Ninjutsu is not a martial art.

Hanzou

Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 29, 2013
Messages
6,691
Reaction score
1,260
I'm no expert on the historicity of ninja/ninjutsu - I'm sure Chris would know far more about that stuff. But in my experience with koryu practitioners and teachers in Japan, Mr Hatsumi and the 'x-kan' organisations are viewed as a bit of a laughing stock; a tourist exploitation machine based on some pretty cringy, childish ideas. Not seen as either legitimate martial arts, or historical traditions.

Of course this does not sit well with the legions of foreigners who have time and emotion invested in these organisations. They often cite the Emperor giving Mr Hatsumi an award as 'proof' of his good standing (I understand he received an award 'for contributions to tourism' from the Emperor - I don't think he was designated a living cultural asset and would be keen to see evidence to support that)

It is pretty apparent that much of the 'ninja' stuff was created by Mr Hatsumi's teacher, Takamatsu, and does not have any history prior to that.

Yeah, this is more in line with the impressions I've come across from koryu practitioners and scholars.
 

jks9199

Administrator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 2, 2006
Messages
22,670
Reaction score
2,923
Location
Northern VA
Regarding Hatsumi -- from various things I've read, some question not so much him, but the origins of some of the material he received from Takamatsu. I fully confess that I'm not versed enough in the issues to have a good opinion; some of the material from Takamatsu is well documented in many areas. Some of it -- not so much. Doesn't mean it's not valid or true, simply that some of the groups didn't leave a record as clearly as others.
 

Hanzou

Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 29, 2013
Messages
6,691
Reaction score
1,260
Regarding Hatsumi -- from various things I've read, some question not so much him, but the origins of some of the material he received from Takamatsu. I fully confess that I'm not versed enough in the issues to have a good opinion; some of the material from Takamatsu is well documented in many areas. Some of it -- not so much. Doesn't mean it's not valid or true, simply that some of the groups didn't leave a record as clearly as others.

The stuff he demonstrated in that video I posted definitely isn't valid.
 

Oily Dragon

Master of Arts
Joined
May 2, 2020
Messages
1,607
Reaction score
706
There are, as I understand it, significant differences of opinion on that. That's why I put the "(arguably)" in there.
Just like a ninja too, throw everyone off the real scent. Tell enough lies, nobody can recognize the truth anymore.

It's an effective tactic.
 

BrendanF

Purple Belt
Joined
Feb 26, 2017
Messages
348
Reaction score
134
Regarding Hatsumi -- from various things I've read, some question not so much him, but the origins of some of the material he received from Takamatsu. I fully confess that I'm not versed enough in the issues to have a good opinion; some of the material from Takamatsu is well documented in many areas. Some of it -- not so much. Doesn't mean it's not valid or true, simply that some of the groups didn't leave a record as clearly as others.

Exactly. Takamatsu was legitimately a senior figure in two koryu that were/are traditionally taught together, due to a challenge between the two headmasters centuries ago - Kukishin ryu and Takagi ryu. He apparently also received paperwork for a couple of other arts like Shinden Fudo ryu that were independently documented.

At some point Takamatsu wrote to the head of the Kuki family, who are hereditary custodians of a Shinto shrine and the orthodox Kukishin ryu, for permission to use their name in creating a new 'koryu karate' system. I don't think he ended up doing that. He was very old and apparently suffering mentally when he taught Hatsumi - he wrote lineages for his new 'ninja' ryuha that included comic book characters and the like.
 

Chris Parker

Grandmaster
Joined
Feb 18, 2008
Messages
6,226
Reaction score
1,052
Location
Melbourne, Australia
Right. Lots to cover here... this might be a really long one, or I might split it up... let's see how we go.

Firstly, hi, Tim. Good to meet you. Whilst I get your enthusiasm and desire to "clear up" what you see as an issue, there's quite a lot that, perhaps, you aren't aware of, or that you aren't taking into account... let's see what we have.

Ninjutsu is not a martial art, it is part of a martial tradition.

Yeah, I'm gonna break these up...

This opening statement is both true, and not true. It depends on the context that is being discussed, and, importantly, the system(s) being discussed... as well as historical, social, and cultural aspects. But we'll get to that.

Jutsu indicates skillset, in this case, the skills related to Nin.

Sure... that's one interpretation. A set of technical methods is another... practical techniques is another... as far as "skills related to Nin", well, not really. It's more about "skills (technical methods, practical techniques) applied to the context of nin (敹)"... which is kinda what you get to next, so not too far off. Of course, this is only one contextual application of the term... but, again, we'll get there.

Nin can be translated many ways, commonly as stealth, invisibility, perseverance, and intention.

The translation of "invisibility" isn't as accurate... in simple terms, it's about forbearance, patience, perseverance... with a subtext of concealed action, stealth. Invisibility would more likely be fukashi (銝航 pretty literally "unable to be seen")... I get the connection, and Draegers' work in the 60's "Ninjitsu: The Art of Invisibility" perhaps has a bit of the blame there, but the "translation" isn't correct. As far as "intention"... just, no.

Taijutsu means 'body skills', and the martial art being referred to as Ninjutsu so often is called Ninpo Taijutsu.

Within the Genbukan (and Bujinkan... sort of. The more common term there is "Budo Taijutsu", although Ninpo Taijutsu is sometimes applied by some teachers, or in some contexts)... the term being taken from one of the three primary areas taught in Togakure Ryu... with one of the others being ninjutsu specifically... but, again, we'll get there.

Essentially what Ninjutsu consisted of in history were the skills of espionage, intelligence gathering, escape and evasion,

Largely, yep.

and guerrilla warfare.

And... nope. While there were certain regional areas where the bushi of the area were known for such approaches, and those areas have a connection in a way with historic legends about "ninja", it's not really the same thing.

Psychological tactics and camoflouge were certainly employed for fighting, but the Shinobi most of all wished to avoid open combat. Their way was to blend in, to escape attention, to be 'invisible' at least in their intent.

Hmm... a major issue here seems to be the concept that a "ninja" was a thing/person in and of themselves... that's simply not the case. In a real way, "ninja" (shinobi no mono, rappa, kusa, suppa, any of myriad other terms) was a job, not a person... and, more often than not, simply referred to a samurai engaging in any of the above actions (espionage, scouting, sabotage).

Today, Ninjutsu is alive and well and grown immeasurably in degree of complexity.

Er... huh?

Any and everything one might gain skill in, that may enhance your capability to escape danger, can be considered Ninjutsu, if associated with the study of Ninpo.

Well, no. That's the thing about studying a cultural approach to a topic or area... if what you does doesn't fit that cultural context, then it isn't the thing you are trying to do. I get the whole "make it work for today" idea, but that's then creating something different (which may be based in the first set of concepts, but isn't really the same thing at all).

no disrespect intended. I just wonder why the category devoted to the martial arts of the Shinobi is mislabeled so.

Okay, then.

It's not. You're missing two thirds of the meaning of the term.

Did that help?

Okay, let's explore a bit (by the way, this is all in the stickies on this forum, so maybe a bit of reading there would help...).

In a real way, there are three ways to look at the usage/application of the term "ninjutsu". These are as a historical methodology, as a historical cultural phenomenon, and as a modern interpretation of the concept. So, let's look at each of these.

The first is the historical methodology, which is what you have been trying to describe here. It's most commonly found as a subset of military strategies and skills, based around information gathering, scouting, reconnaissance, sabotage, and so on. This was rarely, if ever, a stand-alone system, but was part of a larger set of education of (most commonly) upper level warriors, as part of a total military education. As a result, there are ninjutsu (and related) sections of the curriculums of schools such as Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu, Tatsumi Ryu (where they refer to the concept as "monomi"), Araki Ryu, Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, Kukishin Ryu/Kukamishin Ryu, and so on. Very occasionally, there may be a specialised curriculum/education based around this area, separated from a larger syllabus (and therefore intended for only some persons within a military faction/domain), such as Kishu Ryu, today reconstructed (without real credibility) as Natori Ryu, and a handful of others.

The second is a historical cultural phenomenon. In Japan, this refers largely to the Edo Period, where Japan entered a period of extended peace, with many legends being developed and embellished as part of social entertainment. Through these stories, especially regarding the exploits of the powerful ruling factions (Oda Nobunaga, Tokugawa Ieyasu etc), many of the popular images we have today (thieves, assassins, magicians) were used to describe some of the characters surrounding these men and events. The Oda Nobunaga attacks on the central Honshu regions of Iga and Koga (present-day Mie and Shiga prefectures) to quell some of the political uprisings there, coupled with the more unusual combative tactics employed by the religious/military (but centrally resistant) persons in the Ikko-Ikki campaigns would give rise to the "guerrilla warfare" legends of the "ninja", for example... the death of Takeda Shingen (likely from a form of stomach cancer) has been re-spun as an assassination by a dwarf "ninja" hiding in the bottom of a toilet, and stabbing with a short spear... Additionally, the presence of various "ninja" characters in popular entertainment (kabuki in particular) helped drive this mystique.

