I first met Sensei Broussard at Camp Challenge in Sorrento FL. It was a summer camp for handicapped kids run by the Lions Club, to whom I will forever be indebted for providing the opportunity for me to know this remarkable man.
His particular affliction was cerebral palsy.
It was a typical summer camp, this two-week cycle being 10, 12, and 14 year olds. A circle of cabins, four bunks each with two counselors. Swimming in the pool, hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch, board games, arts and crafts, wilderness walks, sings around the campfire and magic Indian ceremony.
It was my custom at that time to practice kata every morning before most anyone else was awake. The cool morning air and mist rising from the swamp made an excellent, if somewhat surreal, setting, conducive to the slow movements of the Great Dance. Naturally this did not go unnoticed by the staff and other counselors as several cycles of different age groups had come and gone and some of them who had practiced martial arts began training in their techniques with me during these dawn patrols.
One day someone suggested we put on a demonstration as part of the nightly entertainment, so a Wado-ryu stylist who had some weapons training and I choreographed a short two-man, sword vs. staff form. I had to ride my motorcycle back to Orlando to get my sword for the show. We don’t always carry them with us you know, only on a mission.
The big day arrived and out we stepped onto the stage of the open-air pavilion in the center of the cabins. He in his spotless white ghi, I in my sinister black one. We greeted each other with a bow and dropped into our stances. Now, as any good soldier knows the plan goes out the window when the first shot is fired, but we started off pretty well.
We exchanged simple attacks and ripostes to establish our distance and went into some of the drills we had worked out. But, once we got into the rhythm, the other fellow began to add a bit of enthusiasm. All of a sudden we weren’t just skipping around and tapping, he was pressing forward and using a good bit of force. I was trying to be careful and not cut off his fingers accidentally. We had planned that he, being the “good guy” would disarm me, the “bad guy.” So I figured the best thing to do was let him have it because it was obvious he wanted to “win,” not just put on a show.
I set him up for the finish and he knocked the sword out of my hand so that it slid offstage. Then he decided that the “bad guy” should have a little drubbing. So he made a thrust at me with the bo. Pretty easy, I stepped aside. That just kind of made him want to prove he could do it, so he tried a variety of basic techniques, any one of which would have knocked me down, and I managed to defend myself fairly well.
By now, the kids from his cabin were cheering for him to win, and naturally, that made the kids from my cabin start cheering for me and then the rest of the crowd took sides. He was able to keep me hopping, but Ninjitsu is all about evasive techniques, so he never really hit me. Meanwhile, I was able to jump in and give him a tap or “almost” land a kick from time to time. I could see he was getting frustrated and I didn’t want him to get angry so one of us might get hurt. The next time he advanced, I seized the staff and did an entering pivot. That, of course, turned both of us back to back, then face to face, nose-to-nose, each firmly holding the weapon. He tried to pull it away from me but I held on and gave him a look as if to ask what he thought he was doing and he broke out in a big grin. We both knew he was just showing off, but now we had gone to far to stop: “the arena was screaming for gladiator blood.”
We both instantly knew we had to get rid of the bo to make a finish for the act but we hadn’t rehearsed anything. So, we swung to the left and back to the right and realized we were in an open amphitheatre with no back wall. Without a word, we both let go at the same time and the staff went sailing offstage into the yard beyond. Of course, by now, I was having fun too, so I threw a backfist at him and he blocked it like we had done a hundred times during our morning sessions. Next thing we knew we were working out in front of the crowd. Throwing kicks and punches, hopping and jumping, throwing each other, rolling on the ground, having a great time, just like a Kung Fu movie. We finally ended up agreeing that we were equal in skill and, like any true martial artists who recognize each other, concluded standing in our stances, breathing heavily, each awaiting the next attack and neither wanting to make it.
Then, just as if on cue, just as if we had planned it, we each stepped back, bowed and shook hands. The crowd went wild. Even the other fellows we had been working out with were impressed, they had never seen anything like it; of course, neither had we. But, that is how it is when you are moving in harmony with the Force. Everything falls into place and “the cherry blossoms are all perfect.”
Sensei Broussard was one of the kids in my cabin. He was just a child. Weighed less than fifty pounds, largely confined to a wheelchair, barely able to eat or speak, his hands and arms folded across his sunken chest like a praying mantis, with horizontal scars across the back of his calf muscles where the doctors had “severed the nerves” and cut the muscle to reduce the pain of his body growing. He had been told every year since his fifth that he probably wouldn’t see another birthday. But, here he was, camping out in the Florida swamp. And he saw that show.
And, he began to study martial arts.
At first, it was only what he could watch or read or imagine. Exercise was almost impossible; simply too painful to endure. Most of the other therapy, drugs and procedures were utterly useless. But he grew nonetheless.
When the “Ninja craze” exploded he found what he was looking for, a “magical martial art.” Naturally, his mother, like all mothers, was concerned for him and worried that he might harm himself or adopt some strange philosophy, so very often his stash of Ninja magazines was confiscated and burned “for his own good.”
When he was old enough he moved out, to group homes, to hospitals, to New Orleans, where he not only survived, but did well. He went to many martial arts classes but was seldom given any instruction. Most Sensei were reluctant to take a chance that he would be injured. So he watched, and he learned anyway. He practiced alone, in stillness, with “stolen” and secret techniques created in dreams. He studied Dim Mak, the delayed death touch system of vital and fatal striking points of the body. Because of his extremely limited mobility, he learned to collect, cultivate and circulate Qi, to channel it to develop his balance, empower his techniques and understand the hidden meanings of martial art symbolism.
