"Being a ninja is about learning to adapt to any situation."
- Dai Shihan Mark Roemke
The Mind of the Ninja Mentor
The Core and the Creative
As a ninja, it is fundamental to learn the basics, and then apply them to any situation. In ninjutsu, we first learn to fall safely, then later to roll. It's important to learn these basics in a specific way so that you can protect your body. In most of our dojo classes, we begin by rolling, and then we do more rolling, again, and again and again...until we develop "muscle memory" where our body knows what to do without having to think. Later in our training, we learn how to throw opponents and how to be on the receiving end of a throw. Learning how to fall and roll first is an essential prerequisite to this step. Similarly if you are riding your bike down a street and suddenly hit a rock and are thrown over the handlebars, your body must react to this unique situation in order to fall or roll safely. It is in these moments that the body must react instinctively, and creatively, to adapt to each situation, but only after practicing the basics many times.
Similarly, with our nature skills we have core techniques that we want you to adapt creatively. For example, we teach knife safety techniques. After learning the basics of our knife "A,B,C's," you will need to adapt them creatively-- each student is different, the wood that the landscape provides is unique, the location where you practice skills has unique features, and the weather offers its own challenges. We teach games with written or video instruction. However, don't attempt to do every lesson plan or game exactly as we do. In other words...
Use these lessons as ideas. We want you to tap into your own creativity and adap the lessons.
We find it helpful to remember that as a mentor, there is two perspectives to use as a process: the core and the creative. The core skills refer to the basics that we mention above (how to fall, how to safely carve with a knife, how to silently "fox walk" etc.). These are the skills that are important to repeat over and over to develop muscle memory or deeply embedded awareness. The creative is how you apply these skills. With every new student that enters our NiN program for example, we must return to the basics (match training, sword evasion, silent walking, and an hour of silence). The process that creates inner personal development for you as a mentor is to remember to teach these skills in new and unique ways. The good news is that we usually have nature on our side. The seasons are always different, the weather changes, the landscape changes, our group of youth students is always evolving (and who we pick of the "veteran" NiN students to help teach the basics changes), and we as mentors can think creatively about new ways to teach the same core skills. This is what keeps the essence of our NiN program alive and evolving. Oh, and if you come up with new, creative ways to teach the core skills, we always love hearing about them because we too at the NiN Home Dojo are always wanting to evolve what we do and how we teach, so please tell us your stories!
Burn the Lesson Plans
Symbolically, or literally we want you to put the lesson plan on the central fire and burn it. Feel free to pull out your bow drill and make the fire before burning the lesson plans. Don't put your laptop or phone on the fire to burn the tutorial videos. That could get messy. There is a Firebird Guardian that you will encounter with our program that is hungry for these ashes. Learn the core (again and again), add your creativity, then let go of it. Make a commitment not to become routine, formulaic, or mechanistic in your teaching. Become an adaptive ninja. This is the essence of a Ninja Mentor.