Lastly is the modern application, dominantly headed by the arts also referred to as the Takamatsuden (or, simply, "transmissions from Takamatsu", Hatsumi's teacher). As will be discussed, these arts are certainly far from free of controversy (we'll deal with them in detail as we go), but, to give some context, the first art that Hatsumi was given headmastership of was Togakure Ryu (a bit under two years after starting studying with Takamatsu), an art ostensibly teaching (and describing itself as) "Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu". As a result, it was under this banner name that Hatsumi began presenting himself to the world, so the name kinda stuck. He would also use it as the primary title in most public engagements and publicity (tv appearances, acting roles, publications, and so on)... and the Bujinkan was originally the name only of the dojo (physical building itself... that's what the "Kan" suffix refers to), with the art being taught there being "Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu", regardless of the actual origin of the specific methods being taught.

This is then coupled with the historical claims of a number of the other arts taught, specifically Gyokko Ryu and Koto Ryu (but then extending to the listed Gikan Ryu and Gyokushin Ryu, as they claim a basis stemming from Gyokko Ryu themselves, and Kumogakure Ryu, which is also listed as a "ninjutsu" school), which claim to have been developed in the aforementioned Iga region (present-day Mie Prefecture) popularly associate with the mythical and legendary "ninja". As a result, the Bujinkan makes claim that there are "ninjutsu" traditions (Togakure Ryu, Kumogakure Ryu), as well as traditions deriving from the Iga region, and therefore "ninja-related" (Gyokko Ryu, Koto Ryu, Gikan Ryu, Gyokushin Ryu)... with the remaining arts being more "samurai" in their historical application (Takagi Yoshin Ryu, Shinden Fudo Ryu, and Kukishin Ryu... although that one also had a historical ninjutsu component to it). So, rather than list the various arts, and before the term "Budo Taijutsu" was coined, it became a common short-hand to refer to the Takamatsu traditions as "Ninjutsu"... mainly as a simple, short way to refer to what is taught in the more expansive dojo.

So, as you can see, it's not "mis-labelled"... you're just only choosing to use one application of the term.

and to answer your question, no, i am not involved with espionage, intelligence gathering, spycraft, or really much of anything that could be defined as Ninjutsu.

However, you describe yourself as a practitioner of Ninpo Taijutsu... and, surely, you get that that's what you were being asked if you studied, yeah? So, let me probe a little further... how long have you studied (I'm assuming Bujinkan, from your comments about Hatsumi)?

Don't see any mention of 'martial' there myself.. if so inclined I'd probably take more issue with the phrase 'modern organisations that teach the original ninjutsu arts'

Ha, yeah, I can see that (and agree in the main). Realistically, it's because, back in the day, there was a large component of the forum that practiced what would later be referred to as "Modern Ninjitsu" (sometimes as "neo-ninjutsu")... largely Western inventions based on bad karate, worse judo, terrible weapons (a lot of them Chinese and Okinawan), and a hell of a lot of fantasy, that would continually challenge the Japanese based organisations and members with the claim that their arts were just as valid expressions... eventually, they were split off to their own forum, so the description of this one was re-worded to reflect that separation... the other forum died pretty quickly, though, as most members kept finding themselves banned for a range of infractions...

Continued in the next post...
 

Chris Parker

Grandmaster
Joined
Feb 18, 2008
Messages
6,226
Reaction score
1,052
Location
Melbourne, Australia
I didn't mean to come across as such a judgy mcjudgypants, i could have done better in expressing this concern. there is so much hype and nonsense surrounding the Shinobi traditions, I had hoped that the community would by now have routed out alot of the mystique by avoiding commonly misunderstood terminology, like 'ninja' and 'ninjutsu'. but, i suppose it still sells memberships.

To be honest, I don't think there's much "hype" anymore... in the 80's, and even into the very early 90's? Sure. But these days, I don't think so... additionally, most practitioners don't use any terms like "ninja", and the few who use terms like "ninjutsu" usually do it for brand recognition, for want of a better term. Whether that's a good idea is another discussion, of course...

to answer your question, traditions kept alive beyond their relevance in modern application are what they are-living, but on life-support. that 'life-support' is the paying consumer.

Word to the wise here... I'd refrain from commenting on koryu, application, and the state of such arts in todays world. I really don't have time to cover it all here, but... that comment smacks of a complete lack of education on the subject.

Martial Traditions are what remains of a Martial Art 100 years after it has ceased to exist in dynamic relevance. kept alive for it's wisdom, but not as functional as it was once, because it has stopped growing, adapting, and seeking relevance in a changing world.

Yeah... you have no idea what you're talking about, and don't have the context or framework to understand it. That's not an attack, more an observation, to be clear... and you're far from alone in being in that position.

kinda like me, i suppose. nothing exists in a static state. all in the universe as we know it is either growing or dying. nothing can remain as is forever, and tradition itself may impede creative expansion, barring a path of relevance into the future. If there is anything I hold dear that I have learned from the philosophy of Ninpo, it is the importance of full creative involvement on the part of the practitioner.

This is what I'm getting at... Bujinkan practitioners are often very happy to parrot Hatsumi's comments on "classical martial arts", where he bemoans that they are "stuck, unchanging", but his art is "a living art"... then you get the "we train for the modern world" idea (and, honestly, no, most don't, as there isn't much understanding present in the vast majority that I've seen, from the very top down), all the while basing their presumed credibility on the claimed histories and ages of the arts... you really can't have it both ways. Either you're studying a classical art, in which case, study it in it's classical context, or you're doing a modern art (which may be derived from, or based on, some classical or traditional material... and, really, is a fair enough description of the Bujinkan), dealing with modern situations and contexts... or, recognise what they are (individually), and teach them as such (individually)... the modern is not the classical, and the classical is not modern... both have their place, and, believe it or not, both have their application in the modern world (which is not the same as saying they are equally suited to modern violence, it must be stated), but deriding classical arts, then trying to claim to be one, is quite... schizophrenic? It's the classic "well, I never wanted to be in your club in the first place" after you get rejected...

What's the difference between 'shinobi' and 'ninja'?

Nothing, really... different preferred terms in different ages. "Ninja" is pretty much a Meiji term.

the term Ninja was coined in the 1970's.

Nope. About a hundred years too late, there... perhaps a bit longer, actually.

the people who developed Ninjutsu and Ninpo Taijutsu were known throught history by many names, Shinobi no Mono (the people of Shinobi) was most common, from what i've read.

Shinobi no Mono does not mean "the people of Shinobi", unless you have a weird approach to grammar... it's like translating "thief" as "people of stealing"... next, I'd be pretty careful the claims I made about "the people who developed Ninjutsu and Ninpo Taijutsu" as any kind of historical individuals... ninjutsu, being the skills of espionage and information gathering, developed as a pretty natural application of military strategic approaches... it would be bizarre if only one person developed it as a concept (yeah, I know the whole En no Gyoja story, and others... they are not really anything close to it, for the record... En no Gyoja was a priest who brought a form of Buddhism, which was combined with native Shinto to develop studies such as Shugendo, who has been co-opted into some of the "ninja" mythos). It has existed in some form since two opposing forces tried to get some kind of advantage by figuring out some of their enemies strengths and weaknesses before a battle. It could be argued that it was driven into a state of refinement by the introduction of the 5 Chinese Classics, most notably Son Shi (Sun Tzu), and the 13th Chapter dealing with spies, but it was already in development. What made it Japanese (and, therefore, ninjutsu) was the application of the Japanese cultural concepts (religious teachings and ideas, Shinto, Taoist, Buddhist), and so on.

Next, the term "Ninpo Taijutsu" really doesn't seem to have existed before Takamatsu... well, I suppose he's had a number of names over his lifetime (Jutaro, Chosui, Toshitsugu...), so, yeah? But, if you're referring to historical persons (not Takamatsu), then, you're gonna need to back your work up...

Koryu arts are steeped in tradition, but of any arts have remained relevant right up until the present, imo. when most martial arts began to teach adaptations for sport and exhobition, the Shinobi arts went back underground.

Er... what?

Let's break this down... Koryu arts ARE traditions. They aren't steeped in them, they are them. Then there are other traditions associated within the school, but the school itself is a tradition. The rest doesn't make much sense, but if I was to parse it, it seems you meant "... but IF any arts have remained relevant right up until the present, imo, when most martial arts began to teach adaptations for sport and exhibition, (it's) the Shinobi arts (who) went back underground." Assuming that's correct, then there's a bit to cover.

When Japan came out of the Pax Tokugawa, and into the Meiji Restoration, there was a lot of upheaval in the country, with some (quite understandable) resentment towards the samurai who had been, in many ways, the oppressors for some 900 years. However, many of these former samurai were now set up as business and political leaders, and they didn't necessarily want their older traditions to just stop... so there was a concerted effort in a number of areas to repackage some of the older arts in a way that could be preserve their essential spirits, while limiting the association with the old regime. This lead to the development of what we now call Kendo, Judo, and later, Aikido, Iaido, and so on. Even Sumo was largely re-structured and re-worked to provide a wider appeal. However, to say that that was the teachers "begin(ning) to teach adaptations for sport and exhibition" is grossly inaccurate. Kano's Judo, for example, was more related to being adapted to be integrated into the education system... the "competition" was meant to be a minor aspect, and part of Kano's original vision was to have the Kodokan be the centre for all Japanese martial arts... he wanted all senior members to also be well versed in the older classical arts (he brought in Shimizu Takauji of Shinto Muso Ryu, and four shihan from Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu to teach staff and sword arts to the senior students, as he felt Judo by itself was only a part of the equation). Most of the modern arts we have today are more a reflection of post WWII than the end of the samurai rule, to be honest.

