Tree-Hang Training

 

{ The following is an excerpt from Sith Academy: The Ninja Handbook. }

Tree-Hang

The Ninja operative needs to be able to hang for long periods over an area, from tree branches, walls, beams, etc., as part of reconnaissance or infiltration missions. The historical Ninja trained in this skill from a young age, starting by hanging from low branches for a few minutes. As they grew older and stronger, they would hang from higher branches for longer periods, until they were able to hang from branches fifty feet in the air for up to an hour. This not only required tremendous strength and endurance, but great willpower and mastery of one’s fear of heights. This makes the tree-hang one of the best all-around Ninja training exercises one can do.

To begin this exercise, find a branch or bar that is a little higher than your outstretched arms. Jump up and grab the bar with both hands, and simply hang naturally. As you hang, keep your body perfectly still and your breathing quiet. You may only be able to do this for a minute or two as a beginner before you tire and have to drop to the ground. Perform this exercise every day as part of your daily training; use a timer to set your hang time, increasing it by a small increment (10-20 seconds) every three days. After a week or two of this, find a higher branch so you are hanging several feet off the ground. Continue increasing your hang times and heights until you are able to hang motionless for ten minutes or more from a height of at least ten feet, and you will have achieved a Ninja Acolyte level of proficiency at the tree-hang skill.

Note: After I wrote this, I did some tree-hang training at a nearby beach, as shown in the picture above. Seconds after the picture was taken, I lost my grip while I was swinging back to the trunk to get down, and fell about eight feet straight onto my tailbone. This was a good, but painful, lesson in the importance of developing a strong grip, mindfulness of my body and agility in falling. Better to learn this from a height of eight feet than eighty!

Ninja Mind

{ The following is an excerpt from Sith Academy: The Ninja Handbook. }

“The truth here is that you have an enemy and an ally nowhere else but in your own mind.” —The Bansenshukai

Becoming a Ninja requires the development of a certain mindset of forbearance, flexibility, daring and deception. To understand what this entails, there is a powerful passage in the Shoninki where a Master is explaining the path of the Ninja to an Apprentice:

“The ninja can do the following things: sometimes talk about a province they have never been to, tell a strange story about a place they don’t know, pretend to be friends with a stranger, buy things with gold or silver they don’t have, eat food nobody gives, get drunk and go on a drunken spree without drinking alcohol, and learn every kind of art in the world. Also, oddly without being asked, they disguise themselves as a monk or Yamabushi mountain priest, even if they are not used to doing it; they have nowhere they cannot go; they camouflage themselves as women, such as an old mountain hag; they go out acting covertly all night and sleep out in the wilderness without shelter. Also, sometimes as a ninja, you may be startled at the call of a deer and search in panic for a hiding place while moaning in agonizing pain or grief or a sadness of which no one is aware. You will get annoyed with the moonlight and seek for the shelter of the shadows within a forest. Yet you have nobody to talk with or to unburden such toils and dismay, are any of these things a marvel for you at all? The people of the world around you may not know of your plight and engage you in conversation, but you must answer them without revealing any stress, this is also one of deceptions of the shinobi.”

This is one of the best descriptions of the Ninja mindset in the classical scrolls; study it and take it to heart!

Ninja Consciousness

Nine Levels of Awareness

Black Ninja psychology posits nine levels of consciousness:

  • Five Senses: Sight, sound, touch, smell, taste

  • Awareness of your mind: mindfulness, self-understanding

  • Awareness of other minds: “haragei”, intuition, telepathy, social understanding, communication

  • Cosmic awareness: sensing danger, remote viewing, knowing the future

  • Endarkenment: seeing through illusions, awareness of form and formlessness, Dark Tao-consciousness

Our Nine Halls training system is designed to awaken and hone each of these nine levels. The fact that we develop the four “metaphysical” levels of awareness gives us an edge over mundane shadow warriors, who focus primarily on the five physical senses.

Mushin

Ninja activities are best done in a state of mind called mushin, or ”no mind”. This is the state of unconscious, effortless action, when you no longer have to think about what you are doing—you simply do it. All Ninja training—meditation, climbing, fighting, stealthy movement, etc.—is designed to produce the mushin state. The fully trained Ninja master may truly be called a mushin-mono, or “mindless one”.

