Ever since I was in high school, I have been interested in the martial arts. At that time, a friend and I would try to duplicated the moves found in various karate and Kung Fu books.
My interest in the ninja began while I was a student at the Air Force Academy Prep School after I picked up a book at the local mall. The book was called Ninjutsu: The Art of Invisibility, Japan’s Feudal Age Espionage Methods by Donn Draeger. This book spurred my curiosity.
Leaving the Prep School, I was stationed in North Dakota and continued my search for the martial art of the ninja. It was at this time, I found some books written by Stephen K. Hayes. Hayes also had a monthly newsletter called Shadows of Iga. I immediately subscribed and tried to work out on my own as much as possible.
After North Dakota, I found myself in Turkey. It was here where I found some folks to begin training with. One guy I worked with, and we would get together to mimic techniques from the books and newsletters. I then ran into a guy named Brad Ellin who had trained in this martial art in Texas. He put our training in high gear and we trained regularly. Collectively, we would train based on what he had learned supplemented by techniques from books and newly acquired videos.
From Turkey, I moved to Belgium. Totally hooked by this martial art, I immediately began hunting for a local group to train with. In the meantime, I convinced a couple of guys at work to begin to train with me. It was some of the best fun I had in my life. I found a group in Eindhoven, Holland under the supervision of Mariette van der Vliet. Our little group would go to Eindhoven each week to train. About six months later, I was graded to 5th Kyu and put in charge of the group as Mariette moved to Sweden. For the next eight years, I traveled all over Europe with Bernadette van der Vliet to seek out training. We primarily trained with Mariette and Sveneric Bogsater, Brin Morgan, and Moshe Kastiel. We also tried to attend every Tai Kai possible. It was not unusual to drive 8 or more hours to attend a weekend training event. This period of time was one of tremendous growth as I tried to collect every note, densho, and video I could get my hands on. I also made some great friends.
In 1997, I was transferred to Cheyenne, Wyoming. As far as this martial art was concerned, I was in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, through the introduction of the Internet, interested individuals managed to find out I was in the area. The would travel 11 hours to train with me and I would travel out to train with them. Thanks, Ron Bergman and Doug Hampton. Also, there was a club at the Air Force Academy. We would occasionally get together for a weekend of training. All along, I would continue to buy books and videos to supplement my knowledge.
After leaving the Air Force in 1999, I took a job in Geneva, New York. Again, I sought out opportunities to train. One of the first things I did even before moving into a house in Geneva was made a road trip to train with Jack Hoban in New Jersey. For the next six years, I would make the monthly trip to train with Jack. There were a lot of great guys to train with at these events to include Leonard Pollard, Jon Haas, Josh Sager, Mark Guest, Kurt Haynes and many more. I also managed to get a group going in the Geneva area and was able to turn it into a credited course for Hobart and William Smith College. Through my connection with Leah Himmelhoch, I would travel out to Colgate University to train with her and the group she put together. Another great group of people to train with; always fun.
In 2005, Bernadette and I headed back out to Wyoming, this time Laramie. Physical issues, involvement with volunteer groups, and the remote location held my training back. Nonetheless, I led a group for regular training. I had the pleasure to meet a lot of great people. Since I was last in Wyoming, there has been an increase in the number of near by groups.
Well, we have once again moved east. This time, we have moved to Jamestown, New York. Since being here, I have attended to some personal needs; however, it is time to get back on the mats and put together a group to train with. I also need to start making trips out to New Jersey to train with Jack. I am looking forward to getting started.
Over the years, my motivations for training have changed. But what has not changed is my interest in this martial art. This martial art has never disappointed me in terms of learning. Each training session has been different, never the same. I have also been introduced to some of the most amazing people, who are genuinely fun to be around.
If you are in the Jamestown area, lets get together and train.