As far as "the Shinobi arts went back underground", well, the first thing is to realise that they never were in the first place... while they wouldn't be exactly advertise, they were just part of the overall military education... there weren't really "ninja traditions" to go underground in any real way.

Takamatsu Soke entered WWII as a spy, and I'll bet he was a damn good one.

HA!!!

No. He didn't. There are rumours that he acted as a kind of spy in China in the early 1900's (around 1910-1920)... by the time WWII rolled around, he was about 60 years old... for a more realistic idea there, Fujita Seiko, claimed 14th (and last) head of the Wada-ha Koga Ryu, acted as a special guest instructor at the Nakago academy for officers, where skills such as spycraft were taught... but he was there as a karate instructor (for the record, they also had guest instructors from the Kodokan, from Aikido, various weapon arts, especially Toyama Ryu, a school developed at another military academy in the early 20th Century), so, no, the Japanese army were not being taught to be "ninja" in WWII, nor was anyone employed as one outside of regular spy craft that all armies were engaging in.

Ninpo Taijutsu still has no sport application, competitive sport itself is an adaptation to modern relevance, but a deviation from tradition,

Er... what? No. Many classical traditions had a form of competitive practice, gekken/gekiken competitions (the precursor to modern Kendo) were held semi-regularly (Musashi's father engaged the Yoshioka school in one such competition in front of the Emperor in the late 16th Century, winning two out of the three bouts, and being named the "Greatest Warrior Under Heaven" [loose translation]), Judo's competition approach grew directly out of the competitive practice methods Kano was exposed to and enjoyed in both his Kito Ryu and Tenjin Shin'yo Ryu studies... that's not even getting into the rich history of sumo, and various jacketed and seated wrestling sports that the samurai (and others) engaged in.

martial arts were for war not competition,

This is a common, but deeply misunderstood and misapplied statement. Bluntly, if you think martial arts training is for use in war, you have very little idea of war, the necessary elements and training, the requirements, or martial training. I'll put it this way... a new recruit to the army is taken through boot camp, which typically lasts for 8-10 weeks... after which, he's able to be deployed. How long do you think it would take to have an army ready if you had to wait until they'd completed a 10-15 year study of a complete martial tradition? More to the point, why would you bother that kind of investment when soldiers were being sent with only a relatively small chance of survival? It just doesn't make sense...

Where the idea of these arts being for "war" is more about learning military strategy and leadership, as well as approaches to tactical thinking, and so on, which would be taught largely though the medium of combative techniques... but, even there, the actual techniques weren't necessarily directly applicable to the war of the day... many arts focused on the sword, but that's not a battlefield weapon... it is, however, a great teaching tool to focus on tactical methods and concepts... and that's only dealing with the actual "military" arts... many systems simply aren't military ones. Shinto Muso Ryu (and it's associated fuzoku ryu-ha), really is a policing art... others are focused on assassination (and they aren't the ninjutsu ones, either! Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, I'm looking at you...), or on duelling functionality, or on deep study of spiritual or philosophical concepts, or political ideologies, and so on.

Martial arts are a lot more than most people think or are aware of...

although challenges and tournaments did exist, they were not the focus.

They were in some cases. To be honest, at this point, you're not even aware of how much you're not aware of.

agree, Ninpo is probably the most flexible of any martial philosophy to my knowledge.

But how far does your knowledge extend? Is it wide enough for that to be meaningful in any way? I mean... I'm pretty sure the JKD guys might take you up on that comment...

i do not think what i wrote should be interpretted to imply that Ninpo is a dead art, quite the opposite. it is because of the evolving and adapting element that i have embraced it as the core of my training on a physical and philosophical level as it is complimentary to all of the many other things i seek knowledge of in the name of survival, like the themes you mentioned.

And that's cool, but that's your take on things... and it shouldn't preclude similar things being present in other arts, even if you're unaware of them, or are unable to recognise them.

I would take down my original post if i could, i did not clearly express what i was getting at and i see no need now to make the point at all. there are a lot of great conversations on here about these arts, i've scarcely commented because i have so little to add that has not been covered by people far more knowledgeable than me.
Ninpo Ik Kan,
tim

I don't know that taking down the original post is the best idea... look, I know things don't always come out the way we intend, but it can provoke comments from, as you state, people far more knowledgable than yourself... which can help others far less knowledgable to learn more. So, even if you may be a bit embarrassed by it, don't be... it can help in ways you may not at first see.

More to come!
 

Hanzou

Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 29, 2013
Messages
6,691
Reaction score
1,260
More to come!

joker_hotpocket.gif
 

Chris Parker

Grandmaster
Joined
Feb 18, 2008
Messages
6,226
Reaction score
1,052
Location
Melbourne, Australia
Aren't we at the point now where Ninjutsu practitioners don't even call themselves Ninjutsu practitioners or "Ninja" anymore?

Depends on the practitioner, but, yeah. The Bujinkan started out as the Bujinkan Dojo, teaching Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu, later being the Bujinkan Dojo International, then Bujinkan Dojo Ninpo Taijutsu (late 80's/early 90's), before finally settling on Bujinkan Dojo Budo Taijutsu in the early/mid 90's. The Jinenkan prefer the term "Jissen Kobudo" for their approach ("real fighting old martial arts")... the Genbukan, however, divide their syllabus into the Ninpo Taijutsu syllabus, the Kokusai Jujutsu Renmei syllabus, the Koryu Karate syllabus, and so on... so, they still maintain the "Ninpo"/"Ninjutsu" terminology more than the others. In fact, classes start with the recitation of the "Ninniku Seishin", a kinda poem that is supposed to encapsulate the core philosophical ideals of "Ninpo" practice.

That said, I see nothing wrong with what the OP is saying. A lot of "Ninjutsu" being peddled around (especially during the "Ninja craze" of the 80s and 90s) was simply a marketing gimmick.

A marketing hook, sure... gimmick? Not really... that would imply that it wasn't a major part of the offering (at least in terms of the image presented). But we're maybe getting a bit semantic there...

Some things change, some never change even over a thousand years. The weapons change, the armor changes, but take all that away, the only way to gain a skill is to suffer for it.

Sure... but that's a delicate line to try to walk... how much change can be undertaken before it is no longer what it was? And how little being changed means that the art stifles and dies? Realistically, though, the biggest thing that changes is the cultural context and environment... which makes these arts (especially koryu) a very interesting way to bridge the gap between the modern and classical cultures and realities...

Because suffering is the literal definition of the "nin" kanji 敹.

Er... huh? No, I wouldn't ever describe that as a literal translation of shinobu... it can have the implication of "to bear, or to suffer a burden", but not suffering itself... that would be kurushimu (艾), to conjugate it.

"Ninpo" is not much different than "kung fu", linguistically. Now that I think of it, the Chinese pronunciation of "po" is "fa"/"fat", the same as in quan fa.

Uh... yeah, it's pretty different... and, yeah, the "ho" character (瘜) is the same as in quan fa... the Japanese pronunciation there would be "kenpo" (fist methods - 單). Ninpo is a different concept/idea, and quite removed from either kenpo or kung fu (which is an idea based around the benefits and rewards of hard work and effort)...

I think it depends on the group. I have seen some that focus more on the "jujitsu" aspects of their art and downplay it. Other groups I have seen, are focused on the "ninjutsu" aspect and have started to teach the bushcraft, gray man stuff. As far as the Bujinkan as a whole, they focus the name of their art as "Budo Taijutsu".

Yeah, more and more.

Might I ask you name your sources? The fact is that, outside of Fujita Seiko and (arguably) Maasaki Hatsumi, there's not a lot of reliable written info out there, and there's a whole lot of questionable stuff out there.

The problem is that it was a rather minor aspect of overarching military strategies and methodologies... it wasn't important enough to note much about it in many cases. That said, there are a number of texts from a wide array of schools that give some ideas as to how the individual schools approached the idea of espionage... but, most of it is only really of value within the context of the particular schools themselves.

Besides Fujita and Hatsumi (and, really, Fujita's major credibility comes from his reputation as a martial scholar than his claim of being the head of a "ninjutsu" line, something that Hatsumi doesn't share... he has a huge collection of ancient scrolls and texts, but more as a collector than a scholar), there are the three classic texts, being the Bansenshukai, Ninpiden (Shinobi-no Den), and Shoninki... then there's a range of texts by Ito Gingetsu... the problem being that much of these are more propaganda/fantasy writings, rather than historical military texts... they give some insight into the way such legendary figures (who didn't really exist in that sense) were seen at the times of writing, but little more than that.

I'm curious, do scholars of classical Japanese martial arts still consider Maasaki Hatsumi a legitimate source of Ninjutsu?

Er....................................... no. Or of martial arts, in the main...

any reason why they wouldn't?

