Stephanie Dunham Sensei (Steph Sensei) is a firm believer in empowering others to be their best selves. Stephanie has been training in Ninpo Bugei since January 2016 under the guidance of Mark Bramble Shihan (Ninpo US), and José Benitez (Banri Dojo in Wilmington, DE). She achieved her 1st degree black belt in February 2020. Steph Sensei believes in taking some of the ancient disciplines and traditions of Japanese warrior culture and applying them to modern needs. She enjoys teaching and writing, but most importantly she loves learning. As she continues training in Ninpo, she is adding Krav Maga and some other styles into her repertoire. Steph Sensei believes in a holistic approach in training and works to achieve balance in mental, physical, and spiritual approaches to martial arts training. She is looking forward to working with anyone interested in training, but especially women and kids. Stephanie Sensei believes that martial arts training is for anyone, regardless of limitations, who wishes to improve their lives. Ninpo Ikkan!
As we all know, ninja are most likely to be found in dark corners, on rooftops, and dressed as the occasional Buddhist priest, because hiding in plain sight. Ninja are well-known for being prepared for every possible obstacle. Throwing stars, climbing rope, lunchboxes, and concealed cobras are part of the shinobi toolkit. Crawling in walls, tiptoeing in homes, and grabbing pizzas from manholes are part of savvy ninja shimmies in wee hours of the night. What we don’t know is how clandestine shinobi “use the facilities” in the middle of a mission. When the traipsing over rooftops, surely the masters of deflection feel the incidental urge to use the “Little Ninjas Room.”
One would think shinobi have this covered, being procurers of dirt, tip-offs, and hot tips its essential to have all bases covered, especially the evacuation of the pee. But, how can a shinobi casually walk into a public restroom and not draw suspicion you ask? Wouldn’t the above-average sneakster need a room-‘o-rest now and again? Or, do they have bladders of iron as part of their kit?
When embarking on another errand for their employer, ninja are challenged to find whizz pots along the way. If one watches carefully in the night, you might find a ninja piddling in a port-a-potty, spending a penny in the subway (apparently this is British slang for peeing), wee-weeing on the flora, or tinkling in your powder room. Because, a ninja got to do what a ninja got to do.
Next time you’re out and about make sure to take the time to look for your friendly neighborhood ninja in your local latrine. They like their privacy, so don’t bother with any selfies, because, it might just be your last time to take a leak.
We Ninja loooooove a terrible 80’s martial arts movie, especially ones involving mullets and cheesy one liners. Last night we had the dubious pleasure of witnessing one such movie: Gymkata. Sake and IPA’s might have been present to numb the senses to the over-achieving sensibilities of Kurt Thomas and a rather scurrilous cast of characters.
Our high-flying hero, Jonathan Cabot, is recruited by…somebody, to do…something. Okay the plots not clear, or I had had enough sake by then to not really care. Anyway, our gymnast hero gets trained by a Japanese dude who likes swinging kama at his crotch blindfolded, a selectively mute “Princess of Parmistan,” and some random “karate” expert who tosses out cliches like ninja stars thrown by the blind. This crazy quilt of training montages results in what appears to be some fusion of gymnastics, ninja stuff, knife work, and karate…? I guess the title of the movies sums up this new art fairly simply.
Several key things stuck out to me about this movie: the conveniently placed gym equipment, a discount Chuck Norris, the love interest and of course, the inevitable Ninja.
When one knows gymkata and finds themselves running through the Middle Eastern equivalent of zombie land, its helpful when useful and familiar gymnastics equipment suddenly appears. Those flying feet of death need the force generated by gravity defying leg circles, moores, spindles, and flairs. How convenient then that our hero just so happened to find a pommel horse when the local crazies where closing in, or one half of the uneven bars randomly attached to a couple of walls.
The Princess of Parmistan is Jonathan’s love interest. It seems inevitable from the get-go that these two crazy kids ought to end up together, but there’s too many mullets, cheese, and political tension in the way. Somehow, with nary a word in the first act, Rubali, the princess, conveys her sexual tension by pulling knives on Jonathan fairly regularly. She wants him bad, but she’s not going to say that. He has to figure it out with wide-eyed stares and the occasional flicks of a switchblade. But she’s supposed to marry her dad’s right-hand man, because that what was in the script. Being the princess of her dad’s cheese empire means she has to do what he says, and dammit, he’s gonna make her marry that mullet-headed discount Chuck Norris whether she likes it or not.
