The term ninja has attained buzzword status in recent years thanks to the tech industry’s affinity for dramatic job titles.
Professional networking site LinkedIn lists more than 800 ninja-related occupations, past and present. Type “ninja” into the site’s search field and the first result is an ad man: MDC Partners chief innovation officer Faris Yakob, who worked at Naked Communications for five years as digital ninja.
Challenge this new breed of ninja to a street fight and you’ll face a dizzying assault of computer lingo and interactive marketing speak.
Unfortunately, that kind of defense won’t cut it on the mean streets of Sydney, which is why Nylon Studios composer Blair Joscelyne studies ninjutsu survival tactics every Wednesday night with a group of black-clad men he knows nothing about.
In 2002, he was perusing the Yellow Pages for an athletic, after-work hobby and spotted an ad for Ninjutsu Australia. After observing one class, he was intrigued and signed up to study the philosophies and unorthodox combat strategies practiced by warriors in feudal Japan.
For Joscelyne, who is now a black belt, ninjutsu offers a mix of athletic training and character building unlike anything he experiences composing ad music. He has trained in various survival skills, and traditional and improvised weaponry including cutlery, magazines, swords, ninja stars and rope.
“Being a musician I come from a culture where everyone is really friendly and open,” he says. “Studying ninjutsu was the first time in my life that I realized, wow there is no small talk here - there is no life beyond the two hours of training.”
At first, he admits the steely silence of the training hall was terrifying. The students do not engage in chatter, address each other by surname and do not acknowledge each other outside the class.
“I have no idea what their names are or what their jobs are,” he says. “They also have no idea what my name is or what my job is even though I’ve seen them once or twice a week every week for almost a decade.”
He describes ninjutsu as “extremely confronting”, but more practically-minded than other martial arts, such as karate. Students are taught to think preemptively and do whatever it takes to diffuse a conflict, with violence employed only as a last resort.
The sensei uses an adrenalin-based technique that involves pushing, slapping or screaming at the students until they are in a genuinely fearful state. Whereas karate teaches students just to respond to specific punches and kicks, the ninja also learns to control this destabilizing rush of adrenalin.
The ninja’s focus benefits Joscelyne in everyday life. Once while taking the train with friends on a Friday night, another passenger became unruly, started shouting and pointed his finger threateningly in his direction.
“I started yelling at myself and insulting myself loudly,” he says. “And he sort of sat down [as if he] thought ‘this guy’s crazy’ and we got off the train and went home. As much as that seems ridiculous, the point of ninjutsu is to do what you need to do to get home safely.”
This article marks the first time he’s spoken about his stealthy hobby at length. He’s breaking his silence now because he believes the centered attitude he’s cultivated over the past eight years can be of benefit to others.
“It’s like performing with music. I’ve always felt nervous getting up performing live,” he says. “I don’t think that fear ever goes away. You just learn how to manage it.”
Article: Kevin Ritchie for boards Magazine.
For more info on Blair and Nylon Studios visit http://www.nylonstudios.com/