Thursday, 17 March 2016

The Story of A Pakistani Ninja


first ninja of Pakistan
Young Master F.A.Shah with his students
 Just to put you to the wonder, I would like to say that the teachings of the art came to Pakistan in 1983, surprisingly even before Iran where they were introduced in around 1989. Sir Farhat Abbas Shah came to be known as the first ninja of Pakistan. He started teaching martial arts in Baghe Jinnah (Jinnah Gardens), Lahore though it is not known clearly from which source he may have had received his teachings. It is only known that he had received a blackbelt in what was said to be the Bandó Karate, from Ashraf Tai, who was credited to be the first one to introduce foreign martial arts in Pakistan. About his ninjutsu training I asked many but the reply we get when we ask some of his direct students (or anyone that knows something about him) is that his teacher was Ashraf Tai and no one knows about any of his instructor(s) in Bujinkan or any other (claimed to be) ninjutsu. There were a number of reasons to believe that he may have studied it, somewhat. I asked others who may have known it, searched a lot for such clues, that may have helped find it and at last found some. Ultimately, I have came up on a final decision, based on the supporting clues and facts, about where he may have really learned (what he calls) ninjutsu from. The research I did is presented in this post and also a short bio of his life at the end.
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First I would like to share a few things I observed about the form of art he taught:

   1. His art is what, which isn't like Bujinkan in anyway except that some of the exercises, jumps, rolls and flips or simply gymnastics are similar to that demonstrated in the old videos of Bujinkan. I thought by this that he may have actually learned Bujinkan and what he taught may have been changed over time because of additions or changes from other arts but I now I found out from the instructors of F.S system (those who were direct students of Sir F.A Shah) that they have taught it as it is as they have learned it from their teacher. Moreover, he is nowhere listed in the Blackbelt lists of Bujinkan.
 Also given by the date of birth November 15th, 1964 he must be around 19 when he started teaching his form of art in 1983 -very much short of time to have learned Bujinkan up to Shodan (1st level blackbelt) rank or ninjutsu and while he was learning Bando Karate from 1978 (age 14). He was also not economically as strong at that time to have gone and lived abroad; he was a student at that time.

   2. The Taijutsu or form of unarmed combat he taught is like Karate, as others call it, but I perceived it as more like Kenpó (though it is also possible that he just adopted the style of 'Bando Karate' in his teaching). This has many reasons to it, which I will explain later. High kicks, a strong focus on keeping fists closed almost all time, during practice and in fight (it is then much like kickboxing), very unlike Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu. A strong focus on strength and power -very unlike Bujinkan. Where the Bujinkan focuses on what Hatsumi Masaaki Soké says as "Peace, Patience, Perseverance", the idea is twisted in the F.S system to "Pace, Power and Perfection".
   There's a system of points and restrictions in the manner of striking, which makes it good only to the level of sports -another major difference to Bujinkan in which the focus is on using every possible way to strike your opponent and there is no points system to gain victory. None of the stances or Katas are those of Bujinkan. There are only very few stances: V-standing attention stance, Horse stance, an L-stance (which makes it look like Taekwondo) and some Kata namely Vishoti, Feolon, Ken zee, Zen zee (fairly Indian names, seemingly not making any connections to any Japanese art).

   3. The weapons taught are nunchuk (single and double; two section and three section), staff, sword, Sai, Kama and shuriken (which somewhat makes relation to the Fujita Seiko's teachings) between which only nunchuck, staff and sword are taught actively now, and then only to whirl them around and not really any technique(s) to fight or defend with them. The other things that seem related to ninpó or ninjutsu exhibited by those trained by Sir F.A Shah or himself and which are not found in Tai's Karate, are: Rin or Sha Kuji, Blind Sword Performance, Laying on nails and similar stunts.


The Analysis I did and thus basic Conclusions from the above observations are as under:

   1. Sir F.A Shah didn't learn Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu or didn't complete his training upto Shodan level (even if we consider the later, it doesn't make him a legitimate instructor, being a grandmaster is just another level thing), as evident from the first observation. Judging by his age, his financial status at the time and martial arts learning history, it's very unlikely that he did travel abroad for studying ninjutsu or Bujinkan.

