Perseverance

By Joe Maurantonio

The legends of Toshitsugu Takamatsu's life and times have captured a special place in the hearts of those of us in the Bujinkan. Not only was he Hatsumi Sensei's teacher, but he was also the last Ninja Soke to actually use his skills and abilities in wartime. Yet in truth, very little has been written and published about Takamatsu's 10 years of adventure in China and Mongolia. Hatsumi Sensei says that most of these untold tales are not for the public ear. Anyone who has been to Japan and been invited to tea with Sensei has heard a tale or two of Takamatsu's exploits.

For instance, a friend of mine recently returned from Japan where Soke had recounted this tale over tea: Takamatsu was in a fight with an adversary who had a knife. This man cut at Takamatsu and, through luck or skill, opened a gashing wound in his abdomen. As the blood flowed forth, Takamatsu's intestines began to seep out. Undaunted, Takamatsu rained blow after blow at his adversary, who immediately ran from the fierce warrior. What kind of demon fights when he is gravely wounded?

Takamatsu gathered himself up, held the wound together and took care of it so as to live for many years after that incident. The lesson here is, of course, that even when one is faced with death, one must persevere. And that is one of the most important lessons in our Bujinkan Dojo training.

Takamatsu Sensei once said, "What does Victory really mean? I would never have mastered taijutsu if I had clung to that concept." It took me years to understand that Takamatsu Sensei is admonishing us to not try to force a win or victory but rather to persevere over obstacles that we come up against. Remember, there is a martial adage which states that the best way to win a fight is to never join in it.