Ninja training all about peace, says Burgess

  • Discipline and control: ninjutsu blackbelt Frank Burgess teaching student Guillan Cabrera at Fudoshin Ninjutsu Bermuda (Photograph supplied)

    Discipline and control: ninjutsu blackbelt Frank Burgess teaching student Guillan Cabrera at Fudoshin Ninjutsu Bermuda (Photograph supplied)


Frank Burgess trains ninjas, but you won’t find any sword-wielding assassins, all dressed in black at his dojo, Fudoshin Ninjutsu Bermuda.

“Grandmasters will tell you it is a peaceful martial art that gets you through everyday life, rather than throwing darts and all the crazy stuff depicted in the movies,” Mr Burgess said. “ Movies like Ninja (2009), Ninja Assassin (2009), and Revenge of the Ninja (1983) all portray us as cold killers. That’s an image that the media likes to portray to sell movies.”

It’s true that ninjas were once used to assassinate and spy on people, but that was mostly hundreds of years ago in feudal Japan.

In fact, all ninja really means, is someone training in ninjutsu, a form of Japanese martial arts.

For Mr Burgess ninjutsu is about learning self defence, awareness and control.

Fudoshin, the name he gave his studio, is a Japanese word that means “immoveable heart”.

“It’s a state of mind,” Mr Burgess said. “Someone with an immoveable heart doesn’t get taken over by fear. Sometimes emotions get the better of you and you do the wrong thing.”

He said people often want to hear how ninjutsu saved him in a physical confrontation, but it’s influence in his every day life is more subtle than that.

“I use it quite often when I encounter people with bad attitudes,” Mr Burgess said. “There is a lot of road rage out there with people cutting you off and trying to start an argument.

“With ninjutsu training, you can walk away a lot easier than most people who want to jump out of the car and get crazy. I might get annoyed if someone cuts me off, but I don’t get myself involved. It’s not worth the aggravation or the trouble.”

In the four years he has been running Fudoshin Ninjutsu Bermuda, he’s seen a lot of students sign up because they’re being bullied at school.

“Most of them now don’t have problems with it any more,” he said. “Basically, your confidence level changes because you know what you can do and you choose not to. You have a choice. You know what you can do to someone else, but you show compassion by walking away.”

He started learning ninjutsu from his father Malcolm Burgess, when he was just a toddler.

“My older brother Andrew was taking lessons with him, so I wanted to as well,” Mr Burgess said.

His father was one of the late Barbara Ball’s first martial arts students. Dr Ball was well known as a union leader in the 1950s and 1960s, but also taught martial arts.

“When I was 14, I decided that there were things I wanted to learn that my father just couldn’t teach me,” Mr Burgess said.

So he signed up for lessons with Charles “Chuck” Renaud and Scott Dunstan. He was surprised and a little embarrassed to learn that he hadn’t escaped his father’s influence at all. Both of his teachers had been taught by his father.

In 2015, he bought Mr Dunstan’s Hekigan Dojo on Chapel Road, Paget and changed the name to Fudoshin.

In the beginning he taught classes five days a week out of the CrossFit gym on Dundonald Street. In December he moved to the basement at the Beast Gym at 47 Union Street.

He’s just down the street from the Bermuda Industrial Union where Dr Ball was so influential. There’s an image of her painted on his building.

“I do find our location a bit ironic,” he said. “It’s like we’ve come full circle.”

Now classes are taught twice a week.

“If all my students turned up at once I’d probably have about 50 students,” he said. “I have two student teachers.”

One of the hardest things about running the business is balancing his time. He has a full time job as a facilities manager, and also does night work.

“My day job comes first,” he said. “I’m on call.”

Fudoshin has no average student profile.

“My students are ages 12 to 60,” he said. “I have one student who is building his own business, and one who is into fixing computers and phones. I have guys who are driving delivery trucks and I have a young lady who recently started who is from overseas.”

He requires that his students have a certain level of fitness, but once in class he’s not the type to tell everyone to do 100 push-ups.

“If you can only do ten push ups when you come in that’s fine,” he said. “But six months from now you shouldn’t still be doing that. I want to see some progress.”

Mr Burgess charges $100 for a month of lessons.

For more information, visit the FudoshinBDA Facebook page, or call 538-0659

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Published Jul 4, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Jul 4, 2019 at 3:18 pm)

Ninja training all about peace, says Burgess

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