This lesson is perhaps especially relevant to arts and methods started by people that started out in the Bujinkan, but left and evolved in another direction than what Masaaki Hatsumi wants.
The best example of this for Bujinkan students is perhaps the godai theory started by Stephen Hayes. Looking at Bujinkan web sites from around the world I can see references to the idea that there is a special mindset the ninja took based on the circumstance based on the five element theory. Despite the fact that Hayes has not been part of the Bujinkan for many years, went his own way and had his name taken down from the honbu on Hatsumi's orders many in the Bujinkan still use the Godai system and try to have their students do things in the mind set of earth, water, fire, wind and void. Many of them think that it is part of the Bujinkan. This is understandable because in the early 80s when Hayes first presented the idea he talked about things like, "the ninja method of viewing the universe" when he spoke and wrote about it. There was no mention that it was a creation of his and not a part of the Bujinkan or what the ninja of history believed in.
This of course caused a bit of trouble for many people when they visited to Japan and got blank looks of confusion when they tried to ask about it. Early in my 15 year stay in Japan someone used me as a translator to ask the teacher what sort of "feeling" they should have while doing the technique he had just shown. They wanted to know if it was earth, fire, etc. When the teacher finally understood what was being asked he told them straight out that it was not part of the Bujinkan and if they wanted to get skilled in Bujinkan they needed to drop anything like that they learned from Hayes.
Finally, in March of 1996 in the internet newsletter "Ura and Omote" Hayes made it clear to the world that the Godai was a system totally of his making and not something he learned from the Bujinkan. Despite this, some still think it is part of the lessons of the Bujinkan and use it. To be blunt, it is not and the opinions of the Japanese teachers I interacted with in Japan were unanimous in saying that following it would be a hinderance. Now that Hayes has removed himself from the Bujinkan, his name taken down and Hatsumi's comments that he does not want Bujinkan students following the path of ex students of his it is time we all abandon the Godai system and let it be something for Toshindo students of Hayes.
Some readers might be asking themselves where the Godai system came from. Let us look at Hayes' own words. In the article he talks about how he was introduced to the terms chi-sui-ka-fu-ku while training in the Bujinkan. We do have the San shin no kata that use them as counters. As Hayes puts it,
Usually Sensei does not give a straight answer, but for some reason this time he gave it to me on a silver platter. "Oh that's Mikkyo, religion!"
OK, and how does this relate to Taijutsu? "It doesn't!"
So it should be clear that as far as the Japanese were concerned, the godai were not methods of viewing the universe and a way you should be trying to feel while doing taijutsu. If you want to follow what the Japanese are doing instead of Hayes, then clearly the godai is not something you should be doing.
I should make a note here about something else Hayes wrote in the same article. He says that the Kihon Happo was not created until the early 80s as a method of teaching foreigners. When I first read this I was confused and asked my teachers about it. They all laughed when asked and pointed out that Hayes did not show up to too many classes and could not speak much Japanese at all. The simplest explanation is that it is another example of a mistake by Hayes because he could not understand what was going on around him. I have been able to find many quotes by Takamatsu in Japanese where he talks about the kihon Happo. Some of them have even been translated into English such as the following,
fundamental form the eight methods. *I was told that this kihon happo is the origin of all budo.
So I say to you earnestly, you make this the basis and teach it to your students." -Toshitsugu
Takamatsu as told to Maasaki Hatsumi.
When Hayes was finally made aware of the kihon happo he made the choice to continue to teach his system rather than the way the Japanese preferred the art to be taught. As he put it in Ura and Omote, he had invested too much time and effort at that point into the system to abandon it. The wisdom of this and the impression it gave the Japanese is outside of the scope of this article.
Suffice to say, having your students do techniques while trying to put themselves in the mindset of fire is not the way the Japanese want you to teach. In my 15 years in Japan I never heard anything closely related to the godai method of mindset. Much of what I learned in Japan convinced me that my Japanese teachers were correct when they said that trying to do the Hayes' method would be a hindrance to understanding the real lessons of the Bujinkan. I have been told to move like water, or a bird, or something else but I have never been told to have a water mindset. The mindset my teachers tried to instill in me was very, very different from what I see in the Godai system invented by Hayes.
Is the Godai system a useful tool? I honestly do not know, but doubt it. Hayes himself has never seemed to have gotten any experience with criminal violence so there really is nothing he can base the effectiveness on. Hayes is a martial arts teacher, not someone personally experienced with violence or who has made an extensive study of it before coming up with the godai. There are some like Rory Miller and Dave Grossman who have had experience and/or devoted years of their lives to the study of the matter before they put pen to paper. I am not aware of anyone really having studied the Godai and later crediting it with saving their life. I can point to many people in the Bujinkan who have managed to get home safe because of their training and who later used me as a translator to thank the teachers in Japan for what they had been taught. The mere fact that an art has been passed down several generations tends to indicate that there is some proven value in what is being done. As of right now, Hayes' stuff is still in the unproven category and is rather young. The Godai is not found in any other Japanese martial art I have been able to find, so for some reason the warriors that lived and died based on their skill level never touched the ideas Hayes' teaches. If you wish to understand the real mindset Japanese warriors that had to face death actually followed I would recommend books like "Classical Budo" by Donn Draeger, "The Unfettered Mind" by Takuan Soho and several books by Thomas Cleary.
I was around in the early 80s when Hayes started writing about the five element theory. To those that were not teenagers at the time the significance of the time might need an explanation. Star wars was big in the theaters and Han shot first! There was a movement called survivalism that involved preparation for the end of the world as we know it and post collapse survival that shared space in magazines like "warriors" that also ran articles on ninjutsu. The image that Hayes presented of mystical warriors like the Jedi Knights having to survive as a prosecuted class was a huge draw. Even though it turned out to be a totally mistaken impression, it drew me and many others into the art. While the reality of the ninja and the Bujinkan is simpler, and thus better conforming to the KISS Principle, I can still feel the lure of the image I first had when I started reading about the ninja in Hayes' works. It is far more attractive than boring reality. But like most things of childhood, there is a time when we have to grow by putting aside what we want the world to be and instead accept it as it is. The Bujinkan as a whole, like that child, must give up the godai and follow what Hatsumi actually wants us to learn if we are to be honest in calling ourselves teachers of Bujinkan.