INTERVIEW WITH PHILIPP MATSIRIDIS
NINPO SHIDOSHI 5th DAN
At which age did you start training in Martial arts, in which ones specifically and what was the reason you started?
I started at the age of 16 with Shotokan. I could say that the reason for starting such a sport, was rather my curiosity than a conscience decision. Furthermore, we should not forget that we talk about a time period, where Bruce Lee brought his revolution and everyone had a positive opinion for martial arts.
After I finished school in 1973, I went abroad for my studies. At that time I was training regularly in Shotokan and I liked it a lot. Nowadays, when I take a look back in the past, I have to say that I didn’t ever stop thinking about it like a sport, like a guide for improving my physical condition and moreover like an “indicator” for self-discipline. At that time, I didn’t have any access to the intellectual part of Martial Arts. Although, my interest for it grew a lot, and after a few years, around 1978, in order to extend my knowledge, I started to train in parallel in Ju-Jutsu and in Kung-Fu. In 1981, I took place accidentally at a Ninjutsu seminar, where I met my future teacher Moshe Kastiel. I found what I was looking for, and so, I gave myself in this Martial Art.
How long do you teach Ninjutsu, Mr. Matsiridis?
I started teaching relative early, around 1985, as assistant of my teacher, because at this time there were not any schools for Ninjutsu and therefore he had to travel a lot for seminars. I build my own school with my own trainees after I gain in the 5th Dan and the distinction of the Shidoshi in 1992.
If someone inexperienced would ask you what is Ninjutsu, what would be your answer?
We could talk for hours for what is Ninjutsu! I will try to answer this question as shortly as possible, due to the framework of this Interview.
Ninjutsu is a traditional, complete Martial Art, having its roots back to several centuries and for which there have been found written traditions more than 900 years old! We could say that Ninjutsu may be the “mother” of the Martial Arts, having a great base of body training and philosophy, which has been obviously be created for surviving reasons, has been developed into a extremely effective for fighting. Nowadays, it has been developed into an improving and organized Martial Art, for those ones who, being a fighter, want to put themselves into the nature and being in harmony with it, to become better humans.
What is your philosophy in the Martial Arts and generally in your life, Mr. Matsiridis?
According to what I have previously said about Ninjutsu, a conclusion comes up, that Ninjutsu is not a sport, not just another way of training, but a way of life. It is about a Martial Art, which can be very hard and rude and, on the other hand, a Martial Art that can give you thousands of emotions and feelings. Exactly like it happens in real life. By learning about the hardness, you come close to the idea of the death and in this way you can realize slowly, and think about ways you can avoid any of its traps, in order to survive. You learn how to see the world in another way, to valuate situations and people and finally to love the priceless gift that the Nature gave us: The LIFE. This is finally Ninjutsu: the love for life, the happiness to live in harmony with the Nature, having understood your place in the universe. The consciousness I am talking about, and the energy of the spirit, are some of the basic characteristics of Ninjutsu’s philosophy that I use to follow in my life. It is a philosophy that helps to take a look behind the appearance of the reality and to distinguish many problems, before they come up. This philosophy is known as Ban Pen Fugyo (it could be translated into “thousands of changes, without a suprise”). Every moment, everything is changing around you, but nothing can be a surprise, because you have learned to expect its progress. The skill to distinguish and to expect a perspective is of high mean in the philosophy I am using, which is knows as “zero emotion”. The level “zero” (known element KU) includes strong power that lets you move towards many other directions.
Very close to this idea, as well as with the Ban Pen Fugyo, is the meaning of Fudoshin (philosophy of the “unshakable heard”). When everything around you is collapsing, when only ruins and chaos surrounds you, you can still walk on your road and gain your goals, whichever they are, fulfill your aims, because you made your heart to be able to bear and follow you.
It is exactly what R. Kipling describes, somewhere in his remarkable poem “IF…”, as: “If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone, and so hold on when there is nothing in you … Yours is the Earth and everything that’s on it…”.
We all have seen in 2nd category films having as subject Martial Arts, the Ninjas doing several superhuman ridiculous actions. Why does this happen?
This is very simple for someone to understand, if he knows the philosophy of the media and more specifically philosophy of movies. The service for socialization –in my opinion a basic reason of the existence of media- has almost disappeared and the only thing that counts, is whatever can sell. Having this in mind, we should take a look at those tricks, which have nothing to do with the reality, as well as with the Martial Art itself. Beyond the fact that they misrepresent the truth with several superhuman ridiculous actions, like you mentioned correctly, many things are naturally inconsistent, because they present the Ninja as a “killing machine”, and on the other hand, they let them being hit by any inexperienced blusterer. If someone engages in Ninjutsu with seriousness, he will soon understand that the movie-industry is launching for profiteer and does not correspond to the reality.
Are there some criteria for one, who wants to start training the art of Ninjutsu? What would be the main things, which Ninjutsu would offer him?
No, we do not think about some criteria for one, who wants to start training the art of Ninjutsu. He should be interested in and have the intention to learn.
