Who really was the first Canadian Ninja Instructor?
Some have made claims directly or indirectly that Bujinkan member and Canadian “Ninjutsu” (Juyon dan) Instructor J Courtland Elliot II is and was in fact the first instructor of the Ninja arts in Canada .
Also that J. Courtland Eliot II was the first Canadian “Ninja” (as per Ki Ai magazine fall 2009 article) Being an instructor in Ninjutsu and being a “Ninja” are two different things, and mean different things today than they did historically.
The classification of one actually being a "Ninja" may have been different from group to group. As per our understanding of this: A Ninja is a person who was comprehensively trained in the arts of Ninjutsu, used that training in the commission of acts for which Ninja were traditionally hired, which varied from military scouting activities, guerilla warfare tactics, gathering information, dissemination of disinformation, sabotage, bodyguard services and assassination. They were typically employed by political bodies and organizations, including secret societies, but also did private work for people like merchants etc,.
The historical Ninja before being considered a true operative was required to prove themselves in the field, including demonstrating the ability to kill another human being. For obvious reasons, these criteria do not apply to the Bujinkan or any other member of a public organization that claims to teach Ninjutsu. These criteria probably do not apply to many operatives of the various military, paramilitary and secret services as we understand them today.
That stated, the use of the term “Ninja” should properly be used with that historical context in mind. Thus when practitioners of Ninjutsu make claims to being Ninja, it is probably false. If they did by some rare circumstance meet the criteria above, it's not something they would at liberty to reveal to the public. Live action role playing does not make a person a Ninja.
Thus, let's put to rest the claim that Mr J Courtland Elliot II is a “Ninja”, even if the term was used journalistically to make an attractive title.
Next the issue of who actually taught Ninjutsu to the Canadian public first. Per our understanding Grandmaster Robert Law has been teaching in Canada ,(and in the USA ) long before J. Courtland Elliot II. Many of the people Grandmaster Law taught did not even know that it was Ninjutsu they were learning, since it was not revealed to them unless they spent a significant amount of time training with him.
This all took place before Mr. Hayes and Dr. Hatsumi popularized these arts.
Grandmaster Law already had extensive experience teaching when Mr J Courtland Elliot II was getting his first training with Mr. Stephen k Hayes . To our knowledge, he has little if any experience in Japan with the Bujinkan Hombu , and this was certainly true in the early 1980's. His skill set at that time was very limited and revealed that he was a beginner in that system.
This was observed personally when he participated in one of our early seminars. In fact as per the group photo from a Canadian Ninja Summit below, Mr. J. Courtland . Elliot II was one of the students/participants at this summit.
So if there is a anyone that has been teaching the art of Ninjutsu in Canada first, it is NOT J. Courtland Elliot II, but in fact Grandmaster R. Law.
For the sake of discussion here, we will not get into the fairly widely held view among Koryu practitioners that the Bujinkan and related systems have dubious origins That the majority of what is taught in these systems are Budo and Bujutsu derived from Samurai arts.
While these systems are related, and there is some overlap our position, despite disagreement is that there are clear distinctions to be made between these and the Ninjutsu arts. Thus we question whether what Mr. J. Courtland Elliot II was teaching was actual Ninjutsu. Per our understanding he has previous training and experience practicing common western style Gendai Jujutsu.
We can attest that the techniques we observed were indeed of that type. Further it can be noted that Grandmaster R. Law only practices and only taught Ninjutsu and NO OTHER MARTIAL ART; and states that he was born into a ninja family, and was taught that from a very young age. He did not practice various other arts, ultimately settling on Ninjutsu, as many other instructors have.
To note; though our arts are considered to have ancient roots, there has been modifications made to various aspects with each generation of masters. Therefore we make no claim to be a Koryu type organization.
We understand that some people in the martial arts community have attempted to discredit us by pointing out that Grandmaster Law has not shown Menkyo Kaidan and Densho to the public or to scholars able to attest to the lineage and title.
Though we make no claim as his students to have any substantial expertise in this area, some of us have seen some of this material. It is at Grandmaster Law's discretion to decide whether or not to reveal what he holds, and he does so for his own reasons.
Those of us who train under him are very aware of the effectiveness of this art and its similarities and differences from other martial arts. The “gossip gestapo” on the various blogs on the internet are rife with half-truths, false statements, rancor and disdain. They do nothing to advance the public understanding of these arts. We have no reservations regarding our own ability to match skills with them, and in fact we have done so in the past.
Grandmaster R. Law has never been part of the Bujinkan, the photos on the website are merely those of meetings in the 1980's in our attempts to be on good terms with these people and to network with them. We have never claimed to be associated with them or any other public Ninjutsu organization.
We felt it was necessary to state our opinions on this matter so that the public understands that what is often served up in magazines, blogs and forums, need to be scrutinized critically. We feel it is necessary to look at who is leveling criticism, why they are doing it, and what they are saying. We understand that some of it will be correct and justified. We suggest that people interested in this subject look at what is being taught, more than just what they are saying.
Geijin Ryu Ninja Academies & Camps