Mushin has recently been dubbed the “flow” state by Westerners, because it is a state where one is simply flowing with events, rather than consciously trying to control them. This has been found to be the most effective state for competitive sports, climbing, skydiving, surfing, artistic creation and other “peak performance” activities. This is also the state Zen masters have always strived for. As the great Zen master Takuan Sōhō said:

“The mind must always be in the state of ‘flowing,’ for when it stops anywhere that means the flow is interrupted and it is this interruption that is injurious to the well-being of the mind. In the case of the swordsman, it means death. When the swordsman stands against his opponent, he is not to think of the opponent, nor of himself, nor of his enemy’s sword movements. He just stands there with his sword which, forgetful of all technique, is ready only to follow the dictates of the subconscious. The man has effaced himself as the wielder of the sword. When he strikes, it is not the man but the sword in the hand of the man’s subconscious that strikes.”

The presence of danger—of your life being on a knife-edge—is one of the triggers for mushin. Being accustomed to this state, and able to enter it at will, is a matter of life and death for those who live with danger like the Ninja. But mushin can be entered into at any time, during even the most mundane activities. The Ninja should strive to live his entire life in the mushin state.

Blade-Heart

In the Bansenshukai, Fujibayashi writes:

“When entering an enemy camp on a dangerous mission, your heart must be a hard, cold, and sharp as the blade of a sword. If the heart is soft and weak, whenever an enemy confronts you, panic results and the mission fails. If the heart is unstable, the enemy will be able to see this hesitancy easily. This situation will not only cost your life, but will also endanger your leader, or for that matter, your country. A practitioner of Ninpo needs to have the type of heart that when touched can cut, and as with the blade of a sword, it should always be kept free from impurities, sharp, and cold to keep enemies on constant alert.”

This is a beautiful description of the Ninja heart: strong, cutting and pure like a blade. In fact, the kanji symbol used to represent “ninja” in written Japanese is composed of the kanji for “blade” on top of the kanji for “heart” (see above). The symbol for “ninja” literally translates as “one whose heart is under a blade”. In the Black Tongue of our Brotherhood, this quality is called tarzhâk, and a Ninja is sometimes called a tarzhâkath (“blade-hearter”).

Death in Life, Life in Death

“As a year has spring and winter, in spring trees and plants grow while in winter they conceal themselves, the sun and the moon rise and set, a day has day and night, the man wakes or sleeps, lives or dies. Spring is yo and of life, while winter is in and of death. Also, moonrise is yo while sunset or moonset is in and a man’s waking state is yo while sleeping is in. This means that to live is yo while to die is in. If you hate and fear to die young, why would you not hate or dread winter to come, or the sun and the moon to set, night to fall or a man to sleep? As sleep is a small part of in, so death is a large form of in. What is the reason you hate only death but do not hate to sleep? You should be ready to die with nothing to fear.” —The Bansenshukai

Here is another vital aspect of the Black Ninja mindset: the principle of “death in life, life in death”. This derives from the nature of the Tao, such that whenever you seek one thing, you bring about its opposite. If you go on a mission with a mentality of fearing death and wanting only to survive, you are in fact more likely to die. You will be tentative, fearful and rigid, instead of bold, fearless and flexible. Fujibayashi makes this point strongly in the Bansenshukai. Conversely, if you have a “devil may care” attitude on a mission, thinking of yourself as already dead, knowing that whatever happens is the will of the Dark Tao, feeling that you have nothing to lose, you will have a great advantage over enemies who fear death. You will find as you embrace death that you come alive; you will awaken instinctive powers held in check by your death-fearing mind; you will not hesitate and you will not be shocked or demoralized by events. Therefore, you will be more likely to continue to live. This realization is the secret of all great warriors.

Having said this, it should also be said that the Black Ninja are not like the Samurai or Kamikaze who went willingly into battles that were likely to bring death upon them. The Black Ninja is a “stealer-in” not a “death-marcher”; their mission is to infiltrate, gather information or conduct a stealth attack, then escape. Not fearing death does not mean the Ninja storms into the Lord’s quarters with sword in hand like a suicidal Hashashin of ancient Persia. Nor does it mean you stand and fight a pursuing enemy when running away is still an option. The ancient scrolls are clear on this point. Do not fear death, but stay true to your shadow warrior nature and mission, and don’t throw your life away.