   2. It is a known fact that he learned, what was called, Bando Karate upto the level of 2nd dan Blackbelt from Ashraf Tai (see photo below) and also greatly respected his teacher Tai; it is evident that Ashraf Tai had greater influence on his martial arts career and in whatever form (and in whatever way) introduced him to (then on boom in the books and magazines of martial arts) ninjutsu. Then considering F.A Shah did learn somewhat Ninpó, he should have gone abroad or learn from a source in Pakistan. If considering that he traveled abroad, then he must have to have traveled to Japan or another country that he could afford to go to, where Ninjutsu had some fame.
   Then if we consider that he did travel to Japan however didn't learn (what was at that time called) Bujinkan Ninjutsu, (as evidence provided) and learned something like Karate or Kenpó then he must have learned from one of the schools of traditional Kenpó or Karate, who alongside give some of the teachings of ninpó. I have a high bet on a Kenpó school, considering the stances being similar to Shorinji Kenpó and a greater influence of Chinese elements in his (F.A Shah's) art. If we consider it Kenpó then Sir F.A Shah must have learned from either of one of the schools related to Fujita Seikó Soké or it's also possible he may have learned from a man named Ueno Takashi who was a Kenpó master and also held a makimono of Gyokushin-ryu from Takamatsu Toshitsugu Soké (and also had connections to the Yakuza). If all of this had really happened then he must fairly be a legitimate ninjutsu instructor even if not from a Bujinkan/Genbukan or related school.
   Even if he learned from someone like the Ronald Duncan or someone else with little proof then he still may have had some merit however all this is very unlikely. He has no proof of any lineage except from Ashraf Tai who had learned his form of art from Lee Phow Shin (in Burma) details about whom are not known but, as evident from name, was a Chinese living temporarily or permanently in Burma. Tai claim to have learned from him karate from the age of 9 and received black belt at the age of 16 though I speculate he must have learned Kenpó. Tai may also have known some Bandó though had not received higher degree in it. This he introduced in Pakistan as Bando Karate combining the elements of both arts he had learned, most of it being Chinese Kenpó (also pronounced Kempó). Further evidence to this is that it is also very much similar to the American Kenpó.

   3. The weapons are those used in Okinawan style Kobudo. This imply that Sir F.A Shah either specifically learned them or it's just a coincidence. In case he specifically learned it, he may have learned from Ashraf Tai or from another master or all just by his own -from books, manuals or videos or through own hit and trial method- but he must have to have found about them being used by ninjas, especially such weapons as shuriken, kama, sai, sword which are rarely used by other martial art schools. It should be noted that these weapons are those which were publicized, in the books and magazines, to have been used by ninjas. Now considering only nunchucks and stick swinging are taught actively to whirl them around like Bruce Lee and just one kata with the sword with no base in kenjutsu, these must be taught to Sir Farhat by Ashraf Tai or by his assistance, while the Kama, Sai, Shuriken, for which no specific techniques are taught and thus only used as showpieces, must have been adopted from the popular figure of ninja presented in books (like Ashida Kim's) and magazines.




Final Conclusion:

   The above analysis was somewhat an optimistic approach to solve the mystery of First Pakistani Ninja. However, it didn't came out as expected and the truth may be a little harsh especially for those people who have trained in his system with the aim of becoming the most invincible and the invisible figure called ninja and now even have black belts. Although it's not bad to practice a martial art with dedication even if you do not know about its origins, it's fairly bad to have reached a pond while you aimed to sail in the ocean. Based on my above observations and results, I finally conclude that:
   "Based upon the dates, it is proven that Sir Farhat Abbas Shah had not traveled abroad for lessons of ninjutsu neither knew anything about it by himself. Then it can be said that Ashraf Tai knew some form of ninjutsu himself or just recommended it to Sir F.A Shah who was interested in learning any martial art that could make him invincible. Though the first's not the case (that Ashraf Tai knew ninjutsu himself).
   Ashraf Tai used to attend competitions, seminars and conferences abroad, as being a pioneer of martial arts in Pakistan so it's possible during this time (70s-80s), he learned about the fame of Ninjutsu. Since the uniform they wore for Bando Karate was also black and the uniform attributed to Ninja is also black, it must have attracted his attention. He may have brought with him movies (and maybe videos, journals or books) about ninjas to Pakistan".


