Yasushi Kiyomoto Sensei and Daniel DiMarzio (left to right) at the Sagamihara Dojo in Japan
"I met Kiyomoto Sensei fairly quickly after I moved to Sagamihara. I had a trial lesson with him, felt I wanted to learn from him, and proceeded on. My lessons with him were 99% of the time completely private. I spent as much time with him, if not more, than I did with my own girlfriend every month."
"I would spend all day at his dojo when work permitted, spending hours on end alone with him training. After training we would sit down and drink Japanese sake or beer. He would then prepare/cook a meal and we would eat. During this time we discussed Japanese warfare and the previous lesson. After the meal was done, we would continue to drink into the night discussing all matters of history and life."
"Kiyomoto Sensei would tell me stories about Masazo Ishida, who was Jinichi Kawakami's teacher. Masazo Ishida did espionage work for the Japanese government. He operated as a special-forces soldier for the Japanese government and worked overseas in China etc. He was a valuable asset because of his expertise in Ninjutsu. I also heard stories of Kawakami Sensei's strict training and discipline."
"I knew my Sensei and the group he represented were serious people. A blood-oath had to be taken to become a part of the family. This rare honor was given to few individuals. I knew there were certain levels to this as well. My Sensei had taken the blood-oath not only once, but twice."
"I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Kiyomoto Sensei. I would sit on the floor across from him in the dojo, a wooden table separating us. During the winter months it would be a bit cold and he would warm up some sake for us to drink. He would pull out some squid-jerkey (just like beef-jerky but squid instead). We would light it on fire and then put it in our cups of sake. Then, we would take chopsticks and stir the burnt squid- jerky around in our drinks. We would sip the sake with the burnt squid-jerky inside. Later, we would pluck out the squid-jerky with our chopsticks and eat it. Then, we would finish our sake and pour another cup"
"It was all very surreal. I might as well have stepped into a time machine and traveled back to the Japanese middle-ages. Kiyomoto Sensei immersed himself in Japanese history.This history and the military arts were his life. He was carrying on the traditions from a long line of Warriors, and his body told the story. His skin was thick from years of brutal conditioning. Scars marked his body, and he could move his body in ways that the ordinary person couldn't. A lifetime of training molded the Warrior I saw staring back at me from across the table."
-excerpts from "Finding the Real Japan, Stories from the Land of the Rising Sun," by Daniel DiMarzio
"Kiyomoto Sensei told me his teacher only said three words to him during his first several years of training. "Dame" (no good), "Chigau" (that's wrong), and "Moikai" (again). I also came to learn his training was very brutal and severe. His body was conditioned to become a piece of steel. His mind was conditioned to be adaptable, relentless, and fearless."
"I would come to learn how brutal the training could be. Early on in my training we were practicing choke/strangleholds. Kiyomoto Sensei instructed me to attack him. I did and he got me in a vicious choke/strangle hold. The pain was intense. I felt like I was going to pass out so, when I couldn't take anymore, I tapped out. I tapped his body but he didn't let go. The hold only got tighter. I continued to frantically tap his body and anything else I could touch. I began to see stars and was losing consciousness when he finally let go. I was trying to figure out exactly what happened when he simply said "again" in Japanese."
"I struggled to my feet and tried to take in the situation. I had studied Jujutsu and other martial arts for a long time and "tapping" was a universally known signal to "stop" when fighting. Did he not know this? Of course he knew this, I thought to myself. He had been studying a variety of martial arts his whole life in addition to Ninjutsu. Another thought entered my mind. I was completely alone with him in the dojo. There were no other people around. It was just me and him."
"These thoughts ran through my head in a split second. In that split second he had also told me to come at him again. I did. The same thing happened. He got me in a vicious and painful chokehold/strangle and when I tapped out because I was about to black out he didn't let go. Not until the very last instant. And he kept telling me to come at him again. We repeated this act several times. I honestly thought he might kill me. The last time I came at him I didn't even bother to tap. Only later did I learn that there is no "tapping out" in this style. You go until the teacher decides to let you go and if that means unconsciousness, then so be it. I had learned this lesson the hard way."
