East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, OR) 1888-current, April 01, 2017, WEEKEND EDITION, Image 19

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WEEKEND, APRIL 1-2, 2017
Staff photo by E.J. Harris
Staff photo by E.J. Harris
Staff photo by E.J. Harris
Sensei Nate Stephens takes a tea break with students
Erik Perez, right, and Michael Fielden, not seen, during
their class recently at the Hermiston Bujinkan Dojo.
In addition to hand to hand fighting, the art of Bujink-
an employs the use of numerous weapons.
Sensei Nate Stephens demonstrates how to use a
sword to disarm an opponent with a naginata, a Japa-
nese halberd, while training with student Erik Perez at
the Hermiston Bujinkan Dojo.
Staff photo by E.J. Harris
Sensei Nate Stephens demonstrates an arm lock on student Michael Fielden as Erik Perez looks on during a class recently at the Hermiston Bujinkan Dojo.
Firefighter trains
in martial arts,
teaches others
East Oregonian
It’s a peaceful morning at
the Hermiston Bujinkan Dojo,
but Nate Stephens is here to
teach his students about war.
Ancient war, that is.
“We train in a very old
martial art — used on the
battlefield for over a thousand
years,” Stephens said. The
dojo combines training from
about nine different types of
martial arts, which as a whole
are called “Bujinkan.”
This martial art is used
as the foundation for the
Marine Corps martial arts
program, and draws people
from around the world and
from different training back-
grounds — including many
with military experience.
“Bu jin — that’s the
symbols for warrior and
divine,” Stephens said. “Kan
means house or clan. What
it actually means is ‘to not
war with god.’ But the most
common translation is ‘divine
warrior house.’”
Stephens, who started
learning the martial art in
1993, was recently promoted.
He obtained his fifth-degree
black belt, and teaches
others the art as well. Part of
Stephens’ training includes
traveling to Japan periodi-
cally to study with the grand
master, 85 year-old Masaaki
Hatsumi. He plans to go there
again in summer of 2018.
Stephens said of the grand
master, looking at one of the
many photos hanging on the
walls of the dojo.
Hatsumi also makes callig-
raphy paintings for students.
“I told him I saw a hornet,
and he painted that and gave
it to me,” Stephens said,
Staff photo by E.J. Harris
Sensei Nate Stephens demonstrates a disarming technique to student Erik Perez
while training in Bujinkan at the Hermiston Bujinkan Dojo.
More online
For video visit
Contributed photo
Sensei Nate Stephens poses for a photograph with
Grand Master Masaaki Hatsumi at Hatsumi’s Hombu,
head dojo, in Noda City, Japan, in 2014.
pointing to a long, narrow
scroll with an inky image
of a bug-eyed creature.
“Everything has a meaning.
If the eyes are looking up, it
means something different
than if they’re looking to
the right or the left.”
Stephens, a full-time fire-
fighter with Umatilla County
Fire District 1, teaches a few
classes each week. He has
two consistent students, and
a few others that come occa-
At the beginning of
class, Stephens and his two
regulars, Michael Fielden and
Erik Perez, stretch out and do
a little tumbling to warm up.
Then Stephens begins
demonstrating how to use
the skills he’s taught them to
disable an opponent in a fight.
At first, movements are
slow, and the opponents don’t
strike each other.
“Float, move, once again,”
Stephens said. “Attack their
Staff photo by E.J. Harris
A portrait of Nate Stephens with Japanese calligraphy
painted by Grand Master Masaaki Hatsumi adorns the
wall of Stephens’ Hermiston dojo.
eyeline — let them come to
you. Move to the outside this
time. As he comes to you, just
slightly deflect.”
He knocks his opponent
— in this case, Fielden — off
balance and he falls to the
ground. Then he steps off the
“Have fun,” he says with a
grin, as Perez steps on.
After a few minutes of
fighting without weapons,
Stephens pulls a wooden
sword off the wall, one
of a large collection. He
shows them how to avoid an
aggressor if they come at you
with a knife.
“First move out of the
way,” he says, demonstrating
as he talks. “Then grab the