The producers really wanted that effervescent know-it-all and badass of the universe Chuck Norris to play the bad guy, but as luck would have it he was too busy proving his immortality on the internet by pointing big guns at his own bad guys. So, instead of ‘Ol Chucky we get this guy:
Zamir somehow manages to be on the kahn’s (intentional misspelling) good side, and Rubali’s bad side, AT THE SAME TIME. It’s as if the sexual confusion of his wardrobe and hairstyle choices convey ambiguity, or something. Is he good? Is he bad? Who knows, or cares? Given the discounted nature of this fellow’s acting skills, we ninja feel he is rightly dubbed Nuck Chorris.
Thanks to the ninja boom of the 80’s they tend show up in every martial arts flick from that era. But one has to wonder what these guys were doing in Parmistan, and why they look the Foot Clan? Was it Nuck Chorris’ fault? Did he extend his confusion to his soldiers, or were they white belts undergoing a hazing by their seniors? It’s kinda hard to tell what’s really going on under their masks, but we’re thankful they were standing there with their flags, pointing the way for our hero.
When it comes to films, the goings on of Parmistan is a highly marked-down wheel of cheese. With the help of his metaphysically superhuman aptitude, and some depreciated citizens of the Cheese Cartel, this movie will drive you to drink, especially since this was apparently the point?
Ah, yes. That ol’ Zen koan (philosophical riddle)– What is the sound of one hand clapping? Is it something? Is it nothing? If a tree claps in the woods and know one hears it, did it HAPPEN?? What is the point this riddle anyway? As far as I’m concerned trying to figure this silliness out is:
But I digress.
“Clapping” is boring. Especially trying to clap with one hand. Isn’t that just finger tapping on your palm? I mean clapping is really just a precursor for hitting things anyway isn’t it? If you think about it, clapping is just slapping yourself. Don’t get me wrong, slaps aren’t a bad thing. Everybody needs a good slap now and again. Take this slap for instance:
But, don’t you think Batman would rather punch pretty boy Robin straight in the thinker rather than tickling his cheeks with a piddling excuse for a strike? I’d say slapping is kinda like the T-Ball of hitting, whereas punching, well that’s major league stuff. If nothing else, the movies (and some TV shows) have taught us that when all else fails, punch ’em fast, hard, and right between the eyes. But only once, and with one hand. Which brings me back around to our original question: What IS the sound of one hand punching?
One thing’s for certain, martial artists of ALL kinds enjoy hitting things. After all, the point of anything related to war, hence the term martial, involves striking and destroying other things, and sometimes other people. We train to hit fast, hard, and with precision. We spend literal HOURS throwing our fists, feet, legs, arms, tips of weapons, and sometimes heads at stuff…and ENJOY IT. We might walk away sore, covered in bruises, but we love it and find it fun. So of course, one of the greatest highlights in any movie involving fighting is the sound of punches being laid on a bad guy. In our collective fever dreams of greatness, we too want to look and sound as awesome as THAT hero on the screen as we knock them to kingdom on their assess.
With the certainty of victory, and an embellished soundtrack, I present you The SOUND of One Fist punching.
I’m Dai Senpai (大先輩 for the uninitiated dai senpai simply means Big Senior) now. I passed all tests required before shodan and now I’m in the hold-onto-your-gi-pants-cuz-its-getting-crazy-up-in-here pattern until February. What does being dai senpai get me? More responsibilities, like the kind where herding cats seems like a dream job. Seriously though, I’m doing my best to lead people into their best selves but sometimes the process moves like molasses, or is it mole asses? My friend texted me this morning and said they (her and her family) were moving like mole asses (Autocorrect? Or did she TYPE ass…hmmm…) trying to get out the door to the gym. And I’m like, how slow do mole asses move? She never answered. BUT, it’s an idea worth exploring, because LOOK AT THAT MOLE BUTT.
I’m getting my first tastes of teaching because I’m headed toward sensei territory and guess what, more responsibility awaits. I’m pretty sure my sensei is throwing me into the deep end of the instructor pool, but it’s kinda hard to tell what with these messy swim goggles and all that splashing I’m doing in my tiny, half-dead water wings. I mean, he’s the kind of guy who gives bruises for free then says “You’re welcome” when you complain about it, but I digress (Uh-oh, a song parody of Money for Nothing is lurching around in my brain. Maybe next blog post, heh heh). Figuring out my role, duties, and authority is going a lot like I imagine mole asses go when the front end is busy digging tunnels– a jarring, muddy ride full of long-dead bug carcasses pushing up daisies.
