May

0900– 27 May-Saturday

Again gathering in the foyer of Giannono, we drove to the Dojo for the next day’s lesson. When we arrived, Giovanni from Bologna had come in on the train and was glad to see us. He was one of the designated interpreters, having just graduated university. We had a short talk and then dressed out for the day’s class.

Beginning again with meditation to divorce ourselves of the world outside the training hall, calm the mind and heal the body, I made a short talk about how these elements were also related to aspects of combat. Standing, I demonstrated how Ninja techniques were divided into five directions, each one represented by an element, each of which placed the Ninja in a strategic position to overcome the opponent and unbalance him so you can flee to safety. Remember, Ninjitsu is not about fighting, it is about invisibility. That is why it is the ONLY non-violent martial art known to man.

We moved on to various methods of “making the enemy blink” so you can escape, the magic trick part of the Ninja fighting system. This included the Single and Double Hand Flash techniques, the Yellow Dog Scratches the Sand method to drop out of range of the enemy’s attack and grab two hands full of sand to throw in the enemy’s face, and the distraction method of throwing a Coin Purse or Wallet at the face of a mugger instead of merely handing it over. His reaction determines whether you duck out of sight or counter-attack.

During the practice of these methods Maestro Mario asked if we would like some music. We agreed and enjoyed the background of traditional Chinese songs as we trained. We formed a circle with our hands facing the center and practiced the Ninth Step of Kuji Ashi, the Cross Step, by “walking the circle” in harmony with the music. Circling left, I called a stop, pivot on the balls of both feet to reverse direction while executing a Mirror Block and stepping off in time an equal number of revolutions in the opposite direction. After a few times practicing this forward pivot until it could be executed smoothly by everyone, I called a halt when the opposite foot was in front and we practiced the Back Pivot for a while. Next we incorporated the Entering Pivot, simulating catching the opponent’s wrist and stepping under his arm to take him down and reverse direction. Then the Rub Step Pivot with the heels close together while striking close in with the Reverse Elbow Strike. Just as the first two compliment each other as forward and back. The second pair are examples of long and short fist techniques (long range and close range). Simple basic drills to music to develop rhythm and timing, dancing the Eight Mystic Trigrams.

We had a short break and Maestro Mario finished up the session with a presentation of rifle, gun and knife defenses. The comparison of military methods and martial art methods was illuminating and provided considerable insight into the differing underlying principles of each application. Maestro also pointed out that many commercial martial arts techniques that involve grabbing the barrel of weapon, basically using spear defense techniques to disarm the soldier, neglect to take into account that, if captured on the battlefield, the barrel of a rifle might well be hot enough to burn your hand and spoil your technique. So, all of his techniques presented began with the principle of “getting out of the line of fire” of a rifle or pistol, or range of a knife FIRST. A shift of an inch may save your life, whether you deflect the weapon or simply make sure it does not injure you as you execute close in-fighting techniques with devastating effect to stun the enemy immediately so he can be finished off, the first principle is Target Denial, a classic principle of Ninjitsu. And utterly ruthless efficiency, a classic military principle.

We broke for lunch and the senior instructors were taken to Maestro’s home for a conference. The table was long and medieval in design. With high backed chairs and solid legs. We ate well again and had a nice bottle of Brunella. One of the few Italian wines served at fine French restaurants, it was very famous. Most of the conversation between Maestro and Didier was in Italian and not really my concern. So, I took advantage of the time to enjoy the wine and practice “knowing the thoughts of others.”

I used the Sixth Kuji Kiri position, to listen in without intruding on the conversation. The same one found in the meditation practice we had been doing all day. By touching the index fingertip and thumb to form a small ring, the ancient Ninja found it is possible to develop almost telepathic abilities. By observing the body language, eye contact and other subtle cues, one can often discern the tone and nature of a nearby conversation, even one out of earshot. Within a moment I caught several words I knew and concluded they were talking about the promotion and sponsorship of professional Muay Thai Kickboxing Matches in Italy. Shortly one of the interpreters quietly explained that indeed this was the subject of their discussion. This same technique is illustrated in The 13th Warrior with Antonio Banderas, where he, an Arab, learns to speak the Viking language by watching and listening and practice. How else could people have learned to communicate with each other before the advent of a “universal translator?”

After lunch the Muay Thai Champions of Italy and France presented their Boxe Clinique. I had spoken with Didier Laborgne earlier and agreed that it was best if one could speak the language when doing these seminars to make sure the points and instruction were clear. He had found it necessary to learn Italian because of the sheer number of events he had been invited to attend. He had found that since both French and Italian were “romance languages” based on the same phonetic components, the task had not been too difficult. He was extremely fluent in both Italian and English. They began with Muay Thai calisthenics and worked through the Knee-to-Elbow defensive stance, strikes, shin kicks to the thigh and calf, covering up, in-fighting, elbow and knee strikes. As Team Cesare’s T-shirt logo asked, “Dangerous Sport?”

That evening we met at a Chinese ristorante in Pavia, down near the river Ticino. It was late when we finished. Being Saturday night, the clubs and pubs were full of party goers. Traffic was a bit slower for the darkness, but still hectic. It was a good night.

