Shidoshi Jim Delorto

Jim Delorto has been studying martial arts for over 25 years having accumulated experience in dozens of Eastern and Western forms. He began training in the Bujinkan in 2000 under Gabe Logan. Shortly thereafter, he was introduced to James Morganelli and has trained with him ever since. Jim has made several trips to Japan to train with Hatsumi Sensei and the Shihan, earning his 5th Dan and Shidoshi License in 2007, and his Judan in 2018.

Beyond training, Jim holds a BS in History from Northern Illinois University and has extensive experience in physical fitness,training, and movement science. He is an avid OCR runner and fuels this passion with various forms of physical training on a regular basis. He is a loving husband and father to two wonderful children and holds a management position for a Midwestern retailer.

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10 Questions with Jim Delorto

I completed these questions the first time about 10 years ago now, and I found that my answers to some questions haven’t really changed. I just have a deeper understanding than before. As such I have included my original answers, with some textual corrections for clarity, in italics. I have added my current thoughts following in standard type.

What is your personal martial arts biography?

Like many, I was swept up in the ninja boom of the 1980’s and the martial arts boom in the 1990’s. I would read the old Ninja magazine, and I even bought my first ninja book at the ripe old age of eight, Steven Hayes Mystic Arts of the Ninja. When I was ten, I began training in the martial arts. The first style I picked up was a blend of Judo, Aikido, and Karate called first Budo Aikido and later, Budo Tai-jutsu. I received my black belt in this style at 16 and was a 2nd degree black belt when I moved on. In high school, I really began to experience a wider array of martial traditions. I was a wrestler my freshman year and also began to study Shaolin Chuan Fa Kung Fu under Sifu Chris McClure, Sifu Catherine Blaisedell, and Sifu Gia and Dino Spencer. It was through my time at this school that I was exposed to a multitude of other systems through guest instructors and seminars. I came in contact with and had training in Xing Yi, Baqua, Tai Chi, Jujitsu, Kali, Escrima, Arnis, Muay Thai, Hapkido, and Boxing. I met and trained with a great many different teachers with exceptional backgrounds, including a Shaolin monk. I also studied Fencing while in high school. Shortly before leaving high school I attained the rank of Junior Black Sash in Kung Fu.

Upon entering college, I took up Jidokwan Style Taekwondo, Aikido, and Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu. By the end of my sophomore year, I had stopped taking both taekwondo and Aikido and had focused all my attention on the Bujinkan. I enjoyed both arts and I had advanced well in both. Earning a Cho Don Bo in Taekwondo and 5th Kyu in Aikido. I also had the opportunities to train with both a Korean TKD Olympic Champion and one of Ueshiba O’Sensei’s students. However, neither fit me as well as the Bujinkan.

I began training with Gabe Logan and through him came to train with James Morganelli, who’s dojo I currently train and teach under. I have trained in the Bujinkan for 10 years and along the way have attended seminars with instructors such as Mark Hodel, Jack Hoban, Ed Martin, Dick Severence, Andrew Young, Luke Molitor, and others. I have participated in two Tai-kai, two Bufest, and one Buyu camp. I have travelled to Japan twice and attended classes with the Japanese Shihan and Soke and look forward to future trips. My Godan test was passed in 2007.

I have continued to further my training in the Bujinkan under James Morganelli in the intervening 8-ish years. Traveling to Japan two more times since the previous writing and earning my Judan in 2018.

Why do you train?

While I hate to give a simple answer to such a deep question, I train because it makes me better in all areas of my life. Through training, I am a better man in all the roles that I have in society. I’m a better husband, a better son, a better friend, a better student, a better citizen, etc, etc, etc. Training makes me better in all these areas of my life.

I still agree with this answer. I am a better person because I train, because training gives me the tools to become that better person, and the courage to use them. At this point in my life, training is so much a part of me that I don’t think I could ever not train.

What do you think is/are the core value(s) of martial arts training?

This is a very difficult question to answer. For me, I’d say the core value from which all others spring is life. All the other values that martial arts of any style claim to value all come back to life. Because all of those other more relative values are all to protect life whatever they are strength, power, cunning, perseverance, whatever it is. They all should be used as tools and means to protect life.

I couldn’t say it any better now than I did then.

Can you explain your method of training and teaching?

