Rob Baard is part Caped Crusader, part Jason Bourne.. at least that's the guise he guns with in The Ninja : Immovable Heart, a feverishly-fun and entertaining superhero jaunt hitting DVD and VOD in March.
How long have you been doing martial arts, Rob? You're brilliant on screen!
I began studying martial arts at 12 years old. I began with Kyokushin Karate (1 year), Oh’s Taekwondo (around 2 years), Seido through Merve Nelis, and Kukishin Ninjutsu through Adam Swift from 13 – 25 years old; my first black belt was at 18 years old. Then for the last 8 or more years I have been with the Bujinkan through Shihan Richard Van Donk.
I train here in Australia, I teach here in Australia, I go to the USA to train with my teacher and I’m currently planning a Japan trip to train. Right now I’m a Yondan preparing for my Godan test (5th dan, the masters test) I am a licensed Shidoshi Ho through the Bujinkan.
I read somewhere that someone believed I was a home study student only, which sadly puts all those years of split knuckles and lifelong friendships that I’ve built through the dojo aside. But we laugh it off, many have opinions on things they simply don’t know the facts for. I think what is rewarding about a black belt and even Dan level training is you know the hard work ti took to get there. You remember every push up in the mud and rain, you remember the sweat and exhaustion pushing your limits with your fellow brothers in the dojo.
I also do a lot of healing arts, and I think most martial artists head into this direction also, much of training is about behaviour, where we are storing things and how we move in life physically, mentally and spiritually. I use the art to help unlock people’s potential. The right people show up to train. I’ve spent the since 2008 learning Kuji In through Maha Vajras transformational approach, Reiki since 2011, NLP and clinical hypnosis and complete mind therapy for the past few years also. I’m extremely active in learning and teaching and it all links to the films, books and what my company is about.
Why did you initially get into martial arts?
I grew up in a tough area with no father around. I was a quiet kid who did his school work, hence to say a lot of bullying took place. I loved super heroes and helping people. For me the obvious 80’s ninja films, the Ninja turtles and so forth were contributing factors as to why I began. I loved action movies, I loved training. I wanted to help others.
And did your skills in martial arts pave the way for The Ninja?
Yes. The Ninja company’s model is – to inspire and empower. More so than my martial arts skills, my life skills and essence of all the super hero films that inspired me, paved the way for the ninja. The ninja is in essence a life time of study. Films and heroes inspired me, they made me want to help people, I’ve been through some extreme helping situations dealing with assisting various people through psychological, physical, sexual abuse. I am glad the films so far have been able to help people, that’s the idea. It’s not just the martial arts skills that paved the way for the ninja it’s the coming together of everything.
The feature isn’t the introduction to the character though, is that right? There’s a short film?
The films come under the banner of The Ninja Universe – which has films, short films, TV series, books, comics and other spin off elements similar to Marvel’s super hero universe.
2010 saw the first short film Prelude To The Ninja
2012 Infinite Ways (which was intended to only focus on inner dealings during an encounter.
2011 – 2012 saw two books – The Ninja Awakening the Warrior Way, which focused on all the study I’d been doing on helping others through the art. The second book The Ninja Moral Mindset focuses on inspirational quotes and helping people on a mental level.
Each chapter seems to sync with my training at the time and where things are going. It’s really about working in harmony with the universe and following the signs as to where to go next.
You’re building a world, I hear – with comics and clothing, too?
1. The next feature film is pre-selling right now – “The Ninja Reckoning”
2. we’re shooting a short film with the spin off characters in Feb 2015 – “Interlude to the Ninja”
3. The big film “The Ninja : He Will Rise” looks to be following that.
4. There is movement on the TV series “The Super Human Quest” which focuses on training with Special Forces groups to learn their methods for composing with stress and high pressure situations.
5. The clothing, books and even a sterling silver necklace are all available.
6. The Comics are underway and the first two will be complete in the next month.
7. And we’re currently dealing with Licensing agencies to take care of the franchise elements.
It’s a very busy time with very little rest, it’s interesting to see where things fall.
You were obviously a big fan of the old Ninja movies growing up. Any favorites?
The usual suspects: Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles, American Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, Ninja 3 the Domination and so on.
What we’re doing is bringing the “real” art to the screen, which is not what those films reflect at all.
They don’t accurately reflect what the Ninja Universe is however and weren’t really the inspiration behind it. I’d look more to Star Wars, Batman and Superman for those.
The film is based on the ninja’s core learning – “Fudoshin” – the Immovable Heart. The story is woven into what is a channelled energy film it focuses on stripping away all that is limiting and cultivating Fudoshin.
What makes a good action/martial-arts movie in your opinion?
For me, these days, something authentic. I think many martial artists still love the more “elegant unrealistic dance or acrobatic style of martial arts film. I prefer things like The Bourne series or even “Taken”, right now. I don’t really consider the Immovable Heart as a martial arts film, I see it more as a super hero film, the story of a guy who rises up to the tasks at hand.
I like deeper films with substance, morals and something that takes the audience seriously. Weather that’s what makes a “good” action/ martial arts film I don’t know.
The demographic love car chases, fights, explosions, shoot outs and we’ve got all those in there. The next one is much much more action packed, this is the origin of the character so we need to see where he came from.
Is there a fight sequence in the movie you’re especially proud of?
I love the trench sequence because we shot it the way I intended it to be. I’m proud of all the fights in the film, especially the end stuff, being the director and writer you look at it from different angles, as a producer you know the limitations of the day. I’m proud of the fight sequences, but at times not so much of the camera work, we had a tough time getting our camera man to fall on the same page of what I intended. The trench is amazing because of the coverage I got. Wait until you see what’s coming up!
The Ninja : Immovable Heart is on DVD and VOD March 3