When he discovered Kata Dante, he “recognized it.” He “knew” it on an intuitive level. He practiced it. He studied it. He concluded that if anyone could ever survive such an assault they would be as he was, broken and helpless. So he “learned” it, on a deep and mystical level. And he researched it, and found that he had been born almost exactly nine months after the death of John Keehan, the legendary Count Dante, founder of the Black Dragon Fighting Society in America. And, in keeping with the Dalai Lama principles of reincarnation concluded that he might well be that spirit, come back to experience the karma of what he had taught, for he was in every way the exact opposite of Count Dante.
He has tested and been graded to Black Belt 3rd Degree in Iaido, Batto-ryu and Ninjitsu. He has attended university where he majored in theology, science and philosophy. His expertise is Black Magick. He has been called on by the New Orleans Police and the State of Louisiana as a consultant on several criminal cases involving mutilations and satanic cults and worked as a mortician. Even now he can take you to places where people are literally living in graveyards.
He had long since forgotten me, and likewise I he. Even though he had read many of my books, only to have them stolen or lost over the years. He has been stabbed in knife fights seven times, but he has never been killed. The dislocated shoulders or wrenched necks or broken bones or severed limbs of those who have made the mistake of attacking him are forgiven by the law because it is so painfully obvious that he is in absolutely no position to attack anyone and must necessarily be acting in self defense. But, he is not a victim, and he never describes himself that way. He even forgives the doctors who added to his misfortune so long ago, because he knows they were only doing their best with what they knew at the time.
He contacted me through the website a few years ago and discovered that we had met long ago. We had drifted far apart. But, over the years I had collected a bunch of martial arts magazines and carried them around from place to place for a long time, not really knowing why. Originally, they were “files” on “other Ninja.” They became meaningless when most of them faded into obscurity. But, I was able to give them to him so he had them again. It was the return of a lost treasure, and an honor for me to do so, and another example of synchronicity and moving in harmony along the path.
Over the years he had developed his own martial arts style; mostly because no one would teach him. But, it has been tested and found true. It is based on Will and the principles of Ninja Magick. He has written a book on the subject and DOJO Press has been privileged to publish it for him and share it with you. It is utter self-defense. To even perform it, one must have his back against a wall; because Sensei Broussard cannot stand without support. He uses his grip to attack the vital and fatal points and bring an opponent to the ground. Once there, they are at his mercy, and, because he cannot quickly run away, he must necessarily be sufficiently ruthless to make sure they cannot and do not even consider any further assault. This is the mark of a warrior. It is not “winning,” it is prevailing. And this is what he saw and learned so long ago when he watched an improvised Karate demonstration at a summer camp in central Florida some twenty years before. Anyone who would attack a man who is less than five feet tall and less than a hundred pounds, deserves any injury Fate has chosen to inflict upon them by sending them to this master.
He walks with great difficulty, although doctors and medicine told him it was impossible, he walks nonetheless. He still speaks with great difficulty, but when he speaks, it is from the heart and eloquently.
“In today’s increasingly tempestuous world, it is imperative that those who seek peace be equipped to deal with those obstacles that arise along the way. The Ninja’s concept of peace through skill in war is one means of equipping oneself to endure life and prevail in the process. One of the major gifts of this discipline to its adherents is, simply put, options that go unnoticed by the conventional warrior.”
That is why we have named our Official Emblem the Komuso Badge. We do this in honor of our brother. “Fine lad he, and fine lads we, to know such a big curiosity,” and benefit from his wisdom and leadership. Komuso-ryu is the name of his personal martial art system.
It means “beggar-ascetic” or “vagabond,” because the true Ninja is merely a traveler on the path, flowing with the way of the universe, possessing nothing so he is possessed and bound by nothing. This comes from the Chinese roots of Ninjitsu, where the equivalent would be the Shinobi warrior-priest, who wandered the ancient countryside in search of kingdoms and tribes where the people were happy and well fed. To the leaders of these groups, be they king, warlord, or chief they offered the secrets of longevity, so their leadership might endure and their people continue to prosper. They did not try to “change the world.” They merely encouraged what was good and fostered the spirit of effort. That is how so many of them came to be regarded as “protectors of the emperor.” Thus, the symbolic post of Imperial Bodyguard and counselor.
This badge represents intuitive understanding acquired with long training and practice that enables one to perceive the most subtle principles of balance and leverage that enable “a force of one thousand pounds to be deflected by four ounces.” As well as the deadly, elegant, and effective beauty of the martial arts, to kill or restore to life. If you are permitted to wear this badge, you have a high standard indeed to live up to.
My friends, in the presence of such an example, how can any of us do less than strive to overcome the petty obstacles of our own lives without whinging and whining, moaning or groaning, envying the state of others more fortunate, or wishing ourselves more like this or that, “shoulding” on ourselves by regretting past mistakes or praying for a better tomorrow.
Let each of us take what comes with a smile and do the best we can with what we have in the moment, putting aside old differences and judgmental attitudes, helping each other instead of fighting about nothing, and hoping it will be enough to make us worthy to be called a martial artist of this caliber.
So let it be done.