Confirmation:

    Above conclusion is now confirmed through evidence based on his (F.A Shah's) interviews in print and digital media. In an interview he says that during his childhood he was the only son of his parents and also very weak, so he would often get beaten in his frequent fights. It was when he was 8-9 years that he came to know from a person about "such an art*" and also read some stories, so that he could overcome his weakness. So he went to Ashraf Tai Sahb by reference of one of his relative. He got training to 2nd dan in Bando from Ashraf Tai Sahb and then through him and through his help, he got opportunities to meet other people at "other places**", "the foreign teachers too from abroad***, here". But he thinks that in his training and performance, Ashraf Tai Sahb has the major contribution.
   In another interview, in a magazine, he says that he learned martial arts from books and learned boxing from a Major Sahb, also he would go to anyone he would hear about (teaching martial arts). In the image given below (in sources section), you can see a list of foreign countries he had traveled to. It doesn't list Japan and Burma (contradicting the stories told by F.S members) but does list Thailand and Singapore and these are countries he visited just one time, for only a few days (I mean he had a minor exposure to them but are still listed there). The only countries he has visited more than once are England and U.A.E and these visits were short one, related to business issues (poetry, micro-finance and media) with first foreign visit not before the 90's.

   *From this sentence, it is not clear which art he speaks about but from the context, it can be concluded that he's talking about martial arts in general.
   **These other places were certainly in Pakistan since he uses the word, "here". In Urdu, this can be more clearly understood since it's like "other places, other people, from abroad too foreign teachers, here (he stumbles on it and says quickly)"
   ***The foreign teachers from abroad were people from Kung fu, Wushu, Karate and Taekwondo. This was in 70's. At that time, there were academies or dojos of these arts already in Pakistan and foreign teachers would sometime visit these. At that time too, Stephen K. Hayes must be training to become the first ninja from the west and Doron Navon would open the first Bujinkan dojo outside Japan, in Israel. Also Kawakami Jinichi didn't emerge at that time and master Fujita Seikó wasn't alive, neither he did pass his teachings of ninjutsu to anyone, as he had decided. Therefore no list for foreign ninjutsu teachers, at that time and to have came to Pakistan is totally out of question.


The Story:-
   That ends the analysis but the whole story may be more interesting. I will put it, according to the clues, as:
   Farhat Abbas Shah was born as the only son in a financially poor family. Family strains had him feel lonely and he would often quarrel with other boys of his age to gain attention and have time well passed but he would get beaten by the other boys because he had weaker build. So he made two aims in his life -to become stronger and beat others, -to fight his poverty. One day he came to know about martial arts from a man and hence he decided he would learn martial arts no matter what. So he started reading stories of martial arts and strong people. He asked whomever he thought would know about martial arts and went to many to learn it. In so he learned boxing from a major. This wasn't satisfying for him so he continued his search and hard work. One day, one of his relative told him about Grandmaster Ashraf Tai, so he went to him and got from him a 2nd dan black belt in Bando Karate, all by the support of his relative and his teacher, while he was studying in Karachi. He had become strong but still not much satisfied and his problem of poverty was still there so Ashraf Tai Sahb, in his affection for his student who was determined, hardworking and respectful to him, decided to help him in some way else that would help Young Master Farhat gain both popularity and earning. Ninjutsu had earned fame all over the world, thanks to the ninja boom, and Hollywood trying their best to represent ninja as a creepy, deadly fighter. The mysterious art stepped into Pakistan when Ashraf Tai taught Young Farhat some extra skills, brought him stories, magazines, some famous ninja weapons and their manuals (hardly from any authentic source) and took him to many other people for learning so that he could have enough items to start a ninja school of his own. He incorporated the ninja tricks from these sources into his Bando style and voila! it became a perfect dish, which could be called ninjutsu and people be surprised and amused with. This way Young Master Farhat became Ninja Grandmaster of Pakistan, Farhat Abbas Shah without any teaching from another Ninja teacher or receiving instruction from any authentic Shinobi manual. This was a quick way to earn fame, money and respect because people certainly liked the amusing acts, amazing to them because they had not seen such hard skills before, for real, like flipping around, breaking blocks and spinning nunchucks around like Bruce Lee. He also demonstrated some of his hard skills, which were no doubt truly amazing, at a famous annual event like breaking 11 ice blocks and laying on nails. This was a result of his hard work. He became famous, not only for being called a ninja grandmaster having more than a hundred of students in his dojo, at one time but also as a poet, and was called for many interviews on television and in newspapers. His fame also invoked other people like Waseem Ashraf Tai to learn similar skills like him through Ashraf Tai and being called ninja grand-masters of their own. They too had some success and Waseem Ashraf Tai was called for some interviews on television, in shows like Tariq Aziz's famous Neelam G'har. This infuriated him, the Young Master and he started propaganda against him -W.A.Tai- calling him a fake in his interviews and publishings and criticized W.A.Tai despite the fact that both were the same. On the other hand he had become a celebrity for many poetry gatherings and discussion shows whereupon he would criticize any person he could get his hand on and mock them, in arrogance of his own fame. Also they feared him because of his title as ninja grand-master, watching in the movies ninja secretly coming to release a shuriken or knife from nowhere and kill people mercilessly and his on-fire expressions would further ensure that. With time, he lost his cool and also control over both his fellows in poetry and students at his ninja club such that in one time in mid 90's, some students planned to separate from him and make their own ninja associations. Some of them also co-operated to quickly go up the rank through unfair means. This almost totally broke his dojo if it wasn't for some of his respectful senior students who still supported him but he lost many students, either defecting to other associations formed in greed of ranking up higher quickly or losing their interest. This added to his pain; his fame withered and he himself crumbled from the inside. He still taught martial arts for some more years after which he left (that was in 2003), decided not to teach martial arts again. He would still attend the seminars or championships held by his students at different occasions, but his major reign over martial arts in Pakistan had came to an end. No doubt he was a great martial artist but he and his students played with the young minds to teach what isn't ninjutsu at all, either deliberately or by mistake; the result for him was not good enough and it may be not good enough for those of his students too who still continue on with selling the ninja name, earning from its fame.
   Remember, the ninja or shinobi is not a title that just anyone can take. Ninjutsu isn't a martial art that you can learn from somewhere (in a dojo). It's a secret path hidden within the heart keeping it under the blade. One who takes that path is called a Shinobi.

