Feel free to skip to the last paragraph if you want to understand and know what Warrior Zone Society is all about. All that is written below is a short account of how I got to where I am today.
My introduction to ninjutsu –
Back in the 1985 and while still in high school in the Florida Keys, I discovered Stephen Hayes’s book introducing Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu to the western world. At the time I was training in Mas Oyama’s Karate and had obtained a black belt before the age of 18. I thought I could take care of myself as training in the martial arts tends to inspire that sort of self-confidence. During this time I was very much into training for survival, at that time the big fear was nuclear war. I was young and on my own so I learned what I could from books obtained by mail order from Paladin Press. I also spent a lot of time exploring the islands of the Florida Key always having been an explorer type.
My dream was to train with Stephen Hayes or at least train in Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu. It wasn’t until after a bit of college (electronics, robotics and computer programming) and then a stint in the US Army Reserve (Military Intelligence) that I moved to Mesa, Arizona where I finally had a chance to train in ninjutsu. That was in 1990…I remember living in Mesa when we were invading Iraq and that scare of chemical weapons attacks in the U.S. The run on the army surplus stores was crazy with everyone purchasing gas masks. During this time, I met my first ninjutsu instructor.
My first ninjutsu instructor -
I first met Kris Graham in Phoenix, AZ from an ad he had posted in the local army surplus store where I liked to buy survival/camping gear and ammo. When we first met the first thing I noticed was his Australian accent and he had the enjoyable British habit of serving tea at every opportunity. He was a former Australian SAS (Special Air Service) soldier. He experienced combat in South Africa and Ireland. So, needless to say, my training was very interesting. His background also included a teacher ranking in Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu which he obtained in Australia, before it was re-named Bujinkan Ninpo (as it is called today) and watered down as it is taught in most dojos. He was taught as it was first taught to the western world. If you are familiar with Stephen Hayes's original books that came out in the 80's you'll know what I mean.
I trained with him for about a year where our friendship developed quickly. Together we decided to move an hour north up into the mountains of Flagstaff, AZ to start a Ninjutsu school. We lived and trained together for 6 years where my knowledge grew extensively. A number of students came and went but there was a solid core of us who were always there for every class and seminar that Kris and I taught, keep in mind I was learning as well as helping teach. During this time I was his head student and of course I was always the Uke (an individual who has techniques demonstrated on), Kris earned all the money and I did it whatever he needed for free, of course I was getting trained for free as well. We taught classes 3 days a week and at least one seminar or special class once or twice a month. Seminars or special classes included such topics as Stealth and camouflage, small unit tactics (moving and shooting), small arms classes using primarily the AR-15 and 9-mm Taurus (ever roll with a loaded weapon and come up shooting? Fun stuff!, survival skills (snow, wilderness, and desert), rappelling, rock climbing, bouldering, even such extreme topics as sentry take downs and interrogation. Personally I received training as a bouncer as Kris worked at a local strip club for a while and I would work when they needed the extra help. Working as a bouncer teaches restraint as you are dealing with drunk individuals not someone whom you want to decimate while defending yourself. More on this later…
After the 6 years things became rocky with Kris. He wanted to make training videos and he wasn’t making the money he wanted to make with running classes and seminars, but bottom line he wasn’t happy as he wasn’t moving forward with his life. I was in a similar situation things having become stagnant. We had a bit of a falling out and I stopped training with him for a few months. We did work things out and I started training with him again for a couple months but then one day he up and disappeared. I only heard the story second hand but from what I understand he took money from a woman he was with, headed out to California and ended up ripping of some bodyguard /security type people and last I heard the feds were looking for him because he stole weapons. He has all but disappeared and I haven’t heard from him since 1996. Truly a shame but I don’t know what happened to him or where he is today. He wasn’t that type of person while I knew him but I do know he would do whatever he needed to survive… Maybe one day I’ll run into him again. I owe him immensely for all the knowledge and skill that he gifted me with.
Moving on –
So I found myself without a teacher or even a training group. I trained with some of the guys on and off but everyone went different directions. For a short period I trained with a couple, Mel and Melanie Krueger (if I remember correctly) but they were straight out of a Bujinkan school. My first introduction to Bujinkan as it was being taught in the 90’s. I wasn’t impressed. I trained with Peter Crocoll in Tempe, AZ a few times and he ran some great seminar’s which I attended with Kris. I would recommend Peter to anyone travelling out that way as he is in touch with nature and brings his own twist to Bujinkan and is a gentle soul who can kick some ass.
I had a couple interesting trips out to Abby Allen’s dojo in Albuquerque, NM (she is now deceased). While there I attended seminars run by Mark O'Brien and Andrew Young who were both doing there seminar circuits to raise money so they could keep training in Japan. I was extremely impressed by Mark and Andrew so I knew there were other instructors teach the combat aspect of Bujinkan.
I ended up moving back to Ft. Lauderdale, FL where I found training to be non-existent. I did end up travelling to West Palm Beach, FL to train with Paul Fisher where I was first listed and added to the ranks of Bujinkan as a green belt, this being a starting point as he couldn’t just hand me a black belt as I was told. One of the highlights of being at Paul’s dojo was the seminar with Andrew Young (yes, again!). I was honored with meeting Dick Severance and was allowed to play with the tools that he made at the time. My training lasted for a few months but work and modern life took over as I was focused on my career as Web Developer.