But it’s good for me, right? After all, the shortest path to trial-by-fire learning is paved on the road of the do-or-die method of teaching. Remarkably, here I stand in the center of the volcano, pretty sure my underpants are on fire and the pool noodle of justice is headed my way (No, we’re not THAT sadistic. We gently whack each other in the name of NOT making knuckle-headed moves), but feeling determined to give it my best, despite the rambunctious moles and their yucky ass-dragging-ness.
Truly, I appreciate flailing around in the dark like a blind guy at the disco, because getting my mole-asses butt headed in the right direction is bit like corralling bulls bent on shopping for china ware. Because I’m THICK-headed. Thick like the fur on a mole ass. I can be pretty slow on picking up details, clues, and the occasional direct command. Butt, I try, oh, how I try. I guess that’s what got me here in the first place. Being bullheaded has its place in the martial arts. Dogged determination to see the training through to the next level is what makes a decent person decent-er. Even if getting there flows like mole asses.
I missed last week because time passed quickly Monday, and there just wasn’t time to get into silly mode. As this Monday approached, I started to dreading finding time to be silly again. Being silly is one of my favorite things, writing hasn’t always been a favorite for me. However, having a handful of people who enjoy my silly writing makes it worthwhile, hence making the time to write. BUT (and this is a big but) life is now hectic because of several factors. It’s like an already-assembled jigsaw puzzle a martial artist accidentally kicked on the floor when they went down trying get that bottle cap. So many pieces have been tossed about and I’m attempting to settle into my new reality.
It does take me a little longer than most people to get used to new routines, I remain an undiagnosed female with Asperger’s Syndrome (How can I know if I’m not diagnosed? That’s a question for another day) which means I takes me at least 2 months to get used to changes, sometimes longer. There are lots of good things happening and one key to reducing stress and anxiety for myself is putting on hold things that are lower down on the priority list. I’m gonna take a moment and list my priorities for you in case you’re wondering “What the heck??” If you’re interested in my reasons for taking a break, read on my friend, otherwise, see you later excuse hater. These are not in any particular order. Rather, they’re like a 10-ring circus in my head right now, all featuring some whacked version of reality at once.
Living. This one is key to all the other ones below. No life-y, no list-y. Capiche?
Drinking coffee. I’m pretty useless without coffee in the morning. Like don’t-know-what-day-it-is useless.
Breathing. Breathing is essential to life. I occasionally hold my breath and forget to breath normally. Which leads me to my next reason…
Spiritual life. Keeping that healthy, growing, and fruitful is essential to the rest of the stuff I have to deal with.
Trauma recovery. I am knee-deep in my latest bout of PTSD recovery and am in therapy. Thankfully I have a wonderful therapist who knows of a kind of recovery tool called EMDR (look it up) for flashbacks, and PTSD.
Depression, panic, and anxiety management. I’m on some good meds to keep me from losing it. Its a good regimen, but my sleep is whacked, I still have bad days, and constantly fluctuating moods and emotions. It’s like being a roller coaster where the tracks look familiar but keep changing position.
Exercising. I am a fitness nut. I work out a lot, usually 6 times a week (that includes training) plus teaching self-defense.
Oh, yeah, I’ve started a new business with my best friend and my sister. Talk about dealing with moodiness. Change is good, but dang if doesn’t come with a side of WTH?!?! I love it, but is stressful. Lots of meetings and talking, and other stuff that needs doing.
Napping. I take naps almost every day. I keep trying to fool myself into believing I don’t need one. All that exercising of my body, and my mind, keeps me tired.
Taking care of the family. My husband works constantly, my son is an Asperger’s child, and my sister, who lives with us, works full-time. I am the only adult not working a full-time job. So, it’s up to me to keep order.
Taking mental health breaks from everything. Which usually looks like hiding in my room while Brooklyn 99, or some Murder and Mayhem show is playing while I eat snacks and do my nails. Or sleep.
And, finally, my favorite thing keeping me busy is training in Ninpo. I have a goal to test for my black belt in February. I have 2 more tests to do to be at the correct level for testing in shodan. There is a lot of work to do between now and February. So many things to memorize, practice, drill, and etc to get me ready.
Hope to be back soon, bringing some silliness your way! Oh, uh, speaking of naps, zzzzzzzzzzzzz…..😴