"Sensei told me when he was taught he often got choked/strangled unconscious. He explained the feeling of euphoria often experienced right before passing out from a strangle hold. I knew the feeling well."
"In another instance, I got a nice shock with an old rusty looking, sharp hook with a rope attached at one end. Kiyomoto Sensei was demonstrating a technique on me to a small group of people. He suddenly grabbed me tightly and with the hook in one of his hands, raked it up under my belt, catching it in the process, and stopping when it was just above my belly-button. Along the way the hook had sliced me just under my navel. He then wrapped the rope tightly around my neck and arm. I knew I had been cut but didn't say anything. Later on that night after training, I went home to find a dried blood stain on my boxers and a slash mark under my navel."
"I often came home with cuts, swelling, and bruising. I got used to the training and my body naturally toughened. Getting hits to the neck and vital areas became common. You learned how much your body could take. The human body can take a lot more punishment than most people realize."
"There were also many other aspects of training to develop your body, mind, and Spirit. I was taught unique breathing and meditation exercises. Ways of strengthening your sight, hearing, and smelling abilities were taught. Unique finger weaving combinations (Kuji) were taught as a form of Spiritual protection and exorcism."
"Sensei not only taught me about Ninjutsu, but about traditional Japanese culture as well. He lived in a very traditional way. I never saw him sit in a chair. He had only had one in his house. He used it to hang towels on. We ate traditional Japanese food and he showed me traditional Japanese manners and etiquette."
"He also taught me ways to cook and prepare food. On one occasion, we actually made a type of "field sake." We mixed certain ingredients and then cooked them. The result was a brown, sticky substance. You would take some of this brown, sticky substance and put it into a cup. Then, you would pour hot water over it and stir. The outcome would be instant sake. It was easily portable and could be carried anywhere. The Ninja used it in the field while traveling, during cold months."
"He is also the one who taught me how to really live in Japan. I learned what types of food to eat from him and where to shop. He taught me what was acceptable in Japanese culture and what was not. He ultimately taught me how to live well and survive in Japan."
"Training in Bujutsu was focused on heavily in class. We trained in hand-to-hand and with a plethora of weapons. I was taught that practitioners of Ninjutsu were experts in everything relating to the Military Arts. All styles, weapons, and tactics should be studied. Military Strategy and its history should be thoroughly investigated."
"I once asked Kiyomoto Sensei a question about all the weapons I had studied and seen. Which ones belonged to Ninjutsu and which ones belonged to Bujutsu? "They all belong to Bujutsu" he replied. "Ninjutsu has no weapons." He went on to explain that Ninjutsu is a military tactic. It is Espionage and Guerilla Warfare. Ninjutsu encompassed Bujutsu. It encompassed all its teachings and weapons."
"I then asked him, "What is the difference between Bujutsu and Ninjutsu?" We were in the dojo alone and I was sitting across the table from him on the floor. We were both drinking sake after a training session. He answered, "Slipping poison into your sake unnoticed is the difference. That is Ninjutsu." I picked up my cup and kept drinking......and pondered what he said."
-excerpts from "A Story of Life, Fate, and Finding the Lost Art of Koka Ninjutsu in Japan," by Daniel DiMarzio
Yasushi Kiyomoto Sensei, Jinichi Kawakami Sensei, and Daniel DiMarzio (right to left) in New York City
Yasushi Kiyomoto Sensei and Daniel DiMarzio, Philadelphia skyline in background
Jinichi Kawakami Sensei and Yasushi Kiyomoto Sensei training
Jinichi Kawakami Sensei and Yasushi Kiyomoto Sensei training
Yasushi Kiyomoto Sensei (above two photos)
Jinichi Kawakami Sensei (above two photos)