Andrea Hansen is a ninja-in-training. Really. The 34-year-old registered nurse is learning how to protect herself and her loved ones through the practice of ninpo, Japan’s ancient martial art.
She’s also learning to trust her intuition, stay calm and keep a clear mind.
“We learn this on the mat, but it translates into regular life just as much. If we can react appropriately to whatever is going on, whether it is a dangerous situation, an interpersonal conflict or just the stressors of daily living, we can overcome whatever challenges are in front of us and move forward.”
Hansen trains at Soyokaze Dojo in West Madison under fourth-degree black belt
Daniel Brandt, the studio’s sensei, or teacher. In July 2013, Brandt selected Hansen for a rare position as one of the dojo’s teachers—the city’s first female ninpo instructor.
“Andrea is a natural healer and has a great attitude, even in the face of uncertainty and confusion,” Brandt explains.
Ninpo, according to the Soyokaze website is “the art of the ninja, the legendary shadow warriors of Japan.” And Hansen is indeed a warrior: A warrior wishing to “protect rather than instigate.”
Hansen began studying ninpo in 2011 after trying several other martial arts only to find them at odds with her life goals.
“I was interested in helping people heal rather than inflicting damage,” Hansen says. And until now, she has been training in the shadows: People who come in contact with her every day have no idea that she is a ninja by nightfall.
Ninpo dates back approximately to 14thcentury Japan, when ninjas were farmers by day and spies by night. The art, passed down from father to son and uncle to nephew, typically excluded women.
But as Japan’s ninpo masters began to worry that the secrets of the ninja would be lost in the modern world, they agreed to encourage women to join the ranks in an effort to keep ninpo alive, Brandt says.
Hansen finds ninpo empowering. “This art has a way of bringing to the surface
whatever you’re trying to hide and makes you confront it and deal with it,” she says. And her new skills translate to her work as a nurse, helping her understand a patient’s needs with a deeper level of compassion. “What it comes down to, at the heart of it all, is treating patients, and more generally speaking, people, with kindness. If we’re insincere, if we aren’t honest with them, it doesn’t serve them or us. It prevents both parties from trusting one another, and if there is no trust, there’s no understanding.”
– Kathy Brozyna