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A Hard Truth About Your Bujinkan Training Schedule

Sumo Wrestlers 1914-18, photo by A.Davey
How long does it take to be a Shihan? What about a Shidoshi? Blackbelt? How about just being good?

These seem like silly questions to ask, but I want to examine some real numbers here. I think we will be surprised at what the numbers reveal.

Let's start at the bottom.

No experience, no classes, pure beginner. How long is it to go from beginner to "not" beginner? Everyone's ideas on what it means to be a beginner are different. So I am asking you.

Is it going to classes for a few months? A year? 3, or 5?

How many ACTUAL classes does it take?

In my own training I teach 3 classes a week. So my own students have the opportunity to show up to roughly 12-14 per month. And if we take off for holidays and such, maybe 150 per year.

Except, almost no one comes to them all.

How long does it take to reach beginner's level? (That's what our black belt level is called: Shodan) How many classes? How many classes did you go to before you got there? I don't force an exact number on my own students, but it is maybe 3-5 years. Not calendar years, but actual class attendance.

So by the math above that means a minimum of 450 classes. who in the Bujinkan will claim they had that many before they reached Shodan?

Don't worry, I'm not talking about you personally, but I will in a minute.

What about Godan? or Shidoshi level? Many people seem to get there in approximately 7-10 years. Of course, I personally took a LOT longer. But  I don't think I am the norm.

So if we use my math above, that is roughly 1500 classes. But I know for a fact, that people have many gaps or lapses in their training schedules. Life gets in the way. So I truly doubt anyone actually reaches that number.

Maybe you think you have. Maybe you train 5-7 days a week for the last  6 years. OK Shihan, what does it take to be a MASTER?

Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book Outliers about the 10,000 hour rule.  This rule, based on a scientific study says that it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours to become a master at anything.

Let's add it up. My classes are roughly 1.5 hrs long.

That means if you never miss a single class at my dojo, you hit 225 hrs per year. Divide that into 10,000 and you get…

44 years!

How many people who call themselves Shihan have trained 44 years without missing a class? How many think they have mastered training?

Hatsumi Sensei said this to us in one class,
Just because someone's been training for 40 or 50 years, it doesn't mean anything. Even for myself, no matter how long I've been training.. it's nothing special. I'm still walking along behind Takamatsu Sensei. 
Of course, I don't believe rank or skill is all about math and hours. But I do think we should be honest with ourselves. Then we can take steps to do better or supplement our training in other ways.

I challenge you to take a hard look at your own training. Do you invest in yourself? Do you clock the hours? How many hours a week or per month is the right amount for you? What would it mean for your life if you can be dedicated to this training? How much would you grow?

PS. I know. You are different. There was that all day seminar you went to last month. Or that 2 week trip to Japan last year. That should improve the math, right?


  1. I just love training!

  2. . Its not time or hours at all. Its skill that improves ones training. From your Mind , one can project great thoughts and Memorizational skills to enhance ones training. Further propelling one faster then another. Like anyone who trains, some are more gifted athletically then others, giving them a higher advantage. Some can train their whole life and never achieve ninja. Yet one who is athletic and smart with of course Daily training may indeed surpass his master , faster. In conclusion, The way one thinks is the way of the warrior..

  3. Ps. Thats the enlightened truth my friend. White belt beginner Mike lockhart. Peace in your heart be with you and so you will be ninja.

  4. Something my teacher said is it's not time - but intensity. I think he meant that in terms of years vs actual training time over the years (someone who trains once a month vs once a day is not going to progress the same). But I also think it's what you may be alluding to, how much do you take with you into the world outside the dojo. Soke talked about practicing walking a certain way for several hours a day to train your taijutsu. That is intensity.

  5. Hello... I think you should add quality training. I don't know how many times I have heard that something in my basics was incorrect after training it a particular way for 5 years. And then hearing it again after I made that correction. The bujinkan can be a very painful art to master!


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