Besides the credibility issues of the schools that Hatsumi claims? There's his disdain of classical arts and the way they're transmitted, preferring his own (internal) beliefs over historical validity and veracity, there's the failure to provide any real evidence of his arts existing historically, his leaning into the imagery above and beyond factually based information, and, well, his own very eccentric personality traits...

Look, Hatsumi is very charismatic, a trait that shouldn't ever be overlooked or underestimated... his sense of distance and balance is incredibly good, and he is a natural showman... but none of that lends itself to a credible scholarly source. It does, however, lend itself to attracting lots of students, followers, and fans... as well as detractors. In Japan, though, he's largely seen by most of the (particularly koryu) community as that kinda weird uncle/grandpa who says and does things that are a bit out of the ordinary, but he's tolerated as he's not really hurting anyone, and people seem happy...

indeed it does, sir.

See above...

Okay, next!
 
OP
T

tim po

Green Belt
Joined
Dec 10, 2021
Messages
126
Reaction score
46
I'm no expert on the historicity of ninja/ninjutsu - I'm sure Chris would know far more about that stuff. But in my experience with koryu practitioners and teachers in Japan, Mr Hatsumi and the 'x-kan' organisations are viewed as a bit of a laughing stock; a tourist exploitation machine based on some pretty cringy, childish ideas. Not seen as either legitimate martial arts, or historical traditions.

Of course this does not sit well with the legions of foreigners who have time and emotion invested in these organisations. They often cite the Emperor giving Mr Hatsumi an award as 'proof' of his good standing (I understand he received an award 'for contributions to tourism' from the Emperor - I don't think he was designated a living cultural asset and would be keen to see evidence to support that)

It is pretty apparent that much of the 'ninja' stuff was created by Mr Hatsumi's teacher, Takamatsu, and does not have any history prior to that.

To be honest, I don't think there's much "hype" anymore... in the 80's, and even into the very early 90's? Sure. But these days, I don't think so... additionally, most practitioners don't use any terms like "ninja", and the few who use terms like "ninjutsu" usually do it for brand recognition, for want of a better term. Whether that's a good idea is another discussion, of course...



Word to the wise here... I'd refrain from commenting on koryu, application, and the state of such arts in todays world. I really don't have time to cover it all here, but... that comment smacks of a complete lack of education on the subject.



Yeah... you have no idea what you're talking about, and don't have the context or framework to understand it. That's not an attack, more an observation, to be clear... and you're far from alone in being in that position.



This is what I'm getting at... Bujinkan practitioners are often very happy to parrot Hatsumi's comments on "classical martial arts", where he bemoans that they are "stuck, unchanging", but his art is "a living art"... then you get the "we train for the modern world" idea (and, honestly, no, most don't, as there isn't much understanding present in the vast majority that I've seen, from the very top down), all the while basing their presumed credibility on the claimed histories and ages of the arts... you really can't have it both ways. Either you're studying a classical art, in which case, study it in it's classical context, or you're doing a modern art (which may be derived from, or based on, some classical or traditional material... and, really, is a fair enough description of the Bujinkan), dealing with modern situations and contexts... or, recognise what they are (individually), and teach them as such (individually)... the modern is not the classical, and the classical is not modern... both have their place, and, believe it or not, both have their application in the modern world (which is not the same as saying they are equally suited to modern violence, it must be stated), but deriding classical arts, then trying to claim to be one, is quite... schizophrenic? It's the classic "well, I never wanted to be in your club in the first place" after you get rejected...



Nothing, really... different preferred terms in different ages. "Ninja" is pretty much a Meiji term.



Nope. About a hundred years too late, there... perhaps a bit longer, actually.



Shinobi no Mono does not mean "the people of Shinobi", unless you have a weird approach to grammar... it's like translating "thief" as "people of stealing"... next, I'd be pretty careful the claims I made about "the people who developed Ninjutsu and Ninpo Taijutsu" as any kind of historical individuals... ninjutsu, being the skills of espionage and information gathering, developed as a pretty natural application of military strategic approaches... it would be bizarre if only one person developed it as a concept (yeah, I know the whole En no Gyoja story, and others... they are not really anything close to it, for the record... En no Gyoja was a priest who brought a form of Buddhism, which was combined with native Shinto to develop studies such as Shugendo, who has been co-opted into some of the "ninja" mythos). It has existed in some form since two opposing forces tried to get some kind of advantage by figuring out some of their enemies strengths and weaknesses before a battle. It could be argued that it was driven into a state of refinement by the introduction of the 5 Chinese Classics, most notably Son Shi (Sun Tzu), and the 13th Chapter dealing with spies, but it was already in development. What made it Japanese (and, therefore, ninjutsu) was the application of the Japanese cultural concepts (religious teachings and ideas, Shinto, Taoist, Buddhist), and so on.

Next, the term "Ninpo Taijutsu" really doesn't seem to have existed before Takamatsu... well, I suppose he's had a number of names over his lifetime (Jutaro, Chosui, Toshitsugu...), so, yeah? But, if you're referring to historical persons (not Takamatsu), then, you're gonna need to back your work up...



Er... what?

Let's break this down... Koryu arts ARE traditions. They aren't steeped in them, they are them. Then there are other traditions associated within the school, but the school itself is a tradition. The rest doesn't make much sense, but if I was to parse it, it seems you meant "... but IF any arts have remained relevant right up until the present, imo, when most martial arts began to teach adaptations for sport and exhibition, (it's) the Shinobi arts (who) went back underground." Assuming that's correct, then there's a bit to cover.

When Japan came out of the Pax Tokugawa, and into the Meiji Restoration, there was a lot of upheaval in the country, with some (quite understandable) resentment towards the samurai who had been, in many ways, the oppressors for some 900 years. However, many of these former samurai were now set up as business and political leaders, and they didn't necessarily want their older traditions to just stop... so there was a concerted effort in a number of areas to repackage some of the older arts in a way that could be preserve their essential spirits, while limiting the association with the old regime. This lead to the development of what we now call Kendo, Judo, and later, Aikido, Iaido, and so on. Even Sumo was largely re-structured and re-worked to provide a wider appeal. However, to say that that was the teachers "begin(ning) to teach adaptations for sport and exhibition" is grossly inaccurate. Kano's Judo, for example, was more related to being adapted to be integrated into the education system... the "competition" was meant to be a minor aspect, and part of Kano's original vision was to have the Kodokan be the centre for all Japanese martial arts... he wanted all senior members to also be well versed in the older classical arts (he brought in Shimizu Takauji of Shinto Muso Ryu, and four shihan from Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu to teach staff and sword arts to the senior students, as he felt Judo by itself was only a part of the equation). Most of the modern arts we have today are more a reflection of post WWII than the end of the samurai rule, to be honest.

As far as "the Shinobi arts went back underground", well, the first thing is to realise that they never were in the first place... while they wouldn't be exactly advertise, they were just part of the overall military education... there weren't really "ninja traditions" to go underground in any real way.



HA!!!

No. He didn't. There are rumours that he acted as a kind of spy in China in the early 1900's (around 1910-1920)... by the time WWII rolled around, he was about 60 years old... for a more realistic idea there, Fujita Seiko, claimed 14th (and last) head of the Wada-ha Koga Ryu, acted as a special guest instructor at the Nakago academy for officers, where skills such as spycraft were taught... but he was there as a karate instructor (for the record, they also had guest instructors from the Kodokan, from Aikido, various weapon arts, especially Toyama Ryu, a school developed at another military academy in the early 20th Century), so, no, the Japanese army were not being taught to be "ninja" in WWII, nor was anyone employed as one outside of regular spy craft that all armies were engaging in.



Er... what? No. Many classical traditions had a form of competitive practice, gekken/gekiken competitions (the precursor to modern Kendo) were held semi-regularly (Musashi's father engaged the Yoshioka school in one such competition in front of the Emperor in the late 16th Century, winning two out of the three bouts, and being named the "Greatest Warrior Under Heaven" [loose translation]), Judo's competition approach grew directly out of the competitive practice methods Kano was exposed to and enjoyed in both his Kito Ryu and Tenjin Shin'yo Ryu studies... that's not even getting into the rich history of sumo, and various jacketed and seated wrestling sports that the samurai (and others) engaged in.



This is a common, but deeply misunderstood and misapplied statement. Bluntly, if you think martial arts training is for use in war, you have very little idea of war, the necessary elements and training, the requirements, or martial training. I'll put it this way... a new recruit to the army is taken through boot camp, which typically lasts for 8-10 weeks... after which, he's able to be deployed. How long do you think it would take to have an army ready if you had to wait until they'd completed a 10-15 year study of a complete martial tradition? More to the point, why would you bother that kind of investment when soldiers were being sent with only a relatively small chance of survival? It just doesn't make sense...

Where the idea of these arts being for "war" is more about learning military strategy and leadership, as well as approaches to tactical thinking, and so on, which would be taught largely though the medium of combative techniques... but, even there, the actual techniques weren't necessarily directly applicable to the war of the day... many arts focused on the sword, but that's not a battlefield weapon... it is, however, a great teaching tool to focus on tactical methods and concepts... and that's only dealing with the actual "military" arts... many systems simply aren't military ones. Shinto Muso Ryu (and it's associated fuzoku ryu-ha), really is a policing art... others are focused on assassination (and they aren't the ninjutsu ones, either! Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, I'm looking at you...), or on duelling functionality, or on deep study of spiritual or philosophical concepts, or political ideologies, and so on.