Shadow-Mind

All dark side psychology, endarkened philosophy and black magick speak of the power of the Shadow: the dark side of human nature and the cosmos, which most try to ignore, suppress or vilify as “evil”. The Black Ninja, like the endarkened psychologist, philosopher and black magician, knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men, and how much power it has. Striving to acquire this power, and to make himself psychologically whole and strong, the Black Ninja becomes a living embodiment of his own Shadow, rather than a walking denial of it. This makes him terrifying to the Shadow-denying white-lighters, but it also makes him very formidable. For it gives him a gravitas, confidence and commanding presence that their subconscious minds respect, though their conscious minds reject. As Black Ninja, this is what matters most to us: the deep truth communicated by the Shadow-mind, not the superficial words and abstractions of the waking mind.

The great psychologist Carl Jung was the Westerner who popularized the idea of the Shadow, and made “integrating the Shadow” central to his psychological system. As Jung said:

“Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the Shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.”

Here Jung shows an understanding of what Ninja knew centuries ago: that real enlightenment is a process of facing the darkness. Jung also spoke of “projecting the Shadow”: the common practice of projecting one’s fears, hatreds and darker nature onto another person or group, and branding them “evil”. This is what the Samurai society of old Japan often did vis-a-vis the Ninja: projected all they found most despicable, disturbing and dishonorable onto them, so the Ninja became the living Shadows of the Samurai. And as often happens in cases of Shadow projection, the Samurai sought to wipe out the Ninja, and in so doing to wipe out the Shadow that was nothing other than their own dark side. But this is a war that they could never win.

The secret of the Black Ninjas’ power is our willingness to be the Shadow, and to use it as a weapon by magnifying and projecting it back upon the projector. By becoming living Shadows, Shadow-projection attacks no longer work against us. The Ninja essentially says to the Samurai and their kind: “Yes, I am your worst fears come to life. Your shaming and vilification doesn’t work on me. The more you project your fears upon me, the stronger I become.” This understanding is vital to the Black Ninja; it is how we stay strong in the face of animosity, and how we gain power in the face of stigmatization and fear. This understanding is what we call Shadow-Mindedness (Narg-Hûzûk).

Thick Face, Black Heart

The qualities of “thick face” and “black heart” are significant in darker Asian thought, and both are important in achieving the Black Ninja mindset.

“Thick face” refers to the strength of character, confidence and sense of self-worth needed to stay strong in the face of social criticism or adversity. It combines the Asian concept of “face”—your reputation and honor—and “thick skin”—your ability to withstand attack. A Black Ninja clearly needs a very thick face, because by nature he stands outside socially-approved conventions and subjects himself to extreme adversity and attack. Thick face is his psychological armor.

“Black heart” refers to the ability to take ruthless action; to impose your will on others even if it does them harm. Societies condition people not to have black hearts for obvious reasons, but this doesn’t apply to the Black Ninja. The reality is that every society needs people with black hearts, to get things done, to punish those who need punishing, and do the dirty work that those with white hearts fear to do. Black Ninjas are necessary, and black hearts are their psychological swords.

These two traits are at the core of Thick Black Theory, described in an influential Chinese treatise about the use of Machiavellian tactics and strategies to achieve one’s goals. It is said that Mao Tse-Tung studied this banned work and used its principles to conquer China. Thick Black Theory will be studied further in the Hall of Strategy.

Infiltrating and Exfiltrating Chi

In the scrolls of the Iga and Koka Ninja, an important distinction is made between the mindset of the Ninja when he is going into enemy territory vs. when he is exfiltrating from it. The scrolls speak of two different kinds of “chi”, which is the Chinese name for the psychic energy that is thought to control the will. When a Ninja has entered an enemy compound successfully, he will be full of “Infiltrating Chi”, full of confidence, ready to attack anyone who confronts him and complete his mission. However, after the Ninja’s task in the compound is complete, he will switch to an “Exfiltrating Chi” mindset, wanting only to avoid conflict and leave the area safely. This change in mindset is dangerous for the Ninja, because he may become too cautious and timid to get away safely. For example, the scrolls claim that enemy dogs will sense your weak Exfiltrating Chi and hound you, whereas if you project aggressive Infiltrating Chi they will leave you alone. To overcome this problem, you must first develop an awareness of it, then discipline yourself to stay just as bold during exfiltration as infiltration.