The ’80s Ninja Boom

If you remember the martial arts phenomenon known as the “Ninja Boom” of the 1980s, then you will likely remember names like Stephen K. Hayes, Bud Malmstrom, Masaaki Hatsumi, etc.  They graced the cover of about every martial arts magazine during that time.  As a young teenager, I too was caught up in that craze.  It started with the usual interest in the Bruce Lee films of the 1970s, and then transitioned into what still remains my favorite movie of all time, The Karate Kid.  See, I’d started TKD at about the time the movie came out, and well, it just stuck on me.  Just watched it again this past week in fact. And, I refuse to watch that abomination starring Jackie Chan and Will Smith’s kid…it’s the Kung Fu Kid…not Karate Kid.

Anyhow, fast forward a few years, and I was in college after finishing my enlistment in the US Army and fooling Uncle Sam into giving me a ROTC scholarship.  While perusing the magazine isle and flipping through the latest issue of Karate Illustrated (no longer in publication), I came across an ad for the Genbukan Ninpo Bugei organization of Soke Shoto Tanemura.  It was a collection of his American students who were authorized dojo-cho instructors who had placed the ad and looking for students interested in training.  Naturally, having the curiosity still with me from my teenage days of the ninja boom, I gave the closest one a call.

That began my introduction to traditional Japanese kobudo through my former sensei, Michael Mackin.  Mac was a honbu dojo student of Soke Tanemura.  He benefitted from the ability to travel and commute from JAX to JFK to Narita due to his employment with United Airlines.  While in Japan he would train at the Genbukan honbu (HQ) dojo.  I traveled to Columbus, GA in 1994 during my sophomore year of college for my first training session with him.  He had traveled from his home in St Augustine, FL and was teaching a seminar for a local Japanese Ju Jutsu instructor of another organization.  After that initial training session I was hooked.  I’d always been drawn to budo and the traditional martial arts of Japan.

I continued to train with him for the remainder of college.  This included hosting him up in the little college town of Milledgeville, GA where I was going to school.  Several fellow cadets of mine finally agreed to help me with getting him up for the seminar.  However, most of my training with him caused me to drive from middle GA to St Augustine.  About five hours as I recall, but could be a bit off.  He had another senior student there named Terry Kent.  Terry and I become steady training partners either in St Augustine or he’d drive up to Milledgeville.  We’d train in preparation for Mac’s return from Japan and one of his work trips courtesy of United.  It was a great time, and I just didn’t realize how lucky I was to have that experience at the time.  Terry would ultimately make Shodan in Ninpo Taijutsu, but would later move on to other interests.

I moved from Milledgeville to Arizona in 1997 to attend my officer basic course, and wouldn’t reunite with Mac until 2005 or 2006.  Those were really great times.  Little known fact now — Mac’s son is Sean Mackin of the band Yellowcard!  Mac is no longer active in training and formally retired from the Genbukan organization.  I still drop in on him via virtual means to see how he’s doing.  I do hope he is still enjoying his retirement!

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