Martial arts are a lot more than most people think or are aware of...



They were in some cases. To be honest, at this point, you're not even aware of how much you're not aware of.



But how far does your knowledge extend? Is it wide enough for that to be meaningful in any way? I mean... I'm pretty sure the JKD guys might take you up on that comment...



And that's cool, but that's your take on things... and it shouldn't preclude similar things being present in other arts, even if you're unaware of them, or are unable to recognise them.



I don't know that taking down the original post is the best idea... look, I know things don't always come out the way we intend, but it can provoke comments from, as you state, people far more knowledgable than yourself... which can help others far less knowledgable to learn more. So, even if you may be a bit embarrassed by it, don't be... it can help in ways you may not at first see.

More to come!
woah. anybody ever asks me what a ninja is again i'm just gonna say 'a what?' and tell them to ask you.

Thank you, for taking so much time to actually address each line of my rambling in turn, and i'm still sorry you had to, but this is the most information on the history of Japanese martial arts I have ever read in one place.

there really is no reason i should expect that anything i have ever learned is true. for awhile i did try pretty hard to get the story straight, but 30 years ago, there was no internet and sources were few and mostly horseshit, and now it seems that the few i always thought were legit, also full of fabrications. by then i didn't have any crazy ideas about becoming a ninja assassin, but found a core of technique that allowed me to learn so much more over the years.

i know you want to know about my training, there really isn't much to point to there. i was never a student of the Bujinkan. I went to seminars at Bujinkan schools and to Tai Kai events (and had no right to be there but no one asked) and i read everything i could find and watched all the damn videos...i had a loose affiliation of freaks i trained(really very hard) with(some of them went on to high ranking within the Bujinkan) but i won't give names. for the next 15 years i traveled and trained with dozens of people, some masters of an art, most just enthusiasts of the path, but what i had (thought i ) learned from the philosophies put forth (as Ninpo) became to me the key to understanding everything else I observed (well, that and Quigong). been a hermit about 12 years now, and just recently(been injured) got to thinking i would get involved again, but i haven't even used the internet much. don't trust it, everyone lies. and i have quickly come to realize that my isolated path, for whatever practicality it has served me, has little to offer here.
 
Last edited:

Chris Parker

Grandmaster
Joined
Feb 18, 2008
Messages
6,226
Reaction score
1,052
Location
Melbourne, Australia
The lineages of most of the schools are not questioned by anyone. Frankly just these are enough as they contain a huge curriculum

Well, you'd really need to be a lot more specific, there, Dunc... which specific lineages are you referring to? Cause... yeah, there's a lot of them that are pretty questioned... let's break them down.

We'll start with the less-questioned ones: Takagi Yoshin Ryu and Kukishin Ryu.

Okay, these are pretty well established as being valid, no major issue there... but they do bear a bit of a closer look. Both these arts trace themselves to Takamatsu via Ishitani (who is only given that name in the Takamatsu traditions, by the way... everywhere else reads his name as Ishiya... just a thing to know...), who was a shihan of Takagi Ryu and Kukishin Ryu (his name is listed in both mainline lineages... not as soke in Kukishin, for the record, but as the 15th Shihan of the Ouchi-Ijin line of Kukishin Ryu). He was said to have worked as a security guard in the Takamatsu family match factory, and taught Takamatsu in his late-teens through to his twenties (he received Menkyo Kaiden in 1913). It was through this teaching that Takamatsu was also acknowledged as a shihan of Kukishin Ryu as a part of the restoration efforts of Kuki Takaharu, 26th soke of the school, including being involved in the creation of the Kodo Senyokai Shobukyoku with another senior student, Iwami Nangaku. Takamatsu left the Kukishin Ryu around 1934, after refusing an offer to take over the Shobukyoku after Iwami died. By 1950, Takamatsu had created his own organisation, the Kashihara Shobukyoku, to teach his approach to these schools. As part of the founding of this school, Takamatsu sent a letter to Kuki Takaharu, asking for permission to start a branch of the Kukishin Ryu (teaching what he called Kukishin Ryu Ninpo). He was refused permission to do that, but was allowed to create his own material based on the arts he had been taught.

After this, Takamatsu began introducing things like Togakure Ryu, as well as Gyokko Ryu, Koto Ryu, and Shinden Fudo Ryu, which he would claim he was taught by his uncle or grandfather (the terms are hard to differentiate... basically an older, male family member), who ran a dojo teaching Shinden Fudo Ryu... much of the material of this Togakure Ryu was, remarkably, incredibly similar to the ninjutsu teachings of the Kukishin Ryu that were no longer practiced or maintained by the school, being part of the Dai no Hyoho (large-scale military strategies), with the school only teaching their Sho no Hyoho (small-scale/individual combat strategies) from the mid-late Edo period onwards. However, they were still found in the Kuki family archives, which Takamatsu had studied in a great deal of detail, and even helped reconstruct when some were lost to a fire (specifically the Amatsu Tatara teachings, as well as some of the naginata and other methods).

When looking at the Koto/Gyokko approaches, they're quite notable (as Japanese arts) for a number of things, such as a abundance of unarmed kamae (Japanese jujutsu systems tend to not have them, whereas Chinese arts tend to have quite a few... mainly due to the prevalence of solo drills and forms). This then supports the idea that they are, really, reworked systems that Takamatsu learnt in China, where he spent a decade travelling, teaching, and training.

Okay, so there's questions on, what, everything other than Takagi and Kukishin... but it's not even that simple. The line of Takagi Yoshin Ryu taught in the Bujinkan is the Mizuta-den... not the Ishitani-den. But the one verifiable teacher of Takamatsu that we have is Ishitani... who gave him the two unassailed arts... where does Mizuta fit in? Well, according to the story, after training with Ishitani, Takamatsu met Mizuta, and learnt from him... that line came from a generation before Ishitani, even though it's a simpler structure overall. But, in the decade after getting his Menkyo Kaiden, that's when he was in China... so... when did he meet Mizuta? One real possibility is that it is a created lineage, based on the Ishitani material, but simplified, and given to Hatsumi, as Takamatsu had already given the next generation of the Ishitani line to Sato Kinbei. Not saying that's what happened, but it's a real possibility. Okay, so the legit jujutsu line isn't as legit... still a legit school, but a somewhat fabricated lineage... I'm not getting into my thinking as to the execution of the school here, but there's more to go into in regards to whether or not it's actually Takagi Yoshin Ryu at the end of the day.

So, Kukishin Ryu. Legit. He was a shihan of the school, after all, right? Even after he left, other senior members of the Kukishin Ryu would seek Takamatsu out for more study... so that's gotta be good. Well....

To be honest, even that's not as legit as it seems. The only part of the school that is genuinely Kukishin Ryu is the bojutsu... and, even there, only the section referred to as the Keiko Sabaki Gata (Goho, Ura Goho, Sashiai, Funa Bari etc etc). The rest of the school is what I would call Kukishin based (or related), with the various aspects coming from a variety of other lines, as none of it has much correspondence to the actual school. And, even with the primary bojutsu aspect, the line taught in the Takamatsu schools is more a synthesis of the Takagi Ryu/Kukishin Ryu Bojutsu curriculum, and the Kukishin Ryu curriculum, so it's maybe 80% matching in terms of structure... but most kata are done rather differently.

So, what's not questioned? That's the thing... there's something to question in almost all of the schools.

Sure some lineages are more murky historically, but these account for about 5% of the curriculum and regardless of the limited data points available to validate their history the techniques work well in my experience

The techniques "working" isn't the issue, though... a modern rifle works fine, but it's not a 16th Century matchlock, and claiming it is is being disingenuous, at the best. As far as the "murky history" arts accounting for about 5% of the curriculum... that's... generous. Let's look...

Takagi Yoshin Ryu - about 130 kata
Kukishin Ryu Bojutsu - about 25 kata

Total 155 kata.

(Other schools)

Kukishin Ryu
Bojutsu - about 30 kata
Hanbo - about 16 kata
Jo - 9 kata
Sword - 9 kata
Kodachi - 3 kata
Spear - 30 kata
Naginata - 9 kata
Bisento - 9 kata
Jutte - 5 kata
Taijutsu - 60 kata

Gyokko Ryu - about 50 kata
Koto Ryu - about 50 kata
Shinden Fudo Ryu - 28 kata
Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu - 30 kata
Togakure Ryu sword - 17 kata
Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu (not kata) - 15 primary sections

Total 370 kata/ninjutsu teachings

Unofficial schools
Shinden Fudo Ryu Taijutsu - about 80 kata
Asayama Ichiden Ryu - around 60 kata, some lines extend to around 123.

Total 140-203 (depending on how they're taught).

This is not including ura gata in the main and variations. Nor is it looking too hard at the Takagi and Kukishin lineage issues.