To keep this shorter than what it could be I spent a number of years going to various Bujinkan dojos but haven’t found an instructor. I did end up in Melbourne, FL and trained with Dick Severance on and off for a year. Dick was a phenomenal teacher and a warehouse full of knowledge. This is where my girlfriend, Tarra (who is now my wife), was first introduced to the art. Tarra became pregnant and we moved to Asheville, NC where her folks lived. Did you know Asheville, NC is the sister city to Flagstaff, AZ? It was here that I met with Sean Kennedy who is running a dojo named Kasumi Mountain Martial Arts. He was an awesome instructor and a great friend. It only lasted a year after which time Tarra and I moved back to Florida and she joined the US Army. We then relocated to Killeen, Texas for about 4 years. I was a stay at home dad raising my boy, Gavin. She was medically disabled and discharged from the US Army which landed us back in Melbourne, FL. I was looking forward to training with Dick Severance again and it was with a heavy heart that I learned of his passing while I had been gone.
The Space Coast is our current home and I have spent many years doing self-development , increasing my knowledge through reading and honing my skills through solo-training. Over the years I have been to a multitude of dojos and have yet to find an instructor like Kris.
Understand that Kris was never part of the Bujinkan system, but taught outside of it, so even though he would rank us it wasn’t a priority or even a necessity. We all wore black belts because it matched the uniform which was black BDU’s and black GI top. He didn’t teach rank as being important and I keep that in my heart even to this day. Kris taught me a combat martial art based on Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu. We trained to end a conflict within seconds. He taught free flowing, natural body movements. The focus was not on memorization but using what came naturally and what appeared in front of you in a given situation. We trained with real world simulations with the understanding that you won’t be punched at with a nice slow straight punch as most Bujinkan practioners train with. Odds are you’ll have to defend against a street fighter, not a martial artist. As the saying goes - Train as you fight!
Shoot, I never was really familiar with Bujinkan until after Kris and I parted ways and I began seeking out new instruction and honestly I found most Bujinkan schools to be lacking in combat skills. The focus was on the art, which I love, but I’m into this for protection and defending family, friends and community.
Time to teach –
One day it occurred to me that all these years of looking for a new instructor was the wrong direction. I had the right instructor already. Now it is time to teach what I have learned. I have seen the failings of many Bujinkan dojos and I have seen how it can be done right. The Bujinkan is a phenomenal martial art system and if taught well it is ideal for learning to defend one’s self, family, friends and community. Read the history about ninjutsu and you will see that is what ninjutsu is all about. Ninjutsu can be taught as an art form and as a combat system. I choose to teach, learn and practice the combat aspect. As I age I appreciate and train in the art as well, but new students should not be focused on the art. They want to learn to protect themselves. Just because Soke Hatsumi is teaching the enlightened levels of the art to the high levels black belts doesn’t mean everyone else at white belt level should be learning at that level. This is the mistake so many Bujinkan instructors are making, but unfortunately it is what they were taught. Who cares about refining Kihon Happo or Sanshin No Kata to perfect technique!! As an art form, yes, spend hours perfecting it. As someone learning to defend themselves they don’t need to know any of that. Teach the student to learn to flow and move naturally to use natural body movement. Teach them to react to any attack. Teach them to run, jump and roll. Let them become ninja’s as it was once taught but is no longer taught. I ask, what has happened to all the other elements of ninjutsu that Stephen Hayes introduced to the western world. What happened to teaching stealth, espionage and all the other cool stuff? I was lucky; I had a teacher who taught me these things through the roundabout method of having been trained in a Special Forces unit (SAS).
Personal Plans for self-development -
- Establish rapport and training with Greg Cooper out of Orlando. This will allow for Warrior Zone Society members wishing to rank in the Bujinkan System as well as Systema.
- Dragon Door RKC certification
- Functional Strength certification
Warrior Zone Society is born -
So, to this end I have created Warrior Zone Society. The concept is to include all warriors from any background, not just ninjutsu, although that is what I teach. Warrior Zone Society is for individuals and families who want to learn to defend themselves as well as protect the community.
Keep in mind this training is specific to my experience, other Warrior Zone groups will have different training curriculum's.
- Combat style self-defense based on Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu as I was trained
- Natural body movement
- Using natural body weight, not strength making this the ideal self-defense system for those lacking in strength. Women excel in this system.
- Angling, using all the directions. Not linear combat. (ie. get behind the bastard.)
- Basic rolling, nature’s chiropractor.
- Basic strengthing
Additional training (for those interested):
- functional strength training, sandbag training, kettlebell, etc
- energy work
- mental exercises
- Sensory awareness
- Join the Warrior Zone Society’s Mudder team
- Ninja skills
- Stealth and camouflage
- Training in the dark
- Free running style movement , climb up that tree or wall, hardcore rolling from height, etc.
- Like to play with smoke and fire? Things that go boom?
- SAS/Paramilitary skills (note this is not a militia, we are about self-defense and survival)
- Small team tactics and maneuvers
- Join the Warrior Zone Society’s Paintball team
Realize that this is a society and all of us whom are members are responsible for our own training. If you want to learn or incorporate it into the Society then bring it up at your next class or online in the forums.
Warrior Zone Society will be a global group with the eventual establishment of groups throughout the world which will allow visiting of other groups for training and seminars. Imagine the whole world as your training ground, online and physically.
To Learn more: