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Ninja Night At The Crow Collection: Escaping Wrist Grabs, Achieving Zen

If you envy the infinite power of Chuck Norris or covet the signature moves of Bruce Lee, Tuesday night at the Crow Collection should be calling your name.

That’s right, North Texas’ premiere Asian art museum is actually holding ninja class, and it's equal parts self-defense and philosophy.

When you think of a ninja, most people probably picture a black-clad trained killer.

But showing no mercy is the opposite of the ninja way of life, which teaches strength of spirit and character above all else.

“This goes back through history that there really was an understanding that if you’re learning this stuff, you’re learning power. And you have to learn how to move with that in a good way,” says instructor Randle Charles.

Charles works for an organization called Better Humans and is in charge of Ninja Night at the Crow. He’s studied ninja and To Shin Do for years and is devoted to bringing the beauty of self-defense and higher thinking to those who want to learn.

“That way of being in the world, to believe in yourself that you have the right to endure, I think is so powerful, to persevere over anything and everything,” he says.

A dozen eager disciples showed up for the debut of Ninja Night. The free program will continue every Tuesday night throughout the fall. The class starts at 5:30 p.m. and is held in the Grand Gallery.

One of disciples is Kathryn Westbrook, a 73 year-old Dallas resident who already fancies herself ninja cool.

“Because I always wear black, I have a Prius that doesn’t have a sound to it, it’s just that I have a way of trying to be in and out and nobody knows,” Westbrook says.

Innate ninja stealth aside, Westbrook and the rest of the class pick up the first lesson pretty quickly.

Charles has everyone work on escaping wrist grabs. He teaches students how to use their whole body to get away from an attacker who might be bigger and stronger.

Kent Cummings originally signed on for Ninja Night because his wife is from Japan and he wants to learn more about the ninja culture. But he says the practical lessons surprise him.

“I didn’t know what to expect honestly coming in, but the self-defense, the quick drops, the easy things you can do to possibly avoid a bad situation or someone who’s confronting you,” Cummings says.

And Ninja Night isn’t held in some sweaty dojo. The Crow Collection’s light-filled Grand Gallery is adorned with lacquered wood statues of young monks, a sandstone Vishnu and a textile from 20th century Bali.

One Ninja Night doesn’t mean you’ll wake up the next day proficient at throwing stars or suddenly able to sneak up on a secret service agent. But instructor Randle Charles says you will learn how to protect yourself.

“If I can learn to use my whole body, even the smallest person can be more powerful than a strong part of another person’s body,” says Charles.

In essence leveling the playing field for bullies and attackers. 

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.