Also worth noting that Hatsumi sensei has been designated a living national treasure (J贖y Mukei Bunkazai Hojisha) by the government

Er... no. For one thing, there is no category for martial arts within the listing... it covers traditional arts and crafts, such as Noh, Kabuki, music... secondly, in 2000, he received an award for his work in International Cultural Promotion, which was issued by the Royal Family of Japan (not the Emperor themselves).

They limit these to a total of 116 living people and in terms of martial artists he's in the same company as the Soke of Bokuden Ryu and Seikichi Uehara or the chef Jiro Ono

No, he's not. There are zero martial artists listed as "living National treasures". There are a number of arts that are designated "intangible cultural assets", but the Bujinkan in not one of them. And which Bokuden Ryu soke do you think also has such a (non-existent) award? Kai Kuniyuki, who teaches a school of Bokuden Ryu Jujutsu and Iai (which also comes from Ueno Takashi, and Hatsumi has shown some of the jujutsu in the past), or the more legit Bokuden Ryu Kenjutsu? I mean, it's neither, but still... curious.

He was awarded the level of "sword saint" (or similar translation) from the national association for preserving the methods of kenjutsu

What?!?!?!?!

Dunc... dude... no. Not even close. Nowhere near it. Firstly, there's no such "award", and no body that could, or would, award it. It's a term used (typically after death) to some of the greatest swordsman from Japanese Sengoku and Edo periods. Secondly, you think he got it for "preserving the methods of kenjutsu"!?!?! Look... to be kind, Hatsumi's sword is... far from good. His Iai is filled with problems, and his ken is almost entirely made-up in the moment... he's not "preserving" anything. This is before we even start to look at the sword lines in the Bujinkan being restructuring (at the most generous) of other material, or created wholesale from other material, by Takamatsu.

No.

i am unaware of that, but there are few more trustworthy sources to my knowledge.

Again, this comes back to how far your knowledge extends...

hmm... i actually dont know how i ended up with both of you in this response, i really kinda suck with computers but any way

JKS, i had not heard anything about Hatsumi being regarded suspiciously, but being Soke does kinda mean he gets to shape the art however he chooses, far as I know.

Well... yes, and no. The role of a soke is to preserve the art... he can opt to do that the best way he deems fit... what Hatsumi is really doing, though, is using the schools he was given to create an entirely new (modern) art, called Budo Taijutsu.

and c'mon, how much can we really expect to ever know the true history of Japan, especially the involvement of Shinobi-we're talking about the most secretive members of the most secretive people in the history of the world!

Er... Japan was one of the most literate and bureaucratic societies in history... the main reason there's not a lot of information is that it wasn't considered overly important. The individual traditions would have their own records of their methods, but it was a minor aspect. Records would often cite the more important events, rather than "scouts reported 150 enemy by using the secret methods of shinobi iri"...

would not surprise me if there were deviations. to be fair, i never really got into SKH, he was kinda too 'Mr. Rogers' for me.

Okay.

Gerry, I thought i gave sufficient answer to this question in the quoted response, the relevance being war, essentially. all martial arts were created during a time when they were needed, to fight for everything people fought for.

The problem is that that is an inaccurate assessment of the situation and reality.

as civilians in a time so removed from when any of these things happened, do we do ourselves harm or favor by clinging to traditions? if we favor traditions and wish to keep them relevant, how best to do that, with an art like this? focusing on Ninjutsu, without the Ninpo, will only make clever criminals.

To be honest, that doesn't begin to make sense.

the more i think about it, the less i agree with myself, using Ninjutsu as the umbrella term for all of the traditions that still live from this shrouded past is well and good. i always sought to avoid it, if pressed, i was satisfied when they told me they never heard of Ninpo Taijutsu! What always impressed me most was the core philosophy, as i was able to understand it based on the sources and people available, including Hatsumi Soke.e recently writings of Fujita Seiko have been translated too.

Here's the thing... the core philosophy is found through the physical methods in classical arts... reading can help flesh them out, but you need to have the physical basis first.

I have had people tell me they think Taijutsu is weak. such and such is better, of course. but taijutsu IS weak, without Ninpo, and yeah, a little bit of ninjutsu too.

Again... that doesn't make any sense...
 

Chris Parker

Grandmaster
Joined
Feb 18, 2008
Messages
6,226
Reaction score
1,052
Location
Melbourne, Australia
My issue with Hatsumi is stuff like this;


Ha, my issues go well beyond that... but that's for another time, I suppose...

One of the beautiful things about ground fighting/newaza is that due to its nature, it's rather easy to discern what is nonsense and what actually would work in a given situation.

Well, yes, and no... if you gain sufficient experience and exposure to anything, it's easy to pick out what is and isn't "good" (or effective within it's intended context). For those less informed? Not so easy... I mean, I could post video after video of sword, and it's incredibly apparent to me what's good, what's great, and what's incredibly problematic... but I doubt you'd have anywhere near the same appraisal ability... and that's okay.

What Hatsumi is doing here is utter, pure nonsense.

Yes, it is. It really, really is.

I could toss a BJJ white belt in there with a few months experience and Hatsumi would get subbed over and over again.

This is where context comes into it... not that I'm defending what was shown, but the idea of "subbing" people just isn't in the mentality here... you might as well say that a basketball player will get taken out by a tennis player in a game of tennis...

war was the relevance. war is still a thing, and it could be said that the martial arts being cultivated by the world's special forces are the cutting edge of modern martial arts development in a way,

Special Ops don't develop martial arts. They don't have the time to. They develop combative methods, which is something quite different.

but our culture is very competitive and sports are an enormous influence on so many people.

Modern cultures (Western) love rap music and electronic garbage... that doesn't mean there aren't fans of Beethoven and Led Zeppelin still around. In other words, it's not a good idea to generalise an entire culture when looking at rather niche appeals.

for many arts, there are certainly exceptions, that relevance has translated into sport and exhibition, in the name of tradition and the preservation of heritage for some more than others. in some cases, there are ways they can fall short of staying relevant by clinging to rigid kata. it cannot for work for Ninpo to become sport, though it has been made a spectactle by our culture no doubt, so it seems to me that the natural evolution has to align with cultural goals of a different nature to stay relevant - and (hopefully) moral in purpose.

Yeah... the thing is, a traditional art needs to retain relevance to it's culture itself, not another one (Dave Lowry has a great article on a palm tree in Missouri looking at this idea: Introduction: A Coconut Palm in Missouri

i had to practice my googlejutsu, so i googled 'gray man'. i thought it was just about my beard, but, yeah, that's kinda what i feel the relevance of Ninpo in our modern age is closer to, for me (not for people still involved in war) and the approach to technique in Ninpo Taijutsu lends itself well to a martial-minded type who strives to cultivate such a persona. the hidden intention, stealth. the skills spoken of, escape and evasion, urban camoflouge, awareness, definetly modern Ninjutsu in it's own way. though i actually feel silly now that i know its a trending thing..

These can be valuable skills, agreed... many modern self defence systems (Richard Dmitri's being a favourite of mine at the moment... puts out some great stuff on facebook for free)... of course, the "nin" aspect is not necessary... the way you're approaching it seems a bit... fantasy infused, if you'll allow the observation.

I'm no expert on the historicity of ninja/ninjutsu - I'm sure Chris would know far more about that stuff. But in my experience with koryu practitioners and teachers in Japan, Mr Hatsumi and the 'x-kan' organisations are viewed as a bit of a laughing stock; a tourist exploitation machine based on some pretty cringy, childish ideas. Not seen as either legitimate martial arts, or historical traditions.

Agreed.

Of course this does not sit well with the legions of foreigners who have time and emotion invested in these organisations. They often cite the Emperor giving Mr Hatsumi an award as 'proof' of his good standing (I understand he received an award 'for contributions to tourism' from the Emperor - I don't think he was designated a living cultural asset and would be keen to see evidence to support that)

From the Royal Family, not the Emperor... and, yeah, not even close to a living national treasure... there isn't a category for martial arts for that award.

It is pretty apparent that much of the 'ninja' stuff was created by Mr Hatsumi's teacher, Takamatsu, and does not have any history prior to that.

That's the safe money, yeah.

Regarding Hatsumi -- from various things I've read, some question not so much him, but the origins of some of the material he received from Takamatsu.

That's certainly a big part of it... but Hatsumi's approach itself lends itself to questions of credibility, considering the somewhat hit-and-miss creative application approach, and eschewing of almost all traits and aspects that would be expected of a traditional, or even a Japanese art in many ways... I sometimes wonder what the public response would have been like if Hatsumi had opted to teach the arts "straight", rather than applying a constant variation creative approach... I suppose it would be essentially the Genbukan, where there's far less questioning, despite it being based in the same traditions from the same sources in the main... not that the Genbukan is without it's own issues, but it doesn't seem to attract the same criticism and negative image that the Bujinkan does.

I fully confess that I'm not versed enough in the issues to have a good opinion; some of the material from Takamatsu is well documented in many areas. Some of it -- not so much. Doesn't mean it's not valid or true, simply that some of the groups didn't leave a record as clearly as others.

Some has a bit of supporting documentation... most of the well documented arts aren't as much Bujinkan as they're made out to be...

The stuff he demonstrated in that video I posted definitely isn't valid.

Yeah... unfortunately, there's not much of a critical feedback loop, so things like this get swallowed by the majority of the Bujinkan membership...

