I grew up in the golden age of ninja movies and throwing stars, so I naturally became a big devotee of Ninjitsu. During this time, Sho Kosugi temporarily replaced Bruce Lee as my idol and I searched high and low for ninja schools in New York. I scoured through the Yellow Pages and found the only New York school at the time... in the Bronx. Unfortunately, it was too far for my mom to take me and I never even got to check it out. Because I couldn't find a school to train in and YouTube didn't exist, my only recourse was to read Ninja magazines. I devoured everything that Stephen K. Hayes and others wrote in these magazines, although I couldn't buy any of their books and videos. So, I was left to my daydreams with the "stealth-attack-disarm-kill" drills I read in Ninja.
Eventually, I moved on before the Ninja phase died down and tried to get into boxing in my teens. Then, in 1998, I started looking for a school that I hoped would offer both kickboxing and grappling (this was before mixed martial arts schools became ubiquitous). During my search and school visits, I encountered a Ninjitsu school in Manhattan and I decided, even if I wasn't going to join, I just had to check it out to see if it was anything like I had imagined.
I stepped into a class warming up with front rolls and back rolls... and didn't stay for long. Maybe I was over the hype and the ninja outfits or maybe I was too influenced by the practical realism of MMA. (It didn't help that Steve Jennum and Scott Morris students of "Robert Bussey's Warrior International" ninja school failed miserably in the UFC back in the early 90s.) But what I saw had none of the mysticism or exotic flair that thrilled me. The ninjas I read about were supposedly the feudal equivalent of Navy SEALs and these students were at best a smattering of WASP and Japanese accountants in karate gi trying to do their best Michael Dudikoff and Sho Kosugi impressions.
Needless to say, I left that school certain I would never return. Soon after, I found a Jeet Kune Do school that offered muay thai AND brazilian jiu-jitsu and a bazillion other arts and that's how I regained my love and appreciation for Bruce Lee.
Still... it's fun watching this vintage and surreal collection of Grandmaster Hatsumi tapes (I'm sure it contains some valuable techniques to learn in there). I remembered seeing the ads for these tapes and wishing... wishing I could get them.