On the other hand, the criteria that he has can de several. He should be informed about the difference between a sport and a Martial Art. If he would like to take place at matches for and get distinctions, he should choose a sport. Ninjutsu does not have a championship. The several competitions take place only for training and not for distinguishing a winner. The reason is that in Ninjutsu there are no rules. Therefore competitions are more “gentle” in contrast to championships, because the competitors have to be more carefully in order to avoid any injuring.
Therefore, if someone decides to be engaged in Ninjutsu, he should know, that every Martial Art has its base. Ninjutsu, for example, has nine schools (Ryu) and around thirty-forty fields of knowledge, which can be distinguished into the ones which are about general knowledge of Martial Arts (the Buggei Juhappan) and the ones, which are related specifically to the training of the Ninjas (the Ninja Juhakkei). Ninjutsu became popular because of its incomparable art of Tai Jutau (unarmed fighting), where the trainee improves skills that concern a special form of the upper part of his body (Kamae-Kata), his body position (Tachi Kata), the distance (Maai), the concentration of the eyes (Me No Tsuke Kata), the right psychological moment for action (Waza Hodokoso Koki), the creation of opportunities (Chansu Ikasu), the fast hit (Smekomi, Sekka No Atari) and finally special skills of timing (Hyoshi). Beyond those methods for unarmed battles, Ninjutsu, being a complete Martial Art, includes the use of all traditional Japanese weapons, such as the short and large stick (Hanbo Jutsu), the sword (Kenjutsu), the spear (Yarijutsu), the knife (Tantojutsu), long blade (Naginata), chain (Kusari), blades (Shurikenjutsu) and other, as well as basic knowledge in the field of fire and explosives (Kajutsu), arts of the “court”, like singing, music, dance, theater (Yugei) and the art of learning by observation (Kyomon).
Like you can understand, the training requires lots of time, patience, will and courage. About the things that such a training would offer you, I could say that the one that will “resist”, will soon come up with the conclusion that his training, beyond the self-defence and the improvement of his body skills, has a result the unavoidable change of his personality, because Ninjutsu gives him the opportunity to train his “Ego” and to get…the black belt in life!
What is the situation of Ninjutsu worldwide and in Greece specifically, nowadays?
Ninjutsu became popular to the world around 1978, at the time Hatsumi Sensei build the Bujinkan and let light get farther in. Up to that time, the school was of type Ryu-Ha: a school with a secret family tradition, where the students were engaged with Keppan (blood-oath) not to teach the techniques somewhere else. From then on, the spread of this organization was extreme, and the people’s attendance great.
Nowadays, after 25 years, Bujinkan is coming up with a great number of members and a large improvement, especially abroad, where people use to work in a different manner than we do here.
In Greece, there was a time, where Ninjutsu met a remarkable but unfortunately short acme. The reasons for this are moreover the nature of the Greek people’s personality and the way they are acting. We want glory, recognition, financial profit, we are not patient and have no intention to “invest” in the future, so that our efforts, based on a right basis, are able to give us a constantly efficiency and something more important: to be legible by its environment.
How do you think about the future of Ninjutsu in Greece, Mr. Matsiridis?
In order not to be disappointed, I have to look at it with a great optimism. If there won’t be a different way of dealing with this subject from the Trainers’ aspect, it would be very difficult to build something proper. I have talked in a previous interview about this topic. When I came back to Greece, five years ago, I started trying to reorganize this field, by establishing Bujinkan Dojo Hellas, having in mind the establishment of a “vehicle” recognized by the state.
Unfortunately, shortly after a positive reaction, problems came up having as a result the creation of polarization, which did not help to the opening I was aiming at. However, I did not give up. I keep on trying, but I became more selective in my cooperations. I am sure, the moment will come, where my aims will be achieved and Ninjutsu will be at the positions that it deserves.
Mr. Karmis, thank you very much for including me in your web-site and for giving me the opportunity in this way, to contact all the friends of Martial Arts. I wish you good luck!
Curriculum Vitae of Philipp Matsiridis
Philipp Matsiridis started with Martial Arts at the age of 16, training Karate at a gymnasium at his neighborhood. When he finished school in 1973, he went abroad for studies, and started engaging in Shotokan. Around 1978 he started to train Ju-Jutsu and Kung-Fu in parallel, looking for something with more depth. In 1981 he took place a Ninjutsu seminar and he met his future Sensei, Moshe Kastiel. He engaged completely in this Martial Art and soon met Masaaki Hatsumi, because Kastiel was one of Doron Navon’s tranees, the fist non-Japanese who got the distinction of the “Shidoshi”. In 1992 Hatsumi Sensei evaluated his training and skills, with the 5th Dan and the disinction of the “Shidoshi”. Form that time on, having the agreement of Kastiel, he started teaching and got his own trainees.
The address of Bujinkan Dojo Athens is:
7, Efpalinou Str.
(vertical to Patision ave No 185)
11253 Amerikis square / Athens
Tel. 210 – 86 46 042