Exactly. Takamatsu was legitimately a senior figure in two koryu that were/are traditionally taught together, due to a challenge between the two headmasters centuries ago - Kukishin ryu and Takagi ryu.

Even that gets wonderfully complicated... the Kukishin line that Ohkuni Kihei brought to the Takagi Ryu with his meeting of Takagi Gennoshin was an off-shoot of an off-shoot of the family school... some accounts have Ohkuni being the founder of that particular line, others have him as the 4th head of one line, and the official Kukishin lineage places him as the 6th head of the Ouchi-Ijin line (which lead to Ishitani). The Kukishin Ryu Bojutsu that is transmitted within the Takagi Ryu Jujutsu (mainline) is not considered official Kukishin Ryu by the family (nor is Hatsumi's Kukishinden Happo Biken... there was a letter sent to the Kukishin Ryu by Hatsumi discussing the make up of his line, in which he claimed the position of 28th Soke. It was considered to be interesting, but not the same school).

He apparently also received paperwork for a couple of other arts like Shinden Fudo ryu that were independently documented.

Personally, I think most of what Hatsumi got from Takamatsu was paperwork only... where Takamatsu got it from is another question. Shinden Fudo Ryu is often cited as "legit", however people kinda gloss over the fact that it was supposed to have been taught to him by Toda... who has not been shown to have existed... which is where he "got" Togakure, Koto, Gyokko, Gyokushin, Gikan... so, if the source of those schools is doubted, doesn't that put Shinden Fudo in doubt as well? Yes, there are other schools called Shinden Fudo Ryu that are traceable, notably the Taijutsu (that Ueno Takashi received), and a school of the same name that William Barton-Wright apparently studied that is unrelated... but the Dakentaijutsu in the Bujinkan? That's more of a mystery...

At some point Takamatsu wrote to the head of the Kuki family, who are hereditary custodians of a Shinto shrine and the orthodox Kukishin ryu, for permission to use their name in creating a new 'koryu karate' system. I don't think he ended up doing that. He was very old and apparently suffering mentally when he taught Hatsumi - he wrote lineages for his new 'ninja' ryuha that included comic book characters and the like.

One thought about the Kukishin Ryu Taijutsu in the Bujinkan is that it was created to counter karate and judo (which explains the types of attacks seen there, which are all stepping punches, kicks, and seoinage style throws)... but the request was for a Chosui-ha Kukishin Ryu Ninpo... and, yeah, the answer was a polite, but definite, no. As far as the lineages, yeah, there's a number of interesting names through there...
 

Chris Parker

Grandmaster
Joined
Feb 18, 2008
Messages
6,226
Reaction score
1,052
Location
Melbourne, Australia
woah. anybody ever asks me what a ninja is again i'm just gonna say 'a what?' and tell them to ask you.

Ha, no problem.

Thank you, for taking so much time to actually address each line of my rambling in turn, and i'm still sorry you had to, but this is the most information on the history of Japanese martial arts I have ever read in one place.

No problem. Hope it was interesting for you.

there really is no reason i should expect that anything i have ever learned is true. for awhile i did try pretty hard to get the story straight, but 30 years ago, there was no internet and sources were few and mostly horseshit, and now it seems that the few i always thought were legit, also full of fabrications. by then i didn't have any crazy ideas about becoming a ninja assassin, but found a core of technique that allowed me to learn so much more over the years.

i know you want to know about my training, there really isn't much to point to there. i was never a student of the Bujinkan. I went to seminars at Bujinkan schools and to Tai Kai events (and had no right to be there but no one asked) and i read everything i could find and watched all the damn videos...i had a loose affiliation of freaks i trained(really very hard) with(some of them went on to high ranking within the Bujinkan) but i won't give names. for the next 15 years i traveled and trained with dozens of people, some masters of an art, most just enthusiasts of the path, but what i had (thought i ) learned from the philosophies put forth (as Ninpo) became to me the key to understanding everything else I observed (well, that and Quigong). been a hermit about 12 years now, and just recently(been injured) got to thinking i would get involved again, but i haven't even used the internet much. don't trust it, everyone lies. and i have quickly come to realize that my isolated path, for whatever practicality it has served me, has little to offer here.

Hmm... so, a few scant and separated lessons in large seminars over a short number of years? Yeah, I'm not overly surprised that your understanding is a bit... off. Again, not an attack, just an observation.

Thanks for sharing your background. It helps me understand where you're coming from.
 
OP
T

tim po

Green Belt
Joined
Dec 10, 2021
Messages
126
Reaction score
46
Ha, no problem.



No problem. Hope it was interesting for you.



Hmm... so, a few scant and separated lessons in large seminars over a short number of years? Yeah, I'm not overly surprised that your understanding is a bit... off. Again, not an attack, just an observation.

Thanks for sharing your background. It helps me understand where you're coming from.
i'm not surprised either, this is exactly what i hoped to find, and yes it has been (and will continue to be) an informative read.

i am coming across like a fantasy fan, i see that. actually i have tried to stay as far away from 'claiming' Ninpo, or any martial art (the only one i earned a black belt in was Tang Soo Do), and instead have focused purely on relevant self defense(as i see it). privately, i have always held everything i've learned against the lessons i gleaned from the Bujinkan and other practioners, because i always felt that it aligned most specifically with my intention, part of that being to 'not look like a fight' and avoid calling attention to myself in this way.and there are techniques i learned from Ninpo practioners that i have never seen anywhere else, probably because they are too nasty for most modern schools. also some of the things i often see( in Aikido for instance) lack certain elements that would make them more realistic, the use of distancing, using the body to pin an arm rather than grabbing the wrist, subtle things that were related to me by observing Hatsumi"s Budo Taijutsu and I valued that instruction.

when i was a kid i knew every dinosaur, because there were only like 12 of them. when my daughter was into them, few of those even existed anymore and there were 2000 new ones, this is kinda like that. there was very little to go on, last time i was looking. but so many hilarious fakes, i watched their videos too( we actually had to buy the VHS tape back then). amazing how much you can learn about what not to do, that can be useful too. i'm bummed that Hatsumi is not taken seriously though, but that video is undefendable, even though i want to, i can't.

There was another school you mentioned earlier but not in this last post, the Kumogakure Ryu. I always liked what I saw of it's approach, i wonder now if it was legitimate in any way. is it true the the Kumogakre Ryu was related to Ba Gua?
 
OP
T

tim po

Green Belt
Joined
Dec 10, 2021
Messages
126
Reaction score
46
Well, you'd really need to be a lot more specific, there, Dunc... which specific lineages are you referring to? Cause... yeah, there's a lot of them that are pretty questioned... let's break them down.

We'll start with the less-questioned ones: Takagi Yoshin Ryu and Kukishin Ryu.

Okay, these are pretty well established as being valid, no major issue there... but they do bear a bit of a closer look. Both these arts trace themselves to Takamatsu via Ishitani (who is only given that name in the Takamatsu traditions, by the way... everywhere else reads his name as Ishiya... just a thing to know...), who was a shihan of Takagi Ryu and Kukishin Ryu (his name is listed in both mainline lineages... not as soke in Kukishin, for the record, but as the 15th Shihan of the Ouchi-Ijin line of Kukishin Ryu). He was said to have worked as a security guard in the Takamatsu family match factory, and taught Takamatsu in his late-teens through to his twenties (he received Menkyo Kaiden in 1913). It was through this teaching that Takamatsu was also acknowledged as a shihan of Kukishin Ryu as a part of the restoration efforts of Kuki Takaharu, 26th soke of the school, including being involved in the creation of the Kodo Senyokai Shobukyoku with another senior student, Iwami Nangaku. Takamatsu left the Kukishin Ryu around 1934, after refusing an offer to take over the Shobukyoku after Iwami died. By 1950, Takamatsu had created his own organisation, the Kashihara Shobukyoku, to teach his approach to these schools. As part of the founding of this school, Takamatsu sent a letter to Kuki Takaharu, asking for permission to start a branch of the Kukishin Ryu (teaching what he called Kukishin Ryu Ninpo). He was refused permission to do that, but was allowed to create his own material based on the arts he had been taught.

After this, Takamatsu began introducing things like Togakure Ryu, as well as Gyokko Ryu, Koto Ryu, and Shinden Fudo Ryu, which he would claim he was taught by his uncle or grandfather (the terms are hard to differentiate... basically an older, male family member), who ran a dojo teaching Shinden Fudo Ryu... much of the material of this Togakure Ryu was, remarkably, incredibly similar to the ninjutsu teachings of the Kukishin Ryu that were no longer practiced or maintained by the school, being part of the Dai no Hyoho (large-scale military strategies), with the school only teaching their Sho no Hyoho (small-scale/individual combat strategies) from the mid-late Edo period onwards. However, they were still found in the Kuki family archives, which Takamatsu had studied in a great deal of detail, and even helped reconstruct when some were lost to a fire (specifically the Amatsu Tatara teachings, as well as some of the naginata and other methods).