To be honest no I can’t. While I can try and pin down what I do to both teach and train, it would only be true for a moment, and then would change. One day I might focus on the technical aspects of a movement or waza, the next on feeling the energy of the attacker. I tend to, for lack of a better turn of phrase, train/teach on a whim and see where it takes me.

This has changed for me to some extent over the years, as I have had consistent students and needed more of a focus in my teaching and training. Let me break this down because that will make it clearer, even though in my mind the two areas are intimately related and intertwined.

Training:  For my own personal training, aside from what I do to prepare to teach, I focus on using Taijutsu in everyday life. This means that any activity is training. I am an avid exerciser and Obstacle race competitor, and I use Taijutsu to better my performance both in training and competition. Further, I use these activities to show lacking areas in my Taijutsu. It is a wonderful cycle that feeds on itself to make me better.

Teaching: My current focus is on dissecting the Ryu-ha and pulling out, or putting back in, the Taijutsu. A good deal of the time, too much focus is put on mastering the waza. This is wrong. The waza are a means to an end. That end is what I am focusing on distilling and passing on to students. While hopefully developing a method that they can then use for themselves to do the same. I don’t want to give my students a list of things, I want to give them a method to be applied to make themselves better.

Is there a “secret” to training?

Ganbatte. But not just keep going, keep making progress no matter how small an increment.

This really is still true, but as with many things there is more as well. The real secret to training is who you train with. Without the proper environment, any living thing will die or at the very least fail to thrive and reach its full potential. Taijutsu is a living thing and subject to the same rule. If you do not train with a group that pushes you, helps you, challenges you, makes you examine your views and assumptions. You. Will. Fail.

It is easier to struggle onward when you are not alone, and those beside you are helping you, as you help them. They will make sure you progress toward the right things, and help you move away from the wrong things.

What would you recommend others do, to improve their training?

Learn to seek and enjoy being frustrated. It means you’re doing something new and that means progress.

Still good advice, but here is some that is even harder to follow.

Realize that the greatest barriers to overcome are the ones we place in front of ourselves. Breaking through these is the most difficult, yet rewarding, aspect of training. The biggest thing that prevents you moving forward is often of your own making or choice. Choose to face yourself. Choose to acknowledge your fear. Choose to ask “Why....”. Then choose to overcome.

What are the biggest differences today, than when you first began training?

There has been a swap from physical to mental. Training is no longer as physically demanding as it once was. We used to train for 4 or more hours a night and be physically exhausted. Now we train much less about 2 hours a night, but the exhaustion is more mental.

This is still the case. Training now is more focused on the “Why” aspect of training. This has happened because we, through James and now on our own, realized that this was the right way to do it. Without a reason, a “Why”, training has no direction and therefore no purpose. But once you have established the reason for a thing, what you have to do, how you need to do, when it needs to be done, all fall into place. We call this why the “Protector Ethic”.

Before we understood this, we had to beat ourselves into the ground with physical training, because we didn’t understand what we were training for, so we had to train for everything.

What is the role a martial artist plays in our world?

To be honest, martial arts today is entertainment. It has become a means of making a buck. That is why I don’t think of the Bujinkan as a martial art, it is a Warrior Art. Warrior Arts are those that adhere to the true spirit and purpose of what used to be “martial arts”. Warrior Arts better and protect all of mankind, most so called “martial arts” have forgotten this, their true purpose, and that is truly sad.

Cynical, but still true. Unfortunately, we live in a world where the value of the skills to protect oneself and those you hold dear are undervalued or forgotten. The martial artist is an “entertainer” or a “hobbyist” or someone who “wastes their time on something they’ll never use”. Meanwhile, our society is in a state of collapse because the average person lacks the ability to confront injustices rightly, and needs a “safe space” because “words hurt”. This lack of fortitude is because society has lost its Warrior Arts. Arts that taught courage through physical competence. Courage that is sorely needed.

What one thing would you contribute to a “Book of Knowledge?

I’ll steal this one "Education is not about filling a bucket, it’s about lighting a fire" William Butler Yeats.

Still a good piece of advice, here’s another.

Fear is not a sign to turn back now or stop. It is the line between where you are, and the greatness that rests within you. CROSS THE LINE!!

Do you have any great hope for the future of martial training?

I would say that my one great hope is that the few of us that practice in the true spirit of a Warrior Art can do so in a way that shows our world that it can be better than it is and that we as human beings are better than what we have been.

I still carry this hope, even though it seems like we are falling further from its realization.