Sources:

Farhat Shah ninja
Young Farhat -Tai Karate Black belt (notice patch)

f.s ninja
img-2



Ashraf Tai
In 1983 he was still brown belt from M.A.Tai
ninja karate
F.A.Shah says he learned martial arts from books

bujinkan pakistan
F.A.Shah as Blue Belt
farhat interview
List of countries F.A.Shah visited




3 comments:

  1. I have two questions: How were you able to get this much information? Have you personally confirmed the information with Mr. Farhat?

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    Replies
    1. We need not to confirm this from him since he's no longer associated with martial arts and no longer considers himself a ninja master. Moreover, we intend to embed the two systems and not really go totally against it, on an optimistic approach. This post was only intended to prove inauthentic the system he created -the so called ninjutsu he taught which the F.S 'Ninga' Academy and related organizations taught. Even a blind person can see the difference between authentic and fake budo and ninjutsu if he has some know-how but since these people don't know anything important on this matter, just shows how illiterate they are on terms of budo to ninjutsu and refusing to accept that, is shear ignorance from them. Surely such people has nothing to do with ninjutsu who consider it a martial art and then, use it for personal purposes.

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  2. It took almost three years to collect all this information. I failed for a long time to make any real progress because of the positive assumption that he may have indeed learn ninjutsu from an authentic source -A big surprise that many still don't know in Pakistan 'what is ninja?' and he started teaching ninjutsu in 1980's. I joined F.S academy as a common student to collect inside information or get at least some clues but that didn't help. Most people didn't know anything, even his name and those who knew something I was sure that they won't give a clear answer. Another failure but I was confirmed nothing of what they teach is even closer to true ninjutsu, let alone Bujinkan which apparently they didn't teach. This was another wrong assumption -that academy students or at least teachers may know about F.A.Shah's teacher since every martial arts instructor feel proud of his/her master and proudly talk of him before students and also his lineage but this is true only to traditional schools and By Lord, I didn't know Pakistanis would prove cheap in this field too. By this time I was sure there's no authentic ninjutsu and/or Bujinkan master in Pakistan and I decided that I will continue my martial arts training until I can myself go abroad to become Bujinkan instructor and establish my own Bujinkan dojo here. However, I could still not leave my efforts to solve this mystery, go in vain. I decided to know more about F.A Shah's life -through his biography, TV&press interviews and social media and rest is all I have posted above.

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