When looking at the Koto/Gyokko approaches, they're quite notable (as Japanese arts) for a number of things, such as a abundance of unarmed kamae (Japanese jujutsu systems tend to not have them, whereas Chinese arts tend to have quite a few... mainly due to the prevalence of solo drills and forms). This then supports the idea that they are, really, reworked systems that Takamatsu learnt in China, where he spent a decade travelling, teaching, and training.

Okay, so there's questions on, what, everything other than Takagi and Kukishin... but it's not even that simple. The line of Takagi Yoshin Ryu taught in the Bujinkan is the Mizuta-den... not the Ishitani-den. But the one verifiable teacher of Takamatsu that we have is Ishitani... who gave him the two unassailed arts... where does Mizuta fit in? Well, according to the story, after training with Ishitani, Takamatsu met Mizuta, and learnt from him... that line came from a generation before Ishitani, even though it's a simpler structure overall. But, in the decade after getting his Menkyo Kaiden, that's when he was in China... so... when did he meet Mizuta? One real possibility is that it is a created lineage, based on the Ishitani material, but simplified, and given to Hatsumi, as Takamatsu had already given the next generation of the Ishitani line to Sato Kinbei. Not saying that's what happened, but it's a real possibility. Okay, so the legit jujutsu line isn't as legit... still a legit school, but a somewhat fabricated lineage... I'm not getting into my thinking as to the execution of the school here, but there's more to go into in regards to whether or not it's actually Takagi Yoshin Ryu at the end of the day.

So, Kukishin Ryu. Legit. He was a shihan of the school, after all, right? Even after he left, other senior members of the Kukishin Ryu would seek Takamatsu out for more study... so that's gotta be good. Well....

To be honest, even that's not as legit as it seems. The only part of the school that is genuinely Kukishin Ryu is the bojutsu... and, even there, only the section referred to as the Keiko Sabaki Gata (Goho, Ura Goho, Sashiai, Funa Bari etc etc). The rest of the school is what I would call Kukishin based (or related), with the various aspects coming from a variety of other lines, as none of it has much correspondence to the actual school. And, even with the primary bojutsu aspect, the line taught in the Takamatsu schools is more a synthesis of the Takagi Ryu/Kukishin Ryu Bojutsu curriculum, and the Kukishin Ryu curriculum, so it's maybe 80% matching in terms of structure... but most kata are done rather differently.

So, what's not questioned? That's the thing... there's something to question in almost all of the schools.



The techniques "working" isn't the issue, though... a modern rifle works fine, but it's not a 16th Century matchlock, and claiming it is is being disingenuous, at the best. As far as the "murky history" arts accounting for about 5% of the curriculum... that's... generous. Let's look...

Takagi Yoshin Ryu - about 130 kata
Kukishin Ryu Bojutsu - about 25 kata

Total 155 kata.

(Other schools)

Kukishin Ryu
Bojutsu - about 30 kata
Hanbo - about 16 kata
Jo - 9 kata
Sword - 9 kata
Kodachi - 3 kata
Spear - 30 kata
Naginata - 9 kata
Bisento - 9 kata
Jutte - 5 kata
Taijutsu - 60 kata

Gyokko Ryu - about 50 kata
Koto Ryu - about 50 kata
Shinden Fudo Ryu - 28 kata
Togakure Ryu Ninpo Taijutsu - 30 kata
Togakure Ryu sword - 17 kata
Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu (not kata) - 15 primary sections

Total 370 kata/ninjutsu teachings

Unofficial schools
Shinden Fudo Ryu Taijutsu - about 80 kata
Asayama Ichiden Ryu - around 60 kata, some lines extend to around 123.

Total 140-203 (depending on how they're taught).

This is not including ura gata in the main and variations. Nor is it looking too hard at the Takagi and Kukishin lineage issues.



Er... no. For one thing, there is no category for martial arts within the listing... it covers traditional arts and crafts, such as Noh, Kabuki, music... secondly, in 2000, he received an award for his work in International Cultural Promotion, which was issued by the Royal Family of Japan (not the Emperor themselves).



No, he's not. There are zero martial artists listed as "living National treasures". There are a number of arts that are designated "intangible cultural assets", but the Bujinkan in not one of them. And which Bokuden Ryu soke do you think also has such a (non-existent) award? Kai Kuniyuki, who teaches a school of Bokuden Ryu Jujutsu and Iai (which also comes from Ueno Takashi, and Hatsumi has shown some of the jujutsu in the past), or the more legit Bokuden Ryu Kenjutsu? I mean, it's neither, but still... curious.



What?!?!?!?!

Dunc... dude... no. Not even close. Nowhere near it. Firstly, there's no such "award", and no body that could, or would, award it. It's a term used (typically after death) to some of the greatest swordsman from Japanese Sengoku and Edo periods. Secondly, you think he got it for "preserving the methods of kenjutsu"!?!?! Look... to be kind, Hatsumi's sword is... far from good. His Iai is filled with problems, and his ken is almost entirely made-up in the moment... he's not "preserving" anything. This is before we even start to look at the sword lines in the Bujinkan being restructuring (at the most generous) of other material, or created wholesale from other material, by Takamatsu.

No.



Again, this comes back to how far your knowledge extends...



Well... yes, and no. The role of a soke is to preserve the art... he can opt to do that the best way he deems fit... what Hatsumi is really doing, though, is using the schools he was given to create an entirely new (modern) art, called Budo Taijutsu.



Er... Japan was one of the most literate and bureaucratic societies in history... the main reason there's not a lot of information is that it wasn't considered overly important. The individual traditions would have their own records of their methods, but it was a minor aspect. Records would often cite the more important events, rather than "scouts reported 150 enemy by using the secret methods of shinobi iri"...



Okay.



The problem is that that is an inaccurate assessment of the situation and reality.



To be honest, that doesn't begin to make sense.



Here's the thing... the core philosophy is found through the physical methods in classical arts... reading can help flesh them out, but you need to have the physical basis first.



Again... that doesn't make any sense...
 

Oily Dragon

Master of Arts
Joined
May 2, 2020
Messages
1,607
Reaction score
706
Chris, thanks for clarifying the "Hatsumi Kensei" thing. I was shocked to hear that. It didn't sound right, but so much about Ninjutsu never does.

On the "suffering" translation you're right, I could have been more clear. I didn't mean literal pain suffering, but as you said the endurance of it. From Chinese Ren fa/Jan fat.

Which is the central idea I think of when I think of ninpo, the ability to withstand. That's where I see overlap with the concept of kung fu, since both imply a willingness to train to overcome obstacles, hardship, whatever. I know Ren Fa is also found in Shaolin scripture, I'll try to find where I read that.

Does that make more sense? I won't be able to finish reading your posts until after the holidays, but they sure look informative from space.
 

dunc

Purple Belt
Joined
Mar 31, 2006
Messages
368
Reaction score
235
@tim po Youll find that folks on here hold differing views on Hatsumi, his skill and the veracity of the traditions he teaches
As with every human endeavour folks align themselves into a particular tribe or group and work hard to provide arguments to reinforce their tribes position
Sports martial artists have an issue with his assertion that certain techniques cant be sparred and the lack of sparring in the general Bujinkan community
Koryu practitioners have an issue with his assertion that the traditions need to continually evolve in order to survive and that this is part of the tradition
Independents tend to look for gaps in what he teaches and illustrate how they have filled those gaps with their own training/research in order to differentiate themselves
I have an agenda because Ive been deeply involved in the Bujinkan for over 30 years
and so on

Youll have to make up your own mind

You can probably google my post about the living cultural treasure ( J贖y Mukei Bunkazai Hojisha) and reach your own conclusions
My comment about the sword association was based on my personal experience (hence I dont know the exact details), but probably it will be googleable. Basically when he was teaching sword these old dudes turned up to training in the Ayase Budokan taking notes and having long discussions with Soke and the shihan. I was there. After a while folks shared that hed earned the highest award as a sword master from this group, and he has the certificate on his office wall (along with all the other stuff like that) for all to see

There are several students of Hatsumi who also train in Koryu arts. One western Japan resident is Mark Lithgow. Ive only heard that their teachers treat Hatsumi sensei with respect, but probably there are some Japanese Koryu practitioners who feel differently

I agree with folks that the ground work in the Bujinkan is nonexistent and the only video where he shows anything like that is the one posted on this thread. If you look carefully at the clips hes showing variations of trap and roll, but his partners dont have a clue what theyre doing on the ground so he has no need to move in a big way and can mess around with catching them with early unexpected stuff which he likes to do (because hes old and likes to be creative)
 

lklawson

Senior Master
Joined
Feb 3, 2005
Messages
4,935
Reaction score
1,595
Location
Huber Heights, OH
Thank you, for taking so much time to actually address each line of my rambling in turn, and i'm still sorry you had to, but this is the most information on the history of Japanese martial arts I have ever read in one place.
Yeah, stick around for a while. Chris doesn't post often but when he does buckle up!
 

BrendanF

Purple Belt
Joined
Feb 26, 2017
Messages
348
Reaction score
134
i wonder now if it was legitimate in any way. is it true the the Kumogakure Ryu was related to Ba Gua?

I'd be amazed if it was, other than through some contact Takamatsu may have had. Baguazhang is a relatively young art; it was created/taught by Dong Haichuan around the Beijing area in the late 1800s.
 
Top