2130- 27 May

0900– 28 Maggio (May) 2006 Sunday

Today was the big day. We arrived at the Dojo and prepared for the formal Tai Kai instruction. The instructors stood facing North toward the students. “Yah-May!” shouted Maestro, calling the company to order. The formal bows of greeting were exchanged between teachers and students, between teachers and to the spirit of the Dojo, represented by the soft fragrance of sandalwood incense from the altar.

6th Dan Maestro Corvo of Ju-Jutsu was the first to demonstrate. We began with Taiso, running lightly around the tatami area a few laps then turning while running, then rolling across the mat, then rolling and falling a few times to loosen up and get the circulation going and loosen up. He then explained the principles of his Ju-Jutsu system and illustrated a series of techniques designed to avoid the opponent’s attack, stun him with a counter-strike and then lead him around the mat by a set of wristlocks, ending with a neck crank or leg-lock that set his Uke tapping the mat ferociously to relieve the pressure against his joints and bones. Ju-Jutsu is sometimes called the “gentle way” because it enables the user to be gentle with an attacker and subdue him with ease and confidence. Certainly the techniques taught in this part of the program met those criteria and were elaborate and beautiful as well.

Then it was my turn. I pointed out the beauty and control of self and others that were found in the methods shown thusfar and that the main difference between them and Ninjitsu was the emphasis on just getting away as quickly as possible. We reviewed the Five Elements and practiced some of the Escape, Reversal, and Mirror methods and ended with some variations on submission holds like the Indian Deathlock or the Step Over Toe Hold.

Sitting in a circle on the tatami Maestro Mario made a talk about the history of Ninjitsu. How it had come from China to Japan and been used by ordinary people to defend themselves in time of war against armed and armored soldiers. This explained the simplicity of their techniques and their strategies of target denial, escape and evasion. He spoke of the warrior spirit and traditions that were developed in those times that are still needed today and how the principles of loyalty, respect, duty and honor are needed even more in our times. Which is why he sponsors these events, why he brings martial artists together from all over the world to share what they know with those who seek it. So that all may grow and learn and prosper, not merely survive. And come together as brothers, not arguing over which style is better. Just enjoying the practice of them and learning new things.

He then presented some ten simple, effective strikes; defensive pressure points on the back of the neck to use against a kickboxer who grabbed your head to grapple, for instance; takedowns, breakdowns, throws and coup d’ grace (finishing blows), and turned on the Chinese music softly in the background. We practiced the techniques for a time, trying new things, experimenting with counter-holds and escapes, wrestling and rolling on the tatami like young tigers playing at war. It was great fun and a good time was had by all.

Maestro called the class to order for the commencement ceremonies. In silence, we bowed to each other in the manner of martial artists the world over. A sign of respect and appreciation for this experience and knowledge. I was appointed the official American Representative of the Accademia delle Arti da Combattimento, and thanked those assembled for the honor and privilege of meeting and training with them. I was permitted to award each participant a commemorative DOJO-Academy of Martial Arts uniform patch of the 4th White Dragon Tai Kai-2006 We all agreed we were brothers of the One School, the Dojo of Life, and adjourned for the day.

There followed a short period of photo shoots, autographs of the posters and memorabilia, exchange of phone numbers and addresses, thanks all around. I was introduced to the Italian Masters of Yoga and Chi Kung who had observed the instruction. We had a chance to discuss the ramifications of internal energy for health and longevity as well as martial art. We also observed that many people are “looking for something” in today’s world. A philosophy, a discipline, something that explains who they are and what their purpose is that they no longer find in the established religions. All of our arts teach such self-empowerment. That is why they have survived and done well for centuries without a staggering bureaucracy of regimentation, merely a loose confederation of human beings that have found their own internal strength..

We had a break and washed up. Maestro Mario and his team prepared a late afternoon meal in his kitchen, slicing the salami and ham and cheese; passing out the funachio Genovese (a particular type of bread characteristic of the Genovese region) and beverages to the assembled crew. Just a light meal at first, because the day wasn’t over yet.

Then the anti-pasto, then the skewers of calimari, scallops and shrimp; then the hamburgers (for my benefit, no doubt, Ha! Ha!); then more of everything for three hours of conversation and jocularity. No one wanted it to end. But eventually, some people had to leave to catch their train, or make a long drive back home.

They had come from all over. They had studied hard and learned much. And, they had enjoyed it all. There was not a single harsh word spoken at any time. The only injury was a single stubbed toe that occurred stepping off the mat and not as the result of any technique. These were truly martial artists. I was proud to be considered counted among their company. And shall strive to remain worthy of their trust and respect.

To all my friends in Italia, I cannot thank you enough for your kindness and generosity during my recent visit there. I hope to see you all again soon. If I can be of any service, please do not hesitate to ask. You are my brothers, we do not walk alone.


Ashida Kim
American Representative
Accademia delle Arti da Combattimento

[ Home | Books and